"In my own life," Howard Hendricks said several years ago, " I can recall several profoundly influential figures who were strategically used by God to change the course of my life."
"The first was a man named Walt. Had it not been for Walt, I seriously doubt whether I would have ever become a follower of Jesus Christ."
God often chooses to use ordinary folks to be His disciples and do life-changing, multiplying disciple-making. People are impacted by changed people who love other people toward walking with God.
Mike and Travis, an accountant and an engineer in our church family, are these kind of men. Each man just took off on "another level" with their Sunday School classes.
Disciple-making lifts ministries into new stratospheres
Both were "out of the box" guys but never saw it, really. They wouldn't say they are creative, either. They put together special events with their curriculum of loving disciple-making. Classes were invited to their homes for games and pizza. It became common place to witness these men using a curb on our church campus to talk to the boys one-on-one. The boys loved these men.
"Mike" and "Travis" are everywhere in our churches. They are following Jesus as His disciples and serving as His ministers in and all around the church. Some go into our communities and even around the world. Some go to the streets and into jails and prisons.
Disciple-making men and women are artists, accountants, bakers, computer geeks, custodians, engineers, fruit growers, gamers, nurses, physicians, software engineers, mothers, and dads, grandpas and grandmas.
Disciple-making begins on the ground
"I came from a broken home," Hendricks recounted. "My parents were separated before I was born, and neither one paid much attention to my spiritual condition. To put it bluntly, I could have lived, died, and gone to hell without anyone even bothering to care.
"But Walt cared. He was part of a tiny church in my neighborhood that developed a passion to affect its community for Christ.
“One day, he asked me, Would you like to play marbles?”
"Walt’s passion was to reach nine-and ten-year-old boys like me with the gospel. I’ll never forget that Saturday morning I met him. I was sprawled out on a Philadelphia sidewalk playing marbles. Suddenly someone was standing beside me. I looked up to see this gangly guy towering over me—all six feet, four inches of him. My mouth sort of dropped open.
“Hey, son, how would you like to go to Sunday school?” he asked.
"That was an unfortunate question. To my mind, anything that had the word “school” in it had to be bad news. So I shook my head no.
Disciple-making talks their language
But Walt was just getting started. “How would you like to play marbles?” he asked, squatting down. Now, he was talking my language!
|Younger Howard Hendricks|
“Sure!” I replied, and quickly set up the game. As the best marble player on the block, I felt supremely confident that I could whip this challenger fairly easily.
"Would you believe he beat me in every single game! In fact, he captured every marble I had. In the process, he captured my heart. I may have lost a game and a bit of pride that day, but I gained something infinitely more important—the friendship of a man who cared.
"A big man, an older man, a man who literally came down to my level by kneeling to play a game of marbles. From then on, wherever Walt was, that’s where I wanted to be.
Disciple-making builds into lives
"Walt built into my life over the next several years in a way that marked me forever. He used to take me and the other boys in his Sunday school class hiking. I’ll never forget those times. He had a bad heart, and I’m sure we didn’t do it any good, running him all over the woods the way we did.
"But he didn’t seem to mind, because he cared. In fact, he was probably the first person to show me unconditional love.
Disciple-making models faithfulness
"He was also a model of faithfulness. I can’t remember a time that he ever showed up to his Sunday school class unprepared. Not that he was the most scintillating teacher in the world. In fact, he had almost no training for that. Vocationally, he worked in the tool and die trade. But he was for real, and he was also creative. He found ways to involve us boys in the learning process—an approach that made a lasting contribution to my own style of teaching.
Disciple-making incarnates Christ
Overall, Walt incarnated Christ for me. And not only for me, but for thirteen other boys in my neighborhood, nine of whom also came from broken homes. Remarkably, eleven of us went on to pursue careers as vocational Christian workers—which is ironic, given that Walt himself completed school only through the sixth grade. It just goes to show," Hendricks concluded, "that a man doesn’t need a Ph.D. for God to use him to shape another man."
Disciple in the Biblical context simply means one who follows and learns from a teacher. The disciple is mentored by another. The curriculum is knowing Christ. It doesn't require a Bible School, Seminary education, nor a library of books. Published curriculum is helpful but isn't necessary. The disciple's handbook is the Bible and the most faithful work life-on-life.
Using Mike, Travis, Walt, Howard, and 13 boys, disciple-making starts where we meet people and where we want to invite them to join us. That's great for me because it tells me I can do it where the person I am meeting with and I are safest.
At Prisoners for Christ, we have a pen pal ministry. Letter writing is a form of disciple-making. Women are great at writing letters. There is a long list of male inmates who requested a faithful man to write them. They are still waiting.
Disciple-making passionately serves
Dawson "Daws" Trotman founded the Navigators ministry and summarized disciple-making as, “a passionate call to maturity, spiritual reproduction and spiritual parenting to help fulfill the Great Commission,” in his text, "Born to reproduce."
Effective disciple-making, Trotman taught, was based on three principles:
1. Remember, nothing under heaven except sin, immaturity, and lack of communion will put you in a position where you cannot reproduce.
|The Daws Trotman enthusiasm|
3. The Gospel spread to the known world during the first century without radio, television, or the printing press, because these produced men who were reproducing.
Disciple-making loves Christ into the lives of others
This ministry requires time and love. Disciple-makers love people enough to spend time with them. It is more than a casual conversation at the grocery story or in between services. Spending time together is incredibly flexible because it can be doing many things.
Daws recounts the story, repeated many times over, of Sally, a young woman telephone worker who received Christ as her Savior at a Billy Graham Crusade. She found Pat, who wanted to learn about Jesus, who became another faithful woman. They followed Christ together. Sally had a daughter in Christ. After awhile, Pat met Sue and they did the same thing. Sally was now a spiritual grandmother and Pat had a spiritual daughter.
"How was this done? God used the pure channel of these young Christians’ lives in their exuberance and first love for Christ, and out of their hearts the incorruptible seed of the Word of God was sown in the hearts of other people." ~"Born to reproduce"