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.


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!


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!


Give us our inheritance!

women-2059391_1280An interesting and profound story is found in Joshua chapter seventeen.   It speaks of a man named Zelophehad who had no sons but only daughters.

There must have been others in Israel who only had girls.  These daughters of Zelophehad were different though.  What was different about them? What does this have to do with seeing disciple making movements released?? Read on!

Joshua 17:However, Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons, only daughters; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah. They came near before Eleazar the priest and before Joshua the son of Nun and before the leaders, saying, “The Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers.” So according to the [c]command of the Lord he gave them an inheritance among their father’s brothers. Thus there fell ten portions to Manasseh, besides the land of Gilead and Bashan, which is beyond the Jordan, because the daughters of Manasseh received an inheritance among his sons. And the land of Gilead belonged to the rest of the sons of Manasseh. (NASB)

These daughters of Zelophehad were willing to ask for their inheritance along with their cousins or as we say in India, cousin brothers.  The fact that they were women didn’t stop them from thinking that they were worthy of receiving an inheritance in the land.  It stopped many other women.  It didn’t stop them.  They asked…and they received.

In Psalms, God says…

‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the [f]nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. Ps 2:8 NASB

Jesus said…

Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.  John 16:24 NASB

To see a movement of Jesus follower’s released, every believer must get involved.  Every believer needs to ask God for their inheritance among lost people. Every believer must begin to see themselves as a disciple maker, as a trainer of trainers, not just a church member.  This most definitely includes women!

God is calling women today from every strata of society and from every class; educated, uneducated, urban, village, old and young to join with their husbands and brothers in asking God to release their inheritance among the nations.  He wants women to be bold and ask Him for the lost people around them.  Jesus illustrated bold prayer in Luke 11. He speaks of the man who needed help in the night from a friend.  Though the man won’t get up to help due to the friendship, because of the man’s bold persistence, he gets up to help.  (https://fmsouthasia.blogspot.com/2017/04/shameless-audacity-in-prayer.html)

countryside-1721387_1280Women,  be both tenacious and audacious!  Be bold to rise up and ask Father God for your own inheritance like the Daughter’s of Manesseh did!  Don’t be content to sit on the sidelines of seeing movements released or in the task of making disciples.  The unreached wait to hear the message you have to give.  He has chosen you! God can, will and wants to use women to release movements (and men too)!  He wants to give both women and men, an inheritance among the peoples.  He is just waiting for you to say “I want my part too…along with my husband, along with my brothers…I want to receive my inheritance!”

If you are a woman and are reading this, let me assure you…scripture abounds with evidence that God loves to use women in His great purposes!  The greatest message of hope ever to be shared (the message that Jesus had risen from the dead) was first shared by a woman!  The Samaritan woman was used to bring her whole village to faith.  There are so many more examples!  The question is only will you rise up and ask for your portion from God?

If you are a man reading this, you have a very powerful role to play in encouraging the women around you to rise up to be all that God is calling them to be as disciple makers, trainers and movement leaders.  Encourage and affirm them!  Welcome them and empower them and see them as playing an important, even crucial role in the release of the movement.  Soon they too will see themselves this way.

Pray with me that there will be many, many modern-day “daughters of Manasseh”!

Re-alligning our Priorities

If you had to choose between building relationships with lost people and going to church, which one would you do? Seriously.  Most would answer, “Go to church, obviously.”  Going to church is what “good” Christians do. True. It’s a worthy thing to do, especially if being part of that church community is causing you to grow as a disciple. So often, though, there is a big difference between being a Christian and being a disciple.  What do “good” disciples do? I believe that engaging with, befriending, and loving on lost people friends-1209740_1280and sharing good news with them, is what disciples do.  It’s what Jesus did. He hung out with lost people a lot more than he went to synagogue meetings and conferences right?

Do we share His priorities?

I wonder sometimes why weekly attending church has become such a highly critical component of our “following Jesus” while making disciples is not.  Jesus never once commanded us to “go to church every week.”  He repeatedly told His disciples to “go and make disciples,” that He would make them “fishers of men” and that the Son of Man had come to “seek and save the lost.”  I’m pretty sure the gospels speak a lot more about making disciples of lost people then about attending a meeting in a building once a week.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not anti-church.  I believe in the Church.  I believe in the Church both universal and local. It is the Bride of Christ and absolutely precious to God.  I believe we are to be a part of it, universally and locally.  Still, I wonder how our priorities got so off track from the scriptural mandate.

Some one said to me recently, “Jesus didn’t say to make disciple makers, he said to make disciples.”  They had issues with the expression of the Great Commission by various DMM/CPM speakers like Victor Chaudhrie and Ying Kai*.  I’ve been pondering that a bit this week.  Is it an inappropriate distortion of scripture to add that emphasis on disciple making when teaching on the Great Commission?  I’m a seminary grad so I went back to my hermeneutics training on this one.

It is true, Jesus said “make disciples.” He didn’t say “make disciple makers.”  I believe though, in light of the huge lack of emphasis in the church today on the inherent role of disciple making in the life of a disciple, it is not an inappropriate way to state the Great Commission.  Instead, it is a needed emphasis to bring across the correct message. Jesus’ originally intended message would be consistent with using the word disciple makers, not just the word disciples in Matt. 28:28-20.

He calls us to make disciples.  A disciple is one who desires to follow the Master, become like Him, and who obeys His commands.  One of His primary commands is to make more disciples.  A disciple is therefore, also a disciple maker.

Let’s go back to the issue re-alligning our priorities.  We all have limited time and make constant choices about how we will use that time.  What are your essential activities and priorities?  Is building relationships with lost people around you one of them?  Is opening up space in your life and schedule to share the gospel when God prompts you and the opportunity comes along important to you?  Are you watching for and seeking those chances to share good news and make disciples of those God has put into your life; at work, in your neighborhood, at the grocery store?

Even missionaries can fall into the trap of being so busy with “ministry” that we fail to prioritize the lost, we fail to prioritize disciple making.  Ironically, it was in response to the call to fulfill the Great Commission that many of us are “on the field” now.  So how did it slip to such a low priority in our actions and thinking?

Take a moment to look at your life and schedule.  How could you adjust it to make more space to connect with lost people in genuine ways?  What if you were for a few months to give it the same level of priority in your Christian life as you give to attending church and church events?  I’m not saying stop going to church!  Just give it equal billing- equal time in your schedule.  See what God might do!

*Read more about Ying Kai or Victor’s teaching of the Great Commission and Disciple Making on their websites http://www.t4tglobalmissions.org/the-great-commission, or in this Mission Frontier’s article http://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/church-planting-movements-from-one-indian-perspective.



Staying focused as Disciple makers

What is the number one enemy you will face as you pursue the release of a Disciple Making Movement among the unreached?  One would imagine that it would be intense spiritual warfare, keeping a visa platform, persecution, or some other kind of external challenge.  Those are real and they are there to be sure.  In my opinion, however, the greatest obstacle for those pursuing the release of a movement,  is the inability to stay focused on what is most important.  The tendency to become distracted doing many good things without doing what iblack-and-white-1845826_1280s most important is typical of those who hope to see movements but don’t.

Busyness is a major enemy in our lives.  We can easily get so busy that we don’t have time to pray, to listen to God, to share good news with the Lost, or to adequately spend time with those who are expressing interest in coming to faith.  These things usually happen in the early stages of our efforts to start a movement.  When we don’t see things “take off” as fast as we had hoped, we allow ourselves to get involved in other ministry tasks that give us a bit of a sense of fulfillment.  Teaching here or there, doing emails, making a video for a church about what we do, attending a seminar or conference someone invited us to…suddenly we realize we have had little time for the task of disciple making.

Later, when (and if) we do have some disciples and the first church gets going, it is again easy to become busy with things related to that church’s programs rather than continuing to pursue relationships with the Lost, or to invest in quality disciple making.  We make the mistake of thinking that a weekly meeting of a few hours will make quality disciples. We fail to truly invest our lives in those God has given us whether it be in detailed prayer for them, or in developing deep relationships.

One of my favorite Old Testament Bible Heros is Nehemiah.  In tnature-1984314_1280he sixth chapter of the book that bears his name, messengers come asking Nehemiah to attend a meeting with Sanballat and Geshem.  Instead of agreeing he says,

“I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3)

Nehemiah is completely focused on his God given task.  He is not going to stop his work to go and resolve a conflict, listen to his enemies, or attend a meeting.  He knows how to say a clear “no.” He continues to focus on what is most important.  We need to do the same.

How hard is it for you to stay focused on what is really important?  Do you clearly know in your own mind what is most important in light of your goal to see a movement of disciples?

In a recent training I asked the participants to make a list of everything they had done in the last week that took more than an hour of their time.  After they had listed at least 15 things, I asked them to circle which of those things directly related to making disciples among the unreached.  It was eye opening for many of them to see how little time they actually devoted to the task they said was their primary vision.  We all would benefit from a similar exercise from time to time.

Feeling convicted?  I truly hope you don’t feel condemned.  Its very human to get distracted and not at all uncommon! Instead of feeling bad, look carefully at where you are at. Recommit yourself to stay focused on your true calling as a discipler and messenger of the good news.  Be willing like Nehemiah to say no to some things so you can say yes to what is really important.

The unreached wait to hear your message.  New disciples wait to be encouraged, trained and mentored.  Let’s get busy doing the most important things that lead to the release of movements.

You are a Trainer of Trainers – a Disciple maker!

In every missions conference we talk about the Great Commission. It is found several places in the gospels but most often referenced from Matthew 28.

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”– Matt. 28:18-20 NIV

This verse speaks of actions we all can be involved in. It tells us to; 1) Go, 2) make disciples of all nations 3) baptize them and 4) teach them to obey.

Ying Kai and Steve Smith, authors of the book, T4T A Discipleship Re-Revolution,  speak of how we are Trainers of Trainers.  Ying uses the word trainer for a disciple maker.  Do you see yourself as a Trainer of Trainers? For many years I saw myself as a teacher.  What I didn’t see was that I was to train the people I taught until they could train others!  Instead of seeing myself as a teacher, passing on knowledge and information, I began to see myself as a trainer and those who were learning from me as those who in turn would immediately train others. I am a Trainer of Trainers- A Disciple Maker.

Trainer tag

I train one person to follow Jesus and obey His commands, they go and train another, who trains another.  In this way the Kingdom multiplies and grows.

Making disciples of Jesus (trainers of trainers) is a crucial task not only for pastors, spiritual leaders and missionaries.  This is the task of every believer. This is the task of everyone who is a disciple of Christ.   As basic as it seems, why do so few get involved directly in disciple making?  Why don’t we see ourselves as trainers of others?

We have settled for a model far short of what Jesus taught.  Why?  There are numerous answers to this question.  We could blame anyone from Constantine to today’s clergy for not placing more emphasis on empowering local believers to do the work of the ministry.  Blaming them would serve no real purpose, though sometimes it can be helpful to understanding the process that led us to the situation the church is in today.

Instead of analyzing the history or blaming various people, it is time for all who follow Christ to wake up to their identity and to their task.  We are disciples.  Disciples train other disciples.  It’s natural. It’s normal.  It requires no special skills or special qualifications.  We just need to obey Jesus’ command, and begin to do it.

Who are you training to obey Christ?  Who are they training?  Are you a trainer of trainers? A disciple who makes disciples?  If not, you can be!  Embrace that identity today.

You are a Royal Priest

Understanding who we are has a huge impact on what we end up doing in our lives.  What we believe dramatically impacts how we behave.  In the last blog I talked about who we are as people God has chosen to bear much fruit, fruit that will remain.  We are the Chosen Ones.  Today I want to focus on another aspect of our identity, who we are as royal priests of God.

1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”- NIV

It’s important to understand what a major shift Jesus brought about when he went to the cross and rose again.  He destroyed the old system of Levitical priesthood and established a new system where all who followed him would be royal priests. In the new covenant you are not physically born into priesthood as the Levites were.  Instead you are spiritually born into this priesthood when you receive Jesus into your life and are born again.

Not only are we priests, we are royal priests!  I’ve had the privilege of visiting Thailand crown-1701934_640often, a land that honors and loves their king.  In the Thai language, there is even a whole different way of speaking when you address a member of the royal family.  The royals receive great respect and carry much influence and authority.  It’s been a good picture for me of what this verse might mean when it calls us a “royal priesthood.”  This speaks of a place of favor, privilege and authority as children of the King of Kings.  I am a member of the royal family.  That means I carry great authority in the spiritual realm.  I’m not a nobody, I’m a royal priest. So are you if you are following Jesus as Lord!

What does this practically mean for us as we think about pursuing disciple making movements?  Its a very big deal!  It means that there is nothing related to spiritual work that we can not do.  We are given authority by God to establish His kingdom, to make disciples and to do the work of God as his representatives here on earth.

While we know this in our heads, often our behavior sadly reflects an old covenantsupreme-patriarch-463291_640 belief system.  Our worldview is deeply influenced by Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam or whatever system we have come out of…even traditional Christianity.  In those religious systems, only special people are qualified to do spiritual tasks and work.  Only Levites, or Brahmins, or monks, or imams, pastors or priests are to do the spiritual work of the ministry.  Jesus came to abolish that old covenant and bring in something new.  So why are we so quick to go back to the old?

If we want to see rapidly multiplying Disciple Making Movements, we must embrace who we are as royal priests and we must realize that every follower of Jesus has been empowered and commissioned by Christ himself to make disciples, to baptize them, and to teach them to obey all that He commanded.

Who gave us this authority?  Jesus himself gave it in the Great Commission.  Without embracing and truly living out the priesthood of all believers, we will only see limited multiplication of disciples among the unreached (or anywhere).

Declare it with me today.  I am a royal priest of God.  He has appointed and commissioned me to represent him on this earth.  Every work of spiritual service, and especially the task of making disciples is mine to do.  The people I lead to Christ are also given authority by Jesus to make more disciples freely and to serve as royal priests.

Let’s start disciple making movements- groups of royal priests who make more royal priests!

God chose you to bear fruit

I’ve always wanted to be fruitful in God’s kingdom.  I longed to make a true difference.  Doubt often filled my heart.  Would God really use me to start disciple making movements? Was I the right kind of person?  Did I have it in me?

I looked back on my years in missions and saw lots of evidence that maybe the answer was no.  False starts.  Failed attempts. Lost people I’d made friendships with but never managed to truly share the good news with, or not very effectively anyhow.

cropped-myanmar-2083646_1280.jpgWas it unwise to even hope that God would want to start a movement of disciples through me?  Maybe I was setting myself up for failure and further disappointment by embracing this goal.

If you can identify with this, you are not alone.  Many of us who God calls to his kingdom work of seeing multiplication among the unreached feel that way at one time or another. (Or sometimes fairly regularly.)  So what is our baseline?  What do we go back to when deciding whether or not Disciple Making Movements-DMMs are for us? (Sometimes we have to decide and re-decide this fairly often).

In this post and the next few that follow, I’d like to give you my scriptural baseline.  This is where the foundation for faith that God can use me to start DMMs comes from.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.– John 15:16 NIV

That is my bottom line.  God chose and ordained me to bear lasting fruit.  Out of all the millions on this planet, He looked around and He saw me and said “I want her on my team.”  Remember those days back in elementary school, when they picked teams for kickball? It felt so good to be chosen by the captain to play for their team!

That is exactly what God has done for you.  He chose you to play for His team.  He chose you to bear fruit that would last.  That is what this verse proclaims!

It takes away the ifs and buts of DMMs for me.  Its not about if I am smart enough, capable enough, outgoing enough, persevering enough, or anything else (fill in the blank) enough!  All we need to know is that we are His chosen ones.  Since He chose us; He will coach us, train us, guide us, empower us, anoint us, and use us to bear much fruit in His Kingdom. Continue reading