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No More Spectators

This Sunday will mark the third week of the No More Spectators class at First Alliance Church.  While not a “book study,” the class name as well as many of the big ideas were taken from a book written by Mark Nysewander with the same title.  Mark spoke several months ago at our church and passed his book along to me.  Like Robert Coleman’s book, The Master Plan of Evangelism, Mark issues a challenge to all believers to engage in the Great Commission following the model that Jesus gave us.  I especially like how Mark compares and contrasts “spectator” Christians and disciple-making Christians.  Steven Lagen, from First Alliance Church, has written a short summary of the book which I have included below.


Summary and notes of Mark Nysewander, No More Spectators (USA:  Sovereign World, 2005), 94 pages.

Summary and notes by Steven Lagan, August 2010.

Summary of Text

In No More Spectators, Mark Nysewander challenges Christians in general and leaders in particular to rethink their approach to Christian ministry.  He invites us to leave behind “spectator Christianity” and engage whole-heartedly in disciple-making.  It is in disciple-making, he asserts, that we will experience the fullness of the Christian life and God’s power.  His approach relies upon relational Christianity, which happens best in small groups (typically smaller than twenty people).  Friendship (not membership) creates the relationship in which seekers become connected, keeping them around long enough to eventually accept the Christian message and to then grow into mature disciples and disciple-makers.  Community becomes the setting for growth and increased obedience, as well as healing from the wounds of our past.  Leaders in this process are releasers (not keepers) of control and ministry—assisting others in the rapid reproduction of ministry.  All are encouraged to lead (regardless of experience) because all are expected to be an active part of the process of listening to and obeying God (rather than a key human authority figure).  Leadership is offered and modeled rather than forced upon others.  Leadership in this approach, then, is risky, but it allows the church to truly, deeply, and rapidly grow as it becomes more than any one or group of leaders could ever make it on their own.  As the church learns to rely on God (through heavy emphasis on prayer and God’s Word) and each other (through community and the sharing of gifts), God will lead us on an adventure where hearts are changed, both in our surrounding communities and in the servants within the church who dare to join in God’s vision for the kingdom.

Chapter 1:  Don’t Just Sit There

  • Spectators aren’t evil, but they are missing out on the blessings of the disciple-making life (17-18).
  • Spectators are passive (although often very busy).  Their Christian life is about receiving (18-19).
  • Disciple-makers are interactive.  Their Christian life is about relational investment (19-20).
  • Spectators see discipleship as a personal experience (aimed at growing or keeping the individual believer) (20).
  • Disciple-makers see discipleship as a kingdom experience (aimed at allowing God’s kingdom to enter the world through his followers) (20-22).  It “releases the power of God among the people of God” (22).
  • Spectator faith is personal and private, making church life optional or non-existent (22).
  • Disciple-makers’ faith begins individually but becomes corporate, being saved from sin and into a community of faith (22-23).
  • Moving from a spectator to a disciple-maker is not easy and requires transformation, but transformation is possible because God does the transforming work in us.  He is not a spectator!  (23).

Chapter 2:  Aim for a Few

  • Spectators aim for “events”—large, entertaining gatherings (25).
  • Disciple-makers should aim for the same thing Jesus did:  small gatherings.  Aim for a few (25-26).
  • Revivals may give grace in large amounts to a large number of people, but these events don’t last (27).
  • Revival transformation can last for a long time, though, if small group ministry continues (27).
  • Christian love is to be lived-out, and this best happens in close community (28).
  • Loving, small communities will attract others—which risks losing the smallness that enabled the initial loving (28-29).
    • Simson believes that 20 is the maximum number that can feel like family (28).
  • The answer is not to quit growing or keep others from joining; instead, multiply communities (29).
  • Aiming for a few grows the kingdom; it enables multiplication (29-30).
    • Typically, only 1% of those won at an “event” remain in the church (29).
    • When the church got formal with buildings (around 300AD), growth slowed.  Being a spectator was possible.  Disciple-making was no longer a focus (30).
  • Despite what our culture may indicate, the most common form of Christianity worldwide is house churches that aim at a few and thrive even under persecution (30-31).

Chapter 3:  Be with Them

  • Spectators associate through membership, which is casual and keeps focus on the event (33).
  • Disciple-makers associate through friendship, which is constant association based on relationship with Christ and with each other (33-34).
  • Spectators enjoy learning truths that are taught (e.g. in a classroom setting) (34).
  • Disciple-makers focus on life-to-life transference of kingdom truths.  Dialogue and practice take learning to a new level (34-36).
  • The friendships cultivated by disciple-makers also produce greater maturity in us.  Friends can see things in us that we can’t see, and their relationship to us gives them permission to speak hard truths that we need to hear.  Thus, friendship promotes the growth of kingdom values in us (36-38).
  • Friendship is a result of and a source of kingdom vision.  Friendship comes when we are focused on the same thing (serving Jesus).  Deep associations also produce vision as we look forward together and consider God’s purposes (38-39).

Chapter 4:  Cause Each Other to Obey

  • Disobedience runs rampant in the church today because we consider it to be a personal, not corporate, matter.  It is a symptom of spectator Christianity (41).
  • Disciple-makers pursue relationships that promote obedience.  Relationships bring about a higher level of obedience than is possible in isolation (41-42).
  • We sell ourselves short when we settle for merely personal impartations of the Holy Spirit’s power.  When we put ourselves in relationships and community, other Christians can become the means by which the Holy Spirit’s empowerment can come to us.  More power leads to more life change (i.e. more obedience) (42-44).
  • Disciple-makers go beyond merely teaching; they train each other to obey.  This involves more than just learning information; it requires relationally-based inspiration (44-45).
  • All of us are sometimes (often intentionally) blind to our sins.  Relationships provide us a truer perspective and accountability.  They help us follow through in public on the resolutions that God may have impressed upon us in private (45-47).

Chapter 5:  Do Jesus’ Works Together

  • Spectators rely upon an anointed individual to bring God’s power to the event.  Disciple-makers rely upon an anointed community to bring God’s power to all in need.  Every member of the community is a valued minister when all work together and together rely upon the Holy Spirit to work through and among them (49-50).
  • Anointed individuals are not to be the sole ministers in the church.  Rather, they are to release the rest of the community to minister, multiplying the effectiveness of the community (just as Jesus empowered his followers) (50-52).
  • Small-group settings are ideal for training and releasing people into ministry because there is trust, encouragement, and correction.  It is a safe environment to try and fail and try again in (52-53).
  • Disciple-making small group efforts provide the basis for and lasting impact for large events like revivals.  These events are always begun by small groups of praying, obeying Christians.  They are sustained by small groups following up.  Thus, localized anointing can become large-scale anointing when what starts with an event spreads (54-55).

Chapter 6:  Enable Everyone to Lead

  • There is a difference between leading to make disciples and leading to make disciple-makers.  The first group’s leaders govern, retaining leadership among a few.  The last group’s leaders serve, multiplying leadership among the entire group.
  • Leading as “the least” requires openness and vulnerability.  This isn’t possible in the large-group, governing model because the power to govern requires a positive image.  Disciple-making leaders make themselves nothing, which opens them to God’s power, not their own (58-60).
  • Leading as “the youngest” requires deferring leadership and ministry opportunities to others, even though they may be completely inexperienced.  Train leaders by giving them experience.
  • Leading as “the servant” requires an inverted perspective on authority:  the leader serves the people, not the other way around (61-63).
    • Key to this service is prayer.  Studies revealed that no other factor was a better indicator of growth in the potential disciple-makers than prayer from their leaders (62-63).

Chapter 7:  Find Seekers with Them

  • As church size increases, the relational network decreases.  (People are less connected.)  This network is key for effective evangelism.  Without it, evangelism becomes an individual effort, something most people feel and are ill-prepared for (65-66).
  • Every believer knows several non-Christians, and a few of these will be open to considering Christianity.  Seek these people out together (66-67).
    • These seekers can often be identified by looking for people with felt needs—needs that (we can help explain) Jesus can help meet (67-68).
  • Doing evangelism as a group is more effective than in isolation because we bring more gifts and perspectives that can reach the seeker, and this approach also demonstrates for them (and invites them into) Christian community.  The message and the community are fuller in this approach than in individual and spectator Christianity (68-69).
  • Corporate evangelism is more effective than individual evangelism because it has holding power.  People are invited into the community before they believe.  This relationship can keep the person coming back long enough to find Christ and, after they find Christ, can keep them coming back long enough to be discipled and matured (70-71).

Chapter 8:  Guide Them to Multiply

  • Real church growth isn’t addition but multiplication.  Success isn’t a bigger church but another church (73-74).
  • Multiplication isn’t possible by human means.  It requires God’s power.  Thus, we must devote serious time and energy to prayer and God’s word (74-76).
  • Living in God’s power requires death to self:  desires for control, security, comfort, and (sometimes) relationships.  Refusing to let go of whatever stands in the way of multiplication will lead to stagnation and death, not multiplication and life (76-77).
  • Multiplication is enabled by KISS (keeping it simple, stupid).  If groups are not rapidly multiplying (within 12 months) they are likely becoming encumbered by nonessentials (77-79).
  • Thus, the environment for multiplication is simplicity, sacrifice, and prayer (79).

Chapter 9:  Help Them Succeed

  • As you release others into ministry, offer them the gift of your supervision.  This is not a role but a posture based on the free offering of whatever God is giving you (81-82).
  • Spectator supervisors have authority and can make demands and give orders.  Ultimately, they try to get people to listen to them (82-83).
  • Apostolic supervisors are with, not over, the people they supervise.  They try to get people to listen to God, and they offer their help in this process (82-83).
  • Selfless motives are required of the supervisor.  If we seek control, we will limit growth to whatever we can handle.  If we seek kingdom growth, we will release ministry to others, letting it become whatever God will make of it (83-85).
  • Apostolic supervision requires trust that God will make other leaders and their ministries into whatever the Spirit wants.  Our job then is not to teach but to encourage and help them whenever they need it and/or ask (85-87).

Chapter 10:  Go For the Kingdom

  • Many refuse to get involved in relational Christianity because it costs too much personally (89).  They use a variety of excuses:
    • Ignorance:  Most of us haven’t had disciple-making Christianity modeled for us.  However, we can read, study, find mentors, and pray to Jesus for help (90-91).
    • Discomfort:  Some refuse to let go of selfish individualism, self-will, and comfort.  We can, however, develop a passion for God’s values if we will allow ourselves to give disciple-making Christianity an honest try (91-92).
    • Insecurity.  Some of us are paralyzed either from sin or from past wounds.  However, Christian community and service is the exact context in which healing and freedom can be experienced (92-93).
  • Keep in mind that relational, disciple-making Christianity is a lifelong journey, not a one-time event.  Make the sacrifice, and join the adventure (93-94).
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