oreos

The key aspect of effective discipleship. (Spoiler alert: Oreos ARE involved.)

I’ve been co-teaching a three-semester Systematic Theology class at my church for the last 18 months. (And it has been a BLAST! If you’re in the area, I highly recommend joining us the next time we teach it.) Our class is coming to an end in a couple of weeks, and one of our students asked, “So, what’s next?”

While we do have some ideas on classes we want to offer in January, my mind keeps coming back to discipleship.

Kandi Gallaty defines discipleship this way:

Discipleship is intentionally equipping believers with the Word of God through accountable relationships empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to replicate faithful followers of Christ.

The reason we teach scripture and theology (and are students of them ourselves) is not just so our students will know everything Jesus has commanded us to do. That’s not the Great Commission. We teach the Bible so our students will obey everything Jesus has commanded us to do. That is the Great Commission.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:18-20

Specifically, we need to teach our students to obey Jesus’ command to go and make disciples (that’s the “replicate” part in the definition of discipleship).

Some of our students are already discipling others, praise the Lord! But some aren’t. For a myriad of reasons that no longer include, “I don’t know enough about the Bible to disciple someone else.”

It kills me that many of us teach the Word but never get around to lovingly, but insistently, pushing our people to obey it!

Sure, when we speak to a class of 30 or a group of 80 we hope they will take away a truth that they will then apply to their lives that week, but we can’t know that they do… Because groups that large don’t lend themselves to accountability.

In other words, we are only capable of partial discipleship in large group settings. We can intentionally equip believers with the Word of God in large groups…but we can’t have effective accountable relationships, without which our students might, but probably won’t, replicate faithful followers of Christ.

The essential accountability factor is only consistently possible in one-on-one or very small groups (3-5ish people). This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where we can teach them to obey all Jesus has commanded us. Including, but not limited to, them discipling others, eventually.

It’s not rocket science. But it’s also not easy.

Discipling and being discipled on a small scale require vulnerability, commitment, a teachable heart, dependence upon the Holy Spirit for direction and sanctification, and, oh, yeah, TIME.

These are all legitimate concerns people raise in the form of excuses for why they aren’t discipling others or being discipled by someone. (And I say that as someone who has used all of them on many occasions.)

The actual reasons we don’t participate in real discipleship are because we are afraid, and we are just a tad self-centered. (These are the same reasons we don’t evangelize.)

We don’t really want to spend our precious Netflix and Oreos time on other people! Especially if it is going to get uncomfortable.

But if we don’t prioritize discipling people who will disciple other people, we are in direct disobedience of Jesus Christ.

Let that sink in a minute.

The shock of that statement ought to make all of our excuses for not participating in discipleship fade away faster than I can eat ten Double Stuf Oreos (I don’t even know why they still make Single Stuf).

Are you scared? That’s fine, Jesus didn’t say you have to be fearless.

Do you not have time? Uh, yeah, you do. Find it. Start by looking in the Netflix directory.

Do you not know how? Ask someone who does. Read a book on the subject.

Do you not have anyone to disciple or to disciple you? Uh, yeah, you do. Ask God to bring you people. Sit back. Eat some Oreos. Pay attention.

Even if you’ve never read the Bible, you qualify to be discipled by someone. There are, in fact, no pre-requisites at all.

Even if you’ve never taken Systematic Theology, if you have a general grasp on the Bible and a general understanding that it’s better to obey God than to not obey God, you qualify to disciple someone.

Stop waiting. Start now.

What is the purpose of the Church?

“What is the purpose of the Church?”

The question gave me pause. I didn’t have a memorized answer I could just spout off when I read those words a couple of months ago. I guess that’s because I hadn’t really taken the time to consider the purpose of the Church… I knew the purpose of a Christianto know God and to make Him known (Exodus 9:15-16, John 17:3, Matthew 28:19-20). That answer I had worked out long ago…

The Church is just a bunch of Christians, so I reasoned the answer should be the same: a Christian’s purpose and the Church’s purpose is to know God and to make Him known.

Eight weeks later I’ve realized that, while my answer is technically correct, it’s slightly too vague. It’s too vague for our churches to implement, and it’s certainly too vague for our post-modern world to realize it must be understood within biblical terms of who God is.

A more specific answer is the purpose of the Church is to make disciples. Unfortunately, people have wildly varying ideas on what a disciple is.

Too many Christians, even Christian leaders, confuse disciples with church-goers or self-identified Christians or people who have prayed to receive Christ as their Savior or people who have been baptized or people who know a lot of Bible stories or people who serve their communities while wearing Christian t-shirts.

To be sure, all of those things are things disciples should do (although, we could stand to leave our “Serve Team” shirts at home…), but none of those things make someone a disciple in and of itself.

Why not?

Jesus said to the original disciples, “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,” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Do you see the part we usually skip? We may go, we may share the Gospel, we may baptize converts, but then, at least in the culture I’m in, we stop… we don’t follow through and teach new converts to “obey everything [Jesus has] commanded”.

Oh, sure, we may preach tremendous sermons and offer fantastic Bible studies – really meaty stuff that teaches people the Word – but that’s not the litmus test for whether or not we’ve taught anyone to obey everything Christ has commanded…

What is?

When our people are telling others about Christ, training them in the ways of the Bible, showing them how and challenging them to live obediently to the scriptures, we’ve made more than converts – we’ve made disciples

And the cornerstone way in which a true disciple obeys Christ is by going and making more disciples who will mature and make more disciples who will mature and make more disciples who will… you get the point.

With a weak voice I have to ask, Church, are we doing that? Am I doing that?

The stats show, as a whole, we aren’t. And when I look around my community – Bible Belt, USA – I see a lot of believers doing a lot of good things, but not many doing the main thing – making more disciple-makers.

It’s time to stop being content with entertainment “Christianity” where our churches’ main focus is making sure people have a satisfying “experience” on Sunday mornings. It’s time to stop preaching the Gospel, helping people convert, and then letting them fall through the cracks of the mega church machine, never to be heard from again. Believers, it’s time to stop being content learning more Bible but not doing anything with that knowledge.

We are fooling ourselves if we think we’re living the Great Commission but we’re not 1) currently investing time and love into a relationship with an unbeliever in which we both model the Christian life for him and, when the Spirit leads, verbally share the Gospel with him, 2) walking a younger believer through his next steps in growing in his relationship with Christ, and 3) helping more mature believers take that final step of obedience by equipping and encouraging them to reach out to the lost, share the Gospel, teach and model the scriptures to younger believers, and help equip them to duplicate the process in someone else.

In short, we’re fooling ourselves if we think we are disciples but we aren’t making any disciples.

In the words of Michael Jackson, it’s time to make that change.

If you’re interested, I recommend reading DiscipleShift for a more detailed explanation of what I’ve summarized. If you’re super interested, I recommend reading Disciple Making Is next. If you’re still interested and/or refuse to read books, shoot me an email below and I’ll send you a short paper or two on the subject. And, lastly, if you’re local to me and want to be a part of making a change in how we do discipleship in our area, let’s chat.

Next Class: Evangelism without Confrontation

The majority of Christians understand that we have a responsibility to share the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ with others (Matthew 28:19).

But we don’t do it. 

For a lot of reasons.

In part, we just don’t care enough about others’ salvations. We’re caught up in our own lives and don’t make sharing the Gospel a priority.

We also tend not to share the Gospel because we feel ill-equipped to do so. We haven’t had any formal training, we haven’t memorized any special verses, and if someone asks us a question we don’t know the answer to, we’ll feel mortified.

Some of us also fear that if we talk about Jesus we’ll come across as narrow-minded or judgmental. We don’t want to lose respect in others’ eyes, and we really don’t want to lose relationships with people because we broached the taboo subject of religion.

The good news is we can rectify all of these concerns and get on with our God-mandated duty to tell others about Jesus. 

Beginning March 19th I am teaching a 6-week course that will show you how to evangelize without confrontation by using a non-threatening, question-based approach to witnessing. We will learn the benefits of a question-based approach, what questions and scriptures to use while witnessing, and I will share some stories of how I have seen this method used effectively.

Hope you can join me!

 

This course is open to women and is free of charge. Childcare is provided. Please register online ahead of time if you can.

When We Shouldn’t Share the Gospel

I spend my Tuesday mornings intentionally engaging in conversations about God (among other things) with women who don’t share my views. Some think they believe what I believe about God, but their lifestyles communicate otherwise. Some don’t know what they believe. Some don’t really care to figure out what they believe.

We spend thirty minutes one on one, talking out problems these women are facing. They tell me about themselves. I affirm their feelings. I try to make them feel heard and understood. I try to empower them to make well-educated decisions. I interject pertinent truth when it’s fitting. And, if I feel led, I share the Gospel proper.

Thirty minutes is not a lot of time to get through all that. And I will never see the vast majority of these women ever again.

That being the case, I must ask myself, “As a Christian, whose primary responsibility to others is to share the Gospel with them, mustverbally share it with every non-Christian I meet? If I don’t have time or don’t ‘feel led’, am I shirking the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) by not laying out the plan of salvation with every non-Christian I know?”

http://samaritanxp.blogspot.com/2008_10_01_archive.htmlimage via samaritanxp.blogspot.com

It’s true, every unbeliever’s greatest need is an understanding and acceptance of the Gospel. And it’s also true that each unbeliever is at a different point along the path to accepting truth.

If we think of a person’s journey to faith in Christ as a timeline, with their birth on the far left and their acceptance of Christ on the far right,we would do well to consider what happens in between.

As they start traveling on their path, unbelievers go through stages.

1. Ignorance. The fact is none of us are born knowing the Gospel. We have to learn it. And whether we’re 4 or 94 the first time we hear it, we all spend part of our lives ignorant of the Gospel.

Once we’ve heard the Gospel, we respond to it, for better or for worse. A small percentage of folks hear the Gospel one time and embrace it wholeheartedly. The majority of us, however, have to hear the Gospel more than 7 times before we both understand it and accept it as truth. Before that glorious day comes, we may go through the following stages in any order, each stage may last for any length of time, and we may visit any stage more than one time:

2. Denial. “That can’t be true.” “That doesn’t work for me.” “That doesn’t make any sense.” “That’s pretty far-fetched.”

3. Hostility. “I’m a pretty good person – I don’t need a Savior.” “That’s intolerant.” “Who are you to tell me I am going to hell?”

4. Conviction. “I want to believe it, but I’m not sure it’s true.” “I know I need to get right with God, but I really don’t want to live differently yet.”

If unbelievers are in stage 1, I’m convinced the most loving thing we can do is share the Gospel with them. Lay it out, clearly, lovingly, with scriptural support. To withhold that information would be unloving and in direct violation of our charge as believers.

But what do we do with unbelievers in stages 2, 3, and 4? They’ve heard the Gospel at some point, but they aren’t emotionally ready to accept it. In that case, sharing it with them again might actually turn them off. Is it in their best interest to share it with them anyway? Unless we really feel a definite leading from the Spirit to share, I’d say it isn’t.

Christians ought to do whatever it takes to move non-Christians toward the Lord, and sometimes that means NOT sharing the Gospel verbally.

If we sense they aren’t open to hearing the Gospel, although it sounds like an oxymoron, we can actually perpetuate their acceptance of the Gospel down the line by not verbally sharing it with them now.

If an unbeliever has already heard the Gospel before and chose not to accept it, what they need more than anything – even more than an additional presentation of the Gospel – is a positive interaction with someone who calls themselves “Christian”. They need to feel respected, valued, appreciated, and accepted. An encounter like that will move them farther down the timeline toward accepting the Gospel for themselves much more readily than a pushy Christian with an agenda to verbally share the Gospel with every non-believer she comes into contact with.