Small Disciple-Making Habits Make a Huge Difference

Small Disciple-Making Habits Make a Huge Difference

by C. Anderson

Part One: Goals excite type A personalities. The setting, achieving and working toward them can be very motivating. After reaching an important goal, however, many feel a sense of emptiness and loss.

Long-distance runners often experience this after completing a marathon. They’ve trained for months to compete in a race. Driving toward that goal gave training a clear purpose. When the race is over, there is an emotional downswing. The big challenging goal is completed. So, why am I going to the gym today? Those who train runners warn against low-level depression in the days following a big race.

In a reverse scenario, we can experience intense disillusionment when an important goal seems elusive. Perhaps the goal of catalyzing a rapidly multiplying Disciple Making Movement feels that way. We may need a change in our focus.

Goals vs. Systems
New York Times bestselling author, James Clear, writes about this in his popular book Atomic Habits. On page 23, Clear writes, “Forget about goals, focus on systems instead.” He describes the difference in this way. “Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.”

While this book has a humanistic, self-help slant, as I listened to the Audible version on a long car ride, a series of lightbulbs exploded in my head. “There is so much in this book to apply to disciple- making and the pursuit of movements!” I mused, taking copious notes.

If you haven’t had the chance to read Clear’s book, I recommend it. There are many takeaways for life in general as well as disciple-making. After listening to it, I decided to buy the actual book and re-read it in light of disciple-making habits. This article shares some of the insights gained and what I am experimenting with.

While I’m not ready to let go of the God-sized goal of a DMM, I see the book’s point about systems. It’s not having a DMM goal that will get us to movement. If that were the case, we would have many thousands more movements than we do already.

What will catalyze and sustain a DMM are disciple- making habits we put in place in our lives, in the lives of those we train and in those our disciples train. Normalizing a few key habits and simple  systems in our movement efforts sets the trajectory for multiplication. This leads to something far beyond the superficial goal of reaching 4th generation growth and a certain number of groups or streams.  If you are not familiar with the definition of a DMM, please see https://www.dmmsfrontiermissions.com/ disciple-making-movement-what-defined/. While this definition has merit and is helpful, it is not the end goal. Nor does it come directly from Scripture. The real aim is to see disciples that multiply rapidly and continue to do so as we see in the New Testament. So again, just aiming for 4G and multiplication isn’t enough. We need habits, systems and practices that get us there.

With that established, let me first illustrate some of the Atomic Habits concepts in a personal and practical way. From there, we’ll then turn attention to the applications for disciple-making.

Habit Stacking vs. Despairing Over a Challenging Goal
My husband and I currently live in Thailand. We have been here for about six years. Before this, we lived for many years in Nepal and India. When in those nations, I learned to speak Nepalese and Bengali. It is a personal value to understand the culture and worldview of those around me. I want to find bridges and ways to share the good news of Jesus with my neighbors. This is true even though I now travel a great deal and my ministry is more global than local.

Learning Thai has been hard. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m now over 50, or maybe because it’s a tonal language, or it could be because I travel in and out and have a full ministry schedule. I’m not exactly sure why, but I’ve found it exceedingly difficult to gain even market fluency in Thai.

At times I feel determined to learn. At other times, I’m deeply frustrated and want to give up. In all honesty, I’m ashamed to have lived here so long and to speak so poorly. My heart aches to be at a place of fluency where I can share the message of my wonderful Savior freely. Many, many Thais around me don’t speak English and have never heard the gospel in a way they could understand.

As I read Atomic Habits, I realized I should change  my focus. Instead of the goal of being fluent in Thai,  it may be more helpful to concentrate on developing   a consistent daily study habit. Now, each day after my quiet time and writing hour, I study Thai for 30 minutes. That consistent habit is already making a difference! It has set me on a trajectory where I definitely will reach my goal of speaking Thai one day. I’m no longer feeling discouraged but can trust the system to get me there. I’ve habit stacked Thai study (a concept he talks about in the book) on top of two other habits I already have in place in my life and enjoy.

Another helpful concept from this book is what James Clear calls the Law of Least Effort. It’s followed by the Two-Minute rule (Chapters 12 and 13). They come under the habit law he describes as, “Make it easy.” The basic premise is that a new habit should be so simple you can’t talk yourself out of doing it. If you can do it in two minutes, you don’t need much willpower to put that habit into place. Thus, it is far more likely to become a sustained practice. After a simple habit is established, it is far easier to increase it.

Again, allow me to demonstrate how I’m applying this personally. I find motivation for strength-building difficult, though I know it’s important at my age. I’ve recently started doing just five pushups and five sit-ups every day. This takes two minutes and is so easy that I can’t talk myself out of it. From there, I can increase to seven, then 10, and in six months I’ll be doing 50 a day.

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

About the Author: C. Anderson is an experienced field practitioner and leader. The past 27 years, she served in Asia with YWAM Frontier Missions. Anderson trains and coaches both international and indigenous church planters toward the launching of Disciple Making Movements. She blogs weekly about DMM related issues at dmmsfrontiermissions.com

Obedience to God’s Word Overcomes Systemic Prejudice

Obedience to God’s Word Overcomes Systemic Prejudice

by the Walker Family
The movement with which we are connected is bringing transformation—not just to the lives of families and individuals, but also to deeply rooted social problems including systemic prejudice.

The early church celebrated the Lord’s Supper: “They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity” (Acts 2:46 NLT). A few years ago, we learned of some churches in the Listening Movement that were not taking the Lord’s Supper. India’s systemic sin of casteism was the root of the problem. Casteism dictates that eating with a low-caste person makes a high-caste person spiritually unclean. “We cannot take the Lord’s Supper across caste lines,” they explained. 

Sanjay,* the main leader in the area, didn’t know how to tackle this issue. We were out of the country at the time, so he wrote to us for advice: “What should we do?” 

Teaching obedience is very different from simply teaching about Jesus or about the Bible. Jesus’ final command to His disciples was to make more disciples, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). At its core, casteism is racism. Prejudice in any form is unacceptable to God. It runs contrary to the truth that all of us are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27). Within His Church, racism violates the Lord’s commands to both “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34), and “in humility value others above yourselves” (Phil. 2:3b). Casteism, meanwhile, teaches that from birth, some people are better and more valuable than others. 

In the Indian context, caste is a huge issue. The churches needed heart changes about this systemic Indian problem. Mere verbal assents to a teaching we might give weren’t going to suffice. We needed God to touch their hearts. To get there, the churches needed to learn from the Bible, not from us. We gave Sanjay a list of verses addressing the equality of all people in God’s kingdom, and how in Jesus, all barriers – including gender – are dissolved. We also prayed like crazy. 

Sanjay took these Scriptures to the leaders of the movement. They studied God’s Word together. They discussed what God was saying regarding casteism and the Lord’s Supper. Sanjay did not preach or teach. He gave them the Scriptures. He prayed. He asked questions. They all looked at Scripture together. Finally, the leaders (not Sanjay) came to the conclusion that, “If I am in Jesus, I am no longer Brahmin (or whatever caste I was born into). I can either be a Brahmin, or in Jesus, but I cannot be both. If that’s the option, then I want to be in Jesus!” 

It is important to note that we are not turning the above personal application statements into doctrinal statements for all the churches. These particular churches wrestled with the Scripture, then applied it to their personal lives in this context of casteism. This is what it means to teach others to obey Jesus. From the very beginning, even before these Brahmin families called themselves followers of Jesus, they had been taught to not just listen to Bible stories, but to apply them. Thus, when this issue arose, the DNA of “obey the Word” was already established. They had no idea that casteism was anathema to Jesus’ kingdom. So we gave them the Word, they wrestled with it and then applied it to their personal lives. They chose unity over disunity, to count all things as loss compared to knowing Jesus. And since they are committed to teaching their disciples to also obey Jesus, we know they will share the Bible verses with others. 

How do we know they really meant what they said? Through their actions. After declaring they wanted to be “in Jesus,” the leaders did something seldom seen in their context. They apologized. In front of each other, without attempting to save face or defend themselves, they admitted: “We are sorry; we were wrong” both to Sanjay and to their disciples. Apologizing in public is a big deal anywhere, but it’s huge in Asia. Usually, apologies here are passive at best. For someone here to take ownership of a wrong they have done and apologize, not just to someone they consider “above” themselves (Sanjay), but also to people who look up to them (their disciples), is stunning. We were speechless! 

That’s not all. After apologizing, the leaders intentionally gathered multiple churches with mixed caste-background people, and they all took communion together! This may sound like a small thing to outsiders, but this is a huge thing for India. Casteism is the filter through which the vast majority of Indians think about relationships and community. God broke into their hearts and minds through His Word alone. Hebrews 12:4 says, “For the Word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart” (AMP). We have always believed this to be true. Now we have seen it in action, bringing transformation to individuals and to whole churches. What a joy! 

“Teach them to obey all that I’ve commanded you.” Sadly, we Christians tend to believe that lectures, sermons and codified theological doctrines will accomplish this task. But we need to ask ourselves: is all the sharing of information resulting in obedient disciples of Jesus, even when His commands run directly counter to their deeply ingrained cultural patterns and habits? When the Holy Spirit speaks through the Bible, people recognize that they are accountable to Jesus for their obedience (or disobedience). Praise God that discovering His will through group study of His Word helps people learn to obey Jesus for themselves. It is a priceless, humble privilege to watch God tear down destructive attitudes and practices, and build up an out-of-this-world fellowship among people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds. Hallelujah!

This article was used with permission and was first published in Mission Frontiers

Someone Has to Be First (Part 2)

Someone Has to Be First (Part 2)

The Power of Promise

by Steve Smith

There was a time in Israel when there was no precedent for killing giants. Less than a generation earlier, Israel was paralyzed at the very thought of approaching a giant in hand-to-hand combat. 1 Samuel 17 describes Goliath as a giant of a man who stood over nine feet tall (v.4)!

Saul stood head and shoulders above the men of Israel (1 Sam. 9:2), yet in his own strength he cowered in fear. For weeks, the Israelites camping in the Valley of Elah followed Saul’s example, frozen with fear (1 Sam 17:10-11, 23-24). Each day Goliath taunted them. Each day they fled from the battle. They lived a lifestyle of fear and lack of faith.

When David saw this scene unfold he was appalled. David believed the promise that God would overcome this giant because he understood the heart of God. God had promised to give His people the land and to give them victory over their enemies. In David’s mind, it was Goliath against God. Goliath didn’t stand a chance.

What do you do when you have no precedent?  All you have is a promise. The promise is enough!

What’s going through David’s mind? We are not told, but he begins to shout the promise out loud to the enemy:

“You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts….” (1 Sam. 17:45, NASB)

Whether fear was creeping in to David’s heart or not, we don’t know. But his heart meditated on the promise of God in the face of the enemy.

The promise is enough
At the end of the day, if you have no precedent for a church-planting movement, and all you have is a promise, it is enough. David acted on the promise and became a giant killer. His example served as a precedent (model) for others to follow. What’s radical today is commonplace tomorrow.

Fifteen years ago, CPMs were only a dream. Today, CPMs are almost taken for granted in many places around the world. Why? That’s the power of precedent.

But when you don’t yet have a precedent, the promise of Scripture is still clear. God will harvest a great multitude from every people group and He will launch discipleship revolutions that will rock the world (e.g. Matt. 24:14, Rev. 7:9, John 4:35, Matt. 9:37-38, Mark 1:15-17, Matt. 13:23, Matt. 13:31-32, Mark 4:26-29; Acts 19:10). Live your life based on His promise. He wants to fulfill it in your place, at this time, through you!

Epilogue: Forgotten Precedent
Sometimes there is precedent from history but we have forgotten it. CPMs are not simply a modern-day phenomenon. Throughout church history, there have been CPM-like movements.

Sometimes, there is precedent from history but we have forgotten it. Such was the case with the story of David and Goliath.

According to Joshua 15:14, 400 years earlier, Caleb, at the age of 85, drove out three giants from the mountain God had promised him. The ancient record indicates the race of giants Caleb defeated were even larger than those that David and his men encountered.

Forty years before that, Moses and his army defeated Og of Bashan (Num. 21:33-35). According to Scripture, Og was even bigger still. The Bible says Og slept in a 13-foot bed (Deut. 3:11); remember Goliath was only nine feet tall! Og was so frightening that God appeared to Moses personally to promise his deliverance, announcing:

Do not fear him, for I have given him into your hand, and all his people and his land; and you shall do to him as you did to Sihon, king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon. (Num. 21:34, NASB)

Moses had a promise from God. And he had personal precedent on a smaller scale (Sihon). It was enough.

Did the army of Israel, camped in the Valley of Elah, taunted by the giant Goliath remember these stories?

If they did, they apparently dismissed them as irrelevant:

  •  That can’t happen here. Our situation is different.
  •  That can’t happen through us. Moses and Caleb were special.
  •  That can’t happen today. It’s ancient history; God no longer works that way.

If they had forgotten them, it was their loss. It was a precedent they could have used.

Did David know those stories? We don’t know. If so, then perhaps they inspired him as he ran toward the battle line. He had precedent.

If they were forgotten stories, stored in musty scrolls in a tabernacle, unavailable to a common shepherd boy, it didn’t matter. He knew his God. The promise was enough.

This article was adapted from the final chapter of Steve Smith with Ying Kai’s book T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution (Richmond: WIGTake Resources, 2011), the inside story of the world’s fastest growing church-planting movement. It was first published in Mission Frontiers Magazine.

About Steve Smith: Steve Smith planted a church in Los Angeles and then helped initiate a church planting movement (CPM) among an unreached people group in East Asia. He trained believers in CPM and worked with the International Mission Board (SBC) in reaching Southeast Asian Peoples. Steve graduated to heaven in March 2019

*CPM numbers have since grown.

Missed Part 1? Read it here: Part 1

Someone Has to Be First (Part 1)

Someone Has to Be First (Part 1)

The Power of Precedent 

by Steve Smith

As a CPM trainer, I often get requests from missionaries to send them CPM case studies. Their preference is for a study that exactly matches their situation. I get requests like this:

Do you have an example of a CPM among educated, post-modern Middle-Eastern Arabs living in Western Europe?

 I check my files. Nope. No case study for such a group. Their response seems to say:

 Well, that proves it! A CPM can’t happen in my people group!

 Their logic makes no sense. The absence of a case study only proves that we don’t yet have a CPM among that people group!

 So, I send them case studies from China. They respond: “Don’t send me these. Of course CPMs can occur there; that’s China!”

They don’t realize that CPM pioneers in China in the late 1990s were told: “It takes an average of four years to win a Chinese atheist to the Lord.”

 So, I send them several Indian case studies.

 They reply: “Don’t send me these case studies. Of course CPMs can happen there. That’s India. So many people speak English there!”

 They don’t know that the area was historically called the “Graveyard of Missionaries” because of its unresponsiveness.

 As I’m beginning to get frustrated, they say they really want a case study for reaching Muslims. So I send them a case study of the largest Muslim-background CPM in the world. But their response is: “Don’t give me this. That’s in South Asia. It’s easy there!”

 They don’t understand that believers in that movement gather offerings to rebuild burned-down homes of persecuted Christians and assist Christian women who have been raped by their persecutors.

 Finally, I send a confidential case study of a Muslim-background CPM in one of the most restricted countries in the Middle East. The response I get is: “Impossible. They must be lying!” (I’ve actually been told this several times.)

 At this point, I see that for some people no amount of case studies will convince them. There is a basic disconnect in their faith in the very nature of God and His heart to reach the nations.

Someone has to be first
There are indeed places where we have no CPMs – yet. The number and diversity of places for which we DO have CPMs increases each year. Just a few years ago, I could count 10-15 CPMs. This past year I felt pretty confident about 30-35.* But interactions with other CPM trainers and mission leaders indicate that the number is much, much higher. What we know is just a fraction of what God is doing.

“And there are many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25, NASB)

You must assume that God is doing more than you are aware of even when your heart doubts.

Today, we prepare new missionaries going to Asia to expect that CPMs will develop. It’s not hard to create this expectation because we have examples of CPMs there. We have precedent.

But there was a time when there were no CPMs in those places.

 There was a time when there were no CPMs in China, India, and Southeast Asia: someone had to be first.

 There may be no CPM where you live — yet. Someone has to be first. Be that first one!  In the beginning, when there is no precedent, someone has to be first.

Precedent
Fortunately, in some places in the world, we do have precedent for CPMs. These precedents are a great encouragement to believe that a CPM is possible and to provide a model for what it can look like. This is illustrated well in 2 Samuel 15-22.

Now when the Philistines were at war again with Israel, David went down and his servants with him; and as they fought against the Philistines, David became weary. Then Ishbi-benob, who was among the descendants of the giant … intended to kill David. But Abishai … struck the Philistine and killed him … after this there was war again with the Philistines … Then Sibbecai … struck down Saph, who was among the descendants of the giant. There was war with the Philistines again … and Elhanan … killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. There was war at Gath again, where there was a man of great stature who …had been born to the giant. When he defied Israel, Jonathan … struck him down. These four were born to the giant in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants. (NASB, emphasis added)

This is a remarkable record: four giants killed by the hand of David’s followers. Imagine the situation with the first one Ishbi-benob. The giant spots David and rushes toward him, intending to kill David.

But David is not the one who slays him. Instead, Abishai, one of the army commanders does.

Shortly thereafter, another descendant of Goliath, Saph, fights against the Isrealites. David doesn’t slay him either. Sibbecai does.

Later, a descendant of Goliath fights Israel. David doesn’t slay him. Elhanan does.

Finally, the greatest of the descendants fights against Israel. But David doesn’t slay him. Jonathan does.

What’s happening here? How can four men in succession slay vengeful giants when less than a generation earlier, the entire nation of Israel cowered in fear? How did they learn to slay giants?

They had precedent
David showed them how to slay giants; now they had a model and the faith to reproduce it. One after another, these men slew giants that only a generation before stopped an entire army.

That’s the power of precedent. When you have it, you know how to find victory. The precedent gives you a model and the courage to attempt the same thing.

What seems radical today will be commonplace tomorrow. There was a time when CPMs were unusual. Now it seems like everyone is talking about them. That’s the power of precedent.

But what do you do when you have no precedent?

This article was adapted from the final chapter of Steve Smith with Ying Kai’s book T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution (Richmond: WIGTake Resources, 2011), the inside story of the world’s fastest growing church-planting movement. It was first published in Mission Frontiers Magazine.

About Steve Smith: Steve Smith planted a church in Los Angeles and then helped initiate a church planting movement (CPM) among an unreached people group in East Asia. He trained believers in CPM and worked with the International Mission Board (SBC) in reaching Southeast Asian Peoples. Steve graduated to heaven in March 2019

*CPM numbers have since grown.

Read Part 2

Who is Defining the Priorities of Our Church’s Mission Efforts?

Who is Defining the Priorities of Our Church’s Mission Efforts?

by Stan Parks

If we seek to reach the world according to our own priorities then we are doomed to frustration and failure. The Lord desires obedience not sacrifice, so as disciples of Christ we must consider God’s priorities and shape our efforts to be in sync with His will. Based upon the Gospel message and the Commission of Jesus, I believe there are three priorities we should consider:

Missions was birthed in His heart because He is a missionary God reaching out to a lost humanity. The end of missions is the worship of God as is well shown in Revelation 7:9-10 “After this I looked, and there was an enormous crowd—no one could count all the people! They were from every race, tribe, nation, and language, and they stood in front of the throne and of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They called out in a loud voice: “Salvation comes from our God, who sits on the throne, and from the Lamb!” (GNB) In our efforts to obey God’s Commission to us, it is crucial that we prioritize God’s glory. We need to avoid pursuing human-sized goals with human-strength plans but earnestly and continually pray that the Holy Spirit will empower us to be vessels for God’s glory.

The goal of missions is to see the Body of Christ birthed and expanded within a people, tribe, nation, language and/or place. Ministry that does not see local churches birthed is often valuable, but until these church “communities of faith” are established and extended, the goal of missions has not been reached. However, this goal is not an end in itself, or the church becomes guilty of breaking the first commandment. The newly established church must be encouraged and taught that it is their mandate to reach out within their own group and beyond to the entire world. However, when we speak of growing the Body of Christ, we do not just mean numbers of converts and churches started.

We must ask God to grow the church not just in quantity but also in quality. It is not enough to start churches if those churches are selfish and powerless. The goal is Acts 2 churches being continually transformed by God and in turn serving God in devoting themselves to the Word and prayer and fellowship while sharing the good news, living sacrificially and transforming their own communities and nations.

Is it right that some hear the gospel twice when others have never heard it once? Or some hear it 10 times, 100 times, 1000 times, even 10,000 times when some have never heard it one single time? Evangelism is sharing the good news, while missions is sharing the good news where it is news. There can be no question that while we are called to many good efforts, our priority in world missions today must be those living beyond the gospel. God does not wish that “anyone should perish but that everybody would come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Approximately 30% of the world’s population has no access to the gospel and just as tragically 42.6% of the world’s population are members of “unreached” ethne – those without a culture-impacting indigenous church that is strong enough to reach its own people. 2 If reaching the world is the charge Jesus gave us as His disciples, then we cannot defend the vast sums of money and time spent on ourselves while we pray and go and spend so little to reach those most in need of the gospel. This is not to say that we should only focus on the unreached, because no church can be truly concerned about the unreached without being concerned about the lost around them. But as a worldwide church we find it much easier to prioritize ourselves and those around us at the expense of those with the greatest need for the gospel.

So if your church is seeking to obey Jesus’ mission commission by worshipping and glorifying Him in your words and deeds, a key priority should be helping reach out and start churches among unreached cities, nations, peoples and groups.  That will in turn bring glory to God by their transformed lives and transforming service to their communities and their resulting efforts to bring the good news to other cities, nations, peoples and groups. 

About the Author: Stan is a Church Planting Movements trainer and a coach for leaders of Church Planting Movements around the world. He has been serving Unreached People Groups since 1994 while based in Indonesia, Singapore and Dubai. He is Co-Facilitator of the 24:14 Coalition which is focused on Kingdom Movement engagements in every Unreached People and place by 2025.

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