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.
Here in the West, we think of church as “gathered.” No doubt, you must gather to accomplish some of the “one anothers” and other functions of church (as the body of Christ). But what we generally fail to recognize is how much our cultural individuality impacts how we understand “gathered.” We often overlook the household language of scripture.
The gospel was planted into existing households.
Church was not primarily isolated believers who come together to act like a quasi-family. The gospel took root in the families, friends and employees that were 1st Century Roman households. It is not that church took the household structure.
Because we start from an individualistic bias, we miss this. Because we start from an individualistic bias, our strategies and tactics are often damaging to households, and thus extractional. Yes, there are times when some members of a family will come to trust in Jesus and others will reject them because of that, but Disciple Making Movements want that whole household to hear the gospel, interact with the gospel and not make their decision just because they incorrectly view the gospel as a Western oppressive intrusion.
This is why we evaluate our approaches to insure that they can be reproduced within any existing culture that highly values close-knit, multi-generational families. This is why we work to disciple the whole household to faith. The last thing we want is for the household to feel like Christian families do when one of their children converts to the Moonies or another cult–“they kidnapped and brain-washed” her/him.
Too much of the church planting talk is about gathering unconnected individuals and trying to get them to act like family. Real movements come when the gospel is being planted into existing family/friendship structures where people are discipled to trust and obey Jesus.
[NOTE: I originally wrote this as a comment on an article by Felicity Dale (http://simplychurch.com/on-cpms-and-dmms/). She moved it and a couple of other comments to her main page and there has been some interesting dialogue there. I decided to re-post it here on my site so that my networks could interact with it, also. You probably ought to check out the other dialogue.]
No, I am not suggesting anyone else has to open a non-profit coffee shop (while I am also not opposed to you doing that, but if you do, let me connect you with Rob so you can benefit from his experience). I am telling you this true story to illustrate that “first steps” are going to be greatly impacted by where you are on the journey to making disciple-making disciples (true replication).
While we say we don’t, most of us really want the ease of a “one-size-fits-all” strategy. We don’t want to spend the time getting to know a coach/mentor who will ask a gazillion questions about what we are already doing in order to answer the question, “What are the first steps I ought to take to reach this God-sized vision and overcome my dissatisfaction by pressing through the resistance I am already facing?”
In our heart of hearts, we know that canned answers will not work. But we also know that change is going to mess with our lives. That is why we stay in dead-end jobs. That is why many stay unhappy in their marriages–the work of change will be demanding. We dance the dance we dance because we won’t do the hard work of learning a new dance and doing it long enough that it becomes our new norm, our new default.
Our default evangelistic strategies, developed to reach individualists, isolate people from their existing affinity groups (family and/or friends). Perpetuating them will contribute to extraction and undermine any true movement potential! We have seen the enemy and he is us.
Too much work has gone into making The Well different to tack on traditional missional strategies. Our post-Enlightenment young adults are wary of the communitylessness of my generation. They want authentic community. Those who are disciples want to discover ways to plant, water and harvest the gospel within their affinity groups, wherever possible, rather than ditching them for surface-level small groups which are not authentic. They go to third spaces looking for something meaningful
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.
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?
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.