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

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

Urbanization and Measuring the Remaining Task

by Justin Long

For a very long time, now, many missiologists have tended to measure ‘progress in the Great Commission’ (however that was defined) to some extent in the context of people groups, and how they are reached, evangelized, and/or Christianized.

‘Reaching the unreached peoples’ in particular tended to replace the idea of ‘a church in every country’ as the operative definition of closure or fulfillment of the Great Commission. Unreached people groups better fit the scriptural concepts of ‘every tribe, language, nation, tongue before the Throne’ (Revelation 7:9).

Behind the development of the unreached peoples concept was the idea of ‘gaps’–that there were languages and ethnic groups which had ‘no access’ (defined as the lack of reasonable access of individuals in the group to the gospel within their lifetime). This was due principally to barriers of language (they couldn’t understand the language of what was being shared) or ethnicity (they couldn’t accept what was being shared by outsiders).

However, as we have refined our strategies for closure into ‘reach the unreached’ strategies, two additional issues have emerged which we are struggling to address.

The first, which I have touched on elsewhere and will touch on only lightly here, is the danger of under engagement. The principle is simple: we love lists, we want to check items off, and so we do what is immediately required to put in a ‘good faith effort’ to remove a people group from the list. We adopt a people group, mobilize a team, and send them off to the group, and so remove them from the ‘unreached’ list.

This is exactly what would have to happen with a ‘sufficient’ engagement–but it’s also what can happen with an ‘insufficient’ engagement, and we don’t always take the time to ask whether an engagement is sufficient or not. 

The second issue, however, is the one to focus on here: urbanization. At the turn of the 20th century, the world was just 14.4% urban. The majority of these urbanites (69%) were Christians, because most cities were in Christianized countries. Just 5 megacities (population over 1 million) were majority non-Christian.

The situation has vastly changed. Shortly past 2000, the world became majority urban. Today, about 56% of the global population lives in a city–4.4 billion out of 7.8 billion. 

Further, as far back as the 60s and 70s, there was a shift in the religious composition of urbanites: there were more non-Christian city-dwellers than Christians as cities developed in the non-Christian world. Today, just one-third of the world’s city dwellers are Christians. This doesn’t mean cities make people into non-Christians; it just means that non-Christians urbanized into their own cities. There are over 593 majority non-Christian megacities now.

Cities present a specific challenge to the idea of ‘reaching unreached people groups’: they are huge mixing grounds. Some cities are more ‘rural’ in character–various languages are segmented into mini-villages. Some cities are more ‘urban’ in character–with lots of different people all mixed together, using broadly spoken trade languages to communicate on the job and in the markets. Whichever is the case, focusing on a city carries different strategic issues than focusing on a single people group largely located in one province or set of provinces. It brings the cross-cultural and cross-language part of the task to bear in multiple ways earlier on in the local evangelistic task.

This means that including ‘cities’ as segments to be listed, focused on, described, researched, documented, tracked, measured, and strategically engaged is probably just as important as ‘unreached people groups.’

We don’t want to lose our ‘unreached peoples’ focus. But we must remember: people passionately advocated for the unreached out of concern for gaps–collections of individuals who did not have access. An exclusive focus on unreached people groups could in fact lead us to focus on, for example, Kazakhs, to the exclusion of very small groups (e.g. the thousand or so Avar in Kazakhstan), or diaspora groups in the same cities (e.g. Buryats).

Not every gap can be tracked at the global level. But global lists could continue to identify where gaps are potentially located. Different kinds of gaps can be found in cities than amongst unreached groups, and that means we need to give cities a similar kind of mental effort.

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

Simplicity Versus Tradition

Lata* lives in North India. A few years ago, she was a regular church attendee, but her family did not like this and kicked her out of their home. 

Dedicated to Jesus, she moved into her pastor’s house. Unfortunately, the pastor was not a good man. She saw bad things happen. She returned to her family and stopped attending church. 

Then her nephew became ill. One day as Lata took him to the doctor, she met Brother Chander*. He asked what was wrong and if he could pray for the boy. Lata agreed, and the boy was healed. 

Lata invited Chander to her home. She liked his simplicity. Lata’s brother was also impressed. Chander’s approach to life and ministry was different from that of other pastors. They asked Chander to come again. 

Chander returned and started a DBS in their home. Lata’s brother liked the discovery approach. He was challenged to share with others what he learned. He asked Chander, “How can I follow this religion?” He became a disciple of Jesus. 

To date, Lata’s brother has reached 12 families with the gospel. At least 72 people have been baptized so far, and they joyfully pass to others all that’s shared with them. Several have made disciples to the third generation; one to the fifth generation in four villages!

*pseudonym

Empowering Local Partners

by Kay Parks

“Among the 150+ CPMs we are aware of worldwide, only a very small minority have been catalyzed directly by an outsider. The majority develop when the outside CPM catalyzer(s) vision-casts and trains the near / same culture local partner/believer(s), and together they vision-cast, train, and live out these biblical truths.” -CPM Trainer Stan Parks

One joy of overseas ministry is the local partners with whom we get to work. It’s not only wonderful to walk and work beside them but absolutely critical!

One of my local partners was Flora. She and her husband are local church planters. Flora and I made it a habit together to find people to talk to (i.e. searching for Persons of Peace). We would pray before going out and along the way. Whenever possible, we would visit women we already knew and share with them. We also went into the community to meet new women, looking for those wanting to engage in spiritual conversations.

If I found someone interested in the gospel while on my own, I would invite Flora the next time I met that person. I never wanted anyone in my adopted country to confuse following Jesus with American Christianity. Flora was a lifeline in my ministry. (Not to mention that she was so much fun to know and work with!)

The Good, the Bad and the Messy

We didn’t always feel successful. While many women would engage in spiritual conversations, we almost never found those who wanted to meet with their family and friends. 

Due to our perceived lack of success, we both felt discouraged at times! In fact, if we defined success only as finding a Person of Peace and starting a Discovery Group, we weren’t successful at all! But I’d like to expand the definition of success: In training, we learned that when we work with our local partners (and they work with others), we are to MEWL–Model, Equip, Watch and Letter (keeping in touch after leaving). By this measure of success, I feel better about my efforts.

When Flora and I met together, I modeled ways to share (as she did with me). At times I had to push her to do the talking, so I could “watch” and encourage her in the process. This also lent itself to “equipping”—giving helpful thoughts, praying for her as she shared, and talking about what we were learning. When I consider success in these terms, I feel more encouraged about our work.

Recently my husband and I returned for a visit. Imagine my great joy at finding that Flora and her husband continued sharing with others. They pray, demonstrate Christ’s love, and have seen some Discovery Groups started. Another local worker and Flora now go out to share. Flora is MEWLing (so to speak) and passing on what she has learned.

We both learned to keep doing what we were trained to do. We kept looking for Persons of Peace. We continued to pray. We continued to meet with other women to train and encourage them. Did we feel successful? Not really. But did we give up? Never. Not an option.

Truth be told, I often felt like a CPM failure and was thankful others were modeling, equipping, watching, and lettering Flora as well. But as I look back at my time with Flora I am very thankful. I can see how powerful it was to work with local partners, encourage them, and model persistence. To see Flora continue on and to know other local workers are being raised up encourages my heart in ways I cannot express.

A Reproducing Disciple-Maker Left Behind?

My husband has often said, “It’s not what you can do to start a movement, but what needs to be done.” I believe that praying for and empowering local leaders is the greatest thing any of us can do as we serve to see movements started. So, wherever I am, I will do my best to model, equip, watch, and letter with other workers. Paul’s words ring true when I think about Flora and my other local partners: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:3-6) Amen and Amen!

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

In the Midst of the Storm

Our disciple-making movement in India recently sent an update. The following messages are from *Sanjay, a movement leader:

  • In two years, brother *Manu helped birth 48 churches. Two weeks ago, he was suffering from COVID, and today he died. He leaves a wife and two children. They do not have a permanent house. Please pray. 
  • Yesterday, we [heard that] . . .  many families have been cured of COVID in the name of Jesus. But 23 families [in one region] have experienced death.
  • There are families in which mom and daddy have died, and the kids are all alone. That is, 17 children age 6 to 9. Pray for these children. 

While this news is heartbreaking, we know that despite whom one follows, storms come. It’s a certainty. And we praise God for the thousands of Hindus and Muslims in North India who are now building on the Rock by listening to and following Jesus’ teaching (Matt. 7:24-27)

*Sanjay also shared that movement churches have helped repair 127 typhoon-damaged homes or roofs, fed about 23,000 people, have given money to 884 families for COVID medical expenses, and have seen 873 families miraculously healed from COVID.  

In these difficult days, disciples in North India are not holding back or retreating. They are listening to God and obeying by sharing with the needy and caring for widows and orphans

*pseudonym

Baptism in Risky and Hostile Places

One of our movement catalyst teams is working to send disciple-makers from similar cultures and/or languages to unreached people groups (UPGs) in their nation. These workers, often called near-culture workers, usually have easier access and are more readily accepted than those from vastly differing languages and cultures. There have been 30 workers already sent to serve in eight provinces and are engaging 17 UPGs!

This past year, a husband and wife team has seen a first-generation house church formed within the UPG they serve. This house church now has second-generation disciples! On another island, a worker and her team are also seeing first-generation house churches with a second generation forming.

These groups consist of Muslims who are encountering and studying the Word of God with the near-culture workers. As they have studied, sometimes for months, they could not deny His truth and so proclaimed Jesus their Lord! In places that are often very risky and hostile, they have chosen to be baptized and become followers of Jesus. They’ve begun Scripture study groups with Muslim friends and neighbors around them, because they know (as we also do) that lovers of Jesus are obedient and make more disciples of Jesus.

Pray that these two places see explosive and consistent growth of disciples and churches. Pray that, by God’s grace, an unstoppable movement for the glory of God would begin from their faithful obedience.

What is the Place of Women in World Missions?

by R. Nyman

“What is the place of women in world missions? Jesus said, ‘You [and the word means all of you, male and female] are my witnesses. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.’ And there have been countless thousands who, without reference to where they came from or what they knew or who they were, have believed that Jesus meant exactly what he said and have set themselves to follow. —Elisabeth Elliot

One joy of my life is coaching and mentoring women for effective engagement in launching movements to Christ. Yet often, I discover missed opportunities surrounding the role of women.

Sometimes I hear: “I felt called to the field. I came with a passion to labor alongside my husband. I don’t want to take over. I just want to be involved! Yet my organization only makes CPM training and coaching available to men. Now that we have children, I get the subtle message that my only job is supporting my husband and caring for our kids.”

Single women have shared: Men leave us out of strategy discussions. We don’t have a lot in common with women on the team who have husbands and children, and when we talk about ministry, some moms seem jealous that we have “time” for ministry.

I see this repeatedly: Husbands and wives come to the field to make an impact, yet when the wife doesn’t feel she is contributing, this may become a reason the couple goes home.

And the problem goes deeper. A local colleague told me, “Please tell Western women not to come if they aren’t going to make reproducing disciples. When they don’t, they model disobedience to the Great Commission!”

In many cultures, men can’t interact with women. Often, especially among Muslim UPGs, women are gatekeepers for their households. Who, if not women, will seek out Women of Peace to open their oikos to the gospel? And as new movements emerge, who will equip first-generation women leaders?

Regarding equipping missionary women, I sometimes hear mission leaders say, “We don’t want to burden women or make them feel guilty.” Is the best solution to not equip them for multiplication? Isn’t it better to help women follow Jesus in ministry appropriate to their season of life and prepare them to help launch a [movement]?

Will the global mission community make stewardship of missionary women a priority? Will we equip missionary women with competence and confidence to be and do all He calls us to be, especially as catalysts in launching CPMs?

How can the Body of Christ best steward missionary women? How can we support, inspire and equip them to thrive and bear multiplying fruit in all stages of life?

Why Focus on CPM?
Kent Parks, President of Act Beyond, notes that today there are twice as many people with no access to the gospel as there were in 1980. In 1980 there were “only” one billion unevangelized. Today that figure has risen to 2.1 billion!

This unjust trend requires that we do something differently.

And we can! Since the days of Jesus and Paul, the Church has repeatedly grown faster than population growth through movements – with women playing a key role. The 1900s offer extraordinary instances of movements in China and Korea fueled by women missionaries. 

Women as DMM Practitioners
All of us (men and women) are to delight in and declare God’s glory, developing intimacy with God. Out of the overflow of this intimacy, we are to “be” and “do” in Christ and seek to reproduce Jesus in others. For all who follow Jesus, reproducing disciples is a privilege as well as a command.

Essential CPM elements include: extraordinary prayer, searching out persons of peace, discipling groups of new believers, and equipping leaders. We need missionary women as well as men for these tasks.

Being a wife and mother is one of my greatest joys and privileges. In highlighting points of engagement for women in CPMs, I don’t at all mean to suggest that women short-change their God-given roles as wives and mothers. For me, life is integrated: more like a woven tapestry than distinct compartments.

Regardless of their stage of life, the vast majority of female missionaries with whom I have interacted passionately want to have eternal impact. May this article [first published in Mission ] help them do so.

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

Bible Study in the Mosque

Four ulamas (Islamic theologians) visited a community with a growing number of culturally Muslim Jesus followers. Having heard concerning reports, the ulamas decided to investigate. 

Dowad*, the community’s leader and a new disciple of Jesus, brought them into the mosque where the local followers frequently study the Bible. There, one of the ulamas spotted a copy of the Injil (New Testament) in their language.

The ulama picked it up. “What is this?”

“This is what we study and follow!” Dowad answered. 

“Don’t you study the Qur’an?”  

“We can’t read the Qur’an,” Dowad responded, “but we can read and understand the Injil.” 

The ulama read some verses. “This is different and very concerning!” 

“What is so concerning?” Dowad asked. “Have you seen our community? Have you seen how many people worship, pray, and fast? Do you realize that in our community when one person is sick or dies the family doesn’t worry because everyone helps them? And do you realize that other communities come to us with their conflicts because our community helps make peace? Here. You can each take a copy of the Injil and read it. Then come back and talk to us.”

Praise God! Dowad has a firm foundation in Jesus, and he speaks with the authority Jesus gives his followers. 

*pseudonym