Disciple Making Secrets

A Disciple Maker's book review of Ephesiology, a Study of the Ephesian Movement, by Dr. Michael T. Cooper

When I was first trained in Disciple Making Movements (DMM), I swore off reading Christian books for a year. As a young missionary in a South Asian country, I was determined to pioneer a movement that represented a truly indigenous expression of faith in Jesus. DMM’s discovery-based approach was an inspiration to that end. For the rest of my time overseas, I decided, I was only interested in what the Bible said, not some Western author’s interpretation of scripture. Imagine my surprise when a young local believer I was discipling began to pepper me with questions about John Piper and G.K. Chesterton and I didn’t know how to answer!

I suspect this story might feel a bit familiar to some of us in the DMM world. Movement practitioners are often spot on in their critique of the Western culture and its tendency toward spiritual gluttony. Yet because of this, we sometimes overcorrect, refusing to learn from scholarly work and instead preferring only to open our minds to those who “have seen fruit” because they are “practitioners.” Instead of the movements we long to see, we instead wind up with alternative institutions, with their own hierarchy of authority, based instead on who has “seen a movement” and who hasn’t.

Dr. Michael T. Cooper, however, represents the best of both worlds. Having been involved with the start of a genuine movement in Romania just after the fall of Communism, he went on to devote himself to scholarship in the area of Missiology, focusing on what he calls Ephesiology, the study of the early Christian movement and it’s implications for the Church today. Such scholar-practitioners are rare, and their insights are invaluable for those of us who want to see movement in the places where we live. That’s why I feel his book Ephesiology is a must-read for anyone interested in making disciples that multiply.

Disciple Making Movements 201

One of my all-time favorite books on the subject of Disciple Making has been Paul and David Watson’s Contagious Disciple Making. In so many ways, it is one of the best books out there to put in the hands of someone completely unfamiliar with DMM and show them the basics. So, if Contagious Disciple Making is DMM 101, then I think Ephesiology could be considered DMM 201.

I say this because it invites the reader to go deeper. In Ephesiology, a principle concern stated early on is that many Christian workers today employ movement ideas as an explicit strategy or method. However, when examining the movement started by Paul and his companions in the Roman province of Asia, it’s clear that a church-planting movement was the result of their work, rather than the strategy they used. The implications of this statement are an invitation for us to examine the deeper principles, attitudes and views of God that these early movement practitioners had.

Big Words

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you read the words, “theocentric missiological exegesis”?

If I could offer any word of caution about Ephesiology, it is to keep in mind that Cooper is an academic and this comes through in his writing. Yet, anyone who has read a research paper in university will see that considerable effort has been made to make this book as accessible as possible to anyone who reads it. Engaging stories are shared in each chapter, and when large words and jargon are used, their meaning is often clear through context. Still, if somewhat dense language scares you off easily, then there might be a little to contend with here.

Those who do contend, however, will be richly rewarded. Take the above phrase, “theocentric missiological exegesis,” for example. This is the phrase that Cooper uses to describes a disciple maker’s act of building a picture of God that is compelling to a culture. It is missiological in nature as we seek to read the story of a culture and then exegete a story of God that shows the people around us that their story and God’s story are one and always have been. Yet this practice is theocentric in nature. It puts a focus on God, his mission and our participation in that mission, as opposed to a focus on us, our salvation, and God offering that to us. What he calls theocentrism is actually foundational to much of a disciple maker’s work in starting a movement, because everything should come back to the grounding vision of God reaching more people.


What I’ve written here only scratches the surface. Cooper’s insight as a scholar-practitioner is rare, speaking both from personal experience as well as academic research. He has mined the annals of history to uncover what it was that made the early church movement so effective, and he has travelled the world to bring stories of God still doing it today. If you have read DMM books before, or if you are curious about the historic and theological underpinnings of DMM, we highly recommend Ephesiology.

Find Ephesiology on amazon, or support the publisher by buying directly here. Find more from Dr. Cooper and others at the Ephesiology website, including a host of different masterclasses—many of them free—and a great podcast.

And if you haven’t already done so, download Waha today and follow in the footsteps of the early church in Ephesus yourself!