There is increasing awareness within the Body of Christ of “Disciple-Making Movements” (DMM) or “God movements”. This approach to frontier mission has resulted in an enormous number of disciples and church emerging in contexts that have traditionally been resistant to Christianity, particularly in rural communities. Increasingly “DMM” is not just taking place in frontier mission, but it is being attempted in the global west.
There is a significant amount of confusion as to what a disciple-making movement really is.
However, there is a significant amount of confusion as to what a DMM really is. The label has been used to describe some significantly different practices and underlying values.
The label is most accurately used to describe patterns of discipleship that are visible in Scripture, but which can be flexibly applied in any cultural setting.
The danger in a discussion like this is that we zoom into methods and lose sight of the bigger picture of God’s ultimate vision and purpose, so we need to start there.
The Context: God’s Vision & Purpose
It’s easy to evaluate things from where we stand – our experience, our culture, our preferences, our traditions. None of these things are bad, but they skew our perspective. We need to repeatedly step back and put our Father at the centre of our perspective.
We need to evaluate ourselves, our activity and our wineskins in light of His overarching purposes, and the role He has called each of us to play. One King, one Lord, one vision. Many children, many roles, many contexts.
The Bible shows us repeatedly that God’s intention is to bring every element of Creation back into peace with Himself and harmony with each other.
For people, He invites them to embrace His loving authority in their personal kingdoms, and step back into a place of privileged service as His children and co-workers. As first-born among many brothers and sisters, Jesus provides the gold standard for living as sons and daughters – thus we become His disciples, or students.
In the west, many rich traditions and practices have emerged as centuries of disciples worked out how to walk with God in their contexts. We should thank God for the wineskins He has used and is using amongst Christians.
The vast majority on our planet have rejected these wineskins.
At the same time, as we consider the vast majority on our planet who have rejected these wineskins, we must shift our focus back to God’s original vision for the restoration of His Kingdom – the wine – and wrestle with how to work more effectively towards His goals amongst other groups of people.
DMM is one wineskin that has emerged out of that wrestle. A ‘disciple-making movement’ and ‘God Movement’ refer to the same thing – a movement towards God, that spreads relationally and virally through a relational group or population.
What does that look like exactly? Let’s break down the different terms.
In the Gospels, Jesus offers us a powerful pattern of intentional disciple-making – inviting people to step into God’s Kingdom by drawing near to Him, trusting Him and obeying Him.
At Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out so that every single disciple of Jesus could have immediate and intimate access to the Father. As the disciples continued to listen, trust and obey – now by the Holy Spirit – God built His Kingdom in and with them.
Listening and obeying resulted in BOTH personal growth and transformation AND active partnering with the Father in His plans for the brokenness and lostness around them. In the pages of the New Testament we see them walking out and passing on the pattern that Jesus gave them.
This pattern of stepping into God’s Kingdom and a new life of listening, trusting, and obeying continues to hold true as the core of being a disciple.
When we talk about ‘disciple-making’, then, we are referring to the process of empowering people to listen to God through His Word and by His Spirit, respond in trusting obedience, and help others do the same.
In the context of disciple-making, one commonly held technical definition of a movement is where 100 committed groups of disciples (churches) have formed, replicating to at least four generations.
In some cases the definition includes a timeframe, ie 100 churches within the preceding three years. This appears to be realistic in many rural settings, but less so in cities and urban areas.
Bringing “Disciple-Making” and “Movement” Together
A disciple-making movement occurs when new communities begin listening to God together and choosing to trust His love and authority. This new relationship with God results in personal and social transformation. This transformation, in turn, blesses others and causes the greatness of the King and the goodness of His Kingdom to be ‘gossiped’ increasingly throughout connected relational networks. This results in more people drawing near to Him to discover Him for themselves, and so the process repeats, and so movement takes place.
Disciple-making movements cannot be engineered by clever marketing or sales techniques. Human strategy and effort are not enough to cause this to happen. Only the Lord of the Harvest can bring this about.
What part do we play in a disciple-making movement?
Our role is simply to be disciples – to surrender to the Father’s loving authority and to move with Him as He leads us towards the brokenness and lostness around us.
As we bring healing and peace to the brokenness, we can serve the spiritual hunger God connects us with. We serve the spiritual hunger by helping members of these communities create opportunities to listen to God and discover Him for themselves, with the people they are close to.
You may have a specific community or group of people that God has placed on your heart but you’re unsure how to move forward.
You may have been wondering how to help people encounter Jesus when they aren’t interested in attending church services or Christian programs.
Disciple-making movements are a wineskin that can help you unlock greater fruitfulness in your corner of the harvest field – whether that’s a family, a community group or a city.
If you would like to find out more, there are some excellent resources out there. For reading material, my previous post will give you some excellent starting points.
If you want to interact with real people, you could consider connecting with Praxeis – an international network of DMM practitioners who can help connect you with resources and training opportunities close to where you are.