A recent comment notes that I have not addressed how to catalyze Urban Disciple Making Movements. In my reply, I noted that this is true and noted that there are no known urban DMMs, yet.
There are rapidly replicating movements that are happening near major urban centers, but most of these are still happening among people with more of a rural mindset/worldview. Social scientists have long noted that urbanization radically impacts the way people see life, themselves and their relationships with others.
Some believe that the strong multi-generational family structure is radically altered by urbanization. It is intriguing to watch the response to some of these challenges that has arisen in China. The efforts to ride the wave of opportunity have separated many of their young professionals from parents and grandparents who still reside in the rural regions. With wealth, responsibility and distractions, many of these young professionals are choosing to break the cultural expectations by refusing to go “home” during their breaks. Laws have been passed which allow their parents to prosecute such lapses.
Planting the seed of the gospel into such families will not follow the same route as the rural settings of many of the movements in Africa. Some doubt it can happen at all.
Any honest strategist will tell you that we have much to learn about launching movements in megalopolises. Reaching the adult grandchildren whose parents and grandparents lived their whole lives in New York City will look very different than those in Buck Snort, Tennessee.
It will still take meaningful contact where God’s nature is overtly discussed. It will continue to require a Discovery process whereby worldview is shifted into a kingdom of God outlook. Discipling people to trust Jesus will continue to be a process. The tactics will shift, though.
Here in the West, we think of church as “gathered.” No doubt, you must gather to accomplish some of the “one anothers” and other functions of church (as the body of Christ). But what we generally fail to recognize is how much our cultural individuality impacts how we understand “gathered.” We often overlook the household language of scripture.
The gospel was planted into existing households.
Church was not primarily isolated believers who come together to act like a quasi-family. The gospel took root in the families, friends and employees that were 1st Century Roman households. It is not that church took the household structure.
Because we start from an individualistic bias, we miss this. Because we start from an individualistic bias, our strategies and tactics are often damaging to households, and thus extractional. Yes, there are times when some members of a family will come to trust in Jesus and others will reject them because of that, but Disciple Making Movements want that whole household to hear the gospel, interact with the gospel and not make their decision just because they incorrectly view the gospel as a Western oppressive intrusion.
This is why we evaluate our approaches to insure that they can be reproduced within any existing culture that highly values close-knit, multi-generational families. This is why we work to disciple the whole household to faith. The last thing we want is for the household to feel like Christian families do when one of their children converts to the Moonies or another cult–“they kidnapped and brain-washed” her/him.
Too much of the church planting talk is about gathering unconnected individuals and trying to get them to act like family. Real movements come when the gospel is being planted into existing family/friendship structures where people are discipled to trust and obey Jesus.
[NOTE: I originally wrote this as a comment on an article by Felicity Dale (http://simplychurch.com/on-cpms-and-dmms/). 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.]
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.]
Before they can assist you, you must remodel, retool, and/or retrain near neighbors. They intuitively realize that what they already know to do will not succeed. Doing it harder, faster or in greater quantities will only produce reprisals. Getting Christians to reach out to the unengaged is a demanding work. Just telling them they “ought to” will not produce positive change. If that is all you have–don’t!
Realize you are going to have to remodel this house, while you live in it. You must be a part of this church, or you will not change it. Sure, you can pick up some of the malcontents who have already left, but they bring their own set of problems (many have not left the strategies of “the church” from which they departed, they are upset that they could not lead the coup to overthrow the dictator to become the new dictator).
But all of this remodeling work is a means to an end–if your goal is movements. Real replication is only possible when it starts happening among the lost. That is where multiplication takes place. These near neighbor believers are critical because of proximity, cultural awareness, language capacity and the potential that you can replicate yourself in them. But the real work has to be done among the currently lost people group.
Lately I have been watching the TV show, Income Property. An investment real estate expert shows would-be investors three properties which hold promise. Most often, these are houses that will be divided into two units–one the investor(s) will live in and the other will be rented out to help offset the cost of the purchase and renovation.
Each show follows a twin-conflict paradigm. The first conflict/challenge of the show is whether or not the investor(s) can visualize the renovate property. Then the second conflict/challenge is whether or not the renovated value (increased equity) and the anticipated income (rental value) will be enough to allow the new owner to succeed. Inevitably, there are hidden problems in the homes that are being renovated.
Starting Disciple Making Movements are sort of like this show. Inevitably, the way we attempt to produce change is by mobilizing, training and mentoring near neighbor Christians to plant the gospel among an unengaged people group. Note this is a two-phase strategy. First, you have to identify and train Christians to do whatever it takes to reach the people they have previously felt no compulsion to engage. Likely, many of the potential candidates for this “Mission Impossible” have already attempted (at least mentally) to reach out. Their early attempts were rebuffed and/or, they were ridiculed, hassled or persecuted for their efforts. Or, they have powerful stories of others who tried and paid a high price. This people group is unreached for good reason.
Before you paint a clear picture of a new way forward and stoke the fires of dissatisfaction, be sure you know at least a few of the first steps toward the new vision. No, you probably will not know how to map out the full path the change will demand, but you must know how to take the first steps to open the way to discovering the next steps.
In 2005 I was captured by the vision of movements. Rapid replication resonated within me. It connected to the history of my spiritual family. A handful of spiritual leaders trained up thousands of “lay” leaders. They reassured farmers, cobblers and shop keepers that they could understand Scriptures. Simple people obeying simple Bible directives found their lives transformed. They became the conduits for reaching their families, friends and communities.
But I did not know how to help the mildly intrigued picture themselves getting started doing the same kinds of things in 21st century America. Talk of what happened when this region was the western frontier of the U.S., what was happening in Northern India and what was starting in West Africa did little to help these people.
The vision captured my heart. A trip to a West African nation that had only recently come out of a bloody civil war heightened my dissatisfaction. I left there amazed and troubled. It all coalesced in my self-talk, “They are doing so much with so little; we are doing so little with so much!” I was compelled to see change happen here.
In John 4:35 Jesus tells the twelve, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”
Little did they know that he had opened the heart of a Samaritan woman. They could never anticipate that they were about to spend two days watching many of these spiritual outcasts come to faith in Jesus as the Messiah. Many believed because of the testimony of this woman. Many more came to believe because of their time spent with Jesus.
It is estimated that more Muslims have come to faith in Jesus in the last thirty years than all the previous centuries combined. Just like John 4, much of the sowing and harvesting is being done by people within the communities. Yes, they too are being visited by Jesus and some of his disciples. He is appearing to many through dreams and visions. Believers from Muslim backgrounds are leading the charge to get the Gospel out to those who have never heard.
Fear-mongers have too little faith in God to believe what is taking place. Their agendas are advanced by stirring up paranoia and hatred. What they call diligence is disobedience. Tragically, they miss the harvest God is providing.
Seth Godin’s blog on Saturday, November 2, challenged:
“Tenacity is not the same as persistence. Persistence is doing something again and again until it works. It sounds like ‘pestering’ for a reason. Tenacity is using new data to make new decisions to find new pathways to find new ways to achieve a goal when the old ways didn’t work. Telemarketers are persistent, Nike is tenacious.”
His closing illustration reveals what many already know, Godin is a marketer. His usually-brief daily blog often proves insightful. Frequently I can see places where his insights transcend marketing.
A friend recently asked a group of Disciple Making Movements practitioners “what spiritual traits are needed to persevere until traction and finally multiplication happens?”
I replied, “A willingness to fail forward. Perfectionism prevents the risk-taking, trial-and-error learning that each new people group demands. Like a world-class tailor, there are basics of measuring, fitting and sewing that always apply. But each person is unique and that suit is going to hang differently. Ripping out seams and re-doing the work is often required.”
Intentionally passing on a biblical worldview to your children and grandchildren is not a “one-size-fits-all” endeavor. It will require “tenacity” as Godin defines it. We must be tenacious in reaching the goal of seeing the next two generations of our family owning a biblical worldview–relishing living under the reign of Christ! ” Tenacity is using new data to make new decisions to find new pathways to find new ways to achieve a goal when the old ways didn’t work.”
Current statistics on young people “leaving” church reveal that “the old ways didn’t work.” Will we become entrenched and persist in doing them harder, longer, faster, bigger, etc.? Or will we be tenacious and learn to make new decisions so we can find new pathways in order to find new ways? Don’t be surprised when those new ways reflect Deuteronomy 6!
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!
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.