How many Bible lessons do you get per week? If you count a Sunday sermon, a weekly women’s Bible study class, and your own personal study, that can add up to more than 7 learning sessions per week. How often do you share what you are learning with someone else? Most of us in Bible-teaching churches have too much inflow without enough overflow. How much can you actually take in without getting overwhelmed and even numb in your response to the Word of God? That can lead to restlessness and discontentment. Turn your restlessness into the opportunity for disciplemaking—establishing someone else with the strong roots that you have. But where do you find those who need what you know? How do you get started? That is the subject of this article. We are in blog #7 in our “Lifestyle Disciplemaking” series, adapted from our book, Leap into Lifestyle Disciplemaking.
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Recognizing the problem of inflow without overflow
How many Bible lessons do you get per week? If you count a Sunday sermon, a weekly women’s Bible study class, and your own personal study, that can add up to more than 7 learning sessions per week. Then, consider email devotionals you get or other sources of teaching. Now, you are up to 10 or more. That is a lot of inflow into your brain.
How often do you share what you are learning each week with someone else? I am talking about intentional sharing such as, “I just learned today that … ”
Is that sharing more often directed to other mature, educated believers such as those in your women’s Bible study group? Or do you share what you are learning from the Lord to younger believers who do not know as much?
The inflow / overflow imbalance
I read this statement several years ago.
We are feeding the ‘fed’ to death in America. We are into discipling the discipled because it’s safer.” (Jill Briscoe)
Do you agree or disagree with her?
Many of you have been in Bible studies for years. You have faithfully done those Precept, BSF, CBS, Beth Moore, LifeWay, and Joyful Walk studies. You have a lot of inflow from those studies plus sermons, classes, and small groups swimming around in your head. What do you do with all of that information? How much can you actually take in without getting overwhelmed and even numb in your response to the Word of God? It is like that “stuffed” feeling your get after eating the Thanksgiving meal!
The imbalance of too much inflow and not enough overflow is too prevalent in our churches, especially those with strong Bible teaching. And it leads to restlessness and discontentment.
Restlessness is a symptom of forgetting your purpose.
It happens over time in large and small Bible studies. Women are excited to study God’s Word. But as their knowledge accumulates, the next thing you know they are being snippy about the study questions, whose group they are in, or the table decorations.
The symptoms of too much inflow are evidenced by statements like these:
- “The questions are too easy, not deep enough.”
- “We studied that topic two years ago. Why study it again?”
- “I want to be in a group where everyone does their lessons.”
Do you recognize any of those statements coming from your own lips?
I have heard them often throughout my years of leading women’s Bible studies in churches. I have seen it happen among godly women in very successful Bible studies—women who love Jesus very much. I think it is restlessness from too much inflow and not enough overflow. I believe Christian women can get stuck in discipleship—the learning that helps them grow as Jesus followers. We can get so comfortable in “community” that we lose the drive to reach out to others who do not know Jesus yet or do not know Him well. This restlessness is a symptom that we have forgotten our Christ-given commission for disciplemaking.
Now, do not get me wrong. I love Bible study. I have been involved in some fabulous Bible studies over the years, even writing them and lecturing from my detailed study. Women need to know and understand God’s Word so they can know their God better and His way of approaching life.
But Jesus told His disciples to go and “make disciples.” We are to make disciples as He did. His disciples took in what they learned from Him and shared it with others, taking them through the process of growing in Christ and sharing Him with others. This is called the multiplication process.
Paul described that in 2 Timothy.
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)
Make disciples who make disciples who make disciples. That is a sure cure for the “Holy Huddle” infection.
Don’t let all that “inflow” get settled in the recesses of your brain! Let it overflow to someone who needs it. Turn your restlessness into the opportunity for disciplemaking—establishing someone else with the strong roots that you have. But where do you find those who need what you know?
Establishing those who are around you
Where are the new believers besides anyone you bring to Christ yourself? What about those who have been Christians for a while but have never been discipled to truly know the foundational teachings of how to live as a Christian?
Most likely, new and never-been-discipled Christians are where you are presently connected such as in Bible study groups, in mothers’ groups, where you work or live, and in your church. All you have to do is pay attention and come alongside the one who needs to be discipled.
We have a great example of that in the book of Acts.
Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures.He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. (Acts 18:24-26)
A married couple, Priscilla and Aquilla, paid attention to a man speaking, recognized that he needed truth, invited him to their home, and discipled him there. Apollos went on to lead many others to Christ and disciple them.
How do you pay attention? Like Priscilla and Aquila did in Acts 18:24-26, pay attention as people talk. Listen to that woman in your small group, the one who is sitting near you at church, or is a newcomer at your women’s event. This is meant for any growing Christian to do, not just the group leaders or ministry staff. If you are leading a Bible study that has several women new to the Bible, read my article, “Establish: Nurture Women Who Are New to the Bible.”
- Bible study group: Small groups are fishing pools for disciplemaking.For the one who is new to your Bible study group, do not assume she knows her identity in Christ. She may not be a believer yet. She may be a new believer. When you glance at her study guide, are the spaces mostly blank? She may not know how to read a verse and answer a question. She may be a long-time believer who has never done Bible study before and feels ignorant compared to others. Many Bible Studies are written from a certain translation. If her Bible is different, she may not see the same wording used in the questions. SHE NEEDS YOU!
- Newcomer to church or women’s event: As you greet someone who seems to be a newcomer, listen to what she says. Ask her a little about herself. Is she new to your church? Is she new to Bible study? If she is new to attending church and/or new to reading the Bible for herself, SHE NEEDS YOU!
Several years ago, my daughter and I attended a women’s Bible conference at our church. A young woman came to our row and sat by herself not far from us. I invited her to sit next to me. We introduced ourselves and starting getting to know one another throughout the day. My new friend “Kathy” shared that she was new to the Bible and did not understand much about Christianity. Her son had started attending a Christian school that required parents to read through the Bible at night with their child. So Kathy and her husband were introduced to Christ and the Bible as a result. She was hungry for more. I felt the Lord directing me to take the next step—come alongside in discipling her.
Come alongside in discipling
Come alongside is exactly that. Getting together with someone often, helping them learn truth, and walking with them through applying that truth in their lives. This is where you intentionally connect with the one who needs to be discipled.
Remember those questions I mentioned above coming from women who have had too much inflow of Bible knowledge and not enough overflow? That problem is solved when you become more in tune with the Holy Spirit in the process of disciplemaking.
- “The questions are too easy, not deep enough.” Praise God that someone new to the Bible has an opportunity to learn. Invite a neighbor or friend who is new to the Bible so she can learn without being overwhelmed. Do you want “deep study?” Do it on your own. Take advantage of easier studies to disciple someone else in your group who needs you!
- “We studied that topic two years ago. Why study it again?” Life is not always about you. Actually, when you walk with the Lord, it is never about you. It is always about Christ. Stay Christ-focused and consider how you can help someone else learn the truth from that topic that you have already learned. Invite someone who needs to know that truth and walk beside her in the group.
- “I want to be in a group where everyone does their lessons.” Consider why someone does not do the lesson. As I mentioned earlier, she might not know how to do them. Be the one who helps her. Suggest you do them together for fun.
That is focusing on disciplemaking more than discipleship.
Here is how it would like for various situations:
- Bible study group: For the one who is new to Bible study and seems to be struggling, ask her if you could get together and work through the lesson. Find a time that works FOR HER and a place that is convenient for her. Work through the lesson together, helping her to find and read the verses then answering the questions. If she is a new Christian, offer to disciple her in the basics of the faith using a basic study designed for new Christians. I listed what new believers need to know in the last blog, “Establish: Give Believers Strong Roots.” You can also download the “Establish a New or Young Christian” booklet.
- Newcomer to church or women’s event: If you meet someone who is definitely new to Christ, to church, and likely new to the Bible, get her contact information and invite her to meet you casually within the next week. When you get together, share a little of your story and ask her to share hers. Find out where she is in her walk of faith. Find out what she already knows and what she wants to know.
If she is a new Christian, ask her if you could disciple her to get more established in her faith. Offer to meet with her for a few weeks to help her get a good foundation. Walk through the gospel of Mark with her. Show her how to read the passage and let the Holy Spirit show her something from it. I usually ask the question, “What grabbed your attention?” That is the milk God wants to feed her for that day.
If you like something more structured, choose a basic study guide for new believers such as A Fresh Start or one of those listed in the resources section at the end of this post. Arrange your first time together. Work through the new believer’s study together the first time. Let her ask you questions. If she wants, she can take it home and work through the next lesson.
That is what I did with Kathy. The next day after the women’s conference, I contacted Kathy and invited her to meet me for dinner at a local restaurant during the next week. We talked about her life and her family. She was excited about being a Christian but felt so insecure about everything. I asked if I could disciple her and help her get off to a good start. She agreed. We met for the next 8 weeks, going through A Fresh Start together. She loved it! And after we met each week, she shared with her husband all that we learned together. He started growing as a Christian, too.
Maybe you already have something that someone used to disciple you when you were a new Christian. Or your church might have discipling materials on hand. Just make sure you walk through the 8 necessary elements of a good foundation that are listed in the article, “Establish: Give Believers Strong Roots,” or the “Establish a New or Young Christian” booklet.
One of the benefits of discipling someone is that sharing what you know gives you a fuller understanding of what you have. It takes the “inflow” of information to another level. A huge verse from the small book of Philemon grabbed my attention several years ago. It contains a practical truth about the Christian life.
I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. (Philemon 1:6)
Actively sharing what you know gives you a fuller understanding of what you have. When you have to explain some part of what you have in Christ to someone else in terms that a younger believer can understand, you find out pretty quickly whether you understand it or not. When you can explain it using your own words, that gives you a fuller understanding of the riches you have.
Dear friends, that is LIFESTYLE DISCIPLEMAKING. That is what Jesus is calling you and me to do every day. Come alongside one other woman to help her become a better follower of Jesus. This is not creating programs. It is creating a lifestyle and shift in our thinking.
Mentoring is the “how” of disciplemaking
The simplicity of mentoring
Does “pay attention” and “come alongside her” sound like mentoring? Yes, it does. Mentoring is someone older in the Lord helping someone younger in the Lord understand and apply biblical truth to everyday life. It is the HOW of discipling and should include all aspects of disciplemaking (one’s own spiritual growth as well as connecting with nonbelievers to introduce them to Christ).
Paul gave us examples of what this looks like in 1 Thessalonians.
Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. … You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:7-12)
That is mentoring!
Connecting her with someone else as a mentor
What if the Lord brings a new Christian to your attention, but you know that you will not be able to give her your attention? That is when you connect her with someone else who can build into her life. Paul did that for the Thessalonians.
We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, (1 Thessalonians 3:2)
Paul could not be there with the new believers so he sent a trusted friend to them. They were not left on their own.
Recently, a new Christian named Sheryl visited a class I was teaching. I invited her to meet me for dinner at a local restaurant where we got acquainted. Over the next month, I realized that I was not the one who should disciple her. I was already leading four Bible study groups, and I knew that she needed someone else who could give her more personal attention. So, I asked my friend Janet who loves discipling people one-on-one if she would pray about discipling Sheryl. The Lord confirmed in her mind and heart that she should do that. Janet has been discipling Sheryl for several months. Both are loving the experience.
The point is this: If you meet someone who needs to be discipled, take on the challenge yourself or get someone else to do it. SHE NEEDS YOU!
Mentoring is for any Christian to do.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. … And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (1 Thessalonians 5:11, 14)
Those verses were not directed to pastors and church staff but to all the believers in the local church—for anyone at any age or stage of life. You are never too old to have impact for Christ. Encourage. Build up. Help the weak. That is discipling.
Things to remember while mentoring someone
- Make It Stick: When you explain something, have her repeat it back to you to check her understanding. Do this several times as needed.
- Make It Real: Adapt what she is learning about her blessings and identity in Christ to real life with her family, friends, and coworkers. For example: When you talk about being loved and accepted unconditionally by God, you could ask her, “How does knowing that help you love your ___________ (husband, children, siblings, friends) well?”
- Make Her Responsible: Encourage her to take responsibility for her own spiritual growth. Have her read the Bible on her own between times when you get together with her.
- To follow a “Read through the Bible” plan for regular feeding, lead them to do the New Testament only, always beginning with the gospels. Establishing that relationship with Jesus is top priority. Newborn babies do not need to know all the family history before we establish our love relationship with them.
- Talk about prayer being conversation with God that she can do at any time. As you study together, encourage her to obey Jesus in what she is learning. Encourage her to reach out to her peers and share with them what the Lord is doing in her life.
- Stay Christ-Focused: Christianity is Christ. What they need first and foremost is to get to know Him well and be secure in their relationship with Him. You will not always be there with her, but Jesus will be there. Lead her to recognize Christ as Lord of her life and to be dependent on Him more than on you. In your discussions, always consider what Christ has done for her and wants for her to do in response more than what the culture teaches. Stay Christ-focused.
Discipling another person makes you rely on Jesus more
Feeling a bit scared or hesitant about discipling a new Christian? Jump right in and do it. Whatever leads you to trust in Jesus more is good for you. If you have not been rooted with this basic information, your discipling experience will be a huge growing experience for you as well.
So give your insecurities to Jesus. He is the one who makes you able to do everything in the Christian life, and that includes discipling a new Christian. You are simply to obey Him and trust His Spirit to work through you. Being scared is a good thing because you will rely on Him more.
It is okay to say, “Lord, I cannot do this on my own, but you can in me and through me. I will trust you with this.” Step out in faith.
Stay Christ-focused as you take the next steps
Ask Jesus to show you how to overflow whatever you are learning to someone else who needs to know it. Trust in Him to lead you to establish another person. Why not ask the Lord to give you the opportunity to explain forgiveness, redemption, and reconciliation to someone in your sphere of influence this week? It is okay to practice what you would say. Download this “Establish a New or Young Christian” booklet which contains a worksheet for explaining to others what you have in Christ.
Leave room in your schedule to come alongside an unchurched friend. What might be beneficial for her? When is a good time for her to attend something? Sign up for that and invite her along. Lifestyle disciplemaking focuses outward to help others grow in Christ rather than just focusing on our inward personal growth. Trust Jesus to help you do this. Then, watch what He does!
Jesus invited His followers to go fishing. “Come follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men (and women!).” He took them fishing in their homes (Mark 2), in their churches (Luke 6:6), and in their public places (Luke 5). Where are you fishing? Ask Him to give you both willingness and opportunity to be a “Priscilla” to another woman. If you do not feel confident, that is okay because you will depend on Him more. Feel free to say, “I cannot do this on my own, Lord Jesus, but You can through me.”
Lifestyle disciplemaking activities are interwoven throughout our Live Out His Love Bible Study of New Testament women. Some of the above steps are included in the study.
Let Jesus lead you into lifestyle disciplemaking. Jesus followers become disciplemakers.
- The Call to Lifestyle Disciplemaking
- Connect: Build Intentional Relationships with Nonbelievers
- Connect: Become a Designated Engager
- Connect: Prepare to Share Your Faith Story
- Connect: Prepare to Share the Gospel Facts
- Establish: Give Believers Strong Roots
- Establish: Choose to Disciple Others
- Establish: Nurture Women Who Are New to the Bible
- Launch: Multiply Impact Beyond Yourself
- Launch: Use Your Workday Lunch Break for Disciplemaking
- Launch: Transition to a Disciplemaking-Focused Women’s Ministry
- Live Out His Love Bible Study on Amazon (New Testament women, disciplemaking preparations)
- Be a Christ-Focused Small Group Leader on Amazon (prepares group leaders for disciplemaking)
- Lifestyle Disciplemaking resources on my website (including everything in this blog series)
- Host a “Leap into Lifestyle Disciplemaking” retreat
- A Fresh Start Bible Study on Amazon (for new Christians)
- Getting Started in Extreme Living (a simple 6-lesson study for new Christians, available in English, Spanish, and French)
- New Believers Guide and other easy resources from godlife.com (combines short videos with online teaching)
- Navigators.org (resources for discipling new believers)
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