Discipleship Uncomplicated

Originally Posted on July 24, 2020

Webinar Transcript

– I wanna begin just by talking about disciple making, by it’s nature, is that it is a primary objective that Christ has called us to do and be about. It’s not one of five things, or one of 10 things that we’re to do, it is the thing that God has left us to do. And so when we talk about disciple making, I’ve come to that foundational conviction that this is my life, it’s not just one of many things that do, that disciple making, for me, it begins at home with my children and family and it continues on in how we live everyday life. I’m gonna talk through some, just a few things, about kind of how I got started. I never really set out to write a book on disciple making, but I found myself in a place where we had lots of churches, I was a director of missions outside of Chicago for about eight years, and we had a number of churches that were kinda foundationally disconnected from their neighborhoods. And what I mean by that is they didn’t know who lived around them. There’s a foundational reality, you can’t disciple somebody you don’t know. And so there becomes just some very practical things that we can do to set that in order. So the first thing I’d like to share with you about disciple making is it all really stems from our heart. Foundationally, do we love God and love people? That’s kind of the core of disciple making. Do you love God and do you love people? When I started really thinking about what Jesus said in Matthew 22:30, really 34-40, when He said that the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, Luke says with all your strength, to love Him with all that you have. And He said that those are linked to this, is the second great commandment, and that’s to love your neighbor as yourself. So the implication is if you love God with all your heart, you cannot not love your neighbor. And when you think about that on a practical level, when the love of God is flowing in and through us, it wants to get out, it wants to love through us to love our neighbors. And I think, foundationally, that’s really what the world needs from us, is they need more of God’s love coming through us, not our opinions and things like that, but just more of God, and I think that’s, He is the transformative power in all of this. The challenge with loving God and loving people is with keeping a good heart. And so I think about Proverbs 4:23 quite a bit, above all else, guard your heart, it is the wellspring of life. Above all else, guard your heart, it is the wellspring of life. As I think about that, there’s two kinda basic approaches that we tend to take towards guarding our heart. One is a very proactive state. We’ll really just pay attention to what are we allowing in to our life, whether that’s by what we watch, what we listen to, what we take in, how we take it in, and we’ll pay attention to how is this affecting how I’m thinking about people. Because if I’m here to reach people, and what I’m taking in is creating barriers, then I’ve got to do a better job of guarding what comes in and out of, into my heart. And so we’ll either take a real active role in that and we’ll just say yeah, you can come in, you cannot, not letting you in. Or more times than not, we take a very passive approach to the idea of guarding our heart. I call it kinda like the remote control method. You know, we have a remote control to our heart, and we’ll just give that to whoever wants it, whether that’s the news agencies, or opinions, or social media, or books that we read, or programs that we listen to. And we’ll allow them to set our hearts, and they’ll gladly do it. They’ll say this is who you should love, this is how you should love, this is the end of that. But here’s something I think foundational for us to understand about this is regardless of whether we intentionally guard what comes into our heart, or whether we hand that control to somebody else, we’ve still made a decision about what, how we’re going to treat that heart. It’s still our responsibility, so to speak. And that’s what that passage really speaks to. It says above all else, guard your heart. So who’s responsibility, really, is it to guard your heart? Well it’s my responsibility, it’s your responsibility. And so the first, and I think the most important, practice of disciple making is keeping a good heart. And let me share with you one way that I practice this on a regular basis. When I go, when I enter into a place, whether it’s online now, I’m meeting somebody for the first time, maybe off of LinkedIn or Facebook or something like that, I’ll remind myself of the two things I have in common with every person. And the two things are very simple. God created that person and He has a purpose and plan for their life. They didn’t get here because they wanted to be here. They’re here because God wanted them to be here. And so because God created them, He has a purpose and plan for their life. We have that in common. The second thing that we have in common is that Jesus Christ died to redeem them. You know, and when I remind myself, no matter who I’m sitting in front of, when I remind myself that God created this person, and He loves them, and He has a purpose and plan for their life, whether they believe in Him or not, I know that to be true, and that Jesus Christ died to redeem them. That does something to my heart. I can literally feel compassion rising up in my own heart towards them. And that gives me a greater ability to connect with them. It makes me more present in the moment when I’m in that conversation with them. And so guarding your heart is very important to positioning yourself for those conversations and those disciple making interactions. So that would be the first thing I would want to bring to your attention, is above all else, guard your heart, love God, love people. Now we’re gonna get into some of the practical things in regard to what we can do. The first thing is to get to know their name. That sounds pretty mundane, and it’s amazing how many people struggle with this idea of remembering people’s names. And so one of the great things about the venue that we’re on is that you’ve got that picture today, and right underneath that picture is that person’s name, and that’s pretty exciting that we can put their faces with the name, and that’s very helpful. When I first started doing this, I took a notepad with me and then I moved, I upgraded to notes on my phone. I would walk into places that maybe I would only go once or twice a year, and before I would go inside, I would go through kinda my Rolodex and look up okay, here’s this coffee shop, here’s this person’s name. And I would walk in and I would call their name. And they would be like how do you remember my name. And this is where learning somebody’s name becomes do-able, is that there’s really only one thing you have to do to get better at remembering people’s names, and that’s work at it, whether that’s writing it down, whether that’s using your phone. There’s actually a way to geo-locate a person’s, on your phone, using an app called Reminders, if you use an iPhone. I can show you how to do that, I have a video about that. But anyway, you can use your phone, you can use a lot of different things. But foundationally, if you don’t work at it, you’re not gonna get better at it. And there are some challenges, for sure, to doing it, but my encouragement is just keep working at it. My second encouragement in that is don’t overwhelm yourself. Like I set a goal to remember at least one new person’s name every week. So that’s 52 people a year, it’s not overwhelming. I end up doing a lot more than 52 a year because once you start developing that habit of once a week, it just becomes easier for you to do it because you learn how to kinda catalog people’s names and use your tools to do that. So love God, love people, get to know people by name, is very important when you’re connecting with someone and staying connected with them. I’ll share with you where, in your ministry, this could be very helpful. You can actually identify in your ministry the people that you’re most likely to influence for Christ by like an eight to two margin, or 80% of the people that you’re most likely to influence for Christ fall into two categories, or what I call two principles. The first principle is proximity, the second is purpose. You and I are most likely to influence the people that are closest to us. We’re most likely to influence the people we’re trying to influence. And so if you wanted to build a reach list for your church, then you start talking with your members about the people closest to them, and the people that they would like to see come to know Christ, or come into a better relationship with Christ. That’s how you build that list of names that you’re most likely to influence for Christ. And you can, this is actually very do-able, it is not a hard thing to do. It does require a little effort, but it’s not anything that’s very, very hard. So get to know people by name, build a list. I always encourage people to start with a list of about three to five names. Again, you don’t want it to be overwhelming, you don’t want it to be so big that they won’t do it, but you want it to be something that they actually, tangibly put on paper. So they say you know what, I’m gonna start taking spiritual responsibility for these people on my list. And that becomes important in disciple making because that’s what disciple makers start thinking about. Who has God put in my journey, and in my life, and how can I begin to speak, and to interact with them in a way that moves them closer to Jesus? The first thing, one of the things I can do is I can intentionally put myself in their place. The other things that I think are important, beyond getting to know people by name, is making it spiritual, and that is starting to pray for the people on your list, by name. Now there’s something powerful that’s gonna happen when you literally start doing this. You’ve got that paper, and you’ve written that person’s name and there’s something powerful about doing that, and then you start bringing that person’s name up before the Father. Jesus does, I watched Him in the scriptures in John 17 model this. In John 17, He is with His disciples in a prayer meeting. And He says to them, or He’s praying, and He says to the Father, He says, “Father, I’m not praying for the world, I’m praying for those you’ve given me.” And those that He was talking about were those in that room with Him. And that was really powerful, when I began to grasp that is that God has given me some people to influence and encourage. So we have purpose. Every person has somebody they can influence. And we begin to really do that when we start praying for them. I call it the three Ps, and I pray for God to protect them, for God to provide for them and give them wisdom, and that they would personally come to know Jesus better through our interactions. And I largely stole that from Jesus in John 17. You go back and read that, you’ll see those elements in play there, but start praying. And then I started asking well what makes prayer powerful. Is it how long you pray? How much you pray? How emotional you get when you pray? And here’s what I’ve come to on this. Deuteronomy 4:7 says this, it says the Lord is present whenever we call to Him in prayer. What I learned about that is that that it’s God presence that makes prayer powerful. And whenever I call upon the name of the Lord in prayer, He shows up. And this is where it really kinda gets fun in a lot of ways, because I will literally pray with someone, whether that’s online now, or in person when you get that opportunity. When you have an opportunity to pray with someone, God shows up, and that’s why it often turns into some emotional, unforgettable encounter, is because they’re not really responding to the words that we’re saying, they’re actually responding to the presence of God, and He’s overwhelming. We don’t really know what to do or how to deal with that, and we’re getting kind of a small glimpse at that point of view. And so I think the idea of just praying, and I encourage people to pray out loud, pray out loud those three Ps when you’re in private, and then when you’re in person, the prayer just flows out very naturally. So you’ve actually practiced praying for that person in private, and it prepares you to pray with that person when you have the opportunity in public, so to speak. Praying with them makes that spiritually powerful because that’s when we can introduce them to the presence of God. And then there’s some things that we can do to create breakthrough. And often our relationships may have stalled out, and how do we kind of rekindle those relationships with family members and friends? And we’ll often say things like this, well they know where we stand about stuff. That may be an indication that we need to find some new in-roads into that relationship. And one of the great ways to do that is to be salt and light, and it’s to do what Jesus taught us to do when He said, “You are the salt of the Earth, and you are the light of the world.” Now I’ll just mention in saying that is He didn’t suggest that, He didn’t say that that was a conditional phase for us. He did it in terms of a declaration. He said this is who you are, “You are the salt of the Earth and you are the light of the world.” And there was no conditions that He placed on that. He said just start acting like you are, start being the salt, and start being the light, and start letting your light shine. And then He tells us even how to do that, He says, “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds.” And there’s really the kinda nugget there, is that it’s the good that you and I do that becomes salt and light so that people can taste and see that God is good. So the good that God is wanting to work through us in to the lives of other people, He’s providing everything that we need. He’s providing the idea to do it. He’s providing the resource to do it. He’s providing the energy to do it. We’re just a willing participant at that point, and we get to be there while God does some really cool things in the lives of people. But it’s the doing good that creates breakthrough moments and opens doors that weren’t open before. And so learning how to do good, and here’s the two rules that I would say that are important for doing good. You wanna do good in a way that truly benefits the person that you’re wanting to interact with. And as Christians, we can mess this up pretty quickly because we want to do stuff so that we can get them to do stuff, and that’s what I would encourage you to avoid. You wanna do good things that would just truly benefit that person. What I would just offer for consideration is just look at the times where Jesus literally did good for somebody, He healed them, He encouraged them, He touched them. And then ask this question, what did He get in return. And so many times, He didn’t get anything that’s mentioned in return. Matter of fact, a lot of times, He did good for them, and then He sent them off. There was no way for them to return anything or to get anything back. So rule number one is when you’re doing good, do something that will truly benefit their position in life, kinda with no strings attached, so to speak. The second thing is do good that honors the Father. If we meet those two criteria, I think that that puts us in a great position to be a blessing, a true blessing, to others, and that will move them closer in their ability to be receptive to the things of God. But doing good is what creates that. I want to talk a little bit, I know I’m kinda moving through these type of things quickly. Love God, love people, keep a good heart. Get to know people by name, and call them by name. Make a reach list of people that you are going to take spiritual responsibility for. Start praying for those people, maybe the three Ps is a good place to start. And then look for ways that you can do good in those people’s lives, where you can create that breakthrough, that you can help them become, benefit. And then building relational connections would be another important skill of disciple making, and this is very easy to do. One of the ways that I will do this, I’ll just simply say hey, tell me a little bit about your story. And I have done this countless times, I mean it’s hard to believe how many times I’ve done this. And here’s the really cool thing when you do this, is that people are experts when they’re talking about themselves. They know exactly what they want to share, and they know exactly what they don’t wanna share. And by saying hey, tell me a little bit about your story, you give them permission to share as little or as much as they feel comfortable sharing. So you create this safe spot for them to actually share with you. Now when they’re sharing a story, you actually are starting to connect with them relationally. You’re learning, they’re sharing some personal things about themselves, and about their journey, and about their life. One of the things I would mention here is that when people share their story with you, it’s a trust, and that’s important to understand, is that you receive it as somebody entrusting something special, something personal with you. And when you receive it as a trust, it creates this atmosphere of give and take that becomes very good, and it doesn’t take a long time to create this idea. Where we get in trouble with this is when we start engaging somebody as kind of like a, kind of rote memory type thing. We say hey tell me your story, but in our mind we’re only saying that so that we can get to something we want to share. And that’s counterproductive to what we really want to accomplish in our conversation. We truly wanna get to know them, that’s really, we wanna love them and care about them for who they are, that becomes important. And so letting them share their story with us and then us sharing some of our story with them is how we build those relational connections. And then I’ll move to how do you move people spiritually. Jesus moved people from where they were to where He wanted them to be with a very simple practice, He would give invitations. He would say, “I want you to follow me, and I’ll make you fishers of men.” But on the practical level, it was really the invitation that actually moved them from where they were to where He wanted them to be. So then as disciple makers, here’s the thing that you want to consider. What kind of invitations are you giving people, and are those invitations that you’re giving people moving them spiritually closer to Jesus? That’s really kind of at the core of these invitations. What makes an invitation powerful, this is really an important thing to consider, is not because you say it, it’s not powerful because you say it, it’s powerful when it leads to a personal relationship with you. So the words with me, which is the name of this principle, is what makes an invitation powerful. Like when all of us here today on this call, and on this Zoom meeting, we’re here because of an invitation that was given, and we have sacrificed hours and lots of different things, maybe, to be here, and that’s the power of an invitation. And this one invitation moves us a little bit closer to where we needed to be, and it’ll lead to more invitations. When we’re faithful in little invitations, God will give us more. And that becomes a very important principle. God can’t make us anything if we’re not willing to respond to the invitations that He initially gives us. If you want a Biblical example of this, look at the rich young ruler, he falls into this category. He was given an invitation, would not respond, and then Jesus couldn’t do anything more with him. And that kinda reveals a foundational principle about disciple making. Who are our disciples? Well it’s very simple. We’re discipling the people that will show up. So when we give an invitation to somebody to show up for something, and they show up, well we have a hand in that disciple making process at that point, whether that’s an invitation to come to church, whether that’s an invitation to a Zoom meeting, whether that’s an invitation to an online meeting, or a phone call, or whatever it may be. And then you want to learn how to gather people in four different groups. One on one is where often we talk about sensitive information. This is where we often share the gospel. We have our quiet times in this space. We have a friendship space, which is a group of four. You have a social group, which may be more of what we’re in today. And you have a large group meeting, which would be what we would call our worship services. In each of these four areas, we connect with one another and with God, but we do it in different ways, and it feels a little bit different, but they’re all equally powerful, and one’s not better than the other. We just need to learn how to work disciple making into all four spaces, that’s one of the things I would say for consideration. And then probably the last thing I would talk about would be how to multiply leaders in this. And this is done by giving assignments and following up on a practical level. So if you give someone an assignment, and you say hey, I want you to read John 1, and let’s meet and talk about that, well you’ve given the assignment, and then your getting together is the follow up. I developed kinda some terminology to try to capture this that I call stack and string. And this is about really empowering other people in the disciple making process. Say I’m meeting with a person named Randy, and I’m saying hey Randy, let’s go through John 1 together. Who’s one person that you can go through this together with as well, outside of us? Do you have anybody in your family, any friends, co-workers, neighbors, or acquaintances that you think would benefit by going through, and if you gave them an invitation, that they would do it? And now I’m helping that person begin to identify somebody that they’re going to take spiritual responsibility for, even though I’m not really telling them all of that. I’m just gonna say give me a name of a person you’re gonna lead through this. Say they say you know, I’ve got a friend named George at work that I think would do this with me, and I’ll say okay, great. I want us to go through this, Randy, and then I want you to go through this with George, and if there’s questions or insights that you guys gather, bring those to our relationship as well so we can learn together, and encourage George to share this with somebody. Maybe George can share it with a family member or friend, and make sure you get the name of that person that George is sharing this with. So this is the first stack. Randy is at the top of the list, George, and then whoever George shares with, and then I’m gonna start stringing that together and I’m gonna have another conversation, say with Jose, then I’m gonna do the same thing with Jose. Now at that point, I’ve only had two conversations, one with Randy and one with Jose, but they multiply conversations, so you stack and you string in order to multiply influencing conversations. And so in a very short kind of segue, that is kind of the ideas and principles of discipleship uncomplicated, all the way from guarding your heart, getting to know people by name, praying for and with people, developing a reach list, learning how to create breakthroughs by doing good, connecting relationally by sharing stories with one another, learning how to move people spiritually by giving invitations that move them closer to relationship with Jesus and with you, learning how to do disciple making in different sized gatherings, and then multiplying your efforts by learning how to multiply the power of conversations. And so that kinda gives you kind of an introduction to the idea of discipleship uncomplicated. As you can see, it’s really not complex, it just requires a little bit of effort, and some intentionality, and awareness on your part.

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