My buddy Ben came back from a trip to Tacoma and informed me that the Navs no longer use the acronym “FAT.” For almost 40 years of Christian life, I have heard Navigators use the term “FAT man” when they are talking about the kind of man they are looking to invest in. The man should have a minimum of three characteristics before we spend too much time with him. He should be Faithful, Available, and Teachable (FAT).
Now Ben informed me that the “new” acronym is “FIT” – Faithful, Intentional, and Teachable. Part of the thinking behind the “new” term is that it’s better to be fit then fat, which sounds catchy. But is it really?
Of course, the Navs don’t really determine which acronym is in vogue and which isn’t. But we do still seek to disciple men and women and see them become laborers in the Kingdom of God. So is it better to find someone who is intentional or available, when you’re looking for someone to disciple?
The key to the answer is understanding where we begin in the process, not in where we end. The end is important; but to get to the end there has to be a beginning. Since the characteristics of being faithful and teachable seem to be standing the test of time, we need to look at how being available or intentional fit in with those two characteristics.
If we are making disciples, we must be starting with someone who is NOT a disciple (otherwise, we don’t need to make one!). To begin a discipling relationship, the person absolutely needs to be faithful and teachable. He needs to do what we ask him to do, even if it’s just a small assignment, like reading a booklet or reading a chapter of his Bible (that’s faithful). And he needs to be open to hear and implement what we are trying to impart to him (that’s teachable).
So when we look for a man who is at least faithful and teachable, does he also need to be available, or is intentional more important?
A definition of intentional is “done on purpose; deliberate.” The synonyms would include “deliberate – willful – purposeful – intended.”
A definition of available is “not otherwise occupied; free to do something.” The synonyms would include “disposable – accessible – serviceable – obtainable.”
Here’s where things get murky. A young Christian who is not a disciple can be intentional—deliberately committed to some project; maybe music or refurbishing cars. But they can be so committed to music or cars that they don’t have time to meet with someone who wants to help them grow to be a disciple.
So in my mind, feeble as it may be, availability is a more critical characteristic than intentionality when we are looking for someone to disciple. Yet, once the person becomes a disciple, intentionality becomes more important. A disciple who isn’t intentional in reaching out to non-Christians or Christians who are less spiritually mature than himself, isn’t going to be very effective.
So perhaps when we are looking for someone to disciple we need to continue to focus on a FAT man. But when we are looking for a disciple to equip to be a laborer, we need to focus on a FIT man (although he would still need to be available or we just can’t equip him).
That means for the vast majority of us who are living and discipling among the lost, we still need to focus on a FAT man. WE need to be intentional about discipling someone who is available to us.