In the previous video, I mentioned how over the years of using our tools, we discovered that their relevance and effectiveness, in great part, was based upon a number of essential characteristics. Here are the four most important tools, in my opinion, that account for any disciple making tools being both relevant and effective.
In this topic, I will elaborate on the first, and most important tool, and cover the last three in the next topic.
The first thing I look for to describe the primary tool I want in my tool belt is the first characteristic. I want to make sure that tools are designed with the belief that God does the converting, using His tool, the Bible. Let me explain what I mean.
Scripture teaches that man is “dead in his trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). What can a dead man do to make himself alive? Nothing! According to Romans 3:10-12, mankind, because of his sin, has lost his ability to seek God. This means it is the work of God, not man, that brings about a person’s salvation. Now the question is, how does God bring about this work of salvation?
He does so by using His holy Word. As we read in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” In II Timothy 3:15, Paul explains that it was “the sacred writings” which gave Timothy “the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
So the Bible seems clear that God opens hearts and does so using His Word. Perhaps to help us grasp God’s use of His Word, it would be beneficial to think of God’s Word being likened, first, to a knife, and secondly, to a hook on a fishing lure. To illustrate God’s Word as a knife, allow me to use a fictitious story and then close illustrating God’s Word as a fishing hook using a true story.
Imagine me hating one of you and desirous of killing you (just an analogy!). I approach you from behind in the dark of the night. I throw you down and pin you to the ground announcing to you my intention to kill you. You scream out in fear, pleading with me to release you.
I reach into my jacket and pull out a foot-long dagger. As I lift the knife to plunge it into your chest, and high enough for you to see it, you let out a sign of relief. In doing so you say, “Thank God!” I ask, “For what?” You respond by saying, “I thought for sure you were going to shoot me – which of course would kill me. But I don’t believe knives can hurt people. In fact, feel free to stab me. But please hurry up, I need to get home for dinner!”
So if I am an effective murderer, what would I do? Would I drop the knife in frustration and announce to you I will return at a future time with a gun? Of course not. I know better. I would go ahead and stab you. I have often heard disciple makers say they came to an impasse when sharing Christ with a non-believer. When I ask about the obstacle, I hear, “Because they don’t believe the Bible is God’s Word.”
Why should we care if they believe the Bible is God’s Word? You see, we know that God’s Word is “sharper than any two-edged sword.” We know that it cuts and kills the power of the sinful nature. We know that God uses His Word to transform unbelieving hearts!
When I meet with those interested in investigating Christianity, I essentially say, “Let’s meet for several weeks. I’m going to ask you to do a weekly assignment. I want you to take this dagger (5 chapters of John each week) and stab yourself daily. I’ll meet with you weekly and stab you with a big sword (explaining a portion of the Gospel Story using His Word). And hopefully, you’ll die – and then come to life as a new creation.” (II Cor. 5:17). Now of course I don’t tip my hand and use those words, but you get the point.
In Matthew 4, Jesus likens His followers to fishermen. Our success as fishermen depends on having the right “tackle.” The best lures land the most fish. God’s most effective lure is two-hooked. The first and most effective hook is constant exposure to God’s Word. The second hook is constant exposure to God’s people. God delights in using His Word and His people in the process of seeing people move from unbelief to belief. Let me give you an example of the effectiveness of this “fishing hook.”
One day I received a call from a friend named Jim who lived in another state. When I answered the phone, Jim’s voice sounded urgent. He was concerned because he had just gotten off the phone with a former business partner. His former partner, John, had called to tell Jim that he was about to take his life.
As we talked, Jim explained that he and John had parted paths some time before. John had moved to Atlanta and started a business that was in direct competition with Jim’s company. Unfortunately, John’s new business venture failed. He and his wife were on the brink of divorce and his life was out of control.
Jim told me that John was in his Atlanta home with a pistol, about to take his own life. Before he ended it all, he wanted to make things right with his old partner. Jim assured John that as bad as things seemed, taking his own life was not the answer.
In a last-minute effort to dissuade John from pulling the trigger, Jim asked him for a favor. “Would you please call a friend of mine named Randy, who’s there in Atlanta, and talk with him?”
John agreed. Jim’s parting words to me were, “Randy, John could be dead now for all I know. But if he calls you, please get with him as soon as possible.” I assured Jim that if John called, I would promptly meet with him.
Within minutes the phone rang; it was John. He didn’t mention that he was considering suicide but did say he had been going through some personal struggles and that Jim had urged him to call. I agreed to meet with him at his home.
Jim had given me detailed information about John, so I had an idea of the best way to deal with him. John was a very bright man, about my age, who had made a lot of money in his industry. His home certainly reflected that success.
Throughout their relationship, Jim had tried to get John to pursue spiritual truth, but John was uninterested. Jim had been a longtime friend with noted theologian and apologist Francis Schaeffer. As a Christmas gift one year, Jim gave John and his wife an all-expense paid trip to Switzerland, which included a day to meet with Schaeffer. John returned home from his trip and told Jim, “I like that old man. I think I was able to help him.”
It was obvious to me that John was not going to be an easy person to talk to about the gospel. As I sat down with John and his wife, I asked him if he knew I was a pastor. He said “no” and expressed that he had little interest in spiritual things. I knew immediately I had just the right tool. I was certain it would be my best hope to get him exposed to God’s Word – the only hope of changing his heart.
I asked him if I could show him a brief diagram, to which he agreed. Then I talked to him about investigating Jesus. Amazingly, he said he was interested. I explained that we would focus on four questions over a four-week period.
“First, how can Christians believe the Bible is God’s Word?” John shook his head, letting me know he did not believe that.
“Second, how can Christians believe that all people, including moral and religious people outside of Christianity, deserve eternal punishment?” Once again, the same look of disbelief.
“Third, how can Christians believe that, of all the world’s religious leaders, Jesus is the only way to God?” Well, when I said that, John was immediately animated and clearly had some strong opinions. In fact, I never even revealed the fourth question because of what happened next. He slapped the table and said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! You will never convince me of that one.” He pointed to a stack of books and said, “Those books on the coffee table are about Eastern religions. I’ve traveled the world looking at religions. No one will ever convince me that Jesus is the only way to God. I’ll debate that one with you right now.”
I said, “No, that’s week three.” I thought I would use curiosity, if nothing else, to keep him from ending his life!
The next week when I arrived, his first question was, “Can we discuss that question about Jesus tonight?”
“No, that’s week three.”
Now you need to remember the primary tool I am using is Scripture; I’ve got him reading five chapters of the book of John every week. My condition upon meeting with him was that he would read a little bit every day – not all at once. (Remember the dagger.)
John kept asking about “that Jesus question,” but I told him he’d have to wait until the third week.
When the third meeting finally came, John was particularly interested. I gave him four reasons (found in booklet three) that explain why I believe Jesus is who He claimed to be. Then I said, “Okay, John, it’s your shot.”
There was a prolonged silence after which he said, “I can’t explain it.”
“What?” I asked.
“I don’t know why, but I believe Jesus is the Son of God.”
He then looked over to his wife, who had been listening all along, and asked, “What about you?” “Me, too,” she answered.
That night all three of us knelt by their couch, and they experienced the ceremony of inviting Christ into their lives.
Time would indeed confirm that they had a new love relationship with Christ and they both ended up joining our church. They eventually moved back to their original hometown, where John went back into partnership with Jim. The last I heard, they were members of the same church where Jim serves as an elder.
Why did John and his wife come to faith? Because God did the converting, using His best tool, the Bible. I was glad I had a tool that focused primarily on God’s Word which I could rely on to accomplish the desired outcome.
Now you hopefully understand the secret to effective disciple making – constant exposure to God’s Word and God’s people. When you find a tool that incorporates both, you have found a powerful tool.
But there are other important characteristics you want to look for as you select your tools. In the next topic, I will discuss three additional ones.