By Doug Lucas
We’ve tried and learned from a variety of approaches, each with a different definition of success. Here’s where we’ve been and how we’re seeing God bless the approach we’re taking now.
When we were starting Team Expansion in 1978, we organized several brainstorming conferences that included some of the nation’s top thinkers and leaders in missions and other fields. At these events, we would ask questions like, “What should Team Expansion try to be? What should be its main goal? In fact, what IS Team Expansion?”
It took a while to hone the vision (about 37 years, ha-ha). We studied model after model and Scripture after Scripture to understand what God might be calling us to become.
Our journey has taken us on a winding road that has included multiple transitions. We could characterize them like this:
Team Expansion as “Voyager”—Whether we realized it or not, our benchmarks for success probably dealt with the total number of teams, total number of countries, and total number of missionaries. That was pretty much it. But some time later, we shifted to . . .
Team Expansion as “Flinger”—In this epoch, we started measuring (and caring more about) the number of teams, the number of unreached people groups engaged, and the total number of missionaries. It might seem subtle, but it represented a difference. We were beginning to focus more on the field than on those being sent. As time passed, we transitioned more to . . .
Team Expansion “in the Beachhead Business”—This era had us focusing more on the number of churches planted. Teams, countries, and people groups were still important, but we weren’t so much focused on getting people “out there” as on taking a look at what those people DID.
Team Expansion as “CPM-focused”—In this fourth version of our organization, we began to notice that our “beachhead churches” sometimes stayed beachheads. By contrast, in the book of Acts, the disciples did more than establish a single new church in each region or country. God was adding, then multiplying their numbers. We wanted to multiply too.
We began to pray that God would help us launch church planting movements or “CPM’s.” But we knew these CPMs were works of God. So we were never quite sure how to prompt them. So more recently, we have started to become . . .
Team Expansion as “DMM-focused”—By focusing on disciple-making movements, or “DMMs,” we know more what we have to do on a day-by-day basis. We’re in the process of recasting our purpose statement as “Team Expansion multiplies disciples and churches among the unreached,” and our vision statement as “24 disciple-making movements by 2024.”
What’s more, we can clearly see what this “24-by-24” picture will look like. In each of these 24 movements, we’re dreaming of a day when we will see four distinct streams of churches that will each have grown to the fourth generation. In other words, we long to make disciples (first generation) who will make more disciples (second generation) who will make even more disciples (third generation) who will make still more disciples (fourth generation).
This “thinking and doing” transition is revolutionary—yet it’s very simple. After all, the one thing on Jesus’ mind, more than anything else, on that mountain in Galilee was “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19, 20). He then instructed his followers to “teach them to do whatever I’ve commanded you to do,” which means, after you baptize them, train them to make disciples too.
He made it clear in John 15 that if we keep his commands (if we are his disciples), we should expect fruit (more disciples). And again, throughout the book of Acts, Jesus’ disciples did exactly that
. . . and their new disciples didn’t just add (one at a time growth), they multiplied.
Exactly how does this DMM play out, and what are we asking our members to do on a daily basis? We’re teaching them how to move into a new area, learn the language and culture, pray a lot, and live in a “conspicuously spiritual” way while meeting felt needs in the community. Our workers practice the art of becoming a disciple worth multiplying, anticipating that someone (seekers) will notice.
We introduce these “open people” to stories about Jesus and his life. We might mention a passage in which Jesus teaches about honesty and explain that, for this reason, we’re returning a small amount of money that many would consider petty. Then we ask if the individual likes that idea. If he or she responds positively, we ask if they’d like to hear more teachings of Jesus.
The people who say yes to these kinds of questions are of the utmost importance to us. They are what some trainers call “persons of peace,” harkening back to Jesus’ words in Luke 10, when he was sending out the 72 disciples. Our workers start “discovery Bible studies” (DBS’es) with these interested parties. In those studies, our workers introduce a new story from Scripture, and then ask questions such as, “What does this passage teach us about God? What does this passage teach us about humanity? If we believe this passage is from God, how must we change? Who are you going to share this passage with before we meet again? When do you want to meet again?”
Those who are seeking God will want to meet again . . . and those are the people in whom we want/need to invest our time. We repeat these processes until our new “people of peace” become believers, then disciples, and then group leaders on their own.
Our workers expect to start multiple groups by using this simple approach. In one field, the team worked for some 15 years to establish the first beachhead church. But by introducing DMM principles, they multiplied into seven groups within the next 12 months.
In another field (a Muslim land), the group struggled for 10 years with almost no fruit. Upon beginning DMM principles, they had five new groups launched (and multiple baptisms) within the first year.
In yet another field, our workers weren’t even sure how to begin for the first five years. Upon implementing simple DMM practices, in the next 17 months, they saw 112 groups come into being with more than 750 individuals attending on a weekly basis. Of particular significance, 481 of those new followers were baptized, and many of those believers are already discipling others.
It’s important to understand that, as an organization—and as individuals—we don’t consider ourselves to have arrived. We are constantly growing and learning. That’s the nature of a true disciple.
Please pray for our workers, and those who follow, and ask God to bless these new disciple-making movements for the growth of his kingdom and for the glory of his name.
Doug Lucas is founder and president of Team Expansion, Louisville, Kentucky. To learn more about the DMM principles, sign up for the 30-Day Challenge at www.MoreDisciples.com. To learn more about Team Expansion, browse www.TeamExpansion.org.