by Vicki Gratchell
Melissa shared her story and I sat in silence, listening. I wasn’t shocked by the content she shared; many people have similar stories. I was struck silent because the words were that of a dear friend and thus the characters in her story were also characters in my own. All I could utter were silent prayers for God to intervene as I imagined the possible outcomes of what I heard.
Each One Can Shepherd
There was a third woman meeting with us that day, and as I silently pleaded with God for words, she opened the Scriptures and began to speak life and truth. She reminded Melissa of the power and the promises of God. She affirmed her identity as a child of God and identified lies the enemy would have Melissa believe. As she spoke, the power of three brought assurance to my soul. God had this. At a time when I held back, another stepped forward.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV).
In Navigators Church Ministries, we encourage ministry leaders to envision disciplemaking relationally. Rather than creating a pattern of learning only from experts, we encourage the passing of disciplemaking to every believer. Each one can pass to others what he or she has seen and experienced. Each one can shepherd. That day someone who had been shepherded became a shepherd. A disciple began transformation toward becoming a disciplemaker. She imitated what she had seen modeled: dependence on God, referral to the Scriptures, and yielding to what the Holy Spirit was doing in the life of another person.
What happened after that day’s meeting? Two weeks later, the three of us met again. Melissa’s countenance was different, peaceful. She had taken seriously the charge to discard what the enemy would say about her and to believe what God has to say about His children. She had renewed her commitment to believing prayer for her loved ones and had taken several courageous steps in conversation. She had chosen to change her focus from current circumstances to trusting in the kind of transformation only God can bring.
Melissa’s circumstances did not change immediately but the other characters in her story have demonstrated an increased awareness of their need for God’s intervention. One is cautiously searching the Scriptures and asking Melissa for help. Another is talking to God again following a long hiatus. Melissa’s commitment to trust the Lord in a time of crisis has made a difference, one fueled by the fact that Melissa was surrounded by two other women who would bolster her and trust God with her when it was most difficult to do so alone.
Building Disciplemaking into Church Culture
How can we move this devotion to each other, to prayer, and to the Scriptures into the wider culture of the church? How do we include others who have never experienced this kind of life-changing ministry? How do we become a church that matures as believers partner in prayer and accountability? Navigators Church Ministries specializes in this. We model and teach Life-to-Life® disciplemaking in a small context and multiply this to wider church culture.
Building something new into an established culture can be challenging. We all tend to do what we know and are accustomed to. That’s why we model disciplemaking within the context of churches rather than telling them how to do it. The old adage, “More is caught than taught,” is never more accurate than when it comes to disciplemaking. We can imitate what we have experienced but many “how” questions remain unanswered when we are taught or told new information without experiencing it for ourselves. As we experience being discipled within a relationship, we learn the intentionality, accountability, and genuine encouragement of walking with others in disciplemaking relationships.
Navigators believe in the power of small. We believe in the progress of deep. We endorse working in twos and threes for maximum impact at the soul level. We can be honest in the deepest part of our lives with one or two close friends who will faithfully listen, speak honestly with us, and point us back to Jesus. This is the turf where transformation happens. This is where we deal deeply with real life. This is how we make disciples.
Vicki Gatchell is a Navigators Church Ministries Representative in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area and also part of the Navigator Church Ministries Canada.