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Darfur Emanuel mit Sheikhs in Cafeteria 2007_edited.jpg
Darfur Emanuel mit Sheikhs in Cafeteria 2007.jpg

What if your disciple-making was largely determined by your mindset? What if the way you perceive your disciples significantly shapes how much they will grow? My research on the fruitful disciple-making of effective movement catalysts strongly suggests that this is indeed the case. Learn in this blog what an effective catalyst’s mindset is and how effective catalysts view their disciples. At the end, you will be able to assess your mindset with some powerful self-coaching questions and take specific steps to sharpen your mindset.

What Confidence in Local Disciples looks like

My research found a trait strongly exhibited in every effective movement catalyst. I call it “Confidence in Local Disciples” – “Confidence that God, by the efficacy of His word and Spirit, can grow and use new and immature believers, hence growing a local movement from local resources.”

Effective catalysts specifically expect that:

  • God can grow new and immature believers

  • God can use new and immature believers

  • As a consequence, God will grow a local movement from local resources.

They base this confidence primarily on God: the efficacy of His word and Spirit.

The vertical upward confidence materializes as a horizontal interpersonal confidence. Because effective catalysts believe God can grow their disciples, they expect that their disciples will grow.

Ultimately, to the extent we have confidence in the Bible and the Spirit, we will have Confidence in Local Disciples. 

Confidence in Local Disciples also builds on the theological conviction that power should rest in the hands of a local church and its local leaders. One catalyst formulates his conviction as follows: “We regard that ALL authority is given to the local gathering.” Such conviction is then passed on to, and taught to, emerging local leaders. Another catalyst reports: 

“I made sure that the national movement leader understands that I was not the leader. I assured him that he owned the movement.”

Catalysts often pass this on to local disciples through participatory inductive Bible studies on topics such as the priesthood of all believers, the keys of the kingdom, spiritual authority, and our identity as co-regents of God on earth.

Effective catalysts strongly exhibit Confidence in Local Disciples. On a 1-5 Likert scale, their self-rating is 4.88 – an extremely high rating. The rating is higher than that of all other 21 qualities examined. Effective catalysts also exhibit this quality more strongly than non-catalysts. See Table 1 for a comparison.

Table 1: Confidence in Local Disciples for Catalysts and Non-Catalysts





Confidence in Local Disciples




Average of all 22 Qualities




The foundation of Confidence in Local Disciples 

Confidence in Local Disciples correlates with two other confidences: catalysts’ confidence in the Bible and their confidence in the Spirit. My research has established that these two traits also characterize effective catalysts.


In my research I define confidence in the Bible as “confidence that God’s word contains eternal principles that make it an essential ministry guidebook and the foundational discipleship tool, hence a key ingredient to the growth of even the youngest disciple.”

With confidence in the Bible as the foundational disciple-making tool, effective catalysts use the Bible primarily and almost exclusively as they disciple. They have confidence that it contains the power to grow and transform any life. This includes even the youngest and most immature disciples. As long as the disciples connect themselves to that transformative power, disciple-makers have strong confidence in their gradual growth and, with that, in them as people. 

Effective catalysts also exhibit strong confidence in the Bible. On a 1-5 Likert scale their self-rating is 4.77 – the second-highest rating of all 22 qualities examined. Again, effective catalysts exhibit this quality more strongly than non-catalysts. See Table 2 for the comparison. (I do not have any data for confidence in the Spirit, as that trait was established in a different study.)

Table 2: Confidence in Local Disciples for Catalysts and Non-Catalysts





Confidence in Local Disciples




Confidence in the Bible




Average of all 22 Qualities




Confidence in Local Disciples also relates to confidence in the Spirit. I describe confidence in the Spirit this way: “catalysts are confident in the Holy Spirit and have faith in him to accomplish his intended work in the life of all God’s children, as he enables them to obey his commands.”

Confidence in the Holy Spirit manifests itself in the lives of catalysts at all stages of a movement. Catalysts have confidence in the Spirit’s ability to transform national disciples. Catalysts also have confidence that the Spirit can guide young disciples to relevant passages in Scripture and interpret those passages to them. God intends interpreting Scripture and discerning the Spirit to happen in community. Therefore, the Body of Christ profits from the contribution of those with theological education shedding light on the historical-cultural context of a biblical text. However, our overall thrust in discipling should encourage young disciples to go to the author of Scripture for understanding.

New disciple Ahmad, who came into the kingdom yesterday, has the same Holy Spirit as you and I, who have followed Jesus for decades. Ahmad does not have a junior version of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can guide Ahmad as capably as He guides you and me. Our task as disciple-makers is to mentor our “Ahmads” how to be guided by the Spirit. This expectation makes us confident that we can empower new disciples. 

Is the Holy Spirit less capable of guiding new disciple Ahmad than he is of guiding you and me?

Effective catalysts express confidence in the Spirit when they give their local disciples the freedom to enculturate the gospel and the kingdom within their communities, under the Spirit’s guidance, and abstain from directing this process themselves. 

Such confidence is built through experience. One catalyst says: “It is easy to empower people when you see the Holy Spirit working in their lives. I trusted the Holy Spirit to do the same thing again.” Previous experiences with the Holy Spirit touching and transforming people further builds up catalysts’ confidence. 

In summary: 

Young and immature local disciples are empowered by the same Spirit, they have no “junior version” of the Spirit.

Young and immature local disciples can be transformed by the same Bible.

Young and immature local disciples share in the same life mandate: the priesthood of all believers. 

Consequentially, two most essential discipleship activities are to:

  • Enable disciples to access the Bible for themselves

  • Learn how to live guided by the Spirit.

Confidence in disciples in scripture

The disciple-maker Paul had great confidence in his disciples and God’s ongoing work in them. So much so that he repeatedly stated with confidence what God WILL do in their lives and what WILL happen as result of their transformation. Read a few passages (with bold font added) that reveal Paul’s confidence in his disciples in Philippi: 

Phil 1:4, 6 – “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Phil 2:13, 14-16 – “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.… Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.”

Phil 3:15 – “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”

Phil 4:7 – “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Paul clearly states his confidence. In what? That God will carry on his good work in Paul’s disciples. That God continuously works in his disciples. That his disciples will shine bright in the world. That Paul himself will not labor in vain in his disciples’ lives. That God will give his disciples understanding. That God will guard their hearts and minds.

Best practices of effective catalysts

The following best practices come from effective catalysts. They reported on surveys that they have incorporated these best practices into their lives, and assess them to have contributed to their catalyzing of a movement:

Best Practice 1 – Empower from the first hour. The time to begin empowering local disciples is the very first stage of the movement. One catalyst puts it succinctly: “The outsider should immediately equip new believers to do all the works of ministry. There is no handoff because the outsider has never owned the new work.” Another catalyst explains how his team approaches this: “We did not do anything ourselves that the local disciples could do. We kept this as a principle to a fault. We put them in charge of everything.”

Best Practice 2 – Anchoring others to the Bible, not to our own wisdom. Effective catalysts use the Bible as the main, and many as the only, teaching tool and discipleship material. They teach seekers, new believers, and ministry partners straight from the Bible. In other words, most refuse to use discipleship courses, or any other topical or deductive materials. If they use any materials, those consist of lessons containing a Bible passage along with inductive questions. Catalysts equip new disciples in basic inductive interpretation skills and let them discover for themselves: truth in the Bible, and its application to their lives and cultural context. Catalysts anchor their disciples in the Bible in the areas of regular discipling, counseling, and training. 

When I personally first started discipling Muslims, they came to me with tons of questions. And I had all the answers. But guess what happened. Whenever they had a question, they knew they could just come to me to get an answer. I soon realized I needed to change my approach. After that, when they had a question, I didn’t give them an answer. Instead, I would say: “Let’s see what the word of God teaches on this matter. You have a conflict with your brother? Let’s read Matthew 18 together and discover how God teaches you to handle this conflict.” 

Best Practice 3 – Asking questions, rather than giving answers. This is related to Best Practice 2 and applies to all areas of life and ministry. This Best Practice does not necessarily pull out the Bible every time an issue arises but taps into the growing wisdom of disciples. Asking insightful questions facilitates self-discovery, which empowers people. One catalyst describes it this way: 

“My most common question is ‘What do YOU think about this…?’ I think sometimes emerging leaders may conclude that I don’t actually know very much.”

Best Practice 4 – Putting disciples in situations where they are forced to depend on the Spirit. Effective catalysts give their disciples assignments and responsibilities that stretch them without overstretching them, forcing them to rely on the Spirit. This empowers them and helps them grow. You can do this:

  • By designing assignments just challenging enough to stretch your disciples.

  • By giving them assignments where they don’t have access to you.

  • By informing them that you want to intentionally stretch and grow them.

If we give our disciples assignments or responsibilities that are too easy, they will not grow. 

If we give our disciples assignments or responsibilities that overstretch them, they will get crushed. 

Best Practice 5 – Giving disciples space and freedom to try out and start new things. Often new disciples are used to leadership that manages them tightly and always looks over their shoulders or even controls them. We need to work against this. One catalyst reports how he does this: “Empowering and confidence in the Holy Spirit are conscious values that we apply all the time. We take risks and send out potential leaders in small teams and give them freedom to open up new areas.” 

You give space: 

  • By communicating that there is space. New disciples need to hear it; otherwise, they may well assume there is no space, no freedom to start new things. 

  • By leaving periodically. After doing ministry together, a leader may consider intentionally withdrawing, so disciples do some ministry on their own. 

  • By leaving for good. At some point, the ministry’s growth may benefit from the leader moving away to another location. 

You will know how strong your Confidence in Local Disciples truly is, by how empowering your ministry style is. 

A litmus test of Confidence in Local Disciples

Someone with strong Confidence in Local Disciples will have a strongly empowering ministry style. Empowering disciple-makers “recognize the gifts of others, enabling them to develop these gifts, assigning responsibility and authority to others, including relinquishing of control and risk of failure, and equipping them to carry out those responsibilities by means of mentoring, coaching, or training.” (See more in my blog “How Movement Catalysts Empower so Effectively”.)

The most relevant factors are:

  • Assigning responsibility to others

  • Assigning authority to others

  • Relinquishing control, even to the extent of risking that others fail.

If this describes you, it evidences that you truly exhibit Confidence in Local Disciples.

If any of these elements do not match with your day-to-day ministry style, they indicate that you should strengthen your Confidence in Local Disciples. 

A Growth Path toward greater Confidence in Local Disciples

  • Study and meditate on Scriptures about the priesthood of all believers and our identity as co-regents of God. Good starting points include 1 Peter 2:5; Romans 5:17; Genesis 1:26-28.

  • Study and meditate on Scriptures about the power of Scripture and the work of the Spirit in the lives of disciples. Good starting points include 2 Timothy 3:15-17; John 14:16-26; 16:5-15; Galatians 5:16-25. 

  • Develop the habit of resisting giving answers to questions; instead, take people to the Bible.

  • Develop the habit of asking questions like, “What do you think?”

  • Work against any tendency to want to manage and control things, and hold back from empowering fully. Err rather on the side of freely assigning authority with responsibility. 

Self-coaching questions for a self-assessment 

Do I empower others, starting from when they have newly become disciples?

How often do I give answers, rather than taking people to a relevant Scripture?

How often do I give answers, rather than asking questions?

How often do I tend to manage and control things? Or even micro-manage?

How often do I put disciples in situations where they are forced to depend on the Spirit?

How often do I give disciples space and freedom to try out and start new things?

How often do I hold back from empowering fully? Or take back control?

What are your thoughts?

I would love to hear from you. What are YOUR thoughts? What is your experience?

Leave a comment below! If you prefer to private message me, you can use the contact form.

Learn more about the other Catalytic Qualities besides Confidence in Local Disciples in my book Movement Catalysts. You can order your copy here

If you found this helpful, how about you share this blog with your network?

Emanuel Prinz – Father’s Beloved & Movement Activist

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