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Releasing your disciples

Miguel Santiago came to me as a gift – a messy one at 19, to be sure, but a total gift. His youth leader, John Alford, had poured into Miguel until he knew that Miguel’s call was too big to find its expression in Omaha. And he released him to me.   It was early 2002. The nation was still r…
By Seth Barnes
Miguel Santiago came to me as a gift – a messy one at 19, to be sure, but a total gift. His youth leader, John Alford, had poured into Miguel until he knew that Miguel’s call was too big to find its expression in Omaha. And he released him to me.
 
It was early 2002. The nation was still reeling from the shock of 9/11. My own kids were growing up in a dangerous world, and I felt God whispering to me, “Make them more dangerous in me than the world in which they’re being raised.”
 
All of them were teenagers and I could sense my window of opportunity was closing. So our family prayed together and God led us to plant churches in Peru.
 
Ultimately 15 other young people joined us and Miguel was one. He arrived in Lima, his hair in dreads and a broad smile perpetually on his face. During our month together, we planted five churches and God confirmed the call on Miguel’s life to go as a missionary to the Dominican Republic.
 
I told Miguel, “I’ll help you get there, but you need training first, and the best place I know for you to get it is in Mexico.” I probably could have asked him to come back to Georgia, but I released him to his destiny and to those who could better propel him on his way who were at that time living in Matamoros, Mexico.
 
Miguel may have been a scrappy radical, but he sensed he could trust me. Mexico was the perfect place for him. He learned Spanish, woke up to the spiritual authority God wanted to give him, met and married his wife on a sandy Mexican island, and learned missions in a way that fit his style – experientially.
 
Today Miguel is planting churches in the Dominican Republic and has a dream of raising up an army of disciples who with the crazy Irish man in Braveheart, can proclaim “It’s my island.” In time, he’ll release them too. It’s what he learned to do.
 
Two kinds of disciplers
There are two kinds of disciplers: Those that release their disciples to pursue their dreams and those who keep their disciples around them. Jesus’ method was the latter: to walk with them for three years and then release them. He gave them lots of practice (Luke 9 and 10), and ultimately, he released them to make disciples of all nations.
 
Of all the heresies that we embrace in the church, this heresy that hordes the fruit of our ministry to ourselves may be among the worst.
 
It’s prevalent in America. We’ve become a hyper risk-averse society that hovers over our children and no longer sends our best disciples out to the world to bring freedom to oppressed peoples.
 
Most churches don’t focus on disciple-making and if disciples do rise up from within their congregation, they don’t release them. Instead, you see disciples tethered to the home church, defining the kingdom in terms of the needs of their own metroplex and local congregation.
 
It’s difficult
Releasing disciples is difficult. Why would you spend three years investing in someone only to send them out and give them away? But this is precisely what we do when we release disciples.
 
To release a disciple well you have to study their call and understand their strengths and weaknesses. You need to help them listen to the Lord’s direction for their lives and find someone who can draw out and develop the gifts within them.
 
Most of all, like any good parent, you have to see yourself as a temporary steward of their call. Miguel was never mine. I still am a cheerleader and a friend, but he has gone so much further under the mentoring of people other than me than I could have taken him.
 
Now, in many respects, his gifts surpass my own. He has become a powerful kingdom-builder and a real threat to the enemy in that corner of the world. Yes, I helped him get to the next level, but only by releasing him.
 
Are you raising up disciples that you will release? Will your disciples be prepared to follow their call once you release them?

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