Two and three years ago we were hardly ever sharing the gospel in our ministry. Part of the time we didn’t even notice it. Some of the time we felt guilty about it. All of the time we didn’t really know how to share the gospel succinctly, which really kept us from trying to share unless an opportunity presented itself to us on a silver platter.
This was one of the 2 keys for helping us drastically increase gospel sharing in our ministry. The following videos are 3 different representations of the same simple tool. The 3 Circles is one of the simplest, and most profound and flexible tools I’ve ever come across – that’s why it stuck for us so well.
In a recent post I shared about importance of training trainers. When we train people, we are transmitting skills. That’s the first priority. We are also training trainers. Because I had my team training with me, I was reproducing myself. They are both new to this process of training, but as they trained with me, they nailed it. We practiced together before we trained together. Had I been sick, or for some other reason unable to attend the training, they could have facilitated it without me.
Training trainers isn’t just about building a bigger training team. It is about multiplying myself and my impact. I spent an extra couple of hours with my team preparing for this training, but after we finished the training, they were even more capable of facilitating trainings and leading training teams than they were before.
It has been a paradigm shift to start thinking about what a Church Planting Movement is and how to spark movement in my context. I’ve been learning that multiplying movements require multiplying leaders at every level. That’s one of the key roles I need to fulfill. As I’ve been trying to shift from being a leader to leading leaders, one of my friends in ministry, Robby Christmas, developed this excellent and simple tool to keep up our progress in developing leaders.
MAWL, as the image shows, stands for Model, Assist, Watch, Launch. This particular version is filled in with the tools we use locally. You could replace them if they don’t fit in your ministry process. On the left, you can fill in the Planter’s name and you’ll check off the boxes as you go through the process of “MAWLing” them on each of the tools listed. By the time you have checked each box, you have a leader who is ready to be launched to restart the process themselves. Robby has included a basic outline for a 90min weekly MAWL meeting. The link above the image includes both pages.
Whether you use this particular tool or not, I would encourage you to think about your process for identifying, developing, releasing, and leading leaders. It is easy to overlook, but so critical.
A year ago, we couldn’t remember the last time someone decided to follow Jesus as a result of our ministry. We also couldn’t tell any specific stories of sharing the gospel. In that same year, 9 ASU students died, most from suicide. We were broken-hearted for those students, for our campus, and for the lack of fruit we were seeing in the midst of it all. A sense of holy discontent was starting to crescendo for us as we were facing relative fruitlessness, ministry decline, and the many crises happening across campus. The tug of war for us was simply trying to keep students in regular attendance at our weekly meeting and trying to exist for more than just maintaining attendance.
One area where we saw a glaring issue was sharing the gospel – we weren’t doing it. Our top 1% of students would share the gospel occasionally. We celebrated it when it happened, but I rarely heard stories of students sharing the gospel. I also didn’t have stories to tell of sharing the gospel personally.
We lacked two things – expectation and training.
This year we started regularly communicating our expectation of 100% obedience. We expect every staff and student to be obedient to the Jesus’ command to make disciples. We tell them this. All the time. And we build loving accountability for sharing the gospel in our regular ministry rhythm. And we model it for them.
Expectation was a critical component for us, but training everyone with some simple tools to help them actually make good on this expectation was just as critical. It isn’t fair to try to hold someone accountable for something they don’t actually know how to do. The first step for every Christian student is training them.
A couple of years ago, we set the goal that our entire ministry (around 80 people) would share the gospel 100 times throughout the school year. By the end of the year, we shared the gospel 3 times. THREE. Only around 1% of our people were sharing the gospel. We lacked expectation, accountability, and training, and I wasn’t modeling it myself. Our results should have been no surprise.
This fall semester alone our ministry (now around 20 people) shared the gospel over 300 times! We had a radical decrease in students but an exponential increase in gospel shares. Turning the corner toward 100% obedience set a bar that lots of people weren’t willing to meet. But it wasn’t our bar – it was Jesus’ bar. Our numbers aren’t as important as the trends they represent. One of the most exciting results was actually seeing 100% of our ministry be 100% faithful to the great commission.
The two highest value activities when working towards a Church Planting Movement are sharing the gospel and training disciple makers. Last night we trained a new partnering church to share the gospel. Trainers solidify their skills in the process of training others. It also finds the faithful people – those who take the training and put it to use.
Right after we finished training at this church, I found out that one of our students was leading the same training at his home church 20 minutes away. He has helped us train before, and he has the skills to train on his own or with his own team. This was a clear reminder of the multiplicative potential of training. We train, but the big win is training trainers.
In my years of collegiate ministry I haven’t always had a clear set of success indicators. How do I know when I’m using my time wisely and how do I know when I’m seeing success? Most of the time, the answers to these questions have been, “Well, I know it when I see it.”
For quite some time I didn’t even have the self-awareness to think about whether I was spending my time well or how successful my ministry was. The rest of the time I had a low-level anxiousness that I wasn’t spending my time well or seeing success in my ministry.
Time investment and success are relative terms, aren’t they? It depends on the person, the ministry, and the vision. As I have been drawn in by the No Place Left vision, I’m finding more clarity than ever about how best to spend my time and how to define success.
There are 2 high priority activities:
- Sharing the gospel
- Training believers to make disciples
Success might seem to be a certain number of gospel shares or believers trained. Those are good things and can be valuable as a measuring stick, but I don’t think they qualify as success on their own. I am most successful when I see something reproduced. If I train a student to share the gospel and I see them sharing the gospel as a result, that’s one stage of reproduction. Similarly, when I teach a student any process or practice and they pass it on to someone else, that is success. It’s the 2 Timothy 2:2 principle in action.
“And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (ESV)
I can’t think of anything that has been more helpful to me in my ministry leadership than realizing that the most high value activities are sharing and training and that the best success indicator is reproduction. These things are my guardrails that help me stay on the right track.
This postcard looks like an invitation. Strictly speaking, it is. We put these postcards in 6,000 PO Boxes on campus just before school started, and we handed out a few hundred more at the welcome week events on campus. While we were mailing and handing out invitations, we were intentionally filtering for people who were compelled to make disciples, or at least interested in the prospect.
“Step 1: Disciple Making Training”
That was another filter. We didn’t host an ice cream social or pizza party – we trained students to make disciples. Let me be clear – I’m not saying ice cream or pizza parties are bad no matter what the order of events might be. If we were going to win over new students, we wanted to win over the ones who are hungry for a mission.
Our mission is to see #NoPlaceLeft where the gospel hasn’t been heard on every campus in the High Country, so we don’t have time for anything that doesn’t directly help us multiply disciples, churches, and movements. Even the little things (like postcards) can work for you or against you. It has taken me 8 years to realize this.
Back in January I participated in a training that we call “411 Disciple-Making Training.” It is a simple and reproducing way to make disciples who make disciples by answering 4 questions, in 1 hour, on 1 piece of paper. Troy Cooper is the lead facilitator of the training and I’m assisting him. Troy trained me in the same way previously, so my assistance was a continuation of my training. Josh is on mission to multiply disciples, churches, and movements in South Asia. These guys are gospel-beasts. We are all reproducing this training anywhere and everywhere – often over video chats just like this one, and where possible, in person. It can be done 1:1 and it can be done in very large groups.
If you take the time to watch the video, you’ll likely find yourself thinking about how simple (even elementary) the content is. The focus is more on the method of modeling and practice through immediate reproduction. Training isn’t about knowledge, it is about skills and practices. Most Christians (at least in my part of the world) don’t need more knowledge, they need to practice and obey what they do know.