Making Disciples: Push vs Pull

Equipping the saints for the work of the ministry is hard. One of the things that makes it so hard is that there is so much equipping to do! We need to teach people to read their bibles, share their faith, love their spouse, raise their children, pray, work and rest unto the Lord, live on mission…..the list could go on and on. So where do we start? And how do we get to all of this with an ever changing group of people in all different stages of life and maturity?

One thing that has helped me is to think of equipping through the lenses of PUSH versus PULL. What I have learned is that while “push” is important, “pull” is the most effective way to equip people for life and mission in the everyday. Here is a breakdown of push versus pull.

PUSH equipping is “pushing” information into people who need it. They may or may not know that they need this information, but we know they need it, so we are going to give it to them. Most push equipping is done in theory, disconnected from real experiences and people. The idea behind push equipping is– let’s teach them how to do it so they will know, and they won’t fail. Example: a class that trains people to share their faith.

PULL equipping is “pulling” people into the information they know they need. Pull equipping is connected to real experiences and real people, and only happens when you have called people to do something that you know they cannot do on their own. The idea behind pull equipping is– let’s call them to do it, let them fail, and then equip them when they doExample: training people to share their faith (with specific people) because they want to or have tried, but don’t know how.

Think about pre-marital counseling. It is helpful and needed for any couple…but it is primarily just good information prior to marriage (push). Let someone be married for a few years, realize they need help, and then give them that help…and it is equipping for marriage (pull).

What this looks like…

One year ago I realized that the majority of the people in my MC had very few relationships with non-believers. So I began to call us to cultivate relationships with those who are far from Jesus. We threw neighborhood parties, committed to pray for new friendships, and committed to bringing intentionality to the ones we had. We did this for a year. It was awesome. Two weeks ago during our family meeting I asked the question, “how are we doing at sharing the gospel with the people God has placed in our lives?” The answer…not good. One person even said, “I feel like I don’t know how to say it (the gospel) in their language“.

I wasn’t discouraged by this at all. My response was, “Awesome! It’s my job to teach you to do that.

Now I get to give food to people who are hungry for it. They have real people and real situations to apply it to. They will digest it.

With only push equipping, people might never be hungry for it. It’s just another can to put in the pantry for later…incase they need it.

I am thankful to my friend, Mark, who coached me through my frustrations last month and helped me see that I needed to do less pushing and more pulling as I equipped the saints for the work of ministry.

Understanding Mission: Seasons of Mission

As we plant missional communities we want every MC to be a family that understands that mission is an ancient work, we want to approach mission reactively and proactively, and we want to accept that mission happens in seasons. To finish out my series on “Understanding Mission” I will unpack seasons of mission.

Seasons of Mission

Being a good missionary isn’t only about leading people to Christ and baptizing them. There is much more to it. It is helpful to think of it this way—a good farmer does much more than just harvest his crop. He invests his life into farming and knows the importance of every season of the harvest. Good farmers spend months preparing and cultivating the soil. This means hard work plowing the ground, turning over the soil, and removing the rocks.  Once the soil is cultivated and ready, then comes the season of sowing the seed (whatever he hopes to see grow). This time of sowing also means the hard work of watering, nurturing, and protecting the seed as it takes root and begins to grow. When the crop is ready and mature, then comes the season of harvest. Harvest involves carefully reaping the crop and producing it in a proper manner (i.e. grapes become wine). In the same way, good missionaries invest their lives into gospel ministry and know the importance of every season of mission. I think that it is important for a missional community to always be identifying what season of mission they are in. I have seen and lead many groups that “spin their wheels” and never make any missional traction because they are sowing gospel seeds without having done the hard work of cultivating the soil first.

Below you will find a description of the three seasons of mission that I hope you will find helpful. At Redeemer, our hope is that every missional community will always be in one of these three seasons of mission. An important thing to remember is that not one of these seasons is more important than the other. They are all equally necessary to making disciples that make disciples. What is most important is that your missional community is able to identify what season you are in, and then you allow the Holy Spirit to lead your MC as you cultivate, sow, and harvest for God’s glory in our city!

Cultivating– cultivating (or plowing) is the part of the discipleship process where we are praying for our focus area, making friends, learning their stories, and finding people of peace in our missional communities’ focus area. We are building relationships, listening to the Spirit in prayer, and focusing the majority of our time together in relational settings that connects us to the people we believe God has called us to reach.

Key Activities During This Season – praying for people by name, prayer walking in our focus area, building relationships, throwing parties in order to meet people, and including our new friends with the family. During the season of cultivating a missional community should spend less time in the living room and more time out making friends and building relationships. 

Sowing– sowing is the season where we begin to share our lives with the people we have connected with and sow “gospel seeds”. We are sharing our story, speaking of Jesus, and displaying a gospel centered life to our friends.  Remember, because we have done the hard work of plowing our friends trust us and love us at this point, so us sharing of Christ is only natural. As the Spirit leads, we are beginning to invite them into our expression gatherings, missional community meetings, Sunday gatherings, and other social activities in our church family. Sowing also involves nurturing, watering, and protecting the “gospel seeds” we have sown. This might look like additional conversations, clearing up any confusion, praying fervently for salvation, and serving the people we are sharing with. During this season a missional community might spend more time in the living room and around the dinner table discussing the scriptures, going through the Story of God, and planning proactive mission.

Key Activities During This Season – sharing the gospel in conversations and through everyday rhythms, inviting friends into the life and gatherings of church family, deepening relationships and trust, and fervently praying for friends by name.

Harvesting– harvesting is the season where we see our friends come to believe in Christ and trust in him for salvation and life. This usually happens in mini-stages, but we know we are in the season of harvesting because we see the Spirit at work in our friends lives. We know we are in the season of harvesting when we are seeing our friends responding to our sharing the gospel in positive ways. They have recognized their need for Jesus in their lives, they are reading the bible and praying with us, and they are motivated to serve with us. The pinnacle of the harvesting season comes when our friends officially repent and believe in Christ and are adopted into God’s family! Once this happens, we continue the discipleship process as we live life as a family.

Key Activities During This Season– sharing the truth of the scripture, praying with our friends, serving others with our friends, encouraging faith decisions, and calling our friends to believe.

One last thing that is important to remember in regard to the seasons of mission is that God might be asking us to share in the harvest with other believers somewhere else.  This happened to me once with a neighbor. I spent two years doing the hard work of plowing and sowing. I prayed for my neighbor, got to know him and his family, shared with him over and over again about Jesus, cared for him during tough times—only to watch him move to another city right as I sensed the Spirit leading us into the season of harvest. During this time I had to trust that God’s work is an ancient work and rejoiced that I got to play a role in the harvest that would come. It has also been my experience that I have met neighbors who are already immediately open to the gospel, because others have done the hard work of cultivating in their lives. Consider John 4:26-38 and 1 Corinthians 10:10.

How would your community function differently if you embraced the seasons of mission?