Mechanics of a Discipling Movement (3DM & Mike Breen)

Some of our leaders from Gateway went to a workshop with Mike & Sally Breen and Jo, one of their leaders from their days in the U.K..

From his bio: Mike was the Senior Rector at St. Thomas Sheffield, where they pioneered some very different ways of being the church and when they left they were the largest church in England.

Today, he leads 3DM, the global home for an organic movement of biblical discipleship and missional church that is centered in the United States.” Mike is the author of the following books:

Here are some of the insights he shared with us:

On Hearing God’s Voice

Let Jesus work through you rather than working for Him.

What is God saying? What are you going to do about it?

When unsure, be honest: “God, I don’t know what you are saying.”

Too many of us live with extensive insecurities which keep us questioning what others think. We question if this way or that way is correct – with an eye on what others are thinking about us. We seek to please the people around us rather than follow Jesus. Faith overcomes insecurities. Knowing what God wants us to do helps overcome people pleasing.

Hearing the voice of God is the most important spiritual discipline we can develop in ourselves and develop in others.

Sometimes when things blow up in our face, it doesn’t mean we didn’t hear God’s voice. Sometimes it does, but not always.

The written Word helps us understand the living Word.

My God-given personality wires me to best hear God in my life. 70% of human communication is non-verbal. So 70% of the Lord’s communication with me will be non-verbal. Thinkers look for God’s voice conceptually or in pictures. Sensers look for God’s voice through what they see, taste, touch, hear, smell in creation. God constantly communicates to us.

As You Go Discipleship

Focus on discipling people in the ordinary things and during the ordinary things. We don’t have margin in our lives to give someone several hours a week, but we have lots of things we have to do that can include someone with us.

“Just come walk with me, but I walk fast.” – Sally Breen

Allow people to see your life and be part of your family on mission.

Allow people to succeed and allow people to fail, and talk through both.

Our disciples don’t know how to make disciples because we don’t make them or know how to make the process simple and repeatable. Jesus’ message was simple yet hard. Simple to understand yet hard to live out.

Go for revolutionary change at an evolutionary pace.

Meeting the Needs of Your Mission Field

After surveying the community, the number one need mentioned was litter. That seemed like such a silly concern in light of all the other major needs, but they began to realize it was because those in the community felt like they lived in bottom of a trash can.

Instead of a March of Jesus, they decided to march and pick up litter.

The people in the community were amazed that the church decided to do something about it! Next thing you know the neighbors joined in to help. It became something the church did every week for a season. Some even started going to the church services and becoming Christ-followers. It was then that the community council made cleaning the streets a priority. The were convicted by the efforts of the church.

The Person of Peace

Mike read through the New Testament wanting to discover how the message of Jesus spread and realized Jesus sent the disciples out looking for a “person of peace” not operating ministries the way his church was doing. The “person of peace” is someone who is open to spiritual conversations and going deeper spiritually.

“If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.” – Luke 10:6

This does not require the gift of evangelism or charisma, etc..

The “person of peace” is the one who God has prepared in advance for you to advance the Kingdom. This is the relationship strategy of Jesus. Looking to get married? Look for the woman of peace. Looking to move to Africa as a missionary? Look for the person of peace who will invite you or connect you there.

Who are the “persons of peace” in your life?

How can we find a “person of peace”?

  • They like you. They welcome you.
  • They listen to you.
  • They want to serve you. (Don’t forget this one!)

Is it possible the people in your life (even those who are annoying) are the “persons of peace” in your life? God has prepared the person of peace before I’ve even met him/her.

Consider the family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors of the “person of peace” as the next people to serve. Stay with the oikos of the “person of peace” in your life.

Ask the “person of peace” – Who do you know that will do what you have just done?

Just because they are called “person of peace” does not mean it won’t be difficult. It is a spiritual battle! “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people (like David’s Mighty Men) have been raiding it.” – Matthew 11:12

If someone is not a “person of peace,” then we entrust them to God and to someone else so that we can invest in the one(s) God has prepared for us.

Mike’s charitable assumption for his staff is that God has something good for them. If it isn’t with him, the reason they don’t know what it is because he hasn’t given them the chance to find out. Puts people who are a pain on sabbatical so they can hear God and do something about it. Ask them: “Do you wake up grateful? Because clearly this context isn’t life-giving at this.”

A Kairos Moment

 The way Jesus invested in his disciples included lots of questions and discussion.

At a Kairos Moment (a moment when God was at work), Jesus would help them do the following:

  • Observe
  • Reflect
  • Discuss
  • Plan (a statement of belief)
  • Account (Matthew 7 – “Don’t judge and bear good fruit.”)
  • Act (What is God saying? What are you going to do about it?)

Information Does Not Change Lives

A great Western fallacy is that someone can pass from information to innovation without first passing through imitation. Most Westerners have been more influenced by the Enlightenment than the Reformation.

As the message of Jesus moved beyond the Jewish context into the Gentile world, the relationships went from being described as “rabbi and disciple” to “parent and child.” (For example, see 1 Corinthians 4:14-17).

  • Information – The guardian would teach the children reading, writing, and arithmetic (the pedagogical essentials).
  • Imitation – The son spent time with his father to learn the family business. The daughter spent time with her mother to learn how to care for the oikos (family, neighbors, friends).
  • Innovation -Once someone has the basics, they can go to a new town and contextualize their craft.


The people you invite into your huddle should all be leading their own huddle. Invite into your huddle the persons of peace in your life and those who are willing to do what you ask them to do.

Discipleship creates mission. Mission creates discipleship.

Success and Fruitfulness

When you pursue success you do not guarantee fruitfulness. When you pursue fruitfulness, you will experience success. Fruitfulness takes longer, but it also lasts longer.

If something is worth doing, then it is worth doing wrongly. We need to give people the freedom to fail. It’s more caught than taught. We need to have a low control and high accountability culture.

If you create a culture, those who enter a culture will begin to live the way the culture lives.

The Four Human Spaces:

  • Intimate – 2 to 3 people
  • Personal – 6 to 12 people
  • Social – 20-70 people  **extended family on mission
  • Public – 70+

The social space is crucial because it is within the social space that the intimate and personal spaces take place. In the Western world we have lost our extended family and put all of our hopes into the nuclear family which has failed.

Small groups are small enough to care but aren’t big enough to dare.

There is no word for “nuclear family” in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. The word “family” always means extended family. Extended family has always included blood relatives and others.

Mission is always the center of missional community. The huddle is the vehicle towards discipling leaders.

Jesus spends time with the Father on His own (up), spent time with His disciples (in), and spent time with the crowds (out). At the beginning, Mike encouraged his small groups to get out of the room where they were meeting and walk around the community where they meet and pray for the community (like caroling for mimes). A few people asked them what they were doing and they said: “praying for our community.” Some were impressed by that. The next time they went into the shops and to the homes and asked what they could be praying for. This follows what Jesus did with His disciples in Matthew 10. Once needs were discovered, the small group began to meet those needs in addition to praying for the community.

When asked to describe what he sensed God was calling the worship team to do, the worship pastor at St. Thomas in Sheffield said: “We want to be the welcomers of the unwelcome.”

The network leader needs to be the vision carrier for the mission.

Creating an Extended Family

Start with a simple repeatable pattern with your own family and then begin to invite others into it. For the Breens they had breakfast and dinner together every day.

Once our house is too full, then you spot the next potential host and invite them into your huddle.


Showing 6 comments
  • MichaelDWarden

    I knew I liked that Mike Breen guy. 🙂

  • decarter

    Eric, thank you for posting this! I wasn’t able to attend Verge Conf this year, but this is gold to get this.

  • ERSchindler

    As a long-term US missionary to Taiwan plotting to start a missional movement in our capital, Taipei, I really appreciate this post. Since I’m relatively new to the “missional literature” out there, I was wondering if you could further clarify this statement: “Small groups are small enough to care but aren’t big enough to dare.” The reason I ask is that I just finished Hugh Halter’s “Tangible Kingdom,” in which he starts an effective, multiplying missional movement with just his family and one over couple. I’m wondering if perhaps different missional writers are using the same terminology for different concepts?
    Thanks for shedding any light on this question. Keep up the good work!
    Erich Schindler

    • Eric Bryant

      I think a lot of us striving to live out a community on mission and write about it use different language to describe the same thing. What Mike Breen calls a missional community, Gateway in Austin calls a network, Mosaic in LA calls a tribe, etc.. All of these come from the idea of oikos or household or extended family.

      These may begin with one or two families, but when done well more families needing community discover it.

      When mike breen mentioned “small groups weren’t big enough to dare,” he was referring to the power of multiple small groups teaming together

      • ERSchindler

        Hi Eric, thanks for your input. Here in Taipei the average apartment living room can only accomodate about 12 people max. Since we’re choosing not to meet in existing church facilities, our space restrictions will keep groups smaller. But perhaps this is actually a benefit, forcing us to multiply throughout more households.

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