Doug Lucas – Partnering with Churches

Episode Description

Doug Lucas, president of Team Expansion and an active movement practitioner, reflects on the blessing and value Zúme has been on his personal journey of disciple making and its contribution in the global movement of the Kingdom.

Episode Notes

Team Expansion

More Disciples

Episode Transcription

Narrator: I’m excited to talk with you, Doug and to see what God is doing in the ways that you are seeing Zúme and using it, but also creating these alternative ways to mix and match it. I would just love to hear your vision.

Doug: Thanks so much, Mary. It’s an honor to be asked. I’m delighted anytime anybody asks anything about Zúme, so I’m I’m happy to respond. Zúme to me is a kind of dream come true in a way. I have to confess, Mary, I had trouble getting my arms around what DMMs are. But when Zúme rolled out I finally had a set of, I don’t know what you call, hat hooks or coat hooks to be able to hang ideas on. I could finally fashion the answer I was gonna give if somebody asked what are disciple making movements. I finally had a way to describe it.

Narrator: So good. How are you seeing Zúme work in existing churches?

Doug: It’s a hassle or a challenge for existing churches because they pretty much want to maintain their flock. I don’t want to lump all of the existing church leaders together in one place because I know that everybody’s different. But it seems like a lot of churches are worried about losing control, identity, or their brand.

So when they’re doing these new congregations it’s like they roll out these box churches, these alternative sites. And they try to make them all look alike. They’ve all got to have the same screen and they have to have the same projection of the same preacher. They build these 30 foot tall screens so that he stands there in front of the congregation and looks identical.

That’s why it’s really hard to to introduce something like Zúme which is so different. One of the things we’ve looked for is churches that have a high value on multiplication of disciples and if they care about that then they should care about Zúme. One of the things we volunteered for them is that they tell us what they need Zúme to be like.

I’ll give you a concrete example. We worked with a church up in southwestern Ohio. They basically said that they didn’t have a single meeting ever anytime in their church that was 2 hours long so. They wanted to know how they do Zúme so that it would be shorter.

When they first rolled out Zúme it was basically packaged as a two-hour identity feature and if you didn’t do the two hours then you just couldn’t do the discipleship course. But I’m so grateful to the developers of Zúme and to the thought leaders that they’ve now opened that up so we can now take the individual components and help a local church like this one in southwestern Ohio. They’ve designed their Zúme course so that it fits their culture and it’s 1 hour long. This way it’ll fit into their existing components.

That’s one of the things that we see a church do a lot of times. They restack the components so they don’t leave anything out but so that it fits within a length of meeting. For instance, the format that they already have is just one idea.

Narrator: So great. It’s amazing how in Zúme you can use the tools and the sessions as it is on the website but you can also just pull them out and do them in a different order or a different timeline. The creative possibilities without losing the depth of content and wisdom are amazing. Curtis talked about this a little bit in one of our episodes together.

Doug: You’re hitting the nail on the head. Can I tell you a quick little background story on Zúme?

Narrator: Please do!

Doug: I was on the nine person team for like the first year that it was rolling out. And I remember the meeting in which they brought us session 6, which contains the explanation for how to do three-thirds groups. They just had the rough sketches of the videos done. I’m just gonna put it out here I hope nobody minds. They had hired some actors to do these three-thirds groups and you know it makes sense because that’s what you think you’re supposed to do. They had hired these actors who weren’t doing three-thirds groups. Due to the fact that the scenes were still rough cut, you got to hear the actors in between scenes and some of the questions they would ask. You could hear an actor that was on a live mic say, “you know this is really kind of different doing this. I think I might like this at my church.” It was just fun. But then you had others that said, “hey, where are the M&Ms?”. They were just not in the moment.

So after we watched all those rough sketches I raised my hand gently and said, “I love this. I love the lighting, I love all the people, they’re all so beautiful…”. And then I said, “none of the three-thirds group that I’ve seen have people that look this beautiful. They’re not this perfect and the conversations aren’t this perfect. What if we used video from a real Zúme group?”. And then somebody in the group said, “you mean we couldn’t use our hired actors?”. And I said, “No!” [laughs] “Let’s toss this!”

And it was just so radical that they did it and we actually did a three-camera shoot at a real three-thirds group that had been going on for a full year. They had already multiplied and, honestly, I don’t think it was exciting because watching somebody else’s three-thirds group is never going to be as good as doing your own, I know that. But I love the fact that they listened to input and that really set the tone for me. The whole Zúme idea is that they’ll listen to input. The little question I asked made a huge difference. So for the first year, the session 6 for Zúme contained this real live three-thirds group example that really was a three-thirds group. I’m not saying that people weren’t beautiful, they just weren’t “actress beautiful”, you know? But it was real, it was authentic.

Later on, of course, we replaced that with the right thing. We replaced it with a 10 or 12 minute explanatory video about how to do a three-thirds group. So you didn’t have to sit through and watch somebody else do one. I like what we have today better. Somebody else asked a question that made it even better. But I think the principle is exactly what we just said, they will listen to questions and input and they will shift based on what makes sense. I love it, I
really do.

Narrator: That’s amazing. Doug, have you been a part of this Zúme journey either right from the beginning? Or pretty close to it?

Doug: Yeah, since the beginning.

Narrator: Amazing! What have you observed in this process? What surprised or shocked you?

Doug: Okay, I’ll pick out one or two things and then tell me if this is what you want to know. For instance, in the beginning the the concept was to try to find a tool that will get people into coaching. Because we’re not going to fool ourselves into thinking that people will really learn how to do this by watching it on a online format; they’re really going to learn it in the coaching.

So it was all about trying to get the person into coaching. About 1 or 2 years in, we were coming back with these stories about entire groups and churches being able to grasp this by this “online, in-life experience”. So finally, the Zúme thought leaders started saying, “okay, let’s still make coaching available but let’s trust the training.”

And I think it’s it’s a surprise, frankly, that none of us in that initial early-going team realized that we would be able to learn stuff by this “in-life, online” format.

And then of course, remember that this was like 2 years before COVID that this became a thing. Zúme was an online training format 2 years before COVID. So when COVID started hitting and people needed insight into how to do church at home, Zúme had entire training sessions on that. We saw churches and organizations using Zúme to help people make the jump into a world that nobody thought we’d ever though we’d be thrust into.

Zúme was there because I think the power of God, the act of God working in the lives of people like Curtis Sergeant envisioning this before people even ever realized there was a need for it. I remember in the first year I had friends who said, “Doug, Zúme just doesn’t work. Online training is never gonna work. Nobody’s ever gonna use online training.” And then COVID hit and everybody had to!

I think they had to eat their words. Maybe you might still make a case for “we like community in person more than when we’re online” but we had Zúme groups in which, remember how the the Zúme course teaches you 12 people? We started putting 100 people into Zúme groups because Zoom allowed us to do breakout sessions for the discussion groups with 10 or 8 or 6 or 4. Then we’d come back together for the main presentations with 500 people in the room. And it didn’t matter because we were all watching it right there in front. We were seeing the video as if it was on our very own screen. 500 of us! When we broke up into groups, we could break up into groups instantly without people walking by the restroom or the water fountain. When we wanted them back, we called them back and got them back instantly. They didn’t stop by the refreshment stand. Zoom! They were right back together; it was great.

Narrator: That’s awesome There is so much I feel like we could dig into together. God has done so much over these last less than 5 years since launch.

Doug: That’s right.

Narrator: In order to boil it down, what do you share with people who don’t know anything about Zúme at all? What is your simplest vision cast to them?

Doug: I would say the simplest vision cast is: tell us what your goal is and if the church or group comes back and says, “well, we’re in fill-in-the-blank Milwaukee, or we’re in Virginia Beach and we’d really like to get started now in learning the stuff”, there is no possible way that any other training compares to what Zúme offers for a church or group or an org that’s in Tallahassee or Timbuktu.

It doesn’t matter if they’re in Northern Ghana or if they’re in Sri Lanka. There is nothing that can compare to this tool that can bring biblical training into their living room for this price point and in this kind of a contextualized way. I mean, 40 languages with more on the way! Nothing can take disciple making movement training into Mandarin like Zúme can. Nothing can take disciple making movement training into a person’s living room so quickly and so effectively.

Little 5 minute video explainers followed by your group doing it right there in your living room without having to fly somebody in at a cost of $1700 dollars for the airfare and maybe $700 dollars during the 4 day training. Also, a lot of planning with translators and absolutely nothing existed before and nothing still does exist like Zúme. It’s literally amazing.

Narrator: It truly is. One of the more recent translations of Zúme is ASL: American Sign Language. I was just in the Caribbean this past summer where my family’s from in Barbados. The deaf are a people group on the finishing-the-task list. They’re English speaking so there are a lot of commonalities to ASL the deaf group and to get to share with them,
with someone who’s really engaging there… They were just blown away that there was training in discipleship, simple churches, and multiplication in American Sign Language.

Doug: I think you’re exactly right. I think the adaptability to be able to embrace a language like ASL is a tribute to what Zúme is. The fact that it can be so easily adapted to ASL is a tribute. That’s an example of how flexible these guys and gals that are on that thought leader team are.

For example, I remember in about the third or fourth Zúme course that I hosted we had several black americans in the group. I began watching the videos through their eyes in my mind and, again as a tribute to the development team, we would come to those videos early on in which the people who represented evil were represented in black and the people who represented innocent people were in white. During the session I scribbled off an email due to the the fact that you can click on the help chat and do an instant email.

And I did; I sent an instant email to them even though they were my personal friends. I followed the letter of the law and I used the tool to give feedback. I got back a message the next day and they said, “we never thought about this in the way that a black american might perceive it. How could we better represent this?” So I pulled together 2 or 3 black americans and asked them what they could imagine might represent a person who’s evil and they tossed out many ideas. Some of them were animals like a wolf, comparing that to an animal like a sheep which is a very biblical paradigm. Anyway, they tossed out several kind of ideas like that that got the pump primed.

It took about 90 days for those new videos to start rolling out. And I won’t ever forget watching that same course later with some of those same black americans looking over at them and them looking back and just giving that gentle nod as if saying, “hey, they listened.” They listened and that’s Zúme; the idea that they will hear feedback.

I remember doing a Zúme course in a place where there were refugee camps and there were no Internet Wi-Fi points inside this camp of 5000 people. It was difficult at that time; you couldn’t download the app on your phone and use it independently like you can now.

I was trying to sort of follow along and scratch in my head these training events and when I came back and said, “I know you guys have a really high attention to try to get this connected with coaching… but would you rather have 50% of the people in the world be able to have access to coaching and let them see Zúme or would you rather have 100% of the people in the world be able to see it and still have 50% access to coaching?”

And boy, did they listen. Within a year, the whole discipleship course was mobile. The webpage, which I hadn’t even thought of, was now “nuggetized” so you can pull out a nugget or component at a time.

If we were on a visual medium I would show you but I would just encourage anybody to go to or, either one and then hover over the word “course”, and click on the word “course”. Now every one of those video presentations and the practice that goes along with it are all independently available at

All of those have their own web address. Now what we’re doing is we’re reshuffling, readapting it, and making this available in PDF booklets. This way, a person can read it and then click immediately as the follow-up for that paragraph. They just read and see a paragraph at the text at Zúme training, watch the video, see the homework, and put this all together in one easy PDF like an Adobe Acrobat document. PDF documents that can immediately leap you to all of that was made possible by the Zúme team being flexible enough to say “okay, if they want to use it this is in this way, let’s let them.”

It really is a tribute to their vision. It really is.

Narrator: It is incredible.

Tell us, Doug, a bit about T-Groups.

Doug: T-Groups came about because there were folks who were saying that their church doesn’t seem to be the type that will commit to a 10 session course right now without being able to see what’s in it first. And at the time that was the case; you couldn’t really preview the course without taking it.

And, by the way, completely for free; they don’t charge for one single granule of this course. Every single nugget of it is free in any language.

When they opened up this door and let people start looking at his videos then it allowed us to basically start dreaming.

So I said to this church in Vancouver, “how do you think that you would like to start at your church and what would work best for you?” And they said, “well if it’s all about starting a group, let’s start a group from day one and let’s do the training in the group.” And I told him we have been longing for somebody to try this and asked if they were willing to experiment with it.

They started it and it’s been going ever since from day one. They do the session 6 group as if from day one. Then in the 30 minutes after the 1 hour group, they do 30 more minutes of training. In about 10 weeks with just a little bit of homework they finished the Zúme course by doing the actual three-thirds group and a half hour training and some homework at home.

They get through the course and by the time they’re done their participants have done ten three-thirds groups together. So they actually do about three times the number of groups that you’re able to do in a typical Zúme course. I love it! I love it that they wanted to get right into studying the Word right out of the gate from day one. And now they’ve multiplied to the 3rd generation using that approach.

We called it T-Groups just letting the T represent the word “transformation”. Some people think the T could represent the word “training”.

We give away this training just because, in the spirit of Zúme, we couldn’t do otherwise. To do otherwise would look really, really bad. You can just go to and get the whole thing there. It’s basically called T-Groups: A three-thirds group model for churches. All the stuff is right there you don’t need anybody to start doing it. Because of Zúme, you can migrate through the whole training and implementation just by that one website.

Narrator: It’s beautiful. I know there are so many stories that you could share at the drop of a hat of these last few years of Zúme. What are some of your go-to stories or a few moments that have been the most impactful for you?

Doug: I think in the middle of covid when my buddy Eric Darry and I said, “how can we still keep active in doing disciple making movement strategies even though it’s not currently wise to pull close together people who are more vulnerable around a dining room table in a living room and it’s not permitted in many of these cultures?”

So we got this idea of doing Zúme over Zoom. We kind of tossed out some gentle promotion for the first group wondering if we would be able to get the 4 people to make it work. On the day that it was supposed to start, when we had 27 registered we looked at each other and said, “how are we going to do this?” So we kind of mapped out some general ideas.

We came to that first session of 27 people and there were people on there that were literally leaving for the mission field as soon as they could get permission to do so. There were people from other countries that were in that group and there were local church people wondering how they could use it in their local church. But I remember one young couple and I’ll just call them C and A. They were going to a sensitive place. As they started going through this, they said, “this is what we want to do in our field.”

They’ve since left for that field. They are in that place that, again, we shouldn’t mention on open podcast and now they are literally empowering hundreds of other people to do Zúme courses. I happen to know last week they got a very large grant to be able to cover the cost of Jesus film devices. This way, when they send Zúme into a new town in their place where there is no Bible yet, people can at least hear the message of Luke in a Jesus film format to get started, so they can meet Jesus for the first time.

Another young couple was going to East Africa. We met in their home. This young couple said, “okay, just tell us how to do this and we’ll put in the practice”. I’ll just use initials for their names. We’ll say E and A. I met with their team leader earlier this week; they are killing it. In that family of groups they easily have a hundred groups going. Their training started and finished, you could say, with Zúme.

That’s how they cut their teeth on disciple making movement strategies. All of their new groups are now being established by locals. The actual North American workers don’t have to start new groups anymore. All new groups being started by local people and they’re all being done in the local language. There are no English groups; they’re being done in the local language.

It’s a stellar example of the way that a tool can be used as a catalyst to unlock a movement. It’s really fun.

Narrator: Amen! So as we wrap up, Doug, what do you wish more people knew about Zúme?

Doug: I wish they would understand it’s not a curriculum. It’s not really a tactic or a method. It’s not like a program. There’s not some Zúme office somewhere; you can’t dial up Zúme; you can’t look them up on Google Maps and look up their phone number and see where the office is located.

Zúme really is a movement. It’s a movement of implementers who got together and said, “there has to be an easier way to componentize this into a system that will allow people to experience it while they train in it.” Those 10 weeks of my first Zúme course and the aproximately 17 or so that I’ve facilitated since then have never ever once disappointed.

It doesn’t matter if they’re gonna go to some advanced city in France where people consider themselves intelligentsia or if they’re going to go to some tribal village in East Africa where they they don’t know a single white person. And all points in between.

Zúme is not a curriculum or a program, it is truly an in-life experience that prepares you to be able to pass on that experience to others. That’s what I wish people would know.

Narrator: That’s awesome. Thank you so much, Doug.

Doug: Thank you for doing this, Mary. It’s an honor to be with you and I wish you good speed, godspeed.

Narrator: Thanks, you too.

November 8, 2021