If we are going to make disciples who multiply, one of the key things that we need to do with them is teach them to be self-feeding spiritually. Now the idea here is that we want them to not merely be a spiritual consumer but to be a producer.
In the Abrahamic covenant, God tells Abraham that he is blessed to be a blessing, and that’s his intention for the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. That’s also his intention for us as his body, as his church, as his bride.
Every disciple needs to be self-feeding. There are four primary ways that we need to focus on doing this.
1 – Interpreting and Applying Scripture
The first of these is to equip them to be self feeding in regard to interpreting and applying Scripture.
Now there are several ways that we can do this. One way is that the regular meeting structure of this simple church needs to follow what’s called a 3/3 (three thirds) format. These three thirds are: look back, look up, and look forward.
In the look back portion, there’s accountability for what happened, what was studied, what was committed to the previous week when this house church met.
Then the middle third is looking up. This is doing a new Bible study. So there will be a series of questions that the group discusses together so that each person is participating in the interpretation of Scripture.
Then the look forward third is the application, so they’ll spend time asking: God how do you want me to apply specifically what you have shown me through this scripture today? Who specifically do you want me to share this with? Is there someone that you would have me share my testimony or the gospel with this week? Then after everyone’s had a chance to pray and ask this of the Lord, everyone will share those commitments. They’ll be written down, and they will form the basis for the accountability in the look back portion the following week.
This process, especially the look up portion, of interpreting the questions, and then the look forward, the application of the questions, starts to teach skills. Interpreting and applying scripture, the look back, illustrates us keeping in balance the knowledge and application and sharing.
Now this process is different than we’re used to in many of our churches. The approach in a sense in our churches is that we have a pastor or you know a trained professional or someone very mature in their faith who will interpret Scripture for us and then maybe suggest appropriate possible applications of that, but no one will ever come back to check up with us: Did we obey it? Was that application even appropriate for us? Did we share it with others? So there’s this gap because we never are asked to interpret the scripture for ourselves.
Another tool used to help equip every disciple is accountability groups. In these accountability groups, it’ll be two or three people of the same gender who meet together once a week and they’ll ask broad life accountability questions. They’ll also agree to read or listen to 25 to 30 chapters of scripture a week.
So this, in a sense, complements or supplements the interpretation skills in the three thirds group, because when you’re looking at just in small passage in the three thirds group that doesn’t give you the opportunity to develop skills on recognizing the genre of literature and how that affects interpretation or the broader context, or to pick up clues about the original audience for the passage, or comparing you know scripture with scripture. Where if you’re reading 25 to 30 chapters of scripture a week, it provides an ample opportunity to develop these additional skills related to interpreting and applying Scripture.
Now I love to compare the training cycle that we will discuss later to learning to ride a bicycle.
What we do in our normal churches is we model for people how to interpret and apply Scripture and we expect that then that will teach them how to do it but if we think about it we know that’s not sufficient, for example, if I want to learn to ride a bicycle and I don’t know how I could sit on my couch and watch the Tour de France. The Tour de France is the greatest bicycle race in the world. So I could watch the top cyclists in the world for a little over three weeks. I could watch them for about eight hours a day on my television, and I could get up off of my couch at the end of that three weeks and if I didn’t know how to ride a bike when I sat down on the couch I wouldn’t know how to ride a bike when I got up three weeks later. Just watching professionals do a wonderful job of riding their bikes won’t teach me to do it. Similarly, in our churches we can have our members watching the pastor interpret and apply Scripture very skillfully week after week, after week, after week, after week, but that doesn’t teach me to interpret and apply Scripture.
2 – Prayer
The word is the first aspect that we need to equip people in to be self feeding, the second aspect is prayer.
There are several tools that we can use to do this here in the United States. I like to use something called the prayer wheel.
It’s a pattern that has 12 sections that have 12 different kinds of prayer and you guide that process by having people pray five minutes for each type of prayer. And I find that it really helps increase people’s capacity for prayer and helps them realize prayer is just as much about listening to God as it is speaking to God.
How can you follow someone, if you can’t see them or hear? So in prayer we can learn to hear his voice, to recognize his voice.
Jesus said to the Pharisees, the reason you don’t hear God is because you don’t belong to him. You know Jesus said in another place in John, if my sheep hear my voice they follow me … they recognize my voice.
Listening to God is critical to being his follower. We need to first learn to hear his voice in Scripture, but also we need to hear his voice through the Ministry of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. This is how he can guide us into those good works he’s prepared beforehand for us to walk in. We need to know the principles, His will, His ways, but we also need to hear His specific instruction for us.
My favorite tool for teaching prayer is prayer walking. In prayer walking, we learn to to view things from a spiritual perspective. We pick up clues in the environment that prompt us to pray and prompt us to see things. Noticing not just the physical situation but the spiritual situation and not just the situation as it is, but as God intends for it to be.
Prayer walking can help us develop these skills so that we live in an attitude of Prayer. I think this is what Paul is talking about in Thessalonians when he says pray without ceasing. I don’t think he’s talking about you know closing our eyes and bowing our heads 24 hours a day. We think he’s talking about living in such a way that we see not just the fiscal situation but the spiritual realities and the spiritual intentions in every situation. There are lots of examples of this in the Old Testament and the New Testament. We don’t really have time to go into those right now, but they’re everywhere in Scripture and prayer walking is a wonderful way to help people develop this kind of an attitude and this kind of awareness of God’s work.
Now prayer walking is also a great tool for teaching because we can pray for people or with people and teach them about God. We see Jesus doing this at Lazarus tomb, he prays, Father, I thank you that you hear me I know that you always hear me but I say this for the benefit of those who are here listening in order that they might know that you sent me. So he’s teaching them about the character and nature of God by how he’s praying.
Prayer is also a wonderful evangelism tool. I’m a hyper introvert and evangelism is very difficult for me. But for me, the best way to open conversations, the best way to share my faith is to go out prayer walk and maybe the Lord will bring someone to my attention.
So I’ll go up to them and I’ll say, I’m out here, or we’re out here, praying for this community, is there something that we can pray for you about. Now if they’re not interested then I’ll ask them for a request for the community if they’re willing to share. Then I’ll come back and say, are you sure there’s nothing I can pray for you about. If they share something I’ll pray for that, and then I’ll also pray for their health, their financial situation, their relationships, their spiritual life. And you’ll find that when you pray for people like that, they’re very grateful. They may think you’re a little weird, but they’re very grateful because people aren’t used to others that are not their friends and family expressing genuine concern for them, so they’ll be very grateful and often this opens a spiritual conversation and can result in a chance to share the gospel.
Many times you’ll encounter people that are already believers and you’ll pray for them. Well that’s great if they share yeah they’re a believer. Well then what I’ll do is invite them to continue with me on my prayer walk or talk with them about how they can use prayer walking as a way to do Evangelism and so on. So if it’s a non-christian, you’re trying to draw them to Christ, if it’s a Christian you’re trying to equip them for ministry.
So prayer is the the second way that we equip people to be self feeding and of course there are aspects of the three thirds group that meets you know as the church meeting each week that’s geared toward prayer and teaching prayer and modeling prayer so that’s another aspect.
3 – Body Life
The third aspect of teaching people to be self feeding is by body life. I mean our corporate expression of discipleship. You see being a disciple isn’t an individual sport, it’s a team sport. It’s not like track or track and field, it’s more like basketball.
So if I want to teach you to play basketball just one-on-one we can cover some things like ball control, we can cover shooting, we can cover some man-to-man disc defensive skills, some passing skills, things like that. But that’s not all there is to basketball, you need a team to teach basketball, otherwise how are you going to teach a zone defense or you know a triangle and two or box-and-one defense or presses how are you going to teach even the most basic offensive plays, you know pick-and-roll, or off ball screens, or whatever, you need a team to understand basketball.
Similarly being a disciple isn’t just about how I relate to God, it also has a lot to do with my relationship with others, especially within the body of Christ.
If God is my father, that means I have a lot of brothers and sisters, most of the New Testament in English we tend to read all of the statements in there where it says you do this, you do this, you do this, as you, singular. You know he’s talking to me, the reality is nearly all of those is a you plural, there’s a corporate aspect, this is clear in passages that talk about the spiritual gifts. So that’s one place where we can go to start teaching new disciples about this Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4. All of these talk about our corporate identity as the body of Christ in the context of spiritual gifts and how we need one another.
Now these spiritual gifts, these are all things related to what we all need to be involved in, but each of us is especially gifted in some areas and we need to give special attention to those aspects. When we all do that, we have different strengths and it builds up the body of Christ. In Ephesians 4, it’s talking to about the leadership gifts: apostles, prophets, evangelist, shepherds, and teachers. And it says they are to equip the saints — that’s all the believers — equip the saints for the work of ministry to the building up of the body of Christ until we all attain to unity and maturity.
So the ministry is to be done by all of us corporately together. Capitalize on all of those strengths. The leaders job is just to equip all of us to do them, but it’s everybody’s job to build up the body to do the ministry.
Another aspect that helps equip people in this body life is alerting them to the one another passages. By that I mean the passages that talk about what we’re to do for each other. There are a bunch of these in the Old Testament and a bunch in the New Testament. They’re more than 50 in the New Testament. If someone’s reading 25 to 30 chapters a week for their accountability group and they’re aware of these passages then they’ll jump out to them when they read them. And they’ll realize, “Oh, we’re to bear one another’s burdens, we’re to forgive one another, we’re to love one another, or just spur one another on to love and good works”, and so on.
So this body life is part of how God intended for us to grow individually and corporately in breath and in depth.
4 – Persecution and Suffering
The fourth area that we all need to be equipped and to be self-feeding is related to persecution and suffering.
Now this is not something that we like to talk about a whole lot. I’ve been in church services where people are asked to speak out their favorite Bible promise, and so people say, you know: “I will never leave you or forsake you” — I love that. Or you know, “I know the plans that I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you, and all of this” — I love that. I’ve never yet heard someone say, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. I love that promise.” 2 Timothy 3:12, right, nobody ever says that’s their favorite verse.
But God intends good to come through the persecution and suffering that we experience for his sake. There are all kinds of benefits listed in Scripture.
Peter, Paul, James, the author of Hebrews — all list godly character traits that are gained through suffering or persecution. Peter talks about how God is glorified when we suffer well for his sake. Paul, in 2 Corinthians, talks about how we are equipped for ministry to others who are suffering through what we suffer. We’re told there are benefits for our faith. We’re taught to rely on God alone. Our faith is strengthened, our faith is purified, our faith is proven, our faith is tested, all of these things are benefits from persecution and suffering. Those are God’s intentions for the persecution and suffering. Now the enemy, he also has a purpose for persecution and suffering. His purpose is to silence us. If we’re silent, he has no need for persecution and, in fact, if we are silent we are achieving the enemy’s purposes.
But God has good purposes for us, so how can we prepare people and why should we prepare people. Well … if someone doesn’t know that this is normal and that God works good from it, they can be more prone to be discouraged, or bitter, or angry, or frightened, or hopeless, or depressed whenever they suffer for doing what’s right. They think something’s wrong.
But if they know that God intends this for their good for his glory they’re far less likely to have these negative reactions. In fact, they can seek to maximize these benefits that God is trying to work in and through their lives. So that’s why it’s important.
Now how can we do that? I think at baptism, it’s a great time for us to highlight the fact that: we are ready to suffer, we are ready to be rejected by people, we are ready to face financial setbacks, we are ready to suffer, and if necessary to die for the Lord.
Baptism would be a great time to remind people of that and to even ask them to make a pledge that they’re ready to do this before we baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
We can have mottos and sayings about our willingness to suffer or what our response will be if something bad happens. Something I like to do if someone’s getting ready to go serve in a place where there will or there could easily be imprisonment or even death as a result of their service, have them write a last letter that will be opened in the event that they are imprisoned or killed.
Just saying that they knew the risk they were taking and that it was completely worth it and calling for others to come take their place. When these letters are read it’s a powerful experience. But one way or another we need to equip and prepare people to suffer for their faith and to do it willingly, gladly, knowing that the cost is nothing in comparison with what God has given us and with what God has promised us. These momentary light afflictions are working for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all compare you know so we need to not look at the the temporary situation but at the eternal realities and glory and reward that await us.
This is a fourth way that we need to equip every disciple to be self feeding.
So to recap: (1) interpreting and applying Scripture, the various aspects; and (2) in ways that prayer can be used; (3) the body life aspects of growth and (4) persecution and suffering.
If we do a good job of equipping every disciple in these four areas then they can be not merely consumers but spiritual producers.
More Multiplication Concepts
This concept is part of the “Multiplication Concepts” series by Curtis Sergeant. Consider working through the entire series and challenging someone you know to do it with you. See an entire list of the concepts in the article titled “Multiplication Concepts”.
This same concept is taught in the Zúme Training course using video animation and is translated into 40 languages. This concepts taught in “Spiritual Breathing is Hearing and Obeying God” in session 1 of the Zúme Training.
Zúme Training is an on-line and in-life learning experience designed for small groups who follow Jesus to learn how to obey His Great Commission and make disciples who multiply.