Introduction: Why Discipleship
One day, a woman came to see me to seek some help from her pastor. After a few minutes, she made a request. “I’ve been attending some of Heather’s Bible Studies, and it’s been really good.” (That sounded like a good start to me. Heather is my wife.) She continued, “I feel like I’ve grown a lot. And so I’ve been praying about what to do next, and I think what I need is a mentor—a woman who is a little older than me who has been walking with Christ.”
We pastors love to hear this sort of thing. I said, “Wow. That is a great request. But I don’t want to just throw names at you. Let me take a little time to reflect on this and pray about it and I will get back to you.”
After she left, I pulled out the church directory and began to pray through it and search for those mentor candidates. Now, it was a mid-sized church. 200 members and about 300 people in the directory—and many of them were women who were a generation ahead of her. But the more I looked, the more concerned I became. There was no one to whom I could trust this relationship. The church was more than twenty years old, and counted among its members a number of good-hearted people. But it had not produced the kinds of disciples who were motivated, let alone equipped, to help another disciple walk faithfully with Christ.
And I had been the pastor for four years.
I reflected back on the other churches I’d served as a pastor, elder, or youth leader. I couldn’t think of many equipped, motivated disciples in those churches either. I had made some disciples – but it was by accident. (Our God is so gracious!) I knew that my ministry had to change. My church—moreover, my city—definitely needed deeply surrendered disciples of Jesus. And I knew that my number one job and the number one job of churches was to make disciples of Jesus. I had not been doing my job very well. Holy discontent set it. I had a lot to learn about discipleship. It had become something I wanted to get better at for the rest of my life. (And I hope that never changes!) Accidental, mediocre disciple making was no longer acceptable!
So I began searching for effective ways of making disciples. The search took me down a few dead ends and introduced me to all kinds of people. And what I discovered was not encouraging. First, my church was hardly alone in failing to make disciples who are equipped and motivated to make more. Second, there was a lot of confusion about discipleship (most commonly, confusing it with education or theological insight.) Third, a related problem: the programs for discipleship tended to follow an information-based classroom approach. Jesus discipled by doing life intentionally with people and ministering with them along the way. His approach was highly relational and example driven. Fourth, his approach was repeatable. What he had done the disciples could do. The disciples became like the master and helped others become like the master. I didn’t see much of that in the church.
When I shared these thoughts with my colleagues in ministry, many resonated with my plight. They recognized the problem, too and would say, “Let me know what you find out.” To make a long story short—what I found out I largely contained in the booklet I’ve pulled together and will be posting on this web-site.
I didn’t find a new book or a hot program. I found tools for discipleship and a mentor who could show me how to use them. No, it’s better to say that God led me to them.
The tools came first. I was coming back from a church planting seminar with my soul stirred up praying for direction. I had more than discipleship on my mind. I was looking for a new way to do church that would equip people for discipleship and release them for mission. As I was praying and driving (eyes open) I remembered part of a book I’d read called the Shaping of Things to Come by Alan Hirsh and Michael Frost. I remembered something innovative about clusters of small groups gathering for mission in a church in Sheffield, England. I thought, “Maybe I can look that up when I get home.” I decided to listen to a podcast to pass the time. When I hit play, the voice of a woman with a nice English accent came out of the speakers, “Hello, I’m Sally Breen and this is Jo Saxton, and we’re from Sheffield, England…” I was blown away. (As I sometimes remind people, there really is a Holy Spirit.) So I began learning about their story, the birth of 3dm, and about employing missional communities as places for equipping people for discipleship and releasing them for mission.
Most of the tools for discipleship in this book were developed by the team at 3dm led by Mike and Sally Breen. I’ve added four: the Spiritual Graph (Randy Pope), the Canyon and the Cross (Bill Hybels), the BELLS Star (about sustaining a missional lifestyle – Michael Frost), and Steps for Healing Prayer (Francis McNutt). Very little of this is original. It is other people’s work. All I’ve done is contextualize it for use where I live—in suburban Jacksonville.
The mentor came later. I was struggling with applying the tools. I could see how powerful they were. But I was like a kid who had wandered into a carpentry shop for the first time and decided to make something with what he found there. The result showed promise, but there was much waste. (GK Chesterton may have said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly,” but that suggestion doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to get better.) I looked for a mentor. I searched the internet for someone in Jacksonville who was using the tools I’d found—but to no avail. I resolved to pray and wait. When I went to a 3dm training seminar in Orlando, they were introducing the helpers. “And in the back we have… Wayne Bauer from Jacksonville.” I turned around and there was a Nazarene pastor from a church six miles from my house. We were in the same ministerial fellowship. We’d prayed and shared meals together for six years. At the first break, I walked up to Wayne and said, “We’ve got to talk.” Wayne is a pastor with an incredible heart. Since that day, I have had the privilege of watching him disciple and lead his people with grace and love, and gained a wonderful friend. What a blessing.
Lastly, the Lord led me to some wonderful people. The Fellowship of Believers and the 210 Missional Communities have become family! And I am grateful that they have allowed me to work with them, hung in there with me, and given so generously of themselves! It is for you that I have prepared this tool kit. May the Lord bless you as you disciple, and lead you into wonderful relationships where you can put these tools to work!
God is Good!