Studying God’s Word brings life, transformation, and hope. Both believers and seekers encounter God in His living Word. Studying the Bible together, however, is not enough. Disciples need to function and grow together as the body of Christ. DMM practitioners must learn to transition Discovery Bible Studies into fully functioning churches. Without this critical transition, a Disciple-Making Movement (DMM) will not take place.
In the next few blogs, I will be writing about how to go about doing this. We will look at five steps; 1) Call to Commit 2) Introduce Church 3) Elements of Church 4) Life of the Church 5) Multiply Church.
Call to Commit
Discovery groups that do not become churches have value as a gospel sowing strategy. To be a catalyst for Disciple-Making Movements, however, there must be the willingness to call seekers to make a commitment to Christ. DMM practitioners must gently lead those who are seekers into a place of faith and obedience. Then, as people commit, we need to help them start to function as contributing members of the Body of Christ.
No Disciples Yet!
In a coaching call a few years ago, our dialogue went something like this.
C. Anderson: Tell me how your Bible study groups are going?
Coachee: They are going pretty well. People keep coming to hear the stories from God’s Word. Sometimes other family members also sit in and listen.
C. Anderson: That’s great! It’s good to hear that others are also joining. How long have you been meeting with this group of people?
Coachee: It’s been almost two years now. They really like the songs we sing and are interested in the stories.
C. Anderson: Wow! That’s wonderful. Tell me a bit more about what happens when you discuss the stories together?
Coachee: They are pretty engaged. They like to talk about what they are learning.
C. Anderson: What questions do you discuss?
Coachee: We talk about what we learn about God and people. We also ask them what they like about the story and what they understand.
C. Anderson: That is good. It is so important to get them to dialogue about scripture passages like you are. Do you also ask them questions about what they will do to obey or apply what they are learning?
Coachee: We used to ask this and we sometimes still do. It’s hard. They like the stories, but when it comes to applying them or sharing them with others, we haven’t made much progress. I guess we also are missing friendly accountability. I often forget to ask the next week about how they did with their application.
C. Anderson: How many people in the group have taken baptism? Did you do any Bible studies or stories about baptism yet?
Coachee: None of them I guess. We have been hesitant to share that kind of story. We don’t want them to feel like we are being pushy. Baptism is a big step for them. They may be rejected by their families and friends. We keep hoping that some of them will ask us about it and decide to be baptized.
At this point, I understood why this group was not multiplying and why the movement was not growing.
The disciple-maker was afraid of calling people to make a commitment to follow Christ as obedient disciples. Without that, these groups would indefinitely remain only as seeker groups. They would keep the disciple-maker busy, but in the end not lead to fruit and multiplication.
A Sensitive Step
It can be a delicate thing to call people to follow Jesus, not only as a good teacher, but as Lord and Savior. The longer we have invested in building the relationship without putting forward this challenge, the more hesitant we often become. An early step, in seeing Discovery groups become churches, is to unashamedly call people to commitment.
“When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”– Luke 18:22 NIV
Jesus did not hesitate to ask for whole-hearted commitment from those who wanted to be His disciples.
In the story of the Rich Young Ruler from Luke 18, we find a seeker. He comes to Jesus at night. He wants to follow Him. He is interested, but there are other things that matter to him as well. Like his wealth. Jesus doesn’t hesitate at all. He clearly gives the man a choice. Serve God or money.
Would we also boldly make the choice this clear?
It’s Not Kindness
We are not doing seekers any favors by failing to ask them to commit to becoming obedient disciples. We may feel hesitant and want to be gracious. It is not kind though, to share about Jesus without inviting people to repent, surrender and fully follow Him.
There is no Biblical example of someone taking years to share the gospel and then only very hesitantly asking people to respond. Correct me if I am wrong. It’s just not how it was done in the New Testament.
Instead, we see that the gospel message was clearly presented and a response called for.
Discovery Bible Study is great if it gets to that point within a short amount of time. It’s not so great when it causes harvesters to be busy for years with people who are not receptive.
My rule of thumb is six weeks maximum. It is not a law, but a guideline. If someone has been listening to you share good news every week for six weeks, they are likely quite ready to respond with a yes or no.
That should be long enough for you to clearly present truth in a way they can understand. (Many times it takes far less time than this!) They may still have questions that aren’t yet answered. But, they will have had a taste of truth. Invite them to make a commitment to become a disciple.
The moment they do that, inviting Jesus to take control, the Holy Spirit will fill them. Suddenly their ability to understand what they are studying will radically increase. Their love for God, passion to share with others and many other things will change as they become a new creation in Christ.
Until you have disciples, not just seekers, you will never see a movement birthed.
It’s Step One
In moving from a Discovery Bible Study to a church, step one is to call those attending to a deeper commitment. Next week, I will share more about further steps.
Have you given the seekers in your group/s a clear chance to respond? If not, do that this week. Don’t hesitate. Jesus didn’t. They may or may not accept the challenge you present. If they do, praise God! Even if they don’t, you will have moved forward. You will then know that you must move on to invest time in others who are more receptive.
Go ahead..ask them to commit.
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