- You can see Part 1 Introduction Here
- You can See Part 2 About 3DM Here
- You can See Part 3 About Sonlife Here
- You can See Part 4 About Bonhoeffer Project Here
Each of these ministries seeks to mimic Jesus’ model for disciple making. The Bonhoeffer Project is a little different in that they seek to model Jesus’ method, but as interpreted and applied by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
All three seek to provide an answer to the challenge of raising the value and practice of disciple making in the local church.
When I reviewed these ministries, three words or categories quickly came to mind: Pragmatic, Strategic and Theological. While each of these ministries contains portions of all three, each one also majors on one of them:
• 3DM is Pragmatic. Their focus is making it work on the ground in local churches in great detail. Plus emphasize the need for being Spirit-led in every aspect of ministry.
• Sonlife is Strategic. It provides a big picture framework for discipleship that allows for more variety of application than 3DM.
• BP is Theological. It is about changing the thinking and practice of clusters of leaders and then hopefully the churches they serve. Far less about how this can or should happen than in the other models.
• My highly subjective rendering of these three ideas is as follows:
The ratings on this chart are for purposes of comparison vs an actual scoring metric that says one is therefore better than the other. It really depends on the value you place on each of the three categories for a given application. Each will be “better” than the others in certain contexts. (See the Conclusion section.)
Alongside the strategic simplicity of Sonlife and the pragmatic complexity of 3DM, the Bonhoeffer Project seems more academic, abstract and one dimensional.
Both BP and 3DM refer to People of Peace as a part of the disciple making strategy.
What is a disciple?
This is a rather important question. All three would affirm the idea that a disciple is “like Jesus”, loving others, making other disciples. But each of the three provides varying degrees of detail:
• 3DM: Knowing and doing the LifeShapes
• Sonlife: DDP (Description of a Discipled Person). A methodology to develop it is given, but a specific DDP is not prescribed.
• BP: The end point of discipleship is loving others as Jesus does, being his ambassador. Each leader must answer the question for themselves.
Apart from the content, and the fact that each ministry has seminal books, there are differences in their primary delivery methods:
• 3DM: Learning Communities; coaching
• Sonlife: Church-hosted workshops; training trainers; coaching
• BP: One year cohort (similar to but looser than the 3DM LC’s)
Each of the three would be GREAT at some things:
• 3DM: A plug and play church planting/re-planting model; long term intentional renewal of an existing church
• Sonlife: An overall philosophy of ministry for a church/pastor; retro-fitting a disciple making culture onto an existing church
• BP: Igniting a disciple making passion and providing the related deep theological foundations for pastors; helping individual pastors begin to move their churches into disciple making
Each brings a gift to the body:
• 3DM: Emphasis on mid-sized Missional Communities
• Sonlife: A simple, memorable framework- Win, Build, Equip, Multiply.
• BP: The need to revisit the nature of conversion and discipleship from a theological rather than purely pragmatic or programmatic angle.
Each of the three has an Achilles Heel:
• 3DM: Complexity
• Sonlife: Can easily become simply an add on event/program
• BP: Lack of pragmatic how to
The metrics I was asked to consider:
• Theological soundness, simplicity and transferability into different cultural contexts
• User friendliness, cost, ease of application especially in relation to smaller churches
• The presence of a pathway for churches to use in building and implementing vision
With reference to those metrics:
• 3DM’s theological heritage (Anglican), unique perspectives on things like the five offices of Ephesians 4 and details of the LifeShapes might require some theological filtering and adaptation. Its complexity might make it challenge for different cultural contexts and could be difficult to implement in smaller churches due to cost and limited people to draw from. They provide a very detailed pathway and support in building and implementing vision, as well as training on organizational change, which is essential in existing churches.
• Sonlife is theologically mainstream evangelical and has been intentionally built around simple and transferrable concepts. This might make it easier to apply in a wider range of contexts. It is quite user friendly and easily applied in smaller churches. The training has historically provided a methodology for visioning and change, and the addition of the 2/6 networks adds a helpful community component for implementing the principles.
• Bonhoeffer Project seems to be fairly mainstream theologically with a few little twists based on the theological intent of this ministry. That is, they are challenging various teachings and applications of the Western church. Since it is focused on individual leaders, it is transferrable to any pastor who wants to jump into the program. It’s a fairly straightforward, quite new, one program ministry at this point. Some smaller churches might balk at the cost but it is not prohibitive. The implementation pathway is not explicit and is intended to be developed by the participants for their unique contexts as they go through the program.
Selecting two of the three to promote is easy in my mind: 3DM and Sonlife.
Emphasizing one over the other will probably come down to the specific applications are presently needed in the District.
Other Thoughts and Questions:
• Established churches moving to 3DM would likely face similar challenges that existing churches moving to a seeker driven model did in the ‘90’s. This is mitigated somewhat by the training they offer and their pragmatic long term approach.
• To expand upon this challenge, quoting 3DM material: “As a rule of thumb, we have found that most mature MCs gather with the wider church at a service no less than once a month and no more than three times a month.” Any experienced pastor will understand the layers of challenge this implies for existing churches. And for fun add in the reality that this initiative might be led by someone other than the lead pastor.
• What is the irreducible complexity of 3DM? That is, what can be subtracted and still provide a comprehensive functioning framework? Specifically, could you swap out LifeShapes for another list of knowledge/values/practice, such as the Sonlife DDP, and it still works? What about having Missional Communities simply meeting altogether monthly rather than having a larger worship gathering each week that many people from the MC’s will not be at on any given Sunday?
• How much does the lack of a high profile flagship church affect the attractiveness of Sonlife and BP?
• If I was planning a path for someone I was mentoring, I would get them to read Hull’s Conversion and Discipleship, Spader’s Growing a Healthy Church and Breen’s Building a Discipling Culture. Then, based on how they resonated with Breen or Spader, I would send them to a Muvement seminar or a 3DM Workshop.
• Given the diversity and complexity of the church world, should we be looking at a single model/ministry to promote or should we have a framework for knowing which model to encourage a given church/pastor to look into as they seek to raise the value and practice of disciple-making in their individual contexts?