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Make Disciples (4)

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”
John 4.7

Get your mind in gear!
The apostle Peter wrote his second letter to the followers of Jesus in Asia Minor to encourage them to get their minds in gear for serving the Lord (2 Pet. 1.12-14). His instruction to them is good advice for us. Disciple-making opportunities pop up in front of us all day long. But we need to be paying attention.

If we can set our minds to focus on our primary calling throughout the day – the calling of being and making disciples – then we might be more alert to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as He calls class to order and opens the book of truth with the people around us.

In the Church today we have become so accustomed to teaching and learning taking place in classrooms, at scheduled times, and at the feet of those appointed as teachers, that we just don’t have the mindset for making the most of every teaching opportunity that presents itself all day long. We need such teaching, to be sure. But we must not limit the calling to teach and make disciples only to such contexts. All disciples ought to be teachers; all disciples should make disciples; and that means all disciples must be ready for the Spirit to use them in teaching others.

Here we need to cut some new grooves for our walk with the Lord. Paul calls us to pay attention to what’s going on in the as-you-are-goings of our lives, so that we can make the most of every opportunity the Lord brings our way (Eph. 5.15-17). Begin your day in prayer, asking the Lord to make you aware of disciple-making opportunities during the day ahead. Think about the people you will see, and get ready in your mind for how you might talk with them about the things of the Lord. Keep that attitude of prayer going throughout the day, so that you are in constant conversation with the Spirit whenever He wants to prompt or guide you in some way or another. Then, listen carefully for His cues or prompts. They will surely come.

This is a discipline that takes time to develop, but it’s one we can all learn. It won’t just happen; you’ll have to devote your mind and heartto the task of seeking the Lord daily, and throughout the day, for just the right situations in which you can bear witness or help another believer grow as a disciple of the Lord.

Take the initiative

You’ll also need to be prepared to take the initiative at such times, just as Jesus did with the woman at the well.

Sad to say, those who are the focus of our disciple-making won’t normally be as ready for class to be in session as we are. So we’ll need to get the conversation started, and Jesus shows us how we can do just that.

With the woman at the well, Jesus started where He found her. He could have sat at the well and said nothing to this woman. Or He could have prayed earnestly that the Lord would lead her to bring something up that might allow Him to engage a teaching moment with her. Or He could have just talked about the weather. But He didn’t do any of these things, and neither should we.

Realizing that this woman had come to the well with water on her mind, Jesus started where He found her and asked her for a drink.

Now, don’t miss the extraordinary strangeness of this. The woman certainly didn’t. She knew who she was, and she could tell that Jesus was a Jew and perhaps a teacher of some sort. Jews and Samaritans in those days had no dealings with one another. They were separated by ethnic and religious differences, and each looked on the other with condescension and even scorn.

Not unlike the differences that are rending the social fabric in our nation, and that cause those who have embraced a secular worldview to look upon believers with indifference or contempt. These divisions have led many believers to conclude that the world is no longer open to considering the call to follow Jesus. In many cases, the fear of man has clamped believers in a kind of spiritual lockjaw so that our witness for the Lord has lapsed into a spiral of silence.

What are we afraid of when it comes to initiating a teaching opportunity with others? Will we appear forward? Will some think we’re being nosy? Do we fear how they might respond as we start to turn the conversation toward spiritual matters? If we can overcome these caveats and look for a starting-point for conversation that is on the mind of the one we’re seeking to engage, we won’t have much trouble going on from there.

Such starting-points are everywhere: work, family, current events, and yes, even the weather. By picking up on any one of these – with the intention of getting around to Jesus – we can initiate conversations that can, as the Spirit leads, bear fruit for making disciples.

The starting-point

This is what we see Jesus doing here. He initiated His conversation by starting where the Samaritan woman was – not in religion, but in water: “Woman, give me to drink.” The woman had water on the mind. She had come out in the middle of the day, perhaps when she suspected no one else would be at the well, to fill her jug with water. Water was what she was thinking, and water is where Jesus started His conversation with her.

His teaching opportunity began in well water, but it quickly flowed toward living water.

When we launch into a teaching moment, we need to listen for an opening that will engage the other person with us. Here it would be appropriate to ask a question, or perhaps to solicit an opinion on whatever the person we wish to engage may be thinking about or doing. Keep the focus on the other person and what they’re presently engaged in doing. Ask them to explain something. Make an affirming or complementary comment. Listen and try to understand.

And then, get ready to listen as the Spirit leads, because the work of teaching will have just begun.

For reflection
1. What would you say are the skills of a truly excellent listener? Why is it important to acquire these skills?

2. Think about the day ahead of you. What can you begin doing now to help you prepare to make the most of the teaching opportunities you will surely have?

3. How can believers encourage and help one another to overcome the fears that hinder our witness?

Next steps – Preparation: Where will you be going, and whom will you be seeing there today? Can you envision something you might ask, say, or do that could launch a conversation about spiritual things? What could keep you from doing this? How will you overcome it? Take some initiative today, then share with a Christian friend how the Lord led you in this effort.

T. M. Moore

Working Your Personal Mission Field

Two little books can help you be more effective in your calling to make disciples. You can order a free copy of Joy to Your World! andThe Gospel of the Kingdom by clicking here. Be sure to check out our free monthly Personal Mission Field Workshop by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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