By Steve Meeker
“We are in a discipleship relay race, not a marathon or a sprint.” — Jim Feiker
As we run this race, our strides are interconnected with those who have gone before us and the generations we have the privilege of running alongside. Discipleship is woven together with the “Great Cloud of Witnesses” who already have entered their rest, Christ followers who are making disciples, and those next to run (Hebrews 12:1).
Today, as you hit stride in your race of faith in Christ, remember to run in such a way that prepares you to persevere no matter the situations you face along the way. Cultivate spiritual habits that draw you closer to God so when difficulties come you are enabled to keep on keeping on. Endure and do not lose focus on Christ as He has selected you to be a part of the winning team and empowers you to run the segment of the race marked out for you.
Remember, God’s commands found in the Bible enable us to develop our spiritual stamina and are good for us. In the book of Colossians we read, “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving,” (Colossians 4:2).
Put into practice, this command enables you to depend on the One who gives the strength you need to step out in faith. Along with this, praying in thanksgiving provides perspective and reminds me I am not the author of my race, God is and my Heavenly Father is faithful to provide all I need to run throughout this present-day.
Running a relay of endurance, not only reminds me of what my loving Father has already accomplished, but with each stretch forward the vision of those Jesus calls me to disciple in life’s race becomes clearer. Although the baton is in my hand for a season, as one called to “Go and make disciples” I must be prepared to look for the handoff (Matthew 28:18-20).
How do I hand the baton off in discipleship? May I encourage you to ask God to enable you to see the potential in those who you will disciple and then commit to stride alongside them. This can only be done in relationship so it requires intentionality in setting a pace that cultivates building spiritual endurance. If they trip while the pace is being set, be prepared to provide a safe place for them to get back to their feet so they learn to run.
Now comes the hard part, the handoff. You might be tempted to hold on too long to the baton of ministry, but we must remember it’s not our baton and it was meant to be passed on. Encourage those whom you are blessed to disciple to open their hands and get ready to receive the baton. Place it in their hand and continue to step together, but then let them run!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such
opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – Hebrews 12:1-3
Please know, you have played a special role in the Scripture Union Latvia story and we are very thankful. Since LLI has partnered with us our Outdoor Camp Program has become a reality and we hope this video will be an encouragement to you.
Thank you for making it possible for trainers from LLI to come and serve our team of volunteers and staff. I still remember our first training where Zane joined us in Estonia as we were taught about team building in 2017.
Not only did God use the training for the team, but those 5 days changed the course of her life and she left convinced she was called to serve full-time in ministry through SU Latvia. Well, we took the next step and sent her on to LLI’s summer Transform Training in 2018 and saw her come back better equipped for her new role.
What has been a blessing for us is that the LLI team really steps alongside others. God had given us a vision to start an outdoor ministry for children in His creation, but we lacked tools to do this. Last year, your partnership made it possible for us to host the LLI Outdoor Ministry training at our campsite in Latvia.
Within a month after the training, a new ministry was launched called SAVA DABA. It is such a blessing that in partnership we were better prepared to begin this life-changing ministry and just recently celebrated its one-year anniversary! While you are watching the video below, may you also be encouraged and give thanks to God with us for this new ministry that is engaging children with God’s Big Story while they spend time in His creation.
Through Sava Daba our team helps children and young people from all over Latvia to discover our Heavenly Father, to learn about teamwork and understand Christian values as foundations of their lives.
This past spring, we were also able to send Zane and Richards, our newest team member, to Croatia to participate in a Discover Sports Ministry training. Not only did this training continue to inspire our young leaders, but Ricards felt it was there that God reignited his zeal for serving Jesus and depending on Him.
Please let me encourage you with one more result, this time from the LLI Courageous Peacemaking training which took place in Lithuania this October. Thirteen of our volunteers and staff went not knowing what to expect and they came back nurtured and really inspired to keep on going with the mission work through SU Latvia and Sava Daba.
It is such a blessing to see how God is raising up a whole new generation to develop the campsite and programs using His Creation that will reach others with God’s truth. What started as a seed of vision has become a reality and your partnership in developing young leaders, your prayers and support have all mattered.
Thank you for being a part of God’s story and His work through His kids serving with SU Latvia!
To God be the glory,
By Zane Ločmele
Alumna TRANSFORM training 2018 - Serving with Scripture Union Latvia
I have three great passions in my life – nature, children and being a Christ Follower. I have always loved to be in nature and explore God’s amazing Creation. I’ve always loved working with kids and helping them to discover the world around them. But all these years I had a feeling I was not doing enough. God was calling me somewhere else where I could use my potential more. In the meantime, I volunteered in "Scripture Union" in Latvia.
Last summer, I got to taste a little bit of the Leadership Lab International (LLI) from Croatia. There I met Steve, Michael, Brenda and some students that chose to join the LLI 2018 team, which helped me in making the final decision to participate in the program. I started to see how I can combine my three biggest passions and follow God’s will. Those were very special and important 5 days.
After this LLI Training in Estonia, I felt that it was the right time to make some changes in my life and go full time in Ministry work. I left my job, but I knew that I needed to grow as a leader, discover my strengths and weakness, get more practice in Camp Ministry. So Leadership Lab International was the perfect option for me. I went there having no idea how important this summer would be.
It is not just a program. This summer I discovered new things about God and myself every day, I improved my language skills and expanded my English vocabulary. I learned about my culture’s impact on how I was raised and how I think. I challenged myself to try new things like rock climbing and rappelling, archery, canoeing, orienteering, doing crafts with leather and wood burning.
But most importantly I made lifelong friendships with people from all over the world. I met so many amazing campers and volunteers this year that helped me to clearly see God’s love and care for His people.
My LLI team and staff became my family this summer. We built a team and learned together, we prayed and worshiped our Heavenly Father together. We cooked and traveled. We spent countless hours laughing until bedtime. We helped each other grow and become true God’s disciples. We served together spiritually - working in different Ministries, and practically - cleaning the camp place and doing yard work.
And above all I had an amazing support team who took care of me: I had special debrief times with Steve and our mentor Megan, coffee talks with Jenny and Brenda, and a supportive prayer group back at home.
When I came to Croatia at the beginning of this summer, I had lost my joy in life and had many insecurities. But God had already started His work in me.
One of my prayers during this summer was that God would take me as a useful tool in His hands. There were some special moments in camps when just a simple conversation or one of my actions inspired some campers to make changes in their lives. One special girl, who had been struggling with faith for many years, had many important questions about life. I had the amazing opportunity to be her counselor. She decided to stop being afraid and make some changes in her spiritual life. These moments were my answered prayers. I had to be there this summer because God used me in His work.
And that is so amazing! I grew week by week, I becoming more confident in myself, I discovered new leadership skills, learned that I am a peacemaker, encourager and team player and, most importantly, I renewed my relationship with God and regained joy.
Croatia will always have a special place in my heart because of the people and relationships which I built there. We have continued to communicate, praying together and for each other.
I can surely say that I came home much more equipped and prepared for my new role in Scripture Union Latvia. And also in this new journey, I continue to be mentored by the team during successes and happy moments and also during struggles in life and Ministry work.
by Kurt Bekins
Kurt and his family recently moved to Croatia to continue making disciples and to serve the church. Pray their consistent life, where action matches faith and proclamation, would bring many to glorify God (Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:11-12)
When I was a kid, my cousins and I loved to play with toy cars. We treasured these classic 1:64 scale die-cast toy vehicles! We were trading 3 for 1 in some cases, not because of the price paid (in pop can money), but because of their personal worth. Some of these cars I happened upon in the store, others I looked for hard and long or traded as many as 6 cars to get them from my cousins. Less than a year ago our family made a big move, having to sell or give away much of our belongings. But you know what? I took along a few of those “precious” cars for the nostalgia. These $1 toys were still so valuable to me.
A Hidden Treasure and a Valuable Pearl
I was thinking about the worth of these cars while I was studying Matthew 13. In chapter 13, Matthew displays seven of Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom of Heaven. Here are the fifth and sixth:
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (NIV)
Both of these short parables show us the sacrificial cost of being a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. Both the man and the merchant went and sold everything to obtain their treasure. They both sold EVERYTHING they had. Those who take serious the value of the Kingdom don’t see the cost as an obligation, but pursue it JOYFULLY!
The man was glad to part ways with all that he had because his long-term return would be far greater. And the merchant would have been an expert in the value of pearls and yet he sold everything he owned for this pearl of far greater value.
Counting the Cost
When I think about the application of this passage, I think about the Rich Young Ruler who came to Jesus with his flattering compliments and great knowledge of the law. He was genuinely seeking the Kingdom. But he wouldn’t set aside his wealth to follow Jesus, a far greater treasure (Col. 2:1-3). The cost was far too great for him. “Silly ruler,” we say in our minds.
There is a cost to following Jesus. It will cost you everything. It may cost you your possessions, selfish desires, wealth, worldly status, relationships, or your very life. But it is worth so much more.
Proverbs 3:15 “She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her.”
Go joyfully. Pursue the treasure. Cherish Christ in your life!
By Jim Feiker and Steve Meeker
This blog is a combination of thoughts from Jim and Steve based off of Steve's mentor, Jim's original article "The Mentor's Magnet - A Life Manifesting Christ."
So what is the magnet in a disciple maker's life that draws people to learn how to walk with Jesus Christ? It is not our spiritual gifts, our experience or our great ministry skills. It is the very nature, character, and fragrance of God’s presence in our lives.
It is Christ resident within us, living His life in us and reflecting His life through us. God-scented people are at every stage of life - still growing, still vibrant and fragrant, still fruitful, still proclaiming God’s presence and character, drawing out others into a closer relationship with Christ.
While mentoring, you may have faced doubts, thoughts of inadequacy, and a lack of confidence floods the heart only to face head-on the question, “Do I really have what it takes to disciple others?”
Yes, here is when a discipler’s life is thrown back onto the potter’s wheel of Scripture and once again reshaped with God’s gentle hands and His word to take these earthen vessels and remind us the work is not ours it is His.
As only a loving Father can do, He takes these times of struggle and produces in the life of the mentor an increased desire to grow as His child and to love more deeply those He has given us to care for as they develop in relationship with Him.
Memories of the impact mentoring has made in my life and the countless lives of believers I know from around the world renew a commitment to keep going, learning and giving so others may grow in their love for Jesus.
Disciple making requires, no, it demands we continue with the heart of a learner. Why? Because discipling is an art form, in that everyone is uniquely different, and God is working in his or her life in a distinct way. We are only channels and dispensers of God’s grace to others.
Most of what we learn about discipling comes from trial and error and from God’s unique shaping of our lives. Everyone’s disciple making style is different, based on his or her gifting, capacity, personality, and vision.
Your discipling will reflect how God has shaped you, but it always must begin by abiding in Jesus (John 15:1-5). Only then will you be effective in going and making disciples as you draw close to Him so your character and life may reflect the heart of a Christ-follower committed to the Great Commission.
Success in discipling is quite opposite of the world’s view of success. It is not selfishly driven, but Christ focused and an overflowing of His life in us to others. God is not interested in perfect disciplers, but in those who are progressing in their growth. Progressing, not perfect, character models is God’s desire that He will use to point others to follow after Him (1 Timothy 4:15).
If we wait until we are perfect, we will never make a strategic investment of our lives into people. It is not our skills, experiences, or degrees, that make the significant difference, it is our character. It has been said that the crisis in today’s leadership, is a crisis of character, and the crisis of character is a crisis of being deeply rooted into God.
Consider your steps wisely and take time to plug in and depend on Jesus for only then will you be able to “Go and make disciples of all nations,” (Matthew 28:19a).
By Steve Meeker & Jim Feiker
Jim stepped alongside many young leaders including myself and lived out these truths. As he wrote, often this model was difficult for others to understand and measure, but those who experienced it not only value it, but their lives were changed forever.
Discipling must begin with an incarnational relationship with a person. It is essential that it be in an alongside style (not distant coaching thru phone, or in a large group setting). Only then in an authentic, loving relationship, does a person recognize the power of life-on-life modeling as it moves into transforming the heart.
This kind of discipleship, in the context of relationship, is more easily transferred in a cross-culture situation; it fosters and opens greater understanding of the person since we can observe the person up close, and listen to their emotional language in real life situations, and provides credibility to effectively speak at crucial times into their life.
Distant coaching should only be done when the people know each other and when you are focusing on ministry skills and competence. It is very hard to move into the heart of a person without the trust and love of relationship and the physical power and presence of relating and sharing life mutually together.
Although proclaiming God’s truth in a large group context is vital whether it be evangelistic or teaching messages, nothing can replace our Lord’s command to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).
So what are some of the marks of relational discipleship?
Discipleship is designed to facilitate learning rather than telling others what to do. In this framework, relationship is fostered and those being discipled actively and personally get involved in the learning process. As a mentor, it’s not my role to be heard, but to develop skills to listen and draw others out with thought provoking questions as I walk alongside them.
In this context, those who you disciple take ownership and integrate biblical truth that changes their character and not just fills their head with knowledge. It equips them to adapt and apply principles and skills as they step forward in life and provides them with a safe environment to process what they are learning.
To be clear, relational discipleship is not just listening, but it involves reflection and loving confrontation when needed as permission is asked to share insights God provides. Because relationship is fostered, the mentor gains discernment on how to tailor learning opportunities to the learning styles of those they are discipling.
Here in relationship, that spans longer seasons of life, we taste the joy of watching God develop His people with the vision and direction of the call He has on their lives. As we join with them in the process of becoming followers of Christ, ours is not the role of being seen, but in moving to the background in order to support, encourage and resource disciples as they step forward in faith to become and participate in all God has prepared them to be involved with before the foundation of the world.
By Jim Feiker & Steve Meeker
Jim, one of my mentors, lived out interceding for those he mentored. The original article was written by Jim and I am blessed with the privilege of adapting these articles for the LLI Blog ministry. Original Article Title "Intercession the Indispensable Priority in Coaching"
INTERCESSION — The Indispensable Priority of Relational Disciplers
“There is no more significant involvement in another’s life than prevailing, consistent prayer. It is more helpful than the gift of money, more encouraging than a strong sermon, more effective than a compliment, more reassuring than a physical embrace.” – Chuck Swindoll
Disciple making begins with intercession for those we have the privilege to step alongside. To understand prayer’s importance in discipleship, let’s look at examples from the prayer lives of Moses and Jesus.
Moses believed in intercession and modeled it for Joshua – Exodus 17:8-15
In the face of battle with the Amalekites, Moses appointed Joshua as the military commander to lead Israel in a counterattack. This was Joshua’s first act in battle as a leader and was foundational in preparing him for his future leadership role. Israel also lacked experience and now was the time for Joshua and the newly delivered nation to learn first-hand to trust God in the face of opposition.
After choosing a select band of warriors and discerning the best plan of attack, Joshua was assured by Moses all the resources he needed would be provided and Joshua would be victorious in battle. How would Moses support this young leader? He knew the most effective way to back his successor was to engage in intercession.
Moses experience with God gave him confidence that victory in battle was not achieved by numbers, past accomplishments, knowledge about God or even giftedness and skills in battle. He knew Joshua needed to learn victory in battle is God’s responsibility and it is won through intercession. Moses, Hur and Aaron journeyed to the top of a hill overlooking the battleground and focused their energies on intercession. It was a joint partnership in conflict, with each member playing an important role. However, the ultimate battle was not won on the field; it was won on the hill in prayer. God enabled them to triumph over their enemies!
Jesus believed in intercession and modeled it to Peter (Luke 22:31), and to the Twelve
Jesus told Peter that Satan had desired to sift him as wheat. “But I have prayed for you, that your faith would not fail,” (Luke 22:32).
Another battle had ensued, this time in Peter’s life. Jesus knowing His follower completely was keenly aware Satan wanted Peter’s faith to fail. Young potential leaders are always high on Satan’s radar to knock them out of the race and in this conflict Jesus knew the coming assault would lead to Peter’s failure; yet, His intercession protected the faith of His follower. Peter denied knowing His Lord marking his life with brokenness and failure, but the experience was tailored by God in His love to reshape Peter’s heart and prepare Him to be a humble leader.
Prayer was not only a part of Jesus’ life and what He modeled, it was His life! Victory for Peter was won because Jesus knows how heaven works and He engaged in what was most important – intercession for the faith of His beloved disciple.
When entering into a discipleship relationship it is paramount for us to remember to pray. Teach us to pray Jesus so we may step alongside those you bring into our spheres of influence as we obey your commands to love others as you have loved us.
By Amy Kellogg
Alumna TRANSFORM training 2014
When I returned from my summer in Croatia, trying to process all that had happened felt like swimming through the thick honey I grew accustomed to spreading on fresh bread in the mornings.
The two months and the memories that they carried had blurred themselves together in my mind. They left me feeling disoriented and in need of some time to think, pray, and sit in silence. After processing with many patient friends and mentors, I came to the conclusion that the Leadership Lab International (LLI) program was one of the hardest yet the most rewarding things that I have ever done.
Being part of LLI in Croatia pushed me to put some immaturity to death, and realize that I still have so much left. One of the ways LLI helped me grow was through the mentoring that happened through the program. LLI revolves around equipping the next generation of leaders to be passionate about following Christ and learning to lead others in the same direction.
LLI stands out from other leadership programs in that it is not program focused, but rather leader focused. The LLI mentors don’t only want to equip participants so that they can have a successful summer camp, but they want to develop life-long leaders who can serve in any cross-cultural context.
The truths I learned in LLI would be practical in any ministry. I was not being trained for just one task that would only happen that summer. Instead I was enabled to learn about myself and my team, express what I was learning and understanding from the biblical and team-building material, and at times make mistakes while I was figuring out what I believed. This was all in order that I would take the truths to heart that we were learning in the program.
The LLI mentors created a safe yet challenging atmosphere. We were allowed to make mistakes in the learning process because of the support that was offered. The LLI mentoring was also outstanding because our leaders clearly defined themselves as such, leaders.
Often in Western culture, the church is more comfortable viewing pastors, elders, and church leaders as friends instead of people God has put in authority over them. The mentors, very much took the leadership position over the program. They were of course hospitable, kind, and humble, but they also used every conversation and situation as a time of teaching and corporate learning.
It was refreshing to not only be instructed on how to lead in a practical way, but to also have a clearly defined example before me. We watched our mentors depend fully on God for everything that they needed, while holding unashamedly to convictions and integrity pressed into their hearts by their relationship with Christ. Overall, it is the mentoring that made LLI Croatia stand out from any other leadership or ministry program I have ever been a part of.
I believe that God’s work in this ministry is just beginning, and I envy anyone who has the chance to experience this program in the future. I came home from Croatia challenged, well-equipped, more dependent on my Lord, and excited for a new chapter of life in which I am more equipped to serve Jesus. If students are intentional about going into the program with a mind and heart that is ready to learn, the outcome will be beyond beneficial not only for the summer but for life.
By Jim Feiker and edited by Steve Meeker
Jim was my dear mentor and he lived out the truths in this article. The original article was written by Jim and I am blessed with the privilege of adapting these articles for the LLI Blog ministry. Original Article Title "The Invisible Ministry of Personal Spiritual Coaching"
Behind the scenes is where disciple making essentially takes place. As a mentor, the ministry of investing your life into others is out of the public eye and needs no recognition. Your desire is to push others forward into deeper significant relationship with God and those in their spheres of influence. Mentors are not shining the spotlight on themselves, rather we delight in seeing others develop beyond us and becoming what God intended them to be. In this relationship, the focus is not receiving but joy in giving, believing and enabling others to accomplish their vision and dreams.
Do you know what characterizes the discipler?
You need to have a heart that nurtures and steps alongside others to resource them as they pursue their dreams. Mentoring is about making others successful and not prioritizing our ministry and reputation.
Barnabas was this kind of a person. As you know, God used him to play a significant part in Paul’s life. Although, he led a ministry team with Paul in Antioch and was sent out on the first missionary journey to the Gentiles, Barnabas ends up taking the backseat.
After Paul moves into missionary leadership as the apostle to the Gentiles, Barnabas moves into the background as a discipler in the church in Antioch. Outside of Acts, only one reference is made to Barnabas in 1 Corinthians 9:6 regarding their travels. Barnabas still traveled to the Gentile world, but he remained in the background, out of the focus of the Christian culture. Perhaps there is no greater joy for the mentor than to see those you have invested in, walking with God, and in the limelight functioning effectively for Jesus Christ.
Another mentor I want to remind you about is Nathan. As a priest, Nathan had a major impact and role in David’s life. Relational disciplers are given divine moments to encounter the lives of others at critical times in their life just as we see in Scripture. David would have never moved on in his leadership, if God had not sent Nathan to speak into his life. But again, he is whisked off by God from those visible encounters with David, and hidden behind the chapters and scenes of history and Scripture.
Barnabas and Nathan never questioned or felt insignificant to God by walking into obscurity. They knew that success in ministry was not based on their accomplishing great things; it was in developing great people. They were never mentioned in the hall of Faith in Hebrews 11, but they were significant leaders in the lives of others.