The Tyrannus Effect – Paul’s Neglected Strategy for City-wide Discipleship

17 12 2007

paul1a.jpgHow have we missed this?

Ever since Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire and began to use the techniques of Roman paganism (temples, priests, pagan holidays etc.) to institutionalize Christianity most people have completely ignored the methods of the first churches or the way Paul went about church planting.

Recent movements have begun to try and recapture this ancient way of doing church, believing the Constaninian transition was not an improvement, but that it was ultimately destructive to church life and practice. Many involved in church restoration see Paul’s methods as extremely simple and essentially free of structure; just encourage people to meet in homes, release gifts and live life in community. Each of these elements have been very helpful but they’ve neglected a necessary piece of Paul’s strategy which has thus far, rendered much of the house church / simple church practices virtually ineffective.

I call this missing element the Tyrannus Effect. It describes the impact of Paul’s primary church planting activity. How do you begin to plant a church? What do you actually do week in and week out from month to month, year to year? From what I’ve seen, if you don’t believe it involves the planting of a weekly worship service you believe it primary involves weekly meetings in homes. Neither was Paul’s primary activity.

In a little known passage in Acts 19 we get the clearest glimpse of what Paul spent his days doing when he wanted to plant churches in a city. Luke records that after Paul abandoned his original method of working through the local Synagogue he rented space in the School of Tyrannus and held daily discussions there for about a two year period. This is most likely what he was doing in Synagogues before this time and we know this was what he did during his house arrest in Rome (Acts 28). This discipleship center was the public and constant activity and he supplemented this by also training in individual house church meetings (Acts 20:20).

What this strategy results in is the Tyrannus Effect.

So what is the Tyrannus Effect? It is what happens when your primary focus in a city is NOT the churches themselves but is on discipleship training through discussion. And this is what happens through this shift in focus:

  • Churches form naturally around those who are being trained
  • Complacent converts are quickly changed to committed disciples
  • The level of discipleship city-wide is continually increasing
  • Unity among the churches is developed through a common discipleship process
  • New believers are immediately immersed in the essential “renewal of their mind”
  • Teaching and training gifts are released for the benefit of the whole city
  • Disciples have a city-wide Kingdom vision vs. a preoccupation on an individual church
  • Individual churches are deeply interconnected with one another and equipped simultaneously
  • Discussion-based training replaces sermonizing as a means to a long-lasting, faith-building group discovery experience.
  • A central base of operations (city-church) exists for recognizing elders, releasing the five-fold ministry and dispatching trainers to other localities

For the past year we’ve been experimenting with the Tyrannus strategy and have experienced the beginnings of this effect first hand. I can’t imagine what would happen tomorrow if the biblical teachers and trainers in a city came together to disciple the city. This unifying of willing disciplers is the next phase in our strategy to bring our activity in line with Paul’s method.

What should you do if you want to experience the Tyrannus Effect in your city?

  1. Create a clear, repeatable discipleship process
  2. Transition each lesson from lecture format to discussion-based training
  3. Hold regular gatherings in an appropriate location where people commit to the discipleship process
  4. Open up the training to the whole city especially to other churches
  5. Keep expanding bringing on more trainers and more training modules until training discussions are happening daily
  6. Dispatch trainers to other cities to begin discipleship training centers in other regions
  7. Encourage discipled believers use their gifts to build up their church bodies.
  8. Send 5-fold ministers (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) into the churches to stir them up
  9. Recognize city elders who can help shepherd churches (this will apply mostly to home-based churches).
  10. Continually communicate and network with all the churches and ministries in your region offering this training as a means to build up the churches and expand the Kingdom

There are many unique challenges to doing this in areas that are very churched with many dis-unified denominations (this may be why Paul preferred to go to areas that were unreached). But we desperately need to create a way for the church to return to our central mission and the final command of Lord – “to go and make disciples of all nations” one city at a time.



30 responses

17 12 2007

It’s wonderful that you’ve picked up a “how to” idea from the life of Paul. And the one you’ve noted is admittedly little-used. I’m so happy you are beginning to see the fruit from trying this method.

However, I don’t think it’s safe to assume that this is how Paul did things in every place. He seems to have been a person who did what each sitaution warranted, not a cookie-cutter sort of approach. Having said that, I don’t doubt that a discipleship-based approach as you are attempting would be much more effective than most of what is typically called church planting. Especially in light of the aversion modern people seem to have to organized, typical church. I’m curious to see how things shake out for your group.

17 12 2007

Hi Carey,

Excellent point. I agree there is no way to prove from Acts that this was always Paul’s method. I would say that everywhere Paul went with the express purpose to plant a church (this does not include Athens since that was NOT why he was there) the method he used mostly likely did include this type of intentional training. The reason for this is Ephesus is the most detailed account getting almost 2 chapters of Acts and since he did this EVERYDAY in Ephesus do we think he would have not done this at all in other cities?

Thanks for your encouraging words and I’ll be updating continually what happens with our approach.

20 12 2007
josh knoechel

hey jeremy

i’m already missing being able to ask you these kinds of questions in person…

it’s very easy to see some of these elements and “how to’s” after having been around your community this year through training, pt, and regular hanging out with the koine folks. i’ve been thinking a lot about different models in the last couple of years including the typical church, the ministry model (what i’m calling YL), the normal house church model, and your model. a couple of things that you wrote about though that i have not been able to witness or figure out on my own are how the eldership and the sending out of ministers works.

timothy makes eldership seem like an appointing process but that only seems like it would work with a relatively large body. but by the time you get to the size of having official deacons and elders you are now too big to be intimate with everyone. secondly, and this is an issue i am dealing with in the YL model is the issue of the sending out. in YL, after you have been around long enough, been faithful and committed enough, developed roots and become effective at what you do, it seems like you get asked to consider staff and moving to some distant city away from all of the community that you are so integrally involved in and necessary to. i can’t see how these two elements function in a small community. what do they look like at koine?

21 12 2007

Hey Josh, great to see you here. Here’s my thoughts to your questions –

Josh wrote – “timothy makes eldership seem like an appointing process but that only seems like it would work with a relatively large body. but by the time you get to the size of having official deacons and elders you are now too big to be intimate with everyone.”

Great question. This is where many house churches stumble. Paul didn’t only plant house churches; he spent most of his time planting a city church. He created two layers in every city – the city church and the smaller house churches (interdependent bodies). The Elders are appointed at the city church layer NOT the body church layer. When he wrote to elders he addressed the elders of that city. Likewise when he addressed the churches he often addressed a specific church in a home (Rm 16, 1 Cor. 16, Col. 4) thus two distinct layers both with the title “church”. House churches that are not building a “city church” structure only experienced a fraction of what the N.T. describes and I believe have equally as unbiblical a model as the institutional church.

As far as sending this is an issue for the city-church (what we call Koine) as well. It happened at Antioch city-church – “2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”

I fully expect we’ll be sending teams of trained disciples on apostolic missions on a fairly regular basis. We’ll probably do this at least once in 2008 but as the city church gets stronger it will happen constantly. These will be more in the Pauline fashion, usually in teams and specific to what gifts a particular city-church is needing as well as to plant new city-churches (starting with a training center).

10 01 2008

I find that leading discussions is not an easily acquired skill for some. I’ve linked to a page that discusses two issues…

1. Orality… learning to tell a bible story instead of just reading and
2. How to conduct an “oral bible study” discussion

I’ve found it very helpful for small groups and even family devotions.

Also, while many people cannot envision themselves giving a “Gospel Presentation”, we all tell stories on some level every day and so helping people tell bible stories can have a “viral” effect as some quotes on the page show.

11 01 2008
This Week In Blogs « Sets ‘n’ Service

[…] Jeremy Pryor on “The Tyranus Effect: Paul’s neglected strategy for city-wide discipleship.“ […]

15 01 2008
Monday Links | Subverting Mediocrity

[…] The Tyranus Effect – Paul’s Neglected Strategy for City-wide Discipleship.  Read it. […]

17 01 2008
The Pastor-ization of Christianity - An Alternative « From Eden to Zion

[…] would create a city-church structure over the house church complete with a School of Tyrannus to organize constant discipleship training, host visiting apostles, city elders to shepherd the […]

17 01 2008

Chuck – excellent point and thanks for the link. We desperately need to train teachers how to use dialog as the primary method NOT because everyone has their own truth and should be equally heard but because people learn far more when they are involved in the discovery process, have the ability to challenge what is being said and allow the tension developed through the midrash to push deeper their faith.

28 08 2008
Transitioning Pastors from Paid Positions to Released Callings Part 4 (how does this BETTER release my gift than a paid position?) « From Eden to Zion

[…] does not exist today).  5-fold ministers need to establish the city church (like Paul did with the School of Tyrannus) and then equip the whole church in an entire region from there.  Not only does this better […]

19 10 2008
Kiwi and an Emu.

[…] The Tyrannus Effect – Paul’s Neglected Strategy for City-wide Discipleship. […]

10 02 2009

This is great stuff Jeremy. I feel like I’ve been trying to put a puzzle together to determine what the Church really should look like, and I think this is an important piece. Good work. Thanks
Ford Seeuws
Panama City, FL
2 Cor. 11:3

25 03 2009
Church Planting, the latest Good Mission to Replace the Great Commission « From Eden to Zion

[…] working?  Why not do what Paul did in Acts 19 which was NOT to plant a new church but to start a city-wide disciple-making movement.  Disciple-making movements make more disciples than churches.  I wonder why?  “But in my […]

25 06 2009
Daniel Curran

Dear Jeremy, Looks like I’m a Johnny-come-1.5 years-lately on this conversation — pray tell your idea has flourished. — below is a “prospectus” on something I’ve been working on for the past 5 years… that’s finally getting some traction. I was thrilled to read this blog post of yours! -dc

Let me know if you are still hip on the “Tyrannus Effect” and what fruit it’s bearing in your city (reply via your blog comment or my email — I’ve subscribed to be notified if you reply via your blog.

25 08 2009
Bill Furioso


Many times over the years I googled “School of Tyrannus” and came up with next to nothing. I was really blessed to find your blog the other day with the “Tyrannus Effect”. This is a direction which the Holy Spirit gave to me 25 years ago in South Africa where I served as a missionary for 13 years. I have written down what I believe the Holy Spirit has given to me, which I share with you here, in hope that we can learn together more of what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church. I appreciate your comments in return.

At Christ’s Table Ministries: The School of the Open Door

This name – “School of the Open Door” – is taken from the words of Paul in I Corinthians 16:9 – “For a great and effective DOOR has been OPENED to me ….” Acts 19:9-10 reveals that Paul’s “open door” in the city of Ephesus was specifically the School of Tyrannus.

In 1984, after being in South Africa for six months, I intently sought the Lord about our future there. Viz. If my wife, Frances, and I were to remain in South Africa, what would be our mission?
At that time, the Lord planted two scripture passages in my heart:
1. Acts 14:21-28 This clearly describes the ministry we walked in for thirteen years in South Africa and a half a year in Brazil – an apostolic ministry of the gospel, discipleship and leadership training, church planting and watering. In verse 27 it says that “they returned to Antioch … and reported how God had OPENED THE DOOR of faith to the nations”. Here, and in I Corinthians 16:9 (Acts 19:9-10), and also in II Corinthians 2:12 (Acts 16:8-10), Paul uses the phrase “open door”, meaning a God-given opportunity to minister the gospel of the kingdom.

2. The other passage the Lord had given to me back in 1984 was: Acts 19:9-10. I believe I moved in partial manifestations of this when I headed up a Bible School/Ministry Training Center for a church in Johannesburg South Africa from 1985 to 1987; and also from 1984 to 1997 through an itinerant teaching ministry to the wider Body of Christ, as well as through teaching through print and audio-visual correspondence courses. But, at the same time, I always sensed that more manifestation of this was yet to come.

As I have meditated on this Acts 19:9-20 passage for 25 years, I’ve seen more in its context, and I believe the Holy Spirit has given me more understanding:

I believe that this may have not been only a “Bible school” situation but also an evangelistic outreach ministry (see verses 1-20). Of course, it can be understood to be both – as well as, an apologetic ministry of the Christian worldview – viz. what Paul had done in the synagogue(s) – “reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God” (verse 8, see also verses 19-20). As I have surveyed the book of Acts, I see much of Paul’s ministry being evangelism through reasoning and teaching.

This School of Tyrannus is definitely a mystery in that there is very little spoken about it in the Scripture. Interestingly, in some ancient texts it says that Paul reasoned daily “from the fifth to the tenth hour” i.e. from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm – possibly when people took a break from the workday in the Mediterranean climate. The root meaning of the Greek word translated “school” or “lecture room” is “leisure” i.e. during their “leisure time”, while off from work, people gathered for discussions. This could be interpreted and applied to a contemporary setting of a pursuit of cultural activities. The theory regarding the School of Tyrannus which seems most plausible to me is that Tyrannus, a Greek, had a school of philosophy which he let Paul use during the off hours so that Paul could also discuss his “philosophy”. But in any case, Paul was here operating outside of the existing religious system i.e. the synagogues. Most Bible schools tend to be denominational in nature, focus, purpose and function. I see this School of the Open Door as definitely operating outside of any particular denominational system. It may even be in a somewhat “secular” context – “…between Bethel and Ai” – Bethel means “the house of God” i.e. the church, and Ai means “heap of ruins” – “that which is bent, twisted, and distorted in sin, contorted in pain” i.e. the world. (See Abraham’s journeys – Genesis 12:8 and 13:3-4)

Beyond this – drawing on many other indicators of personal guidance from the Holy Spirit – this School of the Open Door would be a place for apologetic evangelism to those outside the kingdom, as well as, a fathering ministry of discipleship and leadership training for those within the kingdom. I understand that it was through this School of Tyrannus ministry for two and one-half years (plus the six months in the synagogue) that Paul laid the apostolic foundations for the next generation of the church in Ephesus, which in turn spread “the word of the Lord Jesus” throughout the surrounding region and beyond i.e. missions.

Also – with the mention in Acts 9:19 of the burning of occult books, I envision the Christian alternative – viz. a Christian writing ministry for the publishing and distribution of the Word of the Lord.

1 09 2009
Rolando Castro

I’m so glad something like this you are describing is actually happening. Me and some of my friends are trying to find a place where the fivefold ministry is taken place. But your description is even beyond that. I really like what you are doing and I would love to be in contact with you guys, to experience the ministry in that way. I’m part of the Church Planting Ministry from the Baptist Convention in Maryland/Delaware, and we’re in the process to start new urban churches with second generation Hispanics, but trying to make a shift of paradigm in the way we understand the church and the commandment of making disciples.

20 11 2009

Praise the Almighty God! This is what is required in Africa and Rwanda in particular after the 12994 tragedy of genocide which killed a million people in 100 days. Africa’s greatest need is discipleship designed in the pattern of Tyranus. The church in Rwanda had done a good job of evangelizing but a poor job of discipling. Otherwise , how dare you kill your fellow christian whom you share everything including the Lord’s Table ?
Christianity here is a mile wide and an inch deep. Most of the pastors have no formal Bible training. They have no access to a library, and only a few books. Many do not even own a full Bible. We have been called by our Lord Jesus Christ to imitate him in fulfilling the great commission and the great commandment and this must start from our home, Jerusalem of Acts 1: 8. Rwanda went through
Welcome to Rwanda with the message of golad tidings, light and hope in a christian perspective. We love you all.
May God bless us in our ministry as you stand with us in prayer as we seek fo establishing a sound School of Tyranus in Rwanda.

In His service,

Gospel Light Mission
Po Box 3576 Kigali
Cell +250788727650
Rwanda East Africa

30 01 2010

Curious about the “Tyrannus” in Acts 19:9, I googled for more info and came upon this forum.

(Having read the bible from cover to cover a few times, I must have come upon Tyrannus in as many times but became curious about it only now – literally minutes ago.)

Is the school actually called “School of Tyranus” (with one “n” only)?
If so, is there is special reason for it?
If none, would it not be better to change the name to Tyrannus?
I googled for Tyranus and came upon an adult site.

In Him,

bro dido

24 11 2010

Hi Jeremy. Thanks so much for this website and especially for this post. It makes so much sense and is a real encouragement for us to focus on our task of “Making Disciples”.

In Acts chapter 19 verses 9-10 it speaks about Paul having discussions in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. Another thing I find interesting is that immediately after this section in verses 11-12 it speaks about Paul doing extraordinary miracles through Paul. Not only did he train in the principles of the kingdom but he also displayed the power of the kingdom. I love this verse from 1 John 2:6 – “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”

28 12 2010

Great discovery,God can and does keep disclosing secrets to us in his word.

8 01 2011
David Kueker

Well said. And it’s also exactly what the Apostles did in Acts 5:12 in Solomon’s porch. The math: 12 apostles lead 12 supervision and training groups of 12 persons each hour * 40 hour week = 5760 leaders per week, who could watch over 69,000 people in cells. We need to replace our understanding of cell-celebration with a three legged stool: cell, celebration, equipping center.

8 01 2011

Brilliant observations and conclusions. Reposting on Making Disciples on facebook.

6 11 2011

Yes this has been my approach to education of the Word of God for the last 9 years. I felt it was one of the missing links in the culture in which we live today. It is refreshing to see this website. This is also the approach I teach in the mission field. I enjoyed reading the other post. And would agree with some and disagree with others. Have a blessed day.

21 11 2011
lindiwe salim sakina


tyrannus is the best education of the word of god in the world.

4 04 2012

Reblogged this on Engineering Eric.

14 04 2013
home based business

Hi there, this weekend is nice designed for me, for the reason that
this time i am reading this great educational piece of writing here at my

8 05 2013

What you are saying makes a lot of sense, and I can’t help but notice that since you posted “the Tyrannus Effect” in 2007 [? ?] that so much of what I’m seeing in effective churches is doing pretty much exactly what you describe. Nicely done! I’m a Presb. pastor, and I think this is a valuable insight.
Keep up the good work!

25 11 2013

How do you compare this to the scientology church’s teachings and practices?

24 05 2015

This is constructive, it surely teaches ways of building a church.

30 01 2016

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