When 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.