Discipling the Broken and Lonely
by Bill Wilks
There are a lot of broken and lonely people in the world today. For the most part, the church is not doing an effective job of reaching them. Studies indicate that six to ten thousand American churches permanently close their doors every year. How can this be? When the need is so great, why are so many churches boarding up and calling it quits?
Jesus said, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers in to His harvest" (Matthew 9:37-38). As I consider Jesus' words, I realize the failure of many churches to reach the broken and lonely is not about what they do inside the church. It's about what they are not doing outside the walls of the church.
The failure of many churches to reach the broken and lonely is not about what they do inside the church. It's about what they are not doing outside the walls of the church.
Recently, my heart was touched by a bird with a broken wing. My house backs up to a small community lake with a walking track around it. Most mornings, I get in my exercise by doing a brisk three-mile walk around the lake. It's not unusual for me to walk through a large flock of geese that migrates to our lake every spring. As with my neighbors, they eat out of our yards, swim in our lake, and make a mess on our walking track. They also mate, fall in love, and have baby geese. I've developed a new appreciation for the term "mother goose." For the most part, geese are docile. But once the babies are born, watch out for mother goose! If you get too close to her babies, she will come after you. And she's not playing!
This past summer, I spotted among the flock a goose with a broken wing. The wing stuck straight up from his back and stayed like that all summer. However, he seemed to have no problem swimming in the lake and moving around in our yards with the other geese. I felt bad for him but didn't think much about it.
I didn't think much about it that is until the end of summer when all the other geese flew away. Unable to fly, he was left behind. During my walks, I would see him standing beside the lake broken and alone. For the first time in my life, I found myself feeling bad for a bird. I felt compassion for him but didn't know what to do to help. And then, one day he was gone.
Like geese, Christians often flock together. The broken and lonely may hang around for a while, but brokenness has its limitations. It's easy for them to get left behind, and sometimes we don't even realize when they are gone..
Jesus had an affinity for the broken and lonely. He saw them and was moved with compassion for them. Unlike us, He went out of His way to reach them. Consequently, His followers were not the beautiful and famous, but the broken and lonely. They found hope in Him, and He taught them how to share that hope with others.
Jesus demonstrates that discipling the broken and lonely calls for life on life ministry. It requires the work of a personal disciple maker, not a slick new program of the church. Until today's church rediscovers the lost art of personal disciple-making, it will continue to struggle.
Until today's church rediscovers the lost art of personal disciple-making, it will continue to struggle.
Personal disciple-making is a lifestyle that changes how we live and think. It creates a consuming passion in the heart to always look for someone new to disciple--especially the broken and lonely. Though the process may vary from person to person, three things are consistent with genuine disciple makers.
THE CULTIVATION OF RELATIONSHIPS
Personal disciple makers intentionally cultivate new relationships with people they would like to disciple. Typically, Christians have a relatively small group of friends. Their friend group consists mainly of other Christians who attend their church or Bible study class. On the other hand, cultivating new relationships is an essential part of disciple-making. True disciple makers are intentional about building relationships with people in their neighborhood, workplace, school, gym, ballpark, coffee shop, or even Walmart. They consistently pray for and seek after new people to disciple, whether they attend church or not.
THE INVITATION TO DISCIPLESHIP
After cultivating new friendships, personal disciple makers invite others to connect with them in a discipling relationship. To be clear, this is not the same as inviting them to your church. But this is an invitation for them to connect with you in a small discipleship group (D-Group) or in one-on-one discipleship. In most cases, a small D-Group of three to five people may be the best relational environment for personal disciple-making. A D-Group can meet anytime and anywhere. When you seek to disciple the broken and lonely, it's often best to meet somewhere outside of the church. Once the discipling relationship is established, there is a great chance you will be able to lead a person to faith in Christ and to join you in church. Keep in mind that everyone you ask will not accept your invitation to be in a discipling relationship. Be persistent until God gives you the ones He wants you to disciple.
THE MULTIPLICATION OF LEADERSHIP
Personal disciple makers use their influence to lead others to grow in spiritually maturity and reproduce as disciple makers. Jesus didn't teach His disciples how to add; He taught them how to multiply. True disciple-making requires the multiplication of leaders. Apart from multiplication, there is no real discipleship. Having a simple and clear process to lead your group to practice the spiritual disciplines of personal Bible study, prayer, and ministry will be important. This process must be simple enough to be reproducible. It may take a few years with some, but your goal is to make disciples who make disciples. This alone is the key to true renewal in our churches and revival in our land.
THE ONLY ANSWER
Recently, I was in Millinocket, Maine to do mission work and lead in D-Life training. One of our mission projects was to host a booth for a citywide festival. At this festival, there were a lot of broken and lonely people. We were able to have Gospel conversations and leave evangelistic materials with some. But having one-time conversations is not going to convince most people to trust in Christ. I found myself feeling compassion for these people, just as I did for the bird with the broken wing.
As I led D-Life training for pastors and church leaders in Millinocket, I could only think of one answer for how to reach the people around them---personal disciple-making. Jesus instructed us to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. But someone must train these laborers to be disciple makers. As pastors, we are not called to merely preach from a platform, but to "equip the saints for the work of ministry" (Ephesians 4:12). What is the greatest work of ministry? It is not to equip common people to be Christ-like disciple makers? I know of no other way to reach the broken and lonely. They are not walking into the doors of our churches. We must send out laborers to cultivate relationships with them and engage them in personal disciple-making.
I would love to help with this. As a pastor of over 35 years, God has given me a passion for personal disciple-making. This passion led me to be the founder of D-Life. D-Life exists to equip common people to be Christ-like disciple makers. Through D-Life, my wife, Rondie, and I have traveled extensively to train thousands of believers how to make disciples who make disciples. D-Life is the most intentional, personal, and reproducible process I know for teaching ordinary disciples to be fishers of men.
Rondie and I would be excited to come and lead D-Life training for your ministry. We would also love for you to attend one of our upcoming D-Life training events. For a list of our next five D-Life training events click here.
Please leave your comments or questions below. I would love to hear from you.
12/17/2022 10:39:05 am
This is really good.
12/17/2022 04:33:02 pm
Thank you Lloyd. I appreciate your feedback,. I pray you guys have a blessed Christmas.
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Dr. Bill Wilks, has a passion for equipping common people to be Christ-like disciple makers. Bill and his wife, Rondie, have traveled extensively to train thousands of believers how to make disciples who make disciples. Bill and Rondie live near Trussville, AL, where he serves as Lead Pastor of NorthPark Church and Founder of D-Life.
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