Some people hold the idealized but naive idea that, in a movement, each person makes a convert of _x_ number of people (i.e. 3, or 10, or 12) – and that each of those people then do the same with the same number of people: that is, 3 disciple 3, who disciple 3, who disciple 3. (This hearkens back to old ideas about “if only…”).

But if that were to happen, not just millions of people but multiple hundreds of millions, even billions, would be reached within a fairly short time. Globally, there are over 100 million people in movements, but in most locations, the number is often a fairly small percentage (if growing rapidly).

It’s not that, in movements, every person disciples _x_ who disciple _x.

It’s just that, in movements, there are more disciplemakers than in the traditional church.

In most churches, it’s the pastor and some number of staff who do the disciplemaking. In movements, there are far more lay disciplemakers.

Some churches verge on this when they have small groups, but small groups are often a very small percentage of the overall church, and are really only turned to as a “feature” when a church gets to a certain size. Movements, on the other hand, do not wait to get to a certain size to build in small groups, discovery groups, or house churches. Movements begin with small groups. (Movements began this way because they are usually in situations where formal buildings are impossible–house churches are the only possibility–but movements rapidly discovered this was a feature-not-a-bug).

Because movements feature a higher % of their people being disciplemakers than churches do, they naturally have more outreach opportunities, more discipleship opportunities, etc. And so they grow faster.

Most movements tell me a small % of their people actually make disciples. It’s definitely not 100%. It’s often below 10%. But this number is high enough to tip the scales into rapid growth.

Churches could take a step in this direction by helping their people, to some extent, not just be people who “invite their neighbors to church to hear the gospel message” but find some initial tangible way to “share the gospel message, themselves, with their neighbors.” (I’d prefer churches go full-bore into making their members into disciplemakers, but sometimes small, incremental steps are best.)

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Roundup 305

New Events

North Africa + West Asia = Middle East (570m)

IOM: 9 million migrants, refugees from 130 countries live in Egypt. Middle East Monitor

Drought tightens its grip on Morocco: “authorities have now introduced water rationing.” Al-Monitor

A quarter of Sudan’s population faces acute food insecurity. Dabanga

East Africa (520m)

UN agencies appeal for money to feed 750,000 refugees. AllAfrica
… 22 camps and 5 sites in Afar, Amhara, Benishangul-G, Gambella, Somali, Tigray.

Nowhere to run: the plight of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia. some 100,000 lived in camps in Tigray, but since 2020 have found themselves caught in the middle of conflict between various groups. AllAfrica

Sahel and Somalia drive rise in Africa’s militant Islamist group violence: up 300% in the past decade. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

West + Middle Africa (600m)

Stories of survival and self-sacrifice from Mali’s local jihadist dialogues. New Humanitarian

Over 20,000 displaced people have been moved out of camps in NE Nigeria; many have ended up in secondary settlements. HumAngle

Three conflicts push Sahel into worst food crisis in a decade: “Islamist militancy and banditry driving the crisis… 38 million considered food insecure…” Bloomberg

Sierra Leone rocked by deadly violence [27 killed] at cost of living protests: “people are shocked. It’s not the country we know.” Guardian

South + Central Asia (2b)

One year on, few options for Afghans escaping hunger & Taliban persecution: 100s of thousands attempting to escape are largely met with closed borders, hard attitudes, and deportation. New Humanitarian

AFP Video: young Taliban members used to spend nights planting bombs. One year after the return to power, 23-year-old Gul Agha Jalali is now studying English and enrolled in a computer science course in Kabul. Examples like these remind us that not all individuals within a group should be painted with the group brush. @AFP

India: “Police on Sunday detained dozens of people in Indian-controlled Kashmir as they dispersed Shiite Muslims who attempted to participate in processions marking the Muslim month of Muharram.” AP

The rise and rise of anti-Muslim hate music in India [distributed via Youtube]. BBC

Why coastal Karnataka is southern India’s “Hindutva laboratory.” Al Jazeera

The number of foreign companies active in India is declining. Quartz

Long read explainer: How Sri Lanka went from topping Lonely Planet’s list to almost 30% hunger levels. New Humanitarian

A cycle of perpetual violence for the women of Uzbekistan: “Domestic violence has traditionally been viewed as a ‘family matter,’ but the power dynamics are starting to change.” Well, maybe. But a good look at how this sort of cycle endures. Diplomat

Eastern Asia (1.6b)

Lots of recent ink over China and Taiwan:
… “Is China preparing to invade Taiwan?” Al Jazeera
… What we learned from Beijing’s drills around the island. BBC
… New White Paper lays out vision for post-reunification Taiwan. Diplomat
… Can China take Taiwan? No one really knows (PDF, 30pg). Brookings
… Foreign firms are drawing up exit plans for staff, reassessing vulnerabilities. SCMP
… Some US generals think Xi could attempt an invasion in 2030s or earlier. Economist
… Taiwanese shrug off China drills: “Everyone becomes numb to it.” Axios
… my own read: I don’t think an invasion is imminent.

“All the ways to celebrate Hungry Ghost Festival.” The World of Chinese

113,000 residents leave Hong Kong in the last year = 1.6% population drop. SCMP

The remarkable story of China’s ‘Bible Women.’ CT, h/t ChinaSource

The major questions about China’s foreign NGO law are now settled. They offer some firm guidelines, but left much up to the discretion of local authorities–a feature, not a bug. ChinaFile, h/t ChinaSource

China to overtake the EU as Africa’s biggest trading partner by 2030. Africa Report

In ‘Zero-Covid’ China, the elderly are marginalized: to enter certain venues (like restaurants) requires scanning a QR code on a smartphone, and many elderly don’t have one. Sixth Tone

South Korea’s demographic trends continue to decline: fertility rates down to 0.8 in 2021. Diplomat

Southeast Asia (700m)

Myanmar’s junta rolls out Chinese camera surveillance systems in more cities. Reuters


Haiti: “It’s like a warzone”–an estimated 60% of Port-au-Prince is now considered “lawless,” human rights groups say. BBC

Chinese student visas to the U.S. tumble more than 50% from prepandemic levels. WSJ

Rising number of Somali immigrants face homelessness in Seattle. Hiiraan Online

Growing numbers in non-denominational churches in America are not transfers from mainline churches; they are more demographic growth: children being raised in the church. CT.

And, related, CT looks at how declining US birth rates are impacting Christian communities–“most religious communities will shrink by half within three generations, but non-denominational churches might buck the trend.” Demographics are important. CT

The children of war: the trauma hangs over a generation of children. NYT $

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The fruit of the cost

On the other hand, here’s something I frequently observe in movements. This is from one older movement profile I have on hand:

“Initial persecution was lighter. One high profile imam came to faith, and was the first open baptism. Then, in [a 4 year period], fundamentalists began to attack, destroying property and threatening. This finally dropped off because of the number of converts and high profile people. Key persecutors converted. Many Sauls became Pauls. Transforming society–family issues changed–declining dysfunction–lots of community work.”

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In the past week, I have encountered two different movements who have articulated nearly 100 martyrs in the past year to two years.

This year, I have heard from numerous movements about the martyrs they have endured, even if not perhaps at those levels.

Any rapid expansion of the Gospel will encounter resistance. We must all count the cost.

Sometimes, when the numbers of martyrs are not readily visible–as is the case with many of these “below the radar” movements–we forget that this price is being regularly paid.

Let us continue to pray for the widows and orphans of the martyrs, as well as for those who now bear scars and disabilities for the sake of their witness.

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Against His Will

I have frequently found myself saying or praying “Marantha”–come, Lord Jesus!–especially when I read or hear some sort of event that seems really horrific.

Yet I have been struck by the thought that, in a sense, this prayer is actually against his currently revealed will.

This is not to say it’s a bad or sinful prayer to pray. It’s just that it doesn’t seem to be his will to return right now.

We don’t know when it’s going to be fulfilled. We don’t want to put God in a box. On the one hand, the indicators seem to be that he’s not coming back now. It’s been 2,000 years and he hasn’t come back yet. If Matthew 24:14 is any kind of indicator at all, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be fulfilled any time soon. And yet we long for his return and pray for it regularly.

I’m reminded of the two “sides” in 2 Peter 3. In verse 9, we are reminded that God is “not slow to keep his promise… He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” In verse 12, we are told to “look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.”

I do wonder what Peter meant by that. God already knows the hour when Jesus will return (Matthew 24:36). If that is a fixed point in time, then how can we “speed its coming”? Living in the tension of 2 Peter 3–knowing that God is lingering, yet some how working to speed his return, even knowing that he has already set the date–requires living in the. midst of mystery.

Perhaps the best thing is to live in Philippians 4 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

So, I continue to pray, “Marantha.” I am making my request – “come, Lord Jesus!” known to him. And I am trusting that his timing is good, and seeking his peace.

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It’s not always insane: more is different

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” —usually attributed to Einstein

“Naïveté is doing the same thing over and over, and always expecting the same result.” —Frank Wilczek, Scientific American, 2015

“More is different.” –P.W. Anderson, Science, 1972.

I’ve heard Einstein’s insanity quote quite often. I’ve heard Wilczek’s less. Both of these—while pithy—only apply in certain instances.

If a door is marked “push,” it really doesn’t matter how many times you “pull” it–and it would be ‘insane’ to expect that it will open. On the other hand, if you work in a coffee shop and the first five people of the day order plain coffees, it would be ‘naive’ to expect the next five also must.

When we look at a statistical analysis of gospel presentations, we might say the vast majority of a particular kind of Gospel presentation—for example, a tract—achieve no result in a particular context. This doesn’t mean they are entirely without result.

For example, hypothetically, let’s say a million Bibles are placed in hotel rooms, and 99.9% of them yield no result. That still leaves 0.1%, and 0.1% of a million is 1,000 souls. For most strategies, the issue isn’t a lack of desired results, but rather the cost-effectiveness (money, time, and so forth) and the question of whether some other strategy is more cost-effective or not.

The third quote taps the additional nuance: you can repeat the same thing over and over and get the same result (“insanity”)–but if you do the same thing in greater quantities, you can get a different result. With things that involve people, ‘more’ can eventually reach a tipping point that causes a cascade (“go slow to go fast”). Suddenly, everyone is buying the latest fad toy or joining on the latest social network. The ‘virality’ has exploded seemingly out of nowhere (but really, just doubling unseen in the background). My general rule of thumb: more is different at 10^x (or, simply, “add another zero”).


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Center of Christianity

Never make the mistake of thinking “Western” Christianity is the “center” of Christianity.

There are more Christians in Africa (680m) than there are people in the United States.

There are probably more Christians in Asia (354m) than there are people in the United States.

This article on the shift of the center of Anglicanism from the global North to the global South is just one example. Most of the Anglicans in the global south have little interest in the things that occupy the attention of the global north.

It’s worth thinking about whether the “majority of Christians”–e.g. believers in Africa and Asia–think about, worry about, or do about the issues that “we” focus on and write about.

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Failing forward

I have read dozens of books on strategy, experimentation, and the role of failure in teaching us. I have tried a lot of what I’ve read. What it boils down to is this:

  1. You have to have a broad sense of the direction you are going in. Various books call this various things – intent, vision, whatever. The end-goal may or may not be crystal clear – in most cases its quite fuzzy. But you have to have some sense of this to orient yourself.
  2. You have to have some action. You have to get in the car and drive in the direction you want to go. Sitting still until the path is crystal clear is often a recipe for getting nothing done at all. We all want the Google Map into the future but usually don’t have it. We have to do things the old ‘Go west, young man’ pioneering way.
  3. You need to have a frequent way of testing experiments. What doesn’t work should be stopped and changed. This is analogous to making frequent compass sightings when you are orienting yourself across a path. You take a sighting, walk toward a landmark, and take another sighting. Likewise, in work, you make an experiment, learn from it, and either iterate or try something different.

None of this is rocket science. The thing I’ve found most helpful is increasing the frequency of experiments. If you can run a daily experiment, you are 365 chances to get somewhere in a year–vs a weekly (52 chances) or monthly (12 chances). But, in order for an experiment to teach you anything, you must:

(1) make failure survivable
(2) define the experiment such that you know if it’s a ‘win’ or a ‘fail’ (or, in my own work, a ‘knock it out of the park’)
(3) define the experiment in such a way that you know what you are trying to learn from it.

Another thing I’ve found helpful: have a list of rules or heuristics you use when making initial experimental decisions. I’ve been collecting a personal list of 100 things to remember when thinking. Here’s an example of “useful decision razors” published by someone else.

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Serving Movements

A new DMM Dashboard will soon be up at

A short comment: the DMM Dashboard took life as something given to movements. The purpose of the dashboard is not to provide statistics or proof to the wider Body of Christ about movements, and so it is missing much of the methodological description that would be appropriate to such a document.

My goal is not to authenticate, prove, etc., movements to people who aren’t involved in movements. My purpose is to serve movements, to help them see the trends in the data that they are reporting, and most importantly to provide gap lists of places and languages that are not yet served by movement teams. (These gap lists are not available in public or on the Internet–for security reasons, I share them only with movement practitioners who are sending teams & who are sharing data with me.)

The Dashboard is, therefore, a limited snippet of a conversation had with a very small number of people. The few articles I have written are very compressed articulations of larger presentations I have given for that very small number, and often limited by space constraints in the publications they are in.

I think you deliver the best value when you know your audience and are laser-focused on serving them, and do your level best not to get distracted by other things.

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Roundup 304

New Events

North Africa + West Asia = Middle East (570m)

Why Gulf migrants are turning to evangelical Christianity: Pentecostalism is quietly thriving, with pastors saying churches are helping low-paid workers in crisis. “In some Gulf states, migrants make up the majority of the population.” Guardian

Divorce rates in the Arab world are increasing: 48% of marriages in Kuwait, 40% Egypt, 37% Jordan, 37% Qatar. Jerusalem Post

After 5 years of terror, a town in Libya finds justice frustratingly elusive: “Tarhuna is still searching for bodies.” NYT $

Iraq protests
Iraq’s worst crisis in years is escalating. CNN
Rival Shia blocks take to the streets, raising fears of more unrest. Guardian
What’s behind the storming of Iraq’s parliament? RNS
… for nearly 10 months, Iraq has been unable to form a new government
… the lingering impasse has immobilized the already fragile state

Iran: Lake Urmia, once the largest saltwater lake in the Middle East, has lost 95% of its volume and is on the verge of drying up completely. Middle East Eye

8 of Iraq’s 18 provincial governments suspend work due to extreme heat, reaching 50C (122 F). MEM

Yemen’s warring parties renew truce for two months. Al-Monitor

East Africa (520m)

Ethiopia: Attacks on health centers in Afar have left only 22% functional. @VOA

Kenya is known for stability, but drought and rising prices are fueling insecurity. CNN

Somalia: thirst, hunger driving people to perilous journeys on foot to safety. Reliefweb
More than 90% of Somalia in drought conditions, over 900k displaced. UN

West + Middle Africa (600m)

Mali and Burkina Faso: did the coups halt jihadist attacks? [No.] BBC

South + Central Asia (2b)

Taliban killings of former members of the Afghan military and rights groups have spiked in recent months, as they crack down on perceived regime opponents. FP

Long read: Inside Afghanistan’s secret schools for girls. Vice

Bangladesh: Rising polygamy the cost of being a woman in Rohingya camps. Straits Times

Hunting for water in flood-prone Bangladesh’s drought-ridden hills: for 1.6 million in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, warming climate means half lack regular access to water during the summer. 3rd order effects: girls spend more time collecting water, less in school; fewer crops, less income; higher expenses as bottled water must be bought. New Humanitarian

India faces wider coal shortages, worsening power outage risks. Reuters

India’s wait for water: in 2019, Modi launched a program to bring tap water to every Indian home by 2024. Millions have benefited, but millions are still waiting to get their connection. Not only does it address the issue, it also gives glimpses of what life is like in three different provinces of India. BBC Video

In Sri Lanka, the military still runs the show. Foreign Policy

Eastern Asia (1.6b)

China is pushing for a baby boom. It’s getting a baby bust. “Over the past year, the government has launched an unprecedented drive to push couples to have more kids… so far, the measures appear to be having almost no effect. Birth and marriage rates have plunged to record lows, threatening to trigger a demographic crisis… the population may begin shrinkingj as early as this year.” Sixth Tone

“Is the door slowly opening?” A short blog post from Joann P that identifies a couple data points. China Source

“For America’s next generation of China experts, the challenges go beyond language and country access” argues that the ability to enter China is very limited, and will impact peoples’ ability to understand China: “It has become a challenge to understand China without the prism of face-to-face interactions.” SCMP

China’s city dwellers endure ‘extreme commutes’: over 14 million city dwellers had to endure an extreme commute of 60 minutes each way. (How can the church be put into an urban commute?) Sixth Tone

Rising temperatures in Qinghai have led to the melting of 6,000 of Tibet’s 48,571 glaciers, leading to an increase in lake size and floods. Sixth Tone Video

In Japan, ties between politics and religion run deep: especially with the Unification Church. Japan Times

South Korea recorded its first-ever decline in population in 2021. Korea Herald
… fewer births, an aging society, and falling numbers of foreigners due to Covid.

Southeast Asia (700m)

Southeast Asia’s sinking megacities: Bangkok, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City battle an existential threat: fighting the encroaching sea while struggling to provide sufficient clean water to their populations. Diplomat

Malaysia’s population growth to slow this year: foreigners, accounting for over 7% of the population, are estimated to drop to 2.4 million this year. Straits Times

Myanmar’s junta extends the state of emergency by six months. Diplomat
Burmese general warns that criticism of Buddhism will be punished by law. ICC

Thailand tourist arrivals reach 1 million in a month for first time in 2 years. Straits Times


Somali refugees are leaving Arizona in large numbers: “heading for Minnesota where she, like virtually all Somalis, has family.” Link

As Europe grapples with a scorching summer & skyrocketing energy prices, Spain becomes the latest government to ban setting air-conditioning below 27 C (80 F). The Verge

Russia’s population decline hits record rate. Moscow Times
… population declining for decades, but the rate of decline almost doubled since 2021.

Ukraine wants to extend shipping safe passage deal beyond grain. Reuters

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