Baptizing a student at a student church gathering. Pray for Josiah – a mighty world changer!
“Erik, I’m frustrated. I’ve led five people to Jesus on campus this semester. I’ve seen about 20 people experience a miraculous healing as I’ve gone out to pray for the sick. But none of them are really following Jesus any further.”
“Erik, I’ve gathered Christians from all over the campus to pray together for revival. We’ve gone on treasure hunts and seen some really cool things happening. How come nothing seems to be happening with new people following Jesus and the gospel spreading on my campus?”
— Heard from student missionaries
Jesus said, “New wine must be put into new wineskins.” In the case of these students, God was pouring out “wine” but it had no wineskin to be put into. The result was students were healed or had some spiritual touch but didn’t know what to do afterward. Maybe I’m taking a little liberty here in interpreting Jesus’ words about wineskins, but I think the application is valid. God pours out wine – but the container it’s put into is essential for the preservation and expansion of the wine.
The forms of church and ministry we develop are like a wineskin to preserve and grow what God pours out on a new generation. They can either help or hinder a move of the Holy Spirit.
Forming new disciples into teams that follow Jesus together (churches) is a key part of spreading a movement for the gospel so that it spreads to others. Our goal is to grow a movement for the gospel, raising up disciples who make disciples (and so on) and reach all nations.
Jesus is a pretty good example to follow. He showed us a template – He healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead, ministered to crowds, etc. BUT at the core of His ministry, Jesus had a very strategic method of forming a core group of leaders, training them, and then teaching them to make other leaders. He also implemented strategic plans for sending out teams to new cities (see Luke 10). The wine of God’s spirit needs a wineskin. Yes, the wine is the most important thing. With no wine, we just have a dead shell of a structure. However, with only wine, and no wineskin, we have a bunch of wine that gets spilled and wasted. (For certain, I know too many people who are so focused on arguing for a right church structure that they have no wine! Ouch!) But if the wine of God’s Spirit is going to be preserved and transferable so that many others can drink of it, it needs wineskins to be transported in.
In regard to revival and supernaturalism, much of the new wine I see God pouring out is either being put into old wineskins — or it isn’t being put into anything at all. The following are some of the things we’re learning about forming new disciples into teams that follow Jesus together as they experience an outpouring of His Spirit.
In the case of the student church movement, forming new Christ followers into simple church communities who follow Jesus together and gather regularly for prayer, worship, word, accountability, and Holy Spirit ministry has been a good wineskin to develop and reproduce the ministry of the Holy Spirit among them.
The simple church wineskin can stretch and expand. The best examples I see around the nation are not composed of one simple church. They have grown to become networks of simple churches who regularly gather together, often in relationship with older leaders who help equip and disciple them toward further leadership. Often, elders develop from within the group who the older leaders then recognize and lay hands on. Simple, student-led churches are one wineskin God is using to equip students around the world go on mission with Jesus to their university, develop a life in His presence… and go to the nations.
So, what do you do as people meet Jesus and you start a group together? Here is a simple format I learned from my friend Pam that I adapted a bit and started using this year. Our fundamental calling as the people of God is to love God, love each other, and teach others to obey the commands of Jesus.
Starting with the basic commands of Jesus is a great place to begin!
The Seven Basic Commands of Jesus:
This is for a new group of disciples who have started following Jesus. Jesus gave about 50 Core commands in His teachings. Here are seven of them I consider to be basic – and a really good place to start in a new church!
- Follow Me – What does it mean to repent, believe, and follow Jesus?
- Be Baptized – in water and receive the Holy Spirit. Follow Jesus in baptism, receive the HS, then learn to practice gifts of the Spirit to minister to others.
- Forgive people for hurts from the past
- Give to God by giving to needs in the group or on campus
- Pray and worship – how to encounter God through prayer and worship
- Love God and love each other – “They’ll know you’re my disciples by your love.”
- Make disciples – Who do you know who needs to hear the message of Jesus who you can teach the seven basic commands of Jesus?
This isn’t the only format you can use – but I find young people with a passion for Jesus and demonstrating the kingdom need a simple place to start gathering people together in groups that follow Jesus together. For sure, other discipleship issues and direction from the Holy Spirit can alter things – but having a good place to start is really helpful.
Whenever a group meets, we follow a simple format that we include in every gathering:
Word: We each take turns reading through the scriptures about the command of Jesus for the week. We discuss them together and talk about what God is showing us and how we can apply it to our lives. Remember – many of these students have never read a Bible before. They’re not looking for a message on the tenets of Calvinism and Armenianism. I don’t want to wow them with my knowledge – I want them to develop a love for Jesus and believe they can change the world around them as they immediately start following Him. I’m continually amazed at how powerful God’s word is when we put it in front of people who are hearing it for the first time. Last week, we read some scriptures where Jesus was talking about the Kingdom of God. A student said, “What’s that? What’s the kingdom of God?”
I said, “Great question. Why don’t you go read this week what Jesus said about the Kingdom, then next week you can teach the group what you’ve learned.” He was excited about the opportunity.
Worship/Prayer: This can take many forms. The last simple church I started, nobody could play an instrument. I worked with one of the most mature disciples and he prepared a form of worship I’d never seen before. He would begin singing a phrase of praise/worship to God over and over, then invite the group to join in. This went on for several minutes as new believers began to experience God in worship for the first time. Very cool.
This time of worship then naturally flowed into a time of prayer – praying for the campus and praying for each other. Prophetic words started to flow as students began to feel God’s heart for the others in the group. Sometimes we take communion together and confess sins.
Fellowship – Church without authentic relationships is just a meeting. As we meet together, we often eat a meal and hang out. Students make plans to meet and hang out throughout the week. A real sense of community starts to develop where they live missionally on the campus and do life together.
Remember: WWF! (not the wrestling)
This is how the process looked in this particular church as I made disciples and formed them into a team (a church) that is learning to follow the basic commands of Jesus together:
I led one student to the Lord and started teaching him the basics of following Jesus.
He started leading other students to Jesus.
Students got baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. Some students also experienced miraculous healing. One student’s back was healed from a long-term injury.
We began gathering the group of new disciples together for Word, Worship, and Fellowship, focusing at the beginning on following the 7 Basic Commands of Jesus together.
I continued meeting one on one with the student I’m discipling and another student who is showing faithfulness in his walk with Jesus. These are the main leaders I’m developing to take over the group and start new ones.
Relationships between these new disciples started strengthening, with them regularly hanging out, holding each other accountable, praying together, and leading others to Jesus.
From the beginning until now, this new group has a clear sense of responsibility for evangelism – to spread the gospel on their campus. No one needs to come later and infuse a vision for “mission” – it’s in the DNA of the group from the beginning. I find whenever I start a new church with new believers, this is always the case.
A student prays over a list of unsaved students he’s trying to lead to Christ.
An important thing to remember is these student churches aren’t just Bible studies or lessons for the sake of information. Everyone in the group immediately interacts with the scriptures and each one is expected to do their best to apply and follow that command – and begin to teach others. After the first week’s commandment — “Follow Me” — a student from the group went out and found two other students who lived in a another dorm and sat down to teach them the lesson and try start a simple church where they live. It’s a wineskin that’s so simple, anyone can do it – as long as they are dependent on the Holy Spirit.
This “wineskin” for spreading a movement of the Holy Spirit on a campus or in a city isn’t a rigid method. There are other things we can do according to the need of the moment and the Holy Spirit’s leading. But this is one way we’re seeing a lot of fruit. The wine of God’s Spirit goes into wineskins to be carried to others.
Each of us can spend a lifetime diving deeper into God, His word, theology, and learning the ways of the Spirit. But new disciples need a basic place to start where they can learn to follow Him, practice gifts of the Holy Spirit, and teach others to follow Jesus with them. It needs to be simple!
Leading people to Jesus, then forming new disciples into teams who follow the basic commands of Jesus together is a key wineskin God is using to spread the wine of His Spirit to as many people as possible.
“Jesus, pour out the wine of your spirit and give us wisdom to carry it in wineskins. May we always love your presence more than methods, but give us grace and wisdom to grow a movement for the gospel to every campus, every city, and every nation in our lifetime!”
Thanks Erik for this insight. I think the reverse is also true. I see a tendency in the older generation of simple church practitioners to build wineskins (meet in simple church) but not bother with any wine making. That’s to say they aren’t out preaching the Kingdom, healing the sick, making disciples and baptizing the new disciples. They end up with a new wine skin that rapidly ages but never creates new wine for new wineskins. Hmm, I think I’ll blog on that.
Great insight, Ross. Yes! Let’s seek Jesus for the Wine and the right wineskins to carry it!