Original Question: “How do you differentiate between numerical growth as a result of multiplication and spiritual growth in terms of rooting people in Christ using this approach to discipleship?”
Deep and wide–that is the simple answer to the question in the title. Everyone? No, but more than what I have seen in traditional legacy churches, to be very honest.
For far too long much about the Christian experience in the Global North has become a “spectator sport.” People show up to watch professionals “do ministry” on a stage. We may find that our knowledge of concepts about Christianity grows in this fashion, but our actual experience of being apprentices to Jesus is negligible.
Since I was not able to get further clarification from the lady who raised this question, I must take some educated guesses in hopes of providing an appropriate answer. It is quite possible I will miss the mark, but hopefully my efforts to respond will prove beneficial for someone who reads.
Numerical growth through multiplication and maturing spiritually are not necessarily adversarial or competitive. But our failure to focus intentional energy on either is a grave oversight, in my humble opinion. I believe many Christians stagnate in their spiritual maturity because they never become involved in reaching the lost. Following Jesus closely will always involve us in connecting with people who need a Savior and King. He said of himself that he was sent to “Seek and save that which is lost.”
If you want to learn something well, try to teach it to others. Discipling disciple makers will greatly shape your walk with Jesus. Becoming intentional in praying for laborers and seeking out Persons of Peace can guard your spiritual walk from becoming self-absorbed. Please do not make something an either/or that Jesus has said is a both/and. Many disciples who come to faith in Movements mature at a faster rate than those reached in traditional approaches. The idea that I only have to be one lesson ahead of others that I am leading keeps me making double applications of the Word (to myself and to those I am influencing). This actually accelerates my growth.
Original Question: “With non-Christians, in a pantheistic culture like India, how do we help them see ‘our God’ through the process and not their false gods.” This is an excellent question which touches on a fundamental issue when considering the Discovery process.
Everyone operates from the default of a worldview. We all absorb answers from our culture to some foundational questions: Who am I? Where am I? What has gone wrong here? What, if anything, can be done about what has gone wrong? Flowing out of the answers our culture gives to these answers will be our sense of values and beliefs. Polytheistic cultures, like Hinduism and large sections of Buddhism have very scripted answers to these questions which reinforce and are shaped by their understanding of many gods and their dynamic interactions with these spiritual beings.
One of the primary resources for perpetuating a cultural worldview are the stories which are told. Epic dramas reflect the cultural answers to these foundational questions. Inviting people from such a culture to explore and discover from the alternative narrative of the Bible is actually the best way to help them experience transformation. In the biblical record there are numerous sections which have been described as “power encounters.” For example, Elijah and the prophets of Baal presents a show down between Israel’s God and the false gods of their neighboring nations. “Will the real god show up?” is the challenge Elijah presents.
What polytheistic people need is to get their fingerprints on the narrative of the one true God. They will certainly lean towards hearing us as presenting Jesus as another God to be added to their thousands of gods in the early stages, but there must be a seed of new possibilities planted in their hearts and minds. The Word of God is the power for salvation. The Holy Spirit has the divine strength to demolish strongholds. He has the capacity to overcome the objections we do not even know exist. When we lead a household of peace to discovery, we are acknowledging that He is able to do what we cannot. We are acting in faith that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are much higher than ours.
Disciple making through Discovery has worked among every major world religion. The starting places may differ. The Scripture sets will be different. But God has given us remarkable evidence during the last thirty years of Kingdom Movements that could not have been imagined late in the 1900’s. We have much to celebrate because He continues to show Himself mighty to save!
Q&A: “Most of the Scriptures used are in the Synoptic Gospels. Can you show how this is worked out in the ministry of Paul? There seem to be some differences. Explain?“
Discovery is more easily accomplished by the use of narrative (story based) sections of the Bible. Do you remember the interaction between Phillip and Jesus? Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:8-9) Since watching Jesus is the best way to see God the Father the Gospels are foundational resources.
Evangelicalism has made much of the Pauline corpus, and rightly so. But, there are times we make this material oppositional to the Gospels, and that is not good. Having a good understanding of the differences between these two genres and their functional roles is important.
Disciple Making Movements are focused on getting the Good News of Jesus planted into families–especially families who have little or no access to the Bible. These are folks who have almost no knowledge of Jesus. As a result, we believe they should spend lots of their initial time in the Bible discovering what is revealed about Jesus. The Son of God is the only one who ever said that as he is lifted up he will draw people to the Father.
When you read through Acts, and pay close attention to what Paul writes in his letters about his early days in a new city, it is obvious that he also made much of the Gospel. Consider, for example, his comments about coming to Corinth: “And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified“ (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).
Many of the questions and objections we encounter arise from the difference between starting towards faith and efforts to ground and mature those who are already believers. Are you reaching out to lost people? If so, we recommend spending lots of time in the Gospels. As they come to faith and simple churches emerge, there will be plenty of time to spend time with the letters written to churches.
Ten years ago (May), I transitioned from the preaching minister at Stones River Church to become the Global Coach at Final Command Ministries. God has opened doors and produced multiplying fruit during this decade. All the glory goes to Him! It has been remarkable to have a front row seat to witness his purposes unfolding.
There are eleven Disciple Making Movements which God has birthed during this decade. These are efforts within people groups where either 100+ new churches were planted or 1,000 new Jesus followers within a short enough time span that only God could produce these results. As these stories of breakthrough have been shared, a holy discontent continues to arise within the hearts of God’s people who are not experiencing such growth.
Abundant (or extraordinary) praying and fasting are present wherever we see movements. People who wish to be catalytic realize from our African friends that far too often our prayer lives are far too anemic to see multiplication happening. Our existing prayer times are often too self-centered to see breakthroughs. We read through our lists of sick people who need healing from desperate diseases like cancer, but they are woefully void of claiming God’s promises.
Back in the early days of my transition I was hoping and praying from a spiritual “backwash” from Africa. That people in US churches would hear stories of multiplication in Africa and Asian nations and become jealous. I was praying that mission sending churches would open their strategies up to intentional disciple making that equipped every new disciple to become an intentional disciple maker so their blessings could be multiplied. I hoped that Missions Committee members would be patient with the missionary families that were transitioning towards DMM strategies and practices. God has been faithful.
More than 2,000 new simple churches have been planted. 4,190 Discovery Groups have been started and we are praying many more churches emerge as the Holy Spirit works in the hearts and minds of people listening to the Word and seeking for ways to obey what they hear God saying to them. We started intentionally targeting people groups in four nations in the Sahel and that number has tripled across the region and spilling over into North Africa, too. Just last week more than 100 Nigerian missionaries were trained in DMM and are returning to their posts to look for Persons of Peace.
Join me in praising God for some of these remarkable results in one of the more resistant regions on the globe. Pray that God’s fame will spread. Pray for multiplication to expand and more and more men and women will be swept into the kingdom of heaven. To God be the glory!
Original Question: “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?”
Answer: Our first question asked of every passage we study through Discovery is: “What is revealed about God?” 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 God. Responsive obedience is what we are calling for in this emphasis.
We are not talking about merit!!! Salvation is “by grace, through faith.” Every DMM catalyst I have interacted with absolutely believes, teaches and leads from that conviction. But they also are grieved by the absence of the healthy call to respond in obedience to King Jesus. Grace is our foundation. It is our hope. Obedience is our faith response. The sheer fact that this is so often missed is intriguing to me. Why do we automatically hear calls for responsive obedience as meritorious?
Over the last month I have reviewed the eight questions which Final Command Ministries recommends people use to facilitate the Discovery process. I wanted you to have access to the rationale behind each one. Asking the same questions each week quickly equips every participant to facilitate. It is repeatable.
Movements come from new groups starting new groups. In some nations this multiplication is more than 30 generations deep (within 15 years). More than one million new followers of Jesus have come to faith through this reproducible process. They have simultaneously been equipped to reach others by the process used in reaching them!
Why would you want to change this?
While I was taught to never write a one sentence paragraph, I left that sentence all alone. It is there for emphasis. It is the question I sometimes ask people wanting permission to edit the questions.
“The questions get boring,” and “These people won’t obey the questions,” are the honest answers I get when my question is answered. Truth be told, this is a clear sign you are working with the wrong people, if you want to start a Movement. Working with other people doesn’t mean you are giving up on them, though.
Sometimes people are not ready to change. Paul turned to the Gentiles when the Jewish people rejected his message about Jesus. He reveals to us he did it “to provoke the Jews to jealousy.” Maybe the best way to get one group of people to change is find the willing nearby and help them change. The first group gets to witness the power of the Gospel. Maybe, just maybe, their hearts will change, too!
“How can we help with one of the challenges shared earlier during Question # 2?” guides the group into meeting a need each week. It disciples them towards ministering to the challenges in the group, their families or their neighborhood.
Some DMM coaches make this question a follow-up to number 2, so they only have seven questions. I kept it separate and wanted all three of the obedience questions to come after the passage is explored. We need to hear from God before we go off doing things to make sure we are not operating in our own wisdom.
Often when groups are not family or friends they do not live near enough to each other to easily do this as a group. This makes Question 8 a bit challenging for many in the Global North. Some drop it. Others change it to praying for one of the challenges shared earlier in the Discovery Group time. My preference is we keep it as is and coach the group towards more creative ministry options.
I am writing this blog post on my phone while riding to Tallahassee, Florida. Debra (my wife) is driving at this moment. I am using my two thumbs to type it into the WordPress app. What if we used our phones to help with a challenge someone shared?
Often challenges deal with the need for encouragement. Can you encourage someone with a text message? What if you commit to send a favorite Bible promise to someone who is struggling with depression? Do you think that might bolster her spirits? What else could you do? What else could several people do for one of the group members?
“Who do you know who needs this message that you will tell this week?” is a powerful seed for multiplication. This is only true when Discovery Groups will name names and then share with those named.
Tragically, many self-identified Christians do not like answering this question. Even fewer follow through with sharing with the people who come to mind. If you are not getting new generations of Discovery Groups, you can be sure Question # 7 has been dropped or altered.
If your Christian group experiments with using a Discovery process pay special attention to their responses to this question. If they do not know any lost people who need to hear God’s Word, then they need to get out more (in person and/or online. They need to become active listeners. And they need to become better at intercession—pleading God’s promises for the people where they live, learn, work and play.
Who are the people who walk regularly in your neighborhood? Could you ask them to join in their walks? Get to know them. Talk about casual topics. Explore a meaningful topic. If they are comfortable with that shift, try a spiritual theme. If they say they are a believer, “already have a home church,” or signal they follow Jesus, then tell them you want to find lost people in the neighborhood. Ask if they will help. Invite them to join you in prayer walking while you exercise.
If they are not willing to talk about spiritual matters, then you need to begin praying that the Holy Spirit will produce and opening. Get their names. Mobilize others from your home church, small group and/or disciple making team to start praying for them. It is possible they are believers who have been wounded by other people at their last church, or they may not know Jesus at all. Keep walking. Keep developing a relationship and revisit the importance of spiritual matters.
Whenever someone is open to spiritual topics ask if he is interested in reading the Bible to see what God is really like. If she is willing to do that, then ask if she has family or friends who might be willing to join in, also. Start a new Discovery Group with this person and his family/friends. They will be prompted to share the passages they explore with others, too.
After listening closely to the passage, discussing some of what it reveals about God’s character, desires, plans and purposes and then thinking about the people in the story and ourselves, it is time to identify how we plan to respond to the passage personally. Highly collectivistic people groups may find it better to come up with a “We will…” Statement rather than an “I will…” Statement. Question 6 probes our intentionality to act on something we have heard from God.
“How will you put this passage into practice?” calls participants to application. It urges us to do more than acquire mental information, it calls for practice.
Jesus warned the audience for his “Sermon on the Mount” that to listen to his teaching and not actually doing it was an exercise in folly. Hearing Jesus and doing what he is calling us to do is foundational to withstanding the storms of life and not finding our lives collapsing around us.
Over time I work to coach group participants to develop S.M.A.R.T. “I will…” Statements. These will be Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic and Time-bound. Such coaching is intended to be a guard against disobeying through vagaries–ducking true accountability by not really making a commitment.
Modelling good “I will…” Statements and then actually working on doing them can lead a group to really opening their hearts to God’s Word and the transformation work of the Holy Spirit. You get to show the slacker a new way forward. If you allow their unwillingness to obey to drag you down, you miss an opportunity to show transformation. A good friend used to say, “If we keep doing what we’ve always done we will always get what we’ve always gotten.” If we want new outcomes, we must change our actions. Answering Question # 6 opens the door for new actions.
“What do we learn about people?” is a question which opens participants up to discover the typical ways human beings interact with God and one another. Their answers often give insights into how they view themselves and other significant people in their lives.
When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment he started off by calling for whole-hearted love for God and then added the second greatest command, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). The people we are exposed to through Scriptures give us avenues to view our own heart condition from a safe distance. Exposing ourselves to others (via mutual accountability) can be scary until we learn whether or not they will deal with our inner secrets with truth and grace.
Through the pages of the Bible we see the human tendency to hide. We see our propensity to deceive as a form of cover up. We see that honesty can come at a high price, too. We are able to discover with how the Holy God deals with our sin, rebellion and cover ups. We get to explore what happens when people reject God’s grace. We do not have to suffer all the consequences of all the bad decisions we might choose. The characters in the Bible stories become cautionary examples.
But there are also models who are worthy of imitating. Coaching a discovery group to become conscious of people who will model exemplary responses to our Heavenly Father give us new ways forward. Repentance calls for changes in our choices. Sometimes we feel like our bad choice was the only way forward. But through Peter we learn that Judas’ actions are not the only option when we are convicted of our rejection or betrayal of Jesus. God has given us a incredible resource through the people we encounter within his Word.
Knowing what we should not do is often not enough. We need healthier ways forward. We need positive examples like Joseph, Daniel and Ruth. We need to watch Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus to see how true friends interact with Jesus. While this question is not nearly as valuable as Question #4, “What do we learn about God?” it is still very significant. Pay special attention when participants shift from third person pronouns (“he,” “she,” “they”) and begin to use first person pronouns (“I” and “we”) to answer Question 5.