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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are multiple roles a local church can provide to assist in catalyzing Multiplying Movements. What is happening globally reveals that Movements are the work of God, so our best efforts involve us in finding out where God is already working and seeking the ways we can join him.
Churches certainly can partner with God by rallying intercessors. Members who will pray and fast to intentionally seek God’s heart are crucial to Movements. Training and sending out disciple makers among pockets of lostness are another way a local church can partner in catalyzing DMMs.
Sending out and assisting disciple making teams financially can be a wonderful way to sow into Movements. Great care needs to be exhibited in these partnerships, though. Local church leaders can unknowingly operate with a “franchise” paradigm, where our assumption is that every kingdom outpost will look like our home church does. In global DMMs we see incredible diversity ranging from very simple churches to much larger and more highly organized churches.
Sometimes we use the Powerpoint titled “Elephant Churches/Rabbit Churches” to help leaders envision some of the incredible value in this diversity. If, for example, you want to move large heavy items, rabbits cannot get the job done, but if you want to feed a massive army, raising rabbits will actually be the better way to go. When that presentation was originally presented it contrasted the large church model with small simple communities of faith as though the choice has to be made. But a friend in Africa saw a different way forward.
Shodankeh envisioned “Elephant Churches” intentionally and strategically planting networks of “Rabbit Churches” across his nation, West Africa and throughout the globe. Where there is little organized persecution some of those small simple churches will grow larger, build buildings and become regional training centers which allow the gospel to flow out to the villages which have not heard.
Having a Kingdom mindset, rather than a parochial approach, is critical. Just think about the church in Antioch (Acts 13) if you need a both/and text for this vision.
The curse of modern Christianity is that we expect little from the Lord, too much from the church, and nothing from ourselves. Joe McKeever
This title and quote was all that appeared in a “draft” post from years ago. The idea of “expectations” caught my attention and prompted me to record the quote as a starter for an article. I actually did not know who said those words, so I came up with the writers name via a Google search. It is likely I saw it as a meme on Facebook. It was in an article about overcoming obstacles to praying.
Why do you expect people from your church to easily “flip the switch” and take up Disciple Making Movement strategies and tactics?
I want that question to hang there. I am violating my grammar training from decades ago (the rule has probably changed like so many others) which required at least two sentences to constitute a new paragraph.
How long did it take you from first hearing about disciple making until you actually tried to engage a stranger in a spiritual conversation? Why did it take you so long? How long did it take you to host your first Discovery Bible Study from when you first started hearing about them? Why did it take so long?
Impatience with others is often borne out of our internal frustrations over being unable to magically give other people a shortcut. We want them to join us on the journey, now. We want their drive, their passion, their skills and expertise, now. What if we begin to intercede for them, rather than trying to pressure them into accepting a new way forward? What if we begin to “plead God’s promises” attached to disciple making for them?
“Father, give _____________ the incredible joy of bearing fruit. Overwhelm her with the excitement of bearing much fruit. Bring the celebration of experiencing fruit that lasts.” What if you started praying that every time you begin to feel frustration rising in your heart?
God is the absolute best at producing heart changes–in you and in that person you desperately want to see open up to what prompts your zeal for the Lord. But don’t just pray it for one person, pray it for her family and friends. Pray God will transform them into a household of peace. Pray he will fill them all with Kingdom peace which will allow them to carry greetings of peace to other households.
Expect much from God; extend grace to the people in your church and hold yourself to a high standard!
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 living as a disciple will require great love, patience, and perseverance. Role modeling the importance of coming up with good S.M.A.R.T. “I will…” Statements and then following through with them during the week will be the best way to call participants to make this challenging paradigm shift.
Because preaching and teaching has been so focused on learning new information, or reviewing what we already know in “innovative” ways, many traditional church-goers will resist it, eventually. There will be a “novelty” attached to Discovery initially which is often misconstrued as true willingness to make hard changes. Do not be deceived.
So, I am offering three cautions:
Caution number 1: Realize the lack of initial resistance is not the same as long-term acceptance and buy-in. It is likely an indication that your folks are open to taking it for a “test drive.” Seize this opportunity since it may be how you identify the people who are open to learning a new way to make disciples.
Caution number 2: When the resistance does come, be prepared to offer alternatives, or be prepared to “blow it all up.” Here in the U.S., people value their independence more than they value your leadership. As a wise elder told me when I was a young pastor, “People here will either vote with their hands, their wallets or their feet.” I would add, most vote with their mouths expressing dissension, long before they vote with their feet by leaving for another local church. This is more likely to happen when the idea of change is being led by the pastor or another key leader.
Caution number 3: Develop a “pilot project” to suggest as a next step for those who weather the storm of the eventual resistance. without an alternative way forward, your passion will die or drive you away from those who disagree. Realize some dissent is not bad or wrong. It is often grounded in your personal inability to answer legitimate questions. When people are encountering disciple making thinking for the first time, they have lots of questions. Too many “I don’t know” answers can undermine their confidence in you.
Identifying a pocket of lostness in your city/region where it is abundantly obvious that there is a great need for the gospel and suggesting the idea of raising up a team to reach that place can be a more fruitful way forward. People who are resistant can “bow out” by noting that is not “where God is calling me to reach.” Because our culture is “truth” focused more than “shame,” we bristle at the idea of giving people a “face-saving” way out. Why force them into a corner? Why not give them an opportunity to watch and see?
In my previous post I wrote: “Good things can happen when an individual is added to an existing group. But GREAT things can happen when we coach someone to start a new Discovery Group with their family/friends who are willing to participate.”
Getting Groups to Multiply is hard work for the catalyst. It will fill your week with increased workload. Your schedule will become busier for a season. You will be coaching someone to do something which would be far easier for you to do yourself, but you must refrain if you want to get to Multiplication. You will be your own greatest enemy in making this transition. Admitting you have this problem is the first step to recovery!
As noted in the chart contained in the previous post, “Addition” has some of its own challenges: will existing group members truly include new participants? At what point will they give in to their own tendencies and become insular, protective of the friendships that exist and resist new additions? Also, there is a heavy emotional burden placed on the new addition–pushing through the feeling of being an outsider who is “crashing the party” for the other group members. Whether you realize it or not, being the “newbie” feels awkward, especially if the group is speaking about spiritual themes at a deeper level than you are capable of, yet.
Participating in a “new” group, where most of the participants are at the same stage of learning can be much easier. That is especially true if they are your own family/friends/co-workers/neighbors who are gathering at your apartment, community center or office conference room
Inviting people to start a new Discovery Group among “their people” feels so crazy we easily talk ourselves out of taking the risk. It is “easier” to invite someone who shows interest into an ongoing group, even when you realize the burden of feeling like an outsider shifts to their shoulders. Why do you want them to take the greater risk than you are willing to take?
As Collins’ book notes, “Good is often the enemy of Great.”
What has to change to transition from Addition Strategies and Tactics to Multiplication Strategies and Tactics?
Recently when I was discussing the answer to this question I started to envision a chart which helps to compare/contrast some of the differences between these two approaches. But I have also been meditating on why we default to Addition, even though many of us “want” Multiplication. Here is the chart I developed.
1. Connects an individual to an existing group
1. Individuals become connectors to groups
2. Is possible when group members are inclusive
2. Is possible wherever PoP has friends
3. Strong leaders are needed to start each new group
3. Facilitation lowers starting demands
4. Challenges participants to be open to an old group
4. Changes participants into facilitators
5. Encourages decisions of faith
5. Encourages participants to become disciple makers
6. Outgrows space when successful
6. Expands to new friendship groups in new locations
7. Easy to do with existing group; difficult to expand
7. Challenging to start; expands more once going
Compare/Contrast Addition Strategies with Multiplication Strategies
Why? Why would we take the approach I have titled “Addition” in the chart?
It’s what we know. It avoids filling our schedule with lots of groups. It protects us from the risk that a new group will not develop the new rhythms needed for life to materialize. It fits with our highly individualistic cultural norms. It “gives in” to our fear that people will not be willing to invite their family/friends to participate in a Discovery Group.
Please do not misunderstand me. Good things can happen when an individual is added to an existing group. But GREAT things can happen when we coach someone to start a new Discovery Group with their family/friends who are willing to participate.