"For Those Who Are Passionate About Reaching The Younger Generation"

Five Core Principles Core Principle #3: Discipleship Ministry

Creating a Movement of Multiplication

Dr. Dann Spader


After spending the past 25 years studying Christ's life, I have become convinced that Matthew 28:18-20 is the most concise summary of Christ's life on earth. Our duty is to study Christ's life and perpetuate His life mission. Everything I have learned about Christ's life has taught me that His purpose was about creating a movement of multiplication that would result in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

Jesus said, "Just as my Father has sent me, so I send you." (John 17:18; 20:21). Jesus' desire is that we continue doing exactly what Jesus did. Believers were later reminded that "whoever claims to live in him, must walk as Jesus did" (I John 2:6). The Book of Acts records how the movement of multiplication Jesus began penetrated the known world. Acts tells us the gospel spread "all over the world" (17:6) and Colossians tells us that "all over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing" (1:5-6).

The fulfillment of Matthew 28 is simple-do what Jesus did. Jesus issued only one command in Matthew 28-"make disciples." Then He told believers how to be accomplish the command. By going, baptizing, and teaching to obey. All three participial phrases simply reflect the three balanced priorities Jesus modeled in His everyday life.

"Going" reflects the priority Jesus modeled when He entered our world to become a "friend of sinners" (Matt.11:19). Everyday of His life on earth Jesus entered people's worlds and met their needs-both physical and spiritual. He actively pursued the lost.

"Baptizing" reflects His priority of establishing those new followers into the work of Christ and then the body of Christ. Baptism is an identification with the community of believers. The new believers are established in their new found faith.

"Teaching to obey" reflects His priority of training the workers who wanted to go deeper in their relationship with Christ. Christ prioritized these few and trained each to reproduce their lives in others.

These three action words from the Great Commission reflect the balanced priorities necessary to truly "make disciples who can make disciples." There is one command within the Great Commission-make disciples of all nations; and there are three balanced priorities-seeking the lost, establishing the believers, and training the workers. The result of the application of these priorities to a life is a movement of multiplication that continues today.

The Priority of Multiplication

In The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman emphasizes that: "The test of any Christian life is the multiplication of that life in others." In the same way, the test of any Christian ministry is the multiplication of that ministry in the lives of others.

In His Upper Room Discourse Jesus reiterated the principle of multiplication with His disciples. He taught them about bearing not only "fruit" (vs. 2), but "more fruit" (vs. 5), and even "much fruit" (vs. 8). He taught them that His Father is glorified by "much fruit" (John 15:2-8).

Fruit bearing is recorded over 50 times in the New Testament. In the scriptures faithfulness was attributed to fruitfulness which was associated with multiplication. In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus taught us that faithfulness and fruitfulness were valued when the man with two talents multiplied it to four. The Master said "well done thou good and faithful servant." When the man with five talents multiplied it to ten, the same Master responded "well done thy good and faithful servant." The man with the one talent who buried it was told "you wicked and lazy servant." (Matthew 25:14-30).

Jesus spent three years pouring into a few disciples, then nearing the end of life, challenged them to "make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:18-20)-knowing that it could never happen apart from multiplication.

Where Have We Gone Wrong?

In the global Body of Christ today it is rare to find true "multiplying" ministries. Many bodies are growing through addition with several churches plateauing or declining in attendance. Eighty-five percent of the more than 350,000 churches in North America are declining in attendance or at a plateau. Two-thirds of the growing churches are increasing solely by transfer growth with people transferring from the dead and dying churches, rather than assimilating new converts. Fewer than 3% of North American churches are multiplying by new conversions-to say nothing about birthing other churches.

Why has this happened? In 1850, a man by the name of Charles Adams took the phrase "making disciples" from Matthew 28 and began to speak about two aspects of "making disciples." He labeled the first aspect "evangelism"-the winning of the lost. The second aspect was the maturing of the believers which he called "discipleship." Once Adams separated the two aspects several organizations began to prioritize evangelism while others prioritized discipleship.

In Jesus' disciplemaking model, both aspects are inseparable. Proper evangelism cannot be done without discipled believers, and mature believers cannot be produced without the experience of evangelism. Both aspects of disciplemaking are inseparable, much like two sides of a coin. As you study Jesus' life, you see both of these priorities lived out with incredible balance.

Unfortunately, in North American churches today, this disciplemaking balance is not very evident. In 1980, while working on my doctorate, I surveyed 100 churches who stated they were committed to "making disciples." These churches varied in size from 20 to 2,000. After evaluating their programs and the purposes behind them, 87 churches of the 100 had ALL of their programs targeted to help believers to grow. Very few had any activities designed to truly seek the lost, and even fewer had any activities designed to train biblical workers for work out in the harvest field. The churches were out of balance and not fulfilling their Great Commission.

Church structures today reflect the lives of church leaders who've grown up in these types of churches. Believers are growing with a faulty experience of the discipleship and evangelism that Jesus modeled.

What Did Jesus Do?

When Jesus' life is studied chronologically, you notice He had a very definite strategy of creating a movement of multiplication. He balanced the priorities of seeking the lost, establishing the believers, and training the workers. As you study, clear patterns emerge about ministry. The patterns of Christ's first, second and third years of ministry emerge and you begin to see a model emerge which Robert Coleman said "is nothing less than revolutionary."

Gleaned from my years of study on the life of Christ I'd like to depict a simple overview of Christ's seven steps to create a movement of multiplication. I will briefly describe what this looked like in Christ's life and then provide a few implications for church leadership.

?Step One: He Prepared Himself Properly

In the preparation phase, you find Jesus spent the first 30 years training for the ministry His Father had for Him. In Luke 1-2 we read about the "baby Jesus" and then the "boy Jesus" who "increased in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and man."

Scriptures tell us that Jesus was fully God (Col. 1:9) and fully human (Heb. 2:14,17). At the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. this "hypostatic union" was debated and settled. However, in Philippians 2:5-11 we gain a small glimpse into this "mystery" of God taking on flesh. In order for the humanity of Jesus to be "like us in every way" (Heb. 2:17), Jesus chose to temporarily veil His deity so that His humanity could be fully expressed. He chose to give up the independent use of His deity so that His humanity could find full expression.

The implications of this are profound. Being fully human, Jesus did not always know the next step to take, but He knew where to get the next step. Jesus was not downloaded as a little baby with all biblical data. He had to study the scriptures to "increase in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:56). Jesus learned faith and obedience (Heb. 5:8) and became like us in every way yet without sin. As the second and perfect Adam, He gave us a ministry model and then told us to do exactly what He did.

As a sinless human, the life of Christ is about more than just His message; it is also about how He modeled the impact of a ministry of multiplication. Howard Hendricks, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary said, "How did Jesus Christ train his men? Whenever we study the gospels, we tend to study them exclusively for content. Why don't we study them for methodology?

Early in His ministry Jesus clearly settled the issue of purpose. After studying the scriptures concerning Himself, after seasons of prayer and seeking His Father's will, Jesus understood the purpose of His life. Early in His ministry in his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus proclaimed His mission (Luke 5). Towards the end of His ministry, in the Upper Room, He stated with confidence in His prayer to His Father "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do" (John 17:4).

What was the mission of Christ? What was the "work He completed?" The work Jesus spoke of in John 17 was the making of disciples who could make disciples. Jesus' mission was not as much to reach the world as it was to make disciples capable of reaching the world. He then told us to do what He did-to make disciple-makers in every nation who could create and sustain this movement of multiplication.

Step Two: He Laid a Proper Foundation

I believe Christ's primary agenda during the first half of His ministry was to lay a solid foundation for a future movement of multiplication.

The first half of Jesus' ministry was spent in the Judean wilderness. Jesus performed only two specific recorded miracles, challenged five individuals to "follow me," and primarily spent time with His initial followers. In comparison to the last half of Christ's 3-1/2 years of ministry, the first half was relatively uneventful.

Four very clear disciplines surface in Christ's life and ministry. First, the strong discipline of prayer emerges since 45 times in the scriptures you see Jesus getting away to pray. His ministry began with 40 days of prayer and it ended with prayer. Luke 5:16 tells us Jesus "often slipped away to pray.

Second, the discipline of the Scriptures was central to all of life and ministry for Jesus. Over 90 times Christ quoted from the Old Testament, referring to over 70 different Old Testament chapters. He knew the Word of God and used the Word of God. He was most grieved by the Sadducees when he stated "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures" (John 22:29).

Third, the discipline of remembering all that His Father had done and was doing. In every way Jesus exalted His Father saying that "the words I say to you are not just my own. Rather it is the Father, living in Me, who is doing His work" (John 14:10). Jesus constantly exalted His Father with statements like "everything you have given me comes from you" (John 17:7), and "everything I have learned from my Father, I have made known to you" (John 15:15), "for my Father who sent Me commanded Me what to say and how to say it for whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say" (John 12:49-50). Jesus was reverently submissive to His Father (Heb. 5:7).

Fourth, the discipline of developing loving, caring relationships with His disciples and the people around Him. Jesus "spent time with them" (John 3:22), poured His life into them as a friend, and modeled integrous living.

As you study these four ministry disciplines in Jesus' life-the Word, prayer, remembering His father, and loving relationships, you see the New Testament church in Acts 2:42-44 "continuing steadfast in the Apostle's teaching (Word), to the fellowship (loving, caring relationships), to the breaking of bread (remembering what Christ has done for us), and prayer.

The New Testament Church continued steadfast in doing what Jesus did. Four disciplines of going deeper in our walk with the Father-the Word, Worship, Fellowship and Prayer. These four disciplines are needed to lay a good foundation for future multiplication.

Step Three: He Surfaced a Team

After Christ's first 1-3/4 years of ministry, Christ's ministry changes. He now challenges five individuals to go deeper with Him. Earlier Jesus said, "Come and you will see" (John 1:39), now Jesus changes that challenge to "Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men" (Matt. 4:19). James, John, Simon, Andrew, and later Matthew were challenged to become a part of Jesus' first ministry team. They were challenged early on to become multipliers.

This team is not yet the Twelve Apostles. They are workers, not leaders at this stage of their life. He saw their hearts and potential for future ministry impact. They were AFT'R more Available (Luke 5:1-3), Faithful (Luke 5:4-5), Teachable (Luke 5:6-10a) and Responsive to His leadership (Luke 5:10b-11).

Over the next two years, as Christ prioritizes these workers and others who joined them, these workers grew in number to over 70. The Billy Graham Center for Evangelism states "the bulk of Christ's time was spent not in public ministry (17 times) with vast numbers of people, but in private with His disciples, as recorded approximately 46 times in the Bible" Jesus surfaced a team and prioritized them, teaching them how to reproduce their lives.

Step Four: He Mobilized For Outreach

After selecting His ministry team, Jesus mobilized His team for outreach. Within a few months Jesus moved to Capernaum (Matt. 4:13) where He did over 30 different miracles and over 50 different creative events-with individuals and with the crowds. Jesus' priority was to equip His team to become fishers of men-by giving them experience sharing their faith. He continued modeling outreach personally, but began to more aggressively engage His ministry team in the work of evangelism. During this phase the ministry began to expand, with increasing numbers hearing the good news and the "news about Him spread all the more" (Luke 5:15).

?Step Five: He Chose His Apprentice Leaders

After 2-1/2 years of investing in His followers, selecting a core ministry team of disciples who were AFT'R more, Jesus now spends a night in prayer and chooses the Twelve as His future leadership team. These apostolic leaders were chosen from His base of proven workers. The crowds had expanded and Jesus knew He needed additional leadership to expand the movement. Through the Twelve, Jesus knew that the ministry would continue to multiply.

Step Six: He Deployed His Leaders

After a year of training His new leaders, Jesus then transfers full leadership authority to them. "I confer on you the kingdoms my Father conferred upon me." (Luke 22:28-30).

By studying the Book of Acts, you'll see this new leadership team implementing the same ministry model they learned from Jesus. They were doing what Jesus did. They continued steadfast in the Word and prayer, proclaimed the Good News in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and continued to win the lost, establish believers and equip workers. The church multiplied throughout the known world as every believer lived out the Great Commission, with a Great Commandment heart.

Step Seven: He Continued to Lead The Process Through His Spirit

Jesus' last promise was that He would be with them always, to the very end of the age" (Matt. 28:20). Jesus left them, but the Holy Spirit became the source of "power from on high" (Luke 24:49) that would continue the movement of multiplication throughout history.

The Book of Acts records the Holy Spirit's leadership of this movement. The disciples learned to depend fully upon Him for directions and complete guidance. Below are some of the acts of the Holy Spirit:

  1. Acts 1:8 "Holy Spirit" came
  2. Acts 1:16 "Holy Spirit spoke"
  3. Acts 2:4 "Filled with the Holy Spirit," "enabled by the Holy Spirit"
  4. Acts 4:25 "Spoke by the Holy Spirit"
  5. Acts 9:31 "Strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit"
  6. Acts 11:12 "Holy Spirit told me"
  7. Acts 11:28 "Holy Spirit predicted"
  8. Acts 13:4 "Holy Spirit said, Set apart for me Paul and Barnabas"
  9. Acts 13:52 "Filled with joy by the Holy Spirit"
  10. Acts 15:28 "Seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us"
  11. Acts 16:7 "But the Holy Spirit would not allow them"
  12. Acts 20:23 "Holy Spirit warns me"
  13. Acts 20:28 "Holy Spirit has made you overseers"
  14. Acts 21:4 "Holy Spirit urged"

Application Questions

Through the years the movement of Christ has prospered in proportion to our "walking as Jesus walked" in dependence upon that same Holy Spirit. But the single command remains the same - make disciples of all nations.

  • As we grow our churches and ministries, we need to evaluate them on the basis of a strong Christology. Are we doing what Jesus did?
  • Do we and our leadership team clearly understand the disciple-making mission and passion?
  • Have we laid a solid foundation based upon the disciplines of prayerful dependence, the Word, worship and fellowship?
  • Are we identifying and prioritizing the few workers who are AFT'R more?
  • Are we modeling and helping our people experience outreach as a lifestyle?
  • Are we developing a leadership team that clearly lives out and oversees our mission of disciplemaking?
  • Have we empowered and released those leaders to multiply under the Spirit's leadership?
  • Are we listening well to the Holy Spirit's directions for the next steps in God's Kingdom?

The above checklist (3) can help you as a team begin to measure areas of strengths and weaknesses. But even more important, I'd encourage you to go even deeper in studying how Jesus created a movement of multiplication and then to "walk as Jesus walked" (I John 2:6; John 20:21).

Author

Dr. Dann Spader is Executive Director of Sonlife Ministries.

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