No, I am not suggesting anyone else has to open a non-profit coffee shop (while I am also not opposed to you doing that, but if you do, let me connect you with Rob so you can benefit from his experience). I am telling you this true story to illustrate that “first steps” are going to be greatly impacted by where you are on the journey to making disciple-making disciples (true replication).
While we say we don’t, most of us really want the ease of a “one-size-fits-all” strategy. We don’t want to spend the time getting to know a coach/mentor who will ask a gazillion questions about what we are already doing in order to answer the question, “What are the first steps I ought to take to reach this God-sized vision and overcome my dissatisfaction by pressing through the resistance I am already facing?”
In our heart of hearts, we know that canned answers will not work. But we also know that change is going to mess with our lives. That is why we stay in dead-end jobs. That is why many stay unhappy in their marriages–the work of change will be demanding. We dance the dance we dance because we won’t do the hard work of learning a new dance and doing it long enough that it becomes our new norm, our new default.
Our default evangelistic strategies, developed to reach individualists, isolate people from their existing affinity groups (family and/or friends). Perpetuating them will contribute to extraction and undermine any true movement potential! We have seen the enemy and he is us.
Too much work has gone into making The Well different to tack on traditional missional strategies. Our post-Enlightenment young adults are wary of the communitylessness of my generation. They want authentic community. Those who are disciples want to discover ways to plant, water and harvest the gospel within their affinity groups, wherever possible, rather than ditching them for surface-level small groups which are not authentic. They go to third spaces looking for something meaningful
I continue to worship with Stones River. They also insisted I continue to serve as one of the six shepherds (“elders” sounds old and within our fellowship these groups tend to focus too much on things deacons should do and no one focuses on spiritual leadership, so we decided a name change might remind us and the members of our family that we are attempting to have a different focus). While I gather with Stones River, when I am in town, I travel a fair amount internationally and domestically. These are the times when it is hard staying in the loop, but I have a deep trust of the other men with whom I serve. Nine out of the next ten weeks I will miss our Sunday gathering, but I will be able to participate in the Monday evening shepherds meetings.
Starting next Sunday, I will be driving about forty miles to do some training at another church. Some of their folks have opened a non-profit coffee shop as an intentional outreach. The business was deliberately organized as a fund-raising mechanism for water projects in third-world nations. The name is appropriately, The Well.
Recently, they launched three Sunday evening worship experiences that happen in one side of the coffee house. They have met eight people who have expressed some interest in further spiritual discussions. But how do these caring Christians conduct these conversations in ways that are non-manipulative and hold the greatest hope of bearing spiritual fruit. They hope Discovery Groups will be helpful.
During the seasons when they honored God, Israel shone brightly (e.g., the fame Solomon enjoyed when the Queen of Sheba visited). But when they became insular and rebellious, Yahweh still used them to reveal his glory to the nations.
There are seasons when we go to the nations willingly. There are seasons when they come to us and we willingly present the beauty of God’s transformative covenant relationship. But there are also times when we are sent against our best-laid plans (e.g., Jonah to Nineveh, Paul under arrest in Rome). And, last but not least, there are the times when God’s people are captives to their enemies in their own land. American Christians have known the first three. I pray we never have to experience the fourth. This only comes as God’s corrective to the persistent rebellion of his people to be a blessing to the people groups [nations].
Yes, I believe the church is being watched in the heavenlies. I believe God is doing something on a grander scale than our faith allows us to see (most of the time). I believe there are times when he pulls back the curtains to give us a kingdom of heaven peek. I believe we are living through intriguing times.
Muslims continue to move into our county. They come because of educational opportunities afforded them. There is an excellent school for people who are learning English as a second (third, fourth, etc.) language. MTSU offers multiple majors. Housing and job opportunities abound.
But what if all the Christians who have become panicked since the mosque was proposed, took another tact? What if we prayed God would prepare Persons of Peace among them? What if the followers of Jesus became intentional in befriending these Muslims in order to identify Persons of Peace among them? What if we broke the norm? What if we pushed through our fear of the unknown and took Jesus’ command to make disciples of all the people groups [nations] seriously?
God selected Israel to be his grace answer to the multiplicity of cultures that arose after Babel (Genesis 11-12). He called Abram and his offspring and blessed them to be a blessing to the people groups [nations]. In covenant relationship with Yahweh, Israel was a city set on a hill. He placed them on the strategic land bridge between EurAsia and Africa. Here at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea and the western terminus of the trade routes East and South, God put his Chosen Ones.
Is it possible God is sending these people groups to us?
Yes, I know I crossed the line in my last post. I dared to contradict the maxim that Islam is the greatest enemy to Christianity. Let me explain something about my worldview. The greatest threat to Christianity is never any external force–not Islam, nor even secularism. Our greatest threat is ourselves.
Forgetting our identity in Christ is our greatest threat. Forgetting how our life story intersects with the story of the Kingdom of God is our great danger. Losing sight of what God has done for us and how that ought to affect our choices is our biggest temptation.
There are disciple makers in closed countries who lay it all on the line–every day. Muslim, Communist, totalitarian governments can make their lives difficult, but they cannot stop the transforming power of the gospel at work in the hearts of families. Stop allowing the politicians and/or the media to push your panic button. Stop losing sight of this reality that the Word of God reveals. Our “battle is not against flesh and blood.”
Living under the reign of the risen, exalted and ascended King Jesus is our calling. Saying, “Yes, Lord,” and meaning it is our purpose. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, Israel rejected the truth that the reign of God is enough when they demanded a king. Satan often tempts us to doubt that the Father has our best interests at heart (not just mine as an individual, but “our” as family, congregation, community, nation and world). Trust God!
Seth Godin’s blog on Saturday, November 2, challenged:
“Tenacity is not the same as persistence. Persistence is doing something again and again until it works. It sounds like ‘pestering’ for a reason. Tenacity is using new data to make new decisions to find new pathways to find new ways to achieve a goal when the old ways didn’t work. Telemarketers are persistent, Nike is tenacious.”
His closing illustration reveals what many already know, Godin is a marketer. His usually-brief daily blog often proves insightful. Frequently I can see places where his insights transcend marketing.
A friend recently asked a group of Disciple Making Movements practitioners “what spiritual traits are needed to persevere until traction and finally multiplication happens?”
I replied, “A willingness to fail forward. Perfectionism prevents the risk-taking, trial-and-error learning that each new people group demands. Like a world-class tailor, there are basics of measuring, fitting and sewing that always apply. But each person is unique and that suit is going to hang differently. Ripping out seams and re-doing the work is often required.”
Intentionally passing on a biblical worldview to your children and grandchildren is not a “one-size-fits-all” endeavor. It will require “tenacity” as Godin defines it. We must be tenacious in reaching the goal of seeing the next two generations of our family owning a biblical worldview–relishing living under the reign of Christ! ” Tenacity is using new data to make new decisions to find new pathways to find new ways to achieve a goal when the old ways didn’t work.”
Current statistics on young people “leaving” church reveal that “the old ways didn’t work.” Will we become entrenched and persist in doing them harder, longer, faster, bigger, etc.? Or will we be tenacious and learn to make new decisions so we can find new pathways in order to find new ways? Don’t be surprised when those new ways reflect Deuteronomy 6!