Why Do I Keep Getting Addition Results?

What has to change to transition from Addition Strategies and Tactics to Multiplication Strategies and Tactics?

Recently when I was discussing the answer to this question I started to envision a chart which helps to compare/contrast some of the differences between these two approaches. But I have also been meditating on why we default to Addition, even though many of us “want” Multiplication. Here is the chart I developed.

Addition Multiplication
1. Connects an individual to an existing group1. Individuals become connectors to groups
2. Is possible when group members are inclusive2. Is possible wherever PoP has friends
3. Strong leaders are needed to start each new group3. Facilitation lowers starting demands
4. Challenges participants to be open to an old group4. Changes participants into facilitators
5. Encourages decisions of faith5. Encourages participants to become disciple makers
6. Outgrows space when successful6. Expands to new friendship groups in new locations
7. Easy to do with existing group; difficult to expand7. Challenging to start; expands more once going
Compare/Contrast Addition Strategies with Multiplication Strategies

Why? Why would we take the approach I have titled “Addition” in the chart?

It’s what we know. It avoids filling our schedule with lots of groups. It protects us from the risk that a new group will not develop the new rhythms needed for life to materialize. It fits with our highly individualistic cultural norms. It “gives in” to our fear that people will not be willing to invite their family/friends to participate in a Discovery Group.

Please do not misunderstand me. Good things can happen when an individual is added to an existing group. But GREAT things can happen when we coach someone to start a new Discovery Group with their family/friends who are willing to participate.

Q&A: What Cautions Do You have for Us?

Question: What cautions do you have for our church to make this as effective as possible?

Answer: Please note that the question addresses a very specific context. The 8 Question DBS approach was not developed with the typical church setting in mind (be sure to read my previous post which is linked below). Whether you are envisioning using Discovery in a Sunday School setting or a traditional small group hosted in a church member’s home, you are applying the format for a setting which is significantly different than the setting for which it was designed.

Applying Discovery to a Sunday School setting will have immediate challenges regarding time frame and typical seating arrangements. But there is a difference that is of greater significance, which is the expectation of those who will participate.

Most church goers have experienced a long and consistent process of being expected to learn new data more than applying that learning directly to their lives. Transitioning to an obedience-based form of lifestyle will require great love, patience, and perseverance. Role modelling coming up with good S.M.A.R.T. “I will…” Statements and then following through with obeying them during the week will be the best way to call participants to make this challenging paradigm shift. The convener of this type of group must set a new tone by his/her consistent practice outside the class experience.

Let’s return to the issue of time frame. Typically groups of 4-5 people need at least 75 minutes to complete the DBS process and even then they will have to be quite intentional in being brief during their responses to each of the questions. Much like grade school children using their “best” stall tactics to prevent their teacher from getting to the quiz, many adults drag out their answers to the early sharing questions to avoid those which are designed to move to application via obedience, sharing and service.

Whenever possible, having the chairs in a room arranged in small circles with no more than five chairs in each circle increases the likelihood of success. Starting promptly on time and keeping the smaller groups moving briskly through the questions is critical. Early into this experience it will feel “rushed” to the majority of the participants, so you need to expect resistance, push-back and/or passive-aggressive behavior. You are asking people to change their norms and even the self-proclaimed “change champions” often dig in their heels. You likely will need to have a private conversation with the most vocal resisters and ask them to refrain from leading a mutiny.

Keeping the make-up of each small circle consistent is critical to building the trust required to get to the level of transparency needed to establish a rhythm of mutual accountability. Mixing up the groups is another way the passive-aggressive opponents seek to sabotage the process.

Creating smaller sub-groups within a typical “Small Group” setting will also be needed to reach the needed level of mutual accountability to see true application. Life transformation does not happen by knowledge acquisition alone. When we learn about God and discern ways to obey him, but disregard taking action, we actually begin to disciple disobedience. Discovery entails experiencing the joy of responsive obedience.

Remember Jesus’ warning about mixing “old” and “new” practices:

“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” (Luke 5:37-39)

Q&A: For Whom is DBS Effective?

Question: Does God use DBS in the U.S. as an effective tool for bringing unbelievers to trust in Jesus as Savior and also become an obedient disciple of Jesus, or is this tool best used for the latter only?

Answer: Here in the U.S. and Canada, we find that Discovery Groups work well with spiritually interested lost people and also with maturing newer believers.

The longer a person has been churched, typically the more resistant they are (as a general rule) to the Discovery Group format. One factor is the expectation that Discovery calls for obedience, sharing and ministry every week and then the group holds one another accountable for following through with actual practice. People who have become entrenched in knowledge transfer often find Discovery troublesome.

Question: Why is this resistance so common and can anything be done to reverse this?

We’ve done knowledge transfer for so long, that it seems normal. Groups typically need an intensive, focused time of DBS to retrain ourselves for a new normal. It is absolutely essential that any catalyst for making this paradigm shift must model it yourself for others to follow you. So last week’s “I will…” Statement creates perfect opportunity to share an update with the group by saying, “Here’s how it went this week….” If you will not consistently provide a S.M.A.R.T. “I will…” Statement and then follow through, why would you expect others to do so? Model the new behavior you want to see. Be accountable and follow through.

Reflecting on: Focusing on Groups

From: Focusing on winning individuals.
To: 
Focusing on groups — to bring the gospel into existing families, groups and communities.

90% of salvations described in the book of Acts describe either large or small groups. Only 10% are individuals who experience salvation by themselves. We also see Jesus focusing on sending out his disciples to look for households, and we see Jesus often reaching households. Note examples such as Zacchaeus and his entire household experiencing salvation (Luke 19:9-10), and the Samaritan woman coming to faith along with a great many from her entire town (John 4:39-42).

Reaching groups has many advantages over reaching and gathering individuals. For example:

  • Instead of transferring “Christian culture” to a single new believer, local culture begins to be redeemed by the group.
  • Persecution isn’t isolated and focused on the individual but is normalized across the group. They can support each other in persecution.
  • Joy is shared as a family or community discovers Christ together.
  • Unbelievers have a visible example of “here’s what it looks like for a group of people like me to follow Christ.”

(Copied from: https://2414now.net/2020/09/23/mindshifts-in-movements-part-2/)

This is one of the primary ways Christians in the Global North unintentionally undermine multiplication strategies. When we first encounter a spiritual seeker is a crucial juncture. If we view this person as only an individual, we will most likely work to disconnect her/him from the groups in order to connect them to ourselves and/or other groups. Likely we will invite them to other groups where we already have meaningful relationships. While this is not wrong, it is unwise. It is addition at its best/worst.

Before you start a one on one Bible study with an individual ask, “Who do you know who also has these spiritual thoughts?” Or maybe, “Which of your friends might be asking the same kinds of spiritual questions?” The goal is to remember that most people have family or friends and Persons of Peace will want their closest relationships to go on this spiritual journey with them, if at all possible.

As the copied material above indicates, this effort to see a whole family and/or group of friends come to faith together is absolutely essential when working in “closed” people groups. While we assume that is not so important here in the U.S., we may need to reconsider, especially if we are reaching out to refugees or immigrants. Just this morning I heard about a teenager who came to faith as an individual and his immediate family sent him back to their homeland (they are refugees from a nation which is overwhelmingly unreached) so he can be peer pressured into renouncing his faith. What if he had been encouraged to invite family members to participate from the beginning?

While the people you are contacting may not be like that teenager, what if their disciples are? Why not start a process which can be used anywhere in this world? Let’s use practices which honor the family and friendship structures which are already in place? Yes, some relationships will become oppositional, but let’s make sure it is not because of our failure to try to reach people in their existing groups.

Do I Recommend a Mash-up?

Question: Would you recommend a mash-up of DMM, T4T and 4 Fields training approaches? What if it is an attempt at a call for unity?

Answer: I appreciate the call for unity and the desire to cooperate. I highly commend a spirit of understanding one another and working together whenever possible.

The piece of this discussion which doesn’t get adequate consideration, in my opinion, is the history of why Disciple Making Movement (DMM) strategies were developed. History can arm us against making the same mistakes over and over again.

David Watson was trained in the same non-traditional missionary strategies as some of the first folks who developed T4T, 4 Fields and some of the other CPM approaches. But ALL six of his first indigenous church planters were martyred by the Bhojpuri within six months of being deployed. 

David was understandably distraught over these traumatic events. After months of being depressed and eventually becoming angry with God, the Holy Spirit pushed him back to Matthew 10 and Luke 10. David was not happy to be taken there, since he had spent much time there already. Finally, he begrudgingly started writing out a list of the directions Jesus gave the people he sent out (both the 12 and the 72).

As he was making that list he recognized two things. First, Jesus’ directions are quite different than traditional evangelistic strategies, especially since they were not “confrontational” (this is my word, not something I have ever heard David or anyone else use). Second, Jesus deploys people looking for a special category of person (“worthy man” or “Person of Peace”). They did not go to confront a village of its sin (ala street corner preaching). They were sent with a message about the coming King, but they proclaim it where they are welcomed. 

When Watson trained his second group that is what he did differently. He got a very different outcome, as we now know. 

T4T was the write-up of what proved fruitful in China (as I understand the history). 4 Fields and other strategies were developed for different contexts. I get that and I appreciate what was accomplished in those other settings. 

But globally the least reached people groups are in resistant regions or closed nations. I want to carefully recognize that and use the approach that works best for the least reached because they are always the bullseye (at the center) of what I want to see ultimately accomplished.

T4T is training heavy on the front end because it is designed to take traditionally formed believers and re-train and re-deploy them to see lost people won. I applaud that. 

I am cognizant that we have to help people who come to faith through Discovery Groups to intentionally discover how to live as strong communities of faith. That is when it more naturally happens. After they come to faith through Discovering God, they are ready to begin discovering what living together looks like, unless denominations or traditional believers are super-imposing outside standards on them. Yes, there are challenges when this is happening in a context where lost people have been radically impacted by some interactions with “church”—whatever connotations they have for that word. 

I am not adamantly against attempting a mash-up. But ultimately we are always going to have to answer whether or not we believe people can be discipled to faith. Some very vocal Calvinists flatly reject such a possibility. If we say, “Yes, it is possible,” then we will be at least okay with using Discovery as our evangelism strategy. If we say, “No,” then we are left with the necessity of doing some kind of “confrontational evangelism.”

I cannot overcome this theological divide. I can attempt to reason with such Calvinists, but here is a chasm that will result in us needing to love, honor and accept each other, but also truthfully acknowledge we are going to evangelize differently. 

The biggest difference is whether you call people to “make a decision of faith” quickly (what I call “confrontational evangelism”) or look for Persons of Peace and work through them to get their household into a Discovery setting (which is going to be a slower call to faith).

Increasingly more CPM folks use DBS as a follow-up Discipleship strategy with those who make a quick decision, or with those who will not make a quick decision, but are still spiritually open (Discovery is not their first choice, but a Plan B strategy). With DMM some form of Discovery is Plan A.

If God miraculously brings someone to faith quickly, DMM practitioners likely will go straight to passages about Jesus and later circle back to any passages which were skipped. We generally want folks to go through the “Creation to Christ” scripture set because God uses it to create a Kingdom worldview for willing participants. Also, it equips those who come to faith in knowing how to lead others to faith in a path they can replicate. 

T4T was developed where confrontational evangelism was typically not deadly. DMM developed where it was (see my previous post). Since most international Movements are in restricted access nations or regions, I believe DMM is the wiser course of action. For example, while Muslim people who would come to faith in the US might not be persecuted for that decision, I know if they eventually return to their home nation, they will need to be equipped to reach others. Leading them to faith in a way they can replicate anywhere in the world has many benefits. 

Strategically and theologically, I lean heavily towards DMM. To me it is the wiser way forward because of the kinds of reasons I have shared. As a result, I will not invest time towards creating mash-ups.

A Warning

In my previous post I highlighted the value and importance of finding the right near neighbor to become the catalyst. There is a great risk in identifying this as the typical outcome, though. My friend’s response reveals that danger–you waste lots of time.

Those who are already believers currently receive a disproportionate percentage of Kingdom resources.

While my years of schooling make it difficult for me to leave a one-sentence paragraph, that one needs to stand alone. Please go back and re-read it. The likelihood is great that it applies to you. I know it applies to me. This is one of the troubling convictions that come to those of us who travel internationally. After my first trip to West Africa I came back with one haunting conviction: “They do so much with so little and we do so little with so much!”

Catalyzing Multiplication generally requires a two-pronged approach. Barnabas models both prongs when he goes to Antioch. He does what he was sent to do, but he also left, recruited Saul to come back with him and then returned to spend time in that region where the growing work among Gentiles was birthed by the Spirit of God. “Find out where God is working and join him there,” was the counsel Henry Blackaby and Claude King gave us through the Experiencing God workbook. Their materials preceded that wise nugget with an emphasis upon really listening to God. Barnabas listened and he joined what God was doing by connecting two distinct streams of God’s activity.

If believers already receive a disproportionate percentage of Kingdom resources, do not go all in on finding near neighbor Multipliers. Keep actively looking for Persons of Peace, also. It’s a both/and rather than an either/or. I suggest this because you will need some of your own experiences to help coach that potential near neighbor Multiplier when you find him/her. Western Christianity has a huge gravitational attraction which will dominate your life without intentional effort to leverage some of your creativity, energy and efforts toward reaching out to lost people. Make reaching out to them your primary focal point, but keep your eyes and ears open for that near neighbor believer who might become the catalyst, with the right kind of training, coaching and mentoring. Just like you have to beware of the “side drafting” tendencies when you pass a semi on an interstate highway, beware of your own tendencies to get “sucked back into” Addition thinking.

Reflecting on: Who Are the Best Catalysts?

From: “Hoping a new believer or group of new believers will initiate a movement.”
To: “Asking: What national believers who have been followers for many years might become the catalyst(s) for a CPM?”

This relates to the common idea that we as a culturally distant outsider will find and win a lost person(s) who will become the movement catalyst. While this can occasionally happen, the vast majority of movements are started by cultural insiders or near neighbors who have been believers for several or even many years. Their own mindset shifts and fresh understanding of CPM principles open up new possibilities for Kingdom expansion. (Copied from: https://2414now.net/2020/09/22/mindshifts-in-movements-part-1/)

When I shared this list with a friend who is a catalyst in the Middle, he shared:

“I find the last mind-shift something I still go back and forth on. On one hand, I agree with the fact that it is much easier for an insider to start a movement among his own people and those within in the church tend to be better insiders. On the other hand, I often have failed by identifying the wrong insiders who I end up fighting about DNA issues of multiplication and best practices when I initially thought we had traction (sometimes years into the work). Whereas, with those I led to faith as the outside missionary, I got to build the DNA from scratch and didn’t have to fight with the ghost of past tendencies. Since I was this person’s only spiritual father, whatever I modeled for them was the only way and was gold. Whereas, training existing believers sometimes DMM later on the line can be a fad that they move on from. Just some thoughts…. I have trained insider older believers who have worked well!!!!! However, my greatest experience of multiplication has been from new believers that didn’t know anything else!”

I appreciate my friend’s response, because it well illustrates the point Stan and Elizabeth made in the original post at the 24:14 site listed above. Helping long-time believers become DMM catalysts can be slow, tedious and is fraught with great risks. I often compare it to the challenge of buying an old home in a historic district, moving your family into the structure and then starting a massive remodel, while you continue to live there! Deconstruction is absolutely necessary. But it is even harder when that house has been in your family for generations.

My friend in the Middle East had lived there long enough that he speaks the language fluently, understands the culture deeply (he married a woman from his adopted nation) and has made numerous contacts through his side business. His experience is the exception, rather than the rule. Just as it takes listening to God, great wisdom and experience to identify Persons of Peace, it takes the same to identify and help potential Multipliers transition from Addition Paradigms toward implementing true Multiplication mind shifts.

[NOTE: I reserve the phrase Person of Peace for a lost person who will open his/her family/friends to a disciple maker. I suggest we use the term Multiplier to refer to someone who is already a believer who takes up this hard work of Deconstruction/ Reconstruction and begins to actively search for Persons of Peace within their own people group or a near people group. Yes, this is a special category of people, but they are different from the kinds of people Jesus sent the 12 and the 72 looking for in Matthew 10 and Luke 10 respectively.]

Reflecting on: “Barnabas” Encouraging Others

From: “The outside missionary is a “Paul,” preaching on the front lines among the unreached.”
To: “The outsider is far more effective as a “Barnabas,” discovering, encouraging and empowering a nearer-culture “Paul.””

People sent out as missionaries have often been encouraged to view themselves as the front-line worker, modeled after the Apostle Paul. We now realize that the far outsider can instead have the greatest impact by finding and partnering with cultural insiders or near neighbors who become the “Pauls” for their communities.

Note first that Barnabas was also a leader who “did the work” (Acts 11:22-26; 13:1-7). So movement catalysts need to first gain experience making disciples in their own culture and then work cross-culturally to find those “Pauls” from the focus culture whom they can encourage and empower.

Second, even these “Pauls” have to adjust their paradigms. The outside catalysts of a large movement in India studied Barnabas’ life to better understand their role. They then studied the passages with the initial “Pauls” of this movement. Those Paul-type leaders in turn realized that contrary to their cultural patterns (that the initial leader is always preeminent), they in turn wanted to become like Barnabas and empower those they discipled, to have an even greater impact. (Copied from: https://2414now.net/2020/09/22/mindshifts-in-movements-part-1/)

How much do you love the preeminence? Do you seek the limelight? Do you live for accolades?

Years ago I was in Spain doing some training. The wife of our host asked me a strange question: “Do you miss the spot-light?” I had just told her that I had been a Preacher for 31 years, prior to transitioning to my work with Final Command a few months earlier.

My surprise at her question was only surpassed by my honest answer, “No.” What had replaced my desire to be appreciated or applauded for a good sermon? Watching someone I was training and coaching becoming a Disciple Maker was giving me much greater joy.

Luke 10:21 says, At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. What gave Jesus overflowing joy? Listening to the 72 telling about their success in finding Persons of Peace! Hearing them share stories of people who would be open to the King’s arrival into their communities.

While we cannot know for sure, it is possible these seventy-two others (Luke 10:1) were from the earlier ministry of the twelve when they were sent out imitating Jesus’ ministry of peace (Luke 9:1-2). Jesus does all the ministry in the first eight chapters of Luke. In chapter nine he sends out the twelve. Next in Luke 10 is this section on seventy-two others who become the ones he later calls little children. Recognize that you do not have to be part of the twelve to be sent out on a Jesus mission.

Maybe God has a bigger role for you than you can imagine. But maybe he wants that to come to pass through other people you can disciple, rather than through you personally doing most of the frontline work. Movements require many “daughters and sons of encouragement!” [NOTE: We often forget that “Barnabas” was actually a nickname for a man whose given name was Joseph (Acts 4:36). The nickname is used so often many of us never really learn his given name! Could this become your new nickname!]

Reflecting on: Setting the Stage for Multiplication

From: “My ministry is measured by my fruitfulness.”
To: “Are we faithfully setting the stage for multiplication (which may or may not happen during our ministry)?”

Growth is God’s responsibility (1 Cor. 3:6-7). Sometimes attempting to catalyze the first multiplying churches can take quite a few years. Field workers are told, “Only God can produce fruitfulness. Your job is to be faithful and obedient while expecting God to work.” We do our best to follow patterns of disciple-making multiplication found in the New Testament, and we trust the Holy Spirit to bring the growth. (Copied from: https://2414now.net/2020/09/22/mindshifts-in-movements-part-1/)

What if it takes someone besides you? What if it takes someone besides your team? What if you will not live to see the fruit multiplying? Would you still set the stage for multiplication? Abraham was promised offspring as numerous as the stars in the night sky or the sand on a seashore. Would he believe the promise of the one who first imagined multiplication–especially when his wife was barren? That was his crisis of faith. What is yours?

It was fifteen years ago, last month that I first imagined what a DMM in Middle Tennessee might look like. I gathered many groups and tried to use the breakthrough stories from India and Africa to plant a seed of possibility. Every effort crashed on a barrier reef. This morning I saw a new possibility of hope seated in a room. If God blesses that group with multiplication my role will be no more than a small footnote. At one level I am honestly sad at that thought. But God’s glory is a far more significant concern.

If you want to catalyze Movements you have to be good with the role of John the Baptist or Barnabas. Yes, Jesus is the Greater One! Yes, Paul gets more of the limelight, but even he reminds us that the Jesus way is the path of emptying self. Pride will get in the way of multiplication, every time.