Creating a Safe Environment

Sue Reed - Women's Director | CyLife Church - Cypress, TX

In his book, The Never Alone Church, David Ferguson states, “When we fulfill the church’s mission to make disciples within the context of sincere love for God and for others, ministry is relevant.” He goes on to say, “For example, Paul harshly confronted the fallenness in some members of the Thessalonian church when he wrote, ‘if a man will not work, he shall not eat’ (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Had the apostle’s Great Commission fervor not been couched in love, how well would it have been received? Likely it would not have been received. But Paul had already expressed his Great Commandment (Matt 22:37-40) heart to the Thesssalonian believers. ‘We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us’ (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8). Paul’s rebuke was relevant because it was administered in Great Commandment love.”

Now that’s ministry relevance: “delighted to share with you not only the gospel, but our lives as well.” In relational discipleship we know how important it is to make disciples in the context of love. Making disciples is what we do while the Great Commandment love embodies who we are.

I can’t disciple effectively without understanding how important it is to love others by creating a safe environment for the person I’m discipling. Creating a safe environment which embodies love, one that is free from judgment and expounding in grace and love, is paramount in helping others experience the power of the gospel. Creating a safe environment is My Part of the discipleship triad. When I’m faithful to do this, God’s love is evident through me by listening, being vulnerable, and accepting them.

David Augsburger in his book, Caring Enough to hear and Be Heard said, “Being heard is so close to being loved, that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” 1 Corinthians 12:25 says, “Have the same care for one another.” (NASB) Careful listening is a way of listening without judgment, criticism or interruption while being aware of your own internal thoughts and reactions that may get in the way of someone communicating with you effectively. Being fully present with your disciple and listening to them allows them to feel heard, respected, and loved. Provide feedback or paraphrase back to them what you hear them saying. Stay curious and ask questions. This cultivates empathy so that they can feel and be understood.

Another way to create a safe environment is by being vulnerable myself as the disciple maker. Vulnerable self-disclosure encourages my disciplee to humbly acknowledge their own needs and allow God to meet those needs directly and through others. Vulnerability communicates, “we all need God, and we need one another.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Disciplees are inspired when they see God’s strength made perfect in the weakness of their disciple makers. Vulnerability helps our disciple know that we also struggle and need Christ’s help every day.

David Ferguson states in The Never Alone Church, “This primary model for vulnerability in leadership comes from God himself. God became vulnerable, approachable, and knowable as the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus, the Great Shepherd, modeled vulnerability by humbling himself, leaving heaven, and becoming not only a man but a servant. Though sinless, he experienced the pain of rejection, loss, disappointment, and loneliness so he could empathize with our pain.”

And last, Romans 15:7 says, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you.” Acceptance challenges us to love others as God loves us. God’s love is unmerited; it cannot be earned. So we are to lovingly accept one another without keeping score of who gives the most or who receives the most. God’s love is unlimited; it will never run out. Acceptance overlooks an unpleasant trait in a parent, spouse, child or friend even if they never change. After all, “love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). The gospel compels us to forgive those who offend us because we ourselves have been extended grace and forgiveness! Acceptance also means that I don’t aim to fix them. They are accepted as they are. We follow God’s example of love…”it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance” (Rom 2:4).

by Sue Reed – Women’s Director

CyLife Church
Cypress, TX