Ordinary People the Key to Discipleship?

We’ve built Mission Columbia (and the Christ Together identity) around the premise that the Gospel is best carried into the world by “Ordinary Nobodies”. These jars of clay – standard use objects, whose treasure is best visible when they are in use – are carrying the glory of God to those who are far from him.

We believe that most of the time this happens through everyday, normal, often-routine interactions between the people of God and those who are unknowingly-searching for the greatest treasure the world as ever seen: God Himself extending grace and rescue to broken vessels prepared for His glory.

This article from www.discipleship.org resonated with us this month, and we hope it propels you to live a disciple-making life today!

“It’s Ordinary People” by Ben Sobels

A Navy Seal, a horseshoer, a former drug addict who was homeless a few years ago, and a pastor sit around a table . . .

Sounds like the start of a great joke, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s the make-up of my current discipleship group. We have been meeting for the last four months, reading Mark’s Gospel each week, and putting Jesus’ teaching into practice together. Two of us are married, two of us are single. I’m in my forties, one guy is in his thirties, one is in his fifties, and another is in his sixties.

As I drove away from our discipleship group last week, Acts 4:13 came to my mind. It speaks of Peter and John being “ordinary men.” As I reflected on this, I realized every man in our discipleship group is very ordinary—and it’s good.

They are ordinary in the same way that Peter and John were ordinary. And after being discipled by Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit, God used Peter and John to ignite a movement that “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).

Over the last several years, as our church has been doing the deep work of becoming a disciple making church, we have learned a lot about what God can do through ordinary men and women. Specifically, we have learned that ordinary people make great disciple makers. This has been a break-through insight for us—and I was freshly reminded of it this week with my discipleship group. It reminded me that we have to be ordinary disciples, who make ordinary disciple makers and be disciples whose ordinariness demonstrates Jesus’ extraordinariness.

1. Select Ordinary People to Disciple

There’s such an emphasis in our culture on those who are best, most important, smartest, most talented, most accomplished, and most influential. In this kind of culture, those of us who are ordinary often get overlooked. Sometimes this happens in the church. In the process of disciple making, this can show up as we select people to disciple. Dr. Robert Coleman observed that Jesus chose “a ragged collection of souls.” As you consider who to disciple next, it’s easy to fall into the trap of only thinking about people you know, people you like, or people who are like you. Jesus’ scope of selection wasn’t so limited. He prayed all night about who God wanted him to disciple, and God led him to a ragamuffin group (Lk. 6:12-16). The men he chose were all ordinary and very different.

Just as Jesus prayed about who to disciple, we should too – really pray. “Lord, who would you have me disciple? Please open my eyes to those you want me to share my life with over the next year? Would you show me those who I can pour myself into and who you can use to stretch me?” As you pray these kinds of prayers, don’t be surprised if God leads to you to people who are outside of your regular relational box.

Several weeks ago, as our discipleship group gathered, Kevin exclaimed, “Look at us! Who would put the four of us together?” And Steve chimed in, “Nobody but Jesus!” They were both was right. Honestly, our first month together was a little awkward. What do a Navy Seal in his thirties and a horseshoer in his fifties have in common? But after four months of following Jesus together, we’re gelling and it’s a joy.

2. Design Discipleship for Ordinary People

A number of years ago I heard a lady talking about the discipleship curriculum they use at her church. She said, “Our curriculum is on par with a seminary class.” I looked at it, and sure enough it was! It required a lot of reading, a lot of book work, and it was set at an in-depth, graduate level. After this, I had the opportunity to observe a couple of discipleship groups at that church. What I observed was a lot of talk and very little action. There are two problems with this:

  1. Talking about Jesus’ teaching isn’t the same as obeying it together – and Jesus constantly challenged his disciples to put his teaching in practice.
  2. Does a person need a seminary-level course to be equipped to follow Jesus and make disciples?

If you look at regions of the world where disciple making movements are breaking out (e.g. Global South), disciple makers are not using seminary-level curriculum. They are using the Bible, and specifically the Gospels. We encounter Jesus himself in the Gospels. His teaching is challenging enough. At my local church, we lead people through Mark’s Gospel chapter-by-chapter, putting one aspect of Jesus’ teaching into practice before the next time we meet. Love your enemies, renounce all you have, forgive everyone who have anything against. These commands challenge all people – lawyers and laborers, professors and plumbers, brand new Christians and people who have walked with the Lord for years. The focus is not more knowledge-based information but obedience-based life transformation.

3. Expect Ordinary People to Make Disciples

D.L. Moody once said, “If this world is going to be reached [with the gospel], I am convinced it must be done by men and women of average talent.” Today, some church leaders (maybe more than we’d like to admit) expect little from men and woman of average talent. People in the pew are expected to attend weekend services and give faithfully, but not much more. This has left a majority the church unmotivated, disillusioned, and spiritually sterile. In stark contrast, Jesus expected a lot from his ordinary disciples. He expected them to proclaim the gospel, heal the sick, serve the poor, cast out demons, and love people deeply. He expected them to do what he did, and “even greater things” (Jn. 12:11). Jesus had a high bar of expectation for his very ordinary disciples. We should too.

Among Jesus’ expectations for his disciples was that they multiply disciple makers (Matt. 28:18-20). The guys in my discipleship group – the Navy Seal, the horseshoer, and the former drug addict who was homeless a few years ago – reached a tipping point in our discipleship process a few weeks ago. Up until then, I had led our group through Mark 1-8. Now, they are taking turns leading the group through Mark 9-16. They knew this was coming. They committed to it upfront – not only to leading our group halfway through but also to leading their own discipleship group once we are done. Tim, who led our group last week, said, “I thought this was going to be easy, but it is a lot more involved than I thought.” We prayed, he led, and he did a great job! But he learned an important lesson – it is a big step-up to go from being discipled to making disciples. It reminded me that I must not expect less of Jesus’ people than he did.

As we have focused on being ordinary people and discipling ordinary people in our local congregation, men and woman of average talent have become the champions of disciple making for our church. Bob, who is a retired salesman in his eighties, is leading four discipleship groups and is constantly recruiting people to join other groups. Mickey, Bob’s wife, discipled Dalila last year, and now Dalilia is on fire leading her own group of ladies this year. Jason, a young husband and dad who works as a carpenter, is discipling two men this year after being discipled himself last year. Their enthusiasm is infectious – and disciple making has begun multiplying in our congregation because of them!

Our church has been learning about the importance of the ordinary over the last few years. And it was a breakthrough moment when the veil was lifted and we realized Jesus discipled ordinary people, we are ordinary people, he is calling us to disciple ordinary people, and ordinary people make great disciple makers. So, how about you? Are you open to discipling people who are different from you? Are you helping people learn to hear Jesus’ voice and obey his teaching in the power of the Holy Spirit? Are you clearly communicating to those you disciple that Christ calls them to be multiplying disciple makers? The beautiful thing about being an ordinary person and making disciples of ordinary people is that Jesus’ extraordinariness shines most brightly through humble ordinariness (2 Cor. 12:9). May God richly bless you as you make disciples of ordinary people.

By Ben Sobels

Ben Sobels is Senior Pastor at Cypress Community Church in Salinas, California. Ben and his wife, Joni, have five children. He graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary with a Master of Theology degree. Cypress is committed to being a discipleship community who worships Jesus, loves one another, and serves the world.

Find the original article at www.discipleship.org.
Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash

Fostering a Disciple

As we seek to disciple every child in our geography, several challenges immediately present themselves. Possibly the largest epidemic that we face is the breakdown in our society of the family unit. How do we effectively represent the gospel to every child when there are literally hundreds of children who have no home?

This is where you can make a difference! The foster system of South Carolina does not have enough grounded-homes for ungrounded-kids.

What if you could become a foster family and provide daily access to the gospel for a child in need of a loving family?

This might sound like a long shot, but it’s actually not as difficult as it might seem. Think of it like this: If one family from every three churches stepped up to adopt, we would solve this problem in Columbia!

The need is not insurmountable. And the one Church in Columbia could solve it overnight – well, almost. After some background checks and other details…

If you are open to considering how God might use you in this dilemma, plan to attend this free event on May 7th. You can register here: http://fostering-hope-columbia-sc.eventbrite.com.

Tuesday, May 7th, 6-8pm
CIU, 7435 Monticello Road, Columbia, SC 29203

See/download attached poster for full details.

Download, print and distribute. Register and invite your friends to do the same.

Can One Person Make A Difference?

During the Eighteenth Century, many Quakers were wealthy, conservative slave owners. John Woolman, a Quaker, dedicated his adult life to eliminating the practice of slavery among his brethren. He spent more than twenty years visiting Quakers along the East Coast. He did not criticize people, nor did he make them angry. He merely asked questions like, “What does it mean to be a moral person? What does it mean to own a slave? What does it mean to will a slave over to one’s children?” Driven by his vision, he influenced a whole generation of people to give up slavery.

By 1770, a century before the Civil War, not one Quaker owned a slave.

Certain individuals, like John Woolman, have that kind of irresistible and flaming influence that brings out the best in others. Their influence is like a fire on a cold, lifeless piece of iron.  While many attempts have been made to break the iron, all have failed. But the small, soft flame curls around the iron, embracing it, and never leaving the iron until it melts under the flame’s irresistible influence.

What characterizes influencing people?

  • An undeniable dream.

Woolman’s vision was to rid the world of slavery. All influencing individuals know where they are going. They have a clear sense of direction.  A reason for living. A clearly defined purpose for life. Victor Hugo, the French poet, wrote, “There is nothing like a dream to create the future.”

  • An unflappable tenacity.

Woolman devoted much of his adult life to his dream. Influencing people refuse to quit.  Nothing will discourage them. They possess remarkable staying power. They know that life cannot deny itself to the person who gives life his all. When faced with a mountain they keep on striving until they climb over, find a pass through, tunnel underneath or turn the mountain into a gold mind.

  • An undaunted faith.

Woolman believed that his fellow Quakers would see the moral light. Influencing people will not allow their principles to be compromised. They are never victims of circumstances, but victors over circumstances. They are optimistic about tomorrow.  They know that when one door is shut another door that is bigger and wider a little farther down the road will be opened.

  • An unyielding compassion.

Woolman saw that all people regardless of skin color deserved to be free. Influencing individuals demonstrate a care and compassion for the people they are around. Love keeps the flame of influence burning brightly. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said it this way: “The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.”

John Woolman possessed each of these characteristics. Because of his efforts the Quakers were the first religious group to denounce and renounce slavery. In recounting this story, Robert Greenleaf pointed out:

One wonders what would have been the result if there had been fifty John Woolmans, or even five, traveling the length and breadth of the Colonies in the eighteenth century persuading people, one by one, with gentle nonjudgmental argument that a wrong should be righted by individual voluntary action. Perhaps we would not have had the war with its 600,000 casualties and the impoverishment of the South, and with the resultant vexing social problem that is at fever heat 100 years later with no end in sight. We know now, in the perspective of history, that just a slight alleviation of the tension in the 1850s might have avoided the war. A few John Woolmans, just a few, might have made the difference.

Woolman hated the idea of slavery and found it intolerable. He was determined to change the minds of his fellow Quakers. His vision, courage, and persistence transformed his church, his state, and ultimately his country.

One person can influence a marriage, family, school, church, community, nation, and world. What if each Christ-follower had such passion and conviction? What if each church had such a desire to change the world? Who will be the John Woolman in this generation?

This article is shared in its full, original form from The South Carolina Christian Chamber of Commerce (http://blog.sc-c3.org).

To get more information and join the South Carolina Christian Chamber of Commerce (SC-C3) movement, go to www.sc-c3.org and become a member today!Rick Ezell is the Managing Partner of Employee Care of America (www.employeecareofamerica.com) that provides chaplaincy services to businesses in South Carolina and a writer. Read more of this writings at www.rickezell.com.

A Resource for Life-on-Life Disciplemaking

Discipleship, by definition, is something you do with others. It’s about life-on-life investment between people – pushing (and sometimes pulling) one another to be conformed to the likeness of Christ. Our desire is to come alongside your disciple-making efforts.

Introducing the Mission Columbia Discipleship App!

You can login and get started here: app.missioncolumbia.org.

There are many great features about this mobile interface, but our favorite is the ability to connect multiple people together around the specific Action Points that each person is focused on in their spiritual walk.

The app is a hub of disciple-making conversation between you and those with whom you’re connected. Think of it as the Go-To place for supporting your disciples in their walk.

We’ve put together a simple “How To” Guide for navigating the App.

Our hope is that this useful tool will simplify your disciple-making initiatives. And, It’s FREE! Give it a try at app.missioncolumbia.org.

Shifting From Having Answers To Asking Questions

Think about this: Jesus asked questions approximately ten times more often than He gave answers. His disciple-making efforts were not about having answers, but about asking questions that caused His followers to reconsider their beliefs. What if we became disciples of Jesus who make disciples with Him by valuing tough questions more than having great answers?

Younger generations are becoming more honest with their deepest questions. I fear that our evangelism efforts in recent years have focused too much on having the right answers and not enough on the actual questions people have. Moreover, I suggest that we have even missed the actual questions we ourselves wrestle with in our own heads and hearts. This is a serious issue that we must change.

Questions—at least the ones that relate to spiritual seeking—are linked to people’s insecurities and emotions. This is true of those who already believe the Gospel, as well as those who have yet to believe. We all have questions. Relational disciple making welcomes those questions. Informational discipleship addresses those questions intellectually at best, and ignores them at worst.

In his recent book, This Is Our Time, Trevin Wax suggests that people nowadays interpret truth through their insecurities and emotions. In our efforts to deliver the Good News to the new generations around us, we have not presented the Gospel in ways that acknowledge and respect insecurities and emotions. We have also tended away from relational presence—enough to even discern a friend’s insecurities and emotional dilemmas. As a result, we have not addressed the questions people are actually asking.

I am concerned that the church today has become really good at giving answers to questions very few people are even asking. We seem to have become really bad at presenting the Gospel in a way that even relates to the circumstances and dilemmas people face.

Consider the examples of Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus in John 3 and the woman at the well in John 4. Nicodemus was insecure about what his fellow religious leaders would think if they knew he wanted to learn from Jesus. So he went to Jesus at night. Nicodemus emotionally struggled to believe how the unseen God would actually make all things new again. As a result, Jesus asked him questions to help him wrestle with the notion of being born again.

The woman at the well was insecure about what her fellow townspeople thought of her in general, so she came to the well during off times of the day. She struggled to believe how Jerusalem’s God could ever love her, especially when Jerusalem’s people didn’t love her. As a result, Jesus asked her questions to help her wrestle with the notion that God loved her no matter where she lived or who lived with her.

How can you and I do this? Well, there’s no silver bullet, but I suggest four practices to help you make this shift as you relationally engage with those who welcome you into their lives:

1. Listen attentively for people’s actual questions.

Someone may be ashamed of a secret habit that has enslaved them for years, or they may have been physically or sexually abused as a child. They may even feel overwhelmingly inadequate. For others, a close friend may have betrayed them. Still others may be struggling in their marriage. You’ll find that parents are exhausted and feel like they never hear from God when they cry out to Him. Someone may wonder how the church can have so many divisions and denominations and still assert that their way has reconciled us as one with God. I could go on and on, but remember that everyone has a unique question. Listen for it.

2. Value hearing someone’s personal story rather than sharing your own.

It’s good to be able to tell your own story, but if we don’t become authentically curious about someone else’s story and listen to it attentively, how will we know how to translate the Gospel for them? I have personally seen and heard multiple accounts of how God’s Spirit enlightened someone to discover the answers for which they were searching because a believing friend simply took the time to understand their story.

So ask the Lord to help you become good at sincerely asking questions in order to learn the details of someone’s life. If someone welcomes you as a friend, be a friend who values where they’ve been and who they are becoming more than where you’ve been and who you’re becoming. Your turn to share will come, and you will likely find the connection points between your story and theirs, but learn to value their story above yours.

3. Love graciously, allowing people plenty of time and space to belong before they ever believe.

Don’t let your disciple-making efforts be halted because you are trying to change someone’s behavior (that’s not your job anyway). You can, however, cultivate a loving friendship where someone has plenty of time and space to be changed by Jesus. That’s what He does: He makes all things new.

In Jesus’ style of discipleship, relational disciple making is not limited to those who already believe, nor is it limited to those who already know how to act. Gracious, loving, belonging, welcoming friendships make this type of relationship possible. The space of grace and the environment of kindness lead to repentance.

4. Let people see your questions and insecurities, too.

Be honest with yourself about your own insecurities and questions. Never stop reminding yourself of the Gospel of Jesus and the Truth it declares about your own identity, security, and purpose. Let other people see your emotional struggles, because acting like we have all the answers cripples our disciple-making efforts. Listen to the questions people actually ask because this posture brings friendships to life and moves us from informational discipleship to relational disciple making.

Originally written by Jason C. Dukes; edited for Mission Columbia.
Find the full article here.

Used with permission from discipleship.org.

What Apple Gets About Disciple-Making

By Craig Etheredge

Not long ago I was in the Apple store working on my iPhone. A young lady was helping me—she probably looked to be in her early twenties. While she was working on my phone I starting talking to her about her job. I asked, “Have you been working here long?”

“No, not really. Just a few months,” she said.

“Do you like working here?”

Her face lit up, “Oh yes!”

Seeing her enthusiasm, I decided to inquire further. “Well, I bet it’s hard, learning all this stuff. You must have had to sit through hours and hours of training, right?”

She smiled. “Not really.”

I asked, “So how did you learn to do what you do?”

She said, “Well, I went online and saw there were job openings, so I registered for a two-day seminar hosted at a local hotel ball room. After two days, they placed me in a store and assigned me to a mentor. For the first few weeks I just wore regular clothes and the mentor wore the bright Apple shirt and lanyard. I just watched everything he did and took it all in. After dealing with a customer, he would ask me if I had questions or we would discuss that particular situation.”

By this time she had stopped working on my phone and was completely into this story, so I kept listening.

“Then,” she said, “after a while, I put on the Apple shirt and lanyard and my mentor dressed in regular clothes and he followed me around as I took care of customers. If I had a problem, he was ready to jump in and help. When he thought I was ready, he just set me free to go on my own. Now I’m prepared to do the same things with another trainee!” She smiled.

I did, too. Because what she described was disciple making, Jesus style. Jesus took in curious men, drew them to faith, let them shadow him for a season, and then he cut them loose to go on their own. When they were ready, he watched them reproduce into seventy-two more men. His plan was so simple and yet so profound. Jesus drew men to himself, let them follow him until they got it, and then he sent them out to reproduce.

When I look at the modern church, I’m grieved that somehow along the way we’ve missed the strategy of Jesus. Somehow we traded making disciples for making decisions. Somehow we traded a clear process with running programs. We stopped moving people through stages of maturity and started shuffling people between services. Somehow along the way we thought that if we got people to worship and in a group that they would figure it all out and become strong, when in fact, the church has become weak.

We’ve forgotten that the church exists to train up men and women who will take the gospel to their offices and neighborhoods and the world, and we started just trying to fill seats. What Jesus gave us was simple, reproducible, and powerful.

Apple gets it. Do you?

Written by Craig Etheredge. Used by permission from discipleship.org.

Craig is a gifted communicator, author, and Bible teacher. Craig and his family moved to Colleyville, Texas in July 2007 to serve as lead pastor of First Baptist Church where he currently serves. In addition to leading the local church, Craig is involved in the local community serving on the Board of Directors for Baylor Hospital, Grapevine, Board of Directors of Christian Counseling Associates, Mission Board SBTC, Chaplain for the Colleyville Police Department, and football chaplain for Birdville High School. He has a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Craig met his wife, Liz, in the fifth grade and they have two daughters, Leah Beth and Abbie.

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

Who Should I Be Discipling?

Hopefully we don’t need to convince you that you should be discipling someone in the faith. But many of us struggle to translate that desire into action. “How do I find someone to disciple? Who should I be discipling?”

If you find yourself asking this question, you’ve got some work to do. There are lots of Christ-followers who long for a mentor, a coach, a guide, a disciple-er – but they don’t know how to connect with such a person. The fact that you’re asking the question, “Who should I be discipling?” is evidence that God is at work in your life. Trust him to bring someone into your life with the same desire.

This is often where many of us get stuck. Consider the following steps:

  1. Pray Specifically – Pray for two minutes each day asking God to lead you to a person who is FATR (Faithful, Available, Teachable, and Ready-to-Reproduce Christ’s qualities in others). Remember, Jesus prayed all night before He called the twelve!
  2. Think Strategically – Look first in your home church and your current spheres of involvement or influence. God may have already put a person right under your nose. Is there a FATR person in your small group? Bible study? Ministry Team? Workplace? Sports/Hobbies? Neighborhood?
  3. Seek Counsel – Once you have the names of 2-3 potentials, ask a spiritual mentor, small group leader, pastor, or elder if they can envision you in walking the spiritual journey together. These “counselors” can help you to think wisely with your head as well as with your heart.
  4. Ask the Person – Humbly ask the person if he/she would consider entering into a discipleship relationship for a season in order to build each other up in Christ. Remember, you are NOT inviting them to join a program, nor are you just asking them to have a meal or coffee once in a while. This is an intentional relationship to spur one another on to become more like Christ. It might go something like this:

Would you consider walking together for a season of discipleship in order to help each other grow to become more like Christ? We would meet face-to-face at least every other week for the purpose of mutual encouragement, challenge, accountability, and prayer. I would suggest we bring focus to our times by thinking in terms of UP, IN, and OUT relationships. If that sounds like it would be meaningful, would you pray about it and talk to your spouse? Let’s chat next week and see what you’re thinking. The only pressure you should feel is that of the Holy Spirit moving you forward.

If the person says “No” – There are a variety of reasons that a person may not be ready to commit to a discipleship relationship with you. Don’t be discouraged. In fact, you may have to ask several people before God leads you to a hungry one. Just consider this a part of your personal growth as a disciple! At this point, go back to step 1 and work through the process again (or revisit your list of 2-3, and ask the next one).

If the person says “Yes” – Schedule a time and talk more in-depth about what this season of discipleship might look like. As you meet, ask her/him to summarize their understanding of what they are committing to. Correct or clarify where needed. Then, if you are still on the same page, rock on!

Pray for your next disciple right now!

>> For more resources like this, visit www.missioncolumbia.org and click on the Resource menu link. (This article is modified and used by permission from Focused Living, 2018.)

What If?

Thank you for joining the mission to make disciples. We hope to encourage you monthly with a written or video article as we walk this journey together.

Our passion is to herald the mission of God where He has placed us — in our city where we live, work and play. To reach every man, woman and child, we need each church and each follower of Christ engaged in the mission.

How can we encourage the priesthood of every believer? How can we balance the gathering and scattering of the people within our churches? We get the gathering part, but how would our churches change if we truly valued the scattering part?

Here’s a short video with a challenge to stretch your practical understanding of God’s mission. Our hope is that you will be encouraged to live the gospel when you’re scattered, not just when you’re gathered.