5- Adaptive methods

Pioneering movements through short-term missions

Aerial approaching tefalmin

I did my first short-term mission trip when I was eighteen and just out of high school. We helped build an air-strip at Tifalmin in the remote Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea. It’s nice to know that after 40 years it’s still serving the community.

Imagine if on your next short-term mission you could help build a multiplying movement of disciples and churches that continue for generations.

I’ve been thinking about Troy and Oggie’s Mexican adventure and what they can teach us about leaving a lasting legacy through short-term missions. Here’s a list of my take-aways:

  • Troy and Oggie trained the locals in what they were already doing back home.
  • Troy’s lack of Spanish meant Spanish-speaking Oggie had to step up and take the lead in training.
  • They partnered with local churches and pastors who were ready to learn and implement.
  • They began immediately in the community before the training started.
  • Stories of what God was doing spread from person to person.
  • They moved from training in the classroom to immediate engagement with the community.
  • They trained just enough to get people started in the harvest.
  • They trained the locals in simple but powerful methods for sharing the gospel, making disciples and forming new churches.
  • They trained the locals to train others.
  • As momentum builds Oggie will provide coaching from a distance.
  • He will return to run Mid-Level training and take the local believers to the next stage.

Last year I got a glimpse of what this could look like when Russell Godward and I went to Kenya to train.

How could your next short-term mission leave a legacy of reproducing disciples and churches?

The 3Touches in Tusla

Julie from Tusla

Julie from Tusla

Troy Cooper unpacks what happened when he took the 3Touches of training to Tulsa:

Each touch of training has two components: one is the event and the second is the weekly rollout. We really believe it’s the week-to-week rollout of the training that really gets to movement, but the event training becomes an on-ramp for people and an opportunity to help raise up trainers.

We went in to Tulsa in September-October, and it was just a soft touch of training with the pastors and elders and a few key people in the church. I did just a basic, Level 1: how to share the gospel, and we took them out in the harvest. Then came back and debriefed. It was actually just supposed to be a vision meeting; it wasn’t supposed to be a training, but they took what I gave them and they began to roll it out.

They started going through the Commands of Christ on Wednesday nights, they started taking a training team out in the harvest on Thursday nights, and next thing you know you’re seeing out of this church led by pastors and elders, people come to Christ and stories start bubbling out within the community. So we were scheduled for January, April and July—three touches—but the January training was now a second touch because we’ve already got people on the ground that can train.

So we show up in January and I meet with their fruitful trainers on the ground the night before, and we run through the training and practice and we get up there and their people did 80% of the training. On the Assist part, they got it! The challenge was that because this was coming from pastors and elders in the community, we had seven churches there, with seven lead pastors! We had over 250 people at this massive training, getting trained, going out in the harvest...this is awesome, but the challenge is, if this thing continues to blow up, how many people are comfortable training in front of 250 people? It can seem like it’s just one church that’s doing this, so that’s why I just dropped the idea hey what if we rolled this out at multiple campuses next time? That’s where you’ve gotta bring other catalysts from the outside to help out.

So second touch of training, we did the event and then they did the 4-6 week rollout of the Commands of Christ afterwards. We just went back for the third touch and just watched them at two campuses, and now they’ve got a solid training team on several campuses, and now those teams are helping train other churches in the city.

At Cedar Ridge Church in Sapulpua it was their third touch of training. They had six trainers and 100% of the trainers had come to faith within the last year. They were the ones leading the training, 100%. Daniel Reese was just there to watch them and give them feedback. So these newer believers are training other believers how to make disciples, and what gave them such credibility to do it is, for the last 4-6 months they’ve been out in the harvest every week, engaging lostness, sharing the gospel, discipling the fruit and starting groups in homes, and they’re already seeing third generation disciples.

At this training one of the trainer’s second-generation disciple was there and that person baptized a third-generation disciple at the training.

Our whole goal is to come in to help get it started, then we remove ourselves and just continue on in a coaching and mentoring relationship, so that it’s the local leaders and teams that are the ones rolling this out. So most people in that city don’t even know who we are. They know NoPlaceLeft—that’s the banner they’re flying under—and they know there’s a number of pastors and churches in the area that are doing this.

Listen to the whole interview

Newbigin's shift — from a traditional to a movements paradigm

Lesslie Newbigin

Lesslie Newbigin

I was compelled to ask myself whether it is really true that the Church’s obedience to the Great Commission is intended to be contingent upon the accident of a budgetary surplus.
— Lesslie Newbigin

Lesslie Newbigin was one of the great missionary statesmen of the 20th Century. He spent much of his life in India. He began with a tradition paradigm of ministry that relied on foreign workers, funding and supervision. He soon discovered its limitations.

I have lived and worked as a missionary within the structure typical of modern missions, responsible for the conduct of institutions, for the supervision of Indian workers, for the employment and control of teachers and others in charge of congregations. I have seen this system come to a practical standstill: funds were not available to increase the number of salaried workers. ... Only if some fresh resources came from ‘home’ could the mission become a mission again. As it was, it was plain that any talk of ‘winning India for Christ’ was not serious. I was compelled to ask myself whether it is really true that the Church’s obedience to the Great Commission is intended to be contingent upon the accident of a budgetary surplus.

Rather than fix what was broken, Newbigin became a careful observer of what God was doing on the fringes.

The answer came through various experiences. Firstly, through seeing how ordinary lads from village congregations ... could themselves become active witnesses and evangelists among their comrades. Secondly, through learning to call on the services of all kinds of lay men and women as volunteer pastors and evangelists for the village congregations left without the guidance of a full-time worker. And thirdly, most decisively, through the experience of a small group-movement in a very backward area where the Gospel had only recently been preached for the first time. ...

Here’s what happened next…

the churches began to multiply themselves by a kind of spontaneous growth which was not dependent upon increasing outside resources. In an area almost entirely pagan, the number of Christian congregations rose from thirteen to fifty-five in twelve years. ... In the midst of a movement of this kind, one could speak seriously about winning India for Christ.

Lesslie Newbigin, Trinitarian Doctrine for Today’s Mission (London: Paternoster Press, 1998), 74-77.