Spiritual growth includes two essential ingredients: God working in us and us doing our part (obeying what He wants us to do).
Miraculously, God allows us to be part of helping other people grow.
Our job is to point people back to Jesus, and to hold them accountable to what they have said God wants them to do. At times, those in whom we are investing will need to borrow our wisdom, but we need to help them learn to make their own decisions and provide feedback afterwards. [See “Decisive in the Gray Areas“].
The challenge in helping people grow is that it takes a great deal of work! Paul wrote in Colossians 1: 28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
Knowing it is very hard to explain what is actually organic, even still there seems to be some common contributions others have made to help us grow. These include:
- Being Accepted and Loved – “God loves you just the way you are, not just a future version of you.” – Ben Sledge
- A Trusted and Authentic Community
- Hard Conversations
- Reading and Applying the Scriptures (not information about the Bible, see “Applying the Bible for Life“)
When counseling someone, consider waiting to meet with him or her again after they do what they have agreed God wants them to do. Don’t meet with them just for the sake of meeting but to help them continue to make progress.
A Process to Create A Better Future Today:
- What is God calling you to do?
- What trials have you faced?
- What temptations distract you?
- What sacrifices do you need to make?
DIE TO SELF
Help others discover to find their life by losing their life serving (Matthew 10:39). Find yourself disconnected? Find someone even less connected to help them connect. Suddenly your needs are met while meeting the needs of another person.
Maria had been involved in our youth ministry for several years. She was a very sharp young woman with big dreams. As a senior in high school, she was very involved at school and somewhat faithful to our youth group. When we invited Maria in the spring of 2000 to serve as part of Fusion, our outreach-oriented small groups, we could sense the tension. She was reluctant to be more involved at first, but she truly desired to help her friends spiritually.
At first, no one came to the small group other than Maria and my wife, Debbie. Weeks went by without any of her friends coming. She would invite them, but they weren’t interested. During one of those nights when no one else came, Maria confessed to Debbie that she had been sleeping with her boyfriend and needed help. Later we walked her and her boyfriend through a process to help them in this area. They broke up, got involved in different ministries, and shared with their parents about their struggles.
Soon Maria began asking Debbie lots of questions about the Scriptures. She really wanted to know what God thought about the issues young women face in high school—temptations, trials, and so on. Eventually, a few of her friends began to come to the group. Not long after that, Maria helped lead five of her friends to follow Jesus.
Amazed by the turn of events, I asked Maria what had happened. She shared her frustration about inviting her friends to Fusion but none of them being interested enough to show up. They would ask, “Why should we come?” When she’d mention how God could change their lives, they responded by saying, “Well, he hasn’t changed yours.” It was in this context that she shared with Debbie about her struggles with her boyfriend. Seeing her break up with her boyfriend and noticing the changes in the way she was living, her friends began asking her questions about God. Not knowing how to answer them, Maria began asking Debbie questions about the Scriptures. Soon her friends wanted to find what she now obviously had—a life-transforming relationship with God.
Once Maria committed to the cause of Christ, she realized that her life didn’t match her beliefs. How could she share with her friends about the life-changing power of God when she wasn’t allowing God to change her? Even though I had shared with the teens the importance of sexual purity and challenged them to read the Scriptures, none of this mattered to Maria until she became more concerned about her friends than about herself. Connecting to the cause of Christ guided her through her moral struggles and even pulled her into the Scriptures. By attempting to help change the lives of her friends, her life was changed.
THE UNIVERSAL DISCIPLESHIP PATTERN
Another framework to help us help people grow can be found in Paul’s letters. Thom Wolf describes this pattern as the Universal Discipleship Pattern. He writes:
“Question. How did Paul establish leadership-so quickly, so solidly, so reproducibly-that became the basis for the Christian Church?
Answer. He had a pattern, a standard-a standard that could be received personally, that could be remembered easily, and that could be reproduced strategically.
This standard is referred to in II Timothy 1.13: “Retain the standard (hupotuposis) of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” It is the “pattern (tupos) of teaching” to which Christians were handed over. (Romans 6.17)
Paul and the early church had a standard, a pattern, a model which he taught in every church in every place he went. It was a tupos that was to be received, retained, remembered, and reproduced. It was the universal discipleship model.
Colossians and Ephesians give the pattern in the clearest and most complete form. This is probably because Paul is writing forward, addressing principles, not backward, addressing problems. All Paul’s epistles are basically arranged as belief and behavior, instruction and ethics, doctrine then duties, Christ’s fullness then our following.
In one way or another, you introduce people to who Jesus is: the Rock to build your life on, God’s Foundation. (Matthew 7.24‑28; 1 Corinthians 10.4; Ephesians 2.19-22; 1 Peter 2.6‑8.)
Through whatever process and time, the person must come to personal commitment, surrender to Jesus as Lord and God, and follow Him (John 20.26‑31; Acts 8.26‑40; Romans 10.8‑15).
Personally, the new believer must begin to walk worthy of Christ. To do this, s/he must put off the old style of living-old vices, and put on the new life in Christ-new virtues.[See “The Dirty Truth: Becoming Intentional“]
WORD / SPIRIT
Socially, there is a positive response or a negative reaction to the life changes of the new believer (see I Peter 4.1‑5): some are attracted, some are repelled. Either way, the personal life transformation (from the putting off/putting on) impacts the convert’s circle of influence (the oikos/’household’ composed of family, neighbors, coworkers, and friends).
The core decision here is “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col 3.16) and “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5.18)
What follows in the universal discipleship pattern is identical in order in both Colossians and Ephesians:
|ATTITUDES:||T-S-T-S 4 Definite Mindsets:|
|Teaching with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs|
|Singing with your heart to the Lord|
|Thanking God for all things, and whatever you do in word/deed, doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus|
|S-ubmitting to one another in reverence of Christ|
|ACTIONS:||5 Dual Sets|
Slave/Employee: work hard
Insider: devoted to prayer
Christian: be in subjection
Master/Employer: be fair, just
Outsider: wise/seasoned speech
Authority: praise good, punish evil
Spiritually, the disciple will be tempted to think that people are the enemy. But that is not so. We are to
- Watch and Pray: as a wrestler (Eph 6.12) for our struggle is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
- Stand and Resist: as a warrior (Eph 6.13) and put on the whole armor of God
So, then, while there will be those who sneer, there will also be those who desire to hear more, and even some who believe and join us (Acts 17:32‑34).
Those who believe and join us are those who have come to know Jesus as their Rock, and the universal disciple pattern is retained, remembered, and reproduced.