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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
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?

Comments (7)

  • Mikey, Mikey, Mikey…Just last night I was bragging on this young man to some folks @ church. He knew his calling and was able to get connected w/ someone who would train them to be effective.

    There were many who thought he was running from responsibility when he went w/ you…I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to brag you/AIM up and tell them to wait/watch what God was going to do in Mike.

    I love that guy so much…Thank you for sticking w/ him.


  • Right on! This brings back many memories of discipling my athletes, etc while coaching and teaching as well as stirs the future in doing so. Thanks!

  • Seth, this is the HEART of what we are to be about!

    * It makes no sense to protect and then release your investment (unless it is Kingdom stuff).
    * It makes no sense to give your investment to others who will benefit (unless it is Kingdom stuff).
    * It makes no sense to work hard to build something, never to receive the credit (unless of course it is Kingdom stuff).

    Oh, I hope and pray that the church is going to make a shift in this direction. Thanks so much for this post.

    “God, we ask that you would do this in us – ALL of us…”

    Bless you man.

  • there were a number of pivotal times in the lives of my children and girls I have mentored where God would say “ok now get out of their way” There is a time to walk along side and pour into and a strategic time to let go. If you hold on beyond that point it becomes about us instead of them and then we find ourselves in the way of God. Not a good place to be.

    Thanks Seth…my experience with the WR so far has shown me that there is this network out there that has been built by those that have gone before that is a spiritual support for those out there doing the Kingdom work. When I was in Nicaragua with E Squad three young women showed up who were once racers and now are living in central america doing ministry in there. They heard we were in town and came to hang with the squad. They poured into the squad and relaxed and had fun with the squad leaders who they knew. I could see their souls were being filled up. Its like this global network of Kingdom workers/warriors. It’s very cool and it seems that, spiritually, they don’t go as far from you as you think!

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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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