This is the excerpt for your very first post.
Busyness is a major enemy in our lives. We can easily get so busy that we don’t have time to pray, to listen to God, to share good news with the Lost, or to adequately spend time with those who are expressing interest in coming to faith. These things usually happen in the early stages of our efforts to start a movement. When we don’t see things “take off” as fast as we had hoped, we allow ourselves to get involved in other ministry tasks that give us a bit of a sense of fulfillment. Teaching here or there, doing emails, making a video for a church about what we do, attending a seminar or conference someone invited us to…suddenly we realize we have had little time for the task of disciple making.
Later, when (and if) we do have some disciples and the first church gets going, it is again easy to become busy with things related to that church’s programs rather than continuing to pursue relationships with the Lost, or to invest in quality disciple making. We make the mistake of thinking that a weekly meeting of a few hours will make quality disciples. We fail to truly invest our lives in those God has given us whether it be in detailed prayer for them, or in developing deep relationships.
One of my favorite Old Testament Bible Heros is Nehemiah. In the sixth chapter of the book that bears his name, messengers come asking Nehemiah to attend a meeting with Sanballat and Geshem. Instead of agreeing he says,
“I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3)
Nehemiah is completely focused on his God-given task. He is not going to stop his work to go and resolve a conflict, listen to his enemies, or attend a meeting. He knows how to say a clear “no.” He continues to focus on what is most important. We need to do the same.
How hard is it for you to stay focused on what is really important? Do you clearly know in your own mind what is most important in light of your goal to see a movement of disciples?
In a recent training I asked the participants to make a list of everything they had done in the last week that took more than an hour of their time. After they had listed at least 15 things, I asked them to circle which of those things directly related to making disciples among the unreached. It was eye-opening for many of them to see how little time they actually devoted to the task they said was their primary vision. We all would benefit from a similar exercise from time to time.
Feeling convicted? I truly hope you don’t feel condemned. It’s very human to get distracted and not at all uncommon! Instead of feeling bad, look carefully at where you are at. Recommit yourself to stay focused on your true calling as a disciple-maker and messenger of the good news. Be willing like Nehemiah to say no to some things so you can say yes to what is really important.
The unreached wait to hear your message. New disciples wait to be encouraged, trained and mentored. Let’s get busy doing the most important things that lead to the release of movements.
A fresh wave of regulations and lock-down orders has hit many nations. It can feel discouraging. How do we continue our disciple making efforts in times like these? A week or so ago, I interviewed a leader from South Asia who recently tried something new. His on-line simple church efforts rapidly multiplied. They spilled over to many in-person groups also beginning across the region.
What stood out as you watched?
Here are a few things to consider:
“Some people have all the fun,” my kids would say. “Why don’t we get to have fun too??” When we look at gifts in others, a similar question can creep into our hearts. “Why do they get all the spiritual gifts?” God gives His gifts generously. He told us to desire the gifts of His Spirit. Five of those gifts are described in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
In my last article, I wrote about the dangers of ministerial titles. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul mentions five important ministry gifts.
“My job is to honestly preach the word, not to hold people accountable,” said the slightly defensive Christian leader to my friend. It is a common perception among us pastors. A hands-off approach lets us off the hook. We say things like; “I will do my part, God will do His.” Or “Everyone has free will. Our job is to give them the Gospel (information), they choose what they want to do with it.”
There is truth to these statements. Where we go wrong is when we label the above as discipleship. Is the idea of “live and let live”, a Biblical approach to discipleship? Is a “you do you” worldview taking precedence over living and ministering like Jesus?
Arrogant, cocky, and with more than a little bit of attitude, a South Asian movement leader stood before me. “I’ve seen hundreds of people come to Christ this month and started over 60 new groups,” he declared, bobbing his head side to side. His demeanor made me sad, though I couldn’t deny the fruit he was seeing. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen these kinds of attitudes displayed by a movement leader. Young, apostolically gifted movement leaders need mentors to encourage and train them. They also can speak into issues of arrogance and pride when there is a strong relationship. We all need to check our attitudes and motivations as we pursue DMMs.
How do we move a seeker from “I like Jesus, He is a great man (prophet/teacher)” to surrender and a shift of allegiance? Muslims acknowledge Jesus as a prophet. Hindus have little trouble calling Him one of the gods. Buddhists believe He was a good man, and atheists think He was a great philosopher.
Jesus didn’t call us to make church members. Nor did He call us to start discovery groups or plant churches. He called us to make disciples. We need to remember this.
What is a Disciple?
A disciple is someone who is completely surrendered to Jesus. They have shifted their entire system of allegiances to make Him Lord of their lives. They commit to obeying His commands and following His ways, though they stumble and fall.
“What? Did Jesus teach seven commands? I’ve never seen a list like this in the Bible!” he exclaimed. “I thought Christ came to set us free from the law of sin and death.” This brother thought we were heretical for even using the phrase “the seven commands of Christ” as we trained new believers. I see his point. We certainly don’t want to re-impose an Old Testament system of legalism.
What we do want is to obey the Great Commission. Jesus said, “Teach them to obey all I have commanded you.” (Matt 28:18-20)
Western culture is very individualistic. “Every person has a right to make their own decision,” we say. My passport culture places a high value on individual rights. Individualism is deeply embedded in the American worldview. The impact of the West on the way we do evangelism and disciple-making around the world is significant. It’s a hindrance to starting movements. If we want to launch DMMs, we must shift our mindset and actions toward always starting groups.
This will cause the movement to spread rapidly and exponentially. A focus only on individual discipleship will multiply much more slowly.
Practice. Practice. Practice. “But I don’t like to practice, I like to play.” When I was a teenager, I played on a basketball team. I hated practices. We would dribble the ball up and down the court and shoot layups for hours. It was tiring and boring. I preferred the games. They were fun! Without practice though, we didn’t win games. Practicing disciple making skills is no different.
For some reason, we think that doing things like evangelism and disciple making shouldn’t need practice. It should flow out of us without any training or effort. This is not actually what either Jesus or Paul said. They used the word practice to describe the learning and applying process.