Completing the Task of the Great Commission in 10 Easy Steps?

I confess the title is something of a joke. I wrote it, however, to make a point. There are over 7 billion people in the world. More than 4 billion are non-believers, of whom, over 2 billion have no access to the Gospel. Getting to ‘closure’ or ‘finishing the task’ can appear to be an almost impossible job. Breaking the task into chunks can make the task more manageable.

The numbers are huge, but the individual people are found in individual population segments: provinces, districts, languages, etc. Many of these are around 100,000 in size. If we use a fairly simple multiplying strategy, eight generations of church planting would be enough to ‘reach’ a population segment by any current definition, and ten generations would thoroughly disciple it.

Let’s do some math:

  • Assume the world is broken down into 100,000 population segments. Obviously, you can divide any million-person population into ten such chunks. In real life, they aren’t divided that cleanly. There are, for instance, more people in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex (city) where I live than in many states in America. However, once you get down to the ‘district’ level (one below provinces/states), populations are often measured in terms of hundreds of thousands. My ‘city’ within the DFW area is 250,000 or so.
  • Assume each discipling leader mentors a group of 6 people. This is fairly conservative; of the 900+ movements we track around the world, the average group size is 15. I use six here because in many highly-restricted places, groups will average 5 to 6 due to security issues. These figures should work almost anywhere.
  • Assume, of the six, the discipler is mentoring, three go on to gather groups of 6 themselves. Again, in our experience, this is relatively common. In restricted-access areas with smaller groups, more people become disciplers with their own groups (because they have a higher commitment due to the security issues). In less-restricted areas, 3 out of a group of 15 isn’t uncommon.
GenerationNew LeadersTotal LeadersNew AdherentsTotal Adherents
11167
2341825
39135479
42740162241
581121486727
624336414582185
77291,0934,3746,559
82,1873,28013,12219,681
96,5619,84139,36659,047
1019,68329,524118,098177,145
1159,04988,573354,294531,439
12177,147265,720106,2882159,4321
13531,441797,1613,188,6464,782,967

Most ‘movements’ are considered ‘movements’ when they reach four generations in multiple streams, and sustainably add more generations within a relatively short period of time. This is going from spiritual grandparent to spiritual grandchild.

Doing this three times in succession would bring you to twelve generations and would saturate nearly any population segment. While not formalized as a strategy, this process is already being functionally used in some movements. How do we get from here to finishing the task more broadly?

The simple answer is sending same and near-culture workers from a fully developed movement to neighboring district(s). Once there, they start another multi-generational cycle. So, how quickly can a movement like this one ‘send out’?

If they have to wait until Generation 10 and it takes 20 years to get there, we are a long way indeed from finishing the task. On the other hand, if a movement begins sending out workers at, say, generation 4 or 5, and it takes months (not years) to establish the next generation, then the rapid engagement of whole provinces, countries, and regions can be had within one twenty-year cycle.

To summarize, here are three challenges that need to be addressed:

  1. We need to think less about ‘how many generations down’ and think more about ‘is each generation going as wide as possible?’ If a movement has one stream that goes deep and three streams that are ‘sterile’ or who have only a few ‘children’ who never reproduce, it will not become a significant percentage of the population. At the same time, it doesn’t mean each leader has to mentor tens or hundreds. If each leader mentors, say, six, three of whom mentor six, a movement can multiply rapidly.
  2. We need to think about how we speed up the next generation at each turn (i.e., months not years for leaders to begin mentoring their own ‘3’). By keeping all leaders in coaching relationships with each other, spiritual maturity can be further grown over time. I didn’t wait until I knew everything I know now (at 50) to have children. Walking the path together from an early stage is better than waiting to walk at all.
  3. We need to intentionally speed up the sending of leaders to nearby unengaged areas (the next district over). Again, if believers in District A wait until they have reached 100% of the people in District A before sending to District B, the whole world will end up waiting forever.

This article was originally published by Justin Long on his website justinlong.org

“Did God Answer this Prayer 15 Years Ago?”

Recently, Brian and Allison*, Beyond mission catalysts in Austronesia, learned of answers to prayers they and their partners began praying back in 2004! They had challenged their team to pray for several critical components of seeing a movement to Christ start among their unreached people group. Among the prayer requests, they asked their partners to pray for dreams and visions of Jesus to be granted to their focus people.

Earlier this year, 15 years later, Brian and Allison learned of multiple dreams of Jesus among their group – dreams dating back to 2004! One new believer had three dreams of Jesus in 2004 and 2005…the very same time that everyone began praying! One of Brian and Allison’s local teammates is now meeting with this man and discipling him face-to-face. The team is confident that there are many other answered prayers like this one that they have yet to know about!

Starting any ministry with prayer is vital. It is futile to launch into our work, relying on our efforts alone! How much better it would be to first ask God for His plan, His guidance, and His supernatural power to do what only He can do. We are then free to move in sync with Him as He guides us. To launch a movement of disciples who reproduce and transform their society is a God-sized goal, and only God can accomplish it. 

Join us for Beyond’s next Nugget training entitled “Who’s job is it? The Necessity of Prayer in Missions” on September 12th at 7:00 pm CST. Together we will examine the role of prayer in movements, and share strategies for increasing the quality and quantity of our prayers. 

*pseudonyms used