Imagine having aspirations to build a piece of furniture. After becoming persuaded that you could do so (a big step seeing that you have no natural talent for or experience in doing so), you set out to begin.
With your mind set on beginning, you are given an outstanding plan (strategy) for constructing the furniture. The wood and other raw materials needed are all secured. As you enter the workshop to begin construction, you immediately find yourself hopeless, unable and unwilling to begin the project. Why? Because of one missing necessity – the appropriate tools (and the equipping to use them).
This is the story of countless “hoped to have been” disciple makers. They embrace the right mindset, and workable strategy but then come to a sudden halt only because they are without the tools needed.
It would be too time consuming to walk through the global story of effective disciple making tools used in history past. But I could easily build a case that most of those effective tools of the past are now culturally irrelevant. I could also make a convincing argument that there is an obvious need for new tools today (to replace some of the old ones) – tools that are both biblically sound and culturally relevant.
Before I moved to Atlanta in the 1970s, the tools I had learned to use were suitable for where I was living in the deep south. I was accustomed to sharing the gospel with Bible believing, Jesus agreeing, religious non-believers.
In Atlanta I found secular, humanistic, non-Bible believing people who questioned the deity of Jesus. I was like the old T.V. deputy sheriff many remember named “Barney Fife”. He had one bullet that he carried in his shirt pocket. When that bullet was shot, he was left with nothing. Similarly, in Atlanta, once I went through the Gospel with a non-believer, I had shot my bullet and was rendered helpless. I knew I had to find new tools.
I quickly realized that those in our new church would never step forward to make disciples without the training of tools sufficient to the task. So I began to develop tools which, first, I would feel confident using and secondly, they would embrace. I also concluded that we needed four different kinds of tools:
In our final chapter I will address the question, “When is it time to invite a non-Christian into a spiritual discussion or to investigate Christianity?” But for now, most would agree that it is after greeting and befriending. But when the right time does come to do so, many Christians are left without a next step. This is where “Introductory Tools” become so valuable.
Let me illustrate. I routinely ask the men that I am training as disciples to invite a non-Christian friend to join us to have lunch. I ask them, if possible, to find the most pagan, antagonistic friend they know. They typically do so by telling these friends they would like for them to meet the man who is their life coach. (And to even be up front and disclose that I am also a preacher!)
On one occasion, a member of my group invited a man who met the description I had suggested to a tee. In fact, my friend said to me, “You will regret meeting with this man.” Only moments after a surface level greeting, this man put out his hand so as to silence me and said, “Listen, let’s get this straight right now. I’m a Baptist, so I’m O.K. with God. Are we good now?”
He might as well have said, “Shut up. I don’t’ want to hear you talk to me about God.” Typically, I would never move forward in spiritual conversations against one’s desire, but in this case I made an exception. Knowing I had a perfect tool for this occasion, I felt comfortable asking him one question: “Would you allow me to show you one simple diagram and if you are still uninterested, I will not say another word about spiritual things?”
No sooner than I had completed the diagram, he asked me, “So you don’t mind meeting with me for four weeks to help me understand this better? I can’t tell you how much I would appreciate this.” I looked over at his friend who looked dumbfounded.
As I was driving home, my discipleship group member from lunch called me. He was crying. When I asked what was wrong he answered, “The fiancé of my friend (with whom we had just met) just called me and said, ‘What just happened? My fiancé called me and is excited about meeting with a preacher for four weeks to talk about God?’”
My response to my friend was only to ask: “Did you see me say or do anything impressive when showing him that diagram?” His response was insightful. He said, “No. Anybody cold have done what you did!”
What my friend saw and heard was a simple introductory tool that I most often use. I knew the effectiveness of having the right tool and assumed even this disinterested man might decide otherwise after its use. And I could tell this same kind of story over and over. This is one of a handful of tools I have found effective – each to be used in differing situations.
And oh, by the way, at the end of four weeks this man became a follower of Christ and is a faithful church member.
I am of the persuasion that every disciple maker needs to have one “go to” primary tool – one they can master. For me that tool is a set of short booklets called “Life Issues” booklets. There are four booklets, ideally used, one a week.
Each book has two sections – first, a brief answer to one of the most important and often asked questions regarding the Christian faith and secondly, five chapters of the gospel of John with questions placed periodically in the margin to stimulate understanding in one’s reading. Disciple makers are trained in how to walk through these four booklets in a brief, but impactful way.
In the next chapter you will see what makes the use of these booklets so impactful.
I love to think of every Christian having an invisible tool belt placed on them at salvation – ready to be filled as quickly as possible with disciple making tools. I refer to support tools as specialty tools to use as needed.
For instance, it’s important to have a tool when talking to Jewish people, one for very close friends or family members, one for moral, religious non-Christians who are convinced their lifestyle and beliefs secure salvation for them, as well as those coming from non-Christian religions.
There are also a few tools designed to be used with any non-believer. I love to have six or seven support tools in my tool belt at all times.
So what do you do next, when by God’s grace, you lead someone to faith in Jesus? Once again, many disciple makers miss a great opportunity, simply from not having an appropriate tool. The weeks following a new profession of trust in Jesus are extremely important. This is a time to ground the new convert in the teaching of God’s Word regarding assurance of salvation, the fruit indicating a true salvation, etc. It is often this time that it becomes obvious that the presumed new salvation is not even valid, leaving them with a need to know what to do in that case.
The follow-up tool that I and many others are finding most helpful is called “Next Step” booklets. These four booklets are formatted virtually the same as the “Life Issue” booklets. The difference is that the questions now deal with answering four of the most important questions for a new believer to to be able to answer. And instead of the gospel of John, each of these booklets have two chapters of Romans 1-8, with related questions in the margins.
As these tools were developed and refined year after year, we discovered that their relevance and effectiveness was based upon numerous characteristics they shared. Over time we identified about a dozen such characteristics. Time will permit me to share only four. But these four, in my opinion, stand out as the four most critical for effective disciple making tools.