As a team of missionaries, our main focus in Isaan is church planting. 10 families living in districts in 4 provinces where we did not find a church. We praise God that since the start of our work in 2006, 9 churches have started. Some of these churches are already without missionary presence, others still have missionary imput to some extend.
The core of our work is starting house groups in as many places as possible. We do not mainly invite people to central events, but try to get invitations to come to their homes. In this way, the Gospel message reaches whole households rather than individuals. In the house groups, we teach the Bible in a way to ensure that people get a firm foundation and understand the nature of God, the seriousness of sin, and the provision for sin that God gave in his Son Jesus Christ. House groups are also a good setting where people can explore what it means to be a Christian in the Isaan context. We try to use Isaan language and culture as much as possible to avoid unnecessary barriers to the Gospel.
As missionaries, we are passers-by. From the beginning, the members in the churches we plant need to know we are not there to stay. We work according the the Model, Assist, Watch, Leave (MAWL) principle. First, we model ministry. Second, we assist the new believers in ministry. Third, we watch the believers do ministry. We are only present in a consulting role. Fourth, we leave the area. That does not mean we abandon the church. We keep in touch.
During the MAWL process, the responsibilities of the missionary in and for the church gradually diminish until he can leave. It is important to us that the Model, Assist, Watch, Leave process is not limited to one church. It also takes place in the church multiplication process.
Ideally, when we move from the modelling to the assisting stage in the church we plant, a daughter church is planted from that church. In that daughter church the Model, Assist, Watch, Leave sequence is started afresh, with the Isaan Christians being the ones who model (while we assist them). We watch the third generation church being planted, while the church we planted assists the daughter church to plant a granddaughter church.
This is an aspirational goal. So far, we have seen church planting and churches being able to function on their own taking place. But we have not yet seen churches multiply. In the years to come, we will continue to work towards that goal. We will continually evaluate whether our approach facilitates or hinders multiplication. We will study cases of church multiplication in Thailand and other countries to learn from.