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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 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.” 
Posted on May 15, 2018 9:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Disciple-making
In a consultation with a church as they were developing their evangelism strategy, it dawned on me that if their church had been in a community that had not grown numerically, they easily could have closed their doors. If they lost two families out the back door, there are many others walking in the front door. However there are churches in the Cincinnati Area that would be in trouble if two families walked out the back door.

An influx of people into your community used to mean a more transient group of people. However, when the housing market crashed in 2008 and companies stopped hiring and increased lay-offs, many communities “hunkered down.” Those who moved in were trapped in apartments, condominiums, starter homes, and places known for immigrants.

When we talk about “closing the back door,” we mean discipling members to the point that they don’t leave the church unless moving away from the community. Many churches have big front doors, meaning that there are many people in the community who are looking for a new church home. According to Aubrey Mauphurs, 85% of churches in America have stopped growing and of those experiencing some type of growth, 14% can be attributed to transfer growth; church-hopping.  

A pastor once asked me for suggestions for holding his church members accountable for spiritual growth without it becoming a time-consuming task. I don’t think a pastor is capable of personally discipling every member of his church. Small groups leaders should do that. There should be accountability drilled into them and they report weekly to the Sunday School superintendent or some other person who can counsel them and hold them accountable. This means replacing whomever doesn’t take spiritual development seriously but insists on just teaching the lesson week after week without tracking spiritual growth. And it means restricting the size of every group to 20 people or fewer. You should be intentionally developing new leaders to become small group leaders. Yes, this means a new paradigm of small group discipleship.

If you’re not holding your small group leaders accountable, then that’s an area to pray about improving. Pray out a leader! Even if you have a Sunday School superintendent, he should be reporting to the pastor what his teachers are doing. The teachers should be reporting to him what their participants are doing, including children. Jesus gave us the Great Commission to make disciples. If you’ve got a bedrock commitment to make disciples, then even worship and preaching feed that priority.

In working through dozens of interviews for the book Truth That Sticks that I wrote with Avery Willis, I identified four keys to small groups success:

1.    Relational – this is why small groups have less than 20 people.
2.    Supportive – participants do life together; they actually hang out in the week.
3.    Transparent – vulnerability breaks down barriers and keeps things genuine.
4.    Accountable – new small groups are leader-mills so that your church can start new groups, very possibly every six months.

These four keys not only close, but padlock the back door.
Posted on May 15, 2018 9:00 AM by David Frasure
Categories: Disciple-making, General
Every once in a while, someone will make a statement about the Old Testament as if it is old news, implying that Christians don’t really need to get too excited about its content.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It may be a little tougher to dig into the history of the Old Testament (OT) and understand the culture of that day, but the insights into life are worth the effort.  There are several reasons why the study of the “Hebrew Bible” is valuable to the New Testament Believer.
 
The Old Testament was the Bible Jesus and the Apostles used.  Jesus saw the OT as God’s inspired Word.  He and the Apostles both quoted from it in their speaking ministries and read and studied it in their personal lives.  If Jesus and the Apostles studied the OT, certainly that is enough reason for us to do the same.
 
The Old Testament is our heritage as God’s people.  The New Testament is grounded in the Old.  The OT gives us the prophecies of the first and second coming of Christ.  In fact, it could be argued, that the topic of the OT really is Christ Himself.  The flow of OT history is the completion of God’s plan of redemption, fulfilled by the Lord Jesus Christ.  The OT helps us understand the New.  It gives us insight into the blood sacrifice and what it really means that Jesus Christ is our “great High Priest.”  Without the OT, we would understand very little about covenants and the real significance of the cross.  It helps us to know who we really are in Christ.
 
The New Testament refers to the importance of the Old Testament.  First Corinthians 10 reminds us that the events of the OT were given to us as an example of God’s dealings with His people.  So, when we read of God’s judgments upon Israel, it helps us see how He deals with our nation.  The OT teaches us how to live the Christian life.  We learn what endurance looks like from Job.  We see what faithfulness really is when we study the life of Daniel.  We learn more about obedience when we read of the life of Abraham.  Our lives are enriched by the events and examples we find throughout the OT.
 
The New Testament Christian is blessed by the study of the Old Testament.  We use the Psalms extensively in our worship songs and our devotional lives.  Who is not blessed by a better understanding of Psalm 23?  How would we know about creation without Genesis?  The wisdom of Proverbs would not be able to challenge and shape our thinking today were it not for the OT.  The OT makes up the bulk of God’s inspired Word.  Without it, we would miss many blessings.
 
Studying the Old Testament helps us to witness to people who know little about the New Testament.  Chuck Swindoll challenged me one time on his radio program by asking this question, “Could you share Christ with a person using only the Old Testament?”  There are many unsaved people in our own communities that have a deep respect for the OT.  If we could help them see Jesus portrayed in the OT, they would be much more receptive to our message.
 
Yes, I am a New Testament believer.  I am not under the old covenant and I know Jesus has fulfilled all the law and has become the perfect sacrifice and High Priest of my soul.  But God speaks to us through the pages of His Word regardless of which book of the Bible we are reading from.  The study of the OT does have its challenges, but how inspiring is its poetry, how rich is its history, how precious are its insights.  I love the Old Testament because it edifies my soul and points me to Jesus.
Posted on May 7, 2018 5:00 AM by David Frasure
Think for a moment about the one person who has influenced your life the most for Christ.  As you think about that person, what are the key things about that person that you admire and want to see in your own life?  I have asked many Sunday School leaders this question and I have discovered that there are four basic things that make a Christian leader effective in touching the lives of others.  These four skills can and should be developed in all of our lives. 
The first skill is related to personal character.  The people who influence others for Christ are genuine.  They demonstrate traits such as honesty, integrity, generosity, conviction, gentleness and love.  They seek to be free of hypocrisy and as a result, others feel safe around them.  They live out their convictions in everyday ways in everyday life.  These influencers can be trusted with your deepest hurts and most shameful secrets.  The power of their personal character is persuasive and causes us to want to imitate those qualities in our own lives. 
I call this a skill, because personal character really stems from the ability to lead ourselves.  A person of character has learned to say “no” to herself and those personal desires that could lead her down the wrong path.  She has learned to discipline herself in her spiritual life and as she stays close to God, Christ in her comes in contact with those around her. 
The second skill is related to love, understanding and commitment to the Word of God.  The Bible is a life-changing book.  As a Christian leader spends time learning and applying the Word of God to his own life, the change that it makes becomes evident to those around him.  There is a hunger in a Believer’s heart to know God’s Word.  As we learn and grow from the truth and as we share that truth in words and lifestyle, it can have a major impact upon those who listen and observe.
Thirdly, communication skills allow a Christian to influence others in positive ways.  This is a skill that may sound less spiritual in nature, yet often the way we communicate does have a spiritual side to it.  If you would do a serious study of the love chapter (1 Corinthians 13), you would find that many of the characteristics of love are also the characteristics of good communicators.  The Proverbs also speak of the wisdom involved in choosing our words carefully.  As we study the Master Communicator, we find that Jesus was highly skilled in the use of stories and He used simple words that others could easily understand.  If anyone could speak “over the heads” of His listeners, it was Jesus.  Yet He chose to focus on the needs and level of understanding of His listeners when He spoke.  He spoke with passion and conviction and many wanted to follow Him as a result.
The last skill is associated with how we relate to other people.  People skills do seem to come more naturally to some than they do for others, but we all can learn how to relate better to others better if we would be more deliberate about it.  Most people with poor people skills do not think they have a problem in this area.  That is why it is important for us to keep growing and learning how to be better listeners and become more loving and sensitive to others.  Again, there is a spiritual side to this skill as well and many biblical teachings related to encouraging others.
If you are interested in growing in each of these skills, let me encourage you to check out the video teaching provided at www.missionohio.e-quip.net.  In the search box, type “David Frasure” and you can see five videos called “Basic Training for Sunday School Teachers.”  In the videos, I teach on the four skills every Sunday School Teacher needs to develop.
Posted on April 9, 2018 9:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Disciple-making
Does what you do matter to others? Are you relevant?

While I was attending a Purpose Driven Church workshop in 2005, I heard Rick Warren tell attendees to place greeters at their church doors that represented the kind of person that they wanted their church to attract. If that’s 90 year-old men, then that’s okay.

Now, who do you think that literacy-oriented pastors or Bible study teachers or witnesses using tracts attract?
Two studies released in 2011, one by the University of Nebraska and the other by the American Sociological Association, showed that whites in America with high school educations declined in their frequency of church attendance, while those with college degrees were the most frequent attenders today.

Churches have long attracted those who are like them with their literate worldview preference. Almost everything that most believers typically are taught to do supports a literate worldview. Projected scripture, reading verses from all over the Bible, using fill-in-the-blank handouts, summarizing biblical narratives, conducting word studies, and exegeting texts for others create a non-reproducible environment by church members. There is a disconnect from the general population by literate worldview believers who rarely attract people other than those who are like themselves.

And roughly half of everyone in America struggles with literacy used in the Bible. That statistic is from the U.S. Dept. of Education adult literacy study in 2003.

Training that relies on the literate approach produces believers that cannot easily pass along what they have learned. They often become irrelevant; they don’t matter. Meanwhile, I have heard complaints from the most highly educated pastors as I have traveled the globe that church members are just not witnessing as they should. The truth is that our church leaders have not been equipped with a model that is reproducible outside their stained glass windows. Instead, all that the rank and file church members can do is put in a good word for Jesus or invite people to church to hear the pastor, experience the music, or have a Bible study explained to them. No wonder so many churches have turned worship services into a show!
 
So the ways of learning, thinking, and communicating that are second nature to most homiletics professors are dependent on high levels of literacy. We have had literacy skills so long that we forget what it was like before we acquired them. So we seldom recognize the literateness of our homiletical methods. We expect our students to use these skills in preparing and presenting sermons, perhaps unwittingly to the detriment of their listeners.
– Grant Lovejoy, “‘But I Did Such Good Exposition’: Literate Preachers Confront Orality.” Journal of the Evangelical Homiletics Society 1 (December 2001): 22-32.
 
A pastor’s ability to explain the Bible to others is highly valued in training schools. However, is telling every detail of a passage the equivalent of a lawn sprinkler hoping some drops wet the random blade of grass?

Small groups that don’t lecture, but ask powerful open-ended questions do a great job at getting people to think. They interact with the text and can reproduce it orally in the workplace. Exegesis is not wrong, but it depends on who says it. If believers do the exegesis as the Holy Spirit leads them, then the church leader can do a better job of making disciples like Jesus did. And that matters.
 
Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership (DOM) for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.
Posted on April 2, 2018 10:00 AM by David Frasure
Categories: Disciple-making
Someone has said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that really counts.”  It reminds me of a story I heard about a young man who had finished up his college degree in business but could not land a job.  The young man had to move back home with his parents.  His father owned a little mom and pop grocery store and offered to pay his son minimum wage if he would help him out at the store a few nights a week.  Well, the young man needed some spending money, so he took the job.  He showed up for his first day of work and his Dad gave him a mop and a bucket and asked him to mop the floors.  “But Dad,” the young man protested, “I have been to college for four years!”  The Dad replied, “Oh, I forgot.  Don’t worry son, I’ll show you how to do it.”
 
I think we all understand the value of a good education, but even more valuable is to keep a teachable spirit.  I know that after 35 years in ministry, I still need to learn and grow in the very areas that many think I am most proficient.  Even the Apostle Paul spoke of his personal need to continue to grow in his understanding of Christ (Phil. 3:12-14).  I’m certain that if Paul had to stay teachable, I certainly do as well.  Here are a few things I am learning about staying teachable.
 
The enemy of a teachable spirit is pride.  Pride damages us in so many ways.  It makes us think we don’t need counsel from others—especially from those younger and less experienced.  It makes us think we don’t need to pray about an issue or seek God concerning a decision.  It creates in us an unhealthy confidence in ourselves and a lack of dependency upon God.  It causes us to shut down any constructive criticism and dismiss those who seek to help us.  Pride is something that God finds detestable, so when it enters our lives, it always leads to brokenness and discipline from our Heavenly Father.  Pride is so easy to see in others, but very difficult to see in ourselves.  It is kryptonite to any kind of personal growth.
 
A teachable spirit is enhanced through difficult circumstances.  Our first response to a trial or conflict is to remove it as quickly as possible, rather than to see it as an opportunity to grow and learn.  We often forget that God has sovereign purpose for our lives and He is much more concerned with our spiritual maturity than He is our personal comfort.  There are just some things we cannot learn from a text book.  We must experience wrestling with God to learn what it means to surrender.  We must have a crisis to know how to walk by faith and not by sight.  We must learn to obey God when it is uncomfortable to do so, so we can learn obedience.  We must experience sorrow to really know what it means to have hope.  We must struggle in spiritual warfare to know we really have victory in Jesus.  This is how we become thankful in all things.  We are not thankful for the trial, but for what we are learning in the trial.
 
A teachable spirit moves us to a deliberate plan of growth.  Personal growth, as any other kind of growth, is never accidental.  Just like a garden, deliberate effort is involved to achieve the desired results.  One must plow the ground and plant the seed correctly.  Weeds and obstacles must be removed so that healthy growth can occur.  As on the farm, God does His part, but we have to do our part to see growth and fruitfulness become a reality.  The potential for growth is in all of us, but the pursuit of it seems rare, indeed.  No matter how old or talented or educated we are, we still have a lot to learn.  So, we need to read books, attend seminars, hear teaching, etc.  We all need time for recreation, but we need not waste much time with trivial pursuits when there is so much to learn.
Posted on March 29, 2018 9:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Disciple-making
Can spiritual maturity be achieved in a one-way lecture-based environment? School teachers grimace at the thought of teaching children in a large classroom in which one lesson is expected to apply to everyone. Speaking without listening is not communication if it lacks a feedback loop. Just as each student has a unique learning level, each follower of Jesus has a spiritual growth story. How can a preacher or small group leader know what is being caught no matter how deep theologically he may expound upon the Word? The words are there, but is it caught?
 
Spiritual growth can come through instruction from pastors, interactions with godly church members, and through the reliance upon Scripture either in printed, storied, or verbatim media formats. Ultimately, spiritual growth comes from the Holy Spirit. Pastors that insist on controlling biblical theology and becoming the sole authority on communicating God’s truths run the risk of interfering with God’s work in their midst. There’s a biblical need for proclamation, but there’s a command Jesus gave us to make disciples. And at the heart of the issue is trusting the disciple-maker to get it right.
 
Jesus knew this would be a concern for His disciples and instructed them.
 
When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth . . . He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you (John 16:13a–14 NIV).
 
As the late Avery Willis and I asked in our book, what makes truth stick? How do you communicate Velcro truths in a Teflon world? Hearts and minds are coated by learning preferences that just don’t match up with what pastors are typically trying to do in sermons or small groups leaders are doing when they just teach the lesson.
Avery, who taught seminary students how to preach, even went so far to say in a book we co-authored, Truth That Sticks, that “trying to make disciples through preaching is like spraying milk over a nursery full of screaming babies just hoping some of it falls into their mouths.”
 
Yet, spiritual growth will come through paying attention to individuals who mature from being dead in their sins to a spiritual infant, into a spiritual child, into a spiritual young adult, and then a spiritually-reproducing parent.
Disciple-makers need to listen and pay attention to the progression of spiritual maturity. This requires constant interaction and intentionality. They listen to the “phrase from the phase.” Here are some general categories to consider:
 
•    Spiritual Infants are asking basic questions like “Why do I need to pray?” “How can I be fed spiritually to grow?”
•    Spiritual Children are expressive: “Hey, here’s a great study we should try!” “What do you mean break up my study group to branch out and start a new one?”
•    Spiritual Young Adults look beyond themselves: “What can we do to help Mary? She just lost her job.”
•    Spiritual Parents intentionally want to multiply themselves. “There’s a new class needed.” “Who will go with me to reach that group of people?”
 
Develop a confidential list of every member of your church. Where are they spiritually? Small group leaders that create an interaction in their Bible studies should quickly identify levels of spiritual growth. Jesus interacted with His disciples and held them accountable. Making disciples requires regular feedback and support.

Are you making disciples that are spiritually maturing? How can I help?
 
Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership (DOM) for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.
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