Our passion is to empower lost people to become obedient disciples of Jesus. We want to help them start transformational Disciple Making Movements (DMMs). Disciple-makers who we work with to see movements do not need to be part of our own organization or denomination. In fact, for fruit to multiply rapidly, we need an open-handed approach. We must train every believer to be an active disciple-maker.
We’ve struggled with this in YWAM (my particular organization). Some of us were tempted to think that for local believers to plant churches, they needed to do a Discipleship Training School (DTS). We thought they should first join Youth With a Mission, and then be equipped through a School of Frontier Missions (SOFM). After that, they’d be ready to plant churches among the unreached or join our teams.
That was a long and expensive process for people to go through! Not everyone could do this. That process radically limited the growth of active “harvesters” working with us among the unreached.
This mentality is not uncommon. Most of us want those we train to join our church, our program, and our system. This can mean we expect them to go to Bible School or seminary. Or they should at least go through some kind of two or three-month discipleship training. This kind of training has different names in various churches and agencies.
Lengthy off-site training is not reproducible. Pulling people into your church or organizational system can hinder movement growth.
Offer Short, Simple Training for All
We can avoid this barrier to rapid multiplication by providing simple training that is locally available. On-the-job training can be provided for all believers.
Make the training open for those outside your church, perhaps even looking for a location to train that is more neutral. Homes work well. Church buildings can sometimes feel territorial. If that is an issue, change the venue! A football field, a bingo hall, a community center or school…these can work well.
Local disciple-makers from the emerging movement do not need to be recruited into full time ministry. Doing this can, in fact, be quite harmful to our goal of rapidly multiplying movements.
Instead, find ways to equip and give them a vision for making disciples in their workplace. Often, a one day training on the weekend works well. You train, practice, and then go and do something together to apply. Do this for a year, once a month, and you will have hundreds of new disciple-makers equipped and active. Isn’t that better than sending one or two off to Bible school for four years to become professional ministers?
Partner With Like-Minded People
In work among unreached peoples, we partner with other like-minded churches and agencies. We are not there to build up our organization or denomination but to help birth a new movement. The vision God has given you for a movement of disciples requires more than you, or your church can handle. Who else could be trained to multiply disciples and start new groups? Invite them into the team as they grow.
The Apostle Paul partnered with others in spreading the Good News. In the process, some Corinthian believers said they were with Paul’s group, others with Apollo’s group. Paul corrected them:
“After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field.”(I Corinthians 3:5-9)
Who Are the Like-Minded?
I’ve often said, “partner with few but network with many.” Cast vision to everyone for rapidly multiplication of true disciples who make disciples. But don’t get stuck in a partnership with those who don’t buy into DMM values and principles. It will give you trouble and slow (or kill) movement growth.
As you cast vision, watch for those who are excited about the priesthood of all believers. Look for those who want to see every disciple-making disciples, not only to build up their church. They long to see God’s Kingdom grow among the lost.
A Filipino Multiplies Disciples
A lady from the Philippines went through a YWAM Discipleship training school in Holland. It was focused on community development. For their outreach, she and a team of colleagues moved to Nepal to work among the Bhutanese. They were able to enter Bhutanese refugee camps and teach literacy using the Bible. The team stayed for six months making disciples and training them in the Word of God.
In only a few months, they raised up local Bhutanese to train their own people. As they trained them, the question arose – should these people join YWAM? A few did, but most did not. By training everyone, the fruit grew and multiplied. Today, many who were equipped by this team have resettled around the world. They continue to follow Christ and start groups of Jesus followers (churches) wherever they go!
What Keeps Us From Training All?
Once again, we hit up against the clergy/laity mindset. Pastors are the trained ones who do the ministry – or so we think. Members attend church, pay tithes, and support the work of the professionals. This is not the way Jesus or Paul worked! in the New Testament, every Jesus follower was involved in obeying Christ’s commands and ministering to others. The responsibility of those with particular spiritual gifts, was to train others. Apostles train and mentor new apostles. Pastors (those with this gift, not the job title) need to raise up pastors. Prophets must raise and mentor others with prophetic gifts. And so on.
The professional clergy idea is not found in Scripture. Its an add on. It’s not bad or evil. But we must recognize the hindrance it can be if pastors don’t take seriously their job as equippers of the saints. If they are just a “sage on the stage,” you may get a strong single church, but you won’t launch a movement.
Train everyone. Move beyond this clergy only mentality, to the priesthood of all believers. Train, demonstrate, send and then debrief. Keep it simple. Keep it local. Make it short and inexpensive and take people step by step.
Discovering Fruitful, Faithful Disciple-Makers
As we’ve made some of these changes in YWAM Frontier Missions over past years, we have been amazed at how much more fruitful it is! We still have longer programs like the DTS and SOFM for those who are called long-term into cross-cultural work. Those have value and we recommend them.
In terms of movements though, equipping local believers and NOT having them join our organization has been more effective…by far! Many gifted and anointed evangelists and local disciple-makers have emerged. They’ve healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons, preached the Kingdom to thousands and started thousands of groups as a result of changing our mindset on this.
Trending Toward Local Leadership as the Movement Grows
If you are a professional pastor or missionary, don’t be disheartened by this article! You have an important role. Become a trainer of trainers. We do our part in the harvest and local believers do theirs. As the movement gains momentum, more and more lay people do the disciple-making and lead the fellowships. They must increase, and trained professional (and others from the outside) must decrease.
How can you equip, train, and release authority to every believer to do the work of the ministry? Let me know in the comments below or lets discuss it on the DMMs Frontier Missions Facebook group.
*Special thanks to Kevin Sutter for his contributions to this article. Some of the content was taken from a previous article written by him called We Believe: in Simple Training.