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Thursday, 27 August 2015 16:33

Thoughts on Growing New Believers (Part 2)

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In Part 1 of this series we asked the question, “Do we want a new believer to become like the ‘typical’ member of this congregation?” If the answer is no, then arrangements need to be put in place to impart Biblical values to new believers.

Ideally, we should be able to place new believers into a congregational environment and have healthy spiritual growth with Biblical values and convictions.

Shouldn't a new believer have the “right” to assume that older Christians have Biblical values and convictions? Are you satisfied with the spiritual values and convictions of the congregation you are associated with? In many cases the answer would be “no.”

When a newer believer is simply placed in the congregation without personal mentoring, that believer will probably feel “free to adopt” the spiritual values and convictions of that congregation. Why should we expect otherwise? Would I expect my child to acquire acceptable values and convictions if I allow him or her to associate with children whose values and convictions are unacceptable, yet I don’t object? By not saying anything to the contrary, I am conveying to my child that the association meets my approval?

We should not expect the newer believer to understand much about the Christian walk. It is only natural for newer believers to be mainly concerned with doing the right things, which means their focus is on external behavior.

As stated previously, a newer believer should be able to make the assumption that if he or she behaves like “older” Christians, then logically they'll be behaving in an acceptable Biblical fashion, since those older Christians have “obviously” styled their behavior on Biblical patterns. Right? NOT!

Unfortunately, many older Christians have adopted their behavior from previous older Christians who they similarly “assumed” to be spiritual. And so one generation follows the next. Unwittingly, many Christian leaders are “conveying” approval of this natural human process, by not insuring that each new believer is personally helped through the first formative and critical period of the Christian walk.

While it is totally natural for new believers to begin their Christian walk focusing on “external behavior”, we believe it is God’s purpose for those believers to quickly begin to focus on living by “Biblical principles.”

Probably more than 90% of typical daily external behavior is not addressed specifically in the Bible. The typical Christian will not “transition” from focusing on external behavior to focusing on Biblical principles, unless another Christian is willing to put the time and energy into helping them to understand God’s purposes and His process for producing spiritual growth.

Next we''l look at several examples of adopting “external behavior” patterns.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015 06:16

Thoughts on Growing New Believers (Part 1)

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How Does A New Believer Acquire Spiritual Understanding?

If a new believer is not instructed otherwise, he will typically appropriate the values and convictions of the Christians that he associates with during the formative first period of his new spiritual life, just as a child will tend to adopt the values and convictions of his family and peers.

Let’s say that a new Christian is brought into association with a group of Navigators (Navigators.org), who we would rightly expect to immediately begin to challenge the believer’s former values and convictions. That believer is either going to adopt the Navigator’s values and convictions, or he will become so uncomfortable that he will seek a more “friendly” and less intrusive environment.

But what happens if there is not such a group of relatively mature mentors who will take the new believer under wing? Typically the newer believer will be introduced into a congregation, where it is often assumed that “sitting under the preaching of the Word” will be sufficient to lead that new believer into a spiritually mature walk. It is hoped that the negative traits observed in the congregation do not distort the new believer’s understanding. Is that realistic? We believe it is safe to say that most new believers will be impacted more by what they “see” other believers do, than what they “hear” them say. If it can be said that a particular congregation is more spiritually mature, then it would be realistic to reason that the combination of “hearing” Biblical truth from a pastor/teacher, together with “seeing” Biblical spirituality modeled from the congregation, would be a tremendous help in the healthy spiritual growth of a new believer.Growing Christians

Leaders need to realistically evaluate the spiritual health of the congregation, asking themselves, “Do we want a new believer to become like the ‘typical’ member of this congregation?” If the answer is no, then arrangements need to be put in place to impart Biblical values to new believers.

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Biblical truth is often presented in isolated (topical) form, without a good understanding of how it fits into the Christian life as a whole. This leads to the believer’s life becoming compartmentalized.

Imagine that you’re about to view a Power Point presentation of a “project”, a “medical procedure”, or someone’s “vacation trip.” You would normally expect such a presentation to begin with an “objective”, or an “overview”, and then proceed in a progressive and sequential manner.

But what if the order of the presentation was “random?” The person making the presentation would probably be able to explain each individual picture, but would generally have difficulty trying to present a progressive picture.

The more complicated the material, and the greater the unfamiliarity of the viewer, the more difficult it would be to try to make sense out of the presentation.

Many times the Christian life is presented in a similar random order. Thus the newer believer will probably have a difficult time trying to fit the isolated pieces together in a sensible way.

That is why we usually recommend that the discipleship process begin with a visual overview see Lesson 1-1, followed by a progressive and systematic presentation of what will be encountered by the typical newer believer.

Christian Life Overview

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Commitment is one of the four components of Personal Discipleship, including Modeling, Individual Attention and God’s Word.

personal circle

Commitment has to do with the heart attitude of the discipler (spiritual parent) in regards to the spiritual welfare and development of the disciple. This is a commitment that goes beyond just presenting God's word. The biblical idea of a disciple is more of an “apprentice” than just a student.

Discipling somebody is going to impact your plans. In the natural realm a child takes all of the parents energy. The parent is always thinking about where the child is what the child needs.

Spiritually there is an impact too. Discipling somebody can be emotionally and physically draining. But it is also exhilarating and thrilling and it's so gratifyingly to watch somebody grow but there's also an expenditure of resources and a deep concern (for the disciple).

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In giving us the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20), Jesus said to go into all the world and make disciples. (not just converts). This then brings up the need to distinguish between a “disciple” and a “non-disciple”.

We believe it is true to say that not all believers are disciples. (from the Biblical standpoint.) What then is a proper definition of the term “disciple?” We believe it will help us to consider a disciple to be an “apprentice.”

Luke 6:40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.

The key word in this verse is the word "like". Is a disciple a student? Yes. Is an apprentice a student? Yes. What then is the difference between a student and a disciple?

Jesus is differentiating between somebody that is just acquiring knowledge versus somebody that wants to become like a teacher. The disciple has the goal of being like the teacher.

In the DTI material we purport that the disciple is becoming like the discipler. If we understand that the disciple is going to become like the teacher (discipler) that makes the discipler a role model. (Whether one likes it or not)

Balanced Discipleship

If your goal (as a pastor or leader) is to just present Biblical knowledge, you can deemphasize the idea of role model. Because the typical person that stands up at a seminar is imparting knowledge. They are not thinking, “I want you to become just like me.” They are imparting knowledge.

But a disciple is a different creature. The disciple has the goal of becoming like the person they are being discipled by. When a person becomes a Christian and a discipler (spiritual mentor) is in their life, the goal of the discipler is to help the newer believer to become like Jesus.

Unfortunately, many in the Western Hemisphere have adopted the secular teacher-student method for growing believers. There are significant factors that would seem to favor this approach, such as busyness and perceived efficiency. However, what appears to be most efficient is not necessarily what is most effective.

The teacher-disciple model demands a greater commitment, and much more personal attention, but we believe it is the Biblical method as modeled by Jesus Himself, and the model that will result in the greatest individual spiritual growth and impact on the world.

A Student – Typically the goal of a student is to learn knowledge (information), that is, to learn what the teacher knows. The student may not even respect or like his teacher.

A Disciple – A disciple on the other hand is a student who has the goal of becoming like his teacher. This model requires personal interaction, and a personal commitment by the teacher (mentor, spiritual parent) on behalf of the apprentice learner.

A Student Wants To Know What the Teacher Knows, A Disciple Wants To Become Like the Teacher

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We want to address the commonly held belief that “presenting Biblical knowledge” equates to discipleship, and that the other components are “optional.” If the other components are not given proper importance in the nurturing process, the Christian being mentored will typically have a difficult time growing to a reproductive spiritual maturity.

If Biblical knowledge by itself were the key to spirituality, we should have the most spiritual generation of Christians in history. Christian Book Stores are filled with books on every Biblical subject imaginable.

To propose that Biblical knowledge alone is the key to spirituality is akin to saying that “food” alone is the most important need of a child. Undeniably food is essential, but would it be accurate to convey to potential parents that love, commitment, nurturing, modeling, personal attention, etc., are somehow optional? Has God given us the process of raising a physical child as a model for raising a spiritual child? If so, should I not then ask, “How would a physical infant fare if left to fend for itself as the typical new spiritual child is?”

Most Christians would agree that as the Holy Spirit draws unbelievers to Himself, He typically uses Christians somewhere in the birthing process. How can the same Christians then conclude that their primary involvement in the new baby Christian’s growth is mostly limited to setting spiritual food on the table, and that the Holy Spirit now prefers to work alone in the other areas where the new believer needs help to grow?

To love to teach is good, but to love those you teach is better !

To know the Bible is good, but to intimately know and understand the One who the Bible reveals is better !

Jer. 9:23-24 This is what the Lord says: The wise man must not boast in his wisdom; the strong man must not boast in his strength; the wealthy man must not boast in his wealth. But the one who boasts should boast in this, that he understands and knows Me— that I am Yahweh, showing faithful love, justice, and righteousness on the earth, for I delight in these things. This is the Lord’s declaration.

John 17:3 This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent—Jesus Christ.

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In 1 Peter 5:1-3 leaders are told, ... I exhort the elders among you: Shepherd God’s flock among you, ... not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

Not just tell people what to do, but rather, show them what to do. Can Christian leaders realistically expect followers to imitate what they themselves are not modeling (by example)?

Most pastors in the Western church are so busy, they don't have time to devote to giving individual attention to new believers. And yet the Word says to be examples. What is the typical pastor being an example of? Many times it's an issue of logistics.

We believe an answer is for pastors and leaders to train “faithful” believers in the church body, who in turn can disciple (spiritually mentor) newer believers. In many churches, discipleship has come to mean “the presentation of biblical truth.” Thus many leaders perceive that their responsibility is to present biblical truth, with the expectation that it is then the responsibility of each believer to allow the Holy Spirit to apply those truths to their own lives. However, since most newer believers are unfamiliar with the Holy Spirit, they need someone to personally help them to understand how to cooperate with Him in their personal spiritual development.

We are aware that many pastors and leaders need assistance in training disciplers, and one of the ministry areas of DTI is to provide discipleship materials, conferences and other assistance in training.

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The typical newer believer will imitate older believers who they look up to, or with whom they associate. Thus every believer is a role model for other believers, even if they don’t want to be, especially to new believers.

A few years ago, I had a man come up to me after church service and say, “I watch you during church.” I said, “Really.” He said “Yes, I’m new here and I’m not sure what to do, so I look to you as a model of how I should behave during church.”

We are examples of what a Christian is to others. Everybody that knows we are a Christian, we are an example of what a Christian is to them.

So when it comes to discipling, what we typically see is that older believers in most churches are not being a spiritual mentor model, even though it is a command of Jesus.

Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28: 18-20

Spiritual Mentor

An angel of the Lord spoke to Philip: “Get up and go south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is the desert road.) So he got up and went. There was an Ethiopian man, a eunuch and high official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to worship in Jerusalem and was sitting in his chariot on his way home, reading the prophet Isaiah aloud. The Spirit told Philip, “Go and join that chariot.” When Philip ran up to it, he heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” “How can I,” he said, “unless someone guides me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the Scripture passage he was reading was this: He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb is silent before its shearer, so He does not open His mouth. In His humiliation justice was denied Him. Who will describe His generation? For His life is taken from the earth. The eunuch replied to Philip, “I ask you, who is the prophet saying this about—himself or another person?” So Philip proceeded to tell him the good news about Jesus, beginning from that Scripture. As they were traveling down the road, they came to some water. The eunuch said, “Look, there’s water! What would keep me from being baptized?” And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Then he ordered the chariot to stop, and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him any longer. But he went on his way rejoicing. Philip appeared in Azotus, and he was traveling and evangelizing all the towns until he came to Caesarea. Acts 8:26-40

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Let’s discuss the typical modern church congregation and the role of the pastors and teachers. We’ll refer to Ephesians 4:11-16 as our biblical reference.

Church leaders typically are perceived to be trained but don't feel they have the necessary time to devote to the all the members of the congregation. Understandably church leadership is very busy.

The people in the church congregation typically have more time although we all tend to be busy, but most believers that are not in leadership positions don't feel like they are adequately trained to spiritually mentor somebody.

So who is going to spiritually mentor / parent the new believers? The people that don't have the time or the people that feel they are not adequately equipped? Who is going to take responsibility for new believers?

Or, is there a third category? Or are most churches a two tiered system, those that don't have the time and those that feel they don't know (how to disciple)?

Typical Church Congregation
We can use the analogy of an electrician. If apprentice electricians sat in a class for a year and learned all the things electricians need to know, had notebooks full of notes and then were sent out into the field and were told, "You have been studying the books for one year, and learned everything correctly, now go do the work," would that trainer be successful in having equipped the students?

Or is equipping not only teaching but also taking the "students" out in the field making sure they do the right things, helping them to not just learn academically but also practically apply what they have learned?

Is the classroom setting enough or does it go deeper than that?

It’s easy for the trainer to get fixated on training and how they trained and forget about the effectiveness of the people that are being trained.

A trainer can get so content with the beautiful way that they are doing the training that they forget that the end result is for the people that are being trained to be functioning.

How many churches are being filled by people that are being trained indefinitely? The key that we need to understand is that it's easy to focus on how God is using me (as a trainer) when we should be focusing on how God is using the people that He is touching through me.

And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.
Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ. From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.”                      Ephesians 4:11-16

Ephesians 4:11-16 lists apostles and prophets, evangelists and pastors and teachers - what is their goal? It is to equip the Saints. For what? To do the work.

If you were hired by a company and your job was to train people to do the work of the company, how would your supervisors determine if you were a good trainer? What specifically would they look at? They would look at how the people under you are functioning.

So, here are employees that you are to equip. Your success would be determined by how effective your employees are functioning. How long would you as a trainer remain employed if you were hired to train people and they were not functioning properly?

The goal of the trainer is not just to train. The goal of the trainer is to equip so that they that are being trained are functioning. If they are not functioning, you get fired. Every single company that is a success has to operate this way. You can't be spending money on a trainer that is supposed to be equipping people to do the work of the company and not have the people functioning effectively for the company.

In the spiritual realm the pastors / teachers are to equip the Saints for the work. But if the Saints don't know how to do the work, is that not a reflection on the trainer? We would say yes. In a company you would be fired.

Some questions to ponder:

- Should it not be the goal of the leaders to see that the typical member of the congregation is equipped and functioning as a reproductive follower of Christ?

 

- In what capacity should the individual believers be functioning?

- How are we to measure if the saints have been successfully “equipped”?

- Can we claim success if spiritual reproduction is not an end result?

- Should not “personal discipleship” (spiritual reproduction) be the “norm”, rather than the exception?

- Should we not expect every believer to be in the process of being discipled, or to be actively involved in the spiritual growth of other believers?

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To influence many people simultaneously is generally considered the method of choice. Personal one-on-one discipleship
appears to be too time-consuming, energy consuming, and inefficient.

The concept we want to demonstrate is that the Biblical method of multiplication is much more productive over the long term. This is very important, because the seeming short-term ineffectiveness of personal discipleship has led many to the illusion that it really is not the best method.

To be honest, many Christian leaders measure success by numbers. We believe this is one of the reasons there is such an emphasis in the Christian community to hold events and activities, which give the impression of short-term success if attendance is the measure.

Church Growth through Spiritual Multiplication (rather than “addition”)

 Number of “CONVERTS”
(1 converted each day)
   Number of “DISCIPLES”
(1 discipled each 6 months)
 1 To start 1
183 1/2 year  2
365 1 year 4
548 1 1/2 years 8
730 2 years 16
913 2 1/2 years 32
1,095 3 years 64
1,278 3 1/2 years 128
1,460 4 years 256
1,643 4 1/2 years 512
1,825 5 years 1,024
2,190 6 years 4,096
2,555 7 years 16,384
2,920 8 years 65,536
3,285 9 years 262,144
3,650 10 years 1,048,576
4,015 11 years 4,194,304
 4,380  12 years  16,777,216

The figures in the left-hand column represent the number of converts that could be attained to if a Christian were able to win one person to Christ each and every day of the year. The figures in the right-hand column represent the number of fruitful disciples that could be attained to if each Christian would be faithful during each 6 month period to disciple just one other new convert to a level of spiritual maturity whereby the newer Christian could be used by the Lord to in turn disciple another convert. The figures in the right-hand column are less impressive at the beginning, but as can be seen, have a much greater long-term benefit.

And what you (Timothy) have heard from me (Paul) in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Tim. 2:2)

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