If we are honest, we probably live the majority of our lives by “I will NOT” statements. I will not eat that pie; I will not binge watch another series. I will not spend another dollar on something I don’t need.
I have to wonder what a difference it might make for us if we begin to live by “I Will” statements.
In the latest episode of the B.L.E.S.S. podcast, Kansas City native, Cory Ozburn, Coach and Catalyst with K.C. Underground talks about the impact “I will” statements have on us and those around us.
Take a moment to reflect on the story in the Bible of the four friends that carry a paralytic, desperate for healing, to a house where Jesus is speaking. After carrying him all the way there, they realize they will never make it through the front door due to the crowds. They decide to cut a hole in the roof and lower their friend down in front of Jesus.
Let’s think about the “I will” statements made in this story. Each of the four friends must have stood in agreement by saying, “I will” bring my friend to Jesus. The paralytic man must have said, “I will” receive the help of my friends and trust them to get me there. All of the friends must have said or thought “I will” have faith that Jesus heals. What if even one of the friends would have decided not to believe in Jesus’ healing power?
Cory touches on this same concept when he tells about Discovery Bible studies, which are small groups of people, spiritually seeking, using the Bible as the curriculum. Listen to the podcast, and you will hear Cory talk about how effective it is to read the Bible together and ask simple questions. He suggests the impact begins with hearing: what is God telling you? It continues with obeying: what are you going to do about it? And concludes with who: who are you going to share it with?
Imagine what might happen if each of us were to pause and ask ourselves those three questions about the latest issue we are considering through our Bible Study.
Imagine when God prompts us, we respond with “I will.”
May we commit to saying, I will, to the call of sharing the good news? May we commit to bringing those we love, in desperate need of healing, to the feet of Jesus? May we be a generation that hears and obeys!
Donna: Welcome to the B.L.E.S.S. podcast, where we join Jesus where He is already at work. We dream of the day when every home in America is adopted by one or more persons living the prayer, care, and share lifestyle. Your host is Gary Kendall catalyst for Love KC and the National Prayer mobilizer for Blesseveryhome.com. Gary works with founder Chris Cooper and the team at Blesseveryhome.com to equip you to live on mission where you live, learn, work, and, play. If you haven’t yet signed up to adopt your neighborhood you can do so at Blesseveryhome.com. Now let’s turn our attention to this episode of the B.L.E.S.S. podcast.
Gary: Today we have Cory Ozbun who is going to talk to us about Discovery Bible Studies and probably a lot more. But Corey let me just have you jump in and introduce yourself.
Cory: So my name’s Cory and I grew up in Kansas City. So this is my home. I’m passionate about Kansas City. I was a pastor here for years. I was always the weird guy on a church staff that was trying to stir people to think about people who wouldn’t come to us. Eventually that led me to go on staff with the Missions Organization called Novo that is based out of California but we’re global. No one knows that label here because I don’t do anything under that banner. I do a lot with a new thing we’re launching called KC Underground. A lot of people don’t know about it because it’s underground but it’s a mini-missions organization that is city-focused that’s helping launch people to plant the Gospel. It’s right in line with the pray, care, share lifestyle you’re advocating.
Gary: Let’s be sure we circle back because I want you to talk more about that–maybe toward the end. Corey, you know because we’ve talked about this, and we know each other from having some time together over the past few years, the first time I came across Discovery Bible studies you were teaching about them in the Impact outreach. That was years ago when you were you were at Colonial and I was at Indian Creek. You were sharing about how to do a Discovery Bible study in those days. It was the first time I had seen that idea and a lot of our guys jumped on it right away. We saw the value of it and we even went through a little training and some of us did Discovery Bible Studies. I could see even then how simple it was for someone who’s fairly fresh in the faith to be able to lead one. And it is a good onramp for a person who doesn’t yet believe. I heard people saying, I can do this and this has relevance in my life–the Bible is beginning to make sense for the first time.
I know that’s kind of at the core of what you do. So why don’t you start there and just tell us all about Discovery Bible studies and the disciple-making movement and how you got into that.
Cory: To make a really long story short, I grew up in the area and I remember even in high school, seeing that there are all these stats about how 90% of people in my generation don’t go to church. I’m an old millennial. I’m 35 years old and I’m right on that cusp when everything changed and I just remember looking around at my class of nearly 500 at Blue Valley Northwest and thinking I know like 12 people. I hardly know anyone. So my generation was always this increasingly unchurched generation. So that led me through years of looking for examples of what it looks like to take the gospel to where people are because my friends weren’t coming to church. It led me to stumble upon the stories that are happening globally–what we’re calling church planting movements or disciple-making movements is an actual thing. It’s a mission’s term that connects four generations of those that have responded to Jesus. There are multiple streams of new churches planted out of new disciples. So I stumbled upon reading about it and just being almost angry like why have I never heard about right?
Cory: So, in the last five years, I’ve pretty much apprenticed myself under movement leaders both overseas and here in the states and it messes with you, man. It messes with you. Once you’re living as a missionary, and God has called you, if it’s your neighborhood or if it’s your workplace or if it’s whatever, what do you do then?
What do you do? Usually, it’s like; I’m going to invite them to church. Well, what do you do in an unreached culture? Well, there are no churches to bring them to. I think that more and more we have to think like missionaries who are reaching unreached people. So that’s where you stumble upon Discovery Bible Studies. It’s not so much like a program or even a thing; it’s the core DNA of disciple-making from the ground-up and at some point, it becomes a thing; it becomes Discovery Bible Studies.
Let’s say we find spiritually interested people in your neighborhood. Instead of bringing a lot of content, or all this stuff, we’re just starting with the Bible. We start with the base of, what’s God saying and what are you going to do about it? Who are you going to share it with? That is the core. Hear and obey.
If we just stick with hear and obey, and then share, with the people in your network about what God is beginning to teach you–you’re starting discipleship at a whole different trajectory. Often, we may teach a lot of knowledge, which is what I’ve done as a pastor in the past. But now I just start straight up with spiritual hunger. I ask, what’s God telling you in the word and what are you going to do about it? That’s obedience; it just sets the trajectory of life transformation. Then knowledge comes pretty quickly.
So a Discovery Bible Study is basically a group that generally they already know each other. You’re planting the Gospel within a network that already exists and you’re reading the Bible. You’re asking some simple questions like, what are you thankful for? What’s a challenge you’re facing, questions like that. That embeds, by the way, church planting on a simple level like a little seedling that grows into more of a simple church. Then we read the Bible together and we just ask questions like, what stands out to you? What’s it tell you about God? Or what does it tell you about people and then what you going do about it? Who are you going to share it with? It’s hilariously simple and unbelievably effective in disciple-making from the ground up.
Gary: I love that the Bible is the core curriculum. When you talk to a person who’s been raised in a church setting and they sat in rows or they sat in classes, someone wrote a curriculum for them. They have to read it before they come or they have to work through questions or something like that. The fun thing about the Discovery Bible Study is that the Bible is actually your curriculum.
Cory: Yes, Absolutely. We call it a Creation to Christ scripture list. People start from day one and they look at the big story, the narrative. I haven’t found that to be all that successful here in America, maybe there’s enough church history or enough knowledge in some way of kind of a Judeo-Christian background, but we tend to start with what I call “felt needs” scripture lists. I do this a lot nowadays with people in jail, coming out of jail, the addiction community, the homeless community, a lot of these kinds of marginalized communities where there’s a lot of spiritual hunger. I always start with the Scripture list; we call “10 stories of Hope.” 10 stories of Hope is how Jesus tends to love people that sometimes the world is casting out. It is amazing to sit there while people are discovering for the first time this Jesus who loves them while a lot of other people are shunning them. It’s just incredible and I don’t say a thing. When we are done with it, people will be like, that was the best group, I’ve ever been a part of!
Someone said a few weeks back, thank you, this is the best Bible conversation that I have ever been a part of. I looked at them and said, I didn’t say a word. I just asked questions and didn’t say a word. The Holy Spirit really does draw people in. It’s pretty incredible.
Gary: That’s one of the things I like about it. The word of God, whether it’s a written word–the word is logos in the Greek language or whether it’s the speaking of the Holy Spirit, the word–Rhema in the Greek language takes the written word and amplifies it or applies it into a person’s life. If we can get out of the way and we can set the right atmosphere then the spirit can speak to them through the logos and the Rhema. Even if they don’t understand that’s what’s happening, they start to think spiritual thoughts. They start to have ideas or some kind of a leading or prompting that they’ve never had before. The Spirit is doing it. Then it’s not that we’re elevating this one teacher, or we’re elevating this one curriculum. We’re just giving God a chance to work. They’re actually interacting with the Spirit at a level that makes them want more.
Cory: Amen. So at the end of every Discovery time, we always ask people to create “I will” statements. Imagine you are someone who has never really read the Bible before in your life and you’re spiritually hungry, you’re seeking, which by the way, this city is full of people like that. I mean they’re everywhere. They’re not going to church but the world has not satisfied the deep desires of their hearts.
Gary: Very true.
Cory: So they’re longing for more and those are the people we do Discovery groups with. This is not a curriculum that you invite all your Christian friends to. It’s for spiritually interested people. Imagine that the spiritually interested person is reading for the first time–let’s say the first story in Ten Stories of Hope—found in Mark 2 (where the paralytic is being lowered down through the roof)…
Gary: The four friends.
Cory: …yes, the friends bring him there. This is a great conversation analogy for thinking about living on mission. They lower him down. That’s where Jesus looks at him says, you’re healed.
The Pharisees are freaking out. Jesus says your sins are forgiven. Then He says, pick up your mat and go home. Imagine your spiritually interested person for the first time hearing about that Jesus. It is unbelievable to watch. I love the conclusions the people come to. You’re right; it is not just human intuition. The Holy Spirit is drawing, He is wooing. He’s wooing people. Then when you make an “I Will” statement, like what are you going to do in response to what God is showing you? If this is God speaking what are you going to do about it? People will make awesome practical statements like I’m going to be gentle with my kids or I’m going to talk to my wife about this. I’m going to tell my friend about this. I’m going to stop cursing or I’m going to stop smoking.
All these are things that people are doing, not because they just want to be a better person, but because they’re responding to what God is showing them. It is hilarious! I could, as a pastor, sit there and tell them all the things that they should do. I’m probably pretty good at that, telling them what you can’t and can’t do. But they may not be ready to hear any of that. Maybe they just need that one little step of obedience. But in that response they are hearing and obeying Jesus for the first time in their life. As they are going throughout the week they’re encountering that God. It’s a relational thing. It’s not a slave driver with a whip. It’s a relational father-child response and it tends to be effective because of that.
Gary: I love it. And the other question you ask as they are going out the door is; whom are you going to tell?
Cory: It can go viral because of a question like that because generally unchurched people hang out with unchurched people. Most of what I’ve done churchwise in my life is either attractional or if nothing else extractional. Get people from the community they’re in and bring them into a community where we can disciple them. I look at the way of Jesus and the way of Acts and there’s a lot of pressing into networks. There’s a lot of like, Hey, Levi, come follow me. And in the next scene, Levi is at his house with his other sinner friends. This freaks out the Pharisees. So when they say, with whom are you going to share? They’re probably going to share it with someone who doesn’t know Jesus.
My buddy Chris was homeless for a while. He was an addict for a long time. He has an amazing voice amongst that community. He just straight up asks the question; with whom are you going to start a Discovery group? He’ll start with that question from day one.
Gary: Going for the gold.
Cory: Yeah, it’s a little more effective. Sometimes we’re kind of trying to be subtle about it. But multiplication happens because of asking, who you got to start a group with. One will say, I know some people. Multiplication comes, I don’t want to say naturally, but more easily with just that simple question of who are you going to share it with?
Gary: One of the things that I say to people all the time is, what I love about the work that I get to do in the city with Love KC, and the other groups I intersect with like KC Underground, is that when a friend reaches a friend they already have the built-in ability to disciple that person. Friendship is the most natural discipling-making relationship you have. Then because a friend has been discipled–who’s come to Christ through that friendship–they think that’s the way you do it. So they’re more likely to lead their friends to Christ and set up disciple-making relationships. This is how you get into the second, third and fourth generations. Eventually you get movemental.
If there’s any reason that I have hope for our country it’s the fact that we’re beginning to discover these things. You talked about this five-year period of time where you were learning from others. I regularly go to China and I’ve been to India multiple times and of course, there are disciple-making movements all over in these countries. What I ran into there, and that was so disturbing, is how effective they were leading friends and relatives and co-workers to Christ.
I would contrast that with what I would see in the U.S. We aren’t. I tried to change at some point by inspiration and telling stories etc. But what we didn’t have was the tools like the Discovery Bible study. We now have Blesseveryhome.com. We teach the lifestyle of praying, caring, sharing and discipling your neighbors. It’s the combination of having the right heart and the right tool.
So first, I just got frustrated. Then over time, it’s actually what led me to step out of a local church and leave one church to serve many. I felt like, if I had a decade or so to give and who knows how long, maybe more (I’d love overtime on that) I want to focus on this whole idea of how do we become a disciple-making country again. How do we do disciple-making in our city?
So even though we might use a tool like Blesseveryhome.com, where you’re learning to pray, care, share for your neighbors or co-workers, you can add them in. The bigger picture beyond all of that is disciples who make disciples who make disciples because that can change a neighborhood. It can change a city. It can change our country. And it can change our world. That’s where I think the gold is and that’s what we’re after.
Cory: In a place like Kansas City or any urban environment in the States, to see that gospel saturation, to see it in every neighborhood, in every workplace and every crevice in the city, it’s got to be more than the first generation discipleship. It has to be something that multiplies.
But it’s got to also have a depth to it. What discovery obedience focused discipleship does is–it can be both viral and deep at the same time. This is why we’ve seen it be effective. Not because it is a really good tactic even. Like what you’re talking about that you need the tactic and you need the stories. I probably started at the opposite end.
I started training everyone at Colonial about this thing called Discovery Bible study because it’s easy to wrap your mind around right. But then if you just start with the tactic and you skip pray, care, share, then you’re just doing a Bible study. You might do it with some people in your neighborhood and stuff like that but we need to get to a point where we ask, why do we need a Discovery Bible Study? We need a Discovery Bible study because I have been praying faithfully for my neighbors, with my neighbors and I’m in a relationship with them and I’m hearing their stories. We’re talking about real things. I’m caring for them. I love them. And then, in time, if you’re doing that, spiritual conversations and spiritually interested people come to the surface. Well, then what do you do? That’s where you get a Discovery Bible studies. You plant the Gospel there. If you just start with the tactic, you’re done.
Gary: That’s what happens for many people, it’s the heart that gets changed. Like I had a guy say to me, nothing’s happening with my neighborhood. Then I said, well, I’m interested; tell me more about that. Then he quickly self-corrected and said, my heart’s changing. Okay well, that’s probably the very first thing that needs to change.
So when you pray, care, and share, to me it’s less of a tactic and more of living on mission. Some people start living on mission and they see God t-up the ball for them. Relationships happen that they didn’t even expect. In some cases, conversations start. It’s amazing what God can do.
Almost every day someone tells me a story. They know that this is what we do all the time, so I get emails, texts, phone calls. Someone is telling me a story almost every day about some way that they’re sharing Christ in their neighborhood.
There was a person talking about being in a restaurant, they actually had their girls there, and this customer was cussing out one of the wait staff. So this person said, said let’s go sit in a different part of the restaurant where it’s not so volatile. But as they were doing that there was this prompting in this person’s heart like, oh, my gosh, I’ve been where that waitress is. I need to go tell her, I see her, I feel her pain and that I’ll be praying for her. So when that opportunity came, that’s the first thing she did. When she did the waitress kind of turned around with tears in her eyes. She was able to say, I understand. It wasn’t like she tried to solve the world’s problems for her. She said I see you. I feel your pain. I’ve been there. I know what you’re going through. I want you to know that I’ll be praying for you and if you want to come to talk about it I’m back here. You can come and talk.
Does God tee the ball up? I mean if we’re aware and we’re praying and we’re on mission it’s amazing how many things we will walk right into. It should be odd to not be praying or not loving or not on mission. It’s not enough to just do our church duty or serve at the church. I’m not downplaying that but there’s got to be more. If we’re in that world we don’t see the people around us. It’s almost like we’re in a play and we’re the only ones that matter. Everything else is just the backdrop to the play. But when you’re living on mission, it’s like every single thing is a part of your world. The waitress, the person at the checkout counter, the barista—everybody is apart now of this world. We are all interconnected because the Spirit is activating relationships. This is the only way to live but so many people don’t live there.
Cory: No, you’re so right. The other day it was like a week ago, we were at a restaurant close to my house and it was four of my friends who are part of the same mission organization. So, a bunch of missionaries were together. You knew something is going to happen. We’re all missionaries but we’re like raising support for it too. We got to try.
So we’re here at this restaurant and our waitress she’s probably upper 20’s and we just ask her how she’s doing. We’re just being kind and she describes to us that she had a really hard week. Her uncle had just passed away she was at a funeral and then she was about to share more but she stops and says I won’t bore you guys with that.
She had to leave and when she came back my friend just did what I think is the best evangelistic strategy ever; hey can we just pray for you? It was natural; it was kind. It wasn’t super weird. We didn’t have a napkin and draw a picture of salvation or anything like that. It was just simply, how can we pray for you? Tears start streaming down from her eyes, immediately, down her face. We pray for her and she wraps her arms around this guy and starts talking just spilling her guts. She just found out her dad has stage-four cancer. She’s struggling. This is Overland Park Kansas. She’s not a believer. She doesn’t know Jesus but just the simple fact that someone would love her in that way was overwhelming to her.
So my wife and I plan to go back in the next couple of days and have some lunch there. Here’s the other big thing, when we pray for healing, the thing I notice throughout the Bible, it is not just asking God to heal someone. It’s like the missionary strategy. We proclaim the Kingdom of God is here. We heal the sick. We raise the dead. By the way, it’s easy to get a Discovery group going after someone’s dad was just healed of stage-four cancer.
So we pray right there in the name of Jesus for healing. I am hoping and praying when we go back there to say, Hey how’s your dad and she describes that her dad is healed. Then we will say, do you want to discover more about the Jesus who just did that?
I was blown away when I was hearing a movement guy speak in Africa and they were talking about his they think somewhere around 70 percent of Discovery Bible studies are started as a direct result of the miraculous.
Cory: Well, that blew my mind because we don’t talk about that a lot in America. We talk about good strategies but it’s like up to 70 percent. I’ve talked to some guys and they’re like it’s at least 70 percent. We pray for people. There’s a healing, there’s deliverance, there’s something like that and by the way, I was a Presbyterian pastor, so just hear that. There is deliverance or something like that and then boom, you get the seedlings of the churches planted because it’s on the heels and this is happening all over the world. I’m ready for it here in KC.
Gary: I totally believe that. And one of the things I would add is, sometimes, I say to people if I pray for them I’m expecting something to change. I mean sometimes, I’ll make this statement to them. I’ll say, so we just prayed and what I want you to think about in the next 24 hours, and maybe it might be two days, but in the next little bit of time, I believe the God is going to reveal Himself to you in some way that’s probably going to surprise you or maybe even catch you off guard.
I want you to be looking for it now. So that when it happens you’re going to know this is God reaching out to me. I don’t want to try to prescriptively tell you how He will do it. He is amazingly creative in the way He comes to us. It’s usually in a way that we don’t expect. Then we actually know it was God breaking into our world. So somehow, in the next 24 to 48 hours, I believe God’s going to reveal Himself to you. When He does, I just want you to acknowledge that it happened.
A lot of people are saying, God if you’re real show yourself to me. And if He does, then just say, I want to know more. Tell me more, God. If this is you, tell me more, and that simple little way of saying this just sets them up for God occurrences in their life.
Cory: That’s so good. I’m just going to blatantly steal that, by the way.
Gary: Please do. I did.
Cory: So my world is interesting because I wanted to see stories. I was so hungry. I was training a lot of church people and we saw some cool fruit. We saw some groups get started in neighborhoods but I was so hungry to have my own stories. I was always telling other people’s stories. I desperately asked the Lord about two and a half years ago, where are the people in Kansas City who are spiritually hungry and where are the people who are going to take the gospel to the rest of the city? I’m looking for fertile ground and I’m looking for fertile missionaries and the Lord answered both those questions in one answer. He took me as a starting point to the local county jail. It was really funny how it worked out. I partner with Gracious Promise, an awesome jail ministry in the area, and I hung out with the leader. I caught this vision. Instead of us bringing ministry from the outside, we found the inside leaders who God’s already raising up—because multiplication happens from people from the harvest being raised not just already believers.
Cory: So we said, what if we launched all these Discovery Bible studies inside. They’re all pumped about it! We started this journey and saw immediate fruit because jail is like this atmosphere where it has all the things you need for movement. It has a network of relationships. There is spiritual hunger and there’s time.
Gary: Close proximity.
Cory: Yes, proximity to one another. And we started experimenting, raising up leaders and empowering from day one. This is how you discover God. This is how you read the Bible. Then we gathered some others. We did the same. And we started seeing fruit because the Holy Spirit was at work. It wasn’t us bringing the answers. The same principle is applies anywhere–in your neighborhood and your workplace. Maybe the network is not immediately viral but the same exact principles as the movements that are happening in India, China, Africa, and Central America, pretty much everywhere, including Western Europe, movements are happening now around the world.
Gary: Everywhere except the U.S.
Cory: Everywhere except the U.S., literally. Maybe not Australia and there’s a couple of Western contexts that we don’t have movements that we can track but the movements now are multiplying like crazy. We can track 900 movements globally. Ten years ago it was 100 maybe even less than that. Movements are multiplying movements. But at the same time, population growth is growing all around the world.
The American church is dying so it’s hard for us to wrap our minds around this, but God is doing an amazing thing globally. What we saw and began to have with those first fruits of jail felt like the book of Acts. It felt like what we were experiencing overseas and that has spilled outside for us by the way. We’ve seen new groups getting started.
There was a guy who was in our Discovery Bible study at this recovery house and he relapsed and had some other rough stuff going on and he just texted me a couple of days ago he’s at this other place surrounded by all these people and he asked, can you give me those Discovery Bible studies?
He has now started two Discovery groups in the last week. There’s an ease of multiplication where people are freed up with a tactic as long as the tactic is an overflow of living on mission. But once you get generational in it and you’re raising people from the harvest, they’re reaching their people and they’re reaching their people, then living on mission is embedded in even their day one of following of Jesus. From day one they’re asking, what’s God telling me, what am I going to do, and who am going to share it with? So from day one, they’re thinking outside themselves, which is very different than what I walked in for a long time.
Gary: I think we were created for this. If any good thing happens to us, for example, we purchased a new car or something good happened to us with our health, if we’ve conquered some new goal or something like that, we’re telling people about the good things that happen in our lives and people celebrate! We’ve had this disconnect between what we’re learning about Jesus, how we’re growing in our churches or how we’re growing in our spiritual life and we’ve been afraid to cross this barrier of the awkwardness or unknown into telling other people about that. But once it becomes natural it isn’t hard at all. We were made for it and it’s easy.
When you came to see me at the Plexpod one day, we were talking and you were sharing those bookmarks that had the stories of hope on there. After you left I thought, it wouldn’t be hard at all for me to go to the people I know here, I know a lot of them, and to share the bookmark. Then I asked, hey, let’s do this. Let’s get together. And person after person said yes, of course, that’d be great. Let’s do that. It is a very simple and easy thing.
That’s the beauty of a good tool. It fits nicely when the relationships are done right. When you’ve got the heart in the right place and you’re living on mission, the tool just helps you become effective. To be honest, we didn’t get started yet so we still have to accomplish that but we will because we have relationships. So it’ll happen.
One of the biggest barriers in our context is time. We have to figure out a time. I’m telling you every neighborhood and area is different. One of the barriers to navigating our culture, in general is finding a time that works.
Cory: The DNA is the same as the book of Acts for movements globally. To live on mission here, the DNA is the same. We’re just tactically playing with things. So one of my favorite ways to think about this is, in Acts Chapter 11, it’s the first kind of viral movement we see among Gentiles. Like in the Book of Acts right?
So there was Stephen who is martyred. Then there’s this great persecution. And all these new believers are scattered and they go north. They go to Antioch, and all these other cities, and Acts 11 kind of midway through 11, it’s really short, just two verses but it says, there are two groups of people. These early Christians–one who reached Jews–and then the others who reached the Gentiles. It is a really quick description and then it says many came to know the Lord. I was looking at that and for most of us, I think we’re just going to reach the people that we have a reason to be around, our neighbors, people we work with, soccer teams, all that stuff. The people we have a reason to be around, we reach out to them.
But then there are others, that it’s a cross-cultural, and that’s where I’ve been walking. I’ve been walking in all kind of those coaching teams and groups of people but I’m pretty convinced that some of the major movement we’re going to see is going to start from the margins and will work its way into going to be alongside those starting in the center and working out because God is doing something pretty amazing in groups of people who know their own brokenness. It begins with recognizing their sin and repentance. That’s what Jesus started with right? Repent the Kingdom of God is near.
When we understand our own brokenness and cry out to God. Then God does amazing stuff! We focus a lot of our work on people in the margins. I’m telling you, I tell stories of what God is doing in jail, what God is doing in the recovery community, what God is doing with immigrant population and to the suburban Christian, it’s like spiritual crack to them. That’s probably a bad analogy talking about that. But it’s because I know this to be true. I have seen it in my life.
Cory: I know that God can radically do these miracles. I’ll have guys who are sitting across from me telling me they’re following Jesus because they had a dream about Jesus. I hear about that overseas all the time. Jesus met them in a dream and the next day they started a Bible study with three or four other guys and they encountered Jesus.
I didn’t do anything but they encountered the Jesus that they just had a dream about. We hear about that in the Muslim world all the time. I’m banking on that kind of God stuff right now because I can’t do it. If we have our eyes open, God is doing the same stuff in my suburban neighborhood. I just have to try a little harder to find the people and be more intentional. But He’s doing it and I don’t have to force it.
Gary: We always say that we join Jesus where He’s already at work. And the other thing we say is that Jesus is always working ahead of you. People are not projects. All you really have to do is love well and be connected in a first-love relationship with Jesus that is real and personal to you. Then you love well with others and all of a sudden these kinds of things start to happen.
So tell us a little bit about your connection with Underground KC and how that came about in case people might be in the Kansas City. If they wanted to connect how would they?
Cory: Well, We’re underground so we’re hidden. Our name kind of gives tribute to what you mentioned in China, globally, this kind of underground, exploding church. We’re a weird group of people but we’re weird because we’re a bunch of normal people. There’s a handful of us like Rob Wagner, Brian Johnson and a handful of other leaders who have been in church settings, more traditional church settings and had a longing to plant the gospel.
We borrowed some of our friends from Tampa Underground and they’ve got a couple of hundred micro churches. What we saw is that they did a great job. They did a great job of creating a platform, a little mission’s platform that can launch normal people to plant the gospel in their normal environments.
Instead of extracting people from churches, we’ll just plant new churches. I always joke, I don’t think planting churches is biblical, we plant disciples and it becomes a church. That’s what you see in the Bible. We’re just trying to like empower people to do that and let it move from a Discovery group to a more of a full picture of what the church is.
We’ve got a few of these micro churches brewing right now. We’ve got some in neighborhoods and then we’ve got some within jails and places like that We are trying to empower people to plant the Gospel from the ground up. We’re brand new in that sense.
You can go to KCUnderground.org and read about it. Email us and check it out but we’re not recruiting. We’re letting God bring people to us who He’s already stirred. I think it is a very natural progression.
It could be people who are living on mission in their neighborhood, or wherever, and they get a group going and then God shows up. Then all these people are coming to know Jesus. So now what do we do? Who do we belong to? It may not be natural to bring them to my church. I think KC Underground is a great landing spot for people like that, where it’s just like-minded people, we’re all part of kind of the same tribe or same network but we’re living on mission and planting little churches.
Gary: Two words come to my mind when I think about it. One, there’s the environment. You’re creating an environment where it’s safe to explore. It’s safe to try and fail. It’s safe to do new things and safe to live on mission even if it’s messy. It doesn’t always go on a timeline or doesn’t have a budget, or doesn’t have a place to meet. You’re creating an environment where all of these kinds of things are okay. That was the environment of the New Testament. So the fact that there’s an environment that’s created to give people permission to live in this way is a powerful thing.
The other thing I think about it is, it’s a community, a community of like-minded people who are going to support each other and encourage each other. Because of the messy nature; it doesn’t always go like we want it to go. There are people we invest in and we think that they may be our generation one, two, or three leaders and then they fall off the wagon. So, there are challenges all along the way, which are good challenges, but the support of the community is what holds it all together.
Cory: There’s messiness. By the way, if anything I ever say doesn’t make people think that’s messy. Well, then I didn’t portray it right because everything is messy. But I was reading in Acts, also chapter eleven a while back. I’m was sitting in this chapter and I started writing down all the good things that happened; the new people come to know Jesus, the missionaries being sent out and then I started writing the bad things–the heresy and persecution. We keep talking about we want the book of Acts and they both exist, the good and the bad. But in that, there is an explosion of new disciples. Our eyes are open to the fact that this is messy. I’ve been in this full-fledged in some ways a handful of years but in the past year, this is all that I do. I help people live like this and train teams and it’s as messy but as fruitful as any year of life I’ve had as far as Kingdom ministry.
Gary: That’s awesome. Well thanks, Cory for being on the B.L.E.S.S. podcast today. I want to say something at the end. I often say it at the beginning but I think it makes the most sense here, and in today’s podcast, is that we’re always saying to people; adopt your neighborhood, pray for your neighborhood, live a pray, care, and share lifestyle. When we talk about the care, we often say live the B.L.E.S.S. rhythms.
I know that’s a big part of KC underground. Brian Johnson has done a lot with the B.L.E.S.S. rhythms. It’s a great way to emphasize the care part. The share part, I often tell people to lean into Discovery Bible studies. Because when you’re in a Discovery Bible study you create opportunities to share and of course it fits discipling.
So there are four things we want to highlight all the time and they’re all about disciple-making–pray, care, share, and disciple. It’s all about disciple-making. The whole entirety of it is. We want to see disciples who make disciples who make disciples. Then as we see the ministry growing, like in Kansas City, for example, we’re celebrating this week the number 2000. The 2000th neighborhood has been adopted which is so cool.
Cory: That’s awesome.
Gary: But that’s not a finish line by any means. Because when a neighborhood is adopted, we want to see missional life come up from the ground inside of that community, so people start to live in a missional community. It can also happen in workplaces or it can happen at a gym. You can have people get together in all kinds of settings. It’s not limited to neighborhoods. I always want to remind people that even though we talk a lot about neighborhoods that’s just one way to measure, and it’s not the end game. The end game is to see people live like Jesus, which is a life that reproduces, a life that multiplies and ultimately brings the kingdom of heaven to Earth. So heaven comes to Earth and Earth becomes more like heaven, God is glorified in that and he’s available to His people in a way that people were not aware of before. That is the end game!
Cory: I’m just sitting here nodding along.
Gary: Anything you want to add before we wrap up today?
Cory: Yeah, I think it’s good circling back to pray, care, share, and disciple. It’s all discipleship. I think some of the things that I believed for a long time is, we evangelize until someone prays the prayer and then we disciple. I think Jesus, from day one just says, “Follow me.”
So even when we don’t know anything or if we haven’t necessarily gotten to that point of confession and surrender, but we begin the process of hearing and responding, that is disciple-making which is the methodology of Jesus. Discipleship is to and through conversion.
So, I want to begin discipling people from day one but not without the prayer piece. You do not see disciple-making movements globally without a significant prayer movement beforehand. In all of the 900+ ones, we track a significant prayer movement, even Blesseveryhome.com. I told you the other day the story that God is writing in Kansas City, which is, by the way, a cool story. We are on the forefront, I think of some of the stuff in the states. This city’s been prayed for as much as any city. Now the fact that we’re mobilizing 2,000 people to be praying for their neighborhoods is going to be part of our story looking back, saying look what God did because of those prayers.
Cory: I’m all in when it comes to that. I can’t say it is something that’s naturally been a huge part of my ministry. I want to pray more but this has been such a great tool to see people do it.
Gary: Well, thanks Cory for being our guest today on the B.L.E.S.S. podcast. And to those of you who are listening, we just want to you know that you can start anywhere in the process. We love it when people sign up and adopt their neighborhood but I also want you to remember that Jesus said, Love God and Love your neighbor so you can start there.
The tools are wonderful and they’re helpful but nothing’s going to replace the fact that you decide you want to be like Jesus. Start where He started by loving God and loving people. It will grow from there. We’re here to help you at LoveKC.net. So two tools Blesseveryhome.com and LoveKC.net will help you to try to live out this life out becoming more like Jesus and following him where you live, learn, work, and play. So let’s go on this journey together.
Donna: Thanks for joining in today for the B.L.E.S.S. podcast. People often ask what do the letters stand for in B.L.E.S.S. We like to think of B.L.E.S.S. as a lifestyle where we B, begin with prayer. L, listen to God and to others. E, eat together. S, serve and S, story; sharing your story and the story of Jesus. We not only pray that every home in America will be adopted by a disciple who lives this lifestyle but also those that do, will join their efforts to build missional communities where we live, learn, work, and play. If you haven’t yet signed up for Blesseveryhome.com, you can go there now. You can find more from host Gary Kendall including ways to connect outside of this podcast at LoveKC.net. Thank you for being a part of this B.L.E.S.S. podcast today. We invite you to subscribe, to like it, share it, and write a review. Now let’s join Jesus where He is already at work.