They introduced me to the crowd. Camera’s flashed as I walked up to the stage to speak. “We now welcome ‘Rev. Dr. C. Anderson!,’” the MC announced with enthusiasm. The crowd’s applause was loud and vibrant. I didn’t know what to think. I was an ordained minister, so the Rev. title fit. I definitely didn’t have a doctorate degree yet. To honor me, they’d given me an extra title. With the goal in my heart of launching Disciple Making Movements, would the title help? Or, could it prevent me from training people to be disciple makers?
“I don’t feel qualified to train others in DMM,” she said to me. “I haven’t started a movement yet.” Her face was downcast and sad. This active, field practitioner felt unworthy to speak to others about Disciple Making Movements. They hadn’t yet seen multiplication as they hoped. Who is qualified to train others?
The reverse is also common. “This is the way you should do it,” he declared. His speech was dogmatic. “Without this (fill in the blank) you’re wasting your time.” When asked about the fruit of his ministry, it became clear. This person was a theorist, not a practitioner. I find it hard to listen to people who teach but don’t do.
In recent weeks I’ve had numerous conversations with people. The topic of tracking has surfaced more than once. Is it biblical?
Tracking numbers and setting goals can feel like it isn’t relational. While the feeling is real, it doesn’t need to be true. We can be both relational and also track fruitfulness. Led by the Holy Spirit and deeply dependent on Him, we can set goals and evaluate progress while still valuing each individual involved.
Admittedly, some people swing one way or the other. Many leaders don’t hold this tension well. We tend to err on one side or the other. Sometimes we say we don’t care about results at all- “God knows my heart and how much I want to see people saved! That is enough.” It sounds spiritual, but is it?
A recent editorial by Mark Galli of Christianity Today addressed the purpose of the church. Some theologians say, “Wherever the church exists, it exists for the sake of the world.” Should this be true of the house churches we start? The movements we launch?
Perhaps Galli is attempting to pull us back from a doing theology to one that is more about being. I can appreciate that. What I don’t agree with is a rejection of the church’s missional purpose.
In Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) we must be very intentional about staying outwardly focused. This is especially true as we begin to grow and multiply. It’s not uncommon for churches and growing movements to drift toward an internal focus.
Have you ever heard an advertisement jingle on the radio, then found yourself singing it later? Catchy tunes get stuck in our heads. Advertisers know the power of repetition and simplicity. As we work to motivate disciples to become disciple-makers, we must use the power of repetition to influence them toward action.
Jesus knew the power of repetition. He repeated important concepts again and again. Take Luke 15 for example. He tells not one, not two, but three parables about the importance of reaching the lost. He was casting vision to His disciples, wanting them to engage in the things that mattered most to Him. As disciple-makers and trainers, we must do the same.
We moved around the room silently. One person was given a watch. Graciously receiving it, he silently prayed. Should he keep it or pass it on to someone else? Another person turned to his neighbor, he gave him a newly purchased jacket. The power of generosity was being released in the room as we did a giving exercise.
Generosity breaks the curse of poverty over our lives. It’s also a sign of revival. We help new disciples be free from constant physical need by training them to give to others.
A DMM practitioner is always thinking about multiplication. Can those you trained, immediately train others in the same way?
If not, your training style may need to be adjusted. Everything you do in disciple-making must pass the test of reproducibility. When we make things too complicated, we don’t get “rabbit” churches that multiply quickly.
Did you know that according to the House Rabbit Society, one pair of rabbits can end up with 4 million offspring in only 4 years time? That is rapid growth!
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.