Why Some Disciple-makers Reproduce When Others Fail (Part 2)

In the second part of the book Spiritual Multiplication in the Real World: Why Some Disciple-makers Reproduce When Others Fail, McNabb covers the essential elements of a successful disciple-making team:

1. The leader champions the vision of Spiritual Multiplication constantly.

McNabb says, “51% of the disciple-makers who scored as effective in our study reported that their leader championed the vision on a weekly basis.” He then goes on to detail specifically how Jesus championed that value repeatedly with his disciples.

2. The Leader Models the Vision of Spiritual Multiplication.

“Our survey asked people if their leaders modeled spiritual multiplication. Many people answered “Don’t know” on this question, which was essentially saying, “Maybe my leader did, but I didn’t see it.” 83% of these people were non-effective. In contrast, 84 percent of effective disciple-makers said yes, they did see their leaders model spiritual multiplication. This set off our software’s alarm bells, indicating we had found something significant.”

3. The church or ministry frequently offers ministry training geared toward helping members multiply.

“We found that 48.5% of highly effective disciple-makers were involved with churches or ministries that offered weekly ministry training. This was true in only 29.8% of non-effective disciple-makers… in multiplying ministries that successfully train people to reproduce, the focus is on apprenticeship to existing leaders, not on classes.”

4. Members of the church or small group engage in giving and receiving regular coaching.

McNabb starts by reviewing stories of Jesus coaching the disciples in real world situation. Then he says,

“Survey participants were questioned regarding how frequently they had received coaching during the three year period our study investigated. Nearly three quarters (74.9%) of those who had not received coaching were found to be non-effective. That percentage dropped to 26.1 percent for those who had received coaching every other month.”

5. The church’s or Ministry’s small groups function as disciple-making teams.

“Highly effective disciple-makers average twice as much time discussing evangelism, praying for the lost, and actually doing evangelism together with others in their small group as non-effective disciple-makers. Effective disciple-makers fall somewhere between the two. The relationship here is clear: increased time doing evangelistic activities together as a team increases effectiveness. Most groups that function well as a disciple-making team define multiplication as their reason for existence. What we call a group is important because its name implies its reason for existence. Bible studies, fellowships, and prayer groups don’t usually multiply. “Cells” multiply. “Evangelism Teams” multiply. “Disciple-Making Teams” multiply. Many churches start small groups for the purpose of assimilation and care. The best groups I have ever seen at assimilation and care, though, are those that form for the purpose of equipping and mobilizing their members. The church is supposed to build laborers, not hospitals.

“Michael Stewart, Pastor of Missional Community at The Austin Stone Community Church, conveys the importance of pursuing mission within the context of community: “This wonderful, beautiful community we find in Acts 2 was a direct result of pursuing Jesus and his mission. At Austin Stone, we have realized that when you aim for Acts 2 community, you will get neither community nor mission. But if you aim to pursue Jesus and his mission, you’ll get both mission and community.”

6. The church or ministry regularly offers evangelistic events.

7. Those seeking to Multiply are Characterized by abundant prayer.

“When David Garrison studied fast growing church planting movements, which grow by training laypeople to multiply, he found that abundant prayer was not just a common element, it was universal in every movement. 22 I was visiting recently with a missionary trainer who spoke of the prayer habits he had witnessed in several church planting movements. He said, “These guys are spending crazy amounts of time in prayer every day.”

Next week will will look at Part 3 of the book, Effective Disciple-making Practices.

Why Some Disciple-makers Reproduce When Others Fail (Part 1)

41tH8lFKLELEvery once in a while you come across a book on a subject that is the product of a life long search, that is born out of many years of experience and research, and bears the marks of one who has the experience to speak with clarity. When you encounter such a book that is also saying stuff that no one else seems to be saying, you’ve got to stop and listen. Why do some Christians make disciples and others do not? Why is it that some people who are trained effectively to multiply and succeed in doing so for a time, go on to fail to reproduce over the long term? This is the subject of a wonderful book by Bob McNabb, Spiritual Multiplication in the Real World: Why Some Disciple-makers Reproduce When Others Fail. The title caught my eye because I am a wanna-be disciple maker. I have the education and the desire to do it, but I am in the camp of those who fail. Could there be some answers here for me? Bob McNabb tells his own story of involvement with an effective campus ministry as a freshman in college. This ministry effectively communicated to him a vision for multiplication, how his life could impact the nations by making disciples that make disciples. They taught him how to connect with unbelievers, how to effectively share his faith, and how to disciple new believers into reproduction. They didn’t just teach him how, but they showed him how and discipled him into an effective life of disciple making. After graduation, he joined that ministry as full time staff with a vision for not only reaching college students with the Gospel, but also developing disciple-makers who would eventually leave the campus and take their disciple-making paradigm with them into the work place and the world. In other words, simply reaching college students with the gospel and discipling them to maturity and reproduction was not enough. The goal was to produce lifetime disciple-makers who would go on to reproduce throughout their lives. Bravo!

There was only one problem. He began to notice that it wasn’t working. Oh, they were very effective at making disciples that make disciples on the college campus, but he noticed that with very rare exceptions, once they left the college ministry and entered the work force, they did not continue to make disciples that make disciples. This nagging question of why it wasn’t working over the long term was the “life question” that wouldn’t let him go. After spending many years studying this issue, this book is the result.The book is divided into three parts:

  1. The Vision and Challenges of Spiritual Multiplication
  2. Effective Disciple-Making Contexts
  3. Effective Disciple Making Practices

Part 1 of this review will focus only on just that first part of the book.  His own observations and experience are supplemented by surveys done and statistical analysis of the results.  I don’t think I can write a more accurate review than to just quote him at length:

“College disciple-making movements provide the nutrients of leadership, vision, encouragement, fellowship, teamwork, accountability, and coaching needed to bear fruit in personal ministry. Unfortunately, most graduates are transplanted into churches that don’t function as disciple-making movements. They fail to provide their members with what they need to continue bearing fruit…. a believer placed in the environment of a healthy local church that functions as a disciple-making movement has a far greater chance of multiplying his or her life than one who isn’t…. when it comes to disciple-making, somehow we tend to think that individuals can go out and do it on their own. This is the root cause of why so many fail….. Laborers don’t do well outside of disciple-making movements because they weren’t designed to live and function that way.”

“Becoming part of a team that evangelizes together is the most important thing you can do if you want to multiply disciples, no matter where you are.”


“As someone who believes in our utter dependence on God for fruit in evangelism, I would like to tell you that praying for the lost is the single most important thing you can do. Based on our research, however, that would not be accurate. Yes, praying for the lost is incredibly important, but remember, the disciples couldn’t even watch and pray for one hour because their spirit was willing, but their flesh was weak. There is a greater liklihood that you will actually pray for the lost and act on those prayers if you are a part of a disciple-making team…. Don’t just join a small group. The church is full of inwardly focused small groups that do very little to help their members make disciples.”

“This debunks the myth in disciple-making that Conviction (believing deeply that I should do something) + Competency (knowing how to do something) = Consistency. The old equation needs to be rewritten: Conviction + Competence + Community = Consistency.

Jesus did not build individual disciples. He didn’t meet Peter before work at the Capernaum Starbucks for a one-on-one meeting and then meet John for a fish sandwich at the local seafood restaurant. Instead, he worked hard to build his followers into a disciple-making team. Jesus’ goal was never to build individual disciples. He built a team and expected them to go build other disciple making teams called churches.”

I believe that the single greatest determining factor as to whether people multiply themselves is not the level of their maturity, the amount of training they have received, the receptivity of the lost in their context or how long they have been discipled. But it is whether or not they are immersed in a disciple-making team. Whenever you find people multiplying themselves, you will find that they are part of a ministry that provides them with certain things like:

  • Top leaders who both cast the vision of multiplying and model it
  • Ongoing coaching or mentoring
  • Macro (large) ministry events that are designed to help the disciple-maker’s micro ministry
  • A ministry culture that expects, prays for, and works together to multiply

If multiplication is taking place, you will find these elements. You will find them in church planting movements, wildly growing cell churches, multiplying campus ministries, and disciple-making churches. Jesus did not just help his disciples grow in maturity and learn ministry skills. Often, that is what we think is involved in disciple-making. Therefore we think we can do it one-on-one over coffee. What we miss is the fact that Jesus built a disciple-making community. A relatively immature Christ follower who is a part of a disciple-making team has a far better chance of multiplying disciples than a mature believer who is separated from a team. Jesus never intended for any of his disciples to try to make disciples solo. Come be part of the team!”

That is Part 1 of the Book. In Part 2 the author gives an overview of the essential elements of a successful disciple making team. We’ll dive into that in our next post next week.

Giving Up Control: Why Movements Are Preferable to Revival (Book Review)

givingupcontrolThis little e-book is available on the Kindle for only 99 cents, and it may be the best money you’ve ever spent.   Author A.J. DeJonge was a staff member with Cru (Campus Crusade) in Australia, and this book details his own journey from the traditional Cru approach of staff led campus ministry to the Catalyzing of student led movements on campus. Although his ministry context is the university campus, the principles that drove this change were derived from the CPM and DMM approaches to cross cultural ministry, and he mentions various authors that anyone with knowledge of CPM / DMM would be familiar with.

One of the counter intuitive practices of DMM / CPM is the necessity of giving up control. In most churches and ministries, the mindset is that control is necessary to prevent heresy and enable growth to maturity of babes in Christ. But control leads to several problems that most of us in ministry are blind to. For one thing, control limits the size of the ministry. If you need a Bible College or Seminary trained man to be a pastor or to plant a church, the growth of your movement will be severely limited. There are a very limited number of them.   DeJonge saw this in his own campus ministry. The growth of the ministry was directly constrained by the number of people they had on staff to disciple students, lead Bible Studies, and organize activities. The ultimate goal of multiplication wasn’t happening, and would never happen unless they had access to hundreds of full time staff (they had 3).

Giving up control is scary. Giving up control means there will be a lower level of quality and professionalism. It means giving people room to make mistakes. In our western business mindset, control is good. If we want to produce a high quality product, we need strict quality control to make it happen. And we want quality. High quality is good. But ministry is not business. The Holy Spirit fills and works through weak people.

Strong quality control can lead to a big ministry, but it cannot produce a movement. Consider the mega church. If you’ve ever been to Willow Creek (or similar mega church), you know that everything is done at a high level of quality and competence. The weekend service is a production, and a very good one at that. It is polished. But it isn’t reproducible. At least not for most of us. There are a few people in this world who have the natural leadership talents and intelligence to take Bill Hybels’ model and implement it in a new city with success. Bill Hybels and Andy Stanley are what business writer Jim Collins would call a “Level 5 Leader”. Since there are very few leaders of that caliber, we will never win the world to Christ that way. Most people who visit Willow Creek will go home saying “If that is what an effective church is, I could never start a church”. High control means low reproducibility.

His own journey into experimenting with the catalytic approach to campus ministry resulted from his own disillusionment with the results of his ministry and his experience of burnout in having to make it all happen. These opened him up to exploring other options, which were at the time being encouraged by the leadership of Cru. In addition, he sort of discovered the effectiveness of the student led model by mistake when he gave his wife permission to develop an international student ministry on the side IF she only gave it 4 hours of her time each week. That necessitated giving control and responsibility for that ministry to the students, and relegated her involvement to a training / equipping / support role. The result was a dynamic and growing ministry among the international students that far exceeded their expectations.

DeJonge details in the book how he applied the principles of CPM/DMM to campus ministry. He borrowed the concept of MAWL (Model, Assist, Watch, Leave) from Curtis Sergent and tells stories of how they applied this and the challenges they faced in doing so. It became clear to him that many of their discipleship or Bible study methods were not very reproducible. Church planter Peter Roenfeldt told him:

“When I started teaching church planting to people, I wrote manuals on the topic that became thicker and thicker over time. But the complexity became their downfall, and I realised that if what I want to impart is going to be transferable, it has to be simple. So simple that one could fit them on a bookmark. So now I limit myself to a bookmark and use the Bible for our manual.”

DeJonge took this to heart and applied the same thing to their campus ministry. Roenfeldt also challenged him to think wider and deeper than just evangelism and discipleship. What was the ultimate goal, and how would they get there? He says:

“In Cru we often speak of WIN- BUILD- SEND as a strategic progression for spiritual multiplication and the path to seeing every University student reached with the gospel. But for many years of my staff career, I saw SEND simply refer to the process of graduating students into the workforce as more mature believers. Catalytic methodology is in my mind a sharpening of that focus on SEND – recognising the need for students to be empowered and released not at the point of graduation, but during their University careers.”

How many churches are doing the same thing? So much energy is focused on Bible Studies and preaching and worship services and programs, but where is the reality of sending people out in ministry?

Another core principle of CPM/DMM is to invest time and discipleship energy into those who put the training into practice.   Some DMM practitioners call it “Obedience Based Discipleship”, and wait for the disciple to put what has been taught into practice before teaching the next thing. This principle is seen in the book as well, but possibly not to the extent utilized in most CPM / DMM contexts. The Cru catalytic approach that he was learning (or developing on the fly) was certainly a hybrid of historic Cru programs and practices and CPM/DMM philosophy, and this was one of those areas that they had to wrestle with. In my opinion, from what he described in the book it appeared that this area needed more work.

Along the way, DeJonge faced some significant challenges in the transition. These included questions such as:

  1. How do we staff pull back and get students to step up?
  2. When they did pull back, they made mistakes in how to communicate to the students the new approach
  3. They made mistakes in selecting, retaining, and training leaders. He shares lots of real life experience in this area.
  4. When they did pull back, they had to redefine what their job as full time ministry staff was. What would they do with all the additional time they now had on their hands?

In his 1927 classic The Spontaneous Expansion of The Church, Rolland Allen discussed at length how the fear of losing control hindered the spontaneous expansion of the church that Paul and the apostles experienced:

By spontaneous expansion I mean something which we cannot control. And if we cannot control it, we ought, as I think, to rejoice that we cannot control it. For if we cannot control it, it is because it is too great not because it is too small for us. The great things of God are beyond our control. Therein lies a vast hope. Spontaneous expansion could fill the continents with the knowledge of Christ: our control cannot reach as far as that. We constantly bewail our limitations: open doors unentered; doors closed to us as foreign missionaries; fields white to the harvest which we cannot reap. Spontaneous expansion could enter open doors, force closed ones, and reap those white fields. Our control cannot: it can only appeal pitifully for more men to maintain control. There is always something terrifying in the feeling that we are letting loose a force which we cannot control; and when we think of spontaneous expansion in this way, instinctively we begin to be afraid. Whether we consider our doctrine, or our civilization, or our morals, or our organization, in relation to a spontaneous expansion of the Church, we are seized with terror, terror lest spontaneous expansion should lead to disorder. We are quite ready to talk of self-supporting, self-extending and self-governing Churches in the abstract as ideals; but the moment that we think of ourselves as establishing self-supporting, self-governing Churches in the Biblical sense we are met by this fear, a terrible, deadly fear.

Pastors, missionaries, and Christian workers of all varieties will have to choose between control and greater fruitfulness.

This is not a long book, but anyone interested in DMM/CPM practice will enjoy reading about AJ DeJonge’s journey into Catalytic Student Led Movements. The book appears to be written primarily for Cru staff, but anyone in ministry from pastors to missionaries in any context can learn from this book. It is an illustration of how the principles of CPM / DMM being rediscovered in our generation (previously well known to Roland Allen and John Nevius) can be applied in other ministry contexts.