The disciple understands how significant he is to the advance of the Kingdom of God, has a clear picture of some of the broad plans God has in mind for him, and is motivated to actively pursue his spiritual development and his relationship with God.
BIBLICAL BASIS FOR THIS OBJECTIVE
It’s clear from Scripture that two things weighed heavily on the hearts of the writers of the New Testament, and therefore on the heart of God: (1) that God’s children would mature; and (2) that they would spread His gospel to the ends of the earth. Here’s a novel idea: Look up the following passages of Scripture and jot down a summary of each in your disciplemaker’s notebook.
1. God wants His children to mature:
1 Corinthians 3:1-2
1 Corinthians 13:11
1 Corinthians 14:20
2 Corinthians 3:18
2 Corinthians 13:9
1 Thessalonians 2:19-20
1 Thessalonians 3:9-10
1 Peter 2:2
2. God wants His gospel to be spread to the ends of the earth:
2 Corinthians 5:18-20
1 Timothy 1:15
2 Peter 3:9
PEP TALK FOR THE DISCIPLEMAKER
When a certain fellow first started selling real estate, he took a listing for the worst-looking, most run-down, dilapidated house you ever saw, and the seller wanted $250,000 for it. The man’s boss was beside himself. “How could you be so dumb?! You’re never going to sell that place, especially at that price!”
The eager novice said, “Oh, yes I will! You just wait! I’ll get it sold before the end of the week!”
Three days later, the salesman came dragging into the office, scratched, cut and bleeding, but triumphantly proclaimed, “I sold it!”
His boss said, “That’s incredible! But what happened to you? Did you have to fight the customer to sell it?
The realtor said, “No, but I had a rough time with his seeing-eye dog.”
Without physical vision, people sometimes get swindled. And without spiritual vision, people get worse than swindled. Solomon said in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (KJV). Solomon was referring to “revelations from God” about the present and the future. Back in those days, before most of the Bible had been written, God spoke to mankind primarily through prophets who had visions. Without them, people could not have known what God had on His mind, or what was in store for them down the pike. Without this knowledge, they would neglect or eventually forget about Him altogether. But now that we have both the Old and New Testaments, God speaks to us primarily through His Word. We can read God’s thoughts any time we want.
God has plans for your disciple. Big plans. But if your disciple has no inkling as to what these plans might be, there is a good chance he’ll lose his motivation and bail out. He’ll “perish”—like a seed that falls on concrete, unable to grow or reproduce. Obviously, we’re not talking about eternal perishing, but as far as living a victorious life and having an impact on this world, he’ll be as good as dead.
If your disciple has vision he’ll be much more motivated to strap himself in for the entire trip. He needs to grasp the fact that he himself, personally, has the potential of being used significantly by God to advance His Kingdom here on earth. He needs to see long-term value and personal benefit in that. He needs to focus on the things above, to value the eternal over the temporal. He needs to, as Dawson Trotman said, “Get on your heart what is on God’s heart—the world.”[i]
Besides, we’re really not interested in investing our lives in people who will walk with the Lord for four months and then slip into neutral for the rest of their years on earth. That practice has gotten the body of Christ into an overweight and undernourished condition. Never before has the gospel made such astounding inroads into the world’s population with such minimal effect. The land that most of today’s church seems to have been sown on is the second type described in Matthew 13:
And others fell upon the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
We are interested in investing our hard-won time in seed that falls on good ground—the kind that will produce thirty, sixty or a hundredfold. The kind that germinates and keeps on growing. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 8:11, “But now finish doing it also; that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability.” Or as Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 7:8: “The end of a matter is better than its beginning.” It’s not that we don’t love, care for and pray for those who turn back, but as far as our target activities, we’d all probably just as soon put our time in on those who will be going on with the Lord. It’s normal to want to see some return for our labor.
There are things that we as disciplemakers can do to help “prepare the soil” to receive the seed. That’s what disciplemaking is all about, isn’t it? The planting, watering, fertilizing, weeding—to facilitate maximum growth. We can’t make them grow—that’s God’s job—but we can help create the environment that encourages growth. Actually, we’ve been doing that all along. But we could add one last squirt of high-potency fertilizer: vision.
There is no sure-fire way of instilling long-term commitment in a person, but vision can lead to commitment. We impart vision by teaching about it, modeling it, and praying it into our disciples, as we learned back in Chapter 4 with the Three Pillars of Disciplemaking: Content, Relationship and Prayer. You’ll have to hold yourself accountable on the modeling and praying parts, but I can give you a few ideas concerning what to teach.
BROACHING THE SUBJECT
Assuming you asked your disciple to read either Born to Reproduce or How to Help Fulfill the Great Commission, as was suggested in Training Objective #11’s Assignment For Next Week section, use it to get your discussion off the ground. Here are a few launching questions if he read Born to Reproduce:
1. What did you think of it?
2. What impressed you the most about it?
3. Would you say you’re ready to become a “spiritual reproducer” yet? (If no, go to question 4; if yes, go to question 5.)
4. What do you think it will take to get you there? What do you think is involved in being a spiritual reproducer?
5. Do you want to be a spiritual reproducer?
6. (If so…) Why? (If not…) Why not?
If he read “How to Help Fulfill the Great Commission,” use some of these questions:
1. What did you think of it?
2. What impressed you the most about it?
3. Can you remember what the “Great Commission” is?
4. To whom was the Great Commission given?
5. What do you think we need to do in order to help fulfill the Great Commission?
6. Helping to fulfill the Great Commission—is that something you are personally interested in?
7. (If so…) Why? (If not…) Why not?
After discussing his answers a little, I’d move into the material by saying something like the following:
We’ve covered a lot of territory over the last few months, Sam. You’ve learned how to be filled with the Spirit, the importance of “drawing from the new well instead of the old”; you’ve learned some practical things you can do to help yourself mature in your walk with Christ, such as praying, studying the Bible, fellowshipping and witnessing, how to defend yourself in spiritual warfare and how to get the most out of your days through efficient time management.
I was really impressed with some of the major goals you came up with last week, too, especially the one about…[Hopefully he has a goal or two in there about long-term commitment to Christ and/or having a ministry for Christ. Highlight those.] I don’t know if you have any idea how reachable those goals are for you. I think God is more interested in helping you reach your goals than even you are!
In God’s eyes, you are an extremely significant person, and you have the potential of being greatly used by Him to further His kingdom here on earth. I’m not talking about becoming another Billy Graham or anything, but wherever you are, God wants to use you to extend His kingdom, through whatever gifts and talents He’s given you.
Let’s take the rest of this time today looking at what might be in store for you around the bend.
SUGGESTIONS FOR GROWTH
In order to move the disciple to the point of seeing his own significance in God’s broad scheme, and of being motivated to deepen his commitment, I like to progress through three major concepts:
1. What is important to God?
2. What are some of His important plans for you?
3. What do you need to do to fit in with His plans?
We’ll be wading through a lot of Scripture here, for which there is no need for apology. It’s God’s Word that will cut your disciple’s heart to the quick, so we should use it. I’d suggest you spend an extra amount of time in prayer before this one, asking the Holy Spirit to use His Word mightily in your disciple’s life during this session. As usual, you need to look up the references first, decide on which ones will mean the most to your disciple and share them with him. Allow him to read the verse and comment on what it means to him.
1. What Is Important to God?
There are lots of things important to God, and if you’ve got a spare decade, we could go into them right now. If you don’t, let’s just look at three things. If we know what is important to God, it’s a good first-step toward making them important to us.
A. The Eternal Over the Temporal.
We humans tend to put so much emphasis on the here-and-now. We often hear slogans like, “Live for today,” and “You go around only once in life, so grab all the gusto you can.” God, on the other hand, while not dismissing the temporal as totally irrelevant (after all, we live there!), places a much greater emphasis on the eternal.
How can we as Christians involve ourselves in the eternal? In the Bible, three things are listed as being eternal. To the extent that we are involved in those things, we are involved in the eternal. Those three things are:
· God: Psalms 90:2; 93:2; 102:24-27
Eventually, we Christians all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, not to be judged as to our eternal destiny—that has already been settled—but according to our works, what we did while here on earth. Activities that fall outside the range of eternal will be burned up, gone, as if they had never happened. But those that are of eternal quality will remain, and they will be rewarded (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
B. The Spiritual Over the Material.
This goes along with A above, but hits a little closer home for most of us. It gives us something to sink our teeth into.
Many Americans have gone absolutely bananas with their materialism. As a recent “Cathy”[ii] comic pointed out, we buy safari clothes that will never be near a jungle; aerobic footgear that will never set foot in an aerobics class; deep-sea dive watches that will never get damp; four-wheel-drive vehicles that will never experience a hill; 27-time-zone international clocks in indestructible molded alloy cases that will never leave our zip code. We have entered the age of abstract materialism: moving past the things we want and need, and craving the things that have nothing to do with our lives!
God, on the other hand, is much more interested in the spiritual than the material. Again, it’s not that He advocates all His children becoming Essene monks, eschewing all material possessions—He just wants us to put our affections in the right place.
C. Availability Over Ability.
God isn’t looking for a bunch of high-powered, well-traveled, over-educated wiz-kids to come up with and execute their big ideas. He’s looking for faithful, available servants who will carry out His big ideas. First Peter 5:6 says: “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Throughout the Bible God resists the activities of the proud and joins the team of the underdog, a sentiment reflected in the people He chooses to be His ambassadors.
God doesn’t need men and women of great ability. All He needs are people with availability, people who are willing and able to do what he wants them to do, say what He wants them to say, go where he wants them to go, and be what He wants them to be. He doesn’t care what your background has been, what challenges you are facing, what handicaps you have. All He wants is for you to give Him your five loaves and two fishes, and then stand back!
Abraham: Idolater (Genesis 11:26-31; Joshua 24:2); Abram and his relatives were Chaldeans, known to have worshipped Nanna, the moon goddess, who required strict obedience; nothing of significance done in his life until he was well up in years (Genesis 17:1-8). Became the father of the Jews, ancestor of the Savior (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-7).
Jacob: Liar, cheater (Genesis 27:1-40); chased from his homeland by his brother (Genesis 27:40-45). Became the progenitor of the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 35:22b-26) and heir to the blessings of Abraham (Genesis 28:1-4).
Joseph: Papa’s pet; tattletale; hated by his brothers (Genesis 37:1-4); kidnap victim (Genesis 37:18-28) sold into slavery (Genesis 39:1); falsely accused of rape (Genesis 39;7-19); jailbird (Genesis 39:20; 41:1). Became the prime minister of Egypt and saved the embryonic nation of Israel (Genesis 41:37-45; 45:4-13; 50:19-21).
Moses: Murderer (Exodus 2:11,12); fugitive (Exodus 2:13-15); sheepherder in exile (Exodus 2:22; 3:1); a man of great reluctance and little faith (Exodus 3:11,13; 4:1,10,13). Became God’s primary ambassador to earth, the one with whom God spoke “face to face” (Exodus 33:11) and whom God spoke of as “My servant” (Joshua 1:2).
David: Shepherd boy, youngest child of an insignificant family (1 Samuel 16:1-12); weird-looking because of his red hair and pale skin (1 Samuel 16:12). Used by God to slay Goliath, embolden Israel (1 Samuel 17:26-53), and later to bring Israel to the pinnacle of world power (2 Samuel 7:1, 18-29).
Esther: An orphan, raised by her elder cousin, an exile in a pagan country (Esther 2:5-7). Became queen to King Ahasuerus (Esther 2:17) and kept Israel from annihilation (Esther 4:13-16; 7:2-10; 8:5-12).
Peter: All mouth (Matthew 26:33-35); impetuous (Matthew 17:4); puffed-up (Matthew 16:21-23); openly denied Christ in His hour of need (Matthew 26:69-75). Became one of the all-time pillars of the Christian movement (Acts 2:14-41; 3:1-26; 10:1-48; wrote 1 and 2 Peter).
Paul: Vicious, zealous persecutor of Christians, sent many of God’s children to prison and death (Acts 8:3; 9:1,2; 22:4,5; 26:9-11; 1 Corinthians 15:9). He turned out to be the most influential Christian ever to have lived. (He was inspired to write half of the books of the New Testament.)
Jesus: Carpenter’s son from a backwater town in Galilee. Made salvation available to the whole world.
To go over the available servants mentioned above, you could name them one by one and ask your disciple if he can think of what hardship he or she might have been up against, and how God used them in spite of it (or maybe because of it). For the ones he isn’t familiar with, either you supply the information or the two of you look up the references supplied. Now, back to your discussion with your disciple…
God has done some pretty significant things through some seemingly insignificant people! All that was required was that they be available, willing to be used by God however He wanted. Did you know that it is possible for you personally to reach the world for Christ? You don’t need to be a pope or a Billy Graham or have a billion dollars or anything. All you have to do is faithfully apply a biblical principle. It’s found in 2 Timothy 2:2. Paul wrote this to his disciple Timothy: “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”
Notice the “things” were to be passed through four generations: from Paul to Timothy to “faithful men” to “others also.” This is called “spiritual multiplication.”
Here’s how it works: First you win one person to the Lord each year and train that person to live a victorious, reproductive Christian life. Then the two of you do the same thing with two more people the next year, thus doubling your numbers each year thereafter. After 5 years there would be up to 1024. Still not too impressive for 10 years’ labor. But at 15 years you’re up to 32,768. By the end of the 20th year, your ranks have grown to 1,048,576! Sometime during the 33rd year, you have reached the entire population of the earth for Christ!
Sam, you’re my “faithful man.” And it’s been my prayer for the last several months that you would eventually come to the point of being able to “teach others also.” As long as we can keep the chain going, we have a chance to win the whole world to Jesus Christ!
2. What Are Some of His Important Plans for You?
One more thing is very important to God, and that’s YOU! You are eternal, you are spiritual, and you are becoming more available all the time. When God redeemed you from the hand of the enemy, He did not intend for you to come in from the battle, get cleaned up and go sit in a chair for the rest of the war. He redeemed you for many important reasons, not the least of which was to help Him in His plans to redeem others. There is no way I can tell what specific plans God has for you, but the Bible can give us some good ideas of His general plans. The specific plans will flow from the general ones. Let’s look up a few passages and see if we can spot some of those plans.
A. His Plans for You in This Life
1. To lead you to a positive future
2. To enlighten you
3. To increase the intimacy of your walk with Christ
4. To supply all your needs
5. To strengthen you
6. To help you have a significant, positive impact on the world
7. To help you develop and use the unique gift(s) He has given you for the good of the Body
8. To formulate a training program designed to meet your specific needs
9. To discipline you when you need it
10. To help you grow in Christlikeness
B. His Plans for You for Eternity
1. To let you see, know, and experience first-hand the presence of God and Christ
2. To install you in an eternal mansion
3. To give you a new, supernatural body like Christ’s
4. To give you authority so you may reign with Christ in eternity
5. To give you the fortunes you have amassed through your good works on earth
6. To abolish your hunger, thirst and sadness forever
7. To have you eat from the Tree of Life; drink from the Water of Life; see the curse lifted from earth; reign with Christ forever
3. What Do You Need to Do to Fit in With His Plans?
Many of the plans that God has for you are “unconditional,” meaning they’ll happen no matter what. But quite a number of His plans and blessings for you are “conditional.” Let’s take a look at several verses of Scripture to see what we are responsible for in order to see God’s plans accomplished in our lives.
Following is a short list of some of the many conditional promises God has made to His children in His Word. It’s by no means an exhaustive list. All we want to do here is help our disciples see that God is not some celestial Good Humor Man, distributing eternal goodies to whoever happens to be around. We want them to understand that there are both benefits and responsibilities for those who would experience the abundant life. We’re hoping to answer the questions our disciple may be silently asking: Why should I go on? What’s in it for me?
Take a sheet of paper and divide it into three columns. At the top of the left-hand column print “Verse.” At the top of the middle, print “If I…” At the top of the right-hand column, print “God will…” something like this:
Together, look up as many of the above and following verses as you want, and write in the corresponding requirements and benefits. If you don’t see your favorite promises here, by all means add them!
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
2 Corinthians 5:10
2 Timothy 2:20,21
2 Timothy 4:8
1 Peter 5:2-4
1 Peter 5:6
1 John 1:9
ENDING THE SESSION
The main idea behind this session it that your disciple would come out of it motivated to maintain or deepen his commitment to the Lord and to the ministry He has for him to fulfill. The primary way he would demonstrate this commitment is by his eagerness to continue to meet with you for further discipling.
You may recall that in chapter 8, when we were talking about enticing a person into this discipling process, I recommended you ask him to commit to a five-month block of time in which you would go over twelve subjects that would be vital to his future spiritual health and growth. I also recommended you tell him that at the end of that period he would have the option of going on with the program or shelving it indefinitely. Today is the day of reckoning. You might approach it something like this:
YOU: Well, Sam, we’ve done it! We’ve completed the twelve subjects that I told you a few months ago would help you get established and grow in your new walk with God. Do you think it has helped you?
DISCIPLE: Yes! Of course! Tremendously! Wonderfully! Fantastically! Incredibly! To the max. (I’m trying to be a little optimistic about his response, here. Did you notice?)
YOU: I’m glad to hear that! You’ve come a long way through the past few months, no doubt about that! But I’m wondering—do you think you’ve still got a ways to go yet? Especially after today’s session and all we’ve seen about the things God has in store for you, do you think there is still more for you to learn?
DISCIPLE: Unquestionably. No doubt about it. I can’t begin to tell you… (Still optimistic.)
YOU: I don’t suppose any of us will ever come to the point of saying, “I know it all now. No need to learn anything else.” There is always more that the Lord wants us to learn. That’s the definition of a disciple, anyway, “a learner.” When we stop being a learner, we stop being a disciple. Remember that, at the beginning of this series, I told you I would give you the option of continuing your training when we finished the twelve subjects? Well, now’s the time to decide. Have you given any thought as to whether you want to keep meeting as we have been?
DISCIPLE: I’ve given it some thought, but I have a few questions. If we continued to meet together, would it be for another five months or what?
YOU: If we continued on, I think we are talking about a one-year commitment. Obviously, we can flex some on that. One or the other of us is bound to have to miss once in a while, with business, trips, vacations, etc. But overall, I think we’re looking at a year.
DISCIPLE: Will I be done at the end of that year?
YOU: Actually, no one’s ever “done.” But you’ll be a lot further along than you are now. At the end of a year, if we are able to be pretty consistent in our times together and if your commitment level remains high, I could see you being firmly established in your walk with the Lord, with Bible study, prayer and fellowship being fixed habits in your life. I see you taking advantage of many opportunities God gives you to share your faith, and doing so with ease and confidence. I see you having discovered what your spiritual gifts are and beginning to use them for the good of the Body. Is see you personally helping other people mature just like I’m helping you. And I have no doubt that, if things keep going as they are, you’ll be helping and encouraging me in my walk with the Lord! However, even then, there will be more to learn. But at the end of that year, we would do again what we’re doing today, re-evaluating whether or not you want to continue meeting with me. If you do go on, eventually we’ll be spending less and less time with each other, and more time with younger Christians who need training. It’s not like you’d be stuck meeting with me for an hour and a half each week for the rest of your life! But that bond and relationship will always be there.
DISCIPLE: This coming year, would it involve about the same amount of time each week?
YOU: To be honest with you, the time commitment will be going up. My objective is to help you not only mature in your walk and faith, but also to help you develop your own ministry, and begin to do with others what I’ve done with you. This will involve not only the time it takes for you to learn, but also the time it takes for you to teach others. This won’t happen all at once, but over the next year, the time you put in on your discipleship could gradually double—or even triple. It depends on you, and how much time you are able to put into it.
DISCIPLE: Well, I can’t imagine anything I’d rather do! Where do I sign? When do we start? (There’s that optimism again…)
What if he says no?
There is one fact we must all face, however. Some will not want to go on meeting with you. They’ll come up with very plausible excuses—some fairly legitimate, some not. If that happens to you, don’t do two things. First, don’t push it. If he’s not ready, he’s not ready. It’s better that you let him bail out now instead of after you’ve invested a year of your life in him. You can pray for him, do fellowshippy things together, encourage him as you have the opportunity, and stimulate him to love and good deeds. Perhaps he’ll reconsider down the road a piece. But you can’t squeeze a commitment out of him that he’s unwilling to make.
When I was in college, I challenged a young Christian in my dorm to a discipling relationship. He was a freshman on the basketball team and showed excellent leadership potential. He thought about it, but declined, saying that he didn’t think he would have the time. I said fine, backed off, and just prayed for and stayed in casual contact with him. A year later he regretted his decision, and wanted to be trained. I was already over-committed to several other guys, but was able to have some input while others did the lion’s share of work with him. Tim Hall went on to have a great impact for Christ at Colorado State as one of their top hoopsters ever, joined the Athletes in Action Basketball Team where he influenced thousands of people to faith in Christ over a seven-year period, graduated from Denver Seminary, and he and his wife are now missionaries in Italy. You see, you never know what God’s going to do in a person’s life. He might do it right now, or He might wait awhile!
Second, if he says no, don’t let it get to you! Don’t allow Satan to discourage you over it. Your job was to plant, water and fertilize. God is in control of the growing and the timetable of maturation. Don’t start second-guessing, trying to figure out where you went wrong. In all probablility, you didn’t go wrong anywhere. You did your job, now leave the results to God. Move on to the next assignment He has for you, and be assured of this: God’s Word does not return void (Isaiah 55:10,11). Your faithfulness will bear fruit eventually, one way or another.
Jim Gibson was a fellow-member of the Colorado State Track Team while I was there. After helping this half-miler begin his walk with Christ, I started to disciple him. I couldn’t get Jim nailed down to an actual week-by-week meeting, but we spent a lot of time together on track trips, and had occasional bursts of consistent discipling encounters on campus. When we went our separate ways after graduation, however, I didn’t feel that I had done a very good job with him. He hadn’t responded the way I had hoped, and I felt primarily at fault.
Years later, out of the blue, here comes a letter from Jim! He’d deepened his commitment to Christ and was enrolled in Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville! He eventually graduated, is on fire for Jesus and is now a pastor in Canada. My glum thoughts about Jim were totally unfounded, and they demonstrated my lack of faith in God’s ability “to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Don’t let Satan drag you into the same useless trap.
ASSIGNMENT FOR NEXT TIME
Assuming he has decided to go on with the program, you now have some big decisions ahead of you! The question you need to ask is, “Where should he go from here?” You’ll need to figure out where his strengths and weaknesses are, and you’ll need to know what his next, most crucial step of growth is. The Holy Spirit is the one who knows what those are, and you can get the information from Him.
The last section of this book will give you a strategy of discerning where your disciple’s greatest needs lie and how you might map out a long-term plan to meet those needs with the help of the Holy Spirit. What you do next time will depend on that plan, so I suggest you read chapter 21 for some insight.
If he has decided not to go on with you, your assignment is to pray for him daily, to ask God to cause your love for him to increase, to encourage him in his growth “off the cuff” as you have opportunities, and to expect great things for him from God. You’re not allowed to harass him or make him feel guilty, like a failure or a spiritual “second-class citizen.” You have not been called to judge, you’ve been called to love. But keep your eyes open—God may be doing something in his heart yet!
[vi] William R. Bright, “How To Help Fulfill The Great Commission,” Transferable Concept #7 (San Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade For Christ, 1972).