title basics

discip1 THE JOURNEY OF TRANSFORMATION

When you hear the word 'evangelism', what do you think of? Traditionally some think of a campaign in a church building or community hall. An intense effort for a time. Sales techniques. An 'expert' evangelist in a certain mould, appealing to a certain type of person. Usually not a local person.

This approach has worked in the past, but what if evangelism could be ongoing? What if it could happen in offices, workshops, universities, schools, homes and sporting clubs? What if it was happening every week?

What if every church member was doing it in their own style, in a way that appealed to their type of person? What if it was adapted to local culture? What if it was personal and real and natural, nothing like pyramid sales?

This is the thinking behind the LIFEdevelopment process.

Let me take you to this journey of transformation through Tom and Anna`s life story.

Your mission (and you should choose to accept it!) is:

1. CONNECT

To connect means to invest time in strengthening and broadening relationships with others, which will lead to us feeling close to them and being valued by them. To connect is to have an authentic and genuine desire to see people as they are, and recognise them as such. It`s not something we can do casually. It`s not always easy to do, but I think it is worth it on so many different levels.

Story

After the talk about LIFEdevelopment at church this week, I thought I should pray for Tom, the person at work I get on with best. On Tuesday night I invited him to play tennis. We had a long, hard-fought three-set match, and both enjoyed it. Afterwards he suggested we go to the pub. (I thought that might happen, and I had decided Jesus was the friend of sinners and I have no temptation towards drinking, so I should go.) I ordered orange juice without making a big deal about it. He said, 'You don't drink?' I said, 'No'. He said, 'Probably all the healthier for it – that might be why you beat me', and the conversation moved on. I don't think he knows I'm a Christian yet, but I'll let that come up naturally. We intend to play each week.

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...Tom complained about a virus on his home computer. I offered to come round and remove it. He seemed quite flattered. He ordered in some Italian food and we ended up having a good chat.

...Last night after tennis, Tom commented to me that he was disgusted by more news about child abuse by priests. I said, ‘Yeah, it’s a disgrace, especially when Christ talks about helping the weak and His so-called followers exploit vulnerable kids.’ Later I was able to comment that our church really watches out for children, and has zero tolerance policy. Strangely enough, it seemed a natural time to share my biblical values, but not wave it in his face.

...He invited me to his birthday party. I had a great time. Most people got steadily drunk, but I think I had just as many laughs. I stayed till the conversation became completely silly, and then said my good-byes.

...Today on lunch-break the topic of suicide bombers came up. Tom asked me what Christians believe happens when you die. I gave a short reply and gave him a chance to change the topic, but he actually pushed me for more information about heaven, hell, purgatory and all that.

...Another day we got talking about sex and relationships. Later I asked him to tell me what he thought of a copy of LIFE.info magazine, an edition with a great article on ‘hot monogamy’. This started a frank discussion where I was able to express my values without preaching.

...Over the last three months, Tom has been asking about my values. We’ve talked love and monogamy, chance vs. design, how forgiveness is meant to work etc. It always starts from something he notices in my life, like why I’ll work late if necessary but never on a Saturday. When I told him my Christian faith makes me take a day off every week for rest and time with people I love, he said, ‘Can I join?’ He was only kidding, but even so he can see the benefits in my life. He thinks Sabbath is a positive lifestyle choice. Discussion of values often leads naturally to discussion of beliefs.

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 ...Last Sunday I re-painted the second bedroom. I asked Tom to help me move furniture and he even got on the end of a roller. He’s becoming quite a close friend, not a ‘project’ at all.

 Once he came to work after someone had scratched his car with a key. He was really vocal about child abuse and silent God … later that day I told him I had a video he’d enjoy.

 I lent him ‘Vintage Values’ DVD. He said he was quite intrigued and discussed some of the messages with me. I said I’d invite him round to our place one night to look at similar videos. He said OK.

 A week later we invited Tom and Anna, his girlfriend, over for pizza and a video. It felt totally natural—everyone has friends for video nights. We had a brief discussion about it afterwards, then the conversation drifted off onto other things, which was fine.

This worked. We’ll do it again.

Note

Remember, your goal, at the beginning, is to be accepted as part of their community, not viewed as a threatening outsider. So, this is a friendly way to connect with people and build friendships while including a bit of witness.

 

discip-3Tips on being a friend:

1. Listen more than you talk.

2. Listen more than you talk.

3. Listen more than you talk(And if people repeat themselves, don't switch off but really listen – it must be important.)

4. Eat with 'sinners', just as Jesus did. RememberJesus risked being labelled and misunderstood by going to certain places and mixing with certain people condemned by the religious establishment of the day.

5. Choose quality over quantityYou don't have time, energy or space on your Christmas card list for friendships with more than about 3 close secular friends.

6. Build on common groundThis might be parenting, golf, travel, music, cars, gardeningDIY, art, walking, biking, eating Italian food… etc.

7. Pray for a Christ-like heart, a God's eye view of people.

8. Trust God. If He has given you a missionHe will equip you.

9. Meet their needs, not just your own. Then againdon't create an imbalanced relationship that allows them to be total takers and casts you as Santa ClausYou'll burn out, feel resentful (even if you're co-dependent!)and won't really help them by encouraging their dependencyFriends help each otherEven Jesus asked for support from friends (Matthew 26:38.40).


summ1

Summary

Level 1 

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WHAT'S IN IT FOR THEM?

To belong

 

YOUR PURPOSE:

Build friendship

 

YOUR METHOD:

Socialising;

Networking

 

RESOURCES AVAILABLE:


Magazines: 'LIFE.info', 'ESCAPE', 'CONNECT'

Video clips: 'Get Active' produced by tedMEDIA

discip52. SHARE 

When we share the Gospel, we offer something extraordinary that we want others to enjoy, because it is something that gives us strength, hope and joy. We share with people the difference that God has made in our life in a gentle and respectful manner. Through sharing our personal experience, we invite others to enter into a relationship with God through their minds and hearts. 

Story

Some friends from church have decided to form a LIFEdevelopment Group so our unchurched friends can meet Christians and investigate Christianity. I told Tom we were having a few friends round to watch another video clip and talk about the life essentials, and he came. He even brought Anna. Tom was quite outspokenly critical in the group of the idea that the gospel was ‘free and unconditional’. Didn’t that leave a huge loophole for child-abusers or other criminals to be saved? Wouldn’t that be unfair to their victims? Anna seemed worried that he was being offensive because she told him to be quiet, but everyone was relaxed, and they kept asking for his views. And they actually listened to his questions rather than trying to be super-sales people.

...Then some of us suggested Christian points of view about how God judges fairly, and only forgives people who are genuinely sorry. Thinking about it later, I wonder if Tom argued so much because the subject got to him a bit, just like Nicodemus hiding behind debate to avoid amazing grace. I guess we all find it a bit too good to be true at first...

...Tom missed the second video night the next week. The boss had two great tickets to a new play but had to go away so he gave them to... guess who? Sounds like a cosmic conspiracy to me. The Christians in the group exchange emails with prayer requests, so we’re still praying for him.

...Yesterday at work Tom asked me how the video night went, and wanted to borrow the video clip and discussions material! (Prayers answered!) He was very positive about the video clip and chapter that he read in the Experiencing the Joy book, and came to the three more group meetings. I suggested we take a week’s break and then all get together to watch more clips especially on healthy relationships then discuss it afterwards.

 

 

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...The first night on healthy relationships went well. There were a lot of laughs, I guess because laughter is a safe cover when we’re opening up such heavy emotional areas. Tom brought Anna, who joked to me afterwards, I can’t believe you got Tom talking about relationships!’

...By the third night, the group seemed more relaxed with each other and the topic, and people talked quite deeply. I guess relationships go right to the heart or even the spirit of a person. I asked them how they had found it, and most people were positive about the openness, friendly inclusiveness and interactivity. I asked them what they’d improve and there was silence until someone said, ‘Make it longer’. There was a buzz of agreement, so we agreed to extend the group for another three sessions. Yes!!

...On the fifth night, we were talking about how finances can put stress on relationships. James, a businessman from church, quoted a couple of Solomon’s proverbs about money, and someone said, ‘Ancient wisdom from guru James!’ Everyone seemed pretty interested and someone said, ‘You should tell us more about that some time’. At our last session, some people said, ‘What are we doing next? How about James on money?’ There was a buzz of agreement. James finally said, ‘OK, how about this. Everyone read the book of Proverbs (I can find a few spare copies, or they’re available in your local bookshop in the Bible) and then I’ll lead a discussion on Seven Secrets of Financial Success. And I won’t try to sell you anything.’

...It was a bible study on money – how user-friendly is that? – using contemporary business theory to back up biblical insights. It went off really well. Afterwards Anna said, ‘That was great. I must admit the Bible is a classic that I know almost nothing about. Who put it all together?’ That seemed like a good time for me to suggest a meeting introducing the Bible and its claims. (To be honest I’m a bit nervous about boring them or not having a good answer to some question, but I’ll do my best and really put some time into prayer and study this week.)

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...It went great! They’ve asked to see more from the same book. It’s hard to sum up a dozen weeks in a few lines, but gradually people are getting really interested in the Bible. We’ve tried not to hurry them. Some like Tom are really keen, but I don’t want the others to feel pushed. We took a few weeks off and just ate and chatted. One couple kind of lost interest and kept saying, ‘We’d love to come again, but something came up.’ We’re not pushing – and we still see them socially. But basically the group is working through the 42 bible studies, found in the Experiencing the Joy material, with occasional breaks. Tom joked the other night, ‘You know this group is church for pagans like us!’ Anna said, ‘Pagans? Speak for yourself, you heathen.’Behind the usual kidding around, they’re coming to grips with becoming people of faith. On the side of all this, our group also decided to spend a Sunday morning cleaning up a local creek, removing rusted car bodies and other junk. We all worked like navvies, got filthy dirty and felt great about what we achieved. Even got a photo in the local paper. We’re planning to go collecting for the Red Cross next month.

...Tom and Anna felt they wanted to move faster than the rest of the group, so we’ve been meeting up for bible studies on another night. We didn’t just sneak off – we let the others know they were welcome, but no-one else came. Tom and Anna really hit us with hard-core questions. Why do we think the Bible’s true? Is God meaner in the Old Testament? Did He learn and evolve into a nicer deity by the time of Jesus? Do Christians believe sincere Buddhists go to hell? It made me realise how little I know, and motivated some serious reading and conversations with my pastor, trying to find biblical answers. Sometimes I have to say, ‘I don’t know’. We remind ourselves that experiencing God is the main thing to focus on even if you have questions.

Note

Level 2 gives you time to share biblical values, without getting preachy. It allows you to introduce the teachings of the Bible and its life values. Many people claim to be Christians without ever really understanding it for themselves. Now you can bring an experience of Jesus and biblical beliefs to them.

 

summary2

Summary

  

Level 2 

 .............................................

WHAT'S IN IT FOR THEM?

Finding useful biblical values for daily life;
Understanding the teachings of Jesus Christ. It presents the Seventh-day Adventist message in the context of joyful life.

 

YOUR PURPOSE:

Creating an understanding of the relevance and authenticity
of biblical values; Initiating a journey of discovery;
Building understanding.

 

YOUR METHOD:

Small group, one-to-one or at the church plant meetings.

 

RESOURCES AVAILABLE:

Study Guide: 'Experiencing the Joy' edited by Miroslav Pujić and Sarah K. Asaftei; it includes participant`s book, study guide, video clips.

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3. WORSHIP

It is time to take our new disciples further and help them experience biblical worship in a form that allows their hearts to be touched by God. It means participating in praising and thanking God, focusing on what He is and allowing Him to show us how to reveal His love to others. It is a journey into the heart of God`s love. It is a genuine expression of people`s longings and regrets; a release from burdens. This is their opportunity to receive peace and feel the joy, and to arrive at a decision to publicly make a covenant with Jesus as their Saviour.

Story

(two years later or any other time)

...Our LD group started to worship. It was a great blessing to all of us. Tom and Anna loved it so much so they decided to worship in the nearby Adventist church as well. They enjoyed it!

...Tom has been calling himself a Christian for months, and gradually making solid lifestyle changes. Recently I asked him how he felt about baptism. He said, ‘Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that.’ I asked him if he was ready – just straight-out asked him. I felt a bit nervous, but he seemed relieved to talk about it. He said one thing he should do is stop ‘living in sin’ (his words).

...Tom has asked Anna to marry him. She’s delighted, and knows that he finally decided to ‘get legal’ for religious reasons. She teased him (‘What, it took God to make you marry me? Choice between Anna or hell – tough decision, was it?’), but she knows he loves her.

...We had another chat a few weeks after they got home, and he said he wanted to be baptised. He said Anna wasn’t quite ready and he’d been waiting for her, but now felt he should go ahead. I encouraged him, though I’ve been careful to stay in support mode, not sales mode – he is my friend.

 

 

visinaworship11

...Tom got baptised yesterday. What a day! Do you know how good it feels to see that happen? It’s taken a couple of years, but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever been part of. When the pastor asked if anyone else wanted to decide for baptism, my neck hurt trying not to look at Anna. She didn’t stand up – she’s a fairly private person. But she got Tom, the pastor and me together at the potluck lunch afterwards and told us she wanted to make a date. 

Note

Level 3 helps your friends to experience God through worship. It will help them to grow spiritually faster and meaningful. Through worship they should learn more about God, praise Jesus for salvation, be healed and touched by the Holy Spirit.

baptism1WHEN TO BAPTISE?*

The Bible doesn`t tell us the ideal baptismal age and nor does the Adventist Church Manual. Maybe because of this, we are sometimes in a quandary when a young person asks to be baptised. Are they old enough to make such a serious decision? If we put them off, are we like the disciples who pushed children away from Christ? Is there an age when it`s too early? Is there a time when a missed opportunity will turn into a life of missed commitment? When is just right?

All requests for baptism need to be taken seriously. Children have a high value before God and we cannot afford to discourage them and turn them away from the Church. They are longing to be accepted and respected. And every child`s maturity and spiritual insight differs. But we have some spiritual principles and some research that gives us a little insight into when might be an ideal age for young people to mark their momentous decision to
commit their lives to Christ through baptism.

Faith is being developed from birth and research tells us that most people make decisions to follow Jesus as Lord and Saviour before they reach their teen years. Researcher George Barna found that children between the ages of 5 and 13 have a 32 per cent probability of accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour and only a 4 per cent probability between the ages of 14 and 18 and a 6 per cent probability in their adult years.*

Similarly, Ellen White states: “Children are the most susceptible to the teachings of the gospel; their hearts are open to divine influences and strong to retain the lessons received.”
She also notes: “Children of 8,10 or 12 years are old enough to be addressed on the subject of personal religion. Do not teach your children with reference to some future period when they shall be old enough to repent and believe the truth. If properly instructed, very young children my have a correct view of their state as sinners, and of the way of salvation through Christ.”*

So, what is the best age for baptism?

I believe that the years 9-13 are developmentally the best years to prepare for and be baptised. Barna`s research found that by the age of 13 a person`s spiritual identity is largely in place. He found that beliefs, values and attitudes are formed in childhood, and are so firmly embedded in our brains by the age of 13 that they are very difficult to change later in life.

 

baptism2

We have a huge window of opportunity for discipleship in the childhood years and a huge opportunity for decision making in the 11-14 year age group. Interestingly, it is during these years Jews perform bar and bat mitzvahs - coming of age ceremonies in which young people are recognised as capable of understanding the law and hence responsible for their own actions. It was also at 12 years of age that Jesus was first mentioned as acting independently of His earthly family, and when He was first reported to have shared His spiritual wisdom (Luke 2:41-50). Pastors and parents need to be
prepared to teach and nurture beliefs in this critical age bracket.
 

The Children`s Ministries Department has a new set of simple Bible studies for parents to share with their children from the age of 8. These lessons are entitled Daily Bites: “Come to Jesus”, “Dig Deeper”and “Share Jesus”. We cannot overestimate the importance of teaching the faith of Jesus to young people, of communicating with, listening to and answering their spiritual questions, and of being true Christian examples at home, at school and at church. Every young person`s request for baptism is a wonderful milestone - and one we should be prepared to accept joyfully.

 

summary3Summary  

Level 3

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WHAT'S IN IT FOR THEM?
Experience Biblical worship, discover true meaning;
Feeling new, healed, guilt-free, saved;
Making the decision to be baptised;
This can be experienced any time through out this journey.
 
  
YOUR PURPOSE:
Building mutual participation;
Helping them make a solid decision.
 
 
YOUR METHOD:
Creating blended worship environment that is relevant,
real, intelligent, participatory, high quality;
Demonstrating and explaining baptism.
 
  
 RESOURCES AVAILABLE
Book: 'Free Recovery, Await Rescue' by Miroslav Pujić
DVD sets: 'Vintage Values', 'aXioo', 'FAITHdevelopment', 'inTune' produced by tedMEDIA
 

 

 

 

4. NURTURE

Nurture is something through which our new disciples grow - from new believers to mature believers. It is how they deepen their relationship with God. By being reliable, we allow them to share with us things they might find difficult to talk about, both sorrows and joys. We carry their burdens in prayer and practical help, which gets us even closer to one another and to God.

Story

...At Tom’s baptism, he asked me to be his spiritual buddy. I was honoured, and I actually want to do the job well. That week I invited him out for a chat, took the risk and asked him straight out what he thought his challenges might be and how I could encourage his spiritual growth.

...He said he was finding it hard not to drink at social occasions, and hard to avoid porn, especially considering some of the emails that circulate at work. He said, ‘Tell me straight. How do you deal with that?’ We had a frank conversation about it. We also talked about what being a Christian meant at work. Tom’s not a seeker anymore, he’s a new disciple. But he still needs spiritual support in practical ways. In pottery terms, he’s still wet clay, getting into shape but the Potter is patiently finishing him. For his baptism I gave him a copy of The Messiah (that’s The Desire of Ages in contemporary English).  In the front I wrote a text that sums this up: ‘We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.’(Isaiah 64:8)

Note

Level 4 brings lots of change and growth to each new disciple. After baptism, every person experiences new perspective, new horizons, new challenges and temptations. This journey can be difficult. Remember when you first got serious about following Jesus? This is your chance to pass what you’ve learned over the years. You can be a ‘spiritual buddy’ to a new disciple and mentor them through the transition of living a daily Christian life. In level 4, you’ll practice spiritual disciplines together-connecting with God in your quiet time and inner spiritual life, battling temptations and frustrations, building new habits that are more like Jesus. You’ll also study more about living in community with fellow believers and with those outside the church. For new disciples, this is the first step toward becoming a powerful Christian witness in their own right.

Summary

 
Level 4
 ...................................................
 
WHAT'S IN IT FOR THEM?

Personal growth, both spiritual and practical
  
YOUR PURPOSE:

Nurture and growth
  
YOUR METHOD:
 
Mentoring through fellowship: 
that is, regular supportive contact and teaching 
(something like parenting, but between adults)
 
RESOURCES AVAILABLE:
 
Books: 'Fit or Fat: Experiencing Authentic Spirituality' by Miroslav Pujić
'Steps to Christ' and 'Desire of Ages' by Ellen G. White
'Using Your Spiritual Gifts' by Eddie Rasnake
'Celebration of Discipline' by Richard J. Foster

 

 

5. EQUIP

This is the final level of the journey. It is our desire and duty to empower, train and enable new disciples to discover what are their spiritual gifts in order to minister to their friends. It means making them fully qualified for the work in making new disciples through which they grow more and more, and learn to serve and share their own experience with others. 

Story

Tom wanted to tell everyone about his conversion. I persuaded him not to be scary, but to be strategic and fairly low-key, and to remember how he would have reacted a few years ago if someone preached at him. Don’t want him getting too keen and coming across like an obnoxious ex-smoker. 

…I invited him and Anna to the discipleship-training course at church along with some other new people from LD Groups. The test suggested Tom’s main spiritual gift was evangelism. He found that hard to believe at first, because he said, ‘I’m no salesman.’ But I told him that’s different. Anna’s gift is teaching, which makes sense if you know her.

 ...In the last few months, Tom has had a few personal chats with people telling them about his spiritual life in a way that was positive and personal, not preaching at them. He showed real subtlety and humour. He’s hoping to invite one workmate to the next LD Group event.

...Tom and I have decided to play doubles tennis, and invite two more guys from work. One seems very open to spiritual conversations, and the other is somewhat open but is a killer tennis player. Call us the tennis missionaries. But even if they never become Christians, we won’t drop them and move on. It’s a genuine friendship, not subtle manipulation.

...Last week we invited our LIFEdevelopment Group to hear our pastor talk about a relationship topic at church. It seems like about a month since we first started the group, but it’s been over three years—amazing. We didn’t rush them to church. We discussed it with our pastor, and he agreed we should transition the group members gradually, because coming to church is a big psychological hurdle for many. But we sensed many of the group were ready, and that the church was ready.


Church leaders had been asking me for months, ‘How can we support your new people?’, so I knew they’d be friendly and welcoming, and so would the members. The church really got behind the idea of putting on a special programme for visitors, so we knew the sermon wouldn’t be on the Mark of the Beast, Mrs Beetson wouldn’t be singing (I do love her, but not her contralto vibrato), and the prayer wouldn’t be a four-minute knee-breaker.

...That day I watched church through the visitors’ eyes. The welcome was short and warm. The elder didn’t waffle. The singing, while not professional, was high quality, enthusiastic and real. The offering promotion was positive and attractive rather than pushy. The pastor’s sermon was spot on—relational, succinct, practical, with a Biblical message that really connected. (He even had snappy Powerpoint visuals, thanks to one of the teens.) He invited anyone with questions to join a seekers’ class with him.

...Afterwards at the luncheon Tom and Anna were hosting the others from the group. Some of the long-term church members were a bit shy the first time, but they were all really excited to see new people. A few extroverts went out of their way to be hospitable, and even some introverts surprised me with their quiet friendliness. Three cheers for the church! At our next group meeting, they were pretty positive about their church experience, especially seeing people they wouldn’t usually socialise with—a struggling single Mum and a high-flying lawyer in the same group. It exceeded their expectations of church (not that that’s hard!). 

Note

Level 5 begins equipping new disciples to witness and serve others on their own. Christianity brings a natural excitement to the genuine disciple, and newly baptised members will want to share what Jesus has done for them. This level offers training and empowerment to help you understand and apply your unique individual gifts. Whether you are a new disciple or a mature Christian, you’ll benefit from learning more about how God created you to witness for Him! In level 5 they’ll learn about themselves and how they can best use their talents to share Jesus with other people. New disciples especially benefit from this educational process. The LD Handbook gives mentors special insight to guide new disciples through the training and equipping.

 


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Summary

 Level 5
 ...................................................
 

WHAT'S IN IT FOR THEM?

Being thoroughly equipped for service

 

YOUR PURPOSE:

Involving them in ministry

 

YOUR METHOD:

 Providing training to clarify their gifts, coortunities ministry, opportunities compatible with their talents 

 

RESOURCES AVAILABLE: 

Books: 'The Equipping Church' by Sue Mallory
'Spiritual Gifts: Equipped to Serve - Engaged in Serving' by Eddie Rasnake
'Equipping the Saints, Mobilizing Laity for Ministry' by Michael J. Cristensen and Carl E. Savage
'Leadership Development' edited by Miroslav Pujić and Esti Pujić

 


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