This is part 4 of a 4 part series about the CoJourners method, an evangelism paradigm designed to help you participate in others' spiritual journeys. If haven't already, I suggest going back and reading the first 3 posts first.
A full week since we started talking about being a CoJourner, we have reached our final post. This will wrap up our series, and hopefully leave you with a clear picture of how you can participate in others' spiritual journeys in a way that points them towards Jesus.
At the risk of being overly simplistic, there are really 3 types of Christians in the world. The first are brand new believers. They have just made a decision to follow Christ. They are young and immature in their faith. The second are struggling believers. These people may have been following Christ for 2 years or 20, but for some reason are struggling in their faith. They may not have grown or matured much since their initial decision to follow Christ. They are "stuck." The final group are mature believers. This group of people is not defined by how long they have been Christians, but by their character and maturity level. They have grown since their initial decision to follow Christ. They have a solid faith, are mature enough to feed and maintain their own walk with the Lord, and can and should be leading others.
The first two sets of believers are where the role of the Mentor comes in. No matter whether you have just led someone to Christ, or met a believer who is struggling to grow, the needs of both groups are quite similar.
The apostle Paul gives a perfect example of the ways we are called to build up new and struggling believers. 1 Thessalonians actually lists five specific ways Paul sought to help build new believers up in their faith.
1. Prayed for them consistently. (1 Thessalonians 1:2, 3; 3:10, 11-13).
2. He spent time with them, encouraging them on. (1 Thessalonians 2:6-12).
3. He wrote them. (1 & 2 Thessalonians were follow-up letters from Paul).
4. He encouraged their relationships in community with each other. (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 3:6; 4:9, 10; 5:11, 12-15, 26-27)
5. He sent another believer to build into them when he couldn’t be there himself. 1 Thessalonians 3:1, 2)
We want people to grow in their faith like Paul did! But too often we don't know exactly how. The most valuable thing I've learned about growth in the Christian life is this:
Grace + Truth + Time = Growth
The growth environment must have all of these things, or a believer simply will not grow. Grace (or love) in conjunction with truth (especially God's word) must both be present consistently, over time.
As a mentor, it is our responsibility to help provide and establish these things. And if you've learned anything from our series, you can probably guess that we find all of these things in the context of relationships.
Along with the Lord, there are three other relational context in which a new or struggling believer can experience grace and truth other time, as illustrated by the diagram above.
1. One-on-one: A relationship with a more mature believer who can encourage and guide.
2. Small group: A relationship with a group of believing friends with whom they can do life.
3. Large group: A relationship with a believing community which provides a fuller experience of God’s grace and truth. (This obviously would ideally be a Bible-believing church.)
Ideally, a believer will have all three of these relational contexts. However, a believer must have at least two out of the three to sustain healthy growth over the long term.
So what does this mean for you? You, as a mentor, must help the new/struggling believer make one other relational connection outside of you.
I know, from experience, that it is so, so tempting to make it a one-man show when it comes to following up with a new believer. We love them! We want to help them grow! They already know us, and going to a new group or church can be scary. But what happens if you aren't available? Or you are lacking the time to spend with them? What happens when you simple can't be there for them?
Making ourselves the only connection a new believer has sets them up for failure, because they will depend too heavily on us. We make their discipleship about us, instead of about Jesus.
Every single time I have seen a new believer fail to grow, it is because they have failed to become vitally connected to at least two of these relational context. No matter how excited they were after their initial decision, no matter how faithful they were in meeting with me for discipleship, if they did not connect elsewhere, they ultimately failed to grow. Many eventually choose to walk away from Jesus. I cannot emphasize enough how critically important it is for us to make sure new believers find several different points of connection within the body of Christ. Jesus told us not only to "go and make disciples" but also to "teach them to obey all [he] has commanded [us.]" (Matthew 28:19,20)
Bringing someone to Christ is truly only the first step in a life long process. We simple cannot stop after someone has prayed to receive Christ, thinking our job is done. It has really only just begun!
The easiest and most practical way I can think of going about this is to simply invite them to go someplace you are already going. Take them to church with you, and help them get involved in Sunday school. Invite them to your small group Bible study, and make sure they make a friend or two. If you don't have the time to disciple them, help connect them with a mature believer who would be willing to disciple them on an ongoing basis. Make sure they know how important it will be for their new faith to fully invest in these places, and then - step back and watch the Holy Spirit move!
In recent years, there has been a surge of interest in the concept of "discipleship", or mentorship of new believers. As a result, there are a tremendous amount of resources out there, available for your use. Below is a list of a few that I have found most helpful:
Cru Press Green - Free, printable resources including Bible studies, devotionals, and a multitude of articles on lots of different subjects.
"Gospel Centered Discipleship" by Jonathan Dodson - A book that deals with both the theology, as well as the practical "nitty-gritty" of gospel centered discipleship. Encouraging and helpful.
"The Cross-Centered Life" - An amazingly practical and encouraging resource. I use it with all of my new Bible studies. It helps to form a basic "Jesus-centered" frame work through which a new believer can view and orient their whole lives.
"Your New Life" - A series of 5 printable studies that take new believers through basic concepts like assurance of salvation, forgiveness, and growth. The perfect tool for brand new believers that gives needed information while also giving you the chance to share things like how to read the Bible, how to pray, etc.
Have you had the chance to mentor someone else in their faith? Has someone mentored you? What have you found encouraging or helpful in this process?
I firmly believe that every Christian has been commanded to share their faith with others, and to participate in the growth and formation of the faith of new believers. We are all called to be a part of what God is doing, around the world, but sadly far too few pull out of this process because of fear, intimidation, or lack of knowledge. "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few." - Matthew 9:37. Ultimately, that's why we choose to become missionaries, and why I wrote these series!
Now it's up to you - you have the knowledge. Get out there, and I'm sure you'll find that we're all looking for someone to come along side us in our spiritual journeys. It's just a matter of caring enough to join in.
I hope you have found this series helpful, encouraging, and practical. If you would like more information or ideas for how to be a part of the spiritual journey of others, I've found the books "Questioning Evangelism" and "God Space" to be encouraging and practical guides in growing in this area.