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The incredible potential of just one student


August 28, 2016
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Most of us, especially boys, were mischievous growing up.

I couldn’t resist walking by a newly poured sidewalk without pressing in my hand and writing my initials.

If the construction crew didn’t catch it within the first two to three hours, it was there to stay! To this day, I still show my kids a signature I left thirty years ago!

In the same way, new Christians are just like wet cement.

Most don’t know what a real Christian is supposed to think and do. Because of this they take their cues from the other believers around them.

Whatever level of commitment and character they observe in the first few months is what they come to believe is the normal Christian life.

That’s why it’s important that you take the lead in helping form their values and convictions─before the cement hardens!

For example, if you emphasize daily quiet time, they will. If evangelism is a daily way of life for you, they will adopt it also. If you spend a lot of time with TV or computer games, guess what? So, will they!

You truly reproduce after your own kind during this impressionable stage of a young Christian’s life.

A study done by Cornell University a few years back revealed that by age six, a child has formed up to 80 percent of their beliefs, values, and self-esteem.

If this is true, shouldn’t we as parents want to be the main ones in their lives during these early years to be the primary influence?

And yet, statistics show that most parents choose instead to work and put their children in daycare. This means relegating the best hours of their child’s day to an hourly worker who may be working there next month, and may not.

Just as our young children are like wet cement waiting to be formed, so are our young converts.

Consistent, individual attention is key to helping them to begin their new life off right. This will give them a healthy long term perspective of what a New Testament Christian really looks like.

Don’t Rely on the “Discipleship Pipeline”

Don’t just point them to large meetings or retreats, hoping that somehow they’ll find their way.

The typical procedure for Christian ministries and churches is to create what I call the “Discipleship Pipeline.” This is where we formulate a master plan on how to make disciples through our ministry structure.

We organize small and large groups, weekend retreats, even a Christmas conference and summer training program. We make sure all are accompanied with training materials and promotional brochures.

With everything in place, all we have to do is to dump all the new Christians and visitors into our neatly planned pipeline, confident that the flow of activity and influence will carry them along and at the end of the year─presto!—a disciple pops out!

We pat ourselves on the back, having finally found the formula to mass produce committed Christians from a distance. All of this being done without having to get our hands dirty by getting involved personally!

I know all about this, because I too have been guilty of creating this kind of well-oiled ministry machine.

It is a cheap, man-made substitute for the “life on life” investment that Paul exhorted Timothy to major in: “And the things which you heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

The word “entrust” here is a banking term that might better be translated as “deposit.”

Paul’s advice for Timothy was to find faithful individuals, and dial the combination lock on the treasure vault of their heart, then “deposit” into these faithful ones the most precious things from Timothy’s life and ministry.

The truth is, when choosing who to invest in, we have to be very careful.

Some disciplers can personally give themselves to five, six, or even seven individuals.

When one man told me he was discipling twenty students, I was tempted to enter him into the Guinness Book of World Records.

Even the Son of God only discipled twelve while He was on earth and one of those bombed out!

Don’t feel bad if you only have time or training for one or two, rather than six, twelve or twenty!

As one of my mentors in life, businessman Bill Smith told me, “Steve, if you take care of the depth of your life and ministry, God will take care of the breadth!” Good advice from one of my elders who’s been building disciples for twenty-plus years.

The Potential of Just One Student

Are you able to look deeply into the eyes of a single student and see the world won to Christ? Do you focus on people or programs?

It’s intoxicating to have big crowds at your weekly meetings, but don’t let that blind you to the real work of the ministry─pouring the life of Christ into one student at a time.

What is the worth of just one individual? Would Jesus have died for you if you were the only human on earth?

You’re so valuable that He spilled His blood and gave His life in exchange for yours.

To chain yourself each weekend to a few starry-eyed freshmen in your Bible study requires you to say no to your own agenda and rights, and adopt the perspective and conviction Jesus possessed as He chained Himself to hordes of sinful mortals for thirty-three years.

If perspective asks, “what do I see?” then conviction asks, “what will I do?”

Gaining the perspective of looking at each student, not as a problem, but as incredible potential, will cultivate a conviction where we’ll do anything to help another person grow in their relationship with Christ.

As I write this, I am filled with excitement for those of you that are on the verge of taking personal responsibility for the Great Commission to “make disciples of all the nations.” Let’s keep going!

An excerpt from The Fuel and the Flame by Steve Shadrach
To order a copy, click here.

  • Jaymi Blankenship

    Tupos, thanks Steve for a great word of encouragement!