Discovery Questions (an overview)

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!

Question 3: Accountable?

“How did you obey, share and meet the need from last week’s meeting?” invites participants to become mutually accountable to the other participants. This is woefully missing from traditional church gatherings (large proclamation settings, mid-sized and small group settings, also). We do not give one another true permission to ask, “Did you obey what you heard God say?”

Many people shy away from this kind of mutual accountability out of fear. They have personally been abused by a domineering leader, or know someone else who has. This fear produces an internal resistance to sharing an “I will…” Statement and nurtures resisting follow through if one has been given.

Each Discovery setting gives participants three ways to actually take meaningful actions in response to God’s word. Questions 6, 7 and 8 lead to an obedience pledge, the name of someone who needs to hear this story from the Bible and a challenge which the group can help overcome. Acting on any/all of these opens the active participants heart to walk out faith acts in response to the Holy Spirit. For example, we believe God often prepares Persons of Peace before the disciple maker ever meets with them. What if the Holy Spirit brings the person to mind for you to share with because he knows that person is ready for this word? Do we really believe God works in our hearts and minds when we open ourselves to him?

When participants attempt to obey, share and/or serve they may encounter resistance for which they are not prepared. Allowing them an opportunity to debrief what happened gives them the chance to be blessed by the group. We gain the privilege of “bearing one another’s burdens.” Maybe her heart was so sad because her sister rejected the story. Now the group can begin to pray that her sister’s heart will be changed.

No one is expecting perfection from these questions or the experiences they produce. We are coaching toward learning opportunities. Just like a soccer coach is not expecting perfection in dribbling drills, we know that the more practice people have in listening to God’s Word and then attempting to apply it, the better our obedience grows. Having a group who are cheering on our efforts builds us up to try harder the next time and eventually experience breakthroughs. Question 3 provides beautiful examples of testimony when God blesses our growing efforts. We are encouraged and others get to experience encouragement, too.

When you drop Question 3 it is a solid indicator that you are dropping Questions 6, 7 and 8. What you have then is not a Discovery Group, it is just a fellowship group with a weak Bible study. Please do not call that a Discovery Group because you have cut the heart out.

Question 2: Challenges?

“What challenges do you see in your life, family or world?” gives permission to the household of peace and/or friendship group to share with one another the difficulties each one is facing. While a family or group of friends may already know many of these challenges, picking one to share reveals what is weighing on the heart of each participant. “What matters enough to you that you will bring it to the group?” is a significant insight.

Most mornings I send out a text message to ten different groups or individuals. It usually contains one or two verses and an observation or question based on them. I started doing that practice more than eight years ago because of a challenge shared in a group experiencing Discovery for the first time. One lady shared, “I need a new job. No, I actually need a better attitude about my job until I get a new one.” She opened her heart to the seven of us who were gathered.

Question 2 provides a disciple maker a great intercession list. Outside of the group you can and should pray fervently about each challenge which is shared. Whenever God chooses to give a breakthrough it will capture the attention of at least some of the group members. In West Africa there is a disciple making family who were having trouble with their air conditioner in an extremely hot, dry season. Through overt spiritual conversations with the HVAC repairman they found he was spiritually open to Discovery. Once a Discovery Group began at his compound, they discovered the water piped into the neighborhood had not flown in over a year. When it started again (but not for any of their neighbors) this produced ongoing conversations.

Question 8 is going to be a follow-up to Question 2. As a result other trainers only have 7 questions because they make it 7b. I chose to keep all three action nurturing questions at the end of the study so responses will possibly be shaped by what God says through the passage. Making notes of the responses to # 2 is important because Question 8 will be a bit later in the process.

I do not get upset when the response to a challenge happens early, but now you know my rationale. The reality is you can facilitate a Discovery however you please. But if you make changes, please do so prayerfully and with the recognition that your alterations may have unintended consequences. If you get less fruitful responses, it is at least possible that is because you have removed something which was more significant than you realized.

Searching for COWs

Over the next several weeks I plan to write a series of posts looking closely at each of the 8 questions we recommend be used in Discovery Groups. I often receive questions about changing the way the questions are phrased and/or significantly modifying them. Maybe it will help if I give more of the rationale for why they are what they are and some of the thinking which has gone into even the order of the questions.

Before we dive into looking at the eight questions, I want to mention one of our strategies at Final Command Ministries. We look for what Gary Jennings (one of my teammates) calls the Coalition of the Willing. Jacob Crawford, a DMM practitioner and catalytic partner in New Orleans mentioned how helpful it is to be “looking for the COWs.”

Whenever you do exposure training with new church leaders and/or ordinary believers, be intentional in looking for those who open up to you and the training without you having to “convince” them they need to take this new direction. Decades of experience reveal that trying to convince the unwilling is frustrating for them and a waste of your time. Doing such exposure trainings (where you are exposing groups of people to the Discovery process and how it fits into the DMM cycle) is a time for broadcast sowing. Tap into the curiosity which is available, but look for evidence of willingness. Do not insult those who are resistant, but recognize they do not yet qualify for more time or energy beyond praying for them if you already have a significant relationship with them.

David Watson used to describe Cityteam (the organization where he worked when he invited me to assist in some of his trainings) as a “pull me” organization rather than a “push you” one. He would do these week long trainings which focused on the Critical Elements of Multiplying Movements and then wait for the people who would reach out for more training and/or coaching. Even that was going to be contingent on finding out what efforts were being made to implement some elements. “What have you done since the training to respond to it?” was the kind of question he would ask.

Are you raising up intercessors? Are you practicing the Discovery Group strategy with your family or friends? Who are you sharing these concepts with who might become part of a Disciple Making team? Have you started making a list of lost people that you already know who you can have overt spiritual conversations with them? These and other questions like them are asked to assess a willingness to go beyond a mere intellectual exercise.

When you start exposing those who are already believers to Discovery, and they “don’t like it,” what does this reveal? They are not COWs. Stop trying to drag them into this. Leave them alone and find other people to share with you in the journey. Early exposure to Discovery becomes a way to gauge interest. Deal appropriately with the information this litmus test reveals.

Q&A: Do You Recommend Changing the Questions?

Actual Question: “In DBS, after reading the scripture, the 3 key questions asked are: 

1. What does this scripture tell you about God?

2. What does it tell you about mankind (fallen man)?

3. What change do you want to start to see in you by the Holy Spirit’s help?

My question: Have you considered adding a question before the last one, inviting people to talk about what Jesus did to the fallen condition of man, and to remember the power that Jesus enables, so that the Gospel becomes the power to change, rather than just our will?”

My Response:

Many have changed the questions, for many reasons. Some do because they get bored asking and answering the same questions week after week. But it is that repetition that allows lost people on the way to faith to be able to start Discovery with their family and friends. “Who are you doing this to benefit?” is the question I want to ask these adapters.

Obviously, the form of question # 3 above introduces the work of the Holy Spirit prematurely, if the group is primarily composed of lost people. It has been inserted by the person who wrote the question. The actual questions I recommend people ask after the passage has been read twice, retold and any details noted which were omitted in the re-telling are:

  1. What do we learn about God?

2. What do we learn about people?

3. How will you put this passage into practice?

Why would you want to insert the suggested additional question? What do you hope to accomplish by inserting it. If the participants are not yet believers, they likely do not even know there is a Holy Spirit. That is one of the biblical truths we believe they need to discover from the pages of the Bible rather than depend on our observations about him as their entre into knowing him. I suspect the inquisitor is thinking about a group of Christians doing Discovery and the need to get them to think about what God is calling them to do, rather than depending on their feelings, emotions or self-will. That is not the setting the DBS questions were developed for use. Maybe many who profess to be believers are so much in need of these additional questions because we have never really expected them to directly apply the Word of God to their lives.

Q&A: How Do You Balance Grace and Obedience

Here is the actual question which was raised at the Salt & Light conference: “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?”

Our first question, asked of every passage we study in a Discovery Group, is “What is revealed about God?” Proper 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 and trust God. Responsive obedience is what we are calling for in obedience-based following of Jesus.

As some have noted, “Obedience is the love language Jesus calls for from his followers.” He often points out, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

A Muslim brother and sister were working through the Creation to the Cross scripture set years ago in Nashville. Isaiah 53 is the bridge passage which is the last Old Testament text before the group moves into the Gospels. After a careful multiple readings of the text and defining any new words, my friend asked, “What do we learn about God from what we have just heard?” The brother took a while to respond with his head slightly bowed. Looking up he responded, “God loves us,” and unprompted he added, “My how the Suffering Servant loves us!”

The obedience we model and call for in a Discovery Group is simple and relevant to what the day’s passage reveals about God and the characters in the story. Sometimes we may need to use the S.P.E.C.K. acronym to help people identify how they might obey. Does this passage mention a Sin you wrestle with committing? If it does, then how can you prepare yourself for you next temptation in this area? What is the model a Prayer or Praise form in this passage you could imitate? What is the Promise it contains which you need to claim? What action does someone take in this passage which can serve as an Example you should imitate? What is the explicit Command given in this text you could start obeying? What important Knowledge in this passage is significant enough to memorize?

This kind of simple obedience, as a response to what is being revealed about God’s character, becomes an open door to truly learning to “follow Jesus.” Obedience to King Jesus is at the heart of being a true disciple and it is absolutely essential to becoming an intentional disciple maker!

Q&A: When & how do you invite people to believe & obey Jesus for salvation in a DBS?

We invite people to believe and obey Jesus for salvation when they are showing evidence that they are trusting him enough to become obedient in small, simple ways. We do this primarily through the passages which allow them to Discover what happens when people in the Bible are coming to faith in him and obeying him.

Everything participants discover sticks with them better and becomes more powerful for them. Premature calls to faith and obedience can result in premature births and we know preemies have great risks and require extensive neonatal care. A “normal” gestation period is the preferred route. But we always stay open to the miraculous movement of the Holy Spirit. For example, if a Muslim person in a Discovery Group has a dream of Jesus while the group is still in the OT passages, we likely would transition into relevant NT passages corresponding to the theme of the dream. Later we will return to our previous place, but we trust God to know better than we do.

One of the “counter-intuitive” insights summarizes this concept. It says: “Start prepared to take a long time making strong disciples, but stay open to the miraculous acceleration of the Holy Spirit.” The Creation to Christ Scripture set contains 26 passages. If you study one a week, then it will take six months (with weekly Discovery gatherings and no interruptions. There are lots of evangelistic strategies which are much quicker than this Discovery approach. But our goal is not to just have people make professions of faith, we desire to also equip them to becoming disciple makers.

Multiplication requires raising up many disciple makers. The goal is to equip every person coming to faith to lead others to faith by the same strategic approach used with them and their family/friends. Replication, coaching and building a culture of intentionally focusing on outreach are critical for multi-generational movements. This approach starts slow. It proceeds slowly. The appearance of speeding up comes when more and more disciple makers are intentionally making disciples who are making disciples.

The tragedy is that many believe they can be faithful disciples to Jesus without ever making other disciples. Remember his words to the fishermen he called to follow him?

Our global experience reveals that when people come to faith by hearing God’s word, they open the conversations about what living by faith looks like in their life. Pentecost was a response to people coming to the conviction that they had contributed to the crucifixion of the Son of God. Let’s be sure people have experienced some of what the Word teaches about Jesus before we call them to faith.

Q&A: Should you lead in a prayer or song of worship in a DBS with unbelievers?

My conviction is worship should arise from faith. Calling unbelievers to participate in a prayer or song is presumptuous. We do disciple them toward these two activities by use of the first two questions we ask: “What good thing has happened this week?” Or it might be stated, “What are you thankful for which has happened this week?” Here they are becoming grateful as they are discovering God, the One who gives every good gift. The second question is, “What challenge are you, your family, or someone in your neighborhood facing?” Their answers to the second question informs me of things I will begin to privately intercede for in the participants’ lives. This sharing begins to disciple them toward interceding so when they come to faith in God, we will explicitly build those rhythms of singing praises and praying for one another.

Why would we feel the need to push for praying and praising prior to faith? That’s the question I urge you to ponder.

Many Christians act as though they assume faith can only arise in a context of a gathered church. Our conflation of evangelism and edification lies at the root of these thoughts and assumptions.

Discovery Bible Studies were not developed for those who are already believers. They were designed for those who have little or no Bible knowledge, but who are open to exploring what it says about spiritual themes and/or questions. Let’s stop allowing our preconceived ideas shape everything.

Q&A: Are All DMMers Angry at Traditional Churches?

No, but many let their frustration boil over in this way. Often their angry sounding remarks arise from their impatience to see breakthroughs.

It is my firm conviction that great care should be taken to guard against derogatory comments. It is my studied conviction that what we are currently doing will not fulfill the Great Commission and I personally believe that DMM provides greater potential for experiencing multiplication.

I praise God for the good fruit that has been accomplished through traditional “building-based” churches. I came to faith by being reared in a church of about 100 people with Sunday School classes, a regular preacher and multiple scheduled gatherings at a meetinghouse. I have earned multiple degrees from private Christian universities and am thankful for the opportunities to dig deeply into God’s Word.

But I now realize those institutions were the fruit of spiritual movements that preceded them. They were the effects, not the causes of multiplication.

The people living around us who cannot imagine joining us in those scheduled meeting times still need the Gospel planted deep into their hearts. Note Jesus’ Great Commission directs us to “Go and make disciples among all nations (people groups, ethno-linguistic groups)…” Where are the pockets of those people groups in your city? Until we take seriously this Final Command, it may sound like we are being offensive. But if calling people to obey King Jesus is the reason for the offense, then we dare not back down.

Having written that, though, I have found it odd that some of my DMM friends admonish more care when speaking with an Imam than with a pastoral leader. Why would you care more about not needlessly antagonizing one over the other. At its core, Disciple Making Movements grow out of looking for the willing by finding Persons of Peace and Multipliers.

Persons of Peace are lost people who are open to the Kingdom (Luke 10). Multipliers are saved people who are open to the generational multiplication which results in Kingdom expansion. Do you seek to antagonize the lost people who are not yet Persons of Peace? Why antagonize the believers who are not yet open to becoming Multipliers? Do you trust the Holy Spirit to bring conviction? Orneriness does not appear in any of the spiritual gifts lists that I know.

If my last statement goads you a bit, remember it the next time you choose to take out your frustration on a brother or sister who is slow to embrace multiplication. Saying something derogatory to or about them likely will not help them open up to new ways forward. Pray for them and keep looking for the two types of people who are most strategic. Ask God to open their hearts and keep moving.

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.