Why Saying “No” is a Crucial Skill

I personally don’t like saying no. It feels…not nice. It seems…unkind, or like I don’t value the person who is asking me to do something. Yet saying no, and meaning it, is a crucial skill for those of us pursuing DMMs. This is why we need to learn not only what to say no to, but also how to say no with honor and respect.

Lets start with the what part. What do we need to say no to as a DMMer? (Is that a thing? Can I call us that?) Sorry. Rabbit trail. Okay, so my point is, we need to say “No” to things that side track us, that pull us away from the main vision we are going after- a Disciple Making Movement. Anything that seems good but isn’t related to making disciples who make more disciples or to reaching lost people should go on our “I might need to say no” list.

What else do we need to say no to? We need to say no to anything that will prevent the movement from reproducing on its own (self-propagating). For example, as mentioned in the last post, boots donated from a foreign team to make it easier for locals to walk on the muddy trails. Say no to someone who wants to help you build a church building with outside funds. Say no to people who want to buy all your workers motorcycles. Foreign teams are usually something you want to consider saying no to. Having them come, especially in the early stages of the movement, is something to be very careful about. All of these things make the local insiders feel “less than” or “less powerful” to build the movement on their own. They hinder reproducibility.


I could go on and on. We need to say no to projects, trainings, conferences and meetings that talk about good things, but don’t actually lead to fruitfulness increasing. Why do we have to say “No” so often? It’s because these things crowd out the important work of making disciples. I haven’t even mentioned other things like our endless emails, constant engagement with social media, many WhatsApp groups, numerous social obligations that don’t lead toward true relationships and discipleship opportunities, etc.

Having hopefully established that we must say “No”, and quite often, if we want to see a DMM, lets ask: How do we do that? Many of us come from, and/or work in cultures where a direct NO, especially to a leader, feels close to impossible. It can easily be perceived as being rude and impolite.

Is the answer to just say yes, but then not do those things? Do we say “Okay. I’ll come” then not show up for the meeting? Or what?

I don’t think so. Jesus lived in the same kind of community oriented, relational culture that most of us do. He said to his disciples,

37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.[a] Matt 5:37 RSV

We need to give a clear but appropriate “Yes” or “No”, with grace and kindness.

Here are some of the ways I say no. I hope it helps you!

“Thank you so much for your invitation. I’m so honored that you would want me to be there. I’d love to come but I have other important commitments, so I won’t be able to. I hope you understand.”

“It is so generous of you to want to help us in that way. You have such a heart for the Lord! We are really trying to help those in our movement learn to be generous too. They are learning to give from their own resources, so we are trying not to do anything that would hinder that. I need to say no to your offer of help. Thanks again, though, for wanting to give this way. I know God will show you where to use these funds in an amazing way that expands His Kingdom.”

To a leader- “I could come to that meeting if you really feel its important, but it would mean I won’t be able to do a good job in discipling those who are starting to believe in the area we are church planting. Which would you like me to make a higher priority right now?”

These are some ways I say no, when I try to do it with grace and honor.

What about you? How do you say no?



  1. kadondi tom

    when you admit to work on disciple making you mean to surrender everything that will be like obstacle on you to reach out the group,having a good plan in your record ,it will help to I identify some places which are not moving if not you will end up failing your dream of multiply Disciple making.

  2. Pingback: 5 Ways to Keep Vision Burning Hot (and Avoid Giving Up) - Missionary Life

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