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.

Advertisements

Blessed to Give

Last Tuesday I wrote about giving. I want to return to the subject since we have had time to “chew on this cud” for a while.

I believe that Paul’s care calls us to engage this issue thoughtfully. He was concerned to prevent his apostolic band from being discounted as more religious charlatans–notorious con-artists. He, also, raises the issue of his desire to preach the gospel at his own personal cost so he could go “above and beyond the call of duty.” The apostle to the Gentiles models a very nuanced theology of giving.

Maybe I am misreading Acts 20:34-35, but it appears to me that Paul’s business enterprise in Ephesus was adequate to support his personal needs, also financed a sizable apostolic team and produced enough to “help the weak.”

My dream is to see apostolic workers (those commissioned to get the gospel into truly unreached people groups) who are able to enter communities with business models that are simple, easily reproduced and adequately resourced so they are truly financially sustainable. They will be of such a nature that they involve the workers in providing a valuable service for the people of the new community. They will provide excellent opportunities to look for Persons of Peace. They will become valuable for the community on a long-term basis. They will provide the opportunity to model hard work and helping the weak.

Maybe Paul had not taught about giving at earlier stages during his three year stay in Ephesus. Maybe his statement about “remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive'” was a personal remembrance. But I suspect he is pointing their minds back to earlier teaching he had done when he quoted this from Jesus [NOTE: This statement on giving is not found in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Is this something Jesus said to Paul personally after his Damascus Road encounter?]

I am thankful that my time in Arkansas prompted me to return to this issue. What are your thoughts on the matter?

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.

It’s a Wrap!

Our investigation of the counter-intuitives of Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) was completed with last Thursday’s post. These are general observations we have noted from the movements we have tracked for the last six years in sub-Saharan Africa. They are not mathematical equations. Wisdom must be utilized when one seeks to evaluate new regions and new people groups in their light.

This is one of the challenges of DMMs—one size does not fit all. While every tailor knows how to measure, cut and sew material, every new suit will be different because of the differences of the size and tastes of the client. While every baker measures, mixes and bakes cakes, no two wedding cakes are likely to be identical because of the differences in the wedding parties.

Learning from diverse DMMs gives us insights into how things might be done, but the tactical choices will be impacted by many factors. The analogy I have used to get some people to think about this comes from the NFL. Professional coaches often script their first twenty offensive plays. These choices are arranged in hopes of capitalizing on the defensive tendencies that have been discovered through hours and hours of film study. Coaches hope to be able to score on that first drive to grab momentum and apply pressure to their opponent. But they are also hoping to discover what adjustments will be made to overcome said tendencies.

Consider these counter-intuitives as evidence of tendencies. But recognize that our enemy is always making adjustments. One size will not fit all. “Trial and error” learning is often demanded. Standing on Jesus’ promise that the gates of hell will not prevail (gates are always defensive structures), probe the defenses of Satan by scripted attacks. Recognize that you cannot script the whole game before it begins. Faith demands trusting the Holy Spirit to bless the things you do and to give you needed information in making needed adjustments as you move forward. But recognize that you will not learn these new insights sitting on your good intentions.

Recently I spoke by phone with a brother who is being considered as the executive director of a prison ministry. As he described the organization’s vision I was impressed. They are already targeting the inmates who refuse to attend traditional ministry outreach efforts. They utilize sports to gain the attention of these inmates. But this brother has heard about the DBSs. He has been exposed to 3-Column Studies. He is four generations removed from me and we have never met. Recently the second generation brother met him and they started talking about his possible new position. Because I cut my teeth in prison/jail ministry it appeared maybe we should chat.

Not everyone will be called by God to minister to inmates. To make prison ministry a necessary piece of DMM training would be unwise. It is one of those “hardest places” that sometimes yield the greatest results, so I am excited to be able to share my experiences in a few weeks. Long-term, I may end up training this brother, his organization, these prison missionaries and/or some of the Persons of Peace they have already discovered (but would not yet call them that).

Re-read these articles periodically. Pray that Papa God will bring people, situations and needs to mind from your context as you read them. Ask him to unlock the creativity and wisdom he has already placed in you. Ask him to give you insights on reaching the unreached.

Send me an email. Ask me to help you think through your situation. I will probably ask you to write out a description of the people group you are called to reach. This will help me to capitalize on your insights. It will assure me that you are already doing what you know to do. Ultimately, I cannot make decisions for you—only you should do that. But I will be honored to help you process. If I am at a loss I will reach out to the more experienced strategists that I know and trust God to give some great suggestions. Use these as resources. Blessings!

The Impossibility Specialist!

DMM counter-intuitives—“Expect the hardest places to yield the greatest results.” When Jesus is about to go to a place he prepares it (Luke 10).

There are places where people doubt the gospel can be taken. The people group there seems totally resistant to Jesus’ followers. But we have found that often they are actually resistant to cultural Christianity. When kingdom values are modeled by believers who truly honor the community and seek out persons of peace, God often gives an abundant harvest. I doubt anyone expected a move of God to break out in the Philippian jail.

When believers seek the heart of God regarding entering a new community, they desire to connect with people God has already been preparing. He opened the door for me to enter into the Rutherford County Jail. I never would have expected convicted felons to be the likely candidates for me to disciple more than twenty individuals. But it is an awesome testimony when transformation happens in the least likely places.

Who would have expected Saul of Tarsus would be chosen as the apostle to the Gentiles? Who could have anticipated Galilean fishermen would be selected to turn the world upside down? When hard places yield great results God gets the glory!

We have seen Muslim sheiks and imams become powerful church planters. We know former terrorists who now make disciples. This counter-intuitive reminds us that Disciple Making Movements (DMM) always bear witness to God’s ways not being our ways. But the more we are aware of his capacity to do the unexpected, the greater our capacity to anticipate that a former closed city, region or nation is exactly where he wants to bring the gospel.

List the places where you would last expect a DMM to grow and then ask God to open a way. Pay special attention when a new disciple shares a passion for a hard place. Remember that Scriptures delight in “the Impossibility Specialist” nature of our Creator.

Who do you see as the least likely? Government officials, Wall Street investors, drug-pushing gangs, sex-traffickers?

Do not forget the transformational power of God. Remember what Paul wrote about the Corinthians: “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

We come to expect the hardest places to yield the greatest results because God is in the redemption business. He gathers fame to his name when the impossible happens, yet again!

 

How Long Will it Take?

DMM counter-intuitives—“Prepare to spend a long time making disciples, but anticipate miracle accelerations.” Jesus took 3 years (Mark).

Before a team of apostolic disciple makers enter a new region to find Persons of Peace, there will have been a devoted season of intercession, careful research and deliberate tactical planning. The goal behind each of these is to determine, to the best of our abilities, what God is already doing in this region and discover how we can join him. Making disciples is about obeying Jesus. It is about surrendering our plans to his will.

Often we have found that this process takes time (months, if not years). We anticipate it will be three months or longer before the first disciples come to faith in Jesus—and that is counted from the time you have already discovered the first Person of Peace. But we have learned that God’s ways are not our ways when it comes to this timetable.

We have discovered that when intercession reveals God is ready for a village or region of a city to be reached, when those who are entering have good insight into the world view of the inhabitants and when there are good tactical plans for gaining access into the lives of these people there are often surprises. The God who spoke the world into existence is not restricted to the normal harvest cycles (consider for example the remarkable events surrounding Aaron’s staff, Numbers 17:8). While experience correctly teaches us to expect months before planted seeds yield a harvest, faith reminds us God is greater than the process he created.

Making disciples is a time-consuming process. It is relational. Unless hearts are knit together by a supernatural process, friendships take time to form. Trust is earned. Through the ebb and flow of life the right to speak into a life is incrementally developed.

The God who snapped the Philippian jailor awake by an earthquake is still able to move mountains today. The Creator who opened Pharoah’s court to Joseph by a dream can still invade the sleep of people. We are learning to praise God for miraculous accelerations whenever they come!

We are also learning that the training, coaching and mentoring needed to produce disciples who make disciples still must be accomplished. While we intentionally plan to “disciple people to conversion,” we realize God is free to call them spontaneously and miraculously. But he still calls us to help them grow up into the image of Christ. He still calls us to equip them to reproduce. He calls the body of Christ to disciple them into disciple makers.

God is not restricted by the “Creation to Christ” counter-intuitive. But when those who were miraculously transformed enter another village we want them equipped to sow, water and harvest. We want them to know a process that exposes other people to the Word over a period of time. By such training we do not limit the function of the Holy Spirit any more than Jesus did when he invested three years into the twelve, discipling them. We trust Jesus to not only provide the content of our discipling, but the strategy also. We expect God will use us to equip people to make disciples. To call others to Christ is inadequate for fulfilling the Great Commission! We must make disciples who make disciples of all the nations.

Disciple to Conversion

DMM counter-intuitives—“Disciple people to conversion.” Jesus: “Go-make disciples-baptize-teach to obey” in Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20).

[Note: These counter-intuitive statements have been used by Disciple Making Movements practitioners to describe truths that are the opposite of what traditional missiology teaches. They have been formatted for Twitter, which limits the length of a post to no more than 140 characters. But I also wanted to include the biblical basis for doing it so differently.]

At the close of the first gospel, Jesus commissions the eleven, who graduate from his personal training system, to turn the world upside down (actually right side up). The beautiful thing for them is they have witnessed this approach while they have followed Jesus for three years. He called them to follow him. He taught them, trained them and mentored them. It is only late in this ministry that he asks the critical question, “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15).

In Western churches we usually attempt to convert people and then maybe sign them up for a six-week discipleship class. Jesus disciples for years and then asks his followers to reveal who they think he is. It is at this point in Matthew’s gospel that they answer their own earlier question, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (Matthew 8:27).

Peter speaks for the group when he announces, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus indicates that Peter is blessed to have received this revelation from God the Father. Peter did not learn this insight from another human, it was through divine revelation. Peter’s understanding of Jesus’ identity and willingness to surrender everything comes because he has been discipled to this recognition.

When someone comes to recognize who Jesus is, then he/she is ready to be baptized and to be taught to obey all of Jesus’ commands. Discipleship entails obedience to the one who has “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).

But who will allow you to disciple them to conversion? A Person of Peace. Someone who has already been stirred by the Holy Spirit. Someone who is waiting for the light to shine in his heart. Someone who desperately wants to know the answer to her brokenness. When you find a Person of Peace you have a candidate to disciple to conversion. Here is a person who will walk with you long enough to move from Creation to Christ, fall in love with God along the way and be willing to share what is being learned with others. Find a Person of Peace and you will have the opportunity to watch multiplication come in obedience to the Great Commission.