“What is the primary reason the Great Commission task is not yet finished?” I asked this question to a group of students this week. Many different answers surfaced. None of them matched my own. I believe the main reason we haven’t yet made disciples of all nations is related to the priesthood of all believers. In elevating professional pastors, we have somehow overshadowed a powerful truth. Jesus died to make everyone a priest of God. There are no more high and low castes. Everyone who follows Jesus is fully empowered to do the work of the Kingdom. Disciple-making Movements embrace this.
The mountain was high, the trail steep. I’d started out enthusiastic. Now each step felt hard. Up, up, up, I went. What would keep me going till I reached the top? Starting a Disciple Making Movement can be a bit like that hike. We start well, our passion high. A few months (or years) later, it’s an uphill climb. We need solid motivations clear in our hearts. They will carry us upward toward the release of a DMM.
As mentioned in previous blogs, some motivations will sustain you on the DMM journey. Others will not. In my last article, we talked about the number one reason for wanting to start DMMs all over the world. A passion for God’s glory will keep you through the messy, dry or painful seasons of launching DMMs.
Motivations matter. Your why comes before your what. Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why is a best-selling business book. His premise is true in more than business. It’s true in life. Motivations affect us as we pursue Disciple Making Movements. If your reason for wanting to launch a movement is not clear, you may not experience what you are hoping for. Our first important motivation must be a passion for God’s glory.
How deeply do you long for His glory? What does that mean?
In my last article, I described the many different motivations we have for wanting to multiply disciples. Some of those motivations are inappropriate. Some are healthy and good. Not all motivations will sustain you in the long road of launching a movement.
The New Year approaches! What plans and purposes does God have for us in the year to come? Here are three things I will be doing to get ready for the coming year. Join me in prayerfully going through these steps.
Before rushing ahead into a new year, hit the pause button. Stop and take time to look back. Think through the major events of this past year, both ministry and personal. I ask these questions.
-How has God shown me unusual kindness or grace this past year?
-What did He reveal to me about His nature and character?
Instead of a blog this week, my gift to you is a Christmas prayer.
May your heart be filled with wonder, infused with a surprising level of joy this week.
May you once again marvel as you contemplate the incredible miracle of the Christ-child’s birth.
May it be the most natural thing in the world to share the story of Jesus with those around you who have never heard.
May you know the blessing of not only knowing Him better but of making Him known to many others this year.
May you grow as a disciple who makes disciples, sensing the pleasure of your Master saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
These issues are a major concern for those trying to start movements, especially in pioneer regions of the world. Member care issues join our list of obstacles that block a Disciple Making Movement.
Not Only Strategy Matters
Many of the things which block a movement’s growth have to do with strategy. But the health of those initiating the movement also plays a key role. When team members are overworked, emotionally drained and struggle in their own lives and families, it has a major impact on the movement.
Exhaustion That Runs Deep
I had never felt so exhausted in my life. One doctor who saw me called it “chronic fatigue”. I could barely walk up the stairs without becoming so tired I had to sit down. I was completely depleted. A few weeks off helped me to recover…somewhat.
Then another crisis hit. A medical evacuation of a fellow missionary. They nearly died. I came home and collapsed. There was absolutely nothing left inside of me. I didn’t realize that following that pattern in my life would lead me toward medically diagnosed depression. I would later face a season when I needed to take significant time off to get medical care and help.
Paul, the great movement initiator knew what this kind of exhaustion felt like. The pressure of ministry can be incredibly heavy upon us.
“Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” 2 Cor. 11:28 NIV
A pastor I often listen to online said recently, “Don’t give out more than you take in. That is just plain dumb! Stop it.” That is about as direct as it can get.
There is real truth in his statement. At times, we need to hear it said that way. We can be a bit dumb when it comes to taking care of ourselves.
As passionate people deeply committed to the Great Commission, we give and give and give. We push ourselves to help others, even when there is little left inside. Sometimes we give out more than we have taken in. Eventually, it catches up with us and we pay the price. Often the movement does too.
Maintaining spiritual, physical, emotional and relational health is crucial. It is necessary if we want to release a thriving, multiplying, and sustained movement. Below are some of the things I have tried to practice to keep myself and my team healthy.
How to Keep Yourself And Your Team Healthy
1) Practice spiritual disciplines like Sabbath.
Do you take a weekly day to rest and refill? Or do you go week after week without any breaks? Many church planters do.
We tend to think we are somehow superhuman and able to keep going without rest. But God didn’t create us to function that way. The Sabbath is a command of God for a reason. He gave us that law to bless us with the health we need. We can not give out what we don’t have. Each week, find a way to practice Sabbath personally and as a team. I’ve written several articles on this that you may find helpful.
2) Maintain boundaries, even when growth is happening.
In community-oriented cultures, this is quite difficult. But it is necessary. Brene Brown in her book, Rising Strong, says, “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” Henry Cloud has also written an excellent book called Boundaries for Leaders.
It is easy to feel like the needs of those you minister to and lead must take priority. Christian ministers can feel they must have their phone on 24-7. They must always be available to those they lead.
This is a recipe for burn out. While we are called to love others deeply, we must also love ourselves. We show that by setting and upholding boundaries.
That means learning to say, “I will meet you tomorrow. Today I have another appointment.” Even when that “appointment” is your date night with your spouse or taking a nap on your Sabbath.
3) Seek out mentors and peer community.
Make sure you have upward mentoring in your life. The more we grow in leadership and ministry the more difficult it can be to find mentors who speak into our lives. We are helping many, but who is helping us? Take responsibility to find those people and seek them out.
Also, look for peers you can relate with. Take time for those Skype or WhatsApp calls with an old friend. Join a peer group like the one we have for DMMs. Cultivate meaningful relationships, even when it takes energy to do so. It is vital to your emotional health.
4) Practice “friendly accountability” related to your physical health.
Do you have someone who holds you accountable for things like exercise, healthy eating, and sleep? If you crash and burn, chances are the movement will too. Maintaining your health is much easier than recovering from burn out or depression. Set goals in these areas and then find someone to hold you accountable and encourage you.
We are whole people. Our physical health is as important to God as the rest of us. Make space in your life for exercise and sleep. Don’t believe the lie that you are superhuman and don’t need sleep like other people. Get regular physical check ups.
Your healthy lifestyle speaks loudly of what you value. It’s part of being a disciple-maker to model this too.
5) Make space in your life for friendships and play.
Instead, they are problems waiting for a faith-filled person to turn them into an opportunity. When we do that, we not only change our own idea of the impossibility of that barrier. We open the door, like Roger Bannister did, for others to also follow us. As you overcome barriers to seeing Disciple-Making Movements, you make a path for others to follow. Be a creative, persistent, barrier breaker in DMMs!
All things are difficult, before they are easy- Thomas Fuller
Attitude Is Everything
One of my oldest leadership mentors is John Maxwell. I’ve read many of his books and greatly benefited from his leadership teachings. He often speaks of the importance of having a “Winning Attitude.”
Our attitude can turn our problems into blessings- John Maxwell
Maxwell didn’t originate this idea! Jesus was the ultimate leader in turning a painful cross into a bridge of salvation. He turned death into resurrection. Because of Jesus, we can break through any difficult problem finding victory and hope.
Paul wrote, in the book of Philippians, “I can do all things, through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13 NKJV. With God’s strength, Spirit, creativity, and mind at work in us, every barrier we face becomes an opportunity for growth. Barriers become breakthroughs. Obstacles become opportunities.
I’ve been surveying people who are involved in starting Disciple-Making Movements. From their input, I have come up with a list of their top 15 barriers people face when trying to start a DMM. I’ll share these below.
Over the coming months, I will be writing blogs about these different barriers. I may take a break once in a while. But you will be seeing regular articles about these over the coming months.
As I start this series, I’d like to invite you into the process of praying, thinking and working with me on it.
None of these are new to me, though they mostly come from you, my readers. I’ve experienced and encountered each one. I’ve also seen them overcome. I’ll be sharing examples of how people have broken through these barriers. I’ll share how they have been turned them into opportunities for growth.
Before I start the series, I wanted to focus though, on our attitude, as we consider these barriers. Are you someone who sees a problem as a chance to grow? Do you see it as an opportunity for God to lead you in creative ways?
As you read through the list, identify the one that is most present in your area.
Then think with me about two questions:
– How could this problem become an opportunity for growth? In me and in those I am discipling?
– What solutions could be experimented with to creatively overcome this difficulty?
Before I publish an article related to the problem you are facing, God will have begun to give you solutions! I’m sure of it!
The 15 Most Common Barriers to Starting A Disciple Making Movement
2. Human Nature- Need to “join” is higher than the desire to form/create a new group
3. Cultural and Worldview Backgrounds related to Priesthood of All vs. an Ordained Leader
4. Societal Fears- Rejection, Marriage, Burial concerns
5. Unwise Partnerships with those who have resources but are not like-minded
6. Difficulty in finding Person of Peace quickly
7. Distractions and Lack of Focus- a post-modern idea that everything is equal. A need to be inclusive of other’s visions and priorities, so feel they can’t make DMMs a higher purpose to pursue.
8. Cultural Misunderstandings of Christianity
9. Wrong Focus- On Strategy instead of Lostness
10. The desire for Quick Success and Results- Not willing to take time to build the right DNA
11. Transient or Migrant People group- Believers Scatter
12. Platform Issues- Takes Time, need for a visa, need to explain yourself, security issues
13. Unable to Self Start and Plan (easier to join a program)
14. Member Care related issues- team, burnout, loneliness
15. Ignorance – Lack of understanding of the basics of how to get started in multiplying disciples
What Exactly Is The Meaning Of Tenacity?
Tenacity is defined as “the quality of being very determined.” I love those words- very determined. How tenacious are you about seeing your people group reached? Or the one God called you to work among? Victory is ours in Jesus. We already know that. But there is still an enemy who so often looks hard to defeat. Like in Churchill’s quote, sometimes we are tempted to “yield to the overwhelming might” that is displayed around us. We must not.
We must be extremely determined to overcome the obstacles.
The costs are real and the challenges great. How do we keep from being destroyed by the incredible cost of this effort?
What Makes It Worth It?
Suffering is inevitable in everyone’s life. It is particularly noticeable though, in the lives of those who pursue DMMs. It is not just likely, it is highly probable that you will face intense suffering as you work to start a movement. Some would say that experiencing suffering is characteristic of those who launch movements.
There are two main things that make the cost worth it. One is that in the midst of the pain we encounter, we know God more. Secondly, we have the joy of knowing our sacrifice will not be wasted. Lost people will be found by our Almighty God. The unreached will know the power of His radical, unconditional love. Whether today, tomorrow or years from now, the seeds sown by our tears and pain will bear much fruit.
Every Breakthrough Came With A Cost
It seemed like every time we had a forward advance in our work, I got sick. A divine appointment with a potential national apostle happened. I got hepatitis. We launched a new type of training for church planters, my back went out. We hosted a large missions conference calling thousands into ministry among the unreached. With it came unusual challenges in our marriage. It seemed we were at odds with one another for little reason.
“Every breakthrough we saw came at a personal cost to my husband and I.”
Other times, it was the challenge of getting visas to remain in the country. This took a toll on our sense of well being and emotional health. There was also the loss of death. At key moments of forward movement in ministry, tragedy seemed to strike. A co-worker was killed in a sudden accident. This happened just a week after we had prayed for special covering and protection over all our staff.
“What was I to do with this continual loss and suffering? How would I keep it from destroying me? Was it just part of what was necessary to see breakthroughs and movements released?”
Questions swirled in my mind when we faced these difficult challenges.
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” Romans 8: 17- NIV
How God Uses Suffering
Dan Allender writes in his book Cry of the Soul,
“Suffering may be caused by the hand of an enemy, but God uses sorrow for the sake of redemption.”
We Have To Be All In
When we look at our gifts, talents, and abilities- they seem so small compared to the need. Have you tried for more than a few months to launch a movement? Then you know it is way beyond possible unless miracles take place. At the same time, God wants us to give Him our all as we work on the vision He has given us. He wants us to be all in. Don’t hold back when you feel overwhelmed by the task.
Saving A Bit Of Cake
The other day in our village community, we celebrated a festival. There was a dance and a special meal. Everyone brought food. My husband was out-of-town, so I went alone. I decided to make a cake. I knew everyone would enjoy that.
Knowing my spouse was returning the next day, after baking the cake, I took out a piece. I wanted to save one for him. I didn’t want him to miss out. After removing a slice, the cake didn’t look very nice anymore. Hmm. What should I do? I decided to cut the whole cake into squares and serve it on a plate. That would hide the fact that I had taken out a piece beforehand. Smart right?
Overwhelmed By The Fear Of Not Having Enough
Sometimes I do that with God and His Kingdom work. I am afraid that I won’t have enough left for myself or my family if I give Him my all. My fear causes me to hold back. I will give God a lot, but I need to make sure my own needs are taken care of too. Sound familiar?
In the gospels, we read the story of the feeding of the five thousand. It is repeated several times.
I’ve been thinking about that story. There were thousands of hungry people that day. The need was incredible compared to their extremely limited resources. Still, Jesus wanted to know what they had to give. Andrew managed to come up with something. He found a boy with a packed lunch.
“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” John 6:9- NIV
Think about that child for a minute. Doesn’t it seem a little mean to take away a kids lunch? I wonder how the boy felt?
Whatever took place, I know that the boy offered what he had to Andrew and Jesus. He didn’t hold back. He didn’t say, “Well, you can have four of these loaves and one fish, but I need to keep one of these for myself first.” I might have done that if I was him. After all, mom did pack this for me to eat…not for this crowd!
The point I’m trying to make is this.
As we look at the needs of the unreached around us, it can feel so huge. It can seem so impossible to make a difference. We look at what it will take to start a movement with thousands of Jesus followers. We think about hundreds of new churches starting within a few years. That task is daunting.
The massive need demands we embrace the goal of a movement. There are so many millions dying apart from knowing Christ! We have to do something that makes a greater impact than what historical efforts have made. But when we look at our own resources, who we are, or at our own capacity, we feel overwhelmed and sometimes a bit scared. It is not enough, we think.
True. It’s not. That is a fact we must face.
But just as true, is that God will take what we have and multiply it. He will do miracles through our greatly insufficient capacity and resources! And He loves us. He will take care of our personal needs as well.
There is one thing that is necessary. Giving what we have – and giving it all. We can’t hold back in our hearts. Though overwhelmed by the task, we can’t keep our options open. We have to be all in.
Offer Him Your Loaves & Fish Once Again
Are you tempted to hold back when it comes to Disciple Making Movements (DMMs)? To take a wait and see approach? To “order the trial version”? I often do that with apps or software I want to experiment with. Let me try this first, then maybe I will buy it.
This doesn’t work with God and His Kingdom! Even when we feel overwhelmed by the task, we must fully commit to the things He calls us to.
Are you all in? Take a minute to examine your own heart.
Is there anything you are holding back about? If this is the path and dream God has given you to pursue, then give Him everything. Offer Him your “loaves and fishes” once again.
Would you pray this prayer with me?
Lord Jesus, if you want my bread and fish, I give it to you. Looking at the needs, what I have to offer seems so small. I am often afraid. But here I am Lord. I don’t want to give myself to you half way. I don’t want to hold back. All I am, all I have, it’s yours. Do your miracles. Feed the thousands through my life and efforts. Amen.