The Buddy SystemBy Dan Vis
April 17, 2021
All this month, in our Monday Memos, we've been reviewing some of the key principles behind our ministry at FAST. This week's memo is a fitting conclusion. It lays out a step by step plan for beginning your own ministry of discipling.
There is a growing awareness among believers that the Great Commission is not just a call to evangelize, but also to disciple. It clearly calls us to baptize, but then it goes on to say we should teach those new believers the way of life Jesus taught (Matthew 28:19-2019 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.). If we would be true to our task, we must do both.
“The Great Commission is not just a call to evangelize, but also to disciple. If we would be true to our task, we must do both.”
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But when it comes to making disciples, few have any real idea what to do. Where do I start? What steps are involved? How does it really work? Others, eager to get started, launch out into a full-fledged effort to transform their entire church, and are surprised, perhaps discouraged, by the apparent lack of interest. They wonder if perhaps they missed something.
The solution in both situations is to follow what I call the Buddy System.
Look AroundThe first step in launching into the work of making disciples is to simply begin looking around. Christians all around us are struggling to be more diligent in prayer, Bible study, Scripture memory, time management, and in their personal witness--and they would be happy to have someone help them. Many would be willing to make real efforts if they had someone to encourage them, and they thought they could make some progress.
To begin your ministry of disciple-making, simply begin looking for one friend or two like this in your church.
Keep an eye out for individuals who express a desire to grow in specific areas of discipleship. Their interest might be quite narrow to begin with, but that's ok. You focus first where their motivation is strongest. Listed below are several specific areas of discipleship people often want to grow in:
- Scripture Memory. Perhaps someone will hear you quote a verse and express how they wish they could memorize like that. That's a possibility!
- Prayer. Someone comments they feel like their prayer life isn't as effective as they would like. Or that they wish they had someone to pray with.
- The Morning Watch. A surprising number of believers have little or no meaningful devotional life. They need strength for the day, or guidance for some decision, but don't know how to get it.
- Time Management. Have you ever heard someone complain about not being able to get everything done that they want? Maybe you could encourage and support each other in time management.
- Witnessing. If you are involved in some sort of ministry, it may be possible to find someone who wants to get plugged in somewhere. Find them and both of you could benefit.
This list is not exhaustive, but it makes the simple point: rather than launching a broad training program with lots of assignments and high levels of accountability, try to find someone who has some interest in growing in just one area. And use that as your open door to begin investing in their life.
Be sure to bathe this entire process in prayer. Jesus did not call the twelve until after He had spent an entire night in prayer (Luke 6:12-1312 And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. 13 And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles;). Investing in lives takes time--so you want to make sure you discern who God is leading you to, before you make a major commitment to them. Which brings us to the next step in the process...
Regular MeetingsOnce you have found someone with a genuine interest in some area of the Christian life, approach them about meeting together to encourage one another. We recommend weekly meetings, but depending on the situation, other schedules might work. And the meetings don't have to be long--just long enough to include time for setting specific goals, time for sharing how you both did on the previous week’s goals, and time for prayer together. If it doesn't work to get together in person, set up a time to meet together by phone, or video call.
Avoid turning these meetings into a class or training scenario. Rather, you are simply looking for a "buddy" to work with you on accomplishing some shared spiritual goal. You will have opportunities to share resources along the way, but more as a partner, than a teacher. In fact, it often works best to look for people with a desire to grow in areas you feel you are weak. Knowing you will meet weekly with a friend, and be held accountable for accomplishing the goals you set together is a great motivation to our own faithfulness. And your transparency, difficulties, and personal commitment, will all prove an inspiration to your partner!
“Knowing you will meet weekly with a friend, and be held accountable for accomplishing the goals you set together is a great motivation to our own faithfulness.”
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Note that you may be able to cultivate the buddy system with more than one person. Meet with one for prayer, another to work on memory verses, and still another for time management or some sort of ministry. We are all pressed for time, but as down to business Christians, we are called to a higher standard. And the best way to reach that standard is to find someone who wants to grow in any area we are weak, and strive for excellence together!
Broaden the TrainingAs you begin meeting with someone, questions will naturally come up about how to do specific things (setup a prayer journal, use a verse pack, find principles and applications, etc). The more familiar you are with our various memos, classes, and tools, the easier it will be to point them to some helpful resource. When starting out, it's often best to simply print out a memo or two in answer to a specific question, and give it to them. After sharing a couple such memos, you can point them to one of our short classes. In other words, introduce them gradually to our site, starting with the resources that interested them most.
You will also find many times, that interest in one area of discipleship often spreads to other areas. Someone who starts out interested in memorization, may start asking questions about how to study a verse, how to claim promises, how to carry out applications, or use a verse in witnessing. Someone who starts out with an interest in creating a prayer journal, may soon want to know how to find promises in their devotional study, how to memorize key promises, how to carry out impressions that come to you in prayer, etc.
Actually, it doesn't matter which area you launch from, it's only a matter of time before growth in that area touches on some other aspect of discipleship, because the spiritual life is all interconnected. If it doesn't happen spontaneously, start introducing news areas of growth yourself, based on their readiness.
Start a TeamIf you get to the point where you are meeting with 2-3 friends consistently, and they are each growing in their personal discipleship, it will be time to consider inviting them to go through a more systematic training program like our FAST discipleship track. You can open the invitation up to others, but it's fine to keep this first group small. The important thing is to ensure your group is committed, serious about growth, and willing to be held accountable. The relationships you have already built with these individuals is a huge plus!
Think instead of this group as your future leaders. This is your chance to all become more familiar with the curriculum, to round out your discipleship skills together, and to catch a vision for a larger work of disciple-making. Once you have a team, willing and equipped to help you begin reaching out to others, you can begin laying the ground work for a larger discipling ministry.
And keeping those members of your first team committed to discipling others will not only help reinforce what you learn together, but it will help raise up an even larger crop of workers ready to help reach out to others as well.
From life to life, the work will spread.
ConclusionMaking disciples is never easy. Helping someone become diligent in prayer, Bible study, or Scripture memory is hard. To help them become consistent with time management, and ministry is a struggle. And the fact is, it takes the challenge and encouragement of time together with fellow believers to reach these goals. Hebrews 3:13-1413 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;. The people we want to train need it, and we need it too.
If you are serious about wanting to begin making disciples, look around. Find a person or two interested in growing in some area you want to grow in too. Begin meeting regularly, setting goals and working on them together. Then little by little, let the training slowly expand into other areas, until you can gather a small group of three or four together for more systematic training.
In time, you'll have a well-trained, committed group of leaders, and be in a position to launch a larger discipling ministry in your church.
The Buddy System is a slow, simple process, built on friendships and time together, but it works.
CommentsDo you have a buddy you meet with regularly to grow in some specific area? If not, can you think of someone who might be interested? If you are, what can you do to expand the relationship into other areas? What are the advantages of the slow, steady approach encouraged in this paragraphs above?
|Posted by Berith Bermejo on 09/04/20|
|Dan, Marivic already commented on Day 2 of Unleashed. She also has a target audience in mind, but we're going to overlap in the health aspects of ministry.|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 09/03/20|
|That's awesome Berith! Ministry is definitely one of the areas we can use to start building bridges in relationships. Will be sure to welcome any new members in the unleashed class!|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 09/02/20|
|That's exactly what I'm talking about Patricia. We just start investing in people in whatever ways they are open to it, and we see where it leads. You never know! :)
It starts small Clarris, sometimes just one person, and then a small group perhaps, and one day, eventually, maybe a large part of the congregation. If you can get a ministry going and start showing signs of success, it's easier to attract others.
Be sure to check out our Unleashed class for tips on building an unleashed ministry in the local church...
|Posted by Dan Vis on 08/02/19|
|If you are a partner, or a member of a training center, you can sign up for any of our classes at any time. If not, you would have to wait until we feature it again. That's one of our more popular classes so I'm sure it will be back. This month's featured class is Spiritual Gifts.
As for your comment, Matthew 9:37-3837 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; 38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest. is one of the verses that most motivates me. It says the problem is not our evangelism but our lack of training. And that yes, the need for workers in the church, to do that training is an essential, vital, spiritual gift.
|Posted by Gatha Neidigh on 07/22/19|
|I have not been able to find a buddy and doing this alone is difficult. Please join me in prayer that God will bring someone. Thanks. Gatha|
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