I have seen the evangelical church and missions from almost every angle. I was born in Nigeria of missionary parents and, as an MK, survived all the stresses of boarding schools and disorienting furloughs; for thirteen years I served as the missions elder of the Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles; I have also been a supported missionary, a mission administrator, a participant in scores of national and international symposia, conventions and strategy groups, a writer for missions publications and a speaker at conferences in churches in every section of the U.S. My education has continued through my children and grandchildren: my oldest son is a frontier church planter in northern Kenya, my son-in-law is a senior pastor in Southern California and my youngest son is a senior pastor in Northern California. This book is the result of many years of study and reflection. It is an attempt to correct a startling flaw in the training and equipping of laymen, clergy and missionaries in our local churches and training institutions. It is a model for making disciples--certainly not a scholarly work but a practical one--so that two or more laymen getting together one evening a week for 4-6 months simply following the outline and discussing the scripture will discover by doing what Christ demonstrated then commanded the church to be doing.
During my tenure (more than 22 years) as a professor and disciple-maker at BIOLA University I heard many very gifted missionary speakers whose consistent theme was that we could accomplish the missionary mandate with more gifted people and more money, and "If this generation of students does not respond with courage and determination, the entire mission enterprise will be in jeopardy." Many students mocked the rather obvious attempts at manipulation by appealing to guilt and duty while others believed them. I considered myself one of the latter and, in 1986, left BIOLA to accept the position of Executive Director of ACMC in Wheaton. I wanted to make a difference. However, I discovered after barely a year that my basic assumption was wrong: more gifted personnel and money will keep our mission institutions functional but will do very little toward accomplishing the mandate.
Almost unanimously mission leaders accept the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) as the mission mandate of the church, however, almost as unanimous is their admission that less than 20% of our current church funded missionary work force are effectively making disciples in their current mission assignment. None of the agencies I surveyed required experience as a disciple-maker in the local church context as a prerequisite to being accepted as a career missionary; less than 5% provided training in disciple-making in their pre-field orientation and training; only one agency I surveyed had disciple-making specified in the job descriptions of their missionaries. My management experience immediately said "Whoa!" Either Matthew 28:18-20 is not the mandate or we are well wide of the mark. More manpower and money will never solve this one. The General Director of one highly respected mission agency responded, "We have to take what the churches send us; you know very well the colleges and seminaries aren't doing much to help." This sounded so much like passing the buck for the faults of mission agencies that I discounted the remark, but over the next several months culminating at Urbana of 1987, I met with students and faculty at many colleges and seminaries and concluded that the second part of his statement was true and unlikely to change in the near term. The first part of his statement, the local church, is where the change would have to come. To my pleasant surprise, I found that many church missions committees and boards had mandatory mentoring/training/internship programs for their young people before they could be considered for financial support to be a career missionary. Most of these, however, focused on culture awareness and reading books on missionary strategy, philosophy and biographies rather than on a personal relationship with a godly disciple of Jesus who would shepherd them in the practice of daily spiritual alertness. Most pastors responded that they were overwhelmed with their current schedule and could not possibly make room for another responsibility. After I had preached at four services in the missions conference in his church, one dear brother responded with open amazement: "In all my seminary training and 42 years in ministry, this is honestly the first time I have ever heard that it was my job to make disciples--frankly, I don't think I can do it."
It has been the focus of all my resources since 1989 to help pastors, laymen, missionaries and even seminary professors realize that indeed they can do it; in fact, they must do it if the church at large is ever to obey the command of our Lord.
When I was teaching and my children were growing up, we designated the month of August as our family vacation. Usually we camped high in the Sierras but in 1975, we decided to travel to the original thirteen colonies in our camper truck as a preview to the bicentennial. I remember little about the battlefields and colonial settlements but I probably will never forget the words to a song I heard at least 100 times on that trip. It was on a tape by Roger Miller and told about Uncle Harvey's airplane:
Me and Oliver and Virgil
was in the drugstore killin' time
when my eyes fell upon this magazine,
and I got to readin' this article
on skydivin' and parachutes--
it said jumpin' outa airplanes was the thing.
Now bein' raised down on the farm
and always ready for adventure,
I knew that I could figure out a way:
Delmer Gill's got a parachute and Uncle Harvey's got an airplane--
call the boys together, today's the day.
Of course, you remember how he gets the job done and avoids near disaster. Since the church has essentially forgotten how to do its primary job and it's unlikely that you have been discipled by an older spiritual person, I'm going to ask you to be creative and "figure out a way" to get this job done--just "call the boys together, today's the day."
The models that make up the book are written in outline form based strictly on scripture. All that is required is that you find one, two or more people who will commit to meeting one night a week for 4-6 months to study the scripture together. Work through the models one by one. As you struggle to understand and apply the scriptures as individuals and as a group, you will come to understand disciple-making and gradually become proficient at it. Before you come to the end of the models, covenant together that each will find others to start the process over again and continue to meet once a month with the original group for reporting, encouragement and prayer.
No one in the group should feel that he or she needs to know all the answers, but the process should help you find access to those who are knowledgeable and willing to help. Great care must be exercised to hold to the clear statements and logic of the text. Just as Nicodemus found it difficult to understand spiritual things (John 3), so many will have difficulty working through the spiritual concepts, but stick with it--you'll make it.
The models in the book are in the order I suggest. The arrangement of the chapters is around the models. My plan is to show you how I would introduce each model and then apply the conclusion. You are welcome to use my chapters, but I trust you will eventually develop your own introductions and applications and simply use the bare models. That way your disciple-making efforts will be built around your own life experience instead of mine. May the Master Disciple-maker guide and bless your adventure.