Critical Elements for Starting (pt. 3)

  1. Find Persons of Peace: Taken from Luke 10 and Matthew 10, as we serve, we are prayerfully seeking out a worthy person, or a person of peace.  This will be someone who is open to discussing spiritual things, and curious about the idea of following Jesus.  A lot of times these are people who have some type of influence in the community or group you are trying to reach.  For example, in Africa, it may be the village chief, or it may be the village drunk.  If either come to the path of following Jesus, their change can drastically impact other people around them.  Once you have this truth seeker, you invite them to experience a Discovery Group with you, and you encourage them to invite their friends and family, and/or to share what they are learning with them.  If you share the the reign of God with someone within the group God calls you to reach, and they are disinterested, you move on because they are not yet ready to hear and further efforts may actually increase their resistance.
  • Persons of Peace—these are not yet saved people who God’s Spirit is preparing to be bridges for the Gospel to enter their families and communities. These are the kinds of people Jesus sent the 72 out in pairs to find in Luke 10:1ff. Cornelius (Acts 10), Lydia and the Philippian jailor (Acts 16) are examples of Persons of Peace. In each of these situations “households” came to faith together and that is what we anticipate can happen. Remind people in the harvest force that when you are harvesting apples and oranges you pick them one by one, but with grapes and bananas you harvest them in bunches.
  • Scriptures:
    • Acts 11:1-18 (Cornelius was responsive, but a vision and tongues from the Holy Spirit were necessary to get the messenger to go).
    • Matthew 10:1-16 (Jesus sends the 12 out two by two looking for “some worthy person”).
    • Luke 10:1-16 (Jesus sends 72 others looking for Persons of Peace).
    • Acts 16:6-15 (The gospel enters the “oikos”—household of Lydia after Paul listens to the Holy Spirit).
    • John 4:1-42 (the woman at the well contrasts greatly with the thinking of the disciples in this story). .
  • Activities:
    • After practicing the Discovery Group format for three weeks, do the fourth week in public places (e.g., a Starbucks, a mall food court, at your gym’s cool down area). Be sure that there are no more than four people in each group. In addition to doing the study, watch for people around you who are eavesdropping on your Discovery Group.
    • Every week Question # 3 is focusing on our efforts to obey what we heard and to share about our efforts to find Persons of Peace.
    • Celebrate successes!

Church as the Gathered

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.]

How Deep Is The Well?

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.

The Well rooms

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

First Steps???

I continue to worship with Stones River. They also insisted I continue to serve as one of the six shepherds (“elders” sounds old and within our fellowship these groups tend to focus too much on things deacons should do and no one focuses on spiritual leadership, so we decided a name change might remind us and the members of our family that we are attempting to have a different focus). While I gather with Stones River, when I am in town, I travel a fair amount internationally and domestically. These are the times when it is hard staying in the loop, but I have a deep trust of the other men with whom I serve. Nine out of the next ten weeks I will miss our Sunday gathering, but I will be able to participate in the Monday evening shepherds meetings.

Starting next Sunday, I will be driving about forty miles to do some training at another church. The Well storySome of their folks have opened a non-profit coffee shop as an intentional outreach. The business was deliberately organized as a fund-raising mechanism for water projects in third-world nations. The name is appropriately, The Well.

Recently, they launched three Sunday evening worship experiences that happen in one side of the coffee house. They have met eight people who have expressed some interest in further spiritual discussions. But how do these caring Christians conduct these conversations in ways that are non-manipulative and hold the greatest hope of bearing spiritual fruit. They hope Discovery Groups will be helpful.

Is There Anything New Here?

One person who read my last blog responded, “Is there anything new here? This is something I have been saying for the past 40 years, and I heard it from others before me…” My response was, “While it is not new, the priorities of churches (house or legacy) indicate most reject this reality.”

Let me give you a little of my story as background. I have spent most of my life worshipping with congregations in the 100-150 range. I have served as a preaching minister in three of those for a combined 31 years. But almost ten years ago God invited me on a journey exploring the great need of people who have never had the opportunity to hear the gospel once. “What will it take to get the gospel into regions where the power brokers do not want it?” became a compelling question for me.

But what about 50+ years of spiritual journey? Juxtapose those two questions.

Being a “both/and” guy, I tried to do both. Amazingly, God gave me several years of knowing where he was taking me before he called me make the change. I am so thankful for his patience with me and wish I would have done a better job of extending the same to others around me (oh, well, that is “water under the bridge”).

But, most people who came to the Lord like me, still want to take the church with us when we believe God has called us on a new journey. We want their prayers. We want their money. We want their approval. We want their manpower. We keep thinking it would be so much easier if they would join us in this transition. And some of us do everything we can to “shoe-horn” them into it. And then we wonder why they resist us and resent our tactics.

Just because God called me does not mean he called Stones River Church. It was easier for me to see that truth for someone else than for myself.

The Good Muslim?

Yes, these recently settled people were at great risk. Their situation was dire.

The king of Assyria ordered, “Send back some priests who were taken into exile from there. They can go back and live there and instruct the people in what the god of the land expects of them….They honored and worshiped God, but not exclusively—they also appointed all sorts of priests, regardless of qualification, to conduct a variety of rites at the local fertility shrines. They honored and worshiped God, but they also kept up their devotions to the old gods of the places they had come from” (2 Kings 17:27,32-33, The Message).

The Samaritans of Jesus’ day were descended from these peoples. This is the historical-cultural background behind Jesus’ parable we call “The Good Samaritan.” It also informs his interactions with the woman at the well and people from her village. Jews considered the Samaritans spiritual mutts. While they claimed to worship the God of Israel, the religious purists knew their sordid spiritual lineage.

Sounds remarkably similar to Islam.

Would Jesus shock us with the modern-day Parable of the Good Muslim? Would he spend a couple of days with Muslims who want to hear about the Messiah?

 

Who Defines the Terms? (contextualization)

I find the use of the word “skeptic” interesting as the starting point. I would hope that the greater detail of the book would detail why this term is used. I suspect it reflects the Southern California academic/young professional setting targeted by InterVarsity there—the “Post-Modern” worldview that Choung’s dissertation addressed.

Since I believe the Western attempt to export Modernity to the majority world is unwise, I am going to be cautious about introducing Post-modern terminology and concepts. “Individuality run amok” is one of Post-modernisms stinging critiques of Modernity. But I fear that the Thesaurus being utilized was defined on Modernity’s terms.

Many of the least-reached people groups in our world are pre-modern! Yes, they are being impacted by elements of Modernity and Post-modernism, the more “connected” they are, but why drag them through all of this? They have “skipped” the land-line telephone technology in many areas, going from no phones to cell phones. Let’s skip the individuality the terms create.

Let us find Persons of Peace. Train them to facilitate discovery studies within their families, friendship groups and communities. Coach and mentor them as high into leadership as they will progress. Equip them to contextualize for their people group. They will do it better than we will. Let them draw the “four circles” for their context, if that proves needed.

By Their Fruits You Will Know Them

When we first encounter a people group, we learn about them through their actions—the words they speak, the way they treat others, and their responses to the things that happen around them.

What they do—their behavior—gives us insight into their worldview. Their behavior around special times like the birth of a child, rites of passage, marriage and death are especially reflective of their worldview.

While some actions can lose their connections to values over time, there are others that continue to be directed by and reinforce deeply held values, beliefs and one’s worldview. For example, common greetings historically grew out of worldview. But over generations, many using these no longer have any sense of connection. They have become empty traditions.

Too often, missionaries of the past focused great attention on actions that were dubbed “Christian.” Calling people to imitate the behavior that is important back home, may actually encourage syncretism. Here a thin veneer of “Christian” behavior camouflages an unchanged worldview.

Certain behaviors are clearly antithetical to a biblical worldview (for example, idolatry). Others are not and can be adopted for the sake of winning people to Christ. Another category may have to be adapted to intentionally prompt spiritual discussions.

Next week we will consider the values we hold which shape our actions.

 

[NOTE: Diagram comes from Lloyd E. Kwast’s article “Understanding Culture,” pages 397-399 in the 2009 Perspectives Reader, which was edited by Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthore.]

 

Steering a Parked Life

Last week I encountered two quotes that converged for me. The first said, “It is hard to steer a parked car.” A vehicle that is barely moving is easier to turn than one that is sitting still. When we attempt to obey what we hear God calling us to do, our lives become more open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Another friend wrote the following in her Facebook status:

“Do what you know you should do, and you will know what to do…God clarifies in the midst of obedience, not beforehand”… I’m already seeing what I’ve begged God to show me while sitting still… He really is in the MOVEMENT!

How often do we miss out on blessings because we will not lean into what we already know God calls us to do? Yes, He is sovereign and will accomplish his ultimate purposes. But there are good things along the way that are connected to our openness to receive.

In John 14 and 15 Jesus expresses numerous blessings that come to those who are moving, those who obey Jesus:

14:15-17      When we obey Jesus, He will pray and in answer to his prayer the Father will give the Spirit of Truth

14:23-24      Loving obedience to Jesus results in the Father and Jesus abiding with the obedient disciple

15:10-11      Loving obedience brings Jesus’ joy to completion in the disciple

15:12-15      Loving obedience reveals we are Jesus’ friends

15:16-17      We will bear much fruit—fruit that lasts!

If you are not experiencing these blessings, maybe you are like a parked car. If you continue to beg God for clarity, maybe you are ignoring an earlier answer he has already given. Start moving in the direction he called you and see if your life is not more easily steered!

Spiritual Warfare (continued)

Felicity Dale posted a link to my most recent blog on her Facebook page. One of her friends raised some good questions and we had the following dialogue:

[Question:] Enjoyed the article, John… thanks for (re-)posting it, Felicity. I too have had first-hand experience of spiritual opposition (and deliverance, for that matter), so I agree that a disciple must engage in spiritual warfare.

However, could I be (potentially) controversial? Ref. for example, “Mobilizing intercessors is essential for disciple makers.” Now, I may be showing my ignorance here, because I wouldn’t call myself an ‘intercessor’! But are there really certain gifted people with ‘special’ access to the Throne for the purpose of intercession? Don’t we all have access to the Father (i.e., Eph. 2:18)? Is not intercession just part-and-parcel of being a disciple, rather than an exclusive role in the Body (i.e. 1 Tim. 2)?

[Reply:] Great question! Jesus has given every single one of us special access to the throne. While there are not “certain gifted people” there are those who will pledge themselves to the role. There are people who will take up Paul’s request, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Ephesians 6:18-20). Those who will storm the gates of hell need to know they are being lifted up to heaven by people who will persevere in the heavenly battle. Jesus wanted that in the garden.

[Question:] I see and respect your point, John. However, was Paul addressing Ephesian disciples, or Ephesian intercessors? I see no subtitle, ‘and to you intercessors in Ephesus I write…’. Again, all Jesus’ disciples were with Him at Gethsemane, not just a few intercessory ‘experts’.

My point is this: we’re all called to ‘make disciples’. I cannot say, “I am not called to make disciples… I’m an intercessor.” I would argue that we’re all both / and.

[Reply:] I am not speaking of roles in the sense of titles. I am speaking of those who take up the responsibility with diligence and perseverance. With you, I disciple people to pray—to plead God’s promises. I disciple them to intercede. While I encourage that in all of them, I learn which ones will persist in prayer. These are the inner circle (like the three that Jesus took deeper into the garden) upon whom I lean more heavily.

[Question:] Yes, I see now. Thanks John. May He bless your work in Him.

[Reply:] Have a great day. I love the dialogue!

I really do love the dialogue. One of the things I dislike about preaching is the absence of interaction. I allow questions and comments on my blog because I want dialogue. It is hard to know whether or not you are addressing the challenges and needs people have without giving them the opportunity to discuss.

Knowing that people are serious about interceding on my behalf is a tremendous blessing. Being confident that I can send out an email and the situations I raise will be lifted into the throne room is so meaningful. Paul noted, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:10-12). Satan is a schemer. We are in a battle in the heavenly realms. Our greatest resource there are our intercessions.

Be sure when you commit to pray for someone that you do. Discipline yourself to pray kingdom passages and promises for these people. It was in this vein that I wrote several articles about praying Scriptures a couple of years ago. Check them out:

https://johnkking.wordpress.com/2009/12/23/praying-luke-10/

https://johnkking.wordpress.com/2009/12/23/colossians-19-23/

https://johnkking.wordpress.com/2009/12/23/praying-galatians-5/