The Eastern Highlands Simbu Mission (EHSM) in Papua New Guinea has experienced growth and discipleship through a successful small group ministry emphasis.
A recent discipleship training program run by the mission in the Kainantu area saw 600-plus attendees come for four days of training with the whole EHSM team. According to church leaders, there has been a significant increase in tithe, membership, new groups, and number of church workers/volunteers since COVID-19 forced a change in emphasis.
It was during the lockdown period (2020) that EHSM baptised 14,000 people, and tithes increased from K6 million to K11 million (approx. US$1.68 million to US$3.08 million). Membership reached 99,000.
However, the momentum has not slowed, according to EHSM president, Pastor Joanis Fezamo. “We will not go wrong when we work in small groups, following our relational streams. It’s biblical and supported by [the] Spirit of Prophecy. It is also wholistic. In the past, we have been waiting for people to come into the church instead of going to them.”
Pastor Fezamo reports that the South Pacific Division discipleship team and Dr. Peter Roennfeldt had come to the mission for training between 2017 and 2019 and helped prepare EHSM for the pandemic, which no one at that time knew was coming. “Although lockdown came and our churches were closed, but [the] discipleship movement moved into small group[s] and did not stop.”
There was some resistance to the idea at first, but government guidelines to close churches meant there was no other way to worship.
“It was a new terminology and was like a slap on our faces. It was very hard for us to absorb. Why? Because we were already champions in building big churches. All our resources and time were put into it, and we don’t want to leave our comfort zone,” Fezamo added. “As I used to say, The SPD Discipleship Team were messengers sent by God to prepare His church in PNG and abroad for this crisis.”
After the Kainantu area training, the EHSM team were expecting 500 people to attend the next training run at Mount Michael.