Accountability: Avoid or Embrace?

One of the things I appreciate about the T4T (Training for Trainers) approach is how every meeting begins in the first section with reporting in on what you have done the past week to apply what you learned before.  Likewise, every meeting ends with the setting of new goals. How are you going to obey and put into practice what you learned in the lesson or story?  This accountability loop is a very important part of making obedient disciples.

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It goes much further than this though.  We must develop an appreciation, even an embracing of friendly accountability in our lives as leaders personally.  As we model this, our disciples see it.  They begin to value it as well.

This will ensure that friendly accountability becomes part of the DNA of the movement.  By upholding this value, the movement will be stable and strong even after you as the coach, trainer, initiator, or leader move on.  Accountability seems an unfriendly, even “dirty” word to many though.

Granted a lot of people have had bad experiences in their lives with heavy handed or unkind accountability.  Some leaders demand accountability.  Some abuse it. In my context in Asia, many have had teachers who were harsh and cruel when they didn’t measure up to what was expected.  As we introduce friendly accountability in these contexts we need to be aware of this.  It is a big shift of mindset for people to welcome and embrace friendly accountability!

How do you help them change?

One of the things I notice is that it takes time and patience to bring about change.  Consistently and lovingly ask them about their goals from the previous week.  Go overboard to encourage and affirm positive actions.  Never scold people for not doing what they said they would!  Instead, gentle encourage them with your own vulnerability and openness. Let them know you are with them and for them in this process of growth toward obedience to God’s word.

Whatever you do though, don’t just skip the asking about goals part because you are afraid of offending people!  Lots of us are in this “business” because we have pastoral gifts.  We love people.  We don’t want them to feel bad!  We think that if we ask about their goals and they haven’t done them, we will cause them to feel shame or lose face.

This can certainly be true if it is done in a harsh way.  We need to be careful about our approach to this.  At the same time, not asking them is the best way to reinforce the idea that application and obedience don’t really matter.  You don’t want that!

Gently encourage them to try again the coming week.  If they failed to follow through, ask a question that helps them own their new decision.  “What would you like to do about that goal in the coming week?” Offer to help them if you can.  “Can I go with you when you share your testimony this week? Would you like a prayer partner while you take this big step to share with your uncle?”

Friendly accountability is a very important part of helping both individuals and movements grow, multiply and be transformed.  It takes time, patience, perseverance, kindness and repetition, but once its part of the DNA of the movement the impact is tremendous!

 

 

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Do I need to live among them?

My kid’s school is far away from my ministry field.  How important is it that I live among the people I’m trying to reach?  If I can’t live “on site” how much will that affect my fruitfulness?

These are real issues for both cross cultural and national missionaries as well.  There are often many barriers to “living among the people.”

Jesus was incarnational.  What that means is though He was God, he took on human flesh and a man. He left heaven, came to earth, lived among us and through that helped us to see what God the Father was like.  He is our model.

talented-people-1793425_1920Does that mean the only way to do missions is to live among those we want to reach? What about loving and providing for our families and their needs?  What if the place I’m trying to reach is very remote or what if I can’t get a visa to stay there?

In the gospels and book of Acts we see both models.  We see examples of living among the people, and of traveling in and out of a place to minister.  There isn’t only one model that can work.  What is crucial though is the depth and quality of relationships you are able to develop. What level of  overall influence upon a community are you able to attain?

It is not easy to develop strong relationships of trust without spending much time among the people you are reaching. It takes many hours of doing life together to earn that place where you can speak strongly into someone’s life.  If you are working cross culturally, and needing to learn a new language and way of thinking, it is even more true.

I talked with a church planter in North India who was focusing on an area an hour away from where he lived.  Because of the distance and because he didn’t have his own motorbike, he had to take a bus to this location whenever he went.  The bus ride took a lot of time and energy and cost money too.  He only went twice a week there, stayed a few hours and came home.  That was pretty much the total effort he made there- 4 or 5 hours a week on site.  He wasn’t seeing much fruit and the people he was trying to disciple were not growing in their faith and obedience very quickly.  They certainly weren’t training others yet.

Philippians chapter two tells us of the humility of Jesus and His sacrifice to come and live among us.  It wasn’t easy.  He had to leave heaven.  He suffered in many ways to provide our salvation.

Sometimes I wonder if the reason we don’t live among the people we are trying to reach is simply a lack of commitment.  Not always, but maybe sometimes. Maybe other times it is lack of understanding of what it means to people when we actually become part of their community rather than a “visiting outsider”.  I’m pretty convinced that if we want to see a DMM, we need to live among the people we are reaching, at least for a time.  It might be a month, several months, or a year or two years.  We see all these time frames in Paul’s ministry.  Some places required him to stay longer than others.

It doesn’t mean we have to stay forever.  In fact, sometimes it is good once the man of peace is found, and the church is started, to move away but visit regularly, continuing to train and invest in the person of peace.  They then reach the community.

If we never live among them, though, its doubtful to me that we will ever develop the depth of relationships that Paul had with Timothy, Titus and Philemon or that Jesus had with his disciples.

Are you already using a model where you live apart from those you are reaching? Consider setting aside a time to go and live there.  Even if it is just for a month or two, this could dramatically increase your chance of fruit there.  Or, consider focusing on an area near your home, a place you can visit daily for at least several hours.  Moving into the community, living in the home of the person of peace, was the model Jesus taught in Luke 10.

Maybe if we would try it, our impact and fruitfulness will increase.

6 Best Books I Read This Year

Ever had a book sound great?  You pick it up, or buy it online only to find out after a few chapters that it wasn’t worth your money? I have!  Let me save you the trouble by recommending some great books on Leadership and Missions that are a definite good investment.

Prov 1:5 let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance—

Here is a short  summary of the best 6 books I’ve read in the last year and how they have influenced me.   I hope you will glean from these “mentors” as much as I have.

insanityInsanity of Obedience by Nik Ripken

We live and work in a world where persecution of Jesus followers is on the rise.  Nik Ripken lived and worked in a country where sharing the gospel meant you could be killed.  His words of wisdom and faith challenged me to overcome my fears in new ways.  He writes on page 38 “The ultimate goal of persecution is to silence witness.”  Throughout his book Nik gives a bold challenge to walk in obedience by actively sharing our faith even when we are “sheep among wolves” as Jesus said we would be.  Challenging and inspiring, this is not an easy book to read, but a powerful and helpful one those of us who work among the unreached.

Jesus Journey by Trent Shepherd Jesus Journey

If you need a fresh look at the gospels from a new perspective, this is a great book.  Trent helps us to see the humanity of Jesus with fresh insight- what did he feel, what were his relationships really like, what was it like for him in his humanness?  Each chapter takes the reader to a story from the gospels and sheds light on who Jesus is within that context.  If you are longing to know Jesus more, this book will help to guide you.  In my devotional life, I enjoy reading books like this for encouragement and help as I draw near to Jesus, seeking greater intimacy with the one I love.  Jesus Journey was helpful to me in this way.

Essentialism Essentialism by Greg McKeown

This book was recommended to me and a group of leaders I work with by an organizational and leadership consultant who wanted us to do less but see more fruit for our efforts.  It is not written from a strictly Christian perspective but many of the insights in the book truly align with God’s word.  Greg first describes what it means to live as an essentialist person and leader.  He then writes about how to understand what are “trivial many” activities and what are “vital few” things that really take us forward in our destiny and vision.  This book has had a significant impact on me!  It’s an easy read, but one of those that will shift your paradigms and how you think about your life.  It helped me to narrow my focus, do what really matters, and to be less busy overall while being more productive and fulfilled.

The Broken Way by Ann Voscamp Broken Way

If you’ve never read Ann Voscamp, let me highly recommend her to you!  She is honest, real, and a beautifully descriptive writer.  I love her vulnerability and openness about her own journey.  It brings encouragement and strength to my journey too.  On page 20 she writes “Brokenness happens in a soul so the power of God can happen in a soul.” In this book she talks about grief, pain, and brokenness in all of our lives and what to do with it as we walk this journey with Jesus.  I came away encouraged to embrace my grief and brokenness rather than trying to run from it and with a new ability to see how God was using it in my life.  Great book!

Necessary Endings Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud

I listened to this book on audible.  Henry Cloud is another one of my favorite authors.  His wisdom and insights for leadership and living emotionally healthy lives always impact me.  This book was no exception.  He writes about the importance of ending things that no longer give life, and helps us see that this is normal not horrible.    He talks about how to discern when the season for something that had worked well in the past is over, and when it needs to end in order for new things to emerge and grow.  This book helped me look at this issue in both my life and organization and take courageous steps to move forward rather than being stuck.  If you feel like things aren’t moving forward, or you are stuck in a relationship, mindset or system, this book will really help.

Pursuing God’s Will Together by Ruth Haley Barton Pursuing God's will

This past year was an important decision making year for our ministry.  We were beginning a transition to a new leadership. We needed discernment, to hear from God.  How would we hear from God in unity and reach a decision in a timely way about the upcoming transition? This book walked me through step by step with great insights and ideas.  Highly recommend the book and process she outlines!

Enjoy as you read!  These books will enrich, inspire and guide you well.  Would love to know what you think of them or if you have already read them, what you thought!

 

Faith and Works- Opposites or Equally Important?

“I’m living by faith. If God wants it to happen, it will. ” This sounds so spiritual.  It can also deceptively hide an unwillingness to risk failure or to work hard.  Sometimes we unknowingly deceive ourselves. We actually are struggling with having faith in God’s ability to reward those who take steps of obedient action.

This issue shows up in many different areas of our lives as disciple makers.  It shows up in our evangelism.  We see it in our fundraising and finances.  We see it in how we set goals.  We see it when we are discouraged in the discipleship process as we help new believers grow and change.

village-2530753_1920God designed faith and works to go together.  It is both/and, not either/or.  We live by faith and we work hard too.  We devote ourselves to the work of the ministry while trusting with all our hearts that God will do what we can’t.

I met a church planter in a closed country some years ago.  He was a good guy.  Deeply committed to Christ, he had given up a great deal to come and serve the Lord in this  unreached place.  He had been working on learning the language, and had built a few local friendships.  I immediately liked him and felt drawn to his obvious love for God.  At the same time, he seemed discouraged.  As we talked about what he had hoped to see happen, he said something like “This place (name of country he was in) is hard and I guess it is just not God’s time here yet.  When God wants to save people in ________, He will do it.  I just need to wait and keep living by faith.”

I wish I had asked him how it was going as far as sharing the gospel.  Had he shared his testimony with anyone that past week or month?  What was the response? I suspect he might have admitted to me that he had not shared a clear gospel message with anyone since he had arrived there several years before. I may have been able to help him more, had I kindly asked these questions.

It says in James 2:18,  But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. (NIV)

Faith doesn’t mean we don’t have a role to play.  Faith that God will save people in our community must be reflected by our active witness.  Faith that God will provide for our needs is reflected by our willingness to approach potential supporters, share about our vision and work, inviting them to be a part.  Faith that God is going to bring transformation to a community means rolling up our sleeves to rake leaves, pick up trash, or counsel a couple in marriage trouble who live near us.  Faith and action go together.  They are not opposites, they are deeply connected!

Is it possible to move into empty works of the flesh?  To start trying to do things in our own strength? Placing too much confidence in our own ability and past experience? Absolutely.  We must careful not to do this.

That means I need to keep allowing God to fill me with His dreams, which always are bigger than my own.  When I do that, I’m stretched to a place where I always know that no matter what I do, He has to come through with His part, or whatever I’m attempting will fail.

We live in utter dependence on God to work (convict someone of sin, bring them to repentance, speak to them to support us, help them see their need for transformation, etc.) We also faithfully do our job (share the gospel, lovingly confront and train disciples, share our needs, etc.)

Disciple making movements among the unreached are a miracle of God.  They can never happen through our own strength or activities.  They require us to be people of faith, continuing to hold tightly to God’s character and the promises of His Word.  Whether it is one person being saved, healed, delivered, one group started, or finances for one need being met, it is all because God was good and because He acted that these things become reality.

What area of action have you allowed yourself to stop pursuing? Where have you convinced yourself what you were doing was “trusting God”?  Maybe the Lord would have you take action in that area once again. He will be there with His help and strength.

 

 

In the beginning- Prayer cells or Training groups?

Many people I’ve worked with follow a strategy that eases slowly into evangelism and discipleship, starting first with the beginning of prayer cells.  Interested people are invited to attend a worship time of some sort and to receive prayer.  As God begins to answer their prayers, they are more interested and slowly they begin to believe.  This is not a bad model, but it is not the model I would encourage if you want to see a Disciple Making Movement.

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Why? You may ask.  It seems good.  People encounter the love and power of God.  This approach doesn’t scare off interested seekers.  No one seems to persecute us if we are just praying for people in a new place.

There are a few reasons why I don’t believe the prayer cell strategy is the best approach if we want to develop the DNA that leads to movements.  Allow me to explain these reasons and then suggest an alternative that is much more likely to lead to movements.

1.Our goal is to make disciples, not gather seekers

Many of these “prayer cells” meet for many months or even years, taking up the church planter (or discipler’s) time and energy without actually ever becoming a church that reproduces.  Seekers who feel comfortable receiving prayer but are not being challenged to make a commitment tend to stay at that place.  Jesus didn’t do this.  He clearly called people to count the cost, leave all other loyalties and follow Him.  He never told his disciples to gather seekers.  He told them to make disciples.  It is natural for seekers to show up when miracles happen.  As we pray for the sick or cast out demons, seekers will come.  When they do, we must clearly present the gospel and challenge them to make a decision to follow Christ.  If they believe, we immediately begin to train them to also make disciples of others and to share the good news they have received.

2. A clear understanding of the cost of discipleship leads to a higher level of commitment in disciples

For quite a few people, they go through a process as they move toward faith in Christ.  This seems especially true for those who do not come from any kind of biblical worldview in their home culture.  It can take time for understanding to come. It can be  difficult to point to a particular point of conversion.  I don’t personally believe that people who pray a “sinners prayer” are “in”, and others who haven’t prayed that prayer are “out.”  I don’t see a biblical basis for that.  At the same time, I see that for most, there is a point of decision making, when they choose to surrender their will to His and shift their loyalties to Jesus.  For many in Asia that point is when they decide to be baptized.  Whatever the process, until people are at that point of high commitment, its hard to expect them to reproduce more disciples. We don’t want people to stay seekers who comfortably attend prayer or worship cells, come to Jesus when they have a need, but fail to understand the commitment involved in following Him.

3. Training those who believe to immediately put their faith into practice causes people to mature much more rapidly than if they simply attend a group with no friendly accountability.

I’ve seen many examples of church planters who lead someone to faith but then don’t do much else besides encourage them to attend the “prayer cell” for weeks, months or even years.  This is a very, very slow way to make disciples!  As soon as someone believes in Christ and expresses faith in Him, you must begin to train them.  Don’t wait.  They are ready.  Start with a basic set of short term discipleship lessons and then move into more long term lessons or a story set.  Immediately encourage them to share their faith with others.  Immediately get them involved in evangelism, and if they lead someone to faith, let them be the one who disciples that new believer.  This makes strong disciples very quickly!

Let me suggest some alternatives to prayer cells as you get started in a new place.  Two great options are widely used by DMM and CPM practitioners.  One is to do abundant seed sowing where you share testimony, the Jesus story, and continue to share the good news until someone believes.  Then only do you start a group around that person as you immediately begin to disciple them.  You help them to reach their oikos or family and friends circle.  You train them in how to share their own testimony, and as you teach them simple discipleship lessons, they pass those on to others.

Alternatively, as you share good news and find interested people, you gather them into groups where you teach a short series of evangelistic bible studies or stories.  At the end of those few weeks you call for a commitment and decision to follow Christ. You then continue to disciple those people, training them how to do the same with others.

In both scenarios, you pray for those who come and they encounter God’s goodness. They may be healed, or get a job, or see God work a miracle in a relationship.  You do more than pray for their needs, however, you share the gospel and call for them to make a commitment to Jesus.

Lets pray for the sick and see miracles.  But lets never stop there.  Lets welcome seekers, but never fail to challenge people with the truth of what it means to follow Christ.  Jesus is the pearl of great price, worth selling everything to receive.  Lets not be afraid to make this truth known.

6 Factors that Get Your Movement Moving

What makes a movement move?  How can you get multiplication type of growth to happen (and be sustained) as you make disciples?

Here are a few of the most important keys to pushing your disciple making into multiplicative growth.  Some are obvious.  Some are more easy to ignore.

what makes a movement move

VISION CASTING- Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” (KJV)  How deeply ingrained in the heart of each disciple is the vision to see lost people around them come to know the Lord?  When we talk about vision as it relates to Disciple Making Movements, we are specifically talking about the vision for lost people to meet Jesus and be saved.  This passion, this vision for lost souls must be spoken out repeatedly in every meeting and in multiple ways.  It has to become a part of the “talk” of the movement.  It has to move beyond something only leaders think about and become ingrained in the hearts of all.  This happens by creative and consistently motivating people to reach the lost around them.  Cast Vision to see your movement move!

PRAYER- Ephesians 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people“(NIV).  DMM leaders are people of constant prayer.  Prayer is what we model, what we live and what we impart to others we train as disciples.  We pray fervently for the believers, for the lost around us, for God’s supernatural work, for victory over the enemy, for healing and deliverance, etc.  Prayer moves the movement forward!

OBEDIENCE- John 15:14 “You are my friends if you do what I command.”  Radical and immediate obedience to the commands of Jesus is a characteristic of movements that move.  As we train disciples to immediately obey what they are learning in God’s word, a DNA of obedience begins to take root in the movement.  We can not compromise on this area out of fear of turning people off.  We must give opportunity for people to immediately obey His Word.  We need to expect and anticipate that they will obey, rather than making it “normal” to learn God’s truths, but not do them.  Whether we are teaching disciples to love their neighbor, be baptized, give, or go, we give a chance to them for immediate actions of obedience. This will make the movement move!

FOCUS- 1 Cor 9:24 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” Athletes and soldiers share something in common with Disciple Making Movement practictioners.  They are incredibly focused and refuse to be distracted by things that “ordinary” people engage in.  There are so many things that pull our attention away from evangelism and disciple making activities!  As someone once said,”the good is the enemy of the best.”  Focus your time, energy, finances and prayer on training disciples to make disciples.  Help others to do the same.  Focus moves movements forward!

FRIENDLY ACCOUNTABILITY- Luke 19:15 “When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business.”  In this parable of Jesus, the master gives out ten minas and goes away.  When he returns he asks his servants to report back to him what they have done.  Friendly accountability is Biblical and important in making disciples who multiply.  When you encourage disciples to share application steps in response to God’s word, follow up!  Ask them how it went.  Encourage positive actions and help people overcome obstacles when not able to reach their goals to share the gospel or reach their neighbors and friends.  Don’t just preach and teach and hope for the best!  Train people through practicing friendly accountability.  Make sure you are also willing to be accountable yourself too!  This kind of accountability moves movements forward!

GENEROSITY- 2 Cor 8:1-3 “We want you to know, brothers,[a] about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord.”  Movements that give are movements that grow.  Internally generated funds and a DNA of obedient and cheerful giving is key to seeing poverty broken over the lives of disciples and the resources released for evangelistic efforts.  As much as external funding can be a killer of movements, generous giving from inside the movement spurs it onward.  Don’t be afraid to train brand new believers to give of their time, talent and treasure from the very beginning.  When they experience the joy and blessing of giving, they will grow, and so will the movement!

Which of these 6 Key Movement Movers are you doing well at?  Which of them need some work? Get moving on these 6 key areas and watch your movement take off to greater growth!

 

Prayer- A Leader’s first ministry

A leader’s most important role is to intercede for those they lead.  Leader’s who accomplish much, do so on their knees.  It is in the place of prayer that we hear His voice, gain direction, strength, perspective, encouragement and where ultimately the real breakthroughs happen.

hands-2168901_640Prayer can not be delegated to others, it is the responsibility of every Christian leader to themselves pray.  We need to lead the way in prayer.  That is not to say that we don’t also mobilize and raise up many others to intercede.  We do.  We must.  There are others who may spend more actual hours in prayer than we do, or who may carry the work of intercession in very significant ways.  As leaders, delegation is an important skill.  This is one are you can not delegate away though.

In scripture we find many examples of leaders who saw prayer and intercession for their people as one of their most important tasks.  We read of Moses and the way he interceded on behalf of Israel.  We read of King Hezekiah’s prayers of intercession.  Paul prayed much for those among whom he planted churches.  Of course, the greatest example is Jesus.  He not only prayed for his disciples, for Jerusalem, and for the multitudes but even now He, our great Lord and Leader, still prioritizes making intercession for us (Rom 8:34).

I often find that church planters see prayer and intercession as something they do in the mornings or at certain prayer meeting times, but then they go on to do their “real work” after that.  Prayer is part of our ministry as leaders of movements and as trainers of trainers.  We must pray much for those we train, coach and lead.  We pray for revelation, for protection, for anointing, for breakthrough.  We pray for those they are training and sharing Christ with.  We pray for the lost around us and the lost around those we have trained.  We pray for revival and outpouring of God’s spirit in each and every life, in each and every house church that is started.

These days I find myself crying out often throughout the day “Lord, send your Spirit.  Visit your people once again.  Come and let your Presence be felt in our lives again.  Set us ablaze.  Send fire from heaven to rest on each church planter.  Overflow from them and spill over to touch the lost around them.  Raise up radical, obedient disciples of Jesus who passionately share good news and make disciples everywhere they go.  I want an outpouring like we have never before seen Lord.  This I boldly ask you for!”

Join me to pray, to intercede for breakthrough and revival.  God promises to respond to our heartfelt prayers.  What better way could a leader spend their time and energy then in prayer?

A Bulldozer anointing for Breakthroughs

“You are like a bulldozer” he said.  Wow.  That was interesting to hear.  I wasn’t sure I liked him saying that.  What did it mean?  I understand better now what this prophetically gifted man was referring to.  I’ve come to believe that to see DMMs (Disciple Making Movements) we need to move in a Bulldozer anointing, pressing through obstacles until we get to the breakthrough God wants to give.

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In life we all face obstacles.  This has got to be even more true for those who are boldly pursuing the release of a movement of disciples among the unreached.  We face financial obstacles, visa related obstacles, persecution related problems, family issues, discipleship and marriage problems and many other things.  Big or small, the obstacles come with regular frequency.  What we do when faced with a barrier that stands in our way  determines what kind of a leader we become and what results we will see.

Joshua faced big barriers when he moved into the Promised land as well.  A huge one he faced right away was the fortified city of Jericho.  Big walls.  No way in.  No way over.  Armies that were bigger than his.  What did he do?

He didn’t get stuck.  He didn’t retreat.  He certainly didn’t give up.  No, he simply listened to God and found a way to destroy the barrier he faced.  God showed him an unusual strategy to “get the job done” in relationship to Jericho.  God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  He is able to makes the walls fall down!

What barrier is making you feel overwhelmed today?  What situation are you facing that looks impossible?  Ask God to fill you with a breakthrough anointing.  Be a spiritual bulldozer.  Tear down that wall through prayer and obedience to His instructions.

Obstacles make us stronger if we respond to them in faith not fear, if we listen to God and obey rather than pull back and stop fighting.  Dmms are more than possible.  They are on God’s heart and a part of His will.  Are you ready to drive that spiritual bulldozer now?

God sized Goals

I train and cast vision for Disciple Making Movements and most people I meet are excited to hear what God is doing around the world.  As a Christian worker, who wouldn’t want to see a movement of genuine Jesus followers?  We all do!  It’s not hard to get people on board with the vision.  What is more difficult is when it comes to motivating people to make the changes that are needed in what they believe about ministry and how they do ministry.  Many also struggle with believing that it is possible to see these kinds of movements in their area, or through them.

I want to write today about the absolute necessity of faith as we talk about starting Disciple Making Movements.  I regularly return to Hebrews 11 to stir up my own faith.  Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is believing for things we can not see yet and verse 6 says that without this kind of faith it is impossible to please God.

How does that play out in our daily lives?  What does it look like for us to be people of faith as we attempt to start a DMM?

Our faith takes shape in our actions and goals.  What we believe, actually believe, shows up in these areas.  I was recently training a group of church planters.  We talked about multiplication and movements, about disciples making disciples and groups starting groups. Everyone seemed on board with what I was sharing.  Then it came time to set goals for the coming months.  Suddenly, faith was tested.  What do I really believe is possible?  What will I attempt to do?  It is not easy to set God sized goals that reflect multiplication.  We are afraid of failure.  We may not reach those goals.  If God doesn’t intervene, those things may not happen and I might be disappointed in myself.  Other’s may also see me as a failure.

miniature-1700629_640There are risks involved in setting faith filled goals.  There are risks in speaking out something and going after it.  There is indeed a chance that you won’t reach that goal.  But there is also a chance that you will!  If you never attempt something, you are unlikely to achieve it.  If you never ask God boldly for something, He probably won’t give it to you.

Why set small goals that are humanly achievable?  We all know that nothing is possible without God. Not even small things.  So when we ask, wy shouldn’t we ask Him for more?  It is going to require Him working anyhow.  Even to see the small things. Why shouldn’t we attempt the impossible, in faith, believing that in the coming days God will show up and work miracles?

The only thing that limits God is our own inability to believe in His greatness and goodness.  Does He love lost people around you?  Yes.  Does He desire that they be saved?   Yes.  Is He able to convict the world of sin? To change hearts? Yes. Did He choose you to bear much fruit?  Yes.  So why aim for something less than a God sized goal to see multiplication?

I’m not encouraging foolish goals that have no basis in reason, or that we randomly pull numbers out of the air.  What I am advocating is that we ask Him boldly for things that He is able to do and wants to do through us!  I’ve always liked the quote “I would rather attempt to do something great and fail, then attempt to do nothing and succeed.”  God is able.  God is willing.  Are we?

Set bigger goals, pray bigger prayers, and let’s expect to see God work in bigger ways through us!

Trainees – what gospel do they share?

christianity-1868365_640I’ve been concerned as we have been training in various locations. We have been training people in how to share the Jesus story, Creation to Christ stories, the basic gospel message.  I’m quite shocked at the number of pastors, church planters, elders and local believers who seem to have little understanding of what the gospel is.  Many are not able to easily and clearly share a simple gospel story.  Some of those unable to do this have been through credible Christian training and discipleship programs.  This is worrying.

Many things contribute to this problem, but the main root of this problem is the model these dear ones have seen.  The gospel they have heard, the style of evangelism they have seen modeled, is one where people are told that if they become Christians, God will bless them.  God will heal them.  God will help them.  Forgive me if I am stating the obvious, but this is a very incomplete gospel.  If this is the foundation of the gospel on which we try to make disciples, we can only expect weak and conditional faith.  We can expect to be accused by opponents of Christianity of trying to convert the simple minded with enticements and manipulative methods.  What they say, if this is all the gospel we share, will indeed have some truth to it.  This situation is cause for grave concern and serious efforts to bring about change.

In 1 Corinthians 1:23, Paul says “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews, and foolishness to Gentiles…”(NIV). If our gospel presentations do not include Jesus crucified, risen and coming again, we are not sharing the gospel.  The message we communicate must be about Jesus; why he came, why he died, how he rose and what it means for us today.  We must speak about sin, repentance, and how Christ’s death on the cross paid the price for us to be restored in our relationship with God. We must share about how His sacrifice made a way for us to know God, have our sins forgiven, and to become spiritual children of God.  This seems obvious, yet in many, many places, this is not the gospel message that is preached, nor do ordinary believers in the churches we have planted know how to share it simply and effectively.

God’s love and goodness, His power to heal, deliver, provide, free, protect …this is all part of the good news.  I’m not saying leave those out, they are definitely part of the message!  We can not give in to the temptation, however, to leave out the vital message of why Jesus had to die in order for us to be saved.  Yes, its hard to communicate about sacrificial death to a high caste Hindu or a Buddhist.  It may take time for them to understand it.  This was true for the Gentiles of Paul’s time as well.  For the post-modern American, it may come across as cruel and they may question why a good Father would ever dream of asking His son to die such a terrible death.  Its still the message we must share.  We can not…we must not..remove the cross from our message.  To do so, will not lead to more true disciples, it will lead to fruitlessness.  I can’t say this strongly enough.

Contextualize, adapt, pray for the sick, cast out demons,  and heal people!  By all means do! I long for more outpouring of God’s power through every team I train and in my own life as well.  People need to see demonstrations of the Kingdom, of God’s goodness and love! They also need to hear the gospel in ways that make sense in their cultures and worldview. I long for every team and church planter to have a great understanding of the language and culture of the people they are reaching. I pray for more of both of these things (better understanding of culture and greater anointing) in my own life every single day.

Just don’t remove the cross.  In the message of the cross lies the greatest and most foundational truth of the gospel.  Lets share it and train everyone we disciple to share it clearly and simply as well.  This message, to those who are being saved, will be “the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18 NIV).