The process of T4T discipleship
To fully evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of Training for Trainers, it is essential to un-derstand the detailed processes of this approach to launching church planting movements. Chapter 3 focuses on the process of discipleship that results in sustained church planting movements. Chapter 4 focuses on the scope of church planting movement principles (finding God-prepared people, reproducing evangelism, reproducing discipleship, reproducing church planting, and reproducing leaders) that promote a healthy movement.
This chapter will detail how T4T is leading to sustained movements that multiply dis-ciples, churches and leaders. It will detail the process of T4T from beginning to end. Chapters 3 and 4 outline the heart of the T4T process. The process and principles have been the most misunderstood part of T4T sometimes resulting in disillusionment by would-be implementers who simply try to utilize a set of short-term discipleship lessons rather than a process for training trainers. Missionary trainers have to devote great effort to help practitioners under-stand these processes and contextualize them appropriately. Without proper understanding and contextualization, the results are normally dismal.
How the T4T process begins
T4T is a process of discipleship, not a set of lessons or a program. As Training for Trainers has spread around the world, this has been the most misunderstood aspect of T4T (Smith with Kai 2011: 89). The perceptions of many missionaries as T4T was initially taught from 2000 to 2004 was that it was simply an evangelism method and/or a six-lesson disciple-ship program that would somehow result in CPMs. Part of the reason for this misunderstand-ing was undoubtedly the way T4T was 1) understood incorrectly by the initial teachers of it (outside of Ying Kai) and 2) the inadequate training these teachers gave to the missionaries and church planters with whom they shared it. The results of this “inoculation” against T4T still remain in many parts of this mission community (Europe 2014).
One missionary in East Asia viewed T4T in those very terms: a simple evangelism presentation followed by a six-lesson discipleship course. He and his team were seeing few results. When he finally understood the reproducible processes of T4T along with its long-term mentoring, and implemented it, it transformed his ministry. His ministry would probably be classified as a church planting movement now and is included in the top twenty surveys and case studies for this thesis (Nugent 2008).
In an effort to combat this poor understanding, I partnered with Ying Kai to write a book describing the process of T4T (T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution by Steve Smith with Ying Kai. WIGTake Resources. 2011). Much of this thesis draws upon the research that came from writing that book. This paper describes the process of T4T along with its strengths and weaknesses in a more in-depth manner along with incorporating additional research.
T4T is an on-going disciple-making process that develops over the course of twelve to eighteen months, or longer. It cascades out new disciples and churches generation by genera-tion, and the challenges faced at each new stage are included in the T4T process. While the T4T process includes good biblical content (as do many evangelism and discipleship pro-grams), the heart of the process is wrapped up in a dynamic, life-on-life, loving process of helping every generation of believers follow Jesus and fish for men (Mark 1:17).
An all-in-one approach
Part of the misconception about T4T probably developed over time as those close to Ying Kai’s movement learned about what he was doing. When they asked him about the phenome-nal growth in his province, a few things began to emerge.
One of the first things to emerge was that he had six basic lessons for discipleship (Kai 2002). In the beginning, some people tried to implement T4T by teaching six lessons and failed to see much fruit (T4T Survey 37).
As more time went by they learned that Ying Kai encourages every new believer to witness five times a week. So now, to many people, T4T was an evangelism method in addi-tion to discipleship: e.g. “witness to five people a week and pass on the six lessons.” This achieved varying degrees of results by early adopters of T4T.
As more time went by, it became apparent that Ying Kai also had frequent training re-treats for emerging group leaders. Some people tried to incorporate the leadership training events with varying levels of success (Gregory 2007).
Then it became apparent that Ying Kai had a long-term discipleship aspect to training, using inductive studies in Mark after he finished the basic discipleship lessons. So many T4T adopters began to do Mark studies.
In reality, T4T is an all-in-one process that God uses to move a person from lostness to maturing disciple who can start a new group (or church) and train them to do the same (Smith with Kai 2011: 91-92).
Prior to 2003, many CPM practitioners tried to accomplish these basic essentials of a CPM plan through an assortment of means (Garrison 2004). They had a method for evange-lism, a different method for discipleship, a different one for planting churches, a different one for leadership development: all key components of a CPM. They often tried to piece them together, but new believers did not naturally progress from one stage to the next. It took much coaching to move the CPM from one stage to the next.
What T4T has done for many CPM practitioners is to tie together the disparate basic parts of a CPM plan, and enable believers to naturally progress from one stage to the next as they are trained: finding God-prepared people, evangelism, discipleship, church planting,
leadership development — repeating the process generation by generation. When the re-sults consistently produce at least four new generations of disciples and churches in several separate streams of relationships in a short period of time, then a sustained church-planting movement has emerged (Smith with Kai 2011: 91-92).
T4T is a process of how to disciple and train believers who are willing to obey and pass on biblical truths at each stage. The content of lessons that are needed in each context will vary depending on many factors. While it is central to life transformation, the content is the most adaptable part of T4T. In fact, the most fruitful CPMs from the surveys and case studies used for this dissertation demonstrated the ability to adapt the content for each appro-priate worldview. Those that failed to do this showed fewer results (Smith SR 2011c).
the!world!and!enabled!4,000!new!churches!to!be!planted!in!an!African!country!in!a!twoRyear! period!by!ordinary!believers!experiencing!God!working!with!them.!(Raymond!Belfield,!ExecuR tive!Missions!Overseer,!Victory!Family!Centre!in!Singapore,!quoted!in!Smith!with!Kai!2011:!1)!
The discipleship process of training every new believer to both obey what he learns and also to pass it on by training other newer believers is the heart of training for trainers. It is for this reason that it has been called a discipleship re-revolution that can lead to church-planting movements.
One goal: build multiplying generations of trainers
The T4T system strives for a clear goal of helping believers be true disciples. Its un-derstanding is that disciples both are followers of Jesus and fishers of men (Mark 1:17), that is, disciples who love God with all their being and love others as much as themselves (includ-ing fulfilling the Great Commission). To differentiate that concept from a self-focused disci-pleship pattern (receiving only) or simple church membership, Ying Kai began to use the term “trainer” as an alternate term to “disciple” to convey the concept that every disciple both is discipled and makes disciples. He used the term trainer to shock his trainees to realize that their discipleship must be outward, not just inward (Kai 2010).
In this thesis, any adaptation of this basic process is called Training for Trainers (T4T). Ying Kai and many other T4T practitioners specifically use the word “trainer” instead of “disciple” because there are so many preconceptions and misunderstandings associated with the English word “disciple” that hinder our understanding of the biblical mandate.
The New Testament Greek word for disciple is mathetes (µαθητης). It simply means a “learner” or servant of a master. But Jesus links the term to those who live out His teach-ings
The hope in T4T is that the word “trainer” will give more of that original idea than the word “disciple” does at times: to convey the idea of someone who both grows in his loving obedience of Jesus and also passes on what he learns to others through his witness and train-ing of others.
As Ying Kai describes it, this is the difference between “teaching” and “training.” Teaching conveys the idea of transferring knowledge, but training conveys the idea of chang-ing behavior and equipping listeners to repeat the process (Kai 2010):
The essence of T4T movements, then, is that every new generation of believers is trained (not simply taught) to obey, witness to others and then train them in the same type of discipleship process. The effect is that new generations of disciples, groups and churches emerge every few weeks or months. In the training system, all new trainers continue to be trained by their trainers but also (hopefully) simultaneously train others. In other words, many believers are simultaneously being discipled and also discipling others. In T4T par-lance, moving those discipled from head knowledge to action is represented by a shift in T4T practitioners’ vocabulary primarily from “teaching” to “training” as the word most commonly used.
T4T is guided by a goal of “what will it take” to see all people have a chance to hear the gospel. That goal is to build a movement of confident and competent trainers who can pass on the DNA from generation to generation.
The 2 Timothy 2:2 process
In T4T a precedent and principle for this style of multiple generations of disciples can be found in 2 Timothy 2:2. T4T sees this passage, as well as the Matthew 28:18-20 Great Commission, as encouraging multi-generational growth of trainers (Smith with Kai 2011:
94). In this one verse are four generations of believers: Paul (the author), Timothy (the recipi-ent), “reliable men,” and “others” (Garrison, Mims and Carlton 2008: 11). The Great Com-mission itself commands disciples to teach others to obey all that Jesus commanded (which includes the Great Commission). Every generation is to be a training generation.
The T4T process is the expectation that every person trained will in turn witness to others and train any new believers in all he has been trained in, who will in turn witness to others and train their new believers in what they have been trained in, etc. To begin that pro-cess, trainees are taught to witness regularly, mainly to their oikos (Greek word for “house-hold” including one’s circle of influence) (Wolf 1979: 11-12). In T4T training, an oikos is composed of family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. After people believe, trainees then begin to form training groups (whether just two people or 20 people) in which they pass on to the new trainees what they themselves have learned. They train this next generation to be-come trainers by witnessing regularly to their own oikos and forming other training groups in which they pass on what they have learned in order to help the next generation become train-ers.
Therefore a critical goal in T4T is equipping believers to become trainers who train trainers who train trainers (Fudge 2004). Many trainers are a part of multiple groups: the one in which they continue to be trained and the one(s) they train themselves.
The model described in the following pages in this chapter can be termed “T4T Clas-sic” as Ying Kai originally developed it. Over time, T4T has been adapted in many different ways but still with the same functions described here. Chapter 4 will explain how others have taken the T4T process and adapted the content for their own contexts.
Starting the process of mobilizing believers to fulfill the 2 Timothy 2:2 and Great Commission vision – Session One: WHY-WHOM-HOW
T4T training is always about training believers to witness, make disciples and start new groups and/or churches. Critical in that process is mobilizing Christians to start down that path and train consistently. Finding and motivating believers to agree to be trained hap-pens in two ways (Smith with Kai 2011: 94-95):
• Sometimes it starts when the trainer (e.g. missionary) wins one person or a group of people to faith. At that point, three things are very important for them to know – why, whom, how. The trainer does that in “Session One.” With a new believer(s), this ses-sion is done informally within minutes or hours of his salvation.
• Sometimes it starts when the trainer (e.g. missionary) finds existing believers (e.g. church members) and casts vision to them. They agree to be trained. In that first ses-sion, they also need to know three things – why, whom, how.
The trainer can start with new believers or older Christians, but the way he (or she) begins the T4T process is essentially the same. In the first session of T4T, whether with new believers or existing believers, the trainer has to deal with three reasons Christians fail to wit-ness just like Ying Kai did with his first group of farmers as explained in his narrative in Chapter 2.
Part of the genius of T4T has been its ability globally to address these three reasons and to motivate previously non-witnessing and non-discipling believers to begin to evangeliz-ing and discipling others. T4T in it various adaptations is bearing fruit in large part to the greatly increased volume of personal evangelism. The 2002-2005 CPM assessment team that examined Ying Kai’s church planting movement in depth discovered a number of key ele-ments contributing to its success. Two they highlighted were:
With every group of believers, there are three common reasons why they do not wit-ness. These questions must be answered for the T4T process to begin effectively.
WHY? Cast vision
Especially with existing Christians, there can be a motivation problem: “Why should I begin witnessing, or become bolder?” To overcome this, the trainer has to cast vision of the life God has created for them – to be followers of Jesus and fishers of men. As an example of this, recall the vision-casting vignette called the “Great Commission” that Ying Kai shared in Chapter 2 (Smith with Kai 2011: 41ff):
• The Great Commission teaches all believers three things:
o Go, not come
o Share with everybody, not just some
o Make trainers, not simply church members
Session One begins by giving them a vision for their circle of influence and beyond: “What has God saved you for? Do you realize that He not only wants to reach you, but also to reach your whole household through you?” In fact, Ying Kai often taught in T4T that most Christians miss several significant levels of joy because they have never become a parent (led people to faith), trained those children and then become a grandparent (because their children have started another generation). Ying Kai’s appeal to true joy and fulfillment as believers has helped many Christian overcome their fear or reluctance to evangelize (Kai 2002: 7).
In Session One, the trainer in T4T casts vision for why the disciples should walk down this path of making disciples.
WHOM? Name list
As God convicts an individual or group of the need to evangelize, and they agree to move forward, the next step in T4T is to show them one way to obey. The next reluctance that T4T overcomes in Session One is that many Christians do not know with whom to share the gospel. T4T addresses this by having new trainers make a name list. The trainer explains to them the idea of oikos – their circle of relationships including their family, friends, neigh-bors and co-workers. The trainer has the participants take out a sheet of paper and pray: “God, bring to my mind people in my oikos who do not know Jesus.” They then write down all the names of non-Christians in their oikos. Since this can be a difficult process, the trainer often takes time to look at their name lists and find ways to encourage and help them with it. Sometimes, the trainer may have to prompt them to think about people they meet regularly in various circles – work, class, market, neighborhood, club, organization, family, etc. Some-times they do not know a name, but write down a description: “the lady who sells me bread” (Smith with Kai 2011: 97-98).
In the name list process, the trainer seeks to create a spiritual climate in which the new trainers can hear from the Holy Spirit. For example, once the group members have made their lists, the trainer often has them pray again. They call out to God asking Him whom they should share their story (testimony) with first. As they finish praying, the trainer encourages them to circle five names of these people God put on their hearts. During this time, God con-victs the trainees whom to share with first in their endeavor to bring the gospel to everyone.
Finally, the group takes time to pray for two things: 1) that God will open up the hearts of these people in the coming days as they go to witness to them and 2) that God will grant boldness for the new trainers to open their mouths to bear witness.
HOW? A simple bridge into spiritual conversations plus a simple, contextually-appropriate gospel presentation
Session One enables the trainer to equip the new trainers to overcome a third reason that Christians do not witness: they do not know how to start and share the complete gospel including a clear call to commitment to Christ. Once the group has received the vision and made a name list, the trainer teaches them how to actually share the gospel. The trainee must learn two things in this area: 1) a bridge into spiritual conversations and 2) a gospel presenta-tion that includes a call to commitment.
In T4T, a bridge is simply a way to transition an everyday conversation to spiritual matters, particularly the gospel. Many Christians do not start a gospel presentation because they have no easy way to start. Many believers have found that if they can just get started, going through the gospel itself is not that difficult.
A short one to three-minute testimony is the most common bridge used in T4T. The testimony does not include the gospel (though some T4T practitioners in the USA are now adapting T4T testimonies to include a short gospel presentation with success) (Sundell 2012-2013). The trainees will share that afterward. The testimony needs to be just a short bridge to the gospel.
In normal T4T situations, to teach the sharing of a testimony, the trainer uses the pro-gression of 1) my life before Christ, 2) how I came to Christ, and 3) my life since coming to Christ, based on the Pauline testimony in Acts 26 before King Agrippa. In addition, non-salvation testimonies are sometimes used: i.e. 1) a problem, 2) how God changed the prob-lem, and 3) victory since then (e.g. freedom from alcoholism, overcoming a bad temper, find-ing a way to forgive someone, etc.).
To make the testimony bridge learnable and simple enough to train other new believ-ers, the trainer has the trainees take out a sheet of paper, or a half sheet of paper to keep it short, and write down their testimony. They then simultaneously read it out loud several times. This helps them say their testimony in a more natural way as well as memorize it.
The group is then divided into pairs to practice telling their story to each other. The trainer encourages them to help each other with words that use religious jargon or with things that would not make sense to a non-Christian. The trainees give each other feedback on how moving (interesting) the testimony is and suggestions for sharing it better. In all of this learn-ing process, the trainer is trouble-shooting and assisting the trainees toward effective learn-ing.
The trainer’s goal is to enable the trainees to be both 1) confident and 2) competent to share their testimony and train other new believers in the same process. The trainer has them practice until these two goals are achieved (Smith with Kai 2011: 99-100).
In T4T, however, trainers are taught the testimony is only a bridge to move the hearts of listeners to listen to spiritual matters. It alone is not the gospel, nor does it have the power to save. Therefore, every trainer must take the next natural step, which is to share the gospel message (Kai 2010; Smith SR 2010b).