Arrogant, cocky, and with more than a little bit of attitude, a South Asian movement leader stood before me. “I’ve seen hundreds of people come to Christ this month and started over 60 new groups,” he declared, bobbing his head side to side. His demeanor made me sad, though I couldn’t deny the fruit he was seeing. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen these kinds of attitudes displayed by a movement leader. Young, apostolically gifted movement leaders need mentors to encourage and train them. They also can speak into issues of arrogance and pride when there is a strong relationship. We all need to check our attitudes and motivations as we pursue DMMs.
Success in Disciple Making Movements can breed pride. Failure to see results can lead to insecurity. Both are unhealthy and ungodly. Keeping a strong grip on our understanding of why we do what we do and of God’s unconditional love for us keep us grounded. This is crucial as we attempt to catalyze (start) movements.
Reminded of Grace
Since I mentioned an arrogant leader above, let me share the other side of the coin as well. His head hung down, and his shoulders drooped. Heaving a great sigh, he finally looked up. I could quickly see the sadness and grief in his eyes. “I’ve tried everything. I did all the steps you told me to do. No one is responding. Maybe I’m not the right person to be trying to do this.”
As we continued to talk, more pain poured forth. “Perhaps it’s because of the past failures that God isn’t using me. Or maybe I am no good at evangelism.”
My heart went out to him. His struggle was not unfamiliar to me. I had experienced similar feelings in the past.
“Let’s talk about who you are as God’s son for a bit. Set the ministry stuff aside, let’s think about the Father’s great love for you.” We spent the next hour going back to the basics of the Gospel he had received many years before. We both were refreshed by focusing on God’s amazing grace and love for us and how unconditional it is.
Need Some Reminders of God’s Unconditional Love?
- “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 ESV
- “‘The mountains may shift, and the hills may be shaken, but my faithful love won’t shift from you, and my covenant of peace won’t be shaken,’ says the Lord, the one who pities you.” — Isaiah 54:10
- “I ask that you’ll have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth, together with all believers. I ask that you’ll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God.” — Ephesians 3:18-19
What Do We Need to Stay Grounded in as Disciple-Making Movement Practitioners?
1. God loves us unconditionally. He saved us by His grace.
Though we know this, it bears reminding. The world bombards us with messages that say “you are not enough.” We are not smart enough, beautiful enough, powerful enough, or even fruitful enough. This is not from God. He loves us. We are enough, simply because we are His sons and daughters.
Don’t allow the world’s message to confuse you. Nothing you can do can make God love you more. Nothing you haven’t yet produced can make Him love you less. Guard your heart against thoughts that creep in telling you that His grace is not enough.
Your salvation is secure. God’s love for you is unchanging. Stand firm in that truth.
2. Fruit is not a sign of special favor.
Outward fruitfulness is not a sign that God loves you more than others, or even of His special favor.
Perhaps the most well-known scripture about favor is about Jesus. It is found in Luke 2:52 “And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and man.” In Acts 7:9-10 we read about Joseph and the favor of God that rested on him. It also talks about the trials and difficulties he faced and the years of hardship leading up to that season of unusual blessing. And in Psalm 90:17, the Psalmist prays for God’s favor. He asks that God would establish the work of his hands.
We ask for His favor and blessing on our work. We grow in favor with God and man like Christ did.
Don’t mistake fruitfulness for favor, however. The most fruitful time of our Lord’s ministry was not when he was twelve years old (Luke 2:52). And though Joseph experienced unusual favor and blessing in his later years, his early years were filled with trials. This didn’t mean God wasn’t with Him or didn’t love him.
3. Delayed results have nothing to do with our identity, but everything to do with our activity.
Lack of fruit may be part of God’s work in shaping our character, but our identity is secure. As humans, we interpret things in light of identity. If we fail we think “I am a failure.” If we succeed we think, “I am a success.” We must learn to separate our identity from our fruitfulness.
Jesus said that the path to fruitfulness was abiding in Him. Fruitfulness flows out of our living, growing relationship with Christ. If we abide, we will bear fruit. It is His promise (John 15:5).
We also observe that fruitfulness is connected to obedience and growth in skills and practices. A farmer who does whatever he wants will not be fruitful. They learn and study from other farmers; how to plant, how to prune, how to water and keep away pests. As they become skillful in these things, fruit comes naturally. Without those skills, no matter how good a person they are, their seeds will not produce fruit.
As I have written before, we should not be afraid to learn, practice, and grow in our disciple-making skills. How do we learn? Mentors, books, and programs like the Getting Started in Disciple Making Movements Course can help.
The only way to grow in skill, however, is to do it. You won’t become skillful at starting spiritual conversations unless you try to start them. Want to see more people healed? Pray for sick people more frequently. Practice telling stories from the Bible until they flow off your lips without effort.
Increase your disciple-making activities and your abiding with Jesus time and you can’t help but bear more fruit!
Do you ever struggle with delayed results and how it affects your feelings about yourself? Or see the ugly head of pride rearing up when something good happens?
Share about that in the comments below or on the DMMs Frontier Missions Facebook group.