Question 5: People?

“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.

Reflecting on: Focusing on Groups

From: Focusing on winning individuals.
To: 
Focusing on groups — to bring the gospel into existing families, groups and communities.

90% of salvations described in the book of Acts describe either large or small groups. Only 10% are individuals who experience salvation by themselves. We also see Jesus focusing on sending out his disciples to look for households, and we see Jesus often reaching households. Note examples such as Zacchaeus and his entire household experiencing salvation (Luke 19:9-10), and the Samaritan woman coming to faith along with a great many from her entire town (John 4:39-42).

Reaching groups has many advantages over reaching and gathering individuals. For example:

  • Instead of transferring “Christian culture” to a single new believer, local culture begins to be redeemed by the group.
  • Persecution isn’t isolated and focused on the individual but is normalized across the group. They can support each other in persecution.
  • Joy is shared as a family or community discovers Christ together.
  • Unbelievers have a visible example of “here’s what it looks like for a group of people like me to follow Christ.”

(Copied from: https://2414now.net/2020/09/23/mindshifts-in-movements-part-2/)

This is one of the primary ways Christians in the Global North unintentionally undermine multiplication strategies. When we first encounter a spiritual seeker is a crucial juncture. If we view this person as only an individual, we will most likely work to disconnect her/him from the groups in order to connect them to ourselves and/or other groups. Likely we will invite them to other groups where we already have meaningful relationships. While this is not wrong, it is unwise. It is addition at its best/worst.

Before you start a one on one Bible study with an individual ask, “Who do you know who also has these spiritual thoughts?” Or maybe, “Which of your friends might be asking the same kinds of spiritual questions?” The goal is to remember that most people have family or friends and Persons of Peace will want their closest relationships to go on this spiritual journey with them, if at all possible.

As the copied material above indicates, this effort to see a whole family and/or group of friends come to faith together is absolutely essential when working in “closed” people groups. While we assume that is not so important here in the U.S., we may need to reconsider, especially if we are reaching out to refugees or immigrants. Just this morning I heard about a teenager who came to faith as an individual and his immediate family sent him back to their homeland (they are refugees from a nation which is overwhelmingly unreached) so he can be peer pressured into renouncing his faith. What if he had been encouraged to invite family members to participate from the beginning?

While the people you are contacting may not be like that teenager, what if their disciples are? Why not start a process which can be used anywhere in this world? Let’s use practices which honor the family and friendship structures which are already in place? Yes, some relationships will become oppositional, but let’s make sure it is not because of our failure to try to reach people in their existing groups.

Do I Recommend a Mash-up?

Question: Would you recommend a mash-up of DMM, T4T and 4 Fields training approaches? What if it is an attempt at a call for unity?

Answer: I appreciate the call for unity and the desire to cooperate. I highly commend a spirit of understanding one another and working together whenever possible.

The piece of this discussion which doesn’t get adequate consideration, in my opinion, is the history of why Disciple Making Movement (DMM) strategies were developed. History can arm us against making the same mistakes over and over again.

David Watson was trained in the same non-traditional missionary strategies as some of the first folks who developed T4T, 4 Fields and some of the other CPM approaches. But ALL six of his first indigenous church planters were martyred by the Bhojpuri within six months of being deployed. 

David was understandably distraught over these traumatic events. After months of being depressed and eventually becoming angry with God, the Holy Spirit pushed him back to Matthew 10 and Luke 10. David was not happy to be taken there, since he had spent much time there already. Finally, he begrudgingly started writing out a list of the directions Jesus gave the people he sent out (both the 12 and the 72).

As he was making that list he recognized two things. First, Jesus’ directions are quite different than traditional evangelistic strategies, especially since they were not “confrontational” (this is my word, not something I have ever heard David or anyone else use). Second, Jesus deploys people looking for a special category of person (“worthy man” or “Person of Peace”). They did not go to confront a village of its sin (ala street corner preaching). They were sent with a message about the coming King, but they proclaim it where they are welcomed. 

When Watson trained his second group that is what he did differently. He got a very different outcome, as we now know. 

T4T was the write-up of what proved fruitful in China (as I understand the history). 4 Fields and other strategies were developed for different contexts. I get that and I appreciate what was accomplished in those other settings. 

But globally the least reached people groups are in resistant regions or closed nations. I want to carefully recognize that and use the approach that works best for the least reached because they are always the bullseye (at the center) of what I want to see ultimately accomplished.

T4T is training heavy on the front end because it is designed to take traditionally formed believers and re-train and re-deploy them to see lost people won. I applaud that. 

I am cognizant that we have to help people who come to faith through Discovery Groups to intentionally discover how to live as strong communities of faith. That is when it more naturally happens. After they come to faith through Discovering God, they are ready to begin discovering what living together looks like, unless denominations or traditional believers are super-imposing outside standards on them. Yes, there are challenges when this is happening in a context where lost people have been radically impacted by some interactions with “church”—whatever connotations they have for that word. 

I am not adamantly against attempting a mash-up. But ultimately we are always going to have to answer whether or not we believe people can be discipled to faith. Some very vocal Calvinists flatly reject such a possibility. If we say, “Yes, it is possible,” then we will be at least okay with using Discovery as our evangelism strategy. If we say, “No,” then we are left with the necessity of doing some kind of “confrontational evangelism.”

I cannot overcome this theological divide. I can attempt to reason with such Calvinists, but here is a chasm that will result in us needing to love, honor and accept each other, but also truthfully acknowledge we are going to evangelize differently. 

The biggest difference is whether you call people to “make a decision of faith” quickly (what I call “confrontational evangelism”) or look for Persons of Peace and work through them to get their household into a Discovery setting (which is going to be a slower call to faith).

Increasingly more CPM folks use DBS as a follow-up Discipleship strategy with those who make a quick decision, or with those who will not make a quick decision, but are still spiritually open (Discovery is not their first choice, but a Plan B strategy). With DMM some form of Discovery is Plan A.

If God miraculously brings someone to faith quickly, DMM practitioners likely will go straight to passages about Jesus and later circle back to any passages which were skipped. We generally want folks to go through the “Creation to Christ” scripture set because God uses it to create a Kingdom worldview for willing participants. Also, it equips those who come to faith in knowing how to lead others to faith in a path they can replicate. 

T4T was developed where confrontational evangelism was typically not deadly. DMM developed where it was (see my previous post). Since most international Movements are in restricted access nations or regions, I believe DMM is the wiser course of action. For example, while Muslim people who would come to faith in the US might not be persecuted for that decision, I know if they eventually return to their home nation, they will need to be equipped to reach others. Leading them to faith in a way they can replicate anywhere in the world has many benefits. 

Strategically and theologically, I lean heavily towards DMM. To me it is the wiser way forward because of the kinds of reasons I have shared. As a result, I will not invest time towards creating mash-ups.

Reflecting on: Who Are the Best Catalysts?

From: “Hoping a new believer or group of new believers will initiate a movement.”
To: “Asking: What national believers who have been followers for many years might become the catalyst(s) for a CPM?”

This relates to the common idea that we as a culturally distant outsider will find and win a lost person(s) who will become the movement catalyst. While this can occasionally happen, the vast majority of movements are started by cultural insiders or near neighbors who have been believers for several or even many years. Their own mindset shifts and fresh understanding of CPM principles open up new possibilities for Kingdom expansion. (Copied from: https://2414now.net/2020/09/22/mindshifts-in-movements-part-1/)

When I shared this list with a friend who is a catalyst in the Middle, he shared:

“I find the last mind-shift something I still go back and forth on. On one hand, I agree with the fact that it is much easier for an insider to start a movement among his own people and those within in the church tend to be better insiders. On the other hand, I often have failed by identifying the wrong insiders who I end up fighting about DNA issues of multiplication and best practices when I initially thought we had traction (sometimes years into the work). Whereas, with those I led to faith as the outside missionary, I got to build the DNA from scratch and didn’t have to fight with the ghost of past tendencies. Since I was this person’s only spiritual father, whatever I modeled for them was the only way and was gold. Whereas, training existing believers sometimes DMM later on the line can be a fad that they move on from. Just some thoughts…. I have trained insider older believers who have worked well!!!!! However, my greatest experience of multiplication has been from new believers that didn’t know anything else!”

I appreciate my friend’s response, because it well illustrates the point Stan and Elizabeth made in the original post at the 24:14 site listed above. Helping long-time believers become DMM catalysts can be slow, tedious and is fraught with great risks. I often compare it to the challenge of buying an old home in a historic district, moving your family into the structure and then starting a massive remodel, while you continue to live there! Deconstruction is absolutely necessary. But it is even harder when that house has been in your family for generations.

My friend in the Middle East had lived there long enough that he speaks the language fluently, understands the culture deeply (he married a woman from his adopted nation) and has made numerous contacts through his side business. His experience is the exception, rather than the rule. Just as it takes listening to God, great wisdom and experience to identify Persons of Peace, it takes the same to identify and help potential Multipliers transition from Addition Paradigms toward implementing true Multiplication mind shifts.

[NOTE: I reserve the phrase Person of Peace for a lost person who will open his/her family/friends to a disciple maker. I suggest we use the term Multiplier to refer to someone who is already a believer who takes up this hard work of Deconstruction/ Reconstruction and begins to actively search for Persons of Peace within their own people group or a near people group. Yes, this is a special category of people, but they are different from the kinds of people Jesus sent the 12 and the 72 looking for in Matthew 10 and Luke 10 respectively.]

# 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.

Church as the Gathered

Here in the West, we think of church as “gathered.” No doubt, you must gather to accomplish some of the “one anothers” and other functions of church (as the body of Christ). But what we generally fail to recognize is how much our cultural individuality impacts how we understand “gathered.” We often overlook the household language of scripture.

The gospel was planted into existing households.

Church was not primarily isolated believers who come together to act like a quasi-family. The gospel took root in the families, friends and employees that were 1st Century Roman households. It is not that church took the household structure.

Because we start from an individualistic bias, we miss this. Because we start from an individualistic bias, our strategies and tactics are often damaging to households, and thus extractional. Yes, there are times when some members of a family will come to trust in Jesus and others will reject them because of that, but Disciple Making Movements want that whole household to hear the gospel, interact with the gospel and not make their decision just because they incorrectly view the gospel as a Western oppressive intrusion.

This is why we evaluate our approaches to insure that they can be reproduced within any existing culture that highly values close-knit, multi-generational families. This is why we work to disciple the whole household to faith. The last thing we want is for the household to feel like Christian families do when one of their children converts to the Moonies or another cult–“they kidnapped and brain-washed” her/him.

Too much of the church planting talk is about gathering unconnected individuals and trying to get them to act like family. Real movements come when the gospel is being planted into existing family/friendship structures where people are discipled to trust and obey Jesus.

[NOTE: I originally wrote this as a comment on an article by Felicity Dale (http://simplychurch.com/on-cpms-and-dmms/). 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.]

How Deep Is The Well?

No, I am not suggesting anyone else has to open a non-profit coffee shop (while I am also not opposed to you doing that, but if you do, let me connect you with Rob so you can benefit from his experience). I am telling you this true story to illustrate that “first steps” are going to be greatly impacted by where you are on the journey to making disciple-making disciples (true replication).

While we say we don’t, most of us really want the ease of a “one-size-fits-all” strategy. We don’t want to spend the time getting to know a coach/mentor who will ask a gazillion questions about what we are already doing in order to answer the question, “What are the first steps I ought to take to reach this God-sized vision and overcome my dissatisfaction by pressing through the resistance I am already facing?”

In our heart of hearts, we know that canned answers will not work. But we also know that change is going to mess with our lives. That is why we stay in dead-end jobs. That is why many stay unhappy in their marriages–the work of change will be demanding. We dance the dance we dance because we won’t do the hard work of learning a new dance and doing it long enough that it becomes our new norm, our new default.

Our default evangelistic strategies, developed to reach individualists, isolate people from their existing affinity groups (family and/or friends). Perpetuating them will contribute to extraction and undermine any true movement potential! We have seen the enemy and he is us.

The Well rooms

Too much work has gone into making The Well different to tack on traditional missional strategies. Our post-Enlightenment young adults are wary of the communitylessness of my generation. They want authentic community. Those who are disciples want to discover ways to plant, water and harvest the gospel within their affinity groups, wherever possible, rather than ditching them for surface-level small groups which are not authentic. They go to third spaces looking for something meaningful

First Steps???

I continue to worship with Stones River. They also insisted I continue to serve as one of the six shepherds (“elders” sounds old and within our fellowship these groups tend to focus too much on things deacons should do and no one focuses on spiritual leadership, so we decided a name change might remind us and the members of our family that we are attempting to have a different focus). While I gather with Stones River, when I am in town, I travel a fair amount internationally and domestically. These are the times when it is hard staying in the loop, but I have a deep trust of the other men with whom I serve. Nine out of the next ten weeks I will miss our Sunday gathering, but I will be able to participate in the Monday evening shepherds meetings.

Starting next Sunday, I will be driving about forty miles to do some training at another church. The Well storySome of their folks have opened a non-profit coffee shop as an intentional outreach. The business was deliberately organized as a fund-raising mechanism for water projects in third-world nations. The name is appropriately, The Well.

Recently, they launched three Sunday evening worship experiences that happen in one side of the coffee house. They have met eight people who have expressed some interest in further spiritual discussions. But how do these caring Christians conduct these conversations in ways that are non-manipulative and hold the greatest hope of bearing spiritual fruit. They hope Discovery Groups will be helpful.

The Good Muslim?

Yes, these recently settled people were at great risk. Their situation was dire.

The king of Assyria ordered, “Send back some priests who were taken into exile from there. They can go back and live there and instruct the people in what the god of the land expects of them….They honored and worshiped God, but not exclusively—they also appointed all sorts of priests, regardless of qualification, to conduct a variety of rites at the local fertility shrines. They honored and worshiped God, but they also kept up their devotions to the old gods of the places they had come from” (2 Kings 17:27,32-33, The Message).

The Samaritans of Jesus’ day were descended from these peoples. This is the historical-cultural background behind Jesus’ parable we call “The Good Samaritan.” It also informs his interactions with the woman at the well and people from her village. Jews considered the Samaritans spiritual mutts. While they claimed to worship the God of Israel, the religious purists knew their sordid spiritual lineage.

Sounds remarkably similar to Islam.

Would Jesus shock us with the modern-day Parable of the Good Muslim? Would he spend a couple of days with Muslims who want to hear about the Messiah?

 

Honor King Jesus!

Yes, I know I crossed the line in my last post. I dared to contradict the maxim that Islam is the greatest enemy to Christianity. Let me explain something about my worldview. The greatest threat to Christianity is never any external force–not Islam, nor even secularism. Our greatest threat is ourselves.

Forgetting our identity in Christ is our greatest threat. Forgetting how our life story intersects with the story of the Kingdom of God is our great danger. Losing sight of what God has done for us and how that ought to affect our choices is our biggest temptation.

There are disciple makers in closed countries who lay it all on the line–every day. Muslim, Communist, totalitarian governments can make their lives difficult, but they cannot stop the transforming power of the gospel at work in the hearts of families. Stop allowing the politicians and/or the media to push your panic button. Stop losing sight of this reality that the Word of God reveals. Our “battle is not against flesh and blood.”

Living under the reign of the risen, exalted and ascended King Jesus is our calling. Saying, “Yes, Lord,” and meaning it is our purpose. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, Israel rejected the truth that the reign of God is enough when they demanded a king. Satan often tempts us to doubt that the Father has our best interests at heart (not just mine as an individual, but “our” as family, congregation, community, nation and world). Trust God!