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

Within three months, thirty of his neighbors had become believers in Jesus….

One of the best resources to learn about DMM/CPM is free.  It is the doctoral dissertation that David Hunt wrote about how he was used to catylize a DMM/CPM in East Africa.

When he was twenty-two years old, Ibrahim turned from being trained as a sheikh to becoming an ardent follower of Jesus. He was so thrilled that he had ―found the truth‖ that he could not stop himself from telling others about it. First he led his wife to Christ, then his cousin Eyobe. Within three months, thirty of his neighbors had become believers in Jesus, creating no small stir in his Islamic community where his father was the current sheikh. Needing to band together, this small group of believers met regularly to support each other, study the Word together, worship their new-found God, and talk about how to reach still more. Ibrahim and Eyobe met regularly with the local church planter for discipleship, but the church planter was not regularly in the village and did not lead any church services. After a few more months, Ibrahim had a passion to take the ―truth that he had recently discovered to the next community so he took his cousin Eyobe and began to look for an open listener in the neighboring village. After initial resistance it was the sheikh of that community who first responded to the gospel, and through his witness a new community of believers quickly emerged. Ibrahim and Eyobe moved on to the next community where again God moved and a church was born. Eyobe planted three churches in less than twelve months because no one told him he couldn‘t! He did the thing that naturally came out of the passion of his heart to share Jesus with his community and those around Him. Today these communities of believers are continuing to grow and mature as the people learn how to become obedient follow of Jesus.

David Hunt

      Church Multiplication in East Africa

What are you willing to do?

I sat in a room of about forty church leaders gathered to hear one of the crosscultural missionaries I work with talk about church planting movements in Asia. He’s been in the middle of the action for over a decade. He knows how to mobilize new believers to share their faith and plant churches. This man told us that one of the key elements of a church planting movement is to ensure that every new believer has a simple way of immediately sharing their story and the gospel with friends and family.

The church leaders wanted to dissect his model of evangelism. They wanted to discuss our cultural context. They wanted to go deeper. They wanted to lead this brother into complexity and abstraction where we felt safe. He listened for a while and then asked patiently and repeatedly, “But who could you share the gospel with this week? What are you willing to do?” We were the ones with the theological degrees, the ministry experience and the resources. He was the one with the new believers and the new churches.

from Movements That Change The World
by Steve Addison

Billy Graham on Discipleship

the leading evangelist in the world today, Billy Graham, recognizes the tremendous potential of this plan when used properly in the church. In response to the question “If you were a pastor of a large church in a principal city, what would be your plan of action?” Mr. Graham replied: “I think one of the first things I would do would be to get a small group of eight or ten or twelve people around me that would meet a few hours a week and pay the price! It would cost them something in time and effort. I would share with them everything I have, over a period of years. Then I would actually have twelve ministers among the laypeople who in turn could take eight or ten or twelve more and teach them. I know one or two churches that are doing that, and it is revolutionizing the church. Christ, I think, set the pattern. He spent most of his time with twelve men. He didn’t spend it with a great crowd. In fact, every time he had a great crowd it seems to me that there weren’t too many results. The great results, it seems to me, came in this personal interview and in the time he spent with his twelve.”

from The Master Plan of Evangelism (1963)
By Robert Coleman

The best work is always done with a few….

We should not expect a great number to begin with, nor should we desire it. The best work is always done with a few. Better to give a year or so to one or two people who learn what it means to conquer for Christ than to spend a lifetime with a congregation just keeping the program going. Nor does it matter how small or inauspicious the beginning may be; what counts is that those to whom we do give priority in our life learn to give it away.

from The Master Plan of Evangelism
By Robert Coleman



The Acid Test…

Here was the acid test. Would his disciples carry on his work after he had gone? Or what might be even more to the point, could they do as good a job without his bodily supervision as they could with it? This may sound like asking too much, but the fact is that until this point was reached in their Christian nurture, Jesus from a purely human point of view could never be sure that his investment in their lives would pay off for the Kingdom. If the disciples failed to impart his Spirit and method to others who would keep this work going, then his ministry with them all these years would soon come to naught.

from The Master Plan of Evangelism
By Robert Coleman


The Master’s Plan

This answers the question of how it is to be done, but it is necessary now to understand that this method can accomplish its purpose only when the followers practice what they learn.

It did not matter how small the group was to start with so long as they reproduced and taught their disciples to reproduce. This was the way his church was to win—through the dedicated lives of those who knew the Savior so well that his Spirit and method constrained them to tell others. As simple as it may seem, this was the way the gospel would conquer. He had no other plan.

from The Master Plan of Evangelism
By Robert Coleman

Re-reading The Master Plan

Everything that is done with the few is for the salvation of the multitudes.

When will the church learn this lesson? Preaching to the masses, although necessary, will never suffice in the work of preparing leaders for evangelism. Nor can occasional prayer meetings and training classes for Christian workers do this job. Building men and women is not that easy. It requires constant personal attention, much like a father gives to his children. This is something that no organization or class can ever do. Children are not raised by proxy. The example of Jesus would teach us that it can be done only by persons staying close to those whom they seek to lead.

from The Master Plan of Evangelism
By Robert Coleman

Lessons from one of the first CPM’s in Cambodia

Five years ago I watched a little youtube video that completely changed my life and redirected my approach to ministry. This is that video:

The video introduced me to the idea of Church Planting Movements (CPM), or rather the development of Disciple Making Movements (DMM) that lead to Church Planting Movements. I got the book that was behind the video (Church Planting Movements by David Garrison) and it started a major paradigm shift in my thinking. One of the CPM’s in Asia mentioned in at the beginning of the video was started by a Southern Baptist missionary in Cambodia named Bruce Carlton. Here is what David Garrison says about the DMM Bruce started in Cambodia:

Instead of planting a church himself, as had previously been his custom, the missionary began a mentoring relationship with a Cambodian layman. Within a year, he had drawn six Cambodian church planters into his mentoring circle. In 1993, the number of Baptist churches grew from six to 10. The following year, the number doubled to 20. In 1995, when the number of churches reached 43, the Cambodian church leaders formed an association of like-minded churches which they called the Khmer Baptist Convention (subsequently changed to the Cambodian Baptist Convention). The following year, the number of churches climbed to 78. In 1997, there were 123 Baptist churches scattered across 53 of the country’s 117 districts. By the spring of 1999, Baptists counted more than 200 churches and 10,000 members.

I have 21Wed2NI6-Lsince read much about CPM and DMM, but wasn’t aware that Bruce Carlton had written anything on the subject. Therefore when I came across a book written by him (Amazing Grace: Lessons on Church Planting Movements From Cambodia by R. Bruce Carlton) I had to get a copy. Unfortunately, the book is not available in digital format and is out of print, but used copies can be found.

The book is certainly not a textbook on DMM or CPM. It is really just a book about his experiences from his 7 years as a missionary in Cambodia. However, that 7 years of ministry resulted in an amazing harvest of souls and numbers of churches planted, and I felt there must be some nuggets of wisdom hidden in those stories. I was not disappointed. Three characteristics of DMM that leads to a CPM came through loud and clear as he told the stories. (1) He recognized the need to focus not on doing ministry or planting churches himself, but rather on discipling a few men and women who would become the church planters and who would disciple others in the 2 Timothy 2:2 paradigm of ministry. In other words, his focus was on multiplication through making disciples that make disciples. (2) His emphasis on prayer as the only way to find those people to invest his life in (what some CPM practitioners call “persons of peace” based on Luke 10). (3) His emphasis on obedience based discipleship and involving the disciple in hands on practice. Teach something. Wait for the disciple to put it into practice or teach it to others. Then teach some more. I will just place some quotes from the book that will give you an idea of what made all the difference and resulted in an amazingly fruitful ministry.

In early 1993 I had the opportunity to sit at the feet of a man who, in a sense, would become my mentor for the next several years. While in my home one day, this man spoke the following words of wisdom to me, words that would reshape and refocus our entire approach to church planting in Cambodia. He said, “Most people working cross-culturally usually ask themselves, ‘How can I reach these people with the gospel?’ This question narrows their vision and places the responsibility of the enormous task on their own shoulders, as if they were the ones who had to do it all. What we should ask ourselves is, ‘What is it going to take to evangelize these people?’ This question broadens our vision and opens new opportunities in that we no longer carry the burden by ourselves. We realize that there are more resources out there than just us. One key is figuring out how to multiply yourself. If you must plant every church yourself, in a good year you may be able to plant three or four churches. However, if in that one year you multiply yourself in the lives of three or four men, they may be able to start three or four times more churches in one year.”

and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses

entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
2 Timothy 2:2

I soon began to pray, “Lord, raise up some men and women in whom I can invest my life — those who have the desire to reach their own people with the gospel of hope and who have the burden to plant Cambodian Churches.” I did not know what God was going to do. I did not know from where God would call those whom I could mentor, but I tried to keep the faith that God in His wisdom would provide. I prayed, “Lord, I only want to work with the men and women whom you have called for this task…. I will not actively seek out those for this task. Lord, send them to me.” Within several months, the Lord raised up the first man.

The first man the Lord raised up for Bruce to disciple was a man named Rith.

Each week, I went to Rith’s home, and our studies focused on one step in the church-planting process. I always instructed Rith that before he could learn the next step in the process he must teach the material to another person. From the beginning, I tried to instill the concept of 2 Timothy 2:2 into Rith’s life.

I am not criticizing other cross-cultural workers, but I am reflecting on a truth that God revealed to me about my own life and ministry through my work with Rith. For example, in the beginning I sometimes treated the Khmer believers as children who were not capable of making decisions. I also expected them to consult with me about where to start new churches and became upset when they did not do so. I have witnessed many such paternalistic patterns in cross-cultural work and found none of them ever to be truly successful. I had to abandon my paternalistic patterns of dealing with Cambodians. This involved daily checks on my words and actions as I worked alongside the Khmer people. This is a continuing process. As I checked my words and actions, God did teach me increasingly more about the capabilities of the Khmer believers. Consequently, I shared with Rith another vision I had for the ministry in Cambodia. The vision was that every church birthed out of our church planting ministry would be birthed and led by Cambodians….. To this day, every Khmer Baptist Church started in Cambodia through this church-planting ministry or through the Khmer Baptist Convention has been started and led by Khmer men and women.

In 1994, I traveled to Battambang Province to visit churches in that area and to do some work with one of the local church planters working there. When we arrived in Battambang, several church leaders asked me to conduct a baptismal service for them because they did not know how to do it. My conviction was that only national believers should be involved in church leadership, so I refused to baptize the new believers. However, I did agree to teach the church leaders how to conduct a baptismal service. Then the church leaders themselves would be responsible for baptizing their own people.

The common qualification they shared was not capability but availability. These Cambodians have given themselves to God to be used of Him. One of the greatest blessings I received through the ministry God gave me in Cambodia was the realization that the same Holy Spirit who lives and works in my life is the same Holy Spirit who lives and works in in the lives of my Cambodian brothers and sisters. All of the churches that I have been a part of planting through the ministry in Cambodia have been planted by and are being led by Cambodian people themselves.

Some said that it cannot be done this way. They told me that Cambodians were not ready to lead these congregations. They said that the Cambodians were not spiritually mature enough to handle the responsibility. I refused to believe them. Many of these naysayers were measuring the capability of the Cambodian brothers and sisters according to our Western ideas. I saw what God could do and was doing in the lives of so many Cambodian people. I learned that the Holy Spirit does not work according to our Western thinking. The Holy Spirit works as He always has, calling out committed people who make themselves available.

The Genius of Ying Kai

Ying Kai was the missionary who started a Church Planting Movement in a closed Asian country that resulted in 1,738,143 new baptized believers and 158,993 new churches in a 10 year period. The complete story and unique approach to ministry is detailed in T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution by Kai and Smith. Kai’s entire approach to ministry is worthy of study, but I want to just highlight one thing Kai did that probably did more than anything else to propel his movement to success of Biblical proportions (book of Acts).

In all of his discipleship, Kai used what is called the 3/3rds process. That means that when he spent time with the disciple or a small group, the time spent together was divided into thirds. If they have two hours together, it is 40 minutes / 40 minutes / 40 minutes. If they have only 30 minutes together, it is 10 minutes / 10 minutes / 10 minutes. No matter how long or short of a time they have together, they always divide the time into thirds and do different things in each of those thirds. The breakdown of the time looks like this:

Look Back (1/3rd)

1.  Member Care
2. Worship
3. Accountability
4. Vision Casting

Look Up (1/3rd)

5. New Lesson

Look Ahead (1/3rd)

6. Practice the Lesson
7. Goal Setting and Prayer

Kai says that the most important parts are the bold red parts. At the end of the lesson they set goals concerning who they are going to share the gospel with and pray. The following week they discuss how they did with that goal (in a non-judgmental loving accountability). He always casts vision with a story or a scripture passage, and in the final third they practice the lesson or gospel presentation so that they can teach it to others.

Kai says that these red parts are the parts we are most tempted to eliminate when short of time, but they are the most important part. Consistent goal setting, practice, vision casting and loving accountability are the only way to get to multiplication. A typical Bible Study in the American context would include 1 (Member Care), 2 (Worship) and 5 (New Lesson), but leave out the most important parts that lead to multiplication. And of course, that is exactly what we see happening in a typical American Bible Study… no multiplication. Kai says that if you have to cut short some part, trim back anything but the bold red parts. This 3/3rds process was passed down from generation to generation of believers and became part of the DNA of the movement.

The genius of Ying Kai was the 3/3rds process. There is much more to T4T that is worthy of study and I don’t want to oversimplify the process, but the cornerstone of T4T is this 3/3rds process. By strictly adhering to this process, multiplication is kept front and center in a way that can lead to the birth of a movement. T4T has been adopted (with appropriate contextualization) on just about every continent in a variety of languages / religions / people groups with amazing results.

The Importance of Obedience Based Discipleship

In this video (part 2, see part 1 here) Jerry Trousdale (author of Miraculous Movements) covers counter intuitive aspects of Disciple Making strategies. Some highlights for me were:

  • discussion of the importance of obedience based discipleship (starting at 18 minutes)
  • This is what a Discovery Bible Study looks like…” (starting at 24.5 minutes)
  • David Garrison is the author of Church Planting Movements.  David and I were together comparing notes as he was writing his new book A Wind In The House of Islam.  As we compared our data, we realized that from Indonesia to Africa and all over the world the same thing is happening.  And then David said, You know Jerry, since I wrote Church Planting Movements people often ask me to come and see the movement that is happening where they are.  And often times I’ll go and discover that it is not really a movement, because it is not really multiplying rapidly.  It is more like church growth on steroids.  It’s good, but its not really a movement.  You know what is the one thing that makes the difference, the one thing that makes the difference between a church planting movement and church planting on steroids?  It is obedience.  When you have the obedience [based discipleship] DNA, you get movements, but when you don’t have it you can have good church planting but you’re not getting multiplication because you’re not having the dramatic transformation.”  (from 34 to 36 minutes in)

Now the side benefit of this is, that this makes enormous numbers of disciples” (starting at 29 minutes)

Replication and multiplication happen very naturally” (30:30 minutes)

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.

DMM vs. T4T

Two approaches to Church Planting movements have emerged.  When I was just beginning to learn about CPMs, I learned about both and since the whole CPM paradigm in general was a new way of thinking, it took me some time to really sort out the difference between the two different approaches to Church Planting Movements.  The first is DMM (Disciple Making Movements) pioneered by David Watson in India and now being used extensively around the world by several organizations, especially CityTeam.  The book Miraculous Movements by Jerry Trousdale is an excellent introduction to this approach, as well as Contagious Disciple Making by David and Paul Watson.  The second is T4T (Training For Trainers) pioneered by Ying Kai in China and explained in the book T4T: A Discipleship Re-revolution by Ying Kai and Steve Smith. Both have been extremely effective and have much in common, but also have some significant differences. This little video is an excellent explanation of the two approaches.

For those interested in a more in depth analysis, Ted Esler’s article Coming to Terms With Two Church Planting Paradigms is also a good analysis.

Discipleship in 3 Simple Steps (Part 3)

Yesterday I promised that I would explore further the issue of questions and their power.  As I was investigating this some time ago, I somehow ran into the discipline of Coaching.  I confess that I had heard the terms Life Coach or Executive Coach, but I didn’t really know what it meant.  I assumed it meant a mentor, but as I was reading on the issue I discovered that is not at all what a coach is.  Coaching is a fairly new discipline that has some similarities to counseling, but is focused not on problems, but on healthy people who want to move forward.  Sometimes healthy people just get stuck, and don’t know how to move forward toward greater productivity or effectiveness.  This is what coaches specialize in, and there is a growing number of Christian coaches who apply this discipline to the Christian life and ministry.  Tony Stolzfus is one of the best in that category, and I’ll be quoting extensively from one of his books in this article.  When I read his book Leadership Coaching: The Disciplines, Skills, and Heart of a Christian Coach, at many points I felt like I was reading a textbook on discipleship.  He used the language of Coach / Client because he does this for a living and charges a fee much as a counselor does, but what he is really doing is discipleship.

The secular coaching community often has a very “new age” feel to it, with the presupposition that you have everything within you to be a success, you just need to draw it out.  And the way the coach draws it out is through asking questions.  Christian coaches recognized the kernel of truth in that and endeavored to separate the kernel from the husk.  Christian coaches start with the presupposition that as a believer, you have the Holy Spirit living in you, and He is there to speak to you, and lead you and guide you into a life of greater holiness and spiritual effectiveness.  He is always speaking, but we are often not listening.  The Christian life or ministry coach asks you questions to help you discover what the Holy Spirit is saying to you, and then asks you to decide what you will do about it (does that sound familiar?).  At the center of this is this basic truth:

Change is more a function of motivation than information.

That is a paradigm shift.  Our Christian Discipleship programs have historically been heavy on education, with a curriculum or using a book to study together.  Christian education is an obvious necessity, but the problem I see in the American Church (I currently live in a foreign country but attend an American Church) is that we have far more information than obedience.  What we need is life change, not more theological knowledge.  Our American Church system has pretended that if we just preach good expository sermons and teach solid doctrine, it will lead to spiritual maturity.  But that is clearly not true.  Some may indeed assimilate that information into life changing action, but many (most?) do not.  So the question for discipleship is how to bring about life change in accordance with Biblical truth.  The discipline of Coaching has something to teach us about discipleship.

A mentor gives advice, but the person receiving the advice may not be motivated to do what they mentor is telling them.  They may even know the mentor is right, but if they are not motivated to make the change, it won’t happen.   Tony says,

Most of the time we have a pretty clear idea of what God is asking of us.  God initiates change in our lives — He has a personalized change agenda for us and is always speaking and arranging circumstances to bring it to our attention…. when we believe the most important factor in change is motivation, we ask questions and encourage people to come up with their own solutions, because we know that buy-in and motivation are highest for steps that we develop and choose on our own…. Coaching prioritizes buy-in and motivation over giving people the right solution.”

And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as his anointing teaches you about all things…. abide in him.”  I John 2:27

The gulf between God’s holiness and yours is larger than the universe.  If we saw a true picture of God’s holiness alongside our own depravity, it would literally kill us (See Exodus 33:18-23).  Yet of all our infinite number of shortcomings, how many is God explicitly prompting you to work on right now?  My experience is that I can count that number on the fingers of one hand.  Of all that God sees in me that needs to change, He only chooses to reveal a few things at once.  Applied to coaching, I call this the See/Say principle: Just because I see something doesn’t mean I’m supposed to say it.  Seeing a problem in a client’s life doesn’t make me responsible to address it.  At any moment, God sees many things wrong, but asks for change on only a few.  Therefore, I need to figure out what things God is speaking to the client about and limit my agenda to match His.”

People are most motivated to act on their own plans and ideas.  Therefore, if you want to maximize growth, you’ll allow people to set their own agenda, because that’s where the motivation is the highest.  Letting the client lead is also an expression of faith in God’s work in the person’s life.  God initiates change.  That means God was at work in this person’s life before a coach ever came on the scene, and He is actively leveraging every circumstance in the person’s life to bring him or her to maturity…. When you believe that God is already at work in a person’s life, it follows that the one who has the best handle on God’s change agenda is that person.  Therefore, the most dependable way to get in line with what God is doing is to let the client set the agenda.”

The purpose in a man’s mind is like deep waters, but a man of understanding will draw it out.”  Proverbs 20:5

People only do what they want to do anyway.  Push people where they don’t want to be pushed and you’ll only get resistance.  So it doesn’t matter at all what you see, or what great insights you have – the only thing that matters is what the client sees…..Once the client sets the agenda, the coach takes responsibility to focus the conversation and push it toward action.  The coach’s job is to help you think more clearly, to push you to go deeper and reach higher, to provide the structure you need to stay focused on the agenda you’ve chosen.

I need to pause here and emphasize that in discipleship there is a place for education and confronting the person with the truth.  There are certainly times when they need more information and they need the discipler to point out a scripture passage that applies to their life.  But if the individual has agreed to be in a discipleship relationship in the first place, it is fair to say that they are desiring to do what God wants them to do.  The discipler has the role of coming along side of them and helping them take the necessary steps, but should not become the authority in their lives.  The authority must remain with the scripture and the Holy Spirit.  The amount of time or attention given to education versus asking questions and letting them set the agenda will likely be proportional to the amount of Biblical knowledge this individual has.  A new believer will need more teaching, and a Bible College graduate will need more coaching type of questions.

Tony’s book then goes on to detail how this is done, what kind of questions to ask, how to recognize areas that need to be probed deeper, and how to help the client set appropriate goals that will move him or her toward the ultimate goal of Christ likeness.  It is not a book about discipleship per se, but has much that applies to the discipleship relationship.  I highly recommend it.

Now for a quick quiz. How many questions did Jesus ask as reported in the gospels (excluding those in the parables)?   See the answer to this question HERE.

Discipleship in 3 simple steps (Part 2)

Yesterday I started discussing three simple questions for effective discipleship, and got through the first two.  If you haven’t read that post yet, either scroll down to do so or access it here.  I won’t waste your time reviewing what was said there.

After my exposure to Mike Breen’s approach I came across a book on discipleship by Ralph Moore titled Making Disciples: Developing Lifelong Followers of Jesus.  Ralph started a church in Hermosa Beach California that grew into a mega church.  He always had a strong emphasis on personal discipleship through small groups and the system he uses was developed there.  He left Hermosa Beach to move to Hawaii and start a second church in a park that grew into another mega church.  But the important thing is that both of those churches gave birth to many daughter churches that gave birth to other daughter churches.  Here is how Ralph tells it:

Now, many miles down the road, I’ve still only personally started one youth group, planted two churches and had a direct hand in multiplying just over 70 church plants from the congregations that I pastored.  Somewhere along the way, the multiplication process got out of control.  Those few churches have become a movement that keeps generating new congregations.  To date we can identify more than 700 church plants.

The interesting thing about this movement is that Ralph does not go to Bible Colleges and seminaries to find pastors and church planters to do this.  Every one of those pastors and church planters has come out of the churches started by the movement, most of them getting saved and baptized and discipled in his church and starting a new church without formal Bible education.  Hmmm…. that kind of sounds like the book of Acts.  What kind of a discipleship program produces that?

He describes their Small group system in the book, and the description is so simple it only takes up only one page of the book.  Each small group (they call them mini-church) does this every week:

  1. Eats a meal together.
  2. Then each person speaks a word or two (yes, 1 or 2 words) that characterizes the previous Sunday sermon.
  3. Then they go around the circle and each person answers this question, “What did the Holy Spirit say to you while the pastor was talking?”
  4. Then they discuss what they will DO because of what the Holy Spirit said.
  5. Then they close by dividing up into 2’s and 3’s and praying for each other.  But they do NOT take prayer requests.  Instead they restrict the prayer time to praying for help to do what they felt the Holy Spirit was telling them to do.  Along with the prayer comes the promise, “If I pray aloud for you in this meeting I am committing to pray for you for the next 7 days.”
  6. The following week, while they are sharing food, they find themselves asking, “What happened to you since we prayed for you?

After describing this system, Ralph makes this statement:

“This simple process is at the center of all our organized disciplemaking efforts.  It has birthed more than 700 congregations in four decades.” 

By now you have noticed that this process includes the first two questions that are at the heart of Mike Breen’s especially effective discipleship process in Britain, but Ralph adds one more that is asked the following week.  So here are the three simple steps (questions) that highly effective discipleship revolves around:

  • What is the Holy Spirit saying to you?
  • What are you going to do about it?
  • The next time you meet you start with the question, “You said you were going to do x.  How did it go?”  (or What has happened since we prayed for you?”)

I see a lot of similarity between Mike Breen’s and Ralph Moore’s approach.  They were developed on different continents without any knowledge of what the other was doing.  But in both cases, they have resulted in exponential growth of churches and movements.  And an impressive part of that is that in both movements, all of the leadership is developed from within, with common lay people getting saved, growing up in their faith, and going on to preach the gospel and make disciples resulting in new churches being planted.

Tomorrow in part 3 I’m going to explore the whole issue of questions, why they are so powerful, and why these questions in particular are so popular.