Feb 11, 2012

Making Disciples

I became involved in a discussion a while back with a group of leaders from the street healing movement. Brandon Lee, one of visionaries of the movement asked a group of us how we might go about making disciples after seeing people healed.

Most of us have seen hundreds of people healed on the streets. After they were healed, some were led to a profession of faith in Jesus. But almost none were walking in the power of God as we had hoped.

Preaching and healing can bring people to God. Getting people to make a profession of faith isn’t hard to do. Keeping them in a relationship with God afterward is more problematic. Church polls reveal that many new converts leave the church or lose faith in God shortly afterward. Among those who remain committed followers of Jesus, few can honestly say they're living the kind of life Jesus and his disciples lived. Many leaders have recognized that present models of evangelism and discipleship aren’t working.

In the span of three years Jesus took uneducated men and through frequent demonstration and teaching on the kingdom of God, transformed their lives into ones that looked like His. When the process was done their lives replicated the life of their teacher. This is the goal of making disciples. It’s the replication of the kingdom of God in the lives of others.

The gospel of the kingdom of God is transformational. Wherever the kingdom goes it destroys mindsets that are opposed to the righteousness of God. It frees people from bondage to sin. It empowers them to release miracles into the lives of others. The kingdom of God is not a set of precepts we agree upon, it is the transformational power of God that works in the lives of believers, changing them into the image of Christ.

The question that leaders of the street healing movement are asking is, "How do we go about making disciples in the manner that Jesus did?"

Most of these leaders are young and on fire for God, which probably accounts for their enthusiasm and passion. They’ve seen the effects of powerless preaching and the weakness of a church body sitting in a pew on Sunday lulled to sleep by sermons. They have a vision of a church that’s different. Their vision is of a vibrant, spirit-filled, demon-casting, sickness-destroying, dead-raising army of disciples who do the things Jesus did.

They know that this vision will never become a reality without leaders who can demonstrate the kingdom and train believers to follow after them. This vision requires leaders who have a different mindset. And that puts them at odds with the leaders of most church congregations.

The church tends to reflect the operational values of it's leaders. Although Jesus is the head of the church, the manifestation of Jesus in the world is largely dictated by a handful of leaders, who collectively cast a vision for how the church impacts society. The leaders involved in street healing have noted that few other leaders seem to understand the value of training and equipping believers to go into the streets and do the works of God.

A few years ago I began to re-evaluate what I believed about the church and how it operates. One of the books that challenged my presuppositions was "The Shaping of Things To Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church", by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch.

Frost and Hirsch have three main observations about the church and how it operates. The first is that most churches are attractional instead of missional.

Traditional churches create sacred spaces that are uncomfortable for not-yet-Christians. Our goal is to attract the not-yet-Christians into these spaces. With the attractional church model, evangelism is about inviting people to meetings.

Jesus didn't instruct his disciples to gather in a building and wait for people to come to them. He sent his disciples out into the community. The disciples were guests in their homes and businesses. This is a very different approach than the one most churches use today.

Even when traditional churches try to reach out to the community, "church planting" generally involves planting another Sunday service in a new location, rather than establishing authentic Christian communities.

The answer from Frost and Hirsch is that church must operate missionally. The missional church does not seek to attract people to it. It seeps into the cracks and crevices of a society in order to be Christ to those who don't know him yet. It does this through proximity spaces, shared projects, and commercial enterprises.

Proximity spaces are places or events where Christians and not-yet-Christians interact with each other. They are definitely not churches. Examples of proximity spaces include art workshops, pubs and cafes where Christians form part of the regular clientele. Shared projects are activities of interest to the wider community, which meet a need and provide an opportunity for Christians and not-yet-Christians to meet in a natural situation.

Commercial enterprises are businesses, run by Christians for the wider community, which are not overtly evangelistic. The point of all of these activities is to find neutral ground where the Church can intentionally meet with the world.

The second observation they make is the traditional churches are dualistic instead of Messianic. That is, they believe that there is a separation between that which is secular and that which is sacred. This idea is rooted in Greek philosophy, not the Bible. This separation of the sacred from the secular impacts all aspects of life. We have sacred and secular people (clergy and laity), sacred and secular places (church buildings and the rest of the world), and sacred and secular activities (church services and the rest of our activities).

The separation of the sacred from the secular has a major impact on how we live out our Christian lives. It allows us to relegate spiritual duties such as healing and evangelism to the professional clergy, minimizing the impact of the average believer. It leads us to believe that only the things that happen on Sunday are truly spiritual, which compartmentalizes our Christianity.

Frost and Hirsch encourage the Church to abandon this distinction between secular and sacred, and to adopt the attitude of Jesus, who saw all activity as part of his ministry. We need to adopt an attitude which sees all of our activity, work, relaxation and specifically Christian service as a sacrament. All of our life must be sacred, and we must take Jesus with us wherever we go.

The third observation is that the traditional church structure is hierarchical instead of apostolic. Frost and Hirsch say that traditional churches have a hierarchical leadership system. They argue that this is neither Biblical nor efficient, and the Church should instead adopt the leadership structure taken from Ephesians chapter 4 (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers).

The heirarchical model put enormous power in the hands of a few people and emphasizes the gifting of those individuals. It also ranks people in higher and lower places of authority, which is a model taken from society, not the bible. In contrast, the Ephesians 4 structure provides for a flat leadership model where the gifting of all the 5-fold offices are represented and no one is higher or lower in rank. This plurality of leadership based on spiritual gifting meets all of the needs of the Church, whereas a traditional hierarchical model often leaves gaping holes.

The traditional church model lends itself well to certain things. It is effective for teaching in the broader sense where a single message can be heard by thousands of people at once. Dissemination of information can accomplished this way. But the application of what is taught is a different matter.

Putting instruction into practical use can’t be accomplished in large groups over an hour or two a week, particularly if feedback is needed. This must be done in smaller groups, to allow for personalization and time for questions to be answered. Congregations that meet once a week have no time for practical application. Some churches have developed small groups that meet during the week for this reason.

The hierarchical leadership structure tends to emphasize and draw from the gifting of one or two key individuals who lead the congregation. It rarely allows for the development of the gifting of the congregation itself. Among fellowships where the gifting of the average believer is acknowledged and developed, it seldom deviates from the gifting of the leaders and it is rarely allowed to surpass it.

This structure allows for some of the things that the church needs to accomplish, but it isn't effective for making disciples. And it’s this issue that leaders of the street healing movement are most concerned with.

I mentioned that many of us tend to compartmentalize our Christianity. Some of us have little interaction with other believers outside of Sunday morning church services. We tend to bring out our spiriuality only when it's required. On Sunday we put on Jesus, but he remains hidden the rest of the week. The traditional church model forces many of us to live as a part-time Christians.

The spiritual growth necessary to be transformed into a disciple is a daily process. It happens little by little through daily renewing of the mind. As we meditate on new revelation from God and obey the leading of the Holy Spirit, our perceptions, beliefs and actions take on new directions. As we get together with others and operate in the power of God, faith for the miraculous grows. The transformational process that makes us into disciples can't do it's work if it's only operational one day a week.

One of the men who discipled me is David McLain. I had a dream in which he and I walked through the streets of the town we lived in. We were starting a new type of church called a ‘missional’ church and we were looking for a "person of peace". Finding them was the first thing we had to do. I’d like to draw your attention to the instructions Jesus gave his disciples in Matthew chapter 10 and Luke chapter 10.

In His instructions, Jesus told the disciples to go out into the cities of Israel. The first thing that should be noted is that He didn't tell them to bring people to a central location, as we do today. His instructions were for them to go out into society. He also told them to inquire who was worthy and to find a household where a person of peace lived. He told them not to go from place to place, but to remain there, eating what was served, healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons and teaching them about the kingdom.

What is the emphasis in these instructions? Developing relationships while ministering to strangers and teaching them about the kingdom.

In sending out the twelve and later, the seventy; He instructed his disciples to find a "person of peace". Finding the person of peace is the key to the entire process of spreading the good news.

The "person of peace" is a person who sees the work that God is doing through us. They are willing to partner with us in bringing that work to the lives of others. This partnership requires trust and a spirit of peace. Once the person of peace is found, they will lead us to a group over which they have some type of influence. If we gain favor and acceptance with the person of peace, we will likely gain it with those in their sphere of influence. Just as we are doorways to the kingdom of God, the person of peace is a doorway to the harvest field. The work of God flows through these doorways.

Biblical examples of a "person of peace" are numerous. The gospel came to the Gentiles after an angel spoke to Cornelius, who was called a ‘just man of good reputation’. The angel told him to send for the apostle Peter. He allowed Peter to speak to all who were in his home and the Holy Spirit fell upon them. Cornelius, by virtue of his reputation and influence served as the first doorway for the gospel to reach the Gentiles. (See Acts chapter 10)

The Samaritan woman at the well took the message of the Messiah back to her city after meeting Jesus. She was in a sense, a person of peace who helped Jesus spread the gospel. (John 4:28-29)

Aquila and Pricilla ran a small business. They received Paul into their home where he worked with them making tents until he received outside support. This couple later tutored Apollos and hosted a Gentile church. ( See Acts 18:1-3)

Justus, whose house was located next door to the synagogue, hosted Paul for a time at Corinth. (See Acts 18:7)

Lydia is another example, having opened her home to Paul and the disciples after receiving their testimony. (Acts 16:14-15)

The last example might surprise you. The man with the demon, who called himself ‘Legion’ became a person of peace. Some people are by their own nature, a person of peace. Some become one as a result of our interaction with them. The man with the demon, after he was set free, begged Jesus to allow him to remain with him. The people of Gadara begged Jesus to leave. Jesus sent the man home to Decapolis to tell of the great things the Lord did. Later, when Jesus visited Dacapolis, the people there asked Him to stay and heal their sick and infirmed. The man became a person of peace, whose personal testimony prepared the harvest field. (See Mark 5:14-20 and Mark 7:31-37)

When John G. Lake trained his divine healing technicians, he sent them into the homes of people who needed healing of a terminal condition. The household would have had at least one person willing to cooperate with the work God was doing. They would pray over this person, focusing on getting them healed. They taught the bible and stayed as long as needed, which would have been anywhere from a few days to a few months. This model, which proved to be very effective, is almost exactly like the one Jesus gave to His disciples.

It was after I decided to be intentional about living and walking in the power of God every day that I noticed changes in the lives of people around me. Those who were never interested in my religion, were very interested in the healing miracles they heard about. The deeper I walked into the kingdom, and the more consistently I demonstrated it the more people were attracted to Jesus. And my opportunities to disciple them increased dramatically.

Making disciples requires a large investment of time from the parties involved. We must come to terms with the fact that we only have so much time to devote to the process. Second, we need to accept the fact that there are very few people who are interested in becoming a disciple in the sense that we are discussing. You might see 100 people a month healed, but the number who are genuinely interested in doing what you're doing may only be one or two. Finding the ones who are interested is critical if you hope to see fruit come forth. In my experiences, God can lead us through dreams, visions, angelic messages and divine encounters to the "person of peace".

Once the person of peace is found, you must demonstrate the life and power of God in your daily activities with them. You must develop relationships of trust. If they open doors to the lives of others, ask God how you can meet their needs. You must have regular contact with those you meet, demonstrating Jesus to them in His power, forgiveness, love, compassion and all the things that reveal His life in you.

If we do these things, we will truly make disciples and fulfill the great commission and in the process we’ll reveal the truth that Jesus is alive and breathing in those He calls His bride.


  1. Excellente, Hermano:

    "Making disciples requires a large investment of time from the parties involved. We must come to terms with the fact that we only have so much time to devote to the process."

    Truly making disciples doesn't look very much like what traditional church structures have called discipleship.
    It looks a lot more like living life together...the sort of relationship where four days without seeing each others' faces is a long time.

    Liz and I have had folks who were at our house and our table many times a week and who ministered alongside us, as well as had one or two who lived with us.
    People learn how to follow Jesus and function in the Kingdom by watching others and participating with them as they follow Jesus and function in the Kingdom.

    It's mentoring, modeling and friendship.
    It looks an awful lot like fathering.

    And interestingly, that "person of peace" often does not know Jesus when you first meet him.

  2. hallelu Yah!
    We know these thigns,here at SOS Mission Unit #10! I personally have sought this for years,and just as i was about to 'quit' as i was not regarded in 'churchs'...your message confirms what ABBA had shown me,and when i stopped looking for one such as i ,He dropped you right into my lap,so to speak. I salute you. Stay Blessed.
    yours in Christa
    a sister-in-Arms.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Sharon, so glad you are encouraged.

      God is so good!