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.
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.
The challenge excited me, but often they would all fall to the ground. Our lives as disciple-makers and trainers can feel a bit like we are juggling.
We become very skilled at doing it all. One more meeting. Just one more thing that someone has asked us to help them with. Another ball in the air.
Sadly, these balls can come crashing down in a mess. The goals we hoped to accomplish don’t get done and the passion to see a movement launched dwindles. We face discouragement at our lack of progress.
Obstacles To Starting A Movement
The last six weeks I’ve written about major obstacles to releasing a Disciple Making Movement (DMM). Click here to see the full list. Today’s blog is about one of the biggest obstacles. The inability to focus time and energy on the most important DMM activities is a movement killer.
These most important DMM activities are:
-abundant seed sowing/evangelism,
-finding the person of peace,
-developing and mentoring leaders.
Not Everything Is Equal
Not everything that dances around trying to get our attention has the same eternal value. Some things we do have much greater importance to God.
When I stand before Him do I expect God to ask me about how many meetings I attended for my organization? Or about how many emails I wrote? No. He is going to ask me how faithful I was with what He had specifically given me to do.
These are the things that must carry greater importance for us. The things we know we are called to.
Are you called to see thousands of lost people come into the Kingdom? Do you know that reaching the unreached is your primary calling from God? Then you must be relentlessly committed to staying focused on doing the most vital DMM tasks.
Someone At My Door
Ding-dong. The doorbell to my gate rings. Who is there? I am in the middle of a project and email. I’m already running behind schedule.
I look out the window. It is my neighbor, the one I’ve been praying for every day using my Lost and Saved list. What will I do?
It’s easy. I’ve already decided ahead of time that when lost people on my list come to my door, I am available. I stop what I am doing, welcome them into my home and make some tea.
It’s not the same for the person who calls me on the phone wanting me to speak in their conference on Member Care topics. For them, my automatic response is “I am so sorry. My calendar is already full.”
My priorities have been pre-determined. That makes it easy for me to decide.
“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” Luke 9:51 NIV
Jesus knew how to focus on the things He was called to do. In some translations it says, He “set His face like a flint.” Jesus was clear, focused and determined to move toward His goal. He was determined to fulfill His destiny. We must be the same.
What competes for your time and attention?
– Meetings (Organizational, Pastor’s gatherings, Conferences, Learning Opportunities/Trainings)
– Email, Phones and Social Media
– The person at our door
– Ministry opportunities not related to DMMs and the Unreached
– Extended Family Responsibilities
Why Don’t We Say “No” To The Demands?
Why are we so easily pulled away from giving time to evangelism? Or disciple-making and leadership development? Below are some possible reasons.
1) We fear offending people or being seen as proud.
We were a group of young church planters and missionaries. We had come to this seminar to learn from George, a church planting expert.
It Sounded Strange
It sounded strange to me. I had well-established ideas from my upbringing and education about the qualifications for ministry.
Those ideas didn’t include brand new believers serving the Lord’s Supper. That was for sure!
I did not know that many of my ideas about who was allowed to do what in the church came from my own church traditions. They didn’t come from the model given in the New Testament.
Mindsets About Qualifications For Ministry – An Internal Obstacle
Many barriers to the growth of a Disciple Making Movement (DMM) are external. But this one is a barrier in our own minds. Our culture and background often influence us more than the New Testament example. It did in my life until I was exposed to teaching about how to multiply disciple-makers.
I Had Arrived
“You are now an ordained pastor!” the District Superintendent said as he shook my hand. I felt so proud. I had done it.
The requirements were not unusually high. They were similar to most denominations, but it had taken me many years to complete them.
I’d gone through Bible college, completing a four-year degree in Bible and Theology. I had finished my master’s degree from a seminary. There were tests and interviews with committees. Now it was done. I was Reverend C. Anderson.
I now had the full blessing of my denomination to officiate any religious ceremony; a wedding, burial, baptism or baby dedication. Woohoo! I had arrived.
In this article, I in no way want to put down the significant role of spiritual leaders in the church today. I admire, respect and honor pastors for their the devoted and sacrificial service. They give so freely to the Lord and to their churches.
Pastors work hard under very tough conditions. They are paid little and under tremendous continual stress and demands. They deserve our love and appreciation. Like I said above, I am a pastor and an ordained minister.
Instead, my goal is to address what can be a major barrier to the growth of a movement.
When we elevate the role of pastor above what the New Testament does, we create a barrier. It can prevent us from multiplying disciples in a rapid way.
So often, our own cultural worldview about leadership gets in the way. We read scripture through the filter of our personal backgrounds.
1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation…”
1. The Non-Christian Worldview And It’s Impact
Let’s look first at the person coming from a non-Christian worldview. In organized religions like Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, there is an established clergy.
For the Muslim, it is the Imam.
In the Hindu religious worldview, there is a special caste of people- the Brahmins. They are uniquely qualified to do religious work.
For the Buddhist, it is the monk or the Lamma. Only those who wear the orange robes can perform certain religious duties.
The idea that an ordinary person can do spiritual work is very much against the norm. This is true in almost all non-Christian cultures. The priesthood of all believers is a radical shift of thinking for them. For those coming out of Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism, their default thinking is this: only special people meet the qualifications for performing religious duties.
Bringing a shift to this worldview is absolutely central to seeing multiplication happen.
You will not have lay disciple-makers who; start groups, baptize, train and take initiative unless you strongly teach on this. Without clear Biblical teaching, their natural cultural bias will hinder them from stepping up to do “spiritual work.”
2. The Christian Worldview And It’s Impact
When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom (Luke 23:45). God’s sovereign action in doing that was an incredible symbol to the Jewish disciples of Jesus.
Now everyone had access to God! No longer was it only the priests who could come into His presence. The Old Testament Levitical priesthood was over and a new age of the Spirit began. It was to be a time when all who followed Jesus would serve as His chosen ambassadors, His priests.
Hierarchy ended when the New Covenant began.
Study Hebrews 8 and what it has to say about the New Covenant if you’d like to dig deeper.
Sadly, in Christianity today, many shadows of the Old Testament remain.
In the book of Acts, we see certain roles played by apostles, deacons and elders. You also see ordinary believers, filled with the Holy Spirit going everywhere making disciples. Wherever they went they shared their faith. They started groups of disciples (churches) and the movement multiplied.
The word pastor in the New Testament describes a spiritual gift (Eph. 4:11). In the Bible, the word pastor is not a title describing a special position in a spiritual hierarchy.
Many of us come from Christian backgrounds. Like Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims or others, we too have been influenced strongly by our worldview. The religion of Christianity seems to say that there are certain spiritual tasks that are only to be performed by a pastor. This is why we often face resistance from traditional pastors when starting a DMM.
But is that typical Christian view Biblical? Or is it something that developed later in the history of the church?
The church’s structure was dramatically influenced in the 3rd century by the Roman Emperor Constantine. At that time, a hierarchy elevating the clergy above ordinary believers developed. Christian leaders took on the rank and even began to wear the clothing of the Roman elite.
Start With Your Own Mindset
If you want the movement you start to grow and multiply, you will need to address this mindset in yourself first.
As a trainer or leader, what makes me qualified? Is it my special training? My education?
Issues of spiritual pride creep in quickly causing us to want to control rather than empower. Remind yourself often of the priesthood of all believers and that your job is to equip them to do the ministry (Eph. 4:12).
Let’s Assess And Examine Ourselves
Ask yourself these questions.
I went to the gate cringing inside.
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.
Don’t Just Guess- Give Assignments
While it is tempting to try to guess who will be worth investing in, we are often wrong in our guesses. The best way to discover who to invest in is to first train a larger group of people. Give them assignments to apply the training. Then, watch to see who does what they were trained to do. Those who actually take steps to begin working are the ones worth investing in. These are the people who will most likely be the most fruitful.
*Jeremiah- An Unlikely Choice
I was invited to speak in a Discipleship Training School (DTS) for Youth With A Mission (YWAM). There were about 15 students. I was teaching for a week on the Biblical Foundation for Missions. My goal was to present the need of reaching the unreached. I would then call people to get involved in church planting efforts.
Some of the students looked like they would be wonderful church planters. They were attentive to my training. They spoke up in discussions. Good questions were asked and they seemed to understand the concepts.
Others, well, they seemed pretty “villagy.” I wasn’t sure they were understanding well, even
though the translator did a good job. Sometimes they stared off into space blankly.
This was especially true of one older man named *Jeremiah. He didn’t seem very “with it” and he wasn’t very educated. I would never have chosen him as the person in the class who would produce the most fruit. But he did! Jeremiah applied everything I taught. God spoke to him during that week about an unreached nomadic group of honey hunters. He quickly made plans to go live among them.
Later, through this uneducated man, whole villages came to Christ! The others who had looked so bright? Most of them ended up doing ministry things of some kind. But they didn’t lead very many unreached people to Christ. Who would have known Jeremiah would be the one worth investing in? Certainly not me!
Train Everyone, Not Some
Ying Kai of T4T says it so well, “Train everyone, not some.” Jesus taught this principle in the parable about the net.
“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.” Matt. 13:47-48 NIV
We could say that this parable refers to evangelism efforts. Jesus, however, never really separated evangelism and discipleship the way we do. His goal was to call people to follow Him. He wanted to make disciples who would obey His command and would multiply His Kingdom. So the principle definitely applies both to evangelism and discipleship.
Don’t Filter Too Early
Often we are tempted to “pre-filter” those we will train as disciple makers. Consciously or unconsciously, we pre-determine who has potential. Our rationale behind this is that we don’t want to waste our time on the wrong people. We have limited time, energy and finances to use. But, so often, the people we think will be faithful and fruitful are not the ones who actually are! I can’t emphasize this enough.
It isn’t the person who is the most charismatic, extroverted and educated. Neither is it the smart, responsive, well dressed, organized or passionate that end up being most fruitful. It is the person who is the most willing to obey and put into practice what they learn.
Many Good Hearted People Don’t Have Time
I remember when my husband and I took our first ministry position. We were straight out of Bible college and full of ideas. We had a great passion to change the world. It only took a few months, however, before we hit major obstacles and massive challenges. We soon realized we were in far over our heads!
In his book, “Leading with a Limp,” Dan Allender writes,
“The leader who doesn’t feel pressed to the wall often is not involved in a work that is advancing sufficiently against the forces of darkness. But the burned-out leader has allowed the intensity and exhaustion of his calling to take away the pleasure of hope.”
Not Focusing Is Serious
Failure to focus is serious. The eternal destiny of thousands of unreached people is at stake. Their future depends on our actions and decisions. Can we keep from being pulled in a million different directions? If not, they may never hear the gospel and believe. Thankfully, there are simple keys to keeping our concentration on DMM goals.
I Never Planned to Do That!
Do you ever go through the day and think, “How did it get to be 3 pm?” You glance at your watch and say, “I haven’t done anything I planned to do today!” That happened to me a few days ago. I had decided I would write for an hour, exercise, go visit my neighbor to share a testimony, and study language. At 3 pm, I hadn’t done any of those things! Instead, I’d read emails, followed some social media feeds, chatted with my husband about an upcoming trip and watched a video link or two. Oh yeah. I also made coffee and suddenly cleaned out the refrigerator which I’d noticed was dirty.
It is so easy to get off track and forget about what is important! Steven Covey describes this in his book “First Things First”. We easily do “the urgent” and fail to do “the important.” Or, we end up doing what is easiest, rather than things that take a more determined effort.
3 Keys To Staying Focused On Your Disciple Making Movement (DMM) Goals
1. Decide Ahead Of Time What Is Important.
As humans, we follow patterns and typical behaviors. Most of us are in the habit of letting ourselves be easily distracted from our most important goals. We quickly postpone work on our real vision- starting a Disciple Making Movement! To change habits and become more focused, clearly determine what is most important to you. When distractions come your way, you have already made decisions. You know how you will handle those things.
Ask yourself these questions:
1) What are my 3 most important Disciple Making Movement (DMM) related goals?
2) What activities will significantly help me get those things done?
3) What activities prevent me from having time to work on those goals?
Here is an example to make it more clear.
John’s 3 most important DMM related goals are:
A. Abundant seed sowing- 5000 gospel presentations this year.
B. Start 4 new 2nd generation churches.
C. Train 30 people in the first six T4T Lessons until they can train others.
Activities that will help him make progress are:
– Training local believers to share their testimony and the Jesus story. Several 2-day trainings are planned already.
– Running a weekly training for the blue and green people from the 1st generation churches.
– Visiting these faithful and fruitful people for one on one discipleship at least weekly.
Some activities that might prevent John from doing those things:
– Serving on an organization’s board that doesn’t have to do with his DMM goals.
– Preaching on topics not related to DMMs, even though he will get a good honorarium for doing that.
– Wasting time on Facebook and other social media when he could be visiting the leaders he is developing.
Make sense as this relates to John?
Now Do It For Yourself
Now think about those 3 questions for yourself.
1) What are my 3 most important DMM related goals?
2) What activities will significantly help me get these things done?
3) What activities prevent me from having time to work on these goals?
Write down your answers.
Take a few minutes to think through specific examples or scenarios. Think about the times when you will have to make choices to stay focused on your most important goals.
Using John’s example, he might think about this scenario.
John’s best friend Peter is the president of a Christian organization. It does wonderful mercy ministry in his area. They have been friends for a long time. Peter requests John to serve on his organization’s board of elders. It is an honor to be asked to do this. It will also mean an all-expense paid trip to Singapore each year. That is a place John has always wanted to visit. What will he do?
By thinking about these kinds of scenarios ahead of time, John can see that he would need to say “no” to this. It is a kind offer and a good ministry. If he says,“yes”, though, he will not have time to train the local believers and disciple his blue and green people. “If I am offered those kinds of opportunities this year, I will say ‘no’. I want to stay focused so I can accomplish my most important goals. I want to see a DMM take off in my region!” he thinks.
2. Review And Check Yourself Regularly.
Once you have done the above, take the next step. Schedule a time to regularly evaluate yourself. Are you staying focused?
I do this through quarterly retreats. During that retreat, I review my goals and activities. I invite the Holy Spirit to refocus me on His priorities for my life. I make adjustments.
It is important to evaluate more frequently too. It can be done every Monday morning before you start your work week. Team meetings are another good weekly evaluation point you can use. Keep your top 3 goals in front of you. Check yourself often. Are these the 3 areas you are spending most of your time on? If not, make adjustments to your activities.
3. Say “No” Often.
Only say “Yes” to opportunities that contribute toward your top 3 goals.
This is difficult! It is especially hard to say “no” to friends, family members and leaders we respect. Remember, when you say “Yes” to things not related to your goals, you are saying “No” to more important things. When you say “Yes” to helping someone plan a conference in your area, you are actually saying “No” to having time to share Christ with your neighbors. If the conference planning takes your time away from the new believers, you are in reality saying “No” to them.
Who does God want to say “Yes” to? Be courageous and say “No” often!
Focus Is Possible!
Staying focused is challenging, but it’s possible. The main thing is to change our regular behavior. As we develop new habits by saying “no” and regularly evaluating, we will make progress. Changing in this area is worth the effort. The unreached around you wait to hear the good news. Jesus died for their salvation. Your great calling is worth giving a focused effort to!
We are creatures of habit. Habits are not things we think about. We just do them. I don’t think about if I will drink coffee in the morning. I just do. I don’t think about brushing my teeth either. It happens automatically. When I meet someone, I always say, “How are you?” Another habit.
There are many important habits we need in our life if we want to release movements. Sharing your testimony freely needs to become a habit. Praying for the sick should become normal behavior. Making room in your calendar to focus on discipling new believers – it needs to be a typical thing for you.
The most important habit to develop, out of all of these, is the habit of regular prayer and intercession.
How can you develop this habit? How do you make intercessory prayer a regular, natural, normal part of your life?
“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16 NIV
Keystone Habits- One Change That Creates Others
“The Power of Habit”, a popular business book by Charles Duhigg, describes what he calls keystone habits. A keystone habit is a new behavior that once it develops, catalyzes change in many other areas of our lives. The habit of regular intercessory prayer is a keystone habit for a disciple maker. It makes evangelism easier. You will see the release of the anointing you’ve been wanting. A powerful passion to reach the unreached around you will grow.
5 Things You Can Do To Develop This New Habit
1) Make a fresh decision to develop an intercessory prayer habit.
This is hard if you have wanted to prioritize prayer in the past but haven’t. It is difficult to try to do something again and again but fail. Don’t let the enemy’s lies tell you this isn’t important enough to try once more. Don’t listen to the voice in your head that says, “I’m not really an intercessor. That is a gift for other people.”
The Father wants to help you become like His Son. Jesus regularly went away and prayed. If it was a habit in His life, it can become one in yours. Start with a fresh decision to try again.
2) Write down 5 reasons why developing this habit will help your ministry.
Knowing your “why” is key to moving forward in anything new or difficult. A lot of us don’t like to take time to write things down. You may like to talk more than pick up a pen. Maybe you even hate journaling. Recording things in written form, however, makes them clear. It helps us to commit. Take a minute right now. Jot down 5 benefits to your disciple-making efforts if you started interceding daily.
3) Choose a time to start. Mark it on your calendar and set a reminder.
Now you need to commit. We put our good intentions into practice by marking our calendars. A lot of people are not very calendar oriented. I understand that. Perhaps you are someone who has a diary somewhere, but you can never find it. Using a calendar is another important habit. I’ll write about it in another post sometime! But for now, at least set a reminder on your phone every day for a month. Choose a specific time you will intercede daily. Don’t start with huge goals. Start small. Maybe it is only 10-15 minutes a day. Later, you can increase this if you want to. Consistency is more important than quantity when it comes to habits.
4) Find someone to join you.
Encourage a friend, spouse, or colleague to take this journey with you. Share your new habit with a like-minded person and set goals together. We are much more likely to succeed when we have a partner in our journey. Who can you talk to this week about developing a stronger intercessory prayer habit? Ask them today to join you. Set up the first time you will check in with one another about this.
5) Decide now what you will do to celebrate when this becomes a habit.