MAWL is an acronym for Model – Assist – Watch – Leave. As we work through living life as an intentional witness, and as we learn skills/tools that we want to use in engaging the harvest, be thinking about “down stream.” How can we pass along the skill set that people need while doing our best to ensure it remains potent and well done? MAWLing plays a major role in this process. Or, should I say, a balanced MAWLing strategy plays a major role in this process. This is an important distinction because often times we do one part of this process well and the others end up lacking. Here’s some ideas on keeping it balanced.
Modeling – Jesus gives us the best example of modeling in His time on earth, as it is that life-on-life discipleship where we show those we’re discipling what we do and what we expect them to do. As you look at Jesus’s life, you see Him modeling what he wants the disciples to do, even chastising or correcting them when they get it wrong. In Matt. 17, Jesus casts a demon out of a boy that the disciples were not able to cast out. He chastises them, and then corrects them. In Luke 8, we see Jesus at work doing His thing. In Luke 9, he sends the 12 out to do what He had just done with them. In Luke 10, He sends out the 12 along with 60 others. The modeling principle colored all that Jesus did with His disciples. It’s important to note here that Jesus hasn’t pulled them into a sterile classroom setting and given them practice reps in the skill set and then sent them out. Too often, our modeling isn’t real modeling. We seek to instill a skill set in the sterile environment of a safe training setting, which is really teaching. And while this teaching may be enough for some skill sets, others require us to get out there and get our hands dirty with people, modeling for them rather than simply imparting a skill set. The intangibles come through in that real-life setting. Many church planting coaches are now seeing that where there’s a problem or obstacle with indigenous work, the modeling element has either not been done well or will serve as the tool to break through the obstacle.
Assisting – I often hear, “Oh, I could never do that. You’re the expert/professional/pastor.” That’s the perfect time to say, “Come on, we’ll go together. And if you get stuck, I’ll be standing right there to help you out.” There’s just something about having that presence with us in times of need, that confidence that someone’s got your back if things go south. And our presence can be that calming factor for those we’re MAWLing. This is one of the two weakest points in our MAWLing process overall. In John 4, we read that Jesus was receiving pressure because He was doing so many baptisms. And then John gives us almost a side note: although Jesus Himself wasn’t doing the baptisms, but His disciples. He was there with them, standing beside them, being associated with them, and no doubt helping them figure it all out. Let’s face it; you guys are awesome! And in your competence, you carry an attitude of being able to get the job done. And, sometimes, it’s almost natural to step in and “take over” what could be a touchy situation. After all, we want to win people. We want to equip people. And, we are competent, capable people. But there is something to be said for the teachable moment that comes through hardship. That discovery process can be short-changed because of our capabilities. Jesus let His disciples struggle; even fail (see Matt. 17 above) to impart what they needed. Don’t be too quick to jump in. But to jump in means we need to be there with them, standing by them and providing the nudges that will bring them through.
Watching – This one seems straight forward, right? We stand back and watch them do. But it’s at this point that I want to shift the paradigm a bit by asking the question, “What are we watching them do?” Are we watching them perform a skill? Or are we watching them assist someone else in learning that skill? There’s a huge difference here, and it’s this difference that’s making a big impact on the movements happening around the world. It’s in this watching-phase that, as Jeff Sundell says, practitioners have found the sweet spot! So, think of it like this:
Person 1 (you): M A W L
Person 2: M A W L
Person 3: M A W L
Getting to the WAM seems to be breaking through the problems of passing DNA on to the 3rd Generation, giving DNA the best chance to make its way downstream. Here’s what I mean. You, as a discipler, have been Modeling for someone a skill set that’s necessary for their maturing. And, of course, you make that shift to Assisting them as you work together with that skill set. But what we often miss is that they should have someone they are modeling with, too. This is where person 3 comes in. Once person two has the skill set, your task becomes watching them assist person 3. For example, if John has been sharing with Mike, and Mike decides to follow Jesus, John wants to model for Mike how to read & learn from the Bible. At some point, John wants Mike to be modeling that for someone else while John helps Mike. Mike begins modeling Bible learning for Chris with John’s help. At the point that Mike begins helping Chris, John is now free to watch Mike as Mike helps Chris. Only when Chris starts modeling the skill for someone is John free to take a step back and let the process roll. In doing so, we’re instilling a skill set into the fourth generation!
Leave – Notice in the above example I didn’t say John was free to leave. I think this step is often misunderstood. Leaving in this process means taking a big step back and letting the process roll, and not that you leave them and never make contact again. The reality is, there may be questions, problems, obstacles, or who knows what which require your help. And if you leave, you’ll not be available to offer that help. The key here is to allow them to wrestle and struggle for the solution without your direct and immediate intervention. But even Paul spoke back into the places he’d “left” to deal with vexing problems that reared their ugly heads (sloppy worship practices, circumcision, and legalism, just to name a few). But his direction in such things was more prescriptive than directive. He readdressed the theology behind the sound principle, often with very strong language, trusting them to take what he’d prescribed and applying it to their setting. So, in essence, leaving isn’t really leaving at all. It’s handing ownership over, not abandonment. Think of this as Jesus telling the disciples that they will be His witnesses, and that He’s going away, but He would send a helper to guide them. He didn’t really leave. His coaching, His leading just took on a different look.