How to Prevent Disciple-Making Movement Drift 

We start out with good intentions 

Can you picture it? A mission team launches with all the principles and best practices of Disciple Making Movements (DMM) intact. But then somewhere along the way, they want to speed up multiplication to fit their timetable, so they introduce outside money to help indigenous disciple-makers gain quicker access to new villages through charitable acts. It is obvious that this breaks the rule of reproducibility by the sheer need to bring in outside resources; but they justify it by saying, “Just a little help here and there can’t hurt.” It doesn’t seem like a big deal at the time.

Before we know it, we lessen the standard 

Bob McNabb, author of various books on multiplication, shares a story that drives home how lessening our standard sneaks up on us. One day Bob was working on a construction site. Bob’s boss told him to cut stakes using the wood scraps from a pile nearby. He handed him one stake to serve as the model and standard measurement, which was two feet in length. These stakes were important to the foundation of the building project. The job assignment was straightforward. Bob popped on his headphones and jammed to the tunes as he cut and made the stakes. After a while, he noticed that something had gone wrong—the stakes he cut were smaller and smaller as time went along. Oops! Bob used the original stake to cut his very first stake. But then he threw it down and used the newly cut stake for the next cutting and continued that pattern going forward. By the time he stopped to assess his work, he lost about a quarter of an inch for each new stake. In his words, Bob writes: 

Each stake only fell a little shorter of its predecessor. The lessening of the standard happened so incrementally that it was virtually unnoticeable unless you went back to the original model and compared.1

Why does it matter? 

As cross-cultural workers, we may be tempted to lessen the standard of our model for various reasons, such as to speed up the process to our liking. But once we do that, each principle and practice fall a little shorter than the original model and standard we set out to achieve. The change is so incremental that we don’t notice until something goes wrong. At that point, it is difficult to redeem the goal and process. The way to prevent disciple-making movement drift is to:

  • On a quarterly basis, go back to your original model and measure the standard you are now setting
  • Identify any mission drift
  • Make bold steps to return to the original model  

Process, pray, and practice

  • Go back to your original model and measure the standard you are now setting. Where have you incrementally lessened the standard? Take some steps to get back to the intended model. 

P.S. Bob McNabb says this about his construction illustration: “Our churches don’t look unhealthy when we compare them to other churches around us or to our immediate predecessors. But when we compare them to the church Jesus planted and the churches in the book of Acts, we have to use hermeneutical gymnastics and creative missiology to explain why our churches don’t resemble those . . .”2

We could say the same about missions too. 

  1. Bob McNabb, Spiritual Multiplication in The Real World, (Multiplication Press), 2013, 67.
  2. Ibid.
Categories: Missions

Stay connected

Hear about upcoming trainings, tools, and blogs from Five Stones Global