In the great commission, Jesus commands his disciples to “teach them (new disciples) to obey everything I have commanded.”
Here is a question for you:
What is the first command that you would teach a new believer in Jesus to obey?
Teach them to obey?
If you’re like me - someone who grew up in an American evangelical church - then maybe that phrase sounds interesting, legalistic or even a bit funny.
Shouldn’t the question rather state, “What is the first thing you would teach a new believer to know?”
It’s an interesting distinction but to be true to scripture, Jesus doesn’t command us to teach them to “know” what he has commanded. Knowledge seems secondary - important, but secondary.
If we are to become a people who make disciples who make disciples then this is a distinction we must understand. We must move toward teaching and modeling obedience to Jesus.
And if a push toward obedience sounds interesting, legalistic of funny then either Jesus got it wrong or we have gotten it wrong.
What do you think?
“If you love me, obey my commands.” --Jesus
*I've added this great video from Curtus Sergeant.
It was noon and I was meeting my new friend Musa* for an hour over my lunch break. We’d decided to meet at our favorite coffee shops to connect. I’d first met Musa when he had reached out looking for someone to practice his English with. He’d had a lifetime of classroom instruction in his home of Cairo, Egypt* but had few native English speakers with whom he could practice.
The first time we met we covered the bases of getting to know one another. Where are you from? What is your family like? What do you like to do in your free time? The sounds of Arabic were all around him in the busy Cairo coffee shop where he sat.
I then asked Musa what he did for a living. He is a young guy, in his early twenties and had just gotten started working as a mobile phone app developer.
Then he returned the favor and asked me what I do. I’m in full time ministry so this is always an interesting question to answer. But I dove in.
I help people in churches in America understand and follow Jesus. That is pretty broad but it involves teaching, training, coaching, encouraging and casting vision with leaders and regular people. I'm not going to get rich, but I do find tremendous fulfillment in doing the things that I believe that God has made me to do. I bet that sounds a little crazy, but that's what I do and really it's who I am.
I could tell He didn’t completely understand what I was talking about so he asked a few more questions but then moved on, wondering if I’d been to Turkey. He’d recently visited Istanbul and loved the city. I told him of our four and a half years living there and how much we loved the people we knew there.
We meandered in and out of topics and then he asked a serious question, “I hope to hear an emotional situation you have been through?”
I thought for a few minutes and then told him about a recent struggle I’d been facing and about how our family had spent time praying for God’s wisdom and healing. It was good to be transparent with my new friend even though it felt a bit hard and I wasn’t sure he was following everything. Musa’s English is good but he hasn’t had a lot of experience talking about personal topics.
When I was finished, I said, “What about you? Have you been through any hard situations in life?”
Musa was contemplating his answer when he looked at his watch. He gave me a wry smile. “I’ll have to tell you next time. I’ve got to go now. But let’s make sure and meet again.”
As Musa left, I wondered about our conversation. Had I said too much about what I do? Should have I asked more questions about his faith and beliefs? Should I have offered to pray for him before he left? What if I had said something wrong?
I spent some time praying for our time together asking the Lord to use it for his glory and to reveal himself to Musa.
And then I removed my headphones and shut down Facebook Messenger on my laptop computer. I got up from my seat in the corner of my coffee shop in South Dakota, grabbed my mug and headed up to the counter for a refill.
Though we were half a world away, Musa and I had enjoyed a great cup of coffee and better conversation.
We continue to connect regularly, oftentimes just texting back and forth, sometimes hopping on a video chat to say a quick hello and at other times, setting aside an hour to grab a cup of coffee for an extended talk.
To my surprise, Musa had quickly moved into questions of faith. I’ve introduced him to Discovery Bible Study and we are slowly working through a creation to Christ story set. We read a passage of scripture - I paste it into Messenger and he reads the Arabic and I read the English. We then ask some simple questions to help us discover what the story says about God, about people and about how we should live our lives.
It’s been slow because Musa often brings up his own questions - questions that are stretching me and forcing me to dig into my own faith and theology. We started with his questions about the Christian idea of a triune God. We’re now pressing into the validity of the Bible. And those conversations are packed in between talk of family and culture and food and movies and dreams for life.
It’s a whole lot of fun.
I am the only true follower of Jesus that Musa knows. I’ve been able to pray for him and continue to pray for him regularly. Musa is one of many young guys that I am connecting with online all across the Muslim world and someday, I hope I will be able to meet all of them in person, if not in this life, then in the eternity of heaven. That is my prayer for each of them.
There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today and collectively, Christians are sending one missionary into the Muslim world for every 405,000 Muslims.
This has to change.
John Stott has said, “We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God.”
Because of advances in technology and the globalization of our world, millions of people throughout the Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Animistic and un-religious worlds are working to learn English. They are going online to try and find people with whom they can practice speaking.
A new door of missionary activity has opened and it is open to everyone who is a follower of Jesus and has an Internet connection. Geography is no longer a barrier to your relationship with a Muslim like Musa.
C.T. Studd said, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”
Will you sacrifice an hour a week to invest in a relationship with a young man or woman in the Muslim world who is looking for friendship and someone to practice English with?
*For security, names and places have been changed.
1 - http://www.thetravelingteam.org/stats
Let Us Help You
He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
Throughout the gospels, Jesus presents principles for ministry through parables. These principles are then modeled by Jesus and applied in his assignments for the disciples. This particular parable includes a number of important principles for discipleship and has been an influential part of shaping the Everywhere to Everywhere training weekend event. Nathan and Kari Shank, long term workers and movement catalysts in India, have unpacked the parable of the growing seed in their training manual Four Fields of Kingdom Growth.
[Download the manual for free HERE]
The Five Parts of the Four Fields
In Four Fields of Kingdom Growth, Shank points out that in the parable of the growing seed there are four contexts or fields. There is also a fifth element that is important in every movement of God. He offers a key question for each that focus both our kingdom work strategy and our training of new believers.
Field #4 - The Harvested Field - Eventually a season of harvest comes and the farmer is there to cut and bundle the harvest.
Key Question: How do I form a new believers into groups or churches?
Leader Multiplication - Generational Multiplication Potential - Out of the harvest comes both fruit for this year and seed for the coming growing season.
Key Question: How do I develop and multiply movement leaders?
Jesus says that this is what the kingdom of God is like. It seems then that the parable of the growing seed could be a helpful framework around which to build a life of discipleship and ministry. It is the framework that has shaped much of the training we do at Everywhere to Everywhere events across the Midwest. And within it are principles that have been observed in every movement of kingdom expansion throughout history.
Every disciple of Jesus should be trained and able to identify and understand how to enter the fields of lostness in their context, whether that be a Muslim village in Central Asia or their suburban neighborhood in Wichita or Fresno.
Every disciple of Jesus should be trained and able to proclaim the good news of the gospel with anyone, anywhere and anytime.
Every disciple of Jesus should be trained and able to disciple new believers into a mature, healthy and growing relationship with Jesus and into the lifestyle of disciple making.
And every disciple of Jesus should be trained and able to gather believers together as the body of Christ.
The final element, leadership multiplication, is an important part of healthy discipleship and kingdom growth. The Apostle Paul always had two to three disciples with him who he was training up and releasing into ministry.
Without the multiplication of leadership, the making of disciples will always come to a bottleneck. But as young disciples take what they have learned and pass it on to other disciples who will pass it on to others (2 Timothy 2:2), the kingdom will expand, our churches will grow and great commission discipleship will be a reality.
This is exactly what we see in this parable, in the workings of Jesus and in the unfolding story of the the growth of the early church in the book of Acts. This is what we see in the the great movements of kingdom expansion throughout history. And this is what we see happening in the kingdom movements spreading across countries all around the world today.
The Kingdom parables serve as a framework for understanding Jesus’ kingdom agenda across the gospel accounts. Jesus’ kingdom agenda serves as a working job description for both his disciples and our lives and ministries.”
The four fields framework also creates a helpful rubric against which we can assess our own discipleship journey. It is a bit of a diagnostic tool which can help us see the places where we need more discipleship and training so that we can become the kind of kingdom agents that Jesus has called us to be.
Just as he was sent, he is sending us into a lost and broken world to be his ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20) and witnesses (Acts 1:8).
Work through the following questions to help you understand where you might need additional training in order to step into your role as an ambassador and witness.
If you answered “no” to any of these questions or just felt unsure of whether you understand what or how to step into these kingdom assignments, find your pastor or a trusted mentor and ask them to help you get equipped.
Reach out to your nearest Multiply regional mobilizer and ask them to come and do some training with your congregation.
Consider coming to an Everywhere to Everywhere three day missional training event or hosting one in your region.
And check out the great training opportunities at the No Place Left website.
However you respond, do something!
Amidst this need to learn to do the work of the kingdom, we must remember that applying the principles of this parable to the ministry of making disciples and planting churches demands dependency on the Holy Spirit.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit - the unknown doer in the parable - that causes the seed to sprout and to grow.
As Christ’s disciples, there is a path laid out in the parable for how we can join in the work of the Spirit, but it is the Spirit that brings the growth. This was the understanding of Paul, who in 1 Corinthians 3:6 says, “I planted, Apollos watered but it was God who made it grow.”
There are things that Paul and Apollos need to do and to train others to do, but spiritual fruit is always because of the power of God.
My hope is that this parable will help you discover some of the places where you need more training or encouragement to become those who go and make disciples.
This Christmas break our family visited the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas and learned all about the race to the moon. The men and women who worked on that program were asked to do what seemed impossible. They had to work toward answers to questions that they did not yet know existed. They needed to develop systems that were not yet developed. The vision to put a man on the moon was far bigger than their own capacities and yet they did it. They worked with a determination that would get their men to the moon.
“. . . but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus.”
- Luke 5:19
If you are not familiar with the story of the paralytic whose friends would let nothing stop them from getting him into the healing presence of Jesus, I’d encourage you to stop and read the short story in Luke 5:17-26.
These were men whose determination would let nothing stop them from bringing their friend to the feet of Jesus. They were men of stubborn perseverance who knew their ultimate objective and were determined to achieve that objective no matter the obstacles and no matter the cost.
This is a theme Jesus brings us back to again and again in the book of Luke. A man loses a single lamb and he leaves the ninety-nine others to search far and wide for it. A woman loses a single silver coin and sweeps the house in search of it despite the nine others she has in her pocket.
Relentless searching seems to be the appropriate response in the kingdom of God to the reality of the lost. And celebration is the appropriate response to finding what was lost.
What’s It Going To Take
I first heard the term “Wig-Take” in 2007 in Chang Mai Thailand. Our trainer was telling of his work in SE Asia among an unreached people group numbering in the millions. He was sharing the plan that he and his team had developed to reach the entire people group. They had started in prayer with a simple question that he called a Wig-Take question: What is it going to take to reach this people group?
I’d grown up with questions like, “How can we get more people to come to our church?” a vision which suddenly seemed stunningly inadequate in light of his vision to reach an entire people group; a remote ethnic group of nearly 2 million people with no gospel access and no known believers and who were largely illiterate.
It began to seem even more inadequate as he shared stories of their work among these people and what God was doing.
This question presupposes a vision that is bigger than me. It’s presupposes a God sized vision, a vision I could never accomplish alone.
Pastor Chris Galanos writes about how he discovered the Wig-Take principles and explains it this way, “What’s It Going to Take to Reach Everyone in the People Group?” Not what can I do or what can you do. Not what have others done before us. Not what’s possible. No. What’s it going to take? That’s the question we must ask! We have to be willing to do whatever it’s going to take! [read the whole article]
Our trainer in Thailand challenged us with the statement, “If your vision is something you can accomplish by yourself, your vision is probably too small.”
I want to encourage you to begin to dream and pray for a God sized vision for your context.
Perhaps you live in a city: What is it going to take to reach everyone in your city?
Perhaps you live in a small rural town: What is it going to take to reach everyone in your county?
Perhaps you are working among a remote group of people in Africa: What is it going to take to reach ALL of them?
Pray to the Lord of the harvest for a God sized vision and then begin to ask yourself, what is it going to take?
Are we willing to do whatever it is going to take?
When a student says to me, "You're so talented, I could never do what you do." I shouldn't be flattered.
Transferability in the ministry context is the idea the that the tools, strategies and methods that we use in ministry could be easily copied and used by anyone we are working with. Another way of talking about this is to ask the question:
Is it reproducible?
Could my 14 year old son use a particular method or ministry tool? Could he do what I'm doing? And could he help someone else do it?
These are important considerations when we think about making disciples who can make disciples. When Jesus gave us the great commission, his command was to make disciples and teach them to obey all that he commanded.
In that regard, everyone who is a disciple of Jesus should be making disciples of Jesus. If the process has somehow become overly complicated, if our methods require so much knowledge or training or expertise that the average follower of Jesus can't obey Jesus, then we've got something wrong.
If we desire to see our disciples make disciples then we have to begin to examine what we are doing to disciple them and ask a few questions:
If the answer to any of those questions is NO then we may need to ruthlessly evaluate what we are doing and how we are teaching.
Movements are not built on the expertise and charisma of a few but on the on the priesthood of all believers equipped and released to make disciples who make disciples.
Disciples need faith, they need vision, they need to be released with authority to do the work. But they also need to be equipped with tools that they can use and teach others to use.
And to do that, we must evaluate the tools and methodologies we are using and determine if they are reproducible.
[check out Giving Up Control, a great ebook by A. J. DeJonge for $0.99 on Kindle]
When my family and I returned from Turkey in 2012, one of the biggest challenges we faced was the level of fear and misunderstanding that we saw in well meaning Christians toward Muslims. We had spent nearly five years building relationships with Muslims who had become our dear friends and it broke our hearts to think that fear, misunderstanding and misinformation were paralyzing the church and preventing them from even saying hello to Muslims here in the U.S. let alone telling them good news about Jesus Christ.
In all honesty, my first response was one of bitterness toward the church but God in his grace soon moved me to compassion and understanding. Our friends didn’t share our experience of loving relationships with wonderful Muslim neighbors and friends. It was at about that same time that a friend told me about the Bridges Study.
The Bridges Study is a six lesson DVD study that can be used with small groups or Sunday school classes. As I’ve helped groups go through the study, I’ve seen it break down fear and remove misunderstanding as participants grow closer to Jesus as they step out in faith. Crescent Project founder, Fouad Masri, hosts the study which includes great teaching, inspiring testimonies and actionable next steps. I think every church should take their members through the Bridges Study.
Here are five reasons why.
The Bridges Study will help you learn about Islam and Muslims through a Biblical/Missional Lens.
Everyone is learning something about Islam and about Muslims. The source of that learning is generally the media or media personalities and the motivations behind those talking is often quite different. Some just want everyone to get along. Others want to warn us of hidden plots to take over America. The Bridges Study however presents great information in six thirty minute lessons through a Biblical lens that believes that God wants to see all Muslims repent and believe and follow Jesus. Participants often report that the Bridges Study lowered their fear, increased their understanding and gave them a heart to begin to pray regularly for Muslims to come to faith and look for opportunities to build relationships.
The Bridges Study will strengthen the faith of those who go through it.
Whenever we step outside of our comfort zones, we have an opportunity to be stretched and see our faith grow. One of the surprising benefits of working to mobilize the church to share the love of Jesus with Muslims was that as people began to explore learning about Islam and about how to share their faith with Muslims, their own faith began to grow.
I’ve seen many who have taken the Bridges Study and met a Muslim suddenly reading their Bibles far more regularly because their new Muslim friends ask them questions they’ve never been asked before. Their prayer lives increase. As God begins to use them, their faith grows.
The Bridges Study will help those who participate to be Christ’s ambassadors.
2 Corinthians 5:20 says that we are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. One of the cornerstone lessons of the Bridges Study is the four attitudes of an ambassador. It is a lesson that is crucial to understand if we are to share Jesus love with Muslims and as so many participants point out, with anyone.
The Bridges Study will invite participants to step out in risk taking obedience to Jesus
together with others.
After each lesson, there is an action step to take. These are designed to get you out of the living room and into a relationship with a new friend. The goal is to give your new Muslim friend an opportunity to respond to the gospel and be connected with a true follower of Christ. It also gives you and your group an opportunity to step out in risk taking obedience to Jesus together. It gives you the chance to run after the things of God together! There is very little that is more exhilarating than step out in faith with a group of friends for the glory of God!
Passive faith becomes active.
Shallow fellowship become deep.
And God will use your group to share the gospel with Muslims in your community. You’ll be running together!
The Bridges Study will help you to be a part of seeing Muslims come to faith in Christ
and worship Him.
Many of the people I work with struggle to believe that God could use them to introduce a Muslim to a life transforming relationship with Jesus. But as participants begin to step out in faith, God begins to use them, to give them opportunities to share and to love well. Jesus tells us that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few and then he commands us to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out more workers into his harvest fields. The fields are his and he wants to use you to see Muslims come to faith in Christ. He has used people just like you all across the world. The Bridges Study was created first and foremost to help mobilize more harvesters into the harvest among Muslims.
Start a Bridges Study today and join God in his miraculous movement in the Muslim world.
CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE BRIDGES STUDY
Click here to watch Session 4 to get of feel for the study
After participating in an Everywhere to Everywhere (E2E) training weekend, many ask the question, "What next?" The Bridges Study can be a great next step as you return to your home church. Invite others to join you in exploring how God might want to use you - and your church - to reach the Muslim world.
CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT E2E
When you read the gospels and the book of Acts, one thing stands out - everyone is talking about Jesus.
In fact the idea of bold proclimation of the gospel comes up in nearly every chapter of the book of Acts. Regardless of risk or response, it is what those following Jesus did.
They seemed to believe that if the sowed the gospel broadly, they would reap an abundant harvest.
They seemed to believe that when Jesus said the harvest was plentiful, he was telling the truth.
They believed and trusted in the gospel.
Sometimes when my pastor shares a story about sharing the gospel with someone he's met on a plane or at a gas station, others will say, "He's so gifted at sharing the gospel."
While my pastor is a truly gifted man in a lot of different aspects of life and ministery, I usually take a moment to disagree with that statement. You see it's not so much that he is gifted at sharing the gospel, it's that he is sharing the gospel.
He sows abundently and guess what, he reaps more abundantly than most.
It is as Jesus and the scriptures say it is.
Wayne Gretsky once quipped that he missed 100% of the shots that he never took.
And so as followers of Jesus, we need to find ways to share the gospel. We are to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8) and to be His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) and both of those require us to say something.
The outcome is in the hands of the Holy Spirit and not for us to worry about.
We just need to share.
One tool that I have been taught that I have found to be very helpful is the Three Circles tool for sharing the gospel. I like it for a number of reasons but mostly because it is simple enough for my 12 year old to be able to use.
Some might push back saying that it is too simple - fair enough. If you want to add Bible verses or other things, you can certainly do that.
But the reality of someone coming to faith is not dependant on a perfect gospel presentation - it's dependant of the Holy Spirit's work in the heart of the one who is lost.
Four Spiritual Laws, Roman's Road, The Way of the Master, the Cross Diagram - they all work. Not because they are somehow the perfect presentation of the gospel but because people of faith use them.
When we step out in faith to enter into gospel conversations, God shows up.
Below are a number of examples of the Three Circles Gospel presentation.
Jimmy Scroggins, who developed the Three Circles tool, has a great five video training series which is really helpful.
CLICK HERE TO START TRAINING NOW!
Do you have a plan to disciple new believers? How about a plan to continue to disciple mature believers?
Have you trained everyone in your fellowship how to make disciples?
Who should make disciples?
And for that matter, what is discipleship?
Do you have a discipleship plan? In the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20), Jesus told us to go and make disciples. It was the last thing he commanded his followers to do.
In order to be able to obey Jesus, it would be helpful to have a plan for making disciples. With this short article, I want to introduce some principles for beginning discipleship.
But lets start by learning from the word of God.
Discovery Bible Study
Read Matthew 28:18-20 two times to yourself and then answer these questions.
How did you answer the questions above?
Who should make disciples? As I read the passage, it seems pretty clear that everyone who is a disciple should be making disciples.
If I am going to teach someone to obey everything that Jesus commanded, then this command is one of those commands.
Jesus gives us a command to make disciples. Making disciples is Jesus' plan for kingdom growth. It's that simple.
Here are a few ideas to help us begin to make a plan for discipleship that we can use and that we can train everyone to use.
Short Term Discipleship - getting started for new believers
Long Term Discipleship - keeping moving for maturing believers
Short Term Discipleship
Short Term Discipleship should lay the foundation on which the new believer will build his or her life in Christ. It's sort of like boot camp for a soldier. They learn the basics but more importantly learn what it means to be a soldier.
Here are a few guidelines for thinking about creating or finding a discipleship plan for new believers.
What a disciple does in the first three months of faith, shapes the DNA of the faith they will live out the rest of their lives. If the disciple is asked to passively observe the work of the church, passivity will likely be the DNA.
Some examples of Short term discipleship plans can be found below.
The main thing is to find or create a simple plan that you can use to help new believers in Jesus to begin a life obeying Jesus and growing in maturity.
We have to be intentional to make disciples. We have to train our new disciples how to make disciples.
When we do this, by the grace of God and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we begin to see multiplication.
Long Term Discipleship
A long term discipleship plan must move new disciples from milk to meat, giving them the tools to move into a lifetime of discipleship through dependence on the word of God and the working of the Holy Spirit.
We'll talk more about long term discipleship in a future post.
Learn it. Apply it. Share it. Today.
The ideas in this article come from pages 59 - 71 in Four Fields of Kingdom Growth. (read it for free here)
Short Term Discipleship Plans
The three column Bible study method is something I learned to use from a missionary trainer in 2010. It is a way to interact with the word of God. By prayerfully using this method, we can discover the truths of scripture for ourselves.
By teaching our disciples this method - the people we are investing in - we can teach them to feed on the word of God for themselves, helping them to grow into deeper and deeper maturity in the Lord. It doesn’t require a degree in theology, it only requires a desire to grow in the Lord, your Bible, a piece of paper and some time.
A few things to consider
The three column Bible study methods works better with smaller sections of scripture. You could use it with full chapters, but I generally use it with passages of four to eight verses in length.
While you could use this method every day, I generally use it as a few times a month or when I feel the need to really dig into a passage of scripture or a set of scriptures on a particular topic.
Finally, remember, this is a tool. Tools have their place, but they are not in and of themselves anything special. It’s just another way to study scripture and to learn to listen to the voice of God.
How to do it
Divide a sheet of paper into three columns. In the first column copy the passage of scripture that you are studying word for word from your Bible. Take your time doing this, meditating on the words as you write. In the process of copying the passage word for word, you will actually read through it several times.
After you have finished copying down the passage, take a few minutes to pray for the Holy Spirit to give you insight into the scripture and to reveal to you the lessons that He would like you to learn from it.
In the second column, reread the passage. Think about what it means. Then do your best to paraphrase, or re-write, the passage in your own words. Work through the entire passage re-writing it in your own words in the second column.
When you finish, take a few minutes to meditate on the entire passage. Ask the Lord to reveal to you what you need to apply from the passage into your own life.
Finally, take a few moments to pray for help from the Lord to apply what you have learned in your study of the passage this very day. And be sure to share with someone what you learned.
Learn it - Apply it - Share it - Today.
As we learn from scripture and apply it to our lives and share it with others, we will grow in maturity in the Lord.
I've learned a lot about making disciples from Curtis Sergeant. You can read more about Curtis at www.obeygc2.com.
Curtis has put together 28 videos that are for those wanting to learn how to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples.
They are a great resource and I think you will find these extremely helpful. I would encourage you to take the next 28 days to watch one video each day. Most are between 3 - 7 minutes long.
You can watch all of the videos here: Multiplication Concepts
And just to get you started, I'll post the first four videos below.
The E2E Community
We are a collection of practitioners and trainers dedicated to equipping and encouraging everyone everywhere to proclaim the gospel and make disciples among the unreached locally, nationally and globally.