Recently I posted the following to my Twitter feed:
CPM counter-intuitives—“Go slow 2 go fast…focus on few 2 win many.” Equip indigenous family heads 2 facilitate discovery of God (Ax 10:33).
Since that is linked to my Facebook account, it showed up there, too. A Facebook friend commented, “Sounds like Confucius. Haha.” I chuckled with him. Later I realized that this is a pretty good way to describe the list of Disciple Making Movements (DMM) Counter-Intuitives.
These Counter-Intuitives are short pithy observations of typical things that happen in DMMs which swim upstream when compared to general mission/evangelistic practices. Let me unpack the one mentioned earlier by way of illustration.
“Go slow to go fast.” Every day the population of the world increases. The growth rate is significantly higher among the nations and people groups who are most resistant to the spread of the gospel. If we keep getting the results we have typically experienced we will grow further behind. This awareness pushes us to find quicker ways of spreading the gospel of the kingdom. Mass evangelism, for example, is an attempt to get the Word out to larger numbers of people at the same time in the hopes of going faster.
But what if the best way to go fast is actually to slow down? Sounds contradictory! We have found that Jesus actually modeled a “slow” method to reach the world. Mass evangelists have often taken us to the passages where Jesus spoke to multitudes as the grounds for their strategy. For example, they might say, “Jesus preached to a huge group through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chs. 5-7). Yes, the multitudes overheard Jesus teaching on the Mount, but he directed it to the twelve that he had hand-picked. While the crowds heard, Jesus models the practice of intentionally training a few. He knew how fickle the crowds are prone to be. He knew he personally had only a short time to set in motion the process by which the world would hear the gospel. He was not going to turn the future over to the crowds; he was going to put it in the hands of his disciples.
If you want to disciple your youth group, hand-pick a few disciplers and train them to train, coach and mentor the members of the youth group. Spend most of your time pouring into them so they can and will reproduce what you are doing (not only discipling, but discipling disciplers). That is the way to produce fruit that lasts.
If you are called to reach a city, it will require you to focus on a few to reach the many. Duplicate this several times and equip them to duplicate it, too, and you have the means to reach the city.
But this Counter-Intuitive has another element that you should not overlook—the people you disciple should be seen by the target audience as insiders. Indigenous family heads are the best means to reach people groups who still have strong family-based systems.
When we transplant Western individualistic strategies into these places we set ourselves and our disciples up for failure. To pick-off an occasional person from these large, tight-knit families insures that they despise Christians. They view us much as we view a cult—“They’ve kidnapped and brain-washed the weakest member of our family!” Such a strategy only works in the Western individualistic worldview regions of our planet (and causes problems with some here, too). We will have greater success if we slow down and train an insider to facilitate a process by which his/her family discovers together who God is and how great his loving provision is for our spiritual needs. Rather than rupturing families, this strategy holds hope for the whole household to come to faith together. Even some of those who do not come to personal faith value being given the opportunity to consider it as part of the family.
But this process can be slower on the front end. You have to find such a person who is open to learning the process and facilitating the discovery. How in the world will that happen?
In Luke 10 Jesus sends the 72 out in 36 pairs. These teams are looking for “persons of peace”—those who are receptive to the peace that comes with the proclamation of the kingdom of heaven. They are not to go from house to house, but find and stay with the receptive person who is hospitable to the gospel. Focus on equipping this person to lead the family in a guided discovery of God’s nature and what surrendering to Jesus’ Lordship entails.
Luke reveals a story of just such a person in his sequel (Acts 10). Cornelius is an excellent example of a Person of Peace. He spends the three days between when he sends for Peter and his arrival gathering the people he influences and has them ready to listen to anything God will tell them to do. God’s Spirit still prepares people like this in our world. God wants the nations to come to know himself. His Son modeled for us a strategy of going slow in order to go fast. (The speed comes because the process is infinitely reproducible and new harvesters are able to come from the harvest. Disciplinig disciplers needs to become our strategy.