May 29, 2024
This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series Church planting

Editor’s note: David and Kathy North planted multiple churches with TEAM for 33 years in various-sized cities in the Philippines. In their first few years in the Philippines, the Norths and I (Ken Guenther) served on the same church planting team in Baliwag, Bulacan. David is currently the Church Planting Coordinator for TEAM’s international network of church planters and disciple makers. The Norths are involved in coaching, training, mentoring and encouraging front line workers. These blog posts were copied with permission from TEAM’s Church Planting Blog, Go and Plant.

Intentional disciple-making

The primary command of Jesus for His church was, “make disciples.” When Jesus told his disciples to go and make disciples, he had some specific characteristics of a disciple in mind. Before people make things like furniture, vehicles, and tools, they carefully determine what it is they want to make. The same is true when Jesus was developing his disciples. It was clear that he already knew what kind of disciple he was developing. He said things like, “I will make you fishers of men,” “keep my commands,” “receive me,” “believe in me,” “love one another,” “love my Father,” and “love me” In his three years of ministry, he was building these characteristics intentionally into his disciples. In so doing, they would be ready to carry on the work by the power of the Holy Spirit when he left.

So what kind of a disciple are you trying to make in your church planting work? What are you aiming at and how will you get there? In other words, what kind of followers of Christ would you like to see your church producing? After all, the main task of the church you plant is to make disciples, whatever a disciple is.

It’s important to begin with a clear picture of the end product or disciple. Once that is clear, we can go ahead and develop a strategy to move people from “lost and disconnected” through “connecting,” “Gospel sharing,” “early discipleship,” “equipping” and so on. In this post, I would like to share with you our description of the kind of disciple we aim for in our ministry. We call them 3M disciples.

3M disciple

1M Disciples – Maturing

When I began my work as a church planter, my goal was to bring people to Christ and see them grow into mature followers of Christ. That was my picture of a disciple – someone maturing in their relationship, love, faith and obedience to Christ. So I shared the Gospel with them so they would know Christ, I took them through early discipleship lessons, and I preached my heart out so they would know, love and obey Christ. It was beautiful to see them growing and changing and learning to love the Lord.

The problem was that I was burning out as I tried to be everything for them in the new church family. God showed me that he had given each member gifts and abilities. I also knew that the role of “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers” (which includes missionaries) was to “equip the saints (all the believers) to do the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). So, I gave special effort to developing 2M followers of Christ.

2M Disciples – Maturing and Ministering

I realized that for the church to continue without me in the future, all the work and ministry of the church needed to be done by the local people, so I set about training and equipping the people to serve and to lead and to take ownership of all the various needs of the church, encouraging and enabling them to minister to one another with their gifts and abilities. It was wonderful to see the body starting to function well on its own.

However, although I often saw the church running well, I got frustrated personally because I wanted to be out winning new people and discipling new believers. But I had a growing church to care for and oversee, and we were seeing less souls saved than before, which was my passion.1 See a previous post about making sure evangelism is not forgotten.

The DMM model

It was at this time that I read books and began learning about the Disciple Making Movements (DMM’s) and Church Planting Movements (CPM’s) that were spreading to thousands upon thousands around the world through ordinary Christians. Some examples include:

These models didn’t exactly fit my context in urban, Catholic Philippines. But I knew that some of the principles driving them were universal and I needed to apply them in my ministry.

One of the keys to these movements was the commitment to multiply disciple-makers and church planters from among the people they were reaching. Furthermore, the believers were equipped with simple reproducible methods right from the start. I knew that the key to movement beyond what I could do was to multiply laborers. I needed to give my time not just to making disciples but to making disciples who would make disciples who would make disciples. If I could equip and activate all the members to make disciples, then the work of winning the lost would not need to slow down so that I could develop the church.

3M Disciples

As I looked at Jesus teaching, I knew that this was his purpose for disciple making. As he prepared them to lead a disciple-making movement that would reach the whole world, this was his goal. He wanted them to pass it on from person to person and generation to generation and people group to people group. Likewise, the disciples I worked at developing were to be 3M followers of Jesus. Therefore, this was the vision of the end product of the churches we planted.

As Jesus came to the close of His earthly ministry, he spent a lot of time talking about these three areas:

  • Maturing (upward with God) = Abiding in Christ, loving the Father and the Son, obeying Him …
  • Ministering (inward with the church body) = That they may be one, wash one another’s feet, …
  • Multiplying (outward to the lost around us) = Bear much fruit, sent into the world, make disciples, be witnesses …

This goes right along with the definition we are using in TEAM for a disciple: “A disciple is a: 1. learner, lover and follower of Christ who 2. loves and serves the church and 3. makes disciples.”

A description of the 3M Disciple

I would encourage you to build your description of a disciple in each of these characteristics: maturing, ministering and multiplying. This could look like this:

  1. Maturing (learner, lover and follower of Christ)
    • Abiding, listening, learning, obeying, trusting, praying, depending, confessing, in the Word, having Quiet Times, worshipping, etc.
  2. Ministering (loves and serves the church)
    • Serving one another and the whole church
    • Developing and using spiritual gifts
    • Developing in ministry leadership
  3. Multiplying (makes disciples)
    • Living and witnessing for Christ out there – connecting with the lost relationally, through service and in direct outreach
    • Doing personal discipleship with new believers
    • Learning how to make new disciples who will also make new disciples who will make new disciples. Disciples seek to become like their Lord which includes sharing the Lord’s heart for the yet unsaved.

This 3M description guides us into a well-rounded disciple-making strategy. With this understanding, we can find or develop processes, materials and experiences that will lead our disciples to grow in each of the three areas.

Diagramming your disciple-making plan

You and your team can begin praying and working on a plan that will lead to this 3M type of a disciple. Create a diagram that shows the various elements that you will choose to use to help develop your people in each of these three areas.

Here is an activity that you can do with your church planting team. At the top of a page of paper (or white board) write the words “Lost Person.” Then at the bottom, write the three words: “Maturing” “Ministering” “Multiplying.”

Remember to begin with the lost. How will you connect with them? How will you lead them to Christ? Can you do it in a way that will be easily reproducible by the first believers that you lead to Christ so you can begin multiplying disciplemakers early on?

How will you help them grow to maturity? What will be in place to ensure spiritual growth for new believers and for long term growth together? How will you build community so that they are all ministering with their gifts and their love?

Then finally, how will you build multiplication into all that you do?2 The Vine Project: Sharing Your Ministry Culture Around Disciple-Making is another recommended resource book on this topic. This blog contains a book review of this resource.

You are starting to draw out the process of development. We will look at and develop this more in future articles.

This blog post was originally posted to the TEAM church planting blog at Make Disciples: What Kind of Disciples? 3M Followers of Christ biding (goandplant.com).

Series Navigation<< Disciple-Making Starts with EvangelismDiscipling disciple-makers >>

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