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
By Tony Nzanza
Committed to making disciples and equipping and empowering an emerging generation of servant leaders, Tony imparts four key lessons about leadership he has learned along this journey.
Being a Christian leader is one of the most fulfilling and challenging roles as people tend to find creative ways to scrutinize your leadership. Along the way of learning to lead, I have found these four lessons to be the ones that resonate closest to my heart.
TRUSTING GOD: One area that is easier said than done is trusting God regardless of the situation. I have found it easier to trust God when things are going well. However, my faith is tested from all directions when I am facing a challenge. We all want to be in control and, when we are not, our world is turned upside down. I am learning every day to trust in God even when I do not know or control the outcome. Remember Noah when he was building an ark and there was no flood? He kept trusting even though others may have ridiculed his work.
Trusting God means taking a step forward in obedience even when we cannot see the road in front of us.
ACCOUNTABILITY: We live in a secular society where truth is viewed as subjective and people are masters of their own destinies. Being accountable requires me to embrace a humble spirit, believing that I should answer for all my actions either in private or public space. This is not an easy thing as we have to subject ourselves to another fallen human being who might have glaring short-comings! Accountability is being an open book as we give permission to others to make harsh or friendly assessments of our character and behavior. In my African context, accountability is very close to what we call ‘Ubuntu’ which basically means you are a person through others.
It is a realization that we were not created to live in isolation but in community. As a leader, I have intentionally surrounded myself with mentors who have permission to speak into my life. I strongly believe that no one can be a good leader unless he or she is in an intentional accountability relationship.
VULNERABILITY: The world continues to bombard us with images of strong leadership and some of these characteristics are difficult to attain. Most leadership training courses do not spend enough time teaching the growing leaders to embrace vulnerability. It is very sad that vulnerability is viewed as weakness and timidity and is scorned upon. Like the apostle Paul, I have found out that, “when I am weak then I am strong.” Vulnerable leaders allow others to see that God is not yet done with His work in them.
Vulnerability means humbly embracing our brokenness so that others can see we are work in progress!
BE PRESENT: Every single day there are things that are competing for our attention, ranging from our mobile screens to our social media platforms. We are a generation that is more connected than any other generation and yet we are lonelier than ever. We can be present physically but a million kilometers away from others due to social media disruptions. One of the lessons that I am learning is to be present with people. I refuse to have my attention forced into a detour because of an incoming call or message. It is sad that some of us rush to engage with our screens while we neglect to engage face to face with others.
Being present communicates that we value and respect the person we are speaking to and people leave the conversation encouraged.
Meet Tony Nzanza,
Member of the SU Global Team and Field Development Director for English speaking Africa. He has served in many leadership roles, the most recent one being a board member of a Christian college in Cape Town, South Africa.
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 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.
By Melody J. Wachsmuth
Melody is a writer and researcher, based in Croatia, who is curious about people’s lives, spirituality, and how the two intersect in their present context. Consequently, she loves to collect and write people’s stories.
Recently I found myself sitting in my car, feeling very sorry for myself as it was being towed down the highway. Lately, a lot of things had been breaking down, and this particular day seemed to be going from bad to worse. As I thought back over the previous two days, however, I had the sudden realization that there could have been another outcome. There were, in fact, a few warning signs, or at least opportunities for other choices that would have helped me avoid the expensive towing, if not an overpriced Sunday mechanic.
The red battery light had been on for a day before we needed to start our 250 km journey. Shortly after we began, the car died on the side of the highway, only to restart again after 20 minutes. This miraculously allowed us to coast into the next gas station before dying again. There, friendly police officers made some calls to the next town over to find a mechanic, but as the car seemed to be driving again, we felt confident that we could slowly make our way back and so sped right by that exit. However, it died again shortly thereafter, but somehow we made it to the next gas station. It was at this gas station that an empty tow truck just happened to be fueling up, and I finally gave up the plan of making it to our destination.
As I sat perched high up on the tow truck, I realized there were really two different ways of telling this story. In fact, I had been putting the events in the wrong narrative structure. This wasn’t actually a “woe is me” story where everything difficult was happening in one day. Instead, it was a story about me being flippant about warnings, a story of me discarding the offers of help and provision. This was a story about me forging ahead in my own way, ignoring the subtle invitations to make wiser decisions, instead playing on chance to save a few bucks.
In Proverbs, Wisdom personified calls to those who will listen to her, and predicts calamity for those who ignore her counsel and reproof. Solomon urges his son to seek wisdom with intention: “…making your ear attentive to wisdom, and inclining your heart to understanding, if you indeed cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures...” (2: 2-4)
These are complicated times in our world. It can often be difficult to make wise decisions that will help us to live, as described by the prophet Micah, doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God. What does this look like in the day-to-day decisions and uncertainty that we often face? Being attentive to the stories we are telling ourselves is vitally important as we seek to understand God’s ways and will in our world. When I reframed my story from one of me as the hapless victim to one depicting me as ignoring God’s continued invitation into his provision, I gained the wisdom to understand the interaction between God and myself that had been transpiring all day.
Ultimately, Solomon notes, God is the giver of wisdom, and this will ensure that “we will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path.”
As it turned out, acquiescing to that tow truck mysteriously waiting for us at the gas station was not about a broken down car at all—but a lesson in listening and paying attention, in repentance and acknowledgement of foolishness, and most importantly, accepting God’s extravagant provision and grace.