A Mission Agency Discovers the Fruitful Practices of Movements – Part 2
– By Doug Lucas –
In part 1 we shared how the Lord led our agency to transition into applying the core fruitful practices of disciple-making movements. Here is how God has led us through the transition and into much greater fruitfulness.
Exactly how does this DMM process unfold and what do we ask our team members to do daily? We teaching them how to move into a new area, learn the language and culture, pray a lot, and live in a “conspicuously spiritual” way, while meeting felt needs in the community. Our workers seek to become disciples worth multiplying, anticipating that someone (seekers) will notice. We introduce these “open people” to stories about Jesus and His life. We might mention a passage in which Jesus teaches about honesty and explain that, for this reason, we’re returning a small amount of money that many would consider petty. Then we ask if the individual likes that idea. If the individual responds positively, we ask if the person would like to hear more teachings of Jesus.
The people who say “yes” to these kinds of questions are of the utmost importance to us. They are what some trainers call “persons of peace,” harking back to Jesus’ words in Luke 10, when sending out the 72 disciples. Our workers start three-thirds groups with these interested parties. In those studies, our workers simply introduce a new story from Scripture, then ask questions such as, “What did you like about this passage? What seemed difficult? What does this passage teach us about God? What does this passage teach us about people? If we believe this passage is from God, how should we obey? Who are you going to share this passage with before we meet again? With whom will you tell God’s story or your own testimony?”
Those who are seeking will want to meet again. Those are the people in whom we want/need to invest our time. We repeat these processes until our new “people of peace” become believers, then disciples, then group leaders on their own. Using this simple approach, our workers expect to start groups which multiply. It works in the developing world, and it also is working in the USA.
In one field, our team worked for about 15 years to establish the first beachhead church. Then by introducing DMM principles, they multiplied into seven groups within the next 12 months. In another field (a Muslim land), the group struggled for 10 years with almost no fruit. Upon beginning to apply DMM principles, they had five new groups launched (and multiple baptisms) within the first year. In yet another field, our workers weren’t even sure how to begin for the first five years. Upon implementing simple DMM practices, in the next 17 months, they saw 112 groups begin with more than 750 individuals attending weekly. During those 17 months, 481 of those new followers were baptized, and many of those are already discipling others.
Now, some years later, that field has seen groups multiply over 16 generations (the original group has had great-, great-, great-, great- [to the 16th generation] spiritual grandchildren). This movement has grown to the point that as of the end of 2017, 3,434 people meet in these groups. During May 2018, 316 people gave their lives to Christ and were baptized, bringing the total added in early 2018 to 1,254. Also during May 2018, 84 new groups sprang to life, making a total of 293 groups so far during 2018.
As a whole, our workers worldwide have seen a major increase in fruit since transitioning to DMM practices. (See accompanying graphs.) During 2018, God raised up 1,549 new simple churches, with 5,546 baptisms, and a combined attendance (as of the end of 2018) of 41,191 souls. God is at work through the 278 Team Expansion missionaries in some 40 countries.
In years past, we’ve heard some horror stories about transitioning to DMM models from the traditional, “proclamational” (or attractional) approach. Some agencies like ours have reported that when they changed to DMM approaches, they lost 30 or 40% of their personnel. Apparently, some people don’t like to change. Thanks only to God above, we haven’t yet seen that kind of disenfranchisement. Here are some factors that might be helping us — but keep in mind [disclaimer], these are only guesses, and problems could arise at any time.
- From our early roots, our organization has always treasured innovation. One of our seven Great Passions is, “Creative, strategic perseverance until the results are achieved.”
- We had pushed “extraordinary prayer” from the outset as well. Our first publication was a prayer calendar for our first field. Garrison’s writing just sealed the deal even further. So when DMM practices came along, they seemed culturally appropriate because they were already part of our DNA.
- It was hard to deny the fruit. First, we observed it in the case studies we saw and in the stories told by trainers. But then, a couple of our early-adopting teams experienced similar harvests. How could we argue with God’s blessing on their ministry?
- Several of our senior leaders quickly embraced DMM practices. I, however, wasn’t among them. I wasn’t opposed. But I initially had trouble grasping it. The training seemed too “fuzzy.” It wasn’t until I broke it down into practical, bite-sized steps that I could see it as doable. (See the outcome at www.MoreDisciples.com)
- We purposely decided not to rush people into this transition. We allowed them time – in fact, years. Once they saw fruit among their peers, it became easier for them to transition.
- Stories helped ease the jump. We changed names of people and places — but told plenty of illustrations to convey the reality. Some stories were good news, while others were sobering.
- Senior leaders gently and humbly modeled the behavior for me (their president). But for complete alignment, I had to become personally involved. I couldn’t just teach it. I had to do it.
If your organization or church is considering transitioning to DMM principles, try one or more of these options:
- Listen to the podcasts and read the blog entries at www.MoreDisciples.com.
- Take a “trial” group through the Zume training material at www.ZumeProject.com. (Both Zume and MoreDisciples are free of charge.)
- Read Stubborn Perseverance by James Nyman and Robby Butler.
- Read T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution, by Steve Smith and Ying Kai.
- Read Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love with Jesus by Jerry Trousdale.
- Read The Kingdom Unleashed: How Ordinary People Launch Disciple-Making Movements Around the World by Jerry Trousdale and Glenn Sunshine.
Don’t hesitate to contact Team Expansion for more updates on our journey — www.teamexpansion.org.
In 1978, God called Doug Lucas, a student in Bible college, to bring together a prayer meeting in a dorm room — and that prayer meeting became the genesis of Team Expansion. Since that time, Doug has served as both missionary (in Uruguay and later in the USSR/Ukraine) and Founder/President of this global organization (learn more at www.TeamExpansion.org). Based in Louisville, KY, Doug has a BA in Bible, an MA in Missions, an MBA, and a doctoral degree in Business Administration. In 1995, he created a weekly email/web newsletter www.Brigada.org to provide resources, motivation, and trends in global missions. He’s passionate about multiplying disciples. Toward that end, he and a colleague have launched training websites at www.MoreDisciples.com and www.MissionsU.com.
Edited from the article “Discovering the Fruitful Practices of Movements,” originally published in the November-December 2017 issue of Mission Frontiers, www.missionfrontiers.org, pages 6-11, and published on pages 287-295 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon.