The Story of the Mahafaly Church: Discipleship

Here we are continuing the story thus far of the work among the Mahafaly . . .

After people decide they are ready to follow Jesus they have to know how. After telling them the good news, Grant returned to the villages and taught them a handful of important lessons. It was basically, Now that you have a relationship with God here’s how you talk to him (prayer), tell others what he’s done for you (evangelism), gather together as God’s family (church), grow as a Christian (knowing and obeying God’s word), endure hard times and temptations, etc., etc.

At the end of this time we baptized those who were ready. Not everyone who had first decided to follow Jesus made it. This was no magical process. It was hard and messy, but there were those who now understood what it meant to follow Jesus, had counted the cost, and buried themselves alongside Jesus in baptism, “raised to walk in a new kind of life.”

After these short term lessons, Grant would take much longer going back through the stories of the Bible from creation to Jesus’ resurrection and take time to help these new believers wrestle with God’s word. Doug Campbell and I were part of this process in Andremba  2012. Doing it this way actually helped them understand their own life and land better (as truly understanding God’s Word always does). By the time we got to the stories of Jesus, they were enthralled with Jesus. That a God who owed us nothing would love us so much that he would remain involved with us over centuries and eventually become one of us in order to take our place truly changed their hearts!

The last step was teaching them what it meant to be God’s family as a local church. We continued through the story of the Bible through the book of Acts. I think we all learned going through these stories and seeing things, making connections, and understanding God’s long reaching plan that started in the beginning. For the Mahafaly, once they saw the church formed in Acts they intrinsically knew they needed to do the same. “If this is what God’s people did in the stories then we need to do the same,” they would say. In those days, three small groups decided to become churches–people meeting together and committed to treating each other like God’s family.

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