Prayer- A Leader’s first ministry

A leader’s most important role is to intercede for those they lead.  Leader’s who accomplish much, do so on their knees.  It is in the place of prayer that we hear His voice, gain direction, strength, perspective, encouragement and where ultimately the real breakthroughs happen.

hands-2168901_640Prayer can not be delegated to others, it is the responsibility of every Christian leader to themselves pray.  We need to lead the way in prayer.  That is not to say that we don’t also mobilize and raise up many others to intercede.  We do.  We must.  There are others who may spend more actual hours in prayer than we do, or who may carry the work of intercession in very significant ways.  As leaders, delegation is an important skill.  This is one are you can not delegate away though.

In scripture we find many examples of leaders who saw prayer and intercession for their people as one of their most important tasks.  We read of Moses and the way he interceded on behalf of Israel.  We read of King Hezekiah’s prayers of intercession.  Paul prayed much for those among whom he planted churches.  Of course, the greatest example is Jesus.  He not only prayed for his disciples, for Jerusalem, and for the multitudes but even now He, our great Lord and Leader, still prioritizes making intercession for us (Rom 8:34).

I often find that church planters see prayer and intercession as something they do in the mornings or at certain prayer meeting times, but then they go on to do their “real work” after that.  Prayer is part of our ministry as leaders of movements and as trainers of trainers.  We must pray much for those we train, coach and lead.  We pray for revelation, for protection, for anointing, for breakthrough.  We pray for those they are training and sharing Christ with.  We pray for the lost around us and the lost around those we have trained.  We pray for revival and outpouring of God’s spirit in each and every life, in each and every house church that is started.

These days I find myself crying out often throughout the day “Lord, send your Spirit.  Visit your people once again.  Come and let your Presence be felt in our lives again.  Set us ablaze.  Send fire from heaven to rest on each church planter.  Overflow from them and spill over to touch the lost around them.  Raise up radical, obedient disciples of Jesus who passionately share good news and make disciples everywhere they go.  I want an outpouring like we have never before seen Lord.  This I boldly ask you for!”

Join me to pray, to intercede for breakthrough and revival.  God promises to respond to our heartfelt prayers.  What better way could a leader spend their time and energy then in prayer?

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A Bulldozer anointing for Breakthroughs

“You are like a bulldozer” he said.  Wow.  That was interesting to hear.  I wasn’t sure I liked him saying that.  What did it mean?  I understand better now what this prophetically gifted man was referring to.  I’ve come to believe that to see DMMs (Disciple Making Movements) we need to move in a Bulldozer anointing, pressing through obstacles until we get to the breakthrough God wants to give.

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In life we all face obstacles.  This has got to be even more true for those who are boldly pursuing the release of a movement of disciples among the unreached.  We face financial obstacles, visa related obstacles, persecution related problems, family issues, discipleship and marriage problems and many other things.  Big or small, the obstacles come with regular frequency.  What we do when faced with a barrier that stands in our way  determines what kind of a leader we become and what results we will see.

Joshua faced big barriers when he moved into the Promised land as well.  A huge one he faced right away was the fortified city of Jericho.  Big walls.  No way in.  No way over.  Armies that were bigger than his.  What did he do?

He didn’t get stuck.  He didn’t retreat.  He certainly didn’t give up.  No, he simply listened to God and found a way to destroy the barrier he faced.  God showed him an unusual strategy to “get the job done” in relationship to Jericho.  God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  He is able to makes the walls fall down!

What barrier is making you feel overwhelmed today?  What situation are you facing that looks impossible?  Ask God to fill you with a breakthrough anointing.  Be a spiritual bulldozer.  Tear down that wall through prayer and obedience to His instructions.

Obstacles make us stronger if we respond to them in faith not fear, if we listen to God and obey rather than pull back and stop fighting.  Dmms are more than possible.  They are on God’s heart and a part of His will.  Are you ready to drive that spiritual bulldozer now?

God sized Goals

I train and cast vision for Disciple Making Movements and most people I meet are excited to hear what God is doing around the world.  As a Christian worker, who wouldn’t want to see a movement of genuine Jesus followers?  We all do!  It’s not hard to get people on board with the vision.  What is more difficult is when it comes to motivating people to make the changes that are needed in what they believe about ministry and how they do ministry.  Many also struggle with believing that it is possible to see these kinds of movements in their area, or through them.

I want to write today about the absolute necessity of faith as we talk about starting Disciple Making Movements.  I regularly return to Hebrews 11 to stir up my own faith.  Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is believing for things we can not see yet and verse 6 says that without this kind of faith it is impossible to please God.

How does that play out in our daily lives?  What does it look like for us to be people of faith as we attempt to start a DMM?

Our faith takes shape in our actions and goals.  What we believe, actually believe, shows up in these areas.  I was recently training a group of church planters.  We talked about multiplication and movements, about disciples making disciples and groups starting groups. Everyone seemed on board with what I was sharing.  Then it came time to set goals for the coming months.  Suddenly, faith was tested.  What do I really believe is possible?  What will I attempt to do?  It is not easy to set God sized goals that reflect multiplication.  We are afraid of failure.  We may not reach those goals.  If God doesn’t intervene, those things may not happen and I might be disappointed in myself.  Other’s may also see me as a failure.

miniature-1700629_640There are risks involved in setting faith filled goals.  There are risks in speaking out something and going after it.  There is indeed a chance that you won’t reach that goal.  But there is also a chance that you will!  If you never attempt something, you are unlikely to achieve it.  If you never ask God boldly for something, He probably won’t give it to you.

Why set small goals that are humanly achievable?  We all know that nothing is possible without God. Not even small things.  So when we ask, wy shouldn’t we ask Him for more?  It is going to require Him working anyhow.  Even to see the small things. Why shouldn’t we attempt the impossible, in faith, believing that in the coming days God will show up and work miracles?

The only thing that limits God is our own inability to believe in His greatness and goodness.  Does He love lost people around you?  Yes.  Does He desire that they be saved?   Yes.  Is He able to convict the world of sin? To change hearts? Yes. Did He choose you to bear much fruit?  Yes.  So why aim for something less than a God sized goal to see multiplication?

I’m not encouraging foolish goals that have no basis in reason, or that we randomly pull numbers out of the air.  What I am advocating is that we ask Him boldly for things that He is able to do and wants to do through us!  I’ve always liked the quote “I would rather attempt to do something great and fail, then attempt to do nothing and succeed.”  God is able.  God is willing.  Are we?

Set bigger goals, pray bigger prayers, and let’s expect to see God work in bigger ways through us!

Trainees – what gospel do they share?

christianity-1868365_640I’ve been concerned as we have been training in various locations. We have been training people in how to share the Jesus story, Creation to Christ stories, the basic gospel message.  I’m quite shocked at the number of pastors, church planters, elders and local believers who seem to have little understanding of what the gospel is.  Many are not able to easily and clearly share a simple gospel story.  Some of those unable to do this have been through credible Christian training and discipleship programs.  This is worrying.

Many things contribute to this problem, but the main root of this problem is the model these dear ones have seen.  The gospel they have heard, the style of evangelism they have seen modeled, is one where people are told that if they become Christians, God will bless them.  God will heal them.  God will help them.  Forgive me if I am stating the obvious, but this is a very incomplete gospel.  If this is the foundation of the gospel on which we try to make disciples, we can only expect weak and conditional faith.  We can expect to be accused by opponents of Christianity of trying to convert the simple minded with enticements and manipulative methods.  What they say, if this is all the gospel we share, will indeed have some truth to it.  This situation is cause for grave concern and serious efforts to bring about change.

In 1 Corinthians 1:23, Paul says “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews, and foolishness to Gentiles…”(NIV). If our gospel presentations do not include Jesus crucified, risen and coming again, we are not sharing the gospel.  The message we communicate must be about Jesus; why he came, why he died, how he rose and what it means for us today.  We must speak about sin, repentance, and how Christ’s death on the cross paid the price for us to be restored in our relationship with God. We must share about how His sacrifice made a way for us to know God, have our sins forgiven, and to become spiritual children of God.  This seems obvious, yet in many, many places, this is not the gospel message that is preached, nor do ordinary believers in the churches we have planted know how to share it simply and effectively.

God’s love and goodness, His power to heal, deliver, provide, free, protect …this is all part of the good news.  I’m not saying leave those out, they are definitely part of the message!  We can not give in to the temptation, however, to leave out the vital message of why Jesus had to die in order for us to be saved.  Yes, its hard to communicate about sacrificial death to a high caste Hindu or a Buddhist.  It may take time for them to understand it.  This was true for the Gentiles of Paul’s time as well.  For the post-modern American, it may come across as cruel and they may question why a good Father would ever dream of asking His son to die such a terrible death.  Its still the message we must share.  We can not…we must not..remove the cross from our message.  To do so, will not lead to more true disciples, it will lead to fruitlessness.  I can’t say this strongly enough.

Contextualize, adapt, pray for the sick, cast out demons,  and heal people!  By all means do! I long for more outpouring of God’s power through every team I train and in my own life as well.  People need to see demonstrations of the Kingdom, of God’s goodness and love! They also need to hear the gospel in ways that make sense in their cultures and worldview. I long for every team and church planter to have a great understanding of the language and culture of the people they are reaching. I pray for more of both of these things (better understanding of culture and greater anointing) in my own life every single day.

Just don’t remove the cross.  In the message of the cross lies the greatest and most foundational truth of the gospel.  Lets share it and train everyone we disciple to share it clearly and simply as well.  This message, to those who are being saved, will be “the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18 NIV).

 

 

 

 

Being contextual without being a zealot

One of the important factors in growing a movement is that it becomes indigenous.  What does that mean?  Miriam Webster defines indigenous as: produced, growing, living, or occurring naturally in a particular region or environment.

We speak of indigenous plants, indigenous people, indigenous culture.  Basically what we mean is that these things grow naturally there and have not been imported from the outside.

When we talk about church planting and disciple making movements, it is widely accepted that indigenous movements grow faster than when we import culture and traditions from outside.  Most people involved in cross cultural church planting accept this at least in theory.

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Indigenous peoples have their own culture, customs, language and worldview

The main thing I want to discuss in this blog, is the degree to which we focus on indigenization or contextualization as we pursue a DMM.  I realize that what I write here may be controversial or offensive to some people. Please forgive me ahead of time and hear me out.  Feel free to comment about what you agree or disagree with.  I won’t be offended and maybe we can learn together!

I have seen both sides of the spectrum of contextualization efforts and emphasis. I  find myself wanting to stay in the middle, not getting out of balance either way.

On one side of the spectrum are people who don’t care much about adapting their methods, tools and efforts to the local culture.  They don’t take the time to research, understand the people they are trying to reach.  They impose models from other places rather than adapting them to fit the worldview of those they are reaching.  They seem to rely on miracles and power encounters to see people saved, but not to concern themselves much with deeper level culture and worldview change taking place.  While sometimes getting quicker fruit than those who take time to learn the language and understand culture more deeply, these church planting efforts seem to stay shallow and have little broader community impact.  They don’t seem to attract influencers in the society but mostly reach fringe (rather than core) people in the unreached group.  For those people, as a coach, I encourage them to go deeper, adapt more, learn the language and worldview better, and work to reach not only people on the fringes but also to share good news with those who others in that society respect.  As these core people come to faith, the potential for massive growth and transformation is much, much greater.

On the other side, I have seen many examples of people who are deeply committed and passionate about contextualization and adapting every tool and method and word they speak to fit the Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim mindset.  They are fearful of making mistakes in their communication of the gospel or causing offense.  They sometimes seem so focused on not creating walls that they don’t actually share the gospel very clearly and seem afraid to let the gospel be what it is and speak for itself, even if it is a stumbling block to some as Jesus said it would be.  (1 Cor 1:18 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.-NIV). People on this side of the spectrum seem to somehow think that the key to seeing a movement is contextualizing enough.  Their commitment to contextualization sometimes seems higher to me than their commitment to see the lost saved and to see a movement happen.  This tends (in my opinion) to make them hesitant to do honest evaluation of the fruitfulness of their contextual methods and strategies or to listen to the ideas of fruitful indigenous workers who are not as contextual as they think everyone should be.   This too is dangerous and ineffective when it comes to the goal of seeing a DMM in an unreached group.

I’ve kind of opened the proverbial jar of worms here and probably made people on both sides upset with what I’ve written.  Again, I apologize.  My intention is not to make anyone upset, but to advocate for a balanced approach to the issue of contextualization.  It is important, vitally important, that we adapt what we do to fit the context, language and culture!  We must be extremely careful about imposing outside ways of doing things (be they Western or from somewhere nearby but still not indigenous to that place and people).  At the same time, we need to be careful that we don’t start to think that contextualization is the only or even the main key to seeing a movement start.  There are many other things we need to also consider and emphasize too.  Things like abundant seed sowing, prayer, finding people of peace, participatory worship, training trainers, indigenous giving, etc.

Be contextual and work hard to understand and adapt to those you want to reach.  Be careful not become a zealot who only sees one thing as the key to starting movements.  Always listen to and learn from fruitful indigenous workers around you.  They have much to teach us!

 

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.

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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.

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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.

Avoiding legalism while practicing accountability

Accountability and what I call the “friendly accountability loop” is a vital part of disciple making.  It is one of the greatest strengths I find in the T4T meeting approach.  It is a major key in coaching as well.  What is the friendly accountability loop?  It is the habit of always starting with a report of progress on actions (application, obedience to Christ’s leading, prior goal setting) and ending the coaching, T4T meeting or discipleship one on one with application decisions of what you are going to do to obey what God has been speaking to you. You always start with a progress report and end with new goals.

I’ve found this simple accountability loop extremely helpful to myself and many others as we put our faith into specific actions. We then make ourselves accountable to others about our faithfulness to do what we said we wanted to do.  I highly encourage the use of this, or another similar way of encouraging accountability in a growing disciple’s life.  I think when this becomes organic and natural in our lives as believers, we will see it also become natural to see the multiplication of obedient disciples.  Much of our modern day church praxis avoids obedience and any kind of real accountability to put into practice what Jesus taught.  Jesus said in the parable of the man who built his house on the sand that without obedience, without putting into practice the teachings of Jesus, our lives are not grounded and able to withstand the storms of life.

There is, however, a danger worth noting in this emphasis on accountability, even if we usually add the important word friendly to it, calling it friendly accountability. I wrote a blog a few years ago about the importance of living in the New Covenant as we pursue the release of Disciple Making Movements (DMMs). See https://fmsouthasia.blogspot.com/search?q=new+covenant. It is incredibly important that in our pursuit of friendly accountability and the making of obedient disciples, we not allow legalism or old covenant thinking to creep in and gain a foothold! It can easily happen!

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Are you so foolish? Having begun [d]by the Spirit, are you now [e]being perfected by the flesh?– Gal 3:3

We can easily start to put pressure on people to perform, to share with their 5 people each week, or make them feel less valued if they somehow were not able to fulfill their goals.  We can easily move from “want to” living to “should”, from freedom in the Spirit to a coming under condemnation and the law.  This we MUST avoid!

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor 3:17).  Our T4T, or other disciple making meetings, must be places where freedom, encouragement and love abound.  They can not become places of condemnation, pressure, performance and the law.  We must be watchful not to allow this to enter in the process of practicing friendly accountability.

At the same time, we don’t throw out friendly accountability and obedience as high values and important movement DNA!  It really is both/and, not either/or.  We want to embrace a discipleship approach that is loving, Spirit-filled, encouraging, relational, and also one that calls people to truly put into practice the teachings and commands of Jesus in daily life.  We want to embrace discipleship based on deep relationships where we are willing to hold one another accountable to obey our Lord, while also encouraging one another that with His help and strength, we can do this!

As Paul wrote to the Galatians, we must not be foolish. Having once become free in Christ, we must not put ourselves (or those we are discipling) back under the law!  No!  Never!  Lets look to Jesus as our example of what it means to be obedient, accountable, and absolutely free!