EPISODE #105 – EVANGELISM THROUGH DISCIPLESHIP
With Bob still out recovering from COVID, the Bootcamp has a visiting professor for this episode. Professor Evan Skelton drops some wisdom on using discipleship groups for evangelism.
JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] Here we are back at the bootcamp yet. Again, Bob Bickfordless. so last week we began a season of the podcast that has no Bob Bickford. No beautiful, not below average bodacious. Brilliant Bob
Evan Skelton: Just so sad.
JimBo Stewart: Bickford. It does make me sad. And so we didn’t say it last time. Why? But, it’s he does have, he is recovering from.
And it has been a serious battle for him. And so for, all the bootcamp listeners, man, please. Praying for Bob and his recovery from this, I’ve Just been bingeing bootcamp episodes, just so I can hear his beautiful voice. But, in the meantime, we have a No, less stellar and amazing replacement in the right Reverend Evans skillet.
Evan Skelton: No, I don’t know about that, but, um, it’s a privilege to be here, the right Reverend. Hey, that’s that’s special. Thank you for that.
JimBo Stewart: It’s better than the wrong Reverend, I
[00:01:00] The holy Reverend father Evans, Skelton gracing us tonight. now we’re recording a little bit ahead of time. I am hoping my family will be on vacation. When this goes out, live to you, bootcamp listeners, we’re doing a, like the nerdiest homeschool family vacation you could ever do. And we are taking a tour of some of the east coast, American history spots.
and we’ll be staying. colonial Williamsburg and heading up to DC, and having a good time looking at some American history, like good homeschool nerds that we are.
Evan Skelton: Seriously.
I would love to be on that trip. That’s awesome.
JimBo Stewart: it’s going to be great, man is going to be great. I’m really looking forward to it. I’m excited to get away with the fam.
what, I’m also excited to talk to Evan tonight. Evan’s been on the podcast a couple of other times, a few other times. And so he’s one of our favorite guests to have on here. Uh, and he looks awfully dapper. You guys can’t see this, but he’s just a good looking fellow with the [00:02:00] tie and the casual button undone.
And, it makes me wish I could be as, as snazzy as Evan skeleton.
Evan Skelton: No, I have to, you know, it’s funny. So I, wear a tie because I teach at a local university part-time but I don’t wear a tie or a suit jacket on Sunday mornings. And every time I wear one, I think some of our people, they make comments now making fun of me.
I’m like, wow, pastor, you turns out you do clean up. Hey pastor, that that would be, that’d be really nice in other contexts too. I bet. And so,
JimBo Stewart: Oh, yeah.
I, uh, I w I ha I remember when one Saturday I wore a suit and tie to do a funeral, and the next day I wore a nice slacks and a buttoned up shirt. And I had a sport coat on. This was pretty early on when I was still playing. pretty formal, early on in our replant. And so I didn’t shock everybody immediately and, but I didn’t have a tie on it was nice slacks and a nice coat.
And, but I had no. And the senior adult lady that was, at the funeral the day before walking by [00:03:00] me in the hallway on Sunday morning, made this snide remark about my clothing under her breath. and so I said, Hey, what was that? I couldn’t hear you. And so she yelled at the Snyder mark as loud as she could through the hallway.
Evan Skelton: There you go.
JimBo Stewart: Well, we’re not on here today to talk about ties or our suit coats or anything like that. I’m excited to talk to Evan, about discipling. And evangelism and how, you know, I think sometimes There is a false dichotomy on these things. Like these are two entirely separate activities that have no relation to each other.
And it seems like we depend on them a lot of times maybe. Towards discipleship in neglect of evangelism or towards evangelism in neglect of discipleship. but in a perfect world, man, we would have a good balance on these and also realize that they’re really [00:04:00] two sides of kind of the same coin.
I wanted to talk specifically today about how we can do evangelism. Through discipleship. On the previous episode, we had Alan Stoddard on with one of our longtime listeners and Josh Wally. And we talked about sermon based small groups and using sermon based small groups to do discipleship.
And so it’s just a great kind of connection even to that, to how do we even go. through. Into more intensive discipleship, knowing that even the sermon based small groups, aren’t the completion of discipleship, but discipleship happens a lot more life on life. And in living rooms and coffee shops in a one-on-one one on three in smaller intimate settings, where we can be a little more intimate with each other and open and vulnerable.
And sometimes that can lead to. Someone coming to saving faith. So Evan, just talk to us a little bit about your DNA groups
Evan Skelton: Yeah.
JimBo Stewart: what those look like and how those.
Evan Skelton: Yeah. So, over the last few months, we, my wife and I both started, some books, some studies in our home. We [00:05:00] call them DNA groups. If you’re not familiar with that term, it just stands for, discover, nurture and. So discover more head discover what God’s word has to say care for one another, apply it to the heart.
That’s nurture. And then what is act? What does God want us to do in light of this? And the reason that acronym has been helpful is because Bible studies, in a church like ours, which have been going on for a long time, Bible studies can begin to drift into, into simply an environment where you have someone lecturing for 45 minutes.
And what the payoff, I remember one of our, one of our congregants was talking about, I was talking about this with them recently and asked them, okay. tell me what, what you would see as being a beneficial Bible study. It was a healthy Bible study and she said, well, you know, finding out facts, I didn’t know about the Bible before, you know, finding out where did queen Vashti come from?
And those kinds of things I said, oh, those are intriguing, interesting things. But the mark of a healthy Bible study is actually transforms lives. It transforms hearts. It leads us to deeper worship. And so, Nilus through these groups we’ve started in our home that, and one of the reasons for [00:06:00] that is we wanted to it’s.
I think there’s a, there’s a lot of different reasons. Here’s what we’ve seen from this. Uh, we, we moved them to a home, because we understood, one for members of our church. We wanted it to work. We’re consistently talking about how the gospel transforms all of life. And once we want to share an everyday space, And when should that happens and not instead of just on a, in a, an, a church building something about being in a living room, sharing a cup of coffee, or my kids are screaming in the background has helped to make, discipleship ordinary, to see.
And, but also what’s been the second piece and this gets to the discipleship and evangelism is we have found that is re it’s remarkable. It’s been now, this doesn’t always work this way. It’s not always work this way in groups that I’ve led, but God recently has allowed me to have many nonbelievers, a part of those group, that group, in fact, one this last week, a couple weeks ago.
who was coming, he mentioned to me on his way out, he said, just so you know, like a church has always been a weird thing, a hard thing for me. I didn’t like lectures during school. I probably am not [00:07:00] going to show up to Sunday mornings for a long time. I’m working on that. Not sure about it, but is this group is so valuable for me because to be able to simply be able to speak up with some questions and doubts that I’ve carried and to have people actually listen, and to be with people who disagree, who have different opinions.
But he’s, this is the exact environment that I need to be able to, to talk through genuine questions I have. And that was just a good case in point of, that environment, I think is going to become more necessary than ever before. If we’re going to try and talk about the gospel, with non-believers, you know, Timothy Keller and others have talked about the Sunday morning services, we can’t count on, The primary or the first exposure of a nonbeliever to the gospel is going to be in a Sunday morning format or setting.
It just costs more and more for a non-believer to show up to a church service in a day where it’s getting, we’re getting more skeptical to the gospel, not we, but the society in general. So anyways, so that’s what I would say. So these, that environment, particularly. I can tell it, share some stories out of that, but my wife has one and she’s leading, in the evenings and then [00:08:00] I’m leaving, leading one on Saturday mornings and we’ve intentionally told her the people who are the men in my group, apart of that, part of how this group works is that we’d have people on our minds that we’re looking to bridge into this context who else needs to be here, who else needs to hear these things and to get them thinking about that and they’ve, and they’ve acted on it in a way that’s been really.
JimBo Stewart: That’s exciting, you know, you were. The guy who was saying this, this environment is maybe much more accessible for him. Then I Sunday morning lecture environment. And the previous episode, when we were discussing sermon based small groups, I was one of the things we talked about was that a lecture based, small groups aren’t super effective.
it just even so pedagogy learning how to learn and all that learning how to teach and help people learn, you know, And you’re the professor. And so you know this right? Cause you, as the professor, you, you know what I think that’s why I’m gonna start calling you now, the professor, as the professor,
you, you know, all things
Evan Skelton: That’s definitely not true, but keep going.
JimBo Stewart: lecture is one [00:09:00] of the least effective ways to learn.
we, we. Retain a whole lot of information from lectures. We retain more information from discussion where we get to ask questions and questions get asked of us. It’s a higher level of learning. And then really one of the best ways to learn is to prepare to teach and to teach something. And we actually learned more from that process than anything else is what a L a lot of research that I’ve read shows us.
Evan Skelton: Um,
JimBo Stewart: we get into these smaller groups, whatever you decide to call them D groups, DNA groups, whatever the format is, or the title, the fact that it’s open discussion, and we’re not just trying to get information. And we do want to learn about queen Vashti, and we want to learn about those things. but it’s not primarily just.
Information, like you said, it’s about transformation and what is it, what is it about this scripture that demands a response in my life? and so talk to us about how you have [00:10:00] seen in your experience. Sometimes that discussion-based format more intimate format has led to people coming to saving.
Evan Skelton: Yeah.
you know, we were talking even before this podcast about strategies for evangelism, that’s often what comes up in revitalization, right. Is, and unfortunately some would put, if we can just find a new evangelism strategy will blow the doors off this place.
JimBo Stewart: I’ve even had people ask me that I, when I’ve gone to coach or consult with churches, I’ve had pastors look at me and say, all right. So just tell me when what’s the new thing. What’s the thing I need to do. What’s the thing that’s working. What’s the box set. What’s the series. What’s the thing I’ve got to do.
That’s going to fix this and we’re looking for this similar. solution that if we’ll just do the right sermon series, the right Bible study series, the right evangelism explosion, or faith evangelism, or three circles, or if we’ll just do the right one, the one that’s marketed best, then all of a sudden our church is just gonna [00:11:00] explode.
Evan Skelton: And it’s and many of these, like you had mentioned those strategies, many of them end up being successful and helpful in certain contexts, but you’re right. We can’t yeah. Slapping a certain model on something doesn’t necessarily bound to bear fruit. And so one of the things that’s been helpful for us is again, to look at.
Okay. So in the first sentence, And the early church. How, how, why is it that we see at the end of acts two and day by day, the Lord added to their number, those who were being saved? What, what strategies, quote unquote, where they were they doing? Well, one of the things that seems to be pretty safe, Is that we have evidence in first Corinthians and the book of acts, but it seems in almost every environment that they had, they assumed nonbelievers were in the room that nonbelievers were around checking out what it looks like to wear Christian clothes.
And so beginning that’s where we’re taking some of the things that we normally, that, that we know produce a lifelong followers of Jesus Christ that, that, uh, that what are the things that are. where the gospel can actually be heard and [00:12:00] applied to, and to, and to realize what are we doing normally in the life of the church?
Would we know that, what is most likely to produce that, which is usually, I mean, the word of God and shared life, then assuming in that space, adding an additional component that we’re going to build this space intentionally, assuming there will be people in the room who disagree with what we, many of us believe about Jesus.
And, that goes into the language that you’re using, that, that you don’t create this us and them language that you clarify your terms, that you’re going to be asking often. What kind of questions do do you or others that, you know, have about what we’re looking at? Say, why is this difficult for them to accept?
and having those in the group who are willing to call each other out. I just had this recently where I was. And I had one, uh, I’ve been, I’ve been trying to impress that and others, and I was just called the task as a teacher when one of the guys in the group said, so Evan, what is the set tuition?
Right. So like, and so like these kinds of questions where they’re pressing, pressing on me. And so it’s like, oh yeah, like, okay, I have to back up and talk through this as a [00:13:00] with assuming that I’m not assuming that there’s a level of a certain level of understanding. And it turns out that that’s actually really good for believers to who who’ve taken.
The Christian cliche is most of the. but I think part of that just simply having introduced, again, the expectation that nonbelievers would be in the room before they even are. And second that as an additional component to, to assume that there’s questions assume that their skepticism assume that many of these things are difficult to believe and communicate.
And create a, you almost create a safety for that. So now it’s, it’s not to say that we just sit with questions. We want to seek for how the, the claims that Christ makes make sense of these things and how, uh, he really is the way the truth and the life that he claims to be. But nonetheless, um, so some stories with that.
So I would say, we, with those environments, I have been trying to just make as many relationships as I can with people in our church, family members, friends saying, Lord, I, I need you to provide me opportunities to share the gospel. Where might that be becoming eager and [00:14:00] ready to say, is it that person?
Is it this person? And usually it’s not, thrum not the next conversation. Isn’t vomiting. The gospel. Although God may provide the opportunity. It might be having them over for board games over my home. And then beginning to see is their soft ground here, inviting them into an environment and say, Hey, I know Sunday morning might be difficult.
What about this? You know, you’re well, here’s one example. So one of the most tangible ones that’s been really encouraging for me. We had a guy who came, so his wife grew up in a. and she was, very involved. as soon as their marriage, he told her that, he was sick of pretending that he cared about religion and went straight into new atheism.
and, uh, it was very aggressively against Christianity. in fact, uh, started reading through the Bible, trying to collect his arguments, uh, very much like a case for Christ, if you’re familiar, with least durable, and his kind of. Well, we became friends about that time. Finally got him into our house and he told me later he was shocked that we just had him over to play board games and hang out.
I mean, he figured that we would at least would have some sort of slideshow to bust out on him or something like that. Since you knew he wasn’t a [00:15:00] Christian. And so what we were taught to be his friend and along that long, those lines, God, for just speed up with that say ended up saving him. in many ways, in spite of our friendship, we got together for coffee and.
and he said to me, I said, this is the first time we’re getting together. So Evans. So I think I need to get baptized. And the last time I had heard from him was he was this atheist. And I was like, we got a backup here. What happened here, man? Nonetheless, we send up studying the Bible together for awhile.
But as we’re studying, we kept praying and saying, brother, what, who else has God puts you around that needs to hear this good news. And it was his brother-in-law over and over and over again. And so for the past two years, we’ve been praying for his brother. His wife also grew up in our church and she has been coming weekly on her own, uh, with her non-believing husband and trying to get together with him for some time, inviting him to several different opportunities finally said, okay, man, let’s let’s, uh, let’s get some coffee.
And we did. And, he, just catching about family and I said, so did you grow up religious at all? And he looks at me square in the eye and says, so we’re like, we’re like doing this. I was like, yeah, I guess [00:16:00] so, man. And so you just launched in with some of his most serious question. And so mostly just like listening to this guy and empathizing with him and saying, actually the Bible makes sense of some of the suffering that you’re talking about.
It doesn’t call it
good. and then he afterwards texted me. This is just a, God is at work. And every piece of this process takes me it’s Evan. So I, um, I really needed that conversation today. I’d like it to be more consistent if you’re okay. Just like twist my arm. Why don’t you? Yeah, of course. Maybe we could talk about the gospel again.
And so we get together and we start meeting and we’re reading 10 Keller’s book, which I recommend making sense of God, which is largely written to those who are not convinced. Why should I care about Christianity? It’s like a prequel to what we think of as like the reason for God, which is all the heavy hitter question.
Making sense of God has written to somebody who just doesn’t care, he’s reading through. And he says, how did you know that this book was exactly what I needed to read? I was like, well, I don’t think I did. I think the Lord did, but nonetheless, let’s like keep going in this. And so his BR we invited Chris.
So Chris, his [00:17:00] brother-in-law who’d become a Christian is now having conversations about what Jesus has done in his life. And trying to think through his own questions in light of his brother-in-law in front of him. And so inviting Chris to become an evangelist in there. Well, Chris didn’t do his homework.
He doesn’t mind. You’re probably saying that Sarah, unless we didn’t do the, we didn’t read the book. We’re like, okay, so Ted, let’s just, let’s read the, uh, let’s read the Bible together next week, if you’re okay with that. And he said, yeah, you know what, honestly, I just really would like to study more of the Bible if that’s okay.
Okay. We can do that. And so we, uh, we started reading the Bible to. And, he, you know, man, just along the way, watching his, just having a space where it was me and another guy intentionally saying this guy’s a new believer, but this is the perfect place for him to be, to watch him struggle and to watch him as I struggle or not always answer things.
Right. But along the way, that’s, uh, his brother-in-law he, um, at one. No we’re going through this. And he says, I think I’m getting this whole repentance and faith thing, but I just, I there’s this block here. I don’t get why I can’t. It’s hard for me to trust as I said. [00:18:00] Okay. So I thought of a passage I’d read in mark, and then Matt just preached on it’s.
Okay. So let’s look at what Jesus says to his disciples as having eyes. Do you not see having ears? Do you not hear, do you not understand? And it’s like, it was like a risk because this a pretty offensive passage about spiritual blindness and he looks at it and he’s. That’s me. That’s exactly where I am.
That’s exactly where I’m at. Well, the Lord provides sight and he cares to give it, so let’s just go talk to him, I guess, about it. And so, long story short, man, it’s just the over the last few weeks incrementally through these conversations, these consistent conversations, you watch his love for G like he’s just is captivated by Christ and comes to this point where he is.
You watch his prom like that, that the Lord is clearly the one who is saving him and the quiet, but that’s, uh, that, and, and, and two weeks ago we had that similar conversation. He’s like, this block is here. I don’t get it. It’s like, okay. So I asked him point blank or Kate, do you believe that your sins are what separate you from God that your ongoing rejection of [00:19:00] him deserves death, deserves raft, deserves separation.
That, that, that could not be corrected on your own. Trying to save yourself as only gonna make it worse. It’s like, well, yeah, I do believe that. Can you believe that Jesus Christ through what he has accomplished in his perfect life, on your behalf, his death on your behalf, then, that he secured the forgiveness that you need.
And when he was raised from the dead, that, that provided you a life restoration with God that you might have him forever. And he said, yes, I believe I said, well, so that makes you a Christian. Is your tension here that you’re not sure what following Jesus looks like. And he’s like, yes, that’s exactly it.
And I said, welcome to the club. We could have very different conversations now, but rather if you, if your faith is in Jesus Christ as savior and Lord, that’s what this is. And so that’s, and so we, uh, and so now, you know, he’s in the room, we’re still meeting weekly. So you talked about this continuum of evangelism and discipleship.
Discipleship has never stopped or it’s the whole process. And I’m still [00:20:00] evangelizing him every week, even as I’m evangelizing myself. and, and beginning to talk with him now, who is the person that God has put you around that needs to hear the gospel from you. but this, this guy whose net he’s come a couple times on a Sunday morning, he works, can’t come.
And so he’s gotta be the med on his own terms. anyways, that’s the story that’s been on my mind recently, and I just am very grateful for God’s done in him.
JimBo Stewart: Praise God, man. That’s, that’s such an incredible story of just how God has used your faithfulness and your openness and willingness to, to do that. And so I think the encouraging word for a lot of pastors here is ministry can see. So daunting when we try to measure the magnitude of our programs versus the programs of larger churches.
And it can seem like, man, I’ll never be able to do what they do and here’s the deal. That’s not what God ever called you to do necessarily. Right. But God called you to do is go and make disciples. [00:21:00] And this is one of the things I try to tell guys all the time. Anybody can do this, right? Any pastor, it just, just find one person that seems far from God, whether they are a believer that is just a stranger from God and spiritual things or not a believer.
And you don’t may not even really know until you’re in the process with them. I’ll never forget. There was a guy in the church I was at in new Orleans, just to the nicest guy you ever met was in the Marines. And. served in every way you could ever get him to serve. He would greet, he would do all these things.
And, one day we just started becoming friends and, and we were having lunch one day and I said, man, tell me your testimony. Just to, I would just love to hear how you came to saving faith in Jesus. And he just looks at me. He goes, oh, I’m not a Christian. I was like, oh, oh, okay. Okay. And he goes, and he goes, now my wife is, and church is [00:22:00] very important to her. I mean, and I like it, and I think it’s good for the kids. and so that’s why I always just plug in whenever I can just want to be supportive of things my wife cares about. And I was like, man, what a sweet husband thing to do? and I said, can I just ask you then. For as long as you’ve been in church, why, why are you not a Christian? Here’s the thing? This guy’s like Mensa intelligent. I mean, he’s like, so he was a, counter-terrorism it tech for the Marines. He’s like, he’s like literally on the front lines of why these countries are not hacking us all the time.
And, and so he was, he just said, I’ve just always had a lot of questions and it didn’t ever really seem like no one wanted to answer them. and so I was like, well, I mean, are you interested in trying to find the answers to those questions? And he goes, yeah. I mean, I would love to, uh, okay, well maybe, maybe me and you could just like meet on a regular basis and said, here’s the deal.
I may not be able to answer that question, like when you ask it, but I’ll write it down and, and we can kind of explore these [00:23:00] things together and, and he goes, man, I would like. And so we began that process of just exploring the things you were struggling with and similar to one of the people you mentioned.
I remember we went to lunch one day and just real matter of fact, he looks at me, he goes, Hey, I need to get baptized. Like, what does that look like? What do I do? And I was like, hold on, what, what do you mean? You need to be baptized? Where did this come from? And he was like, well, I mean, We’ve been talking and he explained like how he came to saving faith.
Right. And it just incredible. My wife has a great story of a young lady in our youth group. Grew up in church and very church family, but hit her teenage years and just decided that she did not want to follow, the ways of the Lord, but like handled it in this weirdly mature teenager way where there was this disagreement between her and her mom over certain rules that mom wanted her to do.
And she was like, so why do I have to live by these rules? And she was like, well, this is what honors the Lord. And she was like, What if I don’t want to honor the Lord, what if that’s not important to me? [00:24:00] Do I still have to follow those rules? And anyway, long story short, the girl very maturely was like, look, I’m interested to see.
I just, and again, she thought there all these questions that I don’t feel like anyone’s ever tried to answer. And so my wife started to meet with this girl for, for several months before she came to saving faith and then they continued to meet. So here’s the thing. Uh, as we shut down our time here with the visiting professor, pastor B be encouraged.
it’s. It is not up to you. To see people get saved, but it is up to you to sow the seeds and you can do those seeds, their programs, and you can do that through traditional forms and views of evangelism, but don’t discount. What could happen in a discipleship group by asking simple questions like Evan has asked his guy.
Right. Who, who is it? That’s near to you that needs to hear this about this. And the newer believer is the more proximity they probably have to unbelievers. And that’s a great opportunity for you to lean in and use [00:25:00] the idea that discipleship and evangelism are not opposed. They are essentially the same thing as pointing us all to the hope of Jesus Christ to the gospel.
Well, prof, thanks for taking the time to hang out with us for the.
Evan Skelton: Holy Reverend father. I appreciate you. Thank you.