Q&A–How Do You Start New “Spiritual Outposts”

Original Question: “In regards to your mention of ‘spiritual outposts’ did you have families physically move to new neighborhoods, or did you build the outposts around new Christians already living in those areas?”

Answer: Enough time has passed that I probably need to remind you of the context I am addressing in this protracted series of Q&A blog posts. During May 13-16 I was invited to speak during a four-day digital gathering, the Salt & Light International Leaders Conference. After each day’s presentation on Disciple Making Movements there was a Q&A session and leaders submitted questions in writing and the host selected some of those questions to ask us live. Many more questions came in than we could address in the time allotted. I offered to address those question via my blog. While I warned this process might be slow, I have obviously stretched this out far more than I anticipated. I begin again in my efforts to address these.

Roy Moran and I each took two days to present material which would hopefully prompt participants to seek out coaching in implementing the best of DMM strategies and prompt people to seek coaching to get to multi-generational replication. Sadly, enough time has passed that I do not recall the specific statement where the phrase “spiritual outposts” would have occurred, but I am confident I can address this question and hopefully be helpful.

When we encounter different strategies than what we are using, which appear to be potentially beneficial, we generally begin to explore how we can add those to what we are already doing. If taking a new approach means we have to ditch everything we are already doing, then we usually pass on the new thing. This is true whether you prefer Apple, Microsoft or Linux. It is true for much of the Evangelical world which bifurcates evangelism and discipleship (which primarily is equivalent to “spiritual formation”).

Evangelism in the Global North is primarily envisioned as being initiated by people who intentionally move to a new region and begin to form meaningful relationships with lost people in the new places where we “live, work, play and learn.” If we identify a people group, city, village or other place where no one knows Jesus, then we raise up a team to move there and begin to allow the light to shine through their lives and words into that area. Many years ago this strategy has been referred to as “swarming” where a new queen and worker bees leave an existing hive and “swarm” in a new area in hopes of starting a new hive with its own unique ecosystem.

The mention of “spiritual outpost” harkens to this mental imagery. Biblical commentators who advocate such a “swarming” strategy might point to Rome’s strategy of gifting retiring soldiers and government officials with land grants in the outer regions of the empire. Philippi, for example, was a Roman colony which was shaped by this approach. Maybe the advancement of the Kingdom of Heaven can be furthered by such an intentional strategy.

Disciple Making Movements are not in opposition to teams of disciple makers intentionally moving to pockets of darkness within their own people group in this way, but this is not how the first “spiritual outposts” arise. It is also not the strategy of Paul and his disciple making band in the book of Acts. His approach was to always look for a local group into which the gospel would be planted and they would become the “spiritual outpost.” Outsiders can and should be catalysts. Insiders become the best evangelists. We are not inherently opposed to “swarming,” but we are not envisioning this being the approach being used by a team of outsiders. From my reading of Acts, the longest Paul stayed in any of the places where churches were started was in Ephesus and he was there somewhere between two years and three months and three years. I believe he stayed there that length of time because his work was replicated in other cities within the province of Asia as he discipled workers to faith and then they went out as disciple makers throughout the region.

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