A few years ago, while on a trip to Swaziland, I was struck by what I heard and saw. It was a catalyzing moment for OneHope—it was the spark that ignited us to become an Outcome Based Ministry.
While visiting the “Christian” nation of Swaziland, I worked with, met and talked with many Swazi Christians. They revealed that many Swazis who claim Christianity and attend church on Sunday also continue to visit Shamans and practice witchcraft as usual—simply adding God to their pantheistic catalogue. This country—which self-reports being 87% Christian—also has the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world due to early age of sexual debut encouraged by cultural & ritualistic sexual norms.
I was struck with the sad realization that evangelism efforts in this nation had been “successful” in numbers only, but that there was no lasting life change taking place.
This was a dark moment; it almost felt like storm clouds had rolled in and were blocking the sunlight. But sometimes these are the places where God grants us clarity—He gives us visions from thunderclouds. It was in this moment that God revealed to me the importance of learning more about evangelizing effectively in every country we reach.
In order for us to understand our audience, we needed to gain on-the-ground insight into the unique customs and cultural challenges of each country we worked in so that we could more effectively communicate the Gospel and affect actual life transformation.
To incite our research efforts, we launched in 2007 a quantitative and qualitative research study to identify the true daily life of teens around the world. To our knowledge, this remains the largest study on this topic ever conducted. We surveyed more than 152,000 13–19-year-olds in 44 countries on 5 continents over the course of 4 years.
We have found that conducting ongoing research, in nations like Swaziland and everywhere else that we work, is critical to ensuring that our efforts to deliver the Gospel, along with its potential for life transforming impact, are fruitful.
How do you know if you are being successful? Measure.
Research became prophetic. Not only did research allow us to focus on the outcomes (life changes) we sought to see rather than the outputs (numbers of books distributed), but it gave us the mechanism to measure effectiveness and track life change. These processes became the stepping-stone to not only transform how we do ministry, but to tangibly chart the growth and success of our ministry efforts.
“What’s measured improves” Peter F. Drucker
Since implementing research and applying Outcome Based Ministry strategies, we have been overwhelmed with the number of short- and long-term successful life-change stories we have heard coming out of the studies we conduct after one of our products is distributed or a program takes place. Documenting these stories fuels our passion to advocate for this exciting shift in how we think about and do missions.
Because we want to share what we have learned, we regularly offer workshops for pastors and ministry leaders to share what we have learned on our outcome-based journey as well as making our research available for free.
Like Swaziland showed us, numbers can tell how many souls claim salvation, how many were baptized, how many churches were planted or how many pieces of literature were handed out. But numbers can’t tell the story of a God-touched, transformed life.
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