How did you learn to ride a bike?
Did your dad sit you on the couch in front of the TV and say, "Here, watch four hours of the Tour de France. That will do the trick."
You most likely did watch older brothers or sisters ride bike however. It looked fun and if you were like most kids, you wanted to ride too.
Learning to ride bike probably looked more like your dad - or in my case, older brother - running along beside you, one hand holding firmly to the back of your seat to help you balance as you started pedaling and getting the feel of things.
That firm grip was released and those first rides certainly included a crash or two followed by comfort and the encouragement to get back in the saddle.
In short order, you mastered the art and skill of bike riding. You may not be ready to race in the Tour de France but you are more than capable of a ride across town.
You have achieved unconscious competence in the bike riding department.
Our journey toward bike riding stardom highlights the basic training principles that are required to make disciples who make disciples.
We call these the MAWL principle.
Model, Assist, Watch and Launch. This is the basic process through which we all learned to ride bike and it is the model of training that we see Jesus using and later Paul. This basic principle is applied in all good training that leads to actual competence and reproduction, to disciples having the confidence and competence to obey Jesus and make disciples.
Modeling requires us to set the example by actually doing what we want others to do. We see Jesus doing this in his ministry - he is preaching, healing, casting out demons, abiding with the Father, praying, setting strategy. He has taken the disciples with him and they are watching his example, asking questions and asking for deeper teaching.
Nathan Shank in Four Fields of Kingdom Growth comments that "What a disciple does in the first three months of faith, he or she will reproduce throughout their walk. If the disciple is asked to passively observe the work of the church, passivity will likely be the "DNA". If the disciple is expected to aggressively pursue friends and loved ones, reproducing what has been trained [modeled], multiplication is set in motion."
What we model is important.
Assisting requires to release our disciples to actually do what it is we want them to do by themselves. We have to put them on the bike. We assist them but they are doing the work. Again we see Jesus doing this with the disciples. Who is going to feed the 4,000? They are. Jesus is going to assist, but they are going to go out and serve the food. Who is doing all the baptizing? They are. Jesus is there and even gets blamed for the baptizing, but the Bible is clear that it is actually his disciples who are doing the work.
Assisting can quickly shift into watching. For some things, assistance might take longer than others and there is rarely a clear line of when we shift from assisting to watching, but shift we must. Our disciples must recognize our release of control so that they are empowered to do the work themselves.
In Paul's second letter to Timothy he says, "And the things you've heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable people who will be qualified to teach others". Paul is watching from afar, hearing reports and coaching Timothy to continue to do what he is doing.
And of course your disciples will occasionally crash. Like the first time your dad released your seat and you scrapped your knee as you skidded sideways to the ground, those you are training will make mistakes. They will make messes. They will FAIL. And you will have the grace to pick them up, reassure them that they'll be fine and get them back in the saddle.
Don't worry, the kingdom won't fall apart with one mistake. Mistakes are the catalyst for maturity when treated with grace and love and Biblical application.
There then comes a time when we must launch our disciples out to run the race on their own. Jesus launches his disciples despite some of them doubting, to go and make disciples of all nations! We see Paul charging the Ephesian elders to stand up and continue the work without him as he heads back to Jerusalem for one final visit.
MAWL principles are as old as the Bible but our modern teaching techniques which sequester training in classrooms and pews make it difficult to apply them. Knowledge acquisition has in many ways trumped actual application and competence.
And so too often I've simply told people what they ought to do.
I've given hour long seminars. I've preached sermons. I've shared good ideas. But in the end, I've been discouraged by the results. The people I've taught walked away with a head full of knowledge but no real idea how to actually apply that knowledge come Monday morning or no confidence that they actually could.
The MAWL principle is what we see in the Bible. And it just makes sense. Everywhere in life where we want to master a skill, these ideas are the way to master them. If you wanted to become an electrician or a mechanic or a carpenter in the past you apprenticed yourself to a master. Modeling, Assisting, Watching and Launching were just what naturally happened every day that you showed up at the shop and worked alongside your boss.
If we want to see disciples become disciples who can and are making disciples who in turn can and are making disciples, then we must spend more time training with MAWL principles.
Who can you MAWL today?
It was early 2008 when I was first introduced to movement thinking at a world wide gathering for the mission agency I was working with at the time. I was new to the mission field, to church planting and so the week long seminar I attended rocked my world. There were so many paradigm shifts in what I was hearing, so much that was counter intuitive to what I'd done my entire church life in the U.S. It was disorientating at first but it struck a chord deep in my soul.
Church planting movments (CPM), disciple making movements (DMM), the spontaneous expansion of the church - all of it seemed born in the pages of scripture. Reading the case studies of movements happening in Asian and Africa looked like the book of Acts far more than my own church experience. And we we living in a country that was less than 0.01% Christian.
Doing what we'd always done was just not an option.
Over the next several years, we got some great training, had a great coach and dove into our own personal journey of rewriting the paradigms of church that had been embedded in us by a lifetime of North American church culture. I also began reading everything I could get my hands on in order to help me grow in my understanding and practice of all that it would take to see a church planting movement birthed where we were.
The first book that I read over and over again was the book of Acts. It is where everyone should start. But after that I began to find other books that helped me learn what God was doing in the book of Acts.
And so here are seven books that I found helpful on that journey.
These seven books will do much to help anyone interested in multiplication and movement. The paradigm shifts needed to begin to apply the Biblical principles of multiplication are enormous. These books will help you make those shifts.
A few other helpful books:
At every E2E and gospel conversation training that we do, we always start with the Father's heart. If we can help the church dive into scripture to discover God's heart and desires for our world, we have a great place to begin training disciples who will make disciples.
We've turned that beginning session into a worksheet so that groups of Christ followers can discover together the Father's Heart and we want to share that today.
Gather a group of friends. Set aside an hour and work through this discovery study. And then begin to pray and dream into the final question.
You can work through the study below or download the worksheet HERE.
Assignment: Together with a group of friends, read each passage below and write a simple summary of what the passage reveals about God’s heart and desire for our world.
Finally, work through these two questions together.
And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Steve Smith discusses what a disciple making movement (or church planting movement) is, and how to help it maintain its health in terms of biblical orthodoxy and biblical morality.
Helpful books by Steve Smith:
Start working toward catalyzing a movement in your neighborhood with Zume.
As I interact with people at E2E training events and in churches I've begun to realize that there are a number of identifiable reasons that Christians are not sharing the good news of Jesus with friends, family members and strangers.
We aren't Christians.
Sometimes as we are talking with someone who calls themselves a Christian it becomes clear that they aren't. They are what Dean Inserra calls a "cultural Christian" and while they identify as a Christian in word, it is more so as a default. They aren't an atheist or a Muslim and their family went to church occasionally as a child so they must be a Christian.
But they aren't trusting Jesus for anything really, let alone salvation. And of course they are not sharing the gospel with anyone. So while they may be offended by the notion, we need to share the gospel with them.
[check out Dean's new book, "The Unsaved Christian."]
We don't know that sharing the gospel is required.
There are others we will run into who genuinely trust in Jesus. They have repented and believed. But somewhere along the lines, they were not discipled into the word or into the knowledge of their role in this world as ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), witnesses (Acts 1:8) or disciple making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).
This is a disciple making issue and we can quickly help them discover the joy of their job to share the love and truth of Jesus with others by taking them into the word of God.
We feel unqualified.
Another challenge we often run into is a sense they are not qualified to share the gospel with others. It's as if they've somehow been trained to believe that sharing the gospel is something that experts do - and they aren't an expert.
This too is a disciple making issue and can be overcome by having this friend turn with us to Luke 8:26-39, the story of Jesus' encounter with the Geresenes demoniac. When finished re-read verses 38-39. This man begs to go with Jesus but Jesus "sent him away saying, "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you." And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him."
Does your Christian friend know more than the man in this story?
This man knows exactly one thing - the before and after story of his encounter with Jesus! No Bible training. No discipleship programs. no Sunday school classes. Not even a Bible in his hands.
After encouraging Christian friends with this story I have them write "I AM QUALIFIED" in the margin of their Bible next to this story as a reminder.
We are afraid.
Another common factor that we all run into is fear. I know of no one who doesn't at times face fear and respond by running away. We know we should have that conversation with our family member or co-worker. We feel the nudge to say something to the stranger behind the counter. But fear creeps in and paralyzes us and we move on without saying anything. "Next time" we think, but next time the same thing happens.
How do we help our Christian friends overcome fear?
These are just a few ideas of how we can help our friends overcome their fear of sharing the gospel.
We don't know how.
Too often, fear comes from feeling unprepared. Many just don't know what to say or how to transition to a gospel conversation. It's not really their fault. If someone asked me to go out and change the alternator on my car, I wouldn't even know where to begin. I think it's under the hood?
We have to take the time to equip our friends with simple tools so that they understand who to share with and know what to actually share. At E2E events we spend one whole morning equipping everyone to identify their relational networks (who to share with) and training them with lots of practice and repetitions to share their 15 second testimony and to share a simple gospel presentation called 3 Circles (what to share).
These are not the end all and be all of sharing the gospel but they will equip Christians to begin to share the gospel boldly and abundantly.
We are just disobeying Jesus.
When it comes to the end of the day, our heart at E2E is to ensure that the only reason that Christians are not sharing the gospel is that they are just plain disobeying Jesus. We want to make sure that no one we connect with has any excuse. We want to see everyone everywhere equipped, trained and discipled into a life of sharing the good news of our Lord with anyone, anywhere, any time!
And if you'd like to hear some of these ideas through a little different - and much more powerful lens, find an hour to listen to Dawson Trotman's sermon, Born to Reproduce.
Dawson Trotman - Born to Reproduce [Listen Now]
The Gospel of Mark is an action packed biography of the life of Jesus. The very first chapter begins with John the Baptist preparing the way, Jesus getting baptised and then heading into the wilderness for forty days of fasting and temptation from Satan.
By verse fifteen Mark jumps straight into ministry as Jesus comes into the region of Galilee announcing, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Jesus calls the twelve to follow him at the sea and then heads into the town of Capernaum where he preaches in the synagogue, heals a man with an unclean spirit and later heals Peter’s mother-in-law.
Verse 28 tells us that “immediately his fame spread everywhere throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.” Before the day is out, people are lined up at Peter’s door wanting to see Jesus, to be healed and to be set free from demons. I imagine this went on late into the night.
Not a bad first day of ministry. Exhausting let’s assume, but good.
If we were to stop the story there and pretend we didn’t know what Jesus did next, how would we finish the story?
I think I would probably sleep in the next morning. It was a long, hard day of ministry and I’d need to be good and rested up. Once I did get up, I’d probably start looking for a big hall to rent knowing that the crowds are back. I’d maybe print up some flyers to let everyone know when and where we’d be meeting again and I’d encourage everyone to invite all of their friends.
But of course this isn’t the path of Jesus.
He rises very early in the morning to head out and spend some time in prayer with the Father (verse 35). When his disciples find him, all excited about the crowds that are already forming (verse 37), Jesus’ response must have seemed just a bit counter-intuitive. “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out (verse 38).”
And that is exactly what Jesus did. “He went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons (verse 39).”
From the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus defaults toward going. We see this over and over again in the ministry and teachings of Jesus.
Here are a few examples from the book of Mark:
Jesus prepares the disciples to go and expects them to go (Acts 1:8). It is his prayer that as he has been sent into the world, he will send his disciples into the world as well (John 17:18).
And the commission given to his disciples in Matthew 28, “to go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything he had commanded”, is the strategy of Jesus.
Making disciples who make disciples is His plan A.
Jesus promised he would build his church. We are to go and make disciples.
We are to be church. To do that, we must gather. It is the example that the first church gives us (Acts 2:42-47; Acts 4:32-37) and is clearly taught in scripture (Matthew 18:20; Hebrews 10:25; Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 4:11-13).
But the purpose of church is not to gather. The purpose is to gather so that we can scatter, so that we can go and make disciples, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ and make him famous all over the earth.
Jesus’ invitation to us is to follow him. And Jesus is on the move.
So let’s go.
Moran explores a number of topics through the lens of the paradigm shifts made at his church in Kansas City. One of the elements that Shoel Creek Church has adopted is the use of Discovery Bible Study (DBS) for their weekly groups.
Who can lead a DBS?
We commission both doubters and worshipers to facilitate these groups. Our comfort level comes from two places. One, Jesus showed no anxiety when He commissioned both groups to take His mission forward. And two, we make the Bible the authority in these groups, so we aren’t leader dependent.
Why DBS is helpful for those with little Bible experience?
We have discovered that when you have people who are inexperienced in the Bible, staying in one simple passage makes their initial experiences comfortable rather than making them feel dumb. When a flurry of Bible passages starts being tossed around, they shrink from the discussion and try to find a place to hide. The tragedy is they may never come back.
We also want our facilitators to understand that this is a process of discovery. People buy into, believe, and act on their own conclusions far more than the conclusions given to them by other people. The group is designed for people to hear from God themselves, so the idea of teaching or telling people what to believe about the passage doesn’t belong in a Journey (or Discovery) Group.
Thoughts about facilitating a DBS
Many facilitators have the gift of hospitality and love having people in their homes. They may unintentionally hinder the flow of the generational growth of the gospel with this gift. If every person in a group is to be seen as a potential disciple-maker, facilitators must not do anything that others think they can’t do.
Another important shift is shared facilitation. If one facilitator is still doing all the facilitation after the third group meeting, he or she is doing a bad job! The process is so simple and repeatable that after being in a Journey/Discovery Group a few times, it is simple to ask the seven basic question and bring the accountability piece to the table. So, in effect, our facilitators are facilitator coaches.
Dependency is a subtle and evil issue. The hard truth is that many of us love spiritual leadership because of the dependencies that it creates. Often others’ dependency on us gives us purpose and meaning. It can even provide a diversion from our own pain as we help others deal with theirs. In the guise of wanting to follow Jesus, we inherently stunt people’s growth by teaching them to depend on us, and we create unnecessary stress on ourselves.
The more we do for people the worse off they are. It is no wonder we have a lethargic church in the West. Most of what flies under the name of ministry is a subtle codependent relationship between leaders and followers: leaders who need to be needed and followers who want someone besides themselves to be responsible for their spiritual journey.
Group members often share by mentioning to friends that they learned something while reading the Bible. Since these group members are coming from pre-Christian relational networks, this mention creates a conversation, one that can lead to replication. When friends learn that someone is in a group reading the Bible, and no one is shoving religion down their throats, it piques their interest. Some might even want to join the group. This is where the DNA of replication begins. Groups need to multiply, not grow.
The Bible is the authority in the discovery process, so no need exists for a subject-matter expert to explain it to people. God’s Word is not being taught, but read and obeyed. God is the teacher leading people to Jesus (John 6:44–46).
When a friend asks to join, a facilitator can suggest that, instead of adding to this group, which will further create time issues, start another group. This is a winnable argument, because the process is so easy anyone can do it. Just do what has been done in the initial group.
There is no traction in the spiritual journey without getting your fingerprints on the Bible.
In last week's article, I said that everyone, everywhere is being discipled by something. The dominant messages in our lives will shape our worldviews, beliefs and thus, the way we live our lives.
So what do we do about that?
We have no power over the shaping but we do have the power to chose what will shape us.
We have a choice. Our world is filled with messages but we decide what messages we allow ourselves to be exposed to and shaped by. And the choice we must make as followers of Christ is to immerse ourselves in the word of God.
It is not so much that we must shield ourselves from every message in the world but that we must top load with scripture, worship, prayer, listening and fellowship. When we do this, when the word of God becomes the dominant message in our lives, then we allow the Holy Spirit free reign to use the word of God as the filter through which all other messages flow.
A friend of mine once shared the story of his interaction with an older saint. He was worrying about raising his children in an increasingly secular world to which this older sister in Christ told him, "Honey, just make sure that the melody of Jesus is strong in their hearts. Then everything of this world will sound off pitch and ugly."
The Melody of Jesus
One of the primary ways that we can develop the melody of Jesus in our hearts is by immersing ourselves in the story of Jesus.
As we daily spend time in God's word, reading it and identifying the ways in which God is inviting us to respond to it, the word will shape us. And as we progressively spend more and more time reading and interacting with the word, we grow in maturity.
In an article I was recently reading about movement catalyst Ying Kai, the author shared the story of one of Ying's disciples:
"One old farmer who had never before planted a church started twelve house churches in two months and 110 in the first year. He began every day reading his Bible from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. Then he worked in the fields until 5 p.m., at which point he went home for dinner and family time. At 7 p.m. he went back out again, and he worked in “God’s fields” until midnight."
This man was immersing himself daily in God's word!
A Plan of Action
I have found a number of tools that help me to move toward a life of immersion in the word of God. There are others of course but these are ways I've learned to live in an immersive and interactive relationship with God's word.
These tools work toward reading 3-5 chapters of the Bible every day. You may need to work toward that - we crawl before we walk - but do get started!
The basic idea is to read large chunks of scripture daily, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal things that He is wanting you to hear, apply to your life and share with others.
Then take time to write down your observation, how you'll apply what your learning and who you can share your insights with that day.
Journaling about these things creates a deeper interaction with the scriptures and a way to record what you are learning from the Lord through the word of God.
Sharing with others drives lessons even deeper, allows you to encourage fellow followers of Jesus and have gospel conversations with those far from God.
Two Helpful Tools
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Persecution is a reality that most Christians around the world face on a daily basis. It was part of the experience of the first followers of Jesus. He regularly warned his followers that they would face persecution.
The apostles, save John, all died martyrs death and the first century expansion of Jesus' kingdom vision was built in the cauldron of persecution. The New Testament is a collection of stories, letters and revelations written by persecuted men to persecuted fellowships of believers spread across the Roman world.
And so how do I as a believer who has been raised in the safety of the North American Christian experience - an experience that is the anomaly of church history when it comes to persecution - help prepare my brothers and sisters in Christ (and myself) for the realities of persecution.
Open Doors CEO David Curray recently said that American church leaders are not teaching a theology of persecution. If this is the case, then from what place can we teach and train our brothers and sisters coming to faith out of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or Atheistic Communism to persevere through persecution.
The reality is that we can’t.
But Jesus can and he has given us His Spirit and the word of God. I was trained with a simple study of God’s word over ten years ago and I recently came across that study and so want to share it today. I hope it will be helpful.
Look through the study below, but I have also put it into the form of a bookmark so you can print it off, cut it up and give several to those you are training. It was created to be used by sitting down with your friend and discovering in God’s word how we can persevere through persecution.
Help your brother or sister apply these truths to their own life and then encourage them to train others!
Persevere Through Persecution Study
Four Strong Legs
God’s Word: God’s word is our final authority.
(2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:12; Psalms 119:105)
Prayer: There is power in prayer - our prayers and the prayers of the saints.
(Hebrews 4:16; 1 John 5:14-15; Romans 8:27-28; Acts 12:1-16)
Evangelism: We share our faith regardless of persecution.
(Acts 14:19-22; Acts 16:25-33; Acts 18:1-11)
Worship: Worship sustains us in persecution; use songs, memory verses and prayer.
(Acts 16:19-25; Psalms 115:2-3)
It is not my desire to be sensational with the title of this article. I'm not sure that I actually believe that "church planting" is not Biblical. It's just that I've been hard pressed to find any examples of the apostles or disciples planting a church.
To be sure, the church always emerges - Jesus promised he would build his church after all.
But what we see happening throughout the book of Acts seems to be obedience to the great commission, not church planting. As disciples are made -- disciples who are equipped to immediately obey Jesus and to make disciples themselves -- the church always emerges.
There is an adage bouncing around the West that says, "Planting churches is the best form of evangelism." But does that not fly in the face of both the final command of Jesus and the example of the New Testament church?
It would be wise to try to emulate the teaching of Jesus and the example of His first followers before we move on to other methods.
I've spent the last few months digging into the emergence of the church in Thessolanica. Timothy observed a church a few months after Silas and Paul's initial visit in Acts 17 when he was sent to check on the disciples they had left behind. But the question is, did Paul plant the church in the three sabbaths that he was there?
I can't find any evidence in the Biblical record but a church had certainly formed!
As I read through the book of Acts, church formation seems more a natural by product of disciple making than vice versa.
When you plant a seed in the ground it naturally sprouts and grows into a plant.
I'm convinced that if we make disciples, we will get church. I'm not convinced that by planting churches we automatically get disciples.
And disciples are what Jesus commanded us to make. They were His plan A.
Some of this is recognizably, just semantics. But there is an important distinction to be explored. If our church plants (and all churches really) are not producing disciples who are capable of making disciples, we may need to ruthlessly evaluate our methods in light of scripture.
Before you write this idea off, I'd like to invite you to look at the establishment of the Thessalonian church. Feel free to use the pdf study below to explore for yourself how one of the healthiest of New Testament Churches came to be.
Establishment of the Thessalonian Church 4 Fields DBS *
(and Facilitator Notes)
*(You will need to be familiar with the Four Fields Framework before you begin the study - Learn More)
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