SEND U blog

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).

Watson divides his book into two parts, the first dealing with the mindset, theory or “the being” aspect of DMM and the second with specific practices, “the doing”. The mindset part is divided into 9 principles:

  1. Disciple-makers embrace lessons taught by failure.
  2. Disciple-makers deculturalize, not contextualize the gospel.
  3. Disciple-makers plant the gospel rather than reproduce their religion.
  4. Disciple-makers realize how hard completing the Great Commission will be for strategies and organizations built around branded Christianity.
  5. Disciple-makers realize the structure of the community determines the strategy used to make disciples.
  6. Disciple-makers realize their culture and religious experience can negatively influence their disciple-making unless they are very careful.
  7. Disciple-makers understand the importance of obedience.
  8. Disciple-makers make disciples, not converts.
  9. Disciple-makers understand the importance of the priesthood of the believer

The second or “practices” part of the book includes thinking strategically and tactically about DMM, reproducing disciples, the foundational role of prayer, finding a person of peace, Discovery Bible Studies and establishing churches.

While the whole book is valuable for those engaged in making disciples and establishing churches, I was particularly struck by his appeal to not simply extract individual converts from their context, but to find persons of peace who can allow us to witness effectively to entire social groupings. Watson argues that the gospel messenger should be one to cross the cultural bridge to minister to the world in their native context rather than expecting the world to come to us on our terms. A second key point Watson argued was that Bible study needs to be grounded more in obedience and following rather than mere head knowledge. My own studies in adult learning resonate with importance of acting on what we know. Watson also passionately commends us to bathe our ministry in prayer and to use reproducible means in our outreach.

While I recommend Watson’s book, it has a couple of limitations as well. With the increasing importance of urban ministry in the global missions context, it would have been good for the book to address urban missions. Secondly, I think Watson is a bit harsh in his treatment of denominations and what he terms “branded Christianity.”  Movements also have life cycles and tend to formalize their practices over time, an observation Watson does not address. That said, the book is still a worthy read and comes highly recommended.

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.

A skeptical attitude towards obedience is somewhat understandable as a protection against a works-oriented mindset, which can easily be associated with such discussions. As a church planter in Poland for many years, we repeatedly taught the grace of God in the Christian life, from first to last. Working our way to heaven seems to be popular not only in Poland, but is also a central part of most world religions. Even God’s chosen people, the Jews fell on this stumbling stone by trying to earn God’s favor by works by fulfilling the letter of the law. In our zeal to avoid the specter of works righteousness, we have tended to largely neglect the obedience aspect of the gospel. Jesus says that we will be blessed if we DO the commands God has for us (John 13:17, emphasis added). Knowing is not enough, the truth needs to travel that seemingly infinite distance from our head to our heart and hands.

Not only is obedience necessary, the obedience needs to be prompt as well. When Jesus called some to follow him, their delay in obeying his command (let me first…) caused them to be disqualified from following Jesus (Matt. 8:21, 22; Luke 9:59, 60). When Jesus calls us, we need to obey him now, not later.

In the SEND training mentioned above, I learned and experienced the Discovery Bible Study (DBS) approach used in many DMM’s. This approach puts a strong emphasis on obedience of God’s Word and can minister to both believers and nonbelievers. Each meeting includes not only hearing God speak through his word, but also prayerfully considering the application of that truth in concrete terms, as well as support and accountability for one another in following through. In this way, the knowing of God’s word is linked to specific steps of obedience to that word, a critical step in making biblical disciples. In a couple of weeks, a few of us are going to start such groups with mostly non-believing international students in order to bridge that great divide between our heads and our hearts in our own lives.

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?

Step back for a minute and reflect on who is the best disciple maker you know?  Take some time and linger for a moment.  What characterizes their life and priorities?  … For me the first person that comes to mind is my youth group leader and his wife.  They poured their lives into the lives of us kids in a true servant manner.

In church planting, I see two major models of discipleship come to the fore.  The first is a deep investment in a very small circle.  Greg Ogden in his seminal book, Transforming Discipleship describes his approach as, “making disciples a
few at a time.” His companion book, Discipleship Essentials provides materials to work through with two other people in a triad.  After a year, each one of the three starts their own triad, thus starting a group with exponential growth potential.  Some of my SEND coworkers in Poland have used this approach, as have others in WorldTeam, and have found it helpful.

The second major approach is exemplified by David Garrison in his book, Church Planting Movements (CPM).  In this approach, rapid multiplication is central, where each disciple shares with and disciples others immediately after being taught themselves.  Garrison summarizes the John and Hope Chen’s Training for Trainers material (T4T).
The new version of T4T incorporates the Storying method and is called ST4T.  The T4T approach effectively addresses the “just do it” frustration we started out our blog with, but it is at times criticized for being a bit shallow as those multiplying may not themselves be solidly established.

What do you think?
What does Jesus mean when he calls us to make disciples of all
nations?

Take this short, three question survey to share your thoughts on this crucial question.  The results will be presented in a future
blog post, so join the conversation.

How can Christian coaching enhance my church planting ministry?

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.

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.

So, how can coaching help your ministry? In all six of the church plants that I have personally been involved with, our greatest prayer need was for qualified local leadership. If local leaders are not identified and discipled, no new churches are planted, period. The updated SEND church planting goal and phases guides, both the Overview and the complete Road-map bear out the central role of multiplying leaders in planting reproducing churches among the unreached.

The 5th phase of the Church Planting Roadmap focuses on developing leaders.

Coaching can address this new leader discipling need by focusing on the learning that the Holy Spirit has for the new leader instead of on our teaching them and “imparting our great wisdom” on them. By focusing totally on the learning in the coachee, coaching draws on the most transformative form of adult learning. As adult learners, most of us would agree with Winston Churchill who said, “I am always ready to learn but not always ready to be taught.” My several years of graduate study in the area of Adult Learning bear out this principle.

As missionaries and church planters, one of our key roles is to help the people we disciple to hear from the Holy Spirit, gain understanding and follow in obedience. Christian coaching helps us to be a part of precisely this learning process in our future leaders.If you want to see more leaders equipped in your ministry context, perhaps Christian Coaching can be a part of the answer.

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.

The Multiplying Churches Globally course is hosted in Minneapolis by Reach Global with the participation of SEND International and several other organizations. The training is based on the seminal cross cultural church planting work, Global Church Planting: Biblical Principles and Best Practices for Multiplication, by Craig Ott and Gene Wilson, both of whom have taught at the course. In a four week online course followed by a four day face-to-face time, the training presents a variety of helpful issues. One of the most insightful aspects for me had to do with the three roles that expatriate church planters can play – the missionary as the pastor, as a catalyst or as an apostle. As you may have guessed, I highly recommend both the book and the course.

Our first missionary church planter takes a pastoral approach. When picturing classic Western church planting, this is most often what we have in mind. In this scenario, the church planting missionary serves as the pioneer and leads in an upfront role in the church plant. SEND’s first two church plants in North Central Europe, where I served for 17 years, were pastoral church plants. The approach has some advantages and some drawbacks. One advantage is that it usually brings quicker results and has high quality teaching. The typically more highly trained expatriate missionary pastor serves as a draw to attract new people to a church plant. On the down side, the transition to national leadership to can be lengthy and difficult for some of these same reasons. Few nationals have the training or resources of the missionary church planter to fill the missionary’s big shoes. It can, however, be argued that in some frontier contexts, a form of this model is a necessary precursor to any church planting. SEND NCE was able to negotiate the transition to national leadership successfully in both of our first two church plants, but that is often not the case.

Our second missionary adopts a catalytic church planting approach. This church planter seeks to plant a fellowship that is strong enough to serve as a model and mother church for multiple future daughter churches.  After the initial church plant is completed, the missionary continues to serve as the pastor or as a key resource person to catalyze the planting of new churches. Advantages of this approach include the reproduction of churches and a typically strong church support network. The disadvantages are that few of us church planters are a “Rick Warren” and gifted enough to effectively serve as catalysts. Secondly, not all church plants are strong enough or have enough vision to serve as mother churches. However this approach can powerfully impact the church planting in a given region. In Poland, my family and I had the privilege of working with one such church (though not one that SEND had planted) which was instrumental in planting a half dozen churches, half of which were even intentional!

Our third missionary church planter takes an apostolic approach. This church planter attempts to plant churches that are not dependent on the church planter or on outside resources. This church planter is more of a visionary, an equipper, and an encourager.   He works alongside, encouraging and training multiple national church planters, often simultaneously.  Yet hardly do we ever seen this church planter up front in any of the actual church services. His goal is to equip local leaders, hand off ministry to them and then move on, at which point he maintains a more distant but prayerful and supportive role. So what photos or stories does this church planter put in his or her newsletters? They probably have more to do with what God is doing through their network of church planters. Strengths of this approach are that it tends to more effectively facilitate leader and church multiplication as well as promotes a greater sense of local ownership. A key downside of this approach is that it is slower, particularly in the beginning. Another challenge for the missionary is how to identify local leaders which are faithful, called and available.   Then there is the challenge of a more nomadic lifestyle of the apostolic church planter. We see examples of this in the work of Tom Steffen (missionary among the Ifugao in the Philippines and author of Passing the Baton), as well as in the life of the Apostle Paul.

So, what story is God wanting to write through your church planting work? I hope consideration of these three approaches helps expand your perspectives as it did mine.

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