President of Life on Life Ministries
This video is a part of the Training Disciples series. Jump to the other parts of the series below.
- Part 1 – What is the goal of spiritual formation?
- Part 2 – What is an adequate description of a mature and equipped follower of Christ?
- Part 3 – What is the church’s typical plan for spiritual formation, and is it working?
- Part 5 – What is this T.E.A.M.S. operating system?
- Part 6 – What makes T.E.A.M.S. with life-on-life relationships such a difference-maker?
- Part 7 – What are next steps?
Well, we left off on the last video where I’m really now I’m at a place, in that cabin where I am going, “What is the answer?”
I couldn’t find it. I came home empty-handed. There is a team of our elders at our church that I would meet with on a regular basis and they hold me accountable and so forth. As I come back from a time away, they want to know how was my time spent and how did it go? And I shared with them everything from the target and identifying it and so forth and so forth. And I said, “I hate to say, but I don’t think we’re doing as well as we would think. That, and after I explained everything that you’ve already heard, they said, “You know what, we think you’re right.”
And then they asked the question, “So how do we do this? How do we get there?”
And with that, I said with great confidence, “I have no idea.”
They looked at me and they said, “Well, your job number one is to find an answer to that question. That’s most important. And we’ll give you as much time and as much resources as we possibly can, but you have got to find that answer.”
Well, I didn’t even know where to go. Of the churches that I respected and knew the best, I knew their ministries well enough to know that they were basically doing what we were doing. And their outcome was basically what our outcome had been. And I said, “I really don’t know where to go.”
Well I gathered our staff, I can’t think of people any better or that would have more insight, and I said, “You know, we’ve got to labor figuring this out.” And so, we had met a few previous times trying to think about it. You guys give more thought to it, let’s come back together. And so, we’re back together and I said, “Do any of you have any thoughts or ideas on how we can figure this out? How do we make mature and equipped believers?”
And one person said, “I got an idea. We do have mature and equipped people in our church. We know that, based on this description at least, that I think we’re safe to say that quite a number of them for that matter. Just a low minority.” He said, “Why don’t we put names that come to our mind that meet the description that we’ve already outlined, and let’s put those names on a whiteboard.”
And the names just kept coming and coming. We had a lot of names, men and women alike, all over the board. And somebody on our staff, all of a sudden says this, “Whoa, I see something here. That’s interesting.”
I looked back at the board, and I don’t see, I said, “What are you talking about?”
“Look at the men on that board.”
I looked back at the board and I go, “Yeah.” I knew, most of them. I said, “What about them?”
And then somebody said, “Look how many of those men on the board have been in your small group?”
I pushed back a bit on it saying, “Well, you’ve got to understand that I’ve had more theological training than probably anybody in our church at that time.” I had, probably, I think confidently, longer experience in leading a small group than most anybody.
Now, I did know though that it was not because I was taking the cream of the crop of our men at our church and saying, “Would you like to be in my group?” In fact, the people that were coming into mind, for the most part, we’re coming out of moral and relational messes. I was leading most of them to Christ and picking them up in their earliest of spiritual formation. So I knew it was not that I was selecting those people already. Somebody pushing back a little bit to me said, “Well, let me ask you this, Randy. Are you doing anything in your small group that we’re not doing in our small groups?”
And I knew the answer to that question, and I said, “I am.” I hadn’t put two and two together to figure out the difference of impact that was being made in our other small groups.
Now you need to know, we were known as one of the entrepreneurial thinkers of small groups. We were known as a small group church. We started our church in a time where it was still kind of debated if small groups were even good for church. And most churches didn’t have small groups. So, we were kind of a pioneer in that. But I knew that we were doing something a little bit differently.
And they said, “Well, what are you doing?”
And so, I went up to the board and I put up a series of words, not in the order that I’ll present them to you now, but each was there. Of the words that I put up, somebody noticed very quickly that they made a little acronym or acrostic TEAMS. T. E. A. M. S. and the five words are these. In the next video, I’m going to explain these, but quickly, the first was Truth. The second was Equipping. The third has to do with Accountability. Fourth, mission. And the fifth one was prayer or supplication. And so, they kind of saw, oh, it makes an acronym, let’s use that.
From now on when I speak of teams that’s what we’re talking about. And I like to think of them as the operating system of a discipling ministry—a disciple of ministry that we would call life-on-life missional, discipleship. I want to give you a definition. This definition will help you kind of get a grasp of what we’re talking about. When we say life-on-life missional discipleship, we define it as laboring in the lives of a few, with the intention of imparting one’s life and God’s truth in such a way as to see them become mature and equipped followers of Christ, committed to doing the same in the lives of others.
I can say with integrity, and I mean this with all my heart, that it is the single greatest decision that we have ever made in our church to say, let’s focus on discipleship in this particular manner. And after seeing this embraced in probably over 20 countries in six continents now, I can say it really isn’t a single church phenomenon. It’s something that churches all over are saying. The same thing we say has happened in our church has happened in their churches. And I think the next video that I share with you, which will be on this operating system called TEAMS, will shed some light on why it is so effective.
So we will continue with this in the next video. And I think we’ll answer a very, very important question.
If you would rather read this series, you can download the Making and Training disciples booklets here.