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How to fish – seeing candidates with the eyes of faith

My Mom is the best discipler I’ve known. She would find candidates all over the neighborhood – women struggling, just trying to find their way in life. Her willingness to risk has set a good example for me – next week she and my 72 year-old Dad leave for Afghanistan for a month [To which I say, …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

My Mom is the best discipler I’ve known. She would find candidates all over the neighborhood – women struggling, just trying to find their way in life. Her willingness to risk has set a good example for me – next week she and my 72 year-old Dad leave for Afghanistan for a month [To which I say, “bravo!”]

A lot of being a spiritual coach is about risking – seeing with the eyes of faith. When you start, you take a potential disciple who’s raw and perhaps full of vinegar and you look at them in their sinful state and wonder, “How in the world is this person ever going to begin to live for Christ?” It may seem impossible to you.

But as you close your physical eyes and begin to see with the eyes of faith, you see that child of God as the Father intended them to be: regenerated and strong – a mighty warrior! And you pray accordingly. You pray abundant life into that person. And then, one day, lo and behold, you look back, and they really have begun to look like what you saw with your spiritual eyes, the eyes of faith.

Although I never understood my Mom’s discipling ministry (she was very discreet about it) until I’d grown up, frequently, she’d be involved in helping her acolytes work through big life crises. One lady was going to walk out on her philandering husband that day and my Mom got her to serve one last romantic meal to him – an act of service that broke his pride.

So if to be a good discipler one of the first requirements is to have eyes of faith, how do we acquire such eyes? Or better put, how do we improve our faith vision? The first step is to stop relying on our physical eyes so much. We don’t just see our disciples as they are, but we look for how God wants to work in their lives.

Today you have an opportunity to begin seeing with the eyes of faith. Look at your friends. Who among them is interested in growing spiritually? Would they meet with you once a month to start? Would they be open to an intentional phone call periodically? Would they even allow you to coach them some and ask an occasional probing question?

If so, that person meets the requirement. All of us are just potential disciples of Jesus until we really begin walking with him anyway. The idea is to get permission from people to show them how to walk. And don’t be discouraged if it takes a while to get this permission.

See the “How to Disciple” topic on my blog for more on this topic.

Comments (3)

  • Dear Sir,

    May I recommend a book, of interest for implications of the lack of spiritual roots and the use of high rhetoric, spiritual and secular, to cloak manipulation in human interaction through the present corporate situation. It is “Bait and Switch” by Barbara Ehrenreich.

    Reading earlier entries of your redirection into the preisthood, as it were, following the “head-handing” you alluded to, I would ask you to consider the following as you continue:

    * First, please be mindful that while what can be called the direction of God does lead to new and fruitful things, there are (as is shown in this book and which I have seen personally) many more cases where it is used as a convenient label for individuals or denominations to impose their views on others who are shaken and vulnerable.

    In the case of employment, for instance, one is not encouraged to look outward at what could be changed about the system that has brought him or her to this particular point in their life. Practical reforms of an economic or political system are seldom mentioned or given serious consideration. The first, and dominant, consideration is always “what is God trying to tell you about what to change/surrender in YOUR self by this situation.” That may have a place, but unremitting emphasis on this point makes it all too easy for reforms that can be acheived on a structure of humanity to go begging.

    * Second, as one who is working cheek by jowl with the bureaucracy and institution that is the US Army, I see daily paraded before me young men and women barely out of childhood who are having their identities stripped from them by drill instructors. What they were before they are encouraged to forget; what they are to be now is an orderly, uniform mass compliant to the will of its Master. They are taught to believe in Something Greater Than Themselves, and that there are times when Sacrifice is the Highest Form of Giving. The Master reserves the right to decide what that Something Greater they believe in is, and when the time for Sacrifice is. And this uniform mass can of course think for themselves, but only within certain bounds; set, of course, by the Master.

    I would like to think that you are writing on “investing time” with someone in “discipling” with the highest of intentions, but I would urge caution in overusing these words, sir; particularly given the broader meanings to which they are prone.

    It is a short step from “investing time” with a human being to “investing time” with a business problem; it is a short step from “discipling” to “drilling.” In both cases, you are no longer considering the human being as a sentient, made-in-the-image-of-God creature. They have become a tool. Like the soldiers of this and all other armies, like the workers in any corporation, like far too many people in all situations, one who is being “discipled” so often only becomes a tool to be used by the discipler, so they might achieve their own ends of power in their system of status, so they might stamp another silhouette on their “Wall of the Converted” and feel better about the state of their spirituality.

    I would urge great caution and consideration of the other side of your words as you continue, sir.

    Peter J. Drake

  • I have some initial thoughts for Peter Drake:

    Reaction to First Comment
    Evangelicals have tended to focus on the individual since the inception of this movement some 150+ years ago. This was not always so among “TRUE” Christians historically. That is why historic Christianity transformed organizations, city states and even nations or entire cultures, e.g., Western Europe. Nevertheless, evangelicalism lack of interest in the tribe, nation, and institutional transformation has put undue emphasis and inappropriate introspection on the individual. You are right. I believe that discipling the NATION in Matthew 28 also implies a broader mandate to disciple institutions and even nations.

    You are right about the vulnerable and often the young vulnerable being taken in for someone else’s purpose. WE must guard against anything other than empowering people to be all that God them to be not what another person or pastor wants to be through them.

    Reaction to Second Comment
    If we can call a discipling process technology, then technology can always and will always be used for both “good” and “ill.” Some of this we can control but much of it is beyond our control. That is not an argument to ignore your concern. I will be more attentive to the language.

    However, I am also interested in your thoughts about how we effectively monitor this dangerous situation among our youth programs. I have a concern for the inexperienced “youth pastor” or “youth worker” who unintentionally and out of ignorance falls into your second category because we do not pay enough attention to qualifying and training up a cadre of people with real spiritual wisdom. They hang out over time and give many misconceptions in non-formal settings.

    What can we do about this often tragic situation that often drives youth away from the Body of Christ over time rather than empowering them into a deeper more abiding and freeing relationship with Christ and His Father?

    see http://www.netscope.com/young professionals.pdf for a more complete explanation of Christ in the workplace.

    Let’s continue this dialogue

  • I read this review about “Bait and Switch”:

    “The book rather describes how author Barbara Ehrenreich takes on the challenge to get hired into corporate America and experience “white collar” work for herself.

    The majority of the book is about her experiences working with different “career coaches” and “networking groups” and other assorted entrepreneurs who work to help laid off middle managers get re-employed. As she works to craft the right resume, pretending to be a PR executive, she describes what it was like to work with others who were also trying to find work.

    I did find the descriptions of the various personality tests, and the cheesy coaching tactics she engaged to help her to be fascinating. In the end the book is as much about the whole sub industry that has developed to try and get middle managers re-employed after being downsized or laid off from their companies as it is about any sort of “American Dream”. The tactics and descriptions certainly do not put these “coaches” in a very positive light. Throughout she makes overgeneralizations, and makes fun of people with religious beliefs and values, which detracts from her point considerably.”

    Let me be clear about a basic difference in motivation between someone whose job is a career coach and someone who is discipling as Jesus advocated they disciple. The former has money at stake, the latter is in it to help the person they’re coaching grow in intimacy with God. If they’re doing it right, they’re doing it for love.

    Clearly the potential for manipulation is inherent in the discipling process. And Bill makes an excellent point about the potential for inexperienced youth pastors to “paint by numbers” as it were, missing the essence of his calling.

    I like the point you make about the danger of words, Peter. I prefer “spiritual coaching” to discipling. An even greater danger than using the wrong words is the danger to fail to think about what we as followers of Jesus have been called to do and how to do it and to dialogue about it. I’m not sure where you personally are coming from Peter, but that’s the point of this blog.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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