So Much Potential!

A few weeks ago I was attending a “Pass the Salt” luncheon. It meets most Wednesdays here in Murfreesboro and the focus is encouraging believers to exert kingdom influence in the marketplace. A good friend was speaking. He told amazing stories about God’s move among Muslim people in Africa. The message that God is touching historically resistant people captured the attention of another man who was present.

The second guy introduced himself to me and we started talking about some of the trips I had made to Africa with the speaker. Eventually our mutual friend started talking with both of us. The guy I had just met asked the speaker to mentor him in doing the same kind of outreach here in some neighborhoods where he had been working for a while. The speaker suggested I would be the better candidate for training and mentoring him, so a new relationship was begun.

We have been meeting weekly for just over a month. This brother clearly has a heart for the neighborhoods he mentioned and has gained credibility among several people there. As I introduced him to Discovery Bible Studies (DBS) he started to see that they may hold great potential. While it took him a few meetings to get his brain wrapped around the counter-intuitive approaches, he quickly grasped the concept of a Person of Peace opening his/her family to the good news of the kingdom and he was convinced he already knew some (last week he expressed there may be as many as 17).

After he set up the first gatherings through one of these possible Persons of Peace he called to see if we could meet quickly so I could review what should take place in a DBS. Our schedules allowed us to meet immediately and we reviewed the eight questions that drive these studies. He was excited about what would come from this gathering.

Last Wednesday he shared that there were seven people present for the DBS. They were all invited by a guy who had just been released from jail two weeks ago. Five of the seven were totally unchurched. Each found the format enjoyable and non-threatening. One confessed he usually stayed away from religious discussions, but this was different. Another participated freely even though she usually did not talk in group settings. It will be interesting hearing how their second Discovering God study went when we meet again.

While this group is very much in the infant stage, I wanted to share about it to tell about a specific point. The guy that I am training/mentoring told me that he needed to talk about an idea he had. He was just “running it by” me and was not sure whether he was set on this yet, but wanted my input. He said, “I am thinking I will facilitate the group for about six meetings and then hand it off to the Person of Peace.” Though I am confident I had already talked with him about the need to train the Person of Peace to facilitate much earlier than that, it was obvious this had not sunk in, yet.

I reminded him that the goal is to make sure everything we do is reproducible. Those who are participating need to be able to do what we do in a DBS from day one. This is one reason we keep all the discussion tied to that day’s passage and always steer the conversation back by saying, “Help me see where you find that in the verses we read.” We want anyone to be able to reproduce what happens in a DBS.

Then I reiterated that he should not facilitate more than two or three of the gatherings. The earlier he gets the Person of Peace to agree to facilitate the greater the likelihood is that additional DBSs will multiply from this one. As God’s Spirit produces transformation in the lives of these people, they will begin to talk about what is happening in the studies with others. This is when they will probably ask about inviting new people to the group. Rather than doing that, it is better to begin coaching that group member in facilitating a study where that new person invites other family and friends to participate. If this person has seen the Person of Peace facilitate the DBS, then he/she is more likely to be willing to give it a try. The longer it takes for the transition to happen, the less likely it will happen. Then the whole process is restricted by the ability of one person to facilitate multiple studies.

This is why we talk about focusing on the few to reach the many and going slow to go fast. This process of reproduction benefits those who learn to facilitate a second-generation group. They are studying these passages that reveal God’s character multiple times. First, with their original group. Second, when they are being trained to facilitate the second-generation group. Third, with the second-generation group. Also, they are quickly imitating what they have witnessed and this process has them handling God’s Word at successively deeper levels.

Often when believers first hear about this process they doubt it can really happen. Even if they believe it happened in India or Africa, they are sure it cannot happen here in America. What they really doubt is that what happens in such a discovery study can produce enough positive effects that participants will become motivated to help others experience it, too. They are really revealing that their handling of Scriptures does not produce enough fruit in their lives to motivate them to share what they are learning with others. If they are not willing to pass this on, they cannot envision DBSs accomplishing more.

Recent interviews with people in the U.S. who are being blessed by such DBSs drove this point home for me. People who are discipling multiple people who are facilitating DBSs realized that around the fourth or fifth studies the participants recognized that they were being changed by what happens in the gatherings. Upon this realization they begin actively telling others about Discovering God. As they talk it up, they eventually encounter others who are open to experiencing the same and second, third or fourth generation groups begin. The key is keeping this easily reproducible so those who start talking it up are able to envision themselves facilitating this group or coaching the Peron of Peace to facilitate it from day one.

The guy I am discipling said something astute about the Person of Peace who pulled together this first group–“He has so much potential! I could see him reaching so many people.”


  1. […] I totally agree A few weeks ago I was attending a "Pass the Salt" luncheon. It meets most Wednesdays here in Murfreesboro and the focus is encouraging believers to exert kingdom influence in the marketplace. A good friend was speaking. He told amazing stories about God's move among Muslim people in Africa. The message that God is touching historically resistant people captured the attention of another man who was present. The second guy introduced himself to me … Read More […]


  2. Thanks for the encouraging post. My wife and I are facilitating a DBS with some college students in College Station, TX and this was a good reminder of what I need to be more intentional about. By the way, what are the “eight questions that drive this study” that you referred to?


    1. Jace, whenever a group gathers, to do a discovery study, there is a very valuable format for them to follow. It actually entails discipling them (primarily by modeling and by you coaching an insider who will facilitate the process in his/her household) to ask eight questions during their gathering:

      * What has gone well lately that gave you joy?
      * What has caused you, or someone you know, stress lately?
      * How did the efforts to help with the stressful situation we picked last time go?

      [Have the passage read twice or told well if they are oral learners. Have someone re-tell the passage. Ask others to fill in any significant details that were omitted when the passage was re-told.]

      * What do you learn about God from this passage?
      * What do you learn about humanity from this passage?
      * What would obedience to this passage look like in our lives?
      * Who do you know who needs to hear what we have learned today?
      * Which of the stressful things that were mentioned earlier can we help to overcome?


  3. thanks, john. lots of good information and reminders in there for me. i’m excited about what you’re doing there. and i may be taking a page from your book soon.

    i intend to write an update email today, but i’ll go ahead and spill this now — i’m about to begin research to determine how feasible it would be for me to get into the prison here in geita to begin spending time with those guys. i’ve been praying a lot about what i could do that would be most useful while in geita town (before knowing sukuma language to work in villages). and this has consistently been on my mind; i believe God’s leading me this direction.

    thanks for the dbs post — i always enjoy reading about our strategy…


    1. Brett, I will join you in praying about this. Much good can be done if you can find a Person of Peace in the jail. They have lots of time on their hands and can do much study while they are incarcerated. You will have to help them think through what obedience looks like inside a jail. The usual kinds of things that people think of are not done inside.


  4. This is great insight and very helpful! I sometimes become apprehensive about doing this in the United States just because of the culture and this has helped me! Thanks!


    1. Juliane, thanks for your honesty! When we equip people to hear from God and to share what they are learning with others there is a synergy that opens them to the Holy Spirit at deeper and deeper levels. Where we live shapes our worldview, but all worldviews need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. All of us need to learn to see the world through the mind of Christ!


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