Saturday, January 23, 2010

Discipleship, Training and Equipping the Saints

A few days ago I posted some thoughts on one of the Sweeten Life Board's priorities for one of our next great adventures. We are coming to the end of the powerful, life changing research on ways to best support families with disabled kids and we are gearing up for a new thrust as soon as we develop the actions steps necessary to carry out our research insights.

The USA and the world has a greater number of Christians today than ever before in history. And, many of these men and women has been Believers for a long time. This means they have been in churches, Bible study groups and discussions about faith, ministry and influence for hundreds of hours. "Why are we having such a small influence on culture, evangelism and our neighbors?"

As a teacher, coach with several degrees in education I have some ideas about the answer to that big question. Perhaps we have focused our Christian educational energies on making students more knowledgeable. Unfortunately we have not focused much time on preparing those students how to multiply themselves. There is a world of difference between being a good ball player and being a good coach.

Pete Rose was a great baseball player but he was not a very good baseball coach. No one had to teach Pete to slide headlong and to run as fast as he could to first base. He was a "natural" who assumed his players would do likewise.

Why are our best preachers not always good coaches of parents on child rearing, members on evangelism, leaders of small group, committee facilitation, etc? They are good at preaching not detailed processes.

Why are we such poor evangelists? Why do people think they are evangelizing when they simply shout Bible verses and slogans to people they assume to be unsaved? Preaching is the only model they ever see so they suppose that is the only model there is.

I wrote this on a comment in an earlier post: "After being in numerous discussions among Believers about "How best to evangelize" I am even more concerned about how we too often come across as a "pompous know it all". Have you ever seen a game of "biblical ping pong"? Where we engage in several mutually exclusive monologues consisting of out of context Bible verses that we think support our ill thought out point of view." I am in them a lot.

It struck me recently how we have failed to teach our Christians how to dialogue not just speak in monologues, slogans and Bible verses hurled like spears at another persons' ideas. I wrote a book on this topic called, "Listening for Heaven's Sake" and it has sold over 100,000 copies but I am not sure anyone knows how to apply its teachings very well. Lectures are not the best way to communicate and they rarely if ever lead to conversions. The publisher, Equipping Ministries International, has taken that book farther and currently teaches how listening is a means of evangelizing.

We at Sweeten Life Systems are going to redouble our efforts to train Mature Christians how to live daily with grace, mercy and positive influence. We need a good, easily accessed way to train Believers how to do more than intellectually assent to theology and apply God's truth to life. We call this, TIPS for Theology Into Practical Ministry. Theory into practice is required if we are to overcome the genuine barriers to personal ministry.

Stay tuned! If you are interested send me an email.


thom said...

If I want to change anything in the world, it starts with me. Perhaps we haven't seen real change because we are too busy concentrating on others. I am partially who I am because of my environment. What kind of environment do I model to others? Modeling love does not require an organized faith, it requires faith in the act alone.

Do we try to convert people when we should be trying to reinforce that which has already been planted within? What is our understanding of evangelism? What are our motives for wanting to evangelize? Is it right to expect to witness the harvest?

Gary Sweeten said...

I agree Thom. When setting up a process of training we need to make sure the trainers are Genuine. In evangelism or influence of any kind we need to examine our hearts and see if our motivation is self serving or serving. I don't think I can covert anyone. That is God's job so we can relax and trust the God is at work in us and through us.