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6 Recruiting a Prospective Disciple


Jesus said, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. “ (Luke 9:23) Today, as always, Jesus is calling for disciples, not just Sunday Christians, but men and women who refuse to yield  to the lure of the world system. This type of a person has only one Lord – Jesus Christ. He and He alone order His life and determine where time, money, and other resources are spent.

As ambassadors of Jesus Christ, we are in the business of recruiting men and women to a life of discipleship. As we do this, let us not forget the basic principles that are essential to follow if we are to recruit the kind of people God can use. This is in no way an exhaustive list, but must be considered in order to recruit quality people who will be involved in God’s work:

1.  Recruit to a vision, not to an organization.

An organization, however great it may be, is never highest in God’s value system. God gives the vision. An organization must serve this vision. By organization, I mean any organized work whether it be a church – Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Assemblies of God; a Christian organization – Youth for Christ, Young Life, The Navigators, Campus Crusade, Inter-Varsity; or a group within the church – Christian YA, CYAF, UCM,CWA.

The disciple must be careful never to preach faithfulness to an organization in order to make his organization more successful. How easy it is to fall into this trap. Our Sunday school attendance begins to lag, so we have a membership drive. From all outward appearances, this is to get people involved in God’s work, but more often than not, it has to do with statistics and breaking records rather than majoring on people getting into the Word of God. If we emphasize meeting people’s spiritual needs, chances are that membership numbers will take care of themselves. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw men to Me” (John 12:32). The fundamental truth suggested here  is that  when we, in our ministry exalt the person of Jesus Christ, men will be drawn to Him.

On numerous occasions, I meet young men and women and tell them that I would like to talk with them about Jesus Christ. Their reply is “What denomination are you with? Have we brainwashed the non-Christians into believing that we are more interested in recruiting people to our particular denominations than we are to the person of Jesus Christ? It is so easy to fall into the trap of asking people to be faithful to pet programs rather than to the will of God.

2. Do not create the impression that people are doing you or God a favor by being faithful to the cause of Christ.

The Apostle John relates an incident that occurred in the ministry of our Lord Jesus. The people wanted to crown Him as their King, but Jesus, sensing their impure motives, countered with some hard-hitting words. John says, “From that time on many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him. At this point, Jesus turned to the Twelve and said to them, “Will you also go away?” (John 6:66-67). I do not believe that the Lord Jesus was feeling sorry for Himself. No, our Lord Jesus was once again underlining the cost involved in being His disciple. If we neglect this important principle, we run the risk of recruiting unfaithful men. Deuteronomy 20:8 records God’s prerequisites for the men who were to be involved in battle. “And the officers shall speak further to the people, and they shall say, “What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart.

Getting involved with God has always been on a volunteer basis. Irrespective of how great the need – and the need is great – Christ will not sacrifice quality in order to gain quantity. As His ambassadors, neither can we.

Our Savior feels honored and privileged to have us committed as His disciples, but God forbid that we should feel that we are doing Him favor in being faithful. Similarly, if we cannot staff our programs with the right kind of people, then we should seriously think about terminating the programs. I believe that there is one thing worse than not having any program at all, and that is having a program with the wrong type of leadership.

3.  Grow into business – don’t go into business

This principle teaches us that we should start small and build in depth, rather than concentrate on becoming large and, as a result, end up being top-heavy. When you try to go into business rather than grow into business, you spread your resources thin and dissipate your efforts (Proverbs 24:27).

Our ministry should have a pulsating rhythm to it, of thrust and conserve. First, recruit a small band of individuals and then throttle back and build deeply into their lives. It is only after you have discipled  them that you should thrust out again into another programs of recruitment. Do not seek to involve yourself with more people than you can adequately handle.

4.  Tailor the job to the person rather than the person to the job

We must be extremely careful not to recruit people to use them. Our goal should be to help them, and people can usually tell the difference. When the Lord Jesus met the rich, young ruler, He told him to give away his wealth to the poor and them come and follow Him. The Savior was not trying to use the young man by asking to lend support to the ministry, but rather was trying to meet the man’s need – the first step being to divorce himself from his inordinate affection for wealth.

Prayerfully determine what the person you are helping needs and then help him in that area rather than finding out what he can do best and asking him to do that. The time will come when we will want to maximize his gifts and abilities, but in the initial stages of the discipling process, we must major in his needs. Our Lord Jesus is far more interested in what a person is than in what he can do. “It is for you to be – it is for God to do”.

5.  Discipleship must take into consideration the development of the whole man.

Development implies training. Someone might counter, “I thought we were discussing recruitment at this point? We are, but we must remember that in the Christian life, unlike other pursuits, recruitment and training go hand in hand.

The Bible teaches that our involvement in Christ’s army is strictly on a volunteer basis – a person can leave anytime he wants. Recruitment, therefore, to discipleship must continue during the training process. We continue to recruit the would-be-disciple to Christ by showing him that we are seeking to help him develop in every area of his life.

For the sake of simplicity, development can be categorized into three areas: teaching, training, and building. Teaching is the imparting of knowledge; training is the imparting of skills; and building as the imparting of character. The development of our disciples must include all three: teaching, training, and building.

Suppose we want to teach our disciple to do evangelism. We sit him down and show him the various techniques such as learning how to open a conversation about Christ. He memorizes key verses on the various aspects of the gospel. He may even master two or three illustrations that can be used when witnessing to someone. Having taught him these things, is our job now accomplished? No, for he has never gone out and talked to anyone about Christ.

So now we need to train him. As the two of us go out to do evangelism together, both of us are fearful, he more than I, so I promise that I will begin the conversation; all he needs to do is observe. We do this a number of times until gradually I begin to involve him in the conversation with me. As he becomes increasingly more comfortable and proficient, he takes more and more of the conversation himself. Finally he is doing all the talking and I am only observing. He can now lead a person to Christ as well as I can – maybe better. Is my job of imparting evangelism to him now finished? No, not yet.

The final factor necessary for his development is the building process. Here we seek to change the disciple’s sense of values, and thereby will ultimately affect his whole personality. You can see that the further we go in the development process, the more difficult the task becomes. Building is far more difficult than teaching and training. How do you build into a person’s life?  How do you go about influencing personality? Here are some suggestions:

  • Do a Bible study on a character that is missing in his life. Help him see God’s perspective on the matter.
  • Create an environment in which the desired character trait is evident. If he stays in an environment in which evangelism is evident, then it is more likely that he will embrace it as a conviction of his own.
  • Most important, pray the character trait into his life.

Scripture says that Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:53). Here we see the four areas of our Savior’s development as a young man:

  • Wisdom – the intellect
  • Stature – the physical
  • In favor with God – the spiritual
  • In favor with man – the social

When we recruit men and women to become disciples of Jesus Christ, we should think of their development in these four areas. This does not mean that we have to be an expert in each of these areas in order to train a disciple. This is where the body of Christ complements you in the disciple-making ministry. Draw on the experience and expertise of a variety of people. As you work with your Timothy, your job is simply to see that he gets all the help and attention that he needs – just as a parent does with his child.

6.  There must be a proper balance between love and rebuke.

God’s disposition towards us is one of love, and He expects our disposition towards others to be the same. The Lord Jesus called love one of the marks of discipleship, for He said, “A new command I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another” (John 13:34-35).

But this love must be blended by rebuke. Possibly one of the greatest weaknesses in the body of Christ today is that we have surrendered our responsibility to discipline one another. Solomon in all his wisdom was direct to the point on this subject when he said, “Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (Prov. 27:5-6). “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hates you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you”. (Prov. 9:8). Quite often the reason people do not rebuke us is that they are afraid we will take it in a negative way, and that they do not want our friendship or our relationship jeopardized. So when they see things amiss in our lives and want to help us, they are constrained to keep quiet because they suspect that we are “scorners” rather than “wise men”.

People are drawn into discipleship by giant doses of love. But if love is to come as biblical love, it must be blended with rebuke. The kind of people God can use are those who respond to such a blend; Jesus cannot use people who feel sorry for themselves when corrected.

7.  You recruit a person to discipleship by being his servant.

The mark of leadership is servanthood. Chesty Puller, considered by many as “Mr. Marine,” stated once that the Marine Corps needed men who could lead, not command. A commander tells people what to do; a leader shows people what to do by personal example.

This is definitely one of the toughest aspects of the discipling process. All of us like to be pampered and waited on. But a few of us like to roll up our sleeves and wait on others. Yet, this is precisely how people are recruited to the cause of discipleship – to serve others. Men, when was the last time that you served your wife by helping to do the dishes, or did some other job that needed doing around the home?

All of us who know God’s Word like to be called servants, but none of us want to act like a servant or to be treated like one. We must recognize this tendency, which is based in human pride, and fend against it.

8.  You reproduce after your own kind whether you like it or not.

This is the most sobering truths in the Bible. Many cannot and will not identify with the Apostle Paul when he said, “Be ye followers of me.” We could say to ourselves and to our disciple that Paul could certainly say that but I could never say that. “Don’t follow me, follow Jesus Christ.” The fact of the matter is your disciple will follow you whether you want him to or not.

When you begin to help a person in the Christian life, he will follow you just as naturally as a young child follows his parent, and more likely than not, he will become what you are, not what you say. I have seen this again and again. The leader may preach repeatedly that people ought to be involved in evangelism, but unless he himself is involved in it, the chances are very remote that his people will be involved. Many illustrations in the Scriptures bear witness to the fact that you reproduce after your own kind. Abraham passed his wife off as his sister in order to save his own skin. (Gen 20:2). Isaac did the same thing (Gen 26:7). The Bible tells us that Eli, the high priest, did a poor job in raising his sons (1 Samuel 2:12-17). He reproduced this quality in the life of his protégé, Samuel ( 1 Sam 8:1-5).

It is imperative, therefore, that you major on being the kind of person you want your disciple to become. You can know for certain that you will reproduce what you are in his life. That is why this book began with the chapter, “The Kind of Person God Uses.” In order for these qualities to be in the life of your disciple, they must first be in your life.

If you suspect for a moment that the essential qualities of a disciple are not in your life, then this is where everything must start for you. Go back to Chapter 1 and begin by implementing qualities of godliness in your own life.