‘Used with Permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers‘
‘Used with Permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers‘
New Title From Rod Culbertson: The “Disciple Investing” LifeHelping Others Grow in Their Relationship with Christ
Have you ever wondered if you could help another person become a stronger, more consistent Christian? At some point in your own Christian walk, you probably received help, guidance, instruction, and encouragement from another believer in order to seek Christ and become more like him. How grateful we are for those who invested themselves in us! I believe that you personally can help someone else understand and live out their faith in Christ. The “Disciple Investing” Life is written to help you invest your life in another person who wants to grow as a Christian. Read it and discover how God can use you in someone else’s life in their journey toward Christlikeness.
Rod Culbertson is the Associate Professor of Practical Theology and the Dean of Student Development at Reformed Theological Seminary/Charlotte. He is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. Rod started Reformed University Fellowship in the state of Florida, working at the University of Florida, and in addition to campus ministry, he has been involved in church planting.
What prompted you to write this book?
From infancy, Christians, including my mother in particular, have been investing themselves in me, trying to point me to Christ. I didn’t respond until college, but their investment in me did not go unnoticed. When I became a Christian, I truly wanted to pour into other people’s walks with Christ as well, which is what I have done now for over 40 years. In time, I learned a lot of principles that were useful in helping others grow as Christians and become more Christ-like, by his grace. I eventually realized that I could put those principles in a book and hopefully benefit others. Here is the first attempt!
How would you say that “The ‘Disciple Investing’ Life” could benefit the reader?
I believe that the book is very practical in nature. I try to help the reader realize that there is a cost to investing in the lives of others, one that they should count. I give suggestions about the direction they could take with another person as they seek to help. The book provides some suggested Scripture passages that they can cover with another individual or individuals in order to help them grow (you don’t have to be a Bible scholar, only a student of the Bible). And I attempt to describe a realistic, disciple investing encounter so the reader can see how this relational style of discipleship can be done.
Is there anything unique about this book?
I believe that there are three chapters that are particularly unique to the book. One chapter provides a long list of topics that a potential disciple investor can use in ministering to another person. The list is composed primarily of Scripture passages and the disciple investor is encouraged to simply ask questions of the respective passage in order to address needs in the life of the disciple. Another chapter provides real life examples of different ways for investing in another believer’s life and the premise is that there is not just one method for doing so. The final chapter is set up like a story, demonstrating how two Christians meet and get together on a regular basis, as they look at “The Lord’s Prayer” in order to discover what it might teach them about prayer.
Why do you call the book, “The ‘Disciple Investing’ Life,” using that phrase instead of words like “discipleship” or “disciple making”?
Well, to answer that question, I probably need to quote from a portion of the book. Here goes, “I would like to pose my basic premise to you once more: Disciple investing is something you can be involved in and also something that you can do. God can use your efforts, energy, time and attention to help change another person’s life. Of course, it is Christ who is using you and Christ, through His Spirit and Word, who is doing the transformation. But you have the potential to make a difference.” Ultimately, while we may very well be involved in the process of help another person become more like Christ and to follow him more seriously as a disciple, all we are really doing is investing in them. My premise is that Jesus is always actively discipling his followers, just as he discipled the original twelve. He is discipling me today; he is discipling others – it is his work! But I can play my part, which means I invest in others and I watch Jesus disciple them through me. Investing can be done in many ways, as I try to demonstrate in the book, but ultimately, Jesus does the work! I just don’t want to be found uninvolved in what he is doing.
Is this a book for everyone?
I don’t necessarily think it is a book for everyone, but if any Christian wonders how he or she can make a difference in another person’s life and help that person grow as a Christian, “The ‘Disciple Investing’ Life” would be a great place for them to start. The book assumes that the reader has a relationship with Christ, is growing and wants to grow more, while helping another person to grow with Christ also. The book includes some motivational encouragement and practical advice if a person wants to seriously get involved in another person’s life and to help them know Christ better. I believe that people in the church, as well as anyone involved in Christian ministry and leadership training – and especially campus ministry organizations – will enjoy the book and profit from it.
Are you thinking about writing anymore books on the topic of “Disciple Investing”?
Yes, I have written a lot on this topic and originally wrote a very lengthy book on disciple investing when I was on sabbatical three years ago. The book was actually considered by some publishers to be too long for publishing, but thankfully, Wipf and Stock was willing to let me work through the material and at least try to organize it into smaller sections that could comprise one readable book. Now, I hope to accomplish the goal of creating two more books on disciple investing in the coming year, as the Lord allows. We’ll see.
An Excerpt from The “Disciple Investing” Life
…it is my contention (and the basic premise of this book) that Jesus primarily loves to use ordinary people (believers) as the conduits of His ministry in others’ lives. Jesus, the supreme discipler, is doing the work and we are simply investing in others as a part of His plan. We are cooperating with Jesus as His faithful, humble servants. As His followers, having been made alive by the Spirit, we naturally want to be a part of the building and extension of Christ’s Kingdom. You, or any believer, can contribute to the nurture and growth of another believer (or even the conversion of an unbeliever) if you are willing to try. Jesus can use YOU! You can be a part of Jesus’ process of discipling others simply by investing yourself in their lives. How exciting! And that is what this short book is about.
After I became a Christian, many people spoke into my life and gave me guidance. Some gave me counsel and supported me in my struggles as a young man and a new believer (and those struggles were often seemingly overwhelming and at times both fearful and tearful). Others led by example or even from a distance. But their influence did not go unnoticed. The list of names of people who helped me as a new believer is too long to acknowledge here. Some would not even remember me; yet I remember them with fondness and gratitude. Jesus used them to help me grow, love God more, follow Him and become more like Him. And ever since I came to Christ, I have similarly watched Jesus use me in the lives of others as well. Most of these stories are under the radar and are certainly not what some would call glamorous success stories. I haven’t amassed any fame or notoriety in my ministries or through my personal involvement in the lives of others. At this stage of my life, it is doubtful that I ever will. I haven’t made any headlines and don’t expect to do so. However, it doesn’t matter, for I believe that most ministry (pastoral or layperson) is simply carried on in the day-to-day living and sharing of ordinary life with others who are part of our world. With that perspective in mind, I must also state that initiative and willingness to be involved in the lives of others is absolutely essential to what I call the “disciple investing” life. When I look back at my ministry, from college student, continuing in seminary, on to campus ministry and later in church planting, as well as in working with seminary students at Reformed Theological Seminary, the deepest and most rewarding relationships for me have occurred with those in whom I have invested the most heavily. Almost without exception, the more personally I was involved in another’s life or others’ lives, the more blessed I was to be a part of what Jesus was doing in them and to see Him actually working through me, an inadequate sinner. This was an amazing truth, as I discovered that He could and would use me, as I was willing to be used by Him to help others grow or learn. The bottom line to “successful” disciple investing is simply to have interest in the spiritual well-being of another individual or a group of individuals and to give yourself willingly to them. Anyone, even the most extreme introvert, can do this through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The life and enablement is His to give – and YOU can do it.
“Making disciples remains the ultimate and urgent Gospel mandate for the Church. It is imperative, then, that we who serve the Church are continually challenged and equipped for this central undertaking of ministry. We, thus, owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Rod Culbertson. The “Disciple Investing” Life is a fine pastoral resource from a trusted and seasoned seminary professor who lives out the essence of this title. I commend it to the Church with great joy.”
— Michael A. Milton, PhD, President, D. James Kennedy Institute; James Ragsdale Professor of Missions, Erskine Theological Seminary
“Read this book to be encouraged again by those who have invested in you, and to be challenged to invest yourself in the lives of others as we together become more faithful disciples of Christ. Read this book also to be reminded of the multitude of ways you need to grow as a Christian, and to learn the multitude of practical ways you can help others grow in their walk with the Lord.”
—Ric Cannada, Reformed Theological Seminary, Chancellor Emeritus
“This book will prove to be a helpful guide for those who long to invest their lives in seeing others come to know the Savior, and then to disciple them in their continued maturity and growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ.”
—David G. Sinclair Sr., Senior Pastor, Clemson Presbyterian Church, Clemson, South Carolina
I was a freshman student of a few weeks at the University of South Carolina walking down the sidewalk between the reflection pond and the Thomas Cooper Library. I was on my way back to my dorm room, having just finished up a Sunday lunch at the Russell House student union cafeteria. I was briskly hustling to my dorm, trying to figure out how to use the remainder of my afternoon. And there they stood. Three guys in conversation and from the looks of it, easily recognizable as most probably one student standing with a couple of religious recruiter types. Two of the guys, apparently students, were persuading a third student to hear them out. I had seen similar fundamentalist style encounters on Main Street, while growing up in my hometown of Greenville, SC and it made me quite nervous. And although God had been dealing with me, a typical prodigal freshman student, I had no interest whatsoever in being a target of these religious do-gooders. I would avoid them at all costs.
However, God had other plans. Just as I veered off, well south of the sidewalk, the third student had had his fill of the discussion and left, leading the two recruiters to simultaneously turn and see me standing there just a few feet away. Foiled! Their first words, which I still remember clearly, were, “Excuse me but we are starting a Bible study on campus and wondered if you might be interested?” Of course, even though I had been attending church on Sunday mornings, was also sensing that I might fail out of my first semester in college, and it appeared that God was working me over pretty well, I had no interest whatsoever. The short story is that I tried everything I could do deflect their pressure (which really wasn’t that strong) but eventually, I was willing to take their information and depart with it in hand. The new Bible study would start the next night at 7:00 pm at the USC International House on the other side of campus from my dorm. I would not be there!
As I continued heading down the sidewalk, progressing toward the Longstreet Theater and Sumter Street, confident that I had dodged a bullet, it was as if I was walking with my back toward God – and I was. However, before I reached the steps to Green Street, I sensed that the Lord was speaking to me, not audibly, but simply and firmly to my heart. As odd as it may seem, I looked back and up, feeling as if I was indeed running from God. He certainly seemed “spatially” in the distance behind me. But I heard Him say to my heart, “What do I have to do in order to get your attention?” That was enough! I thought to myself, and considered my recent circumstances and on the spot, I made a commitment to the Lord, “I will be at that Bible study tomorrow night.” Honestly, I had made many similar religious promises and commitments to God in the past, but I knew that I must keep this one.
Monday evening came, classes were finished, dinner was done and I knew it was time to go – yes, to attend the Bible study. With a sense of both dread and resignation, I reached in my desk drawer and pulled out my childhood black, King James Version of the Bible, well-hidden in the back of the drawer so that no one else could know that I actually had taken a Bible with me to college. Hiding it under my arm as best as I could, and filled with embarrassment that I might be “found out” that evening, I took the long trek across campus to the International Student house. When I finally arrived, I met the few guys (maybe six) who had shown up for this inaugural Bible study, including some awkward moments of introduction and the Bible study began. Without including all of the details, I must say that God was not only working, He was working powerfully in me. For the first time in my life, after having been raised in the church from infancy and attending almost everything the church offered, I found myself interested in what God had to say. Of course, I had been interested a good deal in the past, but not enough to want to give Him my all or my life. Somehow, however, on that reflection pool sidewalk, or in my dorm room, or on the way to the Bible study or possibly during the Bible study, I had been converted, i.e. made new and alive (the scholars call it regenerated; the revivalists call it “born again”). I was now a true disciple of Jesus Christ; it was all so very new and there was no turning back for me!
The Bible study that I attended that night was the first ever meeting on the USC campus of a Christian organization known as “The Navigators”! Distinguished by their emphasis on discipleship, the Navigators were a ministry that, in addition to First Baptist Church of Columbia, guided me in finding and knowing Jesus Christ. In the coming years, I would discover that through the impact and influence of all types of ministries, individuals and other sources, I was ultimately being (and am still being) discipled by Jesus Christ, the risen, living Savior. He graciously and sovereignly called me to Himself that Sunday afternoon and that call was a simple one: “Follow Me!” Simple but profound, because I knew that if I was going to truly follow Jesus as His disciple, it would mean giving up myself and making Him first in everything. He would take me by the hand, so to speak, and guide me along the way. This is the manner of discipleship – Jesus walking alongside us, His followers, and working His will in our lives, guiding and teaching us through the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells believers. The Holy Spirit is in charge of the entire process because the Holy Spirit is truly the One who orchestrates the discipleship process.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6-7
The above words were written 7 centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ, but the prophet Isaiah, who penned them, provided great expectations for the people of Israel who, over the ensuing centuries, were waiting for deliverance in their bondage. These descriptors and names of the coming liberator are deeply profound.
Without providing an exhaustive explanation, the reader or listener would discover that the messiah would exhibit the following traits, as listed in the above verses:
The coming deliverer would be born, while also being “everlasting.” He would be a son, while also being a “Father.” He would be a man (human) while also being known by the name “Mighty God.” These paradoxes could only be true if the one coming was also “God become man.” The one coming must be fully man and fully God. He will be a king ruling over a spiritual kingdom (this is where the waiting Jews were confused) and will provide Wonderful (acts of wonders – or miracles) Counsel (words of wisdom from above). As the miracle or wonder working spokesman for God, Jesus fulfilled this promising prophecy and would say and do only what the Father dictates, while showing us His Father’s glory and revealing His Father’s will.
Ultimately, it would be through the perfect life that He lived and the gory, shameful death that he died (on a despicable cross, the capital punishment of his day, an embarrassing sign of one “cursed by God”) that Christ would provide peace. Absorbing the curse of God upon our sins and experiencing the wrath of God toward our sins, Jesus becomes a perfect sacrifice and substitute for those who receive him as Lord and Savior. Turning from sin and trusting in Christ alone as the only hope for forgiveness, one finds Him, the one who indeed is the true “Prince of Peace,” and the only One who can take away our guilt and provide acceptance before a holy and pure God.
This is the Christmas message, God becoming man, in order to live the life we cannot live and to die a death that we deserve. Needy men and women still seek him and in doing so, discover that the baby born in the cattle feeding trough is actually God in the flesh and the resurrected Lord of the universe! Let us bow before Him and worship with the angels!
The Good Man’s Peace
“It is true the saints grieve, but then dolent et de dolore gaudent (they grieve and rejoice that they can grieve): they are troubled for sin; and they have rest and quiet in this, that they can be troubled for their sin: they have no peace in their sin; but they have peace in this, that they can have no peace in their sin. … No, they will say, I am glad that I am grieved for sin; and the Lord knows, it is my trouble that I can be grieved no more; I have quiet and peace in that I am troubled.” (16)
True Peace May Be Interrupted
“Dispute not with God lest you be confounded; dispute not with Satan lest you be deceived.” (40)
Saints Should Not Be Discouraged, Whatever Their Condition Be
“A praying man can never be very miserable, whatever his condition be, for he has the ear of God; the Spirit within to indite, a Friend in heaven to present, and God Himself to receive his desires as a Father.” (55)
A Lifting Up In The Case Of Great Sins
“Nine things there are, which usually are the grounds and occasions of the discouragements of God’s people.
“Chrysostom of Constantinople had so great a sense of the evil of it, that when the Empress Eudoxia sent him a threatening message, Go, tell her, said he, Nil nisi pecatum metuo (I fear nothing but sin). And in some respects the sins of the godly are worse than the sins of others, for they grieve the Spirit more, they dishonour Christ more, they grieve the saints more, they wound the name of God more, they are more against the love, and grace, and favour of God than other men’s sins are.” (68)
“Their (believers’) sins may hide God’s face: but as their sins did not hinder God and them from coming together at first, so their sins shall never part God and them. Their sins may cause a strangeness between God and them, but shall never cause an enmity. Their sins may hide God’s face from them, but shall never turn God’s back upon them.” (70)
“But again you say, suppose that a man’s sins be exceeding great, gross, and heinous;… though your sin be great, is not God’s mercy great, exceeding great? Is not the satisfaction made by Christ great? Are the merits of Christ’s blood small? Is not God, the great God of heaven and earth, able to do great things? You grant that God is almighty in providing for you, and is He not almighty also in pardoning? Will you rob God of his almightiness in pardoning? You say your sin is great, but is it infinite? Is not God alone infinite? Is your sin as big as God, as big as Christ? Is Jesus Christ only a Mediator for small sins?” (74)
“True humiliation is no enemy but a real friend unto spiritual joy, to our rejoicing in God. The more a man is humbled for sin committed, the more he will rejoice in God, and rejoice that he can grieve for sin. He grieves, and rejoices that he can grieve for sin.” (82)
A Lifting Up in the Case of Weak Grace
“The more extensive a man’s obedience is unto God’s commandments, the more he is grown in grace.” (102)
“The more a man sees and understands his Christian liberty, and yet walks the more strictly, the more he grows in grace. Some think they grow in grace because they have more understanding in their Christian liberty, though they walk more loosely. These are deceived in their spiritual growth.” (103)
A Lifting Up in the Case of Miscarriage of Duties
“Prayer is the pouring out of the soul to God; not the pouring out of words, nor the pouring out of expressions; but the pouring out of the soul to God.” (115)
“Oh, again you say, but I am afraid that the Lord will never hear my prayer, or regard my duty because I am so selfish in it. And did not those seek themselves at first, who came unto Christ for cure? All true love begins in self-love. The sweetest flower grows on a dirty stalk. And I pray, what think you of Jonah? The Lord heard me, says he, out of hell, and yet I cried, says he, by reason of mine affliction.” (123)
“We must learn to leave the event and success of our spiritual things unto God Himself; so shall we never be discouraged in any duty.” (127)
A Lifting Up in the Lack of Assurance
“No: for if you be drawn to Christ, does it matter whether it be done with a cord of flax or a cord of silk? God has two arms whereby He draws us unto Himself—the arm of His love is put forth in the promise, the arm of His anger and justice is put forth in the threatening; and with both these He lifts up the fallen sinner.” (137)
“Assurance of faith comforts, but the reliance of faith saves.” (142)
A Lifting Up in the Case of Temptation
“So spiritually: there are two sorts of people in the world: one that is very confident of his salvation, and full of comfort, yet he prays not in private, reads not, meditates not, examines not his own heart, takes no pains about his soul, but is often spending, keeping ill company, will be sometimes drunk, swear, and be unclean, yet he is very confident he shall go to heaven; the other prays, hears, reads, meditates, walks with all strictness in his life and behaviour, yet he is always doubting and fearing, but through grace he has some comfort.” (159)
“Temptations answered by reason will return again, but temptations dipped in the blood of Christ will return no more, or not with such violence and success.” (170)
A Lifting Up in the Case of Desertion
“Now I ask, what is the reason why God forsakes His people for a time, or a moment? Has He any design but love? Does He not withdraw Himself from them, that He may draw them to Himself? …Does He not forsake them for a moment, that He may see their love to Him? In the time of His presence we have the sense of His love to us; but in the time of His absence, then He sees, and we ourselves have the sense of, our love to Him.” (176-77)
“Now so it is, He may hide His face, He may withdraw and deny particular comforts and manifestations, yet love me eternally.” (188)
“When God seems to be mine enemy and to stand with a drawn sword against me, then do I cast and throw myself into His arms.” –Luther (190)
“If He has loved once, He will love me to the end; and therefore though for the present He hides His face from me, yet I shall see His face again.” (191)
A Lifting Up in the Case of Affliction
“But the Lord not only upholds His people under sufferings, but He gives them much light therewith. The school of the cross is the school of light. …when is God more present with His people than when they are most afflicted? God is always at the back of affliction. There heaven opened to Stephen. Afflictions are the rusty lock oftentimes which opens the door into the presence chamber. …as they have most of God when they are most afflicted, so in time of their sufferings they have most communion and fellowship with Jesus.” (196-97)
“But so it is that a Christian has never more experience of God’s upholding sustaining grace, his sin is never more revealed and healed, his grace is never more present with him, than when he is most afflicted: and he is never more partaker of Christ’s sufferings than in and by his own sufferings. Surely therefore, he has no reason for his discouragements, whatever his afflictions be.” (198)
“I have gained more by my sickness than by many a sermon… And this I must needs say, I have had more of God’s presence in my affliction than ever I had before.” (206-07)
“Death is the worst that can befall; and what is death, but an inlet to eternal life unto the people of God?” (207)
“What though men hate me, if Christ loves me?” (209)
“There are but two things to bear, sin and sufferings. Christ has borne all your sins; will not you bear His sufferings?” (210)
“The more serviceable a man is to God the more he honours God, and the more he honours God the more he honours himself.” (Bernard, 214)
“The true Christian does God’s work without any great noise or notice of himself.” (229)
“How is it therefore with you? Have you a skill at pulling down what is man’s and neither skill nor heart to set up what is God’s? Have you been employed and used in God’s service, and have you done your own work fully, and God’s work by halves? Are you not contented to be laid by, and that God should use another? Do you make a noise in the work? Are your hands not under your wings? Have you made a goodly outward bargain of the Lord’s work and service as a shoehorn to your own ends? Have you not grown in experience, faith and holiness, by this work, but in pride rather? Have you not been very tender of the name of God in your service; nor been acquainted with God’s design; nor thine heart drawn out the more to love the Lord?” (230)
“In case God does not call you forth to any work or special employment, then act thus:
“Consider that you have now the more time to mind your own soul, and to attend to your own condition. Some are so much employed, that they have not time enough to pray, read, meditate, examine their own hearts, and look into their own condition. Yea, even though a man’s work lies in the ministry, it is possible that he may so mind his public work, as to neglect his private. But now, if you have no public employment or service, then you have the more time to spend upon your own soul, the more time to converse with the Lord in private, and to look into your own condition.” (231)
A Lifting Up in the Case of Discouragements Drawn from the Condition Itself
“…why does the Lord permit the condition of His people to be so unsettled in the world? It is that they may settle upon Himself.” (241)
“Now you complain, Oh, my heart is dead, my heart is dead. This argues that it is but a deadness that is opposite to liveliness, else you could not feel your own deadness. A man that is stark dead, cannot feel that he is dead.” (245)
“Do hypocrites ordinarily think that they are hypocrites? Where do you find in the Scripture that hypocrites ordinarily think they are hypocrites? If hypocrisy be a man’s burden, it is not his condition.” (248)
The Cure of Discouragements by Faith in Jesus Christ
“Hoping, trusting, waiting on God, is the special, if not the only, means appointed against all discouragements.” (262)
“‘Come, my beloved brother,’ said Latimer to his fellow prisoner when he went to the stake, ‘though we pass through the fire to-day, yet we shall light such a candle in England as shall never be put out again.’” (274)
“There is a two-fold presumption which you read of in Scripture: the one is that whereby men rest upon their own works for salvation without Christ… The other is that whereby men do as they think, or in their own way rest on Christ for salvation, and yet live without works and obedience: and therein they presume also because they take mercy when it is not given them. But if I rest on the promise or on Christ, that I may be made the more holy, doing what I can to be fruitful in every good work, yet resting upon Christ for all, this is no presumption.” (279)