About a year ago now, I started working on developing a discipleship training course for the people in our church. I am not sure if you will find this helpful, but I thought I could share a few of the lessons in this course one by one. Here’s the first:
Are you ready for something big?
Sharing the gospel. Making disciples. Starting a movement. Changing our city. Impacting our world.
I don’t know what your first reaction to statements like that is, but mine is fear. It sounds exciting, yes; but I don’t think I can do it. That is a problem. Because what happens when we are afraid and don’t think we can do something? We stand still and don’t do it.
Please make no mistake. There is only One Savior and it’s not you, it’s not me, it’s not us. It’s Jesus. This world will only be fully and finally fixed through His return and His great purifying work of judgment. But clearly, individual believers and churches can make a great and eternal impact for God and for His kingdom. Otherwise, you and I wouldn’t be here. Our lives have been radically and eternally changed by the efforts of flawed human beings. The world itself has been turned upside down through the work of a few ordinary men.
That’s where these scary words come in again. We want to see our city, our country and Africa dramatically impacted for the gospel. We want to be used by God to turn the world upside down once again.
What reason do we have confidence that people like us could make any impact at all? Read the following verses together and note what they say about the role God plays in the transformation of men:
John 6:37, 6:65
Ephesians 1:3 and 4
2 Thessalonians 2:13
These verses give us confidence because they tell us that God is at work. There are individuals whom God has called within our city and He has placed us where we are in order to proclaim the gospel to them so that they might receive eternal life. There are individuals whom God has saved and is at work changing, and God has placed us where we are in order to proclaim the gospel to them so that they might be transformed by it. The problem many of us have is that we don’t know where to start. In this first session, you will be introduced to a simple training process that could help make and multiply disciples throughout our community. It’s called M28.
What are we here for?
If someone asks the question what is the church to do, one way to answer is by looking to Matthew 28:18-20.
In this passage, Jesus is very direct about what His church should do:
Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’
There are three parts of this command that I want you to pay very close attention to.
First, notice who is giving this command.
What does Jesus say about himself in this passage?
What does that tell us about Jesus?
What significance should the fact that Jesus is Lord make on the way we approach our life as a church?
Second, notice what command Jesus gives us.
What does Jesus tell us that He wants us to do?
What do you think that command means?
Third, notice who Jesus gives this command to.
Who is given the task of making disciples?
Unfortunately, that’s often not happening the way it should. Can you think of any reasons why the church may be failing in her disciple-making task?
Two seasoned pastors share their perspective.
Jim Putnam explains that discipleship isn’t happening the way it should because “many Christians believe they are unimportant to the cause of Christ and that the work of the church is the job of the clergy. So when I ask Christians why they never served in the church, they often say, ‘Because I didn’t think I could.’”
Francis Chan writes, “Today the church looks to ‘trained professionals’ to do the work. Lay people who have tremendous potential are made to feel inadequate by the religious elite. Many are paralyzed, believing that ‘they don’t know enough’ to be of much help. So they sit silently in church services and watch the educated minister. This was never God’s intention.”
Have you ever thought like that? What are some reasons this is not a right way for believers to think?
God wants all of His followers to do the work of the ministry. You can think of the church as God’s team. As Jim Putnam explains, “Those on His team work together under His direction to accomplish the goal of taking light to a dark planet. We are saved and placed onto God’s team to do the part He gifted us to do in the context of the team. Again, we are all given abilities to edify and help the team be all it is supposed to be.”
Now here’s the problem. Many believers don’t seem to know or understand that they have a vital role to play on this team.
Again, Jim Putnam writes, “Tragically, most believers do not know or do not accept that we are God’s plan A for reaching the world and that there is no Plan B. Too often our idea of being on a mission with God (if we think that is even our job) is inviting our unbelieving friends and family to church so the pastor can convince them to accept Christ. If we believe that these new converts should be taught at all, we certainly don’t think we are qualified to teach them. We have no idea that conversion is just the beginning of a spiritual growth process and that what comes next – discipleship – will determine if a person matures spiritually to a stage where that disciple experiences real change that others will notice. Because of this view of Christianity, most believers are not equipped to do more than attend church. Most have few unbelieving friends because they’ve moved away from folks who don’t know Christ and entered into relationships with other Christians. Those who still have unbelieving friends often don’t know enough theology to answer the spiritual questions their non-Christian friends might ask. Why is this the case? Once again, I believe it is because most Christians were not discipled properly. Maybe they heard a sermon about discipleship once or attended a Sunday school class, but making disciples takes much more than listening to a lecture and knowing right theology. Discipleship requires real teaching and real learning. It requires conversation, modeling, encouragement, debriefing, and practice, all of which need to happen in the context of a relationship. Without relationship between believers, there is no model to follow, no authenticity, no accountability, no application, and no support for the journey.”
We are beginning M28 because we want that to change. We believe it is the privilege of every Christian to be a follower of Jesus, the responsibility of every church to make disciples, and the job of that church’s leaders to develop a process that will equip and enable all of the people in the church to serve Christ through discipleship relationships.
M28 exists to provide you with the help you need to do just that.
Here we go
The goal of M28 is to connect you with a disciple coach who will help you know and understand the Scriptures and give you the tools to disciple others. We want to help believers move from simply talking about evangelism and discipleship to engaging confidently in evangelism and discipleship.
Specifically M28 exists to help you achieve four things:
1. Grow in your knowledge of and love for God.
2. Give you opportunities to use your gifts and received help in using them even more effectively.
3. Help you develop friends who will keep you spiritually accountable.
4. Train you to disciple others and give you resources for doing so.
Please pay careful attention to this last point. In case this point hasn’t been made clear enough already, please hear it now, the goal of M28 is not meant to simply for you to learn more, but to see you transformed by what you learn and help you pass that knowledge on to others.
We understand this may intimidate some of you. You may even be thinking to yourself, who me? Train someone else? Yes, you. While not every believer has the gift of teaching, every believer is called by Jesus to go and make disciples. (Matthew 28:18-20) This is not simply a call to pastors and leaders in the church. It is instead a call to each one of us. But who will help us learn how to do so? One of the primary ways the Holy Spirit intends to teach us how to make disciples of others is by giving gifted pastors and teachers and leaders to the church to equip the members for the work of the ministry. (Ephesians 4:11ff) Please don’t let feeling intimidated by the idea of making disciples stop you from stepping out, that’s why we are here. We want to work together on becoming a church that is trained and equipped and actively obedient to Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28.
Now would you mind stopping and dreaming with me for a moment?
Can you just imagine if this started happening in the church? What if pastors didn’t do the whole work of the ministry but instead began training the church to do the work of the ministry? What if everyone in the church began working diligently to lead people to Jesus and Christ-likeness in their everyday life? Doctors, waiters, janitors, contractors, housewives, teachers, salesmen, and students all reaching out to the people around them and making disciples.
I am convinced if this happens the church will become an unstoppable force in our community and world.
Unstoppable force? Isn’t that a bit much. No. It’s not. The reason I can say this so confidently is because the Bible tells us we are not alone in this mission. God’s Spirit is at work. God is at work in people’s hearts all around us, both convicting unbelievers and preparing them to receive the good news and sanctifying believers and changing them into Christ’s likeness. But again, how does God’s Spirit most often work to accomplish all this? God’s Spirit most often uses loving relationships to introduce the people whom He is working in to the gospel and to change believers as well.
That’s where M28 comes in.
M28 focuses on coaching you to share the gospel and making disciples of friends, families and existing networks of relationships. (Acts 10:24, 16:31-33) Those within a relationship network who come to Christ or are believers ready to grow then form a group of disciples who are able to admonish, instruct and care for one another. Those who have come to Christ must then be trained so they can repeat this process with a new network of relationships. (2 Timothy 2:2)
M28 seeks to help Christians really help others by providing mentors for all disciple-makers with whom they can discuss their progress. Among those who are trained, some will arise who are especially fruitful and faithful. These individuals may not be people we would expect, because teaching and evangelism are spiritual gifts sovereignly distributed throughout the church.
M28 helps us identify these individuals and provide further training so they can be of greater benefit to the church as a whole.
A small number of people will be getting together with a disciple coach to participate in M28.
This core group will:
– Spend time learning from the Bible.
– Spend time talking with each other.
– Pray for each other.
– Practice what you have learned together.
– Keep you accountable for taking what you have learned and using to teach others.
Three basic components
You will get together with your discipleship coach and small group to receive training in discipling. The first course will consist of four sessions that focus primarily on instruction in the basics of discipling. After that, you will meet with you discipleship coach once a month for training on how you can run a core group yourself. In other words, your training will be hands on. Over the course of this year, you will walk your way through a number of courses that will help you take someone from being a baby Christian to spiritual maturity and you will be expected to actually run these courses yourself with people you are training.
- Leading Your Core
Once the first course on the basics of discipleship is completed, you will be expected to develop your own core group of three to five people with whom you will meet weekly to work your way through the resources you have been provided. If you have never led other people this way before, don’t worry – your discipleship coach will provide you with the training and materials to walk you through the process from the beginning.
Throughout the year, you and your discipleship coach will meet with you to discuss what you are learning and how you are doing as you go about making disciples. He is there to help you. You are not on your own! At the end of the year, you will lead your core group to take a short time away together. This will provide you an opportunity to pull the big ideas of what you have learned throughout the year together, and to take some time away from the pressures of life to think it all through.
- Commit yourself to the basic principles and tasks of M28.
- Complete the training sessions with your coach and identify five individuals whom you are to train and begin training.
- Pray diligently for yourself, for your trainees, and the people to whom you will witness and train each week.
- Faithfully do yourself what you are asking your trainees to do, especially in terms of witnessing and discipling.
- Hold your trainees accountable to be ‘doers of the Word’ and to faithfully witness and train others each week.
- Continue meeting with your trainees as a group until they are well established in training and training others themselves.
- If possible, become a disciple coach yourself next year!
Based on what you know about M28 are you willing to commit yourself to this process? If so, the next two sessions will begin to show you how to effectively communicate the faith to others and how to begin training them to do the same.
- How important is disciple-making to you? Why?
- Do you think there is a need for a process to train others to make disciples? Why?
- Why do you think more Christians aren’t actively engaged in making disciples of others?