If you were to walk into our church during the first ten years and then walk in now, you’d probably feel as if you’d entered two totally different churches. And you’d be right.
As Experience Life approached its tenth anniversary, I reflected on our journey. Our church had grown from 12 people meeting in my living room to a megachurch in less than ten years. More importantly, we had exceeded our goal of seeing 10,000 people commit their lives to Christ. I began asking the Lord, What do you want our vision to be for the next ten years?
That’s when I stumbled upon WIGTake.
WIGTake is a question David Watson initially formed in his work among an unreached people group in India. He asked, “What’s it going to take to reach everyone in the people group?”
This question led our Leadership Team into a season of prayer and fasting about the direction of our church for the next ten years. Our WIGTake became: What’s it going to take to reach 1,000,000 Americans in the next ten years so we’re on track to reach 200 million in 20 years?
We knew there was a strategy that could take us to the million. It’s the strategy Jesus encouraged in the Gospels and the early church implemented in Acts. DMM, or Disciple Making Movement, is a strategy that can lead to seeing God start a Church Planting Movement. Success in a Disciple Making Movements can be summed up in two words: generational discipleship. DMMs measure whether disciples are making disciples who make more disciples who make more disciples. It’s multiplication, not addition.
After much prayer and discussion, eLife’s Leadership Team was united in the belief that the Lord wanted us to pursue a Disciple Making Movement strategy in the next ten years.
As we began venturing into the world of disciple making, I knew we needed a coach. I met Stan Parks, Beyond’s Vice President of Global Strategies, and knew he would be able to help us get started, avoid common mistakes, and answer questions as we ran into difficult situations.
We asked Stan what he wanted us to do first. He said he wanted to take us through a 12-week DMM Catalyst Training. This training was based on principles God had used around the world. Stan would pass on biblical lessons the Holy Spirit had taught him through personal study of Scripture and movement catalysts like David Watson, Victor John, and many others.
I said, “Great! Can you send it to me?” He said, “Nope.”
I asked, “Why not?”
Stan made it clear that this training was not information to be transferred but biblical principles to be obeyed. Because I come from a knowledge-based culture, my tendency would be to read the twelve lessons and think, “Okay, I’ve got this; let’s move on.” But, again, this wasn’t information; these were biblical principles he wanted to coach us to obey! That means you don’t even look at lesson two until you’ve obeyed the passage from lesson one. Stan told us that the Holy Spirit would speak to us as we took a fresh look at these Bible passages. He wanted us to see the DMM principles in Scripture, so we’d be dependent on God, not on him.
Next week we will conclude with some key principles Stan taught eLife’s leadership team. We will learn what their church looks like after transitioning from being a traditional church to a Disciple Making Movement church.
Read the whole story in Chris’s book, From Megachurch to Multiplication, which tells the story of Experience Life’s journey from being one of the fastest-growing churches in the United States to a church now focused primarily on catalyzing movements.
This piece was summarized with permission from Mission Frontier’s article “From Big to Small – for a Big Movement” by Chris Galanos with Lorena Wood.Part Two:
Last week we began following the journey of a church (eLife – pastored by Chris Galanos) so intent on making disciples that they were willing to transition away from the traditional church model to do so. We continue with our story just after they found Stan, a coach who would guide them through the process of becoming a church focused on catalyzing movements.
In our training, Stan explained that there are certain elements consistently found in the lives of ordinary believers who are successfully making disciples in movements all over the world.
Here are a few of the elements briefly summarized:
- Multiply Extraordinary Prayer. Stan said, “Your prayer life now is ordinary for you. Add something to it to make it extraordinary for you. Keep repeating the process.”
- Go Out Among the Lost. We learned to expect the hardest places to yield the greatest results. We began to refer to such places as PIPSY places: P-poor, I-international, P-prisoner, S-sick. (The Y doesn’t stand for anything— it just turns PIPS into an adjective.) Our teams have borne the most fruit by going to PIPSY places to make disciples.
- Casting Vision – One of the great tragedies of the American church model is an attitude that results in suppressing the gifts, ambitions, and callings of ordinary believers. Churchgoers don’t typically hear the terms disciple-maker or church-planter and think, “That’s me!” We’ve got to recover the “culture of empowerment” of ordinary believers that was evident in the first-century church. Pastors and leaders, I implore you to join me in setting believers free to make disciples and plant churches!
Let me warn you, though. Transitioning a church to focus on Disciple Making Movements (DMM) will cost you in many ways. In Jerry Trousdale’s book The Kingdom Unleashed, David Broodryk, another pastor who embraced DMM, describes the process of pursuing DMM this way:
I really do think that entry into DMM is a death experience: unless the seed falls to the ground and dies, it can bear no fruit. But the problem is, you can’t risk failure without that; risking failure in itself is a sort of death experience. If who you are is dependent on whether this thing works or fails, then you will never take a risk. But if your identity is in Christ, then you say, “I’m going to try this; if it works, great, He gets the glory; and if it doesn’t work—well, it didn’t work, but I am still secure in Him.
You may be asking what happened in eLife. Many people caught the vision! Hundreds went through our DMM training, and some of those formed DMM churches that meet in their homes. Those we sent out began to pursue the lost, not by inviting them to eLife, but by inviting them and their family or friends to read and apply the Bible together in their home. And it’s working!
In an average week, those in just my DMM church alone will talk to almost as many lost people as our megachurch would receive as first-time guests on a weekend in our heyday. And there are just 35 of us (including kids). It’s amazing what a small group of sold-out, on-fire disciple makers can do when they strategize together and go out among the lost to make disciples and plant churches.
I think I can speak for most people involved in DMM churches by saying it’s one of the most unbelievable things I’ve ever been a part of. In so many ways, it’s what I’ve always longed for in church. Not that I didn’t love our church. I did! But our DMM church is just what I pictured when I read the New Testament but felt like I’d never experienced. It’s what I had heard happened overseas but never truly understood.
I hope our story will inspire you to be led by the Spirit because He will take you to better places than anything you could’ve dreamed up. You may not even have a framework for where He’ll take you now. But if you follow Him, He’ll show you just what to do. And chances are, He’ll do infinitely more than you could ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20-21). Just like he continues to do with us.
Chris’s book, From Megachurch to Multiplication, tells the story of Experience Life’s journey from being one of the fastest-growing churches in the United States to a church now focused primarily on catalyzing movements. Get it here.
This piece was summarized with permission from Mission Frontier’s article “From Big to Small – for a Big Movement” by Chris Galanos with Lorena Wood. Read the whole article.