Q&A: Do you have any suggestions on who to invite to a DBS?

It is best to have intentional overt spiritual conversations with lost people. Those who respond with curiosity and receptivity should be invited to host a Discovery Group where they will invite some of their family and/or close friends to join them in participating. You may have to take them through 2-3 before they will invite others to participate and that is fine.

Other believers can be invited to participate in a multi-week experience of DBS as part of a training program to get them to begin using the format in their own disciple making efforts. But mixing this type of group with the one mentioned earlier is not preferable. Lost people are often concerned that they know so little of the Bible that their ignorance will show, so they hold back if they are with too many people who know much more than they do.

Inviting one other person who is training to become a Multiplier to sit in on a Discovery Group comprised of a lost family/friendship group can be very valuable. But you need to coach this person before they meet in this setting. They absolutely must not “show off” their extensive Bible knowledge! They need to model a humble learning spirit. They must obey their own “I will…” Statement and attempt to share with the person they name, if they are to return. Their greatest contribution will be serving as a role model of someone on a Discovery journey.

Many Christians will not do what is discussed in the previous paragraph, regretfully. Those who will not, will botch a Discovery Group.

Q&A: How do you deal with the very tough and difficult Scriptures?

Tough and difficult Scriptures are best studied after people have Discovered enough about God to trust that He loves them and only wants their best. When they have that level of trust in Him, they will be willing to explore the places where His Word confronts their lifestyle choices.

Too often, disciple makers who know one of the “hidden sins” of a lost person or household feels the need to confront that sin with a “head on” passage, or worse yet, with a personal rebuke. If the Holy Spirit produces that feeling, take action ASAP, but what if that feeling is really motivated by your own fear that other believers might condemn you for being too “soft” on sin?

Do you remember the saying Jesus quoted in Matthew 1:17: “We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.“ (NIV)? Jesus used this to probe the charge that John the Baptizer’s choices to not eat and drink brought the charge that he “has a demon,” while Jesus’ choice to have close fellowship with sinners brought the same people to say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.“ (vs. 19). Consistency cries out, you cannot have it both ways.

Do not allow your fear of “what others may say” drive you to taking a premature action. Always do what the Holy Spirit prompts you to do. After people have established faith in God, forged through a process of hearing his Word and seeking to respond in obedience, they they have a foundation of trust strong enough to withstand the challenges of learning that some of their actions run contrary to what the Word reveals. Never rush this process because of your fear of what others may think or say. You know your heart is to see lives transformed and your trust in the Holy Spirit to bring conviction is strong enough to overcome your fear!

Q&A: Why Apply DBS to Church Settings?

Question: If the Discovery approach was developed for family and/or friendship groups of lost people who are spiritual seekers, why do people try to use it in churched settings like Sunday School or existing Small Groups?

Answer: This is a perceptive follow-up question to my last two posts. There may be numerous answers given, but I want to share just a few. Some church leaders have become convinced that something desperately needs to change. The challenges that the COVID-19 “shelter in place” orders created have shaken many with the realization that hosts of people sitting in pews on Sundays are not self-feeders. Rather, the typical sermon and Sunday School teaching formats “disciple” people towards passivity and expecting the “expert” Bible students to entertain us with some new and interesting knowledge or new and interesting way of hearing the “Old, Old Story.” These leaders have likely heard stories that hold out hope that “Discovery Groups are pandemic proof.”

I celebrate that kind of opening. I pray many more reach this place.

Others have read or heard about DBS and think it might be a solution to recurring problems. Maybe it will re-energize Sunday School programs by making it easier to train up teachers. Maybe it will re-energize small group ministries which already exist. These two motivations are often fraught with lots of challenges.

I will attempt to help coach folks who start at these places, but often feel great skepticism in my heart. Usually I am not skeptical about the motivation, but the likelihood of success. Many who are participating in these types of settings prove unwilling to make the changes which are required. The typical participants often reflect the different types of soil present in Jesus’ parable which we call the Parable of the Sower.

Q&A: What Cautions Do You have for Us?

Question: What cautions do you have for our church to make this as effective as possible?

Answer: Please note that the question addresses a very specific context. The 8 Question DBS approach was not developed with the typical church setting in mind (be sure to read my previous post which is linked below). Whether you are envisioning using Discovery in a Sunday School setting or a traditional small group hosted in a church member’s home, you are applying the format for a setting which is significantly different than the setting for which it was designed.

Applying Discovery to a Sunday School setting will have immediate challenges regarding time frame and typical seating arrangements. But there is a difference that is of greater significance, which is the expectation of those who will participate.

Most church goers have experienced a long and consistent process of being expected to learn new data more than applying that learning directly to their lives. Transitioning to an obedience-based form of lifestyle will require great love, patience, and perseverance. Role modelling coming up with good S.M.A.R.T. “I will…” Statements and then following through with obeying them during the week will be the best way to call participants to make this challenging paradigm shift. The convener of this type of group must set a new tone by his/her consistent practice outside the class experience.

Let’s return to the issue of time frame. Typically groups of 4-5 people need at least 75 minutes to complete the DBS process and even then they will have to be quite intentional in being brief during their responses to each of the questions. Much like grade school children using their “best” stall tactics to prevent their teacher from getting to the quiz, many adults drag out their answers to the early sharing questions to avoid those which are designed to move to application via obedience, sharing and service.

Whenever possible, having the chairs in a room arranged in small circles with no more than five chairs in each circle increases the likelihood of success. Starting promptly on time and keeping the smaller groups moving briskly through the questions is critical. Early into this experience it will feel “rushed” to the majority of the participants, so you need to expect resistance, push-back and/or passive-aggressive behavior. You are asking people to change their norms and even the self-proclaimed “change champions” often dig in their heels. You likely will need to have a private conversation with the most vocal resisters and ask them to refrain from leading a mutiny.

Keeping the make-up of each small circle consistent is critical to building the trust required to get to the level of transparency needed to establish a rhythm of mutual accountability. Mixing up the groups is another way the passive-aggressive opponents seek to sabotage the process.

Creating smaller sub-groups within a typical “Small Group” setting will also be needed to reach the needed level of mutual accountability to see true application. Life transformation does not happen by knowledge acquisition alone. When we learn about God and discern ways to obey him, but disregard taking action, we actually begin to disciple disobedience. Discovery entails experiencing the joy of responsive obedience.

Remember Jesus’ warning about mixing “old” and “new” practices:

“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” (Luke 5:37-39)

Marvelous in Our Eyes

…the Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes!”
(Psalm 118:23 NIV)

If you enjoy doing word studies, look up the word “marvelous” in an online NIV Bible. Over and over again you will find that the works of God are what truly qualify as “marvelous.” Here is one that is typical:

“Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds.” (Psalms‬ ‭72:18‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

This post begins with the psalmist’s affirmation that God has done a mighty work and those who acknowledge it count it as truly marvelous!

The special work considered in Psalm 118 is a stone which had been rejected by the builders has actually been revealed to be the cornerstone—the most important of all the stones to go into the Temple when Solomon had it built. You see, David wanted to build a Temple, but God told him he was not the right guy for that job (2 Samuel 7), but his son would be. Rather than sulking, David set out to make sure his son could complete it with great haste (1 Chronicles 29) and with the beauty befitting God’s holy name. There were oral traditions that two stones were cut under David’s command which kept getting in the builders’ way. One ended up being the chief cornerstone (maybe at the stone quarry, since no stones were hammered on at the actual Temple site) and the other was actually the capstone at the highest spot on the front.

Jesus declared that saying was a prophecy about himself (Mark 12:10):

Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:
“‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

Later Peter also applies this to Jesus (1 Peter 2:7).

Do you orient your life’s work off him? Do you reject him that central position?

Disciple making movements seek to take their orientation directly from Jesus. That is the reason Matthew 10 and Luke 10 are so significant. These two chapters reveal Jesus’ directions for advancing his Kingdom reign. You intentionally look for the right kind of recipient. Whether you call this person a worthy man or a Person of Peace, this is someone who wants spiritual answers to their challenges and they share those answers with the people they value most. Jesus knows they are so strategic because they bridge the gospel into their social networks.

If you want to reach a closed neighborhood, find the Person of Peace for that community. If you want to reach a specific segment of a city, find Persons of Peace for that segment. As an outsider, it will take you too long to establish the kinds of relationships the Persons of Peace already have. Find them, share with them and watch multiplication begin, as long as you do not undermine it with Addition principles and practices.

God’s work of multiplication is marvelous! He gets the praise, because it is his work!

Critical Elements for Starting (pt. 5)

  1. Embrace Multiplication: As God blesses this process, churches multiply and the kingdom spreads out.  In order to allow this process to work, some ideas have to be embraced, and our paradigms must shift.  As I’ve said, this method is a tool for anyone who wants to spread the gospel.  Here’s the possible rub, this system is empowered by God, and not overly controlled by the church.  Through prayer, and obedience-based disciple making, the church allows these groups to spread as the Holy Spirit leads.  This process may start a church we don’t even know about, and that’s okay. Multiplication comes when we learn to constantly search out and disciple two types of people—Persons of Peace and Multipliers.
  • Multipliers—these are believers who will be open to learning how to reach people in bunches (like the way you harvest bananas and grapes), not just one by one. Almost all Western evangelistic strategies focus on one on one approaches. But we have found that using these can actually increase the resistance of people groups with strong family and friendship ties. Multipliers will be open to learning group strategies. They are willing to shift their focus toward discipling disciple makers. They are willing to learn to use approaches which can easily be reproduced by the people they are reaching. Multipliers are very coachable.
  • Scriptures:
    • John 15:1-17 (Those who abide in Jesus bear fruit, vs. 2; much fruit, vs. 5; and fruit that will last, vs. 16).
    • Matthew 28:1-10, 16-20 (The message of the resurrection culminates in the Great Commission).
    • Acts 2:42-47; 4:1-4; 5:12-16; 6:1, 7 (These passages reveal the growing spread of the gospel of the kingdom).
    • Acts 8:1-3 & 11:19-30 (The gospel is spread by ordinary disciples as their response to persecution).
    • Acts 19:1-20 (Paul and his team see the gospel spread throughout the Roman province of Asia from Ephesus).
  • Activities:
    • Guide church leaders through an exploration of what will be needed to replicate themselves and their ministries.
    • Brainstorm what will be required for our church to plant “Rabbit Churches” (i.e., those which rapidly multiply).
    • Share in your cohort the Paradigm Shift which has been most difficult for you to make. Pray for one another to be patient with those who are just starting down the road of embracing multiplication.
    • Celebrate successes!

Critical Elements for Starting (pt. 4)

  1. Start Discovery Groups: Please request a copy of the document “The Discovery Process Overview & Explanation.” It is a good explanation of this simple inductive Bible study, which we are happy to share with people who request it, free of charge. There are stories of Discovery groups facilitated by unbelievers (e.g., Jessie the Chinese girl who was taking her mother through a Discovery study before Jessie had made a profession of faith, herself. Grace, the RA who was leading the DG Jessie was in did not realize this until it came up unexpectedly.) It is so simple, it doesn’t even need a Christian to facilitate it.
  • Discovery exhibits deep trust that the Word of God illuminated by the Spirit of God is enough to produce the people of God. It places great confidence in people listening to what the God says and being able to identify specific ways to put it into practice in their lives, either individually or collectively.
  • Scriptures:
    • John 6:41-51 (Note verse 45 which says, “They will all be taught by God.”).
    • Matthew 23:1-12 (In Matthew’s Gospel only Jesus is to be called “Teacher”).
    • Matthew 13:1-23 (Jesus uses parables with the crowds which means they have to “discover” the meaning by asking him).
    • Hebrews 8:1-13 (Through Jesus God writes his laws on our hearts).
    • Luke 10:25-37 (Jesus models the use of questions in guiding an exploration of truth). .
  • Activities:
    • Invite those who are facilitating Discovery Groups (DGs) to get together monthly to debrief what is transpiring in their groups. This gathering will be called a Facilitator Cohort—a learning community. The first two questions of a DG make excellent prompts: “What has been going well in your group meetings?” “What challenges have arisen during your groups?”
    • Encourage your group facilitators to complete one of the DGs Report Form (request this document, also) each week and scan/photograph it and email it to you as a way to give you data which will help you to coach them. [NOTE: Movements come through coaching, not just training. Coaching coaches is essential to catalyze the generational growth seen in Disciple Making Movements.]
    • Celebrate successes!

Critical Elements for Starting (pt. 3)

  1. Find Persons of Peace: Taken from Luke 10 and Matthew 10, as we serve, we are prayerfully seeking out a worthy person, or a person of peace.  This will be someone who is open to discussing spiritual things, and curious about the idea of following Jesus.  A lot of times these are people who have some type of influence in the community or group you are trying to reach.  For example, in Africa, it may be the village chief, or it may be the village drunk.  If either come to the path of following Jesus, their change can drastically impact other people around them.  Once you have this truth seeker, you invite them to experience a Discovery Group with you, and you encourage them to invite their friends and family, and/or to share what they are learning with them.  If you share the the reign of God with someone within the group God calls you to reach, and they are disinterested, you move on because they are not yet ready to hear and further efforts may actually increase their resistance.
  • Persons of Peace—these are not yet saved people who God’s Spirit is preparing to be bridges for the Gospel to enter their families and communities. These are the kinds of people Jesus sent the 72 out in pairs to find in Luke 10:1ff. Cornelius (Acts 10), Lydia and the Philippian jailor (Acts 16) are examples of Persons of Peace. In each of these situations “households” came to faith together and that is what we anticipate can happen. Remind people in the harvest force that when you are harvesting apples and oranges you pick them one by one, but with grapes and bananas you harvest them in bunches.
  • Scriptures:
    • Acts 11:1-18 (Cornelius was responsive, but a vision and tongues from the Holy Spirit were necessary to get the messenger to go).
    • Matthew 10:1-16 (Jesus sends the 12 out two by two looking for “some worthy person”).
    • Luke 10:1-16 (Jesus sends 72 others looking for Persons of Peace).
    • Acts 16:6-15 (The gospel enters the “oikos”—household of Lydia after Paul listens to the Holy Spirit).
    • John 4:1-42 (the woman at the well contrasts greatly with the thinking of the disciples in this story). .
  • Activities:
    • After practicing the Discovery Group format for three weeks, do the fourth week in public places (e.g., a Starbucks, a mall food court, at your gym’s cool down area). Be sure that there are no more than four people in each group. In addition to doing the study, watch for people around you who are eavesdropping on your Discovery Group.
    • Every week Question # 3 is focusing on our efforts to obey what we heard and to share about our efforts to find Persons of Peace.
    • Celebrate successes!

Critical Elements for Starting (pt. 2)

  1. Serve with Purpose: This doesn’t necessarily mean volunteering at the rescue mission. The idea is to prayerfully begin to identify the needs of the community or group God is directing you to reach, and meet one of those needs which they highly value as a way to genuinely love on them in the name of Christ. It may be a for-profit service you begin providing. The goal is to genuinely care for the people with the love of God, and allow the Holy Spirit to open doors of opportunity to communicate the love of Christ. Our ultimate purpose is to create natural opportunities to interact with enough different people to find Persons of Peace. Some access ministries which are places for service are ELL (English Language Learning classes and other forms of assistance offered to refugees) after school tutoring at a laundromat near a trailer park, inner city boxing gym for troubled teens, halfway house for ex-cons, employment programs for released felons, coffee shops in city areas undergoing gentrification, etc.
  • Access Ministries open the door for finding Persons of Peace and lead to community transformation. Ministry should precede efforts to disciple people to Christ and evangelistic Discovery Groups must always be the end goal of ministry.  Timing is important and necessary so prayer and fasting open us to God’s insight and timing.
  • Scriptures:
    • Matthew 25:31-46 (Meeting needs serves Jesus).
    • Philippians 2:1-11 (Having the mind of Christ entails caring for the interests of others).
    • Acts 10:30-38 (Him doing good was a fundamental part of the message about Jesus).
    • Acts 3:1-16 (James and John heal the lame man and that opens doors for talking about Jesus openly).
    • 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 (Paul’s exemplary life involved sharing the Good News and loving care of people, too).
  • Activities:
    • Get your people into pairs and have them “role play” inviting someone to “read what the Bible has to say about marriage, child rearing, God’s character, or some other biblical topic.” Rotate all the groups and work through the room.
    • Go to a restaurant and tell your waiter, waitress: “We pray before our meals. Do you have a need which we can pray about for you?”
    • Prayer walk or drive through the neighborhoods where the people God is calling you to reach live and ask God to reveal a need these people have that will give you a way to serve them with the purpose of finding people who are open to spiritual conversations.
    • Celebrate successes!