- You can Multiply Yourself through Others, by Waylon Moore
- Multiplying Your Efforts, by Walter Hendrichsen
- Selection, by Robert E. Coleman
- Association, by Robert E. Coleman
- Meeting the Needs of the Newborn or Little Child (1 Thes 2:7-10), by Jim Petersen
- Transformation from Within, by Jim Petersen
- Study Questions
In order to take any of the Christian Ministry classes, you must first complete the readings in this packet and answer the study questions. When you have finished the study questions, turn them into the Xenos office. You can do this in two ways:
- Mail the completed study questions to:
Xenos Christian Fellowship
Attn: Class Registrar
1340 Community Park Drive
Columbus, OH 43229
- Email the completed study questions to the class registrar (email@example.com). Be sure to include your own name and address so we know who you are.
In addition to reading the articles and answering the study questions, you must also have the recommendation of your home group leader in order to take a Christian Ministry class.
Why readings on discipleship?
Our prayer is that you will begin teaching someone else how to follow Christ as you deepen your own relationship with him. The articles in this packet are designed to sharpen your vision for how that could occur.
God has designed each of us uniquely, but also calls on regular, consistent, and committed effort in certain areas regardless of our gifts, burdens, or personality traits. Discipleship is one of those areas. Jesus commissioned every Christian to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).
Making disciples involves teaching others to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2). In order for home groups to grow and multiply, new leaders and workers must emerge. But this doesn’t often happen spontaneously – individuals must be trained in personal discipleship relationships. As we teach someone to follow Christ, obey him and teach others to do the same, God’s kingdom grows. This is why personal discipleship is central to our mission.
The following articles on discipleship have been gathered from some of the best books on the topic. They summarize the basic skills needed to begin a discipleship ministry. Read the study questions at the end of this document and answer them as you read through each article. We hope this exercise, coupled with what you’re learning in our classes, will help you to being obeying Christ and making disciples.
You Can Multiply Yourself Through Others
From Multiplying Disciples, by Waylon Moore.
"All of God's giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on God being with them." - Hudson Taylor
You can begin spiritually multiplying yourself today, and start a dynamic process which could reach beyond your generation and into the next century. This would be your part in accomplishing Christ’s Great Commission to go into all the world and make disciples (see Mt 28:18-20). That is what this book is all about: spiritual multiplication through the process of disciplemaking, with the ultimate objective of reaching the world for Christ. This is something anyone can do anywhere, but the best place to start is in your local church.
Consider the example of a Sunday school teacher in the 1800s named Edward Kimball, who began making disciples in his class. The results are with us right now in the 1980s. In fact, you may even be a direct result of Kimball's spiritual multiplication.
Edward Kimball was committed to reaching every lost youth in his Sunday school class. He was particularly burdened for one backward fellow, fresh from the farmlands, who had begun working in a nearby shoe shop. One day Kimball went to the shop and, in the back room, persuaded the young man to accept Christ as his personal Savior. When describing the youth, Kimball said, "I have seen few persons whose minds were spiritually darker when he came into my Sunday school class, or one who seemed more unlikely ever to become a Christian of clear decided views, still less to fill any sphere of extended public usefulness."'
But the young man, Dwight L. Moody, went on to become known as a pioneer in modern techniques of mass evangelism and as a Spirit-anointed preacher whose message touched millions in North America and Europe. Actually, it was during Moody's crusades in England when Kimball's chain of spiritual multiplication was mightily carried forward. More than one English pastor rejected the fiery visitor's approach to evangelism. One of them, the Reverend F. B. Meyer, was not taken at all with the crudeness of the unlettered, blunt evangelist. Yet even his heart melted when he heard two ladies, both Sunday school teachers in his own church, tell how they had been influenced by Moody's commitment to win all of the members of his own Sunday school class to Christ. Those two women did reach all the members in their classes. Renewed by the Holy Spirit through the commitment of these women, Meyer joined in Moody's evangelistic meetings with wholehearted enthusiasm. Moody later invited Meyer to the United States. Among those reached by Meyer's Bible teaching ministry was a struggling young preacher named J. Wilber Chapman, whose approach was so transformed that he, too, went into an evangelistic ministry.
Though he was used by God all over the world in bringing people to Christ, it was Chapman's own crusade advance man, a former clerk in the Young Men's Christian Association, who was to carry on Kimball's chain of multiplication. His name was Billy Sunday. Sunday preached across North America with spectacular results. His crusade in Charlotte, North Carolina, produced some converts who organized a prayer group that met for years, praying that God would continue the ministry of evangelism through the people of Charlotte. This group of praying men was led by the Holy Spirit to plan a city-wide crusade. They invited Mordecai Ham, the cowboy evangelist, to speak. During one meeting, some teenagers were among those reached for Christ. They included a young man named Billy Graham.
Only heaven will reveal the actual number of people reached through the chain of multiplying disciples as a result of Edward Kimball's humble efforts in the 1800s in his local church. Christ calls us to be disciples who will multiply spiritually. Multiplication should be the result of conscious application of biblical principles, not just coincidence. Whether you're a lay man or woman, pastor, or other Christian worker, this book is written to help you multiply yourself through many future generations by making disciples. This ministry will last through all eternity as you invest in the lives of individuals who will, in turn, reach others... who will reach others... who will reach others. You can start in your church today!
Multiplying Your Efforts
From Disciples are Made not Born, by Walter Hendrichsen.
The Principle of Multiplication
Multiplication is one of the foundational laws of the universe. Sheep, cattle, wildlife, trees, flowers, or bacteria — every growing thing operates on a principle of multiplication. Multiplication is God's way of doing things.
In Genesis 1:28 we read, "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" (KJV).
In this verse we find the first commandment that God ever gave to man, a commandment to multiply. This is about the only commandment that God has given us that we have ever been able to keep. Man has certainly multiplied upon the face of the earth.
Numerically, it works out as simply as this: If parents have two children they maintain the status quo; there is no net growth in the population. When parents have three or more children, then the population begins to multiply. The more children, the faster the multiplication process.
There is a certain cost involved in multiplication. Every parent knows that reproduction is costly. The more children you have, the more it costs to raise them. There are more interpersonal relationships to cope with in the family unit. There are more decisions to be made, greater chance for disease to strike a member of the family. There is a greater chance for heartache or disappointment in one form or another. Certainly more children take more time.
For a salmon, the cost of multiplication is death. A salmon swims upstream, lays its eggs in the sand, and then dies.
Grain also dies to reproduce. Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit" (John 12:24, KJV).
Even in the development of the atomic bomb, a cost was involved. In addition to the tremendous cost in terms of money and other resources, there was the "cost" to the atom itself. It had to be split and broken in order to produce its effect.
The cost involved in multiplication can also be seen in the fact that it is initially slower than the process of addition. This is particularly important as we apply it to fulfilling the Great Commission. Let's say for example that a gifted evangelist is able to lead 1,000 people to Christ every day. Each year he will have reached 365,000 people, a phenomenal ministry indeed.
Let's compare him with a disciple who leads not 1000 people a day to Christ, but only one person a year. At the end of one year, the disciple has one convert; the evangelist, 365,000. But suppose the disciple has not only led his man to Christ, but has also discipled him. He has prayed with him, taught him how to feed himself from the Word of God, gotten him into fellowship with like-minded believers, taken him out on evangelism and showed him how to present the gospel to other people. At the end of that first year, this new convert is able to lead another man to Christ and follow him up as he himself has been followed up.
At the start of the second year, the disciple has doubled his ministry—the one has become two. During the second year, each man goes out and leads not 1,000 people per day to Christ, but one person per year. At the end of the second year, we have four people. You can see how slow our process is. But note, too, that we do not have only converts, but disciples who are able to reproduce themselves. At this rate of doubling every year, the disciple, leading one man per year to Christ, will overtake the evangelist numerically somewhere in the nineteenth year. From then on, the disciple and his multiplying ministry will be propagating faster than the combined ministry of dozens of gifted evangelists.
This is not to say that there is no need for the ministry of an evangelist, but that an evangelist by himself can never complete the task of reaching a lost and dying world.
It's like the dad who offered his two sons the choice of either taking one dollar a week for fifty-two weeks or one cent the first week, and the amount doubled every week for fifty-two weeks. One son took the dollar. The other son said, "Well, Dad, I will try the penny to see what will happen." We all know who wins: the son who takes the one penny and has it doubled each week. The degree to which he wins is absolutely astounding. By the end of the year, the son who began with the penny will have enough money to pay the United States national debt and still have plenty left over for himself!
God wants the same principles that are at work in the physical realm to be applied in the spiritual realm. The reason the church of Jesus Christ finds it so difficult to stay on top of the Great Commission is that the population of the world is multiplying while the church is merely adding. Addition can never keep pace with multiplication.
Some time ago there was a display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. It featured a checkerboard with 1 grain of wheat on the first square, 2 on the second, 4 on the third, then 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, etc. Somewhere down the board, there were so many grains of wheat on the square that some were spilling over into neighboring squares—so here the demonstration stopped. Above the checkerboard display was a question, "At this rate of doubling every square, how much grain would you have on the checkerboard by the time you reached the 64th square7"
To find the answer to this riddle, you punched a button on the console in front of you, and the answer flashed on a little screen above the board: "Enough to cover the entire subcontinent of India 50 feet deep."
Multiplication may be costly and, in the initial stages, much slower than addition, but in the long run, it is the most effective way of accomplishing Christ's Great Commission . . . and the only way.
Quality Is the Key to Multiplication
The key to success in the multiplying process is training the disciple in depth. Each time one person fails to "reproduce spiritually," you cut your results in half.
One of Adolf Hitler's objectives was the destruction of the Jewish race, but as determined as his endeavor was, he failed. The multiplication process had gone on for too long by the time he appeared on the scene. If, on the other hand, he could have been with Abraham on Mount Moriah, and taken that knife and plunged it into Isaac, he would have destroyed the entire Jewish race with one blow.
Today, nuclear reaction is used for producing energy. This use will grow increasingly during the coming years. The nuclear reaction is controlled by introducing a series of graphite rods into the reaction chamber. This slows down the multiplication process, preventing an explosion. As the church of Jesus Christ seeks to "explode" through multiplication, Satan is constantly trying to insert his "rods" to slow us down. One way Satan does this is indicated by Jesus Christ: "And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the Word, and it becometh unfruitful" (Mark 4:19, KJV).
Note what the apostle Paul says to Timothy, his son in the faith, "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2, KJV). Four generations are clearly seen in Paul, Timothy, faithful men, and others also. Multiplication is assured only when there is proper training of faithful people who can carry the training process into succeeding generations.
It is easy to see that the training process needed to ensure multiplication is slow and costly. It takes a tremendous amount of time. And whenever you endeavor to insert a shortcut, you jeopardize the whole process. That is why the ministry of multiplying disciples has never been popular. Everybody likes the results it produces, but few are willing to pay the price to obtain the results.
A friend of mine and I were talking about a discipling ministry, and he said, "I am in the process of discipling fifty men right now." At that point I realized that he and I were talking about two entirely different things, for it is impossible to train fifty people at the same time. Disciples cannot be mass-produced.
While on earth, our Lord Jesus Christ was God in the form of man. He was endowed with every spiritual gift, He did not have any of our weaknesses or failings, nor did He have the heavy responsibilities of being married or running a business; His time was devoted completely to the ministry. And yet, with all of these advantages, He felt that He could effectively train only twelve; and even out of those twelve, to really major in three. If twelve was the number our Lord decided on, I doubt if we, with all our limitations, can plan to effectively disciple fifty at one time.
In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, he explains why he has embarked on a certain course of action by saying, "Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia" (2 Cor. 2:12-13, KJV).
When Paul came to Troas, not only did the Lord provide an opportunity to preach the gospel, but also people who were ready to listen. But Paul had a problem—he did not know the whereabouts of his co-laborer Titus. Because of this, he turned down the opportunity to reach the whole city of Troas and left in search of his brother Titus.
We would tend to think he made the wrong decision because he was allowing sentiment to rule his judgment. But perhaps finding Titus was more important than preaching to the whole city of Troas just then. Why? Because if Paul reached Titus and trained him, he would double the effectiveness of his ministry, and together they could turn around and reach two such cities as Troas instead of just one.
The importance of the individual in the process of multiplication can also be seen in Acts 8. Philip (believed to be one of the deacons chosen earlier, Acts 6) went to the city of Samaria and preached the gospel. "And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did" (v. 6, KJV). The ministry was so successful that some of the leaders from Jerusalem came up to witness it and give it their blessing.
Right in the middle of this great evangelistic effort, the Spirit of God called Philip and sent him down to the Gaza desert to talk to one man—an Ethiopian eunuch (vv. 26-27). If Philip could multiply his ministry through the eunuch, then possibly this Ethiopian could become the key to reaching all of Ethiopia.
The discipling ministry lacks the glamour and excitement of the platform or large meeting type of ministry. But we can hardly overemphasize the importance of investing in the right kind of person, one of vision and discipline, totally committed to Jesus Christ, willing to pay any price to have the will of God fulfilled in his life. Sticking with a person and helping him to overcome the obstacles involved in becoming a disciple is a long and arduous task.
So often I have heard the excuse, "I just don't have the gift to do this kind of ministry." Or, "God just hasn't called me to this kind of ministry." The Great Commission given to us in Matthew 28:19-20 says, "Go therefore, and teach [make disciples of] all nations." It takes a disciple maker to make disciples. Historically the church has believed that the Great Commission was not given to a select few people, but to all believers. If this is true, then all believers can be disciple makers. Or, to put it another way, being involved in disciple-making transcends gifts and calling. Irrespective of our gifts or our calling, all men and women should be disciple makers.
Everyone has the gifts necessary to be a disciple maker. You may be a teacher, or a housewife, or an engineer, but irrespective of your vocation, you are also to be a disciple maker. If you are not a disciple maker, then I would suggest that you do the same thing that Timothy did with Paul, or that Peter, James, and John did with the Lord Jesus. Make yourself available to a disciple maker who can help you to become a disciple maker. Latch on to them. Learn from them the "how to" involved in developing those qualities needed to spiritually reproduce yourself in the lives of others.
Every Christian should ask himself two questions: "Who is my Paul? Who is the person I am learning from, who is helping me to become a multiplying disciple maker?" And secondly, "Where is my Timothy? Where is the person I am in turn helping to become a multiplying disciple maker?"
From The Master Plan of Evangelism, by Robert E. Coleman
“He chose from them twelve.” - Luke 6:13
Men Were His Method
It all started by Jesus calling a few men to follow Him. This revealed immediately the direction His evangelistic strategy would take. His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men the multitudes would follow. Remarkable as it may seem, Jesus started to gather these men before He ever organized an evangelistic campaign or even preached a sermon in public. Men were to be His method of winning the world to God.
The initial objective of Jesus' plan was to enlist men who could bear witness to His life and carry on His work after He returned to the Father. John and Andrew were the first to be invited as Jesus left the scene of the great revival of the Baptist at Bethany beyond the Jordan (John 1:35-40). Andrew in turn brought his brother Peter (John 1:41, 42). The next day Jesus found Philip on His way to Galilee, and Philip found Nathaniel (John 1:43-51). There is no-evidence of haste in the selection of these disciples; just determination. James, the brother of John, is not mentioned as one of the group until the four fishermen are recalled several months later by the Sea of Galilee (Mark 1:19; Matt. 4:21). Shortly afterward Matthew is bidden to follow the Master as Jesus passed through Capernaum (Mark 2:13, 14; Matt. 9:9; Luke 5:27, 28). The particulars surrounding the call of the other disciples are not recorded in the Gospels, but it is believed that they all occurred in the first year of the Lord’s ministry.1
As one might expect, these early efforts at soul winning had little or no immediate effect upon the religious life of His day, but that did not matter greatly. For as it turned out these few early converts of the Lord were destined to become the leaders of His church that was to go with the Gospel to the whole world, and from the standpoint of His ultimate purpose, the significance of their lives would be felt throughout eternity. That's the only thing that counts.
Men Willing to Learn
What is more revealing about these men is that at first they do not impress us as being key men. None of them occupied prominent places in the Synagogue, nor did any of them belong to the Levitical priesthood. For the most part they were common laboring men, probably having no professional training beyond the rudiments of knowledge necessary for their vocation. Perhaps a few of them came from families of some considerable means, such as the sons of Zebedee, but none of them could have been considered wealthy. They had no academic degrees in the arts and philosophies of their day. Like their Master, their formal education likely consisted only of the Synagogue schools. Most of them were raised in the poor section of the country around Galilee.
Apparently the only one of the twelve who came from the more refined region of Judea was Judas Iscariot. By any standard of sophisticated culture then and now they would surely be considered as a rather ragged aggregation of souls. One might wonder how Jesus could ever use them. They were impulsive, temperamental, easily offended, and had all the prejudices of their environment. In short, these men selected by the Lord to be His assistants represented an average cross section of the lot of society in their day.2 Not the kind of group one would expect to win the world for Christ.
Yet Jesus saw in these simple men the potential of leadership for the Kingdom. They were indeed "unlearned and ignorant" according to the world's standard (Acts 4:13), but they were teachable. Though often mistaken in their judgments and slow to comprehend spiritual things, they were honest men, willing to confess their need. Their mannerisms may have been awkward and their abilities limited, but with the exception of the traitor, their hearts were big. What is perhaps most significant about them was their sincere yearning for God and the realities of his life- The superficiality of the religious life about them had not obsessed their hope for the Messiah (John 1:41, 45, 49; 6:69). They were fed up with the hypocrisy of the ruling aristocracy. Some of them had already joined the revival movement of John the Baptist (John 1:35). These men were looking for someone to lead them in the way of salvation. Such men, pliable in the hands of the Master, could be molded into a new image— Jesus can use anyone who wants to be used.
Concentrated Upon a Few
In noting this fact, however, one does not want to miss the practical truth of how Jesus did it. Here is the wisdom of His method, and in observing it, we return again to the fundamental principle of concentration upon those He intended to use. One can not transform a world except as individuals in the world are transformed, and individuals cannot be changed except as they are molded in the hands of the Master. The necessity is apparent not only to select a few laymen, but also to keep the group small enough to be able to work effectively with them.
Hence, as the company of followers around Jesus increased, it became necessary by the middle of His second year of ministry to narrow the select company to a more manageable number. Accordingly Jesus "called His disciples, and He chose from them twelve, whom also He named apostles" (Luke 6:13-17; cf., Mark 3:13-19). Regardless of the symbolical meaning one prefers to put upon the number twelve,3 it is clear that Jesus intended these men to have unique privileges and responsibilities in the Kingdom work.
This does not mean that Jesus' decision to have twelve apostles excluded others from following Him, for as we know, many more were numbered among His associates, and some of these became very effective workers in the Church. The seventy (Luke 10:1); Mark and Luke, the Gospel revelators; James, His own brother (I Cor. 15:7; Gal. 2:9,12; cf., John 2:12 and 7:2-10), are notable examples of this. Nevertheless, we must acknowledge that there was a rapidly diminishing priority given to those outside the twelve.
The same rule could be applied in reverse, for within the select apostolic group Peter, James and John seemed to enjoy a more special relationship to the Master than did the other nine. Only these privileged few are invited into the sick room of Jarius' daughter (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51); they alone go up with the Master and behold His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:2; Matt. 17: 1; Luke 9:28); and amid the olive trees of Gethsemane casting their ominous shadows in the light of the full Passover moon, these members of the inner circle waited nearest to their Lord while He prayed (Mark 14:33; Matt. 26:37). So noticeable is the preference given to these three that had it not been for the incarnation of selflessness in the Person of Christ, it could well have precipitated feelings of resentment on the part of the other apostles. The fact that there is no record of the disciples complaining about the pre-eminence of the three, though they did murmur about other things, is proof that where preference is shown in the right spirit and for the right reason offence need not arise.4
The Principle Observed
All of this certainly impresses one with the deliberate way that Jesus proportioned His life to those He wanted to train. It also graphically illustrates a fundamental principle of teaching: that other things being equal, the more concentrated the size of the group being taught, the greater the opportunity for effective instruction.5
Jesus devoted most of His remaining life on earth to these few disciples. He literally staked His whole ministry upon them. The world-could be indifferent toward Him and still not defeat His strategy. It even caused Him no great-concern when His followers on the fringes of things gave up their allegiance when confronted with the true meaning or the Kingdom (John 6:66). But He could not bear to have His close disciples miss His purpose. They had to understand the truth and be sanctified by it (John 17:17), else all would be lost. Thus He prayed "not for the world," but for the few God gave Him "out of the world" (John 17:6, 9).6 Everything depended upon their faithfulness if the world would believe on Him "through their word" (John 17:20).
Not Neglecting the Masses
It would be wrong, however, to assume on the basis of what has here been emphasized that Jesus neglected the masses. Such was not the case. Jesus did all that any man could be asked to do and more to reach the multitudes. The first thing He did when He started His ministry was to identify Himself boldly with the great mass revival movement of His day through baptism at the hands of John (Mark 1:9-11; Matt. 3:13-17; Luke 3:21, 22), and He later went out of His way to praise this work of the great prophet (Matt. 11:7-15; Luke 7:24-28). He Himself continuously preached to the crowds that followed His miracle-working ministry. He taught them. He fed them when they were hungry. He healed their sick and cast out demons among them. He blessed their children.
Sometimes the whole day would be spent ministering to their needs, even to the extent that He had "no leisure so much as to eat" (Mark 6:31). In every way possible Jesus manifested to the masses of humanity a genuine concern. These were the people that He came to save—He loved them, wept over them, and finally died to save them from their sin. No one could think that Jesus shirked mass evangelism.
In fact, the ability of Jesus to impress the multitudes created a serious problem in His ministry. He was so successful in expressing to them His compassion and power that they once wanted “to take Him by force, to make Him King” (John 6:15). One report by the followers of John the Baptist said that “all men” were clamoring for His attention (John 3:26). Even the Pharisees admitted among themselves that the world had gone after Him (John 12:19), and bitter as the admission must have been, the chief priests concurred in this opinion (John 11:47,48). However one looks at it, the Gospel record certainly does not indicate that Jesus lacked any popular following among the masses, despite their hesitating loyalty, and this condition lasted right on down to the end. Indeed, it was the fear of this friendly mass feeling for Jesus that prompted His accusers to capture Him in the absence of the people (Mark 12:12; Matt. 21:26; Luke 20:19).
Had Jesus given any encouragement to this popular sentiment among the masses, He easily could have had all the Kingdoms of men at His feet. All He had to do was to satisfy the temporal appetites and curiosities of the people by his supernatural power—Such was the temptation presented by Satan in the wilderness when Jesus was urged to turn stones into bread and to cast Himself down from a pinnacle of the temple that God might bear Him up (Matt. 4:1-7; Luke 4:1-4, 9-13). These spectacular things would surely have excited the applause of the crowd. Satan was not offering Jesus anything when he promised Him all the Kingdoms of the world if the Master would only worship him (Matt. 4:8-10). The arch deceiver of men knew full well that Jesus automatically would have this if He just turned His concentration from the things that mattered in the eternal Kingdom.7
But Jesus would not play to the galleries. Quite the contrary. Repeatedly He took special pains to allay the superficial popular support of the multitudes which had been occasioned by His extraordinary power (e.g., John 2:23-3:3; 6:26, 27). Frequently He would even ask those who were the recipients of His healing to say nothing about it the authorities were afraid, and sought to capture him at night, in order to prevent mass demonstrations by the easily aroused multitudes.8 Likewise, with the disciples following His transfiguration on the Mount "He charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen" until after His resurrection (Mark 9:9; Matt, 17:9). On other occasions when applauded by the crowd, Jesus would slip away with His disciples and go elsewhere to continue His ministry.9
His practice in this respect sometimes rather annoyed His followers who did not understand His strategy. Even his own brothers and sisters, who yet did not believe on Him, urged Him to abandon this policy and make an open show of Himself to the world, but He refused to take their advice (John 7:2-9).
Few Seemed to Understand
In view of this policy, it is not surprising to note that few people were actually converted during the ministry of Christ, that is, in any clear-cut way. Of course, many of the multitudes believed in Christ in the sense that His divine ministry was acceptable,10 but comparatively few seemed to have grasped the meaning of the gospel. Perhaps His total number of devoted followers at the end of His earthly ministry numbered little more than the 500 brethren to whom Jesus appeared after the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:6), and only about 120 tarried in Jerusalem to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:15). Though this number is not small considering that His active ministry extended only over a period of three years, yet if at this point one were to measure the effectiveness of His evangelism by the number of His converts, Jesus doubtless would not be considered among the most productive mass evangelists of the church.
Why? Why did Jesus deliberately concentrate His life upon comparatively so few people? Had he not come to save the world? With the glowing announcement of John the Baptist ringing in the ears of multitudes, the Master easily could have had an immediate following of thousands if He wanted them. Why did He not then capitalize upon His opportunities to enlist a mighty army of believers to take the world by storm? Surely the Son of God could have adopted a more enticing program of mass recruitment. Is it not rather disappointing that one with all the powers of the universe at His command would live and die to save the world, yet in the end have only a few ragged disciples to show for His labors?
The answer to this question focuses at once the real purpose of His plan for evangelism. Jesus was not trying to impress the crowd, but to usher in a Kingdom. This meant that He needed men who could lead the multitudes. What good would it have been for His ultimate objective to arouse the masses to follow Him if these people had no subsequent supervision nor instruction in the Way? It had been demonstrated on numerous occasions that the crowd was an easy prey to fake gods when left without proper care. The masses were like helpless sheep wandering aimlessly without a shepherd (Mark 6:34; Matt. 9:36; 14:14;). They were willing to follow almost anyone that came along with some promise for their welfare, be it friend or foe. That was the tragedy of the hour—the noble aspirations of the people were easily excited by Jesus, but just as quickly thwarted by the deceitful religious authorities who controlled them. The spiritually blind leaders of Israel (John 8:44; 9:39-41; 12:40; cf., Matt. 23:1-39), though comparatively few in number,11 completely dominated the affairs of the people. For this reason, unless Jesus' converts were given competent men of God to lead them on and protect them in the truth they would soon fall into confusion and despair, and the last state would be worse than the first. Thus, before the world could ever be permanently helped men would have to be raised up who could lead the multitudes in the things of God.
Jesus was a realist. He fully realized the fickleness of depraved human nature as well as the Satanic forces of this world amassed against humanity, and in this knowledge He based His evangelism on a plan that would meet the need. The multitudes of discordant and bewildered souls were potentially ready to follow Him, but Jesus individually could not possibly give them the personal care they needed. His only hope was to get men imbued with His life who would do it for him. He concentrated Himself upon those who were to be the beginning of this leadership. Though He did what He could to help the multitudes. He had to devote Himself primarily to a few men, rather than the masses, in order that the masses could at last be saved. This was the genius of His strategy.
The Principle Applied Today
Yet, strangely enough, it is scarcely comprehended in practice today. Most of the evangelistic efforts of the church begin with the multitudes under the assumption that the church is qualified to conserve what good is done. The result is our spectacular emphasis upon numbers of converts, candidates for baptism, and more members for the church, with little or no genuine concern manifested toward the establishment of these souls in the love and power of God, let alone the preservation and continuation of the, work.
Surely if the pattern of Jesus at this point means anything at all it teaches that the first duty of a pastor as well as the first concern of an evangelist is to see to it that a foundation is laid in the beginning upon which can be built an effective and continuing evangelistic ministry to the multitudes. This will require more concentration of time and talents upon fewer men in the church while not neglecting the passion for the world. It will mean raising up trained leadership "for the work of ministering" with he pastor (Ephesians 4:12).12 A few people so dedicated in time will shake the world for God. Victory is never won by the multitudes.
Some might object to this principle when practiced by the Christian worker on the ground that "favoritism is shown toward a select group in the church. But be that as it may, it is still the way that Jesus concentrated His life, and it is necessary if any permanent leadership is to be trained. Where it is practiced out of a genuine love for the whole church, and due concern is manifested toward the needs of the people, objections can at least be reconciled to the mission being accomplished. However, the ultimate goal must be clear to the worker, and there can be no hint of selfish partiality displayed in his relationships to all. Everything that is done with the few is for the salvation of the multitudes.
A Modern Demonstration
This principle of selectivity and concentration is engraved in the universe, and will bring results no matter who practices it, whether the church believes or not. It is surely not without significance that the--Communists, always alert to what works, adopted in a large measure this method of the Lord as their own. Using it to their own devious end they have multiplied from a handful of zealots seventy-five years ago to a vast conspiracy of followers that enslave nearly half the peoples of the world. They have proved in our day what Jesus demonstrated so clearly in His day that the multitudes can be won easily if they are just given leaders to follow. Is not the spread of this vicious Communistic philosophy, in some measure, a judgment upon the church, not only upon our flabby commitment to evangelism, but also upon the superficial way that we have tried to go about it?
Time for Action
It is time that the church realistically face the situation. Our days of trifling are running out. The evangelistic program of the Church has bogged down on nearly every front. What is worse, the great missionary thrust of the Gospel into new frontiers has largely lost its power. In most lands the enfeebled church is not even keeping up with the exploding population. All the while the Satanic forces of this world are becoming more relentless and brazen in their attack. It is ironic when one stops to think about it. In an age when facilities for rapid communication of the Gospel are available to the Church as never before, we are actually accomplishing less in winning the world for God than before the invention of the horseless carriage.
Yet in appraising the tragic condition of affairs today, we must not become frantic in trying to reverse the trend overnight. Perhaps that has been our problem. In our concern to stem the tide, we have launched one crash program after another to reach the multitudes with the saving Word of God. But what we have failed to comprehend in our frustration is that the real problem is not with the masses—what they believe, how they are governed, whether they are fed a wholesome diet or not. All these things considered so vital are ultimately manipulated by others, and for this reason, before we can resolve the exploitation of the people we must get to those whom the people follow.
This, of course, puts priority on winning and training those already in responsible positions of leadership. But if we can't begin at the top, then let us begin where we are, and train a few of the lowly to become the great. And let us remember too, that one does not have to have the prestige of the world in order to be greatly used in the Kingdom of God. Anyone who is willing to follow Christ can become a mighty influence upon the world providing, of course, this person has the proper training himself.
Here is where we must begin just like Jesus. It will be slow, tedious, painful and probably unnoticed by men at first, but the end result will be glorious, even if we don't live to see it. Seen this way, though, it becomes a big decision in the ministry. One must decide where he wants his ministry to count—in the momentary applause of popular recognition or in the reproduction of his life in a few chosen men who will carry on his work after he has gone Really it is a question of which generation we are living for.
But we must go on. It is necessary now to see how Jesus trained His men to carry on His work. The whole pattern is part of the same method, and we can not separate one phase from the other without destroying its effectiveness.
- One qualification of an apostle mentioned in Acts 1:21,22 was that he should have been with Jesus, "beginning from the baptism of John, unto the day that he was received up." Although this does not tell us from what point in John's baptismal work we are to reckon (certainly not at the beginning or from the Lord's own baptism), it does argue for an early association of all the apostles with Jesus, perhaps dating from the time of John the Baptist's imprisonment. See Samuel J. Andrews, op. cit., p. 268; cf., Alfred Edersheim, op. cit.; I. p. 521.
- Many authors have sought to give us a picture of the twelve apostles. Among those which treat them all, in addition to those already cited in earlier footnotes, the following provide popular reading: George Matheson, The Representative Men of the New Testament (New York: Eaton & Mains, 1905); Edward Augustus George, The Twelve (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1916); W. Mackintosh Mackay, The Men Whom Jesus Made (New York: George H. Doran Co., 1924); J. W. G. Ward, The Master and the Twelve (New York: George H. Doran Co, 1924); Charles R. Brown, The Twelve (New York: Harper, 1926); francis Witherspoon, The Glorious Company (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1928); Asbury Smith, The Twelve Christ Chose (New York: Harper, 1958); William Barclay, The Master's Men (London: SCM Press, 1959); William Sanford LaSor, Great Personalities of the New Testament (Westwood, N. J.; Fleming H. Revell, 1961).
- Various opinions have been advanced as to why arbitrarily twelve disciples were designated apostles, for He could have selected more or gotten along with less, but probably the most plausible theory is that the number suggests a spiritual relationship of the apostolic company with the Messianic Kingdom of God. As Edwin Schell put it: "Twelve is the number of the spiritual Israel. Whether observed in the twelve patriarchs, in the twelve tribes, or in the twelve foundations of the twelve gates of the heavenly Jerusalem, the number twelve everywhere symbolizes the indwelling of God in the human family—the interpenetration of the world by divinity," Schell, op. cit., p. 26; cf., Bruce, op. cit., p. 51. It is altogether possible that the Apostles saw in the number a more literal meaning, and built up around it at first delusive hopes of the restoration of Israel in a political sense. They certainly were aware of their own place within the twelve, and were careful to fill up the vacancy created at the loss of Judas (Acts 1:15-26; cf., Matt. 19:28). One thing is certain, however, the number served to impress upon those chosen their importance in the future work of the Kingdom.
- Henry Latham suggests that the selection of these three served to impress upon the whole company the need for "self abnegation." In his analysis it actually was intended to show the apostles that "Christ gave what charge He would to whom He would; that in God's service it is honor enough to be employed at all; and that no man is to be discouraged because he sees allotted to another what appears to be a higher sphere of work than his own." Latham, op. cit., p. 325.
- The principle of concentration exemplified in the ministry of Jesus was not new with Him. It had always been God's strategy from the beginning. The Old Testament records how God selected a comparatively small nation of Israel through which to effect His redemptive purpose for mankind. Even within the nation, the leadership was concentrated usually within family lines, especially the Davidic branch of the tribe of Judah.
- The High Priestly Prayer of Christ in the 17th chapter of John is especially meaningful in this connection. Of the 26 verses in the prayer, 14 relate immediately to the twelve disciples (John 17:6-19).
- This is not intended to suggest that this was all that was involved in the temptation, but only to emphasize that the temptation appealed to the strategy of Jesus for world evangelism as well as to the spiritual purpose of His mission. Another interpretation of this temptation experience from the standpoint of evangelistic method, somewhat similar, is given by Colin W. Williams in his book. Where in the World? (New York: National Council of Churches of Christ), pp. 24-27.
- Instances of this are the case of the cleansed leper (Mark 1:44,45; Matt. 8:4; Luke 5:14-16); those freed from unclean spirits by the Sea of Galilee (Mark 3:11,12); Jarius after seeing his daughter raised from the dead (Mark 5:42,43; Luke 8:55,56); the two blind men restored to sight (Matt. 9:50); and with the blind man in Bethsaida (Mark 8:25,26).
- Some examples of this are in John 1:29-43; 6:14,15; Mark 4:35,36; 6:1,45,46; 7:24-8:30; Matt. 8:18,23; 14:22,23; 15:21,39; 16:4; Luke 5:16; 8:22; and others.
- Examples of this are John 2:23-25; 6:30-60; 7:31-44; 11:45, 46; 12:11,17-19; Luke 14:25-35; 19:36-38; Matt. 21:8-11; 14-17, Mark 11:8-11.
- The Pharisees and Sadducees were the principle leaders of Israel, outside of the ruling Roman forces, and the whole religious, social, educational, and to a limited degree, political life of the approximately 2,000,000 people in Palestine was moulded by their action. Yet the number of persons belonging to the Pharisaic guild, composed mostly of rabbis and well-to-do lay folk, according to the estimate of Josephus (Ant., XVII, 2, 4), did not exceed 6,000; while the total number of Sadducees, made up mostly of the chief priests and Sanhedrin families in Jerusalem, probably did not amount to more than a few hundred. See Anthony C. Deane, The World Christ Knew (London: Guild Books, 1944), pp. 57, 60; Edersheim, op. cit; I, p. 311. When it is considered that this small privileged group of less than 7,000 people, representing about one-third of one percent of the population of Israel, guided the spiritual destiny of a nation, it is not difficult to see why Jesus spoke so much about them, while also teaching His disciples the strategic need for better leadership.
- This idea is brought out clearly in the translation of Ephesians 4:11 and 12 in the New English Bible, which reads: "And these were His gifts: some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip God's people for work in His service, to the building up of the body of Christ." Other modem versions bring out the same essential meaning, including the Weymouth, Phillips, Wuest, Berkeley, Williams and the Amplified New Testament. The three clauses in verse 12 are made successively dependent upon the other, with the last being the climax. According to this interpretation, Christ gave a special gift to some officials in the Church for the purpose of perfecting the saints to do the service they have each to perform in the one great goal of building up Christ's body. The ministry of the Church is seen as a work involving all members of the body (compare 1 Cor. 12:18 and 2 Cor. 9:8). Luther brings out the same thing in his commentary on "Ephesians," as also does Weiss, Meier, DeWitte, and Salmond. For a good exposition of this verse from this point of view, see the volume on Ephesians in The Expositor's Greek Testament (Grand Rapids: Win. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.), pp. 330-331. Other views are ably presented by Abbott in "Ephesians and Colossians," International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T. T. Clark, 1897), pp. 119, 120; and Lange, "Galatians-Colossians," Commentary on the Holy Scriptures (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), pp. 150-151. A practical treatment of this overall idea may be found in Gaines S. Dobbins' book, A Ministering Church (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1960), Ch. II, "A Church Needs Many Ministers," pp. 15-29; and from still a different angle in Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Church Life (Washington, D. C.: International Students Press, 1962).
From The Master Plan of Evangelism, by Robert E. Coleman
“Lo, I am with you always.” – Matt. 28:20
He Stayed With Them
Having called his men, Jesus made it a practice to be with them. This was the essence of His training program —just letting His disciples follow Him.
When one stops to think of it, this was an incredibly simple way of doing it. Jesus had no formal school, no Seminaries, no outlined course of study, no periodic membership classes in which He enrolled His followers. None of these highly organized procedures considered so necessary today entered at all into His ministry. Amazing as it may seem, all Jesus did to teach these men His way was to draw them close to Himself. He was His own school and curriculum.
The natural informality of this teaching method of Jesus stood in striking contrast to the formal, almost scholastic procedures of the scribes. These religious teachers of His day insisted upon their disciples adhering strictly to certain rituals and formulas of knowledge, whereby they were distinguished from others; whereas Jesus asked only that His disciples follow Him. Knowledge was not communicated by the Master in terms of laws and dogmas, but in the living personality of One who walked among them. His disciples were distinguished, not by outward conformity to certain rituals, but by being with Him, and thereby participating in His doctrine (John 18:19).
To Know Was to be With
It was by virtue of this fellowship that the disciples were permitted "to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God" (Luke 8:10). Knowledge was gained by association before it was understood by explanation. This was no better expressed than when one of the band asked, "How know we the way," reflecting his frustration at the thought of the Holy Trinity. Whereupon Jesus replied: "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:5,6), which was to say that the point in question already was answered, if the disciples would but open their eyes to the spiritual reality incarnated in their midst.
This simple methodology was revealed from the beginning by the invitation that Jesus gave to those men whom He wanted to lead. John and Andrew were invited to "come and see" the place where Jesus stayed (John 1:39). Nothing more was said, according to the Record. Yet what more needed to be said. At home with Jesus they could talk things over and there in private see intimately into His nature and work. Philip was addressed in the same essential manner, "Follow me" (John 1:43). Evidently impressed by this simple approach, Philip invited Nathaniel also to "come and see" the Master (John 1:46). One living sermon is worth a hundred explanations. Later when James, John, Peter and Andrew were found mending their nets, Jesus reminded them in the same familiar words, "Come ye after Me," only this time adding the reason for it, "and I will make you fishers of men" (Mark 1: 17; cf.. Matt. 4:19; Luke 5:10). Likewise, Matthew was called from the seat of custom with the same invitation, "Follow me" (Mark 2:14; Matt. 9:9; Luke 5:27).
The Principle Observed
See the tremendous strategy of it. By responding to this initial call believers in effect enrolled themselves in the Master's school where their understanding could be enlarged and their faith established. There were certainly many things which these men did not understand—things which they themselves freely acknowledged as they walked with Him; but all these problems could be dealt with as they followed Jesus. In His presence they could learn all that they needed to know.
This principle which was implied from the start was given specific articulation later when Jesus chose from the larger group about Him the twelve "that they might be with Him" (Mark 3:14; cf., Luke 6:13). He added, of course, that He was going to send them forth "to preach, and to have authority to cast out devils," but often we fail to realize what came first. Jesus made it clear that before these men were "to preach" or "to cast out devils" they were to be "with Him." In fact, this personal appointment to be in constant association with Him was as much a part of their ordination commission as the authority to evangelize. Indeed, it was for the moment even more important, for it was the necessary preparation for the other.
Closer as Training Ends
The determination with which Jesus sought to fulfill this commission is evident as one reads through the subsequent Gospel accounts. Contrary to what one might expect, as the ministry of Christ lengthened into the second and third years He gave increasingly more time to the chosen disciples, not less.1
Frequently He would take them with Him in a retreat to some mountainous, area of the country where He was relatively unknown seeking to avoid publicity as far as possible. They took trips together to Tyre and Sidon to the Northwest (Mark 7:24; Matt. 15:21); to the "borders of Decapolis" (Mark 7:31; cf., Matt. 15:29) and "the parts of Dalmanutha" to the Southeast of Galilee (Mark 8:10; cf., Matt. 15:39); and to the "villages of Caesarea Philippi" to the Northeast (Mark 8:27; cf., Matt. 16:13). These journeys were made partly because of the opposition of the Pharisees and the hostility of Herod, but primarily because Jesus felt the need to get alone with His disciples. Later He spent several months with His disciples in Perea east of the Jordan (Luke 13:22-19:28; John 10:40-11:54; Matt. 19:1-20:34; Mark 10:1-52). As opposition mounted there, Jesus "walked no more openly among the Jews, but departed thence into the country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim; and there He tarried with His disciples" (John 11:54). When at last the time came for Him to go to Jerusalem, He significantly "took the twelve disciples apart" from the rest as He made His way slowly to the city (Matt. 20:17; cf., Mark 10:32).
In view of this, it is not surprising that during passion week Jesus scarcely ever let His disciples out of His sight. Even when He prayed alone in Gethsemane, His disciples were only a stone's throw away (Luke 22:41). Is not this the way it is with every family as the hour of departing draws near? Every minute is cherished because of the growing realization that such close association in the flesh soon will be no more. Words uttered under these circumstances are always more precious. Indeed, it was not until time began to close in that the disciples of Christ were prepared to grasp many of the deeper meanings of His presence with them (John 16:4). Doubtless this explains why the writers of the Gospels were constrained to devote so much of their attention to these last days. Fully half of all that is recorded about Jesus happened in the last months of His life, and most of this in the last week.
The course followed by Jesus through life was supremely portrayed in the days following His resurrection. Interestingly enough, every one of the ten post-resurrection appearances of Christ was to His followers, particularly the chosen apostles.2 So far as the Bible shows, not a single unbelieving person was permitted to see the glorified Lord. Yet it is not so strange. There was no need to excite the multitudes with His spectacular revelation. What could they have done? But the disciples who had fled in despair following the crucifixion needed to be revived in their faith and confirmed in their mission to the world. His whole ministry evolved around them.
And so it was. The time which Jesus invested in these few disciples was so much more by comparison to that given to others that it can only be regarded as a deliberate strategy. He actually spent more time with His disciples than with everybody else in the world put together. He ate with them, slept with them, and talked with them for the most part of His entire active ministry. They walked together along the lonely roads; they visited together in the crowded cities; they sailed and fished together in the Sea of Galilee; they prayed together in the deserts and in the mountains; and they worshipped together in the Synagogues and in the Temple.
Still Ministering to the Masses
One must not overlook, too, that even while Jesus was ministering to others, the disciples were always there with Him. Whether He addressed the multitudes that pressed upon Him, conversed with the Scribes and Pharisees which sought to ensnare Him, or spoke to some lonely beggar along the road, the disciples were close at hand to observe and to listen. In this manner, Jesus' time was paying double dividends. Without neglecting His regular ministry to those in need, He maintained a constant ministry to his disciples by having them with Him. They were thus getting the benefit of everything He said and did to others plus their own personal explanation and counsel.
It Takes Time
Such close and constant association, of course, meant virtually that Jesus had no time to call His own. Like little children clamoring for the attention of their father, the disciples were always under foot of the Master. Even the time He took to go apart to keep His personal devotions was subject to interruption at the disciples' need (Mark 6:46-48; cf., Luke 11:1). But Jesus would have it no other way. He wanted to be with them. They were His spiritual children (Mark 10:24; John 13:33;21:5), and the only way that a father can properly raise a family is to be with them.
The Foundation of Follow-Up
Nothing is more obvious yet more neglected than the application of this principle. By its very nature, it does not call attention to itself, and one is prone to overlook the commonplace. Yet Jesus would not let His disciples miss it. During the last days of His journey, the Master especially felt it necessary to crystallize in their thinking what He had been doing. For example, once turning to those who had followed Him for three years, Jesus said: "Ye (shall) bear witness because ye have been with me from the beginning" (John 15:27). Without any fanfare and unnoticed by the world, Jesus was saying that He had been training men to be His witnesses after He had gone, and His method of doing it was simply by being "with them." Indeed, as He said on another occasion, it was because they had "continued with" Him in His temptations that they were appointed to be leaders in His eternal Kingdom where they would each eat and drink at His table, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Luke 22:28-30).
It would be wrong to assume, however, that this principle of personal follow-up was confined only to the apostolic band. Jesus concentrated Himself upon these few chosen men, but to a lesser and varying degree He manifested the same concern with others that followed Him. For example. He went home with Zaccheus after his conversion on the street of Jericho (Luke 19:7), and He spent some time with him before leaving the city. After the conversion of the woman at the well in Samaria, Jesus tarried two extra days in Sychar to instruct the men of that community who "believed on Him because of the word of the woman who testified," and because of that personal association with them "many more believed," not because of the woman's witness, but because they heard for themselves the Master (John 4:39-42). Often one who received some help from the Master would be permitted to join the procession following Jesus, as for example, Bartimaeus (Mark 10:52; Matt. 20:34; Luke 18:43). In such a way many attached themselves to the apostolic company, as is evidenced by the seventy with Him in the later Judean ministry (Luke 10:1, 17). All of these believers received some personal attention, but it could not be compared to that given to the twelve.
Mention should be made, too, of that small group of faithful women who ministered to Him out of their substance, like Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42), Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, "and many others" (Luke 8:1-3). Some of these women were with Him to the end. He certainly did not refuse their gracious kindness, and often took the occasion to help them in their faith. Nevertheless, Jesus was well aware of the sex barrier, and although He welcomed their assistance. He did not try to incorporate these ladies into the select company of His chosen disciples. There are limitations in this kind of follow-up which one must recognize.
But apart from the rules of propriety, Jesus did not have the time to personally give all these people, men or women, constant attention. He did all that He could, and this doubtless served to impress upon His disciples the need for immediate personal care of new converts, but He had to devote Himself primarily to the task of developing some men who .in turn could give this kind of personal attention to others.
The Church as a Continuing Fellowship
Really the whole problem of giving personal care to every believer is only resolved in a thorough understanding of the nature and mission of the church. It is well here to observe that the emergence of the church principle around Jesus, whereby one believer was brought into fellowship with all others, was the practice in a larger dimension of the same thing that He was doing with the twelve.3 Actually it was the church that was the means of following up all those who followed Him. That is, the group of believers became the body of Christ, and as such ministered to each other individually and collectively.
Every member of the community of faith had a part to fulfill in this ministry. But this they could only do as they themselves were trained and inspired. As long as Jesus was with them in the flesh, He was the Leader, but thereafter, it was necessary for those in the church to assume this leadership. Again this meant that Jesus had to train them to do it, which involved His own constant personal association with a few chosen men.
When will the church learn this lesson? Preaching TO me masses, although necessary, will never suffice in the, work of preparing leaders for evangelism. Nor can occasional prayer meetings and training classes for Christian / workers do this job. Building men is not that easy. It requires constant personal attention, much like a father gives to His children. This is something that no organization or class can ever do. Children are not raised by proxy. The example of Jesus would teach us that it can only be/ done by persons staying right with those they seek to lead.
The church obviously has failed at this point, and failed tragically. There is a lot of talk in the church about evangelism and Christian nurture, but little concern for personal association when it becomes evident that such work involves the sacrifice of personal indulgence. Of course, most churches insist on bringing new members through some kind of a confirmation class, which usually meets an hour a week for a month or so. But the rest of the time the young convert has no contact at all with a definite Christian training program, except as he may attend the worship services of the church and the Sunday School. Unless the new Christian, if indeed he is saved, has parents or friends who will fill the gap in a real way, he is left entirely on his own to find the solutions to innumerable practical problems confronting his life, any one of which could mean disaster to his faith.
With such haphazard follow-up of believers, it is no wonder that about half of those who make professions and join the church eventually fall away or lose the glow of a Christian experience, and fewer still grow in sufficient knowledge and grace to be of any real service to the Kingdom. If Sunday services and membership training classes are all that a church has to develop young converts into mature disciples, then they are defeating their own purpose by contributing to a false security, and if the person follows the same lazy example, it may ultimately do more harm than good. There is simply no substitute for getting with people, and it is ridiculous to imagine that anything less short of a miracle can develop strong Christian leadership. After all, if Jesus, the Son of God, found it necessary to stay almost constantly with His few disciples for three years, and even one of them was lost, how can a church expect to do this job on an assembly line basis a few days out of the year?
The Principle Applied Today
Clearly the policy of Jesus at this point teaches us that whatever method of follow-up the church adopts, it must have as its basis a personal guardian concern for those entrusted to their care. To do otherwise is essentially to abandon new believers to the Devil.
This means that some system must be found whereby every convert is given a Christian friend to follow until such time as he can lead another. The counselor should stay with the new believer as much as possible, studying ' the Bible and praying together, all the while answering questions, clarifying the truth, and seeking together to help others. If a church does not have such committed counselors willing to do this service, then it should be training some. And the only way they can be trained is by giving them a leader to follow.
This answers the question of how it is to be done, but it is necessary now to understand that this method can accomplish its purpose only when the followers practice what they learn. Hence, another basic principle in the Master's strategy must be understood.
- Some scholars, like Henry Latham, have contended that prior to ordination of the apostles Jesus' first concern was with the multitudes, while afterward the emphasis shifted to the disciples, and especially to the Twelve. Henry Latham, op. cit., pp. 188-269. Whether such a decisive division of concern is justified from the Record or not, the fact is clear that Jesus did increasingly give Himself to the apostolic company as time went on.
- This fact was impressively recognized by the disciples, as Peter said: "Him God raised up the third day, and gave Him to be made manifest, not to all the people, but unto witnesses that were chosen before of God, even to us who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead" (Acts 10:40, 41).
- One can not help but observe in this connection that the references to "the disciples" as a corporate body are much more frequent in the Gospels than are references to an individual disciple. / T. Ralph Morion even goes further with this analogy and con-l tends that most of the references to individuals refer to failures l on their part, while the references to the group as a whole more often speak of their joy, understanding, or achievement. When it is remembered that these accounts were written under inspiration by the disciples, and not Jesus, it is quite significant that they would set forth their own place in such terms. See T. Ralph Morton, op. cit., pp. 24-30, 103. We need not infer from this that the disciples were unimportant as individuals, for such was not the case, but it does impress us with the fact that the disciples understood their Lord to look upon them as a body of believers being trained together for a common mission. They saw themselves through Christ first as a church, and secondly as individuals within that body.
Meeting the Needs of the Newborn or Little Child (1 Thes 2:7-10)
From Lifestyle Discipleship, by Jim Petersen
STAGES OF GROWTH
The Bible identifies three stages of growth on the road to maturity. Paul refers to the newborn/little child stage, the childhood stage, and the brother/peer stage. The Apostle John identifies the same three stages a bit differently. He talks about children, young men, and fathers. We will refer to these as the newborn/child stage, the youth stage, and the mature brother/sister stage.
The objective is to help a person move from wherever he or she might be to where he or she grows into the full stature of Christ. Of course, we'll never get there. One of the greatest gifts God has given us is the infinite opportunity for spiritual growth. But however much we have matured, there is always more beyond. It is in this that we find the adventure of living. There will always be new, unexplored dimensions of His person beckoning to us. The possibilities go off the chart.
Paul's purpose for these "children" was that they would experience the benefits of salvation, and demonstrate its fruit. His attitude as he gave himself to moving newborns and children in the faith toward this purpose was that of a mother caring for her little children. He said, "We were gentle among you like a mother caring for her little children."6 The word translated "caring," according to Vine's Expository Dictionary, means "to soften by heat, to keep warm as of birds covering their young with feathers, to cherish with tender love, to foster with tender care."
The image at this stage is of a nurse-mother, tenderly fostering her own children. She is not concerned now to correct every mistake. She doesn't load her children with information. Rather, she is busy making them feel secure in her love and acceptance.
A primary form of instruction at this stage is that of example. In 1 Thessalonians 2:10 Paul relates "how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you." Example is so powerful that it drowns out everything else we say. This is true not just for spiritual infants; it is a rule of life all the way down the line.
If we want our children to learn good table manners, we practice good table manners. If we want them to keep their rooms in order, we keep the rest of the house in order. When they shout at us, we don't shout at them to stop shouting!
If we want new believers to assume the habit of going to the Scriptures daily, we need to be doing it ourselves. If we want them to take their needs to God in prayer, they must see us doing it. Whatever it is that we want new believers to do, we must be doing it ourselves. At the newborn/little child stage, our chief means of influencing is modeling.
The relationship that grows out of this is truly unique. Something special happens that will enrich both you and those you minister to for the rest of your lives. First Thessalonians 2 ends with Paul saying, "Indeed, you are our glory and joy" (verse 20). Ask anyone who has given his or her life to others in this way and he or she will tell you that this is true. Ask anyone about his or her spiritual parent and you will find that that person holds a special place in his or her heart.
The Needs of the Newborn/Little Child
We have seen how two primary needs are protection and love. Together with these, young believers need nourishing—the pure milk of the word. They need to taste the Lord's goodness, that is, His grace. An understanding of grace is the starting point for all spiritual progress. Grace is an intrinsic part of the foundation we described in the previous chapter. John supports this, saying, "I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of His name."
The newborn also needs his family. Indeed, everything Paul writes in this passage is directed to the many. The text is in the plural, except where he specifies otherwise. New Christians need individual personal love and a caring community of brothers and sisters. Later in the epistle, Paul writes, "Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." This community can have many forms, but at this stage it must be characterized by intimacy, safety, and caring.
MEETING THE NEEDS OF THE CHILD, OR YOUTH (1 THESSALONIANS 2:10-12)
The second relationship described in this chapter is that of a father with his children. In this stage, Paul changed both his methods and his objective.
The objective of the nurse-mother could be described as giving her children the heart or desire to grow—a heart for Christ. The objective of the "father" is to equip the child or youth to live a life worthy of God, to live as a citizen of His Kingdom ought to live.
In this stage the young believer needs to learn to assume the responsibility for his own life and ministry. Paul appealed to these young believers to "conduct themselves." It was their responsibility to govern their own behavior. Thus, at this stage people need a little more space, more room to try and fail. And they need a little more responsibility. They need experience.
The approach of the father is described as "encouraging, comforting and urging." According to Vine's Expository Dictionary, the word translated "encouraging" means "to call, to beseech, to urge one to pursue some course of conduct. Comfort means "to soothe, console, encourage, stimulating to the earnest discharge of duties." The word translated "urging" means to testify through life and action the worth and effects of faith.' Together they defined the expected course of action for the growing believer. He urged them to discipline themselves to "discharge their duties," and he soothed and encouraged them in their attempts.
The Apostle John's observations about "young men" fit perfectly into what we are saying. He says, "I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one."
Developing the Child/Youth
Many people at this point in their growth could greatly benefit from some consistent, purposeful person-to-person help. The desire is there. A vision for what God could do through them is beginning to bud. They have tried a few things on their own and have discovered how little they know. They are motivated to get a good grasp of the Scriptures so that they can become more fruitfully involved with the people around them.
At this juncture, an invitation to spend extra time together will often be exactly what they're looking for. The purpose for these times needs to be clear. The focus should not be on resolving personal problems. There are other, more effective; environments for that. These encounters are for the purpose of equipping the young believer to be effective as an insider. It is to help him or her develop the character and competence necessary to fulfill his or her calling. Personal needs and problems will certainly come up along the way, and they will, of course, need to be attended to. But the relationship should not revolve around problem solving.
Individual personal attention is a very powerful form of ministry. It is also costly. We have only so many hours at our disposal and the tendency, in our attempt to economize time, is to try to do everything through group or congregational forms. If we succumb to that temptation, at the end of the day, that's what we'll have: groups and congregations. But there will be no backbone of strong men and women to give energy and direction to the rest.
MINISTERING WITH BROTHERS AND SISTERS (1 THESSALONIANS 1:6-10, 2:13-16)
The third way Paul related to the Thessalonian Christians was as a brother. In the nurse-mother stage his purpose was to see them grow in a healthy manner, enthusiastic about the things they were experiencing through their faith. In the brother/sister stage he was endeavoring to get them to live as mature Christians who were assuming the responsibility for their own Christian life and ministry. This third stage is marked by evidences that they have indeed embraced both the message and the task. They have gotten on board with Paul to work together for the growth of the gospel.
He commended them because they had "received the word ... as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you." Then he went on to commend them for their faithfulness in the midst of persecution for the sake of the gospel. They embraced the message and they embraced the task.
Paul treated these people as his peers. He saw them as standing shoulder to shoulder with him. Because of their maturity he felt free to move on and leave it all to them. Not that he would ever forget them or that they would ever forget him. He never stopped praying for them and he kept in touch through letters, personal visits, and the visits of special gifted co-laborers, but he moved on.
It is important to observe the changing role of the spiritual parent as the young Christian matures. It goes from the casual but attentive role of the mother to a more deliberate father role. This second role requires a more spacious environment. Finally, parent and offspring are relating and working together as peers.
STAYING ON TRACK
I find I need to periodically step back from what I'm doing with people to stop and reflect. I need to regain my understanding of the situation of each person. I do this by setting aside a day about every six months to get alone to pray and think. I get out of the house and away from the office and head for a favorite spot at the top of a hill.
I begin by praying for the people I feel God has brought into my life. As I pray, I attempt to discern what each one needs that I can perhaps provide. I write my thoughts down. I ask four basic questions:
- Where is this person now in his or her walk with Christ? What progress has the person made? What gifts and abilities are becoming evident?
- What is he or she ready for? Jesus said, "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear." We need to be sensitive to timing, to readiness according to their needs, not any agenda of ours.
- What is most urgent? Some problems or needs can wait. Others cannot. Wisdom is knowing which are which. What, I ask, will most help the person go on to the next level of maturity, or break a logjam and get him or her moving again?
- How can I help? This one takes a bit of prayerful creativity. Perhaps the person needs to be thrown into a sink-or-swim responsibility. Perhaps it's the opposite: He might need to be rescued! Perhaps the need is for more time together, or to make plans to get a mutual unbelieving friend into the Scriptures with us.
I've found that God faithfully guides me into answers to these questions as I spend this extended time in prayer. I then proceed over the next months on the basis of the orientation I get on these occasions.
SPIRITUALITY, SPIRITUAL MATURITY—AND TIME
What kind of time are we talking about? How long does it take for a person to grow from spiritual birth to adulthood: a year, two years, five?
An American student worker once explained to me how they worked on a one-year time frame, to correspond with the academic year. He said they needed to major on evangelism in the fall so that they could have their converts by the end of October. That way, they could get people through the Bible study books by spring so that they would be spiritually mature enough to make it through summer vacation. He was obviously operating on his own agenda for the people he ministered to. That was before the spiritual ice age hit the campuses.
How long it takes for people to reach maturity depends upon where they're starting from and the kinds of problems they're living with as they come into the Family. Recently one of the pastors of a large church that is attracting boomers, who are migrating back in, told me it takes a full year of teaching in their new members class to bring these people to where they understand the gospel enough so that they can respond to it. After all, their heritage is gone and so they must start at the beginning. It takes much longer than you may think at first.
So, if your agenda has time tables on it, throw it away. This is especially critical for people we reach as insiders. I have found that it can often take a decade for a person to decide to follow Christ, to manage to overcome the major problems in his or her life, and then, finally, to begin to bear fruit in the lives of the people around him or her. "Oaks of righteousness" do not grow up overnight.
We often make a mistake in this area that causes confusion and does damage to people. I have seen immature Christians, because of their spirituality, put into positions of responsibility they couldn't possibly maintain. They fail to carry the load and then spend the rest of their lives picking up the pieces.
Many times brand-new believers seem to undergo a total transformation from one day to another. They are delivered from their addictions, their lives are filled with new joy, and they boldly tell everyone within earshot about what Christ has done for them. I would not question whether or not this experience is of the Spirit of God. A brand-new believer can and should be spiritual. But a new believer cannot be mature. Maturity comes only with time.
Spirituality is living in dependence on the Spirit of God, and even a new believer-—one who has yet to learn there are two testaments in the Bible—can do that. Spirituality is a matter of humility before God and faith in Christ. But there is more to our walk with God than this. As time goes on, if we do not fuel our faith with an increasing understanding of Christ, it will weaken—and we will not mature.
Immature people are vulnerable. They can be blown about by any kind of teaching that comes along. So our joyful, intrepid day-old believer has not suddenly come into perpetual bliss. There will be plenty of hard times ahead. We need to understand that and expect it.
Spirituality and maturity are distinct from each other, yet they are interdependent. To be spiritual is to be dependent on the Holy Spirit. This dependence should characterize our normal, everyday relationship with Him. The fruit of this relationship is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, and self-control.
Maturity comes in time, out of a spiritual life that is nourished by an increasing knowledge of Christ through experiences with Him. Its fruit is intimacy with Christ, Christlike character, perseverance, and power.
WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
As I began to write this book, some people who heard about it wrote to urge me to address some of the abuses that happen under the guise of discipleship. One person wrote, "I have never really forgiven my apartment leader for the controlling and emotionally damaging way in which she 'discipled' us. I'm dealing with this now."
Another person sent me a copy of a master's thesis on obsessive-compulsive personality disorders. His paper shows how the discipler-disciple relationship can fit into an obsessive-compulsive pattern, as one person exercises inordinate control over another. Over time such an approach generates inner resentments within the dependent personality that often never go away.
I have seen this happen. I have also attended to my share of victims. The process of controlling another person follows a pattern. It happens when an authoritarian person establishes a set of goals of accomplishment and productivity that are later used as measurements. These performance standards determine acceptance or rejection, approval or disapproval. Usually the goals and standards themselves are arbitrarily chosen. They are reflections of the personality of the authoritarian leader, of his or her personal preferences, rather than biblical standards. But even biblical truth can be abused in the same manner. The message that was intended to bring freedom can cause bondage when misapplied.
In the previous chapter we talked about setting our compass on True North. The kind of abuse we're talking about here is an example of what can happen when we use any "compass bearing" other than Christ. Our false "North" can be an authoritarian person. It can be a vision, a task, an organization, a local church—or self-fulfillment. All of these are common, all are a form of idolatry, and they all lead to bondage and disillusionment.
SETTING OUR COMPASS
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.
We have just seen what can happen when we are not focused on Christ. There is only one way to go to reach maturity. It is interesting that this Scripture passage also says there is a course, really a trajectory, marked out for us. We are to follow a certain route. There are three tracks on it.
Nobody arrives at maturity on his own. He needs his brothers and sisters. They need to serve him and he needs to serve them. So we arrive at maturity via community. Then there are things that must be learned along the way. There are truths we need to understand and certain skills we must acquire if we are to know Him and be faithful servants. We need competence to get down the road to maturity.
One more thing is required, perhaps the most important of all, and the most difficult to come by. It is character. Character is what you are. It's what you are in the dark—for better or worse. Godly character keeps on keeping on. It will get you there. So, with our compasses set on Christ and with these three tracks to follow, we have charted our course.
Transformation From Within
From Lifestyle Discipleship, by Jim Petersen.
Everyone has a world view. It is made up of the person's answers to the big questions of existence. How do I understand the universe, its origins? What about the natural world? How did it come about? Why did it come about? What about me? What am I? Why do I exist? What is my notion of God, or gods?
A person's answers to these questions will determine how he or she approaches life. Even if a person writes in "I don't know" to all the questions, the effect will be the same. Not knowing, agnosticism, is then the controlling philosophy. My world view tells me who I am.
A person's world view will determine his values. Values are those things that are of such importance to a person that they motivate his or her behavior. If, for example, I believe I am nothing more than a biological accident, that I, together with the natural world, just happened, that belief will be reflected in the things I attach importance to. Self-fulfillment would certainly be close to the top of the list.
Behavior reflects our world view plus our values. It acts out how we perceive ourselves and what we consider to be important. So if self-fulfillment is a driving value, my behavior will tend in that direction. I will spend a lot of my time and energy pursuing the things that make me feel good about myself.
So world view, values, and behavior serve as a basic framework for understanding ourselves. This illustration is an oversimplification of the human experience and breaks down if we try to use it to explain everything. It is limited in several ways. For one, there are other sources of behavior that didn't make it into this diagram. You'll see what I mean when we get into the next chapter.
But this diagram is useful in helping us understand where, at what levels, change needs to occur if there is to be true transformation. If we don't read more than this into it, we will be okay.
Transformation from within
Where must change take place? One look at the diagram and the answer is obvious. Change must occur at the core, in our world view, in the things we believe. If things change there, values will follow in time, and behavior will not be far behind. Transformation comes from within, and works its way on out. Conversion lays the foundation for changes in our world view.
An understanding of the interplay between world view, values, and behavior helps us know how to minister to others. If we want to see true transformation occur, our efforts should be oriented toward affecting what a person believes and values. That helps us take wrong behavior in stride. We know that in time genuine changes in behavior will appear.
It is interesting to note that this sequence of world view, values, and behavior could serve as the outline for several of the Epistles Paul wrote to the churches, particularly Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. They begin with the big picture. They focus on Christ and His purposes. Then they move to the implications of that picture. Finally, they get very specific on matters of behavior. Let me illustrate with the book of Ephesians.
Paul begins the letter talking about God's grand, eternal purposes. Then he places us in the middle of those purposes, and goes to work on the subject of our identity. We are seated with Christ as members of God's household, he tells us. We are citizens of God's Kingdom, and so on. Anyone who will invest the effort to understand this book of Ephesians will be rewarded with a very robust sense of identity. It gives us a biblical world view.
Then Paul moves to the implications. If this is what is going on, and if this is who you are, he says, then certain things assume primary importance. Knowing Christ better, suffering with Him, being filled with Him, unity with God's people, and growing to spiritual maturity will become your priorities. These are values. They are the things that are of such importance that they motivate us to action.
Paul then moves on to application. He goes into the various ideas of behavior. But notice how each exhortation is framed. He says,
- Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us.
- Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
- Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
- Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church,
- Children, obey your parents in the Lord.
- Slaves, obey… just as you would obey Christ. — and so on.
There must be cause and effect between truth and behavior. Paul shows why the behavior he calls for is reasonable. It is reasonable because of the things we know about Christ and because of who we have become in His hands. This lifts behavior up from being a dutiful adherence to the letter of the law to where it becomes a celebration of love for the One who has loved us so profoundly.
Waylon Moore, “You can Multiply Yourself through Others," p. 15-17 in Multiplying Disciples (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1981)
Walter Hendrichsen, “Multiplying Your Efforts” Disciples are Made not Born, (from: Discipleship, Editor Billie Hanks), p. 83-91.
Robert E. Coleman, “Selection,” p. 21-37 in The Master Plan of Evangelism, (Grand Rapids: Spire Books, 1964).
Robert E. Coleman, “Association,” p. 38-49 in The Master Plan of Evangelism, (Grand Rapids: Spire Books, 1964).
Jim Petersen, “Meeting the Needs of the Newborn or Little Child (1 Thes 2:7-10),” p.57-67 in Lifestyle Discipleship (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1993)
Jim Petersen, “Transformation from Within” p.82-84 in Lifestyle Discipleship (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1993)
You Can Multiply Yourself Through Others
Trace your spiritual lineage as far back as you can... who reached you? who reached the person who reached you? and so on.
Multiplying Your Efforts
Over the long run, why is discipleship a more effective strategy for reaching the world for Christ than preaching to the masses?
Who is your Paul?
Who is or potentially could be your Timothy?
Why is it important to concentrate your ministry efforts on a few?
According to Ephesians 4:11,12, why are some Christians gifted as evangelists, pastors and teachers?
Why are home church meetings and classes inadequate in themselves for establishing young Christians in their faith?
Meeting the Needs of the Newborn or Little Child (1 Timothy 2:7-10)
Identify a young Christian in your home group that you are or potentially could be investing in and answer Petersen’s four basic questions regarding their spiritual development.
What dangers in discipleship does Petersen warn against?
Transformation from Within
What does Petersen mean by “world view”, “values” and “behavior?” Explain how these three terms are related to each other.
Why is it inadequate to address behavior alone in the life of someone we are discipling?