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!

Critical Elements for Starting (pt. 2)

  1. Serve with Purpose: This doesn’t necessarily mean volunteering at the rescue mission. The idea is to prayerfully begin to identify the needs of the community or group God is directing you to reach, and meet one of those needs which they highly value as a way to genuinely love on them in the name of Christ. It may be a for-profit service you begin providing. The goal is to genuinely care for the people with the love of God, and allow the Holy Spirit to open doors of opportunity to communicate the love of Christ. Our ultimate purpose is to create natural opportunities to interact with enough different people to find Persons of Peace. Some access ministries which are places for service are ELL (English Language Learning classes and other forms of assistance offered to refugees) after school tutoring at a laundromat near a trailer park, inner city boxing gym for troubled teens, halfway house for ex-cons, employment programs for released felons, coffee shops in city areas undergoing gentrification, etc.
  • Access Ministries open the door for finding Persons of Peace and lead to community transformation. Ministry should precede efforts to disciple people to Christ and evangelistic Discovery Groups must always be the end goal of ministry.  Timing is important and necessary so prayer and fasting open us to God’s insight and timing.
  • Scriptures:
    • Matthew 25:31-46 (Meeting needs serves Jesus).
    • Philippians 2:1-11 (Having the mind of Christ entails caring for the interests of others).
    • Acts 10:30-38 (Him doing good was a fundamental part of the message about Jesus).
    • Acts 3:1-16 (James and John heal the lame man and that opens doors for talking about Jesus openly).
    • 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 (Paul’s exemplary life involved sharing the Good News and loving care of people, too).
  • Activities:
    • Get your people into pairs and have them “role play” inviting someone to “read what the Bible has to say about marriage, child rearing, God’s character, or some other biblical topic.” Rotate all the groups and work through the room.
    • Go to a restaurant and tell your waiter, waitress: “We pray before our meals. Do you have a need which we can pray about for you?”
    • Prayer walk or drive through the neighborhoods where the people God is calling you to reach live and ask God to reveal a need these people have that will give you a way to serve them with the purpose of finding people who are open to spiritual conversations.
    • Celebrate successes!

Why You Need a Coach

A few years ago my job title at Final Command Ministries was changed. It actually happened while I was out of the country and I had no input on the shift. To be perfectly transparent I was a little miffed.

Regretfully my upbringing did not prepare me well for that kind of situation. I earned my strokes as a people pleaser for decades. This was surely a contributor to me staying in school for so many years. Read the assigned material, participate in group discussions, study hard for tests and then write papers–the path to academic success and educational strokes.

But most formal education does not really reward disagreeing. Yes, I know it should, but it rarely does.

My former job title was Director of Training and Strategic Access. It was long and I helped craft it. The first half fit a lot of what Western Christians get–the need for training. But the second half was a bit mysterious and if someone asked me about it, their curiosity gave me permission to peel back the onion layers at least a little.

But who needs a coach?

Sure, we all want our children to have the benefit of a good coach when they participate in sports. Ideally, she/he will have played the sport in high school or college and have a good ability to model and drill the team toward greater cohesion and improved abilities.

I had coached basketball and baseball for my son, since I had lettered in both at my small high school. Later I coached my daughter’s soccer team even though I really had no personal experience to draw on (thankfully a good coach of my son’s soccer team suggested the strategy is much like basketball).

Yes, we all want our kids to have good coaches. But what adult wants to admit they need a coach?

Global Coach, that’s my job title. It was picked because that is really what I try to do, regardless of where I am. Even when I hold training events I am really sifting through the group looking for the few who sense they will need a coach.

It takes a special measure and variety of humility to acknowledge the need for a coach. There is a vulnerability needed that most adults prefer to avoid by acting out our best two-year-old selves–“I do it myself!” Then there is the challenge of knowing whether or not a particular candidate is the right coach for me. Maybe I sense I need one, but I will feel foolish if I pay him lots of money, invest time and energy and still don’t succeed.

Global Coach sounds grander. But who is going to believe that? If I get these disciple making principles so well, then where is the proof? Where are the people who’ve taken my coaching and their fruit is evident? Those are the unspoken questions I always anticipate.

But how do you answer those questions with integrity and not “blow your own horn?” How do you tell the ways God has used you without taking credit for works he accomplished?

Why do you need a coach? That’s a great question. You don’t need one to start lots of first generation Discovery Groups–a half-decent trainer can get you started doing that in about two hours if you will recruit a group with whom to experience it.

But you will need a coach if your goal is generations of groups starting groups where some of them become churches planting churches.

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.]

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.