“And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out.” (Mark 3:14)
When Keesha and I decided to allow 12 young men to live with us for the purpose of discipleship and multiplication, there were people who thought we were crazy. I admit it is a bit unconventional. But maybe it shouldn’t be. Here’s the way we see it — The only all-sufficient person to ever live was Jesus, and yet he chose to live and do ministry in community. Despite the difficulties, the messiness, the misunderstandings, and the betrayal, he chose to live in very close proximity to a few people. Jesus knew that in order to entrust his ministry to his disciples in a way that would multiply the Kingdom for generations to come, he would need to be a walking model for them. That kind of discipleship requires nearness. Life-on-life. Family togetherness. Take a look at the gospels and notice the amount of close intentional time Jesus spent with his few disciples in contrast to the large crowds. (Mark 1:29, 1:38, 2:15, 2:23, 3:7, 3:13-14, 3:34, 4:10-11, 4:34, 5:37, 6:30-31, 9:2, 9:28-29, 9:30-31, 9:35, 10:10, 10:32, etc.)
Now because of Jesus’ pace, traveling through all of the towns and villages in Galilee, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where Jesus lived after Capernaum (Matthew 4:13, 23). The argument can be made that he was finding houses of peace in each town and staying there (forming churches) and then moving on. Regardless, we can be certain that Jesus and his apostolic band lived together and traveled together. Proximity mattered to Jesus. The closer the disciples are to the mentor, the more likely they are to become like the mentor. Biblical discipleship is not about the passing on of information, but about the passing on of life — obedient life in Christ.
Keesha and I always want to do ministry together (my parents have modeled that for us). We never want to separate family and ministry, but marry the two together. Whether disciples literally live with you or not, they must be allowed into your life, your family, and your home. So over time, as we began to make disciples in Haiti, we trained them in our home, gathered for church in our home, and spent time out in the harvest together. And as we watched for their growth in obedience to Jesus, we fasted and prayed and began to choose a few we wanted to spend more time with. We started with two and asked them to move in with us. Two eventually became 12. Keesha calls it “the church we live with.” We have weekly rhythms, such as weekly training sessions, accountability meetings, prayer and worship gatherings, and scheduled time out in the harvest. But the best parts are the ones we cannot plan, the kind of discipleship that happens organically throughout the day as we do life together. But this has been one of the hardest thing we’ve ever done. There are many challenges and many things we’ve had to sacrifice.
- Guarding family time.
- Cultural/upbringing differences.
- Protecting our children while being inclusive.
- Remembering nothing is ours, everything belongs to God.
- Keesha sacrifices the most. As a wife, managing and controlling the home is put on the altar.
- Our 12 are young adults and don’t always get along. It’s very messy.
- Each disciple learns differently and responds to leadership differently, just like parenting!
- Modeling generosity without creating dependency.
- Preparing them to be sent out.
- Most sacrifices are usually selfish things that we just have to get over (time, money, food, noise, cleanliness, etc.)
Living with disciples is extremely difficult. But it’s family and it has some awesome advantages.
- Multiplied time. We can be cooking dinner, changing diapers, or going grocery shopping and discipling someone at the same time.
- Multiplied family. Our children love these guys like their own big brothers or uncles.
- Multiplied leaders. We regularly send these guys out as “Timothies.” They enter empty fields for church planting, return for follow-up, lead training events, and meet with new leaders.
- Multiplied learning. As the Holy Spirit teaches us from the Word, we are able to immediately pass it on to each other. Personal quiet times are often shared in the same room together, which prompts discussion and mutual learning.
- Multiplied worship. Spontaneous worship and prayer times take place throughout the day as challenges and victories present themselves.
- Multiplied accountability. When you live with your church, it’s difficult to hide your flaws. They’re watching us as much as we’re watching them. Mutual accountability is constant.
- Multiplied discipleship. As teachable moments arise, we’re always around each other for immediate teaching, rebuking, correcting, or training in righteousness.
- Multiplied modeling. We use a leadership development acronym called MAWL, which stands for Model, Assist, Watch, and Launch. When disciples live with you, this is happening constantly.
- Multiplied community. As the body of Christ, caring for each other comes more naturally because we live together. Acts 2 community happens as we eat together, give to each other, care for one another when we’re sick, and surrender our time to specific needs.
- Multiplied church. Because we live together, church is not reduced to a once-a-week gathering. It’s not rigid or clean-cut. Rather, it’s organic and messy as we gather and scatter. We are the church every day of the week and we’re multiplying into new Jesus communities as we go.
We’ve been on this journey for 18 months and it’s completely changed the way we look at discipleship and church. This “live-in disciple” model is something we’ve learned from others and implemented into our own lives. And it’s something we want others to reproduce (already happening among other leaders in Haiti). If we can help you take the leap, let us know. We’re asking Jesus to multiply it. Thank you for taking this journey with us.