Why Some Disciple-makers Reproduce When Others Fail (Part 3)

Part 3 of Spiritual Multiplication in the Real World: Why Some Disciple-makers Reproduce When Others Fail gets into the nitty gritty of disciple-making. McNabb also begins to reveal many of the things he learned while leading a disciple-making team in Thailand. He starts off telling a great story about going fishing with a neighbor in Bangkok. He had done a lot of fishing growing up in Alabama, but he was soon to learn that fishing in Thailand was an entirely different experience requiring an entirely different approach. From that illustration he goes on to look at fishing for men from a Biblical perspective. I’ve heard or read many evangelistic sermons / lessons from John 4, but McNabbs treatment of the story of the woman at the well seemed fresh and useful. The crux of his analysis is that before Jesus shared the gospel, he created interest:


He uses the acronym F.I.S.H: Find, Interest, Share, and Help as an outline to the process. Under the Interest heading he has 7 points which I won’t list. But under one of them he gave this excellent of illustration of how to create interest by telling this story from his time in Bangkok”

“Teaw, like most Thais, grew up in a Buddhist family. She came to Christ as a bubbly young freshman at a local college. She had an older brother named Biak. One evening she brought him to a party we were holding. Biak seemed a little uncomfortable being around a bunch of college students because he was a little older. I saw this and immediately went over and struck up a conversation with him. We had gained some clarity by this time about the importance of finding out about people before you start trying to create interest. I began asking him several questions about himself. After getting through a few basic questions about where he had studied and where he worked, I asked him if he had a girlfriend. Immediately, I knew I had struck a nerve. Biak said he had been engaged, but his fiancé had just called it off. I said,“Wow, I’m sorry about that. I’m sure it is frustrating to think you have found the right one and then, bam, it falls apart.” He said, “Yeah, it is.” I said, “Well, it’s better to find out now instead of a couple of years into the marriage.” He nodded his head in agreement. Then I said, “You know, from the number of divorces that occur and the number of couples that aren’t happy after they marry, it looks like very few people marry the right person.”24 Again he nodded in agreement. I went on to say, “And the thing is, nobody stands at the altar and looks at the person he or she is marrying and thinks ‘You are the wrong person.’ Everyone thinks they have picked well and that they will beat the odds.” Biak chimed in enthusiastically, “That’s exactly right!” I said, “The only way you could be sure you are marrying the right person is to know the future or ask someone who does.” Biak replied “Yeah, and nobody knows the future, right?” I answered, “Well, God knows the future and if you know him, he can help you make the right choices.” Biak leaned in, stared right at me, and asked passionately, “How can I know God?” He was saying, “Sir, give me some of this living water.”

He has a section under Interest titled LET THEM SEE CHRISTIANS INTERACTING WITH EACH OTHER IN LOVE. This two page section was worth the price of the book all by itself, but I’d have to quote just about the whole section to communicate it accurately here. Buy the book.

There is so much in this book that I have highlighted, and I’ve only shared a fraction of it here in these three installments. I believe this book is going to quickly become a standard text for disciple-making in evangelistic courses.

“If you asked me six weeks ago how my personal evangelism was going, I would have had to answer, “Not so hot.” But if you asked me today about how it is going, I would excitedly tell you about all that has been happening over the past six weeks. What changed?”

Toward the end of the book he adds this personal note. This relates back to Part 1 where he emphasizes the need to be a part of a disciple-making team, but I want to include it here because this little story is powerful, especially given the fact it is coming from someone I would call a disciple-making expert.

“If you asked me six weeks ago how my personal evangelism was going, I would have had to answer, “Not so hot.” But if you asked me today about how it is going, I would excitedly tell you about all that has been happening over the past six weeks. What changed? I don’t know anything more about evangelism now than I did then, so that can’t be it. I didn’t have a fresh mountaintop experience with the Spirit, so that can’t be it either. What did happen is that a new missional community started meeting in my living room. You see, it had been a while since I was a part of a disciple-making team, and it had taken its toll on my personal evangelism, but now that is corrected. Though I have led missional communities for years, have been a missionary, and can write about all that I have learned, my flesh is still weak. I don’t do well living on mission without being a part of a like-minded community. I suspect you don’t either.

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.

What Made Billy Graham an Outlier among Evangelists?

Currently reading a great book on Multiplication. This little story grabbed my attention for some reason:

“While we lived in Thailand, we had the privilege of having Jim Downing, former Deputy President of the Navigators, come for a visit. While eating breakfast one morning, I asked him the following question: “Jim, you had the opportunity to work with Billy Graham from the early days. You watched his ministry develop over the years. Why do you think Billy’s ministry grew so dramatically while other evangelists’ ministries of that time didn’t?” Jim’s answer was simple. “Billy had the faith to go rent the stadium when others didn’t.” I was speechless and challenged to trust God for more. The spiritual principle is true. “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4: 2). What are you asking God to do with your life? If it’s not intimidating to you, it probably is insulting to God.”


Spiritual Multiplication in The Real World:

Why Some Multiply And Others Don’t

By Bob McNabb

Are We Calling People To The Same Thing Jesus Called Them To?

“After all, Jesus did not call a bunch of fishermen by saying,

“Follow me and I’ll help you grow spiritually.”

He called them to something greater than personal growth. His bid was for them to grow spiritually to the extent that they became fishers of men. They were called into disciple making in order that they might do the works of God—that they would be strong enough to make disciples of their own, who would in turn make disciples of others.”

Making Disciples
By Ralph Moore
Loc 1272

The Single most important thing….

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

John 6:63 (ESV)

I recently re-read Small Groups, Big Impact by Jim Egli and Dwight Marable.  This book is based on a research project that these men conducted to answer the question, what are the factors that impact conversion growth through small groups?  They surveyed over 3000 small group leaders in 21 countries using a survey instrument and interviews to discover the right things that groups should do to be effective fishers of men.  I thought that their findings had applications for DMM / CPM in several respects.  David Garrison found that the first characteristic of CPM’s is extraordinary prayer.  I’ll just lift some quotes from the book to give you a sneak peak into their findings:

The practice that impacts the health and growth of a small group the most is the prayer life of its leader.  If you walk away from this book with only one insight, perhaps it should be this: If you want a vibrant and growing small group, consistently take time to grow in your relationship with God!

The prayer life of the leader correlates positively with the other three dimensions of small group health—Reach, Care, and Empower. Leaders who pray more have groups that are more outward focused. Their groups also experience more community and are more engaged in mobilizing new leadership. But the prayer life of the leader has a particularly strong impact on the evangelistic effectiveness of a group.

the amount of difference that a leader’s prayer life makes on a group’s evangelistic impact is startling. Our research reveals that leaders with a strong prayer life have groups that are more than four times more fruitful evangelistically.

Our research, involving thousands of small groups, dramatically underlines the simple Biblical truth: When we pray, we see God do awesome things! If you want others drawn to Jesus and their lives changed, pray. If you want Jesus’ life flowing to you and through you, draw near to him. Life-giving ministry depends on God and his abilities, not on you and your abilities!

prayer-in-small-groupswe were surprised to discover that the amount of time spent preparing the Bible lesson shows no correlation whatsoever to small group growth. In other words, the leaders who spend five hours preparing the Bible lesson for their groups have groups that grow no faster than the leaders who spend five minutes preparing the lesson! Amazing but true. It does make a dramatic difference, however, how much time the leader spends praying for his small group meeting.

Interestingly, when we asked leaders how much time they spend preparing the lesson and how much time they spend praying for their small group meeting, most leaders told us that they spend far more time preparing their lesson than they do praying for their meeting! Few leaders realize that lesson preparation makes a negligible difference in group health and growth, but prayer makes a big difference. It is much more important to prepare your heart than it is to prepare your notes!

having a vibrant group depends more on God than on you. Your primary role is to tune into him.

we asked small group leaders how much time they spent watching television in the average day. The statistical analysis showed an extremely strong negative correlation between small group growth and the amount of time the leader spent watching television. Most likely this correlation simply means that when we do things that take large amounts of time away from relationship with God and relationship with others—it adversely affects those relationships.”

From Small Groups, Big Impact

by Jim Egli

The crippling effect of dependency

“At one point, I was working in conjunction with a local Cambodian pastor to train some of his members to plant daughter churches. The soon-to-be church planters sat in a circle, and I asked them to share their experiences of why and how they came into a faith journey with Jesus. Their testimonies revealed that most of them began their faith journey because they received glasses, rice, land plots, or employment from Christian organizations. Upon hearing their stories, I knew that their experiences of how they came to know Christ would greatly affect their church planting approaches. As the church planters launched into various areas to plant churches, they began to ask the pastor and me for glasses, rice, land, and jobs for other people as a means to share their faith. The pastor did not have these types of resources readily available. I considered my options and realized that the only way I could keep this church planting process alive was to feed into the chain of unhealthy dependency. I was not willing to create a spirit of dependency around myself. So I declined their requests as well. One by one, the church planters quit when they realized they would not personally receive ongoing handouts and salaries or goods to pass on to potential believers within their realm of ministry.

Despite the majority withdrawal, several of these Cambodian church planters stayed the course. As they visited people and shared about Jesus, a question was repeatedly posed to them: “How much money do you make, and can you get me a job too?” Folk Buddhists among their community perceived the Cambodian church planters as paid hirelings of a foreign organization. Even worse, many Cambodians perceived those who joined the “Jesus religion” as traitors who were lured by opportunity for handouts, money, and jobs.”

We Are Not The Hero
By Jean Johnson
Location 2077

do the opposite…

Earl Nightingale was a entrepreneur and leadership guru of the last generation.  He has hit on exactly the dynamic that is involved in the counterintuitive aspects of DMM / CPM.  There is a reason why this approach works.  It is that the majority is wrong.

“If you enter a market and don’t know what to do, watch what everyone else is doing, and then do the opposite, if you want to be successful. The majority is almost always wrong.”

Earl Nightingale

you could miss out on….

“What I have seen over the last decade tells me that movements are not the mere work of men. They are the work of the Spirit. If God is actually in the middle of movements, then to ignore them means you could miss out on the most significant work of God since the Reformation. Why not take the risk, look over the horizon and ask the Lord to show you what He is about in the world?”

Robert Reach
Movements That Move

A history lesson – what killed a Church Planting Movement

The Baptists and Methodists flourished because they mobilized common people to preach the gospel and plant churches wherever there was a need. The Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Congregationalists languished because they were controlled by well-paid clergy who were recruited from the social and financial elite. Early growth was dramatic for the Methodists – from 2.5 percent of the church-going population in 1776 to 34 percent in 1850, with four thousand itinerant preachers, almost eight thousand local preachers and over one million members. This made them by far the largest religious body in the nation. There was only one national institution that was more extensive – the U.S. government. This achievement would have been impossible without the mobilization of ordinary people – white and black, young and old, men and women – and the removal of artificial barriers to their engagement in significant leadership as class leaders, local workers and itinerant preachers. Unfortunately, the Methodist rise was short-lived. Whereas before 1840 the Methodists had virtually no college-educated clergy among their circuit riders and local preachers, their amateur clergy were gradually replaced by seminary-educated professionals who claimed the authority of the church hierarchy over their congregations. Their relative slump began at the same time; by the end of the nineteenth century the Baptists had overtaken them in numbers.

Steve Addison

Movements That Change The World

Bible College / Seminary training hinders more than helps

The mode of training is also critical, particularly at the earlier levels of training. The problem with a Bible college or seminary-type training is that it uses a classroom-academic methodology that is inconsistent with the model of church that is being planted. The college – trained church planter may often feel uncomfortable with the informal atmosphere of the home gathering or the church under a tree. He or she wants to preach extensively rather than equip the people to discover the truth from God‘s Word for themselves so that they can become mature believers, not dependent on the church planter. The mode and tools of training should be consistent with the expected model of church.

Extractive training should also be avoided if possible. When emerging leaders are removed for significant periods of time from their local community they become an outsider to their own community. They often return from the training (if they return at all) with an outsider (and academic) view of church and ministry, with strange ideas and habits and are no longer able to relate naturally to their people.

On-the-job training is much more effective in terms of rapid church multiplication. This continuous training is done primarily through a discipling/mentoring relationship between the coordinator/trainer and the church planter. It reflects Jesus‘ model of training with the disciples. They were almost constantly with Him.

David Hunt

Church Multiplication in East Africa

There is a ready army of workers

Every believer, specially gifted by the Spirit of God, is to be a minister in the work of the Kingdom. Kingdom work is not the domain of the ―professional trained paid church planter/pastor/leader. In fact, the separation of clergy and laity has perhaps become one of the greatest barriers to the engagement of the believers in the ministry. This unbiblical class distinction leaves most believers with a secondary role in the work of the ministry. Classified as laity or volunteers they are generally expected to serve the professional leaders in secondary functions leaving the important roles to those who are trained, credentialed, and paid.

The criticality of discipling every believer, because every believer is to be a minister using the gifts assigned to them by the Spirit, leaves no one out. There are no spectators. Everyone must be empowered to do what God has ordained them to do.

This fundamentally changes the role of the church planters. They must resist the temptation of doing the work and focus on equipping the new believers to do the work of the ministry. From the very beginning nothing is done by the church planter that could be done by the local believers. It becomes part of the DNA of the new church. The ministry is done by the believers and unless the believers do the ministry it doesn‘t get done. It is an unhealthy church where the church planter or paid pastor is the minister and the people are the spectators, or are relegated to secondary roles of ministry.

When the people are the ministers there is a ready army of workers. The local believers win their neighbors to Christ. The local believers lead the newly formed church including all the functions of church. The local believers minister to the needs of the people in the community. The local believers go out and plant new churches. Rapid church multiplication simply cannot happen through a strategy of ―professional paid ministers. It will only happen when the believers are empowered and engaged in the work of the ministry.

David Hunt

Church Multiplication in East Africa

Muslim Sheikhs as Persons of Peace

Initially in the East Africa project the Muslim sheikhs were avoided. They were considered to be the enemy. As the principle of the person of peace began to take hold, some church planters started to focus on the sheikhs. They were indeed often the spiritually sensitive people in the community. They were influential with the people. Many sheikhs were discovered to be the person of peace to bring the gospel into the community. In one part of the Rift Valley the church planter began to seek out sheikhs with the gospel message. Within three months, five local sheikhs had become believers and were deeply engaged in a discipleship process with the church planter sometimes meeting together several times a week. These five then began to carefully share the newly discovered ―truth with other sheikhs in nearby communities. Within twelve months, seventy-two sheikhs became followers of Jesus. The goal in this area is to see one thousand sheikhs become Christ- followers and then to ―go public. The desire is that the entire community will be transformed through the power of the gospel.

David Hunt

Church Multiplication in East Africa

The Importance of the Person of Peace

“Perhaps no one principle in this strategy of church planting has had such a singularly powerful impact as the principle of finding the person of peace. From a strategic perspective it becomes one of the key elements in this overall process. Many church planters have been freed from the overwhelming burden of an institutional/traditional method of church planting by adopting the person of peace principle.”

“Nekarat is a diligent and committed church planter. For years he worked tirelessly succeeding in establishing thirteen churches throughout his region. By most accounts he was a very successful church planter. But for Nekarat it was not enough. Learning the principle of the person of peace he immediately changed his whole approach and began looking for that special person or family that God had already prepared in each community to receive the gospel message and to open their community to the gospel. Within the next two years seventy new churches emerged in his region.”

David Hunt

    Church Multiplication in East Africa