Why aren’t we making disciples like them?

Ben Greene

Pastor & writer

  • Discipleship & spiritual formation


The Buddhist woman living across the street from a home where a church gathers had never seen a Bible, held a Bible or heard the gospel until she met those Christians.

Now, she's inviting those same Christians to help her two hours a day as she recovers from a major surgery. Her openness wouldn't exist, Ivan Veldhuizen explained, if his fellow believers in the Florida house church hadn't obeyed Christ.

"We're just loving her, letting the Holy Spirit work on her at his pace," said Velduizen, Converge's senior vice president of International Ministries.

The global church's way of following Christ inspired Veldhuizen and his wife, Susan, to start a house church and adopt an entirely new approach to disciple-making.

"In the U.S., we have knowledge-based discipleship," Veldhuizen explained. “It’s so easy for us to live a spirituality in our heads.”

But not so around the world.

"In the global church, we see obedience-based discipleship," he said. "Obedience-based discipleship was Jesus' intention from the beginning."

The global church's most apparent, consistent priority is disciples making disciples. Therefore, their example and commitment can help the American church grow more robust, a message Veldhuizen plans to share in March at Converge Rocky Mountain’s Together to Transform conference in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

He said global church members naturally mentor new believers until they learn to share their faith. A young Christian could lack motivation, not realizing sharing their faith is God's will for them. Or it could be that they don't know how to share their faith. But Veldhuizen said the global church works with new disciples until they know and do.

"It's not what you have in your head; it's what you're doing in your body,” he said. Jesus sent his disciples two by two to do what he told them to do. He expected them to do it."

That's why the global church invests in individuals so they can reproduce and multiply their faith in other individuals. Modeling global practices with his Orlando house church has helped Ivan grow more in the last few years than he expected.

"We really need to have what they have," he said. "They're faithful, they’re passionate and they're obedient."

Innovation leads to discipleship despite few resources

Disciples from deeply non-Christian cultures and societies in other countries quickly apply their strong faith to innovate despite resistance and a short Christian history.

That's why Veldhuizen said they start churches under pomegranate trees or form networks of traveling evangelists who rely on buses and hitchhiking to take the gospel around their countries.

"They're innovative in figuring out how to get things done with very little," he said. "Nothing stops them. They figure out how to get it done."

That's true for Ayaan (name changed for security purposes), a friend of the Veldhuizens who leads 27 other evangelists in South Asia. Radical Islam influences the region's people, and Christians suffer frequent beatings — yet they refuse to deny Christ.

In this part of South Asia, Ayaan had to hitchhike or ride bus after bus to get from one place to another. He sacrificed time with his family and at work to have a ministry of equipping and encouraging other evangelists. 

Like the New Testament, where believers supported one another to spread the gospel, the Orlando house church generously provided the funds he needed to buy a motorcycle so he could spend more time in ministry and with his family.

"It was a great gift to be able to give to him," Veldhuizen said. "He wasn't going to let obstacles keep him from making disciples and planting churches. He was going to do it no matter what."



What is Christ's mode of ministry?

In the global church, believers leave the church building to enter their community and the world. But in the U.S., Veldhuizen said churches often operate as an attraction, trying to draw people to them to hear about Christ.

"The difference is the church dispersed or the church gathered," he explained. 

In America, this means that Christians invite nonbelievers to church as a default, beyond which little else is required. But the global church says being a good Christian means learning to communicate the gospel.

"They equip their believers effectively to go out and be the presence of Jesus in their neighborhoods, in their civic relationships and centers and all these kinds of things," Veldhuizen said. "We have drifted further than most of us realize from the biblical model of what the church is and what disciple-making is."

But, Converge's partnerships and close relationships with global churches have led to a beneficial tool for pastors and elders in America. That tool is the G.O.S.P.E.L. acrostic, teaching Christians to be God-dependent, Obedience-based disciples with a Steadfast focus on Pursuing multiplication, Engaging culturally and seeing Leaders develop.

"When I get out into many of these places, it's like stepping into the Book of Acts," he said. “I'm always inspired by how pure their faith is, how resilient they are, how devoted they are to Christ."

Seeing such love for the Lord repeatedly motivated and equipped the Veldhuizens to do church differently in their Orlando home. The power of the global church can strengthen the American church.

That possibility ultimately means a Buddhist who'd never seen a Bible or heard the gospel is now inviting Christians into her home. A woman suffering through a major surgery has turned to believers who emphasize doing what Christ wants done rather than just learning. 

"We're just praying that eventually, she'll make a commitment to Christ," Veldhuizen said.

Converge can help strengthen your church and equip your leaders so your church can maximize its God-given potential to fulfill its mission. We are praying for a gospel movement among every least-reached people group – in our generation. Find out how we are helping to share God’s love worldwide.

Ben Greene, Pastor & writer

Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.

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