Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Author: Ted

DMM – Book Review of David Watson’s Contagious Disciple Making

DMM’s (Disciple Making Movements) have sparked much interest in the missions world of late, particularly for ministry in challenging contexts. David Watson, as one of the leading practitioner and thinkers in the area, has written Contagious Disciple Making: Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery along with his son, Paul Watson as a practical and valuable guide to obeying the Great Commission. While David is engaging in his in-person teaching, drawing on rich examples from his own ministry, his written work is even more balanced and valuable for those involved in establishing churches, particularly among the unreached.

DMM is often used synonymously with CPM or Church Planting Movement. Watson defines CPM as “an indigenously led Gospel-planting and obedience-based discipleship process that resulted in a minimum of one hundred new locally initiated and led churches, four generations deep, within three years” (Kindle location 210).

You Are What You Do, Not What You Eat

In October of 2014, on my first trip to Japan, I was able to ride a bullet train, visit SEND church planters in the Tsunami stricken region, and attend the Asia Regional Equipping Seminar (ARES) hosted by SEND Japan. The topic of this training was Disciple Making Movements (DMM). I was confronted by a number of ideas about church planting, which rocked my thinking a bit. One of those ideas had to do with approaches to help integrate learning and doing, a key area of interest in my graduate studies on adult learning.

In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus says “make disciples of all nations … teaching them to obey everything…”. For me, when I studied diligently and taught accurately, I was quite satisfied with myself. Teaching in a seminary for over 10 years has helped to reinforced this view. But that is not the whole of the great commission (see Gary Ridley’s article). The great commission includes the integral element of obedience, which I found convenient to relegate to a second tier status. Yes, there were application talking points in my lectures or sermons, but they often remained just that – talk. Unfortunately I was not alone.

Discipleship, Just Do It?

In Matthew 28, Jesus commands us to go and make disciples of all nations.  At SEND we are committed to planting reproducing churches among the unreached because the Church is God’s primary means for making disciples through the ages.  Without discipleship, church planting is reduced to shuffling sheep around and does not bring much glory to God.

My concern is that we are often ready to talk about discipleship, but much less ready to actually live it out.  I recently took part in a discipleship course in a local church.  We talked about discipleship and its importance in our lives and I expected that we would somehow start “doing it” but that didn’t really happen in a significant way.  Then I thought that perhaps we would “do it” after we had established a bit more of a foundation, but that did not really happen either.  In a personal conversation, a fellow member of the class asked me, “When will we actually disciple people”?  Great question, I thought, and perhaps you have asked similar questions.  Knowledge is an essential foundation but we must build something on that foundation, otherwise it is useless.  How can we apply our knowledge to actually “just do it” as a contemporary “philosopher” once said?

How can coaching enhance my ministry? (Part 2)

A second yet related way in which Christian coaching can be helpful in our missionary and church planting ministry is that it helps draw out what the Holy Spirit has put into the hearts and minds of those we coach. As Dr. Keith Webb says in the Coaching Workshop participant manual:

The Holy Spirit is the best source for insights, ideas, strategies and action points. Coaches help the coachee to hear the Holy Spirit more clearly and support them to respond well.

I have recently gained a new and deeper appreciation for the crucial role of the Holy Spirit in Christian coaching. One of my spiritual gifts is the gift of helps. Unfortunately, one of the downsides of that gift for me is my tendency to want to help people by “fixing” their problem. You husbands who may be tempted to “fix” your wife when she just wants to talk, understand how unhelpful such an approach is. The “Mister Fix-it” tendencies work equally unwell in coaching.

Instead of offering final solutions, any suggestions we give should be merely springboards for further reflection on the part of the coachee. In our coach training, we learned that after sharing a suggestion, we should immediately follow up with the question, “What ideas does that give you?” I decided to test this out when coaching a friend about support raising. In the awareness phase of the coaching session, I decided to give a preposterous suggestion as part of considering the problem from a different perspective. To my surprise, the Holy Spirit was able to use my dumb suggestion to provide new perspective to the coachee and eventually action steps that were helpful for him.

How can Christian coaching enhance my church planting ministry?

Everybody seems to be talking about coaching lately, but what is it and more importantly how useful could it be in my ministry? Keith Webb of Creative Results Management defines coaching as, “An ongoing intentional conversation that empowers a person or group to fully live out God’s calling.” The focus of Christian coaching is on the coachee and helping them hear God’s voice in their lives and follow through in obedience.

My own coaching journey began when I was coached by a friend and found the process quite helpful in my own life. The ongoing and intentional nature of our coaching relationship was just what I needed to gain clarity and make progress in a key area of my life. As a result, the next time the SEND U edition of the three-day Coaching Workshop was offered, I was one of the first in line to sign up. I too wanted to use coaching skills in my ministry with others.

The training time, led by Ken Guenther and Dave Wood, was very practical and allowed me to immediately practice using the skills learned. I have had a lot of schooling in my day, but this course was one of the most interactive and fun that I can recall. It was a good thing that I took the coaching training because shortly thereafter, one of our home service missionaries asked me to coach him during his home service. That first coaching series was a positive learning time for both myself and the coachee. That was about three years ago and since then I have had multiple coaching series both as coach and as coachee, and I am still learning a lot.

Three Missionary Church Planters

This blog post is contributed by Ted Szymczak.  Ted is a SEND missionary who has served in Poland for several terms, and now champions training for church planters within SEND.

What role should expatriate missionaries play in the process of planting churches among the unreached? Recently I took part in training which opened up a whole new vista in my personal view of this critical issue. Having served in three church plants in the USA and three others in Poland, I thought I knew a fair amount about church planting. But as is often the case, I had more to learn.

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