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By David L. Watson, Paul D. Watson
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2014 David L. Watson and Paul D. Watson
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DISCIPLE-MAKERS EMBRACE LESSONS TAUGHT BY FAILURE
I (David) participated in the meeting where the term Church—Planting Movement was coined. We—a group of mission practitioners and strategists—wanted to describe what we had observed in several countries as we took seriously our understanding of the Great Commission's charge to go and make disciples of all peoples, baptize them into local churches, and teach them to obey all the commands of Christ.
None of us, in our wildest dreams, ever thought we would witness what happened. Initially, our goals were to establish "beachhead" churches in resistant or inaccessible locations and people groups. We planned on establishing a single church where there was none. We had no plans for starting hundreds or thousands of churches. We didn't even dream it was possible to see that many churches started in the places where we worked. These places we were targeting had already demonstrated their resistance to the Gospel, to church planting, and to any other outside influence. We just did everything we could think of in hopes that something would work and at least one church would start. We defined success as one church started in a people group where there was none.
As one of the first in my denomination to take on this challenge, I had no clue how to make it happen. My wife and I were considered successful church planters because we took risks and tried new things. And, perhaps most important, because we were not afraid of failure. When we failed, we just tried something else.
Our organization trained us in good research skills. We discussed access and evangelism techniques. We developed prayer networks, security protocols, and communication and administration systems. As a result of research, I knew reaching the new people group could not depend on me, because I did not have access. This people group would not respond to outsiders because their history was full of wars resisting outside influence. What was I to do?
God taught me, through many failures, that I had to focus on making disciples of Christ, not followers of my church or denomination. He also taught me that I needed to teach these disciples to obey the commands of Jesus, not my church/denom-inational doctrines or traditions. This is what led to the breakthrough that resulted in more than eighty thousand churches among a people considered unreachable.
Initially, the term Church-Planting Movement meant "spontaneous churches starting without the missionary's direct involvement." Over time, my teammates and I decided to quantify and qualify the term to be a bit more specific for the church planters we trained, coached, and mentored. We defined a Church-Planting Movement 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. Paul and I will go into greater detail about all the elements of this definition later. At the time of this writing, there are sixty-eight movements among people groups around the world.
As more and more leaders became practitioners of the methodologies that lead to a CPM, they had a couple of observations. First, they realized people have different definitions of church. In some cases, people became angry because what we reported as a church did not match their definition of one. The word church did not communicate what we thought it would. People challenged our practitioners, saying, "Jesus said He would build the church. Why do you have people focused on doing something Jesus said He would do?" These were good observations, and we needed to address them.
After a lot of conversations, we decided to use the term Disciple-Making Movement, or DMM, to describe our role in God's redemptive work. There is no doubt that we have a role. Matthew 28:16–20, the Great Commission, tells us to make disciples. The implication is that these disciples would also make disciples, and so on.
As believers obey Christ, they are to train men and women to be Contagious Disciple-Makers who pray, engage lost communities, find Persons of Peace (the ones God has prepared to receive the Gospel in a community for the first time), help them discover Jesus through Discovery Groups (an inductive group Bible study process designed to take people from not knowing Christ to falling in love with Him), baptize new believers, help them become communities of faith called church, and mentor emerging leaders. All of these very intentional activities catalyze Disciple-Making Movements. Jesus works through His people as they obey His Word, a Disciple-Making Movement becomes a Church-Planting Movement, and Jesus gets the glory for everything.
Many people use the term Church-Planting Movement or Disciple-Making Movement to describe or justify what they do. But on closer examination, Paul and I find that many groups who use one of these terms simply apply it to what they have always done. In our experience, a CPM is the result of obedience-based discipleship that sees disciples reproducing disciples, leaders reproducing leaders, and churches reproducing churches—in other words, a Disciple-Making Movement. If these things are not happening, it is not a CPM.
True DMM methodology is about being disciplined in educating, training, and mentoring people to obey all the commands of Jesus, regardless of consequences. The results are not quick. They only appear to be so because of exponential growth. When we truly engage in the process that leads to an observable DMM, we typically spend two to four years discipling and developing leaders. But because of the replication process due to leaders being taught to obey God's Word by making disciples and teaching them to obey, in this same two to four years as many as five more leaders emerge. These leaders also develop more leaders. Each leader invests two to four years in other leaders, who invest two to four years in other leaders, and so on. The apparent result is explosive growth that does not seem to take much time and energy. But appearances are misleading.
DMMs are extremely time and energy intensive. Leaders invest a major portion of their time equipping other leaders. Churches invest in starting more groups that become churches as they obey Christ's teachings and fulfill the nature and functions of church, which means they teach others to do the same.
There were no visible or measurable results the first four years of my ministry among a very resistant unreached people group. My mission organization was ready to discipline me for failure to do my job. But during those years I equipped five leaders. These five equipped twenty-five more, who in turn equipped hundreds of other leaders.
A few churches became more churches as leaders were equipped and trained to obey all the commands of Christ. More churches became hundreds of churches as the leadership equipping process continued. Every leader has years invested in him or her by other leaders. Nothing is quick. It only appears to be because more and more leaders are being produced in obedience to Christ's command to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:19–20).
So, in a DMM, rapid multiplication really isn't rapid. We go slowly, but appear to go fast. We invest extensively in one person to reach and train many. We want to add at least two new leaders to our mentoring process each year, and equip the new leaders to do the same every year. As leaders multiply, churches grow and multiply.
If you really want to start a Disciple-Making Movement anywhere in the world and witness God's work as He starts a Church-Planting Movement, invest in teaching, training, and mentoring leaders to obey all the commands of Christ. If you want to evaluate a so-called DMM, examine the discipleship and leadership-equipping process. Real and lasting DMMs invest heavily in leadership and training. A DMM is causative; a CPM is the result.CHAPTER 2
DISCIPLE-MAKERS DECULTURALIZE, NOT CONTEXTUALIZE, THE GOSPEL
When I was five, my Sunday school teacher handed me a piece of paper and some crayons and asked me to draw a picture of Jesus. My church was not one to have images of Jesus hanging or standing around, though I am sure I must have seen some renditions of Jesus in books, in Bibles, or hanging on the walls around my community. When I finished my assignment to the best of my young and untrained abilities, my Jesus looked exactly like me in the ways that count. He had white skin, blond hair, and blue eyes. I loved Jesus, and was proud of how I had drawn Him.
As a college student I was involved in the missions program of my student union. I was assigned to work among a group of young African American students in my community. It was my first cross-cultural experience.
One day I exhausted all my materials before the time was up, so I grabbed some paper, colored pencils, and crayons and passed them out. I instructed the children to draw a picture of Jesus. I was surprised when their pictures depicted a Jesus with dark skin and African features.
Since those early days in my ministry, I have been fascinated with how various cultures depict Jesus. I have worked with Hispanics, American Indians, East Asians, South Asians, Southeast Asians, Middle Easterners, and Africans. Children from each culture will render Jesus as looking like themselves unless taught to do differently. This is natural, and I think it is a part of God's plan for reaching the nations. Jesus is no longer flesh and blood, as we know. He is different from us. Now we meet Him as the Holy Spirit represents Him to us. He has no color, no ethnic heritage, and no cultural distinctions except the holiness and righteousness of God.
One of the challenges of being a cross-cultural witness is presenting Jesus in the same way the Holy Spirit would. Jesus' cultural heritage is the family of God. As the Creator, He made all of us, regardless of our cultural identity, in His own image. As His adopted children we have a responsibility to become like Him. We should not introduce Jesus as looking or being like us. He is not. To represent Him as something He is not is a lie, first to ourselves, and then to those we wish to introduce to Him.
Since 1977, I have given my life to the ministry of cross-cultural witness on behalf of Jesus. In the early days I was trained to contextualize my witness to my host culture. As I understood contextualization, this was basically to make Jesus acceptable to them by dressing Him up to look like them. Add a little makeup, change the clothes, use a different language, and voilà: a Jesus they certainly couldn't refuse.
But with time, the makeup I applied began to run. The clothes wore out. And the language was always something short of perfect. The Jesus as I understood Him would ultimately show up, confusing and sometimes offending my hosts.
Regardless of how hard I tried, I could never make Jesus look just right to another culture. Even though I have had some success in presenting my made-up Jesus to my hosts, it was extremely difficult and tiring to keep the makeup fresh, the clothes new, and the language just right. No matter how diligently I studied and researched culture and built relationships, I could not know my host culture well enough to present Jesus in a perfectly contextualized manner. My clothes, food choices, and language, as well as adopted cultural forms of family relations, community involvement, and worship, were always slightly off at best, disastrous at worst.
I began to question contextualization. Perhaps I just wasn't cut out to be a cross-cultural witness for Jesus. I began to pray that God would show me how to represent Him to others. And slowly, as all good teachers do, God began to teach me through others' experiences, my own experiences, and object lessons that I will never forget.
Since 1985 I have been working in the unreached and least-reached parts of our world. I have had to work in secret, and I have had to keep my identity well hidden. Anything less could have resulted in the loss of access to the people to whom God sent me, as well as the deaths of those who accepted Christ as a result of my witness. A dressed-up Jesus was not an option. I was nonresidential much of the time and didn't have the time or the inclination to keep the makeup straight, the clothes new, and the language perfect. I had to learn another way.
My first learning experience came when I had the unique opportunity to witness to a member of my host community. He was an old shopkeeper who was well liked and had no problems with me as a foreigner. We conversed almost daily. I liked him, and I think he liked me. I did not hide the fact that I was a Christian. Everyone assumed I was anyway, since I was white. He did not hide the fact that he was a Hindu.
One day our conversation strayed to religion. As a trained witness I was thrilled with the opportunity. But as it turned out, the opportunity was one for me to learn, not to lead another person into the Kingdom of God.
The old man told me that he just did not understand Christianity. There was no way he could give up his religion, which was so much a part of his daily life, to accept a new religion that from his perspective was so much NOT a part of the daily lives of the Christians he knew. He began every day with meditations, offerings, and prayers to his god. As the day went on, he would stop for more prayer and meditation. Each business transaction was blessed in prayer, and each dollar made thankfully offered to his god.
Everyone knew his devotion, and that devotion was as obvious at home and in private as it was in public. The questions he presented to me shoved me into some long and deep thought and prayer.
"Why would I want to give up the god I can see for one I cannot see?"
"Why would I want to worship only one day a week when now I worship several times every day?"
"Why would I want to do business without the presence of my god to oversee it and bless it?"
"Why would I want to try to convince others of my holiness with words, when they can see my devotion to my god?"
"Why would I want to let only words teach my children, rather than my life?"
This old man had a limited and distorted view of a committed Christian's life, but the form of secret or private worship that was the norm for most Christians he knew or observed was certainly contributing to his misunderstanding. I realized this had to change. I asked God to give me a local cultural informant who could take Jesus as I know Him and present the essence of who He is in a meaningful way to this man's culture.
As I prayed for this person, I realized that I had to find a way to minimize my cultural representation of Jesus. This is quite different from dressing Jesus up in a way that would be acceptable to another culture. How can I ever know another culture well enough to dress Jesus up to meet their expectations, wants, or needs? I cannot. But I do know my own culture, and if I am honest with Scripture and critical in my thinking and planning, I can present Jesus in a near-acultural way that can be assimilated and transformed into a cultural model by the ones God has chosen and prepared. I have learned that God has prepared men and women in every culture who can meet those who love Jesus from another culture, learn to love Jesus from them, strip away the cultural baggage attached (which we can minimize), and present Jesus to their own culture in a loving and caring way that results in lives changed and the Kingdom enlarged.
The most obvious areas where I needed to strip away my own culture and cultural expectations were in my worship styles, both private and public. As I taught my new friends worship, I taught the elements of worship, not a style or form. This was not easy. What was natural for me was foreign for them. I learned to ask questions as I taught.
When I introduced prayer, I asked them how they would pray. They began to pray in a way that was familiar to them and directed toward the God we all knew and loved. When I introduced singing, I asked them what songs they would sing. They had none, so I did not give them one of mine. Instead, the Holy Spirit inspired them to write their own. It sounded like their music, and it gave glory and honor to God.
When I introduced teaching, I asked them how they would teach God's Word. Their style was different from mine, but normal for their culture. When I introduced preaching, I asked them how they would exhort others to follow Christ's teachings. The resulting form of preaching was different from what I was used to, but it met their needs and was acceptable to their culture. When I introduced church leadership, I asked them how they would lead a group in their community. The results were different from the congregational approach I would have taken, but it fit them and their way of doing things.
Excerpted from Contagious Disciple-Making by David L. Watson, Paul D. Watson. Copyright © 2014 David L. Watson and Paul D. Watson. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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