In the mid 1950s the Latin American Mission, worried about the failure of churches to grow, studied three diverse movements that were rapidly growing in their context: Communism, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Pentecostals. With the message and values of each group so different, the commonalities would reveal what was causing growth.
“Each had successfully mobilized their entire constituency in continuous outreach. Latin American Mission put their findings together in a concise statement, the so-called Strachan Theorem: the successful expansion of any movement is in direct proportion to its success in mobilizing and occupying its total membership in constant propagation of its beliefs.” (Source: Richard Peace, Small Group Evangelism – A Training Program for Reaching Out with the Gospel, 25.)
This reflects a significant paradigm shift - to add a completely new idea to the traditional understanding of institutional church growth and disciple making as a process that happens in a building by a program at an event shaped by a professional administered by a committee. We’ve attempted to do that since Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed tolerance of all religions, including Christianity, throughout the Roman empire. I like to call this method is called “right hand disciple making.”
The completely new idea isn’t new – it’s to make disciples the way that Jesus did. It happens in a relationship during conversations shaped by the Holy Spirit conducted by a praying disciple maker. It results in generations of disciples making disciples making disciples, as Paul described in 2 Timothy 2:2. The desired end result of the Great Commission is not a disciple (Mt 28:19) or a better disciple (Mt 28:20), but disciple makers who obey the Great Commission themselves. I like to call this method is called “left hand disciple making.”
When I played basketball as a kid, I was so right handed that my left hand was useless to me as a player ... I had to learn how to play with both hands. (And I didn't succeed very well at all; it's still a struggle to use my left hand for anything.) When my default worldview for church is right handed, it's hard to remember that God might want to use my left hand as well.
The seed of the Strachen Theorem is sprouting in the United Methodist Church: ¶126 of the 2008 Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church: “Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional.” Most have not understood the potential of this statement for the future – it opens the door to a whole new world. Jesus stated the problem and the solution very plainly in Matthew 9:36-10:1 – there aren’t enough people trained and willing to work at the task. Disciple making is for every one of us!