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If someone was raised from the dead would it launch a movement? Most of us, as DMM practitioners, would absolutely love to see that kind of a miracle happen in our area! “If only we could see more signs and wonders,” we think. These supernatural interventions are definitely catalysts for much abundant gospel sowing. When combined with quality disciple-making and prayer, they can bear much fruit. It can lead to a dramatic transformation of communities.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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!
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We look forward to serving you better in the months to come!
Faith is a necessity as we talk about starting Disciple Making Movements. I regularly return to Hebrews 11 to stir up my own faith. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is believing for things we can not see yet and verse 6 says without this kind of faith it is impossible to please God.
How does that play out in our daily lives? What does it look like to be people of faith as we attempt to start a DMM?
Our faith takes shape in our actions and goals. What we believe, actually believe, shows up in these two things.
I recently trained a group of church planters. We talked about multiplication and movements, about disciples making disciples and groups starting groups. Everyone seemed on board with what I was sharing. Then it came time to set goals for the coming months. Suddenly, faith was tested. What do I really believe is possible? What will I attempt to do?
It is not easy to set God-sized goals that reflect multiplication. We are afraid of failure. We may not reach those goals. If God doesn’t intervene, those things may not happen and I might be disappointed in myself. Others may also see me as a failure.
There are risks involved in setting faith filled goals. Speaking out a goal and going after it feels dangerous. There is indeed a chance that you won’t reach that goal. There is also a chance that you will! If you never attempt something great, you are unlikely to achieve it. If you never ask God boldly for something, He probably won’t give it to you.
Why set small goals that are humanly achievable?! There is no place for God to be glorified when we do that.
We all know that nothing is possible without God. Not even small things can be done apart from Him. So when we ask, why shouldn’t we ask Him for more? It is going to require Him working anyhow.
Does He love lost people around you? Yes. Does He desire that they be saved? Yes. Is He able to convict the world of sin? To change hearts? Again, yes. Did He choose you to bear much fruit? Indeed. So why aim for something less than a God-sized goal to see rapid multiplication?
I’m not encouraging foolish goals that have no basis in reason, or that we randomly pull numbers out of the air. What I am advocating for is that we ask Him boldly for the things that He is both able and wants to do through us! I’ve always liked the Schuller quote “I would rather attempt to do something great and fail, then attempt to do nothing and succeed.”
God is able. He is ready to work. Are we?
Set bigger goals, pray bigger prayers, and expect God to work in bigger ways through you this week!
After a few years of working with this concept, I have seen however, that it is necessary to “filter” for what I call the 3F people- the faithful, fruitful and focused. I like to call it “filtering up” rather than “filtering out”.
When you can identify who those 3F people are and give the majority of your time and energy to them, it leads to more fruit. I’ve walked through a process within my heart related to some of the feelings I had about this initially. I’ve searched the scriptures to find out if it is biblical and godly to do this or not. My conclusion over time is that filtering is vital, biblical, healthy and part of quality disciple making.
First, a brief description to make it clear what I’m talking about when I say “filtering.” Filtering needs to take place after you have trained a larger group of people in basic evangelism and church planting skills- be they local believers or full-time workers. After a short period of time (one to 3 months), it is necessary to evaluate who has put into action what they were trained to do. Who is really implementing? Who is showing significant interest to grow in this area? Who has acted like they were interested, but in reality done very little with the training they received? After evaluating this, you need to focus your attention on those who have been faithful, are beginning to be fruitful and have been focused on disciple making and the lost (at least to some degree). If you are selective in who you invite to the next training rather than generally inviting a whole new group, or inviting everyone who wants to come, the next training is more productive and worthwhile. As you continue to evaluate the 3Fs and give your time and energy to these people, you see greater impact happen.
I find it difficult to tell people they don’t qualify this time for a training because they didn’t focus enough on their goals and implementing what they learned last time. As difficult as it is, I also find that it is very helpful to do this. It raises the standard of the training. It sets boundaries on limited time and resources so that they go toward what has the best potential for fruit. It also significantly motivates people to prioritize putting into practice what they have learned rather than embracing a culture of learning without applying.
Is it biblical to do this? Absolutely. Building a norm (or culture) of application and obedience in the disciples we train is exactly what Jesus did with His. He spoke extensively about the importance of obedience and putting into practice what He taught. He wasn’t okay with head knowledge that didn’t lead to action! He said that those who loved Him also obeyed His words. The parable of the wise and foolish builder is one of the most obvious examples of this. It begins with the words,
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Matt 7:24 NIV
Jesus expected people to put things into practice. He evaluated this in His disciples and held up a standard of total commitment to obedient discipleship.
What do you do with those who don’t qualify, who you have to say no to, and who feel bad or still want to come? What do you do to avoid a culture of performance orientation in the midst of this? These are real questions related to filtering. We don’t want to hurt anyone and we don’t want to make people feel that we love them more if they are more fruitful or perform well! These situations provide opportunities for discipleship conversations with people who are actually very loving and important. Lets not avoid those conversations any more than we avoid discipline with our children. Lets not say we love people but be unwilling to say no when they haven’t done what was expected. As we demonstrate “tough love” as well as “gentle love”- as we bring a gospel to them of both grace and truth together, we will be loving and serving them well. This kind of a situation gives me opportunity to demonstrate Kingdom values and principles to my disciples and trainees. I get a chance to help them understand that God’s love is not conditional on their performance- He loves them absolutely and fully no matter what they do! That, however, doesn’t mean He doesn’t expect and desire their obedience.
I’ve come to understand that by filtering, I am actually demonstrating the character of God to those I’m training.
If we want to make disciples who will be Kingdom leaders, who will make many disciples, let’s not be afraid of filtering. It’s a major key to seeing both individuals, and your DMM grow.
Its a serious dual reality: Money helps. Money hurts.
A friend and co-worker from Bangladesh told me a story which represents how fragile a new movement is in relationship to external finances and help. He had been working in a village area and had seen really great things happening. The new disciples of Jesus were really excited about their faith. They wanted to share it with others. They had a heart for their relatives and friends in neighboring villages who had yet to hear the good news. In spite of heavy monsoon rains, muddy and slippery foot paths, and other obstacles, they joyfully went regularly to these places to share the gospel. New groups of disciples were rapidly being formed as people were believing in Jesus. It was amazing!
With the harvest so ripe, the more workers he could bring, the better he thought. So, he invited a foreign team to visit the village to “help” the locals to share and train believers. The team came and served sacrificially, tromping through the rain to reach the villages where people were open. Thankfully, they had rain boots which they had brought with them from their home country! They had a good time and what seemed like fruitful ministry there. A few weeks later, with generous hearts, when they left, the team donated their boots to some of the local workers to use in the days to come.
My friend soon began to notice a change after the team left. Strangely, it seemed like the fervor for evangelism died down. Instead of showing their former passion and zeal to take the gospel to other villages, the local believers now seemed reluctant. After a bit of investigation, my friend found out that they had decided that only people with rain boots should go. The paths were now suddenly too dangerous and slippery for someone with only flip-flops to wear! The movement slowed and evangelism to other areas ground to a halt.
What was the cause? A very small gift of rain boots from a foreign team. This seemingly insignificant injection of external funds (or in this case goods) caused irreparable damage to the work. It was a case of when “helping” hurt. It’s almost hard to believe, but this is a true story!
On the other hand, when we see generous giving, sacrifice and ownership on the part of the new believers…the movement thrives and spreads quickly. Things are done in local and organic ways that work well for them. As they give, serve, and go in sacrificial ways they grow strong in their faith and the movement is theirs, not some outsider’s.
I’ve heard numerous Christian workers both foreign and national tell me that the local people they are working with are too poor to give. Or they tell me they are afraid to take offerings too soon with new believers. “You just can’t imagine how backward and poor these people are!” an Indian national worker told me just last week. Training new believers to give to God’s work, to the poor around them and to reach the lost is part of making true disciples. Jesus said we must deny ourselves, give to those who ask of us, turn the other cheek when beaten…all pretty tough requirements of discipleship. Watering down what it means to be a disciple, doesn’t lead to healthy reproducing churches or discipleship groups. Generous giving from the heart as a part of our loving worship to God must be part of the DNA of the very first generations of groups that are started.
Avoid external funding from the beginning and you will save yourself a lot of headaches! Resist the temptation and the lies that tell you that you all should give but the new disciples can not. It is simply not Biblical, nor does it lead to fruit!
Internal money from generous giving- its a forward driver of disciple making movements. External money and goods- though sometimes helpful in the short-term or special circumstances- are a major danger and something to avoid as much as possible. Even small things like rain boots matter!
We must humbly and deliberately evaluate our tools, methods and schools in light of the results we desire.
This is truly important! Without evaluation we get stuck in old ways of doing things and patterns of behavior that don’t lead to fruit. We need to evaluate all that we do and make it a priority to take the time to regularly do this. We must be willing to look at what we do and then be willing to change if what we are doing isn’t working!
At the same time, we need to be careful not to change what we do too often or we lose the momentum that comes from repetition and consistency of approach. In the midst of evaluating, we must avoid the temptation to constantly change and tweak what we do. Doing this becomes confusing, especially for the grassroots people we are training.
When we have many different versions of a tool that are all slightly different, people can easily go back to their default of more traditional methods and tools because those are less confusing to them.
We need to balance evaluation and tweaking, with having consistent, clearly explained, and repeatedly used tools and methods. Sometimes the benefit of having the same tool is higher than the benefit of having a slightly better tool. Familiarity helps reduce stress. Constantly introducing new tools or remaking the tools we have causes stress and wastes a lot of valuable time when we have to retrain people we have already trained in one skill or with one tool. Having consistency also helps a lot when we are using various different trainers to train or when we are having people advance from one level to another.
One of the biggest keys I have found to moving things steadily forward toward movements and growth has been to keep the message and method clear, consistent and simple. Some years ago in our organization, we tried an options based approach. We had lots of options we offered people. Westerners and people who are highly educated appreciate and enjoy this. It affirms their freedom, individuality and ability to choose. It was an approach where we said, for example, “Here are 5 different ways you can present the gospel. Choose the one that is best for you and your context.” This works well for Westerners and well-educated people who have a more individualist world view. They like it even better when we say, “Create your own approach. You know your situation and context best.”
Experience has taught me that this options based, create your own approach simply doesn’t work well with grassroots indigenous people. In fact, it significantly hinders multiplication. It is much more fruitful to simply give only one option (even if it isn’t the absolutely best one that could ever be created). Then, train them how to use that particular approach or skill and use it well. Repeat, repeat, repeat until they can do it in their sleep…until it becomes natural for them and they can train others. This builds confidence, capacity and results in reproducibility. It reduces confusion and the energy drain that it takes to “choose” or “create.” It enables grassroots people and very new believers to immediately become effective and empowered.
Some people have wondered why I don’t welcome lots of outside speakers or CPM/DMM programs that bring similar principles but teach them in slightly different ways. Some people have even gotten quite angry with me about not welcoming them to come and teach or bring their program. It’s not that I haven’t tried this. I have. I have found, however, that these slightly different and new approaches that are not in sync and consistent with the things we are already training people in…they are just not that effective. It’s not because they aren’t good methods or trainings. It’s just that consistency, simplicity, and only training people in one main method with the same tools over and over builds the momentum that yields much more fruit.
We also have to be careful not to say something doesn’t work just because it didn’t work once in one context. Sometimes it just needs more repetition and more momentum to take off. It was like that with T4T for us. We find that people need to be trained in it, the same way, three times, before it really sinks in and they “get it.” But, repetition wins the game. And once they get it…wow! The fruit is quite amazing.
This creates a bit of a quandary and a dynamic tension. We need to evaluate regularly, faithfully and I would even say ruthlessly. We can’t have any “holy cows” in our methods, tools, etc. We can’t afford to be so loyal or committed to something that we won’t change it even though it’s not effectively yielding fruit. At the same time, let’s be careful about how (and how often) we evaluate and tweak so we keep a consistent and clear approach that is easily reproduced and isn’t confusing for grassroots people. They are the ones who will really cause the rapid multiplication we desire.
I’ve found this simple accountability loop extremely helpful to myself and many others as we put our faith into specific actions. We then make ourselves accountable to others about our faithfulness to do what we said we wanted to do. I highly encourage the use of this, or another similar way of encouraging accountability in a growing disciple’s life. I think when this becomes organic and natural in our lives as believers, we will see it also become natural to see the multiplication of obedient disciples. Much of our modern-day church praxis avoids obedience and any kind of real accountability to put into practice what Jesus taught. Jesus said in the parable of the man who built his house on the sand that without obedience, without putting into practice the teachings of Jesus, our lives are not grounded and able to withstand the storms of life.
There is, however, a danger worth noting in this emphasis on accountability, even if we usually add the important word friendly to it, calling it friendly accountability. I wrote a blog a few years ago about the importance of living in the New Covenant as we pursue the release of Disciple Making Movements (DMMs). See https://fmsouthasia.blogspot.com/search?q=new+covenant. It is incredibly important that in our pursuit of friendly accountability and the making of obedient disciples, we not allow legalism or old covenant thinking to creep in and gain a foothold! It can easily happen!
We can easily start to put pressure on people to perform, to share with their 5 people each week, or make them feel less valued if they somehow were not able to fulfill their goals. We can easily move from “want to” living to “should”, from freedom in the Spirit to a coming under condemnation and the law. This we MUST avoid!
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Cor 3:17). Our T4T, or other disciple making meetings, must be places where freedom, encouragement and love abound. They can not become places of condemnation, pressure, performance and the law. We must be watchful not to allow this to enter in the process of practicing friendly accountability.
At the same time, we don’t throw out friendly accountability and obedience as high values and important movement DNA! It really is both/and, not either/or. We want to embrace a discipleship approach that is loving, Spirit-filled, encouraging, relational, and also one that calls people to truly put into practice the teachings and commands of Jesus in daily life. We want to embrace discipleship based on deep relationships where we are willing to hold one another accountable to obey our Lord, while also encouraging one another that with His help and strength, we can do this!
As Paul wrote to the Galatians, we must not be foolish. Having once become free in Christ, we must not put ourselves (or those we are discipling) back under the law! No! Never! Lets look to Jesus as our example of what it means to be obedient, accountable, and absolutely free!
Do We Share His Priorities?
I wonder sometimes why attending church weekly has become such a highly critical component of our “following Jesus” while making disciples is not. Jesus never once commanded us to “go to church every week.” He repeatedly told His disciples to “go and make disciples,” that He would make them “fishers of men” and that the Son of Man had come to “seek and save the lost.” I’m pretty sure the gospels speak a lot more about making disciples of lost people then about attending a meeting in a building once a week.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-church. I believe in the Church. I believe in the Church both universally and locally. It is the Bride of Christ and absolutely precious to God. I believe we are to be a part of it, universally and locally. Still, I wonder how our priorities got so off track from the scriptural mandate.
Someone said to me recently, “Jesus didn’t say to make disciple makers, he said to make disciples.” They had issues with the expression of the Great Commission by various DMM/CPM speakers like Victor Chaudhrie and Ying Kai*. I’ve been pondering that a bit this week. Is it an inappropriate distortion of scripture to add that emphasis on disciple making when teaching on the Great Commission? I’m a seminary grad so I went back to my hermeneutics training on this one.
It is true, Jesus said “make disciples.” He didn’t say “make disciple makers.” I believe though, in light of the huge lack of emphasis in the church today on the inherent role of disciple making in the life of a disciple, it is not an inappropriate way to state the Great Commission. Instead, it is a needed emphasis to bring across the correct message. Jesus’ originally intended message would be consistent with using the word disciple makers, not just the word disciples in Matt. 28:28-20.
He calls us to make disciples. A disciple is one who desires to follow the Master, become like Him, and who obeys His commands. One of His primary commands is to make more disciples. A disciple is therefore, also a disciple maker.
Let’s go back to the issue re-alligning our priorities. We all have limited time and make constant choices about how we will use that time. What are your essential activities and priorities? Is building relationships with lost people around you one of them? Is opening up space in your life and schedule to share the gospel when God prompts you and the opportunity comes along important to you? Are you watching for and seeking those chances to share good news and make disciples of those God has put into your life; at work, in your neighborhood, at the grocery store?
Even missionaries can fall into the trap of being so busy with “ministry” that we fail to prioritize the lost, we fail to prioritize disciple making. Ironically, it was in response to the call to fulfill the Great Commission that many of us are “on the field” now. So how did it slip to such a low priority in our actions and thinking?
Take a moment to look at your life and schedule. How could you adjust it to make more space to connect with lost people in genuine ways? What if you were, for a few months, to give it the same level of priority in your Christian life as you give to attending church and church events? I’m not saying stop going to church! Just give it equal billing- equal time in your schedule. See what God might do!
*Read more about Ying Kai or Victor’s teaching of the Great Commission and Disciple Making on their websites http://www.t4tglobalmissions.org/the-great-commission, or in this Mission Frontier’s article http://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/church-planting-movements-from-one-indian-perspective.