The ACT 3 Missional-Ecumenical Cohort groups are designed to provide a small group environment where learning is genuinely linked with community. There are numerous ways to teach and each way has its own merit. But not all forms of teaching produce the same fruitfulness. I have taken thousands of classroom hours over the course of my lifetime. I have heard thousands of sermons. I have taught, as a graduate level instructor, at least several hundred students. I have also preached several thousand sermons. I believe that what I remember best is from the material I taught that involved me the most directly in the learning and teaching experience itself. 

Image 10In forming the ACT 3 M-E Cohort groups I gave a great deal of thought to educational research about learning. We know, for example, that we remember about 10% of what we hear. This percentage rises to 30% when we hear and see. This is why educators utilize various graphics and visuals to improve the teaching of their students. But when something is spoken, seen and then practiced, especially in a context where the learner is deeply involved, even to the point of sharing in the teaching and practice of the content directly, then the number rises to as high as 80%. 

I learned this directly by teaching in the classroom over the last fifteen years or so. I prepared well and taught with all my heart and soul. Last summer I looked back over the  number of church leaders that I had taught in seminary and graduate school over the course of these recent years and asked, “What percentage of my students were genuinely transformed, so much so that the vision I invested in them really stuck and transformed them and their leadership?" My answer was 10-15%. I came to the conclusion that I could no longer teach the content of my vision–content rooted in the three core principles that I wrote about last week–unless I could see something like 80-90% of my students becoming serious practitioners of the missional-ecumenical vision. 

Some advisers suggested that I should teach this vision by exclusively using the vast resources of the social network and webcasting/webinars. Their arguments employed two key points: (1) My time and health would be stretched too thin by going to various places and investing so much time (an average of 32-36 hours in face-to-face meetings) in small groups, and; (2) A larger number of people could be taught more quickly by using the Internet alone. These are both good points. I carefully weighed them as I asked the Lord to guide me into the last phase of my mission.

While I believe these Internet-based tools should be used, thus they will be a major supplemental means for teaching and advancing the M-E Cohorts, I also believe deeply in the principle of incarnation. People must interface with those who teach them and with those who learn with them. This means discipleship training is best when it is rooted in the experience of life and community. I believe this community learning experience can never be replaced by these supplemental means. The Internet can bring people into a Cohort group and it can be used to help students while they are learning and after they have moved on to advanced stages of development but it can never replace face-to-face encounter that takes discipleship seriously. 

After completing my first M-E Cohort group April 17 I am more convinced than ever that this is true. A new group will begin in a few weeks, with 20-25 members. A group will begin in Philadelphia on September 20. And another group will begin in Wheaton on September 17. It is likely that I will have dates for a group in Phoenix within two weeks. 

I will travel to Dallas at the end of this month to explore the opportunity to begin a group there in the fall. 

Last Thursday (May 3) I met with leaders in the St. Louis area, both in Illinois and Missouri. It is possible a group will form there in the fall but if not then perhaps in early 2013. I really did not know how this conversation would go until I went to St. Louis and spent time with several people. The interest seems significant enough to pursue this area as a possible region for a group this year. I am also in conversation with some folks in Raleigh-Durham about a group that would begin this fall or early next year. 

I will form an ACT 3 M-E Cohort Group of 15-25 people wherever there is a sufficient minimum of people who will commit to the group. The first step is to meet/talk with several leaders who are willing to be “point” for finding friends who will form such a group. I am not investing money in advertising but rather going from person-to-person, place-to-place. The only requirement for considering a M-E Cohort group is for you to contact me and talk about determining if you have the number of people to invite me to come. 

The freedom of this approach is a great blessing for me. I do not try to force a door open, but listen and see what doors God is pleased to plainly open. If he opens it then it is open and if not then why push harder? 

If you are interested in joining such a group, or in helping me form one in your area, then please contact me directly at: I will respond as soon as possible. 


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  1. Joe Schafer May 7, 2012 at 6:59 am

    That picture makes me think I should start using Rogaine.

  2. John H. Armstrong May 7, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Really though, how often do you get to see the back of your head so clearly? Sorry, but I doubt anyone noticed. But now the cat is out of the bag my friend.

  3. Ben Toh May 7, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Hi Joe, Compared to my head of (no) hair, I’d trade places with you anytime!

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