“I would never have joined this group if there was a pastor involved.”
That’s what one Filipinno woman said when asked about her experience being part of a Discovery Bible Study (DBS) group. A prostitute by trade, she had experienced a hard life and learned to steer clear of religious people for fear of judgment. But, when one pastor decided it was time to empower the normal, every-day believers in his church to make disciples that multiply, this woman found herself meeting with others just like her, experiencing God for the first time… And it changed her life!
In this case study, we’re going outline exactly what this pastor did to start 90 groups full of men and women with similar stories in as little as 3 months!
* Name changed for security purposes.
Nathanial had been a pastor for over 20 years and was feeling burnt out. Having led multiple churches on islands in the Philippines, he struggled with the constant need to maintain a status quo. He says the continuous struggle to keep the church alive without ever growing in numbers or quality of spiritual life was killing his passion.
“We always talk about discipleship, but we never do discipleship.”
So, when offered new assignment at another church, Nathanial knew things had to be different. “We always talk about discipleship, but we never do discipleship,” he said. So he started looking for new tools and frameworks for ministry, including a seminar about how to launch multiplying small groups within a church.
He was interested in what he heard, and joined an online coaching group facilitated by the seminar’s speaker. During this time, he formed a small leadership team of about 12, and learned about multiplying disciple making. He found this new framework to be highly effective, as his leaders used it to form 30 groups of seekers all reading the Bible and discovering God for the first time. It wasn’t long before Nathanial’s coach also shared the Waha Disciple Making Course with him, as a tool to more easily train his church.
The Plan for 200% Growth in Less than Half a Year
“After watching the first three videos of the Disciple Making Course, we were amazed by the simplicity and the clarity of this course,” says Nathanial. Immediately he was excited about its potential to break the status quo. So, he and his team formed a plan:
- They would start with prayer
- They would train the leaders to practice obedience-based discipleship
- They would cast a vision that making disciples is for everyone
- They would challenge believers to multiply
If this list seems familiar, it’s because these four practices are Biblical principles modeled by Jesus to make disciples. The real question for them was, “How do we practically implement these ideas?”
How They Did It
- Prayer: Nathanial had a conviction that no movement can happen apart from a movement of prayer. So, he started there. On New Year’s Day that year, he challenged the members of his church to fast and pray for 20 days. So far, this wasn’t breaking new ground. Every year there was some sort of prayer initiative among his leaders, but this year, there was one key difference: This year, they challenged the entire church to do it, too.
- Obedience to the Word: During the 20 days of prayer, Nathanial and his team reflected on what was so powerful about their initial experiences making disciples. They recalled how their team of 12 started 30 new groups and recognized that this fruit came from obedience-based discipleship. It wasn’t enough to learn all the new material. Instead, they had to put into practice everything they learned. They found that this not only produced outward fruit, but inward fruit as well. It turns out that people grow in their faith when they are doing the Bible, not just reading it. Looking back, Nathanial notes that if they were to do things again, the main thing they would do differently is actually take more of a preparation period to make sure his leaders really got these paradigm shifts deep in their hearts and minds.
- Vision for All: When the 20 days of prayer were finished, they issued a new challenge to the church: The 50 Days of Faith. During this time, Nathanial preached sermons about making disciples that multiply, there was a new key memory verse each week, church members were encouraged to read one chapter a day (from Luke and Acts, respectively) and, of course, the Waha Disciple Making Course as a weekly small group curriculum. They told people that disciple making is not just for pastors or leaders, but it’s for everyone. It was a new concept for many of the church members. However, Nathanial notes that when the older congregants saw the enthusiasm and passion from their younger counterparts, the overall feeling in the church was one of acceptance and excitement.
- Multiplication: Before the Disciple Making Course was even over, members of the church were already starting new Discovery Groups among seekers in their communities. This was exciting and reason enough to celebrate, but Nathanial and his leaders challenged the church that it didn’t have to stop there. They introduced the concept that everyone should be a part of at least two groups: One that you attend as your home fellowship, and another that you have coached someone else to start. Consequently, most of the initial 30 groups started at least one group. A few more weeks and the 30 or so new groups started new groups too, bringing the total to about 91 groups, a total of 200% growth! If we assume that each of these groups have at least 5 people in them, that’s almost 500 people reached with the Good News, and even the potential for thousands!
It can be tempting to just celebrate the numbers, but it’s important to remember that the numbers represent people whose lives have been touched by God and changed forever. Seeing this growth in both numbers AND quality of spiritual life, Nathanial says he’s now more excited than ever before to be involved in ministry, because it truly feels as if God is on the move. The same can be true for all of us!