Q&A: What is the role of the local church?

There are multiple roles a local church can provide to assist in catalyzing Multiplying Movements. What is happening globally reveals that Movements are the work of God, so our best efforts involve us in finding out where God is already working and seeking the ways we can join him.

Churches certainly can partner with God by rallying intercessors. Members who will pray and fast to intentionally seek God’s heart are crucial to Movements. Training and sending out disciple makers among pockets of lostness are another way a local church can partner in catalyzing DMMs.

Sending out and assisting disciple making teams financially can be a wonderful way to sow into Movements. Great care needs to be exhibited in these partnerships, though. Local church leaders can unknowingly operate with a “franchise” paradigm, where our assumption is that every kingdom outpost will look like our home church does. In global DMMs we see incredible diversity ranging from very simple churches to much larger and more highly organized churches.

Sometimes we use the Powerpoint titled “Elephant Churches/Rabbit Churches” to help leaders envision some of the incredible value in this diversity. If, for example, you want to move large heavy items, rabbits cannot get the job done, but if you want to feed a massive army, raising rabbits will actually be the better way to go. When that presentation was originally presented it contrasted the large church model with small simple communities of faith as though the choice has to be made. But a friend in Africa saw a different way forward.

Shodankeh envisioned “Elephant Churches” intentionally and strategically planting networks of “Rabbit Churches” across his nation, West Africa and throughout the globe. Where there is little organized persecution some of those small simple churches will grow larger, build buildings and become regional training centers which allow the gospel to flow out to the villages which have not heard.

Having a Kingdom mindset, rather than a parochial approach, is critical. Just think about the church in Antioch (Acts 13) if you need a both/and text for this vision.

Q&A: Why is “pace and purity” so important in a Discovery Bible Study?

Pace, as we use it, refers to keeping answers brief enough that everyone answers every question every session. People here in the U.S. are particularly time conscious, so answering in sentences, rather than paragraphs, actually encourages more participation by more people. Purity refers to sticking with the passage being studied that session, or an occasional reference to a passage the group has Discovered previously. This practice of “purity” protects people who are less familiar with the Bible from feeling incompetent and giving up on hearing from God.

Seventy-five minutes is the ideal time frame here in the US. Request the group members to commit to ninety minutes and end it at 75 so everyone will be pleasantly surprised. They may hang around longer, but the first three to four sessions it is critical to complete the eight questions in 75 minutes every session.

When a Person of Peace connects you to her/his household, your goal is to equip their “inside leader” to facilitate the Discovery process ASAP. It is absolutely imperative that an ongoing coaching relationship be maintained on a weekly basis with this “inside leader” since he/she will be hearing these passages for the first time. This is where you explore the joys and challenges of the ongoing group since you may not be a personal participant. In the ideal situation this “inside leader” will begin facilitating no later than the fourth session.

As a group begins to find joy in hearing, trusting and obeying God’s Word, the great temptation will be to invite other family and friends to join this existing group. As noted in one of my recent posts (https://dmmcoach.com/2021/03/25/addition-vs-multiplication/), bringing new people into existing groups is one of the quickest ways to get addition results rather than multiplication. Encourage anyone who wants to invite a new person to the group to rather invite that person to identify a group of 3-4 family or friends who might like to be part of a new group. Offer to coach that person in starting this new group. Remember, your goal is to see people come to faith and become disciple makers. Do not forget that second part of the goal!

Starting new groups out of the relationships identified within the first group is one of the best ways to avoid a group growing so large it can no longer accomplish the deep sharing it grew out of originally. Multiplying groups safeguards the original group’s capacity for depth and combines the power of multiplication.

Addition vs. Multiplication

In my previous post I wrote: “Good things can happen when an individual is added to an existing group. But GREAT things can happen when we coach someone to start a new Discovery Group with their family/friends who are willing to participate.”

Getting Groups to Multiply is hard work for the catalyst. It will fill your week with increased workload. Your schedule will become busier for a season. You will be coaching someone to do something which would be far easier for you to do yourself, but you must refrain if you want to get to Multiplication. You will be your own greatest enemy in making this transition. Admitting you have this problem is the first step to recovery!

As noted in the chart contained in the previous post, “Addition” has some of its own challenges: will existing group members truly include new participants? At what point will they give in to their own tendencies and become insular, protective of the friendships that exist and resist new additions? Also, there is a heavy emotional burden placed on the new addition–pushing through the feeling of being an outsider who is “crashing the party” for the other group members. Whether you realize it or not, being the “newbie” feels awkward, especially if the group is speaking about spiritual themes at a deeper level than you are capable of, yet.

Participating in a “new” group, where most of the participants are at the same stage of learning can be much easier. That is especially true if they are your own family/friends/co-workers/neighbors who are gathering at your apartment, community center or office conference room

Inviting people to start a new Discovery Group among “their people” feels so crazy we easily talk ourselves out of taking the risk. It is “easier” to invite someone who shows interest into an ongoing group, even when you realize the burden of feeling like an outsider shifts to their shoulders. Why do you want them to take the greater risk than you are willing to take?

As Collins’ book notes, “Good is often the enemy of Great.”

Why Do I Keep Getting Addition Results?

What has to change to transition from Addition Strategies and Tactics to Multiplication Strategies and Tactics?

Recently when I was discussing the answer to this question I started to envision a chart which helps to compare/contrast some of the differences between these two approaches. But I have also been meditating on why we default to Addition, even though many of us “want” Multiplication. Here is the chart I developed.

Addition Multiplication
1. Connects an individual to an existing group1. Individuals become connectors to groups
2. Is possible when group members are inclusive2. Is possible wherever PoP has friends
3. Strong leaders are needed to start each new group3. Facilitation lowers starting demands
4. Challenges participants to be open to an old group4. Changes participants into facilitators
5. Encourages decisions of faith5. Encourages participants to become disciple makers
6. Outgrows space when successful6. Expands to new friendship groups in new locations
7. Easy to do with existing group; difficult to expand7. Challenging to start; expands more once going
Compare/Contrast Addition Strategies with Multiplication Strategies

Why? Why would we take the approach I have titled “Addition” in the chart?

It’s what we know. It avoids filling our schedule with lots of groups. It protects us from the risk that a new group will not develop the new rhythms needed for life to materialize. It fits with our highly individualistic cultural norms. It “gives in” to our fear that people will not be willing to invite their family/friends to participate in a Discovery Group.

Please do not misunderstand me. Good things can happen when an individual is added to an existing group. But GREAT things can happen when we coach someone to start a new Discovery Group with their family/friends who are willing to participate.

Q&A: Why Apply DBS to Church Settings?

Question: If the Discovery approach was developed for family and/or friendship groups of lost people who are spiritual seekers, why do people try to use it in churched settings like Sunday School or existing Small Groups?

Answer: This is a perceptive follow-up question to my last two posts. There may be numerous answers given, but I want to share just a few. Some church leaders have become convinced that something desperately needs to change. The challenges that the COVID-19 “shelter in place” orders created have shaken many with the realization that hosts of people sitting in pews on Sundays are not self-feeders. Rather, the typical sermon and Sunday School teaching formats “disciple” people towards passivity and expecting the “expert” Bible students to entertain us with some new and interesting knowledge or new and interesting way of hearing the “Old, Old Story.” These leaders have likely heard stories that hold out hope that “Discovery Groups are pandemic proof.”

I celebrate that kind of opening. I pray many more reach this place.

Others have read or heard about DBS and think it might be a solution to recurring problems. Maybe it will re-energize Sunday School programs by making it easier to train up teachers. Maybe it will re-energize small group ministries which already exist. These two motivations are often fraught with lots of challenges.

I will attempt to help coach folks who start at these places, but often feel great skepticism in my heart. Usually I am not skeptical about the motivation, but the likelihood of success. Many who are participating in these types of settings prove unwilling to make the changes which are required. The typical participants often reflect the different types of soil present in Jesus’ parable which we call the Parable of the Sower.

Reflecting on: Focusing on Groups

From: Focusing on winning individuals.
To: 
Focusing on groups — to bring the gospel into existing families, groups and communities.

90% of salvations described in the book of Acts describe either large or small groups. Only 10% are individuals who experience salvation by themselves. We also see Jesus focusing on sending out his disciples to look for households, and we see Jesus often reaching households. Note examples such as Zacchaeus and his entire household experiencing salvation (Luke 19:9-10), and the Samaritan woman coming to faith along with a great many from her entire town (John 4:39-42).

Reaching groups has many advantages over reaching and gathering individuals. For example:

  • Instead of transferring “Christian culture” to a single new believer, local culture begins to be redeemed by the group.
  • Persecution isn’t isolated and focused on the individual but is normalized across the group. They can support each other in persecution.
  • Joy is shared as a family or community discovers Christ together.
  • Unbelievers have a visible example of “here’s what it looks like for a group of people like me to follow Christ.”

(Copied from: https://2414now.net/2020/09/23/mindshifts-in-movements-part-2/)

This is one of the primary ways Christians in the Global North unintentionally undermine multiplication strategies. When we first encounter a spiritual seeker is a crucial juncture. If we view this person as only an individual, we will most likely work to disconnect her/him from the groups in order to connect them to ourselves and/or other groups. Likely we will invite them to other groups where we already have meaningful relationships. While this is not wrong, it is unwise. It is addition at its best/worst.

Before you start a one on one Bible study with an individual ask, “Who do you know who also has these spiritual thoughts?” Or maybe, “Which of your friends might be asking the same kinds of spiritual questions?” The goal is to remember that most people have family or friends and Persons of Peace will want their closest relationships to go on this spiritual journey with them, if at all possible.

As the copied material above indicates, this effort to see a whole family and/or group of friends come to faith together is absolutely essential when working in “closed” people groups. While we assume that is not so important here in the U.S., we may need to reconsider, especially if we are reaching out to refugees or immigrants. Just this morning I heard about a teenager who came to faith as an individual and his immediate family sent him back to their homeland (they are refugees from a nation which is overwhelmingly unreached) so he can be peer pressured into renouncing his faith. What if he had been encouraged to invite family members to participate from the beginning?

While the people you are contacting may not be like that teenager, what if their disciples are? Why not start a process which can be used anywhere in this world? Let’s use practices which honor the family and friendship structures which are already in place? Yes, some relationships will become oppositional, but let’s make sure it is not because of our failure to try to reach people in their existing groups.

Do I Recommend a Mash-up?

Question: Would you recommend a mash-up of DMM, T4T and 4 Fields training approaches? What if it is an attempt at a call for unity?

Answer: I appreciate the call for unity and the desire to cooperate. I highly commend a spirit of understanding one another and working together whenever possible.

The piece of this discussion which doesn’t get adequate consideration, in my opinion, is the history of why Disciple Making Movement (DMM) strategies were developed. History can arm us against making the same mistakes over and over again.

David Watson was trained in the same non-traditional missionary strategies as some of the first folks who developed T4T, 4 Fields and some of the other CPM approaches. But ALL six of his first indigenous church planters were martyred by the Bhojpuri within six months of being deployed. 

David was understandably distraught over these traumatic events. After months of being depressed and eventually becoming angry with God, the Holy Spirit pushed him back to Matthew 10 and Luke 10. David was not happy to be taken there, since he had spent much time there already. Finally, he begrudgingly started writing out a list of the directions Jesus gave the people he sent out (both the 12 and the 72).

As he was making that list he recognized two things. First, Jesus’ directions are quite different than traditional evangelistic strategies, especially since they were not “confrontational” (this is my word, not something I have ever heard David or anyone else use). Second, Jesus deploys people looking for a special category of person (“worthy man” or “Person of Peace”). They did not go to confront a village of its sin (ala street corner preaching). They were sent with a message about the coming King, but they proclaim it where they are welcomed. 

When Watson trained his second group that is what he did differently. He got a very different outcome, as we now know. 

T4T was the write-up of what proved fruitful in China (as I understand the history). 4 Fields and other strategies were developed for different contexts. I get that and I appreciate what was accomplished in those other settings. 

But globally the least reached people groups are in resistant regions or closed nations. I want to carefully recognize that and use the approach that works best for the least reached because they are always the bullseye (at the center) of what I want to see ultimately accomplished.

T4T is training heavy on the front end because it is designed to take traditionally formed believers and re-train and re-deploy them to see lost people won. I applaud that. 

I am cognizant that we have to help people who come to faith through Discovery Groups to intentionally discover how to live as strong communities of faith. That is when it more naturally happens. After they come to faith through Discovering God, they are ready to begin discovering what living together looks like, unless denominations or traditional believers are super-imposing outside standards on them. Yes, there are challenges when this is happening in a context where lost people have been radically impacted by some interactions with “church”—whatever connotations they have for that word. 

I am not adamantly against attempting a mash-up. But ultimately we are always going to have to answer whether or not we believe people can be discipled to faith. Some very vocal Calvinists flatly reject such a possibility. If we say, “Yes, it is possible,” then we will be at least okay with using Discovery as our evangelism strategy. If we say, “No,” then we are left with the necessity of doing some kind of “confrontational evangelism.”

I cannot overcome this theological divide. I can attempt to reason with such Calvinists, but here is a chasm that will result in us needing to love, honor and accept each other, but also truthfully acknowledge we are going to evangelize differently. 

The biggest difference is whether you call people to “make a decision of faith” quickly (what I call “confrontational evangelism”) or look for Persons of Peace and work through them to get their household into a Discovery setting (which is going to be a slower call to faith).

Increasingly more CPM folks use DBS as a follow-up Discipleship strategy with those who make a quick decision, or with those who will not make a quick decision, but are still spiritually open (Discovery is not their first choice, but a Plan B strategy). With DMM some form of Discovery is Plan A.

If God miraculously brings someone to faith quickly, DMM practitioners likely will go straight to passages about Jesus and later circle back to any passages which were skipped. We generally want folks to go through the “Creation to Christ” scripture set because God uses it to create a Kingdom worldview for willing participants. Also, it equips those who come to faith in knowing how to lead others to faith in a path they can replicate. 

T4T was developed where confrontational evangelism was typically not deadly. DMM developed where it was (see my previous post). Since most international Movements are in restricted access nations or regions, I believe DMM is the wiser course of action. For example, while Muslim people who would come to faith in the US might not be persecuted for that decision, I know if they eventually return to their home nation, they will need to be equipped to reach others. Leading them to faith in a way they can replicate anywhere in the world has many benefits. 

Strategically and theologically, I lean heavily towards DMM. To me it is the wiser way forward because of the kinds of reasons I have shared. As a result, I will not invest time towards creating mash-ups.

Marvelous in Our Eyes

…the Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes!”
(Psalm 118:23 NIV)

If you enjoy doing word studies, look up the word “marvelous” in an online NIV Bible. Over and over again you will find that the works of God are what truly qualify as “marvelous.” Here is one that is typical:

“Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds.” (Psalms‬ ‭72:18‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

This post begins with the psalmist’s affirmation that God has done a mighty work and those who acknowledge it count it as truly marvelous!

The special work considered in Psalm 118 is a stone which had been rejected by the builders has actually been revealed to be the cornerstone—the most important of all the stones to go into the Temple when Solomon had it built. You see, David wanted to build a Temple, but God told him he was not the right guy for that job (2 Samuel 7), but his son would be. Rather than sulking, David set out to make sure his son could complete it with great haste (1 Chronicles 29) and with the beauty befitting God’s holy name. There were oral traditions that two stones were cut under David’s command which kept getting in the builders’ way. One ended up being the chief cornerstone (maybe at the stone quarry, since no stones were hammered on at the actual Temple site) and the other was actually the capstone at the highest spot on the front.

Jesus declared that saying was a prophecy about himself (Mark 12:10):

Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:
“‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

Later Peter also applies this to Jesus (1 Peter 2:7).

Do you orient your life’s work off him? Do you reject him that central position?

Disciple making movements seek to take their orientation directly from Jesus. That is the reason Matthew 10 and Luke 10 are so significant. These two chapters reveal Jesus’ directions for advancing his Kingdom reign. You intentionally look for the right kind of recipient. Whether you call this person a worthy man or a Person of Peace, this is someone who wants spiritual answers to their challenges and they share those answers with the people they value most. Jesus knows they are so strategic because they bridge the gospel into their social networks.

If you want to reach a closed neighborhood, find the Person of Peace for that community. If you want to reach a specific segment of a city, find Persons of Peace for that segment. As an outsider, it will take you too long to establish the kinds of relationships the Persons of Peace already have. Find them, share with them and watch multiplication begin, as long as you do not undermine it with Addition principles and practices.

God’s work of multiplication is marvelous! He gets the praise, because it is his work!

A Warning

In my previous post I highlighted the value and importance of finding the right near neighbor to become the catalyst. There is a great risk in identifying this as the typical outcome, though. My friend’s response reveals that danger–you waste lots of time.

Those who are already believers currently receive a disproportionate percentage of Kingdom resources.

While my years of schooling make it difficult for me to leave a one-sentence paragraph, that one needs to stand alone. Please go back and re-read it. The likelihood is great that it applies to you. I know it applies to me. This is one of the troubling convictions that come to those of us who travel internationally. After my first trip to West Africa I came back with one haunting conviction: “They do so much with so little and we do so little with so much!”

Catalyzing Multiplication generally requires a two-pronged approach. Barnabas models both prongs when he goes to Antioch. He does what he was sent to do, but he also left, recruited Saul to come back with him and then returned to spend time in that region where the growing work among Gentiles was birthed by the Spirit of God. “Find out where God is working and join him there,” was the counsel Henry Blackaby and Claude King gave us through the Experiencing God workbook. Their materials preceded that wise nugget with an emphasis upon really listening to God. Barnabas listened and he joined what God was doing by connecting two distinct streams of God’s activity.

If believers already receive a disproportionate percentage of Kingdom resources, do not go all in on finding near neighbor Multipliers. Keep actively looking for Persons of Peace, also. It’s a both/and rather than an either/or. I suggest this because you will need some of your own experiences to help coach that potential near neighbor Multiplier when you find him/her. Western Christianity has a huge gravitational attraction which will dominate your life without intentional effort to leverage some of your creativity, energy and efforts toward reaching out to lost people. Make reaching out to them your primary focal point, but keep your eyes and ears open for that near neighbor believer who might become the catalyst, with the right kind of training, coaching and mentoring. Just like you have to beware of the “side drafting” tendencies when you pass a semi on an interstate highway, beware of your own tendencies to get “sucked back into” Addition thinking.

Reflecting on: Who Are the Best Catalysts?

From: “Hoping a new believer or group of new believers will initiate a movement.”
To: “Asking: What national believers who have been followers for many years might become the catalyst(s) for a CPM?”

This relates to the common idea that we as a culturally distant outsider will find and win a lost person(s) who will become the movement catalyst. While this can occasionally happen, the vast majority of movements are started by cultural insiders or near neighbors who have been believers for several or even many years. Their own mindset shifts and fresh understanding of CPM principles open up new possibilities for Kingdom expansion. (Copied from: https://2414now.net/2020/09/22/mindshifts-in-movements-part-1/)

When I shared this list with a friend who is a catalyst in the Middle, he shared:

“I find the last mind-shift something I still go back and forth on. On one hand, I agree with the fact that it is much easier for an insider to start a movement among his own people and those within in the church tend to be better insiders. On the other hand, I often have failed by identifying the wrong insiders who I end up fighting about DNA issues of multiplication and best practices when I initially thought we had traction (sometimes years into the work). Whereas, with those I led to faith as the outside missionary, I got to build the DNA from scratch and didn’t have to fight with the ghost of past tendencies. Since I was this person’s only spiritual father, whatever I modeled for them was the only way and was gold. Whereas, training existing believers sometimes DMM later on the line can be a fad that they move on from. Just some thoughts…. I have trained insider older believers who have worked well!!!!! However, my greatest experience of multiplication has been from new believers that didn’t know anything else!”

I appreciate my friend’s response, because it well illustrates the point Stan and Elizabeth made in the original post at the 24:14 site listed above. Helping long-time believers become DMM catalysts can be slow, tedious and is fraught with great risks. I often compare it to the challenge of buying an old home in a historic district, moving your family into the structure and then starting a massive remodel, while you continue to live there! Deconstruction is absolutely necessary. But it is even harder when that house has been in your family for generations.

My friend in the Middle East had lived there long enough that he speaks the language fluently, understands the culture deeply (he married a woman from his adopted nation) and has made numerous contacts through his side business. His experience is the exception, rather than the rule. Just as it takes listening to God, great wisdom and experience to identify Persons of Peace, it takes the same to identify and help potential Multipliers transition from Addition Paradigms toward implementing true Multiplication mind shifts.

[NOTE: I reserve the phrase Person of Peace for a lost person who will open his/her family/friends to a disciple maker. I suggest we use the term Multiplier to refer to someone who is already a believer who takes up this hard work of Deconstruction/ Reconstruction and begins to actively search for Persons of Peace within their own people group or a near people group. Yes, this is a special category of people, but they are different from the kinds of people Jesus sent the 12 and the 72 looking for in Matthew 10 and Luke 10 respectively.]