A Novice Insider? Really!?

Counter-Intuitives—A novice insider is more effective than highly trained, mature outsider.

If you have read my last two articles, you know that we focus on discipling disciple makers. Our goal in identifying a Person of Peace is not just to see him/her come to know Jesus or even to reach the extended family—our ultimate goal is to reach a community in such a way that they are discipled in how to reach another community.

While cross-cultural workers make significant contributions to Disciple Making Movements (DMMs), this counter-intuitive statement emphasizes the strategic value of insiders. But note, it explicitly highlights the value of a “novice” insider. Why? Why would we value novice insiders so highly?

True movements only happen when the process is infinitely reproducible. When your strategy depends on expensive, time-consuming practices, you will not launch a movement. Let me use an illustration to help you see the point. While American football is the most popular professional sport in the United States, it has not spread to other parts of the world. The name, football, is reserved throughout most of the rest of the world for what we call soccer. Why? Why is soccer so wildly popular throughout the world?

Soccer is infinitely reproducible. It is a simple game that demands very little equipment. You can travel most anywhere in the world and you will likely find a soccer field. If you travel internationally I encourage you to carry a couple of new soccer balls and a small hand pump. I assure you children will know what to do with a ball after you air it up and give it to them. They will be incredibly happy to put your gift to use.

When you train a Person of Peace to facilitate his/her extended family in discovering who God is, you are launching the reproductive engine of a DMM. Any of that first group can reproduce what they experience anywhere they have friends or family who are open to the gospel. The fact that this person is not highly trained is actually a blessing. Others recognize they too can do it because the process does not require Bible college degrees or decades of experience.

Most of the Western church models a slow form of reproduction because we make our Bible studies dependent upon highly-trained, highly experienced Bible teachers and preachers. By contrast, Disciple Making Movements tap into a sweet spot that every evangelist knows already. The best resource for evangelistic outreach is a brand new believer. The first two years after coming to faith is a fruitful sweet spot. One reason this is true is because most of their closest relationships are with not yet saved people. Another reason is the transformation in those years is the greatest—God’s impact on their walk is evident.

When God stirs the heart of a Person of Peace and brings a disciple maker into the picture, powerful things can happen. Stop spending your time frustrating people who do not want to hear the gospel (yet) and start using your time looking for the lost people God is preparing. This is where an abundant harvest arises!


  1. Thanks for the post. I’m very encouraged to read this and take note of the absence of the term “church planting” but rather, you use the actual words Jesus used to “go and make disciples.” Not only that, you take the responsibility and place it squarely on the shoulders of those who are called to make disciples and that is all of the saints… Not just he “educated” folks with degrees of status. Sometimes I feel like a broken record by going back to the simple words and meanings found in scripture. It’s nice to read someone else crazy enough to keep things simple.



    1. Guy, sometimes I still use the phrases Church Planting and Church Planting Movements, but I am transitioning to Disciple Making Movements. This keeps me focused on my role of making disciples. Jesus is in the church building business. Yes, we all have been called by Jesus into the harvest and it is an incredible joy when the new harvesters come from the harvest. Going back to scriptures again and again draws us closer to Jesus and further from the traditions that separate us and actually can contribute to our disobedience. I appreciate you comments.


  2. Really good, John. I’ve wondered why you call CPM “more relational” than what I’ve been attempting the past six years. After reading and re-reading of your focus on the “man of peace” who has relational clout within an entire village, however, I think I get it.


    1. Mike, I have had a sense that this series will be beneficial–sort of a FAQ (frequently asked questions). I regret taking so long in getting on this project, because I obviously have left questions hanging. I am thankful this is helpful for you to understand an crucial element of DMMs. Blessings.


  3. This is great stuff. I’m new to your blog and oh how I wish I’d known these things before I moved to Kenya 6 years ago. It took failure, frustration, and lots of prayer (mixed with some good ole’ fashioned humbling) to open my heart to the truths you are sharing. Disciple making must be real, relevant and easily reproducible in any setting, but especially true in cross-cultural communities where there are limited resources (love the soccer reference!) and close living quarters.

    Willingness to go slow and look beyond the number of new converts and/or church members doesn’t come easy for most of us Westerners though, as we still tend to see the “church” more in terms of a building than truly understanding the “Church” as a living Body.

    I often meet Pastors in the rural areas that spend more energy looking for money to maintain their church buildings and programs than they spend shepherding their flock or discipleing. What is ironic, and sad, is that these same churches once met under trees or in homes and actually functioned as a living Body; each one sharing, teaching, preaching, serving and praising as the Lord led them. The indigenous environment of community was the Petri dish from which the Gospel grew and spread. Seriously speaking, aren’t all believers supposed to be making disciples?

    Identifying & empowering others such as the “person of peace” and the “novice insider” is ideally suited to cross-cultural ministry and I appreciate how you’ve broadened my view of these concepts. They are somewhat similar to what we started doing about a year ago – tired of trying to light a fire in those that simply professed faith…we started seeking those who’s lives evidenced pursuit. Practicing “intentional proximity” with youth (we have a youth ministry & school) we would identify those hungry for God and focus our discipleing time with them. This was done informally at first and is still mostly done as we eat, walk, sleep and work with them day-to-day – but is also supplemented with structured time periods for study and reflection. One of the first things we noticed was that without fail, or prompting, the kids would go tell others what God was doing in their lives. Several small groups sprung up the boarding schools the youth attend as a result and students we could never reach are now being discipled.

    There is still much for me to learn (and unlearn) however, so I was hoping you could tell me more about S.P.E.C.K. (or direct me to a blog where that is discussed) ….. and share your thoughts and experiences of ensuring sound doctrine when groups are led by a novice insider.

    Thank you, I look forward to your answers and future blogs….God bless!


    1. Denise, I am thankful that you are learning much from your experiences and do not just keep doing the same things, but expecting different results. The way to bring soundness into these studies is to tie them closely to the Word. There are some questions that I would coach the leaders of these small groups to ask the participants. We always ask four questions of any passage: What do we learn about God? What do we learn about people? What will it look like to obey this passage in my life? Who do I know who needs to hear this passage?

      There are more questions that can help these leaders to guide the group to stay close to the Word. First there are the Observation/Journalistic questions: Who, what, where, when, why and how? Say for example they struggle to answer what this passage teaches about people, then you could ask, “Who is mentioned in the passage?” Follow that with, “What happened in this person’s life in this passage? The questions guide the students to discover what the passage says about people.

      Then there are questions that help us recognize how to obey a passage. These are the S.P.E.C.K. questions:
      Sin–is there a sin mentioned in this passage that I should confess, or that I struggle with in my life?
      Praise, Prayer, Promise–does this passage teach me how to Praise God, how to Pray to God or contain a Promise I need to claim?
      Example–does someone in this passage set an example that I need to follow in my walk?
      Command–is there a command from God mentioned in this passage that I need to obey?
      Knowledge–is there knowledge in this passage that I need to learn?

      By training these leaders to ask these questions, they are helping the group to really hear what the passage says and means for their lives. Then it will come down to them starting to be obedient. As they hear the Word and obey it, they will be transformed because they are walking by faith. God promises some amazing things happen (John chapters 14-16). There is one more question I would coach them to ask when someone in the group is bringing up something that is not in the passage, “Where is that in this passage?”


      1. This is really helpful, John. I pray I will get an opportunity to use it. I’ve also used the acronym S.P.A.C.E. when studying a passage:

        Sins to confess—Of what is God convicting me?

        Promises to claim—Of what is God assuring me?

        Actions to avoid—About what is God warning me?

        Commands to obey—What is God calling me to do?

        Examples to follow—How can I imitate others who followed God?

      2. I like the S.P.E.C.K. acronym because it connects with Jesus’ teaching on applying the Word to my life (thus removing the beam) before I help my brother remove a speck from his eye. Self-application is the necessary first step to applying a passage to someone else. Too many of us spend all our time talking about how others need to obey rather than living in obedience ourselves.

  4. John, our recent experiences in Togo have shown the truth of the power of novice inside-leaders being empowered and equipped to share the message with others. In the last church-plant I was involved in before we left Togo in which I tried to apply CPM/DMM principles, we found the person of peace, who happened to be the chief of the village, who opened the door to his extended family. Several brothers and their wives and children gathered weekly to study the Bible, and by the fourth week, the group was leading their own DBS. After a few months, 34 people were baptized into Christ, including 11 complete families. After six months, they began traveling to a new village to teach literacy classes, teach about the planting and uses of Moringa trees, and begin a Bible study. An new church was planted in this village just before we left Togo with no direct involvement from missionaries or the leaders that I had trained to plant the first church. What a blessing!


    1. Thanks for the testimonial! I praise God for what he is doing in Togo! I pray that these groups will keep discipling groups so a mighty move of God spreads throughout that nation. I am looking forward to learning more about your teaching people about the Moringa trees. I look forward to passing this on to many people who work in sub-Sahara Africa!


  5. I’m trying to figure out how to “recruit” the novice into it all. I’ve stumbled upon many who want to learn, then tell their friends – some already believers, others not yet. I keep saying, “It is prideful & selfish to keep the teachings to yourself. Let everyone learn together and show humility. You don’t need all the answers.”

    I have yet to truly get invited into a family, community, circle of friends. Please pray that I’m being prepared for this and that it will happen.


    1. Andrew, one of the tests of whether or not someone is a true Person of Peace is their willingness to share what they are learning with their group. If they do not, then they are not a PoP, yet. The concept of a bridge into the group is what you want to continue to seek. What we want is for this influential person to be willing to be coached in facilitating a study that will give the household the opportunity to discover who God is and fall in love with him. We used to train people to lead the first 2-3 studies and then have the PoP facilitate the rest, but we have actually found that it is better if the outsider never facilitates in the household. The fact that an insider facilitates every study makes it more likely that the group will reproduce. Your work will be training, coaching and mentoring the PoP as you equip him/her to facilitate each study beforehand and as you debrief her/him after each study. I do pray you are being prepared and that it will happen soon.


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