Question # 7: Who?

“Who do you know who needs this message that you will tell this week?” is a powerful seed for multiplication. This is only true when Discovery Groups will name names and then share with those named.

Tragically, many self-identified Christians do not like answering this question. Even fewer follow through with sharing with the people who come to mind. If you are not getting new generations of Discovery Groups, you can be sure Question # 7 has been dropped or altered.

If your Christian group experiments with using a Discovery process pay special attention to their responses to this question. If they do not know any lost people who need to hear God’s Word, then they need to get out more (in person and/or online. They need to become active listeners. And they need to become better at intercession—pleading God’s promises for the people where they live, learn, work and play.

Who are the people who walk regularly in your neighborhood? Could you ask them to join in their walks? Get to know them. Talk about casual topics. Explore a meaningful topic. If they are comfortable with that shift, try a spiritual theme. If they say they are a believer, “already have a home church,” or signal they follow Jesus, then tell them you want to find lost people in the neighborhood. Ask if they will help. Invite them to join you in prayer walking while you exercise.

If they are not willing to talk about spiritual matters, then you need to begin praying that the Holy Spirit will produce and opening. Get their names. Mobilize others from your home church, small group and/or disciple making team to start praying for them. It is possible they are believers who have been wounded by other people at their last church, or they may not know Jesus at all. Keep walking. Keep developing a relationship and revisit the importance of spiritual matters.

Whenever someone is open to spiritual topics ask if he is interested in reading the Bible to see what God is really like. If she is willing to do that, then ask if she has family or friends who might be willing to join in, also. Start a new Discovery Group with this person and his family/friends. They will be prompted to share the passages they explore with others, too.

Why You Need a Coach

A few years ago my job title at Final Command Ministries was changed. It actually happened while I was out of the country and I had no input on the shift. To be perfectly transparent I was a little miffed.

Regretfully my upbringing did not prepare me well for that kind of situation. I earned my strokes as a people pleaser for decades. This was surely a contributor to me staying in school for so many years. Read the assigned material, participate in group discussions, study hard for tests and then write papers–the path to academic success and educational strokes.

But most formal education does not really reward disagreeing. Yes, I know it should, but it rarely does.

My former job title was Director of Training and Strategic Access. It was long and I helped craft it. The first half fit a lot of what Western Christians get–the need for training. But the second half was a bit mysterious and if someone asked me about it, their curiosity gave me permission to peel back the onion layers at least a little.

But who needs a coach?

Sure, we all want our children to have the benefit of a good coach when they participate in sports. Ideally, she/he will have played the sport in high school or college and have a good ability to model and drill the team toward greater cohesion and improved abilities.

I had coached basketball and baseball for my son, since I had lettered in both at my small high school. Later I coached my daughter’s soccer team even though I really had no personal experience to draw on (thankfully a good coach of my son’s soccer team suggested the strategy is much like basketball).

Yes, we all want our kids to have good coaches. But what adult wants to admit they need a coach?

Global Coach, that’s my job title. It was picked because that is really what I try to do, regardless of where I am. Even when I hold training events I am really sifting through the group looking for the few who sense they will need a coach.

It takes a special measure and variety of humility to acknowledge the need for a coach. There is a vulnerability needed that most adults prefer to avoid by acting out our best two-year-old selves–“I do it myself!” Then there is the challenge of knowing whether or not a particular candidate is the right coach for me. Maybe I sense I need one, but I will feel foolish if I pay him lots of money, invest time and energy and still don’t succeed.

Global Coach sounds grander. But who is going to believe that? If I get these disciple making principles so well, then where is the proof? Where are the people who’ve taken my coaching and their fruit is evident? Those are the unspoken questions I always anticipate.

But how do you answer those questions with integrity and not “blow your own horn?” How do you tell the ways God has used you without taking credit for works he accomplished?

Why do you need a coach? That’s a great question. You don’t need one to start lots of first generation Discovery Groups–a half-decent trainer can get you started doing that in about two hours if you will recruit a group with whom to experience it.

But you will need a coach if your goal is generations of groups starting groups where some of them become churches planting churches.

Provoke to Jealousy

The vision of movements captured my attention! Considering the possibilities became what I thought about while showering (I have read these are the “big” ideas that you don’t get paid to ponder). I wondered what could happen if thousands of Discovery groups started happening here in North America.

No, that has not happened, yet. But there are hundreds. Some of these have even jumped to homelands of immigrants who are here in the U.S.

I know people who reject those results as insignificant because these are not Anglos. While I continue to pray for my people group to experience sweeping spiritual transformation, I will not wait for that to reach out. In Acts, the earliest evangelistic efforts of the apostle Paul were among Jews. But God told him he was being sent to the Gentiles. But then there is that shocking statement in Romans that Paul was working diligently to reach Gentiles in hopes that their response might provoke Jews to jealousy and they too would come to faith.

What if the best way to light the fires of revival among Anglos is to reach Hispanics and Latinos? Wouldn’t it be just like Papa God to use Native Americans to launch national transformation? Turning to those who are spiritually open does not mean we are giving up on the people groups that we know the best and possibly love the most. Maybe we can provoke them to jealousy, for the kingdom. Many will only perceive the vision when they can see it with their own eyes. Let’s start it wherever!

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!

DBS Helps Cross-cultural Communications

Cross-cultural communication is a challenge at best! Just ask wives and husbands how many times they realized their spouse did not hear what they intended to communicate.

In every cross-cultural conversation there is a sender and a receiver. The sender uploads what she/he intends to communicate, but their message is always encoded from within their cultural context (yes, this more closely approximates that of the receiver the more fluent their language skills are). Then the receiver downloads the message and filters it through his/her ethno-linguistic cultural grid. But the process is also impacted by “noise.”

The only way to assess what is understood is to ask for feedback. “What did you understand me to just say?” is a great way to seek clarity. When this person shares what they heard, then you can attempt to overcome the effects of noise and the differences in the ways we utilize words/phrases cross-culturally.

One of the great beauties of Discovery Bible Studies (when the stories are being heard in the heart tongue) is the passage is not being explored cross-culturally. Yes, I know that Scriptures were written from within and for other cultures (e.g., pre-exilic Hebrew, post-exilic Hebrew, 1st century Judeo-Christian, 1st century Gentile Christian, etc.) but it is not going through the additional cultural grid of the cross-cultural missionary.

The Word of God illuminated by the Spirit of God is enough to produce the people of God!

Why Discovery Is Important

As people begin to hear these new stories that affirm divine intention in creation and redemption, new possibilities arise. Maybe the fatalism their worldview demands is not the only option. Maybe the world did not come into existence by accidental forces. Maybe life can become more fruitful by journeying within this story.

Too often those who know the Biblical answer to the question, “What is truth?” get excited or impatient at this crucial point. We want to hurry these sojourners to the destination. We start to distill the story down to a summary and want them to accept reality upon the weight of our testimony. We want them to believe. Please, slow down and reconsider.

Will you always be there to hear these stories and choose how these people should live? Do you want their faith to rest on the foundation of your investigations of truth? Would it be better if they discover for themselves?

No, I am not going to tell you to butt out and leave them alone. But I am going to advise you to practice some restraint. Trust Papa God. Trust the Holy Spirit to bring conviction. Trust the hunger in their spirits to be “fed” by the bread of life!

Encourage them in a discovery process! Learn to rely on God and not yourself. Remember, these stories have to become their story. They have to see themselves within this journey to come to see how God really views them!

Strategic Pruning

One fall afternoon, almost twenty-five years ago, I exited my office to find my friend pruning a large azalea bush. There were actually huge shrubs (the first was 18 feet by 24 feet and the other was about 18 feet by 20 feet and both were 6 feet tall). Wayne was a horticulturist by trade, so I knew he had a reason for why he was doing this job the way he was, but I found it puzzling.

Why would a man be standing on a step ladder, reaching into this huge shrub with a tiny pair of hand shears cutting out branches one at a time? This job was going to take forever the way he was going about it. After watching for a while, I finally asked why he was not using powered hedge trimmers to make a quick job of it.

Wayne called me close and then reached in to give me a closer look at the azalea bush where he was working. “What do you see?” he asked as he spread a section apart.

“There are no leaves more than ten inches into the bush,” I replied.

“These two bushes need to be trimmed back at least 18 inches so they are not overwhelming the sidewalks. But if I did that there would be no leaves left to support the bushes. They would be killed,” Wayne patiently explained.

Last fall I was thankful for my earlier education on pruning azaleas. The shrubs at the front of our house had overgrown their space and needed pruning. This fall we will be able to complete the two season job. Last year we strategically pruned selected sections to open the inside branches up to sunlight this year. Now those inner branches have leaves, so we will be able to cut these plants back to a preferable size.

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 4)

Justin’s group sent me some 3-column studies.  Their insights into passages (the first time they have ever attempted to do this) continue to amaze me.  As is true of most, some prefer to speak of what “we” or “they” should do in the third column, but I continue to point out that this will be more beneficial if each point begins with the words, “I will…”  This process truly is about discovery, not preaching or teaching.

Recently Justin was moved out of the pod.  He was transferred to the state offices to assess his status on a parole violation.  There he received a favorable ruling due to following some counsel Austin gave him months ago.  Rather than waiting until his release to assess this legal matter, Austin recommended Justin write the parole board to notify them of his incarceration.  At the hearing it was determined that his time served from that postmark forward would count.  He will only have to complete one additional week when he finishes his current sentence.  Justin gave God the glory for this determination.

I asked Justin who might be willing to attempt to restart the study group.  He said Matthew (one of the guys who had recently sent me his first ever 3-column study) was the only one he anticipated was a viable candidate.  The others in the pod who had participated when Austin led the group had stopped attending.  It appears likely that Justin’s personality did not work well as the facilitator of the group.  He had followed through on his commitment to me by teaching Matthew.  Maintaining contact with this pod would hinge on Matthew’s willingness to be the person of peace.

I wrote Matthew identifying myself and giving a sketch of my work with Justin and Austin.  Also, I included the article on doing a Discovery Bible Study written by Paul Watson.  I invited this inmate to become the point person for a group in the pod.  He would have to request that I be listed as his pastor before I could schedule a visit.

A few days later I received email confirmation from the chaplain acknowledging the request had been approved.  I scheduled a visit for Friday, November 30, 2007.  That very morning I received a letter from him accepting my invitation.

Matthew wrote, “Yes sir I received your letter today.  I will love to be the one to keep the Bible study going.  I have to be honest I don’t know a hole lot about the Bible so it will be a learning experience for me to.  It’s weird because for the past week or so I have been wondering what God wanted me to do with my life and how I can repay him for the blessing that he has gave me then all the sudden I get your letter.  So to me I feel this is another blessing and God’s way of answering me….To be honest I am going to need a lot of help with this because like I said I don’t know to much about the Bible but I want to chang my lifestyle and I ask that you would help me with that because I think it’s time for me to start doing for God instead of always wanting him to do for me.”

The work continues.

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

Redeeming Obedience

Leading groups of people through a discovery process can be very rewarding. Recently I was part of a four-man team that introduced 55 people to the Disciple Making Movements strategy that has been employed in sub-Saharan Africa. They heard stories of the remarkable fruit God has been producing since 2006. Then we had them use the 8-Questions as a guide for exploring Deuteronomy 6:1-9 and Matthew 28:16-20 (combine these with Luke 10 and you have the three most significant texts for the paradigm shifts needed to experience rapid multiplication).

At first sight, some people wonder why anyone would couple Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 28. These two texts actually both appear in the first gospel. They are commonly called the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:34-40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6 when he is asked “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law” (vs. 36).

On the second day we debriefed the previous day by having the groups discuss what they found most valuable or encouraging out of the previous day’s study. When the seven groups were asked to compile a list of the top three, the collectively shared the following list:

  • Encouraged by simplicity.
  • Focus on the Word and obedience
  • Discovery Bible Study provides a simple and practical model.
  • The 8 questions provide a great template.
  • Redeeming of the word obedience.
  • Prayer is needed and focused on as one of the basics.
  • Story telling model – the stories of God at work come alive.
  • God is moving through people and prayer.
  • Whole groups are coming to Jesus.
  • B’s testimony – an answer to prayer.
  • Make disciples not converts.  Disciple to salvation.
  • The power of writing out the scripture.
  • People of peace are everywhere
  • Lay people are doing the work.
  • Growing sense of disillusionment among Muslims.
  • Don’t be afraid of small beginnings.
  • Sheiks and other Muslim leaders coming to the Lord.

“Redeeming the word obedience” is the one that really jumped out to me that day. What a beautiful way to express what many of us have been experiencing over the last six years. Few insights have brought more push back, though, in Western settings. Since many hear this discussion in the context of legalism they need to experience this redemption.

I urge you to spend some time noticing the role of obedience in discipleship. Yes, we are saved by grace. No, we are not teaching that we start by grace giving us a clean slate from our past sins and then we are expected to obey our way to heaven. Obedience is empowered by grace. To obey Jesus is to exhibit evidence that his grace reaches me. Read through John chapters 14 and 15 noting every time the words “obey” and “obedience” appear. Note the verse number and then note what promises are attached to obedience. Grace is God’s love language to us. Obedience is our love language to him!