NOTE: A video overview of the significance of paradigm shifts in disciple-making ministry is available.
In a previous blog post I made the claim that “DMM principles and practices are a recognition that there are ways and means of doing ministry that better disseminate the gospel, connect with the spiritual hunger of those who need the salvation of Jesus, and provide a greater opportunity for multiplying movements.” This was not intended as a critique of methodologies other than DMM/CPM; it was primarily an acknowledgement that much of my time in Pakistan during the 1980s and 1990s was spent in activities that were less strategic and productive than they could have been.
I was (am) a product of my Canadian context and training and so while I tried to do ministry faithfully, my cultural sensitivity, disciple making skills, and understanding of ministry was limited. When I was introduced to DMM principles and practices and contrasted them with my former assumptions and activities, I realized that I had been “running the race” encumbered by burdens, distractions and a lack of perspective. I praise God for the work of the Holy Spirit who overrode my ignorance and incompetence to bring people to faith – believers who continue to serve God to this day. Nonetheless, if I had to live those years over again, I would do many things differently, and one key change would be the adoption of DMM P&Ps.
I am no longer an intercultural church planter; my role is as the “Coordinator of International Leadership Development” (CILD) with Fellowship International and Northwest Baptist Seminary. My goal is to ensure that those who now seek to be disciple makers cross-culturally are aware of and equipped to implement DMM principles and practices. I want them to start where I ended up – with clarity concerning what constitutes healthy and fruitful activity in ministry. I want them to spend their years of sacrifice engaged in ministry that holds the best promise of spiritual fruit because it conforms to the way God is at work. As mentioned in “How DMM is like a High-Density Apple Orchard,” it is possible to be “content with activities that we assume to be the normal modes of ministry and ways to live out the Christian life, but cause us to miss out on different actions that are channels for the abundant fruit God can supply.”
I have prepared a list of paradigm shifts towards fruitful ministry (uploaded in the next post) that is the result of my reflections on activities that I neglected in ministry. It describes activities that I would engage in if I had a “do over” for the years I spent in Pakistan. The list reflects many of the practices identified in current literature about DMM/CPM, but is reshaped as “shifts” from the way I did ministry to the way I wish I had done ministry.
In preparing this list of paradigm shifts, my thinking was stimulated by a debate between Dave Coles and Don Little on DMM. Their exchange is a pleasant conversation between friends in which the critiques are presented as cautions about misstating or misunderstanding DMM principles and practices. Their goal in ministry is to pursue fruitful and God-honoring disciple making that leads to the establishment of Christ-centered communities of multiplying disciple makers, i.e. “church.” Coles and Little’s nonconfrontational approach has encouraged me to think of DMM not as a methodology or system that is contrasted with or designed to replace a “traditional” method or the “legacy” church, but as a series of personally impacting paradigm shifts that are indicators of productive ministry without implying that they are solely the purview of one specific methodology.
A few examples from my list of paradigm shifts towards fruitful ministry – key practices associated with DMMs – will illustrate lessons I have learned.
From “passive waiting for people to come” to “initiating contact and pursuing people.” A significant part of my ministry in Pakistan was dependent on men who had spiritual interest taking the initiative to contact me. While this resulted in some people coming to Christ, it was a passive approach that required me to spend a lot of time with people who came with motives other than a desire to pursue Jesus. The limited success of this approach also prevented me from thinking creatively and strategically about how to proactively seek out those who had a spiritual hunger.
From “what can I do” to “what is God’s plan (missio Dei).” My hope in ministry was that the few people I could introduce to the gospel would in turn reach out to others, but my thinking was limited by my own tasks and abilities. The power of this DMM principle is that it starts with God’s plan which encompasses far more than my vision and perspective. Rather than having my limitations shape my ministry, a better question is “what would it take” (WIGtake) to complete God’s mission vision, and then shape my ministry accordingly.
From “Friendship Evangelism” (limited number) to “Network filters / abundant sowing.” There is a ministry in Pakistan that identifies seekers wanting to know more about Jesus. While I was associated with this ministry and did some follow-up work, I did not appreciate the value of a close relationship with them. They were already filtering seekers to identify those in whom the Holy Spirit was at work, but I did not take advantage of this ministry by prioritizing my time for those seekers. Investing the majority of my time with those who are truly pursuing God would have led to greater fruitfulness.
These are only a few of the paradigm shifts that I wish I had adopted in my ministry in Pakistan. I trust that the list of paradigm shifts in the following post will be insightful and challenging for those who are on a journey to discover DMM principles and practices they need to adopt for fruitful ministry.
 There are important distinctions between Church Planting Movements (CPM) and DMM, as well as a variety of approaches represented in disciple-making movements, such as T4T and Four Fields. However, since this article focuses on the process of disciple-making principles and practices (DMM) as opposed to the result in terms of churches (CPM), and due to the preference for DMM in the author’s mission agency, Fellowship International, the terminology of DMM is preferred. See Reflections on the Theological Validity of Disciple-Making Movements (DMMs) for further discussion.
The terms “traditional” or “legacy” can be distracting since, in this context, they may be understood as confrontative and pejorative descriptions of ministry that God has blessed. I believe it is more helpful to identify paradigm shifts focused on activities that can potentially lead to more fruitful ministry. Some ministry practices hamper the work of God; some are more likely to be fruitful than others. Fruitful practices may occur in other ministries, but it is DMM thinking that has awakened me to the paradigm shifts I wish I had encountered earlier in my ministry.
 Galanos, Chris. From Megachurch to Multiplication: A Church’s Journey Toward Movement. 2018. Experience Life. P. 19. Wigtakedmm.com.