Q&A: Do You Recommend Changing the Questions?

Actual Question: “In DBS, after reading the scripture, the 3 key questions asked are: 

1. What does this scripture tell you about God?

2. What does it tell you about mankind (fallen man)?

3. What change do you want to start to see in you by the Holy Spirit’s help?

My question: Have you considered adding a question before the last one, inviting people to talk about what Jesus did to the fallen condition of man, and to remember the power that Jesus enables, so that the Gospel becomes the power to change, rather than just our will?”

My Response:

Many have changed the questions, for many reasons. Some do because they get bored asking and answering the same questions week after week. But it is that repetition that allows lost people on the way to faith to be able to start Discovery with their family and friends. “Who are you doing this to benefit?” is the question I want to ask these adapters.

Obviously, the form of question # 3 above introduces the work of the Holy Spirit prematurely, if the group is primarily composed of lost people. It has been inserted by the person who wrote the question. The actual questions I recommend people ask after the passage has been read twice, retold and any details noted which were omitted in the re-telling are:

  1. What do we learn about God?

2. What do we learn about people?

3. How will you put this passage into practice?

Why would you want to insert the suggested additional question? What do you hope to accomplish by inserting it. If the participants are not yet believers, they likely do not even know there is a Holy Spirit. That is one of the biblical truths we believe they need to discover from the pages of the Bible rather than depend on our observations about him as their entre into knowing him. I suspect the inquisitor is thinking about a group of Christians doing Discovery and the need to get them to think about what God is calling them to do, rather than depending on their feelings, emotions or self-will. That is not the setting the DBS questions were developed for use. Maybe many who profess to be believers are so much in need of these additional questions because we have never really expected them to directly apply the Word of God to their lives.

Q&A: What are the Protections?

Actual Question: “As you change the ecclesiology more towards a decentralized structure – how do you prevent that people would build their own kingdom and draw people out of the church?”

The best prevention against those who seek to do this is ongoing coaching. Calling leaders and their emerging teams to discover the biblical passages on themes like plurality of elders has proven helpful. Paul was always operating in a team setting and with appropriate mutual accountability. Calling all disciple makers into mutual accountability is foundational to multi-generational disciple-making.

There have been instances of what the questioner is raising which have happened in Movements. It often becomes obvious when they cease sharing the stories of breakthrough, transformation and the numbers of new groups being started. Tracking outcomes is critical to assessing health and leadership issues. Getting emerging leaders to do ongoing Discovery studies (written and/or group) is critical to helping them develop a strong, healthy biblical approach to leadership.

Encourage them to explore the leadership model of Barnabas. Spend time in Ezekiel 34 where Israel’s leaders are compared to shepherding. Explore the theme of “shepherding/pastoring” in both the Old Testament. Investigate the model of leadership Jesus establishes in Matthew’s Gospel. Mutual accountability in an ongoing leadership cohort (which maybe meets once a month) can be profound in protecting God’s people from self-serving leadership models. They are rampant in our world, so we must anticipate their will be challenges.

Who do leaders answer to, ultimately? That is the question they need to answer.

Q&A: How Do You Balance Grace and Obedience

Here is the actual question which was raised at the Salt & Light conference: “Setting aside cheap grace (believing without obedience), does the approach of emphasizing obedience lead to moralism and works-based salvation mindsets (my works save me and approve me before God). How do you help keep a balance of obedience and the disciple’s affections for God and grasp of grace?”

Our first question, asked of every passage we study in a Discovery Group, is “What is revealed about God?” Proper obedience grows out of a burgeoning awareness of who God is and what causes his heart joy, concern and deep passion. People can only be expected to respond in obedience to the degree we are coming to know and trust God. Responsive obedience is what we are calling for in obedience-based following of Jesus.

As some have noted, “Obedience is the love language Jesus calls for from his followers.” He often points out, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

A Muslim brother and sister were working through the Creation to the Cross scripture set years ago in Nashville. Isaiah 53 is the bridge passage which is the last Old Testament text before the group moves into the Gospels. After a careful multiple readings of the text and defining any new words, my friend asked, “What do we learn about God from what we have just heard?” The brother took a while to respond with his head slightly bowed. Looking up he responded, “God loves us,” and unprompted he added, “My how the Suffering Servant loves us!”

The obedience we model and call for in a Discovery Group is simple and relevant to what the day’s passage reveals about God and the characters in the story. Sometimes we may need to use the S.P.E.C.K. acronym to help people identify how they might obey. Does this passage mention a Sin you wrestle with committing? If it does, then how can you prepare yourself for you next temptation in this area? What is the model a Prayer or Praise form in this passage you could imitate? What is the Promise it contains which you need to claim? What action does someone take in this passage which can serve as an Example you should imitate? What is the explicit Command given in this text you could start obeying? What important Knowledge in this passage is significant enough to memorize?

This kind of simple obedience, as a response to what is being revealed about God’s character, becomes an open door to truly learning to “follow Jesus.” Obedience to King Jesus is at the heart of being a true disciple and it is absolutely essential to becoming an intentional disciple maker!

Q&A: How do you encourage Christians who are very happy to sit and receive teaching from the ‘qualified’ to engage with this discovery model? What has worked for you?

Working through strategic preaching/teaching plans which expose these people to Kingdom texts which produce a Kingdom expansion call motivates some. How will passive people be called to “get on the pitch” rather than being only consumers?

Do not focus too much attention on the resistant. Invest time, energy and passion into the willing. Build a team out of these. “Start small to end big; focus on the few to win the many.” are two related the counter-intuitive statements that were learned by on the ground teams in Africa. You will not succeed in getting large numbers of people to take up new approaches at the same time. Their rhythms keep them doing what they are doing. Who are the people who are willing to learn new rhythms?

Celebrate the stories of breakthrough which come from the efforts of your team. As success begins with your team, their stories have the potential to provide the “social proof” which is required by the 84% who are middle or laggard adopters. Focusing too much attention on the slower adopters increases their resistance, but often sidetracks you and your team. Read through Acts and pay special attention to how much attention Saul/Paul gives to the Jewish people in the synagogues who rejected his proclamation.

Focusing on the willing is not about giving up on the resistant, though. It is understanding that they need proof. Give it to them. Get to breakthrough and more will join you. Yes, I know you wish they would help you get to breakthrough, but do not allow that to distract you.

Q&A: What degree of “fruits in keeping with repentance” must be demonstrated before giving converts responsibility in the church?

A discovery group in a household of peace is not the church, yet. It is an existing community that desperately needs the gospel to become a Kingdom outpost. When discovery happens there, these people experience God through the Holy Spirit at work in the Word and their exploration of it together. As a household of peace comes to faith, each will be discipled toward repentance, full loyalty and maturity.

The question reveals that we have made participating in church gatherings the only avenue for coming to know God and surrendering to him. Facilitating a Discovery Group in your own home, among your family and friends can become a pathway for introduction to the church.

When you read the four books called Gospels, ask yourself the following question: “When do the disciples qualify as being full-fledged believers?” When are they “the church”? We see moments when they appear to “get it.” There are times when they confess Jesus as Lord, but then almost immediately tell him he is wrong (Matthew 16). When would your church leadership give them “responsibility in the church?” Obviously, Jesus sent them out earlier (Matthew 10:1ff). Jesus’ actions in the four Gospels needs to become our model, if we are going to see multiplication begin.

An acorn has all the DNA for an oak tree. It cannot be used to manufacture wood flooring or turning a wood bowl, but its DNA is present. Discovery Groups have the spiritual DNA to form churches. There is much that has to happen before they reach that stage of development and maturity, but trees only come from seeds. Biblical churches come from the Word of God being sown in the hearts of men and women. The questioner needs to differentiate between seed sowing and harvesting.

Q&A: Are Addition Growth and Multiplication Complimentary?

Here is the full question from the Salt & Light Conference attendee: “Shouldn’t we say that growth and multiplication are complimentary, where we see growth in Acts with Peter’s preaching during the day of Pentecost first and the process of discipleship done throughout the church thereafter by Paul with the Corinthians or with his spiritual son Timothy telling the church to imitate him as he imitates Christ or Peter with the Jews in 2 Peter 1:12?”

My studied conviction is that something fascinating happens when you overlay Jesus’ three promises regarding fruitfulness in John 15 with the A.P.E.S/T. section from Paul (Ephesians 4:12).

Jesus affirms that those who abide in him will be pruned by the Father so they will

  1. bear fruit (John 15:4)
  2. bear much fruit (John 15:5)
  3. bear fruit that lasts (John 15:16)

His analogy is powerful and significant in Israel’s history. In the vine and the branches analogy we know fresh grapes and wine are the fruit being referenced. Papa God tends the branches to ensure they have optimum opportunities to produce grapes. Their fruitfulness is fundamentally about abiding in Jesus. Later, the way grapes become “fruit that lasts” is via wine making. In Israel’s history there were crops that were incredibly significant for sustaining life and as economic resources: wheat, barley, olives (for oil) and wine were life sustaining. They were bartered and sold by people in this nation right at the point of convergence of two major trade routes: shipping vessels on the Mediterranean Sea and cross land caravans coming from far eastern regions of Asia and the southern regions of Africa. 

The Hebrew word “shalom” is most often translated “peace” but it probably would be better translated by something like “flourishing.” It is a wholly positive word about well-being. Fruitfulness is about wholeness. God created the world and man and called for all of creation to be fruitful and multiply. He works so we will flourish—becoming and producing everything we can and were designed to bear.


The critical piece for us to do in response to God’s purpose and ongoing work is to abide in the vine, to stay connected to Jesus and his life giving nourishment (sap as it were). Every new grape has seeds for replication. 

Apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers are the functions Jesus has graced the church with “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…” (Ephesians 4:12). The body of Christ flourishes when every part is being equipped. Apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers all have essential functions to see each part equipped, empowered and bearing fruit.

Wine making takes more resources than starting new vines. But without the new vines, there is a limit to how much wine can be produced. Apostles and prophets are especially significant to getting new groups started among new people groups and in new places. Paul and his missionary band were the tabernacle-like portable church. They reveal the incredible value and need for the church on the go, seeking out where God desires to be working next. Evangelists and pastor/teachers follow and are critical empowering every new believer to begin “bearing much fruit” and arriving at the place where “fruit that lasts” can be produced, too.

In DMMs the evangelists who bear much fruit are insiders to the culture who are quickly involved in reaching their friends and neighbors. They are like the many plant cuttings which are taken off a growing vine and re-planted to result in many fruitful vines (all taking their DNA from Jesus). Wine making is about preservation. It is about long-term access to the life-giving resources given from the vine. You don’t start by building your wine press, you start by planting a vineyard. It is my conviction that Church Growth models lead with what should follow. Far too often, they also export lots of foreign culture. They have taken far too much DNA from the business world, I fear.

Yes, addition (“much fruit”) is complimentary to multiplication (“bear fruit), but there is an orderliness we need to recognize and honor. And we must recognize that preservation comes even later in the cycle.

Q&A: What if you have ordinary people you want to release but they are not willing to be released?

Last week I had the privilege of spending about 20 hours online with leaders from a global network of churches. The theme for the online conference was based on the title of Jerry Trousdale and Glenn Sunshine’s book, The Kingdom Unleashed. Jerry mentioned five spiritual malpractices which serve as obstacles to such unleashing. In my two presentations I focused on the third of Jerry’s malpractices: keeping ordinary people ordinary.

I noted that ordinary people need to become disciple makers by ongoing coaching in simple Discovery Groups. Roy Moran and I each had two sessions and all four of those were followed by a question and answer period. More questions were submitted than we had time to answer so I committed to answer those questions here in my blog. The title contains a question which was asked both the first and second days. It came from a lady who is part of a team working in Paris to plant a network of simple churches planting simple churches, especially in the high rise apartment buildings throughout the city.

Here is my response:

Some people do not want to be released because they are afraid they are not adequately prepared for the task at hand. For this group there are four phases of working with them which I recommend:

  • Model — host a Discovery Group where they are participants along with you. Do this about four weeks. Communicate each week, “We are doing this to prepare ourselves to go out looking for Persons of Peace so we can each start a new group.
  • Equip — assist them in becoming capable of facilitating a group and in engaging others around them in overt spiritual conversations
  • Watch — observe them facilitating the practice group and coach them to do it better in private meetings
  • Launch — commission them to start new Discovery Groups; celebrate their victories; show how highly you value their efforts and keep these in front of others who might become interested. Mobilize lots of praying and fasting for them!

We need to recognize that traditional church leadership strategies inadvertently nurture dependency and passivity. To shift our leadership culture will take persistent and consistent effort. When it becomes clear that some people you work with refuse to go out after you have invested such efforts into launching them out, then you need to work with others. Pray these will change their mind. Encourage them. Spend time with others.

We are always looking for what one of my teammates calls “the coalition of the willing.” Expect that through these efforts you will connect with some of the “least likely”–people you never might have imagined. Who are the people in your church, your small group that you could never imagine leading in your traditional “preacher/teacher” approaches? Begin to pray for some of these to have bigger imaginations. You want to find among those some who say, “If that is what a Discovery Group is like, I can do that!” Pour those same (Model, Equip, Watch and Launch) investments into them.

Like the powerful marketing strategy which was incorporated into directions printed on shampoo bottles, “Lather, rinse and repeat.” Those last two words boasted sales so much everyone added the. “And repeat” until you Model, Equip, Watch and Launch teams out who begin to multiply.

Q&A: When & how do you invite people to believe & obey Jesus for salvation in a DBS?

We invite people to believe and obey Jesus for salvation when they are showing evidence that they are trusting him enough to become obedient in small, simple ways. We do this primarily through the passages which allow them to Discover what happens when people in the Bible are coming to faith in him and obeying him.

Everything participants discover sticks with them better and becomes more powerful for them. Premature calls to faith and obedience can result in premature births and we know preemies have great risks and require extensive neonatal care. A “normal” gestation period is the preferred route. But we always stay open to the miraculous movement of the Holy Spirit. For example, if a Muslim person in a Discovery Group has a dream of Jesus while the group is still in the OT passages, we likely would transition into relevant NT passages corresponding to the theme of the dream. Later we will return to our previous place, but we trust God to know better than we do.

One of the “counter-intuitive” insights summarizes this concept. It says: “Start prepared to take a long time making strong disciples, but stay open to the miraculous acceleration of the Holy Spirit.” The Creation to Christ Scripture set contains 26 passages. If you study one a week, then it will take six months (with weekly Discovery gatherings and no interruptions. There are lots of evangelistic strategies which are much quicker than this Discovery approach. But our goal is not to just have people make professions of faith, we desire to also equip them to becoming disciple makers.

Multiplication requires raising up many disciple makers. The goal is to equip every person coming to faith to lead others to faith by the same strategic approach used with them and their family/friends. Replication, coaching and building a culture of intentionally focusing on outreach are critical for multi-generational movements. This approach starts slow. It proceeds slowly. The appearance of speeding up comes when more and more disciple makers are intentionally making disciples who are making disciples.

The tragedy is that many believe they can be faithful disciples to Jesus without ever making other disciples. Remember his words to the fishermen he called to follow him?

Our global experience reveals that when people come to faith by hearing God’s word, they open the conversations about what living by faith looks like in their life. Pentecost was a response to people coming to the conviction that they had contributed to the crucifixion of the Son of God. Let’s be sure people have experienced some of what the Word teaches about Jesus before we call them to faith.

Q&A: Should you lead in a prayer or song of worship in a DBS with unbelievers?

My conviction is worship should arise from faith. Calling unbelievers to participate in a prayer or song is presumptuous. We do disciple them toward these two activities by use of the first two questions we ask: “What good thing has happened this week?” Or it might be stated, “What are you thankful for which has happened this week?” Here they are becoming grateful as they are discovering God, the One who gives every good gift. The second question is, “What challenge are you, your family, or someone in your neighborhood facing?” Their answers to the second question informs me of things I will begin to privately intercede for in the participants’ lives. This sharing begins to disciple them toward interceding so when they come to faith in God, we will explicitly build those rhythms of singing praises and praying for one another.

Why would we feel the need to push for praying and praising prior to faith? That’s the question I urge you to ponder.

Many Christians act as though they assume faith can only arise in a context of a gathered church. Our conflation of evangelism and edification lies at the root of these thoughts and assumptions.

Discovery Bible Studies were not developed for those who are already believers. They were designed for those who have little or no Bible knowledge, but who are open to exploring what it says about spiritual themes and/or questions. Let’s stop allowing our preconceived ideas shape everything.

Q&A: How is the DMM Wheel to be Used?

The DMM Wheel serves multiple functions. It was designed as a graphic presentation of multiple stages of intentionally moving toward Multiplication.

David Watson trained early explorers in 22 Critical Elements of Movements (called CPM first and then DMM). No one can remember a list of 22 and not all of the Critical Elements are necessary to the early phases of getting a Movement started.

After much prayer and experience, these five Critical Elements were identified as how to launch the transition needed to begin implementing enough of DMM strategies to begin transitioning toward Multiplication. Many early explorers never became even novice practitioners because 22 Critical Elements is overwhelming. How much of that do you need to start making some of the paradigm shifts to start developing essential spiritual disciplines?

Traditional strategies are too focused on knowledge acquisition, so we focused on these five elements because they are the places where early breakthroughs came. Finding Persons of Peace and using culturally appropriate inductive study methods, which work with a whole family, were essential to beginning in ways that would multiply. Praying and fasting coupled with good access ministries that created places for overt spiritual conversations increased the odds of finding Persons of Peace. All of these early practices open us to many paradigm shifts which are essential to Embracing Multiplication strategies.

The graphic was fine-tuned as a training resource. Once a team grasps a deep understanding of these five Critical Elements and begins to try to implement them, then the Wheel can be used as a way of assessing “What is missing?” when they are not yet seeing new groups being started out of the first groups they can begin. Often, their earliest groups are only believers. Clearly there is no Person of Peace. These are more “practice” groups than true Discovery Groups.

We may have wonderful Compassion Ministries, but do not have the frontline personnel trained to initiate overt spiritual conversations. They will need to be trained to value the role of a Person of Peace enough to be willing to make the needed changes to Embrace Multiplication.

Often, teams eventually come to the foundational understanding that they do not pray and fast in order to hear from God. We have launched these ministries from our own human strength, rather than in response to God calling us to reach a particular people group or region and that is why we are not seeing Multiplication. All five of these must be happening simultaneously to truly start toward replication. While we may look at them one by one, we need all five to start getting new generations where groups are planting groups and brand new disciples are making new disciples who are doing likewise.