Monday, July 2

Model, Assist, Watch, Leave

In a missionary culture a person does not look to the central hub for direction. --Reggie McNeal

What this statement means to me is that in a "missionary culture" like our own, people are freed and empowered to serve God with little need for our missionary presence.

This would be the realization of our dreams if it were true on a wide-scale basis!

The truth of the matter is that our presence is still largely felt and people continue to look to "the missionary" for help, advise, affirmation, "permission", materials, and approval. While all of us need to some degree these things in our lives, they become unhealthy when long term we continue to be that "central hub."

Curtis Sergeant and CPM methodology speak of the MAWL training cycle (model, assist, watch, leave) as the basis of our missionary presence. It is likened to teaching a child to ride a bicycle.

Curtis explains that the parent...

1) provides a model by riding the bicycle,
2) provides assistance to the child by holding the bicycle as they learn to ride,
3) then watches while the child rides the bicycle by themselves,
4) and finally leaving the child to ride on his own.

The secret to achieving a missionary culture where people do not look to the central hub for direction is in understanding and applying the MAWL training cycle.

My own tendency is to stay in the first two stages of modelling and assisting. It is hard to stand back and just watch, not to mention leaving! It takes a special kind of parent to resist jumping in to rescue their children every time they know the child is about to mess something up.

I am personally not very good, nor do I really understand the "watch" stage very well. It is here that 2 out of every 3 new church plants dissolve, sink, disband--whatever you want to call it. It is very hard to stand by and watch something fall apart. Our tendency is to want to jump in and "fix it." Yet as I reflect on the house churches that have survived over the years, they are all--without exception--groups that we have indeed "watched" and yes, "left" to survive on their own.

Some make it, some don't. I have never been able to quite figure it all out.

Jesus says in Matthew, "I will build my church..." We are actually never really told to plant churches, we are told to make disciples. Making disciples consists in modeling, assisting, watching, and yes--leaving. The churches that no longer look to the "central hub" for direction are the ones that have survived.

Does any of this remind you of raising children?


Geoff Baggett said...


A great reminder ... for all of us.

I think your words also have application back here in the states. Our churches here would be so much more effective if pastors/leaders would "give away" ministries to our people and allow them to "sink or swim," rather than "keeping a handle" on everything and playing the constant role of "rescuers."

Great reminder and great post.

Strider said...

I have been a fan of Curtis' model since I first met him in 1997 and he gave us his little MAWL teaching. I have recently been teaching our national team and have come up with another way to put it. Too often we take Jesus to the village, pull him out of our pocket and show him around, then we put him back in our pockets and go home. This leaves the nationals dependant on us for truth and life. When we follow the MAWL model we place high trust in the nationals and in Jesus to lead them. We pull out Jesus, leave him with them and walk away knowing He will build his church.
Thanks Guy, for continually teaching these kind of concepts so well on your blog.

GuyMuse said...

Geoff and Strider,

Thanks to you both for the comments shared. I wholeheartedly concur with your observations. The MAWL concepts are very helpful to us as well, but hard to implement! Geoff, you will discover this as you begin to engage the upg there in Peru next year. Hopefully you guys can avoid a lot of the mistakes we have made over the years! Strider, CS is also one of my "heroes" and I have learned more from him than probably any other single source on church planting.

Tim Patterson said...


Curtis, along with Bill and Susan Smith, did our SC training over 9 years ago in Sao Paulo, Brazil. That was a tipping point for me. I really appreciate all they have contributed to missionary strategy through the years.

I have noticed in my own missionary ministry that many times it is not possible to actually "assist" the disciples. I don't see that part of the training explicitly described in Scriptures in the ministries of Jesus, Paul and others. What I do see is modeling and then observation of the disciples to make sure they followed with obedience. This has been my own experience. Of course, the observation involves assistance in some ways... you debrief, make corrections, go back over things, etc.

Also, I found that in Latin and other contexts permission by authority figures is a big issue... maybe in China it was not so much... So, we looked at Biblical patterns and came up with MODEL...
Model a Biblical Pattern
Observe Obedience
Delegate Authority
Encourage Faithfulness and
Leave to Start New Work...

It is a morphing of the MAWL, so we still credit Curtis and others with helping us to learn this concept in training.

GuyMuse said...


I really like your MODEL, especially the "D" where you delegate authority. In just a couple of hours I go to a training of new church planters and plan to implement this very thing tonight. Thanks for a timely concept that will be used!

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Anonymous said...

July 4th.
¡Feliz Día de la Independencia!
¡Que Dios bendiga a los Estados Unidos!
Un abrazo fraterno
Daniel Dañeiluk

Darrell said...

I have been gone so I am catching up on my blogs. I have a couple of questions. In both concepts, MODEL and MAWL, what "triggers" the trainer to move on to the next phase? Obviously going from the first to the second in both concepts are easy enough, but going from the second to the third, and third to the fourth, are not as obvious, and in my limited experience is not easy to determine. Also is there ever situations where going backwards is necessary, or does the new believer get one whack at the process and then done?

In the scripture I see Jesus using the same principals, but I see him reviewing the process over and over before he leaves; and then before he leaves he promises to send the Holy Spirit.

One more question...when a new church does fall apart for whatever reason what happens to those who desire to continue to follow Christ? Are they included into another church? Does the CP meet with them until others can be added? Or is it not something that needs to be attended to?