Arise Mighty Army: Pentecostal Discipleship

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The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word Arise-to get up or stand up: to get up from sleep or after lying down: to move upward. Is it possible that the mighty army of God is scattered amongst the pews of the churches around the LAC, arms crossed, ignoring the Great Commission-Matthew 28:18-20? My doctoral dissertation (research and writing) reflected my concern that the pentecostal army of God is on continual stand-by, but never deployed.

In 2004, I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to momentarily lay aside my studies. The Holy Spirit shared with me a pentecostal discipleship strategy. Over a few hours, I transcribed the outline for this strategy, “T3D.” The symbols T3D are represented in the following way: T=Trinity; 3 in One; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and D=disciples; train 3 disciples, every 3 months. These concise symbols have been expanded into a 6 month, effective discipleship training in Uruguay, where my wife, Denise, and I serve as a missionaries.

Praxis of “T3D” training
We just completed a 6 month training, of 100 Uruguayan disciples, in 4 different cities of the interior. The 100 disciples were members selected by the pastors of 9 different churches. Denise and I traveled 650 miles, leaving our home Thursday morning, returning Sunday at 2 am. I started the training by asking the 100 disciples three simple questions: 1-“How many think that it is important to train disciples?” Everyone raised their hands and shouted, “YES!” 2-“How many think that the Bible speaks of the importance of training disciples?” Everyone raised their hands and shouted, “YES!” I asked a side question, “What verses?” They answered, “Um, not sure.” 3-I asked the 100 disciples, “How many disciples have you personally trained in this last year?” the response was, “Zero.” I concluded that church members believe that making disciples is important and they believe the Bible speaks to that importance. There is a cognitive dissidence between what they know and what they practice, causing dysfunctionality in the church. I am persuaded that all they lack is to be taught “HOW” to train disciples. This training must be built on a Theological and Biblical pentecostal foundation.

Theology and Bible
The actual word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible. The fullness of the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is represented throughout the Bible multiple times. Training pentecostal disciples requires the power of the Trinity. We are pentecostal because we believe in, and depend on the full power of the Trinity. Some pentecostals consume the power of the Holy Spirit inward on themselves, although scripturally, His power has always been other, or outward focused. John 3:16a accentuates the love of God because he gives his Son. This is an agape love, meaning that it is outward focused, unconditional and self-sacrificing. God gives all of his love to others, holding nothing in reserve. Agape love for a lost world is the disciples’ motivation to be Christ’s witnesses and to train other disciples.

Jesus’ disciples reproduced the model that they received. Jesus successfully implanted the correct core values into his disciples. The book of Acts no longer has the language of “Jesus’ disciples:” instead, his disciples were developing other disciples. In Acts 8:14-17, Jesus’ disciples imitated him as they sought to disciple other disciples empowered by the Holy Spirit:

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

In the Great Commission, Matthew 28:16-20, Jesus sends the disciples out into the world. Jesus’ words are powerful because they represent his first declaration to all eleven disciples immediately after his resurrection. The disciples met him in Galilee to hear an important word from him. Just 33 verses before, Matthew 27:50, Jesus was dead! His first important word was go and “train disciples,” baptize and teach them in the name of the Trinity. Would you place extreme importance on a word given to you by a person who just returned from the grave? The church today does not. The word “go” in verse 19, is not the “command” form. The word is a Greek present participle that is translated “in your going.” The expectation is to go out into the harvest. Jesus expects his disciples to be a witness for him as they live their everyday lives. He never expected that the church would do nothing. Translating this word as “in your going” places more responsibility on all Christians to think about ministry in different terms. T3D disciples are expected to “go,” and every three months they do a social/evangelistic team project in their city.

Two Epistemologies
Epistemologically, “Knowing” God in the Greek and Hebrew cultures, embodies two distinct meanings. To know God in the Greek philosophy (Gnosis) is to have information about him through the senses. Having information (Gnosis) about discipleship leads to studying courses with no practical application. To know God in the Hebraic mind-set (Yâda’) is to have experiential relationship with him. Experiential relationship, and application (Yâda’) leads to praxis-action. The difference between two epistemologies has many implications for a pentecostal theology of discipleship. The Hebraic epistemology of asking questions in order to know God through relationship is a better model for creating a disciple-making strategy.

Biblical Foundation
It has been my experience, after interviewing 200 Master level pastors/leaders, that they do not maintain a personal, spiritual discipline, of systematic Bible reading. Rather, they mainly read the Bible to prepare sermons/conferences for others. Amos 8:11 states, “The days are coming, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I will send a famine through the land-not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.” If they do not maintain a habit of strong spiritual discipline of Bible reading, then their followers will have less of a habit. Leaders/Pastors do not have a good biblical foundation to effectively train disciples with a (Yâda’) epistemology.

Following the Holy Spirit’s and Jesus’ model of discipleship accomplishes this biblical mandate, and will yield fruitful disciples. A lack of intentional, pentecostal theological teaching on discipleship and evangelism, incorporated with an

outdated paradigm, results in stunted growth in the work of the kingdom of God. Acts 1:8 gives a specific discipleship strategy from the Father. They received the power of the Holy Spirit to be a sacrificial “witness” (Greek-martyr). Their witness began locally and moved outward to the furthest places of their world. The harvest was multiplied as the disciples evangelized and trained others, in His power. The book of Acts continues to exemplify the power disciples can have as the Holy Spirit guides them.

Each of the T3D disciples receive a One Year Bible, or a free online One Year Bible plan. They are trained to begin a dailysystematic reading of the Bible. Systematic reading of His word becomes a priority. Trained disciples train their disciples, who train their disciples.

Prayer
Prayer and fasting were important spiritual disciplines practiced throughout the Old and New Testaments. In the New Testament, prayer and fasting were sacrificial ways to ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit. T3D disciples learn through prayer and fasting that seeking direction and empowerment from the Holy Spirit is critically important.

Praxis

Applying Matthew 28:19 and 20 in a practical way as it concerns disciple making is problematic. Many denominations face this disciple-making crisis. The model Jesus presented in the New Testament worked well. His style of disciple making demonstrated to the disciples how to carry out ministry by practicing it with them, and then encouraging them to do it. Developing disciples was accomplished within the context of community. They spent their lives together with the Master. Jesus poured his brief, earthly time into the twelve and, more specifically, the three. He was training his disciples to continue the task of disciple making and kingdom work, even after he was gone. Meeting T3D disciples weekly for 6 months, combined with the technology of “What’s App,” allows a sense of living life together with the T3D disciple. Time spent together created unity amongst 9 distinct churches, in one district.

The world population has grown at such an exponential rate that the current paradigm of reaching the lost and making disciples is no longer sufficient. An effective, healthy discipleship model must be implemented if the LAC is going to carry out the Great Commission. This discipleship model must include all the following elements: intentionality, accountability, a (Yâda’) experiential epistemology dedicated to spiritual formation, a theological and Biblical foundation, and an external component of reaching out. Currently, the T3D disciples in Uruguay are applying the training that they received by training other disciples, who are training other disciples. We began training 100 disciples, lost 40 and graduated 60. Just 6 months earlier these disciples were still on stand-by. Now, those 60 T3D disciples are training 110 disciples, for a total of 170 new disciples.

One Reply to “Arise Mighty Army: Pentecostal Discipleship”

  1. Thank you Michael for not only talking about but also developing a plan to address the “elephant in the room,” the Great Omission of the church which has been our failure to make disciples that “obey all to the commands” that Jesus has given us. May we return to this basic work both as Christian educators and ministers of the gospel.

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