God’s Word is the source of all disciple-making. Without it, we have nothing certain to offer anyone, only subjective stories and memories passed down long misty centuries. And these would be distorted by our enormous human capacity to twist and rationalize truth.
But God took great care to produce and preserve an accurate, authoritative revelation of himself, his world, and his redemption of humans. It stands an immovable, unchanging light which clears away the fog and darkness every time we submit our thinking to it rather than to competing cultural narratives. It frees us, though it may be hard.
God’s Word is absolutely central to all discipleship, church life, ministry, and missions. We are conduits of Christ and his grace. Our only authority is “Thus says the Lord.” To the degree that we convey his Word, to that degree we deliver his grace and truth. Where we get it wrong and convey cultural or subjective ideas, we mislead and harm people.
The West has cut loose from all absolutes and is drifting away from any fixed standard or moral virtues, sinking further and further into self-indulgence and selfishness. And that culture squeezes Christians into its mold.
Only God’s Word brings us back and clears our thinking. It is crucial for Western tentmakers to be transformed by constantly renewing of our minds in God’s Word so that we bring his truth versus ours. (Rom. 12:1-2) Pursuing God’s Word must be top priority—to understand and live it. Dale Losch, President of Crossworld, says:
Neither Jesus nor His disciples wrote a discipleship manual to describe the process because it is simple. Disciple-making is helping people everywhere to live and love like Jesus by imparting God’s truth through authentic relationships.
It is all about truth—God’s truth. It means loving God and His Word supremely. It is not about a curriculum. It’s about embracing a love letter from God—about being so hungry for God that you pour His Word into your heart and then back out of your life into another person.
Five of the most powerful words ever spoken to me…were spoken by the man who [became] my father-in-law. Pastor Jerry was a no-nonsense youth pastor in San Diego who was known for his passionate love for the Word of God. When I met his daughter during my final year of college, I had no idea what I was getting into. About eight months into my relationship with Jerusha after I had already asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage, I went to lunch with Pastor Jerry. Wanting to impress him, I decided to ask him, “Pastor Jerry, do you see anything in my life that I need to work on?”
I have no idea what I was hoping for. Perhaps I was imagining that he’d just affirm my amazing spiritual depth and encourage me on my merry (naïve) way. But without taking a breath, he just looked me straight in the eye and replied, “You don’t love God’s Word.”
I sat in shock for a moment. I wanted to argue with him. What do you mean I don’t love God’s Word? I almost never miss a day of personal devotions. I [memorize] four new verses every week. I just graduated from a Christian college and am starting a pastoral position. But, in my heart of hearts, I knew he was right.
Apart from the Word of God, Pastor Jerry’s five simple words…have made more of an impact in my life than any other factor. Western discipleship methods have tended toward a programmed, pedagogical transmission of truth. Jesus’ way calls for us to passionately embrace the truth.
Perhaps the greatest deficiency in our Western disciple-making is that we try to impart something we don’t have. If God’s Word is not filling my heart and being lived out in my life, I have nothing to give. No curriculum, no matter how good, can ever replace a personal and fervent love for God’s Word.
(Losch, Dale. A Better Way, pp. 36-38, condensed. Crossworld. Kindle Edition.)
Transferring to others a love for and submission to God’s Word is one of the best things we can give. And training people to study it effectively, one of the best skills we can provide. This requires leading people to study the Bible inductively—asking questions of the text so that the text determines our conclusions rather than preconceptions, no matter how uncomfortable those conclusions. Such study recovers major Biblical truths which are fading from the church like the fear of God, repentance, the severity of sin, and the immensity of grace.
And leading group Bible study through well-suited questions about the text is more stimulating, compelling, and equipping. Discovering the truth is more powerful. It is especially powerful to help seekers discover Jesus in the gospels through questions which bring the story to life. Leading such studies can be incredibly exciting.
What can you do?
- Find a way to keep studying and learning more of God’s Word and of him. Four hours on Saturday? A half-hour daily? And learn to find and interpret literary connections, not just content facts.
- Develop inductive Bible study questions for passages and lead discovery-type studies.
- Learn to lead inductive, discovery-type Bible studies for nonbelievers.