God is already at work in the people around us, even those who are not yet followers of Jesus. People hear God’s voice before they accept him. When we disciple others, that discipleship relationship actually begins before a life transformation or conversion. Our role is helping people hear and discern the voice of God.
Part of this is often getting people involved with a community of faith, whether formally or informally. We often think of that as being a small group, which is certainly an appropriate option, but don’t overlook the idea of serving together.
One woman who was a believer was serving in a hospice setting, where she met another volunteer. They struck up a relationship and started serving together in various capacities. Eventually, the second woman opened up her home and her network of relationships to do an investigative Bible study to learn more about who Jesus was and is.
It’s those kinds of authentic relationships that really provide the bridge for helping people see and understand what it means to follow Jesus, so don’t limit your vision to just getting people into your group or church.
For many, belonging comes before believing. And spiritual conversations with others can help people listen for the voice of God. That is a crucial part of discipleship. All discipleship really begins with the lost, not the found.
Note: This blog entry is part of a series based on Beyond Church Planting (coauthored with Neil Cole) that explores the process of evangelism and coming to faith.