Disciple-Making – It’s Time to Pick up the Baby
By Carlton L. Coon
Disciple-making in progress … keep watching … saints are being built. The following is the approach Home Missionaries Knox and Amber Handkins in Exton, Pennsylvania, are using.
1. Before a convert leaves the altar area, they schedule a Bible study.
2. The first lesson is Into His Marvelous Light. Then we start Exploring God’s Word. Exploring God’s Word is simple. It fits because most of our students do not even know where Genesis is!
3. We also plug them into our mid-week 3-D classes. 3-D stands for:
* Discipleship – We use In My Father’s House.
* Develop – Here we use seven of the Accelerated Bible Curriculum series. We teach “Power of Praise, Tending Our Treasure, Tending Time and Talent, Separated, Three Is Great Company, God I Can Understand, and Conquering Your Enemy.” These include assignments to prepare before the following week.
* Direct – We have a list of ministries available to the newcomer. The person decides the ones they are interested in, and we give assignments for materials to read or listen to. These materials prepare the person to serve.
What was the goal of what you did at church last week? Was it to develop mature believers-people who live right, are dedicated to the Lord Jesus, and witness? In other words, to grow “established” saints. Jesus said His disciples would be known by three traits:
1. Abiding in the word. The word “abide” means to live in the word as a fish lives in water. (John 15:7)
2. Loving one another. (John 13:34-35)
3. Fruitfulness (John 15:8)
Are we content if what we do is not moving people toward the maturity represented by those three things?
If parents bring a 9-pound newborn home from the hospital, they are thrilled with the strapping, healthy child God has given them. But if their baby still weighs 9 pounds 3 months later, they will visit every doctor around to find out what is wrong.
Allow me a moment of facetiousness. What is the big deal with those parents? Boy, they are sure hard to please. My … my they had a baby shower … and then sent out birth announcements. They had a baby what more could they want?
You know what they want – for their infant to become a healthy toddler … for the toddler to be a preschooler … and then kindergarten … pre-adolescence … teens … college/career … young adulthood…. Anything less causes deep hurt.
Real parents are not just baby-producers, nor are they perpetual child-care providers; with a process and some significant effort and cost, parents turn their bundle of joy into an adult. Ideally – a mature adult.
It’s nice having babies … it’s not nice if they stay babies forever.
Discipleship – Travail beyond Conversion
Paul desired the same thing for his spiritual offspring. He wrote, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you … “(Galatians 4: 19). Notice four things…
1. Note his term for those he writes to – “little children” – alive but limited. Born again but not yet mature.
2. “I travail in birth again.” I’ve travailed once on your behalf; now I’m travailing again. Paul took this personal. I wonder what the practical reality of Paul’s second travail looked like. In this generation what does “travail … until Christ be formed in you,” look like? Might it be …
* Travail of time invested. Mature believers develop as someone takes time with them. This investment does not have to be a planned event. Great teaching moments come in casual conversation. Yes, there are the late night phone calls as a new convert is seeking God’s answer to a life question. Such times are often a sort of travail. The time could be spent on something elsepreparing a more eloquent sermon, evangelizing someone not yet reached with the gospel, choir practice, or fishing. .
* Travail of energy expended. People drain energy away. Such expended energy cannot then be used elsewhere. The vigor used for a new convert is gone. Teaching new converts takes a lot out of you.
* Travail of money invested. How much money does a parent spend on a child from birth through college? Pastors who develop people put money into them – it’s a meal here, a CD bought there, a Youth Camp registration … and … and. Like raising kids – raising converts never ends.
3. “I travail … again until” – Until is a measurement of time. Paul, how long are you going to put up with those immature believers in Galatia? Until! How long will you keep taking their calls? Until! How long will you teach them? Until! Until – indicates patient determination. Never quit. Brethren, do you lead an “until” church? Teach your saints – we will work with new converts “until.” I tell our Home Missionaries it takes at least three to five years to bring a new believer to any significant measure of maturity. Sometimes it takes longer. Don’t stop. “I travail … again until”
4. Paul, you had a great revival in Galatia. Hundreds received the Holy Ghost. What are you travailing about now? Can you almost hear the apostle, “I’m not satisfied, until Christ be formed in you” – Wait a minute Paul, “They received the Holy Ghost. Isn’t that enough?” For Paul, birth was not the goal perpetuating the species was. I’m going to travail for you with a specific goal in mind. I want you to have the heart of Christ … the mind of Christ … the hands of Christ … “until Christ be formed in you.”
I know this is what we say we are about, but do we really practice this business of travailing till Christ be formed in them? Do we feel the travailing pain of such an effort? Are we into theory rather than practice? Am I like the well-to-do couple who had a new baby? They bought a formidable book on childcare. It was quite a resource, covering child rearing from “A to Z.” One night as the baby wailed, the parents stood by the crib, desperately scanning the index of their new book and eyeing their newborn with apprehension. They heard a voice from the nursery door where their Irish cook stood looking in: “If I was youse,” she said, “I’d put down the book and pick up the baby.” Using some of the things from a past Director’s Communiqu or by applying the practices of some other disciple-making church, we need to get beyond theory and pick up the baby.
Let me share a couple of practical things to help with this travail
Experience the Second Travail – in Prayer
Is it a common mistake to stop praying or reduce our prayers for someone after they have been born again?
Jesus spent three good years training Simon Peter. Simon had observed miracles and been present at the transfiguration. He was convinced. Simon had been in the best of Discipleship classes. Still, Peter was imperfect. Jesus envisioned the best from Simon Peter; why Peter had been granted “the keys to kingdom.” At the same time, Jesus never lost sight of Peter’s flaws.
As Jesus prepared for the crucifixion, he told Simon, ” … Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:” (Luke 22:31). Jesus’ reaction to Satan’s desires regarding Peter is in the next verse:
“But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: … (Luke 22:32). Jesus could have done anything for Simon-angels were at His disposal. Did Jesus do what He thought was the absolute best thing for any given situation? “I have prayed for thee…. ”
If we equally believe in the power of prayer, there should be a regular time of prayer over new believers. Satan also desires to sift them. Pray for them in their challenges and for God’s mercy on their failures.
Now, just a bit of self-analysis, “If you’d been Simon’s pastor would your relationship with him have survived him having denied ever even knowing you?”
Experience the Second Travail – Through Edification
One of the great Bible words no longer in common use is edify. To edify is to “build up.” Disciple-makers are people builders. Lyndon Johnson said, “Any old mule can tear down a barn; it takes a man of vision to build one.” In carpentry I’d be like President Johnson’s “any old mule.” I’m better at demolition than construction. Hopefully, the same is not true in dealing with people. Is it possible that the church has too many demolishers and not enough builders?
There are four primary building tools a disciple-making church has available:
* Disciple-making Tool #1 – The use of spiritual gifts – …forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:12). New converts benefit much from the “word of wisdom” and the “word of knowledge.” In no instance does the operation of a gift of the spirit have to be something “hocus pocus.” The new believer may be built up, without ever knowing they have been ministered to by one of the gifts of the spirit.
* Disciple-making Tool #2 – Every part of the church service – ” … when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. (1 Corinthians 14:26) Let all things be done to “build up.” Perhaps it is a good idea to step back from the past weekend and ask, “How did each part of the service build someone up?”
* Disciple-making Tool #3 – The five-fold ministry is to develop people. Those mature saints will then build up of the body of Christ – “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” (Ephesians 4: 12). Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers have in their job description to “perfect” or “mature” the saints. If the five-fold ministry does not intentionally work to mature saints, how will such maturing occur? What are you doing to make sure each of those five gifts operates in the local church? Dallas’ Pastor Tom Foster has intentionally connected each of the five ministry roles into his church. He is adamant about this connection making a huge difference in the church’s progress.
* Disciple-making Tool #4 – Involvement. A church is tight-knit as a result of each person of the body being connected. Connection comes as people do the part God has given them to fill, “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and. compacted by that which every joint supplieth, …maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:16)
Thinking About Your Work
* Do you have a realistic, workable plan for spiritual formation in your church?
* If you lead a church over 10 years-old, count the number of people who have been there 1, 3, 5, 7, or 10 years. Are babies born and nobody weeps when they don’t develop?
* If you lead a church over 10 years-old, how many of your leaders have been saved less than 10 years? Does an aging leadership team mean the church is not developing maturity in new believers? (One resource mentioned in News and Views leaders is the Apostolic Training Institute International, which will become an online resource later this year. Contact ATI Coordinator Rex Deckard at firstname.lastname@example.org for more specific information.)
* Has the church done the amazing work of raising up and releasing preachers into God’s work? Should every church become its own seminary, intentionally developing men and women for the highest level of God’s work? If we don’t, who will?
* Are you and the church prepared to patiently and painfully travail till Christ be formed in the new believer?
* Is the strategy for developing people clear?
* Can everyone in your key roles enact and follow through on that strategy?
* Does the average person in the church have a vision for soul-winning and the disciple-making process?
“Picking Up the Baby”- – Implementing the Strategies:
* Set aside personal prayer time to travail for “disciples in the making.”
* Make sure that there is special corporate prayer time in your church focused on the babes in Christ.
* Is there a time when in a relatively casual environment the newcomer can express a challenge they are dealing with?
* Set up Bible studies and Discipleship classes to build a measure of protection and a mature value system in your upcoming disciples. (More about this in the next Communiqu.)
* Put in place a system that ensures someone is consistently investing time in each of your growing disciples.
* Encourage the more mature disciples in your church to catch this vision and do something personal to accomplish the church’s mission of disciple-making.
This article Disciple-Making It’s Time to Pick up the Baby by Carlton L. Coon is excerpted from Home Missions Magazine, July/August 2008.