There is much need for a common language for disciple-making. No, I do not mean that all disciple-making should be done in the same language (for instance, English). What I mean is that it is worth the work to have the same definitions of the words we use. Too often I have encountered a group struggling to agree about things because they define key words differently.
For instance, in a recent planning session about reaching out to new people, some of the participants began talking about absentees. They had focused on the phrase “reaching out” and wanted to invite the members to return. While that was a worthy goal, that was not the purpose of the planning. It took a few minutes for the group to realize they were talking about a different group of people and different methods for reaching them.
The same is true for disciple-making. Many commonly used words can be defined differently. And when unfamiliar terms are used, we may not want to admit we don’t what they mean. The result is attempting to communicate one message which is understood differently than intended.
I want to challenge you to consider the key words you use in your disciple-making efforts. Think about biblical words and words used to describe various aspects of discipleship. Write them down; make a list. Then write down (without help) the way you would define the word or phrase. Don’t rush. After you have given serious consideration to the way you use a word or phrase, check your definitions by using a dictionary or Bible dictionary.
After you have made a list with definitions, you have options. You can simply share one definition at a time as the teachable moment presents itself. That means you need to keep your list available. You can share the entire list early with your disciple(s), calling attention to key words and phrases when they come up in your disciple-making efforts. Or you can ask your disciple to define the words and phrases and compare with the list you made. Add more terms to your list as they come up in your time together.
Any way you choose to proceed, the result will be better communication and greater understanding about discipleship. The focus will be clearer. Your conversation will be richer. Progress will be more likely in the same direction.
Beginning List of Terms
What key words or phrases come to your mind immediately? Here are a few that came to my mind:
- spiritual discipline
- filled with the Spirit
- Bible study
- and many more.
What words would you add to the list? What definitions would you give to these terms? I hope you and your disciple will find many commonly defined words on the list. But the conversation toward discovery is well worth the time and effort. Be a disciple. Make disciples!