A Critique of T4T for Disciple Making


Most churches today are searching for the next magic pill, the next great program or the pastor who seems to make it look easy as a way to grow their congregations. What they seem to neglect is the power of the Word of God and the Spirit of God to make an impact. Why do churches struggle with making disciples that make disciples? It’s not that hard. I want to introduce you to the beautifully simple method of making disciples that make disciples through a church planting movement that is happening around the world today in every continent on the planet.

Scholars of  the Book of Acts agree: The early church movement took place in the power of the Holy Spirit through the lives of ordinary, months-old and even weeks-old believers as they were equipped by the apostles and other believers. A discipleship revolution ignited a firestorm of loving evangelistic zeal and fervent obedience that took the kingdom into the remotest corners of the known world in a period of years and decades, not centuries (p29-30)!

This was the original discipleship revolution. Disciples of Jesus learning to live out the universal twin call to 1) follow Jesus and 2) fish for men (Mark 1:17). Their love for their Master and desire to see His Name glorified in all the earth inspired them to sacrificial commitment that transformed their daily life and interpersonal relationships.

T4T was developed by an SBC missionary and church planter in the Far East, Ying Kai. When faced with the prospect of reaching 20 million people in the cities assigned to his territory, Ying was deeply moved by a poster on the wall of a CPM (Church Planting Movement) training room that said, “How many of my people will hear the gospel today?”

Ying sought the Lord for His strategy and meditated over Matthew 28:19-20: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20, NIV, emphasis added) He received these three insights:

GO NOT COME: Great Commission says we are to go, not invite people to come to us. We must go to where the lost are, and train the new believers to also go where he lost are. This was going to mean an ever-expanding wave of evangelism into factories, homes, shops and neighborhoods.

EVERYONE, NOT SOME: The verse says to make disciples of all, not just a few. We typically choose whom we want to share the gospel with. We try to prejudge who might accept it. But God said to share with everyone. We cannot predict who will accept the gospel and whom God will use to birth a movement.

MAKE TRAINERS (DISCIPLES), NOT JUST CHURCH MEMBERS: We are often satisfied if someone will believe and join our church. But the command Jesus gave us is so much more. He wants these new believers to be true disciples. And what do disciples do? Every disciple is to learn how to obey Jesus’ commands, including witnessing to others and then training these new believers to repeat the process. Every disciple should be a trainer. Every aspect of T4T is simple enough to be reproducible by every new believer – over and over again.

Ying and Grace began to see that, though their previous ministry had been good (several churches every year), it might also be the enemy of what was needed to reach the people in this region to whom God had called them. Ying and Grace entered their new assignment determined to see people in only one of two categories: lost or saved. If someone was lost, then Ying and Grace witnessed to them. If they were saved, then Ying and Grace offered them training. As they met existing believers, they began to schedule times to train (disciple) them every week or two. Everything that Ying taught, he expected these trainees to reproduce by witnessing to numerous people and training those who believed.Ying called this disciple-making process Training for Trainers (T4T). (p35)

As the Kais trained these believers to be trainers of trainers, they found that many would witness, some would start new groups, and a smaller number would go on to train their new group members to repeat the process. By living out this spiritual principle of training people to be trainers of others who would in turn train others, hundreds and then thousands began to come to faith. This all occurred according to the biblical pattern clearly illustrated in Paul’s directive to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

This verse describes four generations: 1. Paul; 2. Timothy; 3 faithful men; 4. others. The Kais found that once their T4T training process created a four generation disciple-base, a self-propagating movement would be produced. This is always their goal. Not merely adding fruit disciple after disciple, but multiplying disciples through four generations of fruitful trainers. This method was the only way for them to reach the multitudes so all would hear. It is the same for us. (p46)

T4T DEFINED: T4T is an all-inclusive process of training believers over the course of 12-18 months to witness to the lost and train new believers to form reproducing discipleship communities generation by generation.

T4T is not a magic program, or method. It does offer a clear process that implements 7 crucial Kingdom planting principles into the DNA of every new believer:

1-        Mobilize existing Christians to live out God’s calling on their lives
2-        Teach believers to witness appropriately as a lifestyle laser-focused on the lost
3-        Disciple believers to grow in a genuine love relationship of obedience to Christ
4-        Start new small groups or churches (usually both)
5-        Develop maturing leaders quickly
6-        Cascade out into multiple generations of disciples and churches/groups
7-        Equip missionaries or church planters to appropriately phase out of leading the movement
themselves and help the indigenous movement stand on the Spirit of God done once the discipleship and training process has taken root

T4T uses the word trainer rather than disciple because in today’s Christianity, the term disciple connotes a passive receiving or learning. This contrasts with the actively giving and reproducing discipleship model of Jesus’ ministry. “Freely you received, freely give. (Matt. 10:8, NASB)

In harmony with this is the T4T emphasis on obedience in fruitfulness is the mark of a mature believer. Mature believers are the ones who actually do the word and obey the call to witness and train new believers. This is in contrast to the western viewpoint that increased knowledge is the mark of a mature believer. “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. (James 1:22, NASB)

You may be saying to yourself, “Yes that happened in China, but could this happen in America?” The answer is yes! It is happening in Cleveland, Austin, Nashville, Indianapolis and even Booger Hollow, NC.

For more information go to http://t4tusa.com

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Joey Garner

    Jeff, this is one of most concise, detailed and easy to understand overviews of T4T I have seen. Thanks for sharing it and promoting T4T through your blog. It is great to see it continue to rattle people from their sleep, and yet with those who are using it, T4T continues to morph into other forms and expressions.

  • jeffcalloway

    Thanks man! It continues to grow here! Thanking the Lord for Dave!