NOTE: A video overview of the significance of paradigm shifts in disciple-making ministry is available.
“The most significant change comes when there is a paradigm shift.”
God calls us to be disciple makers (Mt 28:19-20) because he seeks to use us for his glory. Fruitful ministry requires our conformity – head, heart and hands – to what God desires for us. When we join God in his mission (the missio Dei) as disciple makers, we embrace the NT priority of disciple making that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can result in multiplying movements.
At the same time, healthy and productive ministry requires thoughtful strategies, planning, and execution. Identifying CPM/DMM principles and practices (P&P) used by effective practitioners sheds light on what leads to fruitful ministry. These principles and practices create a ministry environment in which the fruit of multiplying disciple makers can reasonably be expected. Ignoring fruitful practices inhibit the birth and growth of disciple-making movements.
The following list of CPM/DMM P&Ps are those paradigm shifts that I consider to be particularly significant and impactful. None of them originate with me and all have been discussed in books and articles on DMM. Some of them are practices that I have employed in my ministry, others are practices that I did not focus on and regret not doing so, since I believe they would have resulted in greater fruit. The proposal is that these paradigm shifts in ministry activities, priorities, and resources are needed to “make the road straight” for the Spirit to come (See the previous post for further explanation).
The list is designed to be used as discussion points for your disciple-making team. As you consider these changes keep in mind that there are no shortcuts or silver bullets. Each item is like a facet in a diamond that is significant when viewed as part of the complete diamond. Neglecting a key aspect can hamper the development of a multiplying movement. As your team discusses these shifts, you will reflect on several implications for ministry, from grasping the God-sized vision (WIGtake) to leadership development. Making disciples requires a multi-pronged approach so that multiplication occurs.
“Q” refers to coaching questions to guide your team towards personal application and contextualization of these paradigm shifts.
Pre-engagement and Preparation (Prayer, Vision, Team)
- From “what can we do” to “what is God’s plan (missio Dei).”
Q: What is God’s vision for the people we are working with?
Q: Who should be involved in discovering God’s plan (missio Dei)?
- From “what can we do” to “what’s it going to take? (WIGTake)” – ruthless, single-focused vision that drives choices, changes, and sacrifices.
Q: What will it take to see the fulfillment of God’s vision?
Q: How can we be a catalyst towards God’s vision?
- From “ministry strategy” to “movement strategy” (Identifying and networking with potential workers to focus on multiplication. Mobilizing denominations / churches in order to multiply workers / church planters).
Q: Who should we be partnering with and challenging in order to encourage multiplication potential that goes beyond what we can accomplish by ourselves?
- From “satisfaction with early success” to “maintaining a vision for the many.”
Q: How can we maintain a multiplication mindset based on a commitment to God’s vision?
- From “limited vision” to “wholistic transformation” (e.g., not just spiritual but social, not just family but community, not just service but gospel, etc.).
Q: What other dimensions of God’s vision should we attend to?
- From “jumping into ministry” to “being exposed to the fruitful ministry of others” (Visit a thriving movement and experience the Spirit’s presence – find ‘positive deviance’).
Q: What multiplying ministries can we explore and who are the reproducing leaders we can talk to?
- From “what can I do” (independence) to “what can we do” (team / interdependence / cooperation / partnership).
Q: Who should we partner with in order to multiply efforts?
- From “prayer” to “extraordinary prayer.”
Q: How can we move our regular expressions and activities of prayer to a new level of commitment?
Q: What special times of group prayer can we engage in that focus on multiplying disciple making?
Q: How can our prayers be “extraordinary” in terms of bold vision, risky requests, and needing God to miraculously answer?
- From “being an intercessor” to “multiplying intercessors.”
Q: Who should we pray with and challenge in order to multiply prayer efforts?
Initiate a DMM focused ministry
- From “passive waiting for people to come” to “initiating contact and pursuing people.” That is, from asking people to “come and see” our space to entering the space of others so that we “go and catalyze” (engage people where they live rather than inviting them into a setting that we are comfortable with and that we control – “crossing the bridge” is the responsibility of the minister).
Q: What actions should we be involved in to identify and pursue others for the gospel?
Q: What initiative does God want us to take in order to engage people in their context (this week)?
- From “looking for interest” to “generating interest through segue comments that lead to significant conversations.”
Q: What are some good questions we could ask people to stimulate a significant conversation?
- From “good activity (tasks)” to “fruitful activity (reproduction).”
Q: What good activity needs to stop and be superseded with a fruitful activity?
- From “low personal risk” to “high personal risk.
Q: What risk does God want us to take (this week)?
- From “avoid discomfort and persecution” (maintain limits within personal roles and tasks) to “expect / embrace discomfort and persecution” (Address challenges as spiritual warfare – overcome the fear of rejection).
Q: What potentially fruitful activity are we avoiding because of fear or discomfort?
- From “friendship evangelism” (limited number) to “network filters / abundant sowing” (leveraging access to ministries or business for multiple new conversations). Many potential disciples are discovered through an abundant gospel-sowing process that filters out those without serious interest. From “spend time with anyone who is willing based on common interests” to “invest only in those with a hunger for God, looking for those prepared to hear and who willingly respond to the gospel.”
Q: What filtering activity are we involved in that identifies those who may be potential disciples of Jesus?
Q: What filtering ministries already exist and are engaging the people group we work with, and how can we connect with them in order to further identify those in whom the Spirit is at work?
- From “private spirituality” to “being conspicuously spiritual” (Be about the Master’s business in the presence of and with people, living and speaking about how following Jesus is different from the world).
Q: How do we communicate our primary identity as followers of Jesus to those we meet?
Q: What introductory phrase / symbol can we use so that everyone we meet recognizes our commitment to Jesus?
- From “wanting to be liked” to “wanting Jesus to be seen in us – in word and deed.”
Q: How do we maintain a discipline of communicating Jesus as our motivation?
- From “serving the community” to “serving with the community” (Seeking connections with leaders in the community to win trust, communicate gospel motives and find People of Peace (POP)).
Q: Who are the community leaders and how can we develop relationships with them?
Q: What community initiatives can we join that will provide scope to be accepted by the community and identify People Of Peace?
- From “building programs” to “building trust” (maintain a solid focus on the relational dimension of connecting and communicating positively with people, rather than assuming that our deeds will be interpreted as intended).
Q: What are we doing to develop trust with people in the community and what are the indicators that people are coming to trust us?
- From “persevere at all costs” to “disengage and move on” (discernment).
Q: What activities are we doing or relationships are we involved in that are not bearing fruit, and how should we disengage from them?
- From “try new methods” / “search for the silver bullet” to “persevere with proven fruitful practices” (Maintain proven fruitful practices even if there is little fruit at first).
Q: What activities are we doing or relationships are we involved in that are currently not bearing fruit, and yet have a proven track record of doing so, and what should we do to persevere without losing heart?
- From “following fruitful practices” to “adapting fruitful practices” (contextualization).
Q: How can we adapt proven fruitful practices so that they resonate appropriately with our ministry context?
- From “practicing a few CPM/DMM principles and practices” to “attending to all CPM/DMM principles and practices.”
Q: What is our team evaluation process to ensure that we are not neglecting any key CPM/DMM principles or practices?
- From “personal study” to “engaging others in study and growth” (Timothy principle).
Q: How do we engage others in our ministry and personal walk with God?
- From “being the gatekeeper” (by starting a group and welcoming others in / attractional) to “finding the gatekeeper” (finding someone who welcomes us into their sphere of influence).
Q: Who are potential People of Peace (gatekeepers) who will welcome a disciple-making initiative and how will we introduce them to an exploration of the Bible?
- From “decisions” (knowledge / sporadic follow-up) to “obedience” (looking for growth in commitment to Jesus). That is, from “head knowledge” to “behavior” (Jesus’ invitation to follow and obey).
Q: How do we model and encourage active obedience to Jesus?
- From proclaiming the “gospel of salvation resulting in believers” to proclaiming the “gospel of the Kingdom resulting in disciples.” That is, from “personal salvation” to “commitment to Jesus and his mission.”
Q: How do we communicate the gospel so that new believers become committed and active participants in Jesus’ kingdom mission (“What we win them with is what we win them to”)?
- From “attendees” to “participators” (people with a disciple-making purpose). That is, from “head knowledge” to “heart desire” (Jesus’ invitation to commitment).
Q: How do we develop vision and commitment in believers so that they become active disciple makers?
- From “focusing on many disciples” to “helping the few go deep in their commitment to Christ.”
Q: How do we develop vision and commitment in believers so that they pursue a close relationship with God and commitment to the missio Dei?
- From “training towards ministry” to “multiplication at every step,” OR from “stability, consistency and maturity” to “multiplication and reproduction,” OR from “Believe-Mature-Serve” to “Believe-Serve-Mature” (The point is NOT that stability, consistency and maturity are no longer the aim, but that a key part of stability, consistency and maturity comes through developing a commitment to participate with Jesus in his mission from the beginning of a person’s spiritual journey. Rather than a 2-step process of first becoming stable, consistent and mature and only then participating in the spread of God’s mission, Jesus’ initial call to “follow me” is a call to participate in what he is doing).
Q: How can we communicate from the beginning of the disciple-making process that dedication to multiplication and reproduction is a key aspect of following Jesus?
Disciple Making in Groups
- From “one-on-one” (extraction) to “group” (body of Christ principle – integrated into life).
Q: How do we prioritize group disciple making and begin Discovery Bible studies (DBS) as group initiatives?
- From “creating groups” to “bringing Jesus into natural / pre-existing social groups.
Q: How can we identify existing social groups and invite them to explore what it means to follow Jesus?
- From “conversion / baptism is an individual’s faith step” to “conversion / baptism is experienced as a step of faith in a group context” (a more communal focus with group identity).
Q: How do we practice and encourage conversion / baptism as communal participation?
Q: How can all believers be encouraged to baptize others as an expression of their responsibility to disciple others?
- From assumption of/focus on “private faith” to “valuing transparency and accountability over privacy.”
Q: How do we encourage communal expressions of faith?
- From “helping believers strengthen their personal faith” to “helping believers share their personal faith” (Faith is strengthened through interactions with those who do not believe).
Q: How can communal expressions of faith be cultivated that include interaction with those who do not believe?
- From “helping others grow” to “coaching disciples who reproduce.”
Q: How can a communal commitment to being a reproducing disciple be cultivated?
- From “Bible studies for believers” to “Bible studies where believers and seekers discover together” (This is not a denial of the need for deeper teaching; it is a multiplication mindset. The assumption is that there is value in learning how to connect with non-believers around the Bible).
Q: What communal connections and understandings are necessary to include seekers within a disciple-making group?
- From “group conformity” (legalism) to “Jesus conformity” (relational theology)
Q: How do we avoid mere conformity to group expectations and maintain a focus on following Jesus as our unity?
- From using a Scripture passage to “understand a biblical message” to “seeing Scripture as a revelation of God’s will and character.”
Q: What questions help participants identify descriptions of God’s will and character from any passage of Scripture?
- From “teacher” to “facilitator” (asking questions rather than giving information).
Q: How can we use open questions that will ensure people discover God’s message from a passage of Scripture?
- From “controlling the message” to “releasing the message.”
Q: How can we maintain a humble orientation before God’s word together with other believers / seekers so that we learn from others and let God lead?
- From “a learning style based on the thoughts and opinions of teachers” to “a learning style of discovering what the Bible says” (people learn that they can understand the biblical message).
Q: How can we ensure that a group of believers builds confidence that they can read and understand the Bible as they engage God’s word together?
- From “human teacher” to “the Holy Spirit” as teacher (The discovery method as foundational: this does not mean that human teachers are rejected or ignored but that the focus is a commitment first and foremost to trusting Jesus and learning to listen to the voice of the Spirit).
Q: How does our posture and our actions communicate trust in God’s Spirit to guide his people as they study God’s word?
- From “lecturing” to “modelling.”
Q: How can we appropriately model what it means to be an obedient disciple of Jesus?
- From “knowledge about Jesus’ mission” to “commitment to Jesus’ mission” (discipleship is not about head knowledge but obedience).
Q: How can we ensure that people apply Jesus’ call on their life, rather than just learning about that call?
- From “being comprehensive” to “being simple and reproducible”
Q: How can we ensure that establishing a new group is simple and doable?
- From “adding new people” to “creating new groups.”
Q: What can we say and do to ensure that believers maintain a multiplying disciple-making orientation by initiating their own groups?
- From “establishing small groups” to “establishing multiplying groups.”
Q: How can we be relentless in maintaining a multiplication of groups, and not be satisfied with mere distribution of believers into small groups?
- From “being kind” to “showing unusual / sacrificial practical love.”
Q: How do we encourage a group to be a communal expression of the kingdom by showing the love of Jesus to others inside and outside of their group?
- From “measuring churches” to “measuring disciples.”
Q: How do we ensure that “disciple making” remains the primary focus of groups that transition to an identity of being “church”?
- From “individual expressions of faith” to “group expressions of faith” that include obedience, baptism, Lord’s supper, making disciples, telling others, perseverance in suffering, valuing community and relationships over individualism.
Q: How can we maintain a group identity as the body of Christ as participants learn to apply key spiritual practices?
- From “teaching theology” to “discovering theology” (teach people to depend on scripture for their theological foundation – saturation in God’s word and obedience are the basis for theology. This does not remove the importance of teachers, instead it emphasizes a priority of grounding personal and communal theology in God’s word rather than in the authority of a teacher).
Q: How can we ensure a discovery process so that a group establishes their theological foundation on God’s word as their primary authority?
- From “encouraging cooperation in ministry” to “empowering disciples to fulfill God’s calling as disciple makers.”
Q: How can believers recognize God’s call on their life as disciple makers that goes beyond mere cooperation in ministry?
- From “pastoral leadership” as the focus / center of being the body of Christ to “priesthood of all believers” as the focus / center of being the body of Christ.
Q: How can believers recognize their position as “priests” in God’s kingdom so that they take on the responsibility of prayer with and pastoral care for others?
- From “preconceived ideas of church models” to “community as the hermeneutic of the gospel.”
Q: How can believers become an expression of church that communally lives out the gospel in a transformational manner?
- From “proven models” to “contextualized models.”
Q: How should our expression of church be adjusted to fit the ministry context, facilitate the multiplication of disciple-making, and maintain integrity with God’s word?
- From “attraction based on personal needs” to “attraction based on community transformed by obedience.”
Q: How do we keep the identity of the church focused on following Jesus?
- From “complex church” to “simple church.”
Q: What expressions of church in this context are viable, sustainable and reproducible?
- From “individuals gathered” to “community gathering” (identity as the “body of Christ” is emphasized).
Q: How can a gathering of the church reinforce identity in Christ, welcome engagement, and develop ownership?
- From “flourishing church” to “multiplying churches.”
Q: What practices enhance a multiplication mindset?
- From “baptism and communion controlled by leaders” to “baptism and communion expressed by all believers.”
Q: How does a gathering of believers engage all believers in church practices so that multiplication can occur?
- From being a “doer” to being a “catalyst.”
Q: How do we develop in others a vision to serve God’s mission?
Q: How do we model what we are doing for other potential leaders?
Q: What is our plan to discuss with potential leaders what we are doing and why?
- From “disciple making” to “multiplying disciple makers.”
Q: How do we ensure that those we are guiding to be disciples are also disciple makers?
Q: How do we model a multiplication of disciple makers for other potential leaders?
Q: What is our plan to discuss multiplication with potential leaders?
- From “controlling the ministry” to “releasing the ministry.”
Q: How can we maintain a humble orientation as fellow servants before other potential leaders so that they are empowered to serve?
- From “leader as visionary” to “leader as catalyst” (vision developed together with others)
Q: How can we use a discovery process of leadership development that creates ownership?
- From “role expectations” to “growth expectations” (that is, discipleship results in transformation and fruitfulness).
Q: What do emerging leaders need so that they have both a growth and multiplication mentality?
- From “assuming” to “communication.”
Q: How can we connect with potential leaders on an ongoing basis so that we listen (attend) to them and they know that we understand and care?
- From “maintaining control of groups” to “appointing leaders” OR From “few well-trained leaders – status/trained/educated focus” to “many mentored leaders – function focus.”
Q: How can we release people to the ministry God has called them to and ensure that they have the same desire to release others?
- From “leader who shepherds others” to “leader who disciples and creates disciple-makers” (as a priority) OR From “leaders are priests who make disciples” to “all believers are priests who make disciples.”
Q: How can we focus on guiding believers towards being disciple makers as their primary calling?
- From “individual ministry” to “mentored / coached ministry – apprentice mentality of having a ‘tag along’” (even if that person is not yet a committed believer, be about the Master’s business with people).
Q: How can we communicate and develop an expectation and value of multiplication so that leaders do ministry with others?
- From “supporting leaders” to “coaching leaders.”
Q: How can we empower leaders so that they fulfill their plans, rather than advising them about our ideas?
- From “formally trained leaders” to “leaders coached in context.”
Q: How can we engage in competency-based leadership development of head, heart and hands in the ministry context?
- From “paid leader” to “self-supporting leader.”
Q: How can we multiply leaders without requiring a multiplication of resources?
 Galanos, Chris. From Megachurch to Multiplication: A Church’s Journey Toward Movement. 2018. Experience Life. P. 19. Wigtakedmm.com.
 “Positive Deviance.” This terminology is from Patterson et al. in the book Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change 2nd Ed. 2013. New York: McGraw Hill. p. 54, who state, “A positive deviant is a person who, by all rights, ought to have a problem but for some reason doesn’t.”
 POP = Persons of peace (from Luke 10:5-6) and refers to community gatekeepers sympathetic to the gospel message.
 A saying introduced to Fellowship International by Richard Flemming.
 Newbigin, L. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. 1989. Chp 18. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
 The phrase “expression of church” is used to emphasize the body of Christ in a functional, rather than organizational manner. That is, “church” as Christ-centered communities of multiplying disciple makers is expressed in a variety of forms dependent on the context as believers discover and live out a biblical vision of God’s people.
 Head = knowledge and understanding, heart = character, commitment and desire, hands = skill.