Simple Methodology: Disciple Multiplication (DM) (Part 3 of a Series)

By David S. Lim, Ph.D.

In Part 2 of his series on Kingdomization through Oikos Church Networks of Insider Movements: A Biblical Missiology, Dr. David Lim discusses a simple outcome and strategy towards Kingdomization. In this third and last part of the series he discusses disciple multiplication and Kingdomization today.

What then is the methodology of IM to expand the kingdom to the whole world? Like what Jesus did in equipping and sending each of his disciples out into their world (Mk. 3:13-15),[1] “disciple multiplication” (DM) is the OCN’s simple method to “disciple all nations.” Every believer (oikos, tribe and nation) can be mobilized and equipped to multiply disciples where they live and work![2] Anything less – or more – is a diversion from God’s simple plan to evangelize and transform the world speedily.

Jesus and His disciples dramatization

Dramatization of Jesus and His disciples. Photo courtesy of LUMO Project via FreeBibleimages.

4. Disciple Multiplication

4.1. Disciple-Making.

Oikos churches (OCs) are actually “disciple-making groups,” which may also be called “simple (or organic) churches,” “basic ecclesial communities” (BEC, cf. Boff 1986), “kingdom cells,” “care groups,” etc.  It is any small (not more than 10 couples, preferably as “two or three” for intimate sharing) Christ-worshipping and Scripture-honoring body of believers who have covenanted to meet regularly and are willing to be held accountable for their Christ-centered lives to one another.

Paul at Antioch

Paul with disciples in Antioch. Illustration courtesy of Sweet Publishing via FreeBibleimages.

Life is relationships; the rest are just details. To disciple means to equip Christ-followers with just three relational habits: (a) hearing God through prayerful meditation to turn His word (logos) into a word (rhema) to be obeyed (2 Tim.3:16-17); (b) making disciples through leading a ‘HC’ in Bible-and-life sharing, thereby each one learns how to do personal devotions (or ‘Quiet Time’ = lectio divina) with fellow believers (Heb.10:24; 1 Cor.14:26); and (c) doing friendship evangelism to share what they learn of God and His will with their non-believing networks.

The OCs may be (a) residential, where its members meet in homes, living out their faith in their neighborhood (Eph.5:21-6:4), or particularly in urbanized and industrialized centers (b) professional, where its members meet in their place of work or study, and witness to their faith in the marketplace (6:5-18), for the transformation of all socio-cultural structures.

a women's discipleship group meeting, Metro Manila

4.2. Spiritual Reproduction

“Disciples” are those who are willing not just to be mentored to form a more Christ-like character, and equipped to discover and minister with their spiritual gift(s), but also to be trained to do evangelism and lead their own OCs. They should have become a “disciple-maker,” empowered (given authority) to lead their own OCs and OCNs as soon as possible. They will seek to turn their contacts into friends and into converts through “friendship evangelism,” and then also into disciple-makers by equipping them and sending them to form their own OCs and OCNs.

Disciple-making should be finished normally in less than a year, so that the discipler can make more disciples and start more OCs. This should happen intentionally, as OC members are encouraged to disciple new believers in new (their own!) OCs, or to pair up and start new OCs in other contexts, as soon as possible. At the start of each OC (say, the first month), it is best that they meet as often as possible (if possible, daily). After several months (maximum of one year), OCs can meet less regularly, say, monthly and then quarterly, and later annually or even just through correspondence and social media (email, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc.).

4.3. Minimal Religiosity

IMs will result in OCNs whose spirituality will require less and less religious practices.  Following Christ does not require public displays of religiosity – in fact, Jesus literally discouraged such (Matt 6:1-18), which included alms-giving, praying and fasting, which God will reward in secret. As each Christ-follower walks humbly and simply for God’s glory (1 Cor.10:31; Mic.6:8), their community leaders will establish shalom where their constituents enjoy life with love and justice (1 Tim.2:1-2). Their spirituality does not need to develop elaborate theologies, ethics, liturgies and hierarchies (cf. Am.5:21-24; Ps.131).

As our world modernizes and globalizes, and as science and technology advances rapidly, and as Christ-followers form OCNs organically, their inherited socio-religious traditions will be reduced and/or transformed into simpler forms – having overcome fears and guilt feelings, which have been the roots of superstitious practices, lucky charms and elaborate rituals.

community service by Stargrass Group core members

If a community already has good community services, OCs just need to join and aim to become part of the leadership and introduce devotions (prayer and the Word) in the existing structures. If the community lacks such ministries, IMers can start serving informally as volunteers and later help set up people’s organizations or non-government agencies to address particular needs with the blessing of the community leaders.

Kingdomization Today

By God’s grace, in the past 25 years, most OCNs in all continents, esp. Asia,[3] North America & Australia, have been catalyzing IMs. Among the better known writers are Wolfgang Simson (Houses that Change the World), Neil Cole (Organic Church), Tony & Felicity Dale (Simply Church), Frank Viola & George Barna (Pagan Christianity), and Rad Zdero (The Global House Church Movement). Most significant in promoting IMs are Frontier Ventures (formerly the U.S. Center for World Mission), its organ Mission Frontiers and its publishing arm William Carey Library, as well as the International Society of Frontier Missions (ISFM) and its organ International Journal of Frontier Missions (IJFM).

In China and the Philippines, OCNs have been sending multitudes of disciple-makers as “ants, bees and (earth)worms”[4] who are ordinary people using ordinary/organic ways to bless (develop, enrich) the lives of others.[5] OCNs are spreading the Gospel of “eternal life (in heaven) and abundant life (on earth) for all” in Christ simply – through “nameless, faceless and (apparently) powerless” servants of the most high God.

organic farming

The OCNs in China have sent 17 and 18-year-olds to go (with one-way tickets) and help in the farms and tell stories of Jesus. In the Philippines, we’re setting up training centers for organic farming and marketing hubs for social enterprises to sell their products beyond their communities. Since 2005, the Philippine Missions Association’s (PMA) flagship mobilization program has focused on equipping and sending overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to be tentmakers who catalyze simple disciple multiplication movements (DMMs) to bless the nations (Lim 2013a).[6]

Filipino OCWs

In India, they’re going from village to village to enrich farmers with organic farming technology. In Japan, businessmen are leading fellow-businessmen and their employees to follow Jesus through “business coaching;” the top leader is now getting a PhD in Urban Engineering in order to position himself to catalyze an IM among the Parliament (Diet) members in his district. In Thailand, the main leader has a satellite TV program that gives socio-cultural commentary on issues in various sectors of society.

Conclusion

Across the world today, most of the OCNs are doing IMs to form transformational communities that are led by local Christ-followers who have not been extracted from their relational and religio-cultural communities. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, OCNs will continue to catalyze IMs in Asia and beyond, for they believe that the harvest has always been ripe for reaping (Jn 4:35). Our King Jesus is indeed building His church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Mt 16:18-19).

Pacita Complex simple church

IMs aim to form OCNs to simply multiply Christ-followers who can disciple and transform societies into Christ-following communities and workplaces – contextualized, holistic and transformational “indigenous churches” that are truly replicable: self-governing, self-supporting, self-propagating and self-theologizing. We will be “planting churches” that will be copied by future generations of Christ-followers, so we should avoid transplanting denominational churches (= complex Christianity) which are often decontextualized (= foreign-looking, if not actually foreign), hence have almost always produced marginalized Christ-followers who are separated from their communities – despised and rejected by their family and friends, not because of the Gospel but because of their extra-biblical forms.

So, we should not encourage our disciples to attend denominational churches, if there is any, perhaps except in special occasions. We should just focus on making disciples and multiplying OCs, for where two or three believers are gathered prayerfully, there is the church.  We should encourage all Christ-followers to just “gossip Jesus” and multiply small “disciple-making groups” among their friends and kin in their neighborhoods and workplaces. We all have to just do this spiritual “network marketing” of the Gospel from village to village, city to city, region to region, and nation to nation – till every home and workplace in the world knows and obeys Jesus as King. May God find us faithful in working together in and through IMs to actualize the kingdom of God effectively (not perfectly yet substantially) among all peoples of the world in our generation!


1On Jesus’ disciple-making strategy, see Coleman, Robert. 1964. The Master Plan of Evangelism. Old Tappan, NJ: Revell.

2This was first popularized through Dawson Trotman & the Navigators since 1933.

3On OCNs in Asia, see Lim, David. “Asian Mission Movements in Asia Today.” Asian Missions Advance 41 (October 2013), 29-36; “History and Ministry of Philippine Missions Association: Leading the Global Shift to Tentmaker Missions.” Asian Missions Advance 41 (October 2013), 2-6; and “Asia’s House Church Movements Today.” Asian Missions Advance 52 (July 2016): 7-12. See also Fukuda, Mitsuo, 2005. “Incarnational Approaches to the Japanese People Using House Church Strategies,” Sharing Jesus Effectively in the Buddhist World, ed. David Lim, Steve Spaulding & Paul De Neui, 353-362, Pasadena: William Carey Library; and Xin, Yalin. 2016. “The Role of the Host Families in the Missional Structure of a House Church Movement,” Evangelism and Diakonia in Context, Rose Dowsett, et al., ed. Oxford: Regnum, 315-324.

4On China’s HCNs’ Back to Jerusalem movement, see Hattaway, Paul, et al. 2003. Back to Jerusalem. Carlisle: Piquant. In the animal kingdom, these insects are “small yet terrible” in terms of enriching the harvests as they help in fertilizing the soil and the plants of the land where they subsist.

5Lim, David. “History and Ministry of Philippine Missions Association: Leading the Global Shift to Tentmaker Missions.” Asian Missions Advance 41 (October 2013), 2-6.

6The main model used by PMA is the formation of “Company-3,” where Christ-followers are trained to just make two (local) disciples who will in turn be equipped to make two disciples, see Claro, Robert. 2003. A Higher Purpose for Your Overseas Job. Makati City: Church Strengthening Ministries. Another model is the “Effective Tentmaking Made Simple,” see Lim, David. “Effective Tentmaking Made Simple,” ed. Ana M. Gamez, Blessing OFWs to Bless the Nations. Makati: Church Strengthening Ministry, 108-111. (first used in 2001).

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Dr. Lim, I am Rey a pastor from General Santos City. We are into house church now for almost 3 years and its a trial and learn process so far in doing HC. Your T4T and DMC strategies are quiet interesting to learn. How can we avail of such? If ever your training on it, please count me in. Thanks. God bless you more.

    • Wonderful! This is David Lim. Hope you can friend me in Facebook, Viber, WhatsApp or Telegram, so we can chat online. Meanwhile you may want to read “Understanding House Churching” in this website, too. See you. 😇

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