May 28, 2024
This entry is part 4 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 coaching, training, mentoring and encouraging front line workers. These blog posts were copied with permission from TEAM’s Church Planting Blog, Go and Plant.

What gives me joy?

In my first church planting work, I remember someone asking me in a small group, “What gives you the most happiness in life?” My answer was, “Leading someone to Christ.” That really gave me so much joy. But some asked that question again during my most recent church plant. My answer this time was, “When I see people I led to Christ and discipled leading others to Christ and discipling them.” It seemed almost weekly that we heard of a fairly new believer starting an evangelistic Bible study with someone new. Often it was someone that was being discipled by someone who was being discipled by someone we had discipled. Kathy and I would just laugh with joy and amazement at the way the Gospel was going way beyond our reach.

I’m sure that’s what Jesus had in mind when he told the disciples to make disciples of all nations. There was no way that they personally could finish that task. Rather they needed to do it themselves AND equip others to do the same thing. Did you ever notice that the Great Commission is somewhat circular? “Go and make disciples … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  “Everything” includes the Great Commission itself. Jesus is in essence saying, “Go and make obedient, baptized disciples who will go and make obedient, baptized disciples who will go and make obedient, baptized disciples in obedience to this command of mine.”

A movement of disciple-makers

This means that every generation of disciples needs to learn to obey the Great Commission. We are to make disciple-makers who will make disciple-makers who will make yet more disciple makers. The job is not finished when we have disciples. We have only completed the job when we have multiplying disciple-makers who will take the Gospel into places we ourselves can never reach.

So, are you just planting a church of disciples, or are you planting a movement of disciple-makers? Paul told Timothy,

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.

2 Timothy 2:2

That’s 4 generations of disciples.

discipling disciple-makers in Paul

Four generations of disciples

When our church in the Philippines had to shut its doors because of the COVID-19 lockdowns, the youth in the church immediately determined to continue the disciple-making process that we and our team had begun with them. They would carry on the disciple-making online with their friends. 

Kathy and I had gone through the evangelistic process and basic discipleship process with a young couple who were there to work with the youth in the church plant. The young couple then took the small group of youth through the same process in one-on-one or small group meetings. In the process they assigned the youth to continue to use it with all new, incoming young people and with their lost friends.

That’s 4 generations of disciples.

When the pandemic closed the church, there were about 14 young people meeting regularly in the core group. All were equipped to win the lost and do beginning discipleship with the new believers. They immediately took the opportunity to set up online Bible study groups with their friends who were also in lockdown. Now a few years later, we see social media posts from the group with maybe 50 young people. We don’t even personally know either the disciple-makers or the disciples. Each one is being followed-up online by a young person who was equipped by someone before them. They post pictures of the disciple and the disciple-maker on Facebook when one of the youth finishes a phase of disciple-making.

For this to happen, there needs to be a culture of movement and multiplication of disciples. The leaders need to commit to equipping others rather than just doing it themselves. It’s not just equipping others to disciple others. It’s equipping others to equip others to equip others. We do everything with long-term multiplication in view.

Pass it on!

A young man we knew named Ivan came to Christ in our area. I asked another member in the church whom we had discipled to work with Ivan and disciple him. Not long after, Ivan came and asked if we would also teach his friends. We told him, “No, but we will help you to teach them.” Ivan started a Bible study with about 15 of his classmates, just doing with them what we had done with him. Later he was getting ready to teach another group of students, and I reminded him of our ministry’s motto, “Pass it on.” Don’t just teach it yourself. Who can you help learn to pass it on? Ivan then immediately thought of and recruited two ladies in the church to help him. These women had been newly discipled but had not yet taught others. And so on it goes.

discipling disciple-makers today

Criteria for creating a movement

To create such a culture of movement and multiplication of disciples, we need a number of things:

  • The leadership team needs to commit to this goal. 
  • The church needs to see itself as living to multiply disciple-makers.
  • There should be a prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit throughout, knowing that we can only see true movement if he moves. 
  • The church needs to have a firm conviction that the Holy Spirit indwells and empowers all believers to be his witnesses and to do his ministry.
  • From the very beginning, the church leadership needs to encourage new people that they can pass on whatever they have received. They don’t have to grow to maturity to pass on the things they already know and are applying in their lives. They just need to stay a step ahead of the one coming behind.
  • The process and tools need to be reproducible and simple so that anyone can participate.
  • The growth track needs to be simple and clearly understood.
  • The movement should have mottos and slogans and signs that reinforce the movement mentality.
  • We need to celebrate those going through and carrying on the discipleship.
  • Finally, there should be an ongoing development of leaders who are very intentional in equipping and enabling the believers to join the movement of God in this world.

We’ll look more at developing a simple toolkit for disciple making in future articles. Here are some questions to help spur your thinking.

Questions to spur your thinking

  • What simple bridge into the Gospel could you train your new believers to use with their lost friends and family to start a witnessing opportunity?
  • What simple Gospel-sharing tool can you give to brand-new believers to enable them to share with their family or friends?
  • What immediate follow-up tool or method can you use with new believers that they could then use with newer believers?
  • What early discipleship tool or method will you use that they can turn around and use with another?

We want to start movements of disciple making, not just make disciples.

This blog post was originally posted to the TEAM church planting blog at Starting a Church or Starting a Movement?.

Series Navigation<< Make Disciples: What Kind of Disciples?Having an Exit Plan from the Start >>

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