Follow-up Questions

Today I will be posting some questions which my last blog post prompted. They come from my friend, Greg. We go to church together and have talked about DMM on multiple occasions. Greg has some concerns about aspects of DMM and I appreciate him and his heart for truth and making disciples. He posted the following questions on my Facebook wall, where I had shared a link to my previous blog article, https://dmmcoach.com/2021/09/09/what-about-the-other-gifts/. If you have not read that article, yet, Greg’s questions will be more meaningful if you read it first.

Thanks, John. Various questions arise. We can talk in person if commenting becomes ponderous.

1. Do you think Paul has clearly delimited distinctive roles in mind here? Relatedly, do you think this is a comprehensive Pauline account of leadership gifts/roles?These are general questions about what you think Paul is doing in this text, the answers to which will, I assume, relate to the way you are using the text to answer your DMM-specific question. Watson’s reduction to two categories at the end of the post seems to indicate that you take Paul’s categories to be sort of broad strokes that get at tendencies. Is that fair?

2. My second question, regarding the evangelist, is threefold.

(A.) I’m having trouble distinguishing it from your account of the apostle. “Apostolic workers are those who intentionally go to new places,” and evangelists are “able to cross many cultural barriers” and “intentionally bring good news into dark places.” Both seem to be about “going.” Is it that you see evangelists as a subset of apostolic goers who specifically cross cultural barriers?

(B.) I’m curious where you derive the cross-cultural component of the evangelist from. Obviously, one needn’t cross cultures to bring good news into dark places. But more the point, what about Paul’s claim suggests crossing cultures is a specific feature of this gift?

(C.) The phrase I’m struggling most with (as you’ll have guessed) is “without requiring specialized training.” As with the cross-cultural dimension of your definition, I’m wondering where this assertion comes from. It seems to me that, on the one hand, this is a claim that you (i.e., those who understand “gifts” this way) would be interested in appending to each of the gifts. Because it is a gift (and not an accomplishment of “training works”?), the apostle’s ability to be apostolic requires no training, and so on. On the other hand, it seems to me that this is a commitment DMMers are bringing to the text, which makes no claims about the means through which God bestows gifts. Isn’t it the case that DMM is already committed methodologically to leaders not needing specialized training? If so, does that lead you to find an affirmation of that presupposition in the definition of gifting?

Finally, I’m wondering what specialized training includes, given that the training (equipping) of the church is in view in this text. If we assume that being gifted definitionally entails no specialized training, then once the gifted train the church for service, can those so trained “become” gifted, or does being trained rule that out? Or is it just that such training is not “specialized”? Or perhaps the training—say, for crossing cultures—is simply irrelevant to the question of being gifted, so that those trained by the gifted may be equipped for service, but whether they’re gifted for it is another matter altogether?

More than enough for one comment. 😬 I look forward to the dialogue.

[NOTE: I use social media (Facebook and Twitter) as a place to post invitations for deeper conversations. I prefer having those deeper conversations in person, or here on my blog. Others do not agree that this is best, but it is my choice to this point in time. I do this because I want my deeper conversations to be with people who want to converse. I do not like the “drive-by shootings” which often happen on social media. I want a real dialogue. I plan to respond to each of Greg’s questions here in future posts. I shared that with him and will post my responses here. Due to some travels I may not make my usual Tuesday and Thursday morning times, but will try to stay regular in my responses. After I finish with those I will return to the list of questions which arose earlier this year at the Salt & Light Conference.]

What happened?

That question was posed to me a while back. I was shocked by my inquisitor. Who was she and why was she asking me, “What happened to you? Why did you stop writing; it has been a year?”

After I avoided my rush toward defensiveness and disorientation, I asked some clarifying questions. She was a regular reader of this blog. We had actually connected through email at one point. But she and her husband had recently moved from New Jersey to Iowa. Some of my struggle was she was out of context.

The busyness of my work had colluded with my lack of confidence that this blog was being helpful to push writing aside. Regretfully I am too vain to just throw something up here and feel too busy to block off time for writing the way I prefer. But the length of time since I had last posted anything actually shocked me. And now it has been even longer.

I find it fitful to write in a vacuum. Without feedback I flounder. Am I meeting a need? Am I like the proverbial tree that falls in the woods and no one hears?

It’s not that I did not write during those gaps. I just have not posted any of that on here. Much has been happening and I need to tell you about it, in due time. But I want to start by thanking you if you missed my writing (please don’t comment if you had not noticed, while I long for appreciative feedback, I must confess my skin is too thin for too much criticism).

Actually, I wrote most of the preceding material back in 2018 to explain my most recent hiatus. Well, guess what, I “ghosted” this blog again. It was not intentional, but it did happen. Please accept my apology and know that I seem to be back in the writing mood and hopefully rhythm by the time you see this post.

Some dear friends have encouraged me to write a book. Actually another friend has written an e-book which utilizes lots of my previous posts. If you might have an interest in reading it, let me know and I can send you a digital copy if you will promise to share it with five other people (no, I will not make any money from spreading it, and neither will my friend who wrote it). Also, I need your promise to email me any questions it sparks within you. My best writing has been in response to questions raised.

Peace!

# 200!

A recent comment notes that I have not addressed how to catalyze Urban Disciple Making Movements. In my reply, I noted that this is true and noted that there are no known urban DMMs, yet.

There are rapidly replicating movements that are happening near major urban centers, but most of these are still happening among people with more of a rural mindset/worldview. Social scientists have long noted that urbanization radically impacts the way people see life, themselves and their relationships with others.

Some believe that the strong multi-generational family structure is radically altered by urbanization. It is intriguing to watch the response to some of these challenges that has arisen in China. The efforts to ride the wave of opportunity have separated many of their young professionals from parents and grandparents who still reside in the rural regions. With wealth, responsibility and distractions, many of these young professionals are choosing to break the cultural expectations by refusing to go “home” during their breaks. Laws have been passed which allow their parents to prosecute such lapses.

Planting the seed of the gospel into such families will not follow the same route as the rural settings of many of the movements in Africa. Some doubt it can happen at all.

Any honest strategist will tell you that we have much to learn about launching movements in megalopolises. Reaching the adult grandchildren whose parents and grandparents lived their whole lives in New York City will look very different than those in Buck Snort, Tennessee.

It will still take meaningful contact where God’s nature is overtly discussed. It will continue to require a Discovery process whereby worldview is shifted into a kingdom of God outlook. Discipling people to trust Jesus will continue to be a process. The tactics will shift, though.

Why Change from CPM to DMM?

Multiple factors have produced this change in terminology. Some suggested it because Jesus directed “make disciples,” while he is the one who builds his church. Churches (communities of faith practicing the “one another” passages) will result when people are discipled to Jesus. Secondarily, the shift happened because CPM terminology was being hijacked by folks who are not seeing rapid, multiplicative and indigenous growth. When terms are used to mean whatever you want them to, they really mean nothing (sort of like the guy shooting the side of his barn and then painting a bull’s eye around where the shot landed).

Intentionally discipling disciple makers forces you to:

  • Use only resources, tactics and strategies that the indigenous people group can readily replicate.
  • Strip away all the catalyst’s cultural “over-hang” and trust the Holy Spirit to guide family/friendship groups to contextualize the gospel as they learn and obey it (since different cultures already have strong, deep views of the context in which spiritual activities transpire and how they are conducted, that will impact the kinds of gatherings they develop and eventually call “church”).
  • Model and train discovery of who God is and how he wants us to live at every level of growth and maturity. Jesus’ discipling of the 12, 72 and 500 was as much through the flow of life as it was what he said. (In traditional evangelism and missions we assume giving people new information will result in transformation. It won’t. On-the-job training and “just-in-the-nick-of-time” additional training is critical to DMM).

[NOTE: I originally wrote this as a comment on an article by Felicity Dale (http://simplychurch.com/what-is-a-church-planting-movement/#comments). She moved it and a couple of other comments to her main page and there has been some interesting dialogue there. I decided to re-post it here on my site so that my networks could interact with it, also. You probably ought to check out the other dialogue.]

Out With The Old!

Not wanting to deconstruct, contributes to resistance. While not like the actual weight of the concrete on those large posts, other concerns create emotional resistance. I must confess that I had mixed feelings about taking out a tree. You see, we planted that maple the fall of 1992. We wanted shade and it gave us in the back yard. But the problem is its roots grew along the top of the ground and within three years would be cracking the foundation of the new construction, so it had to go.

Many changes are never undertaken because of what has to go. Bad-mouthing what other people are invested in is no way to encourage them to change. Helping them see that the new strategy actually helps them do what they already want better is more likely to get a positive outcome.

People selling new curriculum rarely count the cost of discontinuing the old. Yes, some people have likely tired of it long ago. But what about the teachers who have grown comfortable with it? Some may have taught its cycles enough that their prep time is significantly decreased. Will they stop teaching because they feel they no longer have the time to properly prepare? If so, who will replace them?

Finding new teachers is one of the great challenges for any education program. Starting a new series of classes almost always requires killing an existing set. New coordinators don’t get that. Old ones have paid this high price so often they are unwilling to go through it again. Inertia is a powerful force.

“Just do it!” is rarely said by someone who will actually help make the change.

Who Defines the Terms? (contextualization)

I find the use of the word “skeptic” interesting as the starting point. I would hope that the greater detail of the book would detail why this term is used. I suspect it reflects the Southern California academic/young professional setting targeted by InterVarsity there—the “Post-Modern” worldview that Choung’s dissertation addressed.

Since I believe the Western attempt to export Modernity to the majority world is unwise, I am going to be cautious about introducing Post-modern terminology and concepts. “Individuality run amok” is one of Post-modernisms stinging critiques of Modernity. But I fear that the Thesaurus being utilized was defined on Modernity’s terms.

Many of the least-reached people groups in our world are pre-modern! Yes, they are being impacted by elements of Modernity and Post-modernism, the more “connected” they are, but why drag them through all of this? They have “skipped” the land-line telephone technology in many areas, going from no phones to cell phones. Let’s skip the individuality the terms create.

Let us find Persons of Peace. Train them to facilitate discovery studies within their families, friendship groups and communities. Coach and mentor them as high into leadership as they will progress. Equip them to contextualize for their people group. They will do it better than we will. Let them draw the “four circles” for their context, if that proves needed.

One-size-fits-all?…Nah!

About twenty-five years ago I took a graduate course titled, “Matthew as Story.” Jack Dean Kingsbury’s book by the same title was required reading. This literary (narrative) critical examination of the first gospel launched me on a trajectory that I could little anticipate. It is only within the last five that I consciously realized the connection.

Comparing/contrasting the plot of the four gospels reveals important information about their contexts. Reading today’s writers does likewise. I do not believe “one size fits all” works well with gospeling. Yes, our early attempts will likely follow more closely to one of the four than the other three, but even that reflects something about us. Either we are reflecting the choice of those who discipled us, we are reflecting which of the four has become our personal favorite, or we are reflecting a conscious decision based on our knowledge of the people group to whom we are speaking.

Before you invest the money in getting Choung’s book(s) translated into the language of your people group and distributed among them, make sure you do the same rigorous testing he did. Make sure the thought structures used in his books translate well into the worldview of your context. Recruit believers among this group to evaluate how helpful these resources will be.

When my friend tweeted me about Choung’s video, I responded from a cross-cultural context. My friend recently completed a master’s degree. He desires to move to Asia and serve as a cross-cultural missionary. I initially responded in light of our shared context (academics and love for missions). Later I Googled Choung’s web site and read his blog. As I have noted, I have not read his second book. My replies seek to apply what I have discovered on that web site to the video.

 

Contextualization on Christmas????

Every gospel dialogue is contextualized. The issue is not “if,” but how and by whom. It can be done well or poorly. It can be done intentionally or accidentally. Some accidental contextualization can turn out well, but it will likely be difficult to apply to a new context until the accidental becomes intentional. Not all intentional contextualization goes well, either.

Some might question me doing this article/series on Christmas day. “Give it a rest, John!” I can hear someone mumbling.

Where are the primary sources for what we call “the Christmas story” found? Yes, in the Gospel According to Matthew and the Gospel According to Luke. Two of our four “gospels” record the details about the birth of Jesus. But anyone who has read these two accounts closely realizes they are very different in their emphases.

Why would Luke include the details about the shepherds while Matthew focuses on the Magi? Why would Matthew spotlight the agitation of Herod and the religious leaders concerning the news that a king has been born, while Luke recounts Simeon and Anna who celebrate the news in Jerusalem? These two communication pieces were tailored for their respective audiences—the context into which they were spoken/read and out of which they were revealed. The four gospels are contextualized presentations of some of the details of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Celebrate the birth of Jesus during this season. Ponder how you can intentionally contextualize your presentations to your near neighbors, well. Acknowledge that what works well in my neighborhood may not be best for all neighborhoods, though. Allow the Scriptures to challenge you toward diversity.

Contextualization and Post-modernity (pt. 2)

Before I write more about James Choung’s material, let me be open with you. I like it—for a post-modern setting like Southern California—for which it was written. I recommended it to my theologian friend, John Mark Hicks, right after I found it, purchased and read his first book. While I have not purchased Real Life: A Christianity Worth Living Out, I anticipate there is much in this book that I will find useful, especially if I am coaching/mentoring someone who is targeting a post-modern people group.

My desire is to use Choung’s material to get you to think about the wisdom of making cross-cultural applications of highly contextualized material! Lest you assume I am being overly cautious or erecting a straw-man, consider a lengthy quote from his blog commenting on the first book:

I know that I might risk sounding a bit brazen, but I hope that you hear only my excitement about what God has done so far. Starting back in 2005, those of us in San Diego InterVarsity created the material to reach Southern California college students, and did extensive field-testing and multiple drafts before the book was released in 2008. Since then, I’ve been surprised by its international appeal. It’s been used to introduce people to Jesus and His message on every inhabited continent. (I don’t know, nor think it probably, that anyone has taken it to Antarctica.) And so far, it has been translated into Korean, Mongolian, Polish, Thai, Mandarin, German and Spanish.

It’s also spread to the evangelism curricula for denominations and national campus ministries, and has been reported on by Christian media outlets such as Christianity Today, Leadership Journal and JCTV. It’s been shared with seminary students in New England, lakeside villagers in Malawi, college students in Texas, house churches in China, youth in Australia, megachurches in Orange County, inmates in Fresno, slum dwellers in Thailand, and gang-bangers in Boston — one even tattooed the fourth circle on his bicep! One chaplain of a county jail thought it would help reduce the recidivism rate, giving inmates not only a vision of what they’re forgiven from, but what they’re forgiven for.

I’m thankful to God. It’s been His doing.

Is this really the best way to reach large groups of people in Malawi and Thailand? Let me unpack my concerns with that in a few posts.

Contextualization and Post-Modernity

Recently a friend tweeted the following link to a brief overview of critical transitions that need to happen in the life of an individual as he/she is discipled from being a “skeptic” into a “world changer”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ep8XM5IFWsI

As I dialogued with my friend regarding the video, I pointed out that it is very “Western” and “individualistic,” especially in Choung’s discussion of the “skeptic” needing to “trust” a Christian to be able to transition into a “seeker.” I also raised the issue that Choung does not seem to have any familiarity with the concept of God raising up a person of peace who could serve as a bridge into his family and/or her community.

Today I did some searching on Choung’s website and found the following blog which contains the video mentioned above:

Real Life Continuum video which explains the basic model of the book is also out! http://www.jameschoung.net/2012/11/22/real-life-in-print/

It also links to an earlier video, “True Story,” that uses four circles to help visualize what needs to happen in coming to Christ. Later Choung writes about these two videos showing these charts being drawn and their connected books, “True Story and Real Life actually share a common lineage: they are popularized versions of first and second halves of my dissertation on postmodern leadership development. True Story gave the theological ground for Real Life’s disciple-making model.

Please note the very specific context of his dissertation—postmodern leadership development. What happens if you attempt to use his approach in a pre-modern setting? What about a modern setting? I will be exploring these questions as a means of getting Western thinkers to reconsider exporting our strategies cross-culturally without carefully exploring our own presuppositions.