Critical Elements for Starting

In 2016 Final Command Ministries released a video documentary telling of some of the ways God has been using his kingdom people to Engage!Africa: Through Disciple-Making Movements. There are five segments which are approximately 22 minutes in length and each focuses on one of the following five Critical Elements needed to start catalyzing movements:

IMG-2952Praying and Fasting

This sounds simple, and maybe a little cliché, but Movements start with petitioning the Lord.  Those who are using DMM successfully take this first step seriously, and are creative in their approaches.  For example, I’ve witnessed prayer houses, neighborhood prayer walks and passionate prayer services where a group leader gives the congregation a prayer topic and they all explode into prayer, some with fists in the air, pacing back and forth. As for fasting, our African partners disciple new believers to start with a single meal, and grow from there. The point is to let God lead this effort. They pray and fast until God opens a door into the people group they long to see experiencing a Movement.

  • Aligning Ourselves with God is at the heart of Praying and Fasting. We pray and fast because we want to be like Jesus. We pray and fast because we know that Movements come from above. We cannot produce them by our strength or great strategies—only God can produce Movements.
  • Scriptures:
    • Matthew 4:1-11 and Deuteronomy 8:1-18 (After 40 days and nights of Fasting Satan tempts Jesus, but he quotes from Deuteronomy 8 about relying on Papa God).
    • Matthew 6:1-18 (Jesus disciples his followers on the crucial nature of praying and fasting).
    • Matthew 9:14-17 (Jesus is questioned about why his disciples did not fast, yet).
    • Luke 10:1-12, 17-24 (Praying as Jesus directs brings incredible fruit and joy).
    • Acts 11:19-26; 13:1-3 (Fasting and praying play a significant role in sending Barnabas and Saul out on their first missionary journey).
  • Activities:
    • Mobilize your home church to participate in a Prayer Wall to provide covering and spiritual insight into your Kingdom advancing efforts. (One resource to use is 24-7 Prayers: https://www.24-7prayer.com/signup/5b132d).
    • Have your Life Groups do Prayer Walks through the neighborhoods where they meet praying for the neighbors who live around where groups meet.

Celebrate successes!

Coaching/Mentoring

Over the last two weeks God has blessed me with the privilege of spending time with families in East Africa that I count as dear friends. I was with people in Musanze, Rwanda; Geita, Tanzania; and now in Eldoret, Kenya. All are working to catalyze Disciple Making Movements in their respective regions. It is a joy to spend time with them and see where they live and work.

Years ago I purchased the book, Prayer Walking: Praying On Site With Insight. My intercession for these respective teams will be qualitatively different because of my time with them. I can visualize their homes. I can picture the faces of believers they are discipling. I have a much deeper connection because I have been with them.

You will probably hear much more about this trip over the next several weeks. I am proud of Matt and Andrea Miller, Brett and Christie Harrison and Jerry and Danielle Sanders. Each couple is part of a team that works in the respective cities mentioned above. They are blessing others. They are training, coaching and mentoring indigenous leaders in each place. All of them recognize the value of local leaders learning ways to multiply their efforts. They are on a journey with the Holy Spirit calling cadence.

In one of these nations there is a local leader who has helped catalyze more than 90 house churches. Join me in praying that such networks will be catalyzed in everyone. Pray that there will be churches planting churches–seven generations deep!

We want to see the Revelation 7 vision fulfilled in our lifetime. I want to see that heavenly choir that looks like a beautiful patchwork quilt, comprised of people from every nation, tribe and language group. To God be the glory! Amen!

Critical Elements–Spiritual Warfare

“After hearing all the possible side effects, I cannot imagine why anyone would take that drug!” one lady commented. Her friend replied, “Shows how great the pain can be at times!”

Reflecting on the reality of persecution and spiritual warfare that often attach to Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) brought the earlier exchange back to my mind. This is why these two realities are listed among the critical elements. Reclaiming the spiritual territory where Satan affirms squatter’s rights often produces negative reactions.

Westerners often develop a puzzled look when I talk about spiritual warfare. They do not have the same theoretical aversions to persecution because they attribute it to people. Through resources like Voice of the Martyrs they recognize that people are harassed, beaten and even killed for their faith. They usually cannot imagine being in locations where that happens, but their worldviews allow for persecution.

But when I share statements like the following, their eyebrows are raised: “In areas where the Gospel has never been preached, or in areas where traditional religions have reigned for a significant amount of time, it is not unusual to find those engaging in DMM activities confronted by spiritual conflicts that range from annoying to life-threatening.” What is a 21st Century rationalist to do with such an affirmation? Is it possible that there are active spiritual beings who strive to prevent the arrival of kingdom proclamations from the region they have long controlled?

Many people in third-world nations don’t doubt the existence of spiritual warfare. When they read passages like Ephesians 6:10-20, they take the language seriously. They will innumerate personal examples that illustrate what Paul spoke of when he admonished, “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” (Eph. 6:11-12). Yes, they know Paul is here painting a word picture using the armor of the Roman solider that is guarding him, while under house arrest. But they also know this struggle against evil spiritual forces. They have felt the pressure of this situation.

Our greatest resource for this spiritual warfare is prayer. Mobilizing intercessors is essential for disciple makers. Like the pharmaceutical companies mentioned earlier, those of us who train people to catalyze Disciple Making Movements warn our trainees about the possible side effects. The difference is there will be attacks.

Jesus’ promise in Matthew 16:18 is absolutely relevant. He says, “I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Note that “gates” are always defensive structures. Jesus’ promise is that advances against the territory Satan has fenced in and gated can be successful. But we need to recognize it will take an offensive. Like Jesus, we have to enter enemy territory to set the captive free. There will be a struggle. We will be put at risk. Our best defense against these challenges is to have people who are lifting us up to the throne room of heaven! Be sure you have people praying for you before you attack those gates. [Note how much Paul says about prayer in this short passage on spiritual warfare!]

The Impossibility Specialist!

DMM counter-intuitives—“Expect the hardest places to yield the greatest results.” When Jesus is about to go to a place he prepares it (Luke 10).

There are places where people doubt the gospel can be taken. The people group there seems totally resistant to Jesus’ followers. But we have found that often they are actually resistant to cultural Christianity. When kingdom values are modeled by believers who truly honor the community and seek out persons of peace, God often gives an abundant harvest. I doubt anyone expected a move of God to break out in the Philippian jail.

When believers seek the heart of God regarding entering a new community, they desire to connect with people God has already been preparing. He opened the door for me to enter into the Rutherford County Jail. I never would have expected convicted felons to be the likely candidates for me to disciple more than twenty individuals. But it is an awesome testimony when transformation happens in the least likely places.

Who would have expected Saul of Tarsus would be chosen as the apostle to the Gentiles? Who could have anticipated Galilean fishermen would be selected to turn the world upside down? When hard places yield great results God gets the glory!

We have seen Muslim sheiks and imams become powerful church planters. We know former terrorists who now make disciples. This counter-intuitive reminds us that Disciple Making Movements (DMM) always bear witness to God’s ways not being our ways. But the more we are aware of his capacity to do the unexpected, the greater our capacity to anticipate that a former closed city, region or nation is exactly where he wants to bring the gospel.

List the places where you would last expect a DMM to grow and then ask God to open a way. Pay special attention when a new disciple shares a passion for a hard place. Remember that Scriptures delight in “the Impossibility Specialist” nature of our Creator.

Who do you see as the least likely? Government officials, Wall Street investors, drug-pushing gangs, sex-traffickers?

Do not forget the transformational power of God. Remember what Paul wrote about the Corinthians: “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

We come to expect the hardest places to yield the greatest results because God is in the redemption business. He gathers fame to his name when the impossible happens, yet again!

 

How Long Will it Take?

DMM counter-intuitives—“Prepare to spend a long time making disciples, but anticipate miracle accelerations.” Jesus took 3 years (Mark).

Before a team of apostolic disciple makers enter a new region to find Persons of Peace, there will have been a devoted season of intercession, careful research and deliberate tactical planning. The goal behind each of these is to determine, to the best of our abilities, what God is already doing in this region and discover how we can join him. Making disciples is about obeying Jesus. It is about surrendering our plans to his will.

Often we have found that this process takes time (months, if not years). We anticipate it will be three months or longer before the first disciples come to faith in Jesus—and that is counted from the time you have already discovered the first Person of Peace. But we have learned that God’s ways are not our ways when it comes to this timetable.

We have discovered that when intercession reveals God is ready for a village or region of a city to be reached, when those who are entering have good insight into the world view of the inhabitants and when there are good tactical plans for gaining access into the lives of these people there are often surprises. The God who spoke the world into existence is not restricted to the normal harvest cycles (consider for example the remarkable events surrounding Aaron’s staff, Numbers 17:8). While experience correctly teaches us to expect months before planted seeds yield a harvest, faith reminds us God is greater than the process he created.

Making disciples is a time-consuming process. It is relational. Unless hearts are knit together by a supernatural process, friendships take time to form. Trust is earned. Through the ebb and flow of life the right to speak into a life is incrementally developed.

The God who snapped the Philippian jailor awake by an earthquake is still able to move mountains today. The Creator who opened Pharoah’s court to Joseph by a dream can still invade the sleep of people. We are learning to praise God for miraculous accelerations whenever they come!

We are also learning that the training, coaching and mentoring needed to produce disciples who make disciples still must be accomplished. While we intentionally plan to “disciple people to conversion,” we realize God is free to call them spontaneously and miraculously. But he still calls us to help them grow up into the image of Christ. He still calls us to equip them to reproduce. He calls the body of Christ to disciple them into disciple makers.

God is not restricted by the “Creation to Christ” counter-intuitive. But when those who were miraculously transformed enter another village we want them equipped to sow, water and harvest. We want them to know a process that exposes other people to the Word over a period of time. By such training we do not limit the function of the Holy Spirit any more than Jesus did when he invested three years into the twelve, discipling them. We trust Jesus to not only provide the content of our discipling, but the strategy also. We expect God will use us to equip people to make disciples. To call others to Christ is inadequate for fulfilling the Great Commission! We must make disciples who make disciples of all the nations.

Applying Ephesians to My Life (cont.)

[NOTE: I will begin with my re-statement of the passage. Then I will present a list of “I Will…” Statements that I wrote based on that section. Reading these sections will give you some insight into what struck me as I studied through these texts, but your time would be better spent doing your own 3-column study first. After you have written your study then reading mine will give you another set of eyes and experiences that may help you with your efforts to hear from God.]

Ephesians 3:1-21

(1-5) Extending this amazing unity to non-Jews is why Paul was arrested. Haven’t you heard, God charged him to preach this amazing grace to those formerly excluded from it? Though this truth used to be hidden, God told Paul directly and he has just written about it some. Reading this pulls back the curtains so we can see too. You can trade on this “insider” information.  None of our ancestors had access to what we learned from the Spirit through his spokesmen.

(6-9) The shocking news is that the outcasts have been adopted and given equality with the natural children.  All who have this get it through Jesus—the Promised One. It took a mighty act of God’s grace to save Paul and entrust him with this newly revealed message. Nothing he had done earned him the right to tell this blessed news to the non-Jews. Only grace let Paul have the privilege of revealing this long-hidden truth of the Creator’s plan.

(10-11) Higher spiritual beings are amazed that God could pull this reunion off—nothing prepared them for this glorious maneuver. It was actually his plan from the beginning to save both groups in one body by Jesus.

(12-13) Jesus gives us the way to come to God boldly and without hindrance. Paul’s imprisonment shouldn’t depress his readers since they actually flow out of getting them this amazingly good news.

(14-21) Paul prayed to Father God for their encouragement. This whole family gets its name from Papa God. Paul asks that the Holy Spirit will empower them internally so that Jesus will reside in their inner self through their trust.  Also he asked that love will ground them so they, along with all believers, comprehend the vast love of Jesus so they can experience this love that’s deeper than they can intellectually understand, so they will grow up to God’s provision for them fully! Praise be to God because his power working in us is greater than we can conceive—he does so much more than we ask. He gets the glory from Jesus and his church—always.  Let it be!

“I Will…” Statements:

  • I will remember my old state.
  • I will keep Satan’s reign as a thing of your past.
  • I will realize my old lifestyle was really a death wish locking me into punishment.
  • I will praise God for his loving mercy!
  • I will remember I am alive in Christ and this is all by grace.
  • I will live consistent with my high standing with Christ.
  • I will let the fruit of God’s kindness shine through my life.
  • I will live in the free gift of God’s grace—walk by faith, not sight.
  • I will not boast, but proclaim, “God did this, not me!”
  • I will do the good things God prepared for me to do.
  • I will remember this place of honor hasn’t always been mine to enjoy—I was on the outside looking in.
  • I will remember how it feels to be excluded.
  • I will remember how marvelous it feels to have a way to God opened up.
  • I will preach Jesus’ amazing role as the unifier we needed.
  • I will value his sacrificial work of unifying the great divide.
  • I will value Jesus’ body and its function of ending hostilities.
  • I will accept Jesus’ message of peace.
  • I will accept the people Jesus is reconciling to the Father.
  • I will love others as family.
  • I will build consistent with Jesus as my foundation.
  • I will be holy—worthy of God’s presence.
  • I will keep spiritual peace consistent with Jesus’ life and place.
  • I will realize someone may have suffered for me to have faith.
  • I will learn God’s will for my life, especially to use me to bless others.
  • I will join God in telling the secrets.
  • I will read Scripture for insight into God’s mysterious ways.
  • I will appreciate the “insider information” I have through Jesus.
  • I will join in God’s work of breaking down barriers that we are too comfortable accepting.
  • I will serve the gospel by God’s power in me.