Dave'e posts to our Discussions and his Blog on Discipleship.Network
- ...a Featured Contributor to Discipleship.Network, passed in December
- He pursued the Great Commission of making disciple as a Navigators staff member
- "In his weekly Bible studies for airmen and other military personnel, his primary focus was always to train the men and women in his studies to lead the gatherings themselves. He also met with older men from the community and had discipling and training relationships with several local churches."
- More on Dave's life and ministry>>
- Dave's "Prayer Prompts" in Photos>>>
The #ReimagineFORUM Coaching Session with Dave Nickerson
Why Reimagine Discipleship?
The definition of discipling within most congregational settings has been:
1) A new member's class called "Discipleship" with a syllabus having blanks to fill in (but practicing not part of the curriculum)
2) A service where discipleship is mentioned, even quoted as being commanded by Jesus (but not discussed or encouraged)
3) A time of honoring the pastors, deacons, attendees, graduates, and funding (but not discipleship)
4) All those of your headlined question know the correct answer (but do not practice discipleship)
Discipleship by definition is relational, one helping another in areas of the physical AND spiritual life. Jesus exampled this when He met the food and health needs of those who gathered around Him. When Nicodemus spoke with Jesus and Jesus spoke with the woman at the well, the spiritual life was the topic of conversation; but these were casual relationships. The training of the twelve was the main focus of Jesus, from calling them to sending them out, from them watching Him pray to Him asking them to pray with Him; all He did with them was culminated in the command of Matt 28:19 "Go make disciples." If I may put words in Jesus' mouth, "As I have done with you, go and do."
I recently asked a man my age (68) what he knew about discipleship. He replied correctly: "It is a command of Jesus, what every Christian is commanded to do." When I asked him who he is discipling, he looked at me like of a deer caught in headlights. The obvious answer was "no one" and, as we've been meeting together, I've discovered he does not focus on making disciples but on peripheral items.
There are items of importance to those of your headlined question, their positions demand attention; but what is important to our Father as expressed through Jesus, are not those same things. Jesus replaced Himself with His disciples; He didn't call a "brother" to take over while He was away, He didn't beg for a substitute - He left His disciples in charge. Doing the same in today's congregational environment is done by few.
"Re-imagining Discipleship" will cost something. If I am unwilling to trust Jesus with those I've been training, then the price I've paid has already left me wanting.
Re-imagine Discipleship: A Pandemic-Sized Opportunity
Churches are closed! Groups limited to no more than 10! What are we to do?
This morning I gathered with a group of six (including myself). We talked about this very thing. When Church doors close, as they have during this emergency, what are the parishioners to do?
1) Some will put their Bibles on the shelf and turn to watch Netflix/Pureflix/Disney+.
2) Some will watch pod-casts and other visual materials acting like shut-ins.
3) Some will worry and say, "I don't want to catch this plague!"
4) Some will realize their Churches are irrelevant.
5) Some will realize a great opportunity to reach out in small groups and begin to teach and train those within their sphere of influence to be awake and prepared for such emergencies.
I want to be in group 5.
This morning as we met, we had a lesson on how to have a quiet-time. I say "we" because all participated in the lesson. The passage we went through for our quiet-time was Jesus' time of prayer in the olive press (Matt 26:36-46). What stood out to them was telling regarding our situation today:
1) Jesus returned to check on those He wanted with Him because those relationships were important to Him.
2) Jesus' disciples are tired/lazy/unmotivated.
3) Jesus wants His disciples to be awake and prepared.
At the end of the lesson, we broke into groups of three and practiced what we had just learned. Afterwards, I asked of the entire group, "What stood out as we went through and then practiced what we learned?" There were several things:
1) The prayer time (we prayed for the application of the quiet-time of the person on our left) was much more personal.
2) Having been told the lesson, going through the lesson, and then practicing the lesson makes individuals more secure at accomplishing and passing on the lesson.
3) How one relates to personal quiet-times, man-to-man, small group Bible study, and even larger groups is different.
After this discussion, I asked a final question: "Do you believe yourself prepared to share this same lesson in your own homes with another small group?" The answers were a resounding "YES!" I sent these small group leaders off with the admonition as spoken by one of those as we practiced the quiet-time lesson: "Since Jesus has served me, I am willing to go and serve others. (John 13:6-9)"
Serve others by gathering in small groups, passing on the basics of how to maintain a relationship with Jesus. Start with how to have a quiet-time, send them out to meet with others in small groups, and see what it looks like to re-imagine discipleship.
How To Turn The World Right-Side-Up
The crisis at the heart of the church is that we talk about making disciples, but we seldom do it.
Making disciples is not just for pastors, ministers, or super Christians. Making disciples is the responsibility, privilege and great joy intended for every Christ-follower within the body of Christ.
The only hope for taking Jesus' message to all people is in believers' multiplying their labors by training disciples to continue and expand the work. If we are going to see believers around the world reflect Jesus' values, we need to get back to serious biblical discipleship.
What is your plan for discipleship in 2011? Will you commit to discipling just one person in 2011?
May God grant that we obey His mandate to make disciples.
My discipling plan is to engage with those in my sphere of influence, telling those who don't know Jesus about Him, living the life of Jesus before those I tell and those disinterested, and meeting with those who want to know more. I currently meet with 8 guys, two of whom are meeting with others and one who has recently met a guy who works within his area who is wanting to know more.
What Matters Most in Disciple-Making?
Key question 1) Since Jesus is our model of and for discipleship and ministry, how does what mainstream Christianity label as discipleship and ministry express what Jesus modeled in regard to discipleship and ministry?
Key question 2) Since Jesus is our model of and for discipleship and ministry, what would be a simplistic means of getting back to what Jesus modeled as discipleship and ministry?
Key question 3 has two parts) Who is it you are discipling and ministering to that reveals what Jesus modeled as discipleship and ministry? As a member of the Mission America Coalition (MAC) leadership team, what are you doing in regard to discipleship that follows what Jesus modeled so we who are not on the MAC leadership team can "come and see" how discipleship is done?
The Practice of Discipleship
As I have been teaching and leading Bible study and discipling one-on-one, I have found that Jesus followers find it difficult to talk with each other about their relationship with Jesus. Wanting to reverse this, I made changes in the way the Tuesday Night Teachings (TNT) Bible study group is led.
Several years ago I was leading a study in the Gospel of John, and was really excited about what I was learning. As I taught, the thought came to allow the TNT attendees to make personal discoveries on their own instead of me giving them what I had discovered. So I appointed two or three smaller groups giving them questions to answer that might lead to personal discovery. I asked the guys I was meeting one-on-one with to facilitate these small group discussions answering the questions I had provided. After they had spent time in discussion I called the groups back together to discuss their findings and did the closing discussion on something I had found as the result of my own personal study.
One day, as my wife and I were discussing TNT, I asked, "Why am I doing all the talking? Why should I stand in front of the group?" Through that discussion, it was determined one of the guys I was meeting with would share the responsibilities with me.
Although this did provide more personal discovery with those I was meeting with, I found others in the group still reluctant to talk with each other about their relationship with Jesus - even though they are believers. Wanting to solve this dilemma, I instituted what I call Discipleship Tuesday.
Discipleship Tuesday is held once a month and is planned like this: First, two lessons, lasting 30 minutes, i.e. "How to have a Quiet-Time" and "Overview of Prayer", are taught simultaneously in different parts of the room. Second, the individuals are divided into one-on-one groups (gals with gals, guys with guys) and spend 20 minutes each discussing, facilitating and teaching the lessons to each other. Third, the one-on-one pairs come back together as one large group to discuss the lesson, discuss the processes of the evening in regard to discipleship, and final prayer.
The purpose is to encourage the attendees to be more comfortable in their talking with each other about spiritual things. The problems I have seen are: 1) the one-on-one pairs are repeating what was talked about and not being creative in their discussion, 2) there is no intentional relationship building going on, 3) there is no guarantee that the attendees discuss with each other outside of TNT what they have learned, and 4) there is no guarantee the attendees will pass on to those in their spheres of influence (outside of TNT) what they are learning.
Recently I had another thought in regard to encouraging discussing spiritual things with those attending TNT. The result of that thought brought these changes: During our regular TNT meetings, we divide into two groups which we try to keep the same so as to encourage intentional relationship building. Each group is studying the same material and is facilitated by a team leader who has discussed the material at the leadership Sunday Night Study (SNS) held in my home; the time given is about an hour. After this, we bring two people from each group, including a leader from the SNS, into a quad group; gals are included within these quads. These meet for 15 minutes to discuss the study and their take home or application. We then come back into one large group for prayer from the lesson and life.
The purpose of the quads is to enable intentional relationship building, yet a problem with this is that it cannot be easily accomplished in the 15 minutes allotted. A second purpose is to allow for greater accountability among these four, yet a problem is that the four may not be the same the next week. My desire is that both these purposes would happen outside of TNT, but a problem is that there is no guarantee the attendees will discuss what they've learned outside of this semi-controlled learning environment.
A Discipleship Practicum Retreat
Recently, 85 men and women from 7 military bases attended a Discipleship Practicum Retreat. There was no main speaker, there was no formal band, and there was no comedian to hype up the crowd before we got started. There was, however, a Testimony Scavenger Hunt, four workshops, a fun night and a close-out session.
Friday night we held a Testimony Scavenger Hunt where we practiced giving our Jesus stories to each other. Everyone was given a sheet of paper with twenty categories, being instructed to find one person for each category, tell them your Jesus Story, and have them tell you theirs.
Saturday we held four workshops, each being facilitated by area Navigator Staff and co-facilitated by someone they were discipling/training. The purpose for this was so the attendees of the retreat would see discipleship in action.
The plan for each workshop was to have a topic presented to, an illustration explained to, and information practiced among workshop attendees. Next, each attendee was paired with one from another workshop to share with each other what had just been passed on. The purpose of this was to have each attendee practice "discipling" another as they shared what had just been learned.
Saturday night was fun night, where skits, music, and testimonies were presented to the group by members of the seven military bases. The testimonies were presented by those of specific categories: a new believer told how they had come to Jesus, a growing believer told how they were being discipled, one who is discipling others told how they came into relationship with the one being discipled, and a mature disciple-maker told how to make disciple-makers.
Sunday morning we talked about the processes of the weekend: seeing disciples being trained, learning information to pass on, and practicing to pass on to another what had been learned. We told the attendees that the intention is not to sit on what they were taught nor to stuff their notes on a bureau drawer, but to ask God for one with whom they can do as they learned during the weekend.
The theme for the weekend was Philemon 1:6"I pray you are active in sharing your faith so that you may have a full understanding of every good things we have in Christ." That is my prayer for each one who came to our weekend Discipleship Practicum Retreat.
Telling Your Jesus Story
Recently I asked a man and his wife, "What is your Jesus story?"
The husband answered, "What?"
I asked, "How did you come into relationship with Jesus?"
As he looked at his wife, she said, "He asked you."
He stuttered through a few "Ah, um, well, I, uh ..." and then said, "I've always been in church."
When I asked the wife, she answered, "I was nine years old, and a mean old aunt took me to Sunday School."
I thought to myself, "Ah, the beginning of a good Jesus story."
She continued, "The next week I was baptized."
Arggggg! How can you have a Jesus story and not mention Jesus? Is mentioning Jesus "tabu" even in Christian circles? What are they teaching in church?
After this, I was meeting with a friend talking about how he came to know Jesus. His answer to me was the same as above: "I was brought up in the church." His story was different in that he said, "If my parents didn't take me, I went with my grandma." I pressed a bit further and found he did have a Jesus story, but didn't know how to explain it.
As I was talking with him, I formulated the following Jesus Story Pattern (JSP) for writing out or talking through a Jesus story.
- Before - What your life was like before you came to know Jesus? There are two sub-parts: a)Life - How did you grow up? Were you part of a church or not? b) Problem - What was it that convinced you to seek after God? The problem is not to be detailed, but generalized.
- How - It is in this section that you mention Jesus. How did you come to know Jesus? There are three sub-parts: a)Talked to - How did you hear about the need for Jesus? Someone most likely "talked to" you about your need for Jesus. b) Believed/acted on - How did you respond to what was said? What did you do as you thought through what you heard about Jesus? and c) Prayed - This is where you talked to Jesus about your condition and your need of Him.
- After - How have things gone since? This has two sub-parts: a)Life - What happened immediately after? Are things going good or bad? What is it you are certain of since you gave Jesus His rightful place in your life? and b) Verse - Is there a verse which had or has significance for you after you started following Jesus?
A few days later I was talking with a gal who had visited the Lighthouse Airman Center on Eglin. As I introduced myself and talked about the Center, she asked if I was a Chaplain. I said, "No, but if you need to talk, you can talk with me; and if you'd rather talk with a Chaplain, I can get you in touch with one."
She wasn't disappointed, but seemed rather excited. "I'd really like to know about how to become a Chaplain. I've always wanted to be a Chaplain. Members of my family are preachers and evangelists, and I thought I'd like to become a Chaplain."
"So, are you a Christian?" I asked.
"Yes." She was emphatic.
I asked, "How did you come to know Jesus? Tell me your Jesus story."
"Um, I don't think I have one. How would I know?"
As I talked with her, asking questions of her background, it came clear to me that she did indeed have a Jesus story; she just didn't know to express it and hadn't been taught about the importance of her story about Jesus. As we talked, I wrote the above JSP on a napkin talking about each part so she could clearly know and be able to express to others how she had come to know Jesus.
Although I will talk to lots of people about this JSP, my plan is to present it to our Tuesday Bible study group during the September Discipleship Tuesday. My prayer is that as they insert their story into the JSP, they will more clearly know their own story, be better able to tell their story to others and have a tool to pass on to their disciples.
I was recently encouraged by comments from Kyle (NOTE: not present in the photo to the right), whom I'm discipling. While Kyle was in an overseas military location, he met Christian, whom I had spent time with one-on-one several years before meeting Kyle. As they talked, Christian said, "I've followed what Dave suggested and its made a difference in how I've lived for Jesus." It gives me no greater joy than to know my children are walking with Jesus. (3 John 1:4)
I've heard somewhere (and it may have been Professor Howard Hendricks) that success is when your disciple does for someone else what you did for them.
This is not too difficult. Promote Jesus and His discipleship model. First, He went and found a few men (Matt 4:18-19). Next, He invited them to seek Him ("Follow Me."). Then He told them the process and the result ("I will make you fishers of men.").
The model of Jesus is not in the large group context. True, He had the 5000 meeting, the 4000 meeting, the 70 meeting, and He event went to synagogue; but each of these events was designed to train those few He would leave as His witnesses (Acts 1:8). The model of Jesus is find a few and help them to get to know Him.
So, every one of us should be doing just this: staying in the Word and helping others to stay in the Word. Each one should be striving to know Jesus and helping other to do the same. As we do, we will pass on what we are doing to those we find; and they will go and do the same (2Tim 2:2).
I have read many books on discipleship (Lost Art of Disciple Making - Eims, Disciples are Made not Born - Henrichsen, Personal Disciplemaking - Adsit, The Great Omission - Willard, T4T - Smith and Kai, Discipleshift - Putnam, and others) wanting to learn more about how to make disciples. I've listened to talks by Howard Hendricks, Skip Gray, Gene Warr, etc., (discipleshiplibrary.org) and Ray Vander Laan (followtherabbi.com) wanting to learn more from others as they've practiced discipleship. I've been devouring material on discipleship wanting to know more about how discipleship is accomplished. What I have discovered is that there is no better classroom than to actually disciple.
The materials I use: 1) the Navigators’ Lessons of Assurance/Christian Living, a thirteen lesson book that gets the disciple directly connected with the Bible and Jesus, 2) illustrations that demonstrate a point, 3) the Jesus Story Pattern (an easy pattern for learning/telling a testimony), and 4) a study method I have put together called the “6 Cs of Bible Study” which gets a disciple directly connected with Jesus.
Pray with us - -
"We thank you Lord for our fellow servant, Dave Nickerson ... May the truths you taught him continue to speak to many ..."