Part 1 – PIPSY
The first P in PIPSY stands for Poor.
“Virtually every Church Planting Movement in the world today started among the poor.”
That statement by Roy, one of my DMM Coaches, has stuck with me.
It makes sense, then, that if we want to see movement break out in our country, we should also look for it to happen among the poor.
Me & John, eLife’s Executive Pastor, are the ones who coach our church’s DMM Church Planting Teams. We started recommending to our teams that they begin “going out among the lost” in places where they’re likely to find poor people.
Several of our teams started going to Walmart in a poorer part of town to pray for people. As they were shopping, they’d ask God to lead them to people to pray for. When they saw someone they wanted to pray for, they’d say, “Hi, my name is _____. We’re praying for people as we’re shopping for groceries & wanted to see if there’s any way we can pray for you?” Other times they’d say, “Hi, my name is ____. If God could do a miracle in your life, what would you have him do?” And once they responded, they would say, “Can I pray that he’d do that in your life?”
Our teams would often find that people would be receptive to these questions. They would give our teams some things to pray for. Then our teams would pray for them in Jesus’ name.
In our coaching meeting each week, they’d often report back that the people they prayed for would begin to cry as they prayed for them. In fact, one team told me that in 90% of the cases in which they pray for someone, that person would begin to cry. We talked about how those people were likely being touched by God. It’s not every day someone comes up to you & talks to God on your behalf. When that happens, especially if someone has drifted from God or doesn’t know him personally, you can understand how that would be very powerful to someone.
We’ve found that going out & offering to pray for people is a great way to gauge interest in spiritual things. It immediately identifies us as spiritual people, which Stan, my DMM Coach, told me should happen within the first 30 seconds of any conversation. And it also helps us know if they are open to spiritual things. Most people, especially if they’re PIPSY, are open to prayer. They realize they have needs & many of them believe that God could meet those needs. We’ve found that after praying for people & comforting them as they cry, they are open to talking about possibly starting a Discovery Group with their family & friends.
Since we are looking for WOOLY people, aka “persons of peace,” people allowing us to pray for them gives us some indication that they are ‘W’ or welcoming. The next thing we want to see is see if they are ‘OO’ or willing to open their oikos. We ask the DG question, “Would you be interested in us training you to lead your family & friends to discover more about God by reading his Word?”
Many of our teams will immediately ask the DG question after praying for people. They’ll exchange phone numbers & follow-up at a later time.
I asked Stan, if it was too soon to immediately ask the DG question after praying for someone you just met. He responded, “In movements across the world, the people who get the most groups started are the people that do the most asking. Encourage them to keep asking!”
While talking to people in grocery stores is definitely a way to search for PoPs (persons of peace), we continued to ask the Lord to give us even more strategic avenues of getting to know people.
Step 1 is to pray and ask the Lord where he’d have you to go & Step 2 is to begin prayer walking that area. We were convicted that we weren’t prayer walking enough. This is an important practice in movements around the world to prepare the soil for the gospel to be planted.
In addition to going to Walmart or other places where you can find lots of people, we encouraged our teams to begin to pray and ask God if there was a specific area or neighborhood that he’d have them go (Step 1). Whereas in Walmart you don’t usually see the same people, if you continued to go back to the same area or neighborhood, you might find it easier to build relationships. Several of our teams felt like God had placed on their hearts an area to focus on & so we encouraged them to begin prayer walking that area & looking for people to talk to (Step 2). This proved to be fruitful as well.
Our teams would walk up & down streets in these neighborhoods & pray. When they saw someone they could talk to, they would often approach them & ask the same questions that they’d ask people in Walmart. They were looking for opportunities to pray for people.
The team that I’m on felt God leading us to go to one of the tough areas of town. A Lubbock Police Officer told me that it was one of the top 3 most dangerous areas in town. We knew it was a very poor area & we had a real sense that God was preparing people of peace for us there. The first thing we began to do was prayer walk the neighborhood. We’d go out on Thursday afternoons for a few hours & pray. As we saw people around, we’d begin to talk to them & see if we could pray for them. While we had the opportunity to pray for quite a few people, we found that many people weren’t out in the afternoons. We figured they were probably working or staying inside to avoid the heat.
We continued to prayer walk, but as we did, we kept asking the Lord for even more strategic opportunities to engage with people.
One day we were driving around praying & I drove past the Middle School in that neighborhood. Then the Lord reminded me of something I had forgotten. We knew the Assistant Principal at that school. She was a close friend of ours & the wife of one of our staff members. I figured we could call her & see if she could connect us with some of the families that live in that neighborhood that have needs.
One of the ways church planters find those interested in God all across the world is by serving people & meeting their practical needs.
I talked to the Assistant Principal on the phone & asked if there was any way she could connect us with families in the school to serve. She said that because her school is very low income, they have a paid social worker on site that works with each of the families. She said I should talk to her.
I called her & told her we were looking for families in the neighborhood that we could serve. She was very excited about our desire to help & said she had many children at the school who had families that were deeply in need. She asked me, “How many families do you want?” I was like, “WOW!” We were looking for families to serve as we were prayer walking but didn’t find many. Now, this lady is about to give us an introduction to as many families as we’d like to serve. Amazing!
I told her we’d like to start with 5. Then I told her that we’d like to meet each family in their home, listen to their story, and see how we could help. She told us that she was going to contact 5 families that she thought would be very interested in us visiting them & then give us their phone numbers if they gave her permission. All 5 families she contacted were eager for us to come & see them. They were PIPSY, after all.
We would visit each family in their home, listen to their stories, ask them what their needs were & then we would pray for them. Our team would get together & brainstorm how we could best serve them & then we’d start meeting needs. We bought groceries, helped with utility bills & rent, assisted them in finding other places to stay, helped them find a job & so on.
As we met their needs, we would try to gauge their spiritual interest. We knew their greatest need was a relationship with Jesus & we would try to be discerning as to who was open to that. Several of them told us they had drifted from Jesus & wanted help getting back on the right track. Others told us they wanted to get back into church again. Some mentioned their desire to be a spiritual leader for their children. For those who were spiritually interested, we would offer to train them to lead a Discovery Group with their family and friends.
We found that connecting with the school & getting into the homes of needy families in the school was by far the most fruitful means we had found for seeing groups start. Because the social worker at the school was able to make the introduction for us, the family was eager to have us into their home & get to know us. They knew we had come in peace & that we wanted to care for & bless their family.
Obviously when you’re at Walmart or prayer walking, people are less likely to immediately invite you into their home. They don’t really know who you are. But the social worker at the school leant her influence to us which gave us immediate access into these homes.
Once we finished with the first 5 families, we asked the social worker for more & she eagerly gave us more. It seemed as if reports were getting back to the school that we really were helping these folks & that we had been a blessing to them.
We never pressured anyone to do a Discovery Group. We were there to simply serve people & see who was interested. If they were, great. If they weren’t, that was ok too. The goal was to serve & meet needs & we were able to do that for everyone we met.
Other DMM Teams heard about our success going through the schools & so they pursued the schools in their neighborhood of focus. They found that virtually every school was eager to have help meeting the needs of struggling families within the schools. This became our most strategic means of gaining access into these neighborhoods by far & we’ve seen several groups started this way.
I want to share one other way we’ve gained access into some of these PIPSY neighborhoods.
This was almost by necessity. We were working with the schools during the semester but when summer hit, the leads from the school dried up. We needed other ways to gain access & talk to more people in these neighborhoods. While we enjoyed prayer walking, we were finding that we weren’t talking to enough people that way.
We decided on a more direct approach. Knocking on doors.
While we weren’t sure this was the most strategic means of gaining access, it was more strategic than doing nothing. Plus, the schools were closed for the summer.
When I shared with my team this idea, they’d be the first to tell you that they didn’t love it. We were in a rough area & there’s no telling what you’d find behind each door you knocked on. They all agreed to go with me, probably because they didn’t feel like they had a choice – haha! But several of them admitted afterwards that they weren’t too excited about it. One of my team members said he tried to find a way to get out of it. He thought about calling in sick or scheduling an appointment or anything to get out of knocking on doors. One other team member said he wasn’t that excited either.
Thankfully, they all showed up that first day. We huddled up to pray before going out & one of the guys basically asked, “Are you sure this is a good idea?” I could tell he wasn’t too sure about this either. I told him I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea but I didn’t know any other way to get to talk to more people in the area.
I told them I thought we should start with a certain apartment complex called The Village. It had the reputation of being one of the worst in the area. In fact, several people told me that it’s where they used to buy drugs back when they weren’t following Jesus. They said, “You can get any drug in town in that place.” I thought that seemed like the perfect place to start – haha!
My team is a team of 4. There were 32 apartments. We split up into twos & we each took 16 apartments. We would knock on the door & then let people know that we were praying in the area & wanted to see if there was any way we could pray for them or their family.
The response was unbelievable.
The 4 of us came back together 2 hours later with more stories & potential follow-ups than we knew what to do with. We all jokingly admitted that we were scared to death but that God had gone before us & created many divine appointments for us. While we weren’t sure if it would be as effective as the contacts we got from the school, it gave us the opportunity to talk to a ton of people & so we knew we’d keep going back each week.
The strategy was the “Jesus strategy” from Luke 10.
We wanted to keep going back each week until one of two things happened. Either one, we found the person of peace, saw a group started & coached them through starting other groups in the complex such that the whole complex would be reached in time. Or, we found little openness and we’d “wipe the dust off of our feet” (Luke 10:10-11) and move on.
We weren’t going to stay there forever. Just long enough to find the person God had prepared & turn the ministry over to them or found that there was no person of peace there.
We’ve seen some amazing things happen there so far & we believe we may see 2 or even 3 groups started there soon.
Let me share a few of the stories.
The first day we went to this apartment complex, everyone was afraid & no one was sure it was a good idea, including me. We prayed together before beginning to knock on doors & something happened right after that was immediate confirmation we were supposed to be there.
Carol pulled up.
I immediately recognized her. She had stopped me at a gas station about a year ago & told me she saw me on TV & wanted me to pray for her. I prayed for her there & didn’t figure I’d ever see her again. I didn’t see her again until she pulled into the apartment complex that day.
She rolled down her window & I walked up & said hello to her. I asked her, “Do you live here?” She said she’d lived there for over 10 years. I told her what we were doing there & that we had planned to go around & knock on doors & pray for people. She said it was definitely needed there & that there was a lot of bad stuff happening in that apartment complex. She started telling us some about it & pointing out the dangerous apartments. I told her that I thought God had crossed our paths again for a reason & that perhaps he wanted to use her to reach that entire complex. She said she’s shared about Jesus with people there before & that she’d be interested in working with us to see a Discovery Group started there.
Even though Carol was probably a believer, we all thought she could be a link to help us find the unbelieving PoP in the apartment complex that was spiritually open. We told her we’d be back each week & she said, “That’s great. Usually Christians just come through here, give people gospel tracts, and get out of here as quickly as they can.” We were saddened by the reputation Christians had in that apartment community & that many of them had run from danger rather than running right into the middle of it.
We helped Carol with her rent that month & we’ve met with her a few more times to talk about reaching that apartment complex for Christ.
Carol told us something in that first meeting, without knowing it, that later proved to connect us with someone spiritually hungry.
She said, “Do you guys see that apartment over there?” We said, “Yes. The second one from the left?” She said, “Yes. That’s a drug house. People are coming in & out all the time buying drugs.”
We thanked her for the information & me & my partner made that apartment our very first door to knock on. We were nervous for sure, but we learned in DMM Training that often the hardest places yield the greatest results. We wanted to go to the hardest place in the apartment complex first.
When we knocked on the door, we met Billy.
Billy had just gotten out of prison. Drug charges I’m sure. He was in his mid-60s. We told him we were praying in the area & wanted to know if we could pray for him in any way. He stepped outside & told us about getting out of prison & that we could pray for him to get back on his feet again. We prayed for him & then continued to chat with him after. We learned that it was actually Billy Jr.’s apartment, his son. He was staying with his son until he could get on disability & get his own place. It turns out the son, not the Dad, is a gatekeeper in that apartment complex & the chief drug dealer. We asked Billy if there were any needs we could meet for he & his family. He said they were ok & we told him that we usually go out praying for people on Thursdays & we’d come & see him again next week.
Every week, when we’d arrive on Thursday mornings, Billy would see us through his window & come outside & ask us to pray for him again. It was amazing. We almost never had a chance to make it to his door. Billy would see my car & then he’d come right out, chat with us for a bit, and then when we’d ask him if there was anything we could do for him, he’d always tell us he wanted us to pray for him.
A few weeks ago, we pulled into the parking lot & Billy started coming out to meet us. He told us that his case worker had picked him up the day before & took him to a Bible study at a church nearby. He was so excited. We asked him how it went & he said he loved it. He told us he wanted us to pray for him again & so we did.
Each time we met with him, we tried to ask him more about his son, Billy Jr., the drug dealer. He’d tell us that his son was on the wrong path & that he wanted us to pray for him to get back on the right path. I asked him once if we could go & pray for his son & he said that his son didn’t believe in God & probably wouldn’t be open to that.
One day when we visited the complex, Billy didn’t come right out, so we went & knocked on his door. Billy Jr. answered. He said his Dad was in the shower & that he’d send him out when he was done. Since this was the first time I had met Billy Jr., I asked if we could pray for him. He turned us down but assured us that he’d send his Dad out.
Billy came out & had us pray for him & I continued to ask more questions about his son. I knew that we looked out of place in that apartment complex & so I asked him one day, “Is your son, Billy Jr., ok with us being here on Thursdays?” Since I knew he was the gatekeeper, much like a tribal village chief, I wanted to know what he thought about us being there. Billy told us that he was cool with us being there. I told Billy to assure him that we’re not the police & that we’re just there to be a blessing to the apartment complex. It seemed as if he had already communicated that to his son because anytime Billy Jr. saw that we were around praying for people, he never tried to get us to leave.
One day as we were praying for people, an SUV full of people that looked like gangsters hollered at us out the window, “What’s up officers?” And then they drove off. That’s probably how we appear to most people there. We’ve heard that officers are there all the time. But the people in the apartment complex that have gotten to know us realize we’re not there to cause any trouble but just to minister to people in Jesus’ name.
We honestly believe that if someone gave us trouble, Billy Jr. would come to our defense. Why? Because we take care of his Dad. Due to that relationship, I believe that Billy Jr. has blessed us to be there.
Just last week, when Billy came out to be prayed for, we asked him, “What would you think about us training you to lead a Discovery Group in your home? We can help you, Billy Jr., his wife, & everyone else that comes through learn to discover more about God by reading his Word?” Billy seemed very interested in this but told us that he didn’t think Billy Jr. would be interested. Also, Billy told us he couldn’t read very well.
Typically if someone can’t read, we help them download the YouVersion Bible App on their phone since it has an audio Bible connected to it. But we’ve found that many of these people don’t have smart phones.
We talked to some of our friends overseas that minister to oral learners & asked what the best way would be to get Billy an audio version of the Bible. They showed us these little speakers we can buy that receive SD cards. You can load up the passages on the SD cards & Billy can listen that way. That’s better than an mp3 player with headphones because other people can hear it & not just one person.
We told Billy, “How about this. We’re going to get you a speaker that will play the Bible & then we’ll come on Thursdays & sit outside your apartment, listen to a passage, and teach you how to listen to God & obey him. How does that sound?”
He said that sounded great.
Then I said, “And maybe, you can take that speaker back inside & play the passage where Billy Jr. can hear it. Perhaps he’ll enjoy listening & want to join us soon.” Billy agreed.
Who is our person of peace? We don’t know yet.
We didn’t think it was Billy since he’s not able to open his oikos yet. He’s definitely hungry, but a person of peace is WOOLY, which includes opening your oikos. We’re starting to think that our person of peace is actually Billy Jr., even though he’s totally unreceptive at this point. We just have a sense that he may be the Saul who is going to have a Paul-like conversion & then lead the apartment complex to follow Jesus.
Carol connected us to Billy. And Billy is connecting us to Billy Jr.
We’re hoping that a group gets started out on Billy Jr.’s front porch on Thursday mornings as we listen to the Bible together on that little speaker. And we’re praying hard that God opens Billy Jr.’s heart through his Dad’s influence so that Billy Jr. can be instrumental in that entire complex becoming disciples of Jesus.
Part 3 – International