This is an article from the January-February 2011 issue: Discipleship Revolution

Joining the Discipleship Revolution

He who does the work is not so profitably employed as he who multiplies the doers. —John R. Mott (1865–1955)

From the time Jesus selected the twelve, His continuing public ministry was filled with lessons for his disciples as He prepared them to produce future generations of disciplers.

In our urgency to complete the assignment He gave us, have we neglected the wisdom of following His method under the empowering of the Holy Spirit?

Generations of Disciplers

In 1902 Andrew Murray widely publicized the observation that one discipler, winning one person to Christ each year and building them up to do the same in successive generations, would win the whole world in just 32 years.2

In the 1950s, Navigator founder Dawson Trotman noted that, if this spiritual reproduction happened every six months, such generations of disciplers would win the whole world in just 16 years.

How do Generations of Disciplers Develop?

Jesus’ strategy for revealing Himself to the whole world was through successive generations of disciplers. Rather than being consumed with meeting every need He could in His own generation, He foresaw that the greatest fruit for all generations would come from the faithful spiritual reproduction of the small community He was discipling.

Jesus did not simply use the twelve as assistants to service ever-increasing crowds. Mk 3:14–15 tells us that He chose them “that they might be with Him,” “that He might send them out to preach,” and “to have authority to drive out demons.”

Neither did Jesus focus solely on:

  • bringing the twelve to maturity,
  • giving them deeper understanding, or
  • teaching them to love Him and one another.

From the outset they understood that they were also in training to carry on a mission: “I will make you fishers of men” (Mt 4:19).

What I find fascinating is that Jesus didn’t just pick individuals and disciple them in isolation from one another. He started with four friends—two sets of brothers—and built a community to practice and prove His teaching.

“I Was Never Discipled”?

My friend Dave Browning leads a global network of churches which aim to stay small and simple so they can multiply.3 A year ago, in discussing the need to be intentional in making disciples, I complained, “I was never discipled.” Reflecting on the insights I had already shared with him from Dr. Winter, Dave replied immediately, “It looks to me like you were discipled by Ralph Winter.”

Dave’s reaction stirred me to realize that Dr. Winter’s pattern of discipleship with peers around a task, was much richer than my superficial stereotype of discipleship as a weekly meeting focused on my own spiritual growth.

I had joined the U.S. Center for World Mission (USCWM) shortly before graduating from Caltech in 1980. During my 24 years at the USCWM, many people invested in me and I learned and grew through a wide variety of assignments and meetings. In working alongside Dr. Winter and others, I grew to love Jesus more deeply, pursue His Kingdom ahead of my own interests, and enlist others in discipling all peoples. Eventually I wrote a booklet detailing 34 important lessons I learned under Dr. Winter’s discipleship and modeling.4

“Hit and Run” Ministry

At the USCWM, even after marrying and having children, I naively lived a self-induced, sleep-deprived scramble to take advantage of every opportunity to learn and serve. I remember misquoting Lk 10:2: “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few, so we have to work extra hard to make up for what others aren’t doing that they should be doing.”

My first interest in alternate ministry models came when Dr. Winter described the USCWM as a “hit and run” ministry, typified by my own long-standing practice:

  • Meet someone.
  • Fill their available time with every insight and resource I thought could benefit them.
  • Then part without expecting further contact.

This ministry model isn’t bad, but it is very different from Jesus’ use of passing ministry opportunities in His focus on developing the twelve into “fishers of men.”

Dr. Winter’s comment provoked me to wonder: Is there a more fruitful way to minister than simply giving all I can to as many as possible?

Slowing Down to Bear Greater Fruit

When I first heard about the book Margin,5 my reaction was “What heresy is this, to encourage laziness in discipling all nations?”

It wasn’t until our third child was born with Down Syndrome that the Lord slowed me down enough to take a serious look at Dr. Swenson’s work, and to repent from my own chronic busyness. Eventually I came to the conviction that I have an addiction to pursuing exciting opportunities ahead of taking care of basic responsibilities.

As a result I was often running ahead of God to do things He may have planned for others to do, misusing the resources He had entrusted to me, and missing out on “walking” with Him. I was also simply raising my kids, rather than discipling them.

As personnel director for the USCWM I led our staff through a discussion of The Overload Syndrome6 and invited Dr. Swenson to speak at our annual staff conference. I concluded that God does not value our busyness, but desires instead our sensitivity and obedience to His voice.

Our “world” presses us to conform to productivity standards, but we can overcome this pressure by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2), which frees us to work in God’s leading under the empowering of His Holy Spirit.

Chronic busyness comes when we are ruled by expectations we place on ourselves and accept from others. This yoke invariably reduces our time in prayer and in God’s Word to token offerings, unworthy of our King.

We will only escape by listening better, not by working harder. And we will only engage in discipling when we walk by faith (in God’s wisdom and sovereignty) rather than sight (scrambling to meet all the needs we can see).

When by faith we consistently make adequate time in God’s word and His presence we can then live out the reality that He is bigger than the needs and expectations pressing on us. As we focus on listening to and obeying Him, we rediscover the abundant life He promises, in which His yoke is easy and His burden light.

The cycle of chronic busyness can only be broken with God’s help and the support of spouses and other relationships of mutual submission.

Rediscovering Our Role

Occasional busyness is unavoidable, but chronic busyness is driven by a flawed view of God and our role in His purpose. This flawed view is often represented and reinforced in the way we challenge others to mission involvement, as we present God as having gotten Himself into a jam from which He needs our help to escape.

God is still able to make the rocks cry out in praise to Him; He is NOT wringing His hands, waiting for us to finally awaken to the fact that He needs our help.

God doesn’t wait and engage us in His plan because He “needs” us, but for the same reason we enlist the “help” of our children: He enjoys our company and wants us to mature by working with Him in witnessing to and discipling others.

Andrew Murray’s The Key to the Missionary Problem7 offers a brilliant analysis of the missionary movement of 1900, how it was slipping toward busy reliance on human efforts, and what to do about this trend. His analysis is just as applicable to today’s mission effort as when he wrote it, and we are fortunate that this small volume is back in circulation.

Discipleship Must be Reproducible

Greg Ogden’s Transforming Discipleship8 further showed me that:

  • Labeling a classroom presentation of basic doctrines “discipleship” doesn’t make it discipleship. Discipleship must be reproducible by the recipients.
  • We can intentionally structure our ministries to produce generations of disciples.
  • And discipling others yields far greater long-term fruit than any other ministry.

Finding an Effective U.S. Church Model

Jim Downing of the Navigators9 taught me that information transfer alone is inadequate; guided experience is also necessary to impart the skills and motivation for disciples to reproduce.

Jim and I attended an experience in the church discipleship model developed by Real Life Ministries (RLM), a church in northern Idaho.10 There we experienced firsthand what a useful tool Bible storytelling11 can be in the right context, even here in the U.S.12 Jim and I subsequently visited RLM’s headquarters to learn more about their model.

RLM has a masterful structure for coaching small group leaders (spiritual parents) to multiply reproducing disciples. They have discovered the critical importance of engaging each member in growth to reproducing maturity, and of providing coaching (spiritual grandparenting) to those who are leading this process.

Learning from One Another

David Platt’s sermon series Follow Me13 explores the practicality and benefits of laying down our lives to work with God in making disciples.
Among many gems in Dr. Platt’s series, I appreciate these in particular:

  • In John 17 Jesus assessed His life solely by His investment in the twelve, not by the standards we often use to measure our ministries (see p. 21).
  • An illustration of how two disciples, working together in the same outreach, can help each other to grow faster.
  • A detailed analysis of how our investment in the growth of others accelerates our own growth.

We learn and grow even more as we tackle the additional challenges in making disciples in other cultures.

Aiming Beyond a Single Generation

The Training For Trainers (T4T) church planting movement has, in the last decade, started an estimated 140,000 new house churches and baptized 1.7 million new believers, keeping pace with Dawson Trotman’s theoretical potential in the opening table.

Many mass-produced materials are available for those wanting to shift from ministering to the masses to making disciples, but the kind of fruit T4T and RLM are producing does not result from simply adopting these few discipleship principles and hoping God will take it from there:

  • Spending more time with fewer people,
  • Focusing on leaders who can pass on information (2 Ti 2:2),
  • Communicating basic spiritual truths.

Yes, all of these are important, but Jesus didn’t focus His time solely on these things. He engaged the twelve to become effective disciplers, teaching them to do for others what He was doing for them.

Jim Downing calls this “guided experience.” RLM calls it “coaching” with “opportunities to play.” T4T calls it “training.”

Whatever we call it, amidst our other work or ministry involvements, we must learn from and follow Jesus’ example to be intentional in bringing others along, enlisting and coaching them to become disciplers who, amidst their own work or ministry, will also enlist and coach others.
I wasn’t discipled by exposure to important insights but by peer coaching through decades of opportunity to “get in the game.”

From Fixed Curriculum to Coaching

One common weakness of discipling models is a “content only” approach—bringing someone through a curriculum which they are then to bring others through. Whatever this gains in apparent efficiency, it loses far more:

  • in adaptability to the Spirit’s leading and the needs of those involved, and
  • in modeling and coaching through unexpected developments.

Doctrinal correctness will not ensure a person’s fruitfulness. However as we coach people to become disciplers, they will grow in

  • Hungering for and abiding in God’s word.
  • Hearing and obeying God’s voice.
  • Living to please Him rather than others.
  • Trusting His provision and empowering.
  • Embracing His purpose and His Body.

We don’t learn to drive by hearing a lecture or reading a book, but by getting behind the wheel. With coaching from another, we get better.
Coaching doesn’t require knowing everything in advance, just a willingness to learn together. As we coach others who are discipling and then coaching others (both peers and disciples), we and they both learn new dimensions of things we may have previously assented to without really understanding.

Drawing Strength from Others

On our own we may find it difficult to pursue disciplemaking in the face of cultural pressures to simply be productive, but we can find strength in community. In just a few hours a month we can start meeting with colleagues for peer coaching to be disciplers.

Each of us has spheres of influence where we can become intentional about sharing tasks and enlisting and coaching others to become disciplers. We can also engage intentionally as catalysts for peer coaching as we learn together to enlist and coach generations of disciplers.

At its heart, discipling individuals is about loving, enjoying and caring for those God has given us—our family, colleagues and friends—and coaching these to fruitbearing maturity as the path to greater fruitfulness rather than simply expecting them to support us in our “more important” ministry.

Solving the Manpower Problem

In the Western church today, we generally pursue great achievements ahead of generations of disciplers. We thus perceive our primary need to be increased staffing to service our ministry vision.

If we would follow Jesus’ lead in discipling those He has given us, and in coaching them to produce generations of disciplers, this problem might disappear.

Next Steps

Bearing fruit in generations of disciplers won’t happen by accident. Let me suggest three steps you can take:

  1. On a weekly or daily basis, enter the King’s presence and stay there until you sense that His agenda is covered. (Too often we check in and let Him know what we need without taking time to hear from Him.)
  2. Meet once a month for three hours with family, two or three colleagues or friends, or two other couples. Plan and pray together for how you will each become intentional in winning and discipling others, and training them as disciplers. Adapt the T4T format described on p. 13. Rotate leadership. Have each report on a different article from this MF.
  3. Invite three or four other friends to follow your example of starting a monthly discipleship training strategy team, then gather all these teams once a month to learn from one another and compare notes on how God is leading you. Again, rotate leadership.

If you follow some adaptation of this plan, pray and expect each participant to start one or more such groups, then tell me about your experiences so we can learn from one another.14

  1. Table shading reflects estimates in Ralph Winter and Bruce Koch's article "Finishing the Task", in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.

  2. The Key to the Missionary Problem, Morrison and Gibb LImited, 1902

  3. Deliberate Simplicity: How the Church Does More by Doing Less (Zondervan, 2009)

  4. Printable Booklet about Ralph Winter

  5. Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, by Richard Swenson, NavPress, 1995 (re-released in 2004)

  6. The Overload Syndrome: Learning to Live Within Your Limits, by Richard Swenson, NavPress, 1998.

  7. CLC Publications 1979, 2007 reprint in modernized English

  8. Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time, InterVarsity Press, 2003.

  9. See Jim Downing’s interview


  11.  See and (International Orality Network).

  12. The two-day experience Jim and I had in RLM’s model is available most months at RLM’s facility in Idaho (near Spokane, WA). See for the schedule and other details.

  13.  Available free at

  14. For an interesting exploration of what more may be involved in discipling “peoples,” see Landa Cope’s book—An Introduction To The Old Testament Template: Rediscovering God’s Principles for Discipling All Nations, (The Template Institute Press, 2006). Note: a new 2011 edition is now available from YWAM Publishing.


As a parent whose children are now in their early 40’s, we focused in 8th grade on

1. Identifying their passion and talents
2. Creating a four year extra-curricular project
3. Supported them but did not do it for them

My son’s passion for football led to publishing a monograph as a freshman and offering weekend workshops for six years to college bound athletes.  He played college football and became a founding member of the NCAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for six years. He is now EX Director of a 1,200 bed Christian Camp at

My daughter chose international travel and designed a YEAR-IN-BETWEEN program where she did a second senior year of high school in Spanish in Chile.  She has two high school degrees became a Spanish teacher and now works in Christian Camping with her husband.

As grandparents, we have now have expanded this technique to our grandchildren and start when they are 4-5 and begin to exhibit their passions and talents. 

As a result of encouargement by Carol Davis, a Perspectives Educator, we have developed the series for grandparents to influence their grandchildren.
Mapping a Future Series is primarily a new method for GRANDPARENTS to engage their grandchildren.  16% of all grandparents are innovative and want to engage their grandchildren locally or nationally.  A larger proportion of the emerging BABY BOOMER grandparents

• What to stay engaged in life generally,
• Have time, money & networks and
• Would like to influence their grandchildren.

As a result, we developed and BETA tested a scavenger hunt model entitled in late 2010.  The latest FREE version began to unlock on January 26, 2011.  We will have a START page for each week with a one 2-4 minute video of a person who has worked and completed a high school project as well as instructions for the week.  These are very entertaining and challenging videos for those teens excited about a high school project.  The permanent portal page for the SERIES is

One method for identifying grandparents who might be interested is through YOUTH PASTORS who know the grandchildren and some grandparents.  This is not an add-on program for over worked youth pastors.

Mapping a Future Series

A VISION FOR OUR YOUTH… Teens at age 18 should have a sense of
1. God’s mission…Life-VIEW (alternative to world-view)
2. Their passion & project…Life-VENUE (DOMAIN: high school, college or work)
3. Their story…Life-VOICE as “reproductive disciples of Christ.”

Argument: If an 18 year old has actually found their VOICE, then they are an unlikely candidate to drop out of Christianity during college or their early career.  If they have NOT found a Life-Venue and Life-Voice, they are probably AIMLESS and are more likely to drop out of Christianity after high school. 

We need a clear definition of a “Reproductive Disciple” at 18 years of age (1st attempt):

A Reproductive Disciple

1. Can articulate God’s MISSION
2. Has identified their passions and talents,
3. Partners with God’s mission in a transforming project in their high school venue
4. Has discovered and refined their LIVE-VOICE
5. Experiences effective prayer and resourcing their project through God’s networks of people

How would you change this???

Thank you ! Thank you !! What hit me was the comment about obsessing with connecting people with resources rather than focusing on your responsibilities. I have rephrased that somewhat. but thats something that I have always struggled with. I get much more satisfaction and fulfillment out of connecting people than I do cleaning the house or cooking dinner. And then I feel guilty for not being a Suzy Homemaker !! You have given some great keys into how to do both. Now I am seeing how doing both can be a blessing. Inventions like Facebook and websites do help to multiply information a whole lot faster. I am also considering how I can use both to “disciple” those I am in contact with. I am thinking that the Deaf Christian Community has been using the tools you mentioned for years to develop churches in other countries. They don’t use the terminology but thats how they multiply so quickly.

Robby, on reading an earlier e-mail more carefully, I would like to challenge the following quote and provide you with an alternative that we have found very valuable with our children, who are now in their early 40’s as well as our grandchldren.

“However the opportunity for discipleship through collaboration is not limited to ministry. Once I return from India I also plan on spending time each day working with my kids on something practical with which they can help me, in which I will value their growth over getting the job done as well and as quickly as possible.”

This is not a bad thing to do but it needs to be complemented by a far more influential option:

1. Help your child identify their passion.
2. Help your child identify their talents.
3. Brainstorm over the next month 3 potential projects that would build on their passion and talents.
4. Let them select the project and you support their project using your time, resources and networks.

Don’t worry yet about whether it fits within God’s mission.  They will come to understand God’s mission eventually. Their future projects will be collaborative projects for junior or senior high school that are transformational although usually small not big.  All great movements start small.

The key ingredient in this approach is that intuitively you communicate that you are willing to help them be all that they can be whether or not they ever become a reproductive disciple or a full time minister.  Christ is about bringing us into a relationship with the Father.  The Father is about empowering his disciples so that they can be all that God intended.

Don’t start with YOUR PROJECTS…that is the mistakes that Pastors are making when they lead rather than being effective 1st followers for real lay leaders, who are usually a little weird.  Pastors are usually asking the congregation to support their projects.  Elders and Pastors need to reverse this trend and begin supporting the ordinary believers in doing extra-ordinary project in the workplace and community. 

Is a 13 year old a Priest in the Priesthood of Believers?”  Then why don’t we treat them like Priests and resource them appropriately?

I have recently made a commitment to join the Discipleship Revolution. I am interested to see Landa Cope’s book (An Introduction to the old Testament Template: Rediscovering God’s Principles for Discipling all nations). How to find for the entire book on-line?

I don’t think that Landa Cope’s book is for sale on-line.  You can order a hard copy through her web site.


Where do I secure a copy of the document that you wrote on Ralph Winter’s discipling model?


Joes (Jose?),
Try this link for <a href=“>An Introduction to the Old Testament Template</a>.

Follow the link in footnote 4 of my article


Hey brothers in Christ,am a Kenyan man and pastor within a rural community in western Kenya near Kisumu city.I have a request to know if there are christian organizations which can partner with our Kenyan young rural ministry called Go Fishnet Ministries in Kisumu,Kenya to train various church leaders and lay pastors here.We lack facilities such as training resources like books and trainers.I underwent a four year Bible training with Diploma in theology and I can train these leaders however I need others who can come and help me train them and if possible to provide them with certificates.Please let me know your concern soon.My e-mail:[email protected]

The January/February edition of the MF majoring on Discipleship Revolution Avery Willis have been a bountiful blessing and a wonderful catalyst to my ministry. This edition of MF happen to be one of the most interesting edition to me seeing how it touches my deepest passion. Please, I desire to join the Discipleship Revolution to bring a life into our ministry. If really am among the 140 first readers for a free book as expressed at the bottom of the front page the January/February edition of MF, I will be very happy to receive my own copy.  We run a Great Commission based Ministry with a burden to reach out to the unreached communities of Cameroon and beyond.
Rev. P. Bernard


Dear Rev Bernard,

Thank you for sharing the passion for discipleship. The Jan/Feb opportunity for a free book related to that issue of MF has been replaced with another offer on books related to the current Mar/Apr issue. May God bless and lead you in reaching out to the unreached communities of Cameroon and beyond!

I would like to join the discipleship revolution.Please send me the relevant information.Thank you.


Dear Peter,

Thank you for your interest. I will email you privately the draft of my next MF article. Others may look forward to this appearing in the May/June 2011 issue.


What do your reading teach teens regarding ‘Positively Answered Prayer?’

If an 18 year old believe has experimentally found their limit, been resourced by God and experienced positively answered prayer, they will feel “OOMPLETE JOY” and are not likely to drop out of Christianity.

I have found six discussion on prayer in the Gospels.  Four of them are located in the final conversation between Christ and his disciples when he is explaining what he and the Father are all about.  These four passages have a similar tone…“whatever you wish.”  John 14: 12-14, John 15:7, John 15:9-17 and John 16:23-24

This seems to run counter to the “YES, NO, and WAIT” theme that I hear from many mature Christian and Pastors.  However, I have not been able to locate this even when people explain that Christ’s statement in Gethsemane “...and thy will be done” is the basis for this view.  But Christ knew the future and his statement was not about intersession.

What do you tell your children?


Dear William,

Thank you for your question. We have discussed with our children but not promoted the popular “Yes, No, and Wait” understanding of prayer.

We have asked them to memorize:
- “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps 37:4)
- Psalm 1, which includes: “Blessed is the man ... [whose] delight is in the law of the LORD ... . Whatever he does prospers.”

Our emphasis (not fully realized) is on teaching our children to hear and obey, including hearing what God wants them praying for.

Maybe other readers can offer you a better answer.

God bless you for this. I heva a friend who hasn a call to missins but doesnt know how to go about it. can you please help

Hello there Robby.  I am from the Philippines and has been an avid reader of mission frontiers since 1998.  I am an M.Div. Graduate of Asian Theological Seminary in Manila and majored in Cross-cultural studies and missiology. For the past years i have been following CPMs and even Insider movements across the globe.  I am indeed praising God for such breakthroughs and advancements of the gospel most specially amongst muslims, budhist, and hindus.  Here in the Philippines i have lots of friends who works amongst muslims and delighted to hear their progress.  For the past 10 years i have tried to experiment in the urban setting some of the principles of CPMs and even IMs. The Philippines is predominantly Roman Catholic with only an estimated 10 to 15% evangelical/born again christians and 10% (or lesser) Muslims.  In the urban setting amongst the younger generation there is now a growing negative attitude over organized religion.  What i have been trying to experiment with in the past 10 years are the more “organic” forms of being church. We are trying to re-imagine church as we know it.  I was glad that i have resonated with some of the writings of Frank Viola, Neil Cole, Wolfgang Simson and many more advocates of simplier forms of being church and recovering a lot of New Testament patterns of church (e.g. Open Participatory Meetings, focus on being a community rather than programmatic activities, recovering the love feast - communion as a full meal, etc.).  It was a very difficult transition since a lot of us came from traditional churches. Most of us struggle in detoxing from the “old wineskin.”  Anyway, we are seeing now the fruits of this transition and church is picking up momentum in terms of making disciples and mulitplying our churches.  However, we are now encountering some problems and our church being threatened to be divided.  Our senior pastor would want to impose the G-12 model of Cesar Castillanos of Bogota Columbia to all our simple church networks.  I do not subscribe to the said model since i feel that it is so rigid and seems to impose on all of us some kind of new testament “law”.  Unlike in CPMs that it only provides a framework and leaves room for creative engagement of culture and society.  In the G-12 model you have to copy it right to the dot the way Castillanos did it.  this obviously does not take into account context.  the model assumes that it is universal.  It is designed to grow your church (members) instead of multiplying church.  Can you help us shed light on what this G-12 movement is and what may be the general consensus of world mission practioners regarding this movement.  The movement is claiming that it is God’s given answer to disciple the nations and that it is growing rapidly.  Not so sure if they have heard of Ying Kai’s church multiplication movement. If there be any research on this group it would truly help us to make wise decisions if we are going to fully adapt this model.  I am torn as a leader since I am trying to cast T4T and CPM principles which obviously has significant difference with G-12 principles. This is where our tension in the church resides. My group is being threatend to leave the church if we refuse to submit to what the senior pastor would lead us to which is G-12.  Thank you for taking time to read my comments.


Dear Emiljon,

Thank you for your question. I have only faint impressions of the G-12 movement to support your concerns.

My basic view—when there is such a sharp difference of perspective as you describe—is that each “side” needs to follow its sense of the Lord’s leading, just as Paul and Barnabas did (Acts 15:39-40). God may be leading you into a level of multiplication that those you are presently working with would resist. Or He may be leading you to submit to the senior pastor. Only God can clarify this for you.

If you want to repost your situation on my more recent article “Church Planting Movements from One Indian Perspective” (see the links below), perhaps someone there will chime in with greater wisdom.


Dear Emiljon,

You may find this link helpful to discuss with your senior pastor:

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