A recent comment notes that I have not addressed how to catalyze Urban Disciple Making Movements. In my reply, I noted that this is true and noted that there are no known urban DMMs, yet.
There are rapidly replicating movements that are happening near major urban centers, but most of these are still happening among people with more of a rural mindset/worldview. Social scientists have long noted that urbanization radically impacts the way people see life, themselves and their relationships with others.
Some believe that the strong multi-generational family structure is radically altered by urbanization. It is intriguing to watch the response to some of these challenges that has arisen in China. The efforts to ride the wave of opportunity have separated many of their young professionals from parents and grandparents who still reside in the rural regions. With wealth, responsibility and distractions, many of these young professionals are choosing to break the cultural expectations by refusing to go “home” during their breaks. Laws have been passed which allow their parents to prosecute such lapses.
Planting the seed of the gospel into such families will not follow the same route as the rural settings of many of the movements in Africa. Some doubt it can happen at all.
Any honest strategist will tell you that we have much to learn about launching movements in megalopolises. Reaching the adult grandchildren whose parents and grandparents lived their whole lives in New York City will look very different than those in Buck Snort, Tennessee.
It will still take meaningful contact where God’s nature is overtly discussed. It will continue to require a Discovery process whereby worldview is shifted into a kingdom of God outlook. Discipling people to trust Jesus will continue to be a process. The tactics will shift, though.
Not wanting to deconstruct, contributes to resistance. While not like the actual weight of the concrete on those large posts, other concerns create emotional resistance. I must confess that I had mixed feelings about taking out a tree. You see, we planted that maple the fall of 1992. We wanted shade and it gave us in the back yard. But the problem is its roots grew along the top of the ground and within three years would be cracking the foundation of the new construction, so it had to go.
Many changes are never undertaken because of what has to go. Bad-mouthing what other people are invested in is no way to encourage them to change. Helping them see that the new strategy actually helps them do what they already want better is more likely to get a positive outcome.
People selling new curriculum rarely count the cost of discontinuing the old. Yes, some people have likely tired of it long ago. But what about the teachers who have grown comfortable with it? Some may have taught its cycles enough that their prep time is significantly decreased. Will they stop teaching because they feel they no longer have the time to properly prepare? If so, who will replace them?
Finding new teachers is one of the great challenges for any education program. Starting a new series of classes almost always requires killing an existing set. New coordinators don’t get that. Old ones have paid this high price so often they are unwilling to go through it again. Inertia is a powerful force.
“Just do it!” is rarely said by someone who will actually help make the change.
Coupling a vision for something new with dissatisfaction can be powerful fuel for the proper first steps. Recently Debra and I needed to prepare our back yard for an upcoming construction project. The Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving provided perfect weather and we had time off. We needed to remove several sections of privacy fence, the posts that held them, a swing set frame and a twenty-year-old maple tree.
Thankfully, I had learned that a fence jack would easily lift 4″x 4″ fence posts out of the ground. Our vision of a detached shop and dissatisfaction over the clutter and persistent dust in our garage fueled our dream. Yes, I knew the first steps that were adequate for overcoming the resistance of the concrete that had been placed around those fence posts more than fifteen years ago. Removing the fence just took time and persistence. But late Friday afternoon we attempted to remove one of the two 6″x 6″ posts that supported the swing. This resistance was much greater.
My grandfather’s fence jack was not able to budge either of these posts. I suspected there were tree roots that were helping hold the extra weight of the larger posts and concrete down. But the reality was, it was going to take more force to push that pole out of the ground. A 12-ton hydraulic jack and the fence jack were able to provide the force. It took some ingenuity to apply that force in the right places, but Saturday ended with the site prepared.
Now we wait for the building to begin. All our hard work was just getting things out of the way that had to go. What will you need to demolish to create a capacity to build new strategies? Too often we do not count the cost of what has to go before new building begins.
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.
In John 4:35 Jesus tells the twelve, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”
Little did they know that he had opened the heart of a Samaritan woman. They could never anticipate that they were about to spend two days watching many of these spiritual outcasts come to faith in Jesus as the Messiah. Many believed because of the testimony of this woman. Many more came to believe because of their time spent with Jesus.
It is estimated that more Muslims have come to faith in Jesus in the last thirty years than all the previous centuries combined. Just like John 4, much of the sowing and harvesting is being done by people within the communities. Yes, they too are being visited by Jesus and some of his disciples. He is appearing to many through dreams and visions. Believers from Muslim backgrounds are leading the charge to get the Gospel out to those who have never heard.
Fear-mongers have too little faith in God to believe what is taking place. Their agendas are advanced by stirring up paranoia and hatred. What they call diligence is disobedience. Tragically, they miss the harvest God is providing.
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.”
Yes, I know I crossed the line in my last post. I dared to contradict the maxim that Islam is the greatest enemy to Christianity. Let me explain something about my worldview. The greatest threat to Christianity is never any external force–not Islam, nor even secularism. Our greatest threat is ourselves.
Forgetting our identity in Christ is our greatest threat. Forgetting how our life story intersects with the story of the Kingdom of God is our great danger. Losing sight of what God has done for us and how that ought to affect our choices is our biggest temptation.
There are disciple makers in closed countries who lay it all on the line–every day. Muslim, Communist, totalitarian governments can make their lives difficult, but they cannot stop the transforming power of the gospel at work in the hearts of families. Stop allowing the politicians and/or the media to push your panic button. Stop losing sight of this reality that the Word of God reveals. Our “battle is not against flesh and blood.”
Living under the reign of the risen, exalted and ascended King Jesus is our calling. Saying, “Yes, Lord,” and meaning it is our purpose. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, Israel rejected the truth that the reign of God is enough when they demanded a king. Satan often tempts us to doubt that the Father has our best interests at heart (not just mine as an individual, but “our” as family, congregation, community, nation and world). Trust God!
Over the last few years Murfreesboro (my home town) has been thrust into international spotlight over opposition to a mosque that was constructed here. Numerous media have given the story extensive coverage. While some viewed this under the rubric of a clash between Islam and Christianity or tolerance and bigotry, there are probably stronger worldview clashes under the surface.
When politics and media wade into the fray, there are deeper dynamics. Murfreesboro is home of Middle Tennessee State University–the largest undergraduate university in our state. The news of opposition to the mosque played out differently there than people might have imagined. Secularists–folks who deny God’s continued involvement in our world (atheists and agnostics) loved the fracas. They were happy to see professed Christians looking intolerant. They relished the opportunity to portray all as bigots who talk about the Constitution, but are unwilling to honor its protections for other faith groups. Tragically, the young people at MTSU did not see us at our finest.
The worldview clash between Christians and Muslims became a smokescreen for the clash between secularism and faith in a Creator (something Christianity and Islam share). Odd, isn’t it? How many parents realized our response to this heated debate was potentially being leveraged by a much stronger third party?
Yes, there are marked conflicts between the worldview of Muslims and disciples of Jesus. But threat is far greater that our children will become secularists than Muslims.
Hold strong convictions. Exercise your freedom of speech. Realize how you say what you say is being gauged by those who know you best, too.
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.]