The Ways of the Alongsider: Growing Disciples Life to Life192
The Ways of the Alongsider: Growing Disciples Life to Life192
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The Ways of the Alongsider
Growing Disciples Life to Life
By Bill Mowry
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2016 William J. Mowry
All rights reserved.
THE WAY OF THE AMATEUR
Alongsiders Do It from Love
Jesus aimed to start a movement which would reach the whole world. He had three years in which to do it. And He deliberately devoted Himself to twelve men. ... It occurred to me that such a strategy could not be improved upon.
RICHARD HALVERSON, FORMER CHAPLAIN TO THE U.S. SENATE
A new neighbor moved in across the street from Jack and Mary. It didn't take long before Jack walked across the street to meet the newcomer, Matt. Through several conversations, Jack discovered that Matt was a widower and was dealing with cancer. In a natural way, Jack shared his faith in Christ with Matt. But he did more. He and Mary decided to serve Matt — Mary would take over meals, and Jack would do home repairs. They invited Matt to their neighborhood Bible study and then to church. Matt came once to both events.
"Why didn't he come back?" I asked.
"I think he didn't come back because he was self-conscious about his frequent coughing spells," Jack said.
There's a happy ending to this story. Before he passed away from cancer, Matt trusted Christ.
Matt wasn't a project to Jack and Mary. They didn't love him just because they had recently attended a witnessing seminar. They didn't invite him to church just because it was "friendship Sunday." Nor did Jack start a faith conversation just because he was a pastor. In fact, Jack had been a meat-cutter all his life, and Mary worked in the school cafeteria. They reached out to Matt because they believed that's what Jesus' disciples do. Disciples walk across the street, befriend a neighbor, serve him or her, and start faith conversations.
How do I know all of these details? Jack and Mary are my parents, and their real names are Bill and Daisy. Here's another surprise: They were in their midseventies when this happened! In the daily life of a mobile home park, my parents' lives and faith won a neighbor's heart. They demonstrated a simple, relational ministry strategy: Walk across the street, befriend a neighbor, start a faith conversation, and watch God do the rest. You could call my parents ministry amateurs.
Imagine the impact if we had scores of men and women like my parents — people committed to doing the Great Commission one conversation and one relationship at a time. We don't need larger buildings, costly programs, or more church staff to bring people to Christ. We just need to disciple and release people to love others right where they live, work, or play.
God Is Looking for Ministry Amateurs
God is looking for ministry amateurs. This should be an encouragement to anyone wanting to participate in the Great Commission. The word amateur comes from the Latin word meaning "lover." Amateurs are not people who necessarily lack skill or training; amateurs can often be highly skilled. They do what they do not for pay but out of the sheer love and joy of it.
The apostles could be labeled the first ministry amateurs. When Jewish boys reached their midteens, the best and the brightest were recruited by the local rabbi for advanced study. For those who didn't qualify, apprenticeship in a vocation was the next step. Out of the twelve men that Jesus chose, not one was trained to be a rabbi. All were involved in secular pursuits. Jesus immersed the Twelve in the Old Testament, but He had something bigger in mind. His goal was to train Kingdom activists.
These religious amateurs (the apostles) eventually created a stir. When the ministry professionals of their day (rulers, elders, scribes) observed their boldness and confidence, they were amazed because "they were uneducated, common men ... and they recognized that they had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13, ESV). The word that is translated "uneducated" means that they were laymen with no special professional qualifications or technical education in the Law.
The early church was a movement of amateurs. Church historian Michael Green writes, "'The great mission of Christianity [in converting the Roman Empire] was in reality accomplished by means of informal missionaries.' ... They did it naturally, enthusiastically, and with the conviction of those who are not paid to say that sort of thing." God wants to use ministry amateurs, everyday people who have a heart to serve God.
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
My friend Pastor Ron was in the middle of a teaching session on disciplemaking when a participant in the class raised his hand and made this statement: "Pastor, I can never make disciples because I can't do what you do. If disciplemaking means teaching a class, I guess I'm disqualified. I don't have the gift of teaching!"
Ron then probed the class: "How many of you feel that you have the gift of teaching and could do what I'm doing?" A few meekly raised their hands.
"Now," Ron said, "how many of you could come alongside someone to befriend them, read the Bible, ask some questions, tell some stories, and encourage application? How many could do this?"
Nearly all the hands went up! When Ron changed the picture of disciplemaking from a formal teacher to someone who came alongside to help, people could see themselves engaged in making disciples.
Author Warren Wiersbe writes, "No Christian rises higher than the beauty and quality of the pictures that hang in the gallery of his or her mind." What we picture in our imaginations can impact our behavior. Too often, we're like the people in Ron's class. In our minds we have certain pictures of disciplemaking that we can't rise above. We think, I could never make disciples because I'm not a teacher. Another picture is a complex image of standards and qualifications. One popular disciplemaking book lists thirty topics to cover when discipling someone. These thirty qualities are not in my life! we say to ourselves. How can I ever make a disciple? What would happen if we changed this picture? What if we hung a picture of an alongsider in our minds?
Jesus does something wonderful. He invites us, in our weakness and inexperience, to be His helpers in the Great Commission. He recruits ministry amateurs to come alongside friends to model behaviors — how to love God, build friendships, read the Bible, tell stories, ask questions — and encourage application. We can call these amateurs alongsiders. Are you ready to hang this picture in the gallery of your mind?
1. Describe your current picture of disciplemaking. Feel free to be creative and combine words with sketches.
2. Here's a description of an alongsider. Underline the words or phrases that stand out to you.
When we minister as alongsiders, we earn the right to intentionally become involved in people's lives. Alongsiders partner with the Holy Spirit, helping others wholeheartedly follow Jesus in all of life. We purposefully do this in simple, life-to-life ways: loving one another, reading the Bible, telling stories, asking questions, encouraging application, and living on mission.
Alongsiders Use the Language of the Holy Spirit
The ministry of the alongsider is derived from the Greek concept of paraclesis, meaning "a calling to one's side," "an active helper, or counselor." The Holy Spirit is the ultimate alongsider, a Helper who is with us forever (John 14:16, 26). We become channels through which the Holy Spirit comes alongside of others to encourage, comfort, and exhort. In Romans 16:1-14, the apostle Paul identifies about thirty people who were ministering within the Roman church. These friends included a new convert, professional tentmakers, a woman of wealth, and people who opened their homes to ministry. In many and diverse ways, these men and women came alongside of others, partnering with Paul in his gospel and church-planting ministry.
Alongsiders use a different language (paraclesis) than the formal language of teaching (didasko) and preaching (kerugma). Author Eugene Peterson notes the difference by describing how preaching is typically directed toward the will, while teaching is directed to the mind. The ministry ofparaclesis complements these two. "[Paraclesis] introduces a quieter, more conversational tone, something on the order of, 'I'm here at your side, let's talk this over, let's consider how we can get in on everything that God is doing.'"
When alongsiders practice the language of paraclesis, we help move men and women from understanding Scripture to applying its truths to life. Peterson describes this process of truth to life in this way: "Paracletic language is the language of the Holy Spirit, a language of relationship and intimacy, a way of speaking and listening that gets the words of Jesus inside us." We can practice this paracletic ministry as alongsiders, people who walk in the Spirit and disciple others in life-to-life ways.
Living as an Alongsider Means Changing the "How"
When I put my trust in Christ as a sophomore in college, I knew I should do three things: read the Bible, pray, and see Ed.
Ed was the guy who lived across the hall from me in my freshman dorm. After we first met, I discovered that he was a Christian. Even though I initially resisted Ed's "religious talk," we became best friends. His persistent witness drew me to the Savior. I knew that if I had questions about my new faith, I could trust Ed to be my guide.
When I told Ed about my faith commitment, he did something simple: He invited me to read the Bible with him in the dormitory study lounge. This began a habit of praying together, reading the Scriptures, debating our interpretations, and sharing our applications. This was life-to-life discipleship — two friends meeting over an open Bible, sharing their lives together, and helping one another follow Jesus.
I soon discovered that Ed was practicing a New Testament pattern. When the Lord invited His disciples to "be with him" (Mark 3:14), it meant joining the Lord in His life. Together, they went to social events and on walking expeditions. They enjoyed faith conversations, and shared in the joys and sorrows of ministry. Jesus was an alongsider, intentionally ministering life to life with this select few.
My friend Ed entered into my God-story and imprinted me with a love for God. How did Ed disciple me? He did more than recruit me to a video series or a course. He demonstrated the how of the alongsider, a how where a life in Christ is passed on from one person to another through a relationship. In life-to-life ministry, relationships become the highway for spiritual transformation. I'm eternally grateful that Ed was an alongsider, taking time to live life to life with me.
3. The apostle Paul practiced a relational approach to ministry. Even though his mission as an apostle typically meant launching a church and then moving on, he demonstrated a relational approach to ministry. From his example in the Thessalonian church, what can you observe about his relational approach?
1 Thessalonians 2:7
1 Thessalonians 2:8
1 Thessalonians 2:11-12
4. What do you think it meant for Paul to be like a mother or a father to this new group of believers?
5. Describe Paul's intentionality in growing the faith of these new believers.
Living as an Alongsider Means Changing the "When"
We have unintentionally created a gap in the Christian life. We rightly emphasize evangelism, encouraging personal conversion to Christ. The promise of conversion is a life lived in eternity. However, we can sometimes exclude the gap between conversion and eternity, life lived in the middle. This life in the middle happens between Sunday church services, where we live, work, study, and play. Alongsiders know that discipleship is about what happens in the middle.
The apostle Paul understood how life is lived in the middle when he exhorted the Philippians to live without blemish "in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation." Right in the middle of work, neighborhood, and family, we're to live "as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:15, ESV). The test of a disciple's life is not found in a worship service or a retreat but in the middle of a crooked generation. We come alongside people in this middle of life, the when of everyday routines and relationships where God is at work.
Living as an Alongsider Means Changing the "Where"
The alongsider ministry takes down some traditional pictures of where spiritual growth happens. For starters, we take down our pictures of the classroom, study, or church sanctuary. These still have a place, but they're not as prominent for alongsiders. We now hang some new ones, pictures like a living room, a workplace, or a bleacher seat. Instead of the formality of a classroom, all of life becomes a place for learning. Instead of being the teacher, placed above students, alongsiders see themselves as companions on the journey, purposefully coming alongside people to follow Christ together. To do this we must hang a new picture of where discipleship happens.
Here's one way to illustrate the differences between traditional approaches to discipling and the alongsider's approach.
6. Consider the picture of disciplemaking you formulated on page 4. Would you now change anything about your picture? In the space below, combine some words or sketches of this change.
Living as an Alongsider Means Changing the "What"
Living as an alongsider is highly relational but not haphazard. Like the apostle Paul, we want to intentionally "present everyone mature in Christ" (Colossians 1:28, ESV). What we do is very purposeful and intentional. We are friends with an agenda!
One way to bring intentionality to the alongsider process is to apply VIM: vision, intentionality, and means. Vision is the motivation and desired end. Intentionality represents a purposeful approach. Means describes tools and resources to help. Dallas Willard says that these three elements are "the general pattern for personal transformation" and the path for spiritual change and maturity.
Vision: Do I have a picture, or vision, for discipleship?
Intentionality: Do I want to become more Christlike?
Means: Do I have the tools, practical helps, and training for spiritual maturity?
All three work in concert. If I have vision and intentionality without means, my intentions may be good, but they bear few results. If I have intentionality and means without vision, I can major on methods without heart. All three are indispensable to the process. VIM is what we apply in coming alongside others.
Keep the VIM principle in mind as you come alongside people in their discipleship journeys. VIM will challenge you to ask such questions as What is your vision for discipleship? How are you intentionally encouraging spiritual growth? What practical tools or resources can be a means to build a life of discipleship? Sprinkled throughout the book are some VIM examples.
Assessing My Current Life as an Alongsider
The following assessment evaluates your ability and commitment to disciple people through the ways of the alongsider. Each statement is a belief or behavior about disciplemaking. Rate each statement on a scale of one to five. "One" indicates a low practice or belief. "Five" indicates a strong belief or regular practice of a behavior. Total your scores at the end.
Excerpted from The Ways of the Alongsider by Bill Mowry. Copyright © 2016 William J. Mowry. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsIntroduction: Welcome to the Adventure, xi,
How to Get the Most from This Study, xiii,
Part One: Foundations,
1. THE WAY OF THE AMATEUR: Alongsiders Do It from Love, 1,
2. THE WAY OF LOVE: Alongsiders Live the Great Commandment, 13,
3. THE WAY OF INTENTIONALITY: Alongsiders Think Big but Start Small, 25,
4. THE WAY OF PRAYER: Alongsiders Partner with God through Prayer, 37,
Part Two: Skills,
5. THE WAY OF RELATIONSHIPS: Alongsiders Build Authentic Friendships, 47,
6. THE WAY OF DEPTH: Alongsiders Go Deep in Relationships, 59,
7. THE WAY OF THE WORD: Alongsiders Help Others Love and Live the Scriptures, 69,
8. THE WAY OF DISCOVERY: Alongsiders Ask Questions and Tell Stories, 79,
9. THE WAY OF THE TRIPLE PLAY: Alongsiders Practice Application, Accountability, and Affirmation, 93,
10. THE WAY OF MISSION: Alongsiders Recruit People to Live as Insiders, 103,
What Do I Do Next? An Alongsider Action Plan, 115,
My Pledge to Be an Alongsider, 117,
Alongsider Action Page, 119,
APPENDIX A: The 5x5x5 Plan to Read the Bible, 121,
APPENDIX B: Ten Ways to Recharge Your Daily Appointment with God, 123,
APPENDIX C: Discipleship as a Wheel, 125,
APPENDIX D: The Alongsider Bull's-Eye, 127,
APPENDIX E: Planning a Discipleship Curriculum, 129,
APPENDIX F: Forming a Disciplemaking Culture in a Local Church, 133,
APPENDIX G: How to Turn a Small Group into a Discipleship Group, 135,
APPENDIX H: The Pathway for Change, 137,
Leader's Guide, 141,
About the Author, 173,