Chris Seidman has been the Lead Minister for The Branch Church in Dallas, Texas for 23 years. He authored “Before Stones Become Bread: Becoming More Like Jesus by Resisting Temptation” and co-authored “Heaven on Earth: Realizing the Good Life Now,” an avid student of Scripture and is passionate about intentional disciple making. We are thrilled that Chris will be joining us on the mainstage at the 2023 Discipleship.org City Tour events in Dallas, Houston and Raleigh in November. We hope you enjoy this sneak peek into what Chris will be talking about at the City Tour.
While there are a few references to “receiving” Jesus in Scripture, there are far more in regard to “following” Jesus. It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who observed in the gospels that among the first and last words Jesus spoke to Peter were the words “Follow me.” Whether one is far from Jesus or on His heels – the message is the same, “Follow me.”
Helping people to see Jesus and begin following Him from wherever they are is the essence of helping one to become a disciple of His. The nature of our relationship with Jesus has more to do with us following Him into His way of life and kingdom than it is us inviting Him into ours.
Lucia and her family moved in across the street from us a few years ago. She grew up in southern California. Her husband was a chef who had been born and raised in England. Their teenage daughter was an accomplished student and athlete. Very early in the relationship, my wife Tara took an opportunity to pray with Lucia in her front yard about a matter preoccupying her. She had never had anyone offer to pray with her on the spot before. Shortly thereafter, my wife and I saw her in the front yard one afternoon and invited her and her family to attend one of our Christmas candlelight services. She said, “Thank you, and we might do that, but I am Jewish.” I told her what a coincidence that was because I follow a Jew. We had a good laugh. They came and she wept through the service.
I was starting a series in the gospel of Luke in the new year and invited her family to join us. I also gave them each an individually bound copy of only the gospel of Luke. We began eating dinner together about once a week, which was easy to do since they were neighbors, and she began to read through the gospel of Luke. We also invited them to visit our small group and they began to make friends there as well. One evening, several months into the relationship, she stood in our kitchen while my wife was making a dinner and asked me a question I had never been asked before.
“So how did Jesus die the second time?”
“So I’ve read Luke over and over and some in the other gospels – and I know He was raised from the dead – but I don’t know how He died the second time.”
She assumed the resurrected Christ eventually died – again.
I told her the story of Acts, which I accepted as divinely inspired like she did Exodus, knowing it would tell her more. I did go ahead and give her a spoiler alert. He didn’t die again, but rather He ascended into heaven.
“So, wait a second. You’re telling me (she paused, lowered her voice though no one else was in the house but my wife and me, and looked all around – almost embarrassed to say it) – you’re telling me He’s…..(she whispers it) – ALIVE!? Like, you really believe that?”
My wife grinned from ear to ear. I nodded and laughed, “Yes, that’s what we believe.”
“I thought it was just something you Christians say – like a creed or pledge or something! I didn’t think you really believed it!”
I’m sure she’s had her share of interaction with Christians who, at the very least, didn’t live like He was alive and may not realize themselves how shallow their belief is.
She said, “This is some crazy story.”
I didn’t argue.
A few months later, I had the privilege of baptizing her in the backyard pool belonging to one of the members of our small group. Since then Lucia has played an important role in the spiritual journey of another one of our neighbors who lives next door to us. It was a journey that began in their front yard during COVID. This past Easter one of those neighbors and her daughter were baptized into Christ. Lucia also serves on our team of people who receive people for prayer in our services as well as being a part of our team of intercessors during the week. I have learned much from her journey to Jesus and with Jesus. For instance, I’ve found myself convicted by her reverence for the name of the Lord – a by-product of her upbringing and now all the more important given her personal experience with Jesus.
There are others I could tell you about out of my own experience with spiritually wandering people. There’s Dirk who I met on a golf course years ago and I later had the privilege of helping him start following Jesus. Today, he runs a landscape company, regularly puts in “a good word for Jesus” in his spheres of influence and serves on our prayer teams in our services. There’s Mark who I met at my local gym and would later help me start a men’s reading group in my community at a local recreation center. We would alternate between reading through a gospel and reading through other Jesus-centered books by Tim Keller, C.S. Lewis, and John Ortberg. As many as 40 men would participate some mornings – most of whom had no church home. Mark had grown up in church but had been spiritually lost for some time when I met him. Many years later, Mark is our newest elder at one of our church campuses.
From the neighborhood, to the gym, to the golf course – I’ve learned through experience that Jesus’ call to disciples to help others become disciples is more about living with intentionality right where you are rather than going to a certain location. (As some of you already know, the word “go” in Matthew 28:18 is a participle in the original language. It can mean “as you go along.”) There are opportunities all around us.
My wife and I have three sons. When they were younger, we had nine or ten boys in our house one afternoon after school. She was frantically looking for the keys to our suburban but couldn’t locate them. She finally exclaimed, “Twenty bucks to the one who finds my keys!” In a flash couch cushions were being upended and boys were digging through stuff everywhere. As they were searching high and low, my wife sensed the Lord saying to her, “What if you intentionally sought out these boys spiritually the way they are looking for your keys?” The keys were found. But they weren’t the only things “found” as a result of that day. My wife had been in a season of feeling like she really wasn’t able to make an impact beyond being a busy mom of three. In that moment, she realized there were opportunities right underneath her nose. Over the next few years, three of those boys answered the call to follow Jesus. Today, they are young men in their 20’s – all involved in the life of local churches around the country.
It’s impossible to cross paths with a person in the course of our daily lives who doesn’t need Jesus. I’ve been amazed at how receptive people are to conversations regarding Jesus. They may have their share of cynicism about organized religion, church, parts or all of the Bible (they may not even know what they believe about the Bible for that matter), but “Jesus” – there’s something about that name.
More often than not, I’ve found people willing to read through one gospel and have conversations along the way. Faith has a way of being aroused by the word of Christ. Between the story of Jesus, the work of the Spirit, and their relationship with others who appear to have experienced a qualitative difference in their lives because of Jesus, faith has a way of sneaking up on people.
In most of my relationships with spiritually wandering people, I’ve been slower than some pastors to invite them to the church where I serve. I had prayed with them in their living rooms, on a golf course, or in a coffee shop and engaged them in conversations about Jesus before ever really telling them “you’ve got to come to my church!” Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hide what I did for a living and the church I served. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that the relationships they eventually found in our church have been life-giving to them through the years. But them becoming involved in our church was not the highest priority to me in the early stages of those relationships. Helping them to see Jesus and to begin following Him from where they were was more important. I wanted to converse with them and help them to encounter Jesus “on their turf” – in “their world” – where they were.
If you’re looking for a way to take the conversations deeper with spiritually lost people, consider how Jesus went about deepening His relationships with His first disciples. I see Him doing three things with those first followers of His.
- He shared tables with them. Have you ever considered how many of Jesus’s recorded words were from conversations around dinner tables? Sharing a table is one way to deepen the relationship.
- He shared “mountain tops” with them. I’m thinking of His transfiguration experience. He allowed three disciples in on that experience. It was a “peak” experience for Him. For a few moments He was in a heavenly glory that had to be refreshing at one level – given where He was in His mission on earth at that point. There are profound things happening in the transfiguration experience, but I simply use this as an illustration of allowing people “in” on what brings us life and joy and us finding out what brings them life and joy. You want to take a conversation to a different level? Ask someone what makes their heart come alive.
- He shared “valleys” with them. I’m thinking of His experience in Gethsemane and allowing a few disciples in on that experience as well.
There’s something about relationships that develop around mutually-shared tables, “mountain tops,” and “valleys.” These kinds of relationships provide the context for people to ask questions of us and witness the qualitative difference Jesus makes in our lives.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the role prayer plays in the midst of our efforts to help others become, grow, and live as disciples of Jesus. Over the course of my life, I’ve found strength in praying prayers rooted in Scripture when it comes to this journey with spiritually wandering people. After all it is a “great co-mission” – a partnership between the work of God’s Spirit within us and around us. Here are a few I’ve found myself praying from time to time:
- For the eyes to see as Jesus sees. (Jesus told His disciples in John 4:35 – “Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”)
- For the capacity to remember the Lord has been at work in that person’s life, whether they realize it or not, before I ever entered the picture. He’s been pursing them and there have been other seeds sown prior to my engagement with them. (John 4:35-38)
- For the compassion of Jesus with regard to their spiritual condition. Ask for His burden for them and the gift of tears. (Matthew 9:35-36)
- For the abiding sense that there is a Lord of the harvest. (Matthew 9:37-38)
- For the Lord to open their hearts to respond to the message of Christ. (Acts 16:14)
- For the Lord to open doors, our eyes to see those doors, and for grace upon the conversations. (Colossians 4:2-5)
- For fearlessness. (Ephesians 6:19)
- For the work of the Spirit upon their hearts toward belief in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
It’s such a mystery the way the seed of the kingdom grows. Jesus spoke of that mystery in Mark 4:26-29. He describes it in terms of being gradual – first the stalk, then the head, then the kernel in the head. “Night and day…the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.”
I think this is true when it comes to how the seed grows within someone. The mystery keeps us humble, and yet the awareness that this is a great “co-mission” keeps us hopeful and intentional in our relationships. We’re not alone. There is a “withness” of God in the midst of our witness regarding Jesus. And His “withness” is promised “to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
I like our chances.
Because of the importance of intentionality in disciple making, we at Discipleship.org are going to emphasize this skill set and mindset over the next four months.
Please join with us and seek to share understanding, insight, and practical tools so that you can become skilled at intentionality in relational disciple making and you can help those on your team or in your leadership group to do the same.
There are four ways in which we are emphasizing intentionality to help you in the next four months.
- Discipleship.org City Tour Forums – our four City Tour Forums are designed to help you and your team both understand and develop an intentionality posture. The tour is comprised of one day, high impact forums where there will be teaching and round table discussions. Every attendee also gets a copy of Brandon Guindon’s new book, Intentional: Living Out the Eight Principles of Disciple Making.
Click the image below for more information.
Take the FREE Individual Disciple Maker Assessment – we designed this assessment with a team of national and international disciple making leaders to help each individual be able to evaluate their disciple making mindset and skill. Just by taking this assessment, you will gain an appreciation for the value of intentionality, along with a sense of how you can increase your own level of intentionality.
Click the image below to take the assessment.
- Read the short FREE book, Becoming a Disciple Maker: The Pursuit of Level Five Disciple Making – Bobby wrote this short eBook with statistician Greg Wiens to help you understand the mathematical and practical impact of one person’s disciple making efforts and skills.
Click the image below to download this free eBook.
- Read Brandon Guindon’s book, Intentional: Living Out the Eight Principles of Disciple Making – Brandon wrote this Discipleship.org book and Zondervan is publishing, because the understanding and practice of disciple making is so crucial. Every attendee at each of our City Tour events (Nashville, Houston, Dallas and Raleigh), as mentioned above, will receive a FREE copy of Brandon Guindon’s book.
Click the image below to pre-order Brandon Guindon’s book from Amazon.com.
Please join with us in this quest to better understand and practice intentionality. It will help us all to become more and more like Jesus, the world greatest disciple maker.