Jesus Christ, the builder and head of the church, commands his followers to love one another (and the people in this world). We obey his commandment by continuing to expand the church through the growth of new disciples, teaching them to obey all of Jesus’ teachings. The local body of believers is a place of healing and hope, the storehouse of relationships through which God will satisfy our spiritual and emotional hunger. Disciple-making through Life Groups Life Groups (LGs) break a worshiping body of Christ into smaller groups (usually 8 to 14 adults) to deepen relationships, help people identify their gifts and skill sets, and train people for ministry (in which all believers are to take part). LGs usually meet weekly at a set time and place (most often in homes). LGs are:
- Safe harbors where trust and trustworthiness take shape in the lives of believers.
- The best place to learn how to better apply basic Christian beliefs and learn Christian disciplines (prayer, fasting, Bible study, contemplation, and the exercise of spiritual gifts.
- Led by trained leaders whose role is pastoral, seeking to protect the Christ-likeness of the group and keep the focus on growing in grace through the practice of spiritual gifts and Christian disciplines, resulting in measurable spiritual fruit.
- Most effective when the people are naturally attracted to the leaders and the members (forcing intimate community is impossible).
- Most effective in equipping people when they are not only growing inwardly but also focused outwardly–doing the Word, not just hearing it.
As the book of Acts tells us, the early church grew daily when believers met together and then carried their experiences outward, telling their stories of faith and belief to everyone around them. LGs are about enjoying experiences with God and his people as everyone learns how to be an effective servant of Christ, first in their group, and then in their church and the world. Believers’ love of God and each other is best displayed through small group connections where people look out for one another and learn to do ministry together. How do we teach people to make disciples?
- The gates of hell will not overpower the church; the church can resist and overpower the devil.
- Apart from abiding in (staying connected to) Jesus, we can do nothing.
- By believing in him and in the power of his name, we can do all things.
- He sent the 70 disciples out two by two to bless, heal, and preach (in that order), and they did.
- He told his disciples that they would do greater things than he did.
- Jesus told the disciples to wait to receive power from on high in the person of the Holy Spirit before going out to make disciples of everyone, everywhere.
- The truth will truly free us from things that entrap.
Potency is the level of effectiveness, spiritual power, and strength that flows through people walking in agreement with God and each other as they travel life together in close relationship. There are many things that God will trust us with as a group that he doesn’t always give to us individually. Faith works best through love; love is best shown to one another and works outward to reach those who do not know God, those not yet in the relational group of believers. But potency cannot be imitated–it must be real! As the title of a book by Harvey McKay so poignantly states, “Beware of the naked man who offers you the shirt off his back!” Insincere, powerless Christians do not have the same vigor to produce more disciples as those who are solidly connected to Christ and in love with him and his people. Out of that blessing of loving and being loved, they go forth to bless others by inviting them into the same kind of intense, loving, and powerful relationship. The greater the love and sincerity of relationship with God and his people, the greater the potency to win others. According to the Lord Jesus, making new disciples is to be the purpose of us all, and we must choose to stay in fellowship with God and one another to be effective at it. To intensify our potency in order to increase our fruitfulness, we:
- Maintain a vibrant prayer and devotional life, spending significant time in fellowship with God and vibrant Christians.
- Feed on God’s Word and seek to understand how to properly apply the Word in our lives.
- Discipline our lives, adopting holy living not for an outward show (hypocrisy), but as an inward commitment for the sake of others being able to see Christ bubbling up from within us.
- Seek and embrace the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in and through us as we live our lives listening for his voice and expecting to see the supernatural results of God permeating our lives and circumstances.
- Challenge ourselves to continually grow in the fruit of the Spirit and judge ourselves before we are judged by anyone else.
- Commit to using our bountiful lives for God’s purpose and the good of others before our own good.
Proximity How near are we to those who do not know Christ (at work, home, and play)?
- Do we care enough about the lost to find out who they are?
- Have we enough potency to live a separate enough lifestyle for them to identify us?
- Do we consider relocating to be nearer the place where the most lost people are located?
- Are we always looking for new friends with the intention of loving them into a relationship with Christ?
- Do we worship in an environment that is passionate about lost people as demonstrated by its use of time, talent, and treasure?
- Do we go everywhere (or anywhere) with the express purpose of being Jesus’ representatives?
One early church observation, recorded in Acts, is that “God put all people where he wanted them to be.” He especially directs the paths and life experiences of his children. Do we see our physical locations—our jobs, the places we shop and eat, where we play and live—as a bonus or a barrier in making disciples? All around us are people who do not have a thriving (if any) relationship with Christ.
- Are we sure that we are where God wants us to be?
- Is there enough evidence of his grace flowing through us that it impacts others to back up our opinion?
- If not, shouldn’t we be looking for a new location to live, work, shop, and play?
God the Father is looking for the lost–that is what Jesus did when he walked on the earth–and now he works through us! But we must consider our surroundings and take advantage of them or even move ourselves to more optimum locations to be able to fulfill our purpose. Who are these people we live and work and play near? We are to use our proximity to people to maximize our productivity for God.
- Do you know your neighbors up and down your street or neighborhood (and where they are on their spiritual journey)?
- Do you regularly speak to coworkers, friends, and acquaintances about your own journey with God?
- Do you know the hot spots where people gather socially in your area?
- Would you consider moving to a new area of God’s choosing? Are you as interested in fruitfulness for the kingdom as you are in a comfortable lifestyle?
- Are you living among people you find yourself loving, whether lost or saved?
Opportunity Living your life to the fullest means being blessed by God so you can bless others. Anyone who has been involved in sales knows that the more calls you make, the better your chances! Making disciples is a lot like sales–you have to make the calls and share your story if you expect results.
- To take advantage of opportunities, you have to be prepared (potent and in proximity).
- To recognize opportunities, you have to know what the objectives are without even thinking about them. Being saturated with the love of Jesus will allow you to love what he loves (lost and hurting people are at the top of his list!).
- Opportunities are missed because we are distracted or focused on the wrong things. Keeping our eyes on Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, will ensure that we hit the target.
- Jesus warned us of distractions that would rob us of opportunity: love of money, love of this world and its pleasures, love of self that is indulgent and not sacrifice-making.
- Using the gifts, talents, and character God has already put in us for the good of others and the good of his kingdom is the best assurance of a successful life. Opportunity truly lies within each of us!
Jesus could have commanded angels to wait on him, stones to turn to bread to feed him, or created from nothing anything that he wanted. Instead, he used all the resources at his command to do what his Father wanted him to do. It’s a staggering testimony to his laser-sharp focus on the needs of others in this world! We must imitate him–choosing to love others and serve them more than ourselves–before we will truly experience the gift of abiding grace that God shares with those who are near him. We steal from ourselves by living selfishly and hoarding what God has given us instead of sowing all we have, liberally expecting him to glorify himself in all we do. We limit God by choosing to live for ourselves. Opportunity awaits the person who learns to give freely of his or her time, talent, treasure, and wisdom.
The beneficial results of evangelism in the lives of Christians:
- The Father is pleased because we are doing what we were made to do (and when the Father is pleased, all kinds of unexpected things happen!).
- Lost people are found and spared eternal condemnation and judgment.
- People doing the work of evangelism don’t complain about small inconveniences because they are focused on Christ and others (consumers become producers).
- The church grows and the work is spread around so no one is burned out.
- Societies and cultures are changed into peaceful, fruitful communities.
- Extraordinary spiritual authority flows among us, manifested through answered prayer and deliverance from the evil one.
- Genuine prosperity erupts and all needs are met. (See the church in Acts!)
- A deep sense of awe of God and a sense of well-being breaks out.