A simple but revolutionary way of doing evangelism and small groups is sweeping the globe. It started in India but it’s rocking the world. In suburbs of San Francisco, slums of South America, and Muslim tribes of Africa, the lost are being won, disciples are being mobilized, and churches are multiplying.
It’s called the “Disciple-Making Movement” (DMM). Although it’s a 21st century phenomena, it’s just a return to principles taught by Jesus 2000 years ago.
What is a DMM? It’s a combination of several key principles and methods, but at its heart is obedience-based small groups that follow Jesus’ command to teach disciples to “obey everything” he commanded us. (Matthew 28:18-20)
Here’s the four steps to start and multiply a DMM “Discovery Group.”
Step One: Start with Someone Seeking God
First, look for someone that is spiritually hungry. This principle is foundational to DMM. You don’t have to create interest in spiritual things. God is already drawing people. (John 6:44) Find these people so that you can cooperate with God in bringing them into a relationship with Christ. Jesus told his disciples to look for a “person of peace” when they entered a new community. (Luke 9:6) In the same way, in your world look for a person whom the Holy Spirit is already drawing, someone whom God is giving a hunger for himself. You can see many examples of this type of person in the New Testament—people like the woman at the well (John 4) and the centurion Cornelius (Acts 10). They were predisposed to the good news of Christ and introduced new groups of people to him.
Step Two: Invite Them to Study the Bible with You
When you have your seeker, you invite them to look at the Bible with you to discover what God is like and how he might want to speak to them. If you have more than one person, great. But you only need one person to begin. You don’t invite them to a class or to a series, you just invite them to meet with you to explore what God says in the Bible. It can be a small beginning, one or two people for one or two meetings. If that goes well, you invite them to continue looking at the Bible with you.
Step Three: Use the “Discovery Group” Format
When you meet, use the Discovery Group format. Here are the questions to ask:
- What are you thankful for this week? (This question helps teach seekers or those new to Christ how to worship and pray.)
- What is a challenge you are facing? Is there some way our group can help? (This guides people into caring community.)
- With whom did you share last week’s learnings?
- How did it go with your “I will’s”? (An “I will” is a person’s statement of how they will obey a Bible passage.)
You, obviously, skip these accountability questions at your first meeting.
Bible Discovery Questions
- What does it say? (Read the passage several times, perhaps in different translations.)
- How would I say that? (Each person tries to retell the passage or Bible story in their own words.)
- What must I do to obey what I have learned? “I will…” (Each person crafts a statement or two to tell how they will exobey the passage this week.)
Optional Questions to Use if You Have Time
- What does the passage say about humanity?
- What does it say about God?
- With whom will you share what you learned this week?
The heart of the discovery meeting is very simple. It is the three Bible discovery questions:
- What does it say? (“It says…”)
- How would I say it? (“My words…”)
- How will I obey it? (“I will…”)
The other questions lead into or revolve around these questions. To download a one-page handout with these questions, click here.
Step Four: Encourage Them to Start a Group
At some point, it may be soon or it may take some time, people will begin to experience God in life-changing ways. They will discover that he is real, wonderful and trustworthy! Then, they will say something like, “My friends need to experience this. Would you lead a group for them?” Or, “I would like my family to learn these truths as well. Can I invite them to this group?” Your answer to questions like this should be, “No. You should lead a group for them yourself.” There will likely be hesitancy. They will say, “I couldn’t do that.” To which you should respond, “Of course you can. This is very simple. And I will continue to meet with you, to encourage you and help you.”
A person does not need to know the Bible well to lead a Discovery Group. They actually don’t even need to be a Christ-follower yet. They just need to be able to point people to God’s word—to help them discover its meaning and begin to apply its truths in their lives.
As people begin their own groups, you should continue to meet regularly with these new leaders to continue to study the Bible with them and to help them solve problems they might be facing in their own groups.
Keep these principles in mind as you implement the DMM strategy.
- Pray. Thriving disciple-making movements are saturated in prayer. The strategy depends on God, not on you. Ask him to guide you. Invite his Spirit to raise up people of peace and put you in touch with them. Pray for direction, insight, and vision.
- Experiment. Like any new strategy it takes a while to learn the principles and to discover what works best in your setting.
- Learn. The best book to read about this is Contagious Disciple-Making, by David and Paul Watson.
- Be patient. It takes time to learn the principles, to apply them, and then to see results. DMM’s have seen millions come to Christ. But, it’s actually a “mustard seed” strategy (Matthew 13:31-32)—something which starts tiny but in the long run becomes very big. It goes slow at first, so that things can move fast later. It focuses on a few initially, because the goal in the end is to reach many. So be patient.
Starting Where You Are
There are two ways to begin experimenting with a DMM strategy. One method is to start a brand new group with one or several seekers. The other approach is to start using the discovery group format with an existing group.
Method One: Start a New Group
My wife has started a group like this, a discovery group with an evangelistic focus. Step one with this, again, is to find one or two seekers and invite them to look at the Bible together with you. I haven’t done this yet myself but intend to do this as I discover persons of peace.
Method Two: Start Using the Discovery Group Method with an Existing Group
This is what I am doing. We use this new format in our co-ed evening group and with an early morning men’s discipleship group. I love the method and the group members are enjoying it, too. However, it requires a change of approach, because we are used to studying and talking about the Bible. But we are not used to immediately applying it, sharing it, and holding each other accountable! But that’s the beauty of this method. It cuts to the chase: What does the Bible say? How would I say it? And what am I going to do about it? It takes effort to change the approach of a group that is already up and running to this more straightforward approach, but it’s well worth it!
(An slightly different version of this article, also written by me, first appeared on smallgroups.com, and the article appears here with smallgroups.com’s permission.)