What is a Disciple-Making Movement?
Within Fellowship International, the focus on disciple-making movements is aimed
at forming good soil from which a church can rise organically, in a culturally appropriate form. Our
emphasis on obedience-based discipleship will intentionally slow the ‘rush’ to form a gathering
which, by its formation, creates a reliance on leaders who themselves are not yet fully committed to unwavering obedience. Prematurely appointed leaders who are not sufficiently formed as obedient followers
harm the church, whose design is to carry the Gospel to its culture.
A spiritually healthy model of Disciple-Making is supported by three factors:
- Biblical root — Jesus told us to make disciples;
- Cultural adaptability — the apostle Paul models the principle of cross-culture ministry;
- Spiritual dynamic — spiritual formation supersedes spiritual information.
In this strategy, spiritual health is measured through practice rather than through knowledge. For this reason the model can employ any number of tools and be adaptable to any culture (and subcultures within it). Worldviews are intentionally uncovered in the host culture so that the Gospel is not merely added to the mix, but is received as the means of transformation. Obedience-based disciple-making instills a high view of Scripture as the primary source of truth and light, along with a dependency on God the Holy Spirit to illuminate it. In its initial stages of formation, a new disciple-making movement will emphasize the doctrine of the “priesthood of the believer” above the role of a pastor as the group’s exclusive teacher. As
the movement progresses and churches rise in the host culture, the value of spiritual gifts and teachers rise with it.
Our commitment to form disciple-making movements is a commitment to invest the necessary time. Teaching obedience as the door to transformation is an essential foundation. In a spiritually healthy disciple-making movement, instruction by a single leader is replaced by group discovery of Biblical truth
and the accompanying practice of that truth.
Once a disciple is formed in this pattern, they are theoretically able to replicate it. However, not every disciple will make more disciples on their own. Momentum in the movement is gained only as replication works in multiple sites. The model is like yeast in dough: there is a “doubling time” principle at work. As
an example, if it takes six months to create a new disciple, the same time is required for making each new disciple. Start with 1-1, then it’s 2-4, then it’s 4-8, and so on. A slow start becomes a rapid dispersion as more disciples are formed and replicate in the process.
For further reading on the subject of disciple-making, I recommend Contagious Disciple Making: Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery by David Watson, coupled with I Once Was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus by Don Everts. These books are excellent resources to fuel our understanding of what is involved as the Gospel confronts and changes worldviews, and as obedient practice is taught as the essential outcome.
— Dave Marttunen is Director of Fellowship International.