Why Discovery Is Important

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!

Worldview and DBS

Now that we have taken a couple of weeks to survey some basic material you can learn in Sociology and/or Anthropology, let’s consider the value of Discovery Bible Studies in this context. Your sense of identity (Who am I?) impacts your beliefs, which shape your values and these direct your behavior.

That sense of identity arises from the stories that you grow up being told. No, not the occasional stories, but the ones that your parents accepted from their people group and keep passing on to the next generation.

When the creation/redemption story of the Bible shapes your worldview you approach life with crucial beliefs. Yes, you know that there is much brokenness in our world, because the sin of Adam brought long-term effects. But you also know that the God who created pursues people out of his great love and through his amazing grace.

As you walk with Israel, you travel the trajectory of Abraham’s faith. You know the roller coaster ride of faith and sin. You know what happens when the chosen forget their bridegroom. But you also sense the persevering love of God. In the midst of this journey you keep hearing the promises that He will do the unthinkable.

Like a Muslim man on the journey to knowing God, you marvel at God’s great love in sending the Suffering Servant! You experience shocked gratitude that this Servant would love you enough to take your stripes.

Little by little, God’s story re-writes your story! You begin to consider the impossible might be something He can pull off!

Obeying Jesus

Globalization conjures up many ideas to diverse people. For some, it is the greatest curse to our world because it violates our isolationist tendencies. To others it is a wonderful way to get cheap products. Years ago I asked the folks at Stones River Church to reach up and grab the tag in the collar of their shirt/blouse and show it to a person near them. Then I asked them to share the names of the countries where these items had been manufactured. There were more than 30 nations in a group of about 100 people. Globalization made that possible.

My thoughts on globalization are taking a different angle as I write. I am sitting in a McDonalds in the Bangkok airport, waiting on my next flight. To get here I had stops in Dallas and Tokyo. It is sort of crazy to think about the opportunities available today to take the gospel to the nations. Obeying Jesus’ commission to “Go make disciples of all the nations…” has never been easier than right now!

This week I will be training Buddhist background believers in Disciple Making strategies. The goal of organizer of this training is that some of them will join him in his passion for reaching Muslims who live in Southern Thailand. Only God can pull this one off! But then again, He has always had a soft place in his heart for reaching the nations.

I am convinced God’s decision to confound the language of the people and force the development of so many cultures (Genesis 11) was an act of God’s grace. He knew that their rebellious spirit was intent on using blessings for self-aggrandizement and left undeterred, they would bring horrible punishment upon themselves. He prevented their wicked purposes and then goes even further in His grace—he calls Abram and promises to bless him and through him all the nations (Genesis 12). God’s gracious nature is always on display—even in times of judgment, if we will look at the whole picture.

The amazing thing about this story is not that God is this way—just look at the cross! The remarkable thing is getting to have a part with Him in what He wants to do in Thailand. I covet your prayers!


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!


Radical Reform

DMM counter-intuitives—“Do no personal evangelism at all so that masses will hear.” Lead whole households to faith together (Ax 16:15, 31).

Remember that our goal is to catalyze Disciple Making Movements among the least-reached people groups of our world. Most of them live in nations that will not grant missionary visas. Often they perceive Christianity as a form of foreign cultural dominance and oppression.

We do personal evangelism because it is the highly contextualized strategy that was developed to plant the gospel into individualized cultures. Since Western nations are individualized North Americans and Europeans have primarily been reached through personal evangelism. Since it worked in our lives, we assume it will work with everyone else. But what if their culture is not individualistic?

What should you do if you are attempting to plant the gospel into a people group in West Africa or Southeast Asia that always makes important decisions as a family or community? When we finally allow that question to sink deep into our heart we may begin to hear Scripture differently. We may start to realize that there are many more references to households coming to faith together than there are examples of individuals who reach such a point through a one-on-one encounter.

Luke reveals that Lydia “and the members of her household were baptized” (Acts 16:15). In response to the jailor’s question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” he was told, “‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house….then immediately he and all his family were baptized….he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family” (Acts 16:31-34).

We have found when believers go to the least-reached people groups and do personal evangelism there are often tragic results. The family turns against this new believer and throws him/her out of the household for being deceived by this foreign ideology. They hate Christians for “brain washing” their son or daughter. They refuse to hear the gospel because it has brought them such excruciating pain. And then some believers quote passages that make it sound like God takes great pleasure in setting children against their parents.

Rest assured the gospel entails challenges to any culture. It presents obstacles to any human religion. But that is not what has just happened. A strategy was employed that withheld the gospel from the rest of the family. A divide-and-conquer strategy was used (it is not that in a highly individualized culture, but it is in the rest of the world).

By contrast, a Discovery Bible Study encourages the whole family to explore the God of the Bible together. Story by story they are encouraged to move from Creator to Christ. Through this process the household is equipped to make a collective decision. Together they are called to fall in love with God. While some may still choose not to surrender to Jesus, they at least understand the rationale for the faith of those who do believe. They have heard.

How Long Will it Take?

DMM counter-intuitives—“Prepare to spend a long time making disciples, but anticipate miracle accelerations.” Jesus took 3 years (Mark).

Before a team of apostolic disciple makers enter a new region to find Persons of Peace, there will have been a devoted season of intercession, careful research and deliberate tactical planning. The goal behind each of these is to determine, to the best of our abilities, what God is already doing in this region and discover how we can join him. Making disciples is about obeying Jesus. It is about surrendering our plans to his will.

Often we have found that this process takes time (months, if not years). We anticipate it will be three months or longer before the first disciples come to faith in Jesus—and that is counted from the time you have already discovered the first Person of Peace. But we have learned that God’s ways are not our ways when it comes to this timetable.

We have discovered that when intercession reveals God is ready for a village or region of a city to be reached, when those who are entering have good insight into the world view of the inhabitants and when there are good tactical plans for gaining access into the lives of these people there are often surprises. The God who spoke the world into existence is not restricted to the normal harvest cycles (consider for example the remarkable events surrounding Aaron’s staff, Numbers 17:8). While experience correctly teaches us to expect months before planted seeds yield a harvest, faith reminds us God is greater than the process he created.

Making disciples is a time-consuming process. It is relational. Unless hearts are knit together by a supernatural process, friendships take time to form. Trust is earned. Through the ebb and flow of life the right to speak into a life is incrementally developed.

The God who snapped the Philippian jailor awake by an earthquake is still able to move mountains today. The Creator who opened Pharoah’s court to Joseph by a dream can still invade the sleep of people. We are learning to praise God for miraculous accelerations whenever they come!

We are also learning that the training, coaching and mentoring needed to produce disciples who make disciples still must be accomplished. While we intentionally plan to “disciple people to conversion,” we realize God is free to call them spontaneously and miraculously. But he still calls us to help them grow up into the image of Christ. He still calls us to equip them to reproduce. He calls the body of Christ to disciple them into disciple makers.

God is not restricted by the “Creation to Christ” counter-intuitive. But when those who were miraculously transformed enter another village we want them equipped to sow, water and harvest. We want them to know a process that exposes other people to the Word over a period of time. By such training we do not limit the function of the Holy Spirit any more than Jesus did when he invested three years into the twelve, discipling them. We trust Jesus to not only provide the content of our discipling, but the strategy also. We expect God will use us to equip people to make disciples. To call others to Christ is inadequate for fulfilling the Great Commission! We must make disciples who make disciples of all the nations.

Disciple to Conversion

DMM counter-intuitives—“Disciple people to conversion.” Jesus: “Go-make disciples-baptize-teach to obey” in Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20).

[Note: These counter-intuitive statements have been used by Disciple Making Movements practitioners to describe truths that are the opposite of what traditional missiology teaches. They have been formatted for Twitter, which limits the length of a post to no more than 140 characters. But I also wanted to include the biblical basis for doing it so differently.]

At the close of the first gospel, Jesus commissions the eleven, who graduate from his personal training system, to turn the world upside down (actually right side up). The beautiful thing for them is they have witnessed this approach while they have followed Jesus for three years. He called them to follow him. He taught them, trained them and mentored them. It is only late in this ministry that he asks the critical question, “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15).

In Western churches we usually attempt to convert people and then maybe sign them up for a six-week discipleship class. Jesus disciples for years and then asks his followers to reveal who they think he is. It is at this point in Matthew’s gospel that they answer their own earlier question, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (Matthew 8:27).

Peter speaks for the group when he announces, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus indicates that Peter is blessed to have received this revelation from God the Father. Peter did not learn this insight from another human, it was through divine revelation. Peter’s understanding of Jesus’ identity and willingness to surrender everything comes because he has been discipled to this recognition.

When someone comes to recognize who Jesus is, then he/she is ready to be baptized and to be taught to obey all of Jesus’ commands. Discipleship entails obedience to the one who has “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).

But who will allow you to disciple them to conversion? A Person of Peace. Someone who has already been stirred by the Holy Spirit. Someone who is waiting for the light to shine in his heart. Someone who desperately wants to know the answer to her brokenness. When you find a Person of Peace you have a candidate to disciple to conversion. Here is a person who will walk with you long enough to move from Creation to Christ, fall in love with God along the way and be willing to share what is being learned with others. Find a Person of Peace and you will have the opportunity to watch multiplication come in obedience to the Great Commission.


CPM counter-intuitives—“Start with creation not Christ.” Our view of God impacts our capacity to understand Son of God (Acts 17:22ff).

Many cross-cultural missionaries have taken a Western evangelistic approach to other parts of the world resulting in numerous unintended consequences. We have failed to recognize that our presentation of the gospel is highly contextualized, therefore it should not be wholesale administered to diverse contexts.

Okay, let me unpack that paragraph. If you grew up in Europe or North America you probably have a Western worldview. You likely view faith decisions as matters for individual choice. You have been schooled by your culture to demand that no other groups or individual has the right to control how you choose to express your spiritual or religious convictions. Guess what? Much of the unreached world does not share that conviction with you. You may be right, but they do not share your understanding. And you will not readily win them over to your way of thinking—and maybe you don’t have to change their mind. Maybe there is a better way to evangelize people who disagree on this issue.

Because our perspectives have been shaped by an individualized society, our most fruitful evangelistic strategies were actually developed for our context. Because we have failed to recognize this we have uncritically exported it to very different cultures and not realized why it has worked so poorly. “But it was how I came to know Jesus, surely it must be THE way others will come to know him!”

Another part of our Western culture that shaped our evangelistic strategies is our assumption that everyone here knows of God and just needs to know Jesus. While that may have been a safe assumption at some points in our history, we can no longer assume it here and we should never take it for granted in the least reached people groups of our world. How people view God directly shapes how they hear the phrase “Son of God.”

How did God reveal himself? Did he jump in with the story of Jesus?

Notice what is written in Hebrews 1:1-3—“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” These last days were prepared for by the past ways God revealed himself.

Most people need at least an overview knowledge of God to be ready to grasp the significance of the message that Jesus is the Son of God. When we fail to help them discover God’s character as the Creator who calls men into relationship and establishes a sacrificial system, then many of the descriptions of Jesus have no context to be deeply meaningful. DMM requires us to begin with creation, unless God miraculously accelerates the timetable. He is sovereign and can do that. We always go with him. But then our discipling will be sure to help these new believers to be grounded in God’s self revelation so they can know how to disciple disciple makers, too. While God accelerates things at times, there are other times when he does not. We start with Creation. We start where scriptures begin.