When Disciple-Making Strategy Becomes a Hidden Barrier to Growth

disciple-making strategy

Effective movement leaders don’t focus on disciple-making strategy. In contrast, the focus that consumes them is a passionate urgency to reach lost people. Concentrating on the wrong thing (even good disciple-making strategy) can hinder a movement from starting.

Strategy is important and has its place. It’s not, however, what drives a Disciple Making Movement (DMM) forward. A sense of urgency to reach the lost at every level in the movement does. This compelling love for the lost has to start with the catalyst, trainers, and 1st generation leaders.

How It Feels To Be Lost

It is an awful feeling to be lost.  I remember a time when I was seven or eight years old. We were visiting some of my parent’s friends in a new city in America.

As adults do when they meet old friends, mom and dad were talking and having fun. I was bored. For some reason, I didn’t enjoy whatever the other kids were doing. I decided to go for a walk.

I don’t remember exactly how it all happened, but I left.

Wandering down the street, I enjoyed the various scenes around me. At some point though, I wanted to go back.

The problem was that I didn’t know where back was. I couldn’t find the house. Nor was I even sure what it looked like anymore.

Completely lost, I sat down on the side of the road and cried. It was not a nice feeling. Some hours later, my parents came and found me. Now that felt good!

I had no idea what to do in my lostness. I had to just wait for someone who loved me to come searching.

Many are spiritually lost in the same way I was physically lost that day. They don’t know what Heaven (or the presence of God) looks like. They wait for someone who loves them to come and show them the way home.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10 NIV

The Terms Lost and Lostness

Some Christian workers don’t like to use the term “lost” or talk about “lostness.” I guess I see their point. If you are an Atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim, you may not like to be labeled as “lost.” I guess it isn’t following some of the 3D communication principles to use this term online as I am here.

At the same time, it is crucial to talk about the reality of the condition of people apart from God. Separated from His love, we are truly lost.

Ying Kai, the creator of Training for Trainers (T4T) talks about developing a Lost and Saved list (see my article on this).

From the beginning of their movement, they imparted an understanding of lostness. The movement later grew into hundreds of thousands of churches.

“There are only two kinds of people in the world,” Ying says. “The lost and the saved.”

Strategy vs. Urgency

As mentioned above, strategy has its place. It makes sense to learn about strategies such as contextualization. Multiplication principles, and best practices in reaching Muslims, Hindus, or Buddhists, are valuable. It is important to understand things like participatory worship and what works with oral culture people.

Without some knowledge of strategy, we hit unnecessary barriers. These difficulties create obstacles on our road toward launching a movement.

But the strategy is a far less important priority than the urgency.

In some ways, we tend to find it easier to focus on strategy than on lostness. This is especially true of those of us who are cross-cultural workers. Lostness affects our hearts while strategy has more to do with our minds.

It is easier to create, analyze, and critique strategies than to go out and share the gospel. Many missionaries spend exorbitant amounts of time researching, discussing, and debating. Countless hours are spent considering small adjustments in terms or contextualization.

What if we used that time to cry out to God on our knees for the lost people in our neighborhood or city? If we used that energy to share our testimony and sow seeds of the gospel, we would likely see better results.

For indigenous missionaries (what we call C1 and C2- near-culture workers), the tendency to focus on strategy is not as great. It can still be a danger though.

Missionary colleagues make it sound like these are the things that matter most. You want to “get it right” and learn from them.

Again, don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying throw out everything to do with disciple-making strategy. That would be unwise. Just make sure you keep your focus in the right place.

Is Urgency Alive In You?

What are you doing to keep the urgency of lostness alive in your heart? Do you ever get wrapped up in strategy discussions a bit too much?

Stay focused on lost people. Let a God-given passion to make Jesus known to them drive you to prayer and evangelism.

Ask God to fill your heart afresh today with His sense of urgency for those who wait to hear the good news.

What one thing will you do this week to put fuel on the fire of your passion to reach the lost? Let me know in the comments or on our DMMs Facebook page.

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