“If I become a Christian, do I have to wear white when I get married?” That was question number one. It was followed by another pointed question. “Do you eat beef?” My Hindu friends were interested in Jesus. When I shared my testimony with them, they were touched by His love and kindness. But cultural issues like these were at the forefront of their minds. They could not consider Jesus’ invitation to follow Him until they answered these questions. I needed to understand the bridges and the barriers in their culture if I was going to effectively share Christ with them.
We looked down the path and saw him there. A young man lying on the ground, thrashing back and forth. His body out of control with some kind of seizure. Was it epilepsy? A demonic manifestation? What was going on? What should we do? Casting out evil spirits was something Jesus instructed His followers to do. Was that what was needed here?
In this case it was. Laying our hands on him gently, we commanded the demon to leave. As we prayed in Jesus’ name, he calmed. His eyes focused and he looked up at us. We shared with him and his relatives that Jesus Christ had set him free and invited Him to learn more.
We moved around the room silently. One person was given a watch. Graciously receiving it, he silently prayed. Should he keep it or pass it on to someone else? Another person turned to his neighbor, he gave him a newly purchased jacket. The power of generosity was being released in the room as we did a giving exercise.
Generosity breaks the curse of poverty over our lives. It’s also a sign of revival. We help new disciples be free from constant physical need by training them to give to others.
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.
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:
-abundant seed sowing/evangelism,
-finding the person of peace,
-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.
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?
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
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.
Many cultures teach us that to make anyone feel uncomfortable, or forced to do anything, is wrong. The big unspoken rule in evangelism today is “Don’t make them feel pressured.” I have been wondering. Is that a biblical way of thinking about sharing the gospel or not?
Jesus Said Compel Them To Come In
Jesus told a story in Luke 14 about a great banquet. The master invited many guests. But those people made excuses and didn’t want to come to His feast. He then told His servant to go and invite the lame, blind and poor. Having done this, there was still room at the party table. Finally, this.
“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.” Luke 14:23 NIV
God’s Passion For His House To Be Full
This passage shows us God’s great passion. It’s reflected in the instruction of the master. The master is determined that His house be full. It is not okay with Him that only a few come to the great feast He has prepared.
God is not happy with an underpopulated Heaven. It’s not a neutral issue for God. Sometimes we get the idea that God doesn’t care that much. Here is the gospel. Take it or leave it. Not very interested? No problem. I wouldn’t want you to feel uncomfortable.
That is not a biblical way to think! It’s not how Jesus described the Father. No. Instead, He tells us to compel people to come into His Kingdom. The word compel means to “force or oblige (someone) to do something.” It definitely has the sense of pressure being applied.
In many cultures, there is a high value for tolerance. This is true in the West and it’s also seen in Buddhism and Hinduism. These worldviews say, “All roads lead to god. You do your thing, I will do mine. There is no such thing as truth. If you think your way is better or right, you are being arrogant.”
It’s difficult in this environment to present a message that says Jesus is the only way to the Father.
The costs are real and the challenges great. How do we keep from being destroyed by the incredible cost of this effort?
What Makes It Worth It?
Suffering is inevitable in everyone’s life. It is particularly noticeable though, in the lives of those who pursue DMMs. It is not just likely, it is highly probable that you will face intense suffering as you work to start a movement. Some would say that experiencing suffering is characteristic of those who launch movements.
There are two main things that make the cost worth it. One is that in the midst of the pain we encounter, we know God more. Secondly, we have the joy of knowing our sacrifice will not be wasted. Lost people will be found by our Almighty God. The unreached will know the power of His radical, unconditional love. Whether today, tomorrow or years from now, the seeds sown by our tears and pain will bear much fruit.
Every Breakthrough Came With A Cost
It seemed like every time we had a forward advance in our work, I got sick. A divine appointment with a potential national apostle happened. I got hepatitis. We launched a new type of training for church planters, my back went out. We hosted a large missions conference calling thousands into ministry among the unreached. With it came unusual challenges in our marriage. It seemed we were at odds with one another for little reason.
“Every breakthrough we saw came at a personal cost to my husband and I.”
Other times, it was the challenge of getting visas to remain in the country. This took a toll on our sense of well being and emotional health. There was also the loss of death. At key moments of forward movement in ministry, tragedy seemed to strike. A co-worker was killed in a sudden accident. This happened just a week after we had prayed for special covering and protection over all our staff.
“What was I to do with this continual loss and suffering? How would I keep it from destroying me? Was it just part of what was necessary to see breakthroughs and movements released?”
Questions swirled in my mind when we faced these difficult challenges.
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” Romans 8: 17- NIV
How God Uses Suffering
Dan Allender writes in his book Cry of the Soul,
“Suffering may be caused by the hand of an enemy, but God uses sorrow for the sake of redemption.”
It’s Love Not Performance
Evangelism starts with love. Allow God to continually fill you with His heart for lost people. If we are doing evangelism out of a sense of duty, obligation, or an “I should”, we will not be effective. Nor will our efforts bring pleasure to God. He wants us to have His heart. Is this still your primary motivation for sharing His story? God’s aching heart for the lost?
Our tendency toward performance orientation can affect us. We may develop an underlying sense that we must do evangelism to win (or keep) God’s love. It is a lie. But it can still impact us. Instead of sharing good news from a heart of love, we start to share it out of duty. We begin to do it because we should. We need to return again and again to our loving Father. Let Him fill us once more with His heart, with His love- for us and for others.
Love Is Always More Important Than Methods
It is helpful as we train people to have them learn a method of evangelism. We teach them how to share their testimony and the Jesus story. It builds confidence and competency. This is important. But in training, always start with the trainee’s heart. Evangelism starts there. People sense whether you love them. They know if you are sharing the gospel to “convert” them, or because you genuinely care about them.
Ask God For A Luke 15 Heart
My “go to” chapter when love for the lost is getting a bit cool is Luke 15. There are three stories in a row about God’s heart for the lost; the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. Take a few minutes to read and meditate on this chapter sometime this week.
1 Cor 13:1 “If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”- NIV
Are we “gongs and cymbals”?
5 Signs You’re Loving The Lost
Sign 1- If I love the lost, I sincerely and specifically pray for lost people.