All around the world, people are using an age-old approach to scripture. They are trusting in the work of the Holy Spirit to build biblically based communities of people who are coming to faith in Christ, learning to obey his teaching, and bringing his power and presence to their neighbors. Seriously, God is doing some amazing things throughout the world, and in our own backyards, and he’s doing it today.
Through Discovery Groups, the gospel of the Kingdom of God is being planted in families, in neighborhoods, in villages—in so many different kinds of places and people groups.
We’re talking about how many Disciple Making Movements use a simple tool known as Discovery Bible Studies (DBS). People in these groups get together, read the bible, and simply ask, what does this passage say and mean and what will we do in response? Through these Discovery Groups, the gospel of the Kingdom of God is being planted in families, in neighborhoods, in villages—in so many different kinds of places and people groups. As this happens whole communities are being transformed. These little groups often form into churches as they make disciples and continue to multiply, to reproduce over and over again.
Over the last fifteen years, amazing results are being experienced through these Church Planting Movements utilizing Discovery Bible Studies. Some estimate over a half million groups exist worldwide in more than 50 different countries. We first learned about these church planting movements by reading David Watson’s book, Contagious Disciple Making Movements and by participating in multiple Disciple Making Movement training opportunities. Since that time, we have witnessed first hand what God is doing. When I (David) was in West Africa last year with two other Vineyard pastors, we witnessed a movement that has expanded to 33 villages in a little over two years. It continues to expand and move northward into other villages. Cuba is also experiencing an unprecedented movement where six thousand Discovery Groups have started in just two and a half years. This equates to approximately sixty thousand new disciples who are reproducing themselves. Leaders estimate this could grow to over one hundred thousand by 2019.
These movements are not only taking place in other parts of the world but also here in the United States. For example, in San Jose, California through Cityteam ministries, two hundred Discovery Groups have been started, and they continue to multiply. A soccer mom with ten children in Ohio started a Discovery Group in her church a few years ago. It has now multiplied into 19 groups that are reaching into the community and meeting in coffee shops and various neighborhoods. Over the past year, we have started Discovery Groups at our church in Arizona that are now reaching into nearby communities and starting to multiply. Currently, we have 16 churches and ministry organizations in Arizona who are meeting practical needs in communities and then starting Discovery Bible Studies. One of these pastors from Tucson trained 30 of his youth on how to pray for their schools and start Discovery Groups. Now, they have started multiple groups in their high schools. Another pastor in Columbus, Ohio is doing the same thing with junior high students.
God really does love the folks in our communities, whether or not they ever intend to attend our churches.
Here’s the deal, God really does love the folks in our communities, whether or not they ever intend to attend our churches. He works powerfully through the scriptures as people contemplate what he’s said and begin to align their lives with his kingdom. As they do they begin to encounter the presence of God in very real and tangible ways, and we watch them begin to follow Christ. Jesus conveys this principle clearly in John 6:
44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.”
The Father first draws people to himself, and as they encounter God through his word, they enter into a relationship with Christ.
We’d like to invite you to join with us to continue to explore, to learn, and to participate in what God is doing today. Discovery Bible Studies and Disciple Making Movements aren’t the only way to make disciples of Christ today, but it is one way that God is using powerfully.
So what about you… what is your experience with this and what are you learning?
David Hinman is an Associate Pastor at the Gilbert Vineyard in Arizona and the Multiply Vineyard Representative for the Southwest Region. He and his wife Lissa have been married for twenty-eight years and have three children, one son-in-law and a grandson, all who live in Denver, CO. Over the past year, he has been associated with Cityteam Ministries and involved in training and coaching church plants and Disciple Making Movements in Arizona and Africa.
Michael Gatlin co-pastors the Vineyard church of Duluth, with his wonderful wife Brenda. The Duluth Vineyard is an amazingly creative and diverse community of disciples who are learning to live out the reality of the presence and power of Christ in northern Minnesota. Michael is also the national coordinator for Multiply Vineyard: a team of men and women located throughout America that encourages, trains, and empowers local churches; as they multiply disciples, leaders and churches.