Building Ministries who Make Disciple Multipliers
Helping youth leaders empower
students to reach their world.
Helping youth leaders empower
students to reach their world.

The Greg Stier Youth ministry Podcast

episode 25 | June 2023

Disciple Multiplication Tips with Mark Edwards

How can we help those we lead to not only meet Jesus, but to go deeper in their relationship with him? 

In this month’s podcast, Mark Edwards, founder of SonLife Latin America, discusses disciple multiplication strategies including the 4-chair discipling model. He shares tangible steps to create believers who are close friends with Jesus, using chairs to represent each of the different stages: unbeliever, believer, master-servant, and friend of God.

Ramon Ibanez from Word of Life in Puerto Rico also joins in to provide insights on discipleship. Tune in for actionable strategies and a transformative journey of discipleship with Mark, Greg, and Ramon. 

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0:00:00.0 Mark Edwards: Jesus starts with a question, what are you looking for? And then he challenges them come and see. And to come and see is, he invites them into a conversation. He invites them to sit down and talk. And then you don’t tell them about the church. You don’t tell them how great a youth pastor you are, don’t tell them about your pastor. You don’t tell them about your denomination. All these things are wonderful. What they need is Jesus. And I think that’s where we slip up. We invite people to come to hear our youth pastor, to see our program, to hear our music. We don’t invite them to learn Jesus.

0:00:27.8 Greg Stier: Welcome to the Greg Stier Youth Ministry Podcast. I believe in the power of the gospel and the potential of teens. I believe that the best way to get teenagers to grow is to get them to go. I encourage you to subscribe to the podcast, to rate it, review it, spread the word on social media. It’s time for a revolution in youth ministry, so that every teen everywhere can hear the gospel from a friend. And I’m super excited that we have a special guest today. Mark Edwards. He’s the founder of Sonlife Latin America. As a teen, Mark felt unequipped and intimidated when it came to defending the gospel.

0:01:05.8 GS: So on graduating from high school, he headed off to Bible school to learn more about Jesus and how to share Him with others. He’s undergrad degree is from Grace Bible College, Moody Bible Institute, Trinity University also has a graduate degree for Moody. He spent his early years of ministry working for Sonlife Ministries in Chicago, and Moody Bible Institute providing leadership training in the life of Christ for youth workers across the US and Canada. 1990, he launched SEMP that stands for Students Evangelism to Missions Project with a few youth leader, friends in Chicago. And Mark now lives in Costa Rica with his wife Karen and works for Sonlife Latin America. Mark, thank you so much for being a part of this podcast.

0:01:52.7 ME: Well, thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here with you, Greg.

0:01:56.7 GS: So excited. We got to spend some time together in Israel and I mean, I’ve read ‘4 Chair Discipling’. We’ve been deeply influenced by Sonlife, and so, so grateful. I was telling you before we went live that we had our own disciple multiplication strategy at first, but I read ‘4 Chair Discipling’ and I was like, “Man, this is way better than anything that we have ’cause it’s based on the life and ministry of Jesus.” I got something in my eye. Satan’s attacking me with bugs. I got a bug in my eye. It came through the camera from Costa Rica. But so glad that you’re on here. When did you first become, just so I know, acquainted with Dare 2 Share and how long have we kind of known each other?


0:02:39.7 ME: Man, that’s a good question. I’m guessing 10 years or so. Although I’ve heard of Dare 2 Share really wasn’t till Israel trip and actually my son Josh has done a lot with Dare 2 Share and a lot of other friends throughout the time they’ve been involved with Dare 2 Share.


0:02:56.1 GS: I have a mutual friend and Doug Holiday and I love that guy. And it was really good. So you founded Sonlife Latin America. Share with us a bit of your heart, specifically, Latin America. Why is your heart in Latin America?


0:03:15.5 ME: Yeah. Well, in Latin America we have 270 million young people. That’s how much we have. And I keep this on my wrist so I can be praying for 270 million young people. That’s a little bit less than the population of the United States and young people, a generation that still is yet to hear the gospel. The thing about the gospel is every generation comes up. There’s always new. It’s just a constant flow of people that need to hear the good news. And so for sure the sound of 270 million youth marching toward an eternity without Christ is pretty motivating.


0:03:57.3 ME: Keeps me motivated every day to be involved in ministry, being involved in disciple-making among people. I really believe that Jesus left for us a strategy of how to reach the 270 million. It’s not the strategy most people use, but it’s a strategy of Jesus. In Jesus’ day, there was probably not that many people in the world.


0:04:19.0 ME: And yet Jesus chose, instead of to travel to India or to China or to Europe, he decided to focus in on a few people, a few young people, train them to live life like he lived life, to walk as he walked, to live as he lived. And He knew from there they would go out and they would change the world. I really do believe that young people can change the world. Adults can change the world too. But there’s something about young people. Their hearts are not quite as jaded and cynical as old as we get. The older we get. Their hearts are soft. And writing Jesus’ strategy for disciple-making on their hearts, it goes for a lifetime.


0:05:06.9 GS: I love that. And it’s couple things. One is; I love the fact that you’ve identified that number, 270 million. We always use the number 1 billion, “There’s 1 billion teenagers around the world.” And I use that same analogy of [0:05:22.4] ____. There’s something about that number. It is so big that God’s way is going small, not going big, going small, like you said. And it made me think of the idea of using a magnifying glass, you know, when you’re a kid, you burn leaves. You take all those diffused rays, I burned leaves and ant piles, and focused on one small area. But once those leaves caught on fire, they spread out. And that’s really what you’re saying is, “Focus on a few and it begins to spread out.” So why, let’s talk it, let’s unpack this a little bit. So, disciple multiplication, I mean, it’s something, a term, it became popular in the United States. Everybody talks about disciple multiplication. My belief is that actually very few actually do that. But what are you talking about? When you talk about disciple multiplication, what are you talking about? And how does that different from what a lot of view… Church’s view as disciple multiplication?


0:06:27.6 ME: Yeah. The whole word. Discipleship and disciple has become a real buzzword around the world. People add it to their vision statement of their church, you know, “To make everybody in our church a disciple,” or they add it in as a password. But I agree with you. When you get in and smell the fruit and look at what’s happening, there’s very little disciple-making going on, at least by the way Jesus did, and that’s the difference. In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees had disciples, in Matthew 23, it says, the Pharisees sent their disciples to Jesus. One day this Pharisee says, “We’re disciples of Moses. Who are you a disciple of?” Discipleship was something that was around in Jesus’ day. It wasn’t something he invented, disciple-making, but Jesus’ disciple-making was uniquely different than the disciple-making of this day. And sadly, still very unique to the disciple-making today in our world. Jesus’ disciple-making began by a decision. Three decisions the disciple had to make. Jesus says in, Luke 14, “Unless you do these three things, you cannot be my disciple.”


0:07:34.2 ME: Unless, The first thing you have to do, he says, “Unless you love me more than you love your mother, your sister, your brother, even your own life. Unless you love me more, you can’t be my disciple.” I mean, what a [0:07:49.2] ____, what a Paul.


0:07:49.3 GS: So let me just pause you right there. So it’s interesting to me, you’re talking about once somebody has become a believer in Christ, so these are… He’s talking to people that have been following him for how long at that point? A year, two years, they’ve been…


0:08:04.6 ME: Yeah. Really. And in Luke 14, two years, two and a half years.


0:08:09.1 GS: So that kinda in and out, popping in and out.


0:08:11.6 ME: Yeah, he says he turns to the crowd of followers. All the people who are following him. He turns to the followers and says listen, you know, it really isn’t about following, it’s about being a disciple. He’s challenging them to take the next step. But then the first step stays in… We’re just lovers of ourselves.


0:08:31.5 ME: I mean, that’s the bottom line truth. I love Mark more than anybody loves Mark. We love ourselves so much, it’s so hard for us to love Jesus more than anything. But the first call, if you want to be a disciple, he says, “Unless you love me more than everybody, you cannot be my disciple.” Second thing is, “Unless you pick up your cross and die to yourself, and die to your will and what you want in life, you can’t be my disciple.” And yet we have tons of people in churches saying, “I’m a disciple of Jesus,” and they don’t love Jesus more than anything. They love Jesus as one of many things. And we have people saying they’re disciples and they really haven’t been crucified with Christ like Paul talks about so that Jesus lives through them. So they never go under the cross.


0:09:15.8 GS: I love this. And we talked again before the program actually started about how evangelism ties right in that with, you know, dying to yourself, like picking up your cross. That first death is a social death because you’re willing to risk relationships by proclaiming the name and fame of Christ. And this is, again, part of the discipleship process is getting young people to share their faith and die to themselves and how they’re perceived. So love, okay, I love these; love God supremely.


0:09:50.1 GS: Love Jesus more than anything else secondly; die to yourself, what’s the third?


0:09:54.9 ME: And the third one He says is you need to have a change in ownership. He says you have to renounce everything you have. You have to decide that Jesus is the pearl of great price, and you have to sell everything. And we were talking about before that, you have to be all in. And it’s one of the things I love about you, Greg, and one of the reasons God has used you, ’cause you’re all in. And we don’t have people who are all in. We have people who are part in. And we don’t challenge students to go all in. And I think it’s one of the things we’re lacking. We underestimate the fact that, and I think that the older they get, the harder it is to go all in. Because the older you get, the more things you’ve accumulated and you have, and there’s more things to give up. And the more things there are to give up, the harder it is. I think the problem with the rich young ruler and why he didn’t want to come is he had so much.


0:10:46.9 ME: And it says Jesus looked at him and loved him. What did that look like? Through Jesus’ eyes pierced him with love. But he had so much, he wasn’t [0:10:58.6] ____. And that’s why I love getting young people early and tell them, “Listen, you could sell your life out for anything. You could sell it out for Amazon and spend your life and become an Amazon executive. You can gain all kinds of money. Where will that get you? What’s after that?” I love asking the question, “So what after that? What after that? What after that?” And so you bring people to the end and go on, “Well, I don’t know what’s after that.” That’s the problem with that route.


0:11:25.2 GS: You know, I love this. Now, I’m gonna take a step back ’cause I honestly, and this isn’t in the questions, but I actually think a lot of people abuse Luke 14 by making that a salvation passage, not a discipleship passage. Because they’ll say, “Well, if you want to become a Christian, you have to give up everything and it makes it about me, not what Jesus has done.” What I love about the 4 Chair strategy, which we’ll talk about in a minute, is that first call, you know, is to come and see, to put your faith in Christ and what he did on the cross, receive that free gift. And the way I say it is, “Getting on Team Jesus is free, but getting on the starting team costs you everything you got.” And I love that you guys separate those out because a lot of people I hear preaching about evangelism will use Matthew 4:18-21 when Jesus said, “Leave everything you have, come out. I’ll make you fishers of men,” they abandoned everything. They came after Christ. But that was not the first time Jesus met the disciples.


0:12:31.5 ME: No.


0:12:32.4 GS: How far in was that?


0:12:34.5 ME: That was a year and a half in. A little bit more than a year and a half into his ministry. Yeah, Peter’s first encounter with him was in John 1, right? Right after he came out of the desert. It was a year and a half later where he’s calling him. It’s because it’s a becoming. You know? And it’s really about witness, about it being with drawing into a relationship. Or drawing into a friendship with God. God so desires to have us as friends. He wants us to be friends. But that route to friendship goes through the cross into a father-son relationship and then into a master-servant relationship. And then Jesus says, “I no longer call you servants. I now call you friends.” Drawing us into a deeper relationship with him because God is so relational.


0:13:25.4 GS: I love that Mark, because when you really… When you put your faith in Christ and the closer you get with Jesus, it’s not like denying yourself and picking up your cross is a drudgery. It’s a privilege. It’s like you start to know him and you’re like, “Let’s run to the cross. Let’s pick up that cross,” in response to your gratefulness. Not in order to be saved. It’s because you are saved, because of how good He is. And it’s a whole different motivation. So I just love that about what… So let’s talk about 4 Chair a little bit just to kind of back it up even more. For a youth leader listening or watching this podcast. Tell us, when you kind of conceptualized ‘4 Chair Discipling’, you were telling me it was in South and Central America, trying to make it simple for people to understand. Walk through with me as though I’m a brand new youth leader. What is 4 chair discipling?


0:14:26.7 ME: Yeah. There’s two processes I think that we see in the life of Jesus. One process is how do you take somebody that does not believe in Jesus, an unbeliever, and take them all the way through to be a mature believer in Jesus Christ? So it’s, the 4 chairs is just a simple way to explain the process. What we’re trying to get to is a mature believer. What is a mature disciple of Jesus? And just finding that is super helpful. Jesus defines it for us. In Luke 6:40, he said, “A disciple is not above his master.” But when a disciple’s fully trained, he will be like his master. A full, mature, believer in Jesus Christ, a disciple of Jesus is someone who looks like Jesus. Someone who walks like Jesus walked, who lives like Jesus lives. Paul put it this way in Ephesians 4, that they would rise to the stature of Jesus Christ to His likeness.


0:15:28.3 ME: That we would be like Him in every way, like Him in attitude. We would have the attitude of Christ that Paul talks about. Philippians 2, “Haven’t you the same attitude that was in Christ?” A mature disciple of Jesus has an attitude. He doesn’t have an attitude like most people think they have an attitude. He has the attitude of Jesus. So he has the attitude of Jesus, is a servant attitude. He humbled himself, put on the clothes of a servant and he gave up his life for other people. That’s the attitude of Christ. We like to say that, “A mature disciple of Jesus thinks like Jesus.” We all have the mind of Jesus. We all have the mind of Christ Paul says. We get it when we encounter… The problem is we don’t use the mind of Christ. Mark uses Mark’s mind, my logic, my thinking.


0:16:15.6 ME: We don’t go and say, “Jesus, what do you want?” We do what we want to do. But the first thing is you need the mind of Christ. Then you need the heart of Christ. We don’t have compassion. We don’t have compassion for lost people. We don’t have the compassion for people aren’t like us. And the third thing is; we need to have the hands of Christ. We need to do what Jesus did. We need to walk as Jesus walked. So what we’re doing is we’re trying to have mature Christ disciples is what we’re after. The process is we use 4 chairs. The first chair is the unbeliever chair. In the unbeliever chair. We see Jesus always ask this question. It’s in John 1:38. He says, “What are you looking for?” One of the… And I don’t know if you use this in Dare 2 Share, but it’s one of the best…


0:17:00.8 ME: I love Jesus questions. I just think we can’t go wrong. He says, “What are you looking for? What are you looking for?” And then they said what they were looking for. And then he gives them the challenge. The question is, what are you looking for? The challenge is come and see. Come let’s have a conversation. We invite people into a conversation. When they had came into the conversation, what did Jesus tell them? He told them, John 1:1-18, “In the beginning was the Word. The word was with God. And the word was God. I am God. I am the creator of all things. You are the creation. I am the creator. I came to earth to die for you.” And John 1:12 says, “And all those who believe this have the right to become sons of God.” And move into chair number two.


0:17:49.6 ME: Jesus says he came for five reasons. The first one is in Luke 19:10. He says, “I came to seek and to save that which was lost.” That’s chair one. Jesus comes to all chair one people and he’s after you. If you’re listening to this podcast, God is after you. Because God has come to seek and to save that which was lost. All you have to do is open your heart and He will find you. God’s a God who hides. I don’t like that. I don’t like that Psalms and Isaiah said, “Is the glory of God to hide a thing?” God doesn’t hide. No. And I know you grew up inner city like me, we had no money. So we spent a lot of our time playing hide and seek. And I don’t know if you’ve ever played hide and seek on your block?


0:18:44.0 ME: But we did in Chicago ’cause we had no money. And so we would play hide and seek all day long. And the interesting thing about hide and seek with God is that people think, “Well, God doesn’t hide. I like the God who reveals, Daniel 2, says that God’s a revealer of mysteries. I want that God.” I do too. God is a revealer, but He is also a hider. He plays hide and seek. And I have nine grandchildren. And when I go over to my grandkids’ house, they always wanna play hide and seek. And as a good grandfather. And they go, they’re just learning to count and they’re counting to 10, their little eyes closed. Where do I go to hide as a grandfather? Of course, I go behind a couch and I stick my foot out because I’m hiding to be found. And that’s how God hides. He hides to be found. But there’s something about God, Greg.


0:19:36.3 ME: He longs for us to go and find him. Just like when I am hiding from my grandchild, Clara, she comes around the corner and she finds me. What does she say? “I found you papa. There you are,” and then what do I do? “Oh, I’m gonna try to hide better.” No. I go, “You found me.” And oh I open my arms and she comes running to me and we embrace… God loves to hide because he loves to be found. And if you seek for him with all of your heart, he promises you will find him. But you gotta come looking for him. The problem today is most people aren’t looking for God. They’re looking out for number one, they’re looking to become wealthy. They’re looking for a whole bunch… They’re not looking for God, but God is looking for them. God is looking for them. You move into chair number two when you come to Know Christ and the chair number two is the believer chair or the son chair, or the daughter chair.


0:20:32.9 ME: It’s a child chair. In that relationship, it’s the father with the child. In Jesus’ ministry, he spent a year and a half in this chair with them, a year and a half grounding them in who the Father is. And John 17:6 he said, “I brought you glory Father, by telling them, manifesting you who you are, and that you are owner of everything.” So important to teach a new believer that God owns everything. They don’t own anything, you don’t even own the shirt on your back. This is God’s earth and everything in it, all people, all clothes, all part, everything is his. In that chair number two is where we sit most of the people that are Christians in the world. Most of them is because they’ve never discovered there’s another chair. They think you’re either… They have this donut theology, “You’re in the kingdom or you’re out.”


0:21:24.7 ME: “You’re in or out. You’re either a non-believer or a believer.” And they don’t know, I say, because they haven’t really dove into how Jesus did this. After a year and a half, he comes to them and he says to them, “Come follow me. I will make you fishers of men.” He gives them the third challenge. The second challenge was, “Come and follow me.” Third challenge was, “Come follow me, I’ll make you a fisher of men.” And that’s when he interjects this three things you have to do to become a fisher of men. And I love what you said about denying… The first thing you have to die to is your social relationships. Because we’re so consumed about what people think of us, right? I mean, you go to Facebook or Instagram or whatever you go to and you want the thumbs up.


0:22:08.8 ME: And if you get a thumbs down immediately, you go in and you change the picture. You do something to change everything because we’re so consumed about what other people think of us. And we don’t care what God thinks of us. All we care about is what other people think of us. When we move into the third chair, which is master-servant. It’s master-disciple, it’s owner-slave. I mean, who wants to move into that chair? I mean, “What a fun chair, right? I’m gonna move in and now I’m gonna do the master’s will and not my will. And it seems like it’s gonna be a drag. This is gonna be terrible.” It’s just the opposite. When you move into the chair and you let go, you become free. Now you’re a servant in the house of the king, who takes care of the servants in the house of the king? The king takes care of all.


0:22:55.1 ME: You don’t have to take care of all that stuff. God becomes your provider. God becomes your protection. God becomes your power and your strength when you move into chair number three. In that chair number three, God begins to teach you how to be an athlete. This is from 2nd Timothy 2, how to be a farmer. He teaches you how to be a soldier for him. And in chair number three, you begin to develop a servant heart and a fisherman’s passion. And what you are fishing for is, and this is what big change, you become a servant. Most people, most churches being a servant means you come to church, you move chairs around. You help out in the music ministry or help out… Not in Jesus. Jesus… Being a fisherman means you win the loss, you evangelize loss, you gospelize the loss, and you take care of the new believers that are coming up.


0:23:50.0 ME: So you pray for them and you care for them. And you share, you pray, care and share with the people. That’s what we teach people to do. So when you’re making disciples, you’re not teaching them how to do programs in the church, how to run a program, any program. You’re teaching ’em how to share Jesus with their lost friends. And then when their friends come to Christ, how to spend a year and a half helping ground them in their identity, who they are in Christ. And the same thing the Father said to the son Jesus. Is the same thing he says to you, and I, and all of you listening, if you believe in Jesus, you are his son. You are his daughter. He loves you and he’s pleased with you. Although he might not be pleased with how you’re living your life in this moment, he might not be pleased with the decisions that you’re making.


0:24:42.8 ME: Many times God has not been pleased with the decision Mark has made or the things I’ve chosen to do, but he’s always pleased with me because his pleasure isn’t based on what I do. It’s based on who I am. And I am his son. And he’s pleased with me because I am his son, regardless of what I do. And of course that doesn’t make me want to run from him. That makes wanna please him more as a servant, and as a slave. And as you move through that grid, again, moving toward Christ’s likeness, being like him, you move into the fourth chair. The fourth chair is the sent chair. Now you’re being sent out. Well, what are you being sent out to do, Mark? You’re being sent out to gospelize non-believers. You’re sending out to edifying established believers in chair two.


0:25:29.8 ME: And then you’re being out to equip the workers and the disciples and the fishermen in chair number three. And you’re sent… And when I talk about sent, a lot of people are, “Oh, you have to go travel far to a different country.” No, it’s not about being transcultural-sent. You’re sent into your high school. You’re sent into your college campus. You’re sent into your workplace. But most people in the church don’t live with a sense of sentness. They don’t think they’re sent to any place. So they come to church to come, but they don’t leave feeling like, “Okay, the body is gathered now the body is sent.” And they don’t have that, like Paul in Acts 17 when he came to Athens, it says, “He saw the need of the people. He saw what was going on, and it grieved him in his soul.” And so what did he did? It says he debated with the Pharisees and the religious leaders and the Greeks who had converted to Judaism on Saturday, the sabbath. And the rest of the time he was in the plaza, he was in the street talking to the people.


0:26:34.7 ME: And so it’s moving into friendship. So in chair number four, I move into a friend of God. Jesus said, “I no longer call you slaves I now call you friends.” And so what’s God if I’m the friend? God’s the friend. And it’s like in our marriage, you with Deb and me with Karen, and that you move into a friendship where you almost can complete each other’s sentences. [laughter] You begin to think alike. You move into this oneness with Christ that he talks about in John 17, He said, He prays “Father, that they might be one, even as you and I are one,” you and me, me and them, them and us. A oneness of unity in the way we think, our heart beat for people, and our way of walking. So that’s pretty much the four chairs. So it’s helping people move through the process of becoming mature disciples of Jesus Christ.


0:27:32.6 GS: So so good. I thought, and I’ve said this before and it feels heretical, but I don’t think it is. You could tell me if it is but we have an advantage over Jesus with those who are discipling is because those were discipling actually have the Holy Spirit, which is unique. The Holy Spirit was with them, but, with the disciples, but in Acts 2 he dwelt in them. And that whole thing becomes a whole different level of what God can do with those four chairs. I just comment on that, about the importance of the Holy Spirit power and how we’re uniquely positioned to see the people that we are discipling do greater things than Jesus, greater works through his Holy Spirit.


0:28:34.3 ME: And that’s what Jesus said, right? He said, “You will do greater things than me.” And you’re like, “Who could do something greater than Jesus? Jesus, why are you saying this? Doesn’t make any sense at all. How can I do something greater than you?” You gotta remember that Jesus spent three and a half years beginning the movement. And we know in 1st Corinthians 15 that maybe the group got up to 500. It said he appeared to 500 at one time. Maybe the group got up to 500, and we know in Acts 1 there’s 120 of them gathered in the upper room. And Jesus invested in the 12, and the 72, and the 120, and the 500, three and a half years. I’ve been in ministry doing this for 45 years. I’ve been making disciples since I was 17 years old.


0:29:16.0 GS: Wow.


0:29:17.8 ME: When I started to make my first disciples, it started to do this, feeling my way through it like I was a blind person. But in the process of learning how to make disciples through the life of Mark, Jesus living in me and through me. So it’s not Mark who’s made the disciples. Jesus in me made disciples. If it was Mark, I’d be back in Chicago, back in my inner city. I never thought I’d leave the city. I’m a city kid. I grew up in the city, I love the city, I love my city, I never had any desire to leave my city. I love the streets, I love the people, I love the action, and I would never be here in the middle of the rainforest in Costa Rica, as beautiful as it is, if it weren’t that God didn’t call me, I wouldn’t have been in Latin America. I didn’t speak a word of Spanish when I showed up here when I was 34 years old. I spoke nothing. The only Spanish words I knew were of course what all my Latino friends in Chicago had taught me. They’re all swear words.




0:30:15.3 ME: They’re all the bad words. But I didn’t know they were bad words until I came here and I started using them I find out “Oh, that’s not a good word huh?”




0:30:21.4 ME: I go, “Oh, my friends used to say that all the time. I had no idea what that meant.” So, Jesus said the greater things that we will do. The Apostle Paul’s ministry probably lasted, I don’t know, 25 years, 24 years max, that he put in and how many disciples did Paul make? I mean, you can number 26 of them that are named. But everywhere he went, it said, “He went and he made disciples.” And I think there’s a huge problem people have with Paul. They do not understand that Paul didn’t make up anything. Paul was following Jesus. I mean, Paul couldn’t have been any clearer. In 1st Corinthians 11:1, he says, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” Everything Paul did, Jesus did. The reason people don’t understand that what Paul did is Jesus… ’cause they never studied Jesus. They bypass Jesus and say, “Oh, Jesus? Jesus is another we gotta go with Paul he’s more like us and I can do that… ” Not knowing that Paul didn’t think that. Paul said, “I wanna be like him in every way. For me to live as Christ, for me to die as Christ.” The only thing on Paul’s radar was Jesus. Every morning, every afternoon, and every day, he was one of the first Jesus lovers to the core.


0:31:38.4 ME: He was one of the first people all in. Peter struggled to get all in, really struggled. And of course we see in John 21 at the end of Jesus’ life where he meets him on the shore for the last breakfast, they’re there and Peter’s gone back to fishing. What is he struggling… And Jesus says, “Simon, Simon son of John, fisherman, do you love me more than your business? Your boat, your nets and these 156 fish that are flapping around the shore and all that money you’re gonna have, do you love me more than that?” And Peter began to be converted from a fisherman, a fish, to a shepherd of people. He said, “Shepherd my sheep.” We never see Peter going back to fishing, he changed occupation. He became a shepherd. And in 1st Peter 5, he says, “I’m a shepherd just like you. Fellow shepherds, be careful how you shepherd the flock of God. Don’t do it for money, don’t do it for sort of gain, don’t do it to get a good reputation so everybody claps for you. Do it with a fever for God and one day, one day my friend, when the great shepherd appears and he looks at you and me, he is gonna give us the crown of glory because of what Jesus did through us, shepherding people to be like Jesus.” And so really the whole process is having you shepherd somebody into a friendship with God.


0:33:06.7 GS: So good, so good. Well hey, this is so inspirational. I could listen to you teach on this all day so good. But I actually want to bring a youth leader in that… It’s called the Greg Stier Youth Ministry Podcast. I’ve not been in youth ministry for 35 years. So we bring the actual youth leaders in. They’re in the grit. Just to kind of comment and question, we have Ramon Ibanez. He works with the Word of Life in Puerto Rico. He’s originally from Argentina, grew up in a large Christian family, the seventh of eight children Trusted Christ as a 12-year-old at a missions conference, felt God calling him to be a missionary at 19. He began four years of study at the Bible Institute where he met his wife Lavinia, is that how you say her name? Lavinia. And who’s from Romania. They married in 2011 in Romania, and then came back to work at Word of Life, Argentina, where they served for five years. And he spent some time with Word of Life in Mexico and Dominican Republic before landing in Puerto Rico. There was our good friend Gustavo Gonzalez Rodriguez, where they now live with their two young boys, Liam and Axel. So welcome, welcome, welcome. And Ramon just taking all this in. I just wanna turn it between you and Mark. Any questions, comments, thoughts? You guys, go for it.




0:34:35.5 Ramon Ibanez: I’m so exciting. Too much Mark. Too much information. And that is very inspired, like Greg say, and so exciting. I want to do it. I want to be there.




0:34:46.8 RI: So something that caught my attention is, before I know this 4 chairs and Dare 2 Share Ministry, my youth leader in my church, do everything that you say with me. He took me, he teach me everything. How to read my Bible, how to teach the Bible, how to share the gospel. He pulled me outside to share the gospel. So he teach me everything that I know. Like he was moving from one chair to the other, to the other, and to the other. So I can say everything that you say is like is happened to me. It’s happened to me. It’s something that we want to do now here in Puerto Rico with the teenagers. Mobilize teen to reach their friends.


0:35:36.5 RI: Like you say, they don’t need to go to other country or other place, just in their circle to reach their friend, families, many people all around. So exciting to hear this. Is something Mark that really like me is when you say that people love more than himself like. I think it is a big problem that we have everything, because in the Bible is so clear. Everything that you say and you share with us, with very passionate that I can hear more and more and more. But when you finish, it’s like, “Okay, that was so good.”




0:36:24.2 RI: And I think that it… We need to, the Bible or everything that you say that is in the Bible need to mobilize like we need to do it. I need to go out and practice. What do you think that the way that we need to mobilize the teen and say, “Hey, it’s in the Bible. It’s not something that I created is God created.”


0:36:49.6 ME: Yeah. I think the key is walking them through the life of Jesus, but it really helped me. And I’m the same way, my youth pastor did it to me before you were calling it or kind of articulating it. And the same thing happened with Greg. If you read his book, ‘Gospelize’, you’ll see how his youth pastor Yankee walked him through it. And people have been doing this for over 2000 years, so this isn’t anything anybody discovered. All it is is the way we frame it up to help people understand better, maybe in our generation.


0:37:22.0 ME: How do we walk ’em through? And the reason it hasn’t changed is because it’s the same Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit in Jesus who was working the process. When Jesus came. He came as fully man and fully God, 100% of the both, which meant that He, Jesus in his life lived in dependence on the Holy Spirit his whole life. And that’s why Jesus will stop and he’ll go, “What happened? Why are you stopping?” He’s going, “The power went out of me.” “What power? What are you talking about?” Or it’ll say, like in Luke 4, it says, “And the power of the Spirit was on Him, and the Spirit came on Him.” Jesus lived a life of 100% dependence on the Holy Spirit, the same that you and I can live. It was the Holy Spirit in Him doing the work through Him.


0:38:15.0 ME: Jesus was super clear. He says to them, He goes, “Okay,” Philip says “Enough, show us the father.” And Jesus goes, “Philip, if I’ve been so long with you and you don’t recognize me, if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father. At least believe by the works I did. Everything I did was the Father in me doing it through me.” It’s the same power. So the process repeats. It repeats with you. It repeated with Greg. And we’re all in different parts of the world at different places, but it’s the same process. But the key to helping people get there is, go back and study the life of Jesus. It starts in John 1, and Jesus starts with a question, “What are you looking for?” And then He challenges them, “Come and see.” And to come and see is He invites, I like to say He invites them into a conversation. He invites them to a coffee, a Coca Cola. He invites them to sit down and talk. And then you don’t tell them about the church. You don’t tell them about your church.


0:39:08.9 ME: You don’t tell them how great a youth pastor you are. Don’t tell them about your pastor. You don’t tell them about your denomination. You don’t tell them about Word of Life. All these things are wonderful. What they need is Jesus. And so you just got to really… And I think that’s where we slip up. We start, we invite people to come to hear our youth pastor, to see our program, to hear our music. We don’t invite them to learn Jesus. So they come, and they’ve been impacted by Jesus, but they don’t fall in love with Him. The only way to fall in love with Jesus is just how you fell in love with your wife from Romania. You got to know her. And the more you got to know her, the more you said, “Man, I like this girl.” I mean, “This Argentinian guy could marry a Romanian and we could live in Puerto Rico.”




0:39:50.7 ME: But the more we know Jesus, the more we love Jesus. But our problem is, is the enemy is against us. And he gets us so distracted about learning so much more. And people say to me, “Mark, the only thing you look at is the Gospels and where Jesus is.” Oh, you are so wrong. Jesus didn’t have the Gospels, he didn’t have the books of Paul. All Jesus used was the Old Testament to explain who he is. Jesus said in Luke 24, he said he opened their mind to understand that all of Scripture was talking about Him. All of Scripture. I use the whole Bible, all of it. Paul didn’t have the books of the Gospels. To teach Jesus you don’t need the Gospels or you don’t need the books of Paul. All you need is the Old Testament. All you need really is the Torah, the first five books. But if you ask most Christians show me Jesus in the first five books, they’re going, “That’s about Moses. That’s about Israel.” That’s where you’re wrong. You think it’s about Moses, just like Saul did. He thought the Old Testament was about him, about the Jew. He didn’t think that the Old Testament was all about Jesus. And Jesus straightened him out with three days of blindness and he saw the light, so…


0:41:00.3 GS: So Mark just to throw…


0:41:03.1 ME: Teach ’em Jesus.


0:41:04.8 GS: Amen and to throw in, I always say “They’re all red letters.” I mean, it was Jesus that through His Holy Spirit inspired every word. It’s all about Christ. Anywhere you put your hand in the dirt of Scripture, you’ll find a scarlet cord that leads to Jesus on the cross and the empty tomb. But…


0:41:25.1 ME: That’s so cool.


0:41:25.3 GS: Ramon, do you have any other questions or comments?


0:41:29.9 RI: Yeah, something that I see that you mention is that the more we are growing, more busy we are, something that I read in the book, the [0:41:37.7] ____ he mention many times that’s the reason that we want to reap teens because they don’t supposed to be busy that kind and that age. But by this time, because my time, I have 39 years old. So I am little getting old. But in my time we don’t have phones, we don’t have many distraction. And today it’s like you preach the Gospel, I share the Gospel with the teen. And when did I say, hey, you need to come and to know more about Jesus, because you say you are saved by grace. So you need to meet with Him or you need to know Him, he said, “Oh, but I need to ask my mom. I have soccer during the week, I need to do my homework, I need to go to school.” I have this and this and they look more reason than I.


0:42:38.7 ME: Yeah, and that’s true. But I think it was true, Ramon, in Jesus’ day too, Peter had a wife, he had a fishing business, he had to pay his bills, he had to pay his taxes to Rome. We’ve always been busy. I agree with you. The busyness of teens today is outrageous. It’s the trick of the enemy to keep them so busy that they can’t see Jesus. To see Jesus, you have to stop, be still and practice what Jesus teaches in Luke 2, the steps of wisdom. You have to go into the presence of God. You have to sit down, you have to listen first, you don’t talk first, you listen. And then as God speaks to you, ask questions for clarity and then you go out and obey. But if you can’t slow your life down enough and so the enemy keeps us so busy as adult and so busy as teens as purely a trick, you’re on the soccer, you’re on all that and you don’t slow down and you can’t because our eyes are down, because we love ourselves and we don’t love God.


0:43:39.4 RI: Yeah, that’s the point. I remember in my baby step, like Christian, I remember with my youth leader, like I spent 2 hours studying the Bible like you’re gonna to do this and this and this. You need to look there and what’s like, “Give me more, give me more.” But today is like I don’t have 2 hours for reciting the Bible, it’s like too much, it’s like too much.


0:44:03.0 ME: Yeah. Yeah.


0:44:07.4 RI: But at the same point I agree that we have the same power, we have the same Holy Spirit. So we need to keep motivating the teenagers that, “You can do it. I know you are busy because I’m busy too. But you can make the difference and you can move in different churches and you’re going to see how the Gospel and the discipleship is going to work in your life to reach others.”


0:44:32.3 ME: Yeah. Ramon, I think the secret is you got to take just a few of them. I know most of them are too busy, there’s some that aren’t. Keep your antennas up, keep an eye out for the kid that may not be the kid you would choose, but he’s a kid with time and he may not be the most popular kid or the kid you think, “Man, if I win him, I’ll win the whole football team for Christ,” or “If I win her, I’m going to win the whole band for Christ.” Look around you and say “God, who is calling?” And I like to say how did it happen with Jesus? Jesus was living the life in front of them and two guys came up behind him and he pulled his thing. And so ask God to give you eyes to see who are the people pulling Ramon’s thing and say, “Hey Ramon, why don’t you teach me this?” Then take those aside and invest in those people. Challenge all the group to move through the chairs, but really get focused into investing your life in a few. Aren’t you glad that your youth pastor took you aside for 2 hours? He didn’t do that for everybody in the youth group. He couldn’t. Why did he choose to do that with you? The Holy Spirit is the reason why. The Holy spirit, said Ramon. And although everybody else in the youth group might have said, Ramon? What? Jesus said, “You’re the one.”


0:45:46.1 ME: And so you’re the Matthew. You’re the Peter. You’re the John. Me, too. I was the same one. Maybe inner city Chicago high school kid who’s all screwed up and thinking only about himself. And somebody tapped me on the… I said, “Hey, would you like… ” And a lot of people said no before someone said, “All right, yeah, I’ll do that. Let’s get started.” And you start teaching them Jesus. And it’s infectious because they’ll just go around and start telling the other… And people will see the transformation in their life, their parents, their friends at school, and they will wanna know, “Why are you different?” And you’re going, “I’m not different. I’m the same as you.” And they go, “No, there’s something different about you.” The only thing that changed is you were looking at Jesus 2 hours a day, not 2 hours a week with your pastor.


0:46:31.9 GS: Hey, guys. I was just going to say this ’cause we’re going to wrap it up. Go, go, Ramon.


0:46:40.6 RI: Okay, good. Just to say this, I think that I am here in Puerto Rico because my leader invited me, and he decide, you say somebody, the Holy Spirit without doubt was showing him Ramon. And I say, “Who is Ramon?” And God made everything in that way. So thank you for that. Bye. I think this is really great and so exciting to hear this and still working.


0:47:11.7 GS: So good.


0:47:12.7 RI: We move forward to reaching youth and motivate to mobilize them to reach all of them.


0:47:17.8 GS: So good Ramon and Mark, I feel a little guilty cutting this off ’cause it’s so good, but we try to stay within a certain amount of time and it’s just really really good. So, Ramon, Word of Life Puerto Rico. How would people find out more about Word of Life in Puerto Rico?


0:47:35.3 RI: Yeah, you can follow us in Instagram P-R-W-O-L, in Facebook Word of Life, Puerto Rico You have all the information, picture, and event that is coming for this year, even in the past.


0:47:49.7 GS: Awesome. Awesome.


0:47:51.3 RI: But you can contact me and Ramon Ibanez in Facebook or even Instagram. You can follow me and we can be in touch. And if you are a youth pastor, and listen to Grace To You Ministry Podcast. You are invited to come to Puerto Rico to help me reach more teens with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


0:48:08.2 GS: Yeah. Do it. That’d be awesome. That’s cool. And Mark what about you? What are some ways people can find out more about Sonlife in Costa Rica, South and Central America?


0:48:22.0 ME: Yeah. You know what? About four years ago, we decided to go off the grid. So really hard to… We decided to go word-of-mouth. And you gotta know somebody that knows somebody, kind of to get into the network. I tell you, it’s a long story how we decided to go off the grid. We spent so much time not making disciples and trying to stay on the grid and trying to look cool and trying to get… And I know it’s different and it’s different for everybody. And that’s not to say that just God told us, “Go off the grid for a while.” We don’t know how long we’re off the grid. We’ve been off the grid for four years. No Facebook, no Instagram, no nothing. Most of my guys in other parts of the country or the world, like Jordan in Madrid, and that totally off the grid. But that was his decision, it wasn’t mine. He said, “Mark, I’m wasting so much time on Instagram and that I can’t make disciples because I spend too much time on my devices.” And he goes, “God told me to go off the grid for 40 days.”


0:49:27.3 GS: Wow.


0:49:28.8 ME: I go, “40 days huh? Sounds like Jesus in the desert. Why 40 days?” He goes, “I don’t know.” He just said, God said 40 days, I’m going off the grid. And that was like two years ago and he hasn’t gone back on the grid. So really staying off the grid and really focusing on making disciples who make disciples. But if you want to get my email address, you can write to Dare 2 Share and I’m sure they’ll be free to…


0:49:50.5 GS: Yeah. We’ll hook you up. And then the… And now, I guess I’ll be deactivating my Instagram account after this.




0:50:02.4 ME: That’s not for everybody.


0:50:02.5 GS: I know nobody should feel guilty, but the bottom line is you do what Jesus calls you to do, period.


0:50:10.8 ME: Yeah, we do, right? That’s okay.


0:50:10.9 GS: ‘4 Chair Discipling’ would be a resource that people can get to by just going to, right?


0:50:20.4 ME: Yeah, in the US, for anybody in English, they can go to And actually for Spanish. Now, you can both get the book that Dann Spader wrote on it. In it you can also get studies and all that. More studies in Jesus.


0:50:33.8 GS: Yeah. And I would say, too, knowing him, I’m going through that, that’s by you. It’s a 50-day study of the life of Jesus. And it’s been revolutionary for me. I’m about halfway through. Is it 40 or 50-day? I forget.


0:50:45.2 ME: 50. 50 days. Yeah.


0:50:47.0 GS: But it’s good. 50-day. I’m about halfway through it’s so, so good. And you get that on as well, right?


0:50:53.9 ME: You can. You get a PDF as a book. You get it for free. Anything in Latin America is completely free.


0:51:00.1 GS: Awesome.


0:51:00.3 ME: There’s no charge to download or anything. And so, again, a lot of that stuff helps to keep the cost down, overhead costs. When you give everything away free, you don’t really have a lot of money to work with. So we spend our time doing that. But we love being with Dare 2 Share. We had an awesome time in Latin America with Dare 2 Share this fall. It was awesome. Excited about March 6th in Latin America to have time with youth workers again that Gustavo is leading. We love what Dare 2 Share is doing globally and just wanna thank you, Greg, for your huge investment, not just in the United States, but knowing that most youth, 95% of all young people live outside the borders of the United States. If we’re going to reach the world for Christ, you gotta go global. I’m so glad. And you told me that. A little bit of the story ahead of time. Hopefully you do a podcast on that and say, how did Dare 2 Share go global? What was God saying to me? What was God saying to our team? If you haven’t done that. That would be very encourage.

0:52:04.0 GS: Well Sonlife had a huge influence on that. So thank you for what you do Mark, thank you for what you do, Ramon. And youth leaders, thank you for what you guys do. Remember that a thriving youth ministry is a gospel-advancing disciple-multiplying youth ministry. We’ll see you next time.