Radical Reform

DMM counter-intuitives—“Do no personal evangelism at all so that masses will hear.” Lead whole households to faith together (Ax 16:15, 31).

Remember that our goal is to catalyze Disciple Making Movements among the least-reached people groups of our world. Most of them live in nations that will not grant missionary visas. Often they perceive Christianity as a form of foreign cultural dominance and oppression.

We do personal evangelism because it is the highly contextualized strategy that was developed to plant the gospel into individualized cultures. Since Western nations are individualized North Americans and Europeans have primarily been reached through personal evangelism. Since it worked in our lives, we assume it will work with everyone else. But what if their culture is not individualistic?

What should you do if you are attempting to plant the gospel into a people group in West Africa or Southeast Asia that always makes important decisions as a family or community? When we finally allow that question to sink deep into our heart we may begin to hear Scripture differently. We may start to realize that there are many more references to households coming to faith together than there are examples of individuals who reach such a point through a one-on-one encounter.

Luke reveals that Lydia “and the members of her household were baptized” (Acts 16:15). In response to the jailor’s question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” he was told, “‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house….then immediately he and all his family were baptized….he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family” (Acts 16:31-34).

We have found when believers go to the least-reached people groups and do personal evangelism there are often tragic results. The family turns against this new believer and throws him/her out of the household for being deceived by this foreign ideology. They hate Christians for “brain washing” their son or daughter. They refuse to hear the gospel because it has brought them such excruciating pain. And then some believers quote passages that make it sound like God takes great pleasure in setting children against their parents.

Rest assured the gospel entails challenges to any culture. It presents obstacles to any human religion. But that is not what has just happened. A strategy was employed that withheld the gospel from the rest of the family. A divide-and-conquer strategy was used (it is not that in a highly individualized culture, but it is in the rest of the world).

By contrast, a Discovery Bible Study encourages the whole family to explore the God of the Bible together. Story by story they are encouraged to move from Creator to Christ. Through this process the household is equipped to make a collective decision. Together they are called to fall in love with God. While some may still choose not to surrender to Jesus, they at least understand the rationale for the faith of those who do believe. They have heard.


  1. Love the article. Understanding contextualization is crucial if we want to remove all barriers to coming to Christ outside of Christ.

    Why limit your goal to DMM among the least reached people groups? Shouldn’t we be aiming for DMM everywhere among everyone? I think the quickest way to accomplish the Great Commission is to have as many DMM as possible everywhere. This will do more to reach the unreached than anything. The more disciples there are that are making disciples the more people there will be to go who already know what to do to allow a DMM to start. While some of these principles are applied differently depending on the culture the application of the principles are what is critical. 5 years ago I attended a week long training on CPM with David Watson and learned what you are writing. I went home to Phoenix AZ and began to apply what I learned. I think these principles work anywhere with anyone if your goal is to make disciples that make disciples.


    1. Darrell, I want to see Disciple Making Movements throughout the world. I train people here in Tennessee to use these strategies, whenever I have opportunity. But the focus of the team with whom I work is to address the impropriety of most of our resources (time, money and training) going to reaching people who already have a Jesus option. Two billion of the world’s population will die without ever meeting a Christian unless something changes. Our team and our partners, who developed this list of counter-intuitives, focus on overcoming this disparity. I have given 31 years of ministry to my “Jerusalem and Judea” it is time for me to focus on “Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world.” I praise God you have taken your training home to Phoenix! I urge you to prayerfully consider how you might be involved in insuring that light shines into the darkest places on our planet, too. The Great Commission challenges us with Jesus’ heart that disciples will be made in all the nations–every people group. We must fulfill this calling.


  2. I constantly find similarities in what you are writing and in a training that I went through called Routines Based Intervention (RBI) as it relates to early child intervention. I guess the conventional trend has been to remove children that needed intervention by having the child (ages 03) leave home for therapies that were needed (physical, speech, ocupational, etc). The child would have a “magic hour” of therapy and then return home. Sometimes parents drop the child off for therapy and never see the therapy, in fact, this happens frequently. Many times the therapist prefers parents leave and lots of times parents leave because they can accomplish a lot with an hour of free time. In my opinion, this is very ineffective. The parent does not know what to work on during the week, which is when a child makes progress, or has to make therapy a separate part of life in the household. However, what has been discovered is that there isn’t a “magic hour” of therapy. The real growth of a child happens within his natural environment during his everyday routines. A person trained in RBI would go in the home and through an interview with the family get a full picture of this family’s daily routines, from the time they wake up, until they go to bed. Then in a natural way (and with consult from therapist) suggest ways that this child can work on new skills. This may happen during a diaper change, a feeding, or when siblings are playing — teach the “trick” to the older sister and she implements the therapy. Except it isn’t therapy any longer; it’s a family living the way they normally live and adding a new game or excercise. No one leaves the home, unless you met them during a normal grocery or social outing that the family already particpates in. Everytime I say this I feel like I’m putting down therapists. I don’t mean too. I just think that they should be a teacher first. The knowledge they have to share is extremely valuable and RTI can’t be done without them.

    I see the DBS as a natural way to minister to families among other similarites. Asking families to look at something together and then come to a decision seems so much more natural than the one on one approach. I think about my own family. If I had been discipled by a Christian and been from a non-Christian home, my family might not have disowned me, but the relationship would have been hurt to say the least. They would have been confused and scared for me. I don’t understand the ways of many of the cultures around the world, but I can understand to some extent how upsetting that would be on both sides The person that was converted and the family of the converted one. I know that you are writing primarily for the darker areas where DBS can be so much more effective, but I can’t help but wonder if there are ways to implement some of this here within people’s cultures/communities. I think too many times we want to invite people to a “magic hour” on Sunday, but in addition, what if we learned their routines and plugged into that instead. That seems to me where the real growth would happen. If we are in someone’s home during a normal routine and share a characteristic of God, wouldn’t that be more effective? That would take a lot of relationship and time though.


    1. Thanks for sharing this, Angela. If knowledge, skills and/or approaches are not implemented into everyday living, then they do not really impact us. The “magic hour” does not bring true transformation. Discipleship does, but you are so correct in stating that it takes a lot of relationship and time!


  3. Gotcha John!

    God knows that I want to go…more then anything to bring His Kingdom to the darkest places. My family is ready to go. We have been living as if we were missionaries here for the last 5 years. Once I thought God was connecting the dots to send us nothing came of it. I have done all I know to prepare. Until God shows us the next step we continue to do all we know for the Kingdom here.


    1. That is great, Darrell. We have to trust him and his timing. By the way, have you taken Perspectives on the World Christian Movement? It is a great course that can help people like you who have a kingdom passion. I have taught several of the classes and will be teaching three different ones this fall. Blessings.


      1. I took the course Worldwide Perspectives which is now Pathways (I think). That course is what God used to start moving me to do what we are doing today. A brother who was part of a CPM in the Ukraine and teaching that week said “In the Ukraine we taught people to obey everything that Jesus commanded, in the US you just tell people what Jesus said”. God sent that to my soul and I have never been the same.

        So in the this class the same or different than what you are talking about?

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