Sunday, February 24

Less is more

Over the years I have come to the realization that it is not about how much I know; it is about how much those we work with know. Nobody cares how much I know. I can communicate a lot of information, truth, principles, methodology, etc. but in the long haul, what makes a difference is what those being trained have retained and bought in to.

We all are impressed with ourselves and how much we know. We want others to know all that we know, and see things as we see them. But that seldom happens. At best, only morsels of what we think important is ever grasped and adopted by those we work with. Clarity and emphases on a few things is much more valuable in the long haul than a ton of information that leaves everyone impressed.

In the beginning of our training we used to try and cram as much information as possible into people's heads. The assumption was that they would somehow absorb enough to begin putting it into practice. Not so. Very little was actually retained and put into practice.

Today, we approach training much differently. Now, our approach is teaching only so much as can be literally memorized and repeated back in a few short steps.

Our training is built upon seven pillars; all represented by a letter of the Spanish word C.O.S.E.C.H.A. (harvest).

For example, what we want to "C"ommunicate in the first letter "C" (concientizar in Spanish) is that we are focused upon making 500,000 disciples in five years. In order to reach this goal all of us together must be about four things:

1) Everyone praying the Lord of the Harvest to send/mobilize laborers into the fields of harvest. Everyone he sends our way we train.

2) Every church plant at least one other church every year.

3) Every believer win/disiciple four others every year.

4) Repeat #1-3 until we reach 500,000.

It has to be that simple. If it is more complicated than the above we get tangled up in the details and derailed. Everyone has to know and understand the vision of 500,000 disciples. Everyone has to know how we are going to get there. Everyone has to clearly understand their personal role and task. Only then is the "C" module learned. Any more information only serves as static/noise. It might be pleasant, even exciting, but it doesn't help to add more than can be absorbed.

It is futile to move on to the "O" of COSECHA if the "C" isn't fully grasped.

One of my favorite adages is "less is more." Of course I don't practice it as much as I preach it! But nevertheless it is true. We get more when we emphasize less.

If those we are training can't reproduce what we are teaching, we have failed. We are a bag of hot air. It is not enough to inspire, wow, impress, motivate--they have to be able to DO what it is we have taught.

Repetition is essential in each step. If they can't repeat clearly in their own words what it is being taught, it will be nothing more than information overload. Too often we fall into the trap of delivering assigned material to a group of trainees. We seem to think that finishing the book is the objective. Wrong. Our goal must be that they are able to reproduce each step of the process. And do so in such a way that those they will train in the future can also do the same. (See Third Generation Thinking).

In summary. Making disciples who actually go out and make disciples of the nations boils down to the KISS principle--Keep It So Simple--that literally any believer can do it.

Neil Cole says it this way, "Simplicity is the key to the fulfillment of the Great Commission in this generation. If the process is complex, it will break down early in the transference to the next generation of disciples. The more complex the process, the greater the giftedness needed to keep it going. The simpler the process, the more available it is to the broader Christian populace."


Anonymous said...

Hi Guy,
This is MAtt BEaver with Next Worldwide. I come to your blog to read every so often. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and outside the box thinking.
I m interested in talking with you about our organization adopting a canton in Guayas. Would you be interested in talking about it. Please shoot me an email at We have two churches who are ready to come in 2009. And could recruit several more for several years to come. I hope all is well. Thanks again for your blog. This young missionary learns from it.

Matt Beaver

David Rogers said...


I am intrigued by what you are saying here, and trying to sort through how it would apply to us in Spain. With that in mind, I've got a question for you.

If you were working in Spain, or say, Seattle, do you think you would follow the same strategy you are advocating here? In other words, do you think the educational level of the people you are training influences the need to keep it as simple as possible? Or do you think that is a universal principle that applies for highly educated people as well? What about if you were working with university grads in Guayaquil?

J. Guy Muse said...


Thanks for stopping by. I have been out of town the past few days along with trying to get a handle on how to handle all the flooding going on these days here in Ecuador. I will email you in the coming days about the possibility of coming in '09. We also might be able to talk. Do you have Skype?


Good question. Yes, I believe I would try and follow the same kind of simple strategy were I in Spain or Seattle. I think the same issues apply for much of our own missionary training. We are overwhelmed with so much good information at all the trainings and conferences we attend. But how much of all that do we apply and put into action? I can say from my own experience at these kinds of gatherings, that very little gets implemented. Very little gets translated into our own context. My feeling is, people--no matter what their education level--need a simple plan that everyone understands and buys into, and leadership that function like cheerleaders o carry it out and to fine tune along the way. Call me exagerado but if it can't be said on a single sheet of paper, it is too complicated of a plan/strategy.

Tim Patterson said...


I agree with this thinking. To know that simple is better, look no further than how Jesus did it. Obedience to the last thing Jesus tells us to do is the key to discovering God's plan for our focus people group. If we can persuade people to follow Jesus first, then follow a simple plan/process (with empowerment and accountability) for making other disciple makers... God's plan for our focus people will be fulfilled.

J. Guy Muse said...


Good word. If you ever get tired of being up there Stateside and want to join us here in Ecuador, bienvenido! We need someone on the ground here to help us coordinate the use of Stateside partners in reaching the rest of our province for Christ.

David Rogers said...


Thanks for your interaction on this. You give me some good thoughts to chew on. I'm tempted to answer back with some "devil's advocate" type questions on this. But, I think for now I'll just meditate on it further. There does seem to be some resistance in Spanish culture to what they perceive to be "over-simplification." But, maybe they just need to get over their intellectual pride. Thanks again for helping me to think through this.

J. Guy Muse said...


Please feel free to play "devil's advocate" any time you'd like. That is how we have arrived at most of the things we are currently doing. I love questions (as evidenced by many of my own posts that seek to answer a question.) Questions help us hone in on what it is we are really doing and forces us to face up to whether or not what we are doing is actually working. The people we work with are most inquisitive and are not afraid to ask the tough questions. In fact they put us on the spot all the time. I've learned to enjoy being confronted with the uncomfortable questions. That is how we move forward. So, feel free to play DA anytime!

David Rogers said...


I know you are open to dialogue on the basis our past interaction on a variety of topics. Thanks for that encouragement. It's just I'm not really sure how to word my questions right now. And I don't want to get in a tit for tat over something in which I'm not totally sure of my own thoughts on.

I will give you a bit more of a peek into where I am coming from, though. Maybe that will be helpful.

We are looking toward returning to Spain this summer. My big pending project is finally setting up our church planter training program. Up to now, I have thought I liked the Omega Course as the best overall material for our particular context. But, what you say here keeps coming back to make me ask if it may be a bit complex for our core curriculum.

Did you ever get a chance to look over the Omega Course? Based on your experience, would you say that the Omega Course approach is not simple enought?

Here's the link in case you don't have it already.

J. Guy Muse said...


For years I have been hearing good things about the Omega materials. I personally have never seen them or used them but know they seem to appeal to a lot of people there in the USA and Europe. I know for the people we work with, that much material would turn into "seminary" and not necessarily translate into church plants. Of 50 who might begin the course, we'd be lucky to see 5 finish.

I guess the best way to describe our own teaching philosophy was something we grabbed onto early on. Most of us follow a path:

1) learn
2) evaluate feelings about what is being experienced
3) put into practice that which is learned

For short learn-feel-do.

But somewhere, way back, we were introduced to do-feel-learn concept. First you get out there and DO the thing, evaluate the experience, and then LEARN.

That has tended to be our way of approaching the training process. Throw them in the swimming pool before they know how to swim. After being in the water, pull them out and ask, "what did you experience? what did you see? what happened?" Then, sit down and teach them Lesson 1: kick, kick, kick when in the water. Then back into the water to kick, kick, kick.

I posted a while back on the The Curse Of Knowledge which I got from an OnMovements post.

In all of this, I don't mean to sound like we are against education and learning. But if the education, book learning is up front, our experience is that people never seem to find the time to get around and put the learning into practice. In our own training, the learning comes after the doing. We have ongoing training for anyone out there working in the harvest fields. We will bend over backwards to help anybody obtain the learning they need, but first they have to be doing.

David Rogers said...


Good words. I totally agree with you here. Actually, the Omega Course is set up this way as well. You must put into practice what you are learning, with required hands on, church planting-related practical assignments mixed into the curriculum along the way. It is written on perhaps a little higher academic level than some other training materials I have seen, though. And, a lower academic level than others.

My question still remains, and maybe I am rephrasing it here a little: Do we adjust the academic level of our training materials to the academic level of those being trained?

J. Guy Muse said...


Do we adjust the academic level of our training materials to the academic level of those being trained?

IMHO, yes. To me, the key is whether what is being learned is being implemented. If not, it may be it is too high of an academic level, too much information. If this is the case, go through the material more slowly. Hand out smaller bites.

Let us know how things progress. Sounds like quite a challenge!