Arrogant, cocky, and with more than a little bit of attitude, a South Asian movement leader stood before me. “I’ve seen hundreds of people come to Christ this month and started over 60 new groups,” he declared, bobbing his head side to side. His demeanor made me sad, though I couldn’t deny the fruit he was seeing. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen these kinds of attitudes displayed by a movement leader. Young, apostolically gifted movement leaders need mentors to encourage and train them. They also can speak into issues of arrogance and pride when there is a strong relationship. We all need to check our attitudes and motivations as we pursue DMMs.
“My job is to honestly preach the word, not to hold people accountable,” said the slightly defensive Christian leader to my friend. It is a common perception among us pastors. A hands-off approach lets us off the hook. We say things like; “I will do my part, God will do His.” Or “Everyone has free will. Our job is to give them the Gospel (information), they choose what they want to do with it.”
There is truth to these statements. Where we go wrong is when we label the above as discipleship. Is the idea of “live and let live”, a Biblical approach to discipleship? Is a “you do you” worldview taking precedence over living and ministering like Jesus?
Western culture is very individualistic. “Every person has a right to make their own decision,” we say. My passport culture places a high value on individual rights. Individualism is deeply embedded in the American worldview. The impact of the West on the way we do evangelism and disciple-making around the world is significant. It’s a hindrance to starting movements. If we want to launch DMMs, we must shift our mindset and actions toward always starting groups.
This will cause the movement to spread rapidly and exponentially. A focus only on individual discipleship will multiply much more slowly.
“What? Did Jesus teach seven commands? I’ve never seen a list like this in the Bible!” he exclaimed. “I thought Christ came to set us free from the law of sin and death.” This brother thought we were heretical for even using the phrase “the seven commands of Christ” as we trained new believers. I see his point. We certainly don’t want to re-impose an Old Testament system of legalism.
What we do want is to obey the Great Commission. Jesus said, “Teach them to obey all I have commanded you.” (Matt 28:18-20)
Practice. Practice. Practice. “But I don’t like to practice, I like to play.” When I was a teenager, I played on a basketball team. I hated practices. We would dribble the ball up and down the court and shoot layups for hours. It was tiring and boring. I preferred the games. They were fun! Without practice though, we didn’t win games. Practicing disciple making skills is no different.
For some reason, we think that doing things like evangelism and disciple making shouldn’t need practice. It should flow out of us without any training or effort. This is not actually what either Jesus or Paul said. They used the word practice to describe the learning and applying process.
“All men are equally lost, but not all men are equally needy.” Do you agree? Dr. Ralph Winter, a missionary pioneer, and one of the founders of the modern frontier missions movement made this claim. The assertion that unreached peoples must receive greater focus sparked debate. It also brought a new emphasis for many agencies. YWAM was touched by Winter’s trumpet call to the unreached. YWAM Frontier Missions is part of the result.
Are DMMs Reaching the Least Reached?
Yet still today, many decades later, much of our focus in evangelism remains on those who already have an opportunity to hear. Should they choose to. As Disciple Making Movements continue to grow around the world, we must continue to champion the cause of the unreached. DMMs that start, must be missional in nature. They need to have a clear focus not only on the lost, but on the least reached lost around them.
If you had to choose between building relationships with lost people and going to church, which one would you do? Seriously. Most would answer, “Go to church, obviously.” Going to church is what “good” Christians do.
True. It’s a worthy thing to do, especially if being part of that church community is causing you to grow as a disciple. So often, though, there is a big difference between being a Christian and being a disciple.
What do “good” disciples do? I believe that engaging with, befriending, and loving on lost people and sharing the good news with them, is what disciples do. It’s what Jesus did. He hung out with lost people a lot more than he went to synagogue meetings and conferences right?
Our world is saturated with easy life marketing. “Use this product, ___________ (fill in the blank) and your life will be easier.” This is part of why shifting from a church member/attendee approach can be challenging. We like things to be easy. The easier, the better. But this is not the way of Jesus. He said it’s the easy path that leads to destruction, and the hard road to life eternal (Matt. 7:13).
As Disciple Making Movement practitioners we ask the question. How do we motivate those we are sharing Jesus with, to choose a difficult path? What about those we are trying to inspire to join us in working to see a movement of disciples released?
Most disciple-makers, pastors, and Christian leaders want to see greater fruit in their ministries. Our hearts long for the rapid expansion of God’s Kingdom on earth. Yet often, what we long for and what we experience are quite different. There is a better way, a more effective way to see your community reached. Avoiding a few common disciple-making mistakes can have a tremendous impact.
Let’s unpack these.
- Making Things Complicated.
- Releasing New Believers Too Slowly.
- Focusing on Individuals, Not Groups.
Making Things Complicated
Our human tendency is to over-complicate things. Spiritual practices are no different. Jesus kept things simple.
A few days ago, a friend from Bangladesh used the term “borderless nets” in a chat message. It caught my attention. I’m not sure where he got the term, or if someone else used it first. I immediately asked the question that is now the title of this blog. “What are ‘borderless nets’ and how do I cast one?“ I thought about Luke chapter five. Could casting “borderless nets” help us catch the huge number of fish not possible in other ways?
Covid-19 forced us to think and work in new, innovative ways. It pushed us out of the box (or rut) we were in. God is like that. He turns horrible things the enemy intends for evil into good for His kingdom.