Critical Questioning

I cannot stress enough the power of asking questions!

So many times when people discuss discipleship, the focus is on content, what you should be telling someone.

Once when my husband was observing someone starting to learn how to disciple he was shocked to find the “discipler” talked almost nonstop the entire time!

Please understand discipleship is not about dumping content!  It is a partnership with the living God, joining in with what He is doing in the life of someone seeking to follow Him, helping them become transformed into His image as they “do” what the Lords wants them to.

It’s not about giving information as much as helping them show up for the surgery the Lord wants to do ~ but they will need to have an active part in this.  Sometimes the Lord will use the content you share, but what transforms isn’t the hearing of content, but what they do with what they hear.

Someone who talks nonstop the entire time, simply is missing the boat and not understanding this process.  Consider what Jesus taught in Matthew 7:24-27…

In what way were the wise and foolish builder the same?

They both heard the word.

The foolish builder may have enjoyed a quiet time every single day, attended church every Sunday, read multiple Christian books each week, and listened to sermons daily on his commute back and forth to work!  He may even have been discipled one on one hearing great content each week!  But according to Jesus it’s not about the hearing but what is done with it that makes the difference.  The wise man did what He heard.

So discipleship isn’t just about making it possible for people to “hear” God’s truth, but primarily about helping them “do” what they hear from the Lord.

Yes, the Lord may lead you to share a tool or a passage or something that’s been of great help to you, but even then, to do anything with what’s been heard a person needs to process and figure out how it can make a difference in her life!  And one of the best ways you can help someone process and determine how to apply is to ask questions!

What stands out to you from our discussion today?

Why did that stand out to you?

How might this make a difference in your life?

What might it look like for you to do that?

What could keep you from moving forward with this?

When do you think you could practically do this?

Is there anything in your life that needs to change so you’d have time for this?  

How can I be praying for you?

People are much more likely to “do” something they’ve had a part in devising.  Don’t just tell.  Be sure to ask lots of questions to help them process, and then to narrow down specifically how they can “do” what’s been discussed!

Then, be sure to ask more questions the next time you meet ~

“How did it go applying what we talked about?!”  

“Did you encounter any struggles or hindrances to doing this?”

“What did you learn from doing this?”

“What difference did it make in your life?”

Don’t just race onto the next topic!

Next time you’re meeting with someone, try to keep count of the number of questions you ask.  Just make a small mark or dot on a page each time you ask one.  You might be surprised at what you learn and how this simple exercise really can spur you on to ask more questions… and as you do, reveal how lifechanging and impactful this truly can be!

 

Initiating

So what do you do if no one is clamoring at your door for you to disciple them?!

Trust me there is a need all over the place for this!  And someone needs to start the ball rolling somewhere!  Someone needs to initiate.  More often than not, that begins with the ball in our court!

I’ll be the first to admit, it can be scary initiating with people.  You never know if they’re going to be open to doing something with you or if they are going to look at you like you’re crazy.

Especially if they aren’t in an environment where people around them, people they know, are being discipled.  The very idea may seem foreign – or never even enter their heads.  Especially if they are the same age as you or older!

Here are a few things I’ve found helpful when initiating:

1.  Keep it lowkey!

I love to start by inviting someone over for tea (or to go for coffee or frozen yogurt! ;0) and asking to hear her story.  As she shares I’m listening to hear evidence of where the Lord is at work in her life and how He might want me to join in and asking Him for wisdom to know how to do this!  God’s amazingly creative!  ;0)

Don’t start with seeking a commitment, start with relationship!

2.  Ask her to have a shared quiet time with you (see the Helps section for more info on this!).

Whether you end up getting together again or not, just passing on this one treasure is huge!  And can it ever help you go deeper in your friendship!

But I will say this – it’s still like taking a jump into an ice cold pool to initiate this.  She could say no.  She could think I’m strange.  She may misunderstand.  There is a risk whenever you initiate!  But if you sense the Lord leading you to – and when I say that, in all honesty it’s not like I see a neon sign saying “Thus saith the Lord:  Take the plunge!”  I often don’t know for sure whether I should or not – but if I even think the Lord might want me to, I take a deep breath, pray for courage and dive in.

3.  Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t want to do this ~ or doesn’t want to do it with you!

Ephesians 2:10 states, “We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do that we might walk in them.”  This definitely includes discipleship!!!  Isn’t it wild to think the Lord has prepared in advance people for you to invest in?  It’s not – just go find someone!  But again, follow Him.

Sometimes He may lead through revealing to you directly who He wants you investing in.  Sometimes He may lead through her response!  Be gracious and thankful if someone says no!  Would you really want to do something the Lord doesn’t want you doing?

4.  Don’t expect initiating to be easy!!!

One day I was on campus – and you have to know I have a severe hearing loss, so initiating with new people is really scary for me as I never know whether I’ll be able to understand or not, or “hear wrong” and say the wrong thing in response…  So I’m crying out to the Lord, “I am so tired of always being the one to initiate!!!”  And He responded, “Now you’re getting a taste of how I feel.  No one seeks after me on their own.  I am always having to initiate!”  (Romans 3:11; 5:8)

Is this ever an opportunity to identify with Jesus and better understand what it cost Him to do what He did!

5.  Remember you don’t have to call it discipleship for discipleship to be occurring.

In truth, outside of a formal setting, it can seem weird to push to define a relationship like this.  Be content to do Hebrews 10:24, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  It’s always fun on down the road to see the lights come on when someone realizes – “Hey!  This is what you’ve been doing with me!”  Though that doesn’t always happen.  Be ok with that, knowing God sees, and that’s what matters.

6.  Discipleship is about influence and influence isn’t a given, but a gift.

Trust me, it’s not like you attain a certain place and people automatically run to be discipled by you.  There really is a huge element of the Lord at work here.  Even after thirty years of discipling women and with serving in a formal discipling ministry, I’ve been amazed at how the Lord at times intervenes to close doors when I fully intended to start meeting with someone, and how He’s redirected me when He’s wanted me meeting with someone I never planned on!

And just like I mentioned yesterday – there are seasons in our lives.  Sometimes He leads us into quieter seasons where He says – this is just for you.  Take a break from passing things on.  Treasure, ponder what I’m giving you in your heart.

So sometimes I initiate and there’s no interest or worse, a negative response.  And yes, it’s a battle when that happens to not feel rejected.  But a dear friend was just sharing with me maturity is being God-focused and other-focused, not self- focused.  When I wallow in feeling rejected or let fear keep me from following Jesus in initiating, I’m focusing on me, as if it’s all about me.

But when I do initiate, even though it’s risky, trust me, it’s because I’m focusing on God and desire His best for the other person – even if that’s not going to be me.

7.  The more you initiate the easier it becomes.

The hardest time to dive into a cold pool is the first time!  The more you do it, the more it becomes a part of your life.  It does get easier (never easy – but easier!)

Love risks.  Love initiates.  This is exactly what Jesus did with us.  If we truly want to become more like Him, initiating is a key part of that!

Slow and Steady…!

In 1 Corinthians 9:24 Paul writes, “run in such a way as to get the prize.”  So many times when we think of wining a race, we think of being fast!

Yet there is a huge difference in what you need to do to win a sprint vs. winning an ultra-marathon.   As it says in Ecclesiastes 9:11 “The race doesn’t always go to the swift…”  In longer races where endurance is key, many times those in the lead at the start, finish last… if they finish at all.  Pacing is so key!

When you’re talking about becoming like Jesus – it’s like the ultra- ultramarathon… one that lasts your whole life!!!   And it is wise to take this into account when you are seeking to disciple someone.

I’ve seen people race to cover a different topic every time they meet  (eg., scripture memory one week, prayer the next, one week on evangelism, then the next week on fellowship…) rather than slowing down to give time to process, consider the topic from different angles and let it become fully a part of someone’s life in a transforming lifelong way.

I’ve also seen people burn out racing to master spiritual disciplines!  Thinking surely if I’m strong in this it will be all I need to live life well.  But discipleship isn’t a position to be attained, it’s a way of life to be entered into and pursued all your days.

But even in this it’s vital to understand, no one maintains a constant uphill progression – there are bumps in the road, steps backwards, hard times come, people get sidetracked – this is life in a broken and fallen world.

Even more than this, it’s the reality of how God created things to grow.  There are seasons we all go through.  In Psalm 1 when it pictures a person who meditates on God’s Word day and night, it presents a tree planted by streams of living water which “bears its fruit in season.”  Real fruit requires seasons to grow.  I can’t stress how vital it is to help those you disciple understand this!!!

I’ve been reading a great book by Mark Buchanan that explores this concept in depth.   It’s entitled  Spiritual Rhythm:  Being with Jesus Every Season of Your Soul.  It’s so important that we teach and model this reality with those we meet.   Throughout our lives “winters” will come on a regular basis and you aren’t going to run as fast during a winter season!  Or bear much fruit.  That’s reality.  If you try to, you will only wear yourself out or worse, miss out on growing the way Jesus wants you to.

In Romans 8:28 we are given an amazing truth about the Lord.  He “works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”  So many times we stop at the end of the verse instead of continuing on to read it in its full context.

But vs. 29 is critical for understanding the good God is doing through all things, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son…”  This is transformation – God’s children becoming more like Jesus!  Do you realize for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose (talk about a great definition of a disciple!!!) God works ALL things for good.  And what could be more good than becoming like Him?!

I’ll never forget taking time to chart my spiritual journey.  I took four pieces of white card stock and taped them together, then drew a line across the middle of them.  Starting at the beginning of my Christian life I placed on top of the line positive times when I walked with Jesus and below the line negative times when I struggled and went my own way.  The more I struggled the farther down I placed that time, and the closer I was to Jesus the higher that went on the page.

Imagine my surprise when I connected the dots, to discover the times I struggled most in walking with God always preceded times of walking closest to Him.  It was like being on a high dive where you turn around and walk backwards so you can get more momentum once you’re running forward again!  I was totally blown away!

And you know what preceded many of those dives below the line?  Pushing too hard when I was above the line – doing too much trying to either make myself grow faster or help others do so!  It’s so easy during those times to stop answering Jesus’ invitations in Revelation 3:20 to fellowship with Him and Matthew 11:28-30 to come to Him and  find rest.  Those are both key parts of growing!

Remember being a disciple is about walking in step with Jesus.  How do you follow someone if you’re running faster than Him?  Consider what it says in 2 John 9  “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. ”

Always keep asking, “How am I doing abiding in Christ?  Is my pace compromising this?”  And be sure to consider this for those you meet with too, “Am I asking them to run too fast?!”

Don’t be like a Hamster running circles in his ball – with lots of activity not getting you anywhere!

Just like in the story of the tortoise and the hare ~ slow and steady wins the race!  Protecting time to abide, really is key for running in such a way as to get the prize!  You may not look as impressive… until you finish strong!

The Tortoise and The Hare

A fun story to enjoy and consider…  

Can you guess what this has to do with discipleship?!  ;0)

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Once upon a time in Kalamazoo

Where the animals roam freely like people now do

There lived a lively bunny who chanced upon a scale

Weighed herself, exclaimed, “Oh my!” and thus begins this tale.

Her neighbor chanced to hear her shriek and called out, “What’s up, dear?!”

“It seems I’ve nibbled a bit too much.  My belly’s as big as my rear!”

“Oh, I can relate,” her neighbor replied.  “Slowly I’ve put it on too.

It seems over time the weight just creeps up, but I know what I’m going to do.”

“Do tell!”  said the bunny, “Won’t you come in for tea?

I’ve been baking all morning delicacies.”

“Oh no!” said the tortoise as she crept into sight

“I can’t for I started to diet last night.”

“Oh, you’re so good!  But I bet I can lose faster!

Let’s make a challenge to see who really is the diet master.”

The hare always loved a race and knew it’d make weight loss fun

Besides she was sure to win (and lose!) with her intense motivation.

So she ordered equipment and exercised away

Doing aerobics six times a day.

She always loved veggies, so ate only these:

Carrots, celery, lettuce and peas.

Mrs. Tortoise however just took it in stride

Eating four food groups, pushing dessert aside.

She also did aerobics, just three times a week

And took the stairs and walked to work and never did she peek

To see how much her weight dwindled for all her efforts done

Unlike Mrs. Hare who daily weighed at the setting of every sun

With her clothes, her shoes, her teeth and wig all carefully removed

And all air expelled from the depths of her lungs, happy only when she did lose.

Mrs. Tortoise, however, could tell deep inside

By the way her shell moved from side to side

(And by the way that Mr. Turtle

Asked if she’d bought a tighter girdle!)

One day Mrs. Hare sat in her kitchen,

Crying for she had just been caught snitchin’

By Mrs. Tortoise who’d come over to chat

And borrow the bunnies extra baseball bat!

(She now played shortstop for their winning team

The realization of a lifelong dream).

“Now friend, what’s up with you?  You’ll gain back all you’ve lost.

Before you eat more cookies, be sure you’ve counted the cost!”

“It’s just that I am so depressed.  I’ve shooting pains in every bone.”

Mrs. Hare dropped her head to the table, “I’m tired please leave me alone!”

“Alright if that’s your heart’s desire, but Saturday the weigh-in takes place.

Remember you were the one who wanted to embark on this silly race.

But I’m glad!  I feel great!  And I’m still losing!  I’m so thankful for what you’ve done!

“Oh, go hit a homerun with the children! I don’t care any more if you’ve won!”

When Saturday came the town gathered round

Shocked to discover Ms. Hare gained ten pounds,

Which all considered a great disaster

as they crowned Mrs. Tortoise, “Kalamazoo’s Diet Master!”

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You’re Not Crazy!

After I graduated from college my greatest need as a discipler was for someone to come along periodically and tell me “You’re Not Crazy!”

I’ll never forget when one of the girls I was discipling met a girl at the gym who was asking all sorts of spiritual questions.  She asked if I’d be willing to have dinner with them after work.  Now I’d only been married a little over a month and I was working full time.  The last thing I wanted was to spend more time away from my husband!  But five months later when this new friend entered into God’s family was I ever thankful I did!

Shortly after this I was reaching out to a student assistant who invited me to go birdwatching at the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings.  When you work full time, getting to sleep in that one morning a week is pure gold.  Again I had to leave my new husband!  At the time it was like pulling teeth to go, but when she entered the kingdom a few months later was it ever worth it!

A life seeking to spur others on to follow Jesus is not an easy way to live!  It requires intentionality and sacrifice of time, energy and resources.  On top of this, there is a great struggle as you bear the burdens of others and take part in their battles too.  Paul told the Colossians  “I want you to know how much I have agonized for you…”  (Col 2:1 NLT)  This is part of loving deeply and investing heavily in someone.  Where your treasure is, your heart is also… in both joy and pain!

When one of the girls I was meeting with shared she was emotionally involved with her boss and about to leave her husband, this led to one of the most intense battles I’ve ever engaged in.  Afterwards it was beautiful to see the way the Lord intervened to save her marriage and family – but that did not happen without grueling spiritual and emotional warfare.

Being involved in the lives of others can be exhausting!  And it’s not uncommon to wonder if you are crazy for even trying!  Especially as there aren’t many people around, not even among committed Christians, doing this.

As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:19 “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”   He acknowledges following Jesus and helping others do so is hard!  If this life is all there is, we’re getting the short end of the stick!

What a help it can be when a friend reminds you this isn’t all there is!  When she reminds you of what’s eternal, of what awaits!  That what’s important isn’t about feeling good, or taking it easy or being comfortable in this life!  Who helps refresh your eternal perspective, reminding you it really is worth all the sacrifice!!!

Thankfully the Lord blessed me with a friend who recognized my need for this. For years she has taken initiative to get together with me, to pray for me,  to listen to how I am doing and remind me it really is worth it.

I can’t stress enough the importance of having at least one friend like this ~ and being a friend like this!  For no one who is actively involved in advancing God’s kingdom has it easy in this life!

So many times when I read what Paul wrote about being poured out like a drink offering , I think “Yep!  Been there.  Done that.  Living this right now!”

And note, Paul didn’t just write about this once!  You’ll find he mentions it in both Philippians 2:17 and 2 Timothy 4:6.  This is a common experience when you are intentionally reaching out and investing in others, seeking to advance God’s kingdom!

And it is a battle!  Without a doubt whenever someone comes to know Christ, hard things always happen in our lives – plumbing backs up, appliances stop working, our son breaks an arm…

What a blessing when a friend will come alongside to pray with us and for us, to love on us, to encourage us, as we dive into the battle as well as during it and even when we take time to rest and refresh.

And it doesn’t even have to be someone in the same town!!!  Proverbs 25:25 states, “Like cold water to a parched soul, is good news from a distant land.”  What a difference getting a real letter in the mail can make!  And now with Skype and Facetime it’s so easy to keep in touch with friends at a distance.

Every single laborer in God’s Kingdom needs this!

So be sure to take time to cultivate at least one encouraging relationship!  Don’t try to do this alone!  Ask the Lord to provide someone who will care for your heart and be there to remind you, “You’re Not Crazy!!!”

If you truly desire to labor for a life time, it’s not just worth it, it’s vital!

Will You Disciple Me?

How would you respond if someone came up and asked you that question?

Would you rush to say yes and start setting up a weekly time?

Would you ask for time to pray about it?

Would you say no?  …change the subject?  …or just not get back to them?

How you respond reveals a lot about who you are, what you believe and what’s going on in your heart.

It can be a heady thing to have someone ask you to disciple them.  It’s definitely a compliment.  They’ve obviously seen something in your life that’s given them the desire to walk with you and learn from you.  A dear friend once shared with me there are three things that motivate people:  accomplishment, community, and influence.  I am primarily motivated by the latter!  Does that ever make me vulnerable when people ask me things like this!  So it’s good to know yourself and understand what might drive you to rush into something prematurely.

Prayer is always a great idea!  But do you have enough information to pray well about this?  If you have known the person for a long time, you very well may.  But if you don’t know them very well, I find it sure can help to get together with them once and learn more of their story, hear what’s on their heart and in truth as I’m prayerfully listening many times the Lord will reveal whether this is someone He wants me involved with.

But even if I do sense the Lord is leading me to meet with someone, I won’t rush to commit to meeting weekly with them right away.  As I mentioned in the August 11th Post “Where are You” I have found it so beneficial to start with one meeting and at the end give a copy of the “What is a Disciple study”  (Found in the Hello!  section).  Then I encourage them to contact me when this is completed.

Jesus had twelve disciples.  I find the max I can usually handle is four.  So it’s not uncommon for me to have to say no – because I simply don’t have the time.  Now saying “no” is incredibly difficult for me!!!   And in truth I’ve known many people who don’t handle this well – they either change the subject if someone asks or not return calls or even say they’ll pray about it and never get back to them.  These are not good responses!  Why?  Because you don’t love well when you do this!

Here are a couple thoughts that have really helped me learn to say “no” well:

1)  The Lord created time – it is not a limitation for Him – and there is always time to do everything He wants me doing, but not for things He doesn’t want me doing.  If I say yes to doing things He doesn’t want me doing, it will prevent me from being available for what He does want me doing.  Time is not the enemy.  But there is an enemy who delights to get me to misuse it.  As one friend once shared with me – if the enemy can’t get you to stop he’ll get you so busy you don’t do anything well.   If I overextend myself by saying yes when I shouldn’t everyone else I’m involved with will suffer, not just me!  And that certainly isn’t modeling being available very well for those I meet with is it?!!!

2)  Also, God’s best for me is always His best for everyone around me.  If He doesn’t want me discipling someone, then I’m not doing them any favors by disicpling them!  He has another plan for them!  And if I don’t follow Him in this, I can only get in the way!  It really is loving them well, when I follow Jesus’ lead and say no when He wants me to, even if it’s not what they want to hear.  By sharing this, I can say no in a way that keeps them hopeful and eagerly looking to see what He does have for them!

To really grasp these truths has helped so much with telling people no!   And the longer you disciple, the more opportunities you’re going to have to say no!  It’s vital you learn to do it well!

For whenever someone asks “Will you disciple me?”  it is a very important question – and not just for the one asking!

How you respond to the question “Will you disciple me?”  speaks volumes about how much of a disciple of Jesus you are!

The Right Stuff!

The right tools sure can make a job easier!  Imagine trying to cut your grass with scissors?!  Or your hair with a chain saw?!  Without the right tools – at best you can end up frustrated, at worse, a bloody mess!

It’s the same way when discipling.  Proverbs 25:11 states, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” ~  is that ever true for a tool aptly given!

One friend was struggling in her prayer life – when I shared how I use index cards on a ring to record prayer requests and then take them with me when I’m walking and praying, she got so excited!!!  You wouldn’t believe the life this simple idea has breathed into her praying!

Another tool that’s really been enhancing my prayer life is the ACTS acronym.  Each night before bed I pull out a composition notebook and spend time in Adoration writing down what comes to mind as I remember who the Lord is and praise Him for this!  Then I spend time Confessing my sins.  It’s amazing how much better I sleep when I’ve taken time to agree with God about the ways I’ve blown it and how much more I appreciate Him after coming face to face with how much He’s forgiven me.  Does that ever flow naturally into Thanksgiving, which really helps fight against focusing on what I don’t have.   And then I share what’s on my heart with the Lord through Supplication.  Over and over I’m amazed at how He answers these requests.  Having a written record where I see Him in action doing this certainly does add to my joy!  Now I could pray before nodding off without this, but I find this tool really stretches me and helps me pray in ways I might not naturally.

One big difference between someone who has been discipling women for thirty years versus someone who has just started is the size of her toolbox!  In Matthew 13:52 we’re told  “And He said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a house who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Can those treasures ever be of great value!  There is so much we can learn from others!  In fact, that’s one of the things I love about summer training programs – or any place where people who love to disciple gather together – it’s such a great opportunity to swap tools and discover new treasures the Lord has given to someone else!  Can this ever save you time and keep you from having to re-invent the wheel!

But tools can be dangerous too.

Just as you can’t do everything with a hammer – there is not one tool that is good for everything or everybody!

Sometimes we can get so excited when we see the difference a tool is making in someone’s life we think everyone should be using this.  But note that word “aptly” in Proverbs 25:11.  “Apt” means “suitable or appropriate for the circumstances.”

Don’t become tool dependent, thinking “this worked in the past, of course it’s the best for now!”  Instead, make certain you are always depending on the Lord!  Only He truly knows what is suitable or appropriate for any given circumstance or person – and remember His ways aren’t our ways!

And don’t let the enemy deceive you into thinking you don’t have what it takes if there’s barely anything in your toolbox!

A discipler following Jesus with a tiny toolbox, is infinitely better off than someone with a loaded toolbox who depends solely on her tools!

You see, there really is just one tool that’s vital – the Word of God!  From this one treasure the Lord can give you any number of ideas for ways of creatively applying it!

When one of my friends went to Africa, he found the tools that worked in America weren’t as effective over there ~ and He had a HUGE tool box!  So what did He do?  He went to the Lord and using His Word discovered new ways of ministering to those the Lord brought into His life!

Even seasoned disciplers sometimes need to start from scratch!

So what does it look like to have the right stuff?  If you have Jesus and His Word you’re good to go!

But don’t dis the tools – seek to keep adding to your toolbox all you can – for when you use them as Jesus directs they can be an amazing help!  Just never rely on them instead of Him!