Disciple-making can be a tough, slow, and arduous process. God tells us, “He who began a good work in you, He will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6). Verses like this remind us people grow on God’s time table. Although our friend has faith in Christ, sometimes the unbelief, wrong thinking, or sinful actions take a while to change. The longer we walk with Christ, the more our responsibilities to be involved in disciple making. As we age in our walk, we recognize the call to be a Titus 2 disciple maker where older men train up younger men to walk sensibly and women share similar responsibilities towards younger women.
The more people you work with or have been around, the more you have encountered some odd beliefs and / or practices. (Of course Twitter will prove this quickly too). But odd beliefs often create tension, frustrations, anger, or other issues. This also happens when we meet other professing believers who are obviously immature or lack biblical understanding. As a disciple maker, our job requires us to faithfully teach others what it means to follow Christ. When we encounter others, especially those with different beliefs, we need to remember our responsibility still applies.
When it comes to other people, the first question we often need to ask, “Why does he or she believe what he or she believes?” When I meet someone who attends a seeker sensitive church, I have no expectations he or she will understand biblical ecclesiology. Conflict often begins here. Should a believer know the worship service is for believers? Yes, of course. I wonder how many arguments have ensued because different expectations weren’t identified between two people and the more knowledgeable believer was critical rather than educational while the less knowledgeable person more defensive than teachable? How do we stop these kinds of arguments so we can be productive instead? How often do these arguments lead to repentance? Defensive people usually have no desire to repent. So instead, let us consider how we can love this person.
Ask the question, “Why does he or she believe what he/she believes?” Knowing worship requires participation, not a spectator seat, takes knowledge. Someone usually has to teach us this. But, seeker sensitive churches usually do not teach worship as a participation event. So, how would she know that she doesn’t know? Right? Young believers often don’t know what they don’t know. Right? When I start learning something, a new hobby, a new game, or a new discipline, I investigate, watch videos, ask questions, and often try to uncover what I need to know. Sometimes I get a list of needed items and start to purchase them, only to find out from some seasoned veteran I don’t need half of what I thought I needed and it’s simpler if I do it his way. Well now I know what I didn’t know nor knew to ask! It’s the same in discipleship. Often people, even those who should know better, don’t know.
I was trained while working on my Master’s in English to evaluate a person’s professor lineage. Who they studied under matters and can tell you a lot about what they’ve learned or how they were trained. When working with others, we need to investigate his or her past. Where did he come from? What church? What were those churches like? What did they teach? How were they involved? How do they understand worship, walking with Christ, or whatever topic? Have they even been trained? Do they know they need training?
As a church planter, often visitors lament our “weak children’s ministry.” This is their criteria for judging a church. That’s it. Just this. Nothing else. No, I promise, nothing else. For seasoned believers, this is not the measuring tool for determining a biblical church. But investigate further, ask the question, “How or when did they learn what matters most in a church?” Often this question produces small answers, if any answer at all. And if the only back ground a person has in “church” comes from places where children’s ministry is the star of Sunday, how would they know this isn’t the backbone of our corporate gathering? All they have seen are churches who put children over worship and been told this is how you should do it! “This is church!” Yes, of course people should read their Bibles and know this isn’t church, but then again, they’ve never been told to read their Bible!
For the disciple maker, answers to these questions will help us better come along side one another as we teach and love them. It will influence our long-suffering too as sometimes growth takes time. I’m not sure why God doesn’t ask for my time-table on other’s maturity, but until He does, I’ll have to rest assured He knows what He’s doing as He perfects His children. If we can know why a person believes what he or she believes, often it gives us a starting point while we teach and show them Scripture. (Some people haven’t even been taught Scripture is sufficient!) Be gracious. Remembering others grow as God’s will allows us to be patient while they grow.
Here are some questions and thoughts to remember while teaching and disciple making:
- What does this person believe about the Gospel?
- Why does he believe what he believes?
- What motivates him?
- What influences him?
- How does he spend his time?
- Where does he come from?
- What is his church history like?
- Were his parents believers?
- If so, what is the families church history?
- If not, who has helped teach him about parenting (if he has kids)?
- Who has discipled him?
- Is he consistent in his attendance?
- If he is rough around the edges or has multiple problems, Do they all stem from one main issue? (knowing this can really help. Rather than address every problem, tackle the main issue).
- Remind yourself: The Spirit will mature this person as He sees fit, be patient in lovingly addressing this person.
- Remind yourself: How can he know to ask for what he doesn’t know he needs?
- Remind yourself: the Lord is gracious to me, therefore I can be gracious and long-suffering to him.