Q&A: What are the Protections?

Actual Question: “As you change the ecclesiology more towards a decentralized structure – how do you prevent that people would build their own kingdom and draw people out of the church?”

The best prevention against those who seek to do this is ongoing coaching. Calling leaders and their emerging teams to discover the biblical passages on themes like plurality of elders has proven helpful. Paul was always operating in a team setting and with appropriate mutual accountability. Calling all disciple makers into mutual accountability is foundational to multi-generational disciple-making.

There have been instances of what the questioner is raising which have happened in Movements. It often becomes obvious when they cease sharing the stories of breakthrough, transformation and the numbers of new groups being started. Tracking outcomes is critical to assessing health and leadership issues. Getting emerging leaders to do ongoing Discovery studies (written and/or group) is critical to helping them develop a strong, healthy biblical approach to leadership.

Encourage them to explore the leadership model of Barnabas. Spend time in Ezekiel 34 where Israel’s leaders are compared to shepherding. Explore the theme of “shepherding/pastoring” in both the Old Testament. Investigate the model of leadership Jesus establishes in Matthew’s Gospel. Mutual accountability in an ongoing leadership cohort (which maybe meets once a month) can be profound in protecting God’s people from self-serving leadership models. They are rampant in our world, so we must anticipate their will be challenges.

Who do leaders answer to, ultimately? That is the question they need to answer.

Q&A: How do you encourage Christians who are very happy to sit and receive teaching from the ‘qualified’ to engage with this discovery model? What has worked for you?

Working through strategic preaching/teaching plans which expose these people to Kingdom texts which produce a Kingdom expansion call motivates some. How will passive people be called to “get on the pitch” rather than being only consumers?

Do not focus too much attention on the resistant. Invest time, energy and passion into the willing. Build a team out of these. “Start small to end big; focus on the few to win the many.” are two related the counter-intuitive statements that were learned by on the ground teams in Africa. You will not succeed in getting large numbers of people to take up new approaches at the same time. Their rhythms keep them doing what they are doing. Who are the people who are willing to learn new rhythms?

Celebrate the stories of breakthrough which come from the efforts of your team. As success begins with your team, their stories have the potential to provide the “social proof” which is required by the 84% who are middle or laggard adopters. Focusing too much attention on the slower adopters increases their resistance, but often sidetracks you and your team. Read through Acts and pay special attention to how much attention Saul/Paul gives to the Jewish people in the synagogues who rejected his proclamation.

Focusing on the willing is not about giving up on the resistant, though. It is understanding that they need proof. Give it to them. Get to breakthrough and more will join you. Yes, I know you wish they would help you get to breakthrough, but do not allow that to distract you.

Q&A: What degree of “fruits in keeping with repentance” must be demonstrated before giving converts responsibility in the church?

A discovery group in a household of peace is not the church, yet. It is an existing community that desperately needs the gospel to become a Kingdom outpost. When discovery happens there, these people experience God through the Holy Spirit at work in the Word and their exploration of it together. As a household of peace comes to faith, each will be discipled toward repentance, full loyalty and maturity.

The question reveals that we have made participating in church gatherings the only avenue for coming to know God and surrendering to him. Facilitating a Discovery Group in your own home, among your family and friends can become a pathway for introduction to the church.

When you read the four books called Gospels, ask yourself the following question: “When do the disciples qualify as being full-fledged believers?” When are they “the church”? We see moments when they appear to “get it.” There are times when they confess Jesus as Lord, but then almost immediately tell him he is wrong (Matthew 16). When would your church leadership give them “responsibility in the church?” Obviously, Jesus sent them out earlier (Matthew 10:1ff). Jesus’ actions in the four Gospels needs to become our model, if we are going to see multiplication begin.

An acorn has all the DNA for an oak tree. It cannot be used to manufacture wood flooring or turning a wood bowl, but its DNA is present. Discovery Groups have the spiritual DNA to form churches. There is much that has to happen before they reach that stage of development and maturity, but trees only come from seeds. Biblical churches come from the Word of God being sown in the hearts of men and women. The questioner needs to differentiate between seed sowing and harvesting.

Q&A: Are Addition Growth and Multiplication Complimentary?

Here is the full question from the Salt & Light Conference attendee: “Shouldn’t we say that growth and multiplication are complimentary, where we see growth in Acts with Peter’s preaching during the day of Pentecost first and the process of discipleship done throughout the church thereafter by Paul with the Corinthians or with his spiritual son Timothy telling the church to imitate him as he imitates Christ or Peter with the Jews in 2 Peter 1:12?”

My studied conviction is that something fascinating happens when you overlay Jesus’ three promises regarding fruitfulness in John 15 with the A.P.E.S/T. section from Paul (Ephesians 4:12).

Jesus affirms that those who abide in him will be pruned by the Father so they will

  1. bear fruit (John 15:4)
  2. bear much fruit (John 15:5)
  3. bear fruit that lasts (John 15:16)

His analogy is powerful and significant in Israel’s history. In the vine and the branches analogy we know fresh grapes and wine are the fruit being referenced. Papa God tends the branches to ensure they have optimum opportunities to produce grapes. Their fruitfulness is fundamentally about abiding in Jesus. Later, the way grapes become “fruit that lasts” is via wine making. In Israel’s history there were crops that were incredibly significant for sustaining life and as economic resources: wheat, barley, olives (for oil) and wine were life sustaining. They were bartered and sold by people in this nation right at the point of convergence of two major trade routes: shipping vessels on the Mediterranean Sea and cross land caravans coming from far eastern regions of Asia and the southern regions of Africa. 

The Hebrew word “shalom” is most often translated “peace” but it probably would be better translated by something like “flourishing.” It is a wholly positive word about well-being. Fruitfulness is about wholeness. God created the world and man and called for all of creation to be fruitful and multiply. He works so we will flourish—becoming and producing everything we can and were designed to bear.


The critical piece for us to do in response to God’s purpose and ongoing work is to abide in the vine, to stay connected to Jesus and his life giving nourishment (sap as it were). Every new grape has seeds for replication. 

Apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers are the functions Jesus has graced the church with “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…” (Ephesians 4:12). The body of Christ flourishes when every part is being equipped. Apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers all have essential functions to see each part equipped, empowered and bearing fruit.

Wine making takes more resources than starting new vines. But without the new vines, there is a limit to how much wine can be produced. Apostles and prophets are especially significant to getting new groups started among new people groups and in new places. Paul and his missionary band were the tabernacle-like portable church. They reveal the incredible value and need for the church on the go, seeking out where God desires to be working next. Evangelists and pastor/teachers follow and are critical empowering every new believer to begin “bearing much fruit” and arriving at the place where “fruit that lasts” can be produced, too.

In DMMs the evangelists who bear much fruit are insiders to the culture who are quickly involved in reaching their friends and neighbors. They are like the many plant cuttings which are taken off a growing vine and re-planted to result in many fruitful vines (all taking their DNA from Jesus). Wine making is about preservation. It is about long-term access to the life-giving resources given from the vine. You don’t start by building your wine press, you start by planting a vineyard. It is my conviction that Church Growth models lead with what should follow. Far too often, they also export lots of foreign culture. They have taken far too much DNA from the business world, I fear.

Yes, addition (“much fruit”) is complimentary to multiplication (“bear fruit), but there is an orderliness we need to recognize and honor. And we must recognize that preservation comes even later in the cycle.

Q&A: When & how do you invite people to believe & obey Jesus for salvation in a DBS?

We invite people to believe and obey Jesus for salvation when they are showing evidence that they are trusting him enough to become obedient in small, simple ways. We do this primarily through the passages which allow them to Discover what happens when people in the Bible are coming to faith in him and obeying him.

Everything participants discover sticks with them better and becomes more powerful for them. Premature calls to faith and obedience can result in premature births and we know preemies have great risks and require extensive neonatal care. A “normal” gestation period is the preferred route. But we always stay open to the miraculous movement of the Holy Spirit. For example, if a Muslim person in a Discovery Group has a dream of Jesus while the group is still in the OT passages, we likely would transition into relevant NT passages corresponding to the theme of the dream. Later we will return to our previous place, but we trust God to know better than we do.

One of the “counter-intuitive” insights summarizes this concept. It says: “Start prepared to take a long time making strong disciples, but stay open to the miraculous acceleration of the Holy Spirit.” The Creation to Christ Scripture set contains 26 passages. If you study one a week, then it will take six months (with weekly Discovery gatherings and no interruptions. There are lots of evangelistic strategies which are much quicker than this Discovery approach. But our goal is not to just have people make professions of faith, we desire to also equip them to becoming disciple makers.

Multiplication requires raising up many disciple makers. The goal is to equip every person coming to faith to lead others to faith by the same strategic approach used with them and their family/friends. Replication, coaching and building a culture of intentionally focusing on outreach are critical for multi-generational movements. This approach starts slow. It proceeds slowly. The appearance of speeding up comes when more and more disciple makers are intentionally making disciples who are making disciples.

The tragedy is that many believe they can be faithful disciples to Jesus without ever making other disciples. Remember his words to the fishermen he called to follow him?

Our global experience reveals that when people come to faith by hearing God’s word, they open the conversations about what living by faith looks like in their life. Pentecost was a response to people coming to the conviction that they had contributed to the crucifixion of the Son of God. Let’s be sure people have experienced some of what the Word teaches about Jesus before we call them to faith.

Q&A: How is the DMM Wheel to be Used?

The DMM Wheel serves multiple functions. It was designed as a graphic presentation of multiple stages of intentionally moving toward Multiplication.

David Watson trained early explorers in 22 Critical Elements of Movements (called CPM first and then DMM). No one can remember a list of 22 and not all of the Critical Elements are necessary to the early phases of getting a Movement started.

After much prayer and experience, these five Critical Elements were identified as how to launch the transition needed to begin implementing enough of DMM strategies to begin transitioning toward Multiplication. Many early explorers never became even novice practitioners because 22 Critical Elements is overwhelming. How much of that do you need to start making some of the paradigm shifts to start developing essential spiritual disciplines?

Traditional strategies are too focused on knowledge acquisition, so we focused on these five elements because they are the places where early breakthroughs came. Finding Persons of Peace and using culturally appropriate inductive study methods, which work with a whole family, were essential to beginning in ways that would multiply. Praying and fasting coupled with good access ministries that created places for overt spiritual conversations increased the odds of finding Persons of Peace. All of these early practices open us to many paradigm shifts which are essential to Embracing Multiplication strategies.

The graphic was fine-tuned as a training resource. Once a team grasps a deep understanding of these five Critical Elements and begins to try to implement them, then the Wheel can be used as a way of assessing “What is missing?” when they are not yet seeing new groups being started out of the first groups they can begin. Often, their earliest groups are only believers. Clearly there is no Person of Peace. These are more “practice” groups than true Discovery Groups.

We may have wonderful Compassion Ministries, but do not have the frontline personnel trained to initiate overt spiritual conversations. They will need to be trained to value the role of a Person of Peace enough to be willing to make the needed changes to Embrace Multiplication.

Often, teams eventually come to the foundational understanding that they do not pray and fast in order to hear from God. We have launched these ministries from our own human strength, rather than in response to God calling us to reach a particular people group or region and that is why we are not seeing Multiplication. All five of these must be happening simultaneously to truly start toward replication. While we may look at them one by one, we need all five to start getting new generations where groups are planting groups and brand new disciples are making new disciples who are doing likewise.

Q&A: Are All DMMers Angry at Traditional Churches?

No, but many let their frustration boil over in this way. Often their angry sounding remarks arise from their impatience to see breakthroughs.

It is my firm conviction that great care should be taken to guard against derogatory comments. It is my studied conviction that what we are currently doing will not fulfill the Great Commission and I personally believe that DMM provides greater potential for experiencing multiplication.

I praise God for the good fruit that has been accomplished through traditional “building-based” churches. I came to faith by being reared in a church of about 100 people with Sunday School classes, a regular preacher and multiple scheduled gatherings at a meetinghouse. I have earned multiple degrees from private Christian universities and am thankful for the opportunities to dig deeply into God’s Word.

But I now realize those institutions were the fruit of spiritual movements that preceded them. They were the effects, not the causes of multiplication.

The people living around us who cannot imagine joining us in those scheduled meeting times still need the Gospel planted deep into their hearts. Note Jesus’ Great Commission directs us to “Go and make disciples among all nations (people groups, ethno-linguistic groups)…” Where are the pockets of those people groups in your city? Until we take seriously this Final Command, it may sound like we are being offensive. But if calling people to obey King Jesus is the reason for the offense, then we dare not back down.

Having written that, though, I have found it odd that some of my DMM friends admonish more care when speaking with an Imam than with a pastoral leader. Why would you care more about not needlessly antagonizing one over the other. At its core, Disciple Making Movements grow out of looking for the willing by finding Persons of Peace and Multipliers.

Persons of Peace are lost people who are open to the Kingdom (Luke 10). Multipliers are saved people who are open to the generational multiplication which results in Kingdom expansion. Do you seek to antagonize the lost people who are not yet Persons of Peace? Why antagonize the believers who are not yet open to becoming Multipliers? Do you trust the Holy Spirit to bring conviction? Orneriness does not appear in any of the spiritual gifts lists that I know.

If my last statement goads you a bit, remember it the next time you choose to take out your frustration on a brother or sister who is slow to embrace multiplication. Saying something derogatory to or about them likely will not help them open up to new ways forward. Pray for them and keep looking for the two types of people who are most strategic. Ask God to open their hearts and keep moving.

Q&A: If a Discovery process is facilitated entirely by not-yet-Christians, and Christians aren’t even present, how can harmful errors be avoided or even noticed?

Persistent and consistent coaching of the Person of Peace or another inside leader of a Discovery Group is the way DBSs avoid heresy. It is instructive to realize that 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians were letters Paul wrote to a group of believers in Corinth. Clearly that church had its struggles with false teaching and false practices. The founder, Paul an Apostle, did not stay with that young church indefinitely. But he had ongoing relationships with some of the people there and those insiders kept him informed.

Ongoing relationships with key leaders of a family or friendship group are critical to coaching a Discovery Group toward faith, becoming a church and guiding them to plant additional generations of churches. Early DMM trainers used the acronym M.A.W.L. as Model, Assist Watch and Leave. More recently some have changed the L to Launch. Leaving never referred to Leaving Alone.

The good catalyst recognizes the longer he/she is a personal participant in a Discovery Group, the greater the risk that the Group will develop a stunting dependency upon her/him. The goal is to model good Discovery. Assist an inside leader (someone the family or friendship group already looks upon as a leader) to be a good facilitator and then Launch that person into the role.

Weekly meetings with this Inside Leader provide opportunities to identify problems which are arising, recognize theological errors which may be surfacing and coach this leader to healthy corrective studies and practices. Personal presence is not the only way to bring correction, otherwise Paul would have dropped everything to return to Corinth. It is very possible for an Outside leader to stay too long and cause far greater problems than arise when he/she leaves too soon.

Also, we must recognize that the Discovery process has been developed to ensure that the actual teacher is the Holy Spirit at work through the Word of God which is being explored in each gathering. How much do we really trust the Holy Spirit? Are we more confident in our abilities or the power of the revelation of God contained in Scriptures?

How Much Trellis is Needed?

In John 15 Jesus has three promises related to fruit bearing. It is his promise that if branches will abide in him as the vine, they will be carefully tended so that they “bear fruit” (John 15:4), “bear much fruit” (John 15:5, 8) and “bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:16). In Disciple Making Movements in West Africa we have observed all of these stages of fruit bearing–initial breakthroughs, increasingly rapid multiplication of new groups and then the stabilizing, formational work required for long-term preservation of fruit.

I am convinced these three phases actually correspond to the functions of the apostolic, evangelistic and pastoral/educational (which correlate to planting vines, tending vines so their fruitfulness multiplies and then preserving the grapes through wine making which requires the greatest labor and construction of the winepress and places for storing the wineskins while fermentation happens).

In keeping with those three phases, New Harvest Global Ministries in Sierra Leone (West Africa) has three different training tracks, with increasing training and education required for each subsequent phase:

1. Sending experienced disciple makers into a previously closed region is that initial breakthrough phase. Often, these workers have grown up under very similar circumstances to the people groups among which they are working. These apostolic workers are dilegently looking for Persons of Peace. They are experienced in spiritual warfare and the power encounters demanded to see breakthroughs come. Increasingly these workers are sent out of DMMs among least reached near-neighbor people groups. The very first apostolic workers are often highly trained and experienced and they find households of Peace where people come to faith in Jesus via Discovery Bible Studies.

2. But once the first believers come to faith in a village or community, they are sent out with very little additional training, because they will imitate the process which just resulted in them coming to faith. As they become successful in starting new groups in new places nearby, they will begin to receive additional training. Some of these who are early fruit will eventually be trained to become apostolic workers sent to other hard places nearby.

3. Others who show an aptitude toward pastoral ministry toward existing groups will receive training to be equipped to nurture the group with which they came to faith. In some emerging churches there are not yet existing leaders within the group. In those groups another type of leader will be sent in. Much like Barnabas was sent from Jerusalem to Antioch and he eventually brought in Saul, leaders are sometimes sent to stabilize new churches and raise up teams who can be sent to other nearby villages.

Some Americans who have travelled to Sierra Leone have been surprised to find such training mechanisms in place, but they have more than 20 generations of multiplication which has been happening for more than 15 years. More trellis and preservation capacities are needed after multiplication begins to happen, but those are not what we lead with if we want to see Movements! This is a significant difference between Disciple Making Movement strategies and traditional cross-cultural missions.

Q&A: What is the role of the local church?

There are multiple roles a local church can provide to assist in catalyzing Multiplying Movements. What is happening globally reveals that Movements are the work of God, so our best efforts involve us in finding out where God is already working and seeking the ways we can join him.

Churches certainly can partner with God by rallying intercessors. Members who will pray and fast to intentionally seek God’s heart are crucial to Movements. Training and sending out disciple makers among pockets of lostness are another way a local church can partner in catalyzing DMMs.

Sending out and assisting disciple making teams financially can be a wonderful way to sow into Movements. Great care needs to be exhibited in these partnerships, though. Local church leaders can unknowingly operate with a “franchise” paradigm, where our assumption is that every kingdom outpost will look like our home church does. In global DMMs we see incredible diversity ranging from very simple churches to much larger and more highly organized churches.

Sometimes we use the Powerpoint titled “Elephant Churches/Rabbit Churches” to help leaders envision some of the incredible value in this diversity. If, for example, you want to move large heavy items, rabbits cannot get the job done, but if you want to feed a massive army, raising rabbits will actually be the better way to go. When that presentation was originally presented it contrasted the large church model with small simple communities of faith as though the choice has to be made. But a friend in Africa saw a different way forward.

Shodankeh envisioned “Elephant Churches” intentionally and strategically planting networks of “Rabbit Churches” across his nation, West Africa and throughout the globe. Where there is little organized persecution some of those small simple churches will grow larger, build buildings and become regional training centers which allow the gospel to flow out to the villages which have not heard.

Having a Kingdom mindset, rather than a parochial approach, is critical. Just think about the church in Antioch (Acts 13) if you need a both/and text for this vision.