At the age of 75 African Enterprise (AE) founder Michael Cassidy is finding fresh purpose in pioneering a project aimed at leading people to Christ through a strategy of spiritual multiplication.
Inspired by successful Christian discipling strategies in India and motivated by a clear call from God to change his priorities, Cassidy has started nine “Barnabas Groups” in various South African cities. His goal is to train and equip young Christian leaders to become effective at sharing their faith with others and at equipping new believers to continue the process by starting their own groups.
He said that during a visit to India two years ago he was both inspired and challenged by the rate at which Christianity was growing there and by the way it was being spread. He said that the Christian population in India had risen from 15 million to 75 million over the past 12 years, and that a major factor in the rapid growth was new Christians bringing others to Christ. Significantly, many new Indian Christians were being equipped through a disciplined, intentional master training programme in which 10 people were taught to each teach 10 others. A feature of the programme was that it did not begin with complicated theology but rather with simple foundational training in personal devotions such as praying, Bible study and regular, systematic quiet times.
Cassidy said that for a while he had been sensing that God was wanting him to change his priorities. On December 18, 2009 his car spun off the road at 120km an hour when he fell asleep at the wheel while driving to Johannnesburg. Miraculously no one was hurt and no damage was done in that incident. But that night he dreamed about the incident and he saw the letters G.O.D imprinted over the scene and he knew that God had needed to do something drastic to get his attention.
He decided to start focusing on the idea of developing a South African version of the Indian master training programme. In April 2010 he made an uncharacteristic last-minute decision to attend the final Mighty Men Conference on Angus Buchan’s Greytown farm. He said he was greatly blessed by Buchan’s ministry but the highlight of the weekend was meeting and spending time with a group of young men from George, who asked him to be a spiritual father to them. “This confirmed for me that I was doing the right thing.” Cassidy, who by this time had already handed over leadership of the South African and international operations of the AE ministry that he started in 1962, set about cutting back on most of his remaining AE responsibilities in order to concentrate on the new project.
The Barnabas Groups project stated this year with the establishment of groups in Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, George, Port Elizabeth and East London. Cassidy said the project was in a test-run phase with the focus on adapting the Indian programme to South African conditions. He conducted training sessions with each group at six to eight week intervals and provided group members with resources and assignments for use in between meetings. He was encouraged that after just one session, one of the groups was already multiplying by passing on the experience to a group of business leaders.