Wilmington association hosts T4T trainingby C. Walter Overman
When Jeff Sundell returned to the United States after serving overseas for more than a decade with the International Mission Board, he recognized a need for renewed disciple-making efforts among American churches.
“It’s so clear that disciple-making is just missing in many of our churches,” Sundell said.
Feeling a burden to renew a passion for disciple-making in the United States, Sundell began training believers in his local church in an evangelism and discipleship strategy originally designed for the foreign mission field known as T4T (“Training for Trainers”).
“T4T is evangelism and discipleship connected. These two were always connected with Jesus,” Sundell said. “We must get back to connecting evangelism and discipleship.”
Soon after implementing the training in his local church, a number of people came to faith in Christ and soon neighboring churches asked to receive training. From there he began hosting T4T training in cities across North Carolina. Now with the help of additional partners, he and his team are leading T4T movements in 27 cities throughout the United States.
He said God is moving in each of these cities in ways he never imagined. “Every day we receive emails from people we have trained who tell us about the new people they are reaching for Christ,” Sundell said. “Every day people are coming to faith in Christ.”
Sundell spoke during a T4T training event held March 4-5 in Wilmington. The event was sponsored by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) and hosted by the Wilmington Baptist Association. During the training, pastors and lay leaders learned the basics of T4T, including how to share the gospel and how to train and disciple new believers.
The overall goal of T4T is to train disciples of Jesus Christ to make disciples, who in turn make disciples. “The guiding word is reproducing,” Sundell said. “We want to make disciples who reproduce themselves.”
Lester Evans, BSCNC team leader for Associational Partnerships, said T4T fits closely with the strategy of the BSCNC, which emphasizes reaching the state’s 5.8 million lost people through disciple-making.
“T4T is a method that can be used to develop and mobilize every believer to become a multiplying disciple of Jesus Christ,” Evans said. “This is where the Great Commission happens.”
Evangelism and Discipleship
T4T begins with a focus on evangelism. The training prepares Christians to share their testimony and the gospel with nonbelievers in natural conversations and equips them to ask for a response to the gospel during the course of the conversation.
Sundell said combining the gospel with personal testimonies help people understand God’s grace and their need for forgiveness of sin. “Our testimony is not the power unto salvation, the gospel is the power unto salvation,” he said. “But our stories are experiences that others can relate to.”
Evangelism is an important part of the process, but Sundell said the key to T4T’s success is its emphasis on discipleship. Within 48 hours of coming to faith in Christ, every new believer is taught a simple gospel presentation, but they are also placed in a one-on-one discipleship relationship with a mature believer for a minimum of nine months.
“When people come to Christ, we don’t want to stop there,” Sundell said. “We don’t want to birth them and walk away.”
The end-goal for T4T is to connect new believers to the church, a process that is not always easy, Sundell said.
“New believers sometimes find it difficult to navigate the church,” he said. “Disciple them through that. Most of the time you can work new believers through a lot of those things if you just invest in them.”
Although T4T was originally designed to reach unreached people groups on the foreign mission field, it has found success in the United States. Sundell said that is not surprising, given the rise of secularization combined with the increasing number of unreached people groups migrating to the United States in recent decades.
“The bottom line is that the ends of the earth have come to our doorsteps,” he said. “We’ve got to proclaim the gospel to them. We have to love them and tell them about Jesus.”
Sundell said that will only occur when churches rediscover their mandate to make disciples of all people. “The gospel is clear. We have to go make disciples,” he said. “We have to get to where the church house is a training center to equip people to fulfill the Great Commission.”