As people begin to hear these new stories that affirm divine intention in creation and redemption, new possibilities arise. Maybe the fatalism their worldview demands is not the only option. Maybe the world did not come into existence by accidental forces. Maybe life can become more fruitful by journeying within this story.
Too often those who know the Biblical answer to the question, “What is truth?” get excited or impatient at this crucial point. We want to hurry these sojourners to the destination. We start to distill the story down to a summary and want them to accept reality upon the weight of our testimony. We want them to believe. Please, slow down and reconsider.
Will you always be there to hear these stories and choose how these people should live? Do you want their faith to rest on the foundation of your investigations of truth? Would it be better if they discover for themselves?
No, I am not going to tell you to butt out and leave them alone. But I am going to advise you to practice some restraint. Trust Papa God. Trust the Holy Spirit to bring conviction. Trust the hunger in their spirits to be “fed” by the bread of life!
Encourage them in a discovery process! Learn to rely on God and not yourself. Remember, these stories have to become their story. They have to see themselves within this journey to come to see how God really views them!
When we first encounter a people group, we learn about them through their actions—the words they speak, the way they treat others, and their responses to the things that happen around them.
What they do—their behavior—gives us insight into their worldview. Their behavior around special times like the birth of a child, rites of passage, marriage and death are especially reflective of their worldview.
While some actions can lose their connections to values over time, there are others that continue to be directed by and reinforce deeply held values, beliefs and one’s worldview. For example, common greetings historically grew out of worldview. But over generations, many using these no longer have any sense of connection. They have become empty traditions.
Too often, missionaries of the past focused great attention on actions that were dubbed “Christian.” Calling people to imitate the behavior that is important back home, may actually encourage syncretism. Here a thin veneer of “Christian” behavior camouflages an unchanged worldview.
Certain behaviors are clearly antithetical to a biblical worldview (for example, idolatry). Others are not and can be adopted for the sake of winning people to Christ. Another category may have to be adapted to intentionally prompt spiritual discussions.
Next week we will consider the values we hold which shape our actions.
[NOTE: Diagram comes from Lloyd E. Kwast’s article “Understanding Culture,” pages 397-399 in the 2009 Perspectives Reader, which was edited by Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthore.]
Maybe I am close to being over jet lag. Spending a week where the time is twelve hours different than your home really messes with your biological clock. While I have been fairly productive, my thinking has not been clear enough to do much writing. So enough excuses, here’s one blog for the week:
Early in June I was introducing the oral Discovery Bible Study format to a house church group. The challenge was question # 8, “Which of the struggles mentioned earlier could we as a group do something to help one of us?” The problem was that the people in this group do not see each other much outside of their Tuesday night meetings. Some were even absent that night, and one was present through Skype, from his work. What can we do to minister to one of the group members?
One participant had shared that she needed a new job, and then she said, “What I really need is a better attitude about the job I have.” Another reminded the first one how excited she had been when she first got this job. We worked through the rest of the questions and the passage we studied and then came to number 8.
After I asked the question, the group reviewed what those challenges were that had been shared earlier. No one had a suggestion. Finally I asked the person who needed a new attitude if she could receive texts during work. She said, “Yes!” I proposed we all agree to text her each work day during the next week. Our texts were to encourage her to have a positive attitude about her work. All agreed to give it a try.
Five months later I still send out texts most work days. The original recipient of those texts is now a member of a six-person group. Most days my text is a verse that calls us to remember God’s character and the ways he blesses us. Last week I was unable to text because of being out of the country—I missed it. But that group was praying for me during my travels. God has knit our hearts together through this attempt to minister to one another. How are you putting what you learn into practice?
Today I just finished sharing the final verse from Psalm 145. This passage contains many powerful reminders of God’s goodness. It contains many calls to praise him and tell others of his deeds. Maybe you know a group of people to whom you could send such a text. Let’s take seriously the biblical call to encourage one another!
Small Group DBSs
During the last four days I spent time with 700+ university students at the Global Mission Experience. It was hosted by Harding University this year and was held at Camp Tahkodah and at HUT. Here is the link to a one-minute trailer that was prepared for it:
It was great to introduce these young people to Discovery Bible Studies. On Friday they worked through Luke 10:1-20 in small groups of 4-5. On Saturday those who returned watched a skit that dramatized what an attempt to find a Person of Peace might look like in a resistant community. Then they did another small group DBS looking at Deuteronomy 6:1-10.
Pray that several of these students will start Discovery groups on their respective campuses. These students came from across the U.S. and it is exciting to think about what God may do through them.
Our fast-paced, disconnected-from-extended-family lives challenge obedient living. Even our friendships are often far-flung and limited by our schedules. In the DBS trainings I have done lately, I have been struck by this challenge. How will this group minister to one of the challenges they have shared? How can we take concrete actions that will bless one another?
One month ago I was encouraging a house church group to consider using the 8-Question oral DBS format. As we approached the last question, “How can we help with one of the challenges mentioned earlier?” I was concerned. There were five us us gathered that night, and one of them is an EMT who was present via Skype. None of the group worked together. How was the whole group going to practice service?
One participant had shared that she needed a new job, but more than that, she needed a new attitude about her existing job. I suggested maybe we could find ways to help her. Her good friend who was the hostess for the gathering said, “I remember how excited you were when you first got the job. You really felt like you were helping people early on.”
This young lady said she could receive texts at work, “No problem!”
“What if each of us text you something to encourage you to take a positive outlook on your work?” I asked.
I set an alarm that reminds me Monday-Friday mornings to text this young lady. I go to Bible Gateway and search for a verse that talks about work being done as though for the Lord. I text such to her five days a week. She says it has been a blessing to her.
I know doing this has blessed me. Why not harness some of the technology that contributes to our business in ways that bless others and enables us to be obedient–to be true disciples?
Living out of our identity as sons and daughters of the Creator looks like an apprenticeship. We once marched to the beat of a different drummer (a death march). But now, in Christ we hear the Father and seek to do His will.
Discovery Bible Studies (DBSs) call us to hear the Word and put it into practice. We obey out of love, just like Jesus did. We know that our obedience does not earn us standing before our Father. We know that it opens us to being channels of His blessing for others.
One of my teammates has a supporter who works in the water/waste management field. He is an engineer who is a consultant for numerous municipalities. Grease can be incredibly damaging to a city’s sewers. A business that chooses to run grease into the sewer system will block the flow of waste behind them in the system. Trust me, you want sewer flowing all the way to the treatment facility! Blockages are a nightmare. The technology this guy has developed to monitor such potential problems makes him a valued specialist.
Disobedience blocks our spiritual flow. It creates problems that prevent us from experiencing the richness our relationship with God offers. It also restricts the blessings our Father desires to pass through us to others.
Good things are happening in the two DBSs I mentioned in my last post. These groups of women are exploring the nature of God. They are finding their time together is uplifting and enriching. The lady who pulled them together shared with me:
“The ladies have really opened up and have been very willing to share what is going on in their lives. One lady in particular does go to our church and has for a couple of years but has not made any real connections with anyone in the church. She has been extremely shy. I am happy to report that she has opened up and shared in the group. Tears just flow from this precious lady and I can see that healing is happening in her life.
I have to say that I believe the questions (thankful and struggles) really set us up to get into the word. They are so receptive and excited to discuss the scriptures at that point of the meeting.”
Questions 1 & 2 remind us to note our blessings and our needs. Together they prime our minds to hearing from God. Answering them disciples us to praise God and turn to Him in intercession. They tune our ears to hear what in his character addresses our human predicament.
This lady also shared that the lady who responded to the Craigs List ad, “has continued to come. She is having some serious struggles and it is apparent now why God led her to join our group. Even though she is a new believer I am in awe of how God is comforting her and leading her. She is clinging to Him and staying in the word.”
Just wanted to give you an update to this process. Join me in praying that more groups will begin as these ladies are discipled and begin to share what they are learning with the people who come to mind as they answer the question, “Who do you know who needs to hear this passage?”
Two weeks ago I trained a group of people how to facilitate Discovery Bible Studies among their friends who do not know Jesus. One young lady, who was encouraged to come by her pastor who also came, immediately recruited enough people to have two groups of six ladies. She intentionally invited a few of the ladies from her church to participate. There are two not-yet believers and four believers in one group. The ratio is the opposite in the other group.
This lady is already coaching a member of one of the groups to facilitate. She is benefiting from the process of passing on the leadership. She is excited about what happened last week as the groups just began.
Her pastor urged her to “think outside the box” as she considered who to invite to the groups. She decided to run a Craigs List ad. Here is what the ad said:
If you would like to participate with a small group of women as we walk together discovering what God has to say to us through His word then I would love to talk to you!
This is a small group of women (no more than 6) and we will meet together weekly. We will encourage each other as we look to God’s word for answers we all want.
If you have never been to church in your life – this group is for you! If you have been to church every time the doors have been open and still feel like you don’t know who God is – this group is for you! If you don’t know if you even believe in God – this group is for you!
You don’t need to know anything about the Bible at all! This is a DISCOVERY group. We will only focus on what the Bible says – not what PEOPLE have to say about God.
I can’t wait to hear from you.
After our daughter and son moved out, they started calling their mom asking for recipes of their favorites dishes she cooks. Eventually she decided to give them each a set of recipes. But she began to realize that they need more than a list of the ingredients; she will also need to become aware of what they don’t know (e.g., one recently asked what could be used as a replacement for corn starch).
One of the church planters that I am coaching recently asked me to write out the things I intuitively do when I am training groups to facilitate Discovery Bible Studies (DBSs). It is a great request, but the challenge is me becoming aware of what I do intuitively. Thankfully I had another meeting right after the one where this request was made where I was able to process it more fully with another team member.
Here is the “Tips for Trainers” list that I prepared in response to the request. Maybe it will be helpful to someone else. If so, please comment below so I might learn more about what I do intuitively.
Tips for Trainers:
- Keep the groups small. (Five is the ideal number, but 4-6 is okay.)
- Prevents the meeting from taking too long (45 minutes is ideal).
- Draws quiet or shy people into the discussion.
- Models the most readily available settings (e.g., a few people at work over lunch, a few soccer moms at the practice fields, or a handful of friends after a meal).
- Divide larger groups into sub-groups and have them work through the questions simultaneously.
- You get to model how to handle a bigger group.
- Involves more people in the facilitation role.
- Remind the facilitators of their responsibilities:
- Keep the discussion moving and involve everyone.
- Use the “Where is that in this passage?” question to keep the group on track.
- Be sure to save time for questions 6, 7, and 8.
- Make sure someone takes notes when the “top three” are selected.
- After they answer the questions, facilitate a debriefing exercise by having sub-groups list their “top three” insights into God and their “top three” ways to obey the passage.
- The goal is to enable people to hear from God. The larger group review confirms the things each group heard and exposes them to something they might have missed that another sub-group heard.
- Provides an interesting review process (the three “Rs” of education are “repetition, repetition, repetition,” but that cannot be boring or you lose them).
- Exercises the participants in healthy group functions (your long-term goal is to disciple them in functioning as a healthy church).
- You can “accentuate the positive” by highlighting the healthiest responses. (Rather than causing those with weak responses to lose face, you get to spotlight the ones that are strong and worthy of being imitated.)
What actually sparked the request for me to write out what I do intuitively was me sharing the training that I recently did with a women’s discipleship group. I told how I handled the fact that the group was so large that I had to create sub-groups. This disciple has experienced that kind of setting, but all of his earliest training was with a small group that was never subdivided. Though he is working with a larger group, he had kept them all together and now he anticipated there might be other things I needed to make more explicit.
If you are like me, you will probably need a new trainee to help you realize what you do intuitively. As they ask questions about things that you assume are givens, make notes. These “givens” are likely what you do intuitively.