Unimaginable (# 3)

Last week I published a couple of posts centered around the theme of vision and imagination. I found it ironic to recount the crazy advances in technology which allowed me to have a video conference meeting with a teammate in another state, while sitting in a car outside a coffee shop.

What if this kind of technology was used for kingdom advances?

What if shifts in our strategies and tactics will actually open us up to multiplication, rather than addition?

What if our normal blinds us to new possibilities?

What if the Parable of the Sower is not talking about farming? It amazes me how many people in the church who are taken back to that detailed analogy want to call into question the farming abilities of the guy in the story. “He needs to learn how to recognize good soil so he doesn’t waste so many seeds!” is the way some people verbalize their criticism. “Any fool ought to know that it is wasteful to sow seeds on the path!”

What if the purpose of the parable drives the makeup of the story? While you can easily identify which soil is packed path, which is shallow because of bedrock (might be a little harder to see) and which is thorny (if they have already sprouted), this is not so easily discerned just by looking at people.

The book of Acts tells the stories of households which we are not surprised there is a big harvest: good reputation people like Cornelius and Lydia. But God’s grace sparks the imagination of new possibilities in the hearts of others like the jailer, too. Then there are the stories in the Gospels like Demoniac and the woman at the well. Maybe we need to spread the seed of the Gospel more widely than we have in the past!

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Unimaginable

I am sitting in a rented car outside a coffee shop. Using WiFi writing a blog post which will go around the world as a series of 01 combinations. Makes me shake my head–Digital Morse Code.

I am in Ames, Iowa where I will teach Perspectives Lesson 13: “Spontaneous Multiplication of Churches” in a few hours. I taught this same lesson Sunday night in Des Moines to about 100 who were mostly in their twenties and thirties. Last night I taught the same lesson to about forty people in Marshalltown, Iowa. Tonight I will teach the last segment of this loop.

What I try to do when I teach this lesson is tell stories of what God has been doing in Africa through Disciple Making Movements. I see shock on the faces of some as they hear stories that sound like those in the book of Acts. But I also see disbelief and concern because most of us have never seen multiplication of church planting.

Maybe these numbers have been fabricated (exaggerated at least!), some communicate via their nonverbal responses. Others are easily convinced that we “must be watering down the Gospel to see these results.” But God really is doing something remarkable in our lifetime.

If we can dare to believe, then we can be open to learning some strategies and tactics that are more fruitful. We can shift from addition to multiplication, but we will have to shift and that can be a hard process.

Change begins with a new Vision. New possibilities. “What if…?” thinking. That’s why I share stories. Stories give meaning to the numbers.

Critical Elements for Starting (pt. 5)

  1. Embrace Multiplication: As God blesses this process, churches multiply and the kingdom spreads out.  In order to allow this process to work, some ideas have to be embraced, and our paradigms must shift.  As I’ve said, this method is a tool for anyone who wants to spread the gospel.  Here’s the possible rub, this system is empowered by God, and not overly controlled by the church.  Through prayer, and obedience-based disciple making, the church allows these groups to spread as the Holy Spirit leads.  This process may start a church we don’t even know about, and that’s okay. Multiplication comes when we learn to constantly search out and disciple two types of people—Persons of Peace and Multipliers.
  • Multipliers—these are believers who will be open to learning how to reach people in bunches (like the way you harvest bananas and grapes), not just one by one. Almost all Western evangelistic strategies focus on one on one approaches. But we have found that using these can actually increase the resistance of people groups with strong family and friendship ties. Multipliers will be open to learning group strategies. They are willing to shift their focus toward discipling disciple makers. They are willing to learn to use approaches which can easily be reproduced by the people they are reaching. Multipliers are very coachable.
  • Scriptures:
    • John 15:1-17 (Those who abide in Jesus bear fruit, vs. 2; much fruit, vs. 5; and fruit that will last, vs. 16).
    • Matthew 28:1-10, 16-20 (The message of the resurrection culminates in the Great Commission).
    • Acts 2:42-47; 4:1-4; 5:12-16; 6:1, 7 (These passages reveal the growing spread of the gospel of the kingdom).
    • Acts 8:1-3 & 11:19-30 (The gospel is spread by ordinary disciples as their response to persecution).
    • Acts 19:1-20 (Paul and his team see the gospel spread throughout the Roman province of Asia from Ephesus).
  • Activities:
    • Guide church leaders through an exploration of what will be needed to replicate themselves and their ministries.
    • Brainstorm what will be required for our church to plant “Rabbit Churches” (i.e., those which rapidly multiply).
    • Share in your cohort the Paradigm Shift which has been most difficult for you to make. Pray for one another to be patient with those who are just starting down the road of embracing multiplication.
    • Celebrate successes!

Q & A–Groups Multiply

Why is finding a Person of Peace so significant?

“You can’t change an entire community by only changing the mom. A community is a collection of families. You change the community by changing the family, and you access the family through that one member.” A Person of Peace is someone the Holy Spirit is stirring up to become open to hearing about God and changing his/her life to align with _JRA1509what is being learned. Like Cornelius, Lydia and the Philippian Jailer, these people do not come to faith by themselves. They want their household (social network) to know God and fall in love with Jesus, too. They want this badly enough that they share what they are hearing with others, week by week.

Why is working with a group so powerful?

“We want to multiply impact,” responds a coach. “For change to be sustainable, there must be unity. A changed family can change another family. Train a husband, a wife and their children and all of them together will now show others the new way forward.” Much of the people groups who have not yet been reached with the gospel think from more of a collectivistic worldview than Westerners do. Few things have slowed the spread of the gospel more than our failure to understand this.

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.

# 200!

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.

Church as the Gathered

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.]