What are simple steps for multiplying disciples throughout the entire world?
When I was in college, I took a standardized test my junior year. The test is called the M-cat, a test you have to take in order to apply for medical school. The way the testing worked back then – this was in 1994, there were several dozen of us that converged at a testing center, and there we were brought into a particular room, we were assigned a desk, you sit down at your desk, and there is an exam monitor who gives us two things. Our exam monitor gave us a question book, which had all the questions that they wanted us to answer, and you could write notes in there, do calculations – it was basically the questions and the scratch paper, and then there was a second sheet of paper that you were supposed to record your answers on. I don’t think they do this today, but back then they called it scan-tron, where you would take these number 2 pencils and you would fill in these little bubbles in a multiple choice test. Probably all the young people have no idea what that’s about, but I think many of us do, where you fill in all the answers as you believe they should be. Well, I was taking this test along with everybody else. The way they announced the end of the test was quite interesting. I mentioned this exam monitor who is sitting in the front and making sure no one is cheating. At the very end, the monitor almost yells out in a loud voice, “Pencils down. Stand up.” So they want everybody to put their pencils down, and they want everybody to stand up at their desk, because they don’t want anybody to have any more time beyond their allotted period to mark any further answers in their answer page.
So the time came and our monitor said, “Pencils down, stand up.” And like that, the whole room stands; you can hear all the seats scooting, except right in front of me, there was a young lady about my age who was sitting there furiously putting down answers in her answer sheet. Everyone saw it, the monitor saw it, and again the monitor yelled out, “Pencils down, stand up.” She just proceeded to keep going, keep going, and we’re all thinking, does she want to get disqualified? What’s going on here? Well, the monitor was obviously perturbed at this and so she walked over to this student and literally grabbed the pencil out of her hand to prevent her from taking the test any further. So a few of us were curious what happened there, and so we chatted with this young lady after this episode happened, and she told us that when she was taking the exam she decided to do everything in the question book. She did. She put her answers there, she marked it all up, but she hadn’t put anything down on the answer sheet yet. So when the woman yelled out pencils down, stand up, she looked at her answer sheet, and she hadn’t written anything down on her answer sheet. It was all on this scratch book. So she panicked and tried to get as much as she could from her question book into this answer sheet.
The reason I tell this story is that I think it is a great picture of something I have a lot of concern about in the church broadly, and certainly for us today. At these retreats we talk a lot. Some of you have come to this weekend to hear fairly well-known fine speakers, people like Dean Taylor and others. You may be taking notes, but I get worried that we are doing all this intake, all this head knowledge, but very little gets implemented into action. I get worried that we get stuck in the question book. We have all these fine thoughts. We have these nice CD’s. We have these feel good moments. But that’s not going to matter, because there is going to come an hour when we are going to hear from God, “Pencils down, stand up.” And the question we have to answer is what will we have to show at that moment? The right way to take a test is as soon as you have an answer figured out, you put the answer down on that paper. You don’t wait until the very end. You do this in real time. You figure out something, you solve it, you put it down. You just keep moving, steady steady steady all the way through. You don’t wait till it’s perfect. You put it into action.
What we’re going to talk about in our session today is the very first command in the whole Bible, which is of course, “Be fruitful and multiply.” As Matthew records Jesus’ last command, it is to “make disciples,” which I take as to mean to multiply, as well. So when we hear from God one day, “Pencils down, stand up,” what are we going to say? Hey, we read a bunch of good books. We went to Kingdom Fellowship Weekend. I listened to all these great CD’s.
All of that is like marking up, writing in the question book. This meeting gets bigger and bigger each year. I think this is my sixth consecutive KFW. Praise God for that! But I worry that sometimes with these meetings, more and more people come because there is buzz and excitement and a way to get stimulated as opposed to a way to learn how to act and implement and actually advance the Kingdom forward. So my goal for this message is to take those of you who are serious into some very concrete applications, which I’m going to leave you with, to honor Jesus in a specific way.
It is amazing by way of correction, how much bad theology there is in hymns. This is one of my pet peeves. I talk about this a lot in our group. Many people have heard me say this. It’s very interesting, because if you want to control what people think, control what they sing. Martin Luther King, the civil rights activist, used to say this all the time: If we can control the songs of our people, we will control what they believe. So there was a whole repertoire of songs that they introduced: songs like, “We shall overcome,” that were designed to get their people to believe in narrative, to believe a story. Well, there’s one type of line. I’ve chosen one line from one song — I won’t say the name of the song. It says this: “For You are my God, You alone are my joy.” That actually irks me. I don’t know if that irks you, but this is the kind of thing that when I read hymns, it bothers me. Does this sound innocuous to you, or does it irk you? “For you are my God, You alone are my joy.” It’s a real hymn. The reason it bothers me is that the Bible doesn’t say anything like that. In fact, the Bible actually says something that is almost the opposite of that. In 1 Thes. 2:19 it says, “For what is our hope or joy or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even YOU in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” The notion that we have this solitary joy in God and God alone is an extremely Protestant, unbiblical notion. In fact, a far more Biblical idea of the source of our joy and hope and crown of rejoicing, “our crown of boasting” as some translations render it. Yes, God is obviously the primary actor in that, the primary figure, but just as much, it is supposed to be bound up with people. That is a very important notion that we need to get our minds straight around.
So when our days draw to a close, what are we going to say? Who will we say is our hope, our joy, our crown of rejoicing? Which individuals? If I asked you right now to get out a piece of paper and mark them down, who are those individuals that are your hope, your joy, your crown of rejoicing? What would you put on that paper? It is a good exercise for us to think about. In fact, discipleship is what generates that hope, that joy, that crown.
What I want to do now, briefly, is just a small thought experiment. I don’t know if you have ever done this type of thought experiment, but I have. Which is, to ask this question about Jesus: What if Jesus when He was on this earth was killed as a baby by Herod? Virtually, all of us know the story that Herod tried to kill all the baby boys in the Bethlehem area. What if he had succeeded? The reason I ask that question is that many if not most of the creeds throughout church history go right from his birth to his death. They talk about “He was born of a virgin,” and they jump to his “death under Pontius Pilate.” So if that’s the case, then is it really that big of a deal? What about just saying He was born of a virgin, He died under Herod. Would that Blood have satisfied the wrathful God just as much that way? Have you ever thought about that? Well, hopefully, we have enough sense as Kingdom people to know that that nation of salvation is very wrong headed. There was much more that Jesus accomplished than merely shedding His Blood. Obviously, shedding His Blood was incredibly important. Going to the cross, and dying was very important. But there were several other elements to the Incarnation and what He brought that are just as important to putting together the package of what salvation is. So, one of those elements is His teaching. Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life.” That’s John 6:63. That’s a strong statement. “The words that I speak to you are spirit and life.” In 1 John, it talks about how He came to earth, and one of the reasons He came was to destroy the works of the devil. That’s another important reason.
But the third reason that I want to highlight for our purposes this morning, is to note that Jesus had to show us how to make disciples. That third element of His mission was just as integral to the plan of salvation as the others. Now, if we believe that Jesus came to this earth, not just to die – of course, He came to die for us and suffer for our sins, but if He came to show us how to make disciples, we should then ask the question, was Jesus aimless in His methods? Was He just sort of bumbling through and figuring things out as He went? Now, I think all of us have enough sense to know that that is a ridiculous answer. Jesus of all men was the most purposeful, the most calculated, the most intentional and wise man to ever have lived. Once you see His strategy, once you see His method, it is unmistakably clear.
I want to walk through some things which I think probably most people in this room have missed. In Jesus, we see the plan for ultimately conquering the world. What’s so interesting is that it’s almost like He’s a great General. Generals craft these plans and often their plans are misunderstood. They are misunderstood because they have the art of surprise. There’s something to it that people don’t get. When it’s all done, you look back retrospectively, and you see the genius of the general. You see the genius of the plan as it unfolds. Just as the plan to rescue humanity through a baby in a manger was humble and unassuming, it is just as much the case that this plan to make disciples of all nations is filled with genius and is all inspiring. The Son of God contemplates and weighs all of the alternatives, and He designs a method that will secure the salvation of His people. Jesus knows that His plan will win.
Dean Taylor the other day noted that Jesus’ discipleship can be summarized in two words. I think this is absolutely correct: “Follow Me.” You pray like I pray, you teach like I teach, you heal like I heal, you love like I love. That’s His plan. I’ve sometimes called this “intensive companionship.” That’s my way of summarizing what Jesus was doing in His way of discipling His Twelve. The thing that I sometimes ask myself is, if Jesus was on earth, the Perfect Man, the Son of God, had to spend three years pouring out, investing into this small little group of men, dare we imagine that with far less effort, we can accomplish discipleship in other people? Have you ever thought about that? Jesus Himself, the Perfect Man, the Son of God – His plan took Him three years to pour into these people. Somehow we think that with some little cliché or class or something like that, we can accomplish what Jesus called discipleship. I think we are mistaken in that notion.
Yesterday, several times there was a comment made by a few speakers that said there is no command in the Bible to be in community, and that is correct. But let me offer my humble thoughts about that particular subject. Neither is it the case that there is a command in the Bible to plant churches. You can look in the whole New Testament, and you will not find a command to plant churches. So is planting churches wrong? Should we be part of churches? How does that work? Well, of course, once we realize that the primary command is to make disciples, disciples self-organize themselves into churches, and churches are the natural outflow of the process of making disciples. My contention is that in a very similar way, we are given many commands that are the “one another” commands. They are the many commands in the New Testament where we are commanded to do things like, “Love one another,” “Bear one another’s burden.” (Gal. 6) “Through love, serve one another.” (Gal. 5) “In honor give preference to one another.” (Rom. 12) “Receive one another.” (Rom. 15) “Submit to one another.” (Eph. 5) “Confess your sins to one another.” (James 5)
So my contention is that if you are trying to do the “one another’s,” out of that will spring something like a community. Just like churches spring out of making disciples. There is a natural and organic connection between the two. Discipleship is to church planting as the one another commands are to community.
So this is why the typical Sunday, Wednesday model that so many people have is broken. We are unable to live out those one another’s with the same degree of intention. I mentioned that Jesus practices intensive companionship. There’s another way to think about how Jesus does discipleship. I get this phrase from the medical world. When you are first on the wards, and you are first seeing patients, you are very intimidated; you have no idea what end is up; you hardly are able to have even a shred of confidence, but I remember when I was on the ward, someone told me this, “Just remember this phrase: ‘See one, do one, teach one.’ Simple as that. You are going to see a bunch of things, but when you see it, know that you are going to be asked to do it, so watch it with the intent that you are going to be doing it shortly after. And then as soon as you do it, know that if you do it, you are going to be teaching it to somebody else right after.” That is actually a very good way to describe what Jesus does. He of course prays, and does miracles, and heals, and then He asks His disciples to do that, and then He asks His disciples to teach others to do that. “See one, do one, teach one.”
But there is another very important dimension to this conversation. I want you to notice this: Jesus ministers to three basic groups. We are going to call them concentric rings. The first group that Jesus ministered to, we’ll call the crowds. So there is just this large amorphous group of people that don’t really have well defined boundaries, and they are here and there; they kind of follow around Jesus, and they are slightly different in every different place that He goes. That’s the largest ring. That’s the largest circle that Jesus is ministering to. Then there’s another ring inside of that, which the Bible calls the Twelve. Those are the twelve apostles. But there’s another ring inside of the Twelve, and they are the Three. The Three are of course, Peter, James, and John.
Now, I’m going to make a statement that hopefully isn’t controversial. This is not by accident. This is actually by design. These three concentric levels of ministry that Jesus operated in – He didn’t just happen to do this. By way of analogy, I will make a loose contention that our Sunday gatherings in most churches that we are a part of are sort of like the crowds. There are visitors, there are different people there, you are not sure who is going to show up, and they are fairly amorphous. The core group will be there of course, but there is just this large mass of people. The Twelve is probably a lot like your midweek service. Hopefully, there is a relatively stable core group of people you know are going to be there time and time and time again. You can count on them. But the question is this – what about the Three? Where does that happen for you? Where does that happen in your church life? The contention that I will make is that for most of us, probably there is a missing link. Jesus’ modeled this final concentric ring that most of us tend to overlook. There is a principle in Jesus’ ministry that we see time and time again, which is that to win the many, focus on the few. The beauty of the Kingdom parables of the leaven and the mustard seed is that the smallness of the means is contrasted with the greatness of the end. There is something very beautiful in Jesus’ ways that He demonstrates that even with the Three.
So with the Three, think about, where were the Three present? In Jesus’ most intimate moments, when He goes to the Mount of Transfiguration, He brings Peter, James, and John along with Him. When He is praying in Gethsemane, and weeping, and the drops of sweat are falling like blood, He invites Peter, James, and John to come with Him. I believe we all as individuals, as part of our congregations, should have these three layers as well. Remember what Jesus said, “For I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you.” John 13:15 Now, you may think I’m being too literal here, and pressing things too far, but hopefully, you’re not. Hopefully, you can work with me through this.
Now, I want to ask you, do you have people at these three levels? Do you have a sense when you hear that, you think,“Oh, yeah, I get this; I understand what this means”? Do you know what this looks like? Well, if you don’t, I have some great news for you. If you don’t already have this, Jesus has an answer for us about how to do this. I’m going to walk through this to see what this actually looks like practically. The answer is such that when we hear from God, “Pencils down. Stand up.” We will be able to bear incredible multiplicative, as we will see fruit.
So I told you I was going to give you a specific challenge. This is a very specific “Be like Jesus” challenge today. Now before I give the specifics of the challenge, I want to motivate you with a particular example. So I don’t know exactly how many people are here in the room today. Somebody told me 500? (“913” someone in the group says) Wow – ok, almost 1000 people. That’s impressive!
What I want to do is the following exercise. Let’s pretend for a moment, that none of us, not a single person in here except for one knows the Lord. We’re all lost. And for the sake of our example, I’m going to choose here Brother Tim as the one person who knows the Lord, and he has purposed to do outreach to this group of 900 people. Now this is an intimidating group. This is a big group. How do you even tackle something like this?
But let’s have Tim choose – I want you to stand up. Choose three different people. Maybe you can scatter them throughout. Just stand up after he picks you. And Tim, we’re going to pretend that you are going to pour yourself into these three people, just like Jesus did, over the course of a year. So choose three.
So now we have a total of four people: Tim, plus the three that he selected. So now I would like all four of you to do just what Tim did. Each of you pick three people and have them stand. We are at the end of Year One now. Tim has poured himself into three people, and you have said that at the end of this year, we are going to pour ourselves into three more people. So each of you go, find three people and ask them to stand.
Ok, so now, we are at the end of Year Two, and we have 16 people standing up. Now let’s do it again. Each of the 16 of you now go and choose three people and have them Try to distribute it, so they are not so clustered together. Make sure you stand. It’s really important that after you get picked, you stand up, because we need to know who has been picked and who hasn’t. So now, if everyone did their job, we have 64 people standing up. Now we are at the end of Year Three. We have done this three cycles. Now let’s do it again. Each of the 64 of you, select three people. Ask them to stand. There should be 256 people standing up right now. So each of you go and find three people and ask them to stand. (Much longer time to go find people that have not stood up yet.)
There’s a cluster in the front here that has been ignored. Ok, from my vantage point, I am a little higher up than all of you, I can’t see anybody sitting, but I can’t see some of the recesses between people. If we did it correctly, we had the capacity to reach 1024 people with that. So we can all take our seats at this point. So, I don’t know about you, but for me to think about working with three people is much less intimidating, much more workable than looking at 913 people who are sitting here.
This is the power of multiplication, as opposed to the power of addition. Jesus gives us the principle of multiplication. There are many ways we can see this. I will tell you a couple of other examples that for me are compelling. Let’s imagine that you meet someone who is a super discipler, a mega discipler! This person can disciple 1000 people a year. It’s almost unbelievable, right. I never met somebody that could do that, but let’s say there’s a person that you meet, and they legitimately can disciple 1000 people a year. With our little humble strategy of just working with three people, pouring into them, very simply for one year, and repeating just like we did, after seven years our super discipler has now discipled 7000 people. How many would we have achieved? Over 16,000. In seven years, we beat the super discipler. Isn’t that amazing? This is a genius strategy that Jesus had. You don’t have to be the super discipler, you pour into a small number. Make it even more amazing. Let’s say there was one follower of Jesus on the planet. Just one. And you say, “I want to reach the whole world.” You are the only one. There are roughly 7,000,000,000 people on the earth. With our exercise, what we just did today, reaching out to three people, you can reach the whole world in 16 years. Every person on the planet. This is amazing! This is the power of multiplicative growth. To win the many, focus on the few. Quiet and unassuming is the growth of the mustard seed, but great is its growth.
So what inhibits multiplication? We could spend a whole sermon about this. I’m just going to spend a very short amount of time on this so we can get into some of the practicals. There are a couple of things. One of the most common causes for multiplication being hindered – even in the biologic realm – if you look at humans who smoke, their fertility actually falls quite a bit as a result of all the toxins that go into their body. Toxins are naturally what inhibits reproduction. So I will make the contention that the best way to safeguard growth – I care a lot about sustainable growth – There have been many movements in the last 30-40 years. I can think of a handful right off the top of my head, that have grown very quickly, but have collapsed very quickly as well.
What I have not seen in, frankly, any of those movements, is the teaching of separation from the world. Separation from the world is what prevents toxins from getting into our blood, into our community. If you take away separation from the world, you might get some flashy growth at the beginning, but I guarantee you it will not be sustainable. There is something very very important that most people don’t appreciate. They think separation is this weird doctrine. It is the safeguard that our Savior has given us to allow us to grow without toxins.
There is another reason that growth doesn’t happen. Think biologically about this. Think about husbands and wives. Husbands and wives have to be intimate in order for there to be reproduction. If there is no intimacy, there is no growth. One of the reasons I wanted to touch on community in those principles there is that there is nothing like the power of intimacy, the power of a group that truly loves one another, where there’s true friendship, there’s true sacrifice, there’s true bearing up that can multiply. If there is tension, hostility, divisions, it will never grow. This is a very important principle.
We could talk about other causes that inhibit multiplication – we won’t for our purpose today.
So I mentioned that discipleship is intensive companionship. It is “Follow me.” We are going to try to share life together. But there is a value in meetings. For me, the way I think about meetings in the setting of the church, is that I think about meetings almost like families think about meals. So all of us have grown up in families, and all of us know what it is to have meals together. It would be a strange family that just came together and had meals and left. They didn’t see each other except for sitting around the table. It would be almost like a fast food restaurant. That’s a lot like many churches, frankly, where there are some meetings and then they go. There’s no life together. In fact, the meals are supposed to be the overflow where you process and talk about things and have lots of things come together. It would similarly be dysfunctional to share life together but never have meals. A lot of American families today just plop themselves in front of the TV and have a TV dinner. They don’t talk to each other. That’s strange, too. So there’s supposed to be the life together, the intensive companionship, and there is a good and healthy place for meetings. I’ve seen people because they have gone to more of an organic extreme – they have rejected the value of meetings – that’s a big mistake.
So what do we do? How do we think about these groups? Particularly this lowest level – this group of three that Jesus models there. I want to credit John Wesley for this. Many of you in Boston heard me talk about this a couple of weeks ago in one of our midweeks. Wesley was one of the pioneers of going back to the Biblical model and thinking about how to implement what Jesus taught in a careful and systematic way. This is the reason why the Methodists grew so profoundly. There were two peers: George Whitfield and John Wesley. Whitfield by many counts was the more talented preacher, was the more successful evangelist. But near the end of his life, he credits Wesley. There is a great dialogue where Whitfield basically says, “My efforts are a rope of sand. They are not going to lead to anything. But Wesley who invested in discipleship – in these rings and bands, and his whole network – what he has created will endure.” It’s a fascinating dialogue there. If you are interested, you can ask me about it.
So what do we do? I believe we can look at Scripture here, and say there is a clear paradigm we have from Jesus Himself to have the core unit, the tightest unit of discipleship to be occurring in these groups of four. Jesus plus three is four.
Why this model? Some people have gone in favor of the one on one model. That’s actually not a Biblical model for discipleship. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you lose something in that. You lose the dynamism of the group. There’s a certain energy that happens when you can get a few people together. One on one sessions can become frankly more like counseling sessions than they can be about discipling. As I mentioned, there’s not a Biblical precedence for it. I’m not saying it’s wrong, but it’s not as attractive. It doesn’t have the merits of this Jesus model of the core unit there. In fact, think about it. Can you really have twelve very close friends that you are sharing your life with on a weekly basis? It’s very hard to do that. Most of us can’t. For most of us three is doable – even that might be challenging.
This is a widely appreciated phenomenon in the secular world, in the business world, study groups – if you are a student now, you don’t have study groups of twelve people. I’ve been fascinated by the navy seals. I’ve been doing reading and studying about this group – this very elite people who work in the military. Their core groups are groups of approximately three people. There are a lot of ways you can see this. There are many different evidences for it from the secular world and from the Bible. So if you hit six, I think you should actually multiply into two. The right number is between 3-5. So my challenge to you is to work with your church, work with your leaders, and have every person seek to be working in this kind of context.
Now it is important that in these groups we find open hungry people. We don’t want to be doing something for the sake of numbers. We know that Jesus’ call to discipleship was a very costly one. Jesus’ made these calls of discipleship and often people would say things like, “Well, I got to go back and bury my dad. Well, I got to go back and take care of this.” And Jesus said, “Go, you are not going to be with Me.”
The single most important attribute, I believe, in finding a person in this is humility. Discipleship at its core is about correcting, and teaching, and speaking into one another’s lives, and if you don’t have a teachable spirit, discipleship doesn’t work. It can’t happen. We have to be people who are humble and teachable and willing to learn from one another. One of the things – I actually do this from time to time in my own prayer life – I think a lot about the analogy Jesus gave of us being like sheep. So I get on my hands and my knees, and I go “Baa-baa” like I sheep, to remind myself that I’m a sheep, because we’re sheep. We can never get so full of ourselves that we forget that basic need.
So what do you do in these meetings? I think there should be basically three components. Prayer, Accountability, and the Word
The first is prayer. That makes a great way to come together. There are a handful of people here – we have been praying together for about two years, twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday, from 6:30 – 7:30 or so, and we have bonded so much through that. Tim is one of the people – I see him nodding. Some of the other people are not even from the same state, but it has been tremendous to see how much this bonds us together. We share hearts; we know what’s going on in our lives. It’s usually about 5-6 people. It’s been tremendous!
The next component is accountability. We actually have adapted John Wesley’s questions for our purposes. I will read you some of the questions. Imagine being asked this every week, and how would you receive this? What would this do to your spiritual life to have three trusted brothers or sisters – we do single gender, men with men or women with women. Here are a few:
- Am I self-absorbed, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
- Have I grumbled or complained?
- I like this question. Wesley had a way of writing things: Does the Bible live in me? Imagine somebody asking you that on a weekly basis.
- When did I last speak to someone about my faith? What’s your answer to that? If somebody asks you today, what’s your answer?
- This one is not from Wesley; we put this in: Have you looked at anything the past week which you would not with the church watching with you?
- Have you led a life of self-denial? Jesus said, “Anybody who wants to follow Him must deny Himself and follow Him.”
- The Moravians would ask this question of one another, which I love: “What do you see in me that is marring the image of Christ?” Isn’t that a great question to ask those who know you well and can work with you, and you can say, “Be open with me. What do you see in me that is marring the image of Christ?”
Discipleship begins with something small, something unassuming. When we learn things, we ought to put it down on our answer paper, not keep it in some other realm.
The third component is The Word. I think we still haven’t even scratched the surface of how important this is. I was so glad that KFW has consistently put these memory passages up there. A lot of people have the reaction, “Ah- that’s for children. Children memorize verses. Adults don’t do that.” That’s a huge mistake, colossal mistake! It’s one of the worse mistakes that you can make. One of the things which I love about Jesus’ parables, particularly the parable of the Sower, is that He teaches us that our fruitfulness depends on our hospitality to the Word. Such a simple concept, isn’t it? If we allow the Word of God to take residence in our heart, divine life and power spring forth.
Can you memorize regularly? What a great way to do that in the context of a small group of people. It’s hard to do that in a big group of people, but in a small group of people, pick a verse, pick a passage, pick a book, pick what works for you. I work a fair bit with college students – medical students, graduate students, and this is something I tell people again and again. There’s something about the Word of God – this comes from Jesus – it is described as being something that grows. Biological things grow multiplicatively. They grow exponentially. Yeast is a single celled organism. Yeast or leaven. It grows from 1 to 2 to 4 to 8 to 16 just like we did – the analogy of the Kingdom that Jesus gives there is very much a multiplicative one. If this is the type of metaphor that’s used for the Word, being like a seed – something biologic, something organic, there’s something we can harvest as a result of this, which, let’s call in the compounding interest effect. So if you can get the Word of God into your life early, you get a much greater return with time, because that interest will compound. I’m so grateful my parents had me do this. When we were three years old, my parents would have us memorize whole chapters of the Bible, usually 1-2, and they would have us get up in front of the church and recite it. Three years old! They would sit with us for hours and hours just going over it again and again and again, and just drill it into our brains. Now you are going to get up on Sunday, and you’re going to say it in front of everybody. I am so glad for that, because I know that that compounded in so many different ways.
There are many metaphors for The Word in Scripture. One of my favorite metaphors, one of my favorite pictures of The Word, which, I hope this excites you for the purpose of your discipling multiplicative groups. It comes from Eph. 6 where the armor of God is portrayed. And what article, what weapon is The Word of God likened to? The Sword.
So I’m going to read to you a small quote. Once this hit my brain, it changed the way I thought about the Word. It says this, “Suppose that someone attacked you on a dark street and started wrestling with you. If he were to pull a knife, the whole battle would suddenly be centered on one thing, control of the knife. All of the sudden, you would forget about punching him in the nose. You would be grabbing for his wrists and trying to knock that knife out of his hand. For you to realize that ITis the deciding factor in this battle.” Do you see this picture? “The devil knows that the Christian who is armed with the Word has a sword, and he will do his best, his very best to wrench it out of your hand.” This is one of the great values of these groups to encourage. You’ve got to get into the Word, memorize, study. I am a person who inhales books and sermons. I can’t get enough of the Word. I’m always into it. From a very young age, when I was 16, I committed myself to get the Word deep into me, because this is the picture that I want us to understand. This is what is decisive in the battle.
There’s an author whose name is Gallady, and he challenges us to ask simply two questions: Number 1, Do you have a comprehensive plan for making disciples? Number 2, Is it working? So I ask you that. Do you? Does your church? Do you have a comprehensive plan for making disciples? That’s my first question. If you don’t, there’s a problem. You need to have that. I’ve laid out here what Jesus’ way is of doing that. And if you do, and it’s not working, well, it’s time to go back and revisit it and make some adjustments.
I want to close with a couple meditations on the joy of multiplication. There’s something about multiplying that you can’t grasp the beauty and the joy of it. Not everyone here is called to be a parent; not everyone here will be a parent. Many of us called to singleness; many of us can’t have children. All of us, however, are called to have spiritual children. Every single person who calls himself or herself a Christian, is supposed to do that. Because of this relationship between biological begetting and spiritual begetting, I think we can learn a lot from the joys of parenting, and liken that to the joys of discipling. There’s a verse that I like. My wife and I both like this. It’s from one of the epistles of John where he says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the Truth.” This is exactly the thought that I gave you from that Thessalonians verse. What’s our joy? What’s our hope? What’s our crown of rejoicing? Paul says, it’s you! It’s people, the people he is writing the letter to. This is the exact same thought that John is giving in his own words. He says, there’s no greater joy that I have than to hear of my children – I believe he’s talking about spiritual children here – are walking in the Truth.
Now, anybody that has children knows that it’s hard work. It’s messy. Everything is sticky in the house, and you have no idea why. But you find places in your heart that you didn’t even know existed before you had children. Isn’t this true? The other day we were sitting around after one of our church meetings, and our two year old came up to me – his name is John, a little guy whose speech is still forming. He came up to me and asked for a lolly pop. I thought, “I’m not going to give you a lolly pop. That’s a sugary treat in the middle of the day.” I said, “No.” He said, “But I wanted to give it to Zoya.” Zoya is a little girl in our group. She’s maybe 3-4 years old. I thought, “This must be a ploy. A two year old can’t ask for a lolly pop because he wants to give it to a little girl. So I thought, you know what, this is a great little test. I’m going to give it, and I’m going to follow him secretly to see what he does. So I gave him the lolly pop, and I secretly followed him into the Horning’s house, and he went over there and he went into this little room, didn’t know I was there, and he burst open the door, and he ran into the room, screaming, “Zoya!” and he gave her this lolly pop, and she was just smiling and happy. It was such a great scene. That scene was the best scene in my whole month. What greater joy do we have than to see our children walking in the Truth?
My plea is that we consider the aims of Jesus and we take this seriously. The time will come. We will all hear, “Pencils down. Stand up.” I don’t want us to stand up in theory. I don’t want to end up in some kind of scratch paper. I want this to end up in people. Let us close in prayer. And we’ll turn the meeting back over to Brother Dale.
Father in heaven, thank You for the model that you have given us in Jesus, who is the Genius of all geniuses, who understands how powerful multiplication is and has shown us the way of life, I pray that we would invest ourselves in concert with our church, in concert with our midweeks, into a small group of 3-5 people. I pray that every person here would feel this burden to live as Jesus lived, to be part of these discipling relationships as He has called us to. God, we have not even scratched the surface of the multiplicative power that exists in these principles. And there is in this room no doubt the power to reach every nation within 5-10 years if we so choose. Father, I ask that you would mobilize people. I pray that we would not be content to be stuck in the same places, but that we would be bold and fearless, and willing to step out, willing to seek to make disciples as Jesus called us to do. May we also be able one day to stand before Jesus and the Father, and to present before You, our Father, the children that You have given us, and to laud them as our joy, to laud them as our hope, and our crown of rejoicing. Give us power, give us strength from on high. We pray all these things in Jesus’ name, Amen.