By Joy Crichton
It was a sunny Friday in Haslett, Texas when 8-year-old Corbin Warren looked across the playground and saw his friend choking. Without hesitation, the young hero wrapped his arms around the 6-year-old’s chest, balled his fist, and thrust it into the boy’s abdomen, dislodging the stone stuck in his throat and saving the boy’s life. When later asked how he knew what to do, Corbin said he’d seen his mom teach the procedure to Girl Scouts. As I watched the news report, one word came to my mind: discipleship. One child lives because another child knew what was needed to save him.
We are the children of God. We live, and we take the good news to others so they might live. It is the assignment of all whether we have been in Christ one day or 30 years. However, the church is faced with two prominent challenges when it comes to sharing the gospel. First, those who have walked with Christ the longest, while more experienced and knowledgeable, typically have increasingly fewer relationships with those outside of Christ. On other hand, those who are new in Christ have lots of relationships with unbelievers but little confidence or experience in sharing their new faith. The answer, of course, is partnership.
This partnership involves discipleship—mature believers teaching new believers how to live out and deliver the gospel message in their everyday lives and relationships. Disciple making is of uppermost importance in the church because it is the core of the Great Commission. Otherwise, as John MacArthur has noted, “Some members of the body remain spiritual babies all their lives.”
Fifteen years ago I took up my first discipleship relationship with Dianne. Dianne was a new Christian and we spent one evening a week together in the Word. I found it useful to use a book that guided us through the fundamentals of her new faith, though more often than not she shared her everyday experiences and we discussed them in the light of Scripture. As she shared the application of Scripture she was making in her own life, my heart was stirred to make changes too. We shared our burdens and struggles, held each other accountable, and prayed for each other.
We talked a lot about the gospel—its work on our souls, its impact on our actions, and its expression on our lips. Dianne learned to share Christ’s work of forgiveness and redemption in her life with me and then with her friends. We shared the gospel conversations we were having with unsaved friends and acquaintances and prayed that God would draw hearts to salvation.
This partnership involves opportunity—planned activities where believers old and young can invite unbelieving family members and friends to come and hear the gospel in varied settings. One summer a family in our church sent invitations to neighbors that read, “Christianity Explored through the Gospel of Mark. Please be our guest.” Fifteen of their neighbors showed up for four weeks to hear the gospel. During that time the church body prayed fervently while the minister led the study group.
Holidays are great opportunities to reach those outside of Christ. One Thanksgiving, families in our church delivered pies to homes in the surrounding neighborhood along with information about our church. Some churches find “trunk or treat” a great way to bring the community in while others invite the community in for Christmas carols. We host block parties in our neighborhood—a bonfire with coffee and pie. Christmas open houses are also great ways to bring your neighbors in and nurture relationships with them.
Our church makes the most of scheduled church meetings by offering coffee and cookies between morning worship and our Bible study hour. It is an excellent way for members to connect with each other and with those we are endeavoring to bring to Christ. Some people shy away from gatherings in the church building and are more open to participating in home fellowship groups. Our young adults share a meal and gospel conversation in our home once a month, often bringing their classmates and coworkers to hear the gospel outside of the church building. These are excellent opportunities for young people to meet the leaders of the church and build relationships with other Christian young adults in a non-confrontational atmosphere.
There are as many ideas for bringing in the lost as there are people and situations. The important thing is that we create a plan and offer opportunities for growth.
This partnership involves warm community. As the family of God we are responsible for one another. The task of kingdom expansion isn’t for the lone wolf. It is something we do together. It is a partnership of teaching, going, and praying. We may not all have a large network of unbelievers with whom to share our faith, but we can all pray for one another and these redemptive relationships. Our church does this often on Wednesday nights when we meet for Bible study. The prayer leader asks for five names of people the group is presently trying to reach with the gospel, and then we pray for them.
It is also the responsibility of all to warmly welcome those who are new to church gatherings. Sometimes fellowship is so sweet in our church we forget to look around for those who are new or standing alone. But we mustn’t miss the opportunity to draw those outside our body into the warmth that is ours because we share Christ. If newcomers feel wanted and welcome, they are more likely to come back to hear more about Christ.
This type of community leads to mutual encouragement. When the young in Christ talk about their endeavors to win lost friends and family and bring them into the church gathering, older believers are encouraged to nurture redemptive relationships with neighbors and coworkers as well. The thrill of new life reignites our passions, causing us to reevaluate the relationships we have outside the church and find ways to reach those around us.
The mature in Christ play an equally important role as they encourage new believers by instructing them in the Scripture and building up their faith. Those who seek to share Christ will encounter skeptics who ask questions they can’t answer or counter the message by suggesting good works or alternate ways of salvation. It’s frustrating to new believers, and sometimes they need to talk out these situations and questions with those who have a better grasp on Scripture. Sometimes they just need someone to encourage them to keep at it.
We are in the business of building the kingdom together. A little boy on a Texas playground survived because Corbin Warren practiced what he had learned from his mother and the Girl Scouts. It was a team effort. Just like the church. We go together. We serve together. We build the kingdom together.
Joy Crichton is a freelance writer in Johnston, Rhode Island.
A Relationship Like Paul’s and Timothy’s
Paul intentionally invested himself and his faith in others. Follow these steps to follow Paul’s example.
• Think of someone who is new in the faith or younger in the faith than you. This might be a relationship you’ve already been developing or one you’d like to start to invest in.
• Paul shared what he knew with Timothy. He was a follower of Christ who had a unique set of spiritual gifts. Think about the dynamic of your relationship with Christ and the specific types of gifts you’ve received from the Spirit. These elements will influence the relationship you build.
• Timothy watched Paul work (Acts 16–20). What are some ways your Timothy has or will see your faith in action? Make a plan to work alongside each other so you can learn from one another.
• Paul knew Timothy’s day-to-day life. He had a sense of what Timothy did and didn’t know—and what lessons he needed to learn. As you get to know the person you’ve got in mind, pay attention to what he or she already knows. In addition, try to discern what he or she needs to learn in order to become more effective as a Christian servant.
• Paul spoke highly of Timothy (Philippians 2:12-19; 1 Corinthians 4:17, 16:10; 2 Corinthians 1:1). How do your words to and about your Timothy encourage that person in the faith and safeguard his or her reputation?
• Spend time reading through 1 and 2 Timothy, Paul’s letter to the man he mentored. What types of encouragement and teaching does he give? What attitude does he display?
• Paul relied on Christ and his wisdom in his relationship with Timothy. Ask God to bring his presence and wisdom to your relationship.