One of the stated goals of this discipleship group blog series is to reproduce. While the group process will equip the group participants to facilitate their own small group a few more things are required to get to reproduction. The first thing is a list of people whom they can invite to join their group. How do we do that? You ask them to map all the people they know: family, friends, neighbours, co-workers/student, and common interest people they know. If this sounds like the exercise you did in week 1 it’s because it is. Teach them how to do week 1. At the end of it they will have their own map of the people they can begin praying for an to invite to a group. If they have developed their facilitation skills to the point of leading a group then it’s time to have them practice how to invite and then releasing them to start. But, and this is a big but, don’t abandon them. I will talk more on this in week 6. But this week we need to address a small problem.
There’s one small problem with this model of reproduction and I hope you have noticed it and are wanting an answer. If all we do is start and reproduce discipleship groups with Christians when and how do we grow the Kingdom of God? While the Great Commission focuses on making disciples we see in Acts and the historical record of the Apostles that sharing of our faith with those far from God is what Jesus meant when he said ‘Go’. Some people are very gifted at this. In fact, about 1 in 10 people have some sort of evangelism gift. God bless them and their ministry. I love watching gifted evangelists. They naturally flow from whatever to the gospel story. I wish I could express the message of life like they do but I can’t. So the rest of this post is about how a non-evangelist can seek to bring life to others.
I use three stories. People like stories. Youtube and Facebook and TV all tell us that people love stories, even the 140 character ones on Twitter. There are three stories that need to be told. The first is their story. The second is your story and the last one is God’s story.
Sadly, despite learning to sit and hear a sermon every week most Christians don’t listen very well and this first story is about listening. You will want to listen to the story of the person you are wanting to share with. I want you to genuinely listen to them. In fact, as an exercise, I would encourage you to have 5 conversations where you just listen to them without any other agenda. Just listen to them.
There are 5 questions/statements you will want to ask. They are a slight modification of William Fay’s taken from his book, “Share Jesus without Fear“. The Kindle version will cost you about US$3. It’s a great book and helped me learn how to start conversations. Most books on evangelism focus on why and how to share our faith but this one includes how to find out if the person wants to hear the gospel. If they do then proceed and if they don’t then don’t. Personally, I love his whole approach on how to safely share with others. I highly recommend you get a copy.
There is one question/statement which proceeds these five depending on whether you know the person well or not. If you know them well and have never truly listened to their story then say, “I’ve never taken the time to hear about what matters in your life. I would really like to know. Tell me …” If you don’t them well then say, “Tell me about yourself.” This will lead naturally into the first request below. Here are the 5 questions/requests:
- Tell me about your spiritual beliefs
- To you, who is Jesus?
- Do you think there is a heaven or hell?
- If you died tonight, where would you go and why?
- If the truth was something different, would you want to know?
These are the broad questions. Please, please, please, if they have spiritual beliefs then explore them. What do they believe and what does that mean for them? Don’t debate them. Don’t tell them they are wrong. Listen to them. Probe out of interest not to score points. People are happy to talk about themselves so let them. Be interested in what they believe for what they are believe is the essence of who they are – get to know them deeply and well.
The way you ask the second question is really important. You are not asking, “Who is Jesus?” or “What do you know about Jesus?” These questions are about facts and will lead to arguments. Don’t go there. And worse than that, they don’t tell you what the other person feels and thinks about Jesus as he is to them. Look again at question 2 – they can’t be wrong. That makes it a good question to answer since they can’t get it wrong. And if you can’t be wrong then you are more likely to honestly reply. They could say that Jesus was a hippie from the 70’s sent back in time. I don’t think that’s true but I didn’t ask them for the truth; I asked them who Jesus was to them. It’s the ‘to them’ that makes it a safe question for them to answer.
Throughout this conversation in what they believe do not, DO NOT, start a debate. Listen to them. This is crucial for three reasons. Firstly, it’s polite. Secondly, it’s wise. It’s said that when an amateur speaker is asked to come and present a message they will ask what to speak on while the professional asks to whom they will be speaking. Knowing them, hearing them, listening to their story and their beliefs is more important at this stage than what you are going to say. Yes, what you have to say is important, but first know your audience. There are four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Four different audiences. Four different stories. Know your audience first. The last reason is that we are given two ears and one mouth and they should be used in that proportion. Spend time listening to people and you will find they will give you an opportunity to speak. We aren’t listening to them to manipulate them into listening to us, we are listening to their beliefs because their beliefs are the core of who they are and as precious human beings whom God loves they deserve for us to listen to their deepest selves.
Now, notice the last question. Question 5. What do you think you do if they say ‘No’? You do nothing. If they don’t want to know then go no further in the discussion. If, however, they say yes then ask one more question; “Can I share something with you?” If they say ‘No’, stop. If they say ‘Yes’, continue. Respect their ‘No’. If they say ‘No’ then it’s no. Jesus let people walk away and so should we.
If they have said yes then it’s time to tell your story.While you could tell your whole story it’s best to keep it short as a lead in to God’s story. Your story is the answer to the question, “What difference has Jesus made to your life?” There could be many, many answers to this question. You have many, many stories to tell. Choose one of those answers and tell them that one story. It shouldn’t take more than 1-2 minutes. The more answers you have the easier it will be to identify with their story as a bridge to God’s story. Practice with the people in your group. Take turns telling each other how Jesus impacts your life. Practice listening to each other.
Lastly, you will want to tell God’s story and invite them to place their trust in Jesus. As I stated above, I love the way William Fay does it. His method uses questions and self-discovery to share the gospel. His approach ensures they understand the gospel story before asking for a commitment. I love this approach. There are lots of other great approaches out there. The Roman Road, the Hand Gospel (God, Man, God, No, Yes), Do vs Done, The Bridge, Creation to Christ, Four Spiritual Laws, Evangecube. I suggest you find one and use that as a model for your group. Get them sharing with that one method and perhaps introduce them to another one if you need to. By keeping to one model you make reproduction easier. Everyone understands the model approach and can help each other get better at it. Which approach is best? The one you are using. Due to the length of this post I won’t elaborate any more on the various methods. Find one that works for your cultural context and teach it to your group.
I need to mention this for my Australian readers. In Australia there are two taboo topics – Politics and Religion. In most parts of the world these are daily topics and asking someone about their spiritual belief is fine and normal. But not in Oz. Some good news and some bad news. The good news is that it is White Australians that have the biggest problem with talking about religion. If you are talking to an immigrant, an Afghan Aussie, or a Greek Aussie, or an India Aussie, then it’s actually ok to talk about spiritual matters. They come from lands where these topics aren’t taboo. The bad news is that White Aussies don’t like to talk about religion. So don’t. Back to the good news. Spiritual beliefs are different from religion. Everyone has some kind of spiritual belief – even atheists. Keep it to their beliefs without asking them to defend themselves and you will be fine.
That’s it. Teach them how to facilitate a group and teach them to share their faith. Many will not lead a group even though they know how. Train them anyway. Many will not share their faith even though they know how. Train them anyway. What you don’t know is who has the gift to do it and those who don’t. People will surprise you. Train everyone. Equip, Empower and Encourage everyone. Some won’t but some will. Years ago George Barna wrote a book called “Evangelism that works”. His conclusion was that those who do evangelism see people come to new life in Jesus and those who don’t do evangelism don’t see people come to new life. You may not have a gift of evangelism but by training those in your group to disciple others who disciple others evangelists will be found and they will reap a large harvest. But if they are never trained, never shown how to make a map, never empowered and released then they will sit in church never knowing the joy of giving their gift away. Train for reproduction and you will see results.
Let me know how you are going with your discipleship groups. What’s working? What needs more important? Where are you getting stuck? What are some of the success stories?