The Great Commission tells us to “Go” and “Make Disciples.”
This go-ing is not an imperative (command) verb, but make disciples is. Jesus is teaching us that as we go along our way shopping, working, eating, playing (go), we make disciples.
Jesus taught us how to Go and Make Disciples first by being incarnational. As the late Eugene Peterson put it “the Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1.14 MSG). I am not suggesting you move into another neighborhood unless the Lord says so, but the best way to connect with people is to enter their environment and not try to bring them into your space. As Americans, for years we have gotten it wrong with missions. We have tried to go into other countries and change their customs to fit ours.The best way to connect with people is to enter their environment and not try to bring them into your space. Click To Tweet
If we want to reach ethnic minorities in ways the traditional church does not, then we cannot take our customs, ethnocentricity, or arrogance with us.
Here are some practical ways to do this:
- Visit a local youth recreation center and just hang out and listen. There are stories of those who did this and learned so much about their neighbors. Although the music, games, and rhetoric may be tough for you, just be open to listen and dialogue with the people to understand their plight a bit better… “walk a mile in their moccasins.”
- If you are not an ethnic minority, attend an all-Black or all Latino service. This will help you understand differences in worship styles and this could foster a very healthy fresh expression if you understand what they like and how they groove.
- Don’t try to “act” like ethnic minorities. Be yourself! No matter how uncomfortable you might be, don’t try to do secret handshakes and use what you might think is cool language to talk to people who are different than you. Just be the true caring self who is interested in others, and you will make friends quickly. And please do not try to force ‘churchy’ language or customs on them. They will run away from that!
- Study the neighborhood where you want to plant a fresh expression. What are the highs and lows? Where are the people from? What kinds of discrimination have they encountered? What is the makeup or demographic of the people in terms of age and gender?
- Before you begin this process, be honest with yourself and ask why you want to plant a fresh expression in an ethnic minority neighborhood. If out of guilt or sorrow for the people, then DON’T DO IT! If out of a call from God, then DO IT! And when you do, please live and serve WITH and AMONG them and not TO or FOR them.
Discipleship has been defined and re-defined over and over. It is NOT a class or a program or event. It IS relational! Matthew 28.19 tells us as you go, make disciples. Relational discipleship is the key. So, what does that look like?
It looks like grabbing a person and walking with them through life. Being Christ on the earth and representing God to another person. What does that look like? Going shopping and eating and paying bills and talking about dating and marriage and kids, etc. It is NOT sitting in a room having a Bible study. We can talk about God’s word and the goodness of God while we are out shopping for prom dresses and eating good food and drinking good coffee. Doing life together is REAL discipleship! It is the Jesus way!
Discipleship is apprenticeship. Mentoring is also something we must do and is very similar to discipleship. One has to do with training a younger person (mentoring), and the other with spreading the doctrines of the faith or organization (discipleship). Paul instructed others to follow him as he followed Christ. Paul taught that the older ones should mentor the younger ones. A discipler and mentor should want the person they are training/leading to be better than they are. If I were to teach someone how to shoot a basketball, my intention is that they do it much better than I did (even though that might be difficult…😉 But, I digress).
This is where the body of Christ has not stepped up to the plate. We need to disciple and mentor others so they can be better than us, more anointed with more power, more successful. Let’s disciple and mentor so God gets the glory!
Dr. Dee Stokes is a spiritual advisor, coach, and educator who focuses on ministry, purposeful leadership, and education in an effort to "Build Influential People Who Change the World." Dr. Stokes spent 18 years as a basketball coach, and has spent the better part of 10 years in ministry and teaching at the collegiate level. Although not roaming the sidelines, she still has a passion for athletes, coaches, and the game she loves: Basketball. Her passion allows her to impact coaches and stay involved in the game.