Every single second someone in India dies not having heard the gospel. That’s 60 people in a minute. Each one is precious to God. The number of hairs on their head are known by Him. He watched them cry and laugh. He saw their joys and pain. Yet they die, having never heard of His love. India is one of many places where the needs of the unreached are massive. We could talk about the Middle East, China, Africa, or Bangladesh. Sometimes, when we see this great need, we feel completely overwhelmed by the task.
God created women in His own image. They hold a special place in His heart. God is using women in missions today like never before! It has always been His intention to uplift and release women into their full potential. It is part of His salvation and His restoration process that women receive their inheritance in the Kingdom.
At the end of the book of Job, we see a picture of restoration. He has been through testing and trials and now God blesses and restores. When He restores, He doubles all Job had. Job 42:10 says, “When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!”
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In this first episode, Cynthia Anderson, our host, shares her reasons for starting a new podcast on disciple-making. She talks about what makes this podcast unique and different from others, what to expect, and how it will help you move forward as an ordinary person through whom God does extraordinary things.
Links Mentioned in This Episode:
Getting Started in Disciple Making Movements Course
Pursuing Disciple Making Movements in the Frontiers Blog
In the last few blogs, we have been looking at questions and issues around baptism. People often delay baptism thinking the new believer is not ready to take this step. They need to grow more in their faith first, they say. Maybe we are waiting for new believers to stop certain bad habits like smoking or drinking. Sometimes we wait to baptize because we want a large group to be baptized together. Others delay for a long time because they are hoping a spouse will also believe and they can be baptized together. Some delay because the person isn’t yet a legal adult. Perhaps we don’t want to have to fill the baptism tank too often, or take time out of our church service to include this ceremony more than once or twice a year.
How Do You Know If They Are Ready To Be Baptized?
When do you baptize someone after leading them to faith in Christ?
Again, it is important to look to scripture on these issues rather than looking for guidance only at our church traditions or what we have seen done around us. Baptism- are they ready? We need to examine the scriptures for answers.
When determining if someone is ready to be baptized, the key things mentioned in scripture are faith and repentance. As we discussed in the previous blog, in Acts Chapter 2, Peter responded to those who asked “What shall we do?” with the answer “Repent and be baptized.” It was clear that faith had arisen in their hearts. The next step was repentance.
How do you know if someone has repented? How much repentance and change do you first need to see before you baptize them?
The biblical example here is different from what we see in many church traditions. In the New Testament, we almost always see immediate baptism when faith is expressed. The Philippian jailer, the crowd at Pentecost, the Ethiopian eunuch are all examples of immediate baptism. We find that while a clear directive to repent is given by Peter, he doesn’t wait to test their repentance before baptizing them. I wonder how many in that crowd had problems with alcohol, or beat their wives, or were dishonest in their business dealings?
When conviction of sin comes, when there is a realization of sin and the need for a Savior in someone’s life, they start to respond in faith and repentance. Jesus never ignored sin but called people to “go and sin no more” (consider the woman caught in adultery). Acceptance into His kingdom and family was immediate not conditional though. There was no delay or a testing period to see if they were serious. We must remember and follow this example Jesus gave.
Prior to baptism, we are not looking for full transformation and sanctification– we are all still in that process! We do look for recognition of sin- do they see they are a sinner in need of a Savior? We look for a change of heart. A change of allegiance is what we look for- that they have acknowledged Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives. Look for a desire to turn away from sinful habits and the things which the Holy Spirit is convicting them of. (Interestingly, Holy Spirit doesn’t always highlight or convict new believers about various sins in the order that I would!)
Do What Helps Them Grow
Some sinful habits may still be a struggle. Do we go ahead and baptize? My answer, and I believe the biblical answer, is yes. Baptism is a step of faith and obedience. As they take this step, as they demonstrate outwardly their inner faith, as they rise out of the water as a symbolic act of new resurrection and life- all these things strengthen new believers in their determination to begin a new way of living, to walk the path of transformation with Jesus’ help. We must not prevent them from doing what will help them grow by denying or delaying baptism because they aren’t “perfect” yet!
There are many issues related to baptism to prayerfully consider. Cultural factors, legal issues and church traditions all influence us in various ways and must be thought about. Our foundation, however, is always the Word of God and the example given by Jesus and the apostles. We examine all we do in the light of those examples and are careful not to unnecessarily delay but help people to take this step as soon as possible. Immediate obedience as a DNA, whether with baptism or other things, will lead to disciples who multiply rapidly.
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Are those who promote a DMM strategy for disciple-making and church planting opposed to preaching? Is it ever appropriate to preach to those you disciple? When is it not helpful to preach? These questions have come up in conversations with those I’ve trained recently. They are important questions to ask.
The Apostle Paul said in Romans 15:20 that he had endeavored to preach the gospel where Christ was not known. There are many biblical references to preaching. In DMMs, there is a place for it. It is important, however, that we understand what that word means in Greek. We should not automatically think it refers to what happens on Sunday mornings from a platform.
It goes much further than this though. We must develop an appreciation, even an embracing of friendly accountability in our lives as leaders personally. As we model this, our disciples see it. They begin to value it as well.
This will ensure that friendly accountability becomes part of the DNA of the movement. By upholding this value, the movement will be stable and strong even after you, as the coach, trainer, initiator, or leader move on. Accountability seems an unfriendly, even “dirty” word to many though.
Granted a lot of people have had bad experiences in their lives with heavy-handed or unkind accountability. Some leaders demand accountability. Some abuse it. In my context in Asia, many have had teachers who were harsh and cruel when they didn’t measure up to what was expected. As we introduce friendly accountability in these contexts we need to be aware of this. It is a big shift of mindset for people to welcome and embrace friendly accountability!
How do you help them change?
One of the things I notice is that it takes time and patience to bring about change. Consistently and lovingly ask them about their goals from the previous week. Go overboard to encourage and affirm positive actions. Never scold people for not doing what they said they would! Instead, gently encourage them with your own vulnerability and openness. Let them know you are with them and for them in this process of growth toward obedience to God’s word.
Whatever you do though, don’t just skip the asking about goals part because you are afraid of offending people! Lots of us are in this “business” because we have pastoral gifts. We love people. We don’t want them to feel bad! We think that if we ask about their goals and they haven’t done them, we will cause them to feel shame or lose face.
This can certainly be true if it is done in a harsh way. We need to be careful about our approach to this. At the same time, not asking them is the best way to reinforce the idea that application and obedience don’t really matter. You don’t want that!
Gently encourage them to try again the coming week. If they failed to follow through, ask a question that helps them own their new decision. “What would you like to do about that goal in the coming week?” Offer to help them if you can. “Can I go with you when you share your testimony this week? Would you like a prayer partner while you take this big step to share with your uncle?”
Friendly accountability is a very important part of helping both individuals and movements grow, multiply and be transformed. It takes time, patience, perseverance, kindness and repetition, but once its part of the DNA of the movement, the impact is tremendous!
Don’t Just Guess- Give Assignments
While it is tempting to try to guess who will be worth investing in, we are often wrong in our guesses. The best way to discover who to invest in is to first train a larger group of people. Give them assignments to apply the training. Then, watch to see who does what they were trained to do. Those who actually take steps to begin working are the ones worth investing in. These are the people who will most likely be the most fruitful.
*Jeremiah- An Unlikely Choice
I was invited to speak in a Discipleship Training School (DTS) for Youth With A Mission (YWAM). There were about 15 students. I was teaching for a week on the Biblical Foundation for Missions. My goal was to present the need of reaching the unreached. I would then call people to get involved in church planting efforts.
Some of the students looked like they would be wonderful church planters. They were attentive to my training. They spoke up in discussions. Good questions were asked and they seemed to understand the concepts.
Others, well, they seemed pretty “villagy.” I wasn’t sure they were understanding well, even
though the translator did a good job. Sometimes they stared off into space blankly.
This was especially true of one older man named *Jeremiah. He didn’t seem very “with it” and he wasn’t very educated. I would never have chosen him as the person in the class who would produce the most fruit. But he did! Jeremiah applied everything I taught. God spoke to him during that week about an unreached nomadic group of honey hunters. He quickly made plans to go live among them.
Later, through this uneducated man, whole villages came to Christ! The others who had looked so bright? Most of them ended up doing ministry things of some kind. But they didn’t lead very many unreached people to Christ. Who would have known Jeremiah would be the one worth investing in? Certainly not me!
Train Everyone, Not Some
Ying Kai of T4T says it so well, “Train everyone, not some.” Jesus taught this principle in the parable about the net.
“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.” Matt. 13:47-48 NIV
We could say that this parable refers to evangelism efforts. Jesus, however, never really separated evangelism and discipleship the way we do. His goal was to call people to follow Him. He wanted to make disciples who would obey His command and would multiply His Kingdom. So the principle definitely applies both to evangelism and discipleship.
Don’t Filter Too Early
Often we are tempted to “pre-filter” those we will train as disciple makers. Consciously or unconsciously, we pre-determine who has potential. Our rationale behind this is that we don’t want to waste our time on the wrong people. We have limited time, energy and finances to use. But, so often, the people we think will be faithful and fruitful are not the ones who actually are! I can’t emphasize this enough.
It isn’t the person who is the most charismatic, extroverted and educated. Neither is it the smart, responsive, well dressed, organized or passionate that end up being most fruitful. It is the person who is the most willing to obey and put into practice what they learn.
Many Good Hearted People Don’t Have Time
Have you ever found yourself trying to go somewhere fast and then decided to take a shortcut? You see this little lane and you are pretty sure it will cut through to the main road? “I’ll go for it,” you think. It seems like a good idea that will save you time and get you there faster.
As you are driving along on your motorbike or in your car, suddenly, the road narrows and there is a huge truck parked in the road. You can’t get by because the road is too narrow. That has happened to me more than once. Another time, I came up the road and suddenly found a big pile of rocks dumped in the road for the construction of a nearby building. Then there were the times I took a shorter road but hit an avalanche. When this happens, you back up, turn around, and by the time you get back to where you started from, you are frustrated, annoyed and it is 15 minutes later but you are still at the same place.
This reminds me of when we try to make disciples using only a weekly meeting with them. It looks like a shortcut, but it’s not.
Discipleship Is Not A Meeting- It Is Doing Life Together
Discipleship doesn’t happen only in a weekly meeting. It is an intense investment of our lives into others. This is a whole lot more than what happens in a weekly gathering where you “preach” to them, or even do a Discovery Bible study or tell a Bible Story.
Discipleship happens when we do life together. It’s when we become a community of Jesus followers who challenge, encourage, support and commit to helping one another grow in following Jesus. Our lives “rub off” on others and they “catch” from us a passion for the lost, a faith in the God of the Impossible, a love for God’s Word, etc.
I’m always interested in strategies and structures. I’m fascinated to learn about what different people are using for their short and long-term discipleship. Having a good system can facilitate a lot of things being released. Sometimes, though, we look for the “perfect” system and think that is what will turn things around for us in our efforts to multiply disciples.
Discipleship Is Not A Structure Or System
The last few years I have been doing a lot of training in T4T (Training for Trainers). The T4T meeting structure includes all the important elements that are so vital to multiplying disciples; celebration/accountability, member care, worship, the Word, goal setting, fellowship. It’s a proven structure that has produced great fruit around the world.
The same could be said for DBS (Discovery Bible Study) groups- another great system to use.
As much as I like these systems, I must say that both T4T and DBS are just structures and systems. They will not produce fruit unless coupled with a deep commitment to relational discipleship. We must “go deep” with those in that T4T or DBS circle.
We must get into their lives and let them into ours.
That is what Jesus did with his disciples. They lived together, spent hours around the fire cooking fish and eating together. They did ministry together, and Jesus spoke into their lives not only as a group, but one on one.
We can’t do that with everyone. We need to choose a few key people, those who are faithful, fruitful and focused.
I know you are busy. You might be thinking, I just don’t have time to give more than I already am.
Here’s is what you need to do.
This doesn’t take a ton of time, but it will get you started in going beyond trying to just disciple people in a meeting.
The costs are real and the challenges great. How do we keep from being destroyed by the incredible cost of this effort?
What Makes It Worth It?
Suffering is inevitable in everyone’s life. It is particularly noticeable though, in the lives of those who pursue DMMs. It is not just likely, it is highly probable that you will face intense suffering as you work to start a movement. Some would say that experiencing suffering is characteristic of those who launch movements.
There are two main things that make the cost worth it. One is that in the midst of the pain we encounter, we know God more. Secondly, we have the joy of knowing our sacrifice will not be wasted. Lost people will be found by our Almighty God. The unreached will know the power of His radical, unconditional love. Whether today, tomorrow or years from now, the seeds sown by our tears and pain will bear much fruit.
Every Breakthrough Came With A Cost
It seemed like every time we had a forward advance in our work, I got sick. A divine appointment with a potential national apostle happened. I got hepatitis. We launched a new type of training for church planters, my back went out. We hosted a large missions conference calling thousands into ministry among the unreached. With it came unusual challenges in our marriage. It seemed we were at odds with one another for little reason.
“Every breakthrough we saw came at a personal cost to my husband and I.”
Other times, it was the challenge of getting visas to remain in the country. This took a toll on our sense of well being and emotional health. There was also the loss of death. At key moments of forward movement in ministry, tragedy seemed to strike. A co-worker was killed in a sudden accident. This happened just a week after we had prayed for special covering and protection over all our staff.
“What was I to do with this continual loss and suffering? How would I keep it from destroying me? Was it just part of what was necessary to see breakthroughs and movements released?”
Questions swirled in my mind when we faced these difficult challenges.
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” Romans 8: 17- NIV
How God Uses Suffering
Dan Allender writes in his book Cry of the Soul,
“Suffering may be caused by the hand of an enemy, but God uses sorrow for the sake of redemption.”
After a few years of working with this concept, I have seen however, that it is necessary to “filter” for what I call the 3F people- the faithful, fruitful and focused. I like to call it “filtering up” rather than “filtering out”.
When you can identify who those 3F people are and give the majority of your time and energy to them, it leads to more fruit. I’ve walked through a process within my heart related to some of the feelings I had about this initially. I’ve searched the scriptures to find out if it is biblical and godly to do this or not. My conclusion over time is that filtering is vital, biblical, healthy and part of quality disciple making.
First, a brief description to make it clear what I’m talking about when I say “filtering.” Filtering needs to take place after you have trained a larger group of people in basic evangelism and church planting skills- be they local believers or full-time workers. After a short period of time (one to 3 months), it is necessary to evaluate who has put into action what they were trained to do. Who is really implementing? Who is showing significant interest to grow in this area? Who has acted like they were interested, but in reality done very little with the training they received? After evaluating this, you need to focus your attention on those who have been faithful, are beginning to be fruitful and have been focused on disciple making and the lost (at least to some degree). If you are selective in who you invite to the next training rather than generally inviting a whole new group, or inviting everyone who wants to come, the next training is more productive and worthwhile. As you continue to evaluate the 3Fs and give your time and energy to these people, you see greater impact happen.
I find it difficult to tell people they don’t qualify this time for a training because they didn’t focus enough on their goals and implementing what they learned last time. As difficult as it is, I also find that it is very helpful to do this. It raises the standard of the training. It sets boundaries on limited time and resources so that they go toward what has the best potential for fruit. It also significantly motivates people to prioritize putting into practice what they have learned rather than embracing a culture of learning without applying.
Is it biblical to do this? Absolutely. Building a norm (or culture) of application and obedience in the disciples we train is exactly what Jesus did with His. He spoke extensively about the importance of obedience and putting into practice what He taught. He wasn’t okay with head knowledge that didn’t lead to action! He said that those who loved Him also obeyed His words. The parable of the wise and foolish builder is one of the most obvious examples of this. It begins with the words,
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Matt 7:24 NIV
Jesus expected people to put things into practice. He evaluated this in His disciples and held up a standard of total commitment to obedient discipleship.
What do you do with those who don’t qualify, who you have to say no to, and who feel bad or still want to come? What do you do to avoid a culture of performance orientation in the midst of this? These are real questions related to filtering. We don’t want to hurt anyone and we don’t want to make people feel that we love them more if they are more fruitful or perform well! These situations provide opportunities for discipleship conversations with people who are actually very loving and important. Lets not avoid those conversations any more than we avoid discipline with our children. Lets not say we love people but be unwilling to say no when they haven’t done what was expected. As we demonstrate “tough love” as well as “gentle love”- as we bring a gospel to them of both grace and truth together, we will be loving and serving them well. This kind of a situation gives me opportunity to demonstrate Kingdom values and principles to my disciples and trainees. I get a chance to help them understand that God’s love is not conditional on their performance- He loves them absolutely and fully no matter what they do! That, however, doesn’t mean He doesn’t expect and desire their obedience.
I’ve come to understand that by filtering, I am actually demonstrating the character of God to those I’m training.
If we want to make disciples who will be Kingdom leaders, who will make many disciples, let’s not be afraid of filtering. It’s a major key to seeing both individuals, and your DMM grow.