What is a disciple making movement?

A disciple making movement (DMM) is a rapid and exponential increase in disciples making disciples. These movements share a distinct group of priorities which provide the environment for unhindered multiplication.

The shared approach of a disciple making movement

A disciple making movement approach is one in which:

  1. There is awareness that only God can start movements, but disciples can follow biblical principles to pray, plant, and water the seeds that can lead to a “book of Acts” type multiplying movement(s). 
  2. The focus is to make every follower of Christ a reproducing disciple rather than merely a convert.
  3. Patterns create frequent and regular accountability for both obeying what the Lord is speaking to each person and for them to pass it on to others in a loving environment.  This requires a participative small-group approach.
  4. Each disciple is equipped in comprehensive ways (such as interpreting and applying Scripture, a well-rounded prayer life, functioning as a part of the larger Body of Christ, and responding well to persecution/suffering) in order that they might function not merely as consumers, but as active agents of Kingdom advance.
  5. Each disciple is given a vision both for reaching their relational network and for extending the Kingdom to the ends of the earth with a prioritization on the darkest places (with a “no place left” mentality).  They are equipped to be able to minister and partner with others in the Body of Christ in both of these environments.
  6. Reproducing churches are intentionally formed as a part of the multiplying disciples process. The intent in DMM approaches is that 1) disciples, 2) churches, 3) leaders and 4) movements can multiply endlessly by the power of the Spirit.

The shared principles of disciple making movement

There are common principles and results seen in many disciple making movements around the world. The resulting disciples and churches have very similar DNA. These kingdom movements show similar characteristics. 

  • Praying – DMM is always preceded by a prayer movement. But once the movement starts it is also marked by extraordinary prayer. Those coming to Christ are highly aware that only God can birth new disciples and churches and they are highly motivated to see God break through the darkness in the lives of their friends and neighbors. 
  • Scriptural – In DMMs, the Bible is taken very seriously. Everyone is expected to be a disciple and sharer of the Word. 
  • Obeying – The new churches are devoted to listening to God’s word and obeying it individually and corporately; obedience is expected and everyone is held accountable for it. 
  • Indigenous – the outsider looks for the persons of peace and the households of peace that God has prepared within a society. When these people and groups come to faith, they are immediately equipped to reach others. Since the insiders are the disciple-makers, the new churches can grow in ways that are based on Scripture and adapted to the culture. 
  • Holistic – By focusing on obedience to Scripture, these believers are compelled and eager to show God’s love to people. The disciples in these movements love those around them and take care of widows and orphans and fight oppression, etc. 
  • Rapidly Reproducing – Just like the early church in Acts, these modern day movements multiply rapidly. Every disciple and church is equipped to reproduce and taught to rely on the Holy Spirit to empower them. The average church in a movement takes less than a year to reproduce another church, which leads to more than doubling the number of disciples and churches every year. 

Rise of DMM efforts

For 30 years, there has been a growing awareness and involvement in efforts to reach the world’s unreached people have been tried. Yet, the population of those who have no access to the gospel has grown – 1.8 billion with no access in the mid-80s to 2.2 billion today. 

New initiatives to reach Unreached People Groups were launched in the late 1980s. In these efforts, some early catalysts accepted a God-sized vision: to see an entire people group discipled. This concept came from the Great Commission where Jesus commanded his disciples to make disciples of every ethne.

Given the magnitude of discipling people groups with millions of people, these early catalytic teams went to God in desperate prayer and were willing learners as God led them to put aside tradition and adopt strategies that were based on the New Testament. God began to start “Book of Acts-like movements” with these men and women who were willing to do whatever God asked them to do. In the beginning these were called Church Planting Movements, but as practitioners reflected the term disciple making movements was adopted. The rational being, where you have disciples you always get churches, but where you have churches, you don’t always get disciples.

The resulting disciple making movements are the only comprehensive approach that exceeds population growth and which begins to transform these communities as the new Body of Christ lives out kingdom values. 

We do not argue that certain steps and methodologies can “guarantee” a movement. One way some movement practitioners explain this is the “Sailboat Analogy”.  If you are in a sailboat and have your sails up and ready, unless there is a wind you will not move very far. In the same way, unless the wind of the Holy Spirit moves, there will be no church planting movement. On the other hand, if don’t get your sails up, even in a strong wind you will not move very far. We have found through study of Scripture and learning from what the Holy Spirit is doing around the world that there are ways we can be ready for multiplication (sails up) and other ways we can hinder multiplication (sails down). 

To go sailing, we don’t control the wind of the Holy Spirit, but we can control if we are ready to go as far and fast as possible when He moves!