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The Four Dimensions of Reproducible Disciple Making

Updated: Jul 31, 2023


At the very heart of every movement you’ll find reproducibility. And the most essential function of movements is disciple making. Combine the two and you’ve got Reproducible Disciple Making. This is the engine that drives movements. In order to build this engine into your ministry or to tune it with a turbo, and for disciple making to become reproducible, you need to consider four dimensions: The messenger, the message, the methods, and the materials. Only when all four are made reproducible, does replication happen. In this article you’ll learn how to make each of the four dimensions reproducible. I’ll share Best Practices from some of the best disciple makers in the world: those who have started a disciple-making movement. Read on to make your discipling more reproducible.


The power of reproduction


First, we need to grasp the power of multiplication. This illustration demonstrates it to me like no other. Rather than explaining it in words, I suggest you watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byk3pA1GPgU&t=4s


This is what Jesus had in mind when he called us to make disciples who make disciples.


Let’s apply it to disciple making. Imagine for a moment you start somewhere from scratch. If you disciple only one person every year, who in turn disciples one other person per year, and so forth, even factoring in a dropout rate of 50%, in 20 years you would have 2,398 disciples! During the first few years, growth would likely be faster in a traditional gather-in-a-building church plant. But look what happens after 12+ years. Exponential growth begins to show.

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These amazing numbers look like the following if depicted in a graph:


Even the smallest of beginnings can turn into something great --- IF reproducibility is built into the DNA.


Jesus and Paul’s vision of reproducible disciple making


Looking at our master disciple maker Jesus’ instructions to us, we note that he intended disciple making to be reproducible. Note the generations of disciples in the Great Commission, our marching orders in this world (Mat 28:18-20):


Jesus [disciple-maker] came to

them [2nd generation disciples] and said, ”make

disciples [3rd generation disciples] ... Teaching

Them to obey (which includes making [4th generation] disciples)


The movement catalyst Paul followed Jesus’ instructions, and passed them on to his disciple Timothy (2 Tim 2:2):


And what you [Timothy, 2nd generation disciple] have heard from

me [Paul, disciple-maker] ...entrust to

faithful people [3rd generation disciples] who will be able to teach

others [4th generation disciples] also.


Most disciple makers see only their own disciples in front of them. They consider: “How can I help them grow in their spirituality, and how can I equip them for ministry?”


Multiplicative disciple makers approach it differently. They see not only their own disciples in front of them; they also see with their inner eye the disciples their own disciples will make: the next generation of disciples.


Paul saw Timothy. But Paul already had in mind the “faithful people”: the next generation of disciples.


Multiplicative disciple makers already consider: “How can I equip my disciples in such a way that if they replicate my approach, it will be effective for the next generation of disciples? Their disciple making is reproducible.


How effective catalysts make disciples


My global research into movements makes abundantly clear that effective catalysts have learned to make disciples in reproducible ways. The research has found that:


Effective movement catalysts are intentional in disciple making

in the context of a relationship that leads to heart obedience,

where believers actually grow in character and spiritual disciplines.


The four dimensions that make discipling reproducible


If you want to make your disciple making more reproducible, you need to consider four dimensions:

  1. Messenger

  2. Message

  3. Methods

  4. Materials


1. The messenger reproduces him/herself


The life of the messenger, the catalyst, needs to provoke this response in those outside the kingdom: “I see their life, I want a life like theirs, and I can picture what it would mean for me to follow Jesus.”


Unfortunately, many times disciple-makers – both missionaries and local pastors – come across as managers rather than as spiritual leaders among the communities where they serve. In order to be transformational, we need to be perceived as spiritual people, not as managers. How often do you seek out a manager for truth? Not very often. We look to spiritual people for spiritual guidance.


Therefore, as we seek to reproduce ourselves, we need to keep asking ourselves these questions:

  • What does a spiritual person or a religious leader look like in my culture?

  • How visible is my life of faith to those I’m trying to reach? How much are they in my home, and I in theirs?

  • How radiant and attractive is my spirituality?

Based on our answers to these questions, we need to develop a lifestyle that others want to emulate. That way we reproduce ourselves as messengers.


Develop a lifestyle that others want to emulate.

2. The message is reproducible


We all believe it is the power of the gospel that transforms people. The message we share is essential in our discipling. If we want that powerful message to become reproducible, we need to ask ourselves some tough questions:

  • How easily can my message be passed on to others?

  • Are my disciples able to pass on to others the message they have received from me?

  • Do they actually do it?

If they don’t, the gospel message you have crafted is probably not reproducible enough.


These are some proven approaches to make the message reproducible:


Storytelling: Everyone likes a good story, and stories have much more transformational power than abstract concepts and truths. Stories can be remembered much more easily and are therefore more transferable.


Discovery Bible Study: Truth discovered is much more owned and therefore more transformational than truth taught. When a person owns a truth with personal conviction, they have a much stronger desire to share it with others.


Identifying spiritual felt needs: The way the gospel is transferred is essential; so also is the kind of gospel. The gospel of the kingdom has many facets, much more than “Jesus offers you forgiveness.” “Gospel – in the Greek, euangelion – means “good news.” This inspires the question: “Which elements of the Jesus’ message would be truly GOOD news to those we are reaching?”


How can you find out? By understanding what are the spiritual felt needs of the people in your community. How they are attempting to find answers to these needs? And where does their religion leave these needs unmet? Then you identify how the gospel gives real answers to these particular felt needs. By formulating a gospel message that addresses and meets these needs, the gospel truly becomes Good News to them.


Here is an example how our team identified the felt needs of our people – Folk Muslims – and formulated a gospel message that addressed these felt needs:

Felt Needs in Folk Islam

Answers of the Gospel

God is distant

God is close in the person of Jesus

​God is uninvolved

God became very involved through the person of Jesus

Fear of the unknown

Safety in Jesus who guides and protects

Fear of evil

Deliverance ministry and protection in Jesus

Fear of the future

Trust in Jesus as the Lord of the future

Powerlessness against evil

​Authority and power of the Holy Spirit

Diseases

Divine healing

Meaninglessness in life

Meaning and destiny living as a child of God

No assurance of salvation

Assurance by trusting in the sacrificial death of Jesus

Shame not to be part of community

Acceptance in the fellowship of the believers

A gospel that meets felt needs truly becomes Good News.

3. The methods are reproducible


If we want our disciples and groups to reproduce, this key question needs a good answer:

  • Can your local leader reproduce what you do, in a new location, without any of your support?

Whatever he or she can’t reproduce by themselves, is an aspect in which you’ll need to change your approach, to make it more reproducible. These are a few proven approaches to make our methods reproducible:

  • A “liturgy” or regular meeting pattern with set recurring elements, such as a discovery group meeting

  • House churches, rather than buildings

  • On-the-job ministry training, rather than full-time Bible school

  • Home-grown leaders, rather than paid church workers


Can your local leader reproduce the work in a new location, without any of your support?

4. The materials are reproducible


These key questions enable you to assess whether or not the materials you are using for discipleship are reproducible:


  • Can the materials you use to disciple be used by your disciples to make other disciples?

  • How much do the materials anchor your disciples directly to the Bible?

  • If you work with oral learners: How well do the materials match oral learner preferences?

In almost all movements, discipleship materials have the following format:

  1. A topic: The discipler identified this as felt need in the spiritual journey of their disciples.

  2. A relevant Scripture passage: The discipler selects a Scripture, often a story, that addresses that topic.

  3. A few discovery questions: The discipler formulates 3-5 questions addressing interpretation of Scripture and application to life.


Can the materials you use be used by your disciples to make other disciples?

TOPIC: Reconciliation with a Fellow Disciple SCRIPTURE: Matthew 18:15-20 DISCOVERY QUESTIONS: 1. What does Jesus teach us to do in order to reconcile with a brother or sister? 2. What specific steps does Jesus ask us to take? 3. What is our responsibility in the process, and what is our brother or sister’s? 4. What relationships in your network need this kind of reconciliation?


TOPIC: Being Truthful

SCRIPTURE: Acts 5:1-11

DISCOVERY QUESTIONS:

1. What is an example to learn from here?

2. What exactly in their behavior provoked God’s disapproval?

3. What was the sinful motivation of their hearts?

4. How can we grow in this area?

Best Practices from effective catalysts


Catalysts who started a movement reported on surveys of my research that they have incorporated these Best Practices into their lives, and assess them to have contributed to their movement catalyzing:


BEST PRACTICE 1 – Selection: Right selection of disciples. 2 Timothy 2:2 teaches these criteria for selection: disciples should be faithful (character) and able to teach others (competence).


BEST PRACTICE 2 – Reduction: The principle is that less is more. Almost all effective movement catalysts focus their ministry on the discipling of a small group of usually 5-10 people. Our discipling is most transformational with a small number of people with whom we go deep.


BEST PRACTICE 3 – Relational: Discipling in the context of relationship. Disciple making is not a one-hour meeting, it involves sharing life. Transformation happens mostly where a disciple feels safe in a relationship, which usually grows over time in a context of trust.


BEST PRACTICE 4 - Obedience: Obedience-focused, not simply transmission of knowledge. Disciple making goes beyond adding knowledge about God or the Bible. It consists of “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded” (Mat 28:19). This is accomplished through Step 4 in the Discovery Bible Study (“This is how I’ll obey”), plus accountability for that commitment.


BEST PRACTICE 5 - Accountability: Follow-up questions. In Discovery Group meetings as well as personal encounters, the disciple maker asks what the disciple has done with the commitment made in the previous meeting.


BEST PRACTICE 6 - Reproducible: Simple enough so it is easily pass-on-able. We have addressed this in detail above under the four dimensions.


BEST PRACTICE 7 - Reproducing disciples: Reproduction is constantly in view. Whenever a disciple does not make more disciples, effective disciple makers don’t simply accept it as a given and ignore it. They rather try to assess the reasons – together with the disciple – and enable them to multiply.


Growth Path


Here are specific steps you can take, gleaned from the lives of effective movement catalysts and my own experience:


  • Define regularly: Who are my core disciples?

  • Evaluate regularly: How much have my disciples actually grown:

  • In their own obedience and spiritual disciplines?

  • In their discipling of others?

  • Seek feedback regularly from your disciples: What has helped you most in your growth?

Keep improving your own practice of disciple making through their feedback


Self-coaching questions


1. Which aspects of our ministry are reproducible?


2. Which aspects do we need to make more reproducible?

  • The messenger

  • The message

  • The methods

  • The materials

3. What is one area in which I sense that if we were to become more reproducible, it would have the most impact on our ministry?


4. Which of the Best Practices have I incorporated into my/our discipling approach already? Which positive experiences have I had with each of them?


5. Which of the Best Practices will be useful to strengthen so I can address the area identified under question 3 (above) most effectively?


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 Reproducible Disciple-Making in my book Movement Catalysts. You can order your copy here.


If you found this helpful, please share this blog with your network!


Emanuel Prinz – Father’s Beloved & Movement Activist


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