Disciple-making cannot be done in haste. Someone in a hurry permanently harmed Saul’s grandson, Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth’s lameness was not a result of nature. Instead, the limitation came as a result of the behavior of a person who cared for him. Mephibosheth’s nurse sought his well-being.
How Mephibosheth became lame is a parable on failed disciple-making. (Mephiobosheth) . . . was five years old when the tidings came of Saul . . . and his nurse . . . fled . . . as she made haste to flee, that he fell, and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 4:4).
Let me expand on the principles related to how we either develop healthy disciples or damage these same converts.
Not taking the time to know where a person is coming from.
Each convert has a story. No story is like another. The more personal and intimate our knowledge the more effective we are likely to be. Fellowship and conversation is where such knowledge is gained. An example, those who win Hindus need to know that the inclination of someone coming from Hinduism is to add their encounter with Jesus to their experience with a pantheon of other deities. Of course, those other deities are false and demonic. The Hindu who experienced the tug of the Holy Ghost does not have the knowledge to understand what you know to be true. Not taking the time to know this will limit your ability to make a disciple of Jesus. Of course, responding with a, “Why, that’s a stupid way of thinking,” is a failure too.
“It’s Elementary, Dear Watson!”
An average convert has limited knowledge about the Bible, Jesus Christ, and church. Would it be a waste to put a T-Bone Steak before a six-month-old? Is it a similar waste to ask converts to read 4-5 chapters each day? I think so. Slow down. Think of working with converts as Disciple-making Pre-School rather than Disciple-making Middle School. Converts need someone patient enough to allow them to use the Bible’s Table of Contents to find the passages. Disciple-making is closer to teaching the numerals, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, . . . than to teaching multiplication. Approaches to consider: (1) Encourage converts to read one or two paragraphs of scripture. The person asks questions about the text, finds answers and considers how to apply the principles of the paragraphs to their life. (2) Encourage converts to memorize the books of the Bible. An easy win that pays dividends down the road.
There are a few hundred versions of what unrealistic expectations look like. Examples: to expect converts to go from “0” church to 3 times each week – generally unrealistic. A convert does not always immediately throw away their contents of the liquor cabinet. The new lady hears the word “modesty” and applies it on her next visit to the beach. She wears a one piece bathing suit rather than a bikini. Lower your expectations and streeeetch your patience, as you work with converts. Approaches to consider: Only one – don’t be shocked at anything you see or hear.
Assume at your own risk.
The danger of assumption applies to almost everything. Assume a person believes the Bible to be THE word of God at your own risk. Assuming a couple to be married, or that the older gent with the young woman is her dad and not her boyfriend . . . Get the picture? Assuming beliefs, commitments or anything else is risky. Approaches to consider: (1) Silence is golden! Greeting the new convert’s boyfriend with the words, “I’m excited to meet her father,” cannot be unsaid. (2) Teach elementary and basic concepts.
Haste makes waste. Not just the ruin of a good T-Bone you try to feed a six-month-old, but in the impairment of a convert. If you will just slow down. You can get your own young Mephibosheths where they need to be. Do you have a person assigned as an “altar counselor” for those who are baptized or receive the Holy Ghost? A Job Description of what the altar counselor does as well as an elementary checklist can be found in my inexpensive but invaluable e-book The How and Why of New Convert Care. Altar counseling is a time for a responsible person to learn much about the newcomer. This gains at least some of the information being sought.
I know many of you have had experience with things not going right as you worked with converts. Share your story and share your approaches to being successful with disciple-making.