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Begin in a small way – making self-replicating disciples

CMS Missionaries W & C (serving in Asia) work in an international church, where they train leaders to be disciple-making disciples. Here they share four big things they’ve learnt during the course of this work.

At the church where we serve, training the trainer is at the heart of all we do. We’re driven by Jesus’ commission in Matthew 28 that every disciple is to be a disciple who makes disciples, who then makes disciples.

This realisation has seen us start training the trainer the moment a person becomes a follower of Jesus. We realise that disciples don’t need to be experts before they can tell others about what God has done for them. Everyone can pass on even the little that they know. The primary place where our training occurs is in our small groups. Each week, one third of the group time is spent practicing disciple making skills that the members will use during the week.

There are four big things we’ve learned:

1. Everything we do needs to be reproducible.

If we train someone and they can’t train someone else in the same way, we’re not reproducing. The drive for reproducibility has seen has simplify our materials, move away from any printed materials, set more modest goals for each session and focus on experience-based learning. This is hard as it often goes against much of what we ourselves experienced when we were trained.

2. Most of us learn by speaking and doing.

We have an 80/20 principle in our small groups. The leader is only allowed to speak for 20% of the time; the rest comes from the members. The members learn the most when they are engaged with God’s word and are speaking to each other about it. Together they might draw the passage, create a flow diagram, act it out, or use something like the Swedish method to explore the text. They also love sharing their own discoveries! The more discoveries they make, the more confident they become in reading the Bible for themselves.

3. Many small steps are better than a few large ones.

Many of our folk have little experience in reading the Bible for themselves. They are either new Christians or have never been part of a church where they are encouraged to read the Bible for themselves so their confidence to understand God’s word is very low. Our trainers are taught to ask, ‘What is the next manageable step that an individual can take?’ If it’s too intimidating for someone to share their testimony with their friends, the first step we get them to take is sharing with some Christian friends first.

4. Everybody gets stuck – Trainers help us get unstuck.

Accountability is key to growth. Accountability, for us, is asking each week, ‘Where did you get stuck last week using the skills you learned in your small group?’. Members work with each other to help each other get unstuck. Those who didn’t get stuck share their insights with those who did and together they learn.

We’ve gone from 15 groups to 35 in the past 18 months.  The men have gone from expecting their leaders to do all the ministry to being ministers of the gospel. They are sharing their faith with their friends, baptising them when they come to faith and starting new groups around the new believers. Seeing these men taking responsibility for the ministry among their peers has been a delight.


There are many places where people groups who have never heard about Jesus are more reachable than ever before. Do you have a heart for training these people to equip them for the work of the gospel? Contact your local branch to learn more.