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The Six Critical Factors of a Multiplying Ministry

Summary: The “six critical factors” were developed during the early 1990s by several international leaders who compared and distilled their observations on what would best advance our ministries. The factors proved to be both enduring and flexible, when applied by local leaders. Consequently, the Gospel advanced.


Origins of the Six Critical Factors
Early Adoption of the Six Critical Factors
Integration of the Factors with The Core

Origins of the Six Critical Factors

The six critical factors originated from the international process of the Scriptural Roots of Our Ministry (SRM) during the 1990s.1

Additionally, the International Working Group (IWG) made influential observations as they traveled in various Islamic contexts. The IWG emerged from our fourth international council in Malaysia in 1993. It first met in the same year, with Neil G. assuming responsibility from September 1995. Other members were Nabeel J., Jim Petersen, and Bob V. As they traveled through our work in hard places, they observed the condition of our ministries with fresh eyes—not only in Islamic countries. They saw that it required so much energy to sustain existing ministries that local teams often lacked a sense of direction.2

When Logan Keating was installed as country leader of New Zealand in January 1996, his predecessor, Mike Shamy,3 became available as an international resource. Shamy helped development the six critical factors alongside the IWG.

The six factors were formally presented to our International Team4 in Hungary in May 1998. This coincided with the team’s acceptance of “our commitments,” which were distilled from what had emerged5 from the SRM.

The wording of the six factors, though not the underlying concepts, continued to evolve. Thus:

May 1998

Getting Started
Getting Started
Communicating the Gospel
From Survival to Discipleship
Leading and Leaders
Successive Generations

May 20016

Foundation Laying
Going to the Lost
Discipling Our Generation
Laborers and Leading
Spiritual Generations

The factors were usually presented schematically: Laying foundations led to an integration of the next four factors which would result in spiritual generations.

How then did the six factors fit within our pursuit of effective ministry?

Historically, we had paid much attention to what should mark the life of a disciple (The Hand Illustration, The Wheel Illustration), or what should be required in a ministry leader (such as requisites for Reps). These were valuable markers, but they were not sequential like the six critical factors, and they exegeted the progress of people rather than of ministries.

On a macro level, we had developed markers for entire countries, such as stages of ministry or the profile of a sending country.

Thus, the six critical factors filled a gap between the personal and the organizational. It is not a coincidence that they emerged in a context of explosive diversity. Nav initiatives in the 1990s ranged from the expansive effort called The CoMission to the almost invisible personal efforts of a fruitful presence. Having eschewed direction from the center and standardized models, such as the contextual reproducible ministry models of the 1980s, we questioned how to stay faithful to our calling.

Early Adoption of the Six Critical Factors

The timing was right for a philosophy of missions, the Fundamentals of Navigator Missions. This study, along with the four quadrants, would help us develop the unifying vision we call The Core (our Calling, Values, and Vision).

In the US, Shamy teamed with Petersen to work on “ministry R&D,” drawing in our staff in Detroit, Denver, and Seattle. Their pattern was to spend two days in each city, once a quarter, covering one of the six critical factors in depth.7

Two other streams of theology and practice that fed into this fertile period during 1997 were:

  • May 1997: consultation on the Church in hostile situations (Ekklesia and Oikos)8
  • April 1997 to November 1997: international leader gatherings9

When they met in Hungary in May 2000, the International Team listened to issues presented by various regional directors. Alan Andrews, for the US, described how best to develop thriving reproducing ministries.10 Extracts from his paper include:

Over the last two years we have seen the number of TRMs triple. We also have a number of new ones now emerging that will mature over the next year. While we need to continue to place a strong emphasis in this area, our real issue is in aligning all of these ministries to produce lifetime laborers that multiply among the lost.

In the US, we have a history regarding this issue that has created some real tension on all fronts. The collegiate and, to a lesser extent, the military entity have reacted to the emphasis of the 80s, of going to the far lost…they have felt that US leaders have tried to get them to do ministry on campuses and military bases that is best done in long-term community and metro situations.

. . . a fourth step, now very cautiously under way, is to look at the six critical factors as a basis for developing ministry process and terminology that is somewhat uniform for all of our ministries. This step will be much more difficult and filled with potential conflict. We live with considerable suspicion on all sides when it comes to ministry philosophy. Nevertheless, we have seen some encouraging progress. . . . What we hope to do is to allow the collegiate and military ministries to contextualize both the process and some of the terminology while encouraging them to embrace the overall framework.

Because of the strategic importance of this issue, our US Field Director Rusty Stephens supplied a supportive paper analyzing the dynamics of the interplay between campus and metro ministries across the US. He noted that “we have worked to establish a beachhead with the critical factors and have positioned competent, called leaders to focus on developing metro ministry (Mike Shamy11) and serving alumni (Gary Bradley).” After reviewing our history as regards going to the cities, he admitted that “we have yet to see one solid, together, active metro team advancing the Gospel among the lost with the laity playing a vital role . . .”

A year later, Andrews described how the factors were being applied within the US Navs. He described them as a good framework with a helpful flexibility. He said they were relevant because we had to relearn how to lay foundations and progressively build in ministry.12

Integration of the Factors with The Core

The following year, we gave more robust international attention to the factors. This occurred at the meeting when the International Team affirmed The Core. Neil G. described how the origin of the factors emerged from our need to communicate the Gospel in Islamic cultures while enabling God’s people to reach those around them. Mike Shamy described how the factors had been used in the US. They were not a blueprint; rather, they were a framework adaptable to each context. Mike added that they should not be seen as a linear process and that many US staff had been:

  • Isolated from unbelievers, and not sure where to begin
  • Fearful about the impacts on their wives and children
  • Resistant to the mistaken impression that we were focusing only on the lost
  • Controlled by various personal scruples.

In this context, the factors in the US were very fruitful. They strengthened our understanding of the Scriptures and coached our people to be effective. What about the rest of the world? As of 2002, the International Team wrote that:

  • In Asia, community ministries are using the factors to explore how our alumni can experience generational ministry.
  • In Australasia, the factors have been introduced to some degree . . . and Mike Johnson in Australia has put together a coaching handbook.
  • In Europe, the factors led to the ministry in the “inner frontiers” [approach to ministry] and are now the pattern for ministry among many of our people. They’re helpful in a context where there are such slim margins for error.
  • In Africa, the factors are fruitful. Nigeria is furthest ahead, East Africa less so. There is a need to be careful about perceived resistance to church discipleship.
  • Canada has not yet introduced the factors.

After this progress report, the International Team asked several questions, listed below.

  • Is this an elective or a preferred process, for some or all staff?
  • Does the emphasis on community tend to separate us from the rest of the Body?
  • Can we weave together the factors and leader development and our alignment around The Core?
  • How can we support our staff as leaders to move in among the lost?

The International Team agreed that the factors had significant applications throughout our work. We encouraged the International Executive Team (IET) to integrate the “threads on the rope,” so that the factors were not isolated from The Core.13 Therefore, as The Core took shape in 2002, the IET outlined the relationship14 between The Core and the six critical factors:

The Core is our response to God’s assignment to The Navigators. It captures both His calling to work in the context of His purposes and His values to live out as we go . . . with our vision of the resultant outcomes.

The critical factors are a guide or framework that can be used in implementing The Core. They give practical help in the pursuit of our Calling. They help us facilitate The Core. The factors pick up elements of The Core and help them become operational. They are ordered for generational ministry, by providing a framework that influences the choices we make and the actions we take. They serve as a check that we have covered the ground.

The factors are a roadmap, a menu that is able to flex with context. In some ministries, additional factors will come into prominence.

During 2002, Mike Shamy shared his extensive biblical studies on each of the critical factors. He was reluctant to do this because he wanted to be sure that the factors were used as a process and not only as a study.

Some time later, Alan Andrews reflected on the factors under the title “Important Steps in Ministering to the Lost and Broken.”15 In his US staff communiqué for Spring 2002, Alan wrote: “Trusting in the Lord Jesus, we have begun to move all of our entities and ministries into the soil of the lost and broken.”

It appears that Alan, at least, had some lingering questions about how to handle the critical factors. Five years later,16 he commented to the International Team that:

We are pretty far down the road in implementing The Core in the US. As US people come into the gatherings, we’d like them to experience alignment. I am particularly interested in how you (sc. the IET) are handling the critical factors as a way of implementing The Core. Make sure that we know what’s coming, up front.

Mike Treneer responded that many leaders, internationally, had never heard of the critical factors and that we do not necessarily want every participant to leave the gatherings committed to using the factors. Mike Shamy added that the tone of the upcoming gathering would not negate a contextual approach that a country (such as the US) is taking.


But what were the practical ingredients for grassroots “success”? What might help us embody our calling? The six critical factors set out to meet this need.

These factors are making an enduring contribution to our ministries. Navigating Cross-cultural Missions, published17 in 2016 by the IET, presents them anew as “a framework that can be used to implement The Core.”

By Donald McGilchrist
2346 words

See also articles on:
Ethos and Values
Scriptural Roots of our Ministry
Church Planting
Fundamentals of Nav Missions
The Approach to The Core


  1. SRM international version finalized in January 1990. Version 2.1 for US staff issued in 1992.
  2. Petersen’s pioneering investment in Brazil had also yielded a trove of insights.
  3. Shamy served as leader of our commonwealth bloc from December 1992 until the end of the bloc in May 1999.
  4. Also, during this complex meeting of the IT, there was dialogue on reports on our community ministries in Africa/Asia by Mike Treneer and Badu S., and in Western countries by Rinus Baljeu and Mike Shamy. At the same time, responsibility for our major project on leading internationally transferred from Ross Rains to Jerry White.
  5. Also, by 1998, the Fundamentals of Navigator Missions (FONM) had produced six bible studies and a summary of tasks in pioneering in a new context.
  6. The May 2001 presentation included a brief outline of what was involved (“breakthrough issues”) in each factor, providing a framework for the fourteen leaders from around the world who gathered for three days of discussion in the Pink House in May 2001.
  7. Source: Petersen to McGilchrist of August 11, 2016.
  8. This was a precursor to the ekklesia-oikos consultation in Malaysia (February 1999 in Genting). This, in turn, pointed to three gatherings on community among Muslim believers, which we planned to hold in 2000. This consultation was a good example of focusing on one topic and acting as a hermeneutical community.
  9. Primarily led by Paul Stanley and Mike Shamy.
  10. See the May 2000 International Team agenda, section Alan presented five steps in handling his issue, of which step 4 directly relates to the six critical factors.
  11. Mike was responsible for our metro entity, which included business and professional, church discipleship, and community, as well as linkages with ethnic entities and with friendship network.
  12. May 2001 International Team notes, section 10.
  13. May 2002 International Team notes, section 10.
  14. IET statement on the relationship, September 2003. Note that Neil G. requested our regional directors in February 2005 to not divulge the above statement before further dialogue.
  15. Undated, seven pages.
  16. See minutes of International Team meeting of February 6, 2005, p. 3. It is important to note, however, that the US national training team in November 2006 produced a summary titled “The Navigators: Who Are We Becoming?” It presented the factors as essential (“critical, not optional”) for developing generational ministry.
  17. By our International Executive Team, designed to replace the 1998 Fundamentals of Nav Missions. See pages 21, 22, for the Factors and supporting studies.
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