So… what scriptures do I use?

Forming your own scripture list is vital to the process of making disciples. One of the initial jobs for the team or team leader is to form a list of scriptures that make sense with the culture or people group you are working with. A common question we get after people learn the Discovery process  is which scriptures? Where do I start? A well prepared team leader has already done the hard work and can pass on a resource that is simple and makes sense. A big mistake is to simply adopt a list developed for another context, and assume it will work for everyone. 

Creating pathways for people to discover God is vital. We have a lot of leaders catalysing Disciple Making Movements (DMM) in different cultures. From the gypsies of Eastern Europe, Hindi speakers of central India, Indonesian Muslims of Central Java, East Timorese, Chinese, Aborigines, people groups from Afghanistan, African refugees in Seattle, Sri Lankan Buddhists … and of course the Anglo Aussies. These, and many more people groups, need careful thought about the discipleship pathway to help them discover God’s big picture.

Develop a list that fits the context. The lessons for Muslims or animists of North Africa won’t necessarily fit those for white Aussies or Bhuddists. The questions that a Japanese person might have towards God will be very different to a Gypsy of Eastern Europe. How do we decide which scriptures to use? Don’t simply grab a list from the back of a DBS document, give it some thought. Here are some ideas on how to form scripture lists for your own context.

Begin to think through:

  • What questions within the culture are being asked about God?
  • What are the barriers within the culture towards Jesus?
  • What are the bridges within the culture that are already present?
  • What stories/ scriptures reveal the character and nature of God in a way that ’resonates’?

Sitting with a group and discussing these questions will provide a useful framework to develop your discipleship pathway.

Dealing with World View and Barriers

The Japanese person will often have a keen awareness of the spiritual realm, of ancestor worship, and a cyclical world view that excludes God. Spiritually aware, but unaware of God. They are culturally compliant, big on conformity and would feel that they ‘obey the rules’ in general, so the idea of being ‘a sinner’ might be very foreign. The barriers they have might be regarding their filial (family) duties to their ancestors. Something they would really struggle to abandon, after all who wants to abandon your parents in the next life? Also the Western forms of church, often imported without too much thought, are culturally very foreign for them.

Barriers in the average Anglo Aussie are often related to the church. In their perception, Jesus is inextricably linked to the Church, with all it’s baggage and traditions. These very issues are often the very things that Jesus fiercely opposed. Can you get to know Jesus without going to church? Another barrier is the statement ‘Christians are hypocritical’, as the failure of the church is laid bare with the exposure of sexual abuse, financial failures of Christian leaders. They have checked out of church, and by and large are deeply suspicious towards religious characters who might want to convert them although many of the over 40’s  have a history of going to church so have some memory or association with the scriptures and church.

The Anglo Aussie is shaped be a world view of science and reason. Many have declared themselves atheists, or agnostics. Although digging deeper we find that people are more in a state of flux, not being sure what to think. Atheistic thoughts are an easy way out. Justice and compassion, are strong bridges for the Anglo Aussie.

Alternatively they perhaps have an ‘earthy’ spirituality (feeling connected to God through creation) or have adopted an eastern style of spirituality like a consumer, picking and choosing bits and pieces of ‘feel good’ spirituality for their own health. Kind of like a smorsgaboard of spirituality. Things like yoga, eastern forms of meditation, Reiki and an endless list of practises now abound in the Aussie context.

Building Bridges

I remember doing a DBS with some Iranians on John the Baptist. We chose the story of John telling soldiers and tax collectors to act justly. I was thinking ‘man… I wish I had chosen a better story than this!’ To my surprise the story resonated! It landed is such a way that it was a catalyst for a family to be baptised. Ideas of justice had sparked, and resonated, it had created a bridge for them to Jesus and the gospel. 

So what scriptures would you think might work for the people you are working with?

What questions are they asking about God?

What barriers need to be addressed?

What is the nature and character of God that needs to be explored to meet the deepest needs of the culture?

What stories resonate within the culture? This is important. 

If the DBS is ‘flat’ and not engaging, it might be a mistake to think that people are not interested. It could be we have the wrong story! Find that which ‘sparks’. You are looking for stories that really land with in the cultural context. An Aussie might resonate with Jesus teaching on loving your enemy, neighbour or the story of the Good Samaritan. Or the way he confronts the hypocritical Pharisee. The Japanese might resonate with the story of the Rich man and Lazaraus, dealing with ancestors. 

Start with stories for the Hungry

Every team leader should think through a simple starting point for hungry and open seekers. Think through a list of 4 or 5 passages that you can turn to as introductions to Jesus and the discovery process for a seeker (or group of seekers). You won’t always use all these stories, but it’s helpful to be prepared. These ‘stories for the hungry’ become the starting point with someone who is open to read the scriptures, but not ready to commit to a longer program. In fact most are not open to something long term in the beginning. There needs to be hunger in the heart. Something needs to be ignited in their spirit. 

Some of our workers have also developed a list of scriptures to help Christian’s deal with their traditional Christian world view and reach out to others with  different world views. Some have used what is already present within their own culture to build bridges to Christ. Starting with the Koran, or the Hindu scriptures they explore ways to create a bridges toward Christ. ‘Stubborn perseverance’, or the camel method are good examples of this. 

Create a list that shows the ‘big story’

Once the group have have ’tasted’ and want to continue, we have to think through a ‘Beginning to Baptism’, or ‘Creation to Christ’ set of scriptures that will help a group grasp the big picture of God’s story. 

Most people don’t believe they are lost. To them that is a derogatory term. It takes time for them to read and hear from God. As they move through the Bible, they discover for themselves that humankind has rebelled. They see firsthand what God is up to in this world. He tells them what His values are. The facilitators are along for the ride as witnesses. [Roy Moran. Spent Matches]

Finally, once the group have become followers of Christ, you will need to form a third scripture list that helps them form church and multiply.  Dealing with issues like baptism of the Spirit, communion, genorsity, meeting together and so on. After this the group will have plenty to study as they tackle the letters of Paul, the gospels and the Old Testament. The whole bible becomes the scripture list to work through. 

So … What Next?

Once you’ve developed a few lists of scriptures & stories the next step is to ‘workshop’ them. This is not to be done by outsiders, but an initial group of insiders. For example, we have a group of new believers from East Timor. The vision of our team leader is to see movement that multiples in East Timor. Before we can do this we need to develop the scripture list that can be used again and again creating the pathway of discipleship. They have spent the last 8 months or longer work-shopping the scriptures they feel resonates best within their culture, answer the common questions that are asked by East Timorese and build bridges to God. This process is so important. Without it they won’t get to movement. As the saying goes ‘you have to go slow to go fast’. As they form their list they can then develop a simple process for their people group to be discipled.

Keep it Simple!

Simplicity is the goal, as simple will multiply and is easy to replicate. One of the values of movements is this, simple is above complexity. Simple multiplies. It’s harder to be simple and clear, than it is to be complex. The team leader’s job is to create a simple discipleship pathway that can be passed on and multiplied. 

Don’t overwhelm people with the whole Bible. For some people, a big black book can be overwhelming. It might be a good idea to give people a print out of the scripture story you are looking at. Many people are not familiar with the Bible. So don’t give them the whole Bible and have them navigate a pathway through it all. People can feel embarrassed if they don’t know the ‘address’ or where things are. Anything that makes people feel stupid or embarrassed needs to be avoided like the plague. 

Create a simple resource that can be multiplied. Once the list has been developed, it might be good to put in on a simple bookmark, or something similar. Put the DBS questions on one side, and the scripture list on the other. Here is a good example for bookmark developed by some DMM workers amongst prisoners in the USA. In this way it is easy for groups to self lead from the beginning and pass on the list once they go to 2nd and 3rd generation. Others have tried to do this by developing an app that can be used on a smart phone. 

So what are you waiting for? Go for it … and develop a DBS list that might work in your context!