Movements in the book of Acts

Vance Pitman is someone I only learned about recently. He has planted a church in Las Vegas that has grown rapidly and has led over one thousand people to Christ. He is not a movement pioneer as we understand it in missiology, but he “gets it” when it comes to God doing the amazing multiplication of the book of Acts all over again. This message titled “THEM” from Acts 11:19-26 is good stuff. Enjoy.



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 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

…unless you go first

“What is the one thing you would recommend to someone setting out to start a church?” My advice was, “Don’t do anything until you are sure Jesus is with you. Like Moses, tell the Lord, `I’m not going to take one step forward unless you go first.’ And let that be true for the rest of your ministry!

I made a commitment when I first set off in this church planting adventure that I would not go where He Himself was not going. In other words, I would not be willing to go if He did not go too, and the moment I sensed it was me planting the church rather than Him I would call it quits. This is my commitment to this very day.

from Organic Church

by Neil Cole

The multiplication stopped….

This is a bit of a long quote from Brian Hogan, but it illustrates the importance of small home based groups:

As Time went on, the elders-to-be came to Magnus and me and asked for more frequent big meetings.  They reasoned that everyone enjoyed getting together for corporate worship, dramas, and testimonies, and they found seeing the growing numbers of believers very encouraging.  They also pointed out that the people were giving generously, in accordance with the command of Jesus they’d been taught, and there was enough money coming in to rent a hall more often.  We gave our consent and the Celebration was increased to every other Sunday.  This worked very well and the excitement level rose proportionately.  Eventually, there were enough funds coming in to rent a place every Sunday, and we could tell everyone like the large gathering even though it too far more energy and resources to pull off than a house group.  The house churches continued in the weekdays, and the big meeting became our regular Sunday event.

After a couple of months, however, we noticed something was wrong.  We were meeting with the house group leaders in the regular training meeting and they were taking turns sharing statistics on their groups to give us all an idea how things were going.  A puzzling and disturbing trend began to emerge as we looked at the data.  The house churches had stopped growing, and worse still, had stopped multiplying.  They weren’t shrinking, but all had basically hit a plateau.  The big Celebration meeting continued to grow every Sunday, though.  The more we questioned the leaders, the more it became clear — believers older in faith continued in the small house groups, but the new people were choosing the Celebration as their connection with the church.  No matter how much we consistently stressed participation in the house groups as the only way to be a real part of the Body, we were giving out a stronger, contradictory non-verbal message every Sunday morning.  Since 90 percent of our time and energy and money went into just three or four hours on Sunday morning, the new believers assumed this was our main event, despite our protestations to the contrary.  It was certainly easier to come and be a part of an audience than to enter a home and be discipled by those who knew you well as you learned to be an active participant.

The Mongolian leaders and I were Horrified.  As we prayed about what to do, we kept circling around a solution none of us wanted but that eventually proved to be the only way to get our church back on God’s track.  We came to the painful decision to cancel the Sunday Celebrations.

The next Sunday morning, after the testimony, worship, dramas, and sharing of God’s Word, we had all the house church leaders stand around the outside of the movie theatre auditorium we were renting.  We announced this was our last big gathering for the foreseeable future, and anyone who considered themselves a part of the Body would need to be involved in a house church, as this was the only expression available from now on.  The leaders were arranged by district, and we pointed them out geographically.  We asked everyone to walk over to the leader whose group was closest to their home.  Almost everyone did.  then the leaders took down their names and told them where and when the next gathering was taking place.  And that was it.

The fruit of this drastic action was dramatic.  Within a couple of weeks all of the groups needed to multiply as they were all too big.  The new believers were being taught to obey Jesus at last, and new life flushed through the arteries of the Body.  After a couple of months we resumed Celebration meeting just once a month — and it was good.

I wish I could tell you we’d learned our lessons, and everything went well from this point onward.  But I can’t.  We eventually slid from monthly, to bi-monthly Celebrations.  These gatherings were so popular and fun we once again tried to have them every Sunday — and the same story played out again with similar results.  The house churches were just not sustainable at the center of the church’s life when the big meetings were weekly.

from There’s A Sheep In My Bathtub

by Brian Hogan

be prepared to be uncomfortable….

Brian Hogan’s insight on how developing a DMM requires being comfortable with being uncomfortable:

When I train new church planters headed for unreached people groups, I tell them that if they are successful, the churches that result will make the church planters uncomfortable. If a church takes on an indigenous character, then it will be outside the comfort zone of the apostolic messengers. It will seem weird to the missionaries. Jesus’ Assembly and our daughter churches certainly passed this test. In the midst of our discomfort, we were wild with joy that our “children” had an indigenous Mongolian character that was unique and different from anything any of us had known before. In fact, it was new to the world as well. Jesus had birthed a whole new expression of His eternally living Body.  

From There’s A Sheep In My Bathtub
by Brian Hogan

Things were kept ultra simple. All a leader needed…

Brian Hogan models how to structure a movement for multiplication:

Even though Magnus and Bayaraa led the first groups, they couldn’t keep up with the multiplication, so they began to train leaders for the house churches. The groups began meeting on Sunday, and the leaders met for training at the Alphonce’s apartment on Monday nights. Things were kept ultra simple. All a leader needed was a pencil and notebook to take down the week’s teaching.

Their approach to church planting was based around gathering the believers into small simple home fellowships, or house churches. The believers would gather in an apartment and “do church”; sharing the Lord’s Supper, fellowshipping, worshiping together (not necessarily in song), praying, giving, ministering to each other, and interacting with God’s Word. Magnus and Bayaraa prepared Bible teachings together. They focused on Old Testament stories and simple obedience to Jesus’ commands. On Monday nights the leaders dutifully wrote down every word of the new lesson. These emerging leaders would then use exactly the same lesson during the week in their house church. Empty grocery shelves in Erdenet meant that having the groups share a meal would have hindered reproduction, so they saved that for special occasions. It was this strategy that began bearing fruit.

from There’s A Sheep In My Bathtub

by Brian Hogan

The Model for Developing Leaders

From Brian Hogan’s account of a CPM in Mongolia:

Magnus, Maria and Bayaraa had carefully discipled the first believers and taught them to pass on to their own disciples how to obey Jesus’ commands. In fact, every facet of a walk with God was modeled for the Mongolians. First the missionary would do something while the believers observed. Then they would assist the church planter, doing the same thing together. Finally the missionary would watch while the believer took over the task on her own. Many of those first believers became house church leaders, and Bayaraa and Magnus modeled how to lead these discipling groups. They met as leaders to share how the churches were doing and to learn from the Word insights to pass on in their groups.

From There’s A Sheep in My Bathtub
by Brian Hogan


How to Grow Leaders….

From Brian Hogan’s account of the CPM in Mongolia:

Visitors from Ulaanbaatar also brought a challenge. One missionary was so shocked at the responsibility he saw being given to “unready” Mongolians that he took over the meeting he was visiting. He said that he couldn’t sit by and let Communion be served by new believers. Then he forbade their use of store-bought bread for Holy Communion. His visit and others by Mongolian believers from older churches in Ulaanbaatar brought confusion to the new believers in Erdenet. These visitors accused Magnus and Maria of putting into leadership young believers who would “make mistakes.” “Of course they will!” Magnus responded. “That’s how we learn.” The new leaders did make many mistakes, but they accepted correction, gaining confidence and skill. They benefited from Maria and Magnus’ trust and became competent leaders. As the girls took over the leadership of the house churches, Magnus shifted his focus to training them. Both Maria and Magnus invested much time with the first two “elders-to-be”: Bayaraa and Odgerel, the first male believer. In its first year, the Church in Erdenet had come a long way. Their approach to church planting was based around gathering the believers into small simple home fellowships, or house churches. The believers would gather in an apartment and “do church”; sharing the Lord’s Supper, fellowshipping, worshiping together (not necessarily in song), praying, giving, ministering to each other, and interacting with God’s Word. Magnus and Bayaraa prepared Bible teachings together. They focused on Old Testament stories and simple obedience to Jesus’ commands. On Monday nights the leaders dutifully wrote down every word of the new lesson. These emerging leaders would then use exactly the same lesson during the week in their house church. Empty grocery shelves in Erdenet meant that having the groups share a meal would have hindered reproduction, so they saved that for special occasions. It was this strategy that began bearing fruit. We didn’t visit the house groups. The presence of a Westerner caused new believers to clam up and stifled interaction and worship. Our teammates wisely banned any foreigners, except those who moved to Erdenet and got to know the believers. This was our goal, and we hoped to pull it off by September of 1993. Getting out of Ulaanbaatar was as vital to our success as making sure we didn’t end up living in the Sansar Missionary Ghetto. We had observed firsthand how working in an environment crowded with other missionaries prevents bonding with the locals while we were living in Hardrock, Arizona. We needed to do more than flee Sansar, we needed out of the capital city where the mission community was constantly enlarging.

From There’s A Sheep in My Bathtub
by Brian Hogan

Five Things that Destroy Multiplication

Jean Johnson’s excellent illustration of how well intentioned missionaries can do the very thing that hinders multiplication:

Picture this scenario: After six months of learning the language, Josiah, a missionary from North America, decides it is time to launch a church plant. Josiah takes a walk in the community to think through his strategy. He considers intently the question, “What do I have to offer these people so I can build relationships with them?” As Josiah looks up, he sees several colorful signs posted on a fence that read, “English classes.” His heart beats faster, and he says under his breath, “This is it! I will start an English training center and include teaching the Bible in English.” Within hours, Josiah enthusiastically connects with his supporting churches in North America to request that they send as many English books as possible. Josiah and his wife, Theresa, find the perfect location to rent a building for the English training center—right next to a popular restaurant for expats. “Perhaps the students can practice their English with expats at the restaurant,” says Theresa. Josiah’s wife, who is quite artistic, paints the walls with English idioms to create a fun atmosphere for learning. Josiah busies himself with attaching whiteboards and preparing shelves for the books to add to the learning environment. With each improvement, Josiah and Theresa are filled with anticipation. Upon the first day of English classes, twelve young people arrive, anxious to learn English from Americans free of charge. During the evening—as Josiah and Theresa unwind from a long day—Josiah says, “They even stayed to learn English from the Bible. I think our idea is working.”

There are five elements within the first scenario that makes reproducibility impossible, which I call “the Five Es”: Extraction, Expertise, Expensive, Extraneous (coming from outside the culture), and Exclusive (creating an “us and them” dichotomy). Josiah and Theresa created a ministry atmosphere that was comfortable for them and invited (extracted) people into their cultural frame of reference. This missionary couple relied on their expert skills in English to conduct their evangelism ministry. They spent a significant amount of money and solicited funds from abroad to implement their expensive practices. The setting and activities were centered on the English language and North American culture. (In fact, using English as a medium to introduce people to God may have compounded the local belief that Jesus is the god of the foreigners.) Lastly, their free English classes drew people from existing English classes through which locals were trying to earn a living, exacerbating the “us-and-them” dichotomy.

When the locals who have come to know Christ through the English training center are ready to launch a church plant, they will reflect on what was modeled to them. Questions will begin to bombard their minds: “How will we obtain funds to develop an English center? Who knows enough English to serve as teachers? Will people be drawn to us like they are to the missionaries?” After reflecting on such questions, the local church planters will most likely resolve, “We can’t do this! We will have to ask Josiah and Theresa to assist us.”

from We Are Not The Hero

by Jean Johnson