The 72-Hour Rule and Disciple-Making
When it comes to making disciples, there is a crucial rule that must be remembered:
If it doesn’t happen in 72 hours, it’s not going to happen.
Let me explain. There is a specific local coffee place I frequent regularly, no less than once per week. Partly because I don’t have an office in the town where I live so I need a place to work, but primarily because it’s an opportunity to meet new people. One of the baristas at this place has been on my radar for a while. I don’t know his name yet, but I’ve been looking for opportunities to connect with him. What should take me fifteen seconds has stretched out into months.
Because of the 72-hour rule! I simply haven’t set the goal, started a timer and been held accountable. In order to be successful in making disciples who make disciples, it is crucial to follow the 72-hour rule. And it all begins with…
SPECIFIC GOAL SETTING
When I meet with the disciples I’m training, they could all tell you that we set goals. The goals include names of people we are praying for, hoping to talk to, and those we have already started talking to but need to get to a next step. The goals vary depending upon where each disciple is in his conversations with people or what step he needs to take personally. As our conversations progress, we end up by saying, “What’s your 72-hour goal?” And those goals should be specific.
• “I am going to ask Tom how I can pray for him this Thursday at work.”
• “I am going to show [a diagram that explains the gospel] to Susie over coffee on Tuesday morning.”
These goals are very clear and specific with what is going to be talked about, with whom and when. Specific goals are necessary if you’re going to chase them down within 72 hours. If you don’t have them, the timeframe is pointless. Once the new goal is set, the timer begins. You have:
Whatever the goal is that has been set must be followed up on within 72 hours. If it doesn’t happen within that time frame, it’s likely not going to happen. Once we set a time frame on something, the pressure is really on. We would prefer to leave ourselves the indefinite open window and say something like, “If God wants it to happen, it will happen in His time.” That’s a super spiritual excuse for not being obedient to the disciple making call. Or we can even say things like, “I’m waiting for the conversation to happen organically.” Again, a great-sounding excuse.
The reality is that once you open the door to a spiritual conversation with someone, it’s going to become organic very quickly. You don’t really know what they’re going to say or how they’re going to respond. So, you still have to rely on the Holy Spirit when the time comes.
I was training a guy recently in a conversation he needed to have with someone in his life. When we were done talking, he said to me, “I know. 72 hours, right?” I said, “Yep.” He responded, “No problem. I’ll be done in 24.” He gets it. When you set that deadline, it increases the urgency and likelihood that they will actually follow through. Once the timer begins, there must be a follow-up:
Follow-up is crucial with people you are training. If you have given them 72 hours to accomplish a specific goal, then you must follow up with them in 72 hours. Like children who discover that there really is no accountability for not cleaning their room when told to do so, humans have enormous capacity for finding the path of least resistance. If there isn’t accountability, they will never follow through.
This doesn’t mean being rude or unkind to them if they don’t hit that mark, but it does mean that within 72 hours you need to reach out and ask how their efforts went toward their goal. I will often write down the goals my disciples are setting so that I can remember what I need to follow up on with them.
So here are some questions to think through:
• Who is someone you need to start a conversation with?
• Who is someone you need to go back to and finish a conversation with?
• Who is that person you are discipling that you need to challenge to a next step?
• What is one disciple-making action step that you are going to take within the next 72 hours?
Time starts . . . now!
(For more from Stan, check out www.fourgen.org.)