I once heard Len Sweet describe the movement of God is like a tornado in that it touches down randomly opposed to a hurricane that swipes across a landscape destroying everything in its path. He paused and went on by saying if we would ever learn to connect the dots. I remember reflecting on this conversation and thinking I want to spend the rest of my life connecting the dots.
That's precisely what I've done with Gospel Disciple Life Micro-Groups, I've connected a lot of dots. I don't claim any originality with this approach. However, there are some of my unique nuances.
Let me say before I give you the principles that drive this approach that my goal was to make it as reproducible as possible, and I believe I have.
Gospel first approach. There was a season in my life when I went on a kind of fast. I spent a year reading through the gospels. In that year, I read nothing else. My goal was to rediscover the simplicity of Jesus and His ways. The Gospel Disciple Life is a gospel first approach. Those who participate will spend up to 18 weeks reading through the gospel.
Simple enough to reproduce. Micro-groups can be led by anyone, at any time, and in any place. They are designed for three people, with one serving as a facilitator. The goal of the micro-group is rapid reproduction by making disciples that make disciples. A healthy micro-group can consist of pre-disciples, new disciples, growing disciples, leading disciples, and catalytic disciples (types of disciples). The goal is not to control them, but to allow them to multiply through natural relational networks rapidly. By limiting them to three, it forces you to reproduce new groups to grow.
Scripture is our curriculum. Each micro-group begins by working through the gospel as a scripture-only approach. It is recommended that a new group start by reading through Mark. Mark is the shortest and, in some ways, the easiest to read of the four gospels. It will take approximately three weeks to get through Mark. It is important to note that it is not necessary to complete all four Gospels to multiply. Some groups will be ready or designed to reproduce after completing their first gospel together, while others will complete all four.
Holy Spirit is our teacher. Key to the Gospel Disciple Life is learning to hear the Spirit. Each day you will read the Scripture while asking, "What is Jesus saying to me through His Scripture?" and "What am I going to do about it?"
Following Jesus is our ultimate objective. A disciple is a follower of Jesus that is learning to live like Jesus, love like Jesus, and leave what Jesus left behind. Therefore, our goal is to learn to see God at work, hear His voice, understand His ways, and to follow Him, which is why we continually ask, "What is Jesus saying to me through His Scripture?" and "What are you going to do about it?"
Invite your one approach. Inviting your one is absolutely key to making disciples that make disciples. A new micro-group is launched when someone asks their one to read through the gospels with them when you find that one, you invite them to invite one more. Once you invite your one, you have taken the first step in making disciples. That one can be an existing disciple or a pre disciple. It's that simple. You are now ready to get started.
For more information watch our webinar HERE or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free 30 minute coaching call.
A few years back, I wrote a book called Breaking the Discipleship Code. My goal was helping churches transition from a weekend-mostly to a disciple-making culture. Then it happened; we experienced a radical shift in culture. We went from developing strategies to reach 'seekers' to trying to figure out how to get the attention and engage the 'nones', not an easy task.
Just about that time, I felt as if we were getting a handle on disciple-making, well we had a pandemic. Who among us could have imagined something coming our way that would stop our worship services and our small group meetings?
While this time has been challenging, it has also served up a fresh batch of hope for the Church. It's amazing how the Church keeps finding a way. When Jesus declared that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church, He was spot-on. Our ecosystem as a church has radically changed over the past few months. People are showing up online and in parking lots who have previously stayed away at any cost.
Our mission of making disciples has resurfaced as our go-to strategy for being the Church. New forms and expressions, both new and old, had led the way. One strategy now stands head and shoulders above the rest, they go by different names, but I call them micro-groups. They are simply groups of 3 to 5 disciples that are committed to rapid multiplication. This strategy is the most bulletproof and straightforward approach to being and making disciples that I have come across.
Here's a little taste of what's to come in our next webinar in the form of four principles that every micro-group follows.
Join me in our upcoming webinar on May 19th, where I will lay out this simple strategy that you can integrate and make a part of your new normal.
See you there!
We’ve lost our way. We have become all about our weekend services and religious consumption. We have substituted being the church for doing church, and God is showing us a whole new way. He is inviting us into a journey of rediscovering the simplicity of Jesus and His Way. He is inviting us to be and make disciples not just any kind of disciples, but gospel disciples. I invite you to join me on this journey."
This is the opening paragraph of my forthcoming book, “The Gospel Disciple Journey.” I’ve been writing it for the past few years. I was waiting on my heart to mature and for the right time to be heard. It seems like It’s now or never. COVID-19, in many ways, has served as a wake-up call for all. By all, I mean those us who lead and work with the church, faithful churchgoers, and even those who are what we call disconnected or far from God.
As Michael Frost has reminded us in a recently released webinar, we have lost our queen, comparing the chess piece with our weekend services. He goes on to say if you want to master the game of chess, learn to master it without your queen, and then reintroduce your queen. We have lost our weekend services as we know them, and now is the time to learn to be the church.
In the next couple of weeks, things are likely to start returning to normal. Returning to normal will be slow and will include setbacks. Some recent indicator suggests that there will be limits to our worship gatherings for up to a year. Yet we will return to a normal we are familiar with, or for some, perhaps we will venture into a new normal.
A new normal could mean transitioning from a weekend-only to a disciple-making culture. A new normal where we gather to equip disciples to be the church where we live, work, and play. A new normal where parents are the primary disciple-makers for their children. A new normal where praying for and with our neighbors is a regular practice even when our neighbors are “far from God.” A new normal where we are using our resources to serve those who are in need, including the widows, orphans, and the poor. A new normal where churches work together for the restoration of their cities. A new normal where the church is more scattered than gathered, and when we do come together, our gatherings will be so special and certainly not taken for granted. I could go on-and-on, but you get the picture.
How do we steward a new normal in our churches? It begins with our culture. Now is the time to get on our knees and gather a few leaders and begin to seek God for this new normal. With a renewed heart, there are Five Irreducible Questions of Disciple-Making we must ask. They are:
• What is our disciple-making mission?
• What are our disciple-shaping values?
• What is our disciple-moving strategy?
• What are our disciple-forming measures?
• What is our disciple-guiding dream?
Clarity around these five questions can change everything. Now is the time to grab your most trusted staff and leaders and go on a journey together into a Better Future.
In our next webinar A New Normal: From a Weekend-Only to a Disciple-Making Culture, we will explore a process and a plan for creating a new disciple-making normal. Join us on April 29 (Wednesday) at 1 PM EDT for this free webinar.
Like so many Jesus followers, I sat in my family room with my wife, Tami and watched our church service online this past Sunday. I missed attending church with my children and grandchildren. I missed Sunday brunch at my favorite spot with my family. However, what I gained was a lot of time to process what I was hearing and what’s happening in our world with Covid-19.
Here’s what I came up with…
My encouragement to you is not to focus on what you can’t do but focus on what you can do. Take a few moments this weekend and develop your own Covid-19 Response Plan.
For me, this came out of a sermon I heard, a conversation I had, reflection time I took, and simple journal notes I made.
If you already have a plan or develop one, I would love to hear from you. Let’s encourage one another.
Excerpt from David Putman’s newest eBook
I was in a remote location deep in Central Africa. On a previous trip, the children who were plagued with sickness and disease struck me. We hadn’t been there long when I noticed it. We were conducting a Bible School under a large Baobab tree that shielded us from the African heat. Most, if not all, of the children had what appear to be upper respiratory issues. Their breathing was labored, their eyes were bloodshot, and their noses were crusty with mucus.
On the way back to our camp that evening, I noticed a group of kids gathering water from one of their favorite waterholes. The animals were drinking and defecating from that same waterhole. No wonder they were sick. Like so many parts of Africa, they had a water problem. I knew then that we would have to return.
On our return trip, we were completing a water project that would potentially address the sickness we first saw in the children, and transform the entire area that consisted of three villages. It was our last day, and it was now time to dedicate the Well. People came out in droves. The village Chief joined me on the hillside as we celebrated our new friendship and the potential for a new and healthier future. I asked for permission to share with the people. Chief Waya graciously granted.
I spoke from the passage found in John 4 on living water. I contrasted the benefits of water with the gospel. Giving my best Billy Graham invitation, I invited the village people to drink from His Living Water, and then I waited. Nothing happened. No one responded.
I walked off the mound of dirt perplexed. What had happened? I had spoken on other occasions in various parts of Africa, and dozens, if not hundreds, always eagerly embraced the message of the gospel.
As I stood there praying, asking the Lord what had happened, the Chief sent for me. He and the elders were requesting a private meeting. I made my way back to them, unsure of what to expect.
That's when, through my interpreter, the Chief said, "The words of Jesus have strangely warmed our hearts. We want to know more." I shared the gospel the best I knew how. God did the rest. Their hearts did open, and they received Him. That day they began to drink from the Well that never runs dry.
As we prayed together, our driver came to let me know our flight back to the USA would be leaving shortly. It was time to go. With so much to tell them, this caught me off guard. We had worked all week for this moment. The Chief and his elders had just embraced the gospel, yet they knew so little about it. There was so much I wanted them to know.
I didn't know what to do or say. I looked at my interpreter and said, "When we get to the city, we will buy Bibles, and when you go back to the village, start with the Sermon on the Mount and teach them more about Jesus and His ways." And with that, I was gone. I never even took into consideration that most of the village, including the Chief, were illiterate.
Since that encounter in central Africa, I've asked myself a question. If I only had one hour to disciple someone, what would I want him or her to know? After spending many days, and now even years, reflecting on this question, here’s what I would like for them to understand. I would want them to be able to answer three questions. I believe these questions form a foundation for everything they need to know to begin the journey as a Christ-follower. They are:
1. What is the gospel?
2. What is a disciple?
3. What is the church?
These three questions, answered in this specific order, form the bases of a gospel-centered worldview they would need to navigate their new world. It is also the same three questions we need to navigate our new world. Jesus refers to this new world over and over again as the Kingdom of God.
When we change the order in which we ask these questions, it always distorts our view. The gospel is our foundation, and we must begin with a good foundation. Our mission of making disciples follows this foundation, and when we make gospel disciples, healthy churches are formed around those disciples. One question builds upon the other. In practice, we plant the gospel, make disciples, and form new churches or communities around those disciples. As you work your way through these three questions, remember this order matters. Welcome to the journey of rediscovering the simplicity of Jesus and His ways!
Join us March 24th @ 11AM EDT for our next webinar on Discipleship as Worldview Transformation.
What is real church growth? In short, real church growth is when we shift the core of our church family from a weekend only culture to a disciple-making culture. In a weekend-only culture, I participate and attend because I get something from it. In a disciple-making culture, I participate and attend because I’m giving something. In this case, I’m giving myself to a shared disciple-making identity and a disciple-making vision. This produces growth because people are moving out of the lower room of preference into the upper room of vision. From the upper room of vision, we move out on mission to where we live, work, and play. In real church growth, this is where disciple-making most begins considering our current western context. Our context is post-Christian and can be summed up in that we have reached everyone like us or everyone who wants to be like us.
You don’t have to look too far back to realize just a short time ago, those who were lost or at least disconnected from the church found their way to our doorstep through a simple invitation and a seeker-friendly environment. Not so much anymore. Where do we go from here?
The good news is people still respond to the gospel. Nothing has changed when it comes to it’s power to transform the heart of men and women. I just recently spent a week with a church on the West Coast. They have experienced significant numerical growth in their worship gatherings over the past five years. This year for the first time, this growth has slowed.
We spend several days using our visionary planning tool to map out a vision and an actual plan for achieving that vision. They recognize to maintain and even grow their relevance in their community; they must transition from what they call an “invitation” culture to a “for” culture. This is not to say that they are giving up on an invitation culture. Their weekend attendance is still growing. They grew by 4% last year compared to 10% and 15% in the previous years. However, they recognized that for them, the future will still consist of gathering people, but it will flourish only if they send people.
More and more churches are getting this, and those that do will have a bright future. Those that don’t will become more and more irrelevant and continue to decline until they die.
In our next webinar, I am going to talk about how to develop a visionary plan that leads to real church growth. I’m going to be joined by Matthew Peeples. Matt is a young pastor that walked into a declining church in a declining denomination just outside of New York City. Over the past few years, it has been my honor to work closely with him as he transitions the church to a disciple-making church that is committed to revitalizing and planting churches throughout their region. To join us for this live webinar register by clicking on the link below and join us on February 25th at 11 AM EST.
I have the distinct privilege of being a clarity evangelist. I help others with their personal and organizational clarity. My clarity mentor Will Mancini puts it this way, "Clarity isn't everything, but it changes everything." This is my go-to quote when it comes to clarity. Take a moment and reflect on it. Imagine for a moment on having clarity around what we call the Five Questions of Irreducible Leadership. Which are:
• What are we doing?
• Why are we doing it?
• How are we doing it?
• When are we successful?
• Where are we going?
Now apply this to your life or your organization. Imagine how answering these five questions could potentially speed up every decision and action related to your life or organization. You get the idea.
Last week I spent time with our Auxano Team in our annual meeting designed to resync our team and our lives. Once again, the impact will be lasting if not life-changing. One statement stood out to me more than the others. I believe it originated with Scott Adams and is "Goals are for losers, systems are for winners." While I'm not too fond of the tone of this statement, the implications of it are significant. In other words, it's one thing to have a goal, but it's another to have a system for achieving that goal.
Now imagine what would happen if you had a tool that combined the elements of clarity around your goals with a system for accomplishing your goals. That's precisely what we have in our master tool Horizon Storyline unpacked in Will Mancini's God Dreams book.
This tool takes into account that we both see and plan along different horizons. In this case, what we call Beyond the Horizon (5-20 years), Background Horizon (3 years), Midground Horizon (1 year), and Foreground Horizon (90 days). This system we affectionately call the 1-4-1-4. Imagine for a moment ten simple goals along four horizons to a better future. Not merely ten goals, but a system for implementing those goals.
Don't miss our next PTG Webinar on Organization Clarity: Unlocking Your Goals with a Simple Tool on February 25th at 11 AM Eastern Time.
I will have a special guest network leader and pastor Matt Peeples. Matt is the founder of The Kairos Network and the Pastor of Bethlehem Church, where they are catalyzing a disciple-making and church planting movement throughout New Jersey.
In 1911 Arthur Brisbane said, "Use a picture: It's worth a thousand words." Well, there you go. The picture on the left was made at the Great Pyramid just outside of Cairo. We literally rode a camel through the backside of the desert to get there, poor camel. The picture on the right is from this past summer taken in front of a hat store in Madrid. In the first photo, I was 48 years old, and in the second, I was 60. It's amazing what a few years can do for you or against you.
In 2010 I had a life-changing experience. For the very first time in my life at 50 years of age, I went through a life planning process with a professional coach. While I set several goals during this process, there was one that has impacted my life more than any other. During my life planning process, I committed to getting healthy. My goal was pretty simple; I want to live healthily and die healthy. As a result, I hired a personal training and wrote him a check for $4,000.00 before I went through a single training session. Six months later, I had lost 55 pounds and was running from 6 to 8 miles every day of the week. Twelve years later, well look at the picture which one of these guys would you rather be?
This leads me to 2020! Over the past seven years, I have been working with Will Mancini and the entire crew at Auxano and Younique, helping those committed to a greater good go further, faster, and longer than they imagined possible. There is nothing more exciting than seeing a leader discover their life design and develop a life plan that allows them to be their best and achieve their goals.
On January 21, 2020, I'm going to launch our webinar series on How A Personal Life Plan Can Change Your Life. Join me at 11 AM EST, where I will be sharing:
As you get those traditional New Year Resolutions out of the way, let's connect and begin a dialogue that could change your life. How do I know? Because it changed my life, all I know is I was fat, and now I'm not.
"We don't have the right leaders!" "I need more leaders?" "Where will my next critical hire come from?"
These are a few things I hear from church leadership as I travel around the country working with them. We have a leadership crisis in our churches, or maybe what we have is a leadership development crisis.
Can you relate? I certainly can! I've been there. I can still feel the pain associated with having the wrong volunteer or staff person and having to let them go. I recall the long sleepless nights feeling overwhelmed by the need for more and better leaders.
You are right! You have a leadership problem! And guess what! You're it! I know that sounds insensitive. However, the reality is that one of our primary responsibilities as leaders is to develop more and better leaders.
Churches and organizations that experience break-thru are figuring it out. They are moving leadership development to the top of the list. They are developing intentional structures, systems, and training for engaging and developing spiritual leaders.
Imagine drawing a line in the sand and saying no more excuses. We're going to win in this area. We're going to develop more and better leaders. What if you could invest the next months of focused energy into developing a leadership pipeline that would provide you with an abundant harvest of reproducing leaders?
Join me on November 20, 2019, at 11 AM (ET) in our latest webinar with my good friend and leadership coach Mac Lake. Mac is the author of Leading Leaders and soon to be released The Multiplication Effect. Register below!
What many churches call discipleship, or disciple-making is a far cry from what Jesus had in mind when He gave us the Great Commission. What you are doing may be the very reason your church is struggling when it comes to reaching non-Christians with the gospel.
I work with dozens of churches each year, helping them align their strategies and programming with their disciple-making results (measures). My observation is that most churches have three core components when it comes to their strategy. Most often, it consists of 1) a gathering where worship takes place, 2) groups where people connect and study the Bible, and 3) a place of service in the church. It may look like some variation of the drawing below.
This model most often assumes that people find their way into our gatherings, and the rest will take care of itself. The challenge to this assumption is that in today’s culture that people are no longer finding us. We have reached everyone like us or who is wants to be like us. If we are frank about our situation, if we are experiencing growth at all, it is usually the result of doing things better than the churches around us and reaching their attenders and members. In essence, we are growing at the expense of the churches around us, with little or no actual kingdom growth.
Think about it for a moment. We encourage disciples to gather for Christian worship on the weekends and then gather with a smaller group of Christian in our homes during the week for Bible Study. You may be wondering what’s wrong with this? Well, I’m glad you asked. Jesus didn’t save us to spend our lives in a holy huddle. The very commission he gave us begins with an imperative to “go.”
For Jesus, there was no separation in evangelism and disciple-making. Evangelism is simply the first part of a holistic process we refer to as disciple-making. Whenever I think of disciple-making, I process it through our pipeline that includes: pre-disciples, new-disciples, growing, disciples, multiplying disciples, and catalytic disciples. A healthy disciple-making culture will have both pre and new-disciples flowing through it.
A more open system for disciple-making might look like the one I use when working with leaders or catalytic disciples who are interested in catalyzing disciple-making movements.
This is what we call a strategy map, and it consists of five components. Here’s a super quick overview. I will save a fuller discussion for future writings.
Enter the Field
Jesus calls us to enter the fields that are already "white unto harvest". We must be intentional about equipping disciples at every level of our pipeline to enter the harvest field. This may require a rethinking of how we relate to people where we live, work, and play.
Plant the Gospel
We plant the gospel by proclaiming the good news that in Christ, God did for us what we could not do for ourselves in that He redeemed us, He is renewing us, and He is ultimately going to restore all of creation. We plant the gospel by telling our story and telling His story of redemption. While the gospel may be demonstrated non-verbally through our actions, be not mistaken, the gospel is verbal. The gospel is a good news announcement that must be proclaimed.
Once someone is open to the gospel, disciple-making begins. I was reminded the other day of a young man I disciple for two-years before he became a Christian. I did this by engaging in a relationship with him, having an honest dialogue where I answered his question, and introduce him to my broader Christian community. My disciple-making efforts consisted of exposing him to Gospel Truth, Gospel Community, and Gospel Mission. We did life-on-life, life-in-community, and life-on-mission together.
Form the Church
Once you begin making disciples, you can then form new communities or new churches around those disciples. When I first started this journey of church planting, I thought I needed to form a church and then go make disciples. What I have discovered in the post-church era is we have to make disciples and then form the church around those disciples.
The final part of our strategy is to reproduce. We reproduce other disciples, groups, churches, ministries, and networks. However, it’s important to note that reproduction begins in the pre-disciple phase. If we meet someone open to the gospel, then we can ask that person if he has family or friends that might be open to the gospel. When they do, we can encourage them to invite us into their network, and when this happens, they are learning to reproduce from day one.
Now let me ask you a question: Which one of these approaches to church is going to allow us to make disciples of people far from God? Hopefully, both, but certainly the open system, is going to be more effective in today’s context.
David is the founder of Planting the Gospel and Lead Navigator with Auxano the category leader in vision clarity. When David isn't writing or consulting he enjoys staying fit and competing at Crossfit.
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