This is the time to try new things with your members.
As church leaders, we all desire to help people develop faith, even during difficult circumstances. Today many churches are anemic, unproductive, and increasingly an afterthought for members who once attended church regularly. Our involvement in the public square today concerning the relevant topics of racial injustice and political debate is bringing this reality into light. Much of our contribution lacks power and influence because our churches have not affirmed disciple making as our one mission.
From Group Focus Only to Side-By-Side Environments
For so long the Sunday morning experience has been the church’s primary emphasis. As a result, we have been missing out many other opportunities throughout every week to help God’s people grow in faith and confidence in God.
Because of this hyper focus, we have placed all of our disciple-making efforts in group settings like worship and groups. These environments are conducive to teaching, but not that effective in modeling a lifestyle. What is needed today is training. What is essential for making disciples is modeling a lifestyle. Paul writes, “Put into practice what you have seen me do.”
We learn new behaviors and skills by watching others do them. Think about some of the basic life skills like brushing our teeth, shaving, cooking, driving a car, balancing a check book. Someone shows us how. There is a reason that YouTube is the number one search engine. Show me how!
Sunday morning is not the most effective environment to do this.
The discipleship journey is one that is primarily a modeling, side-by-side, as-life-happens relationship.
One of the blessings of COVID-19 is that we can build up our training muscles, even as the teaching and community environments have been so dramatically changed.
Now is the perfect time to experiment with this shift in focus. In this newly discovered virtual reality, we can experiment with how we build our cultures and strengthen our church communities.
From Tell Me What To Show Me How
If it is true (and, obviously, I believe it is) that a show-me-how journey, more than a tell-me-what lecture. Showing is more effective for disciple-making than telling. So, this second shift is as vital as the first.
When we tell people to read their Bible, but we never demonstrate to them how to read their Bible, we can inadvertently heap guilt on them. When we preach and teach that people should have a vibrant prayer life, but we don’t talk with them about how to pray, we can just leave them with guilt. The disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us how to pray, just like John the Baptist taught his disciples…” (Luke 11:1)
This applies to every aspect of the Christian life. When we tell our friends to serve, to give financially, to witness, to listen to others, to resolve conflict, to trust in Jesus, to memorize Scripture, to journal, to make God-pleasing decisions, to parent… you get the idea.
Think: How can I turn these teachings into a resource to give to people, and how do I do what I am teaching? How can we create environments where people can learn this side-by-side?
Here are a couple examples of how to show disciples how to read the Bible.
Model and Practice A Spiritual Discipline
Practice Lectio Divina
Pray the Scriptures
Let whatever you are reading in the Bible guide your prayers. This can include any verses you are reading in your personal devotion time, verses from your small group, verses from worship, or when you just open your Bible and read a few verses.
Then ask yourself: What is this passage prompting me to pray? Use the Three Rs to give structure to your prayers. (Rejoice, Repent, Request)
- How does this passage prompt me to Rejoice? Begin your prayer with praise of God and thankfulness.
- How does this passage prompt me to Repent? Where do your attitudes and actions need to change? Confess and ask for forgiveness.
- How does this passage prompt me to Request? Ask God for help in changing. Ask to bring about the future reality that God's Word moves you to hope for.
30 Things (from the Introduction of Timothy Keller’s book Encounters With Jesus).1
- Set your alarm for 30 minutes. Open up the passage you are going to read. (How about Acts 8:26-40?)
- Write down 30 things you notice from your passage. Questions. Insights. Ah-ha moments. Write them down.
- When the 30-minutes is up, go back through your list and pick out one or two things that seem the most important right now.
So, what ideas are being stirred up for you that you would like to put into practice around these two shifts? We would love to hear from you.
1 Neither Jeff nor Vanco receive a commission from sales of this book. It is strictly a recommendation of a book Jeff thinks church leaders will benefit from reading and sharing with their members.