Original Question: “With non-Christians, in a pantheistic culture like India, how do we help them see ‘our God’ through the process and not their false gods.” This is an excellent question which touches on a fundamental issue when considering the Discovery process.
Everyone operates from the default of a worldview. We all absorb answers from our culture to some foundational questions: Who am I? Where am I? What has gone wrong here? What, if anything, can be done about what has gone wrong? Flowing out of the answers our culture gives to these answers will be our sense of values and beliefs. Polytheistic cultures, like Hinduism and large sections of Buddhism have very scripted answers to these questions which reinforce and are shaped by their understanding of many gods and their dynamic interactions with these spiritual beings.
One of the primary resources for perpetuating a cultural worldview are the stories which are told. Epic dramas reflect the cultural answers to these foundational questions. Inviting people from such a culture to explore and discover from the alternative narrative of the Bible is actually the best way to help them experience transformation. In the biblical record there are numerous sections which have been described as “power encounters.” For example, Elijah and the prophets of Baal presents a show down between Israel’s God and the false gods of their neighboring nations. “Will the real god show up?” is the challenge Elijah presents.
What polytheistic people need is to get their fingerprints on the narrative of the one true God. They will certainly lean towards hearing us as presenting Jesus as another God to be added to their thousands of gods in the early stages, but there must be a seed of new possibilities planted in their hearts and minds. The Word of God is the power for salvation. The Holy Spirit has the divine strength to demolish strongholds. He has the capacity to overcome the objections we do not even know exist. When we lead a household of peace to discovery, we are acknowledging that He is able to do what we cannot. We are acting in faith that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are much higher than ours.
Disciple making through Discovery has worked among every major world religion. The starting places may differ. The Scripture sets will be different. But God has given us remarkable evidence during the last thirty years of Kingdom Movements that could not have been imagined late in the 1900’s. We have much to celebrate because He continues to show Himself mighty to save!
Q&A: “Most of the Scriptures used are in the Synoptic Gospels. Can you show how this is worked out in the ministry of Paul? There seem to be some differences. Explain?“
Discovery is more easily accomplished by the use of narrative (story based) sections of the Bible. Do you remember the interaction between Phillip and Jesus? Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:8-9) Since watching Jesus is the best way to see God the Father the Gospels are foundational resources.
Evangelicalism has made much of the Pauline corpus, and rightly so. But, there are times we make this material oppositional to the Gospels, and that is not good. Having a good understanding of the differences between these two genres and their functional roles is important.
Disciple Making Movements are focused on getting the Good News of Jesus planted into families–especially families who have little or no access to the Bible. These are folks who have almost no knowledge of Jesus. As a result, we believe they should spend lots of their initial time in the Bible discovering what is revealed about Jesus. The Son of God is the only one who ever said that as he is lifted up he will draw people to the Father.
When you read through Acts, and pay close attention to what Paul writes in his letters about his early days in a new city, it is obvious that he also made much of the Gospel. Consider, for example, his comments about coming to Corinth: “And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified“ (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).
Many of the questions and objections we encounter arise from the difference between starting towards faith and efforts to ground and mature those who are already believers. Are you reaching out to lost people? If so, we recommend spending lots of time in the Gospels. As they come to faith and simple churches emerge, there will be plenty of time to spend time with the letters written to churches.
Of all the questions, this is the most impactful (in my studied opinion)! You will not praise him or plead his promises (intercede) if you do not know him and trust him. You will not dare to see yourself in the story if you don’t rely on him to change you. You will not hear his call to obedience if you disbelieve. You will not share if you have no hope. Your only motivation for ministering to others will be your anticipation that they will reciprocate.
Faith in God changes things. Faith in God changes you. Faith in God changes me.
Some call the usual Scripture set “Creation to Christ.” I call it “Discovering God.” That is our great need.
It is not that God is lost and needs to be found. No, we are lost and finding him gives our lives true meaning.
Asking, “What do we learn about God?” opens a Discovery Group up to focusing on the one character who appears in every story contained in the the Bible. While the next question helps us find ourselves, too, we quickly learn he is the main character. The Bible is ultimately about him.
Our lives have true meaning when lived in relationship with our Creator. Seeing how Jesus is the perfect reflection of the Father opens our hearts to the realization that he shows us God’s heart most clearly.
Many do not have first-hand experience hearing what the Bible actually reveals about God. Getting their “fingerprints on the Bible” exposes them to God’s heart.
As a young man, who came from thirteen generations of Buddhists (that they could count), read the passages from Genesis trust began to grow. He referred to God as “the One above all.” He declared, “This answers the questions I have been asking since I was a young boy!”
Question # 4 is the heart and soul of a Discovery Bible Study. I encourage you to ask and answer that question every time you read from the Bible!
I continue to worship with Stones River. They also insisted I continue to serve as one of the six shepherds (“elders” sounds old and within our fellowship these groups tend to focus too much on things deacons should do and no one focuses on spiritual leadership, so we decided a name change might remind us and the members of our family that we are attempting to have a different focus). While I gather with Stones River, when I am in town, I travel a fair amount internationally and domestically. These are the times when it is hard staying in the loop, but I have a deep trust of the other men with whom I serve. Nine out of the next ten weeks I will miss our Sunday gathering, but I will be able to participate in the Monday evening shepherds meetings.
Starting next Sunday, I will be driving about forty miles to do some training at another church. Some of their folks have opened a non-profit coffee shop as an intentional outreach. The business was deliberately organized as a fund-raising mechanism for water projects in third-world nations. The name is appropriately, The Well.
Recently, they launched three Sunday evening worship experiences that happen in one side of the coffee house. They have met eight people who have expressed some interest in further spiritual discussions. But how do these caring Christians conduct these conversations in ways that are non-manipulative and hold the greatest hope of bearing spiritual fruit. They hope Discovery Groups will be helpful.
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.
Yes, these recently settled people were at great risk. Their situation was dire.
The king of Assyria ordered, “Send back some priests who were taken into exile from there. They can go back and live there and instruct the people in what the god of the land expects of them….They honored and worshiped God, but not exclusively—they also appointed all sorts of priests, regardless of qualification, to conduct a variety of rites at the local fertility shrines. They honored and worshiped God, but they also kept up their devotions to the old gods of the places they had come from” (2 Kings 17:27,32-33, The Message).
The Samaritans of Jesus’ day were descended from these peoples. This is the historical-cultural background behind Jesus’ parable we call “The Good Samaritan.” It also informs his interactions with the woman at the well and people from her village. Jews considered the Samaritans spiritual mutts. While they claimed to worship the God of Israel, the religious purists knew their sordid spiritual lineage.
Sounds remarkably similar to Islam.
Would Jesus shock us with the modern-day Parable of the Good Muslim? Would he spend a couple of days with Muslims who want to hear about the Messiah?
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.”
During the seasons when they honored God, Israel shone brightly (e.g., the fame Solomon enjoyed when the Queen of Sheba visited). But when they became insular and rebellious, Yahweh still used them to reveal his glory to the nations.
There are seasons when we go to the nations willingly. There are seasons when they come to us and we willingly present the beauty of God’s transformative covenant relationship. But there are also times when we are sent against our best-laid plans (e.g., Jonah to Nineveh, Paul under arrest in Rome). And, last but not least, there are the times when God’s people are captives to their enemies in their own land. American Christians have known the first three. I pray we never have to experience the fourth. This only comes as God’s corrective to the persistent rebellion of his people to be a blessing to the people groups [nations].
Yes, I believe the church is being watched in the heavenlies. I believe God is doing something on a grander scale than our faith allows us to see (most of the time). I believe there are times when he pulls back the curtains to give us a kingdom of heaven peek. I believe we are living through intriguing times.
Muslims continue to move into our county. They come because of educational opportunities afforded them. There is an excellent school for people who are learning English as a second (third, fourth, etc.) language. MTSU offers multiple majors. Housing and job opportunities abound.
But what if all the Christians who have become panicked since the mosque was proposed, took another tact? What if we prayed God would prepare Persons of Peace among them? What if the followers of Jesus became intentional in befriending these Muslims in order to identify Persons of Peace among them? What if we broke the norm? What if we pushed through our fear of the unknown and took Jesus’ command to make disciples of all the people groups [nations] seriously?
God selected Israel to be his grace answer to the multiplicity of cultures that arose after Babel (Genesis 11-12). He called Abram and his offspring and blessed them to be a blessing to the people groups [nations]. In covenant relationship with Yahweh, Israel was a city set on a hill. He placed them on the strategic land bridge between EurAsia and Africa. Here at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea and the western terminus of the trade routes East and South, God put his Chosen Ones.
Is it possible God is sending these people groups to us?