Martyrs and Makers

by Bishop Matt Thomas

Early Christian symbolsThey sang in chorus, “We are willing to suffer and die with one another for the sake of Jesus.”

It sounds like something from a second-century church in Rome as their leaders marched to the arena for execution or prison. Those, however, were the words I heard recently from tearful leaders in the country from which I am writing. We were all on the ready in the event that our location was raided and we were taken into custody. We narrowly escaped capture this time. A narrow miss for the sake of Christ.

It is hard to convey to those in more secure locations the difficulty many endure who are simply trying to serve Jesus and help others discover His saving grace. But, this is the reality for nearly one-third of global Free Methodists, mostly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, but other places as well. Many have been martyred. Others are making disciples without loss of blood or freedom. It is these disciple makers who are on the front edge of bringing in the harvest.

Not everyone needs to be a martyr. But we can all be disciple makers. The World Conference of the Free Methodist Church understands that and has declared the coming decade the “Decade of Harvest.” The goal is to see the church increase through the making of new disciples. The global Free Methodist Church doubled between 1996 and 2013. World Conference participants responded to a challenge from India’s Bishop Joab Lohara to grow and multiply, helping others discover the joy of salvation by doubling once again in 10 years. It is not really about numbers, but about obedience and living as light and salt in the world. This is, after all, the commission of Jesus – not just a good idea.

In view of writing this article, I asked one pastor how he built relationships and made disciples in a place where it is dangerous to evangelize. He said, “When we live the light of Jesus in the world, we stand out, and people want to know why we are living peaceful and joyful lives. That is an open door through which we eagerly walk to share our faith and invite people to join us.” That sounds remarkably simple. It is.

When I asked the same person how he came to know Christ, he said he rejected the gospel until the Holy Spirit simply and directly spoke to him and he responded. In that case, it took only the lives of believers and the words of the Holy Spirit. That is because the harvest is plentiful. Sadly, however, the workers are few.

You can be a worker by simply living in God’s will, praying for opportunities, sharing what you know with the people you love and giving a simple invitation to join you on the journey. Join us in the Decade of Harvest. You can either be a martyr or a maker. Being a maker is good enough and gets the job done while you are still breathing and receiving the joy of seeing others discover life.