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.

How Much Trellis is Needed?

In John 15 Jesus has three promises related to fruit bearing. It is his promise that if branches will abide in him as the vine, they will be carefully tended so that they “bear fruit” (John 15:4), “bear much fruit” (John 15:5, 8) and “bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:16). In Disciple Making Movements in West Africa we have observed all of these stages of fruit bearing–initial breakthroughs, increasingly rapid multiplication of new groups and then the stabilizing, formational work required for long-term preservation of fruit.

I am convinced these three phases actually correspond to the functions of the apostolic, evangelistic and pastoral/educational (which correlate to planting vines, tending vines so their fruitfulness multiplies and then preserving the grapes through wine making which requires the greatest labor and construction of the winepress and places for storing the wineskins while fermentation happens).

In keeping with those three phases, New Harvest Global Ministries in Sierra Leone (West Africa) has three different training tracks, with increasing training and education required for each subsequent phase:

1. Sending experienced disciple makers into a previously closed region is that initial breakthrough phase. Often, these workers have grown up under very similar circumstances to the people groups among which they are working. These apostolic workers are dilegently looking for Persons of Peace. They are experienced in spiritual warfare and the power encounters demanded to see breakthroughs come. Increasingly these workers are sent out of DMMs among least reached near-neighbor people groups. The very first apostolic workers are often highly trained and experienced and they find households of Peace where people come to faith in Jesus via Discovery Bible Studies.

2. But once the first believers come to faith in a village or community, they are sent out with very little additional training, because they will imitate the process which just resulted in them coming to faith. As they become successful in starting new groups in new places nearby, they will begin to receive additional training. Some of these who are early fruit will eventually be trained to become apostolic workers sent to other hard places nearby.

3. Others who show an aptitude toward pastoral ministry toward existing groups will receive training to be equipped to nurture the group with which they came to faith. In some emerging churches there are not yet existing leaders within the group. In those groups another type of leader will be sent in. Much like Barnabas was sent from Jerusalem to Antioch and he eventually brought in Saul, leaders are sometimes sent to stabilize new churches and raise up teams who can be sent to other nearby villages.

Some Americans who have travelled to Sierra Leone have been surprised to find such training mechanisms in place, but they have more than 20 generations of multiplication which has been happening for more than 15 years. More trellis and preservation capacities are needed after multiplication begins to happen, but those are not what we lead with if we want to see Movements! This is a significant difference between Disciple Making Movement strategies and traditional cross-cultural missions.

Reflecting on: “What must be done?”

From: “What can I do?”
To: “What must be done to see God’s Kingdom planted in this group of people (city, nation, language, tribe, etc.)?”

A training group was once discussing Acts 19:10 — how approximately 15 million people in the Roman province of Asia heard the word of the Lord in two years. Someone said, “That would be impossible for Paul and the original 12 believers in Ephesus – they would have had to share with 20,000 people a day!” That is the point – there is no way they could accomplish that. A daily training in the hall of Tyrannus must have multiplied disciples who multiplied disciples who multiplied disciples throughout the region. (Copied from: https://2414now.net/2020/09/22/mindshifts-in-movements-part-1/)

Some of us never get to the place of determining what we must personally do to get started. Others rush too quickly to take singular actions. This mindshift identifies another necessity—recognizing the work is far too large for any one person, team, organization and/or denomination. Movements come from God and Jesus has always called his followers to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Being overwhelmed by what it will take to see the Somalis in a city reached pushes us to pray. It pushes us to fast. It forces us to begin exploring the question, “Who else needs to be involved in this effort?”

Many would-be DMM strategist has tried to involve others only to find it an effort in futility. Most of us reach the desperate place where we ask others to pray that we will have discernment in recognizing who to invest in and when to “shake the dust off our feet.” We have attempted to recruit lots of super-talented people and found them unwilling or unable to join us.

Do not give up if you have crashed on these rocks. Re-engage. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you make a list of more of what needs to be done to see this “beloved people group” becoming part of God’s Kingdom harvest force. One of your greatest needs is strong believers who are insiders of the people group who will be captured by a generational multiplication vision.

In addition to identifying a people group and starting to identify what it will take to see them reached, we need to pray that the Holy Spirit will connect us to people who can help. Barnabas is an incredible biblical character for DMM strategists to explore. We often are tempted to rush to Saul/Paul because we see him as the hero. He is the frontline preacher/teacher. He is the role model. But recognize it was Barnabas who left Antioch, found Saul and brought him into the place where a kingdom breakthrough started happening among the Gentiles!

Maybe you will be better served by casting yourself as Barnabas. Now ask yourself one question: “Who is my Saul/Paul?” Praying about this may eventually place you in the “second chair.” Are you willing to accept that role?

Who are the people in that neighborhood looking to as a leader? Who are their influencers? Who could “gossip the Gospel” and many would listen?

Part of the answer to the second question opening this post is “the right insider needs to become a strong disciple maker.”

Reflecting on “Expecting a ripe harvest”

From: “It can’t happen here!”
To: Expecting a ripe harvest.

Over the last 25 years people have often said: “Movements can start in those countries, but they can’t start here!” Today people point to the many movements in North India but forget this region was the “graveyard of modern missions” for 200+ years. Some said, “Movements can’t happen in the Middle East because that’s the heartland of Islam!” Yet many movements now thrive in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world. Others said, “It can’t happen in Europe and America and other places with traditional churches!” Yet we now have seen a variety of movements start in those places as well. God loves to overcome our doubts. (Copied from: https://2414now.net/2020/09/22/mindshifts-in-movements-part-1/)

Back in 2011 I was travelling in West Africa with Jerry Trousdale. He had almost completed writing Miraculous Movements. His publisher wanted the book to appeal to the general Christian market so the book would spread DMM concepts much further than a typical missions book. To insure that, he required each chapter have strong stories that revealed any missiological principle which was being discussed. Jerry needed a few additional stories for a couple of the chapters. So one of the settings I sat in on were his nightly interviews of successful disciple makers who gathered with us.

At least two of the interviewees shocked me by confessing: “When we first went through the training with David Watson, I did not believe it would work here.” They each said, “I told [our leader], don’t do this. It might work in India, but this is West Africa.” These were men who had risked their lives for the last six years and had seen incredible miraculous breakthroughs and now they were repenting of their early lack of faith.

Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) require so many mindshifts that most people who are being introduced to them they discount the likelihood of ever seeing such amazing results. Yes, we read about it happening in Acts. Yes, we have read stories of the 1st and 2nd Great Awakenings, but we are almost hard-wired to discount God’s willingness to do the same today. The quicker we “come clean” on our disbelief, the quicker we can cry out, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Generally the skeptical start out doubting the numbers of disciples being made. If they can get beyond that, then they question the orthodoxy of those being discipled (DMM practitioners are “surely cutting corners”). The last hold-out is the topic of this post: this culture is too resistant, far-gone, and or impossible to reach.

“Why not here?” is the first crack in this holdout. Beware when that question starts growing in your heart!

One practical step many DMM trainers use with individuals or teams who have begun to explore what it will take to expect a ripe harvest is to identify a pilot project. Begin praying about reaching a clearly identifiable region or people group in your community. Maybe it is a crime-riddled neighborhood, a trailer park or a government-funded apartment complex. The more this pilot project is unlike your home neighborhood, the more likely you are to acknowledge your need to “do things differently.” If you do not doubt that your standard approach will work there, you will not persevere to learning a new way forward.

Where does your heart ache with despair? Start praying and fasting for that place!

Reflecting on Discipling a Nation

From: Aiming to disciple individuals.
To: Aiming to disciple a nation.

In the Great Commission Jesus tells his disciples to “make disciples of panta ta ethne” (all ethne / every ethnos). The question is: “How do you disciple an entire ethnos?” The only way is through multiplication — of disciples who make disciples, churches that multiply churches, and leaders who develop leaders. (Copied from: https://2414now.net/2020/09/22/mindshifts-in-movements-part-1/)

Too often kingdom workers in the US focus either on isolated individuals or faceless masses. Jesus never does either of those. NEVER! He often interacts with individuals, but he does not isolate them from their family/friends and other social connections. Yes, I know there are individuals among the apostles about whom we know nothing of their families or friends, but we need to be careful about arguments from silence. We need to pay more attention to the information which is given to us.

Andrew brings Peter. James and John are brothers and their mother is among the women who helped fund Jesus’ itinerant travels. He heals Peter’s mother-in-law. Zacchaeus opens his household to Jesus, not just the dwelling where he resided. One of our great challenges is what I call rank individualism. Our culture places strong influence upon us to see ourselves as automatons.

A person’s extended family and friendship groups play a significant role in the biblical material when we read it without our individualistic glasses. Social groups are crucial to the undergirding of any society. In the Great Commission Jesus directs us to the highest level of social structure, the ethno-linguistic group. Tragically, our tendency to connect the translation of “ethna” (nation) to a geo-political entity has produced much misunderstanding, neglect and disobedience to the mission Jesus gives us.

But recognizing that “people groups,” or “ethno-linguistic groups” are what Jesus is referencing does not automatically simplify our responsibility. Disciple the Anglo-English speaking segment of the world is quite a calling. Disciple the Mandarin-speaking Chinese is massive. Disciple the Spanish-speaking Westerners is quite the calling. Here is a God-sized vision that most of us have ignored.

Multiplying the number of disciple makers is our only possible avenue for success. It is no surprise that is exactly where Jesus focused most of his ministry efforts in the four Gospels. We see him deploying the 12 in Matthew 10 and the 72 in Luke 10. He busied himself in discipling disciple makers and that is how a people group segment of our world is impacted.

In the desert regions of West Africa there is a people group with 1.2 million estimated population who live in five different countries. Historically they have been highly resistant to the Gospel, but God has birthed a remarkable Movement among them which we get to celebrate. One of the early evangelists among them came to faith while in prison. Upon his release he went to the pastor of a traditional church who sent him back to his family rather than welcoming him into that community of faith. Because his relatives saw a remarkable transformation in his life, they were open to reading and discussing the Bible as family. God is bringing forth a harvest of thirty-fold, sixty-fold even one-hundred-fold today.

Increasing numbers of people are coming to faith in Jesus and reaching their families, too, because this leader did not extract this new believer from his household, but trained and coached him to obey Jesus by becoming a disciple maker. I praise God that he came to faith through Discovery and was not side-tracked by his own efforts to join a body of believers and alienate his household without them getting the opportunity to discover the God who brings radical transformation!

Reflecting on “A God-sized Vision”

From: “This is possible; I can see a path to accomplishing my vision.”
To: A God-sized vision, impossible apart from His intervention. Waiting on God for his guidance and power.

One of the main reasons so many CPMs seem to have started in modern times is that people accepted a God-sized vision of focusing on reaching entire people groups. When faced with the task of reaching an unreached group consisting of millions of people it becomes obvious that a worker cannot accomplish anything on their own. The truth that “apart from me you can do nothing” applies to all our endeavors. However, if we have a smaller goal it’s easier to work as if fruit depends on our efforts rather than on God’s intervention. (Copied from: https://2414now.net/2020/09/22/mindshifts-in-movements-part-1/)

A verse from Proverbs might come to mind as we reflect on this Mindshift: “When there is no clear prophetic vision, people quickly wander astray. But when you follow the revelation of the word, heaven’s bliss fills your soul.” (Proverbs 29:18, The Passion Translation). Note how the Message restates this proverbial saying: “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.” (Proverbs 29:18, The Message).

When you reflect on your city, campus or beloved people group what do you think? Can you envision what a blessing they would become to other groups? Does your heart overflow with joy pondering how many people they will reach with the Gospel?

One of my friends who is a cross-cultural missionary in East Africa wrote the following in reflecting on this shift: “This one was a challenge for our team. I like the idea of having a God-sized vision, but when we tried to set massive goals we just felt like we were pulling numbers out of the air. I think this one deserves even more prayer and fasting until God really lays the vision on your heart.” Yes, the vision we seek to see become a reality must shape our goals, but I think he identifies why many of us are scared off by a God-sized vision. We set massively impossible goals for ourselves. How can 12 reach millions?

The answer is not to create smaller goals for ourselves, so much as it is to clearly acknowledge and communicate with God that we realize he must do the “heavy lifting.” A God-sized vision for your neighborhood will only become a reality when God’s resources are mobilized. But you are one of his resources. Will your heart learn to beat in rhythm with His heart? If so, then there will be realistic goals you can formulate for yourself which align with the vision he is giving you for them.

Consider a Campus ministry to a university with an enrollment of 11,638. When you check you discover that they have 3,600 beds in their on-campus housing. Either number will be too large for any team to reach, especially with the turnover expectations. But one DMM minded catalyst has prayed fervently and arrived at the idea of raising up 80 disciple makers. Why 80? There are forty floors in those campus dorms and he believes that Jesus’ strategy of sending workers out in pairs has incredible value.

His goal is still a steep hill to climb. It will stretch him and his team greatly. While 80 is more manageable than 3,600 or 11,638, it still is a stretch. But it also shapes the kind of training he is doing in his attempts to raise up 80 (by the way, he says they started with 3, then 5 and is up to 8, so there still is much to be done). The goal is to equip everyone trained to be able to start a Discovery Group in a way that other students not only come to faith, but they are simultaneously equipped to start new groups with other people. Generational multiplication is not fast on the front end. It actually can be rather slow, but it carries in its DNA the explicit goal of increasing the capacity to equip others to facilitate new groups in ways participants can be equipped to start new groups.

Global DMMers were pushed to develop simpler strategies because our desire was to raise up disciple makers more quickly than we had previously thought possible!

Unimaginable (# 3)

Last week I published a couple of posts centered around the theme of vision and imagination. I found it ironic to recount the crazy advances in technology which allowed me to have a video conference meeting with a teammate in another state, while sitting in a car outside a coffee shop.

What if this kind of technology was used for kingdom advances?

What if shifts in our strategies and tactics will actually open us up to multiplication, rather than addition?

What if our normal blinds us to new possibilities?

What if the Parable of the Sower is not talking about farming? It amazes me how many people in the church who are taken back to that detailed analogy want to call into question the farming abilities of the guy in the story. “He needs to learn how to recognize good soil so he doesn’t waste so many seeds!” is the way some people verbalize their criticism. “Any fool ought to know that it is wasteful to sow seeds on the path!”

What if the purpose of the parable drives the makeup of the story? While you can easily identify which soil is packed path, which is shallow because of bedrock (might be a little harder to see) and which is thorny (if they have already sprouted), this is not so easily discerned just by looking at people.

The book of Acts tells the stories of households which we are not surprised there is a big harvest: good reputation people like Cornelius and Lydia. But God’s grace sparks the imagination of new possibilities in the hearts of others like the jailer, too. Then there are the stories in the Gospels like Demoniac and the woman at the well. Maybe we need to spread the seed of the Gospel more widely than we have in the past!

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!