Question # 6: Obey?

After listening closely to the passage, discussing some of what it reveals about God’s character, desires, plans and purposes and then thinking about the people in the story and ourselves, it is time to identify how we plan to respond to the passage personally. Highly collectivistic people groups may find it better to come up with a “We will…” Statement rather than an “I will…” Statement. Question 6 probes our intentionality to act on something we have heard from God.

“How will you put this passage into practice?” calls participants to application. It urges us to do more than acquire mental information, it calls for practice.

Jesus warned the audience for his “Sermon on the Mount” that to listen to his teaching and not actually doing it was an exercise in folly. Hearing Jesus and doing what he is calling us to do is foundational to withstanding the storms of life and not finding our lives collapsing around us.

Over time I work to coach group participants to develop S.M.A.R.T. “I will…” Statements. These will be Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic and Time-bound. Such coaching is intended to be a guard against disobeying through vagaries–ducking true accountability by not really making a commitment.

Modelling good “I will…” Statements and then actually working on doing them can lead a group to really opening their hearts to God’s Word and the transformation work of the Holy Spirit. You get to show the slacker a new way forward. If you allow their unwillingness to obey to drag you down, you miss an opportunity to show transformation. A good friend used to say, “If we keep doing what we’ve always done we will always get what we’ve always gotten.” If we want new outcomes, we must change our actions. Answering Question # 6 opens the door for new actions.

Searching for COWs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q&A: Multiple Questions

Actual Questions:

1. Compared to topical study in small group discussions where we can discuss from various passage from bible, if we stick to one passage don’t we miss other key principles from scripture about same topic? 

2. When we ask questions of what can we obey from the passage, should it be group obedience or as per what person discovers? If it is based on what person discovers then wont we miss on key principles that they miss?

3. What shall we do if some members in the group are not obedient to their commitments made in last week?

My Responses:

  1. Please remember that the Discovery questions and approach were developed for lost families and/or friends who are open to exploring the Bible together to especially discover what God is like. One of their fears of church people is that we have them at an unfair disadvantage because we are familiar with the Bible and they are not. Staying with one text is for their benefit. But this can be good for ordinary church members, too. If there are multiple passages related to a biblical theme, then work through them one at a time as a small group. Then spend a session (every 6-8 weeks) tracing out the insights that flow from the collection of passages. In this scenario, every participant will have been part of discovering from all of the passages together. The insights which are traced out will be more widely shared because of the earlier group times. Most of our thematic studies are dominated by a few who expect others to absorb and accept because we have declared it so, rather than guiding a process where people discover for themselves whether or not it is from the Lord. Trust the Holy Spirit.
  2. In highly individualistic cultures their “I will…” (obedience) statements will most likely be based on what each individual hears from the passage. Yes, there is some risk attached with this, but the same is true of deductive teaching or other forms of inductive study. More significant than the statement of what they are going to do, is what they actually do in obedience to what they hear from God. In collective cultures it may be more valuable to coach the group toward a shared, “We will….” Statement of obedience. If they hear from God an action to take and they act on it, their hearts will become increasingly open to hearing from Him. Drawing attention to good quality “I will…” Statements (after everyone as shared their own) often results in those with weaker statements beginning to make better commitments and actually working on obeying them. What happens in the group gathering is significant, but what happens outside is often more transformational. Trust the Holy Spirit to work before, during and after the Discovery gathering!
  3. Modelling making good “I will…” Statements, doing what we commit to do in them and then transparently sharing what happens when we attempt to obey is the best path forward with the resistant. Do not shame them. Love them. Ask privately if there is a way you can come alongside them to see a different outcome next week. Most importantly intercede for them throughout the intervening week. Trust the Holy Spirit to work in their life!

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!