Archive - Kingdom skills RSS Feed

Questioning one-on-one discipleship

One-on-one is a preferred method of discipleship within evangelicalism. I have no doubt as to its effectiveness (wish someone had been there to disciple me as a young believer). However, recently I’ve been questioning this.

Presumably we all believe that the way Jesus worked with his disciples is the best pattern to use. So I’ve been fascinated by a study I’ve recently done.

There were only two occasions I could find in the gospels where Jesus had a conversation with one of the disciples alone. One was with Peter over the paying of taxes (go and catch a fish) and the other, also with Peter, was about forgiving people seventy times seven times. As far as I can see, every other interaction that is recorded involves a group of them–of at least two or three.

There was one occasion where it specifically states Jesus was alone for a conversation with someone–the woman at the well. And we assume (although it doesn’t say so) that he was alone with Nicodemus in John 3.

Other than that, once he had chosen the twelve, Jesus worked with groups–groups of his disciples, the crowds, challenged groups of Pharisees and Sadducees. Other conversations where it appears he was talking to individuals, if you examine the context, were all within a group situation.

What does that say about one-on-one discipleship? What are the advantages of group discipleship?

 Photo Credit: CharlesFred via Compfight cc

Guest post by Bruce: One line conversation starters with not-yet-believers

I have a job in a very busy, very intense human services setting. I often do not have more than 10-15 seconds to talk to a person. I always have a brief ‘teaser’ line that might elicit interest, and a quick follow up line that gives more info that can lead to a conversation.

Sometimes I say that I am a writer, and that my materials help people understand God a little better. I have a short booklet that I wrote about Jesus that I keep copies of to give out, and people are often interested in something that I wrote myself.

I often get prophetic words for co-workers, and that itself leads to conversations. Or I tell them that a lot of my time is spent helping people get closer to God. Or that I pray for a lot of people, and see God doing exciting things. I offer to pray for anyone, for anything.

My rule of thumb is to have a handful of very short ‘one liners’ and a matching follow up line that an interested person can follow up on later. This has worked well for me.

Sales people are trained to give their ‘elevator speech’.  We should be trained to give, not necessarily the gospel in 15 or 30 seconds (though that has its uses) but a 5 second comment that can give us an indication of who might well be approached later for more specific questions or comments, as a possible person of peace.

My teaser line is a way for almost anyone (even one as naturally timid as me) to ‘safely’ feel out the territory without being (or feeling) overtly or blatantly ‘religious’. The follow up might be a more definite comment or a question about spiritual beliefs.

Long ago, a friend from the South, when asked “How are you?” would often say, quietly and sweetly, “I’m blessed.”  That line, never heard in the region where I live, usually raises an eyebrow when I use it, and can give an indication of interest.I usually save that one for people that i suspect of a spiritual interest.

David Watson once blogged that he would say something like, “I feel like God may have spoken to me in a dream last night.”  or, “I recently realized something really powerful, that i never saw before.” and just let it sit, without another comment. If the other person didn’t say a word, he would not follow up with another word about it.But if they did, he gently followed up with comments to the level of the person’s interest, but never beyond it.

Just saying “God bless you” when finishing a brief conversation and watching reactions can also show who to follow up on.

Offering prayer about a personal situation shared in the workplace often leads to grateful responses, and lots of openings to share the goodness of God later on.

Bruce teaches church planting principles, working in many countries where security is an issue.

Photo Credit: procsilas (Creative Commons)

 

Our spiritual weapons–the Word of God

I suffered from many diseases when I was in medical school–all of them imaginary, and all based on the most painful and potentially fatal conditions I happened to be studying at the time. But the fear was not imaginary–it was frequently crippling and overwhelming.

I had a spirit of fear.

One day, the realization came to me. “None of these fatal illnesses have come to pass. The problem is in my thinking.” I recognized that demonic powers were  behind the fear.

I remembered that Jesus had used the Word of God when he fought Satan in the wilderness. “It is written…”  and he would quote Scripture.

So I armed myself with several verses that talk about how Jesus has overcome Satan, and I set out to do battle. As soon as a fearful thought came into my mind, I would quote verses–”It is written that God has not given me a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Tim 1:7). I stand against every fearful thought and spirit of fear in Jesus’ name.” And the fear would leave. Sometimes it would come back again within a few minutes. “God’s word says that if I resist the devil, he has to flee from me (James 4:7). I resist you in Jesus’ name.” Always the fear would go.

At the beginning, I had to battle many times a day, but as the days went by, it became less and less frequent, until after a couple of months I was set completely free.

Second Corinthians 10:4 says that the weapons of our warfare are not natural, but they are spiritual and can pull down strongholds. The Word of God is one of the most powerful weapons in our armory. It is our sword (Ephesians 6:17; Psalm 149:6-9). As we learn to wield these spiritual weapons God has given us, he trains us to wage warfare effectively (Psalm 18:34).

Have you found the Word to be effective in your battle against the enemy?

Photo Credit: ValetheKid (Creative Commons)

If any of you tried to download my e-book on hearing God and couldn’t get the link to work, my apologies. It has now been fixed

The two extremes of spiritual warfare

Like it or not, we were born again into a world at war.

Photo credit: The US Army (Creative Commons)

I often recall a story I was told of a soldier, fully clad in all his combat gear, sitting at a table outside a restaurant drinking a cup of coffee. He was killed by a sniper’s bullet. Although he was fully armed, there was one problem. He didn’t realize he was in a combat zone.

We are often like that soldier. We can be picked off by a fiery dart from the enemy because we are ignorant of his devices.

As believers, we tend to fall into one of two extremes when it comes to spiritual warfare.

  • We hunker down in our spiritual bunkers, content to be protected, but failing to engage in the spiritual battle that is going on all around us. Like toy soldiers, we have little or no impact on our spiritual enemy.
  • We see demons behind every tree, waging war against principalities and powers that are products of our imagination more than real entities. We attribute sin to the demonic, trying to cast it out when it needs a process of forgiveness and sanctification.

There is a real (spiritual) war going on and the church is meant to be on the offensive, fighting for the souls of those who don’t yet know Jesus.

Business as (spiritual) warfare

The Lord has used our business to teach us much about the Christian life, especially spiritual warfare.

We began The Karis Group (Karis is Greek for “grace”) in 1996, and God wonderfully blessed–for about four years. We moved from the tiny spare room to our garage. When we were obviously violating the zoning laws because of the number of employees in our home, we bought a larger house a few miles away that could legally accomodate the business. Finally, as it continued to expand, we moved the business into a small office building just down the road.

At that stage, we had one major client who had asked us for an exclusive relationship–ie they would be the only client of that kind that we helped. Foolishly we agreed. When, after four years, they decided to take the work we were doing for them in house, we had nowhere else to turn. We had a building with a lease, several employees and virtually no work. Eventually we encouraged most of the employees to find other jobs.

After two or three months as we continued to run down our reserves, the light suddenly dawned. We had lost our client at the very time we started House2House, a magazine that spoke into the simple/organic/house church movement (originally a paper magazine and now a website). Was this coincidence? Of course not. If Satan could wipe our business out, he would damage far more than just us and our business.

From that point onwards, we set ourselves to spiritual warfare. We had no work to do, so apart from the marketing for new clients we did, for hours every day we paced up and down that little office, praying and interceding. We quoted Scripture, we sang, we shouted, we praised. We did everything we had ever heard of in terms of spiritual warfare. At home we did the same. We would have looked totally crazy to an outsider, but gradually we were gaining spiritual ground. We took every spare moment we had to engage in the battle. If we were traveling, for example, we would find the chapel in any major airport so we could continue to pray between flights. (These rooms are usually empty.) We had a picture in our mind of a wire-mesh tray that sat on one of the desks filled with contracts from many different companies. The Lord was training us in battle and gradually our faith grew.

A correlation soon appeared. After several days of intense warfare, we would see a bit of a breakthrough. Maybe a new company would show an interest in our business. Assuming this was God’s answer, we relaxed the prayer and it would come to nothing. We learned that we had to keep the pressure up if we were to see results.

God provided finances to us seemingly out of nowhere. For example, one evening there was a wreck outside our house. A car ran into a tree in our yard. No one was hurt but the tree trunk was cracked. When the insurance company came to appraise the damage, they decided that a tree of that size was worth several thousand dollars. It kept us afloat for another few weeks.

Finally after a year with no work, we found our first client, and our next… We hired on employees again. The business continues to grow today.

It was a tough year, but the lessons we learned are invaluable. Psalm 18:34 says this: He trains my hands for battle; he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow. The more we practice a Kingdom skill, the stronger our spiritual muscles become.

Have you experienced times of intense spiritual warfare? I’d love to hear your stories. What did you learn?

 

 

Bringing our faith into our working lives

When we worked and ministered in the UK, our lives were very blessed. Everything we touched seemed to “turn to gold”–in the spiritual rather than physical sense. Tony, my husband, was leading a ministry that worked among doctors and others in the caring professions and extraordinary things were going on all over the country. The ministry taught these professional how to bring their faith into their working lives in a sensitive and relevant way. We ran conferences that showcased examples of doctors who were doing something meaningful. As others professionals saw what was going on, their response was often, “I could do that in my practice.”

For example, I remember one family doctor giving a report on what he had seen the previous year. He had kept a record of every patient he had communicated the good news about Jesus to over the course of that year–about 150 people. Of those, around 50 had become followers of Jesus the first time he spoke with them, and another 50 had become believers some time during that year. The remaining 50 were an ongoing story. All over the country, doctors were seeking to communicate the Gospel in effective ways to their patients.

When Tony was practicing medicine, he probably saw several hundred of his patients find the Lord. In the UK, in part because of socialized medicine, the family doctor handled far more than the typical medical problems. If someone had a kid who was using drugs or had marital difficulties or any other social need, the GP was usually the first person they went to for help. Often, when his patients came to him with needs that were not really medical in nature, Tony would say to them, “You know, I don’t have a pill I can prescribe that will sort this out, but have you ever thought of praying about this situation?” The most common response was, “Doctor, I’ve prayed about it, but I don’t know if anyone is listening.” That was an open door for a spiritual conversation. During one memorable six week period, a person became a follower of Christ every day his office was open.

Other doctors moved into the very poor and socially deprived area of London where we lived and worked and had our church. One day, we did the math. In our (more traditional) church, there were 14 family doctors.  Our area had around 120,000 people living in it. Between the doctors in the church and their partners, anyone becoming sick in our area had a one in three chance of sitting down next to a Spirit-filled doctor who was looking for an opportunity to share about Jesus.

Other doctors around the country were running Bible studies in their offices, or referring the social needs of their patients to their churches. In fact, the impact was such that even the medical authorities were beginning to take notice. We heard one day that a family doctor, in his final oral exam in front of the licensing board was asked this question: “What would you do if you found yourself in a practice with doctors who were evangelical Christians who took every opportunity to speak to their patients about their faith?”

Our conferences were attended by around 5,000 people per year. I remember a particular conference we ran for consultants. At one stage, this group of 50 or so eminent consultants were asked to stand on their chairs and praise God at the tops of their voices. If these distinguished professionals were willing to humble themselves before God in this way at a weekend conference, it was easy for them to speak to their patients about the Lord during the following week.

So when in 1987, the Lord spoke to us that we were to move to the USA, we assumed, naively, that God wanted us to do the same kind of ministry among professionals here. Were we in for a shock!

Have you found effective ways to communicate your faith through your working life? I’d love to hear the story.

Multiplication tools; KISS

Simple things multiply; complex things are much harder to reproduce.

Eggs
Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks (Creative Commons)

One of my favorite quotes from a Filipino church planter is this: Never do anything in church that a one week old Christian would be unable to duplicate.

Only model what you want to see reproduced and what will lead to multiplication. How is this worked out?

Teaching: an interactive Bible study using simple questions or symbols is more effective and reproducible than a sermon. Since many people’s greatest fear is that of public speaking, if you model a sermon, people will think they have to do this in order to start another church.

Worship: if you have music of a professional standard, people will think they have to have a musician in order to start a church. Better to sing a capella or accompanied by a CD.

Prayer: if you model 5 minute prayer sermons you will inhibit new believers from praying. Better to teach single sentence prayers and for people to pray multiple times.

Food: if you produce a gourmet meal, people will assume they have to produce a similar meal if they have church in their home. Better to have a simple, potluck meal where everyone contributes.

Fellowship: happens naturally over food.

In the church that meets in our home, we tend to use a simple pattern that anyone can reproduce. It’s not the same every time, but most of these elements are usually present. It’s based on Acts 2:42. We share a meal together. Over dessert, we talk about how things have gone during our week together–joys and challenges. Was there an accoutability challenge from the previous week? We share how that went too. We share around the Word. We pray for one another. In all of this we expect the Holy Spirit to lead our time together and we give him freedom to break in.

It’s simple enough that a new believer can copy it.

Simple is not the same as simplistic. We’ve had very profound times together. But it is duplicatable.

So Keep It Simple and Straightforward!

Multiplication tools: passing it on

Does your simple/organic church have an impact beyond the gathering? There’s a simple tool to help with that.

Sharing 

Photo Credit: Kalexanderson (Creative Commons)

In the interactive Bible study pattern that we most frequently use and teach to others, four symbols help people share around the passage:

  1. A question mark: do you have any questions about what this verse says?
  2. A lightbulb: this verse brings understanding either about the passage, or about something going on in your own life. The light has come on.
  3. An arrow: God is speaking to you directly through this verse and there’s something you need to do about it
  4. An ear: who do you know who needs to hear what has been shared?

It’s this last symbol that helps to create an impact beyong the gathering. When each person is accountable, not only to apply what they have learned in their own lives but also to pass  it on  to someone outside the group, the influence of the group spreads. When the person they share it with is a not-yet-believer, there is the opportunity to multiply.

We retain only 5% of what we hear, but 90% of what we teach on to others. This practice therefore, not only spreads the message, it also helps people to retain what they have learned.

 

 

Multiplication tools: vision

The vision the individual members have for your group will determine the actions they take and your group's ultimate destination.

Destination
Photo credit: woodleywonderworks (Creative Commons)

Why are the people in your group meeting? 

Simple/organic church provides a more intimate community. This is great, and an important component of simple church, but if that is why people are meeting, community is what you will get.

Simple/organic church offers a more informal and relaxed atmosphere. But if that is the main reason you are meeting, it is what you will enjoy.

Simple/organic meetings are participatory, with the Holy Spirit setting the agenda. This is crucial, a vital component of what goes on, but it is in danger of stopping there unless there is a deliberate outward focus.

Unless your group has a vision for reaching out and touching the lives of those who don't yet know the Lord, you are unlikely to see the multiplication of new disciples and churches.

If you long to see the lives of those who don't yet know the Lord transformed by their coming into relationship with Jesus, then that vision needs to be set before people frequently. Everyone in your group needs to be excited by the prospect, otherwise they will resent the thought of change. As people buy into this vision, their actions and attitudes will change. It may take a little time, but it's worth putting the vision before people on a frequent and regular basis. It can be done in different ways: for example

  • An interactive Bible study on the Great Commission, or Luke 10, Matthew 10 etc.
  • Videos such as this one
  • Asking the Lord what he wants for your group

(This last one is crucial. Everyone in our simple/organic church bought into the vision of multiplication when we spent time seeking the Lord about his vision for our group and he showed more than 50% of us the same thing in different ways. You can read the story here. We frequently refer back to that vision and make sure that newcomers to the group hear about it. Whenever a potential new group starts, we remind people how this is a fulfilment of what the Lord showed us.)

Practical application: Ask everyone in your group to listen to the Lord with the question, "Jesus, what is your vision for our group?" Give everyone 20 minutes on their own to listen and then compare notes. See if a theme emerges. See if the Lord gives you a vision of an outward focus.

 

 

Multiplication tools: accountability. A story

Accountability has been key to the church that meets in our home over the last few weeks.

Accountability
Photo credit: ItzaFineDay (Creative Commons)

In the last post, I described how a challenge to pray with someone during the week, led to my reaching out beyond my comfort zone to pray with a total stranger over the phone.

Our initial week's challenge had resulted in different ones praying for neighbors, people at work, and other college students, so our simple/organic church decided to repeat the experiment. This time, I reached out to a relative who needs work. She's one I've had many spiritual conversations with in the past, but who would probably describe herself as pagan. She was very willing for me to pray.

Then I had a surprise. As part of my initial reaching out, I'd placed an ad on Craigslist: "Do you need prayer?" A week or so later, a lady responded, asking me to pray for certain things. As our conversation has developed, she has opened up more, and in my last message to her, I was able to share the Gospel openly. That story is still ongoing.

Many simple/organic churches or small groups long to be more outward-focused but don't know how. Why not think through some of the skills that might make a difference in this area, commit to pray, and then challenge each other and hold each other accountable to put them into practice.

In disciple-making movements in other nations, ongoing accountability plays a vital part. Who did you share your story with this week? Have you been able to pray for anyone during this past week.

We often use four symbols when we study the Bible. The last one is an ear: who do you know who needs to hear what we've been learning? The power of this symbol is to hold each other accountable to share what we've been learning with someone else. This leads to multiplication.

I'd love to hear some of your stories.

 

Page 1 of 612345»...Last »