Addressing Transition Weakness: Assimilation and Disciple-making

I shared the following graphic on my Sunday School blog, The Sunday School Revolutionary. But I got to thinking that the graphic applies to assimilation and disciple-making as well. Take a look:

In order to develop a disciple-making strategy and system, some critical questions must be answered about transitions:

  1. What are we doing to invite and attract people into worship?
  2. What are we doing to move worship attenders into Sunday School and small groups?
  3. What are we doing to make disciples and to multiply and develop leaders in Sunday School, small groups, and training sessions and experiences to prepare and move them into leadership in the church and community?
  4. What are we doing to mobilize our classes, groups, and leaders into ministry, service, and mission in the community and world?

Answer thesse questions thoroughly to discover your assimilation and discipleship transitional weaknesses. If there are more than three transitional steps before worship or between any block, your process is too complicated. Your leaders will have a hard time explaining the strategy, and those you are trying to assimilate and disciple will tend to drop out from the process along the way.

Gather your disciple-making team (see Enlist a Disciple-making Team for more ideas). Talk through the graphic and these questions. Simplify and streamline your strategy and your transitions. Take your strategy on a trial run. Get feedback. Make adjustments and improvements.

To get your thinking flowing further, let me ask three addtional questions:

  • Where would you place a new member class in the graphic? Should it be required?
  • Since it is difficult to disciple a drop out, what can be done to encourage and track disciple-making progress? For instance, how could assigning an encourager (personal mentor) help move a disciple through the strategy?
  • Where in the graphic might be the best place to discover a disciple’s spiritual gifts, abilities, experience, and passions for service? What happens if the discovery is separated from mobilization into service?

Do you have questions or comments? Press “Leave a comment” below. Help me and others improve our thinking and questions.

For more ideas about making-disciples, check out these blog posts:

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Enlist a Disciple-making Team

TeamGearsSynergy is defined on dictionary.com as “the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements, contributions, etc.” That is what is possible when you enlist a team to help your church pursue  disciple-making.

TEAM. Who should be on my disciple-making team? Consider the following:

  • God (no kidding, seek His leadership),
  • God’s Word (pay special attention to the words, commands–think Matthew 28:19-20, and example of Jesus),
  • pastor (the people will follow where you lead), and
  • 4-6 people who are passionate about God, His Word, and being His disciples.

GAME PLAN. What is the game plan for your team? While this is not intended to be an exhaustive list, consider the following:

  1. pray together;
  2. study God’s Word to discover a biblical definition of a disciple and attributes of disciples;
  3. brainstorm actions and experiences for an individual (don’t think large group yet) to become the kind of disciple described in #1;
  4. look at the church programs, minstries, and experiences which encourage (and those which hinder) disciple-making growth;
  5. develop a simple growth pathway, focusing on as few major areas and transitions as possible;
  6. pilot your insights, ideas, and plans;
  7. adjust your plans and multiply your efforts.

SEASON. Disciple-making season is upon us. Assemble your team now. Meet. Pray. Brainstorm. Try it out. Adjust. Multiply.

You will gather your team several times to develop the plan and will continue meeting to launch, adjust, and multiply your plan. Adjustments will be needed beyond the first year, so meeting regularly (perhaps quarterly) can help your disciple-making efforts to thrive rather than to fizzle out or become ineffective.

Pray now about the team God wants you to assemble. Be open to surprises of who He wants. Be open to insights from His Word. Be open to adjustments in your own life. Be a disciple. Make disciples!

For more ideas about making disciples, check out these blog posts:

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Disciple Others: Give the Gift of Presence

GiveGiftBusyness kills many things. Effectiveness. Energy. Priority.

Likewise, busyness kills many spiritual efforts. Discipleship. Time with God. Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever noticed that Jesus never seemed to rush? Anywhere. Anytime. With any person.

Yes, He had a purpose. Yes, He had a message. Yes, He was effective. But He was never in a hurry.

What’s the difference? Is is simply prioritizing what we do better? That could help. Is is simply saying no to the wrong things and yes to the right things? That is a start. But it is more than that.

What if the difference was one word? What if that word was simply “presence?” Your presence AND His presence. What if you gave each person, each encounter, each moment your full presence? And at the same time, you allowed the Holy Spirit to share His presence through you?

That time would be well-invested. No matter how long or short the time was, it would be meaningful and productive.

Today, I watched a dad and his daughter interact over lunch. Apparently she had been to the orthodonist from a comment by the waitress. But I watched as the dad spent more time with his phone than he did with his daughter. We are a society and even a church which is distracted. We seldom pay attention. We seldom are really present with anyone.

Want to change your growth as a disciple of Jesus Christ? Focus. Be present. Be present in prayer. Be present in Bible study, meditation, and application. Be present as His Holy Spirit leads you to encounter a world which is lost and for whom He died.

Give others the gift of presence. Care enough to listen and pay attention. Care enough to love them as you love yourself.

Watch how that changes your interactions. Watch how that influences them. Watch how that changes you!

He’s present. Be present. Make disciples!

For more ideas about growing as His disciples, check out these blog posts:

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Make Disciples of All Nations Means Becoming Fishers of Men

FishermanIn the Great Commission, Jesus commanded His disciples as they go to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20). In that passage, Jesus describes how that mission will be accomplished:

  • baptizing them (all nations) and
  • teaching them (all nations) to observe all that I (Jesus) have commanded you.

When does teaching them begin? Do we wait until they have begun a relationship with Jesus Christ? Or does it start long before, while we are living before them, in what we say and do? That seems to have been Jesus’ approach. He taught, He spent time with sinners, and He modeled Kingdom principles.

And Jesus even modeled this methodology when He sent the disciples out in pairs (Mark 6:7) to do what He had been doing (preach the Kingdom, drive out demons, and heal the sick). And He drove the home the method of observing Jesus and putting His example into practice when He called them together to share their stories of what happened when they did what He sent them out to do (Mark 6:30).

In order to “make disciples of all nations,” this also means that we must pay attention to three phases of disciple-making. What are these phases? Check out this simple command to His disciples:

Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. (Matthew 4:19, ESV)

FOLLOWING. A relationship with Jesus is begun with awareness. Eyes are opened to Jesus, His teachings, and His life.  At some point, there is conviction of sin, seeking for forgiveness, repentance, and making Him master of life. At that point, life turns from your way to following His way, to going where He leads.

FORMING. This happens over time. While human effort is involved, forming does not happen without the work of Jesus in us. We grow like the seed in Mark 4:26-29 which “sprouts and grows; he knows not how.” We cannot make ourselves fishers or men (disciple-makers); only Jesus can do so!

FISHING. Disciple-making inevitably means the disciple will move beyond himself/herself. Like Jesus who came to “seek and to save the lost,” His life and example lead us to be concerned for others. We move beyond the church building and our own comfort zone into the community and world in search of people needing Jesus. This requires the right fishing tackle, bait, and lures in order to fish successfully for Him. Each of us has our part (1 Corinthians 3:1-15) in the effort.

These phases ebb and flow into each other. Following flows into forming and fishing. Forming takes place while following and fishing. Fishing often begins while following out of concern for lost friends and family. In other words, there is not a set timetable for movement from one phase to the next, but there should be movement toward fishing.

That is the purpose of following and forming. To stop anywhere short is failure and sin. To stop short is to become Judas rather than Peter. To stop short is to keep Jesus to ourselves. To stop short is for all nations to stay in darkness. To stop short is for the work of Jesus Christ to die with this generation.

Where are you in the phases? Are you stuck at following or forming? Is someone you know stuck? Help one another take a step toward fishing. Pray together. Follow His leadership together. Care for others together. Fish for men together. Make disciples!

For more ideas about making disciples, check out these blog posts:

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Who’s Involved in Your Discipleship?

ThreeThe post title is intentionally ambiguous. Stop to process the possible questions being asked:

  • Who has invested and impacted you as a disciple over the years?
  • Who is currently investing in and impacting your growth as a disciple?
  • In whom are you investing and impacting as they grow as a disciple?

I have talked to many Christians, pastors, staff, and church leaders who have not had anyone intentionally invest in their discipleship. But no one is without impact from three persons:

GOD. We are disciples of Jesus when we love one another (John 13:35) and when we do what He commanded (Matthew 28:19-20). But our relationships with others and our actions will be more Christ-like when we regularly spend time with God in prayer and Bible study. In fact, personal and relational discipleship are impacted by the overflow of our ongoing, growing relationship with God. I find I cannot help but share what I am discovering about God when the encounter and relationship are fresh rather than stale.

OTHERS. Growing discipleship demands care and risk. Trust and transparency can only be deepened through time and experience of sharing honestly and openly with others. In turn, personal and relational discipleship require time and experience together. We and disciples often grow best as we spend time together formally and informally. This involves doing life together:  serving together, having fun together, and walking through challenges together.

SELF. Loving ourselves means caring for our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. How can we love God and others if we do not love ourselves? Others will see much more than we realize. And our example is important! Rest. Eat right. Exercise body, mind, and soul. Time spent here is not wasted. Such time is well invested in making you more productive and attentive along with giving you the potential for lengthened years of impact.

Grade yourselves:  A for excellent, C for mediocre, and F for failing. How are you doing in each of these three relationships? What is one thing you can do to take a small step this week toward raising your grade in one area? If you are struggling for ideas, share this blog post with a friend and brainstorm some possibilities together. (By the way, that may be the very small step that is needed this week!)

Do you want to grow even more this year as a disciple? Invest in all three relationships. Remember Jesus emphasized the importance of loving God, others, and self in Mark 12:30-31. When we grow in our relationship with God, it strengthens our growth as disciples and disciple-makers. The same is true when we grow in our relationship with disciples. And the more we know and love ourselves the way God does, the better we can grow and invest in others.

For more ideas about growing as a disciple, check out these blog posts:

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Strategic Disciple-making Actions

JesusIn calling the disciples, Andrew and Peter, Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Jesus’ life and teaching were a demonstration of His disciple-making plan. Jesus established the model.

Take out a piece of paper and make three column. Write down Before, When, and After as headings for the columns. Then think about what Jesus did before calling the disciples, when He called them, and after He called them. Write what He did at each step which prepared them to be disciples and ultimately to be disciple-makers.

In order to develop Christ-followers (Matthew 4:19), we must not ignore Jesus’ example in developing our disciple-making strategy. The result of my study of Jesus’ example looked something like this:

  1. be an example before them in what you model and teach
  2. pray for the disciples God wants to send to you
  3. observe them: gather evidence of what God is doing in their lives
  4. personally enlist those God has led you to invest in, sharing the evidence you have seen
  5. walk through life together, sharing experiences and teachable moments
  6. study God’s Word, ask questions, and pray together
  7. give assignments for learning and for obedience
  8. check on understanding, spiritual vitality, application, and progress
  9. establish growing expectations
  10. walk them toward Kingdom service, investment, and multiplication

Can you see Jesus’ life and example in this strategy? Can you picture times when He did each one with the disciples? What would you add to the list? Press Comments and share your thoughts, strategy, and suggested actions.

In our strategy, we could add a couple of addition items:

11. don’t be surprised at some failure (Judas and Peter, for example)
12. when needed, adjust the plan according to needs and individuals but don’t stray far from our Lord’s example

Don’t rush to develop your strategy before looking thoroughly at Jesus’ example of disciple-making. At the same time, don’t neglect to “make disciples of all nations” just because your strategy still needs a bit of work. Pray, practice, and adjust. Make disciples!

For more ideas about disciple-making, check out these blog posts:

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Discipleship Encourager Actions

EncouragerIn my previous post, Can You Make a Disciple of One Person?, I asked:

How can we carry out this command? How can we “make disciples of ALL NATIONS” (emphasis added). I want to suggest an overly simple answer:  ONE AT A TIME.

I have often had the reply, “But where do I start?” Related questions include:

  • What materials do I use?
  • How often do we meet?
  • I prefer relational rather than programmatic. Is that okay?
  • I was never discipled. I don’t know how.

Obviously each discipleship opportunity varies according to the individuals involved, their experiences and interests, and their maturity in Christ.  While many methods are possible, it is important to utilize one that produces results. That begs the question, what results are desired and being produced though the methods chosen?

For simplicity, what if we focused discipleship expectations through the lenses of two things Jesus said?

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20a)

Where would these words of Jesus lead you to focus in the lives of brand new believers? lukewarm Christians? experienced but stagnant Christians?

What would you do in the first six weeks? first six months? first year? At what point would they be ready to multiply your investment into others?

How would you encourage them? How would you best challenge them? What would you tell them? What would you do together with them? What would you ask them to do?

What thinking and practices should be experienced at each stage of your discipling efforts? Let’s have a conversation. Share your ideas and experience.  Press Comments and share your thoughts.

Allow me to close with this illustration:

One day a lady criticized D. L. Moody for his methods of evangelism in attempting to win people to the Lord. Moody’s reply was “I agree with you. I don’t like the way I do it either. Tell me, how do you do it?” The lady replied, “I don’t do it.” Moody retorted, “Then I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.”

Contributed by: David Yarbrough; Source: James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 178.

Start now. Start somewhere. Jesus expects it. They deserve it. You can do it. Make disciples!

For more ideas about disciple-making, check out these blog posts:

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Can You Make a Disciple of One Person?

MentorOthersJesus passes the torch to the Apostles and to us today in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20):

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV)

How can we carry out this command? How can we “make disciples of ALL NATIONS” (emphasis added). I want to suggest an overly simple answer:

ONE AT A TIME.

Every one matters. Every life matters. You can make a difference with one. Who is your one? Pray. When will you start? Pray. Where will you start? What will you do with that one to help him/her become and grow as a disciple? Pray.

PRAY TOGETHER. Don’t just talk about prayer. Do it. Model it. Pray together. Teach others about prayer.

STUDY TOGETHER. Open God’s Word. Listen together to what God is saying. Seek to understand what He wants. Seek to determine how to be obedient. Encourage one another to keep your commitments. Teach others about God and His Word.

SERVE/CARE TOGETHER. Help him/her to discover spiritual gifts, personality, abilities, and passions that God desires to use in the church, community, and world. Then prayerfully determine where to serve. Then serve together. Then teach others to do the same.

SHARE TOGETHER. Help him/her look around. Who are friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors who need to know about Jesus and what He is doing in your lives? Look for teachable/shareable moments. Look for stresses and needs with which you may help and support. Determine what to say and what to give, and then do so together. Then teach others to do the same.

If you a make disciple of one person, and the two of you each make a disciple of one person, and the four of you each make a disciple of one person, it won’t be too many “generations” of disciples making disciples until we can see the reality of “making disciples of all nations.” Do your part: one disciple at a time.

For more ideas for making disciples, check out these blog posts:

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One-Day Disciple-Making Workshop

DiscipleMaking

Within a few weeks, dozens across Kentucky (and beyond) will be trained to lead One-Day “Disciple-Making Workshops.” Those who will be trained are disciple-making practitioners who have been enlisted to provide workshops in their area. I want to invite you to pray for the leaders of the training, those who will be trained (trainers), and those trained by the trainers. Pray that lives will be changed, disciples and disciple-makers made, and a movement started!

Disciple-making is a critical need need in churches across the state and beyond. Many Christians fail to become the disciple-makers because no one invested in them. This unhealthy situation must stop.

I cannot share more details yet, but prayer is needed. If you are interested in having a Disciple-Making Workshop in your association, contact me. I will put your name and association on a list to contact after the upcoming training event. My prayer is that the movement begins in me…and you!

For more ideas for disciple-making, check out these blog posts:

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Discipleship Relational Stages, Part 2

WalkwGod

In Part 1, I shared that being a disciple of Jesus Christ means that we are in a living, breathing relationship. Being His disciple is a choice and a life-long process. There I shared five discipleship relational stages: Ignoring, Exploring, Starting, Deepening, and Investing.

Listening carefully (full of care) to gauge an individual’s discipleship relational stage may give you clues to how to encourage him or her to take the next step. Assuming you accurately assess the stage, what growth actions you could take with the individual? Consider these ideas designed to spark your thinking:

  • IGNORING. Build your relationship with the individual. Be trustworthy. Care. Ask questions about life and meaning.
  • EXPLORING. Don’t be afraid to live out your beliefs, or talk about them if asked. Invite him/her to hang out with some of your Christian friends. Invite them to your class or small group. Look for moments to share about Jesus and your testimony. Study the book of John together or a Christian resource about Christianity.
  • STARTING. Be an encourager; ask accountability questions positively. Pray together. Study the Bible together. Practice sprititual disciplines together. Help him/her to establish a solid daily quiet time. Attend a class or small group together. Share how to take steps but also why.
  • DEEPENING. Talk about life and what God’s Word has to say. Ask questions. Look for answers. Focus on the point. Study a doctrine or Bible book together. Go to a conference. Read a book together. Make commitments to be obedient to God’s Word. Hold one another accountable to be more like Christ.
  • INVESTING. Encourage him/her to discover his/her God-given SHAPE: spiritual gifts, heart (passion), abilities, personality, and experiences. Lead him/her to understand that God wants to use it all. Invite him/her to help you as you serve. Model serving. Encourage him/her to try out many opportunities of serving God and others in the church and community.

These conversations, actions, and ideas may come in the previous stage in order to encourage readiness for and movement toward the next stage. Or they may come during the stage he/she has entered in order to be even better prepared to move toward the next stage. But keep in mind that progress toward Investing is ultimately where they should be headed. Think Ephesians 4 if you need a reminder about that.

Think about those in your circles on influence. Where are those closest to you in their discipleship relational stages? Where are others you interact with daily and occasionally? What can you do this week to help one or more of them take steps toward growth? What can you do in the coming year to impact others? Walk with them. Talk with them. Lead where you can. Make disciples!

For more ideas about discipleship, check out these blog posts:

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