Unimaginable (# 2)

The reason I am in the rental car is I will be using Zoom to have a teleconference meeting with a teammate. He’s in Tennessee and I am in Iowa. Crazy–never would’ve thought this possible twenty years ago!

As I drove from Marshalltown to Ames I came through lots of farmland. I saw many grain storage bins. You know, the round galvanized steel structures with their cone-shaped tops?

The recurring sight took me back more than forty years. One summer I was hired by a local farmer to help him erect one of those bins on his farm. A circular pad of concrete had already been poured, the steel panels and boxes of nuts, bolts and washers were waiting on us. There were also four contraptions he called jacks, but they could raise the structure less than four feet tall. How could only two guys build something which would rise more than thirty feet tall with such simple tools?

There are many strategies and tactics which are easier to learn by watching rather than reading a description. This is the reason YouTube “how to” videos are so valuable to do-it-yourselfers. How long did it take that first engineer to design a grain storage bin and develop the process and tools needed to erect one?

It is much easier to facilitate a Discovery Group after sitting in on one for a couple of sessions than it is trying to imagine one from an article or technical description. But many people won’t sit in on one unless they first read a technical description (reply to this post and I can email you such a technical description). It is easier to appreciate the value of a good coach after you shadow one doing a couple of coaching sessions.

Teaching Perspectives is good for me. These interactions remind me that a big first step is helping people imagine new possibilities. They also push me back into the work of crafting analogies. How do we use what people already know to help them envision something they have never seen?

Grain Bin assemblyYou actually erect grain bins from the top down! The top band of round panels are bolted together in a big circle. Then the triangular shaped pieces which form the domed top are assembled on that ring. After that is completed, the whole structure is jacked up tall enough to assemble another ring under that top ring. After this is completed the jack cables are moved from the bottom of the upper ring to the bottom of the lower ring. Now everything is jacked up enough to repeat the process. You keep repeating until the bin is at the desired height. Last of all the metal structure is connected to bolts which secure it to the concrete pad.

Grain Bin assembly 2Building a grain bin is a good analogy of counter-intuitives (it goes together different than you probably picture from the description). It is much easier to visualize Disciple Making Movements from inside one than it is only imagining what they might look like.

But who will dare to be the first builders? Who will dare to practice what is working in Africa, Asia and Central America long enough to know and trust the strategies and well enough to adapt the tactics for here in Iowa, Tennessee or Texas? Who will tailor-fit tactics for middle-class Anglos who have given up on church as they know it?

This daring group of ordinary people and unusual church leaders are the kinds of people Final Command is looking for here in the US. If you know anyone this daring, share this blog with them. I will be honored to connect with them and help them explore new possibilities!

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Critical Elements for Starting (pt. 3)

  1. Find Persons of Peace: Taken from Luke 10 and Matthew 10, as we serve, we are prayerfully seeking out a worthy person, or a person of peace.  This will be someone who is open to discussing spiritual things, and curious about the idea of following Jesus.  A lot of times these are people who have some type of influence in the community or group you are trying to reach.  For example, in Africa, it may be the village chief, or it may be the village drunk.  If either come to the path of following Jesus, their change can drastically impact other people around them.  Once you have this truth seeker, you invite them to experience a Discovery Group with you, and you encourage them to invite their friends and family, and/or to share what they are learning with them.  If you share the the reign of God with someone within the group God calls you to reach, and they are disinterested, you move on because they are not yet ready to hear and further efforts may actually increase their resistance.
  • Persons of Peace—these are not yet saved people who God’s Spirit is preparing to be bridges for the Gospel to enter their families and communities. These are the kinds of people Jesus sent the 72 out in pairs to find in Luke 10:1ff. Cornelius (Acts 10), Lydia and the Philippian jailor (Acts 16) are examples of Persons of Peace. In each of these situations “households” came to faith together and that is what we anticipate can happen. Remind people in the harvest force that when you are harvesting apples and oranges you pick them one by one, but with grapes and bananas you harvest them in bunches.
  • Scriptures:
    • Acts 11:1-18 (Cornelius was responsive, but a vision and tongues from the Holy Spirit were necessary to get the messenger to go).
    • Matthew 10:1-16 (Jesus sends the 12 out two by two looking for “some worthy person”).
    • Luke 10:1-16 (Jesus sends 72 others looking for Persons of Peace).
    • Acts 16:6-15 (The gospel enters the “oikos”—household of Lydia after Paul listens to the Holy Spirit).
    • John 4:1-42 (the woman at the well contrasts greatly with the thinking of the disciples in this story). .
  • Activities:
    • After practicing the Discovery Group format for three weeks, do the fourth week in public places (e.g., a Starbucks, a mall food court, at your gym’s cool down area). Be sure that there are no more than four people in each group. In addition to doing the study, watch for people around you who are eavesdropping on your Discovery Group.
    • Every week Question # 3 is focusing on our efforts to obey what we heard and to share about our efforts to find Persons of Peace.
    • Celebrate successes!

Critical Elements for Starting

In 2016 Final Command Ministries released a video documentary telling of some of the ways God has been using his kingdom people to Engage!Africa: Through Disciple-Making Movements. There are five segments which are approximately 22 minutes in length and each focuses on one of the following five Critical Elements needed to start catalyzing movements:

IMG-2952Praying and Fasting

This sounds simple, and maybe a little cliché, but Movements start with petitioning the Lord.  Those who are using DMM successfully take this first step seriously, and are creative in their approaches.  For example, I’ve witnessed prayer houses, neighborhood prayer walks and passionate prayer services where a group leader gives the congregation a prayer topic and they all explode into prayer, some with fists in the air, pacing back and forth. As for fasting, our African partners disciple new believers to start with a single meal, and grow from there. The point is to let God lead this effort. They pray and fast until God opens a door into the people group they long to see experiencing a Movement.

  • Aligning Ourselves with God is at the heart of Praying and Fasting. We pray and fast because we want to be like Jesus. We pray and fast because we know that Movements come from above. We cannot produce them by our strength or great strategies—only God can produce Movements.
  • Scriptures:
    • Matthew 4:1-11 and Deuteronomy 8:1-18 (After 40 days and nights of Fasting Satan tempts Jesus, but he quotes from Deuteronomy 8 about relying on Papa God).
    • Matthew 6:1-18 (Jesus disciples his followers on the crucial nature of praying and fasting).
    • Matthew 9:14-17 (Jesus is questioned about why his disciples did not fast, yet).
    • Luke 10:1-12, 17-24 (Praying as Jesus directs brings incredible fruit and joy).
    • Acts 11:19-26; 13:1-3 (Fasting and praying play a significant role in sending Barnabas and Saul out on their first missionary journey).
  • Activities:
    • Mobilize your home church to participate in a Prayer Wall to provide covering and spiritual insight into your Kingdom advancing efforts. (One resource to use is 24-7 Prayers: https://www.24-7prayer.com/signup/5b132d).
    • Have your Life Groups do Prayer Walks through the neighborhoods where they meet praying for the neighbors who live around where groups meet.

Celebrate successes!

Why Act This Way?

I want to create a dialogue about the spiritual formation of children. Realize that 35% of the world’s population falls in the ages of 4-14 years old. What if we adapted the best of chronological storying, discovery processes and obedience-based discipleship to the character development of children? What if we began to intentionally form the worldview of the children around us? What if we developed materials that others could use to shape the worldview of their children?

Most of the worldview studies I have read assume people already have a developed worldview since they are largely discussing adults. My earlier posts explored the value of using storying to reset worldview in people who grew up with something other than a Judeo-Christian one. A discovery process is critical to allow the biblical message to sink deep enough for a Kingdom of Heaven worldview to begin replacing the existing worldview. For children, the process is simpler since it is about the initial formation of the answers to the critical questions.

Kwast, "Understanding Culture"

Kwast, “Understanding Culture”

Parenting often focuses on the “Behavior–What is done?” level. We want our children to behave in ways that allow them to fit into their culture. We want them to stand out as exceptional, without standing out as “weird.” We want them to value things the way we do. We want them to believe like we do. But often we fail to consider the question of “What is real?” We assume the answers we have for such a question are self-evident, thus they will automatically be held by our children. Is such an assumption wise?

While behavior is important, the emerging values, beliefs and worldview which drive it are critical. Be sure your parenting and grand parenting goes deeper!

Hand It Over!

Next week I will return to this issue of discipling givers. But today I want to explore the matter of turning work over to the people among whom missionaries work. This has long been a troublesome topic. The team that worked in Kenya is but a microcosm of missions history.

Before we consider what has happened, let me share that my friend, and mentor, David Watson takes an extreme position on this matter. He counsels that you never start anything without a local partner, so you are raising up a leader to keep it going from day one. Since they are involved in leadership with you, it is never yours to turn over. Wrapping your brain around that counter-intuitive approach will “field dress” many of the Western pioneer mission strategies. We have to turn it over, because we do too much to begin with. We hold on too long because we want to make sure the local people will be able to do it our way when they are in control.

For some of us, that last word is the bottom line! C-O-N-T-R-O-L is the point of many struggles.

We wonder why so many Western boards have such struggles with local boards. We wonder why local leadership systems are stacked against foreign ownership. Maybe there are examples where we find ourselves in control battles because our controlling nature attracts local controllers!

I like David’s idea. But I have to confess it is a hard goal. It makes the front end very slow. It precludes our American efficiency model. It keeps us from rushing and making something happen by our drivenness, resources and/or ingenuity. But it may also save us from ourselves. Maybe we would not be seen as the brash, know-it-all Americans. Maybe we would be saved from witnessing the dead, empty carcasses of ministry ideas that were too foreign to work where we might attempt to force them to work. Maybe God will raise up locals who can be bridges into their communities.