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Help Your Disciples See Their Full Potential

Gideon was a timid man who struggled with inferiority. But the angel of the Lord came to him and said: “God is with you, O mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12, MSG). Gideon didn’t believe those words. He saw himself as a failure. But eventually he became a champion. This is what God wants to do in your disciples, but they must break free from old mindsets to see their true identity. They can be changed from wimps to warriors!

Part of my job as a mentor is to help my disciples see who they are in Christ. Life may have programmed them to think they are failures, stupid, weak, inferior or unlovable. Yet there are so many Scriptures that tell us who we really are! The Word of God says we are “righteous,” “forgiven,” “clean,” “accepted” by God, “victorious” and “bold.” I made a list of scriptures to help my disciples understand their new identity. If you would like this list, message me and I will send it to you.

As we meditate on what God says about us, we will be transformed!

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Make the Most of Each Moment With Your Disciples

Eight years ago this week I performed the wedding of a young couple, Steven and Brandy. Steven has been like a son to me since I began mentoring him in 2010. This week he thanked me for a chat we had at a TCBY yogurt shop the night before his wedding. “You told me I could ask you any question I wanted,” Steven said. “You were so transparent and honest.” That chat at TCBY marked Steven forever!

When I spend time with a disciple I imagine it could be my last time to see him. I make the most of the opportunity. I deeply engage. I make eye contact, show concern and listen carefully. Then I prayerfully pour out encouragement and counsel. Proverbs 25:11 says: “The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry.” If you let the Holy Spirit direct your words, your disciple will treasure your counsel for a lifetime. Look for those “TCBY” moments. Invest your life. A simple conversation can be an unforgettable, life-changing moment.

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Disciples Don’t Quit When Things Get Tough

I love my ministry work, but it’s not easy. Part of my job involves trusting God to provide funds to pay for overseas missions projects. God has provided miraculously in the past. But sometimes it’s so discouraging to look at my bank account and see the numbers going down instead of up. Sometimes I feel like quitting because nothing is happening after I pray.

That’s when I remember 1 Timothy 6:12, which says, “Fight the good fight of faith.” Paul explains here that faith is a struggle. The word “fight” in this verse is the Greek word “agon,” from which we get the word “agony.” Walking by faith is not for wimps. It is intense warfare! When you trust God for a miracle, you may feel like all hell is against you. Yet Paul also calls us to wage a “good fight.” That means you must give it your all. Fight like a champion. Keep believing. Quitting is not an option. You will grow stronger through this fight, and you will win because God is with you.

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Discipleship Should Be Fun, Not Religious

Last weekend I hosted a retreat in my home for 16 guys. They came from 9 states and one foreign country. For three days we studied the Bible, prayed for each other, shared meals, swam, and hiked a mountain. The guys loved connecting not only with me but with each other. Through tacos, laughter, brotherly hugs and open sharing, lifelong friendships were formed. And I’m not ashamed to admit I shed some tears when the guys left.

Discipleship is not a cold, clinical process. It must be warm and relational. Paul told the Philippians: “For God is my witness how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:8). When you gather your disciples, whether it’s a one-on-one meeting, a small group or a larger group, make it fun and inviting. You don’t have to be super serious or religious. Open your home and your heart and pour out joy. In an authentic atmosphere, your disciples will open their hearts, confess their struggles and experience healthy growth.

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God Will Multiply Your Influence in Others

David began his career as a leader by killing Goliath. But he faced the Philistines again near the end of his life when his physical strength was failing. This time there were four giants in these battles, and this time the men David had trained killed them. 2 Samuel 21:22 says: “These four were born to the giant in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.”

David’s disciples ended up doing exactly what David had done years earlier. They each bravely defeated a giant who “defied Israel” (v. 21), just as Goliath had. Yet because David invested in others, his influence was multiplied. He defeated one giant as a young man; in his older years his disciples defeated four giants! This will happen when you invest in your small group of future leaders. The training may take a while, but as you love them, pray for them and encourage them, they will grow into champions.

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Be Strong in the Word and the Spirit

God gave us two legs so we can walk with balance. In our spiritual journey we also have two legs: (1) the Word of God, and (2) the Holy Spirit. Some churches emphasize the Bible, but they can become dry, religious or overly intellectual if they don’t balance this with the Spirit. In the same way, some churches emphasize the Holy Spirit yet they can slip into error if they aren’t grounded in Scripture.

The Word and the Spirit work together. Don’t neglect either! You should be a student of the Word like Apollos, who was “mighty in the Scriptures”

(Acts 18:24). But you should also be filled with the Holy Spirit and develop spiritual gifts, like Paul. He said: “My message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:4). You can have all the right Bible verses and read all the right books and still be powerless. Be mighty in the Scriptures AND in God’s power!

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Don’t Be a Fake Mentor

I’ve been going through a tough season. My elderly mother is very weak, and I know her death is imminent. Then last week my mother-in-law died unexpectedly. On top of that, the financial pressures of my upcoming Bold Venture events cause a lot of stress. I’m trusting the Lord to help me! But I don’t hide my struggles from those I’m discipling. They know about my pain, and their words cheer me up and boost my faith.

Paul had a close relationship with his disciples. He mentored them, but they also refreshed him and ministered to him. A mentoring relationship is not a one-way street. As a mentor, never pretend that you are Superman. Be real. Paul was a model Christian, but he admitted that he had a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7). He boasted about his weaknesses because this helped him lean on the power of Christ. Don’t be a fake. Be an authentic, approachable mentor who bleeds, cries, limps and fights with temptation. Your authenticity will give others hope.

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Don’t Resist Correction—You Need It!

When I was in college, a ministry leader rebuked me for being timid when I got behind a microphone. All he said was, “Come on, Lee! Don’t be shy! Preach with boldness.” But his words stung. I took offense because he spoke harshly. Looking back now, I realize he was only trying to help me. He saw my potential. Eventually I did break free from timidity.

Like it or not, sometimes we need to be reproved. A rebuke is never fun. But Proverbs 12:1 says: “He who hates reproof is stupid.” Don’t be thin-skinned when a mentor brings correction. So what if your feelings get hurt? You’ll survive. But you can’t grow without correction. And if you want to be a good mentor, you must learn to give correction, too. That’s never easy, but you aren’t doing your disciples any favors if you baby them. Speak the truth in love, but never hold back if you need to bring a rebuke. Jesus said: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline” (Rev. 3:19). We must mentor like Jesus did!

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Good Mentors Know How to Encourage

I recently traveled to the city of Cali, Colombia. While there I prayed for a guy named Luis who was abandoned by his father at a young age. I realized he had never had a father’s blessing. So I looked him in the eye and said, “Luis, if you were my son I’d be so proud of you.” Luis began to sob, so I gave him a big father hug. He received deep healing in that moment, all because of a few powerful words.

God gave you a mouth, and you can use it for good or bad. Some people spend all their time complaining, cursing and abusing others—and their soul becomes bitter. But God calls us to bless, encourage, affirm, edify and speak life. Proverbs 10:11 says: “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.” When you mentor someone, be positive. Let God’s life flow from your mouth. Be sweet—not bitter and negative. Your job is to build up, not tear down. If your goal is always to encourage, even your firm correction will be received and appreciated.

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Don’t Be Shy—Let God Turn Up Your Volume!

Many Christians think preaching is only for eloquent communicators. Or they think they are disqualified from preaching because of their past sins, flaws or weaknesses. Jeremiah felt inadequate as a speaker. He told God: “I do not know how to speak” (Jer. 1:6). But God didn’t listen to his excuse! He touched Jeremiah’s mouth and said: “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth” (v. 9).

I am prophesying to you today: God is going to turn up your volume! He wants to make you bolder. He wants to speak through you! You might stand behind a pulpit, but that’s not the only place He uses preachers. You might speak on a campus, in your workplace, in a jail, at a coffee shop, on a mission trip, at a Bible study, or on the streets. If you’ve been shy about speaking, remember what Paul told Timothy: “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity” (2 Tim. 1:7). Break free from fear and get louder!

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