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Can we, should we, worship alone?

I ran across this interesting infographic and blog post today. (source link):

The post suggests that these ideas are bad, and representative of a rugged individualism that ignores community. Ignoring community isn’t good, I agree. But are the principles highlighted on this graphic actually representative of that?

Let’s spend a moment thinking deeply about this. Here are four nuances I see that could be explored:

1. Worshiping with one’s family vs worshipping with the church: oikos or household worship vs “forsake not assembling together.” Is one a replacement for the other? Are they equally valuable? Is it both/and? Either/or? One over the other?

2. Who has the authority to declare whether or not I am a “Christian”? A believer? A Christ-follower?

3. Who has authority in my life – my pastor’s sermons? or the Scripture they are based on? What if, when reading the Scripture, I disagree with my pastor’s interpretation?

4. What is the value of a creed? Is it important that we use creeds in personal discipleship? What would be lost if we no longer used them?

Clearly, there is value in the church, etc. But once we start discussing issues of authority, then we get into interesting areas. What do you think?

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SEEN: Inherit the Nations: a year of united prayer for 50 unreached people groups

, Dec 18.

A new prayer campaign: for one year, prayer communities and intercessors are asked to adopt a specific unreached people group for weekly prayer. Through a partnership with the US Center for World Mission, you’ll receive a special Christmas Package that contains your adopted unreached people group and resources that you can use in praying for them.  You won’t self-select a people group, you’ll receive them as a gift!  We’re hoping in 2015 even on short notice to see 50 prayer communities adopt 50 unreached people groups.  As part of this initiative, you’ll:

  • Receive a Christmas package with your adopted people group around Christmas time.
  • Agree to pray at least once weekly as a community for your adopted people group for one year (2015 starting on January 1)
  • Keep a journal of prayer and words from the Lord for your adopted nation
  • Receive research information where available that will measure results of this year of prayer
  • Get connected to front-line missionaries in these nations when they’re available
  • Have opportunities to connect with Prayer communities around the nation

Sign-Up and Find Out More: Prayer Community leaders can sign-up here to be part of this initiative.  Click hereto read more in depth about Inherit the Nations.  Web presence will be forthcoming as the initiative rolls out.

Inherit the Nations is a collaborative effort of the Transform USA network which involves many organizations and a PRIME initiative of the US Center for World Mission and the Ethne prayer workgroup.

Movements need the people skills of introverts

Just because you’re an “introvert” doesn’t mean you’re off the hook or unimportant to God’s work in the world. Introverts have critical skills needed to expand the Kingdom.

I max the Myers-Briggs introversion scale. I’m an introvert.

Being an introvert isn’t the same as being shy. It means:
I’m better with individuals than groups.
I have to manage my energy, since lots of people & noise tends to drain me.
I like people–preferably one-on-one, talking deeply over a subject.
I go deep with people I know, but getting to know someone takes a lot.
I need some quiet, thinking, reflective time every day.

As a missionary who’s an introvert, I’m not an odd occurrence.
ActBeyond, the organization we serve with, has a bunch of introverts (I think we’re the majority), and they’re involved in a bunch of movements. And, we’re not some special organization. A lot of other organizations have a lot of introverts involved in movements, too.

Fact is, movements need introverts.

You might have heard this one:
Idea 1: movements large masses of people.
Idea 2: extroverts are best with large masses of people, introverts don’t do crowds.
Conclusion: movements need extroverts.
Grade? Fail.

“Crowds” – like crusades, every home campaigns, huge churches and the like – are great events. But it’s very difficult to get a thousand people in one place, let alone a hundred thousand or a few million. Getting crowds together costs a lot; the more people, the greater the cost. And, as size goes up, governments get involved.

Because of costs, regulation, and even the effects of response to the “celebrity factor” that gathers the crowd, crowds generally don’t scale to 100% of a population. Some people will go see Jean Michel Jarre or Genesis or Metallica or the like in concert–but not everyone. But just because, say, 3.2 million people come to an event, doesn’t mean the whole population of the nation is reached.

Moreover, getting a crowd together repeatedly is exponentially more difficult. This means most events are one-offs. Their impact doesn’t last into the next generation.

More obvious: you can’t do daily or weekly discipleship or accountability meetings in a large crowd. If there are a tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands in a meeting, it’s not like everyone can ask the questions they have – or the questions they’ll think of as a result of someone else’s question.

Movements are not crowds.

Although they can grow to be viral, relational networks of millions of people – like Facebook, for example – discipling movements are comprised of long-lasting, deep, face-to-face relationships (some one on one, some one to a few).

To build deep relationships requires deep relationships. Go to a concert with some friends, and you’ll see how to go to a concert with friends. Spend time studying the Bible with friends over several weeks, and they’ll know how to do it with others. Raise a child as a parent, and the child will have some sense of how to be a parent themselves.

As an example, in one of the movements I’m familiar with, the early years were spent in deep leadership and character development with early believers. The movement pioneers spent hours and hours with those early believers, helping them work through character issues, building them as leaders, encouraging them, helping them confront sin in their lives, etc. It required those key introvert skills: one-on-one, going deep, listening to questions, thinking about them, reflecting on Scripture with people, spending time, praying.

Introverts may not be the type to stand up on stage and preach to a million people, but they do just fine at these kinds of deep relationships. Yes, extroverts can do just fine at them too; my point is just that introverts aren’t lacking some kind of necessary social skill. In fact, the case can be made introverts do deep better than extroverts, if anything.

So if you’re an introvert, it’s not a failing, or brokenness, or weakness. Realize that God designed you that way to make a difference in the world. If you find your 10 close friends and disciple them to find their 10 close friends and do the same… in 4-5 relational generations, you can change a city, and in 4 or 5 generations the disciples of your disciples can change a nation.

Don’t settle.

The Hardest of the Hard

Here are my “hardest of the hard clusters” – the least evangelized people clusters, based on data from the World Christian Encyclopedia/World Christian Database. Be sure to follow the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (@CSGC) for great stats and data.

Nuristani. Centered primarily a very difficult to reach portion of Afghanistan, a people cluster of about 100,000, less than 5% of whom are estimated to have heard the Gospel. There have been many, many martyrs among those who have tried to reach out to them, especially in the last 10 years. Much prayer needed, and much careful spending of effort.

Zenaga. A small cluster of several thousand people in North Africa. Also known as the Sanhaja. This used to be one of the largest Berber tribal confederations along the Maghreb. Related to the Sahrawi (Saharawi).

Bozo. Somewhere between 25,000 and 100,000 depending on who is counting. Primarily along the Niger River in Mali. Mostly Muslim with animist traditions.

Gurung. Population uncertain, with estimates ranging from 250,000 up to several million depending on how they are counted. Primarily along the India-Nepal-Bhutan line in the southern Himalayas, mostly living in Nepal’s mountain valleys. Mostly Buddhists.

Kirati (Rai). About 800,000, also in the area of Nepal. Mostly shamanists following a “Kirat religion” characterized by nature and ancestor worship.

We need you to be a problem-solver

The fact is, our world is far too complex for us to ever completely understand it. Moreover, what our world is today is not what it was yesterday, or last year, or a decade ago – and what it will be a decade from now will be vastly different.

“Church” cannot be simply about a once-a-week event. And it cannot be about a specific task–for example, a city-wide campaign or crusade to get a bunch of one-off decisions to join what is effectively a religious club.

We the church are the ekklesia – the called out community, the Body of Christ, who are blessed to be a blessing.

Individual believers, disciples, must engage the community around them – to be problem-solvers, to be those who stand up for the oppressed, to be the ambassadors of the Kingdom who stand against injustice and immoral behavior, who free those held captive by structures of sin, who bring hope.

It is up to you to know your community, identify the points that need blessing, and initiate the blessing.

It is up to you to know the communities nearby, and mobilize your community to be a blessing to them.

It is up to you to learn about communities far away, and launch the major efforts required to bring hope and freedom and blessing to those far off.

The whole world needs the whole gospel, brought by the whole church – brought by you, and others like you. The whole world needs you to observe, to document, and then to step up and do something.

1 Immediate First Step to make a difference in the world

Once you have picked an Affinity Block and a Cluster, how do you know if that’s the one for you?

Is there a cheap, easy way to confirm your desire?

One simple way to begin researching a Cluster is to do the work of pulling together a Prayer Guide (if one doesn’t exist already).

Every CPM practitioner agrees that the first step toward a movement is “extraordinary prayer.” Prayer guides are a useful tool to mobilizing prayer for a cluster. People who pray for a people group on a regular basis are more likely to become involved in that group.

There are a number of excellent prayer guide models that you can use. Here’s my annotated list.

How do you figure out the prayer needs of a cluster? Don’t just start making things up. Begin with research on the area where the people group is found (look for country-specific prayer guides as well as Operation World). Start keeping a list of big issues in the area, and look for signs the people group is impacted by it.

Next, look at existing prayer requests for the country and nearby peoples, and see if particular organizations are mentioned. Start contacting them and seeking out people who are already working among the group – or nearby. Ask them what the needs of the Cluster are.

There are numerous examples of people groups that have dedicated workers but no specific prayer guide. This is a real need that could be filled, and it could be met simply by conducting interviews, writing down prayer requests, compiling them into a simple written document, and circulating them for comment.

If you want to make a difference in the world, there is no easier or better place to start than right here.

If you’re a church or a foundation and you want to make a difference, this is a key place to start. My list of prayer guides notes not only where prayer guides exist–but where they don’t. Finding and funding potential candidates who are willing to undertake this challenge would be a key difference maker.

4 easy steps to decide where to go

It’s called the “Paralysis of Analysis”–when we spend all of our time in research, making lists, and considering what needs to be done, and never actually do anything. You already have the authority to go make a difference in the world. Where to go? The people group lists vary in number between 12,000 and 16,000 (mostly depending on how they handle the castes of India). Trying to engage with this many groups is difficult. Which one will you choose to commit 2 to 20 years to?

Here is a very simple strategy:

1) First, decide which Affinity Block you want to focus on. Joshua Project suggests 17. Figuring this out could be as simple as asking yourself what kind of cross-cultural food God has wired you to eat. Or some other equally simple indicator.

2) Decide which Cluster within that Affinity Block you are going to focus on. In all, Joshua Project lists 253 – but within Affinity Blocks, the choices are usually reduced to 10 to 20. Ask yourself – what language are you willing to commit to learning?

3) Research the cluster enough to begin understanding the places where large numbers of your chosen language are located. There may be some close by, or large diaspora groups; or, God may be calling you to their homeland. At the same time, begin researching which organizations are committed to reaching the Cluster. It is at this point that people like myself can become useful: we can make connections for you. If you want, email me.

4) Once you’re located in a place using a language–don’t just focus on that one people group exclusively. Aim for a strategy that reaches everyone within the place. This will cover all the “smaller, minor peoples” as well as the big language you are focused on (in most places, a big language can serve as a trade language, too).

7 important metrics for progress

1. Did I say I would do anything?

2. Why am I doing this? What is the overarching thing-I-want-to-see-done?

3. Did I do what I said I would do?

4. Did I do it well, or were there problems in execution?

5. Did doing what I said I’d do have results that got me closer to what, overall, I want to see done? Should I even keep doing this?

6. Would doing more of what I’m doing, or doing it faster/better, net me different results (“more can be different”)? Or, is this action scalable?

7. Is there a step in what I am doing that could be eliminated, or some other way of doing what I’m doing that would be faster or more effective?

4 types of people critical to movements

Here are 4 types of people critical to any kind of movement, whether it’s a scalable startup or a disciple-making movement:

1. Early Adopters – the people who are already seeking what is being offered, and willing to take a minimum viable product: anything presently functioning. They want it so badly they are very forgiving of bugs/errors/problems; and, they want it to endure and be successful so badly, they’ll give you feedback for how the MVP can be improved. Early adopters are bent toward finding a solution–in CPM terms, we can think of these as the people who are Googling for the Gospel. However, they are not necessarily interested in passing the solution on to others. It’s a mistake to think just because you have Early Adopters, this translates into a movement. It may only translate into Generation Zero.

2. People of Peace – Gate Introducers – these are the people who will “open the doors” into their social network. They are sometimes the same as Early Adopters, but not always. For example, among the Persian cluster (and especially in Iran) many seeking the Gospel, listening to Christian programming via satellite television, but only a small percentage are willing to “open the doors” for the Gospel into their network of family and friends. When you think about it, there’s lots of reasons why someone would be leery to do this – at least at first. Try to understand those reasons without prejudging them. People of Peace are actively looking for things of value to pass on to their social network (and one side effect is to increase their value to their social network). When looking for PoPs, seek people in a position to take a risk for the Gospel within their social network. Think about the common fears in the community, and then look for the people who for one reason or another are immune to the causes of those fears.

3. Multipliers & Disciple-makers – In the game world, these are the people who teach the game to others, or maybe even build a business on top of the game (as a coach or the like). In the business world, these are the people who build businesses on top of social media platforms. They take your “product” and run with it to do something more. They want a reliable product, something reputable, easy to pass on, worth passing on, something with most of the “bugs worked out.” In the church planting world, they not only make disciples, they teach disciples to be disciple-makers as well. Multipliers are not necessarily the same as People of Peace, and rarely Early Adopters.

4. Gatekeepers – these are the respected people who evaluate information before passing it on. I’m a Gatekeeper because I evaluate emails shared with me, and check them first with Snopes.org. If they are urban legends, I don’t pass them on. The Gatekeeper or “Hub” person in a network is the key to its scalability: most people are not Hubs, but nearly everyone is connected strongly to at least one “Hub” person. Hubs, in addition, are weekly connected to a lot of other Hubs–they make the “six degrees of separation” possible. If a message is stopped by most Hubs within a cluster, the Gospel won’t make much of an advance. Gatekeepers will almost never be Early Adopters or PoPs. Their strong evaluative function means they are tilted more toward keeping things out than passing things on, whereas Early Adopters and PoPs are focused more on introducing new things of value to the network. Gatekeepers are most likely going to be older, more respected members of the community, especially where spiritual values are concerned. (If we were talking about tech, then the Gatekeeper would more likely be a young-to-middle-aged person with an evaluative bent.)

Many people have the tactics of witnessing & asking people to join a Discovery Bible Study down. Strategy comes in when you begin considering these types of people, their connections to other less-socially-connected members, and how you can engage with these types to promote the spread of the Gospel in a community.

As an example, in Iran, many family Gatekeepers are less opposed to the Gospel, so the Gospel flows pretty quickly through families. In Turkey, on the other hand, Gatekeepers are very opposed to things Western and things Christian – so the Gospel has a much harder time flowing through families. Because Gatekeepers are so opposed, PoPs tend to be less common (because the social risks are higher). Thus most of the converts are more likely “early adopters” but there is less replication and spread.

Salty, brilliant offerings to the community

As followers of Christ we are given gifts to build up others – art, tools and technologies.

  • Art: things that inspire, entertain, edify, teach, remind, etc. Art is a broad category: the written word, the life lived out, the spoken word.
  • Tools: things we build which enable people to bless others, to incarnate the Kingdom, to spread their Art.
  • Technologies: “new and better ways of doing things” (Peter Thiel). They are new systems from which we derive tools and art.

Whether art, tool or technology, you’ve been given something to offer those around you. That thing is God’s blessing, given to you to bless others. What you offer is therefore not just representative of you, but representative of the Kingdom as well.

When people see what you offer, are they tasting salt and seeing light? Is the offering and the way it is offered in itself a demonstration of the ethics and spirit of the Kingdom?

Does my offering meet a need? Is it being offered with integrity? Can people trust me? Is the way I do business a good witness? Are my work habits representative of the Kingdom?

You can’t argue someone into a long-lasting relationship with Jesus or citizenship in the Kingdom – but the things you offer to people, things that build them up, could just make them want to be in the Kingdom, because being in the Kingdom is better than being outside of it.