“My name’s not in the Lamb’s Book of Life,” Tony exclaimed, suddenly grasping the weight of a truth he had long rejected.
Months prior, Tony had started asking questions about the gospel.
His former co-worker, Jason, had been sharing Christ with him and had showed Tony a Bible app. Since then, Tony was diligently reading through the Scriptures on his phone. But, he didn’t understand everything he came across.
A couple of weeks before leaving for the mission field, Jason visited Tony and learned he still had a lot of questions. Sitting in a nearby McDonald's, Jason began sharing The Story of Hope—a chronological Bible resource that outlines the big picture of the gospel using 20 Old Testament and 20 New Testament stories. Starting with the story of Creation, Jason walked Tony through several major Bible events, all the way to the end of ages in Revelation. As the pieces came together in his head, Tony began to understand how the “big story” of the gospel was relevant to him. His eyes lit up with conviction.
“I am not where I thought I was with the Lord!” he exclaimed.
It was clear what Tony needed to do, but the decision to surrender his life to God was a heavy one.
“If I do this, I will have to change a lot about how I live,” Tony said, his head dropping into his hands.
Jason sat quietly as Tony began to weep and struggle through the battle between his flesh and his spirit.
Minutes passed as the Spirit gently worked to soften Tony heart. At last, he lifted his head and met Jason’s eyes.
“I’m ready,” he said.
And with that, Tony’s name was written into the book of life forever.
THE START OF GOOD SOIL
When it comes to evangelism, one size doesn’t fit all. That’s why the creators of The Story of Hope wanted to develop a resource that would help believers like Jason share the gospel effectively, regardless of a person’s language, religion or worldview. Called “worldview noise,” the developers recognized that many factors can impact how someone understands the gospel, and sometimes, even predispose them to outright reject it.
ABWE wanted to change that. So in 2005, the mission’s training division launched Good Soil Evangelism & Discipleship resources, and released The Story of Hope and a discipleship follow-up book called The Way to Joy.
The Story of Hope is a 64-page book that covers God’s redemptive story—from Genesis to Revelation—and helps lay a foundation for the reader to understand the concepts of God, man, sin, death, Christ, the cross, faith, and life.
The idea behind Good Soil is that once people grasp basic biblical truths outlined in the materials, they can better understand the relevance of the Bible and their need for a savior.
One pastor from a small town in Iowa began using Good Soil after his shocking discovery that many of the children going through his VBS program had never even heard of Jesus before.
BEFORE GOOD SOIL
Leading people to Christ, discipling them to maturity, and planting churches make up the core of ABWE’s ministry philosophy. But in the early 2000s, members of the ABWE Board began to notice that the focus might be drifting.
“Some of our missionaries weren’t even talking about evangelism,” said Good Soil founder Wayne Haston. “They were focusing more on [other ministries].” But ABWE understood that without evangelism, compassion ministries like healthcare and education only address physical needs.
Because of this, Wayne was tasked with developing a more in-depth training program to help prepare ABWE’s people for the field. He began by conducting a survey of the missionaries joining the mission in 2004. While not reflective of the missionary family at large, the results from this small sample were shocking.
Less than half of the new missionaries had ever led an adult to Christ. Ten percent had also never discipled an adult. Only one couple had ever been involved in any kind of church plant.
“So, we’re sending these people out to be full-time missionaries,” Haston mused. “But, if they haven’t done [these things] in North America, how do we expect them to go to a Muslim country—or a Buddhist, Hindu, spiritist, or tribal country—and be effective?”
This realization served as the catalyst for changing how ABWE prepared its missionaries. And that same year, Wayne presented a small group of missionaries and evangelists with a challenge: Create a training program to teach missionaries to do cross-cultural, worldview-relevant evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. The solution also needed to consider the starting point and literacy levels of the people using it, and allow flexibility in the amount of time it required.
Out of those meetings came Good Soil.
GOOD SOIL TODAY
Mitch trusted Christ as a young girl, and she loved sharing her faith. As an adult, she attended a Good Soil Evangelism & Discipleship training session, led by a missionary who had been through the training at ABWE Headquarters, and then brought it to Portugal. The new evangelism methods she learned empowered her to reach Lea, a young mother and former Catholic who came to faith in Christ and had been attending Mitch’s Story of Hope study.
One day Lea met the missionary who had trained her mentor, Mitch, and excitedly announced that she was taking her faith home with her. She had been working several hours from home, but was leaving her job to move back to her husband and 3-year-old daughter. Now she couldn’t wait to share this newfound hope with her husband and her mother, both still devout Roman Catholics.
But that was only the beginning.
As Lea diligently studied the Good Soil resources and grew in her spiritual strength and love for the Lord, her burden to spread that good news grew as well.
Only two months into her faith, Lea already had a clear understanding of man’s great need for the gospel, and she wanted others to understand it as well. She gathered together a group of people from her home province, and asked missionaries from Mitch’s church to come share The Story of Hope with them. Mitch and a team made the three-hour trip to Lea’s hometown to help Lea teach her friends—just like Mitch had taught Lea, and the Good Soil team had taught Mitch.
Today, Lea runs a children’s outreach program in her community. Her husband, Arnel, who had helped her by leading music for the program, also recently accepted Christ after listening to Lea teach.
As a self-proclaimed agnostic, Steve was furiously fighting against God.
The death of a close friend in high school left him feeling betrayed—he saw Keith’s death as a great injustice—and the bitterness changed Steve for the worst. The deaths of his parents some years later did nothing to help this.
Steve not only closed himself off to all religion but also grew actively hostile toward those who held to any kind of religious values. He lived that way for years, spinning into a dark spiral of depression and anxiety. The end of every day left him feeling drained, exhausted, and broken.
But even in the midst of the storm, the Spirit was stirring in Steve’s heart. Beneath his angry shell, there was an unfulfilled yearning that he was seeking to fill. And, unbeknownst to him, God was slowly guiding him toward the solution, in the form of a good friend named Bryan.
Steve knew Bryan for 6 months before discovering that he was a pastor. By the time Steve learned of Bryan’s occupation, he had already developed a deep respect for the man and how he lived his life. That respect overrode his predisposed ideas about Christianity.
Steve and Bryan began meeting on a regular basis and Bryan introduced him to The Story of Hope. The way the book laid out the big picture of the Bible made it easy for Steve—who had not been raised in a church and had never read the Bible before—to understand the gospel without overwhelming him. With every lesson, Steve found himself growing hungrier for more of the Word.
After several weeks of lessons, and with the Holy Spirit gently working on his hardened heart, Steve broke down and surrendered his life to God.
“I prayed. I wept. I had such a heavy heart. My shame for the way I spoke of and treated God was immense. [But as] I prayed, I could feel my heart get lighter as if a weight had been lifted.”
But Steve didn’t stop there. He continued to meet with Bryan, graduating from The Story of Hope to The Way To Joy. He walked his family through The Story of Hope, and had the great pleasure of leading each of his children to Christ and baptizing them.
GENERATIONS OF TRAINING
This vision of training and equipping disciples worldwide to effectively share the gospel has only grown as the news about Good Soil spreads.
Joseph Blasko and his wife, Vangee, were already gifted teachers and very influential at their Christian school in Greater Manila, Philippines. But God began using their gifts in new ways after they attended a Good Soil training seminar hosted in their province, led by Ariel Abadiano, the Good Soil Director in the Philippines. Ariel had been trained by ABWE’s Good Soil Evangelism & Discipleship International Director, Gil Thomas.
Through Ariel, Joseph learned how to train others in his community, and how to implement Good Soil’s resources to compliment that training. Joseph's church has since recognized his God-given gift of teaching and made him the lay pastor of missions and evangelism.
To date, 35 people in Joseph’s church have been trained and are using Good Soil resources to raise more disciples. People are trusting Christ, being baptized, and joining the church in vast numbers, across the globe.
GOOD SOIL AROUND THE WORLD
While Good Soil was initially developed for ABWE’s overseas mission work, its reach quickly spread beyond ABWE. Today, at least 21 known missions agencies and ministries have used the curriculum in 40 counties. The resources have found their way across North America, into jails, youth groups, Christian schools and homeschool families, deaf ministries, military bases, among refugees, and even on the baseball field.
While ABWE developed the materials, the agency does not limit who can use them. In fact, the hope is to empower Christ followers to share God’s story of hope with their families, and in their communities. Since training was developed for the resources in 2007, more than 15,000 people have been taught how to take the materials back into their communities to train others.
Good Soil was created to train ABWE missionaries. By God's grace, it has not only accomplished that, but so much more. It continues to build and grow and impact many with a gospel presented more clearly and contextually than ever before.
Learn More about ABWE's Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship Trainings.
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