What do you do when you see a fellow believer making moves that are totally inconsistent with what the Bible says about life in Christ? In my opinion (and in the Good Book) the worst thing to do is nothing. We display the steadfast love and care of Jesus Christ when we gently and firmly go after wandering sheep. The following steps are driven by Scripture and pastoral experience.
- Pray. Ask God for wisdom. Search the Scripture to ensure you are not approaching someone on a preference issue, and that it is indeed a clear matter of sin.
- Talk to them. This isn’t always easy because, if they are wandering intentionally, they know where you stand and they know how they are choosing to live, and they know those two things are not congruent. So, chances are they don’t want to talk to you. If they do, that’s wonderful. Skip down to step 5. If they don’t, then proceed. NOTE: Sometimes people don’t want to speak to you, but they don’t want you to think they don’t want to speak to you (twisted, I know). So, they play a long-term game of cat-and-mouse phone and email tag that is calculated to make you think they wish to talk, when in reality, they do not. Just watch for that.
- If they won’t talk, then get some input from a spouse or family member about what’s going on. The goal is not to get into the nitty gritty details of what you’re seeing, but instead to say something like, “Hey, I’ve been trying to reach out to [name] and he or she seems unwilling to connect. Who do you know who has their ear who is a fellow brother or sister in Christ?” It might be wise to have that person approach them or at least to have that person encourage them to meet with you.
- Be tenacious. Jesus didn’t stop pursuing me when I didn’t want Him. He came after me! Be careful not to be a poor testimony or break any laws, but really go above and beyond to connect with the person. This might mean coordinating schedules so you show up when they get off work, or at a child’s game, or the like. Just tell them, “We need to talk. When can we do that?”
- Reassure them that you love them. Remind them that you have taken notice of what is happening in their lives and you are concerned. Remind them that you are not trying to be a burden to them but a help. Remind them that you love them too much to let them wander away from Jesus, the Source of life.
- Ask carefully worded questions. This will require work ahead of time on your part. You must be very careful to avoid saying things that are going to make it more difficult to move ahead. If you say, “You’re wife stopped by and told me you have announced your intentions to leave her.”, then that husband might leave your conversation and proceed to take out his anger on his wife for outing his intentions (in fact, this is often the case). Remember, sheep who are wandering are mixed up. They might have convinced themselves they are doing the right thing, but deep down they may know that they are not. They are living in this conflicted state. Carefully worded questions should help reveal what is going on without much trouble. Here are some examples:
- “I’ve been trying to reach out to you, and you seem distant or unwilling to connect. Why?”
- “I’ve noticed that you’ve moved out of your home. Can you please let me know how this is a move that is in line with what Scripture says?”
- “You’re spouse looks like he/she is in distress all the time and you are never with him / her. What is going on?”
- Offer help that meets them where they are. As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” If they have wandered away from the truth for a long time or they’ve convinced themselves that God is pleased with their actions when the Bible says otherwise, then it’s going to take time to put them on the path back to truth and walk them there. You can’t just say, “That’s wrong, stop it!” Shepherd them back. If they make the initial turn-around, then great. Encourage them and celebrate. If they have the desire to do the right thing, you can help them work through the details. If they don’t want to do the right thing, that’s where the problems come in and the tough questions arise. You may have to ask a question like, “Can a true follower of Jesus Christ make a decision to directly disobey a clear teaching of Scripture and still call themselves a follower of Jesus Christ? What did Jesus say in John 14:15?” Be ready to ask that question. If they are willing to admit they are not Christians, then the entire nature of the situation changes from reaching a wandering sheep to outreach to a lost sheep, and that’s a topic for a different post.
Some people get confused about how the OT law pertains to us as Christians today. Someone asked me about the fact that homosexual practice is banned in the OT law and we take that seriously, but we don’t adhere to rules about slavery, planting crops, etc. Here was my answer (sorry it is long).
The Old Testament law (Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy) was the constitution for the Israelite people back in biblical times. It contained overall moral prohibitions (as our laws do today against things like murder), as well as practical ways to deal with real-world situations from day-to-day (modern example: back in the 1970’s when there was an oil crisis, the speed limit was adjusted to 55mph because that is the optimum speed for fuel efficiency. The speed limit is different now on different types of roads. There is nothing special about 55 or 65 or 70mph. Now, we are more concerned with crash fatalities than fuel economy. This is a practical law in place for peoples’ well being, not a moral law.) God gave the Israelites practical laws for their day. In their day, slavery was a cultural reality, so God gave laws to govern it (that does not mean He created slavery or condoned it – He gave laws restricting what must be done for a man who has multiple wives, same thing). There were laws about crop production, mold, fabric in garments… practically everything was spelled out for His people. Well, since the OT law was the constitution for a specific nation thousands of years ago, and because Christians do not live under the authority of the ancient king of Israel, but under the rule of Jesus Christ, that constitution no longer applies to us. Christians who say it does are misguided. However, there are moral aspects of the OT law that were in place before the law was given (see Genesis 2 about God’s ordination of marriage) as well as after the law in the New Testament (Jesus taught that marriage was between a man and a woman and Paul and others wrote against homosexual practice in places like Romans 1). So, the simple answer is this – we DO take the OT law literally, but it simply does not apply to us today because we live under King Jesus and are not part of the ancient kingdom of Israel to which the OT law applied. That’s why Christians don’t get excited when people plant different crops side-by-side. I assure you, if that prohibition was in the NT, we’d be motivated to speak up about it. There are moral aspects of the OT law that Jesus gave to Christians today. Marriage is one of those things that is woven throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. I hope this makes sense.
Something to put in your memory when this type of question comes up.
It seems like everything is competing for our attention all the time. Work, home, church, leisure, hobbies, etc. Often times, the Christian will be asked to serve in an area of his/her interest within the context of a parachurch ministry. What is a parachurch ministry? Wikipedia states it this way:
Parachurch organizations are Christian faith-based organizations that work outside of and across denominations to engage in social welfare and evangelism, usually independent of church oversight. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parachurch_organization)
Now, there are lots of great parachurch organizations on the earth today such as Gideon’s International, Samaritan’s Purse, Word of Life, AWANA, and so on and so on. I am a busy guy. How should the busy Christian think about parachurch organizations? Well, allow me to present the following grid for us to think about.
What is my ministry? Here are my priorities according to the Bible…
- Ministry to self (Bible reading and prayer and personal fight against sin). If this isn’t right, nothing else below will be right.
- Ministry to your immediate family (Deuteronomy 6:4 and following)
- Ministry to the body at your local church (1 Corinthians and many other places – the ‘one another’ passages for example)
- Ministry of the Good News to others in your sphere of influence like work, social life, neighborhood, etc. (the work of an evangelist)
- Ministry within parachurch organizations (once items 1-4 are adequately cared for)
So, if you want to help out serving within the context of a parachurch organization, that might be a good thing IF your biblical responsibilities in 1-4 above are being done well. Remember, a parachurch organization is NOT a church. The leadership of those organizations are not responsible for your soul. You are called upon to submit to the leadership of your local church. By the way, if you are in doubt about whether or not you are covering 1-4 adequately, as your spouse or one of the elders at your church. They will help guide you. Parachurch ministries are important and have a place. You, your church, your family, and the unbelievers in your life take priority. Think about it. If every believer were engaged in this way, would parachurch ministries be needed?
PS – a good link on this subject: http://www.9marks.org/journal/nine-marks-healthy-parachurch-ministry
The following is a list from Mark Dever’s book, “What is a Healthy Church?” (Crossway, 2007, page 57).
Quick Tips: IF YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT LEAVING A CHURCH…
- Let your current pastor know about your thinking before you move to another church or make your decision to relocate to another city. Ask for his counsel.
- Weigh your motives. Is your desire to leave because of sinful, personal conflict or disappointment? If it’s because of doctrinal reasons, are these doctrinal issues significant?
- Do everything within your power to reconcile any broken relationships.
- Be sure to consider all the “evidences of grace” you’ve seen in the church’s life – places where God’s work is evident. If you cannot see any evidences of God’s grace, you might want to examine your own heart once more (Matthew 7:3-5).
- Be humble. Recognize you don’t have all the facts and assess people and circumstances charitably (give them the benefit of the doubt).
IF YOU GO…
- Don’t divide the body.
- Take the utmost care not to sow discontent even among your closest friends. Remember, you don’t want anything to hinder their growth in grace in this church. Deny any desire to gossip (sometimes referred to as “venting” or “saying how you feel”).
- Pray for an bless the congregation and its leadership. Look for ways of doing this practically.
- If there has been hurt, then forgive – even as you have been forgiven.
Here are the Summer 2013 teacher training modules.
Module 1 – Click here for the instructions for module 1.
- 7 Laws of the Teacher Lesson 1: To Listen Click Here
- 7 Laws of the Teacher Lesson 2: To Listen Click Here
Module 2 – Click here for the instructions for module 2.
- 7 Laws of the Teacher Lesson 3: To Listen Click Here
- 7 Laws of the Teacher Lesson 4: To Listen Click Here
Module 3 – Just listen to the audio below, take notes, and come prepared to discuss.
- 7 Laws of the Teacher Lesson 5: To Listen Click Here
- 7 Laws of the Teacher Lesson 6: To Listen Click Here
- 7 Laws of the Teacher Lesson 7: To Listen Click Here
The process of making a disciple was modeled perfectly by Jesus Christ and the 12. While good books and resources abound (see below), they offer little practical guidance in making a disciple of Jesus Christ. One of the key things to remember in all of this is that a true disciple is someone who has a balance of LEARNING and DOING. It does no good to fill someone’s head full of theological knowledge only to have them do nothing with it. Jesus equipped the disciples for ministry work. Jesus took three years to train the 12, so don’t get into a huge hurry.
The following is what I know so far on the subject.
- Not everyone who claims to know Christ is a disciple. The Bible tells us that many who were following Jesus stopped when the teaching or the situation became too difficult. Matt 19:22, 26:69-75
- Who should you choose?
- Must be a believer who is willing to sacrifice time, resources, and personal comfort to minister to others.
- You must decide if you are training the person for ‘Word ministry’ (are you aiming at the goal of having them teach the Bible) or service ministry?
- Someone who will take what they’ve been taught and teach it to others.
- The person’s life must be marked by humility and eagerness to learn and grow. Often times, people who grew up in religion do not fit in this category.
2. Evaluate & Plan
- The next step after choosing a person to disciple is to find out where they are in their walk with Christ. In order to minister effectively, they must have a basic understanding of the big picture of the Bible (who God is, who we are, why we need a Savior, etc). There are two good tools to use to accomplish this, 1) the WDA Christian Growth Checklist, and 2) Apprentice Development Planner (Appendix 3 of ‘Passing the Baton’)
- After evaluating the disciple, it is time to design a custom plan for them to develop the skills that are lacking. Don’t be afraid to supplement with books with which you are already familiar. Make sure the plan includes reading in the Bible.
- The plan should also include practical training (real-life ministry opportunities like preaching, teaching, organizing an event, evangelistic activity, spiritual disciplines, etc). The idea is that you will step the person through how to do it the first time, have them document how it was done, then release them to try it on their own.
- Put the plan in writing with target dates.
3. Model &Pour
- One of the greatest aspects to being a good disciple-builder is for you to be a good disciple yourself. You should model what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in your own walk.
- Pour your life into the disciple. Be transparent. Tell them what you know. Share your struggles. Pray regularly together.
- Meet on a routine basis to check to see how the plan is going, the struggles of the disciple, and for encouragement.
4. Train & Test
- Provide ministry tasks and evaluate honestly. You may use the Formal Assessment Form (Appendix 4 in ‘Passing the Baton’)
- The best thing you can do with the disciple at this point is to be brutally honest. It does the disciple no good for you to tell them they are doing fine when they are really not.
- The disciple should not work toward being perfect, but instead being faithful to the task.
- Based on their gifting, send them into ministry on their own when they are ready.
- They should immediately begin seeking someone to disciple themselves (ideally, someone they’ve led to the Lord).
6. Check Up
- Periodically, check on them to see how they are doing and encourage them
- With Christ in the School of Disciple Building – An Study of Christ’s Method of Building Disciples by Carl Wilson
- Test, Train, Affirm, and Send Into Ministry: Recovering the Local Church’s Responsibility in the External Call (Ministering the Master’s Way) by Brian Croft
- Passing the Baton – A Handbook for Ministry Apprenticeship by Colin Marshall
- Multiply by Francis Chan
- Basics for Believers – An Exposition of Philippians by D.A. Carson
- Sonlife Classic