By Jennifer Taylor
4112 Old Routt Road, Louisville, KY 40299
Doug Lucas, President
Team Expansion is serious about prayer. The ministry began as a movement of prayer when President Doug Lucas was a student at Kentucky Christian College (now Kentucky Christian University). In addition to raising support, team members also recruit prayer partners—an average of 200 for each individual or family! And Emerald Hills, the ministry’s training center, is “a prayer center first,” says Eric Derry, vice president, mobilization.
From those first prayers almost 35 years ago, Team Expansion has grown to more than 300 full-time workers serving in 48 countries around the world, with a focus on unreached people groups.
“Out of every dollar given to missions today, 99.5 percent goes to areas with
already-reached groups,” Derry says. “Just a penny or less goes to ministry among unreached people. It haunts us that there are people who live their whole lives without hearing the gospel while so many are pouring energy and money into other places.”
The ministry estimates 6,900 people groups still need to hear the good news of Jesus. The acronym THUMBS summarizes the biggest needs: tribal people, Hindus, the unreligious, Muslims, Buddhists, and Sikhs. From Europe to Japan, and Tunisia to Thailand, missionaries work to reach these groups, make disciples, and pass the baton of leadership to the native people.
“Our team in Venezuela is a great example of this,” Derry says. “God’s doing amazing things there! They’re sending out their own missionaries and extending the kingdom of God through church planting.”
This “church planting DNA” is central to Team Expansion’s work. The Venezuelan team has launched a dozen churches with plans to start 120 by 2020; the original Ukrainian ministry has grown from one church in 1991 to more than 60 throughout the country.
In addition to supporting its missionaries, Team Expansion works to educate American people about the worldwide needs. The website offers prayer guides (of course!), VBS curriculum, and many other resources as well as detailed training for potential forwarding agents.
“In the last two years we’ve also trained 1,100 people using the Kairos missions curriculum,” Derry says. “It’s accessible material that allows people the immediate chance to become facilitators who help lead the course for other participants.”
Team Expansion also participates in the Jonathan Project, a loose partnership of organizations and individuals committed to mobilizing and training “Jonathans” for church planting among the unreached.
“These are people who have character like Jonathan displayed in 1 Samuel 14,” Derry says. “This includes faith, teachability, and a willingness to be used even in the most difficult places in the world. The two-week intensive course is led by several of the partnering organizations to focus on people God is raising up for this mission.”
Much of the training happens at Emerald Hills, Team Expansion’s 61-acre retreat and training center in Louisville. In addition to the rooms for offices, group gatherings, and training, the property features a ropes course, a maintenance building—and miles of wooded prayer trails.
Jennifer Taylor, one of CHRISTIAN STANDARD’s contributing editors, lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Read her blog at www.seejenwrite.com.