THE PREPARATION PHASE: How does God prepare us for the calling He’s placed on our life?
I’m writing from Haiti, a country I’ve been traveling to for the last 20 years. I originally met Pastor Wiljean Compere at the Billy Graham Conference for pastors and evangelists, Amsterdam 2000. In 2008, we started a residential disciple-making training program for young leaders called SOYM (the School Of Youth Ministry). This week, I have 13 young leaders in what is now our 16th year of training emerging leaders. We’ve seen God do miracles over the past 15 years. When we began SOYM, we decided to have our original group participate in a mission trip where they would use their training to lay the groundwork for a church plant. That was the first of many churches planted as a result of disciples being made and multiplied. Every year since, students have been sent out, and now 36 churches in Haiti are being pastored by SOYM graduates, as well as four in Chile and one in the Dominican Republic. In addition to these church planters and pastors, there are SOYM graduates serving in Open Door Haiti‘s orphanage, schools and medical clinic. God is using this training to raise up the next generation of disciple-making leaders in Haiti!
When we began SOYM, the blueprint was simple. Let’s follow the model of Jesus. How did He prepare his leaders? How had the Father prepared Him? Jesus’ ministry began around the age of thirty when He was baptized by His cousin, John. Not a lot is recorded from those first thirty years. We have three major sections of the Gospels devoted to that time.
- Jesus’ birth and flight to Egypt
- Jesus in the Temple as a twelve year old old
- The ministry of John the Baptist as Jesus’ forerunner
You can look at these three and see the preparation of Jesus in these three ways.
For every movement, first God must prepare a movement leader. Their identity must be rooted in Christ. Their character must be developed to reflect Christ. Their calling must be clarified and affirmed in pursuit of Christ and His mission.
The gaps in Jesus’ story leave us with some intriguing questions.
How old was Jesus when His family returned to Nazareth? How did the Father use that time in a foreign land to shape Jesus’ identity and broaden His understanding of people and culture?
What influence did Jesus’ step-father Joseph have in His life? As his earthly dad taught Him carpentry, were there any spiritual lessons that he passed on as well? How might the skills Jesus’ learned while apprenticing as a carpenter have transferred to His ministry?
How old was Jesus when Mary and Joseph began to have other children? Growing up as the eldest in a large family with many brothers and sisters, how did this influence Jesus as a leader and a disciple-maker?
Did Joseph pass away before Jesus began His ministry, and Jesus had to accept the role as the primary provider for His large family? Did Jesus’ younger brothers apprentice under Him as carpenters? What disciple-making skills might He have developed in the process?
Did Jesus have any interaction with His cousin John growing up? How might John’s zeal for God have encouraged Jesus?
In Robert Clinton’s classic, The Making of a Leader, he makes the point that God must do a work in you before He can ever do a work through you. This is what must happen in The Preparation Phase. God is preparing the individual’s identity, character and calling to match the assignment He has for them.
With all this in mind, we designed SOYM around the development of the identity, character and calling of young leaders while also equipping them with practical disciple-making skills and experiences. The students would live at the disciple-making training center from September through December, then return home to do an internship in their local church. They would have specific assignments to complete during their six month internship, and they would also participate in a mission trip, doing advance work for the planting of a new church.
The first week of SOYM, everyone would share their story. We would learn about their family and their faith journey that brought them to SOYM. They would be taught the 4 temperament types, take a temperament indicator test, and learn how to relate with people of different temperaments. They would also learn about spiritual gifts and take a spiritual gifts test. In addition to this, we used Neil Anderson’s The Bondage Breaker to teach them about their identity in Christ. A core study we use to help the students dive deep into Jesus is Sonlife’s Knowing Him: 50 Day Study of the Life of Christ.
We made it a requirement at SOYM that everyone lives in the training center, even if their home is nearby and they could easily commute. This was because living together produces unique opportunities for character development. Everyone’s given assignments each week. Most have never cleaned a toilet before! They do manual labor, helping in the ministry’s garden on occasion. And five days a week, they’re required to be up at 6:00 for morning exercise. This usually consists of a two mile run. In addition to a character-shaping environment, they also practice daily spiritual disciplines, reading the Word and praying BEFORE breakfast. The students are given challenging experiences to stretch their endurance and faith, like hiking a mountain or rock climbing. In the classroom, they would learn relational skills like The Five Love Languages. Like young Jesus, we want to see these young leaders grow in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and man!
Before learning their specific calling, we would teach and train them in God’s general calling for every believer. We would equip them to be a disciple who makes disciples. After all, you can’t become a disciple-making leader if you aren’t first a disciple-maker. This is God’s general call for every believer. Everyone makes disciples! We train the SOYM students in Sonlife’s Strategy Seminar, where they learn to:
- WIN THE LOST
- BUILD THE BELIEVER
- EQUIP THE WORKER
- MULTIPLY DISCIPLE-MAKERS
Each month during their four months of residential training, their teaching and experiences focus on one of these four. They are trained in Evangelism Explosion and apologetics, then sent out to share the gospel. They are taught The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus as a Biblical overview from creation to Christ. They are taught Bible Study Methods and learn about prayer and spiritual warfare.
And then, in helping them discern God’s specific calling on their life, they study Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God and are also taught Mark Tittley’s Destiny Seminar where they learn how to write a personal mission statement and set goals.
None of this is a guarantee, of course, that they will be prepared at the end of 10 months to step into God’s calling. Their preparation phase might be longer. But we worked hard to create an atmosphere, process and experience where preparation can happen. What we’ve heard repeatedly is that these young leaders completed SOYM more equipped to make disciples and lead a disciple-making ministry than most pastors who have graduated from seminary.
At the end of their 10 month journey through SOYM, I ask the students to share what God has done in their life and how they saw God use them during their six month internship. Jocelyn shared that he had gone to a village to do hut to hut evangelism. In one weekend, 17 people trusted Christ as their Savior. He went another weekend, and 21 more trusted in Christ. Then he went back again, and 16 put their faith in Christ. Weekend after weekend Jocelyn went to this village for two months. I asked how many people trusted Christ. He said 121. I was excited, but the next question was important. “Jocelyn, that’s amazing! Now, have you done any follow up? Have you started any small groups for these new believers? Jocelyn replied matter-of-factly, “Yes, I have started two small groups. They both have about sixty people in them.” Now smiling, I told Jocelyn, “That’s incredible! 60? That’s NOT a small group. That’s a church!”
When I look back at my own story, how God prepared me for the calling He has on my life, I see His unmistakable plan in shaping my own identity, character and calling.
How has God prepared you? How is He preparing you right now?
Do you live a disciple-making lifestyle? Have you stepped into “professional ministry” without having ever learned to make a disciple? If so, you’re still in the Preparation Phase, even if you’ve been in professional ministry for twenty years.
If you’re not sure which Phase you’re at in the process of becoming a disciple-making movement leader, we encourage you to read last week’s blog that overviews the 5 Phases and take Sonlife’s 5 Phase Ministry Assessment.