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An Agency Transition: From Church Planting to Disciple Making Movements – Part 2

An Agency Transition: From Church Planting to Disciple Making Movements – Part 2

By Aila Tasse –

In part 1 we shared how God led us in LifeWay Mission to shift to a new paradigm in mission. Here are some of our challenges, fruit, and keys that have sustained us and brought that fruit. 

Challenges in the Transition

Not everyone agreed with our change in approach. Some people felt what we were about to do was shallow, because it had no focus on church buildings or programs happening at that building.  Some Christians from a historical church background thought we didn’t focus enough on the church as an institution. Some leaders from a theological background felt we were going against traditions the church had kept for many years. Some people working in cities felt afraid that a disciple-making approach would not work to reach urban people. 

We had learned from David Watson the descriptions of elephant churches vs. rabbit churches, which some people considered too critical of traditional churches. Some people accused us of just learning things from Americans, which wouldn’t work in Africa. And some workers just didn’t want to change; they liked what they were already doing. They said, “LifeWay is growing and we’re indigenous. God has helped us overcome all kinds of challenges. Why should we change direction?” Other workers feared losing something. They thought maybe this would become a back door to introduce something they wouldn’t like. 

I needed a lot of patience at that time because not everyone saw things the way I did. I had already pushed back against David Watson and had those arguments. I had already gotten angry with Dave Hunt as he coached me through my experimental steps with applying CPM principles. Others were still wrestling through the paradigm while I was moving ahead with it. One of my top leaders was very resistant to the new model. He didn’t see why we should do that.

When we started shifting toward a CPM approach in 2005, we had about 48 missionaries, working in two East African countries. Twenty-four of them served as full-time church planters; the others served as catalytic bivocational church planters. In 2007, as we were making the shift, a denomination came and took 13 of our workers, from an area where the movement was expanding rapidly. They offered them good salaries and positions. I lost my two top guys, which really hurt. It was also discouraging that within two years the work in that previously fruitful area came to a halt. The years 2008-2010 were quite discouraging because we lost some of our best people during the transition.  

Fruit Since the Transition

Since we shifted to CPM (DMM), we have started focusing on God’s Kingdom rather than our ministry. We no longer think in terms of our name or what’s “mine” (my vision, my ministry, etc.) It’s God’s Kingdom and his work. As we catalyze movements we’re moving away from our needs, and looking instead at Kingdom advance. God has brought marvelous growth in last few years. From our beginnings in Kenya, we are now catalyzing DMM in 11 countries in East Africa. 

Since 2005, close to 9,000 new churches have been planted in the region of East Africa. In one of those countries, the movement has reached up to 16 generations of churches planting churches. In another country, the work among various tribes has reached 6, 7, and up to 9 generations. The Lord has enabled us to engage more than 90 people groups and nine urban affinity groups in this region. We stand in awe of His work in birthing thousands of new churches and hundreds of thousands of new followers of Christ.

We have engaged all of the UPGs in my original vision and gone way beyond that. We’re now talking about reaching 300 unreached people groups as per Joshua Project. We work at it every day, country by country: praying and finding who is least reached and least engaged. 

DMM is not just one of our many programs; it’s the main thing, in the middle of everything we do. Whether it’s compassion ministry, leadership development, or serving the church, DMM is always in the center. If anything doesn’t lead to DMM, we don’t do it.

Our priorities include reaching new and unengaged areas, while sustaining existing work. We’re continually starting, multiplying, and sustaining movements. Before starting ministry in a new area, we do research and prayer walks, as we seek God for his open doors. For sustaining the work, we hold DMM strategic consultations every four months. Country leaders from all over East Africa attend those for ongoing equipping and encouragement.

Keys That Have Sustained Us and Brought Fruit

  1. Prayer has really been my greatest resource.
  2. Staying in the Word of God all the time. What I do is sustainable if it’s based on the Word of God.
  3. Developing leaders. God has really helped me with this and made it clear: it’s not all about me. 
  4. I have always aimed to indigenize our ministry. Local people have to own it. If they own it, it costs me less because it belongs to them. 
  5. Networking and collaboration with people doing the same thing. As long as God helps us make disciples it doesn’t matter whose name is on a ministry. We don’t worry about that. We jump into any opportunity to contribute what we have learned about disciple making. Because the most important thing is finishing the task Jesus has given us. 

We see God using other people and other groups, and we delight to partner and collaborate with them. We need work together with the Body of Christ, to learn from others and to share what we have learned. We praise God for how he has led us and the many ways he is advancing his Kingdom among the unreached through Disciple Making Movements.

Dr. Aila Tasse is the founder and director of Lifeway Mission International (www.lifewaymi.org), a ministry that has worked among the unreached for more than 25 years. Aila trains and coaches DMM in Africa and around the world. He is part of the East Africa CPM Network and New Generations Regional Coordinator for East Africa.

This was originally published in 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon, pages 278-286.

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