The word “strategy” is commonly used today in sports, business and in nearly every pursuit of excellence. “Strategy” is defined as “a plan, method or series of maneuvers for obtaining a specific goal or result.” The need for such is no exception in disciple making. Without an effective strategy, disciple making quickly becomes a dream of one’s past. It is not uncommon for Christians to long to obey their Master’s great commission, yet become discouraged and eventually surrender – only because of the absence of an effective strategy.
Years ago, as a young pastor, I quickly realized that neither I, nor the people of our church, had an effective strategy. It seemed to me that whatever strategy we chose had to be simple. To be simple meant that it had to be easily trained and easily repeatable until it could become second nature.
Over time, three words emerged which describe a strategy that has proven to be both simple and extremely effective. Very quickly our church embraced these three words and they soon became common language among our people. These three words are “greet”, “befriend” and “invite”, commonly referred to as “GBI”. This three-step strategy has now not only made disciple making easy for me, but also for thousands of others. Let me explain what is meant by these three words.
This first step of our strategy could not be simpler. When training Christians in how to greet, all I need to do is to model how I do it. Here it is: “Hi, my name is Randy.” I told you it was simple. The only thing I need to do is to make sure they use their name and not mine!
By “greeting”, I mean simply looking for opportunities to introduce myself to those I don’t know which hopefully will lead to a future relationship. Obviously, this step is unnecessary with those we already know.
I think you will agree that this is certainly simple. But don’t be deceived. Of the three words describing this proposed strategy, this is the most difficult for introverts like me. For us, this is where our mindset discussion becomes important. We can do it, but it’s not natural to commonly engage with people we don’t know – unless we consider what’s at stake in not being a faithful disciple maker. And once accomplished, I always feel the process is in motion, becoming much more natural from this point forward.
The next step is to “befriend”. By this, I simply mean to “be-friend-ly”. If a new acquaintance, this will probably mean asking questions which show interest in getting to know that person. “How are you doing?” “Where do you live?” “Are you single or married?”, etc. People love having others show interest in them. In fact, many are starving for such.
The time needed between steps two and three can be a very short period or perhaps an extremely long time. It all depends on the uniqueness of each individual situation. In fact, I will use the final chapter to address how one knows when it’s time to move to the third step.
This final piece of our strategy is to “invite”. At the right time, we need to offer an invitation to see if they would like to investigate what we know as the gospel – the good news. Over the years, I have discovered that there are at least three excellent options to use to help people investigate Christianity. Some disciples focus more on one that the others, which is fine. But having a good tool always ready for each of these three is extremely valuable.
The three options for Investigating Christianity which I have found most useful can be summarized by these words: “read”, “attend” and “meet”. Let me briefly describe each:
First, the word “read”. I think it is important for every disciple maker to have a “go to” piece of literature to offer to those interested in investigating. Of course, such an offering has got to be energizing, interesting, and short. And I can’t emphasize the word “short” enough.
Years ago I wrote a book designed for this very purpose. It is titled The Answer. It is subtitled “Putting an end to the search for life satisfaction”. In a very brief period, a disciple maker can be equipped on what to say to most effectively invite a friend to read. In our church alone, our people have used well over 50,000 copies of this book with non-Christians and find it to be effective in stirring an interest to investigate further. This book is just one example of many options one could use as their go to literature to invite interested non-followers to read.
The word “attend” is the second option to investigate. It is used to describe an enjoyable offering to invite one’s unbelieving friends to attend as their guests. This is any gathering where they can be attractively exposed to God’s Word and God’s people. This could be a home group or a church event – and in some churches even the weekly worship service.
At our church, we offer a five-week event twice a year called “Investigative Forum” (IF). Our church people are encouraged to bring their non-believing friends to hear answers to the most challenging questions regarding the Christian faith. At the end of each session, guests can have anonymous questions they have asked by text or email shown on a screen. Or, they also have the option to raise their hand and ask a question publicly.
Regardless of the form of the event chosen, as long as it exposes seekers to God’s Word and God’s people (and ideally for multiple weeks), having such an event to invite friends to is extremely important.
The third investigative offering is to “meet”. By this, I mean meeting one on one to discuss the gospel and to address the questions that they, as non-believers, are asking. This approach initially feels beyond most of our abilities. However, with equipping in the use of tools well designed for this very purpose, the task becomes much simpler and doable than one would think.
The primary tool that I and our church uses is called “Life Issues” booklets. These four booklets are designed to use in consecutive weeks. Each addresses one of the four most important and often asked questions regarding the Christian faith. Each also includes sections of John’s gospel with discussion questions in the margins designed to make simple the understanding of the gospel.
So, once disciple makers have the right mindset and an effective strategy, now they only lack the right tools. And I can say with deep conviction that to be effective, every disciple maker must be equipped with culturally relevant and biblically grounded tools. In the next two chapters, I will introduce you to what I mean by “culturally relevant” and “biblically grounded” tools.
But first, allow me to encourage you who are pastors to make sure your church has excellent options to make it easy for your people to invite non followers to “read”, “attend” and “meet”. Then it’s just a matter of equipping them to use the tools you provide. If you need any help in doing so, Life on Life is available to help in any way possible.