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Posted on August 6, 2018 10:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Leadership
The pastor across the table from me saw no need for equipping evangelism team members in his church. He was only concerned that they get out among the lost.
 
“We just let our people learn about missions while they’re doing missions. They grow spiritually when they do missionary work. I don’t mind them meeting to prepare for the trip, but that’s the extent of our training efforts. We really don’t have a need for anything else like that in our church.”
 
“Aren’t you concerned about bringing harm to the people you mean to help?” I asked.
 
 “What kind of harm could my people possibly cause? We’re just talking about working across town in a poverty-stricken area.”

“Just by showing up, volunteers can take on a position of superiority. Experts call this a ‘God complex.’ Yes, your church members try to help, but they make the people with whom they are working feel even more terrible about their situation. If those in need didn’t already have a scarred identity, they often develop one.”
 
“We don’t mean to do harm on a physical needs level, but we do a world of good on the spiritual level,” said the pastor.
 
“Yes, I understand,” I said. “The people may identify with believers in some way, but they often put up a false front for others to see. A lot of them remain as they were, but also claim belief in Jesus. That’s why some people who go to church on Sunday will visit a fortune teller on Monday. We call that syncretism.”
 
“But the lost in our town get to hear about Jesus; some for the first time.”
 
“If your church members are going to evangelize without any follow-up plans in place, then they could actually ‘inoculate’ the lost from ever hearing the gospel clearly again. They think they’ve heard it all.”
This was obviously making the pastor think. He was quiet for a moment, so I asked him a tough love kind of question.
 
“Would your church members be willing to change their focus from what they get out of it to changing what they discover is wrong instead?”
 
The pastor was thinking hard now, so I asked another one—the hard one.
 
“Would they be willing to strip away who they are? Would they literally ‘deny themselves’ and cross into the culture of needy people who are without Christ?”
 
“Then we’d need some training,” the pastor observed quietly.
 
Servant evangelism is often carried out among people who are among the have-nots. Despite contrasts in scale, godly responses to problems tend to be the same for servant evangelism in the Cincinnati Area as international missions.

When we step in with a heart for servant evangelism among people with ongoing needs, we often want to provide labor, materials, and money whether or not that is what the people in need actually want. Bryant L. Myers in Walking with the Poor (WorldVision) exhorts believers to begin working by celebrating all that is already being done correctly, no matter how insignificant.

The warning to do no harm should not discourage Cincinnati Baptists to engage in activities that help those in need. However, it should require each of us to seek out training that is done right. There are no Mulligans as there are in golf, no make-up tests, or “do-overs.” Yes, some believers may go on and do their own top-down thing. However, church leaders who know better must lovingly guide those with missions zeal to the point that they can deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow Jesus to walk among people in need.
Posted on August 6, 2018 9:00 AM by David Frasure
Categories: Disciple-making
“If you are content to live without revival, you will.” 
 
The quote above is from Byron Paulus, the president of Life Action Ministries and it has been difficult to get it out of my mind.  “Revival,” in the dictionary, has several meanings.  One of my favorites is, “restoring to usefulness.”  I’ve always admired how a person can take an old car out of the junkyard and restore it to its original beauty.  As we experience revival in our own lives, we are restored spiritually to a place of closeness with God and usefulness in His kingdom’s work.
 
When the topic of revival comes up in a church, we have a tendency to think of revival meetings of days gone by.  We would invite a guest speaker to spend a week or two preaching to us each night.  We might have special, outside musicians come in as well; and maybe, we’d throw in some special meals along the way and a free pizza a dinner for youth night!  The goal was to get the lost and the backslidden to come to church as we would pray for real revival in our own hearts and theirs.  We knew that we could not manufacture real revival, but our hope was that God would respond to our sincere prayers and He would bless with salvations and restoration in the lives of the people we invited.
 
Such revival meetings don’t seem to attract the people they once did.  With more and more school activities and the busy schedules of the average American family, such meetings seem almost impossible.  I wonder, however, if the lack of revival isn’t deeper than just living in a fast-paced world.  A friend of mine is fond of saying, “corporate revival always follows personal revival.”  In other words, the church can’t experience revival until individual Christians in the church experience revival for themselves.  Only God can bring revival to a person or a church or a nation, but we also have a responsibility to seek it.  How do we do that, though?
 
It begins of course with our relationship with God.  The closeness of that relationship depends on our regular communion with God.  Bill Elliff, in his book, The Presence Centered Church says it like this, “Your personal experience of God must be your highest priority.  Nothing must get in the way.  Everything must be built around this passion” (pg. 35).  The spiritual discipline of meeting with God and growing deeper in relationship with Him trumps all the other disciplines of the Christians life.  Our personal devotion time with God is essential for personal renewal.
 
Out of our communion with God comes the blessing of repentance.  Yes, I said, “blessing” of repentance.  It is a real blessing to have the Holy Spirit convict us of sin so that we can experience repentance.  God invites us, through this ministry of the Holy Spirit, to experience renewal.  We should welcome his close examination of our lives.  We should rejoice in it.  It is God loving us and longing for communion with us.  When He convicts, we must not excuse or blame.  We must be willing to follow through with restitution and clearing our conscience with others when that is needed.  Although repentance is a struggle, it is a wonderful blessing.  Without it, revival cannot occur.  With it, comes all the potential of a life on fire for Christ.
 
As we obey God in the prayer closet, we can obey Him outside of it.  Through surrendered obedience, we don’t just know God, we experience God.  As we experience God, revival becomes a reality in our hearts and has the potential of spilling over in the church.  May we never be content without it!
Posted on July 30, 2018 10:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Leadership
A science fiction story once described an astronaut-type volunteer who was able to step into an alternate universe. As a reminder of home, his wife at the last moment handed him their baby’s rattle. In this world, the sound it made was cute and harmless. However, when the rattle was shaken in that other world, the sound waves knocked people down, broke windows, and unleashed a number of other fantastic problems. The traveler with the toy escaped unharmed. He was heralded for his bravery before he even had an opportunity to make a report. Despite the joyous homecoming in his world, just by introducing the otherwise innocent baby rattle into that other dimension, the man shaking the toy had caused unintended catastrophes.

Churches should seek to do no harm among people in need. Like the man shaking the baby rattle, those working among people who are different from them can do things that seem so very innocent, but have serious consequences. Followers of Jesus would never intentionally do harm, of course, but we do need to be aware of the consequences of our actions. We hope our actions can be good, but we often work in ways that create problems, even chaos. And, while recipients put up brave faces as gracious hosts, harm done may never be known as we return to our churches rejoicing in all that was done in the name of Jesus Christ.  

Before medical doctors begin their practice, they are asked to take the Hippocratic Oath. Physicians seek to do no harm with their medical arts. It would be good for us to internalize a biblical equivalent Hippocratic Oath before we go out as “sent ones.”

Jesus put it this way: “Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them (Luke 6:31 HCSB). For believers who follow Jesus, He has a special command that is essential to follow.  “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23 HCSB). We must learn and apply all that we can to do no harm.

Planning for missions and evangelism among people in need takes planning. Teams can be formed. Needs must be assessed. Budgets will be challenged. And churches must turn outward to focus upon the lost. Transforming communities is possible!

Missions that "love loud" keeps people in need in our hearts.
 
When we came out of a restaurant, a man was sitting on the curb in front of where Mary Leigh, my wife, and I parked. We simply asked him if we could get him anything. I went back inside and brought him a meal – maybe his only one for the day. It was easy to witness to Bob when he saw that I cared.

God is sovereign, but His actions in our world should never be despite us. Our servant evangelism efforts in the Cincinnati Area should be to work in tandem with the Lord’s will and ways.
 
Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association
Posted on July 16, 2018 10:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Evangelism
    Lawrence led a man on the street to Jesus as part of Crossover prior to the SBC in Indianapolis. The man immediately asked, “May I go tell my sister?” Lawrence agreed and soon watched as the man brought his sister out of an apartment building. After Lawrence led her to faith in Christ she admitted, “The second floor of that apartment is a brothel, but I’ll go tell them.” Lawrence pointed to the Baptist church, which was just across the street. The brother and sister said that they would go there to learn more about living for Christ.
    Would your church be ready to disciple these new believers?
Each year our churches see thousands of new believers who choose to surrender their lives to Christ in faith. Where are they now?
     In Truth That Sticks, Avery Willis and I pulled in a definition of discipleship that he had developed when writing On Mission with God with Henry Blackaby. He wrote:
     “Following Jesus is a lifelong, personal, relationship with Jesus in which He transforms our character into Christlikeness, our values into kingdom values, and in which God invites us to join Him in His mission in the home, the church, and the world.”
     Using “following Jesus” instead of “Christian” designates a person that is a disciple of no other philosophy, tradition, or religion. Unfortunately, “Christian” can often mean “not Muslim.” It is that “lifelong, personal, relationship with Jesus” that makes the difference. It may start as a decision that is made public by raising a hand, walking an aisle, or meeting with the pastor after an evangelistic worship service, but it reflects the change of the heart; that volition of the will.
     Jesus brings transformation in our lives – particularly to our character and values. I frequently rail against behaviors that align with a godly lifestyle but lack the transformed heart. Avery noted that behaviors follow the inward transformation. We respond to the initiative that God takes to involve us in His mission.
God’s mission starts in the home. According to George Barna in Think Like Jesus, only two percent of born-again teenagers live their lives in alignment with a biblical worldview. As hard as this is to say, God invites us not to focus solely on our homes, but to SIMULTANEOUSLY participate in His work in church and the world. It’s a full-court press. Jesus commanded us that as we are going to make disciples of all peoples everywhere (Matthew 28:18-19). In Acts 1:8, Jesus promised His Holy Spirit would empower His disciples to share their witness of a changed life wherever in the world they went. The saying is true that our Jerusalem is someone else’s ends of the earth.
     We are admonished to pray, “Maranatha! Come, our Lord!” (I Cor. 16:22) But when you evaluate the huge numbers of lost people in our land, a cry for mercy comes from our throats, “Oh, Lord, can’t you wait just a bit longer for one more soul to be saved?”
 
Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.
Posted on July 2, 2018 9:00 AM by David Frasure
Categories: Disciple-making, General
I value vacations.  I would rather sit in a comforter than on a wooden bench.  I like the feel of pulsating steams of water massaging my tired back in a hot sauna.  Ah, yes, comfort can be a very good thing.  Yet, comfort can also be a very dangerous thing.  In the work of God, we can love our comfort a little too much if we are not careful.  The result is a neglect of the Great Commission.  A complacency about discipleship.  An apathy toward worship.
 
The dangers of being spiritually, too comfortable are many.  We can miss opportunities to experience God at work in and through our lives, if we get too comfortable.  We can choose the easy, softer choices of life and neglect God’s invitation to grow in our faith.  Being too comfortable can cause us to overlook the lost and disregard a brother or sister in need.  The 39-year-old man maybe comfortable living in his parent’s basement playing video games all day, but if he wants to live a meaningful life of purpose, he needs to leave that comfort to embrace the challenges of life.  In a similar way, we need to be challenged to leave the comfort of our current level of spiritual growth and usefulness, to begin pursuing the next.
 
Churches can also become too comfortable.  We can get accustomed to the comfort of being a certain size as a church and forget that God has placed us in the middle of a real mission field of people who need to be reached.  We would never put out a sign saying, “No New People Welcome Here,” but churches can still communicate that message in many subtle ways if they are too comfortable.  Even in a Sunday School class or small group, we can delight in the people we have, to the neglect of the people we need to reach.  After all, we have a nice comfortable feel to our class as it is.  Why work on reaching someone new?
 
To overcome comfortableness, we need to remember that spiritual growth flourishes in discomfort.  Discomfort caused Abraham to leave Ur and Moses to go back to Egypt.  Discomfort allowed Joshua to face the challenges of Ai and Joseph to become the leader he needed to become to “save many people alive.”  We need our discomfort to motivate us to strive for more.
 
We must remember that our purpose in life is to know and love God with all our being and to love people as Jesus loved people.  That challenges us to dive deeper into His Word and prayer.  That keeps us moving out of our comfort zone to touch lives we have never touched.  The potential of our lives and the impact we can make by God’s grace will be diminished if we remain in a state of continual spiritual ease.
 
We must be reminded of the brevity of life if we are to overcome our comfortableness.  All of us want to make a difference in this life.  We want to leave a positive, spiritual mark on our family, our friends and our neighbors.  No Christian wants to look back on their lives one day and see a series of wasted opportunities to influence others for Christ and grow closer to Him.  Psalm 90 reminds us “to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  Becoming too comfortable can be very unwise.
 
There is nothing wrong with having a lemonade under an umbrella on a beautiful beach.  We all need time to pause, reflect and meditate.  Times of rest are essential, but we also know that relaxation won’t pay the bills and advance us in life.  Likewise, in our walk with God, we need to enjoy our seasons of blessings, but remember that life is too short to be comfortable in our complacency.
Posted on June 18, 2018 9:52 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Disciple-making
A local church invited me to be the “storyteller” at an evangelistic block party in a rural town. I had four sessions. In the first one, I cut out a golden calf from gold foil wrapping paper and was good to go. Well, I asked what an idol was and explained that God didn’t like idols. And then I told the Golden Calf story from Exodus 32. Now, there were 20 in the place listening to me, 15 of which were under the age of seven or eight years old. I gave it all I had, but stuck to the story. I had their rapt attention!

In true Bible Storying style and unlike most storytellers, I tested for comprehension. After telling the story, I began the listening task by asking one very simple question.

“What did you like best about the story?”

“The golden calf!”

Uh-oh! All the kids said they liked the golden calf the best. After one said it, they all nodded in agreement. Smiles came from the adults. My wife rolled her eyes. When I asked what they learned about God, one little girl said, “God loves calves!”

It was a crash and burn moment. Note to self—avoid Golden Calf story in a farming community where the kids love their cows!

There is an important moral to that story. The small group leader can do all he can do to select and tell the story, but unless he asks questions he never knows what people–especially kids—are really thinking. Oh, and yes, I switched to another Bible story with better results in the other three storytelling times.

Asking questions or lecturing is as different as hooks and clubs. A club is intended with a different purpose than a hook. What implement did a shepherd carry? A shepherd’s staff is universally depicted as a long, hooked rod that could pull the sheep in the right direction. If smacked with a club, a startled lamb could dart in any direction. A club is like an exclamation mark (!) where a hook is like a question mark (?). Let that stand as a reminder that disciple-makers need to use questions to guide the “lambs” in a small group to explore biblical truths as the Holy Spirit leads.

A small group leader committed to disciple-making will want to use questions to guide the dialogue about the Bible story. The teacher turns into a facilitator who draws out Truth in alignment with the Holy Spirit’s prompting.
Bible Storying methods encourage the small group leader to know the spiritual condition of each person in the group. He uses three different types of questions:

1.    Head questions are used to get the facts right. Did they understand the story? Discipleship is more than just facts, but this is the place to focus on biblical accuracy. Sometimes participants want you to speculate, but simply (and kindly) ask, “Well, what does the Bible say?”
2.    Heart questions probe at intent and choices made in the story. What do they need to change? I find that it really helps to bow your head and lead the group in a prayer for the Holy Spirit to speak to each person in alignment with John 16:13. The standard four questions to ask include: What do you like? What don’t you like? What did you learn about God? What did you learn about mankind? So what? What changes do you need to make because of this story?
3.    Hand questions are for personal application. Questions are geared toward others and their needs. Who do you know that needs this story? Who will tell this story? And then hold volunteers accountable for doing what they promised to do from one meeting time to another.

Making disciple-makers requires knowing the spiritual development progress of each believer. You never know, they might be off chasing golden calves.
 
Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association. The idea of hooks and clubs in Bible Storying is adapted from the book he wrote with the late Avery Willis titled Truth That Sticks: How to Communicate Velcro Truths in a Teflon World (NavPress 2010).
Posted on June 5, 2018 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Evangelism
In my ministry, I often hear well-intentioned men and women give their testimony. Is there a better way? How is it possible to improve upon one’s personal experience with Jesus? We live in a time when people are complimented for even sharing their faith! But what happens when we spend too much time on the "before Christ" part and the moment of salvation is unfortunately muted, stunted, and offers no handles that a lost person can grab?
Have you told someone your personal salvation story in a while? Your testimony should model how someone can be saved. We all want to glorify God in what we say to others. And so here’s your opportunity to re-examine how what you say can present God’s plan of salvation. Helping others have a clear path to Christ is the ultimate way to honor God with your testimony.

Make your personal story more powerful. We'll address a typical three-part testimony – before, during, and after.

Before: A life before Christ is typically self-centered, but there should also be acknowledgement of the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin. There’s a point of recognizing that we all stand guilty before God. Many people in America’s post-modern society think sin is what happens when you get caught. Saying how you knew what sin was should be based upon biblical concepts of knowing what to do, but not doing it (James 4:17). Shorten your experiences before Christ. You certainly don’t want to give them new ideas that Satan will tempt them to try later.

During: Providing a model for a lost person should be your priority. A friend of mine once said he made a fact-based decision without much of a change of heart. He described it similar to “buying fire insurance.” Be very clear about the need to repent of your sins as well as surrendering yourself to Christ. That’s the brass ring the lost need to hang onto in your testimony. Describe how your personal relationship with Jesus began. Don’t rush it. Be thorough and know why you are saying what you’re saying. How you say it will likely become the model that a new believer will use in their own life. If you present a dozen Bible verses in random order, so will they. Since most people are oral learners, presenting the gospel in the form of your story is powerful when it includes key Bible truths. These can be conveyed in summary versions of Bible stories and it may be necessary to convey this part of your testimony in multiple meetings depending on the time you have available.

After: Practice explaining that your spiritual transformation was by God’s grace, not any effort of your own. Describe the difference your life has been because you have the Holy Spirit of God to guide you (John 16:13). It’s okay to describe a few good works you’ve done since, but they should convey more than accepting a new set of rules, making different moral choices, and even efforts you’ve made at changing certain behaviors. These can come off as man-centered. Work hard to humbly give God the glory for allowing you to experience life according to what the Bible says. Just like the “before” section, this should be brief, too.

In a three-minute testimony, consider these parts: 30 seconds before decision, two minutes describing the decision, and 30 seconds after the decision.

It helps to immediately follow-up to giving your testimony by asking questions. Ask them if they would like to make a similar decision to follow Christ! If your “during the decision” part was presented carefully, then the lost person will know exactly what they should do—and how they will share their own personal salvation story to others one day. When used by the Lord, it's more powerful!
 
--Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership, Cincinnati Area Baptist Association
Posted on June 5, 2018 7:00 AM by David Frasure
I remember thinking that being a pastor involved preaching and caring for people—period.  I was convinced that if I became a scholar of the Bible, I would know everything there is to know about being in ministry.  After working through building projects and insurance claims, promoting events and dealing with local zoning regulations, setting meeting agendas and preparing church budgets, I began to realize that there was a lot more to ministry than praying a lot and knowing your Bible. 
 
Perhaps you have noticed that leading your Sunday School class or heading up a ministry requires skills other than studying and praying.  You must organize people to do any kind of ministry or outreach as a class.  It takes some administrative abilities to plan a trip to a nursing home or organize a class fellowship.  You have to figure out how to enlist people for ministry, keep up with birthdays, keep accurate records for attendance, etc.  You need to develop some administrative skills to do get the job done!
 
If you are like me, administration and organization is not an area of strength.  There is a spiritual gift of administration, sometimes translated organization or leading (Romans 12:8).  God did not give me that spiritual gift!  It doesn't come easily for me.  Certainly, it is wise to have someone with that spiritual giftedness to serve along side you, but it is clear, that if I am called upon to lead a class or ministry, I need to learn how to be organized and prepared to lead the people God has given me to serve.  So how does a non-organizer learn to organize?  Here are a few thoughts.
 
Use a planning calendar.  I prefer to use a notebook style planner.  It never crashes like a computerized planner can.  It may be bulky by today’s standards, but my information is always there in the notebook.  It helps me to take control of my schedule—at least in part.  It keeps me from forgetting something I must do next month, and it helps me not to make the same mistake next year.  I find that great ideas do no one any good unless they are funded, and they get on the calendar.  Otherwise, they become lofty daydreams that never impact anyone’s life.
 
Use a “to do list.”  I divide my weekly "to do list" into three sections.  I have a column for things related to teaching and preaching, a column for caring ministry such as outreach and ministry to individuals under my care and a column for administration items.  I put each task into a time slot for each work day.  Some weeks it works like a dream and other times the unexpected messes it all up, but I will accomplish much more if a start my week off with such a list.  It also helps to organize your list by priorities and do the most important tasks first.
 
Delegate.  I know I am not the greatest at delegating.  It is difficult to know when a person can be trusted to follow through with an assignment or do it with excellence, and sometimes it just seems easier to do it yourself.  That attitude, however, robs people of the joy of serving and never challenges them to grow.  When I’m organizing an event, I make a list of tasks that need to be done.  We may need flyers printed, or materials sorted, or food purchased.  I then try to match the right person to the right task and make the contact to ask for their help.  If I don’t enlist people ahead of time and explain their assignment, I frustrate them and give them a bad experience in ministry.  They may not want to serve next time, because of my poor leadership and organization.  My job is to help them have success with the task and hopefully have an enjoyable experience, in the process.
 
Good leadership requires administration and I’m sure I should have a few more details for this article, but my lack of organizational skills requires me to stop here.  Ugh!
Posted on May 28, 2018 9:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Disciple-making
Congratulations and praise God that someone new has accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. Now what? Give them a quarterly and plop them in a Sunday School class? Invite them to a one-hour lunch where you run down the ministries that could use their help? Provide a walkthrough so they know your church’s schedule and facilities?
 
Jesus said that we were to make disciples of all people. How’s that working for you? Here are five proven methods to encourage those who follow-up with new believers. It helps if they consider them to be like someone who will be the next Apostle Paul, leading many others to follow Jesus:

1.    Go to meet them in person. At the arranged time, listen to them tell their story (testimony). Affirm their decision by reviewing what it means to come to salvation.
2.    Pray with them about their decision and what it means for them in the days ahead. Ask them if this means any changes in their lifestyle as they walk with Jesus “in the newness of life.”
3.    Ask them who they know that needs to hear the gospel message. This could be a family member, co-worker, or friend. Pray with them about their concern. Offer to go with them or have the new believer invite those they know to a special place to hear the gospel message. Set a meeting time before leaving in which you can meet with this new believer, explain the gospel message to those in their circle of influence, and follow-up with those who make a decision.
4.    Invite them to your church. Alert a Sunday School teacher or small group leader to take them to lunch or meet with them after church. (Offer to reimburse the meal costs.)
5.    Begin an intentional five-week disciple-making effort, equipping them as witnesses who can reproduce this process in the lives of others that they know. Here's a simple guide, free in a PDF file titled "New Believers Following Jesus."

When traveling for the IMB into a people group totaling three million, it was a joy to encounter a missionary who had spent months developing evangelism projects. When reviewing his printed plans, I innocently looked up and asked, “Where are your follow-up plans for new converts?” The missionary swallowed hard and mumbled something about looking into it. About two months later, I received an email stating that within a week of finishing their disciple-making plans, God honored them by having their first converts come to faith in Christ. I have often wondered if God was waiting for the missionary to get ready because His new children deserved quality attention!
Invest time with new believers. And get to know those in their circle of influence, too. They will likely know more lost people than those who have been saved. If there are godly followers of Jesus that they know, meet them to so they can become part of your follow-up plans. Build a network around them!  

It may be that you’ll need to start a special class, using a partnering teacher to lead a series of basic discipleship classes on understanding the Bible, what it means to have a daily devotion, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, understanding worship including learning a few Scripture songs, how to share your faith with others, the importance of church membership, having fellowship, and ministering to others. If this is a cross-cultural experience it may require possibly a small group that can become a new church. A three-month course for those who came to Christ in the previous six month or so is available called “Catching Fire: New Believers” from Snowden Ministries Int’l (snowdenministries@gmail.com).

And be sure to follow-up THIS WEEK!
 
Mark Snowden is the Director for Missional Leadership (DOM) for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.
Posted on May 21, 2018 9:00 AM by David Frasure
The online Wikipedia encyclopedia says, “A disciple is a dedicated follower of Jesus.  A disciple is a follower of a teacher.  It is not the same as being a student in the modern sense.  A disciple in the ancient biblical world actively imitated both the life and teaching of the master.  It was a deliberate apprenticeship which made the fully formed disciple a living copy of the master.”  We all know that the Great Commission tells us to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  It is the task of every Christians to be influencing others to move closer to Jesus, so they in turn, can help others move closer to Jesus.
 
For some, it is children or grandchildren who are being discipled day by day.  Others lead a Sunday School class or small group to become devoted followers of Christ.  Others use a one-on-one mentoring approach to disciple a friend.  No matter how you teach or who it is you are discipling, there are three big things to keep in mind.
 
First, we need to think of discipleship as a direction we are leading others to follow.  Discipleship is not the study of material, but the pursuit of a Person.  Discipleship is not a leap in maturity, but a series of small steps in the right direction.  Discipleship is not about a destination, but the direction in which a person is going.  Second Corinthians 3:18 reminds us that we as Christians are “being transformed into the same image from glory to glory…”  It is a step by step process of moving toward Christlikeness. 
 
We often think of discipleship in terms of book studies or courses we have completed.  Certainly, materials can be useful, but a person may do several studies and still not be a follower of Jesus.  If you are simply moving a person closer to Christ, you are a successful discipler!
 
Second, think of discipleship as an intentional friendship that takes you on a mission-focused journey.  Discipleship happens in the context of building a relationship with other persons and then helping them become devoted followers of Jesus through your example as well as your instruction.  Jesus discipled in the context of relationships.  He went out to be on mission with His disciples.  We see that the apostles followed the same kind of pattern.  The “one anothers” of the New Testament require that we have a relationship with fellow disciples.  Relationships require deliberate investment of time and effort.  We never disciple accidentally.
 
Third, think of discipleship as a course of action that is different for each person.  Any parent knows that the way you train one child, may be completely different with another child.  The same is true in the way we disciple others.  People learn in different ways—some by seeing, others by hearing.  Some learn best by reading or writing, others by doing.  People respond to teaching that touches them in a personal way.  To guide another person on the discipleship journey, we must understand the person’s hurts and felt needs.  To make a disciple, the mentor must first study and understand the mentee.  A discipler isn’t required to become an expert on discipling, but to have success, he needs to become an expert on the one being discipled.
 
As the world grows colder and harsher toward Christians, the need for enlisting and equipping disciples is more and more evident.  Who in your closest circle of influence needs a mentor like you?  Can you begin testing the waters for a new discipling relationship?  Who can become your apprentice as you partner together for the kingdom?  The church needs teachers, but even more, the church needs disciplers who are making disciples who are “living copies of the Master.” 
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