Thursday, July 5

Church Planting Lessons from the Marines (Part 1 of 3)

Curtis Sergeant wrote a helpful paper entitled, "What We Can Learn From The U.S. Marines". It is an instructive study highly applicable to missions strategy and thinking. Each of my next three posts will highlight one of the concepts, followed by how we apply the principle to our own church planting here in Guayaquil.

Rule of 3

One distinctive is the rule of three. Every Marine has only three things to worry about. Organizationally each Marine will have only three direct reports. This results in a very tall and steep command structure. However, it is extremely efficient because a subordinate does not need permission to act. He is expected to act in accordance with his best judgment based upon his understanding of the objective. This is an extremely empowering approach to leadership which is unique in military circles. Functionally, each Marine has only three tasks or goals for which he is responsible. This permits focus and clarity in decision-making. This has implications in regard to focus. If focus on central tasks is lost, effectiveness is sacrificed. The same is certainly true for SCs [and church planters.]

The three tasks/goals for which each of us is responsible involve 1) going out and engaging the lost with the Gospel, 2) making disciples of those who choose to follow Christ (including baptism), 3) teaching/training them to be Christ's ekklesia where they live by obeying Christ's commands.

We focus on these three things continually. All programs, ideas, tasks, ministries, and materials are evaluated on whether they help us go, make disciples (baptize), or teach. Learning to say "no" to many good things is part of the "Rule of 3". When needs or situatations arise in the work that do not fit into one of our primary tasks, my jobs as SC is to DELEGATE or find alternate ministries/people within the greater Body of Christ to handle the situation. We ourselves do not try to be all things to all men. Our team meeting agendas focus around items that directly relate to these three areas.

One of the observations of the recent volunteer team visiting us last week brought a smile to my face when one of them observed, "you guys are really focused on the Great Commission..." Yes.


Tim Patterson said...

That is good stuff Guy. We try to limit our scope for mission as well... and the Great Commission provides great parameters for that.

We found that teaching to obey all of Christ' commands does not mean teaching everything he commanded... but means teaching them to OBEY... so that when they come upon a command of Christ when we are not around... their DNA is to simply obey.

GuyMuse said...


Exactly right. Teaching and obeying are two different things. In our discipleship we have PARES (Stop signs) built in to make sure new believers are actually doing/obeying what is being taught. If they are not practicing the truth/lesson, we go back and do again those parts where there has not been obedience.

Baptism would be one example. If after the first few weeks of discipleship the new believer has not been baptized, we don't just continue to teach new material, we do a PARE and deal with why they are delaying obedience on being baptized. Once they are living and practicing each lesson we move on to new material.