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.]

 

Encourage One Another

Maybe I am close to being over jet lag. Spending a week where the time is twelve hours different than your home really messes with your biological clock. While I have been fairly productive, my thinking has not been clear enough to do much writing. So enough excuses, here’s one blog for the week:

Early in June I was introducing the oral Discovery Bible Study format to a house church group. The challenge was question # 8, “Which of the struggles mentioned earlier could we as a group do something to help one of us?” The problem was that the people in this group do not see each other much outside of their Tuesday night meetings. Some were even absent that night, and one was present through Skype, from his work. What can we do to minister to one of the group members?

One participant had shared that she needed a new job, and then she said, “What I really need is a better attitude about the job I have.” Another reminded the first one how excited she had been when she first got this job. We worked through the rest of the questions and the passage we studied and then came to number 8.

After I asked the question, the group reviewed what those challenges were that had been shared earlier. No one had a suggestion. Finally I asked the person who needed a new attitude if she could receive texts during work. She said, “Yes!” I proposed we all agree to text her each work day during the next week. Our texts were to encourage her to have a positive attitude about her work. All agreed to give it a try.

Five months later I still send out texts most work days. The original recipient of those texts is now a member of a six-person group. Most days my text is a verse that calls us to remember God’s character and the ways he blesses us. Last week I was unable to text because of being out of the country—I missed it. But that group was praying for me during my travels. God has knit our hearts together through this attempt to minister to one another. How are you putting what you learn into practice?

Today I just finished sharing the final verse from Psalm 145. This passage contains many powerful reminders of God’s goodness. It contains many calls to praise him and tell others of his deeds. Maybe you know a group of people to whom you could send such a text. Let’s take seriously the biblical call to encourage one another!

The Greater Blessing

The time I spent in Arkansas last week was rich. As I have reflected on it, one session was particularly memorable. Three young missionary families who are preparing to move to Tanzania interviewed several missionary families who moved to Kenya thirty years ago as a team.

There were light-hearted moments when cultural/linguistic missteps were shared. There were points when the one sharing would choke up when the memories from decades ago came rushing back.

Two answers to one question really stood out for me, though. “If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?” the new team asked. The older responder (currently serves as a professor of missiology) said, “We would teach them to give from very early in our time with them, and we would turn the leadership of churches and projects over to them much more quickly.”

This former missionary who continues to explore missions shared that the issue of giving had been raised recently. He had traveled to Kenya for a large gathering of the congregational leaders from the churches that had been planted. One African leader rebuked him sternly: “You did not teach us to give. We would not be facing some of the challenges we are right now, if you had taught us what the Bible says on this from the beginning.”

Acknowledging the truth of the rebuke, this older, wiser brother reminisced over the difficulty this topic raised. The team arrived with vehicles, finances and resources the people of this tribe might never have. “How can we call them to give when they live on less than $2.00 per day?” summed up the struggle.

This former missionary stated that their team had been intentional in turning over leadership more quickly than was the norm thirty years ago. But he affirmed they still waited too long.

These have lodged in my mind. Next week I plan to share some reflections on these two. What are your thoughts? I would love to hear from you before I express myself.

Pruning on Purpose

Are there areas in your life that need selective pruning? Are there places where you need to be opened up to the Son’s light so new growth can begin? Some growth can actually prevent fruitfulness. At a Disciple Making Movement gathering earlier this summer a guy at my table shared that he had recently planted a cherry orchard. He was being mentored by an older man who was very experienced. When he questioned how heavy the trees were being pruned, his mentor said, “If you want fruit, you have to hurt the tree!”

From the outside (un-experienced position) looking in, that is how some pruning appears. But the master gardener knows where strategic “hurting” needs to happen. This is guided by the purpose. With the azaleas, the issues were keeping them healthy, beautiful and within their space so their beauty could be appreciated without them encroaching on the sidewalks and parking spaces. For the cherry orchard, the purpose was not beautiful trees, but much fruit.

What is God’s purpose for your life? Does he want you as a trophy? Is he tending you as a beautiful ornament to bring joy into an otherwise drab world?

Is God’s purpose for you to show off an abundant harvest? Recognize that the pruning will be quite different when the goal is fruitfulness. While a tree with thousands of cherries might make a beautiful photograph and feed lots of birds, one with one-third the cherries will make much better pies. That is why the person tending the orchard will strategically remove most of the cherries early in their growth so more nutrition goes into each piece of fruit.

Discovery Bible Studies can open us up to light from the Son. Obedience to what we hear from God can prune away the good things that are enemies to great fruitfulness.

 

 

Being Doers of the Word (Part 2)

Our fast-paced, disconnected-from-extended-family lives challenge obedient living. Even our friendships are often far-flung and limited by our schedules. In the DBS trainings I have done lately, I have been struck by this challenge. How will this group minister to one of the challenges they have shared? How can we take concrete actions that will bless one another?

One month ago I was encouraging a house church group to consider using the 8-Question oral DBS format. As we approached the last question, “How can we help with one of the challenges mentioned earlier?” I was concerned. There were five us us gathered that night, and one of them is an EMT who was present via Skype. None of the group worked together. How was the whole group going to practice service?

One participant had shared that she needed a new job, but more than that, she needed a new attitude about her existing job. I suggested maybe we could find ways to help her. Her good friend who was the hostess for the gathering said, “I remember how excited you were when you first got the job. You really felt like you were helping people early on.”

This young lady said she could receive texts at work, “No problem!”

“What if each of us text you something to encourage you to take a positive outlook on your work?” I asked.

I set an alarm that reminds me Monday-Friday mornings to text this young lady. I go to Bible Gateway and search for a verse that talks about work being done as though for the Lord. I text such to her five days a week. She says it has been a blessing to her.

I know doing this has blessed me. Why not harness some of the technology that contributes to our business in ways that bless others and enables us to be obedient–to be true disciples?