“One year, we spent $40,000 on evangelism and community outreach—and zero relationships were built,” recalls Jennifer Deans, pastor of Living Faith church in Dulles, Va. After attending a church planting conference, Deans realized the church didn’t need a better evangelism program–it needed a paradigm shift. “At the conference I was convicted that it was God’s job to grow the church and our job to make disciples. I came across a discipleship training, Generate One, that teaches these biblical principles. When we are on mission for God, He does His job quite well and movements are started.”
Deans has begun introducing this shift into her church. “It’s challenging how we interact with others and our perceptions,” she says. “We are focusing on how to have a spiritual conversation, share our stories and stay in tune with the Holy Spirit. We are tempted to think that all we need to do is share Biblical knowledge—but if that were the case, then Satan would be saved. Asking questions allows us to gain a deeper understanding of an individual.
“As Adventists, we’ve been taught to offer answers to people’s questions, but in doing this we often answer questions they were not even asking. We’re learning that we need to constantly stay in touch with the Holy Spirit in our heads which helps us know when to ask a question, share a story or point to a resource. It’s through relationships that we are able to share God’s love and those take time. Which means that some spiritual conversations will be about the weather and some will actually include talking about God. I have discovered this investment of time not only changes the individual but it changes you. I have developed some of my closest friendships by following Jesus example of discipleship.”
The intensive training is a two year process for church members, but goes much quicker for new believers. Currently a group of six is going through the training, but Deans says the church’s culture is already shifting. “Those six are regularly investing in folks who are investing in others,” she explains, “and now over 50 people are regularly being invested in which has resulted in ten baptisms.”
Photo caption: Pastor Jennifer Deans (middle) stands with Alison Porter (left), who use to be Dean’s neighbor, and Rema Simms (right), who is actively going through the discipleship training.