Vision Casting 101 – What Do You Seek?

Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.  

(John 1.35-39)

Cecil and Jeannie asked my brother and I if we were interested in coming to their house for dinner.  A month later we moved into their basement and lived with their family for the next year. It was the beginning of a mentoring relationship that would last for decades. And it all started with a simple question.

Cecil’s vision-casting began with a question. But that was only the first of many questions.  As far as we were concerned, we were going to eat dinner with an older follower of Jesus. But Cecil’s invitation for dinner extended far beyond just having a nice meal and small talk. There was something Cecil was looking for; Did we want to see God? Could we see ourselves as Jesus’ ambassadors to a lost and dying world? Did we see ourselves as the generation to carry the torch of Christ to the next generation? In a sense, he was asking the same question Jesus did, “What do you seek?”

These questions were not answered that night. But over the next few years, Cecil would ask vision-casting questions over and over again in many different ways. And just like Jesus, he invited us to “Come and see.” Cecil’s agenda/vision was to turn us into passionate followers of Jesus and fishers of men.

Jesus had an agenda/vision too.  When He asked the disciples “What do you seek?” I’m sure Jesus knew exactly where He was going with them. His vision was far more than these fishermen could even imagine for themselves. They responded with a seemingly mundane question to answer Him; “Where are you staying?” Really!?! This is completely understandable considering these guys were at the front end of discipleship and probably didn’t fully understand the magnitude of the journey they were about to embark on. They didn’t even know the right questions to ask. And Jesus was not put out by the underwhelming request even though He was the Messiah, Creator, the King of kings. His invitation to “come and see” was a gracious opportunity that would go well beyond seeing the geographical location He was living.

The two disciples spent the rest of the day with Him. Jesus’ vision had begun. In time, He would turn them into His passionate followers and fishers of men. But it all started with a question; “What do you seek?”

Vision-casting is all about helping people answer the question. “What do you seek?” As disciple-makers it is our responsibility to lift up the eyes of the disciples to look beyond what presently exists and see what is possible when one follows Christ. They may not see it in the beginning. In fact, they probably won’t. But as we see the vision for them and keep reminding them of their identity and purpose from the Scriptures, they will be able to see the glorious hights the Master is calling them to.

Call to Action: Ask someone you are discipling; “What do you seek?” Don’t try to fill in all the blanks for them, but use Scripture (John 1.35-39) to lift up their eyes and see the next steps in the journey to glorify God. It should be a very interesting discussion. 🙂

A Blast from the Past: Success and Failure

Bullseye Discipleship – The Ultimate Aim

We are sure that the bullseye in discipleship is Jesus Christ. He is our ultimate aim. Our goal is to help people become like Him and completely dependant on Him.

A young single person was sitting in the back seat of our car on the way to a retreat and, as is our custom, Deb and I grilled them on their walk with Jesus. They went on and on about the quality of their spiritual life and finally, I asked this question; “How does Jesus fit into all of this?” They responded very matter of factly, “Oh, yeah, that too.”

Now we were super kind and patient with them but, in my head, alarm bells were going off. WHAT!?! THAT TOO!?! First of all, Jesus is not a “that” He’s a He. Secondly, you just relegated Jesus off to an inconsequential appendage of your spiritual life. And if we are not careful, we can do the exact same thing with the most well-meaning discipleship program.

Jesus is the Bullseye

I hope you noticed that in almost every blog post, I use Jesus as the primary example. In fact, I get my definition of discipleship straight from Jesus Himself.

*“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master…”

(Matthew 10.24-25a)

**“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”

(Luke 6.40)

Our aim in spending time, proximity, influencing, and casting vision all has to do with the objective of helping the disciple of Jesus become like Him and fully dependant on Him. That’s why I use the word “apprentice” to define a disciple rather than just a follower or student. An apprentice’s aim is to become like the teacher. I think apprentice conveys a much better definition.

One last point. I never call the men and women I’m discipling “my disciples” (even though there is biblical precedence – Act 9.25). I may call them Timothys, my guys, or mighty warriors. But I never call them my disciples. Why? Because I want our aim to be crystal clear. Their goal is to become like Jesus, not me. The name disciple is a term of endearment that belongs to the Master and to the Master only. Besides that, could you imagine a bunch of little chuck woods running around? 😳

Are you making disciples of Jesus?

Call to Action: In a conversation with your Timothys, count the number of times Jesus’ name comes off your lips. Read Colossians 1 out loud and time the reading. How many times does Paul refer to Jesus in that short amount of time?

A Blast from the Past: The Main Thing is to Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

*Matthew 10.24-25 is in the context of describing persecution. If they persecuted the teacher, they will persecute the disciples.

**Luke 6.40 is in the context of warning. Jesus is exhorting the people and making the point that if one follows hypocritical leadership, they will become a hypocrite too.

Even though in these two contexts Jesus does not explicitly define a disciple for the purpose of definition, Jesus makes His definition of a disciple quite clear; One becoming like his teacher.

Bullseye Discipleship – Vision

We think the bullseye for discipleship is when a disciple’s passion is to reach the world for Christ.

I was sitting across the table from a cadet in Grant Hall. The hall is a popular cafeteria/hangout at West Point, home of the United States Military Academy. The walls are decorated with portraits of great American leaders like Eisenhower and MacArthur. West Point is a hero factory. It cranks out a thousand highly motivated, supremely educated, and physically fit leaders each year. West Point also happens to be fertile soil for serious spiritual leaders. What was I doing there? Fishing for leaders! Fishing in a pond stocked with America’s finest. To catch these fish though, you need to use the same bait that Jesus used, a challenge to make a real difference in the world. I usually went right after the jugular; I presented the Great Commission

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20). 

As I explained the challenge and the rewards to this young leader brimming with potential, his eyes gleamed with enthusiasm. I hit the crescendo and ended my vision casting the way I always did, “Does this grip your heart? Is this something you can give your life to?” More often than not, it was a resounding “YES.” But now as the disciple-maker, I needed to roll up my sleeves and turn this enthusiastic “wannabe” into a real spiritual warrior. That takes intentionality and time.  People generally don’t catch vision because of one good sermon or because its posted in some conspicuous place. Vision is infused by the visionary through repetitive, inspiring, challenges that move a person from clueless to passion. I’ve recognized some very distinct stages over the years.

Stages for Vision Development (C-MVP)

  • Clueless – They wouldn’t know the Great Commission if it walked up and bit them.
  • Mission – They acknowledge as a task that should be completed by someone in the church
  • Vision – The blinders have come off and they are taking personal responsibility
  • Passion -They are all in. The GC is what they breath, eat, drink, sleep, and dream.

They may be diamonds in the rough but these are the kind of men and women you look for. You will need to do the hard work of inspiring them to the next stage. I believe these kinds of men and women exist all over the world and Jesus is calling them just like He did during His days in Judea.

I’d like to spend a few weeks talking about how I cast vision but first I need to finish the Bullseye Illustration with one last thought, which happens to be the most important. 

Call to Action: Study the Great Commission with your Timothys and ask them these questions; Does this grip your heart? Is this something you can give your life to?

A Blast from the Past: BEING JESUS AS THE BODY

Bullseye Discipleship – Influence

We think that when a disciple sees you, the disciple-maker, as their spiritual leader, you’ve hit the discipleship bullseye.  

But there’s a lot that should take place before someone sees you as their spiritual leader! Let’s take a look at the principles in Hebrews.

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith…Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

(Hebrews 13.7,17)

There are Seven Key Principles to Consider

  1. Leaders teach the Word of God. Are you teaching the Word? Spiritual leaders are using everything but the Word these days. There are a lot of good books out there. But let the Bible be your standard.
  2. Leaders apply the Word of God. We don’t just preach it, we live it out in front of the disciples. I’m sorry, but I’m not putting my soul in your hands because you preach great sermons (Or write a 500-word blog).
  3. Leaders live a life worth imitating. Am I living a “do as I do” life or a “do as I say” life? Remember you can’t follow what you can’t see.
  4. Leaders can expect to be followed when they have met the first three requirements. Many leaders expect disciples to follow them when they haven’t paid the price. Pay the price.
  5. Leadership is serious business. As one of my Bible college profs used to say; “A brain surgeon messes with a man’s brain. That’s nothing compared to messing with a man’s soul.”
  6. Leadership should be a joy for both the disciple and the disciple-maker. (3 John 1:4)
  7. Leadership is a huge gift and advantage! If you have had a mentor, thank them today. If not, stand in the gap and be a mentor to someone else.

Here’s what influence looks like on the bullseye. The outermost ring would represent a person who sees you as a good person. The second, they see you as a good Christian. The third would represent someone who sees as a spiritual leader. And the bullseye would be a person who sees you as their spiritual leader. You are their Paul and they are your Timothy.

One note of caution before we leave the topic of influence. There is a big difference between influence and manipulation or control. (Mark 10.45, 1 Peter 5:2, Philemon 8-9) I say that the easiest form of leadership is leading people where they want to go. (Amos 3.3) If you have to force a person to follow you, stop and go find someone who’s eager to join you in the journey. That’s what Jesus did.

Call to Action: 

If you have a mentor, thank them. Write down the names of the people that would consider you a spiritual leader. Narrow the list to 1, 2, or 3. Spend focused time together studying Heb 13.7, 17.

A Blast from the Past: America’s Favorite Pass Time

Bullseye Discipleship – Proximity

We think disciples living within 10 minutes of the disciple-maker is hitting the bullseye in discipleship. Wow again! You may as well live with the disciple-maker! Yes, that’s an option but keep reading. You are going to need a buddy to read this blog post. I suggest the person you are discipling in order to get more time with them 🙂

Stand face to face and you both put your hand in the air.

Now the disciple-maker instructs the disciple to follow her hand. If she raises her hand, the disciple raises her hand. If she moves it side to side, the disciple moves her hand side to side with her.

Now the disciple-maker instructs her to close her eyes and try to follow her hand. Obviously, she cannot. The point; you cannot follow what you cannot see. One of the strongest benefits of proximity is being able to model.

Now the disciple-maker instructs the disciple to open her eyes and follow her hand. The disciple-maker starts moving her hand. First slowly and then faster. At first, it is quite easy to follow her hand. But as she speeds up, it will become more and more difficult for her to imitate the disciple-maker.

Now they put their hands together and interlock their fingers. The disciple-maker instructs the disciple to follow her hand. Of course, it’s much easier because they have locked their hands together. This illustrates the power of proximity.

Jesus did this with His disciples.

And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach…

(Mark 3.14)

We call this the “With Him” principle. Jesus, the Master Disciple-Maker, leveraged the power of proximity. The closer a disciple gets to the disciple-maker, the easier it is for the disciple to follow the disciple-maker. (Watch the video for further explanation)

How does this apply to you as a mentor? Well, we have found the closer a person lives to the disciple-maker, the more time they get and the more effective the discipleship.

Generally speaking, if the disciple lives within 10 minutes of the disciple-maker they will spend quite a bit more time together. You can usually get three to four touches a week.

If a disciple lives 20 minutes away, it’s probably two to three touches a week.  If it’s 30 minutes its probably one or two touches. At 40 minutes the disciple might as well live in a different state! Deb and I have found that these times are consistent with the number of touches that we get with the people that we are discipling.

Carter and Hannah in OKC wanted to reach a particular set of apartments with the gospel so they intentionally moved into the complex. The men and women they were discipling joined them. Not only did they share the gospel with everyone in the complex, but they also got a boatload of time with the folks they were mentoring. The principle of proximity is too powerful to ignore.

Call to Action: How far do you live from the people you are discipling or being discipled by. Is there any way to get closer?

A Blast From the Past: Choosing the 12

Bullseye Discipleship – Time

bullseye time

We think it takes four quality meetings a week to hit the discipleship bullseye. Wow! That’s a lot of time! But don’t give up. Keep reading. I’ve already written about the importance of time in the discipleship process but let’s look at some specifics. Remember, you can only do this with a few disciples. You can help many but focus on a few. If you focus on everyone, you are focused on no one.

 

 

Quantity

 

Deb and I have found that 3 to 4 touches a week are the key to healthy discipleship. One touch would be our corporate family meeting with other disciples. Another should be an accountability time (A-Teams / Huddles). Two more can be casual times of eating a meal, having coffee, or a fun activity together. (We found that some of the most meaningful discussions happen spontaneously in the normal course of life). Notice I didn’t designate any one of these as church. To us, it’s ALL church.

 

Quality

 

But it’s not just the amount of time that makes the difference. It’s also the quality of time. Quality begins with “thought.” In Hebrews we are commanded to “…consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” (Heb 10.24) Forethought leads to intentional effective discipleship. I’ve heard people say, “I don’t have an agenda in my discipleship.” Jesus did and every good disciple-maker will as well. Our agenda is to stimulate our fellow disciples to love and good deeds. Our ultimate goal is to help people connect with Jesus in such a way they become like Him (Mat 10:24-25, Rom 8:28-29, 1Jn 2:6).

 

I love the illustration Mark from OKC uses to show the dynamics between the disciple-maker and the disciple. We start as heralds of good news pointing people to Jesus. As wise disciple-makers, we say with the Apostle Paul, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” (1Cor 11:1) But the disciple-maker keeps pointing to Jesus as the primary Disciple-maker throughout the process. See Mark’s video for further explanation. (Click here for video)

Two Tips for More Time

 

But finding time to get 3-4 touches a week is quite challenging for many busy people. Two practical tips will help you find the time.

 

  1. Multiply your efforts. There are things that you already do on a routine basis; meals, shopping, household chores, kids activities, road trips, vacations, etc… Bring those you are discipling along with you. (Mark 3.14) You’d be surprised at the depth of discussion that can happen during some of these mundane events.

 

  1. Say no to something good. Most of us know how to fill our plates with good stuff but only a few of us know how to fill our plates with the best stuff. Everyone gets 24 hours a day. The question is “How will you use them?” What will you say no to and to what will you say yes? We need to see “No” as a strategic response and say yes to discipleship.

 

Call to Action: Make a list of things you will say “no” to in order to get 3-4 meetings with a few disciples you are focused on this week.

 

A Blast from the Past: What are we building?

 

So What?

from-so-what-to-now-what-37-638

I’ve described the difference between the advisor, coach, and mentor. I’ve also established that Jesus did all three and that all three are important in the disciple-making process. So what’s the big deal? Well, nothing unless you’ve experienced a mentoring relationship! Those of us who have been and had mentors know that it makes a huge difference in people’s Christ-like transformation. My whole purpose in writing these posts is to aggressively recruit you to become a mentor versus just an advisor or a coach. Let me give you three reasons why my hair is on fire about this.

 

  1. Advice alone is not leading to life transformation.

 

Advisors are a dime a dozen. And I’m not talking about people giving bad advice. I’m talking about good advice! We have great folks preaching sermons, writing books (and blogs), making videos, and these pillars of sound direction will even sit down and have a cup of coffee with you (occasionally). But with all these Giants of Guidance giving a giant volume of advice, we still have a giant gap between the amount of information people know and what they are able and/or willing to do. Advice alone is not facilitating individual, corporate, or cultural change.  

 

  1. Coaching alone is not enough relationship to sustain life transformation.

 

Although there are probably not as many coaches as advisors, it seems like everybody and their brother is training people in new methods of ministry. In fact, the landscape is so dense, that people roll their eyes when they hear about another program (including #NoPlaceLeft). But before I come down too hard on the coach, let me say again that coaching is essential. The problem comes when the coach is not vested in the trainee’s life and they hit obstacles that are not associated with the ministry skills being taught. People’s lives consist of much more than becoming competent and confident in ways to do ministry.

 

  1. Mentoring is a holistic approach to the disciple’s life

 

A friend recently asked me this question; How do you cast vision? He rattled off some of the more conventional ways leaders try to lift up people’s eyes to stretch them toward a “kingdom” mentality versus a “me” mentality. My answer was anything but conventional. I said, “You have to walk with people in the vision in order for them to get it. And this is precisely what a mentor does with a mentee in virtually every area of life; they walk with them. They walk with them as they journey through the ups and downs of ministry, their personal relationship with Jesus, and even the mundane stuff of life. A mentor has agreed to lock arms with you and “do life” together. I like what Amos says;

 

Two people will not walk together unless they have agreed to do so.

(Amos 3.3)

 

It’s that simple. You, the mentor, have agreed to walk with someone for the purpose of discipleship.

 

Now that I have you signing the dotted line in blood, I want to spend the next few blog posts describing some key principles for mentoring using the Bull’s Eye Illustration.
bullseye

Call to Action: Who have you agreed to walk with? Do they know that your objective is to help them become conformed to the image of Christ? Ask them what that means to them.

 

A Blast from the Past: A DISCIPLE OPENLY IDENTIFIES WITH CHRIST