EQUIPped for Gospel Reflection

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Billy Graham Library. While I have know the name Billy Graham and have heard many stories from his life, I was amazed at his heart and desire for people to know God and to walk with Him. His passion for the gospel and genuine love for people often put him in the position to bring the light of Christ into previously thought dark and impenetrable areas.

This got me thinking… How well do I really know the gospel? Does an overflowing gratefulness for the gospel of Christ overflow from my life? How about our students?

Shortly after visiting the Billy Graham Library, I was with a group of middle school students for Cadre’s Equip for Middle School Disciplemakers. Among other things, we spent time together writing out our story, looking at the five parts of the gospel, and sharing the gospel with each other.

What about the upcoming school year? How do we build times for gospel reflection throughout the year? What if we peppered into the rhythm of youth group – Gospel Nights. Three or four nights in the upcoming school year to creatively and actively remind each other of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To celebrate the gospel together.

First, we let’s start with the gospel itself. There are a variety of ways and resources to explain / communicate the gospel. I personally like the five parts that we use in Equip. Here they are:

  1. God loves me and wants me to live with him forever. (John 3:16)
  2. My sin separates me from a relationship with God. (Romans 3:23)
  3. I can’t fix my sin problem. Being good can’t save me. (Titus 3:5)
  4. God fixed my sin problem through Jesus’ death on the cross. (Romans 5:8)
  5. God invites me to believe and receive his gift of forgiveness. (John 3:16 | John 10:10)

Through Jesus, I can experience love, joy and peace in my life now and forever.

There are many other ways to communicate the gospel. Dare2Share uses 6-words: God. Our. Sins. Paying. Everyone. Life. Others use 4-words: Creation, Fall. Redemption. Restoration. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association uses four steps: God’s plan – peace and life, Our Problem – separation from God, God’s remedy – the cross, Our response – receive Christ.

You can also use one verse and some stick figure art: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Yup, do you remember the bridge illustration? 

Now get creative. What experiences can you come up with that will help your students engage and articulate their story and the story of the gospel?

  1. Key Word and Scripture Search. Split the gospel into each of its parts, and then have students search key words to find verses from the Bible that explain or relate to that part of the gospel.
  2. Linking the character of God to the gospel. Ask the question: what does each part of the gospel tell us about the character of God? Then have the students come up with the answers.
  3. Gospel scavenger hunt. Have students search for images or take photos for each part of the gospel. Have them share with each other the images and how or why it reminds them of the gospel. 
  4. What is God’s heart for people who do not know him? Read Luke 15 together or other intersection moments from the Gospels – moments when Jesus interacts with someone who does not know God. What is God’s heart for people who do not know him (Hint: John 3:16)?
  5. Share your intersection stories. How has your life intersected with the story of the gospel? Walk through each part of the gospel and ask each other questions:
  • Have you ever come to a point where you know God loves you? Tell me about that. What has made it hard to believe God loves you?
  • What do you think about the statement that, “my sin separates me from God”? Is that hard to believe? Have you ever felt a longing or distance from God – or something?
  • “I can’t fix my sin problem.” Is this true? Are we able to handle the consequences of life on our own or do we need God to step in? Have you had a moment in life where you’ve experienced this?
  • “God fixed my sin problem through Jesus’ death on the cross.” What does this mean? Do you believe this? If you do, tell me the story of how or why you believe this. If not, what prevents you from believing this?
  • What does receiving God’s forgiveness look like? What does it look like to walk through life with Jesus?

When it comes to the gospel, we often think about it in a confrontational context – a weapon to defend our view of life or to win an argument with someone who doesn’t believe the same thing that we do. No wonder talking about the gospel – even among fellow christians – stirs anxiety and causes our hearts to race.

This should not be. Let’s help the gospel to be the good news that it really is. Let’s celebrate it together. Find times to share the stories of how the gospel of Christ is intersecting our lives. The more we personally and our students know the gospel and celebrate the intersecting of Christ and our lives, the more we will see evangelism accidentally happening out of the overflow of our hearts. Use these ideas to get you started in being friends who celebrate the gospel of Jesus and its impact on our lives.

Hitting the kavanah bullseye

Kavanah is one of the key words we Cadre missionaries use often.

It’s a Hebrew word that helps us understand how God empowers us to live as disciplemakers. In its simplest form, kavanah means “to aim.” In disciplemaking, it describes the place where my disciplined actions meet God’s active presence in my life.

If disciplemaking is about following Jesus together, every day, we need his power to do it. And kavanah helps us see how.

We find the roots of Kavanah in the Babylonian Talmud. Berakoth 32b says, “Our Rabbis taught: Four things require to be done with kavanah, namely, [study of] the Torah, good deeds [loving others and showing kindness], praying always, and one’s worldly occupation.”

Kavanah is how we hit the bullseye as a disciple. It enables us to be filled up by Jesus, anticipating what God is going to do in us, through us and around us.

We practice these disciplines, depending on the help of the Holy Spirit to hit the kavanah bullseye:

1. Studying God’s Word to connect with him share what we’re learning about him.

2. Prayerfulness

3. Loving others as an overflow of God’s extravagant love for us.

4. Living a life that’s worship, as we work, play and invest in our friends and family.

As we study, pray, love and live together, we hit the bullseye as disciples who makes disciples, who make disciples.

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Hitting the bullseye together

In 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, Paul explains this to his friends:

“So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. 12 Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Paul reminds his friends they aren’t left on their own to follow Jesus. He is praying that God will enable them to live out their life with Jesus as they walk each day. Paul clearly expresses the kavanah bullseye: God will help you (enable, empower, prompt) to live with him and with each other in the way he desires, the way Jesus described in Acts 1:8:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Remember, Acts 1:8 isn’t a missionary verse. It’s a disciplemaking promise for every follower of Jesus.

Kavanah describes hitting the bullseye of God’s target for your life. God’s power and presence guide the flight of the arrow. Words like enable, empower, and prompt are beautiful pictures of the way God guides our lives toward his target: us living a disciplemaking life, for his glory!

This life includes walking in step with friends as we support one another in following Jesus. When Paul says to “to live a life worthy of his call,” he expects the Thessalonians will already understand what he means by a worthy life.

To live a life worthy of God’s call, we’ve got to following Jesus with friends, in the kavanah power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

  • When did you last sense God’s prompting…and obey?
  • How can you walk in God’s power today to make disciples with your family and friends?

How to choose your next best curriculum

People often ask me for curriculum recommendations. Since Cadre writes, publishes and offers a lot of training, people sometimes think we do curriculum.

But…we don’t.

I get why people ask. Choosing what to teach is a pressing, felt need many of us have as we plan to teach week-to-week…to week…to week.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-curriculum. But Cadre doesn’t write it because we believe disciplemaking is a way of life, and that’s our focus—helping you, as our in-real-life friends, follow Jesus with the people in your life, living sent to make disciples who make disciples. Disciplemaking isn’t meant to be a topic for us to teach for 8 weeks every other year as part of our Christian education rotation.

But wait, don’t close out the window yet!

We can still help.

The truth is, there are many great kinds of studies and resources you can use to cultivate disciplemaking values in your ministy. This is the best one. And I’ll share a few more at the bottom.

But let’s back up for a minute.

While I can share a few resources with you, I’d much rather equip you to choose your own curriculum well. In fact, this won’t be my only post on the topic. But today, I simply want to challenge you to think about the big picture.

Instead of picking a curriculum based on how well it’s designed, how easy it is to teach without much prep, or how many of your friends use it…stop and ask:

  • What does a disciple who makes disciples look like?
  • What head, hands and heart understanding do we want to help develop in people as we seek to make disciples?
  • What are our goals as we aim to make disciples who make disciples?

There are plenty of good studies out there. But unless you have clearly defined goals, you’re probably going to fumble around looking for “the next best thing” to teach every 3-6 months.

Here are some sample “exit goals” to show you what I mean.

By the time children finish Kindergarten, they should…

  • Know the Bible is God’s Word
  • Be able to pray a simple prayer

By the time kids finish 5th grade, they should…

  • Know God helps us overcome our fears
  • Be able to name the books of the Bible in order

By the time students finish high school, they should…

  • Understand God’s design for us to live in biblical community with one another
  • Be able to choose personal priorities based on their relationship with Jesus.

Once adults have experienced this class or group, they should…

  • Know how to lead someone to Christ
  • Be able to live out the one another verses with family and friends

Note that these are just EXAMPLES—they’re NOT mean to be exhaustive. You can view a more extensive list of goals and find practical help as you teach for disciplemaking in Cadre’s Teaching Genius of Jesus.

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If the ministry you’re a part of isn’t ready to come up with goals for all ages, spend some time prayerfully identifying a few simple goals for the group you’re teaching or leading.

Once you know what you’re aiming for, you can find studies that will help people grow as disciples in the areas you’ve identified.

But if you’re still looking for Cadre-style “curriculum,” start here…

  • You can break down our Equip middle school training into weekly bite sizes and plan a lesson around it. There are lots of ideas and creative ways to engage, but there’s no script. You’ll have to be willing to study and share the Scripture together with those you’re teaching.
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And finally, since I told you I would, here are a handful of additional resources I’ve found helpful in cultivating a disciplemaking way of life:

For kids:

Discover 4 Yourself Inductive Bible studies

The Jesus Storybook Bible (and curriculum)

252 Basics

For students:

Dare 2 Share’s Field Guide to Sharing Your Faith

Sticky Faith: 10 Lessons to Nurture Faith Beyond High School

For adults:

Let’s Read the Bible Together YouVersion plans

Prayer that Makes a Difference by Martin Sanders

A Righteous Brood by Hugh Halter

Middle schoolers lead the way in disciplemaking

So often in middle school ministry, we don’t get much beyond games and general early adolescent craziness.

Why?

I contend it’s because we don’t expect much out of middle schoolers. And guess what happens? We get exactly what we expect…not much.

But there is a better way.

Consider the Equip training experience. It’s 2-3 days of encouraging and equipping middle school students to make disciples who make more disciples.

Yes, I said middle school students and disciplemaking in the same sentence.

I know, right?

For some unfortunate reason, middle school students are often regarded as the ugly step-child of youth ministry.

I couldn’t disagree more.

When it comes to disciplemaking like Jesus, I think middle school students can lead the way for high school students and adults.

(Yeah…you’ll probably need to reread that sentence again.) I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. And it thrills my soul.

Okay, let me just say it: After 35 years of youth ministry in a wide variety of settings, I can honestly say Equip is the best disciplemaking training experience I’ve ever seen for middle schoolers.

You and the middle school students in your ministry are missing something very significant if they don’t experience Equip.

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Click here to find out more about giving your middle schoolers an Equip experience.