The Person, Not the Method

by Emanuel Prinz with Dave Coles

Over a period of three years, I conducted empirical research among effective movement catalysts to discover the traits and competencies possessed by pioneers effective in catalyzing a movement among a Muslim people group and which traits they considered to have contributed to their catalyzing of a movement. This resulted in a profile of an effective movement catalyst, including eleven traits and competencies self-reported as exhibited by all participating effective catalysts.

The data of my research suggest that the effective catalyzing of movements is not tied to any particular methodology, though all employed reproductive movement approaches. Different effective catalysts employ different ministry approaches, both in terms of their movement methodology and in their approach to contextualization. A quarter of the catalysts participating in this study skipped the question about their ministry approach, which points to likely hesitation on their side to put their approach “into a box.” In addition, more than half of those who answered the question used the “Other” option to describe their ministry approach in their own words. Often the description given was a hybrid of two or more of the other approaches. This means that the approach of most effective catalysts in this study is a hybrid of more than one ministry approach, which they have adapted to the uniqueness of their context. The research does not support any claims that one specific ministry approach must be followed precisely to lead to a movement.

With the exception of the approach of adding Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) to existing Christian Background Believer (CBB) churches, it appears that particularity of methodology does not correlate to success in catalyzing a movement. By definition, the traditional approach (planting a single church) is not conducive to catalyzing a movement. This could explain why the pattern of adding MBBs to existing CBB churches is not utilized by any effective catalysts. At the same time, 13% of the catalysts employed the approach of planting a new church comprised of MBBs which then reproduced itself and grew into a movement. The difference in these approaches is not methodological, but primarily sociocultural. The adding of MBBs to CBB churches involves the bridging of divides, whether sociological, cultural, ethnic, or linguistic. These barriers explain why adding MBBs to existing CBB churches is not an effective approach for catalyzing a CPM, whereas planting a new MBB church may be. Still, only 13% of all movements examined have been catalyzed with such an approach. 

The overwhelming majority of movements were catalyzed with one of the various movement approaches (those of D. Garrison, Watsons/Trousdale, S. Smith). These approaches have certain principles in common, including cultural contextualization, obedience-oriented discipleship, house churches, reproduction, training of multipliers, and reproducible resources. The overall emphasis in pioneer and apostolic leadership and movement literature has been on right methodology, with some attention to leader traits and competencies of the pioneer leader or leaders, particularly traits of a spiritual nature. However, the findings of this research go beyond the commonly established insights of Christian pioneer leadership. The data clearly suggest that a particular methodology is far less significant in catalyzing movements than may have been assumed or publicized. The data of this study clearly establish that certain pioneer leader traits and competencies are strongly associated with effective catalyzing of CPMs. This perspective has been voiced by only a few, most notably Neill Mims and Bill Smith, who formulated what are considered to be among the most significant insights of almost 20 years of research into CPMs: “At the end of the day, it is the man or woman of God and not the method that God blesses.”

Another of the few voices who have expressed this perspective is movement thinker Dave Ferguson, who concluded: “the greater the missional impact, the more obvious the pioneering apostolic leadership becomes.” The person of the pioneer leader(s), not the method he or she employs, plays the greatest role in determining whether or not a movement will result. Bill Smith is again among the few who formulated this accurate conclusion: “If someone says to me, give me the method or give me the curriculum, I know that they have not understood that this [the catalyzing of a movement] is accomplished through persons rather than methods.”

The right leader(s) will employ the right methodology. A pioneer leader with traits such as radical learning, intelligence, complex thinking, innovation, and initiative, who then possesses the necessary socio-influential and transformational competencies, has the best potential to identify and implement the most effective methodology for the context in which he or she is operating. However, a person who receives a methodology, but lacks the traits and competencies identified in this study, will be unable to effectively apply the methodology. This stands in stark contrast to the conclusions of many publications on movements that center around methods and principles rather than on the person of the catalyst. I hope the clear data of this research will jolt a paradigm shift in the field of catalyzing movements.

This article was first published in Mission Frontiers and was edited with permission. Pre-order the book, Movement Catalysts by Emanuel Prinz

They Burned Their Amulets

Disciple-makers Rafi* and Nabila* regularly travel by motorbike through thick jungle to the home of an elderly Muslim couple. They first met Iqbal* and Tasya* while passing out food supplies at the start of the pandemic. 

Since then, Rafi and Nabila have made the two-hour trek several times to visit the welcoming couple. Though they speak different dialects, they share who Jesus is through Bible stories of His power over nature, sin, and death. Then the couples discuss what is revealed about God in the Word. 

During their latest visit, Rafi and Nabila shared stories from the Gospel of Mark about Jesus’ ability to heal, and His power and authority over demons. As a result, Iqbal and Tasya said they believed that Jesus had the power to protect them from evil spirits. Furthermore, they wanted to let go of the amulets they had trusted in for protection. 

So they burned the amulets, and Iqbal and Tasya prayed on their own with their beginners’ understanding  — huge steps toward becoming disciples of Jesus!

Pray that our team can find a translation of the Bible in this couple’s heart language. And join us as we pray: “May the God of hope fill [Iqbal and Tasya] with all joy and peace as [they] trust in him, so that [they] may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

*pseudonym

Give Up Your Way: A Key Component of Disciple-Making

Joyo and Anita, national partners of James and Sharon, were ready to move. Together the couple had sought the Lord on where they might live to be most effective in making multiplying disciples. And the Lord had answered.

They felt led to move to a new area and start a ministry that would open the region to the gospel for the first time. By seeking the Lord themselves, the couple was honored and able to “own” the discovery that the Holy Spirit had given them. 

Through persons of peace, Anita has since started four groups that are using the Discovery Bible Study method. And a second generation of seekers has already been formed!

This is a key component of disciple-making movements: Only when leaders like James and Sharon humble themselves, trust the Father, and fully release younger disciples to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit can we see the plan and the fruit the Father has in mind. 

As Jesus taught in Matthew 16:24, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.” James and Sharon have seen it first-hand, “Death to self and submission to life in Christ is always a great idea.” 

*pseudonym

Lessons from a Movement Leader from South Asia

by Andy Walker

Sam* is the national leader of a large six-year-old Church Planting Movement in South Asia. He shared a summary of lessons they have learned and applied in their ministry. Here are highlights of this movement’s leadership principles.

  1. Be very clear about money matters. Be honest and transparent with leadership. It’s important.
  2. All leaders must love one another, no matter how much or little fruit they are seeing. Don’t compare results. Celebrate everyone’s successes, primarily led and modeled by top leadership.
  3. When leadership meets, ask about challenges. If a leader is not sharing their troubles, they are confused about what success is. Sharing both successes and challenges shows trustworthiness.
  4. When the ministry grows, distribute responsibility. Not distributing responsibility is a hindrance to multiplication. It shows too high a view of oneself and too low a view of others.
  5. We have learned to do three-to-five-hour trainings in smaller groups. People go home the same day. Small groups that don’t stay overnight receive much less attention. This helps with security concerns and allows connection to the deeper generational leaders.
  6. When we start something new, we think about the end vision. It keeps us on track. As Paul wrote, “Run in such a way as to get the prize…. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly.” (See 1 Cor. 9:24-26)
  7. Changes will be needed; flexibility is required. We don’t change movement principles, but we adjust applications along the way. We must listen to what the Father is saying and follow it as Jesus did. (John 5:19; 17:4; 20:21) The Lord will guide us through needed changes.
  8. We don’t always need to find good people. Sometimes we need to connect with bad people too. Each leader will be different from me. It’s my responsibility to help them mature as a disciple-maker. It’s not essential that every believer be a good leader.If we spend time with them, they can become good people in the Lord. As Paul wrote, “Even though I was once a blasphemer . . . the grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly.” (See 1 Tim. 1:13-16)
  9. A mentor should believe in his disciple. Trust them. We see this in the ministries of Jesus (Luke 10:1; John 4:2; Luke 22:31-32), Barnabas (Acts 9:2628), and Paul (1 Tim. 1:18, 2 Tim. 2:2, 1 Cor. 4:17). This is part of leading lovingly: to always protect, trust, hope, and persevere. (1 Cor. 13:7)
  10. If I have a bad experience with someone, I need to get out of the situation and let it go. Leave that place and say to that person, “I am trusting you to Jesus.” Pray for them, but know when it’s time to move on. Both Jesus (Matt.10:14) and Paul (Titus 3:10-11) warn us not to get stuck in unfruitful relationships.
  11. I can’t let my disciple lean on me too much; instead, I help him lean on Jesus. Jesus has the answers and is the only rock on which we build. I must build only God’s kingdom. This is not about me. I aim to make disciples of Jesus (Matt 28:19), not disciples of myself.
  12. Every mentor should teach the Bible, not personal ideas about the Bible (as the Pharisees did—Matt. 15:1-9). Scripture is the tool God uses. (Heb. 4:12) It is useful to thoroughly equip God’s servants for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17) Paul modeled this in 1 Tim. 4: 1-16.
  13. God chose us for this work, so we must hear from Him about doing this work. (Eph. 2:10) I must listen to Him and obey Him. I must apply before I share with others. (James 1:22-25)
  14. Don’t try to be part of a crowd. The crowd is not important. Never try to win a crowd; try to win one family or one house church. They will become a crowd one day by reaching other families. In Genesis, God established the pattern of reaching many through one family. (Gen. 12:1-3, 28:14) Jesus modeled knowing when to prioritize a small group over a crowd. (Mark 7:16-18)
  15. Time is important; invest it wisely. The psalmist calls us to “number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Ps. 90:12) Jesus says we must work while there is daylight. (John 9:4) And Paul commands, “Be very careful, then, how you live— not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16)
  16. A movement must touch every group. If we are not reaching a people group in our sphere of influence, we must ask what God wants us to do. He will give a way to reach them. He cares for all peoples, for example in Ps. 22:27; 47:1; 72:11; Matt. 24:14; 28:19; 1 Cor. 9:19-23; 1 Tim. 2:1-6 and Rev. 15:4.
  17. God’s strategy cannot be stopped. Use the wisdom He gives and follow His commands. (Josh. 1:7-9; Ps. 37:4-6; Prov. 3:5-6; 14:12, John 5:19-20; James 1:5)
  18. Sometimes we get proud. Pride is dangerous. Leaders must remain humble and teachable. (Prov. 13:10; John 15:5; 13:3-17; 1 Cor. 3:5-8; 2 Cor. 3:5; Phil 2:3-11; James 4:6-16)
  19. Respect yourself, your family, and others. When leaders only focus on ministry but not their family, they will get stopped along the way and will not be healthy. Personal and family health are very important for succeeding in ministry. (See Deut. 6:4-7; 1 Tim. 5:8; Titus 1:6-7; 1 Tim. 3:4-5).

This article was first published in Mission Frontiers and was edited with permission.

“Why Do You Look So Heavy Hearted?”

“Why do you look so heavy-hearted?” Ryan asked. He was meeting with his friend, Vin, a new disciple, hungry to grow in God. He had just led him through a process of turning from old sin into the deeper identity Christ gives His followers.  

Vin contemplated what the Holy Spirit had just revealed to him.
“I’m realizing for the first time how terrible I actually am… my real self,” Vin answered.

“That is actually a good thing to know,” Ryan encouraged. “It helps us know how big God’s grace really is.” Ryan didn’t think Vin was convinced, but he knew the Holy Spirit would continue working in Vin’s heart. He moved to end their time in prayer.  

“No,” Vin stopped him. “I’ll pray first, then you.”   

Vin then prayed a clear proclamation of the gospel over his own life. He expressed deep sorrow for his sin and overwhelming thanks for Christ’s ability to cover it, and the Father’s rich love. 

Ryan was in tears. “Seeing the powerful movement of the Holy Spirit to break and reshape a heart is this life’s greatest joy.”  

Pray as God shapes Vin to be the kind of person that He uses for His purposes! And pray for more workers! For how can people like Vin call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe if they have never heard? And how can they hear unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? (Romans 10:14-15a)

*pseudonyms