By JASON REYNOLDS
Tennessee Christian News
I’ve been reading a fascinating book that, if its principles are applied, could fundamentally change the way that Western Christians make disciples. Making disciples is a lifestyle based on relationships, of engaging with people who do not know Jesus, a father and son missionary team argue.
The book is “Contagious Disciple Making: Leading Others On a Journey of Discovery” by David Watson and his son, Paul Watson. The publisher is Thomas Nelson.
More than 5 million people have been baptized in India, Nepal and Bangladesh using this method.
Contagious Disciple Making is the Watsons’ definition for a lifestyle of engaging those who don’t know Jesus in conversations that lead to meaningful spiritual conversations. They say this leads to the person’s family or “affinity group” becoming disciples. They then replicate the process into their families, friends, work or schoolmates, neighbors, and places where the gospel has not yet reached.
Their book lists seven steps to create a movement in your mission field, whether that is overseas or in your neighborhood. It’s basically disciplining and training one person to become a leader who spreads the process among others.
If that sounds impossible, consider this: David Watson used this technique in India to train a handful of missionaries to work with one people group. That resulted in the planting of more than 80,000 churches and more than 5 million people being baptized in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. That movement is spreading toward Pakistan, David said.
If working in a distant part of the world isn’t your thing, don’t worry. The Watsons’ book is written for Western Christians who want to transform their community by helping people fall in love with Jesus and equipping them to do the same.
The Watsons are currently working on evangelizing America’s urban cities. David lives in the Dallas area, which has been called the most diverse city in America with more than 300 languages spoken there. The metro has more than 3,000 churches, with an average attendance of only 86, and even if they were filled to capacity, that would serve only 3 percent of the population, David said.
Building more churches would take a huge amount of land and money, he said, so the current American church “business model” of drawing people in to a church building would not work even if they tithed.
Paul lives in Portland, Oregon. He moved there three years ago from Texas. His missions team is training other teams, and they are holding Bible services with such diverse groups as the LGBT community and Muslim students. In the multi-state area of the Pacific Northwest, 27 percent of more than 5 million people claim no religious affiliation.
Paul is in charge of discipling and helping men from addiction and alcoholism and also leads and engages disciples using the techniques in the book using a Bible study process.
“We use the Discovery Bible Study process to introduce men in the program to Jesus,” Paul said. “We’ve seen many go from being atheists and agnostics to falling in love with Jesus. We do not preach at them, we simply invite them to discover. Those that choose to follow Christ and work their program of recovery have a significantly greater chance to remain clean and sober than those who don’t.”
Just as the disciple making plan can work in India, it can work in such a diverse area as the Pacific Northwest, Paul said.
Some of the Watsons’ trainees are working in more rural areas, even in Middle Tennessee communities like Murfreesboro, they said. (Yes, Murfreesboro may be a big city compared to towns like Shelbyville and so forth, but it’s still small compared to Dallas, as my wife, who is a native of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, likes to remind me.)
“Contagious Disciple Making” is a must-read for anyone who wants to do church differently and who wants to evangelize effectively.