Duct tape works for everything, right? We use to call it 100mph tape because that’s how fast it was used up. I mean people would use it for everything! But hey, it’s a great tool and when you find a great tool, everyone wants to use it! Our son had a little fender bender when he was just learning to drive. We actually used duct tape to hold the bumper on to the front end of the car. We called it “Alabama Chrome.”
We had grown up with a pretty good discipleship toolbox. We had used, adapted, and reproduced our tools in a military setting and they were great. But now that Deb and I had shifted to the civilian sector and were trying to reach a city, we found our discipleship tools didn’t translate well. We had to go back to the drawing board.
It was about this time that we met Jeff and Angie Sundell. They had been missionaries in India and Nepal and had seen several movements among unreached people groups. They began to share “best practices” from around the world that translated across cultural, gender, age, ethnicity, and religious boundaries. And behind every tool was the mantra “It has to be Biblical, Simple, and Reproducing.”
It had to be Biblical in the sense that they were principle-based. They could stand on the bedrock of the Scriptures. Many of the tools found their foundation in Jesus’ ministry. Like storytelling for instance. Have you ever noticed how many stories Jesus told in order to convey a spiritual truth? Some were so simple that even guys like me could understand (with my crayons in my hand).
And that brings us to the next point, simplicity. Normally in American culture, we are always adding something to stuff. We keep adding and adding until we can’t add another thing and then we duct tape something else to it. Now it’s so complicated Einstein couldn’t figure it out. We were being taught to leave the “Good Idea Fairy” at home and KISS it (Keep It Simple and Scriptural). The challenge was to strip the tool down until it was at its irreducible minimum. If a six-year-old could understand and reproduce it, it was a good tool. We’d keep that one. But if it required a G.E.D., sorry, too complicated. In the trash, it would go.
Our gospel presentation is a good example of the principle of simplicity. We train people to share their story and God’s story in a minute or less. We’d have them take out a piece of paper and draw the gospel. This was the middle of their story; God loves us so much He sent His Son Jesus to the earth, He lived a perfect life and then died on a cross for all the messed up stuff we’ve ever done. And then He rose from the dead on the third day proving He was the King of kings. Then we would ask them to write down two words on the left side of the cross that would describe their life before Jesus. And then two words on the right side describing the change Jesus has made in their life. Next, we help them put these elements of their life into their story and God’s story with a question at the end;
There was a time in my life when I was angry and afraid and then I heard the story about God loving us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to the earth, He lived a perfect life and then died on a cross for all the messed up stuff I had done. And then He rose from the dead on the third day proving He was the King of kings. I asked Him to forgive me and started following Him as my King and I’ve had peace and courage ever since. Have you ever asked God for forgiveness and made Jesus your King?
Now we could probably write a book longer than “Moby Dick” on the gospel and not reached the depths of the grace, love, and mercy that it contains. But this is a simple way to train people to share their testimony and get the conversation started. NPL has equipped thousands and thousands of people with this simple tool and it is absolutely mind-blowing how many people are actually sharing their faith now.
But just a story about how hard this is for Americans. We had a friend visit us in San Antonio and Deb took her to dinner. She was telling Deb how she had recently learned how to share the gospel the way we share the gospel. WHAT?! That is so cool! We are reproducing! So Deb was excited and said, “Awesome! Why don’t you share it with the waitress when she comes back.” The gal started squirming and looked at Deb like she had a third eye. Deb noticed this right away and took the pressure off. She said, “Well, why don’t you share it with me?”
An hour and twenty-five verses later she had produced a napkin dripping with ink and looked like the *Girvan–Newman algorithm (*I have no clue what that means. I just Googled it). Nope, we are not reproducing. The 2nd generation needed to soup things up a bit and now it was so high speed we couldn’t simply share the good news with a waitress in under a minute to see if she was interested in learning more. We can’t resist, can we? But it’s costing us. Our creativity is killing reproducibility.
We like to ask the question “Is it reproducing?” We prefer this question over, “Is it reproducible?” At first glance, this may not seem to make a whole lot of difference. But on closer examination, it makes a huge difference. The Space Shuttle is “reproducible.” They made four of them. And given a hundred years and a billion-dollar budget, you and I could probably figure out how to reproduce another one. But you see the point. The Space Shuttle is not reproducing.
When we develop a new tool for discipleship, we are watching it very carefully. Is it actually reproducing generationally downstream? Has one person passed it on to another who has passed it on to another, who has passed it on to another in a short period of time? That would be four generations. Take for example our 4-1-1 tool. It’s used to teach new believers how to share their faith. It is reproducing all over the world. In Japan, we saw it jump three generations in one day.
We are not interested in the “theory” of reproduction. We want to see the discipleship tool reproducing. I love how the Apostle Paul describes himself as a wise master builder;
“According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Cor 3.10-15)
Paul did not just build it to last a lifetime. He’s built to last generations and pass the test of eternal value. He was a wise master builder and learned his trade from the Master Himself, Jesus.
So Deb and I have a new toolbox. Tools that are reproducing in the civilian sector, in different cultural contexts around the world, and ironically, in the military too.
What tools do you have in your Discipleship Tool Box? Are they Biblical? Simple? Reproducing? Do you have tools for engaging lost people? Sharing the gospel? Basic discipleship? Healthy church? Reproducing leaders? Abiding deeply in Christ? Are you being mentored or coached by someone who has a full toolbox of proven generational discipleship tools?
SIX CORE PRINCIPLES