Filtering: What it is, How it helps

filter-192936_640When I first heard the term “filtering” being used in DMM/CPM circles I wasn’t sure what I thought about it.  It was definitely NOT a part of my organizational culture to do this!  I wasn’t sure it was biblical.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it.  I particularly didn’t like the idea of “filtering people out” of our trainings and priorities.  It just sounded kind of….mean.  The pastoral, member care side of me reacted to it.

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 that 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 who will make disciples, let’s not be afraid of filtering.  It’s a major key to seeing both individuals, and your DMM grow.

 

 

Why Saying “No” is a Crucial Skill

I personally don’t like saying no.  It feels…not nice.  It seems…unkind, or like I haven’t valued 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.

tree-bark-1209874_1280

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?

 

Money- it both helps and hurts

One of the greatest indicators that a true move of God is taking place is when new believers are generous in their giving.  This was true in the New Testament (see the Book of Acts for example). It is true today. In contrast, one of the greatest warning signs that a movement is headed toward major slow-down or death is when the money a movement uses is coming from outside the movement.

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 boots-52414_1280really 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 are 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!

 

 

Evaluate & Tweak or Stay Consistent?

One of the beliefs my organization is promoting these days is this…

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 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.

ball-1015302_1280

The Power of Momentum

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.  Its 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.  Its 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 quandry 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 its 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.