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YWS13: Disciple Making

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Here are my notes from the YWS13 early day, I attended the Disciple Making stream, hosted by Colin Piper.  Apologies for the usual typos and spelling mistakes.

Colin Piper invited

  • Jim Brown – nearly as old, fat and as passionate about Rugby. Developed a great discipleship model on Exodus.
  • Karl McKinnon from Bicester and worked with Colin for 8 years.

Everyone is a learner and a teacher.

Reflecting on the key stages of a disciple we see it as a journey and a process not a event. If we don’t explain that they are in danger of missing out on the best bits. As parents we don’t say specialising in the 5-7 year olds and delegating the rest of it.

Discipleship is not a science, but here’s some theory of phases that radically reshaped Jim’s youth ministry.

  • Phase 1: Jesus invited someone to come and see (John 5:31-39): exposure to Jesus, his priorities and communities. Sometimes in church we can miss this too quickly. We want people to be part of a community that is not defensive or negative but defined by hope, faith and love.
  • Phase 2: Repent and believe – people responding to truth as they hear it. Repentance is hard work but a call to freedom and light is worth it. We see the power of the gospel to transform lives.
  • Phase 3: Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men (Mark 1:17) – growing and equipping. Jesus is so intentional, he says this is the start of the journey, but the aim is clear. He is doing life with them. As a follower of Jesus there are a few defining moments, but there are lots of small decisions we make everyday where we make decisions which lead to this process of change. Jesus works in the ordinary – a glass of water, a jar of perfume etc.
  • Phase 4: Go and make disciples (Matthew 28). The vision is not that they become a disciple but that they become a disciple maker. If we stop at being a disciple it becomes very self-centred. Don’t spend too long with a disciple before introducing this concept of making disciples.

Discipleship is not a science, but we do over complicate it.

Vision for Discipleship
Discipleship is primarily transformation.

  • For the Father’s delight (Zeph. 3:17 and Jn. 15:8) – the delight of a father singing over their child represents some of this.
  • Is the Son’s life (Gal. 2:20 and Jn. 3:30) to put death and to open the Spirit of Christ.
  • Through the Spirit’s power (Zech. 4:6) – all our clever ideas will be nothing if not done in the Spirit, depending on Him.

Definition of Discipleship
Christ-life transformation that leaves no part of life untouched and results in every disciple becoming a lifelong disciple maker.

Getting people to the point where they seek first the Kingdom of God.

What difference has been made in your life?

  • Older Christians
  • Bible and Bible teaching
  • Friends

Summary across the group had a focus on

  • People and relationships, not a structured programme
  • Experiential rather than head knowledge
  • Community encounters & God encounters

What is the grid or filter at which we look at Youth Ministry through?
What are the things in your ministry that are going great?
Why do you do those things? We want to raise up a foundation of disciple makers.

John 17
In John 17:4 “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work that you have given me to do”. This is before the cross so what is Jesus saying? It is not our responsibility which is a great relief. But the main thing is that he’d equipped the disciples – small little group, no huge crowds, he hadn’t gone to the cross and yet he felt the task was complete.

Our why can become cloudy with history, expectation and trends, but if we look to make disciples who make disciples then that is it. A ministry for the few is radical. Often we feel great and our churches even better if we run a big event with 300 people. Two strategy options, a 1,000 people to Christ each day for 26 years is 9 million people; or disciple 1 person, and in year 2 they disciple someone else and I chose someone etc., in 26 years I result in 67 million people. The thing that will change the UK is when young people are released to reach their own friends – that is how God has worked for 2000 years.

It is a risk as in 10 years if I do strategy A then 3666 Christians, but strategy B it is a 1,000 Christians. How do you invest in 10 when there are so many young people in the community, and what happens if the people you pour don’t continue the trend, and what happens if those young people aren’t the minister’s child. But equally I can’t reach a 1000 people in a day, how many of us have reached 1 person in the year. In faith, obedience and practice I could manage 1 person coming to Christ each year.

There are significant evangelists who can reach 1,000 people per day or even more, but what happens to that person for the next 364 days. Whereas I can reach that person and live life and faith with them for the next year.

Ultimately that was Jesus’ strategy, he left the world hanging on those 12 people, and he left feeling the task was complete.

How do we set up our ministry to repeat this again and again?

Environments for Discipleship
We have a habit of setting good things against each other – e.g. the corporate gathering v the small group

  • Corporate gathering: inter-generational rather than youth-to-youth which is a taste of heaven; also young people will not be young forever and there is the tension of adapting to the wider church.
  • Small groups: relationally based, looking at every day life. Huge contribution to community.
  • Social media: so important culturally to our young people, so need to create a culture – e.g. saying what God’s been up to, much more pastoral insight, can help build momentum.
  • Mentoring: if everything else collapsed, the foundations that mentoring puts in will last longer than the hype of a big event, and as the young people go to uni, or mover away, the mentoring has put in foundations. Allows for specifics and accountability.
  • Serving/Ministry
  • Smaller corporate gatherings – focus groups, e.g. youth, men etc.
  • Residentials: huge value add, acting as a catalyst, allowing the previous year to make sense due to the different environment, and expectation levels are raised.
  • Life on life (socials) – on the road
  • Family
  • CUs & Para Church groups
  • Conferences

Over years the environment changes, e.g. Jim loves more liturgy whereas 20 years ago he hated it.

Priorities of a Disciple-Maker
Intentionality
A Disciple-Maker should always be Intentional. As you increase intentionality you increase celebration, increase tension, increase pressure, increase failure, increase challenge, united in purpose. A lack of intention leads to apathy, boredom, a lack of inspiration.

It is key that we raise the expectations of young people by raising intentionality. We have limited amount of time to invest in another so we’ve got to maximise that time. Otherwise we give two or three minutes to focus on the real thing, and the rest of the time playing fun games.

What is it a disciple should look like? Acts 2:42-47

  • Participates in His (God’s) community: there is no place for the Lone Ranger unless there are no other believers nearby.
  • Reflects His character: we should be changed, there are should be transformation. We should speak more positively about the church, with all it’s problems it is a powerful instrument.
  • Enjoys His presence: called to a life of worship.
  • Seeks His truth: based in the Bible.
  • Shares His life.

Which area are you strongest in, and which area are you weakest or most vulnerable in.

Disciples become like their teacher, so if we’re strong in liking scripture we will produce those who like scripture, if I am weak at enjoying His presence we will produce those who struggle to enjoy His presence. We need to wrestle with how we develop 360 degree disciples.

Relational in the context of community
You want to connect people to others – not just to ourselves. Paul really exemplifies this in the NT.

Characteristics of community

  • Welcoming
  • Vulnerability
  • Purpose
  • Selfless
  • Trust
  • Forgiving
  • Acceptance
  • Fun
  • Challenging
  • Diverse
  • Status & wealth

All of these are great but what defines us as a Christian community – Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Bible! Too often we assume that Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Bible are present in our communities.

Progress
Progress is often spoken about in win, build, equip, multiply. If we focus from being won, building, equipped and multiplied then we see we have questions and areas of weakness. The foundations of our faith always need reminding, we need to be regularly re-equipped. Develop four courses under the 360 adventure. These comes aside this model, each with 8 sessions.

Being Biblical
How do we help young people to engage in Scripture. Jesus over 80 times recites passages from the Old Testament. It was clearly part of his culture and we need to consider how we do this. Jim often does devotions with his children, this time he does it while walking with his two children – his little boy asked him to tell the story of David and Uriah. Such an opportunity to share big principles.

Ownership
Ownership pulls young people into it. Our tendency to use an entertainment model rather than a participation and commitment model prevents this.

Outward focus
If you look at a map you’ll see the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea – differences focussed on fresh water v sea water; loads of life and fish v no life or fish. The Dead Sea has no exit points while the Sea of Galilee has lots of exit points. We need to reflect on how we get young people looking outward. A survey in Slovenia of 15+ year olds, asking why young people wouldn’t join the Christian groups, focussed on a drop-in model. They wanted the opportunity for self-improvement, having an impact on society, they wanted something that had defining experiences, they wanted something that was goal-orientated, they wanted a role to play and that the role had clarity, they wanted progression.

Maximise your model
What do disciples see and experience when they spend time with us, and are we creating opportunities to spend time with us. Use your home and open it to people, hospitality is so critical in this.

Check your balance
We have a relationship of Head, Heart and Hands – what’s our balance. We disciple in the direction that works best for us, but we need to get a balance. The capacity at how we can disciple is limited by our weakest area.

What else?

  • Prayerful
  • Recognise our vulnerability – we are human, we’re not God
  • Long-term commitment – working with them for the 26 years and more.
  • Teamwork – recognising it is more than us.
  • Accountability to God
  • Sacrifice
  • Courage

Neglecting Discipleship
What is the impact of neglecting discipleship?

On New Christians?

  • No support
  • Lack of growth
  • Weaker roots
  • Won’t recognise their potential
  • Drop-out
  • Vulnerable to challenge and heresy
  • Unrealised expectations
  • Frustration
  • Anger

On the Church?

  • Consumer driven church
  • Church numbers dropping
  • Missing parts of the body
  • Club
  • No developing leaders
  • Alien to people
  • Division between generations
  • Put on a show
  • No authenticity
  • Loss of vision
  • Carnal leadership

Journey of a disciple

  • Explore
  • Exchange
  • Express
  • Extend

Small Groups discussion

  • Win: Laurence Singlehurst’s scale 1-10: 1-3 Christians are weird, 4-7 Interested but have questions etc.
  • Build
  • Equip
  • Multiply

This is the systematic way God builds disciples. But in church we normally focus on build which doesn’t provide balance. There’s lots of young people who never connect with Christ, go off to university and we have to start again.

  • Win: Youth Alpha, Christianity Explored, Youth Emmaus, Romance Academy, grill a Christian, hot potato topics, testimony, e.g. Linvoy Primus, power evangelism – miracles – having to experience him before I’m ready to commit to him. Encourage them to engage spirituality – blow up a balloon listing all the different things they do physically, mentally and then they lag spiritually and talk about growth for spirituality leading into evangelism programme.
  • Build: Freedom in Christ, 1-2-1 conversations
  • Equip
  • Multiply

Raising Young Leaders
Four sides of a square:

  • I do
  • We do together
  • You do, I watch
  • You do

This can then be created as a cycle to facilitate peer-to-peer leading. Often run triplets – although not often actually 3! Some will focus on highs and lows, others will want to find out more about Jesus, others are ready to go further and lead parts and so on.

Sticking points:
Are you explicit with this at the start? Yes with Christians, but not with non-Christians.
Does it work peer-to-peer or just as an older young person to younger people? Both – there needs to be a facilitator and they have responsibility for the lead, but then who is following up with the spiritual care.
Triplets happen as part of a drop-in, and then small groups include a section every 4 weeks to focus on equipping the young people.

Conclusion – Colin Piper
Now aged 51 is life everything we dreamed of as a young person. Have utterly no regrets from living life as a youth worker, while Colin’s friends have many regrets. However, lots of things he would have done differently, focussed on individuals, been tougher showing love and challenge to young people. The people who’ve made it 30 years later were those who bluntly went deep and expressed that depth.

We know the individual matters to Jesus and to a young person. This can help you discern – numbers matter as all matter to Christ but there is a depth issue.

The biggest change would have been to pray a lot, lot more – especially for individuals. Discipleship is really a matter of prayer. Currently mentor a 15 year old lad and he is emotionally up and down, but over time you do get somewhere and see that up and down begin to narrow.

Determined to invest in those who will go further, who have authenticity, are bolder than we are, but the only reason they can do that is because they use our foundations.

Integration is a huge issue – in year 9 in Colin’s church they finish the youth work and move into the wider church. Colin sits on both side of the fence – a helpful tension. The crux is relational, and we have problems when we compartmentalise life. We under value children and youth kicking them out to have our time – we need to have better celebrations to be welcoming. Other ideas:

  • Year 9 move into a mentoring project linked to skills they can use.
  • Dated inter-generational church v youth congregation which still has transitional problems
  • Who sits with the young people, and who prays with the young people?

About The Author

Married to the wonderful Hannah, dad to the amazing Daniel and Josh! Work for a parish on the edge of the New Forest, passionate about Jesus, children's & youth work & sport.

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