This is Lesson Two of a training manual Kathy and I are writing. We would very much enjoy any comments for improvements and corrections anyone has. We will be teaching this training program for 26 weeks this next year. Sorry for the delay. I experienced some technical difficulties last week and until now!!
Copyright 2015, Chris and Kathy Scruggs, All Rights Reserved
Whenever a problem is solved, someone sees the problem, decides to solve it, figures out a solution, and gathers people to carry out the solution. For the gospel to spread, someone has to take responsibility to do what needs to be done. Someone has to take responsibility for sowing the seed of the Gospel in human hearts. For the kingdom of God to expand, for a church or Bible study to grow and prosper, someone has to step forward to and lead. In God’s Good News mission to the world, it is a person willing to disciple others, in this case a “Sower.”
When missionaries enter a mission field the need is vast. There is almost no one except the missionaries to meet that need. Something has to be done. The founders of the Church Growth Movement saw the need, but knew that traditional solutions would either not work or would take too long. One missionary working six days a week, twelve hours a day, can only reach so many people with the Gospel of wisdom and love a year or in a lifetime. Compared to the number of people who are far from God and who need to hear of God’s wise love, the number of people that can be reached by one or a few people in a year or even a lifetime is small. What is needed is a way for a visionary to lead a few, who lead a few, who lead a few, until the mission field is reached. Today, in the formerly Christian West, as well as in the traditionally unreached places of the world, the number of people who need to be reached are so great that a new method needs to be found. Focusing on people discipling people is that method.
Jesus: Our Guide As a Discipler
The best discipling leader who ever lived was Jesus. He was the best discipler and leader because he was totally related to God and totally committed to his disciples. In Luke, Jesus tells the following parable:
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:1-7).
Jesus was was a loving shepherd. He had a heart for the world. The world needed Good News. If we have a heart for the lost, we will also be loving shepherds. What does a loving Shepherd do? He or she rescues sheep. Returning to the need for sowers, the first and most important thing Christian disciples do is share the Gospel and their faith in God. Sharing the Gospel is the first and most important step in rescuing sheep. But, it is not the only step. People have to be loved, nurtured, encouraged, and taught to be disciples. True sowers are more than just speakers of the word. They, like Jesus, become related to people for a long time as they grow and mature in Christ.
The Kind of Sowers God Needs
God needs sowers because there are a lot of people who have never heard the Gospel or if they have heard the Gospel they either never truly received it or they have drifted far away from God and from God’s people. We cannot know exactly who or where these people are. Therefore, we have to treat the world as God’s field and we have to learn to sow the Gospel wherever we are. We sow God’s word in at least two major ways:
- We share the Gospel in Words
- We share the Gospel in Deeds.
In order to effectively disciple people, we must first be disciples. In order to share the Gsopel in Word and Deed, we have to both know something to share verbally and live out our faith in deeds of love. To do this, we have to grow vertically (in relationship to God), internally (in relationship to one’s true self) and horizontally (in loving relations with others). Such persons want to experience:
Vertical Growth In Relation to God – An effective discipler is a person who cares deeply about his or her relationship with God as revealed in Jesus Christ and seeks to deepen it through prayer, active church participation, study of God’s Word, and above all humility. Such a person is positioned to reach others.
Internal: Growth: In Relation to Self – The Bible tells us that Christians should grow in faith, hope and love, and in the fruits of the Spirit, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, kindness, goodness and self-control. People who are not growing in maturity and self-confidence are prone to pride, gossip, and other forms of insecurity. Good disciplers, while not nearly perfect, exhibit maturity, self-understanding, and poise. They have or are developing well-integrated personalities. A person who has self-knowledge and who is in the process of overcoming sin and self-centeredness in his or her self is positioned to help others find God and grow in a relationship with God.
Horizontal Growth: In Service to Other–s – An effective discipler is a person who is growing in his or her love for others and willingness to reach out to others in word and deed. John 3:16 Jesus shares the Gospel with Nicodemus in this form: “For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son so that whosoever believes in him will never perish but have eternal life.” God loved the world. Therefore, God reached out to the world in word and in deed by the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He reached out in loving service to a lost world.
If we are going to sow the seeds of the Gospel in the lives of other people, the first thing we must do is be sure we are growing in relationship to God, to our true selves, and to others.
Jesus had a relationship with God, who he called “Abba” or “Father” or even “Daddy.” Nothing is more important to being a good discipler of others than having a strong personal relationship with God through Christ. Second, we must be in the process of becoming more like Christ. To do this, we have to mature in our faith and overcome the sins of pride. Finally, we will not sow until we we have the same love for others that God has for the lost world.
Entering Your Field
A sower cannot sow until the sower gets into the field. Therefore, it is important to come to an understanding of what kind of field God is calling us to enter and into which we show the Gospel. This is where we need to take a moment and think about a Greek term, “Oikos.’ The word in Greek means “Household.” In the ancient world, families included parents, grandparents, children, servants, extended family members and often others. All of these persons were a part of the household. In contemporary language we would call an “Oikos” a “Social Network.” Our mission field is not so much a place as it is the people we know and with whom we can share Christ.
In the first Century, the Gospel grew very rapidly, primarily though sharing the Gospel within households and human relationships. There were no church buildings. There were no church programs. Churches did not sponsor concerts and other community activities. The Gospel was shared person to person, primarily through households. Slaves shared the Gospel with other slaves and with their masters. Masters shared the gospel with their farm workers. Family members shared the Gospel with other family members. Friends shared the gospel with friends. Students shared the gospel with other students. In the end, almost every Christian shared the gospel with someone close to them. Many people who have studied the church today think that we need to return to this “Household to Household” method of sharing the Gospel.
We all have friends, relatives, neighbors, coworkers, school friends and others we see regularly. These persons make up our social network within which we can most effectively disciple people.
It takes a while to really understand the implications of the notion of evangelizing a social network For example, most of us would not think of our hairdresser or barber, our yard men or repairmen, the people who check us out at the grocery store, the barista at Starbucks, the people at the gym or on the running trail—all the many, many people with whom we come in contact every day as part of our household, but they are. We all know a lot of people with whom we can share the gospel if only we reflect on who and how to share.
If the Christian faith is to grow in our culture and in other cultures, Christians will beed to return to the notion that the Good News is important for everyone. It contains the secret to a happy life for all people. It was never meant to be a private thing that Christians possess. Christian faith is meant to be shared with others. Sharing was never meant to be something a few talented evangelists do. It is meant to be something all Christians do to the best of their ability.
Take a moment and think about people you know with whom you can share the Gospel: