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The Practical Side of Discipleship (Part 5)

10.16.17 | by Larry Gates

    The follower of Jesus ministers both as an alongsider and an insider.  Most of the articles of the Disciple-Maker’s Forum thus far have addressed the disciple-maker as an alongsider – one who comes along side another person and helps them grow spiritually.  This article focuses on the disciple-maker as an insider.

    As Christ’s disciples, all of us are insiders to our family, to our work environment, and to various social settings and networks with which we engage.  God has providentially placed us in special groups of people to advance the gospel message and His kingdom purpose. He has called each one of us to live on mission and has entrusted to us the task of evangelism.  God has committed to us His message of reconciliation.  As His ambassadors, God is making His gospel appeal through us.  We are to be ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). Insiders are God’s agents for growth in His kingdom economy.

    When we embrace the heart of Jesus, evangelism becomes an integral part of the discipleship process, not an independent active.  It is a process that begins as an insider to a special group of people.  When our passion as disciple-makers is to live on mission we prepare and send people on mission to advance the gospel right where they live, work, and play.  This is how God has designed kingdom expansion to take place.

    Jesus is our ultimate example of an insider.  Through His incarnation, He lived, worked, and engaged in social settings among people.  “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14, NIV, 1984). Jesus ministered where the Father sent Him.  He developed relationships with people in various communities He visited. And, on one occasion Jesus instructed a former demon-possess man to go home and tell his family what God had done for him (Mark 5:1-20).  What are the lessons a disciple-maker can learn from these examples of how Jesus modeled being an insider? Consider these possibilities:

    1. Insiders are influencers wherever God directs them.
    2. Insiders develop trusting relationships with people they are to influence.
    3. Insiders share their story about what God has done for them.

    To be effective as an insider, disciple-makers must know and come to understand that evangelism is a process.  It is a spiritual process of helping unbelievers respond to the Holy Spirit in a series of mini-decisions that ultimately leads to a place of genuine saving faith in Christ.  Scripture and life experience suggest that four elements are needed in the process: 

    Process Element

    Desired Outcome

    Relationship

    Building a relational bridge of trust which will open a door to share the gospel message with an explorer.

    Interest

    The explorer is moving from hostility or apathy to curiosity about the Christian faith.

    Insight

    The explorer is making personal discoveries about God, Jesus, the Bible, faith, etc.

    Conviction

    The explorer is taking steps to act in faith on their discoveries about God, Jesus, and faith.

    *Explorer is a non-Christian examining the claims of Christianity.

    The Bible gives us snapshots of people in each of these four phases.  In Matthew 11, Jesus uses a social occasion to build relationship with lost people.  Acts 17 records Paul’s conversations with a Greek audience that had interest but no insight.  In John 4, Jesus converses with a Samaritan woman and leads her into new insights.  In Act 8, an Ethiopian official responds to conviction after Philip opens up the scriptures and explains a passage from Isaiah to him (Isaiah 53:7-8). 

    Each phase of the evangelism process is interdependent upon the previous phase.  However, one phase in particular requires careful attention by disciple-makers. As the explorer progresses through the personal discovery phase, it behooves the disciple-maker to be truthful about an important aspect of following Jesus that most disciplers hesitate to mention.  That critical topic is the cost of following Jesus.  God’s grace is not a cheap grace. It is a costly grace. It cost Jesus everything.  So why should we expect believing in Jesus to come without some cost. Scripture tells us that coming to Jesus can cost the loss of friendships, division among family members, and yes, even life itself (Luke 14:25-27).  It is important for the disciple-maker to address this issue forthrightly during the latter part of the Insight phase.  Why? Because if the explorer is truly brought to conviction and acts in faith, that faith with be based on a deep commitment to follow Christ wherever He leads.  In essence, the explorer has considered the cost and found Jesus more worthy than any riches that life has to offer.

    Here is a final thought to ponder.  Believing in Jesus is easier than following Jesus.  The difference in believing and following is movement.  Faithfully following Jesus is hard, but it is worth the cost.