If groups only multiply in the first 4 years, then

Many involved in group multiplication have told me most groups have a limited lifespan for multiplying new groups.

If one group is going to help start another group, it usually happens in the first 1 to 2 years, with steadily decreasing odds of multiplication in years 3 and 4.

This is testable by collecting data on your groups: when was each group formed? What groups formed out of them? When? Then compare the dates.

If it is broadly true (and it is holding up true so far in big movements and small), it would leads to two theories about what we should do:

1. Allowing, endorsing, supporting, enabling, persuading early group multiplication is critical. If you make people go through a 4 year course before allowing their groups to multiply, odds are they won’t. You could be killing a movement before it even starts.

2. If the movement is stalled, going to existing people and asking them to multiply may not work at all. The emphasis should rather be on seeding brand new groups (or starting a brand new planting). You need people with an apostolic gifting to do this.

Quantity of workers is a vanity metric

There are a huge number of peoples and places that are unengaged by the Gospel.

The answer is often cited as “Pray for workers for the harvest.” And this is right – we should pray this prayer. We are commanded to (Luke 9).

However, the idea that sending “enough workers” to take in the harvest can be a mistake. “Enough workers” is often measured as, for example, “1 worker for every church” or “1 team for every people” or “1 team for every place” or some such.

The reality is, the number of workers we can send is limited by (1) the pool of workers and the available money but also (2) by the fact that some places we can’t send workers to.

There are some places within the unreached world that we simply can’t get workers to.

We’ve heard Brother Andrew’s famous quote: “There’s no country you can get into if you don’t care about getting out.” (Or maybe this was Greg Livingstone? It’s passed into missions lore.)

In a sense, it’s true. But methodologically it’s flawed. Some places you, as an expat, cannot physically get to – you will be stopped on your way there. Some places are so dangerous that you will likely be killed. The point isn’t getting the worker in, like a game of “capture the flag.” The point is getting the Gospel there on a sustainable basis. If the worker cannot stay (or go in multiple times, perhaps), it’s pointless. Any ant can get into a house. But as soon as he’s seen, he may very well be squished.

Further, if we were to flood a lot of expatriate workers into the 10/40 Window, what would be the result? People would notice. It’s not just white Westerners, either; Koreans got in trouble with mission efforts in Afghanistan, such that governments got involved.

The answer isn’t the number of workers we send – that’s a “vanity metric,” something we measure for pride.

The answer is to send “enough workers” with a workable strategy that starts a Gospel movement in one place, and from that place seeps (via local workers) into the places the outsiders can’t get to.

Inviting them in vs. them inviting you in

There are two ways for the Gospel to flow: you invite people to church, or the people to invite the church (a la you) to them.

    When you invite them into church, there’s a limit to how much of their social circle will actually end up in church. Maybe their immediate family, maybe just them.

      When they invite the church (you) into their family and social circle, there is no limit (except the natural limits of their social network).

        Field Lessons Learned: Max Group Size, Max Movement Size, Leaving Soon

        At ActBeyond’s recent Global Strategy Group, a few key lessons learned and reshared:

        1. The maximum size of the group is the size in which every group member can participate, answering all of the Bible Study questions.

        2. The maximum size of the movement is governed by the maximum number of individuals who will start/lead study groups (e.g. churches).

        3. Every story needs the full picture. Don’t start with verse 1 of the chapter if it fits in the middle of a story that began in the previous chapter.

        4. The biggest persecutor of new churches in an emerging movement is often pre-existing churches that aren’t growing and crave their growth.

        5. Thousands of workers in a field, paid minimally, desperate for any fruit (because more fruit = more money) (vanity metrics) will do whatever they can to grab the fruit of others.

        6. Leaving Soon is a key element. Leave soon, leave them Scripture, disciple from afar. Groups where leaders don’t lead, don’t multiply.

        (Thanks, *S* for sharing these lessons.)


        Part of the challenge when talking about, thinking about, describing and measuring church planting movements (also called disciple making movements, CPMs/DMMs), is defining them. Many different definitions are floating around.

        When most practitioners speak of “movements,” they do not mean “we added a few more people to the church this month than we did last month” or even “a few more this year than last year.”

        A key part of movement theory has to do with scalability and rapid multiplication.

        The most commonly used definition of a movement is something that consistently gets to 4th generation: I make a disciple, who makes a disciple, who makes a disciple, who makes a disciple.

        If at any point a movement stops consistently getting to 4th generation in most of its branches, it is described as “stalled.”

        Another way of thinking about a movement is in terms of where it’s coming from and where it’s going to. Our car has movement when we travel from our house to someone else’s. The gospel has movement when it travels from believers to non-believers, and ideally to the “boundaries” of a particular segment (be it geographic, linguistic or cultural). If the “speed” of the movement in question will not reach the defined edges in a timely fashion, then it may be moving, but it’s not a movement.

        We can see parallels to this in secular companies: as they try to scale toward market saturation. There’s quite a lot in business literature that is helpful when thinking about movements. Unfortunately, most churches structure themselves more like “owner-operated businesses” – the mom & pop grocer down the street – then they do in terms of markets, market penetration, and multiplication across various markets to saturate a country. You can’t serve a nation like Walmart does while retaining the methods and models of the neighborhood grocer.

        When movements become the “it thing” of the moment, we want to call what we are doing a “movement.” But the problem is, doing that just means we want to be part of the “it thing” without giving up the things that don’t work and with discipling doing the things that DO work to get us to be a movement. Defining what we mean by “movement” and measuring ourselves to a standard is more important than simply slapping a hip label on something.

        Movements need the people skills of introverts

        Just because you’re an “introvert” doesn’t mean you’re off the hook or unimportant to God’s work in the world. Introverts have critical skills needed to expand the Kingdom.

        I max the Myers-Briggs introversion scale. I’m an introvert.

        Being an introvert isn’t the same as being shy. It means:
        I’m better with individuals than groups.
        I have to manage my energy, since lots of people & noise tends to drain me.
        I like people–preferably one-on-one, talking deeply over a subject.
        I go deep with people I know, but getting to know someone takes a lot.
        I need some quiet, thinking, reflective time every day.

        As a missionary who’s an introvert, I’m not an odd occurrence.
        ActBeyond, the organization we serve with, has a bunch of introverts (I think we’re the majority), and they’re involved in a bunch of movements. And, we’re not some special organization. A lot of other organizations have a lot of introverts involved in movements, too.

        Fact is, movements need introverts.

        You might have heard this one:
        Idea 1: movements large masses of people.
        Idea 2: extroverts are best with large masses of people, introverts don’t do crowds.
        Conclusion: movements need extroverts.
        Grade? Fail.

        “Crowds” – like crusades, every home campaigns, huge churches and the like – are great events. But it’s very difficult to get a thousand people in one place, let alone a hundred thousand or a few million. Getting crowds together costs a lot; the more people, the greater the cost. And, as size goes up, governments get involved.

        Because of costs, regulation, and even the effects of response to the “celebrity factor” that gathers the crowd, crowds generally don’t scale to 100% of a population. Some people will go see Jean Michel Jarre or Genesis or Metallica or the like in concert–but not everyone. But just because, say, 3.2 million people come to an event, doesn’t mean the whole population of the nation is reached.

        Moreover, getting a crowd together repeatedly is exponentially more difficult. This means most events are one-offs. Their impact doesn’t last into the next generation.

        More obvious: you can’t do daily or weekly discipleship or accountability meetings in a large crowd. If there are a tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands in a meeting, it’s not like everyone can ask the questions they have – or the questions they’ll think of as a result of someone else’s question.

        Movements are not crowds.

        Although they can grow to be viral, relational networks of millions of people – like Facebook, for example – discipling movements are comprised of long-lasting, deep, face-to-face relationships (some one on one, some one to a few).

        To build deep relationships requires deep relationships. Go to a concert with some friends, and you’ll see how to go to a concert with friends. Spend time studying the Bible with friends over several weeks, and they’ll know how to do it with others. Raise a child as a parent, and the child will have some sense of how to be a parent themselves.

        As an example, in one of the movements I’m familiar with, the early years were spent in deep leadership and character development with early believers. The movement pioneers spent hours and hours with those early believers, helping them work through character issues, building them as leaders, encouraging them, helping them confront sin in their lives, etc. It required those key introvert skills: one-on-one, going deep, listening to questions, thinking about them, reflecting on Scripture with people, spending time, praying.

        Introverts may not be the type to stand up on stage and preach to a million people, but they do just fine at these kinds of deep relationships. Yes, extroverts can do just fine at them too; my point is just that introverts aren’t lacking some kind of necessary social skill. In fact, the case can be made introverts do deep better than extroverts, if anything.

        So if you’re an introvert, it’s not a failing, or brokenness, or weakness. Realize that God designed you that way to make a difference in the world. If you find your 10 close friends and disciple them to find their 10 close friends and do the same… in 4-5 relational generations, you can change a city, and in 4 or 5 generations the disciples of your disciples can change a nation.

        Don’t settle.

        4 types of people critical to movements

        Here are 4 types of people critical to any kind of movement, whether it’s a scalable startup or a disciple-making movement:

        1. Early Adopters – the people who are already seeking what is being offered, and willing to take a minimum viable product: anything presently functioning. They want it so badly they are very forgiving of bugs/errors/problems; and, they want it to endure and be successful so badly, they’ll give you feedback for how the MVP can be improved. Early adopters are bent toward finding a solution–in CPM terms, we can think of these as the people who are Googling for the Gospel. However, they are not necessarily interested in passing the solution on to others. It’s a mistake to think just because you have Early Adopters, this translates into a movement. It may only translate into Generation Zero.

        2. People of Peace – Gate Introducers – these are the people who will “open the doors” into their social network. They are sometimes the same as Early Adopters, but not always. For example, among the Persian cluster (and especially in Iran) many seeking the Gospel, listening to Christian programming via satellite television, but only a small percentage are willing to “open the doors” for the Gospel into their network of family and friends. When you think about it, there’s lots of reasons why someone would be leery to do this – at least at first. Try to understand those reasons without prejudging them. People of Peace are actively looking for things of value to pass on to their social network (and one side effect is to increase their value to their social network). When looking for PoPs, seek people in a position to take a risk for the Gospel within their social network. Think about the common fears in the community, and then look for the people who for one reason or another are immune to the causes of those fears.

        3. Multipliers & Disciple-makers – In the game world, these are the people who teach the game to others, or maybe even build a business on top of the game (as a coach or the like). In the business world, these are the people who build businesses on top of social media platforms. They take your “product” and run with it to do something more. They want a reliable product, something reputable, easy to pass on, worth passing on, something with most of the “bugs worked out.” In the church planting world, they not only make disciples, they teach disciples to be disciple-makers as well. Multipliers are not necessarily the same as People of Peace, and rarely Early Adopters.

        4. Gatekeepers – these are the respected people who evaluate information before passing it on. I’m a Gatekeeper because I evaluate emails shared with me, and check them first with Snopes.org. If they are urban legends, I don’t pass them on. The Gatekeeper or “Hub” person in a network is the key to its scalability: most people are not Hubs, but nearly everyone is connected strongly to at least one “Hub” person. Hubs, in addition, are weekly connected to a lot of other Hubs–they make the “six degrees of separation” possible. If a message is stopped by most Hubs within a cluster, the Gospel won’t make much of an advance. Gatekeepers will almost never be Early Adopters or PoPs. Their strong evaluative function means they are tilted more toward keeping things out than passing things on, whereas Early Adopters and PoPs are focused more on introducing new things of value to the network. Gatekeepers are most likely going to be older, more respected members of the community, especially where spiritual values are concerned. (If we were talking about tech, then the Gatekeeper would more likely be a young-to-middle-aged person with an evaluative bent.)

        Many people have the tactics of witnessing & asking people to join a Discovery Bible Study down. Strategy comes in when you begin considering these types of people, their connections to other less-socially-connected members, and how you can engage with these types to promote the spread of the Gospel in a community.

        As an example, in Iran, many family Gatekeepers are less opposed to the Gospel, so the Gospel flows pretty quickly through families. In Turkey, on the other hand, Gatekeepers are very opposed to things Western and things Christian – so the Gospel has a much harder time flowing through families. Because Gatekeepers are so opposed, PoPs tend to be less common (because the social risks are higher). Thus most of the converts are more likely “early adopters” but there is less replication and spread.