“We’re buying a sailboat so we can sail to Peru and spend a year surfing…” With those words my discipleship group broke up or at least floated into the sunset.
I had spent just two months discipling these three young men. I brought a couple of them to the Lord and spent lots of time answering questions, surfing and leading them in Bible study.
I losing them to a “surfing safari.” Yet, I didn’t own them. If they quit their jobs and went surfing for a year, the Holy Spirit would keep working in their lives.
I challenged them to discover how God could use them on their trip—to inventory how they were equipped for ministry.
We talked about how they might use their surfing abilities and the boat to serve God. They would own the boat for several months before sailing. They got into the possibilities of overnight boat camps and surf trips for Junior High boys. These guys got worked up to think that God could find a use for their boat and surfing abilities. They grabbed hold of the concept of stewardship.
After leaving town for a couple of weeks, I returned to hear more adventuresome ideas…
“You had a great idea about a camp, but we want to do it with physically and mentally disabled kids instead of Junior Highs.”
I asked, “Will a boat be safe for young people with disabilities?” Their reply, “What do you mean boat? We’re talking about that camp you said we could run for kids.” I had to remind them about the boat and Peru. The potential for ministry shined so bright that the surf trip had faded into oblivion.
That summer they camped for two weeks with “special kids” at a national park. The U.S. Marines even loaned them tents. Our church bought an old bus and the Marine Corps sent along a couple of young warriers to help with chores.
Just two years later they were ministering to sixteen hundred special kids from all over California and Arizona. They ran camps in the park until a local church camp “loaned land” for a more permanent campsite. They stored equipment in our church building and ran their office from borrowed space with volunteer help. It was a shoestring operation, but they affected hundreds of families.
Nearly every child who attended their camps and outings came home with Jesus as their savior. Non-Christian parents found the Lord through the love of these young guys and their many friends.
Food for Thought
I have a question for you… “What if I had discouraged them over the surf trip for fear it would interrupt my plans for their lives?” You can be sure the camp would have never been born.
As leaders, the Bible challenges us to stewardship. We are to nurture and equip the saints to the work of the ministry. That doesn’t mean we just work to fill all the slots in our church management charts. We must develop the raw material of their lives.
These guys reeked of substance. They were strong athletes. They turned good looks, and charm, into leadership skills. Their own close friendship was an asset. Being single, allowed plenty of free time. They brought secular skills for the job. One was a lifeguard and another taught physical education to disabled boys and girls in the public schools. And they had the Holy Spirit gifting and leading them in paths of righteousness.
My job was to guide the package toward maturity and fruitful ministry.
Spend Time With Your People
Discipleship requires personal contact. You need to know them and they need to know you.
They were close enough to know his heart and the values that really drove his life. Today, we trade relational ministry for mass media and information dissemination.
Administative meetings are necessary. But, do you disciple your own staff, let alone others? Can you (without thinking) name your three closest disciples? Can your disciples do the same? We need personal contact with our people. It’s the only way to uncover their potential.
This brings us back to those three surfers. Training continued via informal conversation and time in prayer about ministry needs. I moved from discipler to coach while the Holy Spirit remained their guide into all truth.
God led those men beyond that camp into other ministries. One became a pastor, another a school principle, the third a businessman with a heart for the Lord. The Spirit’s plans were bigger than the camping program and certainly bigger than the discipleship group I led.
What do you think?
Love your input on this. I’ve learned to avoid too much control, what about you?