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: How Do You Balance Grace and Obedience

Here is the actual question which was raised at the Salt & Light conference: “Setting aside cheap grace (believing without obedience), does the approach of emphasizing obedience lead to moralism and works-based salvation mindsets (my works save me and approve me before God). How do you help keep a balance of obedience and the disciple’s affections for God and grasp of grace?”

Our first question, asked of every passage we study in a Discovery Group, is “What is revealed about God?” Proper obedience grows out of a burgeoning awareness of who God is and what causes his heart joy, concern and deep passion. People can only be expected to respond in obedience to the degree we are coming to know and trust God. Responsive obedience is what we are calling for in obedience-based following of Jesus.

As some have noted, “Obedience is the love language Jesus calls for from his followers.” He often points out, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

A Muslim brother and sister were working through the Creation to the Cross scripture set years ago in Nashville. Isaiah 53 is the bridge passage which is the last Old Testament text before the group moves into the Gospels. After a careful multiple readings of the text and defining any new words, my friend asked, “What do we learn about God from what we have just heard?” The brother took a while to respond with his head slightly bowed. Looking up he responded, “God loves us,” and unprompted he added, “My how the Suffering Servant loves us!”

The obedience we model and call for in a Discovery Group is simple and relevant to what the day’s passage reveals about God and the characters in the story. Sometimes we may need to use the S.P.E.C.K. acronym to help people identify how they might obey. Does this passage mention a Sin you wrestle with committing? If it does, then how can you prepare yourself for you next temptation in this area? What is the model a Prayer or Praise form in this passage you could imitate? What is the Promise it contains which you need to claim? What action does someone take in this passage which can serve as an Example you should imitate? What is the explicit Command given in this text you could start obeying? What important Knowledge in this passage is significant enough to memorize?

This kind of simple obedience, as a response to what is being revealed about God’s character, becomes an open door to truly learning to “follow Jesus.” Obedience to King Jesus is at the heart of being a true disciple and it is absolutely essential to becoming an intentional disciple maker!

Q&A: What Cautions Do You have for Us?

Question: What cautions do you have for our church to make this as effective as possible?

Answer: Please note that the question addresses a very specific context. The 8 Question DBS approach was not developed with the typical church setting in mind (be sure to read my previous post which is linked below). Whether you are envisioning using Discovery in a Sunday School setting or a traditional small group hosted in a church member’s home, you are applying the format for a setting which is significantly different than the setting for which it was designed.

Applying Discovery to a Sunday School setting will have immediate challenges regarding time frame and typical seating arrangements. But there is a difference that is of greater significance, which is the expectation of those who will participate.

Most church goers have experienced a long and consistent process of being expected to learn new data more than applying that learning directly to their lives. Transitioning to an obedience-based form of lifestyle will require great love, patience, and perseverance. Role modelling coming up with good S.M.A.R.T. “I will…” Statements and then following through with obeying them during the week will be the best way to call participants to make this challenging paradigm shift. The convener of this type of group must set a new tone by his/her consistent practice outside the class experience.

Let’s return to the issue of time frame. Typically groups of 4-5 people need at least 75 minutes to complete the DBS process and even then they will have to be quite intentional in being brief during their responses to each of the questions. Much like grade school children using their “best” stall tactics to prevent their teacher from getting to the quiz, many adults drag out their answers to the early sharing questions to avoid those which are designed to move to application via obedience, sharing and service.

Whenever possible, having the chairs in a room arranged in small circles with no more than five chairs in each circle increases the likelihood of success. Starting promptly on time and keeping the smaller groups moving briskly through the questions is critical. Early into this experience it will feel “rushed” to the majority of the participants, so you need to expect resistance, push-back and/or passive-aggressive behavior. You are asking people to change their norms and even the self-proclaimed “change champions” often dig in their heels. You likely will need to have a private conversation with the most vocal resisters and ask them to refrain from leading a mutiny.

Keeping the make-up of each small circle consistent is critical to building the trust required to get to the level of transparency needed to establish a rhythm of mutual accountability. Mixing up the groups is another way the passive-aggressive opponents seek to sabotage the process.

Creating smaller sub-groups within a typical “Small Group” setting will also be needed to reach the needed level of mutual accountability to see true application. Life transformation does not happen by knowledge acquisition alone. When we learn about God and discern ways to obey him, but disregard taking action, we actually begin to disciple disobedience. Discovery entails experiencing the joy of responsive obedience.

Remember Jesus’ warning about mixing “old” and “new” practices:

“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” (Luke 5:37-39)

Q&A: For Whom is DBS Effective?

Question: Does God use DBS in the U.S. as an effective tool for bringing unbelievers to trust in Jesus as Savior and also become an obedient disciple of Jesus, or is this tool best used for the latter only?

Answer: Here in the U.S. and Canada, we find that Discovery Groups work well with spiritually interested lost people and also with maturing newer believers.

The longer a person has been churched, typically the more resistant they are (as a general rule) to the Discovery Group format. One factor is the expectation that Discovery calls for obedience, sharing and ministry every week and then the group holds one another accountable for following through with actual practice. People who have become entrenched in knowledge transfer often find Discovery troublesome.

Question: Why is this resistance so common and can anything be done to reverse this?

We’ve done knowledge transfer for so long, that it seems normal. Groups typically need an intensive, focused time of DBS to retrain ourselves for a new normal. It is absolutely essential that any catalyst for making this paradigm shift must model it yourself for others to follow you. So last week’s “I will…” Statement creates perfect opportunity to share an update with the group by saying, “Here’s how it went this week….” If you will not consistently provide a S.M.A.R.T. “I will…” Statement and then follow through, why would you expect others to do so? Model the new behavior you want to see. Be accountable and follow through.

Critical Elements for Starting (pt. 4)

  1. Start Discovery Groups: Please request a copy of the document “The Discovery Process Overview & Explanation.” It is a good explanation of this simple inductive Bible study, which we are happy to share with people who request it, free of charge. There are stories of Discovery groups facilitated by unbelievers (e.g., Jessie the Chinese girl who was taking her mother through a Discovery study before Jessie had made a profession of faith, herself. Grace, the RA who was leading the DG Jessie was in did not realize this until it came up unexpectedly.) It is so simple, it doesn’t even need a Christian to facilitate it.
  • Discovery exhibits deep trust that the Word of God illuminated by the Spirit of God is enough to produce the people of God. It places great confidence in people listening to what the God says and being able to identify specific ways to put it into practice in their lives, either individually or collectively.
  • Scriptures:
    • John 6:41-51 (Note verse 45 which says, “They will all be taught by God.”).
    • Matthew 23:1-12 (In Matthew’s Gospel only Jesus is to be called “Teacher”).
    • Matthew 13:1-23 (Jesus uses parables with the crowds which means they have to “discover” the meaning by asking him).
    • Hebrews 8:1-13 (Through Jesus God writes his laws on our hearts).
    • Luke 10:25-37 (Jesus models the use of questions in guiding an exploration of truth). .
  • Activities:
    • Invite those who are facilitating Discovery Groups (DGs) to get together monthly to debrief what is transpiring in their groups. This gathering will be called a Facilitator Cohort—a learning community. The first two questions of a DG make excellent prompts: “What has been going well in your group meetings?” “What challenges have arisen during your groups?”
    • Encourage your group facilitators to complete one of the DGs Report Form (request this document, also) each week and scan/photograph it and email it to you as a way to give you data which will help you to coach them. [NOTE: Movements come through coaching, not just training. Coaching coaches is essential to catalyze the generational growth seen in Disciple Making Movements.]
    • Celebrate successes!

Renovation as a Means

Lately I have been watching the TV show, Income Property. An investment real estate expert shows would-be investors three properties which hold promise. Most often, these are houses that will be divided into two units–one the investor(s) will live in and the other will be rented out to help offset the cost of the purchase and renovation.

Each show follows a twin-conflict paradigm. The first conflict/challenge of the show is whether or not the investor(s) can visualize the renovate property. Then the second conflict/challenge is whether or not the renovated value (increased equity) and the anticipated income (rental value) will be enough to allow the new owner to succeed. Inevitably, there are hidden problems in the homes that are being renovated.

Starting Disciple Making Movements are sort of like this show. Inevitably, the way we attempt to produce change is by mobilizing, training and mentoring near neighbor Christians to plant the gospel among an unengaged people group. Note this is a two-phase strategy. First, you have to identify and train Christians to do whatever it takes to reach the people they have previously felt no compulsion to engage. Likely, many of the potential candidates for this “Mission Impossible” have already attempted (at least mentally) to reach out. Their early attempts were rebuffed and/or, they were ridiculed, hassled or persecuted for their efforts. Or, they have powerful stories of others who tried and paid a high price. This people group is unreached for good reason.

C = (D x V x F) > R

Recently, I was introduced to The Change Formula:  C = (D x V x F) > R. This business principle affirms that  Change equals Dissatisfaction x Vision x First Steps that is greater than the Resistance. Without being able to envision a new reality, being dissatisfied with status quo and armed with a knowledge of how to get started, change will never happen. But these three must all be present and their combined force must be greater than the resistance that is present.

When I first heard this I thought, “Oh, well, that is interesting.” But a couple of weeks later I found myself referring to the formula. What I began to notice is that failed attempts to produce real change lack at least one of the three being present in sufficient quantities. Most change agents appear to assume that presenting a new vision is enough to produce change. Often, when they find that to be inadequate, they will attack the status quo in an attempt to produce dissatisfaction. But it is possible that people will become dissatisfied with the pressure being placed on them to produce change and the net result is the resistance is actually increased.

But the piece of the equation that has really grabbed my attention is the call for “First Steps.” When I first encountered the vision of Church Planting Movements, I lacked clear First Steps to model, coach and mentor others to take who caught the vision and felt the dissatisfaction. Without being able to suggest first steps, I could not catalyze change.

What God Expects

Take a look with me at the Samaritans. When Assyria took the ten northern tribes captive, they moved people from other nations they conquered into the region to harvest the crops so Assyria could receive taxes. (Wars are most often fought over economic resources.) Israel was valuable for the crops raised there and also the tariffs that could be charged for the products that came to and from the Far East and Africa. Nearby seaports like Tyre and Sidon gained great wealth as transportation hubs, while Israel exported wheat, barley, wine and olive oil. The rulers in Nineveh wanted people there to avoid losing the wealth to be had. Here’s how 2 Kings 17:24-26 is stated in The Message:

The king of Assyria brought in people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and relocated them in the towns of Samaria, replacing the exiled Israelites. They moved in as if they owned the place and made themselves at home. When the Assyrians first moved in, God was just another god to them; they neither honored nor worshiped him. Then God sent lions among them and people were mauled and killed.

 This message was then sent back to the king of Assyria: “The people you brought in to occupy the towns of Samaria don’t know what’s expected of them from the god of the land, and now he’s sent lions and they’re killing people right and left because nobody knows what the god of the land expects of them.”

Seek First the Kingdom

Some behaviors become practically automatic and carry little or no conscious connections to core values. But others are intentionally chosen to broadcast and reinforce the spiritual psycho-social weight of our beliefs and worldview.

For example, in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, God has Moses to call the people of Israel to be very deliberate in certain behaviors as a way of passing on a godly worldview:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Their core understanding of being in covenant with the Creator was to be of first importance in their lives. This reality should be overtly demonstrated, regardless of the level of intimacy someone encountered them (gates, doorpost, forehead, hand).

Through their words and other actions we observe what people determine to be good and what they deem best. Their choices reveal their values. What takes precedence in their lives?

Do you want a snapshot of your values? Open your checkbook register and/or your credit card statement. Scan through your day planner. Review your spiritual journal. These reflect how you choose to use your money, your time and/or your spiritual journey. What do you value?

Seek first the kingdom of God… was Jesus’ calling to those who would be his disciples. What you truly value drives your behavior.

[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.]

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.]