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!

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Bible Engagement in the US

Ponder with me what the recent findings of a Barna research project reveal about people who increased their active engagement with the Bible implies about the potential for starting Discovery Groups focused on reading the Bible:

Bible Engagement Survey (2017)

https://www.barna.com/research/state-bible-2017-top-findings/#.WkZTtFV-C84.facebook

Increased Bible Engagement = Important Part of Faith Journey
More than one half (56%) of those who report an increase in Bible readership attribute it to their understanding that Bible reading is an important part of their faith journey….Second to this response, many people point to a difficult life experience that led them to search the Bible for direction or answers (39%)…. Seeing how the Bible changed someone they knew for the better was an important motivating factor for 30 percent of adults, as was being asked by someone they know to read the Bible (20%).

What might happen if your friend going through a difficulty was invited to read what the Bible has to say about that issue? What if you invited folks to read what the Bible actually says about God’s nature? Just because some of the people you know are Bible skeptics, don’t assume they all are.

While the first group may be most likely believers already, the other three groups are not so likely. Who can you invite to read the Bible? Which of them might become the case study for an improved life? Start praying she will be open. Take the plunge and invite him. Oh, and when he says “Yes,” be sure to ask, “Who else in your social network might join us if you invited?”

Hearing God

I am facilitating an adult Bible study class that is exploring the biblical material on “Hearing God.” We started by making a list of some of the ways God has spoken to his people. As Hebrews 1:1 points out, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways…” One of those ways is dreams and visions. We have spent the last two weeks exploring the role of dreams in the life of Joseph, the son of Israel (Genesis 37, 40 & 41).

We found that others may become jealous of dreamers. Joseph’s ten brothers heard the dreams about bowing before him from the context of Israel’s favoritism toward Rachel’s son. The idea that this brother with the brightly colored cloak would rule over them riled them and they plotted to kill him. Some people naively assume that knowledge of the future will be such a great blessing.

In chapter 40 Joseph is not the dreamer, but gets to be the interpreter. As we discovered God through the narrative of Joseph, the chief cupbearer and baker we arrived at a question raised by a counselor in the class, “Do you see God as setting up and arranging these events to get Joseph to accomplish his purposes, or do you see God as becoming involved in the free choices of the people involved, when needed to channel them to accomplish his purpose?”

Sounds like a great place to get lost in the Calvin/Arminius debate.

Not trying to be a smart-aleck, I left the class with a different question—“So what?” No, I did not raise this as a way of implying this is an irrelevant question. Thinking about God’s sovereignty and exploring the ways he accomplishes his purpose in the affairs of individuals, people groups and even nations is a very appropriate aspect of the Joseph, Israel and Egypt narrative. The way I want the class (and you) to grapple with the “So what?” question is much more personal. I am not too concerned with whether you come out nearer either of the aforementioned theologians. The point I want you to ponder is how does your understanding of God’s nature affect your daily walk?

“What do you learn about God from this passage?” is the most important question we can ask of a text, in my studied opinion. If we approach Scriptures like a new yearbook (“Where is my picture in here?”), rather than as the record of God’s self-revelation, we are misusing them. Is God the puppeteer who only creates the appearance that his puppets have a life of their own, or does he really call them to join him in what he is seeking to accomplish and grant them some level of freedom to accept/reject that call, and then adapt based on those choices to make sure his purpose comes to pass?

For some, their answer to “So what?” is they arrive at some level of fatalism. God controls everything so it is futile to will to do anything, including responding in obedience to any calling he has placed on our lives (intentionally overstated)! At the opposite extreme there is the potential that one assumes, “I must grab the wheel and steer this vehicle!—it is all up to me.”

Does my understanding of God lead to either extreme? Is there a better understanding? Where I come out on this matters. It impacts how I hear God. It does not alter his intended meaning, but it greatly shapes my hearing. Remember that Jesus calls those with ears to hear. Grasping God’s nature greatly impacts how we hear, thus how we respond.

What are you hearing from God? How are you responding?