My husband and I like to run at least one half-marathon each year. To get a decent time in a 21 K race, you need a good strategy. If you start too fast in the beginning, you won’t get a good time. You have to slow yourself down at the start, to speed up at the end. This isn’t easy. At the beginning of the race, there is a lot of adrenaline and excitement. It is similar in starting a Disciple Making Movement (DMM). Start too fast and push for results too soon? Big mistake. You won’t get the acceleration and multiplication you want later. The desire for rapid disciple-making results can be a major DMM obstacle.
It sounds kind of funny because with DMMs we are always talking about rabbit churches right? So why is it taking so long to get those first babies?
The past few weeks I’ve been writing about some of the major obstacles to seeing a movement take off. Though the obstacles seem many, there are ways to overcome them!
Start Off With The Right Principles In Place
Instill a value for principles of multiplication in the first believers and groups. Often, in the initial stages, progress looks slow. There are definitely other methods to more quickly get a group of people together and call them a church.
Healing crusades, Jesus film showings, and other public events are “faster” ways. The problem is they often don’t multiply well later. In the end, the disciple-making results are far less. Why? Because those methods aren’t reproducible.
What are other examples of efforts that get quick results but don’t produce multiplication later? One is compassion oriented, “free give away” outreaches. It isn’t that I am against some of these things. There are times when people are in genuine need of relief. The difficulty is that relief, after a crisis, needs to shift quickly to development. It often doesn’t. We have a tendency to give relief (giveaways) when a more sustainable approach is needed.
Pursuing a Disciple Making Movement means a willingness to slow down. Create and model simple, reproducible habits of evangelism and discipleship. These things will multiply. They may be slower now, but they will be much faster later. Instead of addition growth, you will get multiplication growth.
My Medical Camp Lesson
“Everything you do in the community needs to be immediately reproducible.”
I knew that. I even taught that. In spite of this, the temptation was strong. We wanted to do something that quickly gave us disciple-making results.
When a team from the USA approached my husband and I with the offer of a medical camp, we said yes. They would bring excellent foreign doctors and nurses. They would provide funds to purchase free medicine to give away. It seemed like a good idea. Who wouldn’t want to bless people in such great need?
This would build favor with community leaders we were trying to get to know. It would also give us a lot of new contacts. We would share the gospel with each person who came through the camp. Some might even pray to receive Jesus. They might become our first believers.
My heart longed to do something for the desperate poverty in the slum communities. I was filled with compassion. This seemed a good way to help.
Amazing People- Weak Results
We had a truly excellent team come in. They were amazing people. We were so blessed by their attitudes and expertise. We had a good team working on the setup and evangelism too. We saw hundreds of patients. The initial results were quite good. We got many new contacts and were able to follow-up on several who showed interest when they heard the gospel. It felt like we had “raced forward” in our DMM work there.
Years later, as I look back, I am not so sure. In spite of all the positive things on the surface, there were significant negatives too. I now ask myself questions like:
– Did that camp establish us as outsiders who bring in money and foreigners to “help”?
– Did it contribute to an unhealthy dependency model? Rather than a locally sustainable model of evangelism and church planting?
There were people from the camp with an early interest in Jesus. But they never grew into strong disciples who made disciples or became our persons of peace.
We must evaluate and learn from both our successes and failures. In hindsight, I wouldn’t do it the same way next time.
Can They Do What You Are Doing?
Jesus did feed the multitudes and heal crowds of sick people. He extended compassion to all. There is a place for big crowds, meetings and maybe even medical camps. I want to be clear that I am not against those things.
Jesus invested much of his time in the 12. He spent much more effort on them than on organizing big events. He took these disciples with Him everywhere. He created opportunities for them to go out on their own too. Very quickly, He encouraged them to do what He was doing. Jesus didn’t do anything that they couldn’t, with His authority and power, also do. In fact, He told them that they would do greater things than Him.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12 NIV.
The Money Factor
A big factor in this is money. Healing the sick and casting out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit is a gift every believer can ask God for. Jesus trained and commissioned his disciples to do these things. They went to the villages and put that into practice (Luke 9 and 10).
This is different from the money needed to buy medicines and have a medical camp or host a healing crusade. Those need money. Tents have to be rented, microphones set up, etc.
Be careful about bringing outside money into the movement in the beginning. It will be fast now, but terribly slow later. It could even kill the potential for multiplication.
Examine Everything In Light o|Of Multiplication
Carefully examine everything you do related to evangelism and disciple-making. Ask yourself, “Can any local person here do these things without my outside resources and help?” Keep all your evangelism methods simple and inexpensive! You may not get big results quickly. But the model you establish will be something that multiplies to many generations.
Resist The Temptation Of Fast Disciple-Making Results
A Disciple Making Movement (DMM) is a marathon, not a sprint. Start slowly to speed up later. Don’t let performance oriented pressure make you compromise on reproducibility. I sometimes have.
You may not be able to write about hundreds receiving Christ in your newsletters today. Be okay with that. Build a strong foundation. In the end, you will see much greater lasting results. The day will come when you see “rabbit” churches take off. The gospel will sweep through your region in an unstoppable way. Amen?
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