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!

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.]

Church–How Can We Do It There?

Recently a friend who works in Asia wrote, “I’m always surprised to hear people tell me they don’t know anything about Jesus!!! Absolutely nothing! Today three more souls got to hear the Good News for the first time. I’m so honored to be the one to tell them…” This frequent occurrence should challenge us and remind us how blessed we are if we live in a country with freedom of religion and grew up in godly homes.

I urge you to open your eyes this week, especially when you visit public places. Take note of the people who are obviously from other parts of our world. No, I do not want to fuel prejudice in your hearts; I ask you to consider the possibility that God has them here so they can learn to trust in Jesus and be equipped to start disciple making movements in their home nations.

For such movements to happen back home, many of these folks will have to learn a different model of church than we experience here in the U.S. Mufreesboro is home to a fairly large ELL (English Language Learning) School. More of the students come from Saudi Arabia and China than any other nations. While these students live in our city, it will be wonderful for them to come to know Jesus. But how much more valuable their time will be if they are equipped to facilitate church planting movements back home. It will require training them to “do church” in ways that will not make them a target when they return. If we deeply connect them to church as we know it, we make it more likely they never return because they know such is not possible where they call home.

Blessed to Give

Last Tuesday I wrote about giving. I want to return to the subject since we have had time to “chew on this cud” for a while.

I believe that Paul’s care calls us to engage this issue thoughtfully. He was concerned to prevent his apostolic band from being discounted as more religious charlatans–notorious con-artists. He, also, raises the issue of his desire to preach the gospel at his own personal cost so he could go “above and beyond the call of duty.” The apostle to the Gentiles models a very nuanced theology of giving.

Maybe I am misreading Acts 20:34-35, but it appears to me that Paul’s business enterprise in Ephesus was adequate to support his personal needs, also financed a sizable apostolic team and produced enough to “help the weak.”

My dream is to see apostolic workers (those commissioned to get the gospel into truly unreached people groups) who are able to enter communities with business models that are simple, easily reproduced and adequately resourced so they are truly financially sustainable. They will be of such a nature that they involve the workers in providing a valuable service for the people of the new community. They will provide excellent opportunities to look for Persons of Peace. They will become valuable for the community on a long-term basis. They will provide the opportunity to model hard work and helping the weak.

Maybe Paul had not taught about giving at earlier stages during his three year stay in Ephesus. Maybe his statement about “remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive'” was a personal remembrance. But I suspect he is pointing their minds back to earlier teaching he had done when he quoted this from Jesus [NOTE: This statement on giving is not found in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Is this something Jesus said to Paul personally after his Damascus Road encounter?]

I am thankful that my time in Arkansas prompted me to return to this issue. What are your thoughts on the matter?

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.



Outside the Box

Two weeks ago I trained a group of people how to facilitate Discovery Bible Studies among their friends who do not know Jesus. One young lady, who was encouraged to come by her pastor who also came, immediately recruited enough people to have two groups of six ladies. She intentionally invited a few of the ladies from her church to participate. There are two not-yet believers and four believers in one group. The ratio is the opposite in the other group.

This lady is already coaching a member of one of the groups to facilitate. She is benefiting from the process of passing on the leadership. She is excited about what happened last week as the groups just began.

Her pastor urged her to “think outside the box” as she considered who to invite to the groups. She decided to run a Craigs List ad. Here is what the ad said:


If you would like to participate with a small group of women as we walk together discovering what God has to say to us through His word then I would love to talk to you!

This is a small group of women (no more than 6) and we will meet together weekly. We will encourage each other as we look to God’s word for answers we all want.

If you have never been to church in your life – this group is for you! If you have been to church every time the doors have been open and still feel like you don’t know who God is – this group is for you! If you don’t know if you even believe in God – this group is for you!

You don’t need to know anything about the Bible at all! This is a DISCOVERY group. We will only focus on what the Bible says – not what PEOPLE have to say about God.

I can’t wait to hear from you.

When Did We See You in Prison? (part 2)

I had encouraged Jason to teach what he was learning to other guys in the pod.  This was a principle that I had been learning from listening to the CPM training CDs that recorded David Watson’s seminar in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  You learn quicker and more deeply when you teach others the new material you are learning.  Jason had been teaching others in the daily Bible study group, but he was especially discipling Malcolm.

I continued meeting with Jason, but added a weekly visit with Malcolm, too.  It was encouraging to begin to see how much Jason had passed on.  Discipling someone to disciple another really works even though it may seem counter-intuitive.  Involve your disciples in the process of discipling someone else from day one.  Do not wait until they get some body of knowledge down, start them immediately.  Make this a condition for you continuing to disciple them.  They learn more and deeper because their information is coupled with experiences.

Malcolm was farther along than I could have imagined.  I began encouraging him to disciple other guys in the pod.  I wanted him to prepare for the eventual day when he would be released.  He would have to pass on what he was learning to keep the fire burning in that pod.  As time drew near for his release Malcolm told me that there were two young guys he wanted me to meet with.

I began meeting with Paul * and Jimmy * after Malcolm was released.  Here I saw some evidence of generational degradation of information (a copy of a copy of a copy…shows real losses).  David Watson had talked about this in the training CDs emphasizing the need for training centers that bring each generation up to the original level.  There were some pieces of the discipling process that were not repeated in subsequent generations that resulted in significant weaknesses.  This was an important realization for me to experience.

Jimmy did not disciple anyone.  Paul wrestled with being shy and not easily finding someone else to teach what he had been learning.  I began to wonder if I had failed to keep the process alive and question whether I had invested too much time in people who were not teaching what they were learning.  As Paul’s release approached I asked him to pray about someone else in the pod who would like for me to visit each week.  Paul informed me the next week that the trustee, Austin *, would like a visit.

Having learned from my failures, as well as successes, I decided to start out differently with Austin.  From the first day I communicated my expectation that Austin would have to teach what I taught him if my visits were to continue.  He agreed.  Quickly he began to tell me of his efforts to teach Tommy.  Eventually I learned that Tommy brought his cousin into the study group that was forming.  Austin was taking seriously the expectation and the pace was picking up.

While spending some time with David Watson he asked how Austin’s 3-column studies were going.  I said I did not know.  David suggested I provide money for Austin to be able to photocopy his studies and send them to me through the mail.  I noted that the inmates do not have access to a copy machine.  I decided to have Austin hand write a copy and mail it to me.

Soon Austin sent me a stack of 3-column studies that had been completed by several others in his pod who were now participating in the group.  Each exhibited insights into the text and showed evidence of grasping the need to apply the passage.  Several needed to work on stating the third column in the “I will…” format that forces personal application.  These were mailed back to Austin to redistribute to the participants.  (Regretfully, these were never returned to Austin.  I do not know if they were lost in the mail or misplaced at the jail. Months later they were finally returned to me, because inmates are not allowed to receive mail from one another, they refused to deliver them all to Austin.)

[* NOTE: Names have been changed, but all other details are accurate.]

When Did We See You in Prison? (part 1)

One of the counter-intuitives of Church Planting Movements states:  “Expect the hardest places to yield the greatest results.”  In my attempts to obey Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25 I am experiencing the truths of this irony.

They had not attended the church long when Jason * confessed he would be going to jail soon to pay for his crimes.  He had been using drugs and alcohol and violated driving under the influence laws.  While on probation he again became intoxicated and was caught shoplifting.  The judge was angry and Jason realized things were in a mess.  He wanted a spiritual family to accept him, his wife and children without condemnation for his sin.

We spent several weeks getting to know this family and learned to love his humble spirit.  This man acknowledged he had violated the law.  He was disappointed that his previous church chose to ostracize him and his family.  He wanted to come clean.

Our worship minister became friends with Jason and began to visit him in jail after he had to report.  Eventually he approached me to relay Jason’s request for additional biblical resources.  Within a few months, Jason had completed every Bible correspondence course the jail chaplain had on hand.  The worship minister felt like he would benefit from visits by someone with a formal theological education.  I agreed to visit Jason.

Before that first visit could be scheduled I had to complete a visitation form and agree to a background security check.  When that was cleared I began to visit weekly.  I quickly sent Jason an additional correspondence course on the Gospel of John.  Jason, his cell mate and some other guys in their pod who were meeting daily for a group Bible study quickly completed this ten lesson course.

Jason requested assistance in getting ACT study manuals for some of the other inmates who wanted to prepare to get into college upon their release.  The Rutherford County Jail is not your stereotypical place of incarceration.  The inmates are not allowed any TVs, no radios, CD players or any other type of electronic devise.  There are no hard-backed books allowed.  Family or friends could provide paperbacks, but they would become the property of the jail library.  The church where I pastor began to assist with some educational materials.

Jason requested I find a college or university that would offer correspondence courses that he could take—especially Biblical ones.  With today’s technological advances these types of programs have transitioned to video or web-based formats.  Such prevented this type of study.

Eventually I discovered the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement reader and workbook and purchased a set and had them mailed to Jason.  He was grateful to receive such an in-depth study that would give him greater insights into God’s work in our world.  After a few weeks he asked if I could get another set for his cellmate.  The two of them had been sharing one reader and workbook since the original set had arrived.  I purchased one for Malcolm * and it was mailed to him directly.  Less than two weeks later Jason was moved down two floors so thankfully each had his own study materials.  Before moving Jason communicated that Malcolm would like to visit with me each week to continue learning.

[* NOTE: The names of these men have all been changed.  All the other details are accurate.]

Tips for Trainers

After our daughter and son moved out, they started calling their mom asking for recipes of their favorites dishes she cooks. Eventually she decided to give them each a set of recipes. But she began to realize that they need more than a list of the ingredients; she will also need to become aware of what they don’t know (e.g., one recently asked what could be used as a replacement for corn starch).

One of the church planters that I am coaching recently asked me to write out the things I intuitively do when I am training groups to facilitate Discovery Bible Studies (DBSs). It is a great request, but the challenge is me becoming aware of what I do intuitively. Thankfully I had another meeting right after the one where this request was made where I was able to process it more fully with another team member.

Here is the “Tips for Trainers” list that I prepared in response to the request. Maybe it will be helpful to someone else. If so, please comment below so I might learn more about what I do intuitively.

Tips for Trainers:

  1. Keep the groups small. (Five is the ideal number, but 4-6 is okay.)
    • Prevents the meeting from taking too long (45 minutes is ideal).
    • Draws quiet or shy people into the discussion.
    • Models the most readily available settings (e.g., a few people at work over lunch, a few soccer moms at the practice fields, or a handful of friends after a meal).
  2. Divide larger groups into sub-groups and have them work through the questions simultaneously.
    • You get to model how to handle a bigger group.
    • Involves more people in the facilitation role.
  3. Remind the facilitators of their responsibilities:
    • Keep the discussion moving and involve everyone.
    • Use the “Where is that in this passage?” question to keep the group on track.
    • Be sure to save time for questions 6, 7, and 8.
    • Make sure someone takes notes when the “top three” are selected.
  4. After they answer the questions, facilitate a debriefing exercise by having sub-groups list their “top three” insights into God and their “top three” ways to obey the passage.
    • The goal is to enable people to hear from God. The larger group review confirms the things each group heard and exposes them to something they might have missed that another sub-group heard.
    • Provides an interesting review process (the three “Rs” of education are “repetition, repetition, repetition,” but that cannot be boring or you lose them).
    • Exercises the participants in healthy group functions (your long-term goal is to disciple them in functioning as a healthy church).
    • You can “accentuate the positive” by highlighting the healthiest responses. (Rather than causing those with weak responses to lose face, you get to spotlight the ones that are strong and worthy of being imitated.)

What actually sparked the request for me to write out what I do intuitively was me sharing the training that I recently did with a women’s discipleship group. I told how I handled the fact that the group was so large that I had to create sub-groups. This disciple has experienced that kind of setting, but all of his earliest training was with a small group that was never subdivided. Though he is working with a larger group, he had kept them all together and now he anticipated there might be other things I needed to make more explicit.

If you are like me, you will probably need a new trainee to help you realize what you do intuitively. As they ask questions about things that you assume are givens, make notes. These “givens” are likely what you do intuitively.

A Novice Insider? Really!?

Counter-Intuitives—A novice insider is more effective than highly trained, mature outsider.

If you have read my last two articles, you know that we focus on discipling disciple makers. Our goal in identifying a Person of Peace is not just to see him/her come to know Jesus or even to reach the extended family—our ultimate goal is to reach a community in such a way that they are discipled in how to reach another community.

While cross-cultural workers make significant contributions to Disciple Making Movements (DMMs), this counter-intuitive statement emphasizes the strategic value of insiders. But note, it explicitly highlights the value of a “novice” insider. Why? Why would we value novice insiders so highly?

True movements only happen when the process is infinitely reproducible. When your strategy depends on expensive, time-consuming practices, you will not launch a movement. Let me use an illustration to help you see the point. While American football is the most popular professional sport in the United States, it has not spread to other parts of the world. The name, football, is reserved throughout most of the rest of the world for what we call soccer. Why? Why is soccer so wildly popular throughout the world?

Soccer is infinitely reproducible. It is a simple game that demands very little equipment. You can travel most anywhere in the world and you will likely find a soccer field. If you travel internationally I encourage you to carry a couple of new soccer balls and a small hand pump. I assure you children will know what to do with a ball after you air it up and give it to them. They will be incredibly happy to put your gift to use.

When you train a Person of Peace to facilitate his/her extended family in discovering who God is, you are launching the reproductive engine of a DMM. Any of that first group can reproduce what they experience anywhere they have friends or family who are open to the gospel. The fact that this person is not highly trained is actually a blessing. Others recognize they too can do it because the process does not require Bible college degrees or decades of experience.

Most of the Western church models a slow form of reproduction because we make our Bible studies dependent upon highly-trained, highly experienced Bible teachers and preachers. By contrast, Disciple Making Movements tap into a sweet spot that every evangelist knows already. The best resource for evangelistic outreach is a brand new believer. The first two years after coming to faith is a fruitful sweet spot. One reason this is true is because most of their closest relationships are with not yet saved people. Another reason is the transformation in those years is the greatest—God’s impact on their walk is evident.

When God stirs the heart of a Person of Peace and brings a disciple maker into the picture, powerful things can happen. Stop spending your time frustrating people who do not want to hear the gospel (yet) and start using your time looking for the lost people God is preparing. This is where an abundant harvest arises!