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Teaching or equipping? Are we giving people tools they can use?

ToolsWe are currently part of a fairly new simple church with about 30% new believers. The other evening, one of them mentioned that a friend had approached him to find out more about his faith. As we discussed how he might handle the situation, it became apparent that only a few of those present had any idea of how to present the Gospel in a relevant way to lead someone else to Christ. We spent much of that evening and our next gathering working on this and practicing in pairs how to handle an opportunity to share our faith.

Ephesians 4 says that the five-fold ministry is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. Do we give people tools they can use in their daily lives to make an impact for the Kingdom of God?

Our friends in India who are dealing with tens of thousands of new believers have a teaching manual with around 50 topics. Each topic has 8-10 major points supported by several Bible verses. These topics are taught in such a way that ordinary people can remember them, put them into practice, and train others.

We do not live in India.  Many simple churches are filled with mature believers, but are they equipped with practical skills? Or do they just have intellectual/spiritual knowledge about various Biblical  subjects?

Is there a difference between teaching and equipping? I'm not saying that teaching is not important (and this is not a discussion on how teaching happens). But are people being equipped?

During our student days, the Christian group we were part of was trained in all kinds of practical skills. We were trained in personal evangelism by groups such as Campus Crusade, going out onto the streets to witness and lead people to Christ. We learned the Navigators Topical Memory System (a system of learning by heart more than 100 verses). Tony and I went through a training course on how to heal the sick, how to pray for deliverance, how to pray for someone to be filled with the Holy Spirit etc. It was a series of spiritual skills with a practical impact.

My question is, what topics would be covered in a Western manual that equipped people with spiritual skills? I've mentioned a few. What others can you come up with?


14 replies on “Teaching or equipping? Are we giving people tools they can use?”

I actually woke up this morning thinking through this very issue. We are so used to the “staff” doing a lot of these things for us. If a simple church is to be missional it must mean that every believer involved embrace the call to proclaim the Gospel and not just embrace simple church gatherings. I pray that I can help those involved with the simple churches in our area be effective proclaims of Truth!

My wife and I also were raised through a campus ministry — that had house groups, btw — and taught the Navigators memory system and how to use Campus Crusade’s Four Spiritual Laws, how to have a quiet time, how to share our testimony etc. That emphasis on spiritual disciplines was invaluable and has lasted us a lifetime, although we’ve at times drifted into a works-based mentality. We’ve led groups on evangelism and other topics in the legacy church we’ve been in for the past few years. I once took a Saturday morning to teach people how to share their testimony and was shocked at how many long-time Christians were incapable of telling a coherent story about how they came to Jesus and why. The main problem, I found, was that they too often confused giving their life to Jesus with becoming a member of the church, which made me wonder whether they really walk with Jesus to begin with.

It seems to me that it has start with goals. What do you want future believers to know and be able to do after they finish studying with you. They should be able to interact with God’s Word, whether in written form or on experiential basis, because this is how their faith grows. They should also have some kind of accountability because this is how their faith matures. A third natural component is to be able to share their faith with others because this is how they become to “own” the faith and the kingdom grows.

1. Taking time and having the patience to wait upon and experience God for oneself. As someone raised in a Quaker family only now, in my midlife, am I coming to fully appreciate silence as (for me at least) an essential part of prayer and ‘talking with’ God, much as Søren Kierkegaard proposes in Christian Discourses.
2. That salvation comes in many forms and guises and we learn much from the experience of others. Somewhat similar to Dan’s experience, I have found that some are less impressed by the stories of those who have quietly walked with the Lord all their life, seeking rather the drama and intensity of a prison cell or hospital room salvation.
For some, salvation is found in the charged atmosphere of an altar call, for others it comes amid the conquering of an addiction. For me, it was the quiet culmination of years of avoidance, searching and questions and was found through books and music, the prayers of my wife and the unquenchable grace I found in my children. Overcoming my own head knowledge and self-reliance and getting to a point where I ‘believe, that I may understand’ took the best part of 30 years.

It has a cultural element to. I’m not sure what America is like these days but in UK there are many ‘spaces’ where proseltysing is not allowed. Wisdom and courage is needed. I think our handbook manual may be a little different, not sure. I’m also thinking about it as I spend 7 hours a day talking with poeple in other/no faiths! We talk about everything! but tred carefully around our faiths. I’ve been asking God for one of those ‘sovereign’ things where the Spirit just falls, then we few Christians can gather them up!

Are the Indian teachings translated and written down anywhere? I would be interested to learn from them

I think any Western manual would need to include, first and foremost, an emphasis on making sure we’re talking about the right thing from the start. For instance, in my area, the big challenge is getting people to actually share about JESUS instead or their church, programs, pastor, youth group, etc. How to turn the conversation to what matters most is necessary, in my opinion.
Also, speaking for myself, just a lot more emphasis on simply trusting the Holy Spirit and courageously following Him as the main “evangelistic strategy” would be nice. That’s more about my obedience than training, though.
Finally, I like to teach people to think through ways to practically express the fruit of the Spirit in their daily lives, reminding them that this is what keeps us “in step with the Spirit” and “against such things there is no law.” In other words, if you lead with these things evident in your life, no one will object to your lifestyle and people are more receptive to your beliefs.

This may be slightly off topic, however I think it is relevant. I have always wanted to shout this scripture to those that write instructions or memos or anything really that has to be read by others and deciphered!!! I have taken this scripture to heart in a very literal way and present it here in that sense. Just a very practical application: Habakkuk 2:1 Then the Lord answered me and said: “WRITE IT PLAIN ON TABLETS, THAT HE MAY RUN WHO READS IT…
To me that has been a mandate to be clear, concise and legible if you are going to communicate anything.
You do manage to operate in those aspects on this blog…for which I am very grateful.

I think one of the glaring issues facing the Western Church today is that we know about Jesus, but we don’t know how to listen to him and follow his voice personally.
We talk about doctrine but we don’t know how to allow the Holy Spirit to control our lives so that correct living, based on sound doctrine, naturally flows out of our lives.
For example, I tend to pray for the lost and ask Jesus to allow me to notice and connect with people who need to know him. The end result is that I tend to lead quite a few people to Jesus and begin to disciple them to follow Jesus.
If we think of evangelism as learning the right techniques, we are, in my opinion, always going to miss the boat. Jesus allows me to lead people to him because I pray for the lost and listen and obey him (at least usually) when the right time comes…and the right time comes fairly often. But, I don’t do that through some technique.
I believe every other issue is pretty much the same thing. I’m not against training but we need to do what ever we do, listening to and obeying the voice of Jesus as he speaks to us personally.
So, I’d say the most important thing is to learn to listen and obey Jesus, not just know about him. And listening to and obeying Jesus is a skill set that can be learned.

Being in my 30’s (I’m 39…so I’m holding onto it!), and being an ex-pastor I find it VERY difficulty to get people to worship with. Asking people to join our simple fellowship of just me and my wife and 2 toddlers doesn’t seem exciting to anyone. It wouldn’t be exzciting to me either. Any advice?

These are great comments everyone and I’ll be blogging more about them soon. Keep them coming because they are all fueling ideas for future blog posts. Could we develop our own manual here on this blog?

“Ant,” in my experience, it’s far easier and more effective to start with unbelievers rather than believers and if possible in their home rather than yours. (That way you’re reaching out to their group of friends.) Do you or your wife have contact with other mom’s with toddlers? Would the parents be interested in getting together to talk about raising kids? You would use the Bible as your textbook, and a discussion based format. We’ve done this kind of thing (not on that specific topic, but on other topics such as business) on several occasions and the result has been new believers and a church.
Let me know what you think.

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