The sixth cause for evangelism entropy is an Ineffective Training Strategy.
Recently I discovered a athletic training principle called, momentary muscular failure, also known as the overload principle. This principle states that, "Only by stressing your muscles beyond their physical capacity can you compel them to produce an adaptive response and exact a change in your body. You will gradually increase intensity until you are training to momentary muscular failure. From a training perspective, failure equals success! When you first attempt to train to failure, it can be an enlightening experience, one that you might not be prepared to endure. While lifting a weight, most people are prone to give up mentally before their muscles truly give out. They may think they have induced muscular failure, yet their muscles are capable of completing several more repetitions. To obtain the best results, you must learn to differentiate between mental failure and physical failure. Remember the adage, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” Pushing yourself to the limit will show your internal and external strength and allow your body to achieve more than you ever could have imagined." (HT:Human Kinetics)
The take away of this principle is that for effective training to take place the participant must experience a certain level of discomfort. They must be pushed out of their comfort zone. Which begs the question: "How much of our training pushes people out of their comfort zones?" or "How much of our training is simply entertainment for the consumer?" Jesus in His great commission says, ''...and teach them to obey everything I have commanded." (Matthew 28:20) Obedience is a bending of our wills to another's will. A disciple of Jesus is one who bends his will to the commands of Jesus. In a day when mega churches are admittedly saying we don't know how to make disciples, this principle goes to the heart of the matter.
Here are Five Biblical Elements needed for an effective training strategy:
1. A Mature Influence: Jesus said, "A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher." (Luke 6:40) Paul writes that fathers are to train their child (Ephesians 6:4) and the older women are to train younger women. (Titus 2:3-4) I am personally convinced that the goal of every church should be that every convert has a personal mentor, a mature influence that builds trust, sets the example and speaks specifically into their lives as they bend their will to Jesus' will.
2. A Common Goal: Paul wrote to a young leader he was mentoring, "Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." (I Timothy 4:7-8) Godliness is defined as, "character and conduct determined by the principle of love or fear of God in the heart." Another definition describes godliness as "a God-ward attitude, does that which is well-pleasing to Him." HT:Godliness If the goal is to please ourselves or meet our own needs then every effort of training will always fall short.
3. A Common Source of Authority: Jesus said, "and teach them to obey everything I have commanded." (Matthew 28:20) Paul wrote, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (II Timothy 3:16-17) Following the rules is essential to training, yet so often we all want to write our own rules or live by our interpretation of the rules and then we wonder why our efforts are so ineffective!
4. A Certain Level of Discomfort: Paul uniquely describes the training process when he writes, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (II Timothy 3:16-17) Teaching is giving us the knowledge needed to be thoroughly equipped. Rebuking is revealing behavior, attitudes and beliefs that keep us for being thoroughly equipped. Correcting involves those mid-course adjustments that are needed to be thoroughly equipped. Training in Righteousness is the discipline needed to stay the course and achieve the goal of godliness. In the book of Hebrews we see the value of discipline, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:11)
5. Constant Repetition: I think all of us would agree that the more we do something the better equipped we feel at handling a certain task. The author of the book of Hebrews writes, "But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." (Hebrews 5:14) What level of repetition is represented in your training programs?