SPONSORING INSPIRES GODLY GROWTH
GENUINE LOVE AND ENCOURAGEMENT HELP OTHERS MATURE
BY VICKI EGLI
Vicki Egli and her husband Jim oversee the small group ministry of the Vineyard Church in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. She is a writer and trainer who especially enjoys discipling new Christians and women leaders. She and Jim have three young adult sons and a nine-year-old daughter.
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” – Heb. 3:13
In life’s busyness, it’s easy to miss our daily dose of spiritual encouragement. Sponsoring a “younger” Christian, someone who is
spiritually less mature than yourself, is one of the best ways to keep both yourself and your sponsee growing in Christ.
Why Should I Sponsor?
Much of Jesus’ ministry was devoted to teaching his twelve disciples. A significant portion of that time was spent with only Peter, James and John. Jesus invested Himself in those three and reaped tremendous results years later as they led the early church. As you invest in others, they will be more fruitful in the Kingdom.
Perhaps the benefits of sponsoring are obvious to you. Sponsoring increases your dependency on the Holy Spirit and strengthens your faith as you view Him at work in another. It gives you the opportunity to strengthen your weaker areas, which are exposed as you share frankly with your sponsee. The sponsoring process reproduces your life in Christ in someone else. You will see that person grow into maturity and lead others into a deeper walk with Christ.
Whom to Sponsor?
Most new Christians long for someone to offer friendship and support to them. For that matter, don’t we all? Let your cell leader or pastor know that you feel called to sponsor someone, and then they can pray with you for discernment. If you don’t know a new Christian, they probably do and can help you find the right person. You may be older or younger than your sponsee, richer or poorer, more or less educated. But to protect yourselves in these intimate relationships, the sponsor and sponsee must be of the same gender.
What Do Sponsors Do?
Love is the core of sponsoring. You have received God’s unconditional love and so are able to extend that love to your sponsee. You will pray daily for her, weep and laugh with her, challenge her. But you will not, and must not try to, solve all her problems or answer all her questions.
You will reflect on the basics of the Christian life together, discussing such things as freedom from sin, baptism, daily time with
the Lord, the Holy Spirit and evangelism. You will help connect her with the larger body of Christ and encourage her to take advantage of all the church has to offer. You will model the Christian life and prepare her to sponsor a new believer.
You also will meet with your sponsee each week, and this is one of the blessings of sponsoring. Be flexible about when and where to meet. Find a place and time that works into both of your schedules, whether it’s early in the morning, over lunch, or after kids are in bed. This is your time together, away from interruptions. Make time for it every week.
When you meet, pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and then bring each other up-to-date on what’s happening in your lives. Dig into any equipping materials you may be journeying through, and share Bible memory verses. Actively listen to your sponsee while also listening to what the Holy Spirit is speaking to you. Prayerfully wrestle with the issues your sponsee is facing. Share of God’s goodness and extend His grace to your sponsee. As she shares from her life and you interact with the equipping materials, the Holy Spirit will uncover issues that need to be addressed and give you words to encourage, comfort, challenge or teach. End your time with prayer, and plan for the coming weeks. As the sponsor, you are responsible for preparing for the next meeting, faithfully following directions given through your church or the material you’re using.
Being in touch with each other throughout the week strengthens the sponsoring relationship. How much time you spend with your sponsor apart from the weekly meeting will vary greatly, depending on how the Lord wants to use you. Will you play the part of an older sister? You may go shopping or clean house together. Does He want you to walk with your sponsee through a spouse’s painful breech of trust? You may talk on the phone for a half-hour each day, and meet for lunch once a week. As partners in evangelism, you may work out together at the gym or meet at the park with other moms of young children. Whatever the dynamics of the relationship, the Lord will be able to use you more effectively in your sponsee’s life as you make time in your weekly schedule for her.
When Crisis Arises
In times of crisis, give of yourself to your sponsee. Pray for discernment about your role. Pray diligently. Most often, the Lord also
wants to include others to minister to your sponsee, so avoid trying to meet every need that arises. Does your sponsee need a pastor, a mechanic, a financial consultant? Lovingly connect your sponsee to those who can most effectively minister in the situation.
One sponsee, Cheri, had been a believer for some time, but she was discontent with her lifestyle. She was ready to deal with and overcome certain habits and attitudes in her life. Sensing her spiritual openness, I asked my cell leader if I could sponsor her. We shared our spiritual pilgrimages the first two times we met, and then we started studying The New Believer’s Station. We talked and prayed about listening to the Lord, receiving and living out Christ’s freedom, following Jesus as Lord, and growing in God’s Word. I delighted in seeing the Lord work in a life open to Him! God’s Word transformed Cheri right before my eyes. She shared what God was saying to her, and we felt God’s presence with us and pleasure in us. We tasted His goodness, and I smelled the sweet aroma of Christ in Cheri.
Everything seemed to be moving along so smoothly. Then Cheri’s world came crashing in when she discovered that her husband had hidden an undelt-with sin from her for years. Her response to the situation was to question the wisdom of keeping their family intact. She found out on Wednesday. Our accountability time was Thursday. Thank God she had the courage to share her struggle with me. We cried and prayed together. Her desire was for her husband to confess his sin to the cell leader and ask for help, so she asked me to keep the information confidential. I sensed that God wanted me to keep the confidence and watch Him work, so this was a time of fasting and prayer for me. The sin was exposed, and her husband sought counseling.
Cheri had many Christian friends to support her and speak Scripture into her life. Satan tried to confuse the situation, but Cheri stood firm and obeyed God because she was confident that she had discerned His voice. She knew I (and other cell members and Christian friends) would challenge her to be faithful to her calling in Christ Jesus.”Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:15-16).
Don’t try to be the whole body. Be faithful to do your part and allow others to do theirs, and your sponsee will be built up into Christ.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY TOUCH OUTREACH MINISTRIES, 2000, “CELLEBRATING” CELLCHURCH MAGAZINE, PAGES 203-206.
THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.