Critical Elements for Starting (pt. 2)

  1. Serve with Purpose: This doesn’t necessarily mean volunteering at the rescue mission. The idea is to prayerfully begin to identify the needs of the community or group God is directing you to reach, and meet one of those needs which they highly value as a way to genuinely love on them in the name of Christ. It may be a for-profit service you begin providing. The goal is to genuinely care for the people with the love of God, and allow the Holy Spirit to open doors of opportunity to communicate the love of Christ. Our ultimate purpose is to create natural opportunities to interact with enough different people to find Persons of Peace. Some access ministries which are places for service are ELL (English Language Learning classes and other forms of assistance offered to refugees) after school tutoring at a laundromat near a trailer park, inner city boxing gym for troubled teens, halfway house for ex-cons, employment programs for released felons, coffee shops in city areas undergoing gentrification, etc.
  • Access Ministries open the door for finding Persons of Peace and lead to community transformation. Ministry should precede efforts to disciple people to Christ and evangelistic Discovery Groups must always be the end goal of ministry.  Timing is important and necessary so prayer and fasting open us to God’s insight and timing.
  • Scriptures:
    • Matthew 25:31-46 (Meeting needs serves Jesus).
    • Philippians 2:1-11 (Having the mind of Christ entails caring for the interests of others).
    • Acts 10:30-38 (Him doing good was a fundamental part of the message about Jesus).
    • Acts 3:1-16 (James and John heal the lame man and that opens doors for talking about Jesus openly).
    • 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 (Paul’s exemplary life involved sharing the Good News and loving care of people, too).
  • Activities:
    • Get your people into pairs and have them “role play” inviting someone to “read what the Bible has to say about marriage, child rearing, God’s character, or some other biblical topic.” Rotate all the groups and work through the room.
    • Go to a restaurant and tell your waiter, waitress: “We pray before our meals. Do you have a need which we can pray about for you?”
    • Prayer walk or drive through the neighborhoods where the people God is calling you to reach live and ask God to reveal a need these people have that will give you a way to serve them with the purpose of finding people who are open to spiritual conversations.
    • Celebrate successes!

Why Change from CPM to DMM?

Multiple factors have produced this change in terminology. Some suggested it because Jesus directed “make disciples,” while he is the one who builds his church. Churches (communities of faith practicing the “one another” passages) will result when people are discipled to Jesus. Secondarily, the shift happened because CPM terminology was being hijacked by folks who are not seeing rapid, multiplicative and indigenous growth. When terms are used to mean whatever you want them to, they really mean nothing (sort of like the guy shooting the side of his barn and then painting a bull’s eye around where the shot landed).

Intentionally discipling disciple makers forces you to:

  • Use only resources, tactics and strategies that the indigenous people group can readily replicate.
  • Strip away all the catalyst’s cultural “over-hang” and trust the Holy Spirit to guide family/friendship groups to contextualize the gospel as they learn and obey it (since different cultures already have strong, deep views of the context in which spiritual activities transpire and how they are conducted, that will impact the kinds of gatherings they develop and eventually call “church”).
  • Model and train discovery of who God is and how he wants us to live at every level of growth and maturity. Jesus’ discipling of the 12, 72 and 500 was as much through the flow of life as it was what he said. (In traditional evangelism and missions we assume giving people new information will result in transformation. It won’t. On-the-job training and “just-in-the-nick-of-time” additional training is critical to DMM).

[NOTE: I originally wrote this as a comment on an article by Felicity Dale (http://simplychurch.com/what-is-a-church-planting-movement/#comments). 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.]

Deconstruction Costs

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.

C = (D x V x F) > R

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.

White Unto Harvest

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.

Contextualization and Post-modernity (pt. 2)

Before I write more about James Choung’s material, let me be open with you. I like it—for a post-modern setting like Southern California—for which it was written. I recommended it to my theologian friend, John Mark Hicks, right after I found it, purchased and read his first book. While I have not purchased Real Life: A Christianity Worth Living Out, I anticipate there is much in this book that I will find useful, especially if I am coaching/mentoring someone who is targeting a post-modern people group.

My desire is to use Choung’s material to get you to think about the wisdom of making cross-cultural applications of highly contextualized material! Lest you assume I am being overly cautious or erecting a straw-man, consider a lengthy quote from his blog commenting on the first book:

I know that I might risk sounding a bit brazen, but I hope that you hear only my excitement about what God has done so far. Starting back in 2005, those of us in San Diego InterVarsity created the material to reach Southern California college students, and did extensive field-testing and multiple drafts before the book was released in 2008. Since then, I’ve been surprised by its international appeal. It’s been used to introduce people to Jesus and His message on every inhabited continent. (I don’t know, nor think it probably, that anyone has taken it to Antarctica.) And so far, it has been translated into Korean, Mongolian, Polish, Thai, Mandarin, German and Spanish.

It’s also spread to the evangelism curricula for denominations and national campus ministries, and has been reported on by Christian media outlets such as Christianity Today, Leadership Journal and JCTV. It’s been shared with seminary students in New England, lakeside villagers in Malawi, college students in Texas, house churches in China, youth in Australia, megachurches in Orange County, inmates in Fresno, slum dwellers in Thailand, and gang-bangers in Boston — one even tattooed the fourth circle on his bicep! One chaplain of a county jail thought it would help reduce the recidivism rate, giving inmates not only a vision of what they’re forgiven from, but what they’re forgiven for.

I’m thankful to God. It’s been His doing.

Is this really the best way to reach large groups of people in Malawi and Thailand? Let me unpack my concerns with that in a few posts.

Contextualization and Post-Modernity

Recently a friend tweeted the following link to a brief overview of critical transitions that need to happen in the life of an individual as he/she is discipled from being a “skeptic” into a “world changer”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ep8XM5IFWsI

As I dialogued with my friend regarding the video, I pointed out that it is very “Western” and “individualistic,” especially in Choung’s discussion of the “skeptic” needing to “trust” a Christian to be able to transition into a “seeker.” I also raised the issue that Choung does not seem to have any familiarity with the concept of God raising up a person of peace who could serve as a bridge into his family and/or her community.

Today I did some searching on Choung’s website and found the following blog which contains the video mentioned above:

Real Life Continuum video which explains the basic model of the book is also out! http://www.jameschoung.net/2012/11/22/real-life-in-print/

It also links to an earlier video, “True Story,” that uses four circles to help visualize what needs to happen in coming to Christ. Later Choung writes about these two videos showing these charts being drawn and their connected books, “True Story and Real Life actually share a common lineage: they are popularized versions of first and second halves of my dissertation on postmodern leadership development. True Story gave the theological ground for Real Life’s disciple-making model.

Please note the very specific context of his dissertation—postmodern leadership development. What happens if you attempt to use his approach in a pre-modern setting? What about a modern setting? I will be exploring these questions as a means of getting Western thinkers to reconsider exporting our strategies cross-culturally without carefully exploring our own presuppositions.

DBS Helps Cross-cultural Communications

Cross-cultural communication is a challenge at best! Just ask wives and husbands how many times they realized their spouse did not hear what they intended to communicate.

In every cross-cultural conversation there is a sender and a receiver. The sender uploads what she/he intends to communicate, but their message is always encoded from within their cultural context (yes, this more closely approximates that of the receiver the more fluent their language skills are). Then the receiver downloads the message and filters it through his/her ethno-linguistic cultural grid. But the process is also impacted by “noise.”

The only way to assess what is understood is to ask for feedback. “What did you understand me to just say?” is a great way to seek clarity. When this person shares what they heard, then you can attempt to overcome the effects of noise and the differences in the ways we utilize words/phrases cross-culturally.

One of the great beauties of Discovery Bible Studies (when the stories are being heard in the heart tongue) is the passage is not being explored cross-culturally. Yes, I know that Scriptures were written from within and for other cultures (e.g., pre-exilic Hebrew, post-exilic Hebrew, 1st century Judeo-Christian, 1st century Gentile Christian, etc.) but it is not going through the additional cultural grid of the cross-cultural missionary.

The Word of God illuminated by the Spirit of God is enough to produce the people of God!

Seek First the Kingdom

Some behaviors become practically automatic and carry little or no conscious connections to core values. But others are intentionally chosen to broadcast and reinforce the spiritual psycho-social weight of our beliefs and worldview.

For example, in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, God has Moses to call the people of Israel to be very deliberate in certain behaviors as a way of passing on a godly worldview:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Their core understanding of being in covenant with the Creator was to be of first importance in their lives. This reality should be overtly demonstrated, regardless of the level of intimacy someone encountered them (gates, doorpost, forehead, hand).

Through their words and other actions we observe what people determine to be good and what they deem best. Their choices reveal their values. What takes precedence in their lives?

Do you want a snapshot of your values? Open your checkbook register and/or your credit card statement. Scan through your day planner. Review your spiritual journal. These reflect how you choose to use your money, your time and/or your spiritual journey. What do you value?

Seek first the kingdom of God… was Jesus’ calling to those who would be his disciples. What you truly value drives your behavior.

[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.]

Equipping the Saints

Tuesday I mentioned that it has never been easier to go to the nations than it is right now. Business creates a climate where it is possible to travel to untold parts of our planet. On my flight from Dallas to Tokyo I sat next to a man who works in the health industry. His company is developing a portable lab for doing all kinds of specialized blood tests—one you can carry in your pants pocket! Needless to say, this resource will be incredibly valuable! But the best thing is he is a believer and he was traveling with two other men from the church where he is involved. These two focus on international missions.

This guy’s business travels will likely give him access the other two men cannot go. There will be places in the Middle East that will be strongly interested in this medical device, once the FDA approval is completed. Wherever this man goes he will be a kingdom representative! The possibilities are endless.

Sadly, this man was jealous of the other two guys being able to spend all their time focused on “spiritual” matters. What can be more spiritual than providing doctors with instant information about cancer markers or heart enzymes? Here is a man who needs to learn how to catalyze Disciple Making Movements and use the access his business will grant him for kingdom advances. I am excited to think about following up with him when I return home. What a beautiful opportunity to swap business cards! When I told him why I was traveling he said, “It is exciting to hear of so many things that God is doing in our world!” Yes, it is!