Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
- Matthew 28:18-20
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
- Matthew 24:14
THE CHURCH IS LOSING GROUND IN THE FIRST WORLD. Yet movements throughout the earth, especially in the Third World, are experiencing rapid multiplication of committed Christ-followers. These are sometimes called Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) or Church Planting Movements (CPMs), and there are many things that we believers in the U.S. can learn from what God is doing through them (a DMM or CPM is generally defined as over 100 churches plants with four or more generations of replication). The number of movements is increasing rapidly, with 1855 known Kingdom movements as of May 2022 according to Frontier Ventures, up from 1053 that they reported just two years earlier.
THE GOSPEL IS SPREADING FASTER than at any time in world history. It is estimated that 10,000 persons become Christ-followers each day in China.1 There are more Christians in Africa than in any other continent.2 There were 335 million believers in Africa in 2000 3, growing to almost 685 million in 2021!2 Estimates for 2025 are currently at 760 million.2 Latin America follows only Africa for the largest number of Christians.2 These are just examples of the stunning growth of Christianity in the Third World. Younoussa Djao, a DMM leader in Africa has observed that “God is compressing time in our ages. Spiritual breakthroughs in hard places that took decades to happen 40 years ago are happening in a few years.”
A key tool in DMMs is the Discovery Bible Study (DBS). In a typical DBS, the participants “discover” a Bible passage for themselves as they answer a few questions: What does the passage reveal about God? What does the passage tell us about people? Is there a command to obey or an example to follow in this passage? Having answered those questions, two more questions bring application: What do you need to do this week to obey this passage? With whom can you share this passage or the gospel story this week? The following week, the participants are asked about how they did with the two application questions.
Here's one story of movement growth in Latin America. David Parish was the Senior Pastor of a very large U.S. church and President of a mission agency that was planting 20-30 churches a year. He found out about DMMs, and he and one of his missionaries serving in Honduras, Randy Travis, went to Africa to see a DMM in action. He invited one of the DMM leaders to come back to his church and do training, and Randy trained 13 leaders in Honduras who agreed to apply the training for one year. After one year, there were 25 DBSs but no multiplication. Randy found out that instead of allowing the Discovery Bible Study participants to discover the Bible passage and apply it, 10 of the 13 missionaries were simply teaching. From the three using the DBS approach, six years later, there were 545 churches and groups, and in another six years, there were 7,595 churches and groups, with an average of seven groups starting per day and 25 persons being baptized daily. 1
OF THE KNOWN MOVEMENTS WORLDWIDE, only a small percentage are in the First World, though they have been quite fruitful. Of course, we must remember that DMMs are not programs or even strategies, but God’s works that are birthed when we join in what God is doing. Here’s one example of how it worked in a U.S. setting.
Lori Baldwin was a member of a large, multi-campus church in Tennessee. She attended a 12-week training course in disciple-making used in DMMs, and in obedience to the Lord, she shared what she learned with Mike, the missions pastor at her church. He hadn’t been satisfied with any of the discipleship materials he had seen, and he and his wife had been engaged in praying for wisdom. What he heard intrigued him, and when he attended a Discovery Bible Study he saw powerful potential in it. He partnered with another ministry to do training for the congregation, but of the thousands in the church, only 15 showed up.
“Within the first week, there was a dramatic surprise. Those fifteen people had started several new DBSs. And they kept going and began to multiply. By the end of twelve weeks, more than 100 new groups had sprung up inside the church!... Though it could have been assumed that these fifteen were only disciplining people who were already Christians, this was not the case. The multiplication was also among the unreached in Tennessee.” Here are some of the other dramatic results: DBSs happening 30 times a week among victims of human trafficking; a person helping 160 people in China do a weekly DBS via the internet; and the adoption by their Haiti ministry of this approach with 1,500 new leaders trained.1
THE CHURCH IN THE FIRST WORLD can learn much from our fellow believers in the Third World who are seeing rapid multiplication of disciples and churches. Experienced DMM leaders strongly support the concept of local churches partnering with DMMs. Additionally, examples were offered of newly-planted churches from DMM efforts staying in relationship with the sending church.4
Other DMM leaders point out that local churches that might be viewed as “institutional,” that is, not rapidly expanding, can “provide a framework for training leaders, organizing activities, planning and strategizing, developing resources, and a host of other functions to support movements.”
ONE POINT THAT ALL OF THE DMM LEADERS seem to agree on is the necessity for abundant prayer – starting with prayer for direction before anything is done. As previously pointed out, a DMM is not a program or strategy, but God’s work by his power. If God directs and so leads, making sure every believer knows how to share the gospel is a good next step, with the expectation that they would also take responsibility to disciple the persons they lead to Christ, typically be done through a Discovery Bible Study.