Jordan Baun, Coordinator of Outreach & Evangelism
Last week I laid a Biblical foundation for ministry outside the walls of our churches. Today, I want to give a few practical suggestions for what that might look like for you this summer. I chose the word “suggestions” with purpose. This is not meant to be an exhaustive look at discipleship and evangelism but rather some humble suggestions to jumpstart your personal ministry as we come out of stay-at-home orders.
Before going all in, take time to talk with those in your church leadership. They may be planning and praying for someone to step in and continue or start a ministry. You could be the answer to their prayers! Whether it’s the head pastor, youth pastor, or a deacon, talk with someone about the vision for ministry this summer. Don’t be afraid to contribute your own ideas as well. Start by listening, but if asked, share possibilities you have in mind or plans you have already made to be an encouragement to the church.
Once you’ve given some thought to what you would like to do, determine who you could invest in this summer. Think, “Who could I help to take the next step spiritually?” and also, “Who could help me take my next step?” One of the biggest mistakes we can make is believing we don’t need discipleship. None of us have arrived on this side of heaven. Find someone from a group of older, wiser, more mature Christians who can pour into your life. (Use a church directory to help you think outside your normal circle.) Then, take what’s been given to you, find others your age and younger, and pass on what you’ve learned! As a college student, you have tremendous opportunities to shape and develop those younger than you. This summer is a great time to invest in them!
Once you have people in mind, the toughest part can be trying to get something started. It’s often awkward (although, usually worse in our minds than reality) to walk up to someone and say, “Can I disciple you?” or even “Can you disciple me?” Don’t be afraid to be creative here in finding something to bond over. Running, hiking, cooking or any number of hobbies can be a natural way to kickstart something!
However, don’t allow it to be just a hobby. As you find something to connect over, ask if it would be okay to include a Bible study or to read a good Christian book together. There are so many ways to turn our everyday lives into discipleship and ministry opportunities, but, in my experience, they don’t typically happen accidentally. You will have to be intentional about including spiritual growth opportunities.
Now, maybe you are wondering how to choose what to do. At times, my discipleship experiences have included going through a specific Bible study or reading a good Christian book together. Other times, they have been a mix of the two. There are merits to each. A good way to combine both discussion over Scripture and a book would be to discuss the weekly Sunday sermon(s). Knowing that someone is going to regularly ask me about the sermon helps me to focus on it every week. Accountability like this also creates an ongoing impact of the preaching ministry.
Here’s why I am a proponent of using good Christian books for discipling. Ultimately, it is the Spirit of God through the Word of God that changes hearts. If your study of another book doesn’t push you deeper into the Word with a greater understanding or passion, then I would ditch the book and stick exclusively to the Word. However, in my experience, good books on spiritual growth can help in two distinct ways. First, they launch young believers into the Word. Second, new believers and spiritually stunted believers can be helped by authors who tactfully address a number of specific truths (often hard truths to address) that must be applied in order for believers to learn to feed themselves through the Word.
In no way do I want to steer you away from a Bible Study. Scripture is the source for true, lasting, Biblical change. Utilize good books as much as they drive you to respond to the Word of God.
Lest you think I have forgotten about evangelism in this COVID culture, consider that, right now, the best opportunities to invite unbelievers in to hear the gospel may include some of these instances of Christians meeting together outside the church. I imagine you have experienced the currently awkward routine of simply going to the grocery store. Lingering to look for the right vegetables feels like a crime! It seems that some people will be nervous for quite some time about gathering indoors for a church service. These very people might not step foot inside a church for the foreseeable future, but, just like the rest of us, they are stir-crazy. Maybe, they would be willing to meet in a small group to enjoy an activity together.
Doing life-on-life ministry outside the church walls may be easier and more well-received by unbelievers we invite to join us. Whatever you choose as a hobby, find ways to use it for discipleship and evangelism.
In review, talk with your church leaders, find people to invest in, find reasons to get together, be strategic in your discipleship, and enjoy this season of life as a recipient and agent of spiritual growth. God has given us this unprecedented time for ministry. Let’s make the most of it!
 Here is a short list of books I have used or would recommend for spiritual growth. Essential Virtues by Jim Berg, What is the Gospel? By Greg Gilbert, Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin, The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness by Kevin DeYoung, Need to Know: Your Guide to the Christian Life by Gary Millar, Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines by David Mathis, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.