Blog by Steve Bruns
It’s happening now!
Over the last 11 years, participants in Agenda1 Learning Communities have been given this exercise:
Two years ago, we had to close our church building and cancel all events. Now we are twice as many people. What happened?
It’s happening now!
We have helped church leaders from all over the globe to change the way we understand our calling. Not just gathering people, but equipping and sending them. Not just arranging church services and activities, but living everyday life.
It’s happening now!
Abruptly and unexpectedly in one country after another, both the society and the church have been shaken and turned upside down by the effects of the Coronavirus. A huge crisis, but also an enormous opportunity. We have been training for this through Agenda1. We have prepared ourselves by equipping more and more people to become followers of Jesus every day, wherever they are. We have seen how we as God's family can change our society. And now comes the real test.
In the last few days, I have heard from many church leaders how they are adapting to the new reality. I am amazed by the ingenuity and flexibility they are demonstrating. When churches cancel services and activities, they find new ways to communicate with each other online.
There is a new zeal for prayer and fasting (up!)
Small fellowships and house churches are gathering in smaller groups or online to pray and support each other (in!)
We hear about spontaneous acts of kindness and organized campaigns to meet the needs of the community (out!)
Can it be that the church is being shaken awake to discover its real calling?
Can it be that God will use the greatest crisis the world has seen in generations to bring His kingdom in a new and powerful way?
It is time for the church to step up and step out into the position it was created for!
"And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14
It’s happening now!
Our dream is to help the leaders of these churches so that they can lead their congregations to make a difference in their communities. In a country where so much appears hopeless, where the authorities have no control over the violence, massacres and poverty, we believe God has a plan for His church to spread light and hope.
20 new Christians
During feedback from one of the areas in Mali we heard that the local Christians are spread in small villages across a wide area. They don’t have a church building, nor do they have a pastor. Through Agenda1 they have realised the importance of meeting together to pray and encourage one another. They shared with us how they had started to regularly pray together, and they have seen 20 people become Christians in the last six months! They shared this in a manner that led us to understand that for them this was the most natural thing in the world.
They have told us that they know how to share the Gospel and that everybody can do it. Through Agenda1 they are learning how to form and develop local fellowships. Sometimes Agenda1 is a catalyst which helps congregations to focus on going out in mission, while at other times church leaders choose to focus inwards towards each other as God’s family.
We do not want Agenda1 to be a “Western project”, rather that it should be integrated locally, sustainable and be able to reproduce itself. In October we took new steps towards this goal including:
I: Only leaders from Mali teach Agenda1 here now. We have created a learning community for them so they can have a “dummy run” at their teaching and receive constructive feedback from other teachers before they teach in the learning community.
II: We have created a national committee which will train the main leaders who are gradually being given more responsibility for Agenda1 in Mali.
III: Some new ethnic groups have recently joined us. They come from areas which are unsafe and very difficult. These groups represent a single-minded focus and breath of fresh air in Agenda1. Their lives are hugely challenging, yet they are on fire about communicating the Good News to people around them. This helps the other Agenda1 participants stay focussed on what is most important.
Blog by Svein Høysæter
For us Agenda1 is a tool which helps us to disciple and grow young leaders. My wife Gunn Bjørg and I have worked in Nepal for many years, predominantly with Pentecostal churches.
Since 2017, when we started Agenda1, we have seen a new level of growth as we concentrate on leader development.
More and more churches are connecting with us; last month we were with young leaders from over 30 different churches. Seeing the enthusiasm with which they grasp and own the tools Agenda1 offers is truly inspirational.
We cannot over-emphasise the importance of Agenda1.
Its teaching helps the Nepali leaders to think missionally. They get a completely new picture of what a servant leader is and a profound experience of God’s love. We will be back in Nepal in six months and are looking forward to being with our Agenda1 family again.
Blog by John Arve Lunde
- I get so happy and proud when I see my colleagues at TCN. They are wonderful people who have experienced the grace of God - and make it possible for so many others to experience the same, says Kjartan Sørheim of the IMI Church who has been involved in the work in Thailand throughout the period, first as a missionary for NMS, then as an employee in the IMI church.
God does amazing things in Thailand, and the IMI Church is allowed to join. What a big blessing!
See also: https://www.tcnfoundation.com
Get set free
- It is difficult to put into words what happens when Christian pastors, who have believed in Jesus all their lives, suddenly experience that they are sons and daughters of God, when they experience that they are completely loved, when they discover their true identity. It is also difficult to describe how amazing it is to see young people with whom we have been close for 14 years standing up, bold and with a lot of authority leading more experienced people into a new relationship with God, says Sørheim.
He was in Thailand earlier this fall. Together with Martin Cave, they had retreat days together with the leadership of the Nexus congregation in Bangkok. They also had staff days with TCN colleagues - and met the church leaders in the Mukdahan Christian Church.
The presence of God
At the heart of the work is the song of praise, leading people into the presence of God. Keys in the work are values like goodness, living a life as a disciple in everything one does and does - and collaborating with other congregations in the local area.
- Agenda 1's leadership network - and the tools used in Agenda 1 - are a crucial building block - and a major reason why the number of congregations who want to join us has increased dramatically, says Sørheim, who came to Thailand for the first time as a missionary for NMS in 2005.
For eight years, Sørheim and his colleagues worked with eight churches. Three years ago the number increased to 30. Then it exploded.
- We were 120 churches last year - and by spring we will be close to 200. It is absolutely incredible - and we look forward to what next!
Says Kjartan Sørheim, head of TCN - and a part of the leadership of the IMI Church's international department. Sørheim is also the leader of Agenda 1 Norway.
* The work that is now TCN was established in 2005 by NMS missionaries Kjartan and Eirin Sørheim, and Espen and Maria Tveten.
* The NMS and Evangelical Lutherah Church in Thailand (ELCT) have been very important keys in the work, financially, structurally and in many other ways.
* Since 1.1. In 2014, the IMI Church conducted this work in Thailand.
* Thailand Christian Network Foundation (TCN) was established in August 2016.
Text: Frode Sandal
He has heard testimonies about what Agenda1 has meant to churches in other parts of Thailand, but he doesn’t know us. As we start the Learning Community Monday morning, there are fewer leaders than we had hoped. But our Thai team isn’t fazed by that. We have spent time in prayer and seeking God for this two day-gathering and have expectations that we willbe part of what God wants to do with his church in this region.
We have a manual we follow as we begin the process with short teachings, group discussions and reports. The Learning Community is a collaborative process tool that seems to work well in every new culture we come to.
We see time and time again that transformation of leaders and churches does not come from the tool itself, but from the “cultures” that we bring to the gathering. It’s the secret sauce that makes it work, especially the culture of seeking God’s presence and of building family.
In everything we do, we seek the presence of God, whether it’s worship, teaching or ministry. This morning as we teach the simple principle of our identity as children of God, a young lady experiences the Father’s love in a way that she has never known before. She shares her testimony, and at the evening session, she lays her hands on others who then experience the transforming power of this love.
In everything we do, we seek to demonstrate a culture of family, with encouragement, honesty, unity and ministering to each other.
The breaks and the meals are just as important as the sessions. By Tuesday afternoon, the atmosphere has changed considerably. There is enthusiasm and trust. The leaders ask if it is possible to invite ten more churches to the next gathering. They wanted to share this with others.
One pastor shared: “I’ve heard many foreigners teaching on discipleship, but now God has taken this knowledge from my head to my heart.” Wow! Maybe it’s the secret sauce!
- Blog by Steve Bruns, @firstname.lastname@example.org -
Nepal is another Agenda1 country. The leader team is made up of some of our experienced Agenda1 leaders from Thailand and Norway and church leaders in Nepal. Agenda1 only works through relationships and we are in Nepal via existing relationships between an Agenda1 church in Norway and church leaders in Nepal.
There were 64 youth leaders from 7 provinces around Nepal. One of the leaders who is part of Agenda1 travels for three days by bus to get to Katmandu for the two-day gathering and then has a three-day bus journey home again. The response we are hearing is that Agenda1 is making a difference to how they think about mission and discipleship among the youth and church congregations.
The fact that many of the youth leaders who come to the gatherings are girls and women is a very healthy sign in a man-dominated society. Raising up and empowering young leaders to take the Gospel to their generation is important for both genders and can give them role models as we have both men and women leading the gatherings and the teaching.
I have just got back from my first trip to an Asian country that it is not safe to name. It was very exciting. What a country of contrasts. I have been met with everything from the huge traffic jams and the very unique driving style to the quiet of the public gardens in the city center and yet another contrast with the hustle and bustle of the old town with its coulourful markets and tiny streets. The local food is very tasty, although I did avoid some of the strongest dishes.
I was not there as a tourist, however. My colleague Svein and I were there to help start Agenda1. Over the last two years we have been working closely with a team of local leaders training them to lead Agenda1. They have travelled for training to other Asian countries where we already have established Agenda1. We have gotten to know each other very well by spending several weeks together and for me, that in itself is a real joy. Hearing their powerful testimonies has been such an inspiration to me too.
The team really is amazing, they have taken time and unpaid leave because they see what Agenda1 can mean for bringing the Gospel to their people. There are all sorts of difficulties for new believers here. The price of following Jesus here is very high. Converts can lose their friends and family, their job and even their home, yet the churches are growing, and people are prepared to pay the price for what Jesus in his parable calls the “pearl of great price.” I am very excited to see how God will use us and Agenda1 here in the coming years.
Wow! That’s all I can think to describe what I have been part of. I just got back from the Agenda1 Asian Summit in Bangkok and what a mind-blowing experience it was. 122 people from ten countries and the aim of the summit was family, spending time together, and hearing one another’s stories of what God is doing in their countries through Agenda1. These stories were truly deep and powerful. We heard of more than 15 000 people choosing to follow Jesus in Cambodia in 2018 and of them being helped into churches where they can grow as disciples of Jesus. We heard about the way Agenda1 is spreading through Thailand and being used by Thai pastors to help them reach their people with the Good News of the Gospel and how the church there is growing.
Each country represented was listened to, encouraged and prayed for. We played together and prayed together and it was such fun. When we worshipped, it felt really powerful, not least because we are not strangers to one another, we are family. One of the huge strengths of Agenda1 is the relationships that are built between people of different nations, denominations and backgrounds. The atmosphere of being in the presence of God during the whole summit was very special. To see for example church leaders from Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia eating lunch together and deepening their relationships was very powerful. For me it was a tiny foretaste of Revelation 7:9 with a great multitude from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages worshipping before the throne.