.W stands for DOTW, which is short for Doers of the Word, a reference to Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 7:24, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house upon the rock." The .W Discipleship Groups are a network of individuals, households and congregations, that meet in places like Colorado, California, Ohio, Korea and China!
In order to learn how to disciple North Koreans, we had to study the existing North Korean underground church and find out how they do it. (There are about 100,000 Christians inside North Korea). We also studied other persecuted churches around the world and throughout history, back all the way to the New Testament itself.
What we found—or more accurately, didn’t find—absolutely floored us.
It turns out that our modern western way of making disciples and being church—with church buildings, paid pastors, congregations of even dozens of people (let alone hundreds and thousands), with Bibles and study materials for everyone—that’s the historical oddity. The North Korean situation of empty-handed discipleship in the face of intense persecution is the norm!
As we studied the story, our eyes began to be open to a whole new New Testament—one written by persecuted Christians to persecuted Christians who had to face the same challenges we face in North Korea:
- No buildings.
- No paid pastors.
- No Bibles in the pew racks or available through the local Christian super store.
- Literally no nothing that we in the west consider so essential to discipleship.
Instead, what we see in the New Testament—and on for the majority of Christians throughout most of church history—is a church that consistently, cheerfully grows right in the teeth of persecution…through the dedicated service of amateurs with few if any tools at their disposal.
And it’s in those times and using those methods that the church really thrives!
The Bible calls the amateurs of the Christian ministry world the laity, which simply means “people.” It’s a designation of a new nationality—citizenship in the kingdom of God. Interestingly, the Anglicans call lay people “the fourth order of ministers in the Church,” along with bishops, priests, and deacons. Lest we think that “fourth order” roughly means “fourth class” or (as in the case of amateurs as a whole) “not serious or well-versed in the subject matter,” consider this definition of “the ministry of the fourth order” (the laity) from the Episcopal Church:
…to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ's work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.
All of this new insight from the persecuted church and from across church history proved extremely helpful to us in our discipleship planning with North Korean Christians.
What we didn’t count on was just how much it would transform us—and our personal practice of church.
For the last several years we’ve been learning, along with North Korean Christians, how to do lay church—and it’s been beyond exciting to watch the results. In the time it takes American Christians to come to understand even the basic principles of the gospel, “amateur” North Korean Christians are teaching others, planting churches and literally laying down their lives for the gospel.
Now that we’ve been underway in .W for a little while, we’re seeing the same things we’ve seen among North Koreans—the same things that Christians have seen throughout history all the way back to the New Testament: believers growing to fullness in Christ, surprisingly quickly, without external accoutrements like buildings, paid clergy, or study Bibles for everybody.
In that spirit, we felt there might be interest in the discipleship groups among other amateur Christians in the west--people who, upon encountering Jesus, ask, “How can I live like that?”
As a result of our experience, we’ve formulated twelve principles that are necessary and sufficient to enable “ordinary” Christians to launch lay churches that help members to grow to fullness in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
If you are interested in learning more about the .W Discipleship Groups, please contact us by clicking the button below.