In the spring of 2007, while preaching a series of sermons on evangelism, I asked our congregation,
“How many of you have led someone to Christ and helped them grow in their faith?”
Out of the 135 in attendance – most of whom were over 50 years old and had attended church for decades – four or five people raised their hands. I cannot describe how greived I felt and that greif moved me to earnestly seek the Lord.
After a few days, God gave me a breakthrough. Here is what He said:
“If you really want to know why people are so incapable of sharing their faith,” He said, “you (preachers) are part of the problem. You are like men who give a few talks about football and then send My people out to play the opposing team. You give them no practice, no training and no conditioning. They then fail, get discouraged and give up.”
I knew what He was getting at. He did not command us to go make listeners. He commanded us to go make disciples. (Matthew 28:19)
It seemed cultish and controlling. It felt unnerving to tell others what to do. It also took far more work than mere talk. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit pressured me to humbly admit that His people need more than teaching and preaching. They need coaching and discipleship. They need practice and a format where they can learn how to share God’s Word rather than just listen to it.
I called a meeting for those interested in becoming successful fishers of men. Twelve disciples showed up. (That was interesting.)
“How do you feel when you think of yourself leading someone to faith in Christ and helping them grow?
“It seems like I have it in my heart, but I get tongued tied when I try to talk.” one man admitted,”I don’t know what to say.” Others nodded in agreement. I did also. I was so relieved. Someone talked!
“I hate getting into debates,” another person added.
“I get nervous and tongue-tied, and feel foolish.”
”You feel that way too?” I thought I was the only one!”
“I am so preoccupied with my own problems that I don’t think about others that much.”
“People say that Jesus is just one of many religious teachers. I don’t know how to handle the comment.”
“I have it on the tip of my tongue but I don’t know how to confidently share the good news with others.”
“I don’t feel like my testimony is all that special.”
“I don’t know how to answer people’s hard questions about suffering, etc.”
“I don’t feel spiritually worthy or strong, let alone confident.”
“We tried to share with our neighbors. They just looked at us like a deer caught in the headlights. Now they don’t want to talk with us.”
It was like “group therapy.” It was interesting to begin a course on relational evangelism and find ourselves getting “relational” with each other. People took the risk and admitted their fears and needs. The effort paid off. As we got real with God and each other, God gave grace to the humble. He poured out His Spirit and made Himself more real to us. We began to sense acceptance and encouragement. It felt like we were getting ready for something far greater than church-as-usual. We identified real struggles. We also determined to find God’s wisdom and grace to overcome them.
We knew that it would take more than just talk: We wanted step-by-step training. The process began with identifying specific goals and objectives. Then we designed activities and realistic time frames to accomplish the goals. In football terms, our sessions were transformed from football lectures to football practice. It was awesome.
Here is the secret: We organized a portion of our time so that people were working together in small groups of two. Using a workbook their their guide, people would discuss key scriptures, share insights, review, and practice sharing them with oneanother.
You are going to love the Fishers of Men series.
If you want to learn more about the Fishers of Men vision, philosophy, and strategy, order Book 1, titled “Leadership Training.” It will revolutionize the way you do discipleship!