Sunday, November 8, 2015

Towards a Missiology of Disciple Making Movements

In very recent church history, church planting movements or disciple making movements (DMMs) have been observed in several different contexts which are characterized by rapid reproduction within a social network (usually in collectivist societies) of groups of seekers or new believers who study the Bible together and seek to obey its teachings.

In one sense, the DMM “strategy” is not actually a prescriptive methodology but a descriptive account of such movements. Yet books such as Contagious Disciple Making portray DMM as indeed a well-defined methodology. This is because the method of DMM has been reverse-engineered from the phenomenon itself

All new religious/social movements have a mechanism that drives their propagation into society, and DMMs are no exception. According to my friend Christopher Johnson, all DMMs have in common 1) a standard, transferrable liturgy for each meeting, 2) a specific set of easily reproducible Bible lessons, and 3) accountability for evangelism (others would also add extraordinary prayer to this as well). DMMs are not an organic or spontaneous movement of reproducing house churches (HT: NVH). They are a highly organized movement with a clear mechanism (DBS and immediate accountability) for multiplication and diffusion into a social network.

I would therefor argue that the DMM methodology is not biblical per se, but neither is it unbiblical. It is a synthesized strategy that explains why and how new Jesus movements are spreading today (especially in collective cultures). I don’t find examples of the DMM strategy in Scripture, and yet I don’t see anything in Scripture that would contradict the approach, generally speaking.

However, it does seems to me that the DMM strategy needs to be embraced fully- it is not something that one can choose certain elements from and discard others (like inductive Bible study).  Like a car engine, if one piece of the mechanism fails then the vehicle may break down.

Both those who are pro-DMM and those who are cautious of the approach would do well to recognize the nature of DMMs. If there is wisdom in the method then it deserves our serious attention! But at the same time, it doesn’t need to be presented as the biblical approach for engaging lostness.

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