Facing Obstacles

When Spiritual Warfare Threatens Your Disciple-Making Efforts

spiritual warfare

One after another the problems came. It was an unending stream of difficulties. Moral failure in a team member. Sickness and near death in a key leader we were mentoring. Unusual conflicts between spouses and children. It was soon clear. This was not just normal life, we were facing an all-out spiritual attack.

This is the final article in this series on obstacles to Disciple Making Movements. See the full list of barriers I’ve addressed in the blog.

As we contend for the release of a movement, we must learn to discern when we are facing spiritual blockades. They are put there by the enemy to discourage, causing us to pull back in defeat. read more

How to Avoid Burnout and Painful Member Care Obstacles

member care
Burnout! That common condition that we hate to see our friends go through. Depression. A mental health issue more common in ministry leaders lives than you would think. Marital difficulty or divorce. Again, not unusual. Heart attack! Almost predictable in busy leaders who don’t take care of their health.  These issues are a major concern for those trying to start movements, especially in pioneer regions of the world. Member care issues join our list of obstacles that block a Disciple Making Movement.

Not Only Strategy Matters

Many of the things which block a movement’s growth have to do with strategy. But the health of those initiating the movement also plays a key role. When team members are overworked, emotionally drained and struggle in their own lives and families, it has a major impact on the movement.

Exhaustion That Runs Deep

I had never felt so exhausted in my life. One doctor who saw me called it “chronic fatigue”. I could barely walk up the stairs without becoming so tired I had to sit down. I was completely depleted. A few weeks off helped me to recover…somewhat.  Then another crisis hit. A medical evacuation of a fellow missionary. They nearly died. I came home and collapsed. There was absolutely nothing left inside of me. I didn’t realize that following that pattern in my life would lead me toward medically diagnosed depression. I would later face a season when I needed to take significant time off to get medical care and help. Paul, the great movement initiator knew what this kind of exhaustion felt like. The pressure of ministry can be incredibly heavy upon us. 

“Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” 2 Cor. 11:28 NIV

Stop It!

A pastor I often listen to online said recently, “Don’t give out more than you take in. That is just plain dumb! Stop it.” That is about as direct as it can get.  There is real truth in his statement. At times, we need to hear it said that way. We can be a bit dumb when it comes to taking care of ourselves.  As passionate people deeply committed to the Great Commission, we give and give and give. We push ourselves to help others, even when there is little left inside. Sometimes we give out more than we have taken in. Eventually, it catches up with us and we pay the price. Often the movement does too. Maintaining spiritual, physical, emotional and relational health is crucial. It is necessary if we want to release a thriving, multiplying, and sustained movement. Below are some of the things I have tried to practice to keep myself and my team healthy.  How to Keep Yourself And Your Team Healthy

1) Practice spiritual disciplines like Sabbath.

Do you take a weekly day to rest and refill? Or do you go week after week without any breaks? Many church planters do.  We tend to think we are somehow superhuman and able to keep going without rest. But God didn’t create us to function that way. The Sabbath is a command of God for a reason. He gave us that law to bless us with the health we need. We can not give out what we don’t have. Each week, find a way to practice Sabbath personally and as a team. I’ve written several articles on this that you may find helpful.

2) Maintain boundaries, even when growth is happening.

In community-oriented cultures, this is quite difficult. But it is necessary. Brene Brown in her book, Rising Strong, says, “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” Henry Cloud has also written an excellent book called Boundaries for Leaders.  It is easy to feel like the needs of those you minister to and lead must take priority. Christian ministers can feel they must have their phone on 24-7. They must always be available to those they lead.  This is a recipe for burn out. While we are called to love others deeply, we must also love ourselves. We show that by setting and upholding boundaries.  That means learning to say, “I will meet you tomorrow. Today I have another appointment.” Even when that “appointment” is your date night with your spouse or taking a nap on your Sabbath.

3) Seek out mentors and peer community.

Make sure you have upward mentoring in your life. The more we grow in leadership and ministry the more difficult it can be to find mentors who speak into our lives. We are helping many, but who is helping us? Take responsibility to find those people and seek them out.  Also, look for peers you can relate with. Take time for those Skype or WhatsApp calls with an old friend. Join a peer group like the one we have for DMMs. Cultivate meaningful relationships, even when it takes energy to do so. It is vital to your emotional health.

4) Practice “friendly accountability” related to your physical health.

Do you have someone who holds you accountable for things like exercise, healthy eating, and sleep? If you crash and burn, chances are the movement will too. Maintaining your health is much easier than recovering from burn out or depression. Set goals in these areas and then find someone to hold you accountable and encourage you. We are whole people. Our physical health is as important to God as the rest of us. Make space in your life for exercise and sleep. Don’t believe the lie that you are superhuman and don’t need sleep like other people. Get regular physical check ups.  Your healthy lifestyle speaks loudly of what you value. It’s part of being a disciple-maker to model this too.

5) Make space in your life for friendships and play. read more

How to Turn the Problem of Migrant Workers into an Opportunity

migrant

“How is your new disciple doing?” I asked. “Last week you said *Ram Bahadur took a step to follow Jesus and was baptized. That was so great to hear!”  With disappointment, *Ashok told me this new person had moved away. He had found work in another area. It was unclear, but he would likely not return for a year or so.

It can be difficult to make disciples who make disciples when the people you are focused on are constantly moving. Whether they are seeking work or moving for other reasons!

For the past several months I have been writing about key barriers to launching a Disciple Making Movement (DMM). See the full list here. Trying to make disciple-makers among a nomadic people group can feel impossible. It can seem like a major blockade to the movement’s growth. read more

How to Make Sure Your DMM Efforts Are Headed in the Right Direction

Dmm basics

Have you ever gotten on the wrong bus or train and not realized it? I have! Without a good understanding of Disciple Making Movement (DMM) principles, we can easily get off track. We waste time going in the wrong direction in our discipleship or church planting efforts.

Oh No! I’m On The Wrong Train!

A few years ago, I was heading to Bangladesh to train a group of church planters. I went to the train station. A local porter helped me carry my bag and get on my train. Being a bit late and in a rush, I didn’t check the name of the train carefully. I was lazy to read the Hindi script fully, so only read the first part of the train’s name. It was Kanchan something. read more

Are You Tired of Initiating All the Momentum for Growth?

initiative in disciple making movements

My husband and I like to run half-marathons together. A few years ago, we were running a race in a South Asian city. The day before the race, one of the church planters there heard about our upcoming event. Excitedly he declared, “Next year I will run the race with you!” I looked at his short, quite round body and smiled. I appreciated his enthusiasm. But I wondered if he truly had the initiative or self-discipline to train for a 21-kilometer race.

Disciple-Making Movements (DMMs) are a bit like a long-distance run. They require a significant amount of self-discipline. It takes initiative and perseverance to launch, grow and sustain a multiplying movement. Often, when hearing about movements, people are excited to get involved. They like the vision of multiplication. But they are like my friend who wanted to run the marathon. They lack the self-initiative and perseverance needed. read more

A Relentless Commitment to Focus on the Most Important Activities

focus

As a kid, I enjoyed going to the circus. I especially liked watching the jugglers. How did they keep all those balls in the air?  When I was about 12 years old, my dad bought me a set of bean bags to practice juggling with. It was fun to try to keep a few of them up in the air at the same time.

The challenge excited me, but often they would all fall to the ground. Our lives as disciple-makers and trainers can feel a bit like we are juggling.

We become very skilled at doing it all. One more meeting. Just one more thing that someone has asked us to help them with. Another ball in the air. read more

Platform Demands Competing with the Movement’s Growth?

missionary platforms

Missionary platforms– a necessary evil, or a tool for launching a Disciple Making Movement (DMM)?  Good question!

There is a lot of talk in missions circles today about Business as Mission (BAM). Can BAM and DMMs go together? Are they a good fit? Another good question.

Ignoring Platform Issues- Not An Option

We sent a team to a new area. It was a national team, though they would be focusing on another people group. They quickly faced the issue of platform.

“What do I tell people when they ask me, ‘Why are you here?’” they asked in a coaching call. read more

Is Your Culture in a Fight with a New Testament Worldview?

qualifications for ministry

“If you want the movement to multiply, ordinary believers must be released to baptize and serve the Lord’s Supper,” George Patterson, our speaker, announced. “What? Is that right?” I thought. “Did ordinary believers have the necessary qualifications for ministry?”

We were a group of young church planters and missionaries. We had come to this seminar to learn from George, a church planting expert.

It Sounded Strange

It sounded strange to me. I had well-established ideas from my upbringing and education about the qualifications for ministry. read more

When Disciple-Making Strategy Becomes a Hidden Barrier to Growth

disciple-making strategy

Effective movement leaders don’t focus on disciple-making strategy. Instead, the focus that consumes them is a passionate urgency to reach lost people. Concentrating on the wrong thing (even good disciple-making strategy) can hinder a movement starting.

Strategy is important and has its place. It’s not, however, what drives a Disciple Making Movement (DMM). A sense of urgency to reach the lost at every level in the movement does. This compelling love for the lost has to start with the trainers and 1st generation leaders. read more

DMM Obstacle: Cultural Misunderstanding Gets In the Way

cultural misunderstandings about Christianity
“Nobody likes you. It would be better if you and your Jesus had never been born. We hear that you are all cannibals–you eat the flesh of your children in your sacred meetings.” This was said by Caecilius to his friend Octavius in the 2nd century. Pretty significant cultural misunderstanding about Christianity, don’t you think? Cultural barriers are not new to us today.  As we work with people from other faith backgrounds, these misunderstandings feel huge. Could they even prevent the starting of a Disciple Making Movement? How can they be overcome?

Good News: It’s A Short-Term Problem

Many cultural misunderstandings about Christianity exist. These do create difficulty in the early stages of the movement. Over time, the problem lessens. More and more indigenous people come to Christ and express the gospel in simple ways. Barriers fall. One of the characteristics of DMMs is that they are locally led. As outsiders recede into the background, cultural expressions of the gospel emerge naturally. The image of Christianity (and of Jesus followers) in the region begins to shift.

Aren’t You A Christian?

I was riding first class on an Indian train. I almost never did that, but no other seat was available. A well-educated Muslim businessman sat in the opposite seat in my compartment. I was tired, so I relaxed and read a book.  He was busy on his cell phone, talking to clients. I noticed that he was articulate. He spoke excellent English and was clearly well-traveled.  After a few hours, he too relaxed a bit and pulled a book out of his briefcase. He began to read a publication put out by a group called Osho. Having had some experience with this group, I was surprised to see him reading this.  We began a conversation. I asked what he thought of the book and the Osho philosophy of life. “What do you think about their attitudes toward freedom and sexuality?” I inquired. Slowly, the door opened to share that I believed God (using the Muslim word- Allah). “He has given us guidelines about how to function well in this aspect of life,” I shared.  I believe the all-powerful Creator loves us and gave these rules to us for our good and blessing,” I said. Surprise showed on his face.  He then asked a revealing question. “Aren’t you a Christian?”  He automatically assumed I was. After all, I was from a Western country.  “I am a follower of Jesus,” I replied. “I worship the Creator of the world.” His face twisted into a confused look. “I thought all Christians believed in free sex,” he said.  Though educated and well-traveled, he had never met a genuine follower of Christ. His only perception of Christianity came from Hollywood movies. I was so happy to share with him more about who Jesus is and how He taught us to live.  

4 Tips For Overcoming Initial Cultural Barriers

1) Don’t promote Christianity, share Jesus.

“It is He whom we proclaim as we admonish and wisely teach everyone, so that we may present everyone mature in the Messiah.” Col 1:28 ISV (Italics added).

 Many times, cultural misunderstandings about Christianity relate to organized religion. I often say, “I don’t care if people become Christians or not, I want them to become disciples of Jesus.”  Our goal should not be to promote our religion or to convince anyone to change religions. We must change our mindset. We are there to share about Jesus. Introduce people to Him. Focus on who He is, what He taught and that He is alive today.  Barriers fall away when we stop trying to get people to become Christians and simply introduce them to the One who changed our lives. If it helps, call yourself a Jesus follower, and don’t use the term Christian at the beginning (or at all).

2) Learn about the cultural barriers and how to bridge them without watering down the power of the gospel. read more