Step Five: Discipleship

Today we continue with Step 5 in the series: Ten Practical Steps For Planting New Churches,” written by Rev. Manuel Molina Flores.

The lack of discipleship in the past has meant that new believers are lost or learn bad habits.  To form habits or disciplines on which a new believer can build a fruitful Christian life is a worthy task.  The evangelist will encourage the new believer to develop an intimate relationship with God through the Five Disciplines for Personal Growth: Prayer, Bible Study, Worship, Testimony, and a Life of Complete Love for Christ. They will form discipleship groups (companions in their spiritual walk) that will be assigned to a discipleship mentor (accountability) for the believers.  The evangelist should take care to not create dependence on him or her.

Expected attitudes and reactions from the group:

Initial: From the beginning, the new contact is hungry for the Word of God (1 Peter 2:2) and begins to practice the disciplines that produce growth (1 Timothy 4:7-8), which will equip a new believer to face his or her daily struggles.

Long Term: The believer will commit to a mutually responsible relationship with other believers (companions on the way) that is centered around the disciplines for personal growth.

Principles:

Our first commandment is: “Go and make disciples.”We are not only to gain converts. It is crucial and important we understand this truth! Developing spiritually strong disciples will be evidenced only when they are obedient in all Christ has commanded (Matthew 28:16-20). Healthy disciples are the “living stones” that form healthy and growing churches. Both the book of Acts and the history of the church demonstrate that churches will be formed and communities transformed where there are true disciples of Jesus Christ.

As church planters, our first goal is to guidemen and women to begin a relationship with the master and his disciples, that is, both with Christ and other believers.  Center the discipleship process around the development of the disciplines.  There is no other way to maintain long-term growth!

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Use discipleship methods that prompt personal discovery of the truth of God, especially the materials the Church of the Nazarene produces. New believers should learn to “feed” themselves with the Word of God and not develop dependence on the church planter or evangelist.  When they search for God in his word and focus on that as a goal, rejoice with them and congratulate each small and large discovery they make.  When we base learning on personal motivation and discipline instead of our own ability to teach and motivate, we create a different type of disciple who learns directly from the Bible and is cemented in a personal relationship with God, rather than remaining dependent on our own abilities as teachers.

Establish patterns of mutual discipleship. One of the best ways to avoid dependency is to encourage disciples to personally discover Biblical truth and create an environment that feeds the concept of mutual responsibility.  This style of discipleship gives each believer responsibility to develop the disciplines necessary for Christian growth.  Mutual discipleship:

  • Prevents the church planter from taking responsibility as the principle disciple, avoiding the creation of a “traditional dependency syndrome.”
  • Promotes a sense among the believers of belonging and personal responsibility for the spiritual well-being of others.
  • Reinforces the importance of the disciplines for Christian growth, like the means of grace mentioned by John Wesley (prayer, Bible study, and holy communion, among others). It helps believers learn to be mutually responsible for practicing the habits that produce growth.
  • Prepares the way to introduce the concepts of responsibility, which are fundamental to healthy spiritual development and will prepare the way for developing local leaders.

Common Errors to Avoid

  1. Creating dependency. We create dependency when we allow new disciples to survive sustained by external systems of life. When a newborn doesn’t desire milk, we know that something is very wrong.  When a believer doesn’t demonstrate any desire to feed himself through study and prayer, his condition is critical.  We must learn to treat it like it is. We do not help a new believer if we keep teaching him with the hope that someday he will decide to begin to feed himself.  That only creates bad habits that are difficult to break.
  2. Communicating that, in some way, the Christian life is easier for a mature believer. The only thing this idea does is discourage young Christians! We should be transparent with both our victories and our spiritual struggles. We must work from a foundation of mutual responsibility and establish patterns of humility and transparency that encourage young believers and create realistic patterns for future leadership.
  3. Measuring “success” in terms of attendance. Since church planters frequently feel pressure to gain visible results, it is possible to fall in the trap of confusing participation in activities with the disciplines of personal growth and the level of commitment to Christ and the Church.

***In the next entry we will move on to Step 6.

Step Four: The Process of Evangelism

Today we continue with Step 4 in the series: “Ten Practical Steps For Planting New Churches,” written by Rev. Manuel Molina Flores.

In this step we will cover how to introduce someone to the Jesus of the Bible.  The tool we choose to use to present Christ is not important.  The critical thing is to remember that your goal is to bring people into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, our only Savior (Acts 4:12), and guide them to repentance and faith in him (Acts 20:21).  The evangelist will guide the contact through a series of meetings, conversations and Bible studies that will allow them to learn who Jesus is and how to believe in him.

  • Evangelism is a process:

Evangelism deals with guiding an unbelieving person to begin a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Many times, unbelievers lack correct information or have erroneous concepts of God and Christianity.  They need to be influenced – perhaps for the first time – by Biblical revelation. Through frequent contact, the evangelist should guide them through a process of redefining their concepts regarding God, humanity, sin, grace, etc., in order that they may begin to align with the truth of the Bible.  Never take for granted that another person shares your same understanding or definition of these terms!

  • Regeneration is an act—a new birth:

While evangelism is a process, regeneration is an instantaneous act, and God is the one who makes the change (2 Cor. 5:17).  We must be sensitive in the process of evangelism, but we must not ignore that there is a moment of decision when each individual must repent and believe (Acts 2:37-41; 4:4; 16:30-35).

  • Baptism

The external, visible testimony of a decision for Christ is water baptism.  To be consistent with Biblical patterns, the process of evangelism should culminate in the decision to confess faith in Jesus and put faith in him (Rom. 10:8-13). The individual gives testimony to this decision with water baptism (Matt. 28-19-20), publicly identifying with the triune God and the Church as the Body of Christ.

The goal of evangelism is to guide men and women in the process of beginning a personal communion with God through Jesus Christ.  It is not to simply to come to an agreement on theological truths.  It is to come to know a Person: Jesus (John 4:10; Acts 4:12). Discipleship classes should begin immediately after conversion.  These lessons will help the believer to know Jesus better.  Discipleship as a constant relationship between God and every Christian should continue until we arrive in heaven.

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Use the Bible in such a way that the new believers are willing to seek God in the Word.  He will speak to them through it.  Avoid simply answering a question they can find for themselves in Scripture. Pray with them in a simple, direct way, demonstrating that you know God will respond in a definite, visible way. Remember that you are guiding them in a personal relationship with God who longs to reveal himself to them.  He wants to establish an intimate relationship and have fellowship with them for eternity.

***Watch for Step Five in the next post.

Step Three: Finding/Making Contacts

We are continuing with step three in the series: “Ten Practical Steps For Planting New Churches,” written by Rev. Manuel Molina Flores.

When we began the Church of the Nazarene in La Concordia (Mexico), our first action was to visit the families in the neighborhood and introduce ourselves as new neighbors.  We told them we were Christians and that we wanted to serve them.  Some people asked us a few questions about our faith, and others simply rejected us, but in the end, we knew our neighbors.  And we had the list of contacts we wanted.

It is important to determine the most effective methods to identify receptive people.  In this community, we used the Jesus Film, visited door-to-door with the Evangecube, visited people to pray for them, did Maximum Mission projects, and celebrated important days, like Mother’s Day, Children’s Day, etc.

It is important for the church planter to pray daily for the contacts on the list and organize a schedule with the goal of meeting with them again.

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A contact is someone who, in following our plans, we will see again in order to cultivate a friendship and provide Biblical teaching.

Contact cards are our primary tool to continue in communication with a person we are trying to win to Christ. Along with personal information, it should contain information about their needs as well as notes about the results of our visits.  One of the main values of these cards is that they help us to focus in daily, intercessory prayer for those individuals.  We learn to pray for the people who demonstrate interest in the message we have shared.

To optimize this process, we must be disciplined in the use of an appointment book.  At the beginning of each week, using the contact cards in prayer, organize your schedule around the people you want to visit.  Then add your additional activities and responsibilities.  Begin each day praying for the people on the contact cards and preparing yourself for the visits you have on your schedule.

Principle:

Sow lots of seeds in order to receive an abundant harvest.

Successfully planting a church requires sowing abundantly. Abundant sowing will bring to light those who are “good soil” and ready for eternal life.  Through home visits, special events, film projection, etc., a church planter must establish as many personal relationships as possible, and then through those relationships win others to Christ.  We must be persistent.  There will be some people who only make a decision for Christ after many visits.

Emphasize relationships over activities

Our effectiveness in evangelism is directly related to the number of authentic relationships we are able to establish.  We should avoid any activity that does not produce fruitful contacts. If we only interact with the households that began the work, always doing our work near them, we will never advance towards our established goals.

Have a follow-up plan for the contacts

Independent of the method we use, evangelism requires prayer, planning, time and effort.  Church planters should avoid falling into either of two extremes: 1) Wasting time using impersonal methods that do not serve to win people to Christ, or 2) Limiting ourselves to only casual encounters without a plan.

***Learn Step 4 of this church-planting series in the following article.

Step Two: Planning

Today we continue with Step 2 in the series: Ten Practical Steps For Planting New Churches,” written by Rev. Manuel Molina Flores.

Every project requires planning. Jesus taught us no one begins to build without first calculating the cost.  This does not mean we must wait until we have all resources in hand before planting a church.  We know it is a work of faith and that Jesus taught us we do not need to bring along a cloak or a bag for money, but rather that we should trust the One who has power over all of heaven and earth.  The One with this authority is the one who sends us into the fields.  Planning is better applied to strategy we should follow in our new church planting effort and in learning the characteristics of the community we hope to contact. For instance: Who are they? Where are they? What types of jobs are common? How do they live? What do they believe? What needs to they have? What services do they have? How do they govern themselves? Are they receptive or resistant to the gospel? Etc.

Plan for the church to grow beyond your abilities to lead it.

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If the Ten Steps are faithfully implemented, the inevitable result will be the founder of the church will realize it is impossible to do all the work.  The founder will be forced to transfer some ministry responsibilities to the new believers.

We must learn that this is one of the most important and positive moments in our ministry, and we must be willing to live with the frustrations, tensions and problems that forcibly produce these transitions.  Our true identity will be reflected in the multiplication of our vision and convictions in the lives of the new leaders.  It will not be reflected in rotating the people, programs and activities around us.  Nor is the solution “importing” leaders from other places to attend to the needs in the new church.  It is more probable that these approaches will produce problems.

Principle:

Evangelism must be planned in the life of the church or it will NOT succeed.

***We will continue this series with step three in our next article.

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Step One: Intentional Prayer

This is the first step in the series: “Ten Practical Steps For Planting New Churches,” written by Rev. Manuel Molina Flores.

Prayer begins with the church planter or the mother church when they discover God is guiding them to plant a church in a particular place. Pray for:

  • Local leaders who will participate in the project
  • A strategy
  • The people you hope to win to Christ
  • The material resources you will need
  • Community leaders
  • Permits and approvals you will need

Prayer will become one of the disciplines of growth for the new disciples.  It will become a daily part of their new lives.

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We must persist in prayer with expectant hearts (Col. 4:2-4), expecting God to bring receptive individuals and to guide us in what we will say.  In that way we will be sure it is NOT human strategies that guide our ministry, but rather the Holy Spirit.  This approach establishes a pattern of dependence on the Holy Spirit essential for success in following the steps in our strategy as founders of the new church (Zechariah 4:6).

Through prayer, the Holy Spirit will come to be our guide when we allow him to direct our methods and most effective tools.  Sometimes we do not have access to sufficient funds to purchase materials, but the Holy Spirit’s help will be fundamental in giving creative ideas to the church planter or cell group leader.

For example, we use a map to pray for the city. We put our hands on it and ask God to direct us to the place ready to receive the Word. Later, we pray while we walk the streets of some hidden place.  Many times, the response of a family that will open their home to the church has come first in the streets where we begin to pray.

Principle:

Prayer must be modeled by the church planter, not only taught.

***In the next article we will continue with Step 2. 

 

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Ten Practical Steps For Planting New Churches

In the next few weeks we will be sharing “Ten Practical Steps For Planting New Churches,” written by Rev. Manuel Molina, who has served as a pastor, missionary and church planter in Mexico.

When the gospel came to our land, it traveled with itinerant preachers who planted the seed of the Word without waiting for it to bear fruit.  The goal was for people to hear the Good News.  They even sang, “I will plant the precious seed of the glorious gospel of love…and I will leave the results to the Lord.”  With the passing of time, Christian denominations that came to our country placed an emphasis on forming churches to teach new believers.  Today we know the best way to advance the Kingdom of Heaven is to plant new churches in communities.   When a healthy church is established in a community, it impacts the entire neighborhood with the power of the gospel.  Desperate people find hope, sick people are healed, sinners are forgiven, wicked people are transformed, and the power of evil must retreat in the face of the Word of God.  There is nothing that impacts a community more than establishing a healthy, growing church.  It was God’s greatest invention to organize his disciples to accomplish the Great Commission in this way.

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The Ten Steps are not magic or original keys to planting churches, but church planters actively working in the field have developed them. They can simplify the planning process and give church planters the tools to use so they can focus their energies and resources in the areas that produce the greatest results. If you follow the steps in order, the church will develop in accordance with the principles and goals the planter envisions.  The order is important, but in some cases, it might be possible to change or adapt them.

***Discover step one in the next post.

Youth in Mission and Genesis Collaborate to Impact Queretaro

Youth in Mission and Genesis Collaborate to Impact Queretaro

Lohuther René Gutiérrez Méndez

Two days ago, I wrote about the incredible things God did this summer through Youth in Mission in Mexico. One thing I omitted (on purpose, in order to share it here) is the following.

After several days of training and house-to-house evangelism, we came alongside the missionaries who are serving with the Genesis initiative in Queretaro.  That state is known for its lack of openness to the gospel, and it forms part of an area that has been named the Circle of Silence.Querétaro 2

The four missionaries there are doing a great job of reaching many people through classes or lessons on literacy, computer programming, football, and even psychological consultations.  It was a privilege for us to listen to them and see the deep desire they possess to be part of God’s mission.

The Lord allowed us to work with many children and adults, giving educational talks to the parents, which was a great blessing.  In the afternoons we presented dramas and free-style rap concerts that proved attractive to the kids and teens.  Our purpose was to make relationships and share the gospel with them, and we were able to do so by emphasizing positive lyrics and topics in our music.

What a wonderful time we had in Queretaro: 25 days in all.  We experienced so many beautiful things and witnessed the presence of God at work in the lives of the people in the community as they were being transformed.

The Lord gave us the opportunity to celebrate the first-ever congregational service in that Genesis site, which also included a marvelous time of prayer for healing.  The people present opened their hearts and, with tears in their eyes, were able to give their burdens to the Lord and receive the peace that only he can give.

Querétaro 1We were able to assist an elderly woman in moving from one house to another, and that opened doors for us to lead her to Christ.  After she was baptized a few days later, we all gave glory to God because his Holy Spirit always goes before us, convincing of sin within and guiding us into the light of his salvation.

During our final days on site, we held an activity in a large park.  We presented a sketch and shared the Word of God with all who were present.  Afterwards we formed groups of two or three and prayed prayers of blessing for all who had gathered.  The missionaries told us that this was the first service they had seen where all of their contacts came together; without a doubt, it impacted all of us.

When Sunday arrived, we were anticipating what would take place.  This morning was important: all the months of the missionaries’ hard work was about to bear fruit. Ten Christians were baptized that day and we rejoiced with them, knowing that there had been parties all over heaven because of their decisions!

We knew that God was backing us up at every step.  Our time in Queretaro was full of culture shock and moments when, as a group, we opened up and shared our concerns and conflicts.  God helped us to become united as a team, and our ministry began to benefit from it.  Out of the entire summer of Youth in Mission, our time in Queretaro was what impacted us the most.

*In our next entries we will share some testimonies that came directly from the young men who served as Youth in Mission missionaries this summer.

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