train and release.

We have our poodle, Damon, in advanced obedience school (the link is to an old photo of the little guy). Every Thursday night, German Shepherds, Schnauzers (sp?), big dogs, little dogs, and everything in between gather at a local recreation center to heel, sit, stay, turn around, and generally learn how to recognize and obey our commands more effectively.

We’ve already seen great improvement in Damon &emdash; with the help of a little treat, Damon will sit and stay for a few seconds while Chrissy or I stand out in front of him. A month ago, he would have run to one of us immediately and jumped up if we stepped out in front of him. Many of the other dogs are seeing the same improvement. For now, however, we are under strict orders to keep our pups on a tight leash.

Eventually, the leash will go away. Damon will (hopefully) sit and stay without a leash or a treat. He will do it because he recognizes our voice commands and knows to obey them. He will also enjoy another level of freedom with other dogs — once he learns how to play nicely (and vice versa) with his peers.

Train and release. That’s really the principle behind dog training. Not releasing into the wild, but giving more and more freedom as freedom is earned. The same is true in discipleship, as my friend Joe Almanza reminded me last night. But how many times have we seen a leader who is afraid to release. Questions like, “What if they aren’t ready?” or, unfortunately, “What happens when I’m not in control anymore?” keep many church leaders from truly releasing new disciples. Attendance might go down as we release new disciples into the world to train even more disciples.

But this is precisely the method Jesus used with the twelve, and the method the twelve used with the multitudes that became the church in those exciting first days. What if Christians renewed our commitment to Christ’s evangelism method? What if church leaders thought more about the expansion of the kingdom of God than church attendance? Could we have another “Book of Acts” experience if every Christian practiced “training” and “releasing”?

Brethren (I’ve always wanted to use that word…), it’s happening. On nearly every continent. China is exploding. Muslims are coming to the Lord in droves. Entire parts of India are rejecting the Hindu religion. Ordinary folks are training and releasing, and they didn’t even have to read The Master Plan of Evangelism to know how to do it.

Lord of the harvest, raise up harvesters in North America &emdash; to train and release!

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