Retraining Your Instincts

Why haven’t we seen a disciple making movement in the USA like we’ve seen in other parts of the world? We're seeing that people are often misapplying disciple making concepts or are falling back into their usual way of ministry.

In “Retraining Your Instincts,” on the CDM Podcast, Paul and Rebecca address key ways in which we need to shift how we go about engaging non-believers, starting groups, and helping people discover and obey God for themselves. Here are some of those key areas where we need to change how we think!

Engaging Nonbelievers

A key shift we need to make as Christians is spending significant time with lost people rather than just with other Christians.


We have all of eternity to hang around Christians. We only have this world to be around lost people. — John Maxwell

We’ve set up a culture in which lost people are “bad influences” and spending time with them is wrong, uncomfortable and/or only something that you do at your own risk or if you’re specially trained and qualified to do so.


We have to change our mindset to say: “No. Everyone is already around people who don’t know Jesus, so how do we and our fellow Christians engage them in meaningful ways so they can discover Jesus?”


Instead of seeing nonbelievers as people to avoid, we need to see them as people who Jesus loves.


We also need to stop thinking we can just witness to nonbelievers in little, brief moments as if tossing them a “God bless” or Bible verse in passing, or standing on the street corner and preaching at them for 30 minutes is “being a light”. Guerrilla evangelism will not yield the same fruit as being a friend.


We have to spend significant time befriending and building relationships with nonbelievers in meaningful ways, going to the settings in which they feel comfortable rather than making them come to ours.

Engaging Groups, Not Just Individuals

How do we get discovery groups? It starts with how we engage. Are you having significant conversations with only one person, or are you trying to get to know that person’s silo — their family, friends, and social group?


Often times, we as believers don’t even think about engaging the friends or family of a person until right before we’re getting into a Bible study with them. Then, because we haven't made an effort to get to know anyone but that one person, they're asking, “Wait. Why do you want to meet my family again?”


When the relationship begins, look for natural ways to engage families and groups.

  • Have the family over for a meal or go out somewhere.

  • Play a game together.

  • Go see a movie.

  • Look for a common enjoyment that can bring your families together, like hiking, sports, entertainment, music, trucks, literature, video games, home projects, cooking, gardening — the possibilities are endless!

You can meet their family and friends in a natural, casual setting and build relationships with them so that when the time comes to begin a DBS, you have that rapport with them.


Having Conversations And Sharing Stories


Even as we prioritize getting to know groups of people instead of just individuals, our approach should be individualized rather than cookie cutter.

  • Listen to where people are at.

  • Ask lots of questions.

  • Have meaningful conversations.

  • Wait for them to express a heart need or desire that opens the door to share a story from Scripture that illustrates how God meets that need.

The idea is to share stories that draw people to want to read Scripture for themselves. It should be tailored to where they’re at, as opposed to giving a generic gospel presentation or arguing someone out of their views.


We don’t want people to choose to follow Jesus in a moment based on a very small amount of information. The invitation is to read the Bible to learn more in the Discovery context and be discipled into a relationship with Jesus over time.


Don’t Mix Believers With Nonbelievers


Another key area where we need to retrain our instincts is when it comes to mixing believers and nonbelievers in the discipling process. We tend to think other believers will get what we are trying to do in the Discovery Bible Study setting and will be able to help the nonbelievers we’re discipling grow.


The reality is mixing believers with nonbelievers is the single hardest scenario in which you could start a DBS. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, believers will only gum up the works and create a group dynamic that is incapable of multiplying and producing the fruit we want to see.

  • Believers teach, intentionally or not, when they answer the DBS questions. Even if the nonbelievers answer the questions for themselves first, as soon as a believer answers the questions they will be seen as the expert in the room with all the correct answers.

  • Believers teach by asking leading questions and/or pointing out verses, concepts or background information that nonbelievers missed or wouldn’t know based on the story.

  • Believers distract the group by bringing up points that are interesting to them, but entirely tangential to the focus of the stories, leading the nonbelievers down a rabbit hole (ie. The Nephilim).

  • Believers and nonbelievers are at completely different places in their spiritual journeys and what they need in discipling looks totally different.

  • Believers want to pray during the study, which may be normal in a group with all Christians, but alienates nonbelievers and forces them into a space they aren’t at in their spiritual journey.


Obedience Based Discipleship


We also need to make the shift from knowledge and insight based discipleship to obedience based discipleship.


Years of church going, community groups and Bible studies have trained our instincts to believe that a deep, emotional-sounding insight or statement of belief is just as significant as someone choosing to change something in their life as a result of reading God’s Word.


It isn’t.


We’re looking for some small, tangible way that the people we disciple reflect the truths they discover in their daily lives.


Take Davis, for example. Davis is a nonbeliever who works in retail for a boss who neither he nor his co-workers like. She’s moody, harsh, and pushes people so hard that they either quit or have to take a leave of absence for their own health.


During a DBS, Davis read the story of Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector from Luke 19. In that story, Zacchaeus was the man in town everyone hated — so much so that when Jesus decides to stay at his house, his neighbors all grumble saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner” (Luke 19:7).


But what happens because Jesus visits this — likely justifiably — despised tax collector? Zacchaeus promises to give half of his goods to the poor and to restore fourfold to anyone he has defrauded. In response to this act of obedience Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house since he also is a Son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:8-10).


In response to this story, Davis said he would go to his boss and have a one-on-one conversation just to see how she was doing and to let her know he would do what she needed him to do as best he could. And he did it!


From that interaction, Davis not only learned that there was a lot going on in her life personally and health-wise that neither he nor his co-workers were aware of, but he also took the first step in laying a foundation of respect and understanding where, before, there had only ever been distrust and frustration.


We want people who are disciple makers — taking concrete steps to obey what they read and pass it on to others. This doesn’t mean we aren't excited about statements of belief and powerful insights, but such sentiments are incomplete without action.


Learn More: Listen to "Retraining Your Instincts" Podcast


If you found this blog helpful and would like to learn more, be sure to check out the full “Retraining Your Instincts” podcast