Q&A: What if you have ordinary people you want to release but they are not willing to be released?

Last week I had the privilege of spending about 20 hours online with leaders from a global network of churches. The theme for the online conference was based on the title of Jerry Trousdale and Glenn Sunshine’s book, The Kingdom Unleashed. Jerry mentioned five spiritual malpractices which serve as obstacles to such unleashing. In my two presentations I focused on the third of Jerry’s malpractices: keeping ordinary people ordinary.

I noted that ordinary people need to become disciple makers by ongoing coaching in simple Discovery Groups. Roy Moran and I each had two sessions and all four of those were followed by a question and answer period. More questions were submitted than we had time to answer so I committed to answer those questions here in my blog. The title contains a question which was asked both the first and second days. It came from a lady who is part of a team working in Paris to plant a network of simple churches planting simple churches, especially in the high rise apartment buildings throughout the city.

Here is my response:

Some people do not want to be released because they are afraid they are not adequately prepared for the task at hand. For this group there are four phases of working with them which I recommend:

  • Model — host a Discovery Group where they are participants along with you. Do this about four weeks. Communicate each week, “We are doing this to prepare ourselves to go out looking for Persons of Peace so we can each start a new group.
  • Equip — assist them in becoming capable of facilitating a group and in engaging others around them in overt spiritual conversations
  • Watch — observe them facilitating the practice group and coach them to do it better in private meetings
  • Launch — commission them to start new Discovery Groups; celebrate their victories; show how highly you value their efforts and keep these in front of others who might become interested. Mobilize lots of praying and fasting for them!

We need to recognize that traditional church leadership strategies inadvertently nurture dependency and passivity. To shift our leadership culture will take persistent and consistent effort. When it becomes clear that some people you work with refuse to go out after you have invested such efforts into launching them out, then you need to work with others. Pray these will change their mind. Encourage them. Spend time with others.

We are always looking for what one of my teammates calls “the coalition of the willing.” Expect that through these efforts you will connect with some of the “least likely”–people you never might have imagined. Who are the people in your church, your small group that you could never imagine leading in your traditional “preacher/teacher” approaches? Begin to pray for some of these to have bigger imaginations. You want to find among those some who say, “If that is what a Discovery Group is like, I can do that!” Pour those same (Model, Equip, Watch and Launch) investments into them.

Like the powerful marketing strategy which was incorporated into directions printed on shampoo bottles, “Lather, rinse and repeat.” Those last two words boasted sales so much everyone added the. “And repeat” until you Model, Equip, Watch and Launch teams out who begin to multiply.

Reflecting on: Mobilizing Extraordinary Prayer

From: “I pray.”
To: “We pray extraordinarily and mobilize others to pray.”

We aim to reproduce everything. Obviously personal prayer is crucial, but when faced with the overwhelming task of reaching entire communities, cities and people groups — we need to mobilize the prayer of many others. (Copied from: https://2414now.net/2020/09/22/mindshifts-in-movements-part-1/)

During 2015 I worked closely with a teammate to produce a set of five video segments which were designed to introduce African church leaders to the amazing fruitfulness God was blessing through Disciple Making Movements. In those videos we interviewed six global catalysts of some remarkable multi-generational movements located in six different nations of Africa.

To prepare for the interviews we developed a set of questions each catalyst would be asked and those questions centered around five themes. Eventually we phrased those themes in the way presented in the following graphic:

Five Critical Elements for Starting Multiplying Groups

When we produced the video segments the names of these five topics were slightly different. But the starting point is always a call to pray & fast. Only God can cause Movements and our best way to tap into his desire to do that is via prayer, but it is a qualitatively different type of praying and that is why we connect it to fasting.

Extraordinary prayer is foundational to multiplication!

One of the differences is this type of prayer wrestles against our rank individualism. Movement praying involves mobilizing abundant intercession. It is always looking for those who already have a passion for intercession who are open to learning some of the foundational characteristics of DMM. Finding Persons of Peace and connecting with their family, friends and acquaintances is at the heart of Kingdom Multiplication. Jesus’ strategy was to hand-pick a group that he would pour most of his ministry effort into. Then, he sent the Holy Spirit in to empower them to do likewise. Multipliers discipling multipliers was his strategy.

But how do you find the right people? Pray & Fast. Abundant (extra-ordinary) intercession is essential. Who are you calling to join you in praying?

Unimaginable (# 2)

The reason I am in the rental car is I will be using Zoom to have a teleconference meeting with a teammate. He’s in Tennessee and I am in Iowa. Crazy–never would’ve thought this possible twenty years ago!

As I drove from Marshalltown to Ames I came through lots of farmland. I saw many grain storage bins. You know, the round galvanized steel structures with their cone-shaped tops?

The recurring sight took me back more than forty years. One summer I was hired by a local farmer to help him erect one of those bins on his farm. A circular pad of concrete had already been poured, the steel panels and boxes of nuts, bolts and washers were waiting on us. There were also four contraptions he called jacks, but they could raise the structure less than four feet tall. How could only two guys build something which would rise more than thirty feet tall with such simple tools?

There are many strategies and tactics which are easier to learn by watching rather than reading a description. This is the reason YouTube “how to” videos are so valuable to do-it-yourselfers. How long did it take that first engineer to design a grain storage bin and develop the process and tools needed to erect one?

It is much easier to facilitate a Discovery Group after sitting in on one for a couple of sessions than it is trying to imagine one from an article or technical description. But many people won’t sit in on one unless they first read a technical description (reply to this post and I can email you such a technical description). It is easier to appreciate the value of a good coach after you shadow one doing a couple of coaching sessions.

Teaching Perspectives is good for me. These interactions remind me that a big first step is helping people imagine new possibilities. They also push me back into the work of crafting analogies. How do we use what people already know to help them envision something they have never seen?

Grain Bin assemblyYou actually erect grain bins from the top down! The top band of round panels are bolted together in a big circle. Then the triangular shaped pieces which form the domed top are assembled on that ring. After that is completed, the whole structure is jacked up tall enough to assemble another ring under that top ring. After this is completed the jack cables are moved from the bottom of the upper ring to the bottom of the lower ring. Now everything is jacked up enough to repeat the process. You keep repeating until the bin is at the desired height. Last of all the metal structure is connected to bolts which secure it to the concrete pad.

Grain Bin assembly 2Building a grain bin is a good analogy of counter-intuitives (it goes together different than you probably picture from the description). It is much easier to visualize Disciple Making Movements from inside one than it is only imagining what they might look like.

But who will dare to be the first builders? Who will dare to practice what is working in Africa, Asia and Central America long enough to know and trust the strategies and well enough to adapt the tactics for here in Iowa, Tennessee or Texas? Who will tailor-fit tactics for middle-class Anglos who have given up on church as they know it?

This daring group of ordinary people and unusual church leaders are the kinds of people Final Command is looking for here in the US. If you know anyone this daring, share this blog with them. I will be honored to connect with them and help them explore new possibilities!

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

In 2016 Final Command Ministries released a video documentary telling of some of the ways God has been using his kingdom people to Engage!Africa: Through Disciple-Making Movements. There are five segments which are approximately 22 minutes in length and each focuses on one of the following five Critical Elements needed to start catalyzing movements:

IMG-2952Praying and Fasting

This sounds simple, and maybe a little cliché, but Movements start with petitioning the Lord.  Those who are using DMM successfully take this first step seriously, and are creative in their approaches.  For example, I’ve witnessed prayer houses, neighborhood prayer walks and passionate prayer services where a group leader gives the congregation a prayer topic and they all explode into prayer, some with fists in the air, pacing back and forth. As for fasting, our African partners disciple new believers to start with a single meal, and grow from there. The point is to let God lead this effort. They pray and fast until God opens a door into the people group they long to see experiencing a Movement.

  • Aligning Ourselves with God is at the heart of Praying and Fasting. We pray and fast because we want to be like Jesus. We pray and fast because we know that Movements come from above. We cannot produce them by our strength or great strategies—only God can produce Movements.
  • Scriptures:
    • Matthew 4:1-11 and Deuteronomy 8:1-18 (After 40 days and nights of Fasting Satan tempts Jesus, but he quotes from Deuteronomy 8 about relying on Papa God).
    • Matthew 6:1-18 (Jesus disciples his followers on the crucial nature of praying and fasting).
    • Matthew 9:14-17 (Jesus is questioned about why his disciples did not fast, yet).
    • Luke 10:1-12, 17-24 (Praying as Jesus directs brings incredible fruit and joy).
    • Acts 11:19-26; 13:1-3 (Fasting and praying play a significant role in sending Barnabas and Saul out on their first missionary journey).
  • Activities:
    • Mobilize your home church to participate in a Prayer Wall to provide covering and spiritual insight into your Kingdom advancing efforts. (One resource to use is 24-7 Prayers: https://www.24-7prayer.com/signup/5b132d).
    • Have your Life Groups do Prayer Walks through the neighborhoods where they meet praying for the neighbors who live around where groups meet.

Celebrate successes!

Why Act This Way?

I want to create a dialogue about the spiritual formation of children. Realize that 35% of the world’s population falls in the ages of 4-14 years old. What if we adapted the best of chronological storying, discovery processes and obedience-based discipleship to the character development of children? What if we began to intentionally form the worldview of the children around us? What if we developed materials that others could use to shape the worldview of their children?

Most of the worldview studies I have read assume people already have a developed worldview since they are largely discussing adults. My earlier posts explored the value of using storying to reset worldview in people who grew up with something other than a Judeo-Christian one. A discovery process is critical to allow the biblical message to sink deep enough for a Kingdom of Heaven worldview to begin replacing the existing worldview. For children, the process is simpler since it is about the initial formation of the answers to the critical questions.

Kwast, "Understanding Culture"

Kwast, “Understanding Culture”

Parenting often focuses on the “Behavior–What is done?” level. We want our children to behave in ways that allow them to fit into their culture. We want them to stand out as exceptional, without standing out as “weird.” We want them to value things the way we do. We want them to believe like we do. But often we fail to consider the question of “What is real?” We assume the answers we have for such a question are self-evident, thus they will automatically be held by our children. Is such an assumption wise?

While behavior is important, the emerging values, beliefs and worldview which drive it are critical. Be sure your parenting and grand parenting goes deeper!

Hand It Over!

Next week I will return to this issue of discipling givers. But today I want to explore the matter of turning work over to the people among whom missionaries work. This has long been a troublesome topic. The team that worked in Kenya is but a microcosm of missions history.

Before we consider what has happened, let me share that my friend, and mentor, David Watson takes an extreme position on this matter. He counsels that you never start anything without a local partner, so you are raising up a leader to keep it going from day one. Since they are involved in leadership with you, it is never yours to turn over. Wrapping your brain around that counter-intuitive approach will “field dress” many of the Western pioneer mission strategies. We have to turn it over, because we do too much to begin with. We hold on too long because we want to make sure the local people will be able to do it our way when they are in control.

For some of us, that last word is the bottom line! C-O-N-T-R-O-L is the point of many struggles.

We wonder why so many Western boards have such struggles with local boards. We wonder why local leadership systems are stacked against foreign ownership. Maybe there are examples where we find ourselves in control battles because our controlling nature attracts local controllers!

I like David’s idea. But I have to confess it is a hard goal. It makes the front end very slow. It precludes our American efficiency model. It keeps us from rushing and making something happen by our drivenness, resources and/or ingenuity. But it may also save us from ourselves. Maybe we would not be seen as the brash, know-it-all Americans. Maybe we would be saved from witnessing the dead, empty carcasses of ministry ideas that were too foreign to work where we might attempt to force them to work. Maybe God will raise up locals who can be bridges into their communities.

What’s Up?

No, I did not “fall off the planet.” Yes, I have been woefully negligent of blogging.

The last three months have been challenging. My mother-in-law died. We moved our daughter and son-in-law two states away for graduate school. My mother died. With everything surrounding these three big events I have found it hard to concentrate enough to write.

Thankfully, God has been faithful. He has carried us through these challenges and continues to comfort us in His great love. We praise him that our daughter started her new job today and our son-in-law is well into his first semester of working on a PhD.

We are also making slow progress in dealing with our losses. Both our moms had hoarder tendencies, so clearing their respective abodes has taken much time. But even that has its place in processing our emotions.

Ministry opportunities are picking up steam so I plan to do some writing on here. We just kicked off a Beta test of a new missions training class–Engage!–that will combine materials from Pathways to Global Understanding and Discovery Bible Studies. I am writing the participants so the creative juices are flowing, again. Pray that I will build a healthy practice. I want to post twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays). Help me out by sharing your questions and/or thoughts on my posts. This flows more readily when it is a conversation, rather than a monologue.

John King