Ponder with me what the recent findings of a Barna research project reveal about people who increased their active engagement with the Bible implies about the potential for starting Discovery Groups focused on reading the Bible:
Bible Engagement Survey (2017)
Increased Bible Engagement = Important Part of Faith Journey
More than one half (56%) of those who report an increase in Bible readership attribute it to their understanding that Bible reading is an important part of their faith journey….Second to this response, many people point to a difficult life experience that led them to search the Bible for direction or answers (39%)…. Seeing how the Bible changed someone they knew for the better was an important motivating factor for 30 percent of adults, as was being asked by someone they know to read the Bible (20%).
What might happen if your friend going through a difficulty was invited to read what the Bible has to say about that issue? What if you invited folks to read what the Bible actually says about God’s nature? Just because some of the people you know are Bible skeptics, don’t assume they all are.
While the first group may be most likely believers already, the other three groups are not so likely. Who can you invite to read the Bible? Which of them might become the case study for an improved life? Start praying she will be open. Take the plunge and invite him. Oh, and when he says “Yes,” be sure to ask, “Who else in your social network might join us if you invited?”
No, I am not suggesting anyone else has to open a non-profit coffee shop (while I am also not opposed to you doing that, but if you do, let me connect you with Rob so you can benefit from his experience). I am telling you this true story to illustrate that “first steps” are going to be greatly impacted by where you are on the journey to making disciple-making disciples (true replication).
While we say we don’t, most of us really want the ease of a “one-size-fits-all” strategy. We don’t want to spend the time getting to know a coach/mentor who will ask a gazillion questions about what we are already doing in order to answer the question, “What are the first steps I ought to take to reach this God-sized vision and overcome my dissatisfaction by pressing through the resistance I am already facing?”
In our heart of hearts, we know that canned answers will not work. But we also know that change is going to mess with our lives. That is why we stay in dead-end jobs. That is why many stay unhappy in their marriages–the work of change will be demanding. We dance the dance we dance because we won’t do the hard work of learning a new dance and doing it long enough that it becomes our new norm, our new default.
Our default evangelistic strategies, developed to reach individualists, isolate people from their existing affinity groups (family and/or friends). Perpetuating them will contribute to extraction and undermine any true movement potential! We have seen the enemy and he is us.
Too much work has gone into making The Well different to tack on traditional missional strategies. Our post-Enlightenment young adults are wary of the communitylessness of my generation. They want authentic community. Those who are disciples want to discover ways to plant, water and harvest the gospel within their affinity groups, wherever possible, rather than ditching them for surface-level small groups which are not authentic. They go to third spaces looking for something meaningful
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.
Coupling a vision for something new with dissatisfaction can be powerful fuel for the proper first steps. Recently Debra and I needed to prepare our back yard for an upcoming construction project. The Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving provided perfect weather and we had time off. We needed to remove several sections of privacy fence, the posts that held them, a swing set frame and a twenty-year-old maple tree.
Thankfully, I had learned that a fence jack would easily lift 4″x 4″ fence posts out of the ground. Our vision of a detached shop and dissatisfaction over the clutter and persistent dust in our garage fueled our dream. Yes, I knew the first steps that were adequate for overcoming the resistance of the concrete that had been placed around those fence posts more than fifteen years ago. Removing the fence just took time and persistence. But late Friday afternoon we attempted to remove one of the two 6″x 6″ posts that supported the swing. This resistance was much greater.
My grandfather’s fence jack was not able to budge either of these posts. I suspected there were tree roots that were helping hold the extra weight of the larger posts and concrete down. But the reality was, it was going to take more force to push that pole out of the ground. A 12-ton hydraulic jack and the fence jack were able to provide the force. It took some ingenuity to apply that force in the right places, but Saturday ended with the site prepared.
Now we wait for the building to begin. All our hard work was just getting things out of the way that had to go. What will you need to demolish to create a capacity to build new strategies? Too often we do not count the cost of what has to go before new building begins.
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.