By Carl Kresge, SEND Eurasia Regional Director — SEND’s vision is to see a global movement of Jesus followers who are making disciples among the unreached. We are all about discipleship. This global movement is not limited to missionaries! Jesus calls all of his people to make disciples.
We encourage our missionaries to thoughtfully consider what they and their teams are doing to help that vision become reality. Though some missionaries serve in support roles and others in front-line evangelism, every missionary can be developing relationships with unbelievers and cooperating with the Holy Spirit’s work to move those friends toward Jesus. Indeed, every Christian can be developing these relationships.
Making disciples takes intentionality and community. A few things to consider:
1. We are busy people, and we are working among busy people.
We must establish priorities and patterns that help us resist the tyranny of the urgent in order to protect the time we devote to relationships focused on evangelism and discipleship. And we must not allow busyness to distract us from prayer — prayer for specific individuals and prayer for guidance as we work together with the Holy Spirit to move them toward faith in Jesus and becoming mature followers of him.
2. We work better together.
When God prompts us to begin praying for and becoming intentional with a particular unbeliever, it is far better to bring others into the process. Don’t think of that new relationship as only your responsibility, only your focus. Ask one or more of your believing friends (or teammates, if you’re on the field) to pray with you and to think with you about how you can be a tool in God’s hand to draw that person to himself. Work collaboratively to intentionally move people toward Christ.
3. We can recognize (and celebrate!) steps forward.
In most cases, the Holy Spirit takes an unbeliever through several levels in his journey toward Jesus. A contact may start as a mere acquaintance, then attend some common activities with you, then become a trusted friend. In the process, he may become open to discussing spiritual matters, then show an interest in studying the Bible before finally placing his faith in Christ.
If you sense that God is prompting you to become more intentional with a particular unbeliever, it is helpful to think about that person moving through a step-by-step process toward becoming a follower of Jesus. An awareness of where that person is in his spiritual journey has at least two benefits — it will help you prayerfully determine what might be most effective at helping him move forward, and you can celebrate and be encouraged when he moves to a new level.
Once a person becomes a believer, there are also identifiable levels in the process of becoming more like Christ. This may start with some signs of spiritual growth and obedience, followed by serving others, sharing the gospel, taking leadership responsibilities, and finally participating in evangelism and discipleship. Some of these levels in a person’s spiritual journey may be more simultaneous than sequential, but they typically will be identifiable.
As you seek to make disciples, I would encourage you to shift in your thinking from a focus on the “product” (things like conversions, baptisms, churches planted, etc.) to the “process” of coming alongside people in their journey to and with Jesus. And then, celebrate as you watch God move people along that path!
Be disciples. Make disciples. Let’s do both, together.
- SEND International’s internship programs include both practical outreach and personal growth through discipling relationships. We offer discipleship-focused internships in China, Croatia, Japan, Ukraine, Southeast Asia, Spain, Macedonia and New York City. Find one that suits your interests.
- SEND offers more than 200 opportunities to make disciples around the world. Explore them here.
- You can use this set of resources and stories to grow in your own discipleship and to disciple others, whether at home or overseas.
- Sign up for On Mission, SEND’s monthly guide for people who want to become missionaries. Subscribe here, and as a welcome gift, you will receive a free download of a world map that highlights today’s unreached people groups. Together, we can bring them Good News. We can’t wait to join you on the journey!