Facing Obstacles

Am I an Insider or an Outsider?

insider

He looked like an “insider.” His hair was black, his skin brown. When he wore a kurtah shirt and walked down the street, he looked like an Indian. He had even picked up some Hindi language skills. My friend Jordan* was definitely not an insider though! He had been raised in America by adoptive parents. Though born in India, he was definitely an outsider. Movements that grow rapidly are led by insiders. Who is an insider? Who is an outsider? This week’s blog explains the difference and why it matters. read more

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.

Spiritual warfare can be a major movement killer. Sometimes we face it and are unaware. We respond in the flesh instead of by using the appropriate weapons in our spiritual arsenal.

Ignorance Is Not Bliss

Recognition of the spiritual battle we face is the beginning point. Winning this war means taking an intentional stance. In this case, ignorance is not bliss. It is foolhardiness. We face a very real spiritual enemy when we attempt to launch a rapidly multiplying Disciple Making Movement (DMM). This is especially true when it is in an unreached place or among an unreached people group.

We can not ignore this factor if we want to be successful in our endeavor. Instead, we must take actions to be on our guard. Through discernment, steadfast prayer, and wearing our spiritual armor, we fight. We do battle against forces of darkness in order to gain ground for the Kingdom of God.

Demons At My Gate

Some years ago, we were doing abundant seed sowing with a certain people group. We invited Create International to help us make a contextual film in the local language. This mega people group had almost no media resources in their own tongue. This was hard to believe when their population was well over 80 million people! We enjoyed making the film and finally, the day came for it to be introduced to those in our city.

Below is an excerpt from my soon to be released book, God Encounters in the Wild Places.

“About a week before the showing, I began to get threatening calls. A local pastor had gone to one of the church matriarchs of our city. He had convinced her that she must stop me from airing this film. She came to visit and I listened to her. I tried to show honor and respect, but I knew deep inside that we had not done anything that wasn’t Biblical.

In fact, we had followed the leading of the Lord and made decisions as a group each step of the way. Our goal was not to please the local Christian community with our film. Instead, our desire was to make something that would touch the hearts of unreached people. We wanted to give them a chance to hear the gospel message in a way that they could easily understand.

On the morning of the first showing of the film, I was having my quiet time. It was early. The bell for our compound rang. A group of men was at my gate. I dressed and went out to meet them.

As I walked toward the gate, I felt the Presence of Jesus strongly within me. I sensed Him warning me not to welcome them inside.

Opening the gate, I stepped out. Before me stood a group of about 4 or 5 pastors. One of them was the man who had been causing all sorts of trouble for us.

Discernment took over. I immediately understood somehow that several of these men were being influenced by the demonic.

I could not see the demon with physical eyes. But with my spiritual eyes, I “saw” a tall dark presence standing behind two of the men. It is a bit hard to explain. I turned though and spoke only to one of the pastors on the far right. He didn’t seem to be influenced as much by the dark presence.

“You can not show this film!” they demanded.

Crying out to God silently, I asked Him what to do. Clear direction came through a still small voice within me, “Don’t negotiate with demons.”

I was not to engage or discuss anything with them. I was to honor the men, but stand firm and strong against the demonic realm. The enemy wanted to hinder the showing of this gospel movie.

Thanking them for coming, I listened a bit. Then I politely disengaged. “We will pray and do what God tells us to do,” I quietly stated.

As I walked back into my house that day, I thought about the verse in Ephesians.”

“Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Eph. 6:12 NIV

God had made it so very clear to me! These pastors were not the ones who were trying to stop the spread of the gospel. This film was a key tool God wanted to use. The enemy clearly wanted to stop it!

Don’t Be Confused

The spiritual warfare we face is not always as clear as it was for me that day. Often it is under the surface. It is rare that you actually see (even with your spiritual eyes) the demonic forces you are up against. But as you ask God to release discernment, you can begin to recognize spiritual attack for what it is.

Don’t be confused by the fact that spiritual warfare is often mixed in with other factors. Most of the time, in my experience, the difficulties we face are a combination of things.

They include:

  • our own sin (the enemy will capitalize on our areas of weakness),
  • the fact that we live in a fallen world,
  • spiritual forces that are coming against us.
  • 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.

    Obstacle Or Catalyst?

    This doesn’t need to be a barrier, however, to starting a DMM. It can instead become a major cause of movement expansion.

    The key is to disciple the new believers rapidly using simple, reproducible approaches. Then, teach them to train others and start groups wherever they go. This was the model that led to much growth in the New Testament.

    “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” Acts 8:1 NIV

    Scripture Guides Us

    Always look to scripture for foundational answers to the DMM problems you encounter. This problem of believers scattering was very present in the book of Acts!

    The cause of the believers constantly moving was persecution, not searching for work. There are great parallels to learn from, however.

    We read in the eighth chapter of the book of Acts how persecution caused many of the believers to move away from Jerusalem. The growing church was still in its early stages of development. Many had not received much training yet. Most had only been following Jesus for less than a year.

    Interestingly, it says in Acts 8:4, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”

    How was it possible that they were equipped enough (in such a short amount of time) to preach the gospel effectively? They were able to start new groups (churches) in so many new locations as they scattered!

    How Scattering Believers Became Church Planters

    1) They powerfully received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4, Acts 8:15).

    This is an important reason. Those who came to faith received the power of the Holy Spirit and developed a relationship with Him. They used their spiritual gifts and learned to listen to the Spirit’s voice. When no mentor was present, the Holy Spirit was there to correct, guide and instruct them.

    The apostles trusted the Holy Spirit in the new disciples’ lives. They encouraged them to obey His leading. That doesn’t mean they never brought correction or instruction to them. They did! But their default mode was the empowerment of local believers, not control and restriction.

    Be sure to pray for new believers to receive the Holy Spirit.

    2) They met daily for fellowship and discipleship (Acts 2:46).

    Daily discipleship of new believers is key to developing them into disciple-makers. In the short-term discipleship phase, much contact is necessary. They are still new babes in Christ.

    Meet as often as possible with those coming to faith. This is especially needed the first few weeks after they believe.

    Training them quickly in the basics of what it means to follow Jesus will bear much fruit. Make sure they are encouraged to immediately begin sharing their testimony with others.

    Using the T4T “Baby Lessons” can be a good way to do this. Train them until they can train others. Then if they disperse, they will pass on what they have learned from you.

    3) They learned the stories of Jesus well enough to reproduce them (Acts 2:42).

    It takes many years to train a new disciple to the point where they can preach an expository sermon. Do you still think hearing a weekly sermon is what it means to be a church? I hope not!

    If that is what you need, new believers on the move will probably not end up being church planters!

    Instead, using a storytelling or Discovery Bible Study (DBS) approach works much better. As we practice and repeat the stories of scripture, it becomes natural to tell them to others.

    In the book of Acts, when the believers gathered, the apostles told stories of Jesus’ life. They were first-hand witnesses. They shared about His miracles, His parables, and what it was like to be with Him. Then, those stories were passed on to others following an oral tradition. We can do the same today!

    4) Though there was a council of elders, they practiced the priesthood of all believers (1 Pet. 2:9).

    The New Testament church was not without leadership. But the structure was different from what is typical in churches today. There was no part of the Great Commission that the leaders reserved only for themselves.

    Jesus’ gave some basic commands. He told us to make disciples of all nations, to baptize them, practice the Lord’s Supper often, give to those in need, love God and our neighbor, etc.

    In the New Testament church, these were the responsibility of every Jesus follower. They were not only for the apostles or leaders.  Spiritual hierarchy and the professional clergy came much later. This slowed the growth of the church.

    As you train disciples immediately empower them to be disciple-makers. Help them to start new groups themselves rather than just adding to existing groups.  Then, when they have to move for work, they will naturally do this in the new places where they go. Your movement will expand into regions you never dreamed of reaching.

    5) Churches mostly met in homes (Acts 16:40, Acts 2:46, Acts 21:8,16).

    In the New Testament church, they didn’t suffer from the same misconception of what the church was. They knew the church was people, not a building.

    As you disciple new believers, be sure to instill this New Testament understanding in them.

    6) The apostles visited and wrote to them (Acts 8:14, Rom. 15:23,28).

    New Jesus followers, empowered by the Holy Spirit, did share the gospel and start new churches. But they were not without input and care.

    The apostles visited them as often as they were able to. They sent letters to encourage (as well as correct them) in areas of church practice and doctrine.

    When people you’ve led to faith scatter, stay in touch with them. Call, message and visit them. As they lead others to Christ, do what you can to help them stay on track.

    Today we have the ease of text messaging, phone calls and many means of ongoing discipleship. Consider those moving to new places church planters rather than as people who have left your church. Keep investing. The result might be multiplication rather than a loss for the movement.

    Multiplication Through Migration? 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.

    Not a good idea! Instead of getting on the Kanchenjunga train, I boarded the Kanchankanya train instead. I went in the completely wrong direction.

    A few hours later the train conductor came to my berth. He checked my ticket. “You are not on the right train!” he announced.

    I had to get off at the next station, board another train and return back to where I had started from. Arghh!! My husband kindly booked me a new ticket and the next day I started my journey again. This time, I got on the right train.

    In our attempts to multiply disciples among the unreached, we can similarly go the wrong way.

    When we aren’t familiar with the basic DMM principles we end up on the wrong path. 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.

    We also experience this within the movements we are trying to launch. Some disciples show great passion for the Kingdom. Others seem so passive.

    Without the ability to self-motivate, it is hard to see a DMM get going. Initiative is “taking responsibility for disciple-making efforts without having to be told to do so.” Lack of initiative can be a major obstacle to the release of a movement.

    Overcoming The Barrier Of Motivation

    How do we overcome this obstacle? What action can a trainer take when disciples you train lack initiative? You may notice this problem in yourself as well.

    I have been writing a series of blogs on how to overcome common obstacles to starting a DMM. Click here to see the full list. Search the archives for many other articles on some of the most typical barriers.

    Initiative Flows From Purpose

    Some personalities have more of a bent toward self-initiative than others. For everyone, however, self-initiative flows from a sense of purpose. This is true no matter what your individual temperament. The desire to take action comes from passion motivated by compelling truth.

    The desire to take action comes from passion motivated by compelling truth.

    That is why it is critical that we make vision casting a vital part of every training session. Regularly share about the urgent need of lost people in your region. Also, work to increase the disciple-makers’ understanding of their Biblical identity. Build a sense of ownership in the trainees. This will release them to do the work of disciple-making in their own ways. The result will be an increase in the kind of initiative needed to grow a DMM.

    Two Very Different Personalities

    This week I had the chance to visit a house church we started many years ago. It was wonderful to see them. They have grown strong in their faith, despite many challenges.

    In the group, there are two disciples who are very different from one another. One is a young, fairly educated man. His personality is outgoing. As the oldest, somewhat spoiled son of the family, he has a lot of natural confidence. It has always been easy to motivate him to share Jesus with others.

    Another person in the group, *Asha, is the mother of three young boys. She is also very smart, but she sometimes lacks confidence. Her poverty affects the way she thinks about herself. This is also true of her gender. As a woman in an Indian society, she has little voice or recognized value.

    When we first started training her as a disciple-maker, she didn’t take initiative. She didn’t know she could. Asha had no idea how valuable, gifted and powerful she was in God.

    Working with these two disciples required different efforts. One was a natural leader, one quite reluctant. With both, we spent a lot of time helping them to understand their gifts and roles in the Kingdom. We talked about how they were royal priests. We taught them that God Himself had chosen them to bear fruit. He had given them spiritual authority.

    The Great Commission was a powerful scripture for them. “All authority on Heaven and Earth has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt 28:18-20). “Jesus has given you His authority,” we declared to them.

    Another thing that helped was regular vision-casting about the need to reach the lost. Each week when we met, we told short stories or shared scriptures about God’s heart for the unreached around them. Asha soon started to lead a women’s fellowship. She brought her neighbors and relatives to Christ. One after another, her brothers believed. A passion to see others know the Jesus who had saved and transformed her own life grew strong inside of her.

    “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” – Proverbs 29:18a

    What Can Turn Someone Into An Initiator?

    1) Vision + faith inspires initiative.

    Every single time you meet, take a few moments to talk about the need to reach lost people around you. Share scriptures that inspire faith. Testimonies of what God is doing in other places can also be very powerful. These stories build faith and hope that God can also use them. Make sure that the disciples get their regular faith and vision “vitamin” intake!

    2) Understanding of identity makes room for self-leadership.

    One of the first things I encourage people to train disciples about is their identity in Christ. As disciples learn: who they are as a son or daughter, as a royal priest, and as someone chosen by God to bear fruit, confidence grows.

    3) Buy-in and ownership are necessary for initiative.

    Participatory, discussion-based discipleship meetings build a sense of ownership. Instead of just receiving their teaching, they discover principles from the Word of God themselves. Give them an opportunity to make their own decisions about Bible application. This builds a sense of ownership rather than just obedience to you, as the trainer.

    4) Freedom to take action without too much control encourages initiative in trainees. 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.

    Sadly, these balls can come crashing down in a mess. The goals we hoped to accomplish don’t get done and the passion to see a movement launched dwindles. We face discouragement at our lack of progress.

    Obstacles To Starting A Movement

    The last six weeks I’ve written about major obstacles to releasing a Disciple Making Movement (DMM). Click here to see the full list. Today’s blog is about one of the biggest obstacles. The inability to focus time and energy on the most important DMM activities is a movement killer.

    These most important DMM activities are:
    -prayer,
    -abundant seed sowing/evangelism,
    -finding the person of peace,
    -training believers,
    -developing and mentoring leaders.

    Not Everything Is Equal

    Not everything that dances around trying to get our attention has the same eternal value. Some things we do have much greater importance to God.

    When I stand before Him do I expect God to ask me about how many meetings I attended for my organization? Or about how many emails I wrote? No. He is going to ask me how faithful I was with what He had specifically given me to do.

    These are the things that must carry greater importance for us. The things we know we are called to.

    Are you called to see thousands of lost people come into the Kingdom? Do you know that reaching the unreached is your primary calling from God? Then you must be relentlessly committed to staying focused on doing the most vital DMM tasks.

    Someone At My Door

    Ding-dong. The doorbell to my gate rings. Who is there?  I am in the middle of a project and email. I’m already running behind schedule.

    I look out the window. It is my neighbor, the one I’ve been praying for every day using my Lost and Saved list. What will I do?

    It’s easy. I’ve already decided ahead of time that when lost people on my list come to my door, I am available. I stop what I am doing, welcome them into my home and make some tea.

    It’s not the same for the person who calls me on the phone wanting me to speak in their conference on Member Care topics. For them, my automatic response is “I am so sorry. My calendar is already full.”

    My priorities have been pre-determined. That makes it easy for me to decide.

    “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” Luke 9:51 NIV

    Jesus knew how to focus on the things He was called to do. In some translations it says, He “set His face like a flint.” Jesus was clear, focused and determined to move toward His goal. He was determined to fulfill His destiny. We must be the same.

    What competes for your time and attention?
    – Meetings (Organizational, Pastor’s gatherings, Conferences, Learning Opportunities/Trainings)
    – Email, Phones and Social Media
    – The person at our door
    – Ministry opportunities not related to DMMs and the Unreached
    – Extended Family Responsibilities

    Why Don’t We Say “No” To The Demands?

    Why are we so easily pulled away from giving time to evangelism? Or disciple-making and leadership development? Below are some possible reasons.

    1) We fear offending people or being seen as proud. 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.

    Even when you don’t need a visa to live in a country, these issues come up. We need to be able to explain why we live somewhere and what we do. Otherwise, we create barriers of mistrust. We call this way of explaining who we are and what we do our platform. Finding the right one is a real challenge.

    “Finding the right one is a real challenge.”

    As followers of Jesus, we must walk in integrity and honesty. We don’t want to say we are doing something we are not.

    Yet, it is a genuine reality in many locations, that we can not just come out and say, “I am here to share about Jesus with you and your people.” Or can we?

    In many cases, directly calling yourself a missionary is not a good idea. But not all platforms are equal. Many do not fit well with the goal of a DMM. They can become a significant obstacle to seeing the DMM launched.

    Those who want to launch a Disciple Making Movement (DMM) must carefully examine this issue. They need to evaluate their platforms in light of the results they desire. Otherwise, your platform could easily become a major obstacle to the release of a movement.

    The Unending Language Learner

    When we tell people back in America how many languages we speak, they are pretty impressed! In Asia, it is no big deal. We certainly wouldn’t have learned quite so many if it wasn’t for needing a platform.

    In one country where we lived, my husband took every class at the University in every language they offered! It gave us a visa though and only required 2 hours per day of class time.

    “Each one must examine his own work…” Gal. 6:4

    Examine Your Platform

    How do you go about examining and evaluating your platform?

    First, make sure your church planting goal is clear. Is your goal to do some church planting on the side, or to start a DMM? Many platforms can work if it is the former. But if it is the later, you will need to ask yourself some hard questions.

    1) Evaluate the time, energy and money it takes.

    How much time, money and energy does your business or development platform “cost” you? Is it worth that investment for the amount of Kingdom fruit you are getting out?

    Time+Money+Energy

    vs.

    Disciples Made & Churches Started

    One successful DMM trainer I interviewed said this. “Once I saw the amount of time I was putting into the businesses in comparison to the fruit, I stopped doing them. It was hard because I enjoyed doing business! I needed to be freed to do the main things. Things like seed sowing, finding the person of peace, training disciples, and raising leaders.”

    He went on to say, “Very, very few people can get the balance of business and missions right.”

    I have to agree with him. There are some who do. But there are many examples that have not worked out well. The business or development project has hindered rather than furthered the DMM goal.

    2) Evaluate synergy.

    Look for a platform that has synergy with your DMM goal. What that means is: by doing that platform, you also further your ministry.

    One example of a platform with synergy is having a small tailoring shop. Through this, you can build many connections in the community. Another example is selling a product door to door like coconut oil for hair, or cloth from the city, etc.

    Does your missionary platform help you build meaningful relationships where you can share the gospel?

    3) Regularly submit your platform to God and be willing to change.

    Don’t assume that what God spoke to you 5 years ago is still His way for you today.

    In his excellent book, Necessary Endings, Henry Cloud mentions the principle of “Sunk Cost.” The more you have invested in something emotionally the harder it is to let it go.

    This can be true of our platforms. We work so hard to develop them. Even if they are not giving us the opportunity to do what we want and aren’t giving us the fruit we desire, we struggle to change. It is because of our “sunk cost.” You’ve already sunk a lot into this!

    Many missionaries invest huge amounts of time and money in their platform development. One missionary I talked to said he thought he had invested almost $100,000 over the years in his platform business and projects.  That is a lot of money!

    Could the level of investment (whether time or money) you’ve made be hindering you from an honest assessment of it?

    4) Consider “out of the box” or unusual options 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.

    Those ideas didn’t include brand new believers serving the Lord’s Supper. That was for sure!

    I did not know that many of my ideas about who was allowed to do what in the church came from my own church traditions. They didn’t come from the model given in the New Testament.

    Mindsets About Qualifications For Ministry – An Internal Obstacle

    Many barriers to the growth of a Disciple Making Movement (DMM) are external. But this one is a barrier in our own minds. Our culture and background often influence us more than the New Testament example. It did in my life until I was exposed to teaching about how to multiply disciple-makers.

    I Had Arrived

    “You are now an ordained pastor!” the District Superintendent said as he shook my hand. I felt so proud. I had done it.

    The requirements were not unusually high. They were similar to most denominations, but it had taken me many years to complete them.

    I’d gone through Bible college, completing a four-year degree in Bible and Theology. I had finished my master’s degree from a seminary. There were tests and interviews with committees. Now it was done. I was Reverend C. Anderson.

    I now had the full blessing of my denomination to officiate any religious ceremony; a wedding, burial, baptism or baby dedication. Woohoo! I had arrived.

    A Disclaimer

    In this article, I in no way want to put down the significant role of spiritual leaders in the church today. I admire, respect and honor pastors for their the devoted and sacrificial service. They give so freely to the Lord and to their churches.

    Pastors work hard under very tough conditions. They are paid little and under tremendous continual stress and demands. They deserve our love and appreciation. Like I said above, I am a pastor and an ordained minister.

    Instead, my goal is to address what can be a major barrier to the growth of a movement.

    When we elevate the role of pastor above what the New Testament does, we create a barrier. It can prevent us from multiplying disciples in a rapid way.

    So often, our own cultural worldview about leadership gets in the way. We read scripture through the filter of our personal backgrounds.

    1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation…”

    1. The Non-Christian Worldview And It’s Impact

    Let’s look first at the person coming from a non-Christian worldview. In organized religions like Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, there is an established clergy.

    For the Muslim, it is the Imam.

    In the Hindu religious worldview, there is a special caste of people- the Brahmins. They are uniquely qualified to do religious work.

    For the Buddhist, it is the monk or the Lamma. Only those who wear the orange robes can perform certain religious duties.

    The idea that an ordinary person can do spiritual work is very much against the norm. This is true in almost all non-Christian cultures. The priesthood of all believers is a radical shift of thinking for them. For those coming out of Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism, their default thinking is this: only special people meet the qualifications for performing religious duties.

    Bringing a shift to this worldview is absolutely central to seeing multiplication happen.

    You will not have lay disciple-makers who; start groups, baptize, train and take initiative unless you strongly teach on this. Without clear Biblical teaching, their natural cultural bias will hinder them from stepping up to do “spiritual work.”

    2. The Christian Worldview And It’s Impact

    When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom (Luke 23:45). God’s sovereign action in doing that was an incredible symbol to the Jewish disciples of Jesus.

    Now everyone had access to God! No longer was it only the priests who could come into His presence. The Old Testament Levitical priesthood was over and a new age of the Spirit began. It was to be a time when all who followed Jesus would serve as His chosen ambassadors, His priests.

    Hierarchy ended when the New Covenant began.

    Study Hebrews 8 and what it has to say about the New Covenant if you’d like to dig deeper.

    Sadly, in Christianity today, many shadows of the Old Testament remain.

    In the book of Acts, we see certain roles played by apostles, deacons and elders. You also see ordinary believers, filled with the Holy Spirit going everywhere making disciples. Wherever they went they shared their faith. They started groups of disciples (churches) and the movement multiplied.

    The word pastor in the New Testament describes a spiritual gift (Eph. 4:11). In the Bible, the word pastor is not a title describing a special position in a spiritual hierarchy.

    Many of us come from Christian backgrounds. Like Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims or others, we too have been influenced strongly by our worldview. The religion of Christianity seems to say that there are certain spiritual tasks that are only to be performed by a pastor. This is why we often face resistance from traditional pastors when starting a DMM.

    qualifications for ministry

    But is that typical Christian view Biblical? Or is it something that developed later in the history of the church?

    The church’s structure was dramatically influenced in the 3rd century by the Roman Emperor Constantine. At that time, a hierarchy elevating the clergy above ordinary believers developed. Christian leaders took on the rank and even began to wear the clothing of the Roman elite.

    Start With Your Own Mindset

    If you want the movement you start to grow and multiply, you will need to address this mindset in yourself first.

    As a trainer or leader, what makes me qualified? Is it my special training? My education?

    Issues of spiritual pride creep in quickly causing us to want to control rather than empower. Remind yourself often of the priesthood of all believers and that your job is to equip them to do the ministry (Eph. 4:12).

    Let’s Assess And Examine Ourselves

    Ask yourself these questions.

  • How much do I equip and release ordinary (even brand new) believers, to do ministry?
  • Does my cultural worldview influence me more than the New Testament example in this area?
  • Have I set up any qualifications for ministry not in line with the model of the New Testament and book of Acts? (Asking them to attend this or that training before they can serve for example).
  • 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.

    How It Feels To Be Lost

    It is an awful feeling to be lost.  I remember a time when I was seven or eight years old. We were visiting some of my parent’s friends in a new city in America.

    As adults do when they meet old friends, mom and dad were talking and having fun. I was bored. For some reason, I didn’t enjoy whatever the other kids were doing. I decided to go for a walk.

    I don’t remember exactly how it all happened, but I left.

    Wandering down the street, I enjoyed the various scenes around me. At some point though, I wanted to go back.

    The problem was that I didn’t know where back was. I couldn’t find the house. Nor was I even sure what it looked like anymore.

    Completely lost, I sat down on the side of the road and cried. It was not a nice feeling. Some hours later, my parents came and found me. Now that felt good!

    I had no idea what to do in my lostness. I had to just wait for someone who loved me to come searching.

    There are many who are spiritually lost in the same way I was physically lost that day. They don’t know what Heaven (or the presence of God) look like. They wait for someone who loves them to come and show them the way home.

    “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10 NIV

    The Terms Lost and Lostness

    Some Christian workers don’t like to use the term “lost” or talk about “lostness.” I guess I see their point. If you are an Atheist, Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim, you may not like to be labeled as “lost.” I guess it isn’t following some of the 3D communication principles to use this term on-line as I am here.

    At the same time,

    it is crucial to talk about the reality of the condition of people apart from God. read more