This blog entry is the second in a four-part series based on an interview with Colin Noyes, author of As You Go: Make Disciples. Colin is one of the sharpest international leaders I know. His insights into the field of discipleship are well-researched and honest, and he does a great job of challenging us to see it through fresh eyes. In this post, we discuss how to identify and interact with potential disciples.
Colin, you’ve talked about “potential disciples”—do you mean people who express a willingness to explore spiritual things?
Colin: Yes, although I may not be able to see that willingness in everyone. With most people, if you really take the time to stop and listen and find out what’s going on in their lives, you often find there are things that could only have happened through God. I personally believe God is working in everyone. That’s true even if I can’t see it in everyone. Maybe I talk with someone and don’t see where God is at work, but you talk with them next week and you can see it. It’s not as straightforward as trying to run some program. But if you listen on a day-to-day basis to the Holy Spirit, looking for his work in the lives of others, sometimes you will see it, and those are the places of intersection.If you really take the time to stop and listen and find out what’s going on in their lives, you often find there are things that could only have happened through God. - Colin Noyes Click To Tweet
How do you actually help people through the journey of becoming effective in making disciples? What do you do?
Colin: Begin by keeping an eye open in your congregation for potential disciples; especially people who have a strong desire to interact with others. Then start spending time with those people to build a small group. Have them meet together and talk about what’s happening in their lives on a regular basis—how they are growing as disciples and how they are making disciples.
So it’s a two-fold track: experiencing God for themselves and then listening to the Spirit for who they see God at work in?
Colin: Exactly. If you don’t put people into a world where they’re experiencing what they’re learning, they’re simply learning information and not living in obedience to it. By continuing to give them more information, you’re simply making them more and more disobedient because they now have more information than they’re not putting into practice. I’ve learned that being a disciple of Jesus has a lot to do with obedience. Teaching and obedience come together as we live out and experience that reality with other people. Now, this process may start out one-on-one, but disciples will eventually move into groups.If you don’t put people into a world where they’re experiencing what they’re learning, they’re simply learning information and not living in obedience to it. - Colin Noyes Click To Tweet
Walk me through a gathered group process.
Colin: I asked a pastor, “Who do you think we should invite to come together to engage in discipleship with those who don’t yet know Christ? Not necessarily your favorite people or those who have already been trained in evangelism in some way. But looking at the heart.” This pastor of a very large church suggested twelve people. He brought them together and I spent an hour with them, listening to them talk about their journeys and hearing each other. I came back the next week. I let them talk with each other about making disciples. I didn’t answer their questions; I asked questions back: “What do you think?”
The most surprising thing, which maybe shouldn’t have been surprising, was that a good number of those people really didn’t know how to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. They weren’t encountering him. They could read the Bible and they could hear a word for themselves from a sermon—both great things—but they were a bit lost when it came to listening to the Holy Spirit for who he was at work in and how he was leading us to engage. There was a big gap there. I suggested, “Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you and give you insights into who your disciples are and what you should do.”
They continued meeting weekly without me, and then two or three months later I came back and they shared what was taking place. I was flabbergasted at how well they had picked up listening to the Holy Spirit. There was story after story after story. It was amazing. There had been no facilitator. The group had just begun asking each other questions:
- What happened this week?
- Where did God turn up?
- Did you hear the voice of God?
- What was he saying?
- What was your response?”
They already had it in them. Jesus knew what he was doing.
What are the possible pitfalls of this journey?
Colin: One is deciding to meet only once every month or two. Then people aren’t all on the same page and they’re not really sure why they’re there. That will crush any group after a while. Another common problem is the pastor (or someone else) jumping in with an answer every time a difficult question is raised. It’s much better just to let the question sit there. People will mull it over in their minds and listening to the Holy Spirit takes time and patience and practice. Don’t short-circuit the process by playing God.
Look in next week’s blog post for Part 3 of my interview with Colin Noyes.
As You Go, Makes Disciples- The aim of this book is to broaden your definition of discipleship by looking at it through a different set of lenses. Eminently practical, As You Go, Make Disciples gives you the tools you need to move forward. Available on Kindle and as a direct download from the author.
Making Disciples in a Postmodern Era– Christianity in the 21st century is facing a major change that may be as dramatic as the Protestant Reformation. ‘The message remains the same but the method of expressing the message is constantly changing.’ This book will help readers understand that what we view as ‘givens’ are not necessarily so, and help you practice the vibrant disciplemaking of historic Christianity in today’s world.
Making Disciples Coaching Guide with Storyboard– The journey set out in the Making Disciples Storyboard and reinforced by this Coaching Guide will help individuals walk through the process of becoming a disciple and making disciples.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash