“For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the Lord will speak to this people.” - Isaiah 28:11 (ESV)
As OM recently shifted its focus to starting new fellowships of believers, some of the OM ministry fields have found themselves searching for ways to realign their work with this new goal of seeing vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached.
One such field is OM Israel, which despite ministering in Israel for over 50 years, has never before focused on church planting, explains OM Israel field worker Gershom*. Most of the field’s ministry thus far has included evangelistic literature distribution and conversations with strangers during public outreaches.
“The whole concept [of church planting] is foreign to us, and I don't think anyone on our field has had experience in this area, so even though we are all willing and dedicated to realignment, we really don't have a lot of knowledge on how to do this.”
As the field seeks to realign with OM’s new focus, its workers continue to learn how to better utilise their current ministries to reach the unreached. Two steps in the right direction, according to Gershom, include more strategic outreaches with short-term teams and an increased commitment to follow-up.
One of the focus areas for short-term outreaches is the Jezreel Valley in northern Israel. The OM field hopes to see thriving fellowships of believers inside the valley.
Short-term teams can easily saturate many communities in and near the Jezreel Valley with the Gospel literature Gershom and his field provide.
“As far as literature distribution, that also is a step along the process. As an initial step, quite a few villages in the Jezreel Valley in the last two months [received literature],” Gershom notes.
He tells of one short-term team composed of over 20 teenagers who provided literature to every home in nine different communities throughout the valley during their one-month program. Another team from Korea also reached over 40 communities within 10 days in northern Israel.
“It's a big deal,” Gershom says, adding that other teams had also distributed literature to at least half a dozen more communities.
One problem the team has identified in recent months is the lack of staff to follow up with the communities who receive the literature. In recent months, however, people from the short-term outreach teams have felt called specifically to that task, and the field now has several applications for people wanting to join OM Israel “in the pipeline,” according to Gershom.
“I think the biggest recent excitement to us is just immediate follow-up. We have realised in the last month or two, we know we need to do it, we had people that needed to be followed up, [and] we had people we could call upon to do that. And it's happening." In fact, "one was a Jewish guy in northern Nazareth who was very open and asked for somebody to contact him who spoke good Hebrew, and we jumped on that,” Gershom recalls. “I think contact was made within two or three days by one of our field members. For us, it’s very encouraging because we’ve never really had that kind of response time.”
Another method of improving follow up efforts involves working with local churches, many of whom already have a hope and a vision for planting daughter churches in the Jezreel Valley and other areas. While OM field workers have historically been actively engaged in local churches, according to Gershom, there has previously been little collaboration on how to combine efforts between OM and those churches to plant new fellowships among the least reached.
We want to be "talking with the leadership of the local congregations on a more strategic level about how specifically we can assist them,” Gershom explains. “Rather than reinvent the wheel, I think we need to work with them to ask how we can support the efforts that they already have underway.”
While these methods have provided results in recent months, the field desires more training in church planting strategies. Gershom plans for more formal training within the next few years, desiring to maximise the team’s efficiency.
“We’re new at this, so we’re kind of stumbling as we go along, but we are very eager to learn, and we really want to see the end goal materialise, that is, new communities of Jesus followers established.”
*Name changed for security
OM Communications intern Jana Eller is a student studying journalism and missions and loves to see how God is moving among the nations. She is always up for spontaneous adventures and exploring new things.