A Novice Insider? Really!?

Counter-Intuitives—A novice insider is more effective than highly trained, mature outsider.

If you have read my last two articles, you know that we focus on discipling disciple makers. Our goal in identifying a Person of Peace is not just to see him/her come to know Jesus or even to reach the extended family—our ultimate goal is to reach a community in such a way that they are discipled in how to reach another community.

While cross-cultural workers make significant contributions to Disciple Making Movements (DMMs), this counter-intuitive statement emphasizes the strategic value of insiders. But note, it explicitly highlights the value of a “novice” insider. Why? Why would we value novice insiders so highly?

True movements only happen when the process is infinitely reproducible. When your strategy depends on expensive, time-consuming practices, you will not launch a movement. Let me use an illustration to help you see the point. While American football is the most popular professional sport in the United States, it has not spread to other parts of the world. The name, football, is reserved throughout most of the rest of the world for what we call soccer. Why? Why is soccer so wildly popular throughout the world?

Soccer is infinitely reproducible. It is a simple game that demands very little equipment. You can travel most anywhere in the world and you will likely find a soccer field. If you travel internationally I encourage you to carry a couple of new soccer balls and a small hand pump. I assure you children will know what to do with a ball after you air it up and give it to them. They will be incredibly happy to put your gift to use.

When you train a Person of Peace to facilitate his/her extended family in discovering who God is, you are launching the reproductive engine of a DMM. Any of that first group can reproduce what they experience anywhere they have friends or family who are open to the gospel. The fact that this person is not highly trained is actually a blessing. Others recognize they too can do it because the process does not require Bible college degrees or decades of experience.

Most of the Western church models a slow form of reproduction because we make our Bible studies dependent upon highly-trained, highly experienced Bible teachers and preachers. By contrast, Disciple Making Movements tap into a sweet spot that every evangelist knows already. The best resource for evangelistic outreach is a brand new believer. The first two years after coming to faith is a fruitful sweet spot. One reason this is true is because most of their closest relationships are with not yet saved people. Another reason is the transformation in those years is the greatest—God’s impact on their walk is evident.

When God stirs the heart of a Person of Peace and brings a disciple maker into the picture, powerful things can happen. Stop spending your time frustrating people who do not want to hear the gospel (yet) and start using your time looking for the lost people God is preparing. This is where an abundant harvest arises!

Ready or Not, Here I Come

DMM counter-intuitives—“Share only where Jesus has prepared someone’s heart to hear.” Start with a person of peace (Luke 10:6).

Too often we butt in with a gospel truth where no one is interested in hearing it. Jesus warned his disciples, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6). Why won’t we listen to our Savior?

For hundreds of years, traditional missions directs evangelists to walk into the middle of a village as the people return from their fields and proclaim in a loud voice, “We are here to tell you about Jesus and the Cross.” Many are ridiculed, beaten and martyred. Christianity seen as an invading religion provokes a violent response.

If indigenous evangelists keep getting driven out and even killed, how can there be a Disciple Making Movement? In Northern India a strategic coordinator returned to Scripture for an answer. He found it implemented the Person of Peace strategy outlined in the Gospels.

Initially no one believed the results. Over the next five years indigenous evangelists planted more churches than had been in the previous 50 years. Now there are more that 40,000 new churches in North India. The Person of Peace principle played a significant role in this Disciple Making Movement.

Believers among Unreached Peoples still face tremendous persecution. Yet, rather than being driven out and even martyred, the evangelists use the Person of Peace strategy and it allows them to share the gospel in places that earlier were totally closed to traditional methods. The principle is not new; Christ gave it to the disciples. God’s way is truly the best way.

How can I determine whether or not a person’s heart is prepared to hear the gospel? The great need, as my mentor puts it, is to be “overtly spiritual without being obnoxiously religious.” Every encounter with a person gives us an opportunity to talk about a spiritual reality. The goal is to quickly assess whether this person is currently open, or at least curious about spiritual things. Often people who are closed to religious discussions are intrigued by spiritual ones. Many who refuse to debate religious squabbles are intrigued by spiritual dialogue.

Some Persons of Peace are open to spiritual things because of things God has been doing in their lives for a long time. Note that Cornelius’s prayers and helping the poor had caught God’s attention (Acts 10:4). Lydia was gathered with a group of women for prayer along the river (Acts 16:13). By contrast, though, God used remarkable circumstances to open the heart of the Philippian jailor (Acts 16:22-34). Paul’s authentic spiritual conversations resulted in these two later encounters. But sometimes, like with Cornelius, the Person of Peace finds us! It is an incredible joy to be God’s speaker to a prepared heart!

Going Slow to Go Fast!

Recently I posted the following to my Twitter feed:

CPM counter-intuitives—“Go slow 2 go fast…focus on few 2 win many.” Equip indigenous family heads 2 facilitate discovery of God (Ax 10:33).

Since that is linked to my Facebook account, it showed up there, too. A Facebook friend commented, “Sounds like Confucius. Haha.” I chuckled with him. Later I realized that this is a pretty good way to describe the list of Disciple Making Movements (DMM) Counter-Intuitives.

These Counter-Intuitives are short pithy observations of typical things that happen in DMMs which swim upstream when compared to general mission/evangelistic practices. Let me unpack the one mentioned earlier by way of illustration.

“Go slow to go fast.” Every day the population of the world increases. The growth rate is significantly higher among the nations and people groups who are most resistant to the spread of the gospel. If we keep getting the results we have typically experienced we will grow further behind. This awareness pushes us to find quicker ways of spreading the gospel of the kingdom. Mass evangelism, for example, is an attempt to get the Word out to larger numbers of people at the same time in the hopes of going faster.

But what if the best way to go fast is actually to slow down? Sounds contradictory! We have found that Jesus actually modeled a “slow” method to reach the world. Mass evangelists have often taken us to the passages where Jesus spoke to multitudes as the grounds for their strategy. For example, they might say, “Jesus preached to a huge group through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chs. 5-7). Yes, the multitudes overheard Jesus teaching on the Mount, but he directed it to the twelve that he had hand-picked. While the crowds heard, Jesus models the practice of intentionally training a few. He knew how fickle the crowds are prone to be. He knew he personally had only a short time to set in motion the process by which the world would hear the gospel. He was not going to turn the future over to the crowds; he was going to put it in the hands of his disciples.

If you want to disciple your youth group, hand-pick a few disciplers and train them to train, coach and mentor the members of the youth group. Spend most of your time pouring into them so they can and will reproduce what you are doing (not only discipling, but discipling disciplers). That is the way to produce fruit that lasts.

If you are called to reach a city, it will require you to focus on a few to reach the many. Duplicate this several times and equip them to duplicate it, too, and you have the means to reach the city.

But this Counter-Intuitive has another element that you should not overlook—the people you disciple should be seen by the target audience as insiders. Indigenous family heads are the best means to reach people groups who still have strong family-based systems.

When we transplant Western individualistic strategies into these places we set ourselves and our disciples up for failure. To pick-off an occasional person from these large, tight-knit families insures that they despise Christians. They view us much as we view a cult—“They’ve kidnapped and brain-washed the weakest member of our family!” Such a strategy only works in the Western individualistic worldview regions of our planet (and causes problems with some here, too). We will have greater success if we slow down and train an insider to facilitate a process by which his/her family discovers together who God is and how great his loving provision is for our spiritual needs. Rather than rupturing families, this strategy holds hope for the whole household to come to faith together. Even some of those who do not come to personal faith value being given the opportunity to consider it as part of the family.

But this process can be slower on the front end. You have to find such a person who is open to learning the process and facilitating the discovery. How in the world will that happen?

In Luke 10 Jesus sends the 72 out in 36 pairs. These teams are looking for “persons of peace”—those who are receptive to the peace that comes with the proclamation of the kingdom of heaven. They are not to go from house to house, but find and stay with the receptive person who is hospitable to the gospel. Focus on equipping this person to lead the family in a guided discovery of God’s nature and what surrendering to Jesus’ Lordship entails.

Luke reveals a story of just such a person in his sequel (Acts 10). Cornelius is an excellent example of a Person of Peace. He spends the three days between when he sends for Peter and his arrival gathering the people he influences and has them ready to listen to anything God will tell them to do. God’s Spirit still prepares people like this in our world. God wants the nations to come to know himself. His Son modeled for us a strategy of going slow in order to go fast. (The speed comes because the process is infinitely reproducible and new harvesters are able to come from the harvest. Disciplinig disciplers needs to become our strategy.

Two Remarkable Conversations

One was a young Jewish lady who is training to become a nurse. She said, “Africa is calling my name.” The other was a mother of a six-year old daughter who told me, with tears in her eyes, “No, I cannot picture myself in God’s lap hearing him say, ‘I am proud of you!'”

I traveled to Dallas two days ago to hear news of great things God is doing in Asia. While there I led a devotional for the group. We looked at Ephesians 1:15-23 and Ephesians 3:14-21. Both texts model great intercession and discuss the fact that being on mission with God requires divine power. Paul prayed that the churches planted through the Multiplying Ministry he launched from Ephesus, throughout Asia, would experience God’s “incomparably great power for us who believe” (1:19).

Paul also prayed they would grasp the vastness of Christ’s love so they would “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (3:19). Imagine that! Jesus’s love can produce the fullness of God in us. Then, Paul states a mind-blowing promise–God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (3:20). I am claiming that promise!

Claiming his promise brings me back to those two ladies I mentioned earlier. The first one was in her twenties and had a bubbly personality. She quickly said, “This is only my second flight! Are you a frequent flyer?” I briefly mentioned some of my international flights. She really perked up when I mentioned Africa. “Africa has my name!” she said excitedly. After finding out she was in nursing school, I told her she could do much good in Africa.

Eventually the conversation died down and she pulled out her book. I got out my Kindle and returned to Neil Cole’s book, Church 3.0. After a while I noticed she had fallen asleep. Later she woke from her nap as drinks were being served.

When we returned to our earlier conversation I said, “My first international flight was to Israel.” She really became animated. She told me she was a practicing Jew and was excited she would be able to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land next year. She started asking questions about my trip. I was able to describe some of the remarkably unique characteristics of the tiny strip of land we call Israel.

Before traveling there I did not realize you can stand on a high point in Jerusalem and see the borders to the north, south, east and west. I pointed out to her that this narrow land bridge connects Eur-Asia to Africa. Because of the desert to the east, all the land routes passed through this region. God had called Abraham and his people to this hallway between the largest landmasses of the world. “What an awesome way to put his people on display for the nations!” I praised him. She said, “I never thought about it like that.”

Then she turned to tell me that her parents were divorced and her mom had recently converted to Christianity. Her mom was baptized in Israel on a trip last year. Now she said that her mom wanted her to read the New Testament to be “well-rounded.”

I said, “Well, with the exception of Luke and Acts which were written by a Gentile, the rest of the New Testament is the largest block of Jewish writings from the first century.” I proceeded to tell her that the first four books tell the story of Jesus for the sake of communicating it well to four different people groups. Matthew writes for a more Jewish audience. Mark tells the story of Jesus for Romans. Of course, Luke writes for Gentiles. Then John seems to tell it for a more Eastern mind-set. She asked, “Now which one was for Jewish readers?” I told her it was Matthew, the first one and gave a few illustrations. She seemed intrigued. We were taxing into DFW airport, so our conversation ended.

On the return flight I noticed that the lady sitting next to me had on a jacket with a Belmont University logo. I said, “Oh, are you a student at Belmont?”

She said, “No, I have worked there for seventeen years!” So I asked if she was on the faculty and she said, “I am an adjunct faculty member, but I work full-time in the recreation department.”

She asked about my work and I told her that I had gone to a conference in Dallas because of my work training indigenous church planters in Africa. She seemed interested so I shared the four questions we train them to use when they facilitate Discovery Bible Studies. After she asked a question I told her that the third question about obedience is where inner transformation takes hold. When she showed and openness to hearing more I shared the S.P.E.C.K. questions that can help us discover how to obey any passage. As I got to the third “P”–“Is there a Promise here that I can claim?” I mentioned the promise in Ephesians 3:20 of God’s willingness and ability to give us more.

A question popped into my mind, right at this point. I asked it–“Can’t you just picture yourself crawling up in God’s lap to ask him for something and hearing him say, ‘You make me so proud!”?

As she fought back the tears she said, “No. I know he exists, and I know he is able, but I am not worthy of that. He is Sovereign and he can do what he wants. I don’t want to risk asking for something he does not want to give me and getting a ‘No.'”

My heart just ached. But I had solid confirmation that she is churched. Sovereign is a word you only hear from church people. It turns out she is a pastor’s wife for a church that has been shrinking from 70 to 50 since they have been working with them.

I reminded her of Jesus’ story about the Prodigal Son, pointing out that the younger boy was not worthy of Papa’s extravagant grace. While he’s practicing his “I’m unworthy” speech his dad is running to receive him back as his son.

I returned to finish the letters “E.C.K.” Then I asked, “Does that make sense? Can you think of somewhere you might do that kind of study?”

“Well, I was actually thinking about that and had begun to think maybe I could do it in a Bible study with some of the girls who work for me. We employ over 100 of our students. Up until two years ago I always did a Bible study with some of them. Maybe I can start one using this approach this fall.”

Our flight landed and we started to de-plane. Since I had an aisle seat, I stepped out and back to allow her and the lady across from my seat out. We walked through the plane, out to the concourse. She stepped aside to let the other lady go by saying, “I will wait on my co-worker.” As I passed, she said, “Thank you.”

I said, “I will pray that you find a Lady of Peace–one of those girls who works for you who will be willing to invite her friends for the study. That way you can harvest grapes and bananas, rather than apples and oranges.”

Wow, I have never had one conversation like those, let alone two. Isn’t it just like “The Impossibility Specialist” to give me these two interactions? I praise Papa for the Holy Spirit leading me through these conversations! I do pray the first lady reads Matthew and finds her heart burning in her. I pray the second one finds a Person of Peace and experiences the joy of God’s pleasure as she uses this awesome group harvesting strategy!