Rapid Growth in Mongolia

More from Mongolia on what an emerging movement looks like: a story from one of YWAM’s pioneer church planters.

At the start of 1990 Mongolia was the only country on Earth with no known followers of Jesus Christ. March 1990, Mongolia opens its doors to foreign missionaries. June, the first two Mongolian disciples are baptized.

Within a few more years, our Swedish, American and Russian team in Erdenet City helped 14 teen girl disciples form 3 small fellowships. The first ever in Erdenet! These would soon multiply into a city-wide church of almost 400 baptized believers.

This mother church planted daughter and granddaughter churches across Mongolia.

The Erdenet Movement experienced such miraculous growth due to several key factors.

A powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit in 1994 brought whole families to faith. There was also a price paid for pioneering this movement. For my family that price was a Christmas burial of our infant son on a frozen hill outside Erdenet.

Our team kept things simple and reproducible; allowing indigenous Mongolian forms and expressions to carry God’s message. To do this required radical trust in the Holy Spirit inhabiting new believers, allowing Mongols to quickly take on ministry and leadership.

During the summer of 1994 our family was left in charge of the work in Erdenet while our Swedish team leaders took a much-needed vacation. During a Bible study, Damdinsuren, a tall man in his mid-50s, responded to Christ and confirmed his faith by praying with Mongolian leaders at the meeting. He then walked back to his home in the sprawling suburb of felt tents outside the city – a population mostly unpenetrated by our urbanized young believers.

He gathered his wife and their eleven children and shared the Good News with them. They all believed and prayed with him to enter the Kingdom of God. Then, encouraged by this, Damdinsuren went to his neighbor’s tent and shared his new-found faith with that family of six. They too received Christ. At this point, he invited his just-saved neighbor to come with him to share with another family, and he helped that man to win his neighbors. Another six followed Jesus. After rejoicing until quite late, the three families went to bed.

The following day, Damdinsuren brought all twenty-four new believers into Erdenet looking for a church leader. Not knowing where to find the young believers he’d met the evening before, his group ended up at our home. Everyone knew what apartment the American family lived in.

When I answered his insistent knock, I was surprised to see this man I’d never met and a large contingent standing behind him in our stairwell. He quickly said that they would not come in (which was very thoughtful because, should they enter, custom demanded I serve tea and food to all 25); he just had a question. After briefly explaining how he’d met Jesus just the day before, Damdinsuren asked me: “These people are all new believers. What do I do with them?”

Thinking on my feet, I responded, “They need to be gathered into a house church so they can learn to obey Jesus.” Knowing there weren’t any existing gatherings in their district, I blurted, “And now you’re a house church leader!” He nodded in agreement and I realized we had a problem. Our strategy was to keep these groups small and participatory and multiply new house churches when they got over a dozen people. I exclaimed, “Your house church is too large. This is two churches!”. Damdinsuren just asked, “So what do we do when this happens?”

Not wanting to make him feel too weird I said, “Well normally you would have been following Jesus for a few weeks and have a disciple that could lead half of these folks.” He paused a moment and asked, “I taught my neighbor how to lead people to Jesus last night. Will he do?”

I assured him that this would be fine. I said I wanted to invite a Mongolian leader to come over so we could model leading a house church for Damdinsuren and his neighbor while the rest went back home to prepare for the churches starting tonight.

I find that many Christians are shocked by the idea of a man planting two churches within twenty-four hours of his second birth. However, we found that if you trust God’s Spirit working in the new disciples, model a very simple gathering around Jesus, meet with the new leader often — keeping them just a little ahead of those they lead, and focus all teaching on the simple commands of Jesus, you can have amazing interactive fellowship develop in homes and multiply throughout neighborhoods and across nations and borders. Damdinsuren was a Mongolian snowball that started an avalanche of disciple making.

The movement grew to 400 baptized Believers in 27 house churches. The Mongolians planted daughter churches in other communities.

On Easter 1996, we as the foreign church planters passed leadership to the local Mongolian leaders we had trained.  Our team left Mongolia with the promise to the believers, to return and start a missionary training center for Mongolian pioneer church planters.

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