Q&A–How Do You Start New “Spiritual Outposts”

Original Question: “In regards to your mention of ‘spiritual outposts’ did you have families physically move to new neighborhoods, or did you build the outposts around new Christians already living in those areas?”

Answer: Enough time has passed that I probably need to remind you of the context I am addressing in this protracted series of Q&A blog posts. During May 13-16 I was invited to speak during a four-day digital gathering, the Salt & Light International Leaders Conference. After each day’s presentation on Disciple Making Movements there was a Q&A session and leaders submitted questions in writing and the host selected some of those questions to ask us live. Many more questions came in than we could address in the time allotted. I offered to address those question via my blog. While I warned this process might be slow, I have obviously stretched this out far more than I anticipated. I begin again in my efforts to address these.

Roy Moran and I each took two days to present material which would hopefully prompt participants to seek out coaching in implementing the best of DMM strategies and prompt people to seek coaching to get to multi-generational replication. Sadly, enough time has passed that I do not recall the specific statement where the phrase “spiritual outposts” would have occurred, but I am confident I can address this question and hopefully be helpful.

When we encounter different strategies than what we are using, which appear to be potentially beneficial, we generally begin to explore how we can add those to what we are already doing. If taking a new approach means we have to ditch everything we are already doing, then we usually pass on the new thing. This is true whether you prefer Apple, Microsoft or Linux. It is true for much of the Evangelical world which bifurcates evangelism and discipleship (which primarily is equivalent to “spiritual formation”).

Evangelism in the Global North is primarily envisioned as being initiated by people who intentionally move to a new region and begin to form meaningful relationships with lost people in the new places where we “live, work, play and learn.” If we identify a people group, city, village or other place where no one knows Jesus, then we raise up a team to move there and begin to allow the light to shine through their lives and words into that area. Many years ago this strategy has been referred to as “swarming” where a new queen and worker bees leave an existing hive and “swarm” in a new area in hopes of starting a new hive with its own unique ecosystem.

The mention of “spiritual outpost” harkens to this mental imagery. Biblical commentators who advocate such a “swarming” strategy might point to Rome’s strategy of gifting retiring soldiers and government officials with land grants in the outer regions of the empire. Philippi, for example, was a Roman colony which was shaped by this approach. Maybe the advancement of the Kingdom of Heaven can be furthered by such an intentional strategy.

Disciple Making Movements are not in opposition to teams of disciple makers intentionally moving to pockets of darkness within their own people group in this way, but this is not how the first “spiritual outposts” arise. It is also not the strategy of Paul and his disciple making band in the book of Acts. His approach was to always look for a local group into which the gospel would be planted and they would become the “spiritual outpost.” Outsiders can and should be catalysts. Insiders become the best evangelists. We are not inherently opposed to “swarming,” but we are not envisioning this being the approach being used by a team of outsiders. From my reading of Acts, the longest Paul stayed in any of the places where churches were started was in Ephesus and he was there somewhere between two years and three months and three years. I believe he stayed there that length of time because his work was replicated in other cities within the province of Asia as he discipled workers to faith and then they went out as disciple makers throughout the region.

Q&A: What do you consider “specialized training”?

Original Question: “Finally, I’m wondering what specialized training includes, given that the training (equipping) of the church is in view in this text. If we assume that being gifted definitionally entails no specialized training, then once the gifted train the church for service, can those so trained “become” gifted, or does being trained rule that out? Or is it just that such training is not “specialized”? Or perhaps the training—say, for crossing cultures—is simply irrelevant to the question of being gifted, so that those trained by the gifted may be equipped for service, but whether they’re gifted for it is another matter altogether?”

Answer: Obviously, I did not do a good job in my original post of being specific and clear in my communication. As I have noted earlier, I have no objections to “specialized training.” I actually spend lots of time pondering the kinds of specialized training that many followers of Jesus need to become more fruitful in their efforts to imitate him. My main objection is the tendency of the Global North church to require extensive formal education before people are considered for ministry positions. We have developed a “professional clergy” mindset which precludes participation in disciple making.

Last Friday I taught lesson 12 for the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course. I told a couple of global stories of breakthrough which are happening. One comes from Africa and the other from the U.S. Both examples are early in the process of multiplication. I intentionally chose these because they are not so fully developed that they feel light years away. I shared about the use of Discovery Groups in the process and touched on some specific examples where some of the “least likely” people are being used by God in powerful ways. After my two sections were competed a young lady (probably in her twenties) shared with me that she had heard about DBS while working at a Christian university and done some research. She started some groups and found that they multiplied quickly and a couple of simple churches had started among a couple of sports teams. University officials became concerned about the “out of control” spread of new groups and took actions which forced the efforts to “go underground.”

My heart sank! “What were they thinking?” Why didn’t they rejoice?

Systems tend to be self-perpetuating, thus they are often resistant to change. Here in the Global North we have a strong, formal education system which has become self-perpetuating. Teachers need students. Require credentialing and you have steady work. Some of that is good; some becomes troubling to me. But my greater concern is our failure to recognize that you do not lead with the structures of a historically older system, when starting new works. Keep it simple. Keep it in smaller modules so people do not have to leave their families and employment to “get training.”

I conflated two distinct topics: gifting and education. Clearly Paul touches on both in the Ephesians 4 passage, so there is overlap. But our discussion of these matters are complicated by each of us bringing “baggage” to the table.

Paul’s focus is that every member of the body becomes equipped for ministry. Jesus insured that such was possible by gifting the global church with “apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers.” It takes all four for the church to become all Jesus envisions. Every fellowship should examine itself to identify which of those four (or five) functions do we high light. Which are missing? What must be done to address our deficiencies?

What about the other Gifts?

Original Question: “Where does the movement model make room for pastor, teacher, prophet etc.?”

Answer: Many questions like this arise when leaders of individual churches and/or networks of churches start exploring Disciple Making Movements strategies. The assumption is that DMMs are only focused on the apostolic and evangelistic giftings, while Paul clearly identifies additional giftings.

Here is the actual biblical text which is being alluded to in this question:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-15).

To me, this immediate context makes it is clear that Paul is thinking about the Church Universal, rather than a single congregation in a particular location because of his use of the phrase “the body of Christ” and “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” For the majority of his ministry, Paul has not labored in the areas where others of the Apostles lived and worked. He spent some time in Jerusalem during his early days as a believer when Barnabas vouched for him. Later he joins them in the discussion about acceptance of the Gentiles into the Kingdom, but by and large Paul’s intentional strategy was to go to unreached and unengaged regions where the Gospel had not yet been heard.

The word “apostle” is an English form of the Greek word “apostolos” which was used for anyone sent out as an emissary. In the Great Commission Jesus directs the 11 to “Go make disciples” in the whole world. Paul is later added to their number and we actually know more details about his going than we do the 11, because of Luke’s presence on Paul’s apostolic team going on mission with Jesus. Apostolic workers are those who intentionally go to new places, where the Gospel has not been heard prior to their arrival.

The word “prophet” clearly carries great significance in Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth. Seeking that gift is proposed by Paul as a corrective for some of the problems which arose in that specific church. Prophecy gives divine insight and confirmation. There can be predictive elements as is seen when an upcoming famine is revealed ahead of time by Agabus. (Acts 11:28). This foreknowledge empowers believers to prepare ahead of time to assist those who will be most negatively anticipated (much like happened through Joseph in Egypt). Prophecy is not restricted to a single located congregation, though.

“Evangelist” is one of these functions which many recognize fits well into the Disciple Making Movement rubric. Someone who has this divine gifting is able to cross many cultural barriers without requiring specialized training. But many believers are not this way. They need help in recognizing the differences which make so much of an impact that shifts in tactics are required. Those who intentionally bring good news into dark places are seeking to be evangelistic.

“Pastor-teachers” seems to me to be the best translation of the next category in Ephesians 4, because of the way Paul’s Greek is written here in this text. There is a phrase which is duplicated multiple times earlier, but is noticeably absent between pastor and teacher. Paul writes of Jesus, “he gave some to be…” four times, not five. Jesus gave some to be apostles, gave some to be prophets, gave some to be evangelists, gave some to be pastors and teachers.

In many traditional church networks the pastoral/teaching role is almost exclusively present. Because it is so significant, the efforts to counter-balance this extreme are heard as denigrating this function. I remember David Watson encouraging a large group he was training in California, “In every group gathered to be shaped by God’s Word, look for two types of leaders in the household–apostolic/evangelist types who live to see the word go to other villages where it has not gone yet and also those with the pastoral/teacher hearts that are necessary to nurture the ongoing spiritual life of an emerging local church.

With these thoughts in mind, explore what God does in Antioch of Syria. Read Acts 13:1ff and see that you have both emphases. Early training in DMM always focuses on vision casting for going, but if there is to be fruit, much fruit and fruit that lasts (John 15), then it requires a both/and, rather than an either/or.

Q&A: What Kind of Growth Happens in Movements?

Original Question: “How do you differentiate between numerical growth as a result of multiplication and spiritual growth in terms of rooting people in Christ using this approach to discipleship?”

Deep and wide–that is the simple answer to the question in the title. Everyone? No, but more than what I have seen in traditional legacy churches, to be very honest.

For far too long much about the Christian experience in the Global North has become a “spectator sport.” People show up to watch professionals “do ministry” on a stage. We may find that our knowledge of concepts about Christianity grows in this fashion, but our actual experience of being apprentices to Jesus is negligible.

Since I was not able to get further clarification from the lady who raised this question, I must take some educated guesses in hopes of providing an appropriate answer. It is quite possible I will miss the mark, but hopefully my efforts to respond will prove beneficial for someone who reads.

Numerical growth through multiplication and maturing spiritually are not necessarily adversarial or competitive. But our failure to focus intentional energy on either is a grave oversight, in my humble opinion. I believe many Christians stagnate in their spiritual maturity because they never become involved in reaching the lost. Following Jesus closely will always involve us in connecting with people who need a Savior and King. He said of himself that he was sent to “Seek and save that which is lost.”

If you want to learn something well, try to teach it to others. Discipling disciple makers will greatly shape your walk with Jesus. Becoming intentional in praying for laborers and seeking out Persons of Peace can guard your spiritual walk from becoming self-absorbed. Please do not make something an either/or that Jesus has said is a both/and. Many disciples who come to faith in Movements mature at a faster rate than those reached in traditional approaches. The idea that I only have to be one lesson ahead of others that I am leading keeps me making double applications of the Word (to myself and to those I am influencing). This actually accelerates my growth.

Ten Years of Celebrating

Ten years ago (May), I transitioned from the preaching minister at Stones River Church to become the Global Coach at Final Command Ministries. God has opened doors and produced multiplying fruit during this decade. All the glory goes to Him! It has been remarkable to have a front row seat to witness his purposes unfolding.

There are eleven Disciple Making Movements which God has birthed during this decade. These are efforts within people groups where either 100+ new churches were planted or 1,000 new Jesus followers within a short enough time span that only God could produce these results. As these stories of breakthrough have been shared, a holy discontent continues to arise within the hearts of God’s people who are not experiencing such growth.

Abundant (or extraordinary) praying and fasting are present wherever we see movements. People who wish to be catalytic realize from our African friends that far too often our prayer lives are far too anemic to see multiplication happening. Our existing prayer times are often too self-centered to see breakthroughs. We read through our lists of sick people who need healing from desperate diseases like cancer, but they are woefully void of claiming God’s promises.


Back in the early days of my transition I was hoping and praying from a spiritual “backwash” from Africa. That people in US churches would hear stories of multiplication in Africa and Asian nations and become jealous. I was praying that mission sending churches would open their strategies up to intentional disciple making that equipped every new disciple to become an intentional disciple maker so their blessings could be multiplied. I hoped that Missions Committee members would be patient with the missionary families that were transitioning towards DMM strategies and practices. God has been faithful.

More than 2,000 new simple churches have been planted. 4,190 Discovery Groups have been started and we are praying many more churches emerge as the Holy Spirit works in the hearts and minds of people listening to the Word and seeking for ways to obey what they hear God saying to them. We started intentionally targeting people groups in four nations in the Sahel and that number has tripled across the region and spilling over into North Africa, too. Just last week more than 100 Nigerian missionaries were trained in DMM and are returning to their posts to look for Persons of Peace.

Join me in praising God for some of these remarkable results in one of the more resistant regions on the globe. Pray that God’s fame will spread. Pray for multiplication to expand and more and more men and women will be swept into the kingdom of heaven. To God be the glory!

Discovery Questions (an overview)

Over the last month I have reviewed the eight questions which Final Command Ministries recommends people use to facilitate the Discovery process. I wanted you to have access to the rationale behind each one. Asking the same questions each week quickly equips every participant to facilitate. It is repeatable.

Movements come from new groups starting new groups. In some nations this multiplication is more than 30 generations deep (within 15 years). More than one million new followers of Jesus have come to faith through this reproducible process. They have simultaneously been equipped to reach others by the process used in reaching them!

Why would you want to change this?

While I was taught to never write a one sentence paragraph, I left that sentence all alone. It is there for emphasis. It is the question I sometimes ask people wanting permission to edit the questions.

“The questions get boring,” and “These people won’t obey the questions,” are the honest answers I get when my question is answered. Truth be told, this is a clear sign you are working with the wrong people, if you want to start a Movement. Working with other people doesn’t mean you are giving up on them, though.

Sometimes people are not ready to change. Paul turned to the Gentiles when the Jewish people rejected his message about Jesus. He reveals to us he did it “to provoke the Jews to jealousy.” Maybe the best way to get one group of people to change is find the willing nearby and help them change. The first group gets to witness the power of the Gospel. Maybe, just maybe, their hearts will change, too!

Question # 7: Who?

“Who do you know who needs this message that you will tell this week?” is a powerful seed for multiplication. This is only true when Discovery Groups will name names and then share with those named.

Tragically, many self-identified Christians do not like answering this question. Even fewer follow through with sharing with the people who come to mind. If you are not getting new generations of Discovery Groups, you can be sure Question # 7 has been dropped or altered.

If your Christian group experiments with using a Discovery process pay special attention to their responses to this question. If they do not know any lost people who need to hear God’s Word, then they need to get out more (in person and/or online. They need to become active listeners. And they need to become better at intercession—pleading God’s promises for the people where they live, learn, work and play.

Who are the people who walk regularly in your neighborhood? Could you ask them to join in their walks? Get to know them. Talk about casual topics. Explore a meaningful topic. If they are comfortable with that shift, try a spiritual theme. If they say they are a believer, “already have a home church,” or signal they follow Jesus, then tell them you want to find lost people in the neighborhood. Ask if they will help. Invite them to join you in prayer walking while you exercise.

If they are not willing to talk about spiritual matters, then you need to begin praying that the Holy Spirit will produce and opening. Get their names. Mobilize others from your home church, small group and/or disciple making team to start praying for them. It is possible they are believers who have been wounded by other people at their last church, or they may not know Jesus at all. Keep walking. Keep developing a relationship and revisit the importance of spiritual matters.

Whenever someone is open to spiritual topics ask if he is interested in reading the Bible to see what God is really like. If she is willing to do that, then ask if she has family or friends who might be willing to join in, also. Start a new Discovery Group with this person and his family/friends. They will be prompted to share the passages they explore with others, too.

Q&A: Multiple Questions

Actual Questions:

1. Compared to topical study in small group discussions where we can discuss from various passage from bible, if we stick to one passage don’t we miss other key principles from scripture about same topic? 

2. When we ask questions of what can we obey from the passage, should it be group obedience or as per what person discovers? If it is based on what person discovers then wont we miss on key principles that they miss?

3. What shall we do if some members in the group are not obedient to their commitments made in last week?

My Responses:

  1. Please remember that the Discovery questions and approach were developed for lost families and/or friends who are open to exploring the Bible together to especially discover what God is like. One of their fears of church people is that we have them at an unfair disadvantage because we are familiar with the Bible and they are not. Staying with one text is for their benefit. But this can be good for ordinary church members, too. If there are multiple passages related to a biblical theme, then work through them one at a time as a small group. Then spend a session (every 6-8 weeks) tracing out the insights that flow from the collection of passages. In this scenario, every participant will have been part of discovering from all of the passages together. The insights which are traced out will be more widely shared because of the earlier group times. Most of our thematic studies are dominated by a few who expect others to absorb and accept because we have declared it so, rather than guiding a process where people discover for themselves whether or not it is from the Lord. Trust the Holy Spirit.
  2. In highly individualistic cultures their “I will…” (obedience) statements will most likely be based on what each individual hears from the passage. Yes, there is some risk attached with this, but the same is true of deductive teaching or other forms of inductive study. More significant than the statement of what they are going to do, is what they actually do in obedience to what they hear from God. In collective cultures it may be more valuable to coach the group toward a shared, “We will….” Statement of obedience. If they hear from God an action to take and they act on it, their hearts will become increasingly open to hearing from Him. Drawing attention to good quality “I will…” Statements (after everyone as shared their own) often results in those with weaker statements beginning to make better commitments and actually working on obeying them. What happens in the group gathering is significant, but what happens outside is often more transformational. Trust the Holy Spirit to work before, during and after the Discovery gathering!
  3. Modelling making good “I will…” Statements, doing what we commit to do in them and then transparently sharing what happens when we attempt to obey is the best path forward with the resistant. Do not shame them. Love them. Ask privately if there is a way you can come alongside them to see a different outcome next week. Most importantly intercede for them throughout the intervening week. Trust the Holy Spirit to work in their life!

Q&A: Do You Recommend Changing the Questions?

Actual Question: “In DBS, after reading the scripture, the 3 key questions asked are: 

1. What does this scripture tell you about God?

2. What does it tell you about mankind (fallen man)?

3. What change do you want to start to see in you by the Holy Spirit’s help?

My question: Have you considered adding a question before the last one, inviting people to talk about what Jesus did to the fallen condition of man, and to remember the power that Jesus enables, so that the Gospel becomes the power to change, rather than just our will?”

My Response:

Many have changed the questions, for many reasons. Some do because they get bored asking and answering the same questions week after week. But it is that repetition that allows lost people on the way to faith to be able to start Discovery with their family and friends. “Who are you doing this to benefit?” is the question I want to ask these adapters.

Obviously, the form of question # 3 above introduces the work of the Holy Spirit prematurely, if the group is primarily composed of lost people. It has been inserted by the person who wrote the question. The actual questions I recommend people ask after the passage has been read twice, retold and any details noted which were omitted in the re-telling are:

  1. What do we learn about God?

2. What do we learn about people?

3. How will you put this passage into practice?

Why would you want to insert the suggested additional question? What do you hope to accomplish by inserting it. If the participants are not yet believers, they likely do not even know there is a Holy Spirit. That is one of the biblical truths we believe they need to discover from the pages of the Bible rather than depend on our observations about him as their entre into knowing him. I suspect the inquisitor is thinking about a group of Christians doing Discovery and the need to get them to think about what God is calling them to do, rather than depending on their feelings, emotions or self-will. That is not the setting the DBS questions were developed for use. Maybe many who profess to be believers are so much in need of these additional questions because we have never really expected them to directly apply the Word of God to their lives.

Q&A: What are the Protections?

Actual Question: “As you change the ecclesiology more towards a decentralized structure – how do you prevent that people would build their own kingdom and draw people out of the church?”

The best prevention against those who seek to do this is ongoing coaching. Calling leaders and their emerging teams to discover the biblical passages on themes like plurality of elders has proven helpful. Paul was always operating in a team setting and with appropriate mutual accountability. Calling all disciple makers into mutual accountability is foundational to multi-generational disciple-making.

There have been instances of what the questioner is raising which have happened in Movements. It often becomes obvious when they cease sharing the stories of breakthrough, transformation and the numbers of new groups being started. Tracking outcomes is critical to assessing health and leadership issues. Getting emerging leaders to do ongoing Discovery studies (written and/or group) is critical to helping them develop a strong, healthy biblical approach to leadership.

Encourage them to explore the leadership model of Barnabas. Spend time in Ezekiel 34 where Israel’s leaders are compared to shepherding. Explore the theme of “shepherding/pastoring” in both the Old Testament. Investigate the model of leadership Jesus establishes in Matthew’s Gospel. Mutual accountability in an ongoing leadership cohort (which maybe meets once a month) can be profound in protecting God’s people from self-serving leadership models. They are rampant in our world, so we must anticipate their will be challenges.

Who do leaders answer to, ultimately? That is the question they need to answer.