The following content is an excerpt from the eBook Fill Your Seats. Download your free digital version in your favorite format here.
Pastors have always taught God’s Word with the goal of making disciples. That preaching, along with millions of lay people living and sharing their faith, has created something like two billion professing Christians. Of course, God, through His Holy Spirit, was the One who really did it (just so you know I’m not confusing roles here).
Anyhow, we’ve landed here in 2018 with a huge problem.
We have a nation (maybe a world) where pastors are less and less impactful in their sermons, and we’re making fewer and fewer disciple makers. Some people come to church regularly, some sporadically. Real change in people’s lives seems to come slowly, if at all. Radical transformation seems rare. And the further you get from church staff, the less enthusiastic people seem to be about the work of the gospel.
I think a big part of it stems from the way we have approached disciple making. Consider this.
Which Comes First?
The starting point is always God’s Word, as well it must be. But when and how God’s Word is explained and applied to people’s lives has gotten switched around and is falling fallow.
We seem to start everything with a Scripture, then spend time explaining what that Scripture means, the principles God intends to reveal, and finally, how those principles can be applied to everyday life situations. It flows like this:
The best disciple-making processes reverse it: They start with the life situations people face, they surface issues and feelings we experience in life, then they bring truth from God’s Word to the specific situation, explaining the answer and how to live it out. People don’t buy solutions to problems they don’t have. When you start with the problem—the felt need—and help people connect the answer in a personal way, they’re more open to a solution. There’s more openness to the good news when people see its specific relevance to their lives and situations.
Same thing applies to how disciple makers get made.
Traditionally, we’ve taken the Scriptures, developed curriculum, created classes, sat people in rows, and taught them how to be disciples of Jesus. But lack of information isn’t our problem. We’ve millions of knowledgeable Christians who live like everyone else in our culture, divorce at the same rate, and never share their faith, never make more disciples.
This comes from the free eBook Fill Your Seats, which you can download here.
Jesus Did the Opposite
He walked through life with His disciples; He didn’t preach at them. He used the things of everyday life to teach them about the Father and about faith—about food, flowers, taxes, houses, riches, offerings, sickness, death, and government authority. He used real-life things and situations to unpack the Scriptures and to work the Truth of God into His disciples. He started with the situation—what they saw, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted—and engaged with the needs of people who were right there in front of them. And then He brought them God in a relevant way. His method wasn’t just informational; it was transformational.
He started with life and used the real-world pain and pleasure to engraft Truth.
We make disciple makers by living life in close proximity for a period of time, introducing the Truth of God a little at a time—at just the right time. Do we have an agenda? Absolutely. Is there a list of things we want them to grasp? Yessiree. Do they know they’re expected to pass it on to others to do for others what we’re doing for them? Definitely. Is this messier and less predictable than sitting folks in rows and teaching from a curriculum? Yep, it is. Is it more effective? Unquestionably.
It’s what Jesus did. How can we miss it?
Written by Regi Campbell
Regi Campbell grew up in a small-town church. He’s belonged to congregations in multiple cities and gotten to know a quite a few pastors and churches. For the past twenty-three years, he’s been a part of one of America’s largest churches, Andy Stanley’s North Point Community Church serving as an Elder twice and in other leadership roles. His first three books—About My Father’s Business, Mentor Like Jesus, and What Radical Husbands Do—speak to business people, mature men, and husbands respectively. Campbell now speaks to Senior Pastors, Staff Pastors, and leaders in the local church, sharing what he’s learned about creating interest in discipleship and disciple making.
Regi is the Founder and Chairman of Radical Mentoring, a nonprofit focused on equipping and encouraging churches to build disciples and disciple makers through intentional men’s small group mentoring. Regi believes the future of the local church is intimately connected to the development of strong Jesus-following lay leaders who will lead their wives, children, businesses, neighborhoods, and churches with God at the center.
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