I have been blessed to receive a review copy of T4T through the generosity of WIGTake and Missions Frontiers Magazine. Let me say at the outset that I was not familiar with WIGTake as a publisher, but I have come to appreciate their focus on spreading the gospel. Their name stands for “What’s It Gonna Take?” from the phrase “What’s it gonna take to reach my people with the gospel?” You can read more about it here.
Although I was not familiar with the publisher, this is a book I have been awaiting for a few years. I first encountered Training for Trainers (T4t) in my time in East Asia. I witnessed fruitful implementations as well as barren, and longed for a fuller explanation and theological support for what had become a trend in the field. T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution is that resource.
So, what about the book?
The book is divided into three sections: The Foundations of T4T, The Process of T4T, and The Application of T4T. As you can well imagine, the first section explains the history and development of the movement. The second section explains in greater details how the movement works. Finally, the third section helps church leaders to implement T4T on their own. There are many resources online to give a summary or introduction (pdf), so I will simply provide some brief personal comments and reflection.
In my brief life I’ve become tired of fads in Christianity. Already. It isn’t enough for me that it “worked” in one location and culture; I want to understand what separates it from other approaches, and identify the major underlying principles. Fortunately, this is easy with T4T. The big idea is that every disciple is a trainer; each new believer should be expected to share the gospel and begin to disciple new believers. The church often sees additive growth, with certain evangelists winning over a number each year. Instead, if each new believer would in turn share the gospel, the church would see multiplicative growth. A group of 10, if they were able to double in size every 60 months, would reach 1280 in just 3.5 years. I appreciate that the authors recognize the simplicity of the logic, and that they have not discovered anything “new” or “novel.” It is for this reason that they call this a RE revolution.
So far, so good. No verses have been wrenched from their context, and it fits in very well with common sense.
Now, there is a temptation when curriculum or material is provided to believe that it is the key to some spiritual result. I think that some of the failure of T4T that I witnessed was due to a lack of contextualization and a reliance upon the material rather than the Spirit. The material is a great resource, but like any resource it must be adapted to fit, and the book does a good job emphasizing this point. One of my favorite quotes is this,
One of the first things to emerge was that he had six basic lessons for discipleship. In the beginning, some people tried to implement T4T by only teaching six lessons and failed to see much fruit.
As more time went by we learned that Ying encourages every new believer to witness five times a week. So now T4T was “Witness to five people a week and pass on the six lessons.” This got varying degrees of results by early adopters of T4T.
As more time went by, we saw that Ying also had frequent training retreats for leaders… Then it became apparent that Ying had a long-term discipleship aspect to training, using inductive studies in Mark…
You get the point. Some people began to mimic Ying’s work, rather than understanding why he did it and contextualizing it for their work and particular people. I appreciate the honesty of the authors to point this out.
In the end, the book exceeded my expectations. I would recommend it to anyone who is involved in a form of discipleship or evangelism. Really, that should be all believers. It will challenge you to consider whether you are as faithful as those new believers that were part of the Church Planting Movement, and help you to consider how you can begin evangelizing and training new believers to multiply the faith.