I hate to admit this. I have made this mistake three different times. Each time it happened after I had been assigned to a new campus. The first time the mistake could have been expected. The second and third times, well, that was my own fault.
What was my mistake? At the beginning of a new school year I simply began discipling the first students in the ministry who expressed need. I thought I was being helpful and loving these students. All three times I ended the school year with very emotionally needy or fun-loving students, but not with whole-hearted disciples of Christ. What went wrong?
Movement-Killer #1 – Hasty (or No) Selection
“…and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called his disciples to Him; and chose twelve of them…” Luke 6:12-13
“It does not matter how many we enlist for the cause, but how many conquer for Christ. That is why all along our emphasis must be upon quality of life. If we get the right quality of leadership, the rest will follow; if we do not get it, the rest have nothing worth following.”
-Robert E Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism
My problem was that I lacked the foresight and courage to realize: If I commit myself fully to this small group of 5-8 students right now, then I am consciously making a choice to say “no” to the other 20,000 students on my campus for the rest of the year.
I observed wiser and more successful friends do three things to help avoid this mistake.
1. They prayed. They spent extended time in prayer, like Jesus did, before selecting any students to invite into an ongoing discipleship relationship.
2. They took their time. They did not rush to “get a group.” They kept sharing their faith and doing basic follow up through November and December. They invited faithful believers to the weekly fellowship. They brought them to retreats and invited them to pray. BUT they had the wisdom to wait on God, observe their behavior over time, and let God bring more new believers into the movement before selecting and committing themselves to a few.
3. They avoided…
Movement-Killer #2… Filling Their Schedule with 1-1 Appointments.
Yep, nothing helps justify our existence more than staying busy with a full schedule. And few behaviors ultimately kill a genuine movement more stealthily than regular 1-1 appointments.
Sometimes it seems like the weekly 1-1 ministry appointment is a hallowed requirement. Why is that? When I study Jesus’ three years of ministry, I cannot find a single time that he met 1-1 with any of his 12 disciples after calling them to follow Him. I’m not saying that Jesus never had personal time with a disciple, simply that the 1-1 discipleship appointment was not part of his core development strategy for his men. He met in 2’s, 3’s, small groups and larger groups. He confronted disciples in front of each other. Anyway, it seems odd that the greatest movement builder of all time did not incorporate the weekly 1-1 into his strategy. Go figure.
Why can 1-1 appointments kill movements?
Leadership Challenge: If you can find Jesus having a 1-1 appointment with any of his 12 disciples, please post a reply. I’ll buy you a dinner. Seriously.
6 replies on “Two Common Movement-Killers”
Right on Ken! I will add one killer to your list: STRUCTURE. I actually just posted today on how to kill a movement. Good timing. 🙂
Thanks for the response Ken. I posted a follow up comment too.
Good point – the first thing that comes along is not always the most important or significant – the challenge however is not to rule out things that are first though on that basis alone. Knowing what is important or the long term helps us understand what our priorities are and also what they are not!
Hey Ken, I really appreciate these points. Obviously the effect of combining them is even more murderous to a movement. I also agree that we don’t really see Jesus taking one on one time with his disciples, but I would suggest that his time with Peter in John 21 should be taken as 1-on-1 time.
Although at the beginning of verse 15 suggests that the other disciples were present, it appears that Jesus took Peter for a stroll down the beach to talk alone. (note the reference to the disciple whom Jesus loved was “following”). Aside from the poetic observation of three denials countered with three confirmations, the conversation can be seen from a movement perspective as alignment and delegation.
Some might view this as a stretch, but I’d challenge that. Your thoughts…?
Hey friend, thanks for your fresh insights on John 21:15-23. Like you, I have wrestled with this one in terms of 1-1 time. It’s unclear when the conversation moved from everyone sitting around the meal to a 1-1 stroll down the beach with John tagging along. And how far behind was John following? Was he within earshot, or did Peter recount the full conversation with him later? It’s impossible to say.
Two things are clear, though. Even if we take it as a 1-1 appointment, it’s an exception and not a normal recorded part of Jesus’ movement-building strategy.
Second, I would love to make good on the dinner offer. Shoot me an email at [email protected] and let’s set a time….
100% agreement on the “exception” rather than rule. What stands out about this passage to me is that it isn’t like other “1-on-1-among-many” passages.
In other passages Jesus reveals a very specific agenda to an individual disciple even though He is in the presence of others:
-John 20:26-29 He only interacts with Thomas
-Matthew 15:28-31 His focus is Peter (although initiated by Peter)
-John 1:47-50 He is blowing Nathanael’s mind
In these passages Jesus isn’t alone with a disciple, yet His focus appears to be almost 1-on-1. However, in these examples, His purpose seems to be a group lesson about faith in each case. It’s almost as if He chose a volunteer each time to give a faith object lesson to all who were present.
His encounter in with Peter strolling on the beach after breakfast doesn’t read this way for me. It isn’t an object lesson for the rest of the disciples but a message for Peter alone, yet we the readers are privy to an intimate moment. When I read this, it’s not just a “re-alignment, re-assignment” to a wayward disciple. The hermeneutic doesn’t come so clearly. I see this as one of the most “human” interactions Jesus had with a disciple. This is a heart-to-heart reconciliation that Jesus initiated. Here, “feed my sheep” and “follow Me” are not about responsibility, but about relationship.
Much of my life I’ve seen Jesus’ teaching to “us”. It wasn’t until years ago when I looked closely at this passage that I understood that He interacts with me where I am. Am I in Peter’s position? Do I look around to see if someone else got the application point?
“…what is that to you? As for you, follow Me.”-Jesus
(I’d take you up on dinner, but that wasn’t why I shared. [email protected] )