Evangelism in Myanmar used to look drastically different. A Burmese brother in Christ shares that the traditional approach involved sharing the gospel only once, “and then follow up never.” After sharing or just distributing gospel tracts, they thought, “our responsibility is done.” Follow-up, discipleship, and community building never occurred to them.
“I did not have such a great experience of doing evangelism in the traditional way,” the Burmese brother admits. Over many years, he observed that when evangelists shared the gospel in the traditional way, the recipients would confess faith and be baptized. But some months later, the recipients would quietly stop coming to church. “They will disappear.”
But “in Zúme, it is not like that.” Why, then, is Zúme so much more effective than the traditional Burmese method of evangelism?
- Zúme builds strong friendships. “The difference between the traditional way of outreaching and DMM or Zúme is that we just try to build a friendship with the person and to show our care as much as we can,” says this Burmese brother. Caring relationships are critical, and sharing “our thoughts and feelings one-on-one also is more powerful.” Later on, he continues, “this is a very good movement to reach the unreachable. Without making or building a good friendship, I think we would never be able to reach the community with the gospel.”
- Zúme involves regular meetings. The consistency of these regular meetings strengthens relationships within the groups, as well as the faith of the individual members. Sharing beliefs and thoughts about God leads members to be more comfortable sharing about religion. They learn how to talk about their faith, and the strength of community ensures that members can’t quietly slip away.
- Zúme leads to deep learning based on Scripture. Another Burmese brother explains that Zúme is “very effective for us because it is a detailed Bible study discovery.” Barely any lesson preparation is required, and the questions involved naturally engage participants in the meat of the passage. They learn to interact personally with the passage and to apply critical thinking to what Scripture teaches about God and people. “You can just take a passage and walk in cold and people are excited,” says Jacob,* an American who works with the Burmese church.
- Zúme spreads through natural community networks. The last question of a Zúme Bible study asks participants, “With whom are you going to share?” This encourages them to take action to “not take the Word only with me. . . but to tell another person,” the first Burmese brother says. “So that makes it very effective.” Zúme then trains participants to spread the good news organically, through preestablished community connections with much more staying power than those between an evangelist and a stranger on the street.
- Zúme centers local leadership. Jacob explains that “I’m usually trying to back out. . . . I want to make sure that the local leaders are moving in the direction that the Spirit wants them to move and then I want to get out of the way.” His Burmese brother also emphasizes the importance of local leadership, that the impetus for evangelism should come from within the community rather than from without. Giving ownership to the members themselves ensures that “we can leave the group with them” and it will continue to grow.
- Zúme is open for everyone. Our Burmese brother remarks with delight that to do Zúme, “we don’t need to step out of our job, or to be called a full-time missionary, or pastor, evangelist, such like that. This thing we can do with any status . . . So it is very simple, but very powerful.”
While Zúme’s strategy is new and unfamiliar to many who are used to traditional evangelism, it is also much more effective for much of the Burmese church. “The church has been growing in Myanmar for a while,” says Jacob, but Zúme offers a different strategy and a new way to build the community of God there.