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).

 

 

 

 

Being contextual without being a zealot

One of the important factors in growing a movement is that it becomes indigenous.  What does that mean?  Miriam Webster defines indigenous as: produced, growing, living, or occurring naturally in a particular region or environment.

We speak of indigenous plants, indigenous people, indigenous culture.  Basically what we mean is that these things grow naturally there and have not been imported from the outside.

When we talk about church planting and disciple making movements, it is widely accepted that indigenous movements grow faster than when we import culture and traditions from outside.  Most people involved in cross cultural church planting accept this at least in theory.

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Indigenous peoples have their own culture, customs, language and worldview

The main thing I want to discuss in this blog, is the degree to which we focus on indigenization or contextualization as we pursue a DMM.  I realize that what I write here may be controversial or offensive to some people. Please forgive me ahead of time and hear me out.  Feel free to comment about what you agree or disagree with.  I won’t be offended and maybe we can learn together!

I have seen both sides of the spectrum of contextualization efforts and emphasis. I  find myself wanting to stay in the middle, not getting out of balance either way.

On one side of the spectrum are people who don’t care much about adapting their methods, tools and efforts to the local culture.  They don’t take the time to research, understand the people they are trying to reach.  They impose models from other places rather than adapting them to fit the worldview of those they are reaching.  They seem to rely on miracles and power encounters to see people saved, but not to concern themselves much with deeper level culture and worldview change taking place.  While sometimes getting quicker fruit than those who take time to learn the language and understand culture more deeply, these church planting efforts seem to stay shallow and have little broader community impact.  They don’t seem to attract influencers in the society but mostly reach fringe (rather than core) people in the unreached group.  For those people, as a coach, I encourage them to go deeper, adapt more, learn the language and worldview better, and work to reach not only people on the fringes but also to share good news with those who others in that society respect.  As these core people come to faith, the potential for massive growth and transformation is much, much greater.

On the other side, I have seen many examples of people who are deeply committed and passionate about contextualization and adapting every tool and method and word they speak to fit the Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim mindset.  They are fearful of making mistakes in their communication of the gospel or causing offense.  They sometimes seem so focused on not creating walls that they don’t actually share the gospel very clearly and seem afraid to let the gospel be what it is and speak for itself, even if it is a stumbling block to some as Jesus said it would be.  (1 Cor 1:18 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.-NIV). People on this side of the spectrum seem to somehow think that the key to seeing a movement is contextualizing enough.  Their commitment to contextualization sometimes seems higher to me than their commitment to see the lost saved and to see a movement happen.  This tends (in my opinion) to make them hesitant to do honest evaluation of the fruitfulness of their contextual methods and strategies or to listen to the ideas of fruitful indigenous workers who are not as contextual as they think everyone should be.   This too is dangerous and ineffective when it comes to the goal of seeing a DMM in an unreached group.

I’ve kind of opened the proverbial jar of worms here and probably made people on both sides upset with what I’ve written.  Again, I apologize.  My intention is not to make anyone upset, but to advocate for a balanced approach to the issue of contextualization.  It is important, vitally important, that we adapt what we do to fit the context, language and culture!  We must be extremely careful about imposing outside ways of doing things (be they Western or from somewhere nearby but still not indigenous to that place and people).  At the same time, we need to be careful that we don’t start to think that contextualization is the only or even the main key to seeing a movement start.  There are many other things we need to also consider and emphasize too.  Things like abundant seed sowing, prayer, finding people of peace, participatory worship, training trainers, indigenous giving, etc.

Be contextual and work hard to understand and adapt to those you want to reach.  Be careful not become a zealot who only sees one thing as the key to starting movements.  Always listen to and learn from fruitful indigenous workers around you.  They have much to teach us!