Identity Crisis

Written by: Chris Galanos

I want to write a few articles for pastors who are thinking about a transition into DMM at their church.

Pastors, I need to be honest. DMM is going to cost you. Big time. Just like Jesus encouraged the crowd in Luke 14 to count the cost before deciding to become his disciple, you need to count the cost before engaging in DMM. Jesus went so far as to say, “those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:33).” DMM stands for Disciple-Making Movement. It’s essentially inviting people to not just call themselves disciples of Jesus but actually BE a disciple of Jesus. And Jesus said you can’t be one of his disciples unless you’re willing to give up everything you have.

Pastors, you need to be willing to give up everything you have & everything your church has if you want to take this journey. You shouldn’t take the journey without a lot of prayer, fasting & soul searching. It’s a costly journey. Jesus said it would be. I absolutely believe it’s worth it, but it’s costly.

I just finished a DMM book called The Kingdom Unleashed that describes this process as a “death experience.” Based on my experience so far, that’s an accurate way to describe it. The author, Jerry Trousdale, describes a resistance you have to overcome as a pastor to embrace DMM. He says it like this:

The resistance that they [pastors who had embraced DMM] had to overcome came from several sources, most of which were connected to expectations and assumptions that are common within Stage 4 ministries. Denominational structures, ecclesiastical and theological traditions, habits, models of ministry, and a host of other institutional elements resist change, especially when it is as radical as those required by movements. And there are also the kinds of worldview issues that form a barrier against movements— resistance in our thinking— that have been discussed in the previous chapters. And on a personal level, their friends from seminary, colleagues, denominations— even their own churches— resisted the new direction. 

 DMM violated everything that they had been taught about ministry. Further, as David Broodryk [a pastor who embraced DMM] points out, it also violated their identity as pastors, since they would no longer be the people doing the ministry, but catalysts for others to do it. He puts it this way:

I really do think that entry into DMM is a death experience: unless the seed falls to the ground and dies, it can bear no fruit. It’s a death experience, a complete shift to change to the DMM approach. But the problem is, you can’t risk failure without that; risking failure in itself is a sort of death experience. If who you are is dependent on whether this thing works or fails, then you will never take a risk, you’ll never do it. But if your identity is in Christ, then you say, “I’m going to try this; if it works, great, He gets the glory; and if it doesn’t work— well, it didn’t work, but I am still secure in who I am in Him.” Most leaders haven’t done that, they are not secure in who they are in Him. Their security is based on the success or failure of what they do. And then that thinking makes you unwilling to take any risks. You also become afraid to give everything away without expecting anything in return. You become trapped by protecting your reputation— but DMM demands all those things. You are no longer building your reputation, you’re not building your income, your business, you aren’t building fame, not any of those things. You might plant 100,000 churches, but still nobody knows your name. This is not going to work, it’s not going to fly if your identity is in the ministry, if your identity is not firmly rooted in Christ. But when you root your identity in Him, then you can plant a million churches and no one knows your name and no one cares— and it’s not a problem. This is an extremely core issue. It is very significant for us.

Trousdale continues:

 Jesus tells us that unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it can bear no fruit (John 12:24). The resistance to DMM is found in this verse, because it is very difficult to let your identity, your reputation, even your own ministry, die. But if you have a Kingdom vision, if you know that it isn’t your ministry but God’s, it becomes possible to let go of your goals to receive His.

Hopefully this excerpt from The Kingdom Unleashed causes you to not jump right into DMM without much time in prayer & fasting. Like I said before, it’s costly & I’ve experienced that cost first-hand over the last few years.

Pastors, it’s very likely that you’re going to have an “identity crisis” if you pursue DMM, much like Broodryk described above.

I experienced it. Our staff experienced it.

DMM feels like it goes against everything you were taught in seminary. DMM feels like it goes against everything you experienced in churches growing up. DMM feels like it goes against everything you thought was right, sacred, and the way things must be done. It challenges most of your assumptions.

As a result, if your identity is tied up in what you were taught in seminary, what you experienced in church growing up, or how you think things have to be done, you’re going to have an identity crisis.

And the truth is, most of us get our identity tied up in things it should’ve never been tied up in. Our identity should be fully rooted in Jesus Christ, but often we can get our identity tied up in what we do, how much we make & what people think of us. That’s a dangerous place to be.

Let me give you an example of how this looked for someone on our team.

Tamara was raised in church. She loved the church & loved ministry so much that she moved to California to pursue a Master’s degree from a seminary in in the Bay Area. She had a passion for Children’s Ministry & was excited when we offered her the opportunity to become the Children’s Minister at our Downtown Campus.

She knew a lot about Children’s Ministry. She had been in one growing up. She had studied more about them in seminary. And we were hiring her to lead ours. She was confident in what she was doing & felt that she knew the best way to minister to children. Not only that, she felt like she knew the best way to “do” church. Obviously the best way to “do” church is like what you experienced growing up, or what you were taught in seminary, or what everyone else is doing.

Without realizing it, she had gotten her identity tied up in how to do Children’s Ministry & even how to do church. It’s who she was. It’s who she had spent her life wanting to become.

When I first cast vision to our staff for DMM, without knowing it, I launched her into an identity crisis. I’m sure it felt like the foundation she had built her life on, namely the American church model of ministry, had just been pulled out from under her. If the American church is failing to accomplish its mission, is she a failure? Was her seminary degree a waste of time? Has she been a part of the problem? Was she actually wrong about the “best” way to do church? I’m sure it was questions like these that sent her into a downward spiral. Critiquing the American church was critiquing her. Acknowledging that the American church has failed in many ways was acknowledging that she has failed in many ways. Her identity was tied up in her role & in her perception of how things were “supposed” to be.

She had to go through a season of unraveling her identity from a model of ministry. She knew her identity was ultimately in Christ, but this new vision exposed that she had falsely placed her identity in some things she never should have. It wasn’t just her. It was all of us. We had fallen in love with a way of doing things & we didn’t realize that we so closely associated ourselves with that way of doing things that to challenge it was to challenge us. Big problem.

Around that same time, she was invited to participate in one of our Phase One Goer Groups. One of the practices of these groups is “going out among the lost.” She did that with her group & met some internationals that she was able to share with. She had the opportunity to read the Bible with people who had never read it before. It was such a powerful & eye-opening experience for her.

This caused her heart to open to DMM & God began to grip her with the reality that unless we see a Disciple-Making Movement, people in her own country & people in other countries may never follow Jesus. She became convinced that DMM was the key!

Through this process, she was able to root her identity back in Christ alone & has become one of the most vocal proponents of the DMM vision.

It started, though, with an identity crisis.

Pastors, there’s a cost involved in pursuing DMM. Not only for you but for your entire team. When some of your people have the identity crisis, they will likely leave you. They will feel like because you have chosen a “new way” of doing ministry, you’re attacking the old way, and as a result, attacking them since their identity is tied up in it. That’s a cost you’ll have to count.

After having unintentionally led many staff through an identity crisis over the past couple of years, many of us are now at a point now where we believe it was totally worth it. Not only that, we’re thankful for it. We were glad this led us through a season of making sure our identity wasn’t wrapped up in ANY model of ministry. It was a necessary part of our team preparing to embrace DMM in our next 10 years.

I want to spend the next couple of articles telling you about some of the other costs we experienced & why we continued to believe the vision was worth it, regardless of the cost.

Part 2 – Reduction in Giving