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?
Most of us want our lives to make an impact. We long for significance. God put the desire inside us. He wants us to leave a unique and lasting mark on our world. This is part of what motivates us to pursue DMMs. It is the nature of movements to see thousands coming to Christ. This happens through deep investment in a few emerging leaders, who then invest in others.
“In the midst of dreaming for the thousands or tens of thousands, don’t forget the vital importance of investing well in a few.“
Human beings are complex. We like to complicate things. Jesus knew how to keep it simple. This is easier said than done. Simple doesn’t mean easy or light. When we keep things straight-forward, they are easily reproduced by others. The baton we try to pass to others can quickly become heavy. If you want to see a multiplication of disciples and leaders, work hard to keep things simple.
Experiencing the Kingdom
I sat on the floor in their tiny home. A group of women and a few kids had joined me. We chatted about their children. It was then time for the Bible story. The day before I had come to this same home. I’d shared the story with the beautiful lady whose house we now occupied. We’d practiced it until she could repeat it easily. She was not highly literate, but she was a fantastic storyteller.
Urban slum communities are ethnically mixed. The desperately poor tend to live together, regardless of their ethnicity. How does this impact disciple making efforts among them? Can we focus on more than one group at a time in DMM efforts?
It is easy to become stretched too thin. Our time, energy, and effort to identify with those we’re reaching become complex when engaging with more than one group at the same time.
Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) grow through natural relationship networks. Most of the evangelism and disciple making happens with people in that circle of friends, relatives, and neighbors. Because of this, the streams of the movement naturally develop according to ethnic lines.
“I must be doing something wrong,” she thought. They had been working for almost ten years in a restricted access nation. They’d pressed through to learn the language, worked hard to build relationships and led a few people to the Lord. Talking with a key church planting movement mentor she asked, “What are we doing wrong? I thought by now we would have seen hundreds of groups/churches begin!”
The mentor carefully listened to them describe their disciple making activity. Then he said, “You aren’t doing anything wrong. Movements take time.” This mentor had coached well-known movement leaders. They had started thousands and thousands of churches, pioneering the largest movements in history to date. He knew what he was talking about.
I played basketball in high school and college. Our coach made us spend hours on the fundamentals. Dribbling, passing the ball, shooting layups…over and over again. “Fundamentals win games,” he said with confidence. I felt bored. I wanted to learn how to spin the ball on my finger or shoot a fancy shot. Nope. Fundamentals were what he drilled us on. In starting Disciple-Making movements, there are some key fundamentals. One is the skill of learning to share your story (testimony), quickly and with clarity.
Why do we celebrate the birth of Jesus? It’s not found in the Bible. Besides, most people know Jesus wasn’t actually born in December. These are worthy questions. There are many wonderful reasons, however, to celebrate this special time of the year.
One reason Christmas began to be celebrated was to address heresy in the church. Several hundred years after Jesus returned to Heaven, a particular false teaching was prominent. It diminished the humanity of Jesus and focused only on His divine nature. To promote the theological understanding that Christ was fully God and fully man, His birth began to be celebrated.
You’ve got to ask if you want to make the sale. It’s basic business practice. After presenting your product, you ask them to buy. A salesperson who never asks the customer to commit will not make sales. Though what we are doing is not business, the principle applies. If you never ask people to commit to following Christ, you will make very few (if any) disciples.
We can not let fear prevent us from asking people to commit. After sharing a gospel presentation, testimony, or praying for someone, you must ask. You must extend the invitation.
“Is what we are doing really a church? I thought churches were buildings with crosses on top. Don’t we need to have a pastor? And a pulpit?” These are typical questions people ask when we talk about multiplying house churches. We must help new believers understand what the church is.
This is much easier to do after they’ve experienced church life together. For most, it is a significant paradigm shift to understand that the church is not a building. Without a deep change in this kind of thinking, the movement will struggle to grow.
You meet every week for worship, prayer, and study. Is your house church healthy? Under the surface, there seem to be tensions. Relationships don’t go very deep, and resentments mount between some members. A few people are close friends, others feel excluded. Some have stopped coming who initially seemed interested. You wonder why.
In previous blogs I wrote about the elements and activities of a church; things like worship, giving, baptism, Lord’s supper, etc. A healthy house church maintains a balance between its internal and external focus. The sense of community and fellowship within the church needs to consistently deepen.