In the fourth topic, I described the drastic contrast I observed in religious thinking and beliefs between those I observed in my small, southern hometown and those I saw when I moved to Atlanta. And those changes don’t compare in magnitude to the changes that have taken place over the last half century across the entire country and world.
So it should not be surprising that one’s approach then and now in disciple making would have to change as well – especially as it relates to tools.
In years past, our culture was still greatly influenced by a somewhat biblical world view. People were familiar with the major tenets of the Christian faith, with majorities professing adherence to them. Questions such as “Who was Jesus?” and “Is The Bible God’s Word?” would get totally different answers then than fifty years later.
Thus, the second characteristic of effective tools describes one such critically needed change – “Tools which utilized multiple appointment conversations rather than single appointment presentations.” Fifty years ago most people merely needed a gracious reminder of the gospel message and an invitation to embrace it. That “one bullet” approach, as in our Barney Fife comparison, would leave us today without a second bullet.
Today, many people are needing and wanting answers to primary questions regarding the Christian faith. This requires multiple conversations, which point to the need for our third characteristic – “tools which create an attractive forum to address the questions that non-Christians are asking.”
And what are those questions? In my experience, after meeting with people of all ages, a large number of them being secularistic, humanists who do not embrace the Christian faith, they want the answers to the biggest four questions – three of which I alluded to in the last chapter:
If they find merit in our answers to these three questions, they will want to know the answer to question four:
4. What does Jesus say is required to have eternal life?
Of course, there are other important questions they want answers to (which we need to get prepared to answer), but these are by far the most important ones for most.
This takes us to the final characteristic needing to be addressed – the importance of having “tools which respect the two greatest desires of interested seekers: brevity and privacy.” These are certainly the two desires I would have. I wouldn’t want to have to go to a library and research hours on end, reading book after book.
I would want brevity.
For this reason, I have found that for most people, reading “Cliff Notes” sized booklets (also known as “Spark Notes”) is more desirous than reading lengthy books. Knowing how much I enjoyed using such booklets in college, I decided to address each of the primary questions with six or less pages – enough to give the reader the essence of the answer. Later discussions could take us into deeper aspects of the question.
I also would hate to have someone preaching at me and telling me everything I needed to know. Therefore, knowing how much I value privacy, I had to assume others would as well. And that has been overwhelmingly confirmed by those with whom I meet. They would much rather be able to take brief data in written form into their home or office and read the answers to these questions. But they do appreciate having someone they can meet with to push back or ask further questions they may have.
Brevity and privacy go a long way in creating an appropriate forum to address the questions that seekers are asking.
Next we now come to our final topic in this lesson on making disciples. In it I will address the very practical question I am so often asked: “How do you know when it’s time to invite a non-Christian into a spiritual discussion or to investigate Christianity?