Movement Building from the Life of Christ

Five years ago, when Imran Richards became the Caribbean director for The Sports Movement, they were ministering in nine countries or territories across the region. Today, they have nationals leading ministries in twenty nine of the thirty countries or territories throughout the Caribbean region. How did this growth take place? Imran was very intentional in developing disciples who would multiply and make more disciples. He followed a simple strategy. In fact, it’s the strategy of Jesus.

Jesus’ life was about creating a movement of multiplication.

By His death, He paid the perfect sacrifice for our sins. But in His life, He made disciples who could make disciples, birthing a movement that caused us to be here today. In John 17:4, Jesus said, “I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” What was that work? It was a life of perfect obedience, a life of investing in a few who could invest in others. Seventeen times you find Jesus with the masses, but forty-six times you see Jesus with His few disciples. (Disciple-making- Training Leaders to Make Disciples, Billy Graham Institute of Evangelism, 1994, pp. 18-19) His heart’s passion was that you and I, plus millions of others, would enter His kingdom. His strategy was that of making disciples who could make disciples.

In the Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman writes, “The Master disclosed God’s strategy for world conquest. That is why it is so important to observe the way Jesus maneuvered to achieve His objective. He had confidence in the future precisely because He lived according to that plan in the present. There was nothing haphazard about His life- no wasted energy, nor an idle word. He was on business for God. He lived, He died, and He rose again according to schedule. Like a general plotting his course of battle, the Son of God calculated to win. He could not afford to take a chance. Weighing every alternative and variable factor in human experience, He conceived a strategy that would not fail.”

If I gave you the choice between these two options, which one would you choose?

  1. For the next thirty years, you are able to lead one million people to faith in Christ every year. This could be done through preaching, through media, through one on one conversations. You would be the most fruitful evangelist the world has ever seen.
  2. For the next thirty years, you make one multiplying disciple every year. In other words, you reach and disciple one person. Then the next year, both of you reach and disciple one person each. Then the year after that, the four of you each reach and disciple one person.

If you chose the first option, within five years you would have reached five million people. In ten years, ten million. Twenty years, twenty million. Thirty years, thirty million. The math is simple. It’s kingdom impact by way of massive addition.

If you chose the second option, within five years, you (and your new disciples) would have reached and discipled thirty two people. In ten years, you would have reached and discipled one thousand twenty four people. By the end of twenty years, you would have one million, forty eight thousand, five hundred and seventy six multiplying disciples. In year twenty five, you would surpass the thirty million mark of multiplying disciples. By year thirty, you would have one billion, seventy three million, seven hundred and forty one thousand, eight hundred and twenty four multiplying disciples. Within thirty three years, you would have reached and discipled eight and a half billion people, more than the population of our planet right now. It’s kingdom impact by way of simple multiplication.

Over thirty years, the impact of making multiplying disciples is thirty five times greater than the impact of making one million converts a year. By year thirty three, the impact of making multiplying disciples is two hundred and sixty times greater than continuing to make one million converts a year.

Day after day after day, Jesus could have drawn crowds and reached the masses through His miracles and His preaching. Instead, He chose to primarily invest significant time in twelve young men. That’s not the way most of us think. But Jesus had His sights set beyond the crowd. He was seeing generations of disciples being made and multiplied, year after year after year, as the movement spread from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.

I’m amazed. I’ve been to some places that have felt like the ends of the earth. The gospel has reached there! I’ve been in the African bush, hiking into villages where I was told I was the first muzungu (white man) to ever visit their village. How humbling to preach the gospel and work with leaders there in a gathering in their mud hut church building. I’ve flown into the villages of the Tagbanwa tribe in Palawan, Philippines, arriving on a grass airstrip that dead ends into a mountain. Only twenty thousand people in the world speak their language, yet the gospel is there and they now have God’s Word in Tagbanwan. I’ve been on islands in the Caribbean, and though Barbados is a very developed country, it’s the easternmost island in the Caribbean, a four hour flight from Miami, 90 miles from its nearest neighbor. Yet the gospel is thriving there. Jesus promised that the gospel would be carried to the ends of the earth, and His plan for accomplishing that was simply by developing multiplying disciples.

The four Gospels contain the message of Jesus. They’re filled with His teaching. The Gospels also contain the redemptive mission of Jesus, telling us of His virgin birth, His sinless life, His sacrificial death, and His triumphant resurrection. But more than these, as incredibly important as they are, the Gospels show us the blueprint Jesus left us for building a movement of multiplying disciples. What did Jesus do with the Twelve? What did He emphasize, and when? How did Jesus train and prepare them for their mission?

Phase One of the movement was the Preparation Phase, the first thirty years of Jesus’ life. What was going on during this time to prepare Jesus for the mission the Father had given Him?

Phase Two of the movement was the Ministry Foundations Phase. This begins with Jesus’ baptism and the initial invitation to His disciples to believe in Him and follow Him. This Phase lasts eighteen to twenty one months and concludes with Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth and subsequent move to Capernaum.

Phase Three of the movement was the Ministry Training Phase. The disciples enter this Phase when Jesus calls them to be fishers of people. They now now He has a purpose for them and will equip them to accomplish that purpose. 

Phase Four, the Expanded Outreach Phase, happens concurrently with Phase Three. The disciples are being trained and then are provided with practical ministry experiences for on the job training. These two Phases last only six to nine months.

Phase Five of the movement was the Leadership Multiplication Phase, which was the final fifteen months of Jesus’ earthly ministry. This Phase began with Jesus appointing the Twelve as Apostles, or as we also call them, Apprentice Leaders. 

By way of comparison, the Gospel writers devote 83 verses to the Preparation Phase, 204 verses to the Ministry Foundations Phase, 370 verses to the Ministry Training & Expanded Outreach Phases, and 3220 verses to the Leadership Multiplication Phase. That’s right. 80% of what we read of Jesus’ life comes from the last fifteen months of His earthly ministry after He had appointed the Twelve. Mark records the appointment of the Twelve in chapter 3, Luke in Chapter 6. Because of this emphasis by the Gospel writers, they essentially provide us with a training manual for the development of disciple-making movement leaders.

What we must understand, though, is that this Leadership Multiplication didn’t take place in a vacuum. He didn’t skip past Phases one through four and jump directly to Phase Five. Even though that’s where a majority of the emphasis lies, you don’t get to Phase Five without first Preparing and laying the proper Foundation. Jesus selected the Twelve because they had already believed and were faithfully following Him. They were being trained and exposed to ministry opportunities that would prepare them for the call of God on their lives. They were two years into their journey with Jesus before He identified them as His apprentice leaders.

Sonlife has the Strategy Seminar, which overviews these five Phases and primarily teaches Phases One through Four. Then, we also have the Leadership Multiplication Seminar, which focuses exclusively on Phase Five and those last fifteen months. Many leaders want to skip past Strategy and jump to Leadership Multiplication. What they don’t realize is, if they haven’t done the hard work of Phases One through Four, they are not ready for Phase Five and will inevitably fail.

In our Leadership Multiplication training, we look at eight core actions of the Leader with their Apprentice Leaders to foster an environment for a disciple-making movement. Of course, we are not creating a movement. We are a part of the movement that Jesus started. We are merely advancing and expanding the movement.


Jesus invested relationally in His disciples before appointing them as apprentice leaders.

Jesus wasn’t asking the Father to poof Him movement leaders out of nowhere. He was reaching the lost, inviting them to believe in Him. He was bringing them along with Him, teaching them and modeling His character and priorities for them as they followed Him. He got to know them. He knew about their families. He knew their personalities. He knew their strengths and weaknesses. He was able to observe their faithfulness and obedience. He was able to see the progress they were making as followers first hand. Because He had invested in them relationally, Jesus knew “the ones He wanted,” as Mark tells us.

Who are you investing your life in? DIsciple-making happens within the context of relationships.


Jesus interceded for His disciples, knowing the challenges of leadership would be great.

We don’t know what Jesus was praying about during His forty days of fasting and being tempted, but it is not a stretch to believe that He would have been praying for those that He would call to follow Him, even before He called them. From the moment the disciples began following Jesus, prayer was a priority in His life. They saw Him pray. They heard Him pray. They prayed with Him. And I believe Jesus spent significant amounts of time praying for His followers. He prayed for them, and He prayed with them. The Father worked through Jesus’ prayers in preparing them, even before Jesus would appoint them as apostles. Then, before He appointed the Twelve, Jesus prayed all night. I believe He was praying for them. He knew what He was inviting them to be a part of.

How are you praying for your disciples? What are you praying for the Father to do in their life? What needs of their are you bringing before the Father?


Jesus identified from among His disciples those He would train as apprentice leaders.

Matthew, Mark and Luke each record the Twelve by name. We know who they are. They were chosen and it was clear they were His men. These were the Twelve He would devote most of His time to. They would receive His attention. They would be the focus of His training. They would be the first to be given ministry opportunities. They were more than disciples. They were identified now as apprentice leaders. But this is important. Disciples first, then apprentice leaders. Learn to follow, then learn to serve before you learn to lead.

What would an apprenticeship program look like in your ministry? Have you clarified how and who you would identify as candidates for apprentice leadership?


Jesus instructed His apprentice leaders with the knowledge and skills they would need for ministry effectiveness.

Immediately after appointing the Twelve in Luke 6, we see Jesus begin to instruct them with His Sermon on the Level Place in kingdom principles. There is much they needed to learn, and Jesus was very intentional in their development. With the Disciple-Making Training Program I developed in Haiti years ago, we structured our equipping around the disciple-making process of WIN-BUILD-EQUIP-MULTIPLY. Their instruction included teaching on evangelism, apologetics, spiritual identity, spiritual gifts, Bible study methods, prayer and spiritual warfare, an Biblical overview from Creation to Christ, vision and calling, effective ministry planning and more.

What are the basics someone needs to know to be a disciple who makes disciples? What training does someone need to help lead a ministry that makes disciples? When you can answer these questions, you’ll know what your apprentice leaders need to be instructed in.


Jesus inspired His apprentice leaders with a vision for the mission.

Before Jesus called the Four to be fishers of people, He gave them a vision for the harvest (John 4). Before Jesus sent out the Twelve two by two to preach, teach and heal, He gave them a vision for the harvest (Matthew 10). Before Jesus sent out the Seventy Two two by two to preach, teach and heal, He gave them a vision for the harvest (Luke 10). Jesus repeatedly brought their focus back to the mission. He knew the danger of competing visions, like when He rebuked Peter for saying Jesus wouldn’t go to the cross and die. Jesus knew the reality of mission drift, so He continually kept the mission before them.

How do you rally your apprentice leaders around the mission and vision? Is the mission and vision clear? Is it compelling? Do the people you lead know why it matters? Are you celebrating your mission wins, reinforcing the vision?


Jesus involved His apprentice leaders in the work of the ministry.

When Jesus said, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few,” He immediately rallied the Twelve and then the Seventy Two and sent them out to do what they were trained to do. There’s a simple five step process of equipping Jesus modeled. 

Step 1 / I do, you watch

Step 2 / I do, you help

Step 3 / You do, I help 

Step 4 / You do, I watch 

Step 5 / You teach someone else

Jesus released the Twelve to do the ministry they had been watching Him do. They healed the sick. They cast out demons. They preached the good news. They did it.

What are you currently doing alone that you could intentionally involve someone else in and eventually release to them?


Jesus intensified the call to commitment as He prepared to send His apprentice leaders.

It was not until after sending out the Twelve two by two that Jesus began to repeatedly tell them that He would be going to the cross to die. This is when He began to teach them about taking up their cross to follow Him. He didn’t tell them it would get easier. He all but promised them it would get harder. The personal cost would be great. He challenged them, but He also encouraged them with the promise of His presence by His Spirit no matter how hard it got. He would not leave them as orphans.

What are the situations you can involve and expose your apprentice leaders to that will sharpen their resolve and strengthen their endurance?


Jesus implemented a plan with His apprentice leaders for their role in the mission.

Jesus’ strategic plan for His apprentice leaders was summarized in the Great Commission as well as His final reminder for them before His ascension. Their mission would be to make disciples by going, baptizing and teaching. Their vision would be the advancement of the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.

Is the mission and vision clear and compelling? Do your apprentice leaders know the Ministry Action Plan and their part in it?

The result of the intentional and effective leadership multiplication that Jesus prioritized was this. Within two years, the apostles had filled Jerusalem with their teaching (Acts 5:28) and were multiplying disciples (Acts 6:7). Four and a half years later, there were multiplying churches (Acts 9:31). Nineteen years later, they had turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). Twenty eight years later, the gospel was bearing fruit all over the world (Colossians 1:5-6). From a ministry that was launched in the small towns and villages around Galilee, in the tiny country of Israel, we now have a movement that has spread to the ends of the earth. Some portions of the Bible, the gospel message, has been translated into over 3500 languages.
Sonlife’s simple 5 Phase Ministry Assessment can help you discern where your ministry is at in the process of becoming a disciple-making, movement multiplying ministry. Knowing where you are at is critical for understanding what your next steps are in the journey. Sonlife considers it a privilege to come alongside you with the training and coaching you might need as a leader to build a disciple-making ministry based upon the model of Jesus.