“What is the definition of ‘Movements’ in DMM?” is a question I was recently asked.

While most of the topics I have discussed in this blog are very biblical, this one is much more anthropological or sociological. Hopefully I am not scaring you off with those “ology” words this early in an article. But I want to be perfectly transparent here. There is no biblical definition of Movements and the word does not appear there.

Yes, I do believe Paul and his missionary band launched a series of Movements which spread throughout the coastal region of what is now modern-day Turkey. The spread was so expansive that even those who counted themselves as enemies said, “And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all.” Acts‬ ‭19:26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This testimony came as a result of his two years of “discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.” Acts‬ ‭19:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The threshold of calling something a Movement needs to be numerically large enough, generationally deep enough and transpiring quickly enough that it is obviously greater than any group can produce or control.

That was my answer when asked to define Movements in DMM. Let me break it down and unpack it a little.

Numerically large enough–in some movements in Africa that ceiling has been set at 100 churches. While no group is going to be unhappy or critical with 65, 85 or 95 churches within a formerly Unreached People Group (UPG), this threshold has been intentionally set high enough to require God’s purpose and power. Another significant missionary force sets their threshold at 1,000 new baptized believers among a people group. Either way, the total number of new followers of Jesus is significant.

Generationally deep enough–is pretty uniformly a minimum of 3-4 generations. The difference in this standard usually depends upon what constitutes the first generation. Some strategists count the groups they personally begin as generation 0 and they require three more generations beyond ground zero. Others count the groups they start as generation 1 and they require 4 (if this seems odd, just consider why some elevators count the first floor as level 0). Either way, you are talking about the same thing. But why 4? Because it gets far enough away from the catalysts that it becomes an excellent test of whether or not the spiritual DNA will not only survive, but thrive without outside control or resources. We all celebrate every generation! But we know there is something powerful in seeing your spiritual great grandchildren!

Transpiring quick enough–might be measured in 2-3 years, if it is measured. Realize this is not from the first entry of the first catalyst making contact with this people group. Once you start having second generation Discovery Groups is a reasonable time to start the clock running. If you do not have multiple generations with increasing numbers of new churches being planted, then something needs to change. What is it? It is possible something was started incorrectly and it keeps tripping people up. It is possible something has undermined the momentum that the early multiplication promised. Either way, what mid-course corrections need to be made?

These somewhat arbitrary benchmarks were created so that Disciple Making teams could evaluate the fruit they were seeing. The benchmarks you set for your efforts can become excellent parameters for determining what, if any, changes need to be made to see the greatest fruitfulness possible.

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.


Over the last two weeks God has blessed me with the privilege of spending time with families in East Africa that I count as dear friends. I was with people in Musanze, Rwanda; Geita, Tanzania; and now in Eldoret, Kenya. All are working to catalyze Disciple Making Movements in their respective regions. It is a joy to spend time with them and see where they live and work.

Years ago I purchased the book, Prayer Walking: Praying On Site With Insight. My intercession for these respective teams will be qualitatively different because of my time with them. I can visualize their homes. I can picture the faces of believers they are discipling. I have a much deeper connection because I have been with them.

You will probably hear much more about this trip over the next several weeks. I am proud of Matt and Andrea Miller, Brett and Christie Harrison and Jerry and Danielle Sanders. Each couple is part of a team that works in the respective cities mentioned above. They are blessing others. They are training, coaching and mentoring indigenous leaders in each place. All of them recognize the value of local leaders learning ways to multiply their efforts. They are on a journey with the Holy Spirit calling cadence.

In one of these nations there is a local leader who has helped catalyze more than 90 house churches. Join me in praying that such networks will be catalyzed in everyone. Pray that there will be churches planting churches–seven generations deep!

We want to see the Revelation 7 vision fulfilled in our lifetime. I want to see that heavenly choir that looks like a beautiful patchwork quilt, comprised of people from every nation, tribe and language group. To God be the glory! Amen!

Contextualization and Post-Modernity

Recently a friend tweeted the following link to a brief overview of critical transitions that need to happen in the life of an individual as he/she is discipled from being a “skeptic” into a “world changer”:

As I dialogued with my friend regarding the video, I pointed out that it is very “Western” and “individualistic,” especially in Choung’s discussion of the “skeptic” needing to “trust” a Christian to be able to transition into a “seeker.” I also raised the issue that Choung does not seem to have any familiarity with the concept of God raising up a person of peace who could serve as a bridge into his family and/or her community.

Today I did some searching on Choung’s website and found the following blog which contains the video mentioned above:

Real Life Continuum video which explains the basic model of the book is also out!

It also links to an earlier video, “True Story,” that uses four circles to help visualize what needs to happen in coming to Christ. Later Choung writes about these two videos showing these charts being drawn and their connected books, “True Story and Real Life actually share a common lineage: they are popularized versions of first and second halves of my dissertation on postmodern leadership development. True Story gave the theological ground for Real Life’s disciple-making model.

Please note the very specific context of his dissertation—postmodern leadership development. What happens if you attempt to use his approach in a pre-modern setting? What about a modern setting? I will be exploring these questions as a means of getting Western thinkers to reconsider exporting our strategies cross-culturally without carefully exploring our own presuppositions.

Church–How Can We Do It There?

Recently a friend who works in Asia wrote, “I’m always surprised to hear people tell me they don’t know anything about Jesus!!! Absolutely nothing! Today three more souls got to hear the Good News for the first time. I’m so honored to be the one to tell them…” This frequent occurrence should challenge us and remind us how blessed we are if we live in a country with freedom of religion and grew up in godly homes.

I urge you to open your eyes this week, especially when you visit public places. Take note of the people who are obviously from other parts of our world. No, I do not want to fuel prejudice in your hearts; I ask you to consider the possibility that God has them here so they can learn to trust in Jesus and be equipped to start disciple making movements in their home nations.

For such movements to happen back home, many of these folks will have to learn a different model of church than we experience here in the U.S. Mufreesboro is home to a fairly large ELL (English Language Learning) School. More of the students come from Saudi Arabia and China than any other nations. While these students live in our city, it will be wonderful for them to come to know Jesus. But how much more valuable their time will be if they are equipped to facilitate church planting movements back home. It will require training them to “do church” in ways that will not make them a target when they return. If we deeply connect them to church as we know it, we make it more likely they never return because they know such is not possible where they call home.

The Greater Blessing

The time I spent in Arkansas last week was rich. As I have reflected on it, one session was particularly memorable. Three young missionary families who are preparing to move to Tanzania interviewed several missionary families who moved to Kenya thirty years ago as a team.

There were light-hearted moments when cultural/linguistic missteps were shared. There were points when the one sharing would choke up when the memories from decades ago came rushing back.

Two answers to one question really stood out for me, though. “If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?” the new team asked. The older responder (currently serves as a professor of missiology) said, “We would teach them to give from very early in our time with them, and we would turn the leadership of churches and projects over to them much more quickly.”

This former missionary who continues to explore missions shared that the issue of giving had been raised recently. He had traveled to Kenya for a large gathering of the congregational leaders from the churches that had been planted. One African leader rebuked him sternly: “You did not teach us to give. We would not be facing some of the challenges we are right now, if you had taught us what the Bible says on this from the beginning.”

Acknowledging the truth of the rebuke, this older, wiser brother reminisced over the difficulty this topic raised. The team arrived with vehicles, finances and resources the people of this tribe might never have. “How can we call them to give when they live on less than $2.00 per day?” summed up the struggle.

This former missionary stated that their team had been intentional in turning over leadership more quickly than was the norm thirty years ago. But he affirmed they still waited too long.

These have lodged in my mind. Next week I plan to share some reflections on these two. What are your thoughts? I would love to hear from you before I express myself.

Pruning on Purpose

Are there areas in your life that need selective pruning? Are there places where you need to be opened up to the Son’s light so new growth can begin? Some growth can actually prevent fruitfulness. At a Disciple Making Movement gathering earlier this summer a guy at my table shared that he had recently planted a cherry orchard. He was being mentored by an older man who was very experienced. When he questioned how heavy the trees were being pruned, his mentor said, “If you want fruit, you have to hurt the tree!”

From the outside (un-experienced position) looking in, that is how some pruning appears. But the master gardener knows where strategic “hurting” needs to happen. This is guided by the purpose. With the azaleas, the issues were keeping them healthy, beautiful and within their space so their beauty could be appreciated without them encroaching on the sidewalks and parking spaces. For the cherry orchard, the purpose was not beautiful trees, but much fruit.

What is God’s purpose for your life? Does he want you as a trophy? Is he tending you as a beautiful ornament to bring joy into an otherwise drab world?

Is God’s purpose for you to show off an abundant harvest? Recognize that the pruning will be quite different when the goal is fruitfulness. While a tree with thousands of cherries might make a beautiful photograph and feed lots of birds, one with one-third the cherries will make much better pies. That is why the person tending the orchard will strategically remove most of the cherries early in their growth so more nutrition goes into each piece of fruit.

Discovery Bible Studies can open us up to light from the Son. Obedience to what we hear from God can prune away the good things that are enemies to great fruitfulness.



The Impossibility Specialist!

DMM counter-intuitives—“Expect the hardest places to yield the greatest results.” When Jesus is about to go to a place he prepares it (Luke 10).

There are places where people doubt the gospel can be taken. The people group there seems totally resistant to Jesus’ followers. But we have found that often they are actually resistant to cultural Christianity. When kingdom values are modeled by believers who truly honor the community and seek out persons of peace, God often gives an abundant harvest. I doubt anyone expected a move of God to break out in the Philippian jail.

When believers seek the heart of God regarding entering a new community, they desire to connect with people God has already been preparing. He opened the door for me to enter into the Rutherford County Jail. I never would have expected convicted felons to be the likely candidates for me to disciple more than twenty individuals. But it is an awesome testimony when transformation happens in the least likely places.

Who would have expected Saul of Tarsus would be chosen as the apostle to the Gentiles? Who could have anticipated Galilean fishermen would be selected to turn the world upside down? When hard places yield great results God gets the glory!

We have seen Muslim sheiks and imams become powerful church planters. We know former terrorists who now make disciples. This counter-intuitive reminds us that Disciple Making Movements (DMM) always bear witness to God’s ways not being our ways. But the more we are aware of his capacity to do the unexpected, the greater our capacity to anticipate that a former closed city, region or nation is exactly where he wants to bring the gospel.

List the places where you would last expect a DMM to grow and then ask God to open a way. Pay special attention when a new disciple shares a passion for a hard place. Remember that Scriptures delight in “the Impossibility Specialist” nature of our Creator.

Who do you see as the least likely? Government officials, Wall Street investors, drug-pushing gangs, sex-traffickers?

Do not forget the transformational power of God. Remember what Paul wrote about the Corinthians: “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

We come to expect the hardest places to yield the greatest results because God is in the redemption business. He gathers fame to his name when the impossible happens, yet again!


A Change on the Horizon

I am convinced God is calling me to become a full-time trainer of trainers. This is a journey He started me on in 2003. I never could have imagined an invitation to a fund-raising dinner would be how he would launch such a transition.

My tenure as the Pulpit Minister of the Stones River Church will close at the end of May. When I announced this on Sunday, March 6, several shared that they have seen it coming for a while. One even asked, “What took you so long?” It has been obvious that catalyzing the spread of the Gospel into new territory has become my passion. God has used this time to prepare me for my next phase of ministry. It has become obvious that a change is necessary.

Debra and I will continue to live here in Murfreesboro. Stones River Church will be our home congregation. But I will be travelling extensively to train others to do what God has been preparing me to do. Ten years ago, I could not have imagined this becoming my passion. Papa God planted a desire to go to Sierra Leone in my heart and then used my travels to that war-torn country to light a fire for the nations to come to know His glory.

My passion had always been local. I could not envision myself working globally. But the sweetest thing is how significant all of my ministry experiences become in this new phase. Before this change took root I had to learn the foundational importance of discipleship. This learning has to be experiential—not just abstract or theoretical. God used Sierra Leone to open me to being discipled by David Watson. Then he called me to start passing on what I was learning to others—men in jail, young adults and anyone who would listen.

While I have thought about this transition since early in 2006, I doubted my training. I have taken one missions course in all my academic work  and spent less than three months outside the United States. But God has given me some incredible experiences during the last eight years. (My lack of traditional missions training may have actually made it easier for me to think in non-traditional ways.) My focus on theology has certainly been a blessing. But most of all, God has blessed me with some great mentors.

Most of my thirty-one years of pastoral experience has been solo. Often I lamented feeling like I was attempting to “reinvent the wheel” since I did not have older preachers from whom to learn. But my training in Disciple Making Movements has come through relationships with two men–David Watson and Jerry Trousdale. It is exciting to think about what I have learned from these brothers and the opportunities that will come to work with them in the future. God is good!

Debra and I covet your prayers. We ask you to intercede for us and for the Stones River family. The last thing we want is for this transition to be damaging to this congregation. I want to see it grow and flourish. Pray for the shepherds. Pray that God will show us his plans for the future. This season should prove to be exciting and scary. We can be confident that as God leads us, there will be many blessings to come as we are faithful.

Pray that I will be successful in recruiting partners who will assist us financially. I have always been fearful of fund raising, but I reached the point where not stepping out would result in being disobedient.

Father, I praise you for giving me this passion. I claim your promise to do more than I can think or imagine. Bless me on this journey. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Applying Ephesians to My Life (cont.)

[NOTE: I will begin with my re-statement of the passage. Then I will present a list of “I Will…” Statements that I wrote based on that section. Reading these sections will give you some insight into what struck me as I studied through these texts, but your time would be better spent doing your own 3-column study first. After you have written your study then reading mine will give you another set of eyes and experiences that may help you with your efforts to hear from God.]

Ephesians 3:1-21

(1-5) Extending this amazing unity to non-Jews is why Paul was arrested. Haven’t you heard, God charged him to preach this amazing grace to those formerly excluded from it? Though this truth used to be hidden, God told Paul directly and he has just written about it some. Reading this pulls back the curtains so we can see too. You can trade on this “insider” information.  None of our ancestors had access to what we learned from the Spirit through his spokesmen.

(6-9) The shocking news is that the outcasts have been adopted and given equality with the natural children.  All who have this get it through Jesus—the Promised One. It took a mighty act of God’s grace to save Paul and entrust him with this newly revealed message. Nothing he had done earned him the right to tell this blessed news to the non-Jews. Only grace let Paul have the privilege of revealing this long-hidden truth of the Creator’s plan.

(10-11) Higher spiritual beings are amazed that God could pull this reunion off—nothing prepared them for this glorious maneuver. It was actually his plan from the beginning to save both groups in one body by Jesus.

(12-13) Jesus gives us the way to come to God boldly and without hindrance. Paul’s imprisonment shouldn’t depress his readers since they actually flow out of getting them this amazingly good news.

(14-21) Paul prayed to Father God for their encouragement. This whole family gets its name from Papa God. Paul asks that the Holy Spirit will empower them internally so that Jesus will reside in their inner self through their trust.  Also he asked that love will ground them so they, along with all believers, comprehend the vast love of Jesus so they can experience this love that’s deeper than they can intellectually understand, so they will grow up to God’s provision for them fully! Praise be to God because his power working in us is greater than we can conceive—he does so much more than we ask. He gets the glory from Jesus and his church—always.  Let it be!

“I Will…” Statements:

  • I will remember my old state.
  • I will keep Satan’s reign as a thing of your past.
  • I will realize my old lifestyle was really a death wish locking me into punishment.
  • I will praise God for his loving mercy!
  • I will remember I am alive in Christ and this is all by grace.
  • I will live consistent with my high standing with Christ.
  • I will let the fruit of God’s kindness shine through my life.
  • I will live in the free gift of God’s grace—walk by faith, not sight.
  • I will not boast, but proclaim, “God did this, not me!”
  • I will do the good things God prepared for me to do.
  • I will remember this place of honor hasn’t always been mine to enjoy—I was on the outside looking in.
  • I will remember how it feels to be excluded.
  • I will remember how marvelous it feels to have a way to God opened up.
  • I will preach Jesus’ amazing role as the unifier we needed.
  • I will value his sacrificial work of unifying the great divide.
  • I will value Jesus’ body and its function of ending hostilities.
  • I will accept Jesus’ message of peace.
  • I will accept the people Jesus is reconciling to the Father.
  • I will love others as family.
  • I will build consistent with Jesus as my foundation.
  • I will be holy—worthy of God’s presence.
  • I will keep spiritual peace consistent with Jesus’ life and place.
  • I will realize someone may have suffered for me to have faith.
  • I will learn God’s will for my life, especially to use me to bless others.
  • I will join God in telling the secrets.
  • I will read Scripture for insight into God’s mysterious ways.
  • I will appreciate the “insider information” I have through Jesus.
  • I will join in God’s work of breaking down barriers that we are too comfortable accepting.
  • I will serve the gospel by God’s power in me.