This chapter deals with discipleship, breaking it into three sections: “Go” … “Make Disciples” … “All Nations.”
Stetzer interprets the Great Commission, and I agree, as a “as you are going” fulfill God’s mission. The Samaritan woman (Jn. 4) is the paradigmatic picture of evangelism in the NT, according to the authors: “(1) people have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, (2) they go back to their own community or “oikos” and tell those around them, and (3) those who hear go and explore for themselves the things they have seen and heard” (p. 121). They go on next to show that new churches without evangelism churches grow faster than new churches with evangelism programs. That was fascinating to me. They think it is because the programs make it difficult for many to practice relational evangelism.
The church needs to build structures that welcome people into a journey. (There’s a great diagram that I can’t reproduce – get the book it’s way better than a few posts, anyway.) Stetzer talks about two kinds of conversion: One is to community, the other to Christ. The first often happens first so the church needs to know a few key things.
1. God is at work in the lives of those outside the church.
2. Those outside the church are open to spiritual matters.
3. Those outside the church are most often reached relationally.
4. Prayer is an essential part of the conversion process for those outside the church.
5. Those outside the church must overcome identifiable barriers in their journey toward the gospel.
There is a process for discipleship from Stetzer’s perspective. It starts with Searching, which means the church has to overcome image and cultural issues and barriers. Overcoming these barriers means contextualizing our language and addressing the image problem (a book called unChristian is on my to read list, which addresses some of these image problems). From Searching, we move to Believing. This is where discipleship truly begins and it is central to discipleship. There’s no discipleship without it. Belonging is added to Believing. Key quote: “It is impossible to be in a healthy relationship with God and not be in a healthy relationship with others” (p. 132). Next, Becoming. This is interdependent with Belonging, but it is a transformation to looking like Jesus and overcoming lifestyle barriers in our lives. Finally, Serving, though it is possible that many who are pre-Christian will seek to serve alongside as they are converted to community. Under this Stetzer makes a statement that I think is wise and, in my mind, ideal for building church structure: “The major barrier to serving is often a structural barrier. It is not unusual for all of our energy to go into running the organizational church. Therefore, it is important that we develop simple expressions of church that free us up to serve, both those within the church and those who are yet to become a meaningful part of the church” (p. 134). In short, keep it simple!
In this book it is people groups, population segments, and cultural environments.
The Breaking the Code Challenge
1. What does it mean to ‘be a disciple’?
2. What is your process for connecting with disconnected people and developing them into disciples?
3. What are the steps you need to make to develop a more holistic discipling process?