Have you ever made a “To-Do” list and found it far too long? No one could possibly do all those things in the time available? Or maybe you don’t make lists, but experience a sense of inner pressure. You have too much to do. Disappointing people around you by not completing tasks on time, frustration is growing. You are disturbed that in spite of all the busy activities, you’re not seeing much progress. Not in the things that matter most to you – multiplying disciples among the unreached. Doing a Start-Stop exercise will help you get focused.
Recently, I had the privilege of sitting down for a conversation with the leader of a growing movement in India. Knowing my readers would not have that same opportunity, I decided to record our conversation and share it with my readers.
C. Anderson: How did you begin your disciple-making work?
Movement Leader: We began by doing prayer walks, visiting the many unreached villages nearby. For three months all we did was pray. We then began to distribute tracts and share the good news with those who expressed interest.
Rice, meat, spices, herbs, onion, garlic…you make your list and go to the market. Before making a special meal, you first prepare the ingredients you need. You wouldn’t want to start cooking and then have to stop and run to the store. In the same way, as you begin your journey with Disciple Making Movements (DMMs), it is good to get your tools, training,
Invest in Your DMM Toolbox
There are many different tools you can add to your “toolbox” as you make disciples. But there are several things that are most essential. Get those basics in place. Then, as a builder or carpenter does, when you come across various new materials and skills, you can also add them to your DMM tool belt.
Yesterday morning, I stepped out the door for my early morning run. A heavy fog hung on the streets. It reminded me of times in Nepal when fog would hang low in the valley where we were church planting. The sun didn’t come out to clear away the fog until mid-morning. Until then, it was hard to go anywhere and the roads were dangerous. It was difficult to see a clear pathway. Finding your way to a clear Disciple Making Movements strategy can feel a bit like that heavy fog.
Sorting Through The Many Approaches
The Disciple Making Movement (DMM) and Church Planting Movement (CPM) world can be confusing. There are many different resources, approaches, and training. These are constantly changing and evolving. Trainers like myself adapt, evaluate, and learn. While approaches do overlap, it can be confusing to determine which strategy to use.
It’s Christmas Eve. We gather around the tree. Dad opens his Bible to read the Christmas story. Squirming and anxious to open our gifts, we listen, wanting h
Maybe we can set it aside for awhile as we focus on the birth of Jesus, the wise men, angels, Mary and Joseph. Or maybe not. Could it be that the Great Commission is actually a vital part of the Christmas story?
The baton used in a race is lightweight. It is designed to be easily transferred from the hands of one runner to another.
It is the same in a Disciple Making Movement. Discipleship methods must be simple and light. In DMMs, we are intentional about making everything we do easy for others to also do.
Keeping your discipleship structure and meeting format consistent lends toward multiplication. While it is fun and interesting to do things with a lot of variety, it often doesn’t reproduce well.
Random discipleship doesn’t reproduce. Follow a simple plan. This is much more effective in rapidly equipping new disciple-makers.
A Coaching Conversation
“What did you talk about in your Discovery Bible Study (DBS) today?” I asked.
“We chose one of my favorite passages,” he said.
“That is a good one! I like it too,” was my reply after hearing the Bible reference.
“I’m curious. How do you decide which scripture to study each week?” was my next question.
“We pray and find something that we think will be good,” he said.
“Hmm,” I pondered, considering his situation.
This DMM effort had been struggling to see multiplication. They were doing regular Discovery Bible Studies. But the group members seemed hesitant to start their own groups. They lacked confidence and self-initiative.
“Have you ever considered using an established set of stories? Or a list of verses everyone leading DBS groups follows? Instead of choosing verses randomly?” I asked.
This was a new idea to him.
We talked about how to go about deciding on a short and
It can be difficult to make disciples who make disciples when the people you are focused on are constantly moving. Whether they are seeking work or moving for other reasons!
For the past several months I have been writing about key barriers to launching a Disciple Making Movement (DMM). See the full list here. Trying to make disciple-makers among a nomadic people group can feel impossible. It can seem like a major blockade to the movement’s growth.
Obstacle Or Catalyst?
This doesn’t need to be a barrier, however, to starting a DMM. It can instead become a major cause of movement expansion.
The key is to disciple the new believers rapidly using simple, reproducible approaches. Then, teach them to train others and start groups wherever they go. This was the model that led to much growth in the New Testament.
“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” Acts 8:1 NIV
Scripture Guides Us
Always look to scripture for foundational answers to the DMM problems you encounter. This problem of believers scattering was very present in the book of Acts!
The cause of the believers constantly moving was persecution, not searching for work. There are great parallels to learn from, however.
We read in the eighth chapter of the book of Acts how persecution caused many of the believers to move away from Jerusalem. The growing church was still in its early stages of development. Many had not received much training yet. Most had only been following Jesus for less than a year.
Interestingly, it says in Acts 8:4, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”
How was it possible that they were equipped enough (in such a short amount of time) to preach the gospel effectively? They were able to start new groups (churches) in so many new locations as they scattered!
How Scattering Believers Became Church Planters
1) They powerfully received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4, Acts 8:15).
This is an important reason. Those who came to faith received the power of the Holy Spirit and developed a relationship with Him. They used their spiritual gifts and learned to listen to the Spirit’s voice. When no mentor was present, the Holy Spirit was there to correct, guide and instruct them.
The apostles trusted the Holy Spirit in the new disciples’ lives. They encouraged them to obey His leading. That doesn’t mean they never brought correction or instruction to them. They did! But their default mode was the empowerment of local believers, not control and restriction.
Be sure to pray for new believers to receive the Holy Spirit.
2) They met daily for fellowship and discipleship (Acts 2:46).
Daily discipleship of new believers is key to developing them into disciple-makers. In the short-term discipleship phase, much contact is necessary. They are still new babes in Christ.
Meet as often as possible with those coming to faith. This is especially needed the first few weeks after they believe.
Training them quickly in the basics of what it means to follow Jesus will bear much fruit. Make sure they are encouraged to immediately begin sharing their testimony with others.
Using the T4T “Baby Lessons” can be a good way to do this. Train them until they can train others. Then if they disperse, they will pass on what they have learned from you.
3) They learned the stories of Jesus well enough to reproduce them (Acts 2:42).
It takes many years to train a new disciple to the point where they can preach an expository sermon. Do you still think hearing a weekly sermon is what it means to be a church? I hope not!
If that is what you need, new believers on the move will probably not end up being church planters!
Instead, using a storytelling or Discovery Bible Study (DBS) approach works much better. As we practice and repeat the stories of scripture, it becomes natural to tell them to others.
In the book of Acts, when the believers gathered, the apostles told stories of Jesus’ life. They were first-hand witnesses. They shared about His miracles, His parables, and what it was like to be with Him. Then, those stories were passed on to others following an oral tradition. We can do the same today!
4) Though there was a council of elders, they practiced the priesthood of all believers (1 Pet. 2:9).
The New Testament church was not without leadership. But the structure was different from what is typical in churches today. There was no part of the Great Commission that the leaders reserved only for themselves.
Jesus’ gave some basic commands. He told us to make disciples of all nations, to baptize them, practice the Lord’s Supper often, give to those in need, love God and our neighbor, etc.
In the New Testament church, these were the responsibility of every Jesus follower. They were not only for the apostles or leaders. Spiritual hierarchy and the professional clergy came much later. This slowed the growth of the church.
As you train disciples immediately empower them to be disciple-makers. Help them to start new groups themselves rather than just adding to existing groups. Then, when they have to move for work, they will naturally do this in the new places where they go. Your movement will expand into regions you never dreamed of reaching.
5) Churches mostly met in homes (Acts 16:40, Acts 2:46, Acts 21:8,16).
In the New Testament church, they didn’t suffer from the same misconception of what the church was. They knew the church was people, not a building.
As you disciple new believers, be sure to instill this New Testament understanding in them.
6) The apostles visited and wrote to them (Acts 8:14, Rom. 15:23,28).
New Jesus followers, empowered by the Holy Spirit, did share the gospel and start new churches. But they were not without input and care.
The apostles visited them as often as they were able to. They sent letters to encourage (as well as correct them) in areas of church practice and doctrine.
When people you’ve led to faith scatter, stay in touch with them. Call, message and visit them. As they lead others to Christ, do what you can to help them stay on track.
Today we have the ease of text messaging, phone calls and many means of ongoing discipleship. Consider those moving to new places church planters rather than as people who have left your church. Keep investing. The result might be multiplication rather than a loss for the movement.
Multiplication Through Migration?
Oh No! I’m On The Wrong Train!
A few years ago, I was heading to Bangladesh to train a group of church planters. I went to the train station. A local porter helped me carry my bag and get on my train. Being a bit late and in a rush, I didn’t check the name of the train carefully. I was lazy to read the Hindi script fully, so only read the first part of the train’s name. It was Kanchan something.
Not a good idea! Instead of getting on the Kanchenjunga train, I boarded the Kanchankanya train instead. I went in the completely wrong direction.
A few hours later the train conductor came to my berth. He checked my ticket. “You are not on the right train!” he announced.
I had to get off at the next station, board another train and return back to where I had started from. Arghh!! My husband kindly booked me a new ticket and the next day I started my journey again. This time, I got on the right train.
In our attempts to multiply disciples among the unreached, we can similarly go the wrong way.
When we aren’t familiar with the basic DMM principles we end up on the wrong path.
Disciple-Making Movements (DMMs) are a bit like a long-distance run. They require a significant amount of self-discipline. It takes initiative and perseverance to launch, grow and sustain a multiplying movement. Often, when hearing about movements, people are excited to get involved. They like the vision of multiplication. But they are like my friend who wanted to run the marathon. They lack the self-initiative and perseverance needed.
We also experience this within the movements we are trying to launch. Some disciples show great passion for the Kingdom. Others seem so passive.
Without the ability to self-motivate, it is hard to see a DMM get going. Initiative is “taking responsibility for disciple-making efforts without having to be told to do so.” Lack of initiative can be a major obstacle to the release of a movement.
Overcoming The Barrier Of Motivation
How do we overcome this obstacle? What action can a trainer take when disciples you train lack initiative? You may notice this problem in yourself as well.
I have been writing a series of blogs on how to overcome common obstacles to starting a DMM. Click here to see the full list. Search the archives for many other articles on some of the most typical barriers.
Initiative Flows From Purpose
Some personalities have more of a bent toward self-initiative than others. For everyone, however, self-initiative flows from a sense of purpose. This is true no matter what your individual temperament. The desire to take action comes from passion motivated by compelling truth.
The desire to take action comes from passion motivated by compelling truth.
That is why it is critical that we make vision casting a vital part of every training session. Regularly share about the urgent need of lost people in your region. Also, work to increase the disciple-makers’ understanding of their Biblical identity. Build a sense of ownership in the trainees. This will release them to do the work of disciple-making in their own ways. The result will be an increase in the kind of initiative needed to grow a DMM.
Two Very Different Personalities
This week I had the chance to visit a house church we started many years ago. It was wonderful to see them. They have grown strong in their faith, despite many challenges.
In the group, there are two disciples who are very different from one another. One is a young, fairly educated man. His personality is outgoing. As the oldest, somewhat spoiled son of the family, he has a lot of natural confidence. It has always been easy to motivate him to share Jesus with others.
Another person in the group, *Asha, is the mother of three young boys. She is also very smart, but she sometimes lacks confidence. Her poverty affects the way she thinks about herself. This is also true of her gender. As a woman in an Indian society, she has little voice or recognized value.
When we first started training her as a disciple-maker, she didn’t take initiative. She didn’t know she could. Asha had no idea how valuable, gifted and powerful she was in God.
Working with these two disciples required different efforts. One was a natural leader, one quite reluctant. With both, we spent a lot of time helping them to understand their gifts and roles in the Kingdom. We talked about how they were royal priests. We taught them that God Himself had chosen them to bear fruit. He had given them spiritual authority.
The Great Commission was a powerful scripture for them. “All authority on Heaven and Earth has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt 28:18-20). “Jesus has given you His authority,” we declared to them.
Another thing that helped was regular vision-casting about the need to reach the lost. Each week when we met, we told short stories or shared scriptures about God’s heart for the unreached around them. Asha soon started to lead a women’s fellowship. She brought her neighbors and relatives to Christ. One after another, her brothers believed. A passion to see others know the Jesus who had saved and transformed her own life grew strong inside of her.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” – Proverbs 29:18a
What Can Turn Someone Into An Initiator?
1) Vision + faith inspires initiative.
Every single time you meet, take a few moments to talk about the need to reach lost people around you. Share scriptures that inspire faith. Testimonies of what God is doing in other places can also be very powerful. These stories build faith and hope that God can also use them. Make sure that the disciples get their regular faith and vision “vitamin” intake!
2) Understanding of identity makes room for self-leadership.
One of the first things I encourage people to train disciples about is their identity in Christ. As disciples learn: who they are as a son or daughter, as a royal priest, and as someone chosen by God to bear fruit, confidence grows.
3) Buy-in and ownership are necessary for initiative.
Participatory, discussion-based discipleship meetings build a sense of ownership. Instead of just receiving their teaching, they discover principles from the Word of God themselves. Give them an opportunity to make their own decisions about Bible application. This builds a sense of ownership rather than just obedience to you, as the trainer.
4) Freedom to take action without too much control encourages initiative in trainees.
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