Establishing Gospel DNA Throughout the Body
God’s mission is to restore all things to himself in and through the work and person of Jesus Christ. He chooses to accomplish that mission through the church. As God restores us to himself, he is also restoring us to be who he intends us to be. This restoring work does not happen in isolation, but rather in and through our relationships. We do not do it alone. We need each other. One way to purposefully cultivate these relationships is through DNA groups.
What is a DNA Group?
A DNA (DNA stand for Discipleship, Nurturing, and Accountability) Group is made up of three people—men with men, women with women—who meet together weekly to be known and to bring the gospel to bear on each other’s lives so that they grow in and live out the values of mission of Christ. Groups are not about seeking the approval of people; God’s approval—the only approval that matters—is already ours because of Jesus’ perfect life, death and resurrection.
Once formed, a DNA group focuses on the following:
PATHWAYS INTO A DNA GROUP
Recently a group from our church attended the Discipleship.org conference. We engaged with about 1,400 other “Discipleship First” folks to be encouraged by brothers and sisters from around the world and to hear the ways they grow disciples who make disciples.
Here are 5 key points that I walked away with from the conference:
2. The Word of God is powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword (Hebrew 4:12). Make engagement with the Bible a central feature of your discipling process. What scriptures will you memorize together and why? What biblical readings will focus your attention?
3. The discipling leader sets the stage. As a discipler, you are inviting others to learn from your life. You determine the time, place, and the content. If they’re not willing to work with your schedule, they may not yet be ready to engage that level of discipling.
4. Discipling is best done in groups of 3 to 5 people of the same gender. The focus is on obeying scripture and reflecting on the interaction between scripture and doing. Being small in number and gender specific allows a greater flow of interaction, confession and accountability.
5. Any plan is more effective than no plan. There were 18 tracks at the 2018 Discipleship Conference, each led by a group with disciple making as their goal. Here are 3 of the plans presented:
There’s a lot of interest and activity surrounding discipleship today, and that is good! As I hear and read a lot of this discipleship talk, it often seems to be in the context of maturing those who are already believers—often lifelong believers. We need to continually remind ourselves that the discipleship journey includes life from unbelief to mature discipleship.
When we follow Jesus’ ministry we see a fairly seamless process as he meets people where they are and moves them from unbelief to active believer. Look at the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-42. When Jesus encounters her at the well she’s not a Messiah believer. Jesus begins by establishing relationship. Then the two engage in a series of back forth questions and statements. Ultimately, Jesus gets to the heart of her life,
Jesus: “Go call your husband” Woman: “I don’t have a husband”
“You’re right, you have 5” “I see you’re a prophet”
“Believe me woman” “I know that the Messiah is coming”
“I am he” “Come, see. Could this be the Messiah?”
By the end of this story the woman is confessing her commitment of belief to her towns people, who by this time are ready to go and see for themselves. I believe this is a classic story demonstrating how Jesus met this woman on her terms, then deliberately led her to conclude that he was the Messiah of promise and worthy of discipleship.
Here’s the question you need to answer: Do the activities your church provides give people a clear, well-defined pathway to faith in Jesus then growth towards active discipleship?
Here’s a simple, effective five-step system that you can use to create a discipleship funnel to help your church create disciples while it grows in numbers and health.
Step 1: Encounter. If we believe that God is searching for and gathering people to himself, how do we meet these people? You must learn to turn encounters into meeting events. Your church needs specific meeting activities where you get to encounter people. Good meeting points often include one off events such as neighborhood parties, Vacation Bible Schools, and holiday activities. What truly characterizes a meeting point is you have to collect contact information, at minimum first and last names and their phone number or email. If you don’t get these, you can’t follow up. Not only do you leave people stranded, but all that energy you expend doesn’t do you any good. Your goal for encounter is to get to know people, listen for their spiritual story, and provide them opportunity for a next step. What are your most effective encounter activities that help you meet new people?
Step 2: Engage. Engagement is where people have opportunity to hear the gospel, ask questions, consider the gospel’s implications for their lives, and see how they fit with you, God's people. Good engagement activities are short-term, well-defined studies such as the Alpha course, Story of Redemption, or Let’s Start Talking. What I think makes these some of the best engagement activities is because they occur in small groups where there are multiple seekers. These small groups allow discussion and question asking; people get to think and process together so they gain a multi-dimensional look at the gospel. The believers in these engagement groups act as guides and gospel illuminators; they’re not teachers. The goal of engagement activity is to provide seekers the opportunity to make a valid decision about the lordship of Jesus in their lives. What activity do you repeatedly use so people can engage the gospel?
Step 3: Commitment. People need to have the opportunity to make a specific commitment to Jesus. Even more than that, they need people who care for them to ask them if they are ready to give themselves to Jesus. Good commitment activities include events like baptism days, special preaching series, and weekend retreats or summer camps. It's always important to give people the opportunity to respond to God's big ask in their lives. The goal of commitment is for people to make their confession of faith in Jesus and give themselves over to him in baptism. When and how do you ask people to make their commitment to Jesus?
Step 4: Essentials. When people are new Christians they need specific information, ideas, and guided experiences that help them integrate their new belief into practical life. In Kenya we had a year of specific teaching that oriented new believers to the Bible and we guided them through the basic practices of Christian life. Specifically prepared Bible classes and small groups for new believers provide good opportunities for new Christians to grow in an environment designed for their needs. The goal of the essentials period is to give new Christians the essential insights into Christian faith and life so their newly acquired faith can grow. What activities do you provide at your church where new Christians can be oriented to both scripture and their new life in Jesus?
Step 5: Experience. Again, in Kenya, we found it took several years of experience and growth for faith to become firmly rooted in people's lives. There was often a trial during this time where their faith would be tested. Sometimes they would make it, sometimes not, sometimes they would succumb then later return. Our role was to help them consider the possibilities and consequences of their decisions. Good preaching series, ongoing small groups, solid Bible classes and accountability groups are all good activities that allow experienced Christian living to form. How do you support your people through the trials of life that test their faith?
If you think of these five steps as a funnel, you want to always be putting new people into the wide end of the funnel where they can move down through these five sequential steps. The structure of such a process gives everything you do intentional purpose that creates movement. Without such structure, most churches find their activity becomes a hodgepodge of ever repeating events that simply maintains what they have. We find ourselves very active but without much movement or results.
I hope these ideas are helpful to you as you obey God’s great commission and make disciples of Jesus Christ.
In 2012 my wife, Katie, and I went through a Discovery Lab, our assessment event for potential church planters. Since then I’ve learned some about how other networks assess planters. It’s been interesting to see how much we have in common.Most assessment processes start with Chuck Ridley’s Church Planter Profile. He pinpointed 13 characteristics of successful church planters. He refers to the first six as “knock out factors,” or non negotiable.
I’ve always been drawn to church planting even though my training and most of my experience is in campus ministry. Really, it’s amazing how much overlap there is between the two. You see it when you get into Ridley’s competencies.
Church planters are missionaries. Campus ministers should approach their work with the same mentality. In fact, I think the six non-negotiables for church planters exist for campus ministers as well.
1. Visioning CapacityIf you’re a church planter you’re an entrepreneur. You’re creating something new from scratch. You have to be able to see it before it exists.
If you’re a campus minister you’re an entrepreneur. You may not be creating from scratch. But, if you’re going to reach an entire campus you’ll have to create some new things.
It all starts as a dream in the leader’s heart.
2. Personal MotivationNo one tells an entrepreneur when to go to work. They motivate themselves. In fact, getting church planters to work isn’t the problem. It’s often getting them to stop.
Since campus ministers function like missionaries they need to be able to motivate themselves. They need to be driven by their God given calling to reach the campus. You don’t have to tell someone with a calling to work.
3. Creating Ownership of Ministry/Building a Core TeamYou reach the many by impacting a few. Jesus modeled this. He spent three years with twelve men and really focused on three. It changed the world.
You don’t have to have a big personality to reach a city or a campus. But, you do need to invest deeply in the lives of others. You have to be able to build a team. This is the work of ministry (Eph. 4:11-13)!
4. Reaching the UnchurchedChurch planting is an evangelism strategy. Plain and simple: it’s a way to reach the lost and expand the borders of God’s kingdom. Yes, it takes a core of committed disciples to do this. But, too many churches drift from this mission.
It’s the same with campus ministry. We want to help Christian students grow in their walk with Christ. But, we’re also called to penetrate the darkness of our campuses.
5. Spousal CooperationThis one applies to church planting, campus ministry, or any other type of ministry. If you’re married, ministry is a team effort. None of us will maximize our impact without the support of our spouses.
In the case of church planting, or any kind of ministry for that matter, if your spouse isn’t on board, don’t do it.
6. Relationship BuildingMinistry is people work. It’s all about relationships. This is true in church planting, campus ministry, or any other type of ministry. Long term effectiveness is tied to building healthy relationships.
Campus ministry is an important part of the church planting process. I love what Tim Keller said about church planting movements...
You have to have a leadership pipeline developing and that usually happens through campus work. You have to have really dynamic college ministry...you have to have a campus leadership pipeline other wise the church planting doesn't continue.
obert J. Clinton, one of my teachers and thought mentors at Fuller Theological Seminary drilled into my thinking the idea that developing leaders is both a central purpose and a critical skill of leaders. Yet it's disturbing how few churches and church leaders I observe practicing either.
This month five churches met in our SoCal Multiplying Church cohort to work on Developing A Leadership Pipeline. One question we addressed was how do we identify emerging leaders?
Drawing upon some of Bobby Clinton's material here is a quick tool set of ideas you can use to identify emerging leaders in your church:
1. Acts. Look for men and women, particularly those in their late teens and early twenties, who do leader acts. These may be simple things such as calling a group's attention to the activity at hand, organizing people, or giving a nudge to someone that engages them more deeply in the life of the church. Leadership acts are identifying markers of leadership potential. When you see someone doing leadership acts regularly you probably have an emerging leader at hand.
2. Tasks. Once you spot a potential leader the next step is to give that leader a leadership task to accomplish. A leadership task is a short activity that has a defined beginning, end, and a specific purpose to accomplish. A leadership task is not just doing something. It must be about leading others to do something. This is critical. Remember, leaders don't just do things; leaders lead people. The leadership task is not nearly as critical as how the potential leader addresses the task, engages others in doing the task, and how they process what they learn about leading others from the task. As a leader developer you should be able to observe the leader as they engage this task and once it's completed talk with them about it. How did they think it went? What did they observe, learn, gain from a leadership perspective? It's this debriefing conversation that turns the leadership task into a learning experience that helps potential leaders grow into actual leaders.
3. Stretch Assignments. Finally, if your emerging leader is making progress give him or her a stretch assignment. A stretch assignment is a longer, more complex expectation than a leadership task. A stretch assignment will often give the emerging leader responsibility for solving some sort of problem, like "would you organize a service project for our local school" or "would you lead a team to do follow up on guests from our Easter activities?" The emerging leader will have to evaluate the problem, come up with a solution, organize people to carry out the plan, and report on the outcomes. Stretch assignments tests an emerging leader's capabilities, skills at leading a team, and their willingness to take responsibility for something important.
With these 3 leadership items you can identify, test, and train emerging leaders who have the potential to be vital, life-giving leaders in your church.