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4 Obstacles to Multiplying Disciples to the Fourth Generation

—From The Keystone Project Training Manual by Richard Greene

In almost every instance I have researched, there have been four common denominators which contribute to a general trend to fall short of the fourth generation:

  1. You chose the wrong first generation disciple, or your first generation chose the wrong second. If that is the case, you need to start over. Don’t fuss with it, just begin again.
  2. Your disciples are not helping their disciples make the next generation. If that is the case, then you probably didn’t help your first generation make your second and/or you did not follow up closely enough to make sure each generation did help their disciples find and make a disciple. This is easily corrected by taking your first generation disciple and helping him or her identify and multiply their first generation disciple. Then, stay with them as the next generation does the same.
  3. You are not making disciples on the mission (but in the classroom or the coffee shop or the cell group). The obvious answer is to move into mission mode. Don’t meet at Starbucks or in the home. And, don’t do lessons or counseling every time you meet with your disciple. Go out and engage the lost with the mindset of finding a potential disciple.
  4. You and/or your disciples are not calling people to a significant, transcending vision of launching a movement, but are calling them to being a disciple or a Christian. If so, that will gut the process of its passion (which is a willingness to sacrifice for something greater than themselves). Check the passion level of your disciples. If it is low, then it is a vision problem. Remember, your main apostolic contribution to the movement is the vision.

Failure to launch (to get beyond the fourth) is a matter of what you have placed in the DNA of your movement. My personal unscientific research has shown that if even one of the above things was not set in the genetic code by the launcher, the movement never becomes a movement. This happens more where the launcher has a gift-mix of apostle/teacher or apostle/prophet.

An apostle/teacher is more focused on the teaching component of his or her movement rather than the transformational and multiplicative components of the movement. They’re wired to teach it but not reproduce it. Don’t stop teaching (because you can’t anyway, if you’re really gifted as a teacher), but change how you are teaching. Change the location, the manner, the content, the timing to match the mission. Do “missional teaching” (teaching that is from and in the context of the mission) rather than the academic style.

Similarly, the apostle/prophet tends to be focused on avoiding traditional forms and practices, and, even though they may be “on the field” they are not really “on the mission”. They are “out there” but being out there isn’t enough if they aren’t missionally engaged out there! It isn’t enough to be on the field (that is, in proximity to the lost); you must be intentionally missionally engaged with the lost. It’s kind of like working in a soup kitchen: you’re there and you’re ladling soup, but you’re not selecting one or two lost people to transform and disciple. In that instance, you are on the field but not on the mission.

The apostle/prophet will be excited about being in the soup kitchen (or the street, or the ghetto, or the park) because he is not in the church. There is a prophetic satisfaction to being on the field, to being different… But are we missionally engaged? Evidence of missional engagement:

  • You are constantly looking, praying, and selecting individuals together with your disciple(s);
  • You are making eye and soul/spirit contact with the lost (they are not objects to feed but people to save);
  • You are working with your disciple(s) to bring the candidate to a place of commitment;
  • You see elements of transformation – a softening of animosity towards the messenger, an openness to the message, revelatory activity (they are “understanding” the Word you share with them), a developing sense of community with you, real change in speech and behavior, and a growing contagious sense of excitement and passion about the future.

CAUTION: If you do not have an apostle/teacher or apostle/prophet gift mix and are falling short of the fourth generation, then you must still check the DNA. How did you start with your first disciples? What were the very first things you said and did with them? If you aren’t reaching the fourth, it is almost always because you implanted the wrong “first things”. You can easily fix that by going back to your first disciple and starting over. Remember, the focus is on Spirit-led transformation and multiplication.

See also 4 Keys to Multiplying Disciples to the Fourth Generation.


The Keystone Project is a global missions network of churches and leaders committed to the fulfillment of the Great Commission in this generation.

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