You are a ministry leader trying to cultivate multiplying movements of disciples. It can be lengthy process and it is easy to become discouraged when people don’t respond in the timeline you gave yourself. Especially as the stats continue to point toward the decline of church in North America. Are you starting to think discipling movements are impossible in the US today? 

Encourage One Another

encourage one another

In the past, the American church carried an attitude of sharing the news of what God has done here to the corners of the world. Today, we can look to what God has done and is doing around the world to remember what God is capable of doing, even here, even today. 

When Ralph Plumb and I were writing An Undivided Heart: Living and Loving Like Jesus, our goal was to encourage those who are feeling a disconnection between faith and their daily lives yet desire to live out their faith more intentionally. We reached out to friends and colleagues for stories that would put God’s love for people on display and build hope.

May the raw realities, perseverance, and impact of the ministry in this story encourage you as your persevere in your discipling movements.

Discipling Movements in Brazil

Reverend Chad Farrand, Director of Church Multiplication for the Reformed Church in America told us about Miami-based churches involved in partnering with ministries further south. We heard about the International Presbyterian Church of Manaus or IPM, located on the Amazon River in Brazil. Using just three riverboats, they are reaching tens of thousands of people every year with medical supplies and free care, along with copies of the scripture in local languages. A group of pastors in Caracas, Venezuela feeds 2,000 children every day, seven days a week, in an area where it is almost impossible for kids to get enough food. 

Relief is an important stage of compassionate action, yet in the early stages it is a simple and temporary fix. It’s like duct tape holding up a car bumper: it will work, but just for now. The deeper issue still needs to be addressed. Giving out water bottles to people in an area without access to clean water is, of course, a good thing to do. But no one has the resources to do that every single day for their entire lives. At some point, we need to continue sustainable options like building a well, and the IPM in looking to move in that direction. 

Yet at the same time they are engaging in relief efforts, they are also making disciples—as one leads seamlessly into the other providing opportunities for both. They focus on highly invested one-on-one relationships that are designed to multiply when each one who is invested in turns around to invest in others. The IPM has created a calendar for the seasonal progression of their discipleship process that follows the farmers’ calendar for their yearly harvest. This is a paradigm that makes sense for all who live there. Discipleship follows the same phases of cultivation, growth, and fruit, and the harvest does. 

And like farming, the work doesn’t end after a couple of seasons. There isn’t a stopping point, and it isn’t linear—it’s cyclical. The successes and breakthroughs—the “harvests” in other words—are always followed by a period of more cultivation, planting, and tending. It can sometimes feel fruitless to go back to seasons of “tilling the earth” as if we are at the beginning, dealing with unforeseen problems, rocky landscapes, and unpredictable weather. But it is all part of the process, and we are called to continue that process. Sustained efforts over the long haul are what yields fruit. Planting when you’re ready to eat doesn’t. 


Guides for Discipling*– One of the reasons the ministry in Brazil is so successful is that it comes alongside people to meet them where they are at. This kind of real-time ministry is extremely effective. It is possible to create systems for nonlinear discipleship. The Guide for Discipling is written in a “choose-your-own-adventure” format, assuring that the basics are covered and then offering avenues of discipleship to explore according to circumstances, interest, and the direction of the Holy Spirit. Questions are open-ended to prompt spiritual growth in new and seasoned believer alike. This curriculum has been adapted to speak the language and traditions of the Lutheran, Episcopalian, and Vineyard churches and is available in print through Amazon or as a PDF download for licensed use.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦 on Unsplash

*Amazon affiliate link