Beginning with the End in Mind

Stage 14: First In the 914 Series: M2|P2 Aligning Materials & Methods with your People & Plan

I have a confession to make. I love The Profit, a show on CNBC featuring Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World and other companies. He invests his own money to help failing businesses turn into successful enterprises. His mantra: People, Process, and Product. His focus is on developing and aligning all three. With the right people, the right process, and the right product, the sky’s the limit. Every episode features a company that passes the product test in one way or another. Lemonis imagines that if he can develop and align the people and the process, (and sometimes improve the product), the product has a chance to multiply to be a large chain or franchise organization; the original location replicating itself time and again. He is able to be successful in this because of the wisdom he’s gained through years of experience and working with dozens of companies.

Every episode/product requires the creation of different processes. He likes to find companies that are (1) unique and (2) better meet some need than other existing companies. On each episode you’ll see him create processes that align with the end in mind and the people involved. I say create, because there is no book, PDF, or 3-ring binder of  one-size fits all processes for every company. To be effective, he must know (1) principles and values related to effectiveness; (2) the resources and logistics that are available for product and delivery; and (3) the wildly varied issues (positive and negative) that relate to the people:

  • Experience
  • Motivation
  • Passion
  • Conflicts
  • Relationships
  • Dreams
  • Goals
  • Abilities
  • Training
  • Values
  • etc.

On almost every episode, he works with people to help them overcome the “people” issues that are derailing their dreams. He works with people that you would think should move out of the way. He works with people that are in destructive relationships with their spouse (co-owner) and/or co-workers. And with some measure of grace, helps them become part of the success. Sometimes it works… sometimes not.

He sees in his mind’s eye “the end” – what the reality looks like if alignment can happen. And it’s with this end in mind that he strives to help businesses toward success. It is important to know that the end

  • is NOT the development of people
  • is NOT the improvement of the product
  • is NOT the creation of a process.

All of those contribute. But in a broad sense they are all processes, or enhanced by processes. They are not the end – the “thing” that we should be striving for. If they were, then one could just imagine, for example, that every entity would be successful if they could just convince their people that their life-long development (ie, learning) is the key. To continually join groups to study and learn is the key. To always be studying and learning is the key. Sound familiar? 

The people in our churches are every bit as messy as the people in the episodes of The Profit. However, if our ministry with them does not have an end in mind – if we cannot see what their lives and our church would look like… should look like… if we could develop them into replicating, Gospel participants (process and product), then we do not have a chance at getting close to that end.

We will fall into the “process” strategy: the things we are supposed to do. The things everyone else does. And by “supposed to”, I mean the idea that the greatest thing we can do is to become a mature Christ follower (become a better Christian, more like Christ, giving glory to Him). And the best way (the only way some know) to do that is through our our own self-help program (process).

  • Attend Worship weekly (because you’re supposed to)
  • Join a group (because you’re supposed to)
  • Memorize scripture (because you’re supposed to)
  • Have a quiet time (because you’re supposed to)
  • Keep a journal (because you’re supposed to)
  • Find some way to serve (because you’re supposed to)
  • Tithe (because you’re supposed to)

None of these things are bad in and of themselves. They can all be helpful in our spiritual development. But don’t miss this: Not one of those activities involves real world, hands-on, in the wild experience with anyone – especially the lost! (Well, some find a way to occasionally serve in the wild, but most serve inside the walls of the church or their group). And, don’t miss this… you would be hard pressed to find where Jesus emphasized this list in His training with the Disciples.

If presented as the way to apply scripture to our lives, rather than as some ways to synthesize the truth of Christ and His call into our lives, then what you are left with is the perpetual call to

  • Attend Worship weekly
  • Join a group
  • Memorize scripture
  • Have a quiet time
  • Keep a journal
  • Find some way to serve
  • Tithe

The Promise Unfulfilled

For the vast majority of believers, this is the “end”, the “thing” that their churches promote. If you’ll just do these things/follow this process, you’ll be more like Christ; you’ll be closer to Christ; you’ll be “mature”. This is how you follow Him and bring glory to Him. 

Jeff Bezos has rightfully said:

But if you’re not watchful, the process can become the thing… You stop looking at outcomes and just make sure you’re doing the process right …. The process is not the thing. It’s always worth asking, do we own the process or does the process own us?”

It is easy for church leaders to imagine what a successful process looks like. In fact, it is easy to work toward this goal, that our church would one day have:

  • All of our people attend Worship weekly
  • All of our people join a group
  • All of our people memorize scripture
  • All of our people have a quiet time
  • All of our people keep a journal
  • All of our people find some way to serve
  • All of our people tithe (can I get an Amen?)

Unfortunately, passionate, sold-out (ie, mature) Christ followers (what Bezos would call outcomes) rarely occur from this process. You may know, or think you know, one or two mature followers that came from following this process. You may know (or think you know) dozens or hundreds. In those cases, one of two things is likely true:

  1. We don’t share the same definition of passionate, sold-out Christ follower 
  2. Those you know had other, “more maturing” experiences in their lives. These may have come from opportunities presented by the church and/or through (un-scripted by us), God-ordained encounters and experiences.

The vast majority of believers do not sign up for this journey. Of those that do, most stop at some point. Not because of their maturity level, but because…

I’m Not Being Fed

No wonder that one of the biggest complaints of those who change churches or leave church altogether is the “lack of being fed”. We have promised them that all these things will feed them. That in doing these things, they will be able to feed themselves. And while these do feed followers, they do so in decreasing impact, as disciples grow through levels 1-8 (refer to the track chart):

  • Gain in Knowledge
  • Gain in Understanding
  • Gain in Comprehension

As our spiritual/cognitive skills move past the passive receiving of information into the need to analyze and evaluate, the standard list of offerings become less valuable, less nourishing, less meaningful. And so they feel like they’re not being fed. It fact, though they may not know how to express it, they are actually not being challenged, they are not being equipped, they are not being engaged, and they are no longer being changed like in their early years of development. Their experience does not match the promise.

Let me give you an example. Pause before you answer.

What is fundamentally more important: to be able to accurately quote a memorized verse (including the reference and translation) or to comprehend what the verse means?

Memorization can, and often does, occur without comprehension.

Comprehension can, and often does, occur without memorization.

Which is fundamentally more important for the disciple who is highly capable of analysis, evaluation, and creating ministry?


Let me give you an example of spiritually mature followers (Level 14) creating a ministry. It might very well have appeared on an episode of The Profit:  Century 1 AD.

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
Acts 6:1-7 (NIV)

To follow loosely with the analogy of The Profit, there was (is) 

  1. this life-changing product that was being 
  2. distributed by really qualified and committed  people via 
  3. some process

While it is not spelled out, it seems that the process involved the Apostles leading in this effort, but they were trying to do too much. They were doing the ministry of the word* (this was NOT studying for their weekly sermon), praying, AND apparently trying to feed all of the widows – and doing a pretty poor job of it.

So they created what we call deacons. Jesus didn’t teach them about deacons,  that they would need deacons, or what to have these deacons do. But they discovered a need. They understood the values and principles they were to follow (Jesus did teach them those things). So they created a ministry that 

  1. included leadership requirements and tasks
  2. aligned those with the values and principles
  3. vested the necessary resources and authority to accomplish the task
  4. And released seven into ministry who matured more in Christ in the days following than they ever would have if all they did was attend Bible Study and worship services.

*I would be remiss if I did not chase this one little rabbit about the “ministry of the word”. The “ministry of the word” is the ministry they were called to, best encapsulated in the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20).  [See: “Why We’re Not Making Discples] This was not preachers spending time studying the Bible and commentaries to prepare for next week’s message. This was taking the Gospel to the lost; hands-on, in the wild, sharing The Word. And in this passage, we see the result of them not devaluing their call to respond to the tyranny of the urgent (hungry widows): vs 7 says –

  1. The Word of God spread
  2. The number of disciples increased (lost who became saved) 
  3. Among those who were saved were some of the religious who repented

This is the Thing! This is the replicating, Gospel-engaged THING that all of our processes and people should point to.

If the word of God is not spreading in our church field, and the number of disciples (lost being saved) are not increasing, and the religious not repenting, then we have likely made the process the thing, rather than keeping the thing the thing.

What’s going on in the US today demands no lesser activity and engagement from those who would consider themselves to be in the “mature” range.

The M2|P2 Track Diagram

Some years ago, I ran across a diagram that describes the stages of discipleship in a circular fashion (included at the end of this post). It resonated with me for many reasons, some of which will become apparent through the articles in this series. I have come to find out that the original diagram was developed by Dr. Robert Coleman and was published in Discipleshift: Five Steps that Help Your Church to Make Disciples who Make Disciples (Chapter 3, p. 59) by Jim Putnam and Dr.  Coleman.

Future posts will speak to sequence of stages, from the above “track diagram”, but one cannot move through these tracks without having some idea of what the end is, so the effort today is to get that end in mind.

The M2|P2 Track Diagram can be used in a variety of ways. Its inception came by the need to illustrate why we’re really not making disciples. The Coleman Diagram is useful as well, in a variety of ways. It describes in very general terms either what the one being discipled needs to do and/or what those doing the discipling need to do. What it doesn’t do is speak to how and why that “doing/training/developing” should occur. And if we don’t get the “why” and the “how” right, we will reproduce those who know what to do, but not why or how. 

And then, as it goes with all things done by man, entropy will set in. The best defense against entropy is keeping the thing the thing; functioning to fulfill the “why”, and being willing to change the “how” and the “what” so that the thing is always the thing.

The M2|P2 Track Diagram above is blending of concepts. It includes:

  • The 4 quadrants (and 14 stages) from Dr. Coleman’s model. (Some of the layout and labels have been changed to help align the blending of concepts.)
  • Two tracks speak to the Stages of Blooms’ Taxonomy – a standard in Education that helps us identify the best learning capacity and process for people (those being discipled, in this case) at their best cognitive level.
  • One track speaks to leadership development. Simply stated, how much decision-making authority is needed for any particular stage of discipleship.

That was the 1000 words. Now the pictures to help.

This slice below from the diagram is Stage 14: The Ultimate End that is in mind.

What would be different at your church with just a few master trainers? But, before you answer that, please know this is not a reference to only Bible Study Leaders. This is a reference to mature disciples that “master train” others in the ministry that God has given him or her. One might be a Bible Study leader. One could be a Deacon or Elder. One could be an audio/visual technician or a member of the praise team.  (Note: at the end of this post is a partial list of needs/ministries that any church might consider as a path to developing mature disciples).

According to this model, a master trainer does far more than teach someone what to do.

They help them experience the “why”. And the way they guide that experience – the “how” – is designed to facilitate a sense of ownership of ministry. A calling of sorts.

Key Characteristics from the M2|P2 Track Model: Stage 14

To be a Master Trainer, you must:

  • Have at least one mentee – someone that you are replicating your ministry into
  • Be a spiritual grandparent – someone you have led to faith in Christ has led someone else to faith in Christ
  • Lead/Serve with intentionality – You are passionate about what you do. And you do it in alignment with God’s purpose for your life and the church
  • Be able to create – you are not dependent on PDFs, ring binders, quarterlies, or instruction manuals. You know how to analyze what is and what needs to be, and create processes and paths to bring them together.
  • Experience synthesis with God and His word. God’s call and God’s word is seared… immersed… blended… synthesized into the core of your being. It drives your decision making and life’s choices.
  • You are involved in choices and decisions that impact the understanding of, and the implantation of, the purpose of the church.

Now, with this description, what would your church be like with a Deacon Master Trainer, Parking Lot Master Trainer, and Bible Study Leader Master Trainer?

Yes, this is daunting! But there is good news. Unlike what it seems is every other discipleship model, your goal is not to turn everyone into a Stage 14 Master Trainer. In fact, you don’t have to have even one. But, in time, you’ll have one or more.

The goal is to develop disciples that land anywhere in stages 9 through 14. Let’s take a look at Stage 8 to get a glimpse of “why”.

Key Characteristics from the M2|P2 Track Model: Stage 8

  • A Stage 8 disciple is connected to a Purpose for his or her life.
  • Their spiritual development is like the social development of a young adult.
  • Many spiritual decisions may be characterized by self-centeredness and feelings
  • They can apply God’s word to their lives
  • They learn best by practicing application
  • They can be involved in decisions that impact any group in which they are involved.

What this means, is that Stage 8 Disciples, are basically living the Christian life for themselves. We should not look down on this stage. We all lived through, or are now living in, this stage. However, it is critical to understand that much of the material that is being used for “discipleship training” today is designed to speak to the “self-help” generation. It tells them how they can be personally closer to God, loved more by God, be more worshipful to God. And so their purpose is themselves – fixing up “this Christian” to be more pleasing to God.

Stage 8 Disciples are not motivated from their core

  • to serve others
  • to be mentored
  • to share the Gospel
  • to practice sacrificial, generous giving
  • to become a mentor
  • to lead ministry

I don’t have to ask what your church would be like with a room full of Christians like this. Putnam and Coleman refer to them as “converts but not disciples”.

We should never be satisfied with an end that only challenges people to apply God’s word to their lives.

But again, this is a stage that every Master Trainer will go through. The difference is, what end do you have in mind for your discipleship ministry? Are you going to CHOOSE to CREATE those methods and materials that align with your people and plan, in order to make that happen?

Hint: Choose to align your materials and methods with your people and plan!

You may not have plan yet. So, what. CHOOSE that as you CREATE it, it will be in alignment with the people in your circle of influence. CHOOSE to use methods that challenge and motivate those you disciple. (“Challenging” and “Motivating” are not at all the same things as “Inspiring”.)

Your alternative is to keep downloading materials, buying quarterlies, watching DVDs, attending conferences and buying the latest book on how someone else did something that you think might work for you. All of these should be considered in the beginning stages of discipleship development, but in decreasing use. To have 914 Disciples, you must model analysis, evaluation, creating and choice if you are going to replicate yourself.

  • Yes, it will be harder.
  • Some ideas won’t work.
  • Some people will be uncomfortable.
  • Some will argue and disagree.
  • Some may leave your church.
  • But Master Trainers never will – save God calling them elsewhere.

But you’ll be in good company. The above pretty much describes the three years Jesus spent developing His disciples, as well as stepping into the M2|P2 914 strategy.

But what about those PDFs, DVD’s, or ring binders you buy with methods and programs that have worked for others? Unfortunately, “worked” is in the eye of the beholder. Are we saying that their purpose was fulfilled or are we saying that they got some folks to participate? As for the authors of the material, I’m sure it worked for them because they CREATED that which they’ve written about. And the state of the church in America is bearing testimony to the effectiveness of churches trying to break out of cocoons that someone else built (and already broke out of). We should all know and value that strength and wisdom comes from the breaking out so much more than from copying.

If you can’t see past Stage 8/Application, then this is the best you’ll get, with many at Stages 3-7, and very few at Stage 1-2:

And you will rarely experience the life-changing, world-shaking ministry of developing 914 disciples. The more you develop disciples toward this target range, the more you will also drive your engagement with Levels 1-3. Keep in mind that Levels 1-3 is where the world-shaking life-change of scripture happens. It is the most critical. And it will only flourish in your church if you have disciples in the 914 range.

How to Get Started

Do NOT look for a book or resource on how to do this. I’m not saying that you can’t learn from books. But you’ve used books. If you can’t Analyze, Evaluate, and Create by now, then it’s time to exercise THOSE muscles.

Engage your people (spiritual gifts, talents, experience, leadership) in developing the ministry.  Breaking out of your own cocoon is where you gain strength and wisdom. You miss both if you try to implement what someone else has already done. This is why authors of the best strategy books tell you to NOT just do what they’ve done. You gain no strength or wisdom by copying their work.

Seek out mentors to give advice. But develop these ministries conversationally with your members. They may very well feel “better fed” than they have in a long time.

These are all ministry areas that could be led by mature Christians, should the church leadership decide that 

  • there is great value in creating these ministries in alignment with their mission and
  • there is great value in releasing believers into ministry
  • there is great harm to true discipleship by doing things the easy way (yourself) rather that developing others

A Short List – How could you align your Methods and Materials with your People and Plan to create world-shaking, life-changing ministries in these areas?

Basic Training for All – Led by a Volunteer! (Yes, they will need to be trained by someone who can create ministry by replicating themselves.)

  • The Implications of Our Purpose and Values (How Your Ministry/Service Aligns with the Purpose of our Church)
  • The importance of meeting monthly for social/equipping
  • The importance of serving monthly for purpose/hands on training
  • How to Pray for those you serve
  • How to share the Gospel with those you serve
  • How to recruit team members
  • How to train team members
  • Budget Planning
  • Budget Requests
  • Reporting Process
  • Accountability
  • Suggestions
  • Crises in your Ministry/Team
  • Meeting Management
  • Resource Requests

Ideas of Ministries That Could be Created

The people that join ministry “groups” like these will find their fellowship, friendship, and spiritual maturity in the ministry group in which they are engaged. There will be no need to also join a “home group” or Bible study group.

Before you discount this list, check out what this this story about mass wedding for cohabitating couples has in common the the creators of the first deacons:

  • New Member Orientation
  • Benevolence
  • Counseling
  • Deacons
  • Elders
  • Facilitation Skills
  • Conflict Management
  • Evangelism
  • Community Networking
  • Coaching – Community Sports and Church Sports Teams
  • Running a Sports League
  • Recreation
  • Drama
  • Administration
  • Ministry Entrepreneurship: Creating in Alignment
  • Guest Reception
  • Decision Coaches
  • Decision Follow-up
  • Facility Management
  • Prison/Jail Ministry
  • Support Group Ministries
  • Running Ticketed Events: Concerts & Community Events
  • Instrumental Training
  • Praise Team
  • A/V Team Training
  • Missions
  • Church Planting
  • Technology Support and Repair
  • Shut in/Homebound
  • Hospital
  • Parking Lot
  • Hospitality: Coffee/Refreshments
  • Hospitality: Home Groups
  • Home Repair Teams, including
  1. Plumbing
  2. Roofing
  3. Carpet
  4. Minor Electrical
  5. Painting
  6. Fencing
  7. Aerating
  8. Lawn Maintenance
  9. Landscaping

Final Thoughts

Alignment Happens by Plan or by Accident. Any disparate individuals or groups that are in relationship with one another will align with the attribute that has the greatest influence on the engaged parties, whether planned or not – whether order or chaos. For example, if your Bible Studies are driven by material, you can expect your participants to align with that teaching, regardless of whether that teaching helps move your church towards its purpose or not. And if it is “not”, then your church is aligning toward chaos. For example, if the purpose of your church involves sacrificial living, and the Bible studies you offer center on spiritual self-improvement, then you may well be aligning toward chaos.

Dr. Robert Coleman’s Diagram