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.

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# 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.

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.]

Renovation as a Means

Lately I have been watching the TV show, Income Property. An investment real estate expert shows would-be investors three properties which hold promise. Most often, these are houses that will be divided into two units–one the investor(s) will live in and the other will be rented out to help offset the cost of the purchase and renovation.

Each show follows a twin-conflict paradigm. The first conflict/challenge of the show is whether or not the investor(s) can visualize the renovate property. Then the second conflict/challenge is whether or not the renovated value (increased equity) and the anticipated income (rental value) will be enough to allow the new owner to succeed. Inevitably, there are hidden problems in the homes that are being renovated.

Starting Disciple Making Movements are sort of like this show. Inevitably, the way we attempt to produce change is by mobilizing, training and mentoring near neighbor Christians to plant the gospel among an unengaged people group. Note this is a two-phase strategy. First, you have to identify and train Christians to do whatever it takes to reach the people they have previously felt no compulsion to engage. Likely, many of the potential candidates for this “Mission Impossible” have already attempted (at least mentally) to reach out. Their early attempts were rebuffed and/or, they were ridiculed, hassled or persecuted for their efforts. Or, they have powerful stories of others who tried and paid a high price. This people group is unreached for good reason.

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.

Babies Birthing Babies

DMM counter-intuitives—“The best time for a church 2 plant a new church is when it is new.” Older churches want buildings, etc. (Ax 19:26).

In the text referred to above we find an angry silversmith named Demetrius railing, “Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. There is danger that our trade will lose its good name…” (19:25-27).

No, this passage does not mention churches planting churches. But it indicates the gospel was spreading throughout the province of Asia (the Mediterranean coastal region of modern Turkey) and Demetrius blames Paul. How could this be?

We have found that when a Person of Peace is discipled through a process of facilitating his/her family’s discovery of God, they are learning to share the gospel as quickly as they hear it. By discipling an insider who is already trusted by the family/affinity group, we find many insiders realize they too are able to spread this good news. At every gathering they are asked who they know who needs to hear that day’s text. When they finally come back asking if they can bring their brother, cousin or friend, they are coached in starting a new discovery group. The process intentionally raises up disciple makers, not just learners.

Any evangelist realizes that the best time for a believer to reach family and friends is soon after coming to faith. The excitement and transformation are evident. It is likely that the contextual elements that created the opening for the gospel are also present in nearby friends and family. The longer this believer associates with other believers, the less capacity to reach not-yet-believers, unless evangelism is built into his/her spiritual DNA from the very beginning.

The Discovery process we utilize intentionally builds evangelism into every session. As those first people surrender to Jesus’ Lordship, they are reminded of the responsibility to make sure others are able to come to know him as Savior and Lord. Obedience to the Word of God has been an expectation built into their hearing from the very beginning. Exploring a passage that talks about sending Barnabas and Saul out produces a passion for sending some of the best and brightest out to nearby villages and regions. These new believers have a passion and zeal to spread the gospel to those they know and love.

The other advantage they have is the strategy that was implemented in reaching them is reproducible by them. Like us, they attempt to replicate what proved so powerful in them coming to know God. But unlike traditional missiology, the strategy they will employ has been stripped of the cultural elements that always appeared to be evidence of foreign oppression. Our approach is infinitely reproducible by new believers because it is simple enough to be implemented by not-yet believers who God has prepared.

Returning to Acts, Luke never mentions Paul leaving Ephesus during the three years he worked in that city. So why did Demetrius credit him with leading astray large numbers of people throughout the whole province of Asia? Read Colossians with an eye out for Epaphras.

Nothing Grows in the Desert Except…

Wow! It has been five years since I first went to the Rutherford County Jail! My regular visits there will stop at the end of April. It is hard to comprehend what God has done through those regular stops.

My first visit was late in 2005. Jonathon had been meeting Jeremy regularly and came to me to say that he was asking Bible questions that were too deep. He said I needed to schedule a visit. I had no idea what was about to happen.

The jail became my learning lab. It became the place where abstractions I was learning from seminars had to roll up their sleeves and put on work gloves. Theories were transformed into realities—hard realities. God blessed me by first calling me to this ministry through a true learner (teachers have to motivate students, but their challenge with learners is staying ahead of them).

David Watson (the brother who has discipled me for years) always stressed that discovery-based discipleship is messy. I got a rude introduction to that reality before my first visit to the jail. While waiting in the lobby to go up to see Jeremy I was shocked by the large list of rules for the family members who were arriving. Some made perfect sense like, “No weapons or drugs allowed.” Others were surprising like, “You must wear underwear.” I have seen why each of these rules had to be spelled out.

This jail is a hard place. No TV or internet. A small radio might play for a couple of hours a day with the news. There is no exercise yard outside and no weights inside. On good days a garage-type door is raised and lets the sun and fresh air into the thirty-foot cube called the ODR. Here the guys walk in circles around the perimeter or play volleyball or hackey-sack with a balled up sock for an hour. Others might sit in a corner to do a discovery Bible study. This facility has often reminded me of a Kevin Youngblood quote from a class on Jeremiah, “Nothing grows in the desert—except faith!” This jail is a desert.

Jeremy, Chris, Michael, Aaron and at least fifteen more became discovery Bible study facilitators during those years. Most of them were in the “hardest” of the sixteen pods. Here many guys passed their days playing cards–gambling for soap, shampoo and other items inmates can buy from the commissary with money their loved ones put on their account. The sharks loved displaying their winnings as though they were gold medals. But a small group of men prized themselves in hearing from God and finding ways to obey what they heard.

The toughest times were learning that a loved one had died and not being able to go to the funeral. Missing your oldest son’s graduation. Hearing the judge’s ruling denying your motion for early release, or being told you could reapply for parole next year. The guys grew to realize others were watching at such moments wondering whether a Bible would be slammed in the trash can and God’s name blasphemed for not answering prayers.

Several of these men grew by leaps and bounds. Their growing faith often amazed me. But none of them were blessed more than I was. God gave me this place to walk out one of the oddest of the CPM Counter-Intuitives—“Expect the hardest places to yield the greatest results.” Guys in this jail took the truths I was sharing to heart because they discovered them for themselves and they were certainly in a hard place. Little did I know that their story would inspire others in Europe and Africa to begin making disciples in jails and prisons. God’s ways are not our ways.

It was bitter-sweet to notify the current chaplain that my regular Bible studies at the jail will end on April 22. I will never drive by 940 New Salem Highway without thinking about how much my faith grew there. God is good. He often takes us on the strangest paths to get us where he wants us to go!