Moran explores a number of topics through the lens of the paradigm shifts made at his church in Kansas City. One of the elements that Shoel Creek Church has adopted is the use of Discovery Bible Study (DBS) for their weekly groups.
Who can lead a DBS?
We commission both doubters and worshipers to facilitate these groups. Our comfort level comes from two places. One, Jesus showed no anxiety when He commissioned both groups to take His mission forward. And two, we make the Bible the authority in these groups, so we aren’t leader dependent.
Why DBS is helpful for those with little Bible experience?
We have discovered that when you have people who are inexperienced in the Bible, staying in one simple passage makes their initial experiences comfortable rather than making them feel dumb. When a flurry of Bible passages starts being tossed around, they shrink from the discussion and try to find a place to hide. The tragedy is they may never come back.
We also want our facilitators to understand that this is a process of discovery. People buy into, believe, and act on their own conclusions far more than the conclusions given to them by other people. The group is designed for people to hear from God themselves, so the idea of teaching or telling people what to believe about the passage doesn’t belong in a Journey (or Discovery) Group.
Thoughts about facilitating a DBS
Many facilitators have the gift of hospitality and love having people in their homes. They may unintentionally hinder the flow of the generational growth of the gospel with this gift. If every person in a group is to be seen as a potential disciple-maker, facilitators must not do anything that others think they can’t do.
Another important shift is shared facilitation. If one facilitator is still doing all the facilitation after the third group meeting, he or she is doing a bad job! The process is so simple and repeatable that after being in a Journey/Discovery Group a few times, it is simple to ask the seven basic question and bring the accountability piece to the table. So, in effect, our facilitators are facilitator coaches.
Dependency is a subtle and evil issue. The hard truth is that many of us love spiritual leadership because of the dependencies that it creates. Often others’ dependency on us gives us purpose and meaning. It can even provide a diversion from our own pain as we help others deal with theirs. In the guise of wanting to follow Jesus, we inherently stunt people’s growth by teaching them to depend on us, and we create unnecessary stress on ourselves.
The more we do for people the worse off they are. It is no wonder we have a lethargic church in the West. Most of what flies under the name of ministry is a subtle codependent relationship between leaders and followers: leaders who need to be needed and followers who want someone besides themselves to be responsible for their spiritual journey.
Group members often share by mentioning to friends that they learned something while reading the Bible. Since these group members are coming from pre-Christian relational networks, this mention creates a conversation, one that can lead to replication. When friends learn that someone is in a group reading the Bible, and no one is shoving religion down their throats, it piques their interest. Some might even want to join the group. This is where the DNA of replication begins. Groups need to multiply, not grow.
The Bible is the authority in the discovery process, so no need exists for a subject-matter expert to explain it to people. God’s Word is not being taught, but read and obeyed. God is the teacher leading people to Jesus (John 6:44–46).
When a friend asks to join, a facilitator can suggest that, instead of adding to this group, which will further create time issues, start another group. This is a winnable argument, because the process is so easy anyone can do it. Just do what has been done in the initial group.
There is no traction in the spiritual journey without getting your fingerprints on the Bible.
In last week's article, I said that everyone, everywhere is being discipled by something. The dominant messages in our lives will shape our worldviews, beliefs and thus, the way we live our lives.
So what do we do about that?
We have no power over the shaping but we do have the power to chose what will shape us.
We have a choice. Our world is filled with messages but we decide what messages we allow ourselves to be exposed to and shaped by. And the choice we must make as followers of Christ is to immerse ourselves in the word of God.
It is not so much that we must shield ourselves from every message in the world but that we must top load with scripture, worship, prayer, listening and fellowship. When we do this, when the word of God becomes the dominant message in our lives, then we allow the Holy Spirit free reign to use the word of God as the filter through which all other messages flow.
A friend of mine once shared the story of his interaction with an older saint. He was worrying about raising his children in an increasingly secular world to which this older sister in Christ told him, "Honey, just make sure that the melody of Jesus is strong in their hearts. Then everything of this world will sound off pitch and ugly."
The Melody of Jesus
One of the primary ways that we can develop the melody of Jesus in our hearts is by immersing ourselves in the story of Jesus.
As we daily spend time in God's word, reading it and identifying the ways in which God is inviting us to respond to it, the word will shape us. And as we progressively spend more and more time reading and interacting with the word, we grow in maturity.
In an article I was recently reading about movement catalyst Ying Kai, the author shared the story of one of Ying's disciples:
"One old farmer who had never before planted a church started twelve house churches in two months and 110 in the first year. He began every day reading his Bible from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. Then he worked in the fields until 5 p.m., at which point he went home for dinner and family time. At 7 p.m. he went back out again, and he worked in “God’s fields” until midnight."
This man was immersing himself daily in God's word!
A Plan of Action
I have found a number of tools that help me to move toward a life of immersion in the word of God. There are others of course but these are ways I've learned to live in an immersive and interactive relationship with God's word.
These tools work toward reading 3-5 chapters of the Bible every day. You may need to work toward that - we crawl before we walk - but do get started!
The basic idea is to read large chunks of scripture daily, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal things that He is wanting you to hear, apply to your life and share with others.
Then take time to write down your observation, how you'll apply what your learning and who you can share your insights with that day.
Journaling about these things creates a deeper interaction with the scriptures and a way to record what you are learning from the Lord through the word of God.
Sharing with others drives lessons even deeper, allows you to encourage fellow followers of Jesus and have gospel conversations with those far from God.
Two Helpful Tools
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Everyone is being discipled by something.
All the time.
The messages we hear, the words we read, the shows we watch - all of it is shaping us. Drip by drip our worldviews and beliefs are being formed and these shape the way we think and the actions that we take.
The dominant messages in our lives will shape us. There is no way around that. If we listen to talk radio all day long, guess what - we will begin to think and process our world through a lens shaped by the message of the radio shows we listen to.
If we watch prime time television and late night talk shows daily, guess what - we will begin to think and process our world through a lens shaped by the messages of the shows we watch.
What we watch, listen to and read are all shaping us.
We have no power over the shaping but we do have the power to chose what will shape us.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
What is shaping you?
Persecution is a reality that most Christians around the world face on a daily basis. It was part of the experience of the first followers of Jesus. He regularly warned his followers that they would face persecution.
The apostles, save John, all died martyrs death and the first century expansion of Jesus' kingdom vision was built in the cauldron of persecution. The New Testament is a collection of stories, letters and revelations written by persecuted men to persecuted fellowships of believers spread across the Roman world.
And so how do I as a believer who has been raised in the safety of the North American Christian experience - an experience that is the anomaly of church history when it comes to persecution - help prepare my brothers and sisters in Christ (and myself) for the realities of persecution.
Open Doors CEO David Curray recently said that American church leaders are not teaching a theology of persecution. If this is the case, then from what place can we teach and train our brothers and sisters coming to faith out of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or Atheistic Communism to persevere through persecution.
The reality is that we can’t.
But Jesus can and he has given us His Spirit and the word of God. I was trained with a simple study of God’s word over ten years ago and I recently came across that study and so want to share it today. I hope it will be helpful.
Look through the study below, but I have also put it into the form of a bookmark so you can print it off, cut it up and give several to those you are training. It was created to be used by sitting down with your friend and discovering in God’s word how we can persevere through persecution.
Help your brother or sister apply these truths to their own life and then encourage them to train others!
Persevere Through Persecution Study
Four Strong Legs
God’s Word: God’s word is our final authority.
(2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:12; Psalms 119:105)
Prayer: There is power in prayer - our prayers and the prayers of the saints.
(Hebrews 4:16; 1 John 5:14-15; Romans 8:27-28; Acts 12:1-16)
Evangelism: We share our faith regardless of persecution.
(Acts 14:19-22; Acts 16:25-33; Acts 18:1-11)
Worship: Worship sustains us in persecution; use songs, memory verses and prayer.
(Acts 16:19-25; Psalms 115:2-3)
It is not my desire to be sensational with the title of this article. I'm not sure that I actually believe that "church planting" is not Biblical. It's just that I've been hard pressed to find any examples of the apostles or disciples planting a church.
To be sure, the church always emerges - Jesus promised he would build his church after all.
But what we see happening throughout the book of Acts seems to be obedience to the great commission, not church planting. As disciples are made -- disciples who are equipped to immediately obey Jesus and to make disciples themselves -- the church always emerges.
There is an adage bouncing around the West that says, "Planting churches is the best form of evangelism." But does that not fly in the face of both the final command of Jesus and the example of the New Testament church?
It would be wise to try to emulate the teaching of Jesus and the example of His first followers before we move on to other methods.
I've spent the last few months digging into the emergence of the church in Thessolanica. Timothy observed a church a few months after Silas and Paul's initial visit in Acts 17 when he was sent to check on the disciples they had left behind. But the question is, did Paul plant the church in the three sabbaths that he was there?
I can't find any evidence in the Biblical record but a church had certainly formed!
As I read through the book of Acts, church formation seems more a natural by product of disciple making than vice versa.
When you plant a seed in the ground it naturally sprouts and grows into a plant.
I'm convinced that if we make disciples, we will get church. I'm not convinced that by planting churches we automatically get disciples.
And disciples are what Jesus commanded us to make. They were His plan A.
Some of this is recognizably, just semantics. But there is an important distinction to be explored. If our church plants (and all churches really) are not producing disciples who are capable of making disciples, we may need to ruthlessly evaluate our methods in light of scripture.
Before you write this idea off, I'd like to invite you to look at the establishment of the Thessalonian church. Feel free to use the pdf study below to explore for yourself how one of the healthiest of New Testament Churches came to be.
Establishment of the Thessalonian Church 4 Fields DBS *
(and Facilitator Notes)
*(You will need to be familiar with the Four Fields Framework before you begin the study - Learn More)
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