Leadership and Discipleship

GMO-Free Community (part 2)

Photo credit: unsplash_JSheldon

My parents are gardeners. Growing up I ate fresh vegetables and fruit. I vividly remember the juicy taste of tomatoes and strawberries.

Yet, I remember the outward appearance of these naturally grown fruits was always different.

Organic community is both consistent and diverse.

What is the seed of organic community?

In the previous post I said organic community must have a raw and organic beginning, similar to how organic fruit or vegetables start with non-GMO seed. God is the original seed of community.

In his book Created for Community, Stanley Grenz states,

God’s triune nature means that God is social or relational— God is the “social Trinity.” And for this reason, we can say that God is “community.” God is the community of the Father, Son, and Spirit, who enjoy perfect and eternal fellowship.

From the very beginning God reveals that his way of life is not singular but plural. “Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image'” (Genesis 1:26).

God is the consistency and we are the diversity of community.

The organic community of the early church

Looking at the birth of the early church, we see evidence of organic community.

In the book of Acts, the followers of Jesus came together with expectation. Imagine the emotions in the room!

Jesus left them with no formula but a simple command to wait for the promise of the Father,

“which you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4).

Many times we desire a formula on how to create community. We want to be told how to muster up results. Organic community is the opposite of that.

There are no formulas because the organic seed is God who is a relational being.

Diversity is the basis for organic community

God loves diversity. Organic community reflects the diverse and creative nature of God.

When the Holy Spirit encounters the disciples in the upper room, the result is not identical tongues (languages). The result isn’t a call for uniformity.

The result is a diversity of tongues (languages) calling together a diverse crowd of people. In Acts 2:9-11, the author mentions sixteen different regional locations.

Diversity was welcomed in the early church.

What shall we do?

Throw out your formulaic approach to community.

I've been training my mind to think differently about community. I avoid saying I want to create community, and replace that with, I want to nurture and foster community.

Embrace a relational view of community.

God is a relational being working within humanity. He is the creator of community because he is community. Community will always look different from the outside but will feel the same on the inside.

I encourage you to simply ask God what He is creating around you.

Are there dear relationships in your life? Invest your time and effort there.

God resides within people, we (believers) are His temple (1 Cor 3:16).

Look for God in His people, and you will find yourself in community!


This is a guest post by Sergei Kutrovski whom I've worked with the past few years teaching and training others in discipleship and Inductive Bible Study. You can see more of his posts at — http://kutrovski.wordpress.com/

Passion and Reason

Photo credit: unsplash.com_SRingler Preachers are often portrayed in unflattering ways in movies. Often as some caricature that doesn't resemble the typical pastor of a church. To be sure, plenty of charlatans have filled TV screens and paced across stages.

Let's face it, a typical church pastor appears average and boring compared to the exaggerated portrayals of preachers in films. It's easy to poke fun at these emotional and bigger than life caricatures.

Most churches have pastors who are overworked and underpaid. I know many that are and remember my early years as a pastor. The charlatans and caricatures are the exception, not the rule.

Persuasion and instruction

Preaching is persuasive by nature.

A much better example of a preacher is the famous Billy Graham, or Luis Palau, or Greg Laurie who's known for his Harvest Crusades.

These men can teach from the Bible, but they are best known as preachers—men with a gift for evangelism with persuasion.

Teaching is instructional and appeals to the reasoning mind.

Pastor Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, was an excellent teacher. He was a prime example for many other fine teachers associated with Calvary Chapel.

Most pastors are called on to do both—teach and preach.

Paul our example

This is the example given by the apostle Paul throughout Acts. Most of us learn to flow from one role to another without consciously doing so. At least, that's my observation over the years.

And he [Paul] went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. Acts 19:8 (NKJV)

I see the role of a pastor being a lot like parenting.

As much as parents need to instruct their children, we need to become more persuasive than instructional at times—“Get in there and clean up that room right now!”

But how does this relate to those who aren't pastors?

2 Different conversations

We are all called to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15). Most of the time this takes place in one-on-one encounters between us and someone we want to see come into God's kingdom.

Not long ago, I met up with two young men for coffee and conversation. As I shared my thoughts as a pastor, I noticed two men at a table next to us.

One had a Bible in hand as he spoke to the other man with passion. I could see their discussion get pointed, while the one with the Bible both exhorted and pleaded with his friend.

Two groups of friends, two different approaches to conversation.

Sometimes there's a need for persuasion and passion, but most of the time we just need to share what God has made known to us—about Him and His kingdom.

Some questions and an encouragement

How recently have you spoken to someone about the kingdom of God, or shared the gospel message?

Are you more of a persuader or someone who likes to reason things out?

Find someone to share God's message of redemption with this week, and share what God's revealed to you recently with a friend.


This is a guest post originally posted on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Daily Devo blog. Here's the link– Passion and Reason

3 Simple Observations and Truths

unsplash-stainglass_maninpew_KFredrickson-compressor Something was missing. At first, I couldn't put my finger on it, but I knew a significant shift took place in the fifteen years I lived overseas.

It wasn't one specific thing, but an accumulative process that brought this shift. "What happened," I wondered?

It wasn't so much what happened as what didn't happen.

Something missing

My first indicator was the general biblical ignorance that existed.

This was puzzling. More biblical teaching was available, in more ways, than when I moved overseas (1990).

Resources for biblical studies had multiplied, through books, audio, video, and online products. There was plenty to choose from and the consumer-oriented American Christian wanted more of it.

But with all that was available, something was missing.

[bctt tweet="A general biblical ignorance exists and it's not for lack of resources" username="tkbeyond"]

Was it community? Or leadership? Or commitment? Yes to all the above and more. But why?

A pattern

It finally dawned on me that what was common in the '70's and 80's was lacking in the new millennium.

Intentional, relational discipleship was a primary element of the Jesus People Movement of the late '60's into the '70's. It was a natural, organic if you will, element embedded by God.

It didn't just happen by itself, but it wasn't a well-outlined curriculum or program. That came later.

[bctt tweet="Intentional, relational discipleship was a primary element of the Jesus People Movement" username="tkbeyond"]

This seems to be a pattern with us humans.

God does something sovereign and dynamic, then we try to systematize it. We try to codify and quantify it—axioms, rules, and numbers—in order to replicate it. In doing this, we end up stifling whatever God did or is doing.

The process of replication needs to reproduce disciple-makers, not a program.

The human-effect turns a movement of God into an institution. We try to organize the spiritual dynamic or life of the movement, which quenches the river of life God sets in motion, by attempting to channel or contain it.

“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me, the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." (Jeremiah 2:13 NIV)

Not a spiritual growth program

Discipleship is not a spiritual growth program. It's not a follow-up or aftercare program for those who've said the sinner's prayer.

Discipleship is the natural progression of evangelism. They aren't synonymous, but they aren't separate either. Robert Coleman's classic book, Master Plan of Evangelism, makes this clear.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship ought to be the natural progression of evangelism" username="tkbeyond"]

This isn't rocket science, as they say. A person doesn't need a degree nor professional training to be a disciple-maker. Nor does a disciple-maker need a title or official role.

Yes, a disciple-maker needs to be grounded in the truth of God's Word and led by God's Spirit, but they don't need a certificate to make them an authorized disciple-maker.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship is not a spiritual growth program" username="tkbeyond"]

3 simple observations

  1. Discipleship is not a cognitive skill to be learned or taught—it's a way of life.
  2. Discipleship is a life with purpose—that purpose is revealed as the person is discipled.
  3. Discipleship requires some type of challenge to pursue the goal—the goal is following Jesus and being transformed by the Holy Spirit.

3 simple truths

  1. The Lord Jesus saw discipleship as an intentional, relational process. It's not a phase, but an integrated whole. Discipleship is following Jesus with a community of believers—Matt 16:24; John 8:31-32; Acts 2:42-47.
  2. Discipleship is the pastoral responsibility of the church. Not the institution or corporation, but the community of believers under the Lordship of Jesus and led by the Holy Spirit. This is made clear in Ezekiel 34:1-24, and by Jesus in John 10:7-16.
  3. Discipleship is the community-based process of sanctification. This is shared pastoral care among a community of believers. It's not relegated to one leader or a select group of leaders, although leadership is important. It is a shared commitment of each believer to one another—John 8:34-36; Acts 4:32-35; 2 Corinthians 5:17-20.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship is following Jesus with a community of believers" username="tkbeyond"]

This is not all that can be said about the subject, far from it!

Do you need more insight on any of the 3 observations or truth above? Let me know!

But, it's my hope these simple, brief observations and truths help confirm whatever God may be stirring in your own heart.

So... What is God stirring in your heart about discipleship and following Jesus?

Let me know, and thanks for reading and sharing this post!

One Thing You Lack

Photo credit: unsplash.com_CStMerc We all view people and the world around us in different ways. It’s called a worldview. We see through certain filters, and these filters affect how we see things. They reflect our biases and our point of view.

For example, we size people up based on our own perceived status. We see people as richer or poorer than us, skinnier or fatter, more intelligent or less intelligent, and well, you get the idea.

A rich young man

The story of the rich young ruler who questioned Jesus about eternal life has three points of view—Jesus’, the young ruler’s, and ours.

Our view may be similar to that of the disciples or the young man. But it’s nearly impossible for us to see things from Jesus’ point of view.

“Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.’”—Mark 10:21 (NKJV)

In fact, many of us grapple with what Jesus tells this young man. It hits home, especially for us Americans. We are quite wealthy compared to most of the world, and we have a lot of stuff.

Too much stuff!

How much stuff do we have?

So much that it requires more than 2.3 billion square feet in 60,000 self-storage buildings. (These are statistics from 2009.) That’s a lot of stuff!

The average American has a lot in common with the rich young ruler.

Look at what Jesus says first: “One thing you lack . . .” This young man lacked little in worldly possessions, but he didn’t have what he wanted.

So Jesus tells him to sell what he has and give it to the poor, and this would bring him treasure in Heaven.

Couldn't let go

The rich, young ruler went away sad. His possessions were too costly for him to give up.

He couldn’t let go of them—even for the one thing he really wanted—eternal life.

When Jesus looked at the young man, the Bible says He loved him. Jesus knew what He told the man to do would be hard, but He did so out of love for him.

If we believe Jesus loves us, then we need to take this to heart. When we say we’ll follow Jesus as His disciples, are we willing to exchange what we have for what He gives us?

Here are a few questions and a challenge or two—

  • How much “stuff” do you have?
  • Are you willing to part with any of it? If so, how much?
  • Take a simple inventory of what you own and ask yourself how much of it owns you?
  • Try giving something away this week, and see how difficult it is to do.
    • If it’s pretty easy, keep at it. And if it’s hard, keep at it!

This was originally published on the Daily Devo blog of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. Here's the original post– One Thing You Lack

How I Got Theology– Part 2

Photo credit: unsplash.com_JErondu Leadership is often described as influence. Several heavyweight leaders say these terms are interchangeable. I don't see it that way.

Yes, leaders can be quite influential in both good and bad ways, but this is not a given. I've seen people in leadership roles with little to no influence. The net effect of their leadership is nil.

On the other hand, I've known and witnessed influential leaders who've had great impact.

Leadership and influence

I ran across an excellent article on the difference between influence and leadership by Steve Graves. He makes a good case for the distinction between leadership and influence.

[bctt tweet="There is a distinction between leadership and influence" username="tkbeyond"]

Plenty of people have been good leaders with good influence, such as, Abraham Lincoln, Florence Nightingale, and Billy Graham.

Leaders with evil influence? Sadly, it's not a short list, but men like Adolph Hitler come to mind.

Then there are many leaders who have a somewhat sketchy influence. A cursory look at political personalities could produce a lengthy list.

What about spiritual leaders where character and integrity are essential? Among them we can find good, bad, and even sketchy examples.

[bctt tweet="Spiritual leaders can have good, bad or sketchy influence in people's lives" username="tkbeyond"]

Another question

Last week, I answered the first of three questions I posed in a challenge in a previous post.

This week I want to look at the second question and give my personal answer. Here's the question—

Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far? Why?

Three leaders were influential in the early development of my spiritual life and theology.

Two are now with the Lord, but their leadership and influence are still embedded in my life. One is my age, alive, and still influencing others for good as a leader.

[bctt tweet="Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life and in what way?" username="tkbeyond"]

My first pastor

I came to faith during the Jesus People Movement of the late '60's and early '70's. I mentioned some of this in last week's post.

Ironically, the church I was thrown out of for asking the wrong question is where I got grounded in the truth of God's Word. It's also where I began serving the Lord in full-time ministry under my first pastor, Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa.

It was under him that I developed an appreciation for the grace of God and studying God's Word. Pastor Chuck was known for these two distinct things, not only in my life, but for thousands of others.

Both the grace of God and God's Word became foundational in my spiritual growth and my theology through his ministry. He was a living example of their importance and value, and a strong pastoral leader with great, enduring influence. Chuck went to be with His Lord in October of 2013.

[bctt tweet="God's grace and Word were foundational in my spiritual growth and theology" username="tkbeyond"]

A sage and a mentor

As my wife and I grew in our spiritual lives, we became more involved at the ground level of ministry while serving at a church and retreat center near Desert Hot Springs, CA.

When we arrived in 1973, it was a small church and retreat ministry in a sparsely settled area of the low desert of southern California. Susan and I learned so much about serving in every way imaginable.

Although it was remote, many significant spiritual leaders of the 1970's visited this little spiritual oasis. One of them was Rev PHP Gutteridge, known to us as "Percy". He was much older than us and also much wiser, a true sage.

Percy's teaching had spiritual depth and often centered on the cross of Christ, and the need for Christian believers to walk the way of the cross. Originally from England, he pastored this church in its infancy. In our time there, he visited on a regular basis, especially when we held large holiday retreats.

After I planted a church in 1978, he would come to preach to our little growing congregation in the upper desert area of Yucca Valley, CA. When he died in October of 1998, we were missionaries in the Philippines.

His life and ministry continue to influence us both to this day. Percy stirred my heart to further plumb the depths of the Scriptures and the essential simplicity of the way of the cross (Matt 16:24).

[bctt tweet="I was stirred to plumb the depths of the Scriptures and the way of the cross" username="tkbeyond"]

My friend and mentor

My involvement in ministry at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa came at the invitation of a young man my age, but with much greater experience.

Bruce's wife, Joni, was pregnant and found it difficult to hold her guitar to lead praise for children's church. I and a couple others jumped in to help and this began a long term friendship in ministry.

Bruce opened the door for me to serve in many ways. When he and his young family moved out to the church and retreat ministry I mentioned earlier, we joined them and the ministry about a year later. We served their for five years, and it was of great value in so many ways.

Through Bruce's pastoral guidance, I learned how to preach, teach, counsel and lead as an assistant pastor. This was the foundation for my stepping out to plant a church and to develop a Bible College in the Philippines. It was practical, hands-on training.

[bctt tweet="I received practical, hands-on training that became a foundation for pastoral ministry" username="tkbeyond"]

But he was more than a pastoral mentor to me, he was a true friend. Bruce has a clear grasp on the immense, far-reaching love of God, which was infectious. His influence continues to reach around the world in a ministry he founded while pastoring in southern California—He Intends Victory.

Who for you?

So, now that you know who were important spiritual influences in my life and theology, how about you?

Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far?

And what is their influence in your life?

Common Mentoring Myths

Photo credit: unsplash.com_ALitvin No one has all the answers. I'm wary of anyone who thinks they do or thinks someone else does. Sometimes we just get things wrong, I know I do.

If you don't think you do, you're setting yourself up for a fall and will probably take others with you.

The topic of mentoring has become more popular over the past few years, but it's not always what some people make it out to be.

Authoritarian or authoritative?

A while back I came across an article posted on Facebook about authoritarianism. It was related to American politics but it got me thinking.

An authoritarian leader is quite different from an authoritative one. I've worked under both and sadly, at times I've acted more like the first than the second.

What's the difference? King Saul of Israel was an authoritarian leader, while King David was more of an authoritative leader. An authoritarian leader acts more like a bully, while an authoritative leader sets a confident example.[bctt tweet="An authoritarian leader is quite different from an authoritative one"]

King Herod was a bully and tyrant (Matt 2:13-18). Herod wielded his authority out of insecurity. He didn't trust anyone and tried to kill anyone deemed a threat, including Jesus.

Jesus led by example, yet His authority was well-recognized—

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29)

Mentors are not masters

One of the graduating classes from the Bible college in the Philippines gave me a poster filled with their thoughts and thanks. They called me their beloved "Tor-mentor" because their studies were difficult and I could be a tough teacher.

But mentoring is not about being a taskmaster, or any form of master. There may be a time and place to be authoritative, but this excludes using authority in an overbearing way.

Perhaps a more appropriate way to look at being a mentor is to see ourselves as journeymen (or is that journey-persons?). Mentors are people with experience and expertise who aren't stuck on themselves.[bctt tweet="Mentors are people with experience and expertise who aren't stuck on themselves"]

Mentors have something to offer because others have poured their experience and expertise into them. Here is a simple way to look at discipleship—we (mentors) pour into others what God poured into us.

3 common mentoring myths

Here are three mentoring myths that get in the way of mentoring well. They may not be spoken out loud, but are often latent attitudes among those of us who would be mentors.

  • I have the answers to your questions you may have answers to their questions, but they don't need to be given at the expense of the relationship
  • You need to know what I know— this may not be true at all, especially if connected to an air of superiority or arrogance
  • I'm a fount of great wisdom— wisdom can be gained from many sources, you nor I have a corner on wisdom

Perhaps there's some truth in these opinions, but they do more to offend than help. A common reason for generation gaps is an unwillingness to listen. If we, the mentors, aren't willing to listen, then why should anyone listen to us? Jesus understood this (Luke 2:46).[bctt tweet="If mentors aren't willing to listen, then why should anyone listen to them?"]

Here's a reframing of those three common attitudes—

  • You don't have all the answers— You may have answers to many questions, but sometimes you need to admit that you don't know something. This may open the door for a mutual pursuit of an answer.
  • You're not always right— I learned this with my wife and children first, but also with staff and students—I need to admit it when I am. This may be humbling, but it brings opportunities for a more open and healthy mentoring relationship.
  • Your advice isn't always needed— This may be hard to swallow at times, but it's true. If you're not asked, don't feel obliged to dispense whatever wisdom you think you have. This is especially true if you're a Boomer like me.

Good mentors are not experts looking for opportunities to dispense their wisdom, but people of experience and expertise with humble attitudes.

A different perspective

One thing that helps me is to level the relationship between me and whoever asked me to mentor them. I make a point to not insist on a role of superiority, and don't want to be addressed by any title, such as pastor. I may have experience and expertise someone else doesn't have, but it doesn't make me better than others.

When I make mentoring a mutual relationship at least two things happen. First, I make it clear that whoever I'm discipling know they have value and importance to me. This encourages a much more engaged and committed relationship.

The other benefit is being open to learn from those I mentor. Often I'm able to see things differently because the relationship is more open. This helps me mentor more effectively.

Are there any mentoring myths you've seen or run into?

 

The Problem with Obedience

reduced_obedience What's your initial response to the word obedience? Does it depend on who it applies to? If it were required of you, would you resist or resent it as some archaic, medieval expectation?

I don't know about you, but it sounds draconian and obligatory. I mean, I expected my children to obey me when they were young, but I don't now that they're grown up. It's like, obedience is okay for kids, but not adults.

Do you have a similar reaction to the concept of obedience? So, how about when the Bible speaks of obedience? Could it be different from what we imagine?

"Do what you're told!"

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who winces a bit when it comes to obedience with my relationship with God. Oh sure, we know it's supposed to be part of the deal, but does anyone really look forward to obeying God, especially when it seems hard to do?

What about the familiar hymn, "Trust and obey—for there's no other way—to be happy in Jesus—but to trust and obey." Do the concepts of happiness and obedience seem incongruent?

How would you describe obedience? Isn't it just doing what you're told?" That's how I've thought about it most of my life, probably from my perception of parenting.

What do many children hear, or what did you hear as a child? "You need to do as you're told, or else.... You need to obey me right now!" Obedience is most often linked to behavior, either good or bad.

[bctt tweet="Do the concepts of happiness and obedience seem incongruent?"]

Wrong idea?

But maybe we as believers have a wrong sense of what obedience is when it comes to our relationship with God. We can train dogs to obey, along with many other animals. Cats? Um, maybe not them. But humans aren't animals.

We have a free will and a capacity to reason. People can be managed up to a point with threats and various forms of manipulation. When it comes to humans, abject obedience requires a surrendering of the will or a breaking of it. That's called bondage or slavery.

Even slavery has its limits. When it is senseless and oppressive, rebellion will push people to cast off their bondage, even at the risk of life.

But what if our concept of obedience is skewed, especially when it comes to God and us?

[bctt tweet="Is our concept of obedience to God skewed and wrong?"]

An issue of the will

Humans were created to be free, not enslaved. If God created people as free-will beings, then how do we reconcile obedience to God as required of Israel with the Old Covenant Law? And how can we make sense of Hebrews 5:8?

Although he was a son, he [Jesus] learned obedience through what he suffered.

What about the exhortation to follow the example of Jesus as expressed in Philippians 2:5-8?

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

[bctt tweet="Obedience is not an act of behavior, but a response of the heart"]

Then we see Jesus' battle of will in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42)—

And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Obedience is not an act of behavior, but a response of the heart. It's a trust issue, not a moral one. But most of us probably don't think of obedience that way.

Trust and obey

On the surface, obedience seems connected to submission of the will and a behavioral action. Obedience to God is directly related to submitting our will, but not to comply with a certain behavior. It's an act of implicit trust.

[bctt tweet="Obedience to God is a submitting of our will as an act of implicit trust"]

What about Israel and the Law? How about Abraham and Isaac (Gen 22:9-12)? It was always about trust, not blind obedience. Abraham was honored for his trust in God, because he held nothing back for himself (Heb 11:8, 17-19).

Israel's obedience to the Law was always linked with God's promise of provision and restoration. They were to trust God for His provision by observing the sabbath each week, and even with giving the land a sabbath from sowing and plowing (Exo 34:21).

What about Adam and Eve with the command not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen 2:15-17)? If they fully trusted God and His goodness, they would not have been deceived by the serpent (Gen 3:1-5).

The example of Jesus

But back to Jesus. Why would He need to "learn obedience" through what He suffered (Heb 5:8)?

We (believers) say Jesus is our supreme example, but do we understand the depth of His example and what He modeled for us to follow?

Our natural tendency is to analyze His example and break it down into specific actions. Remember the WWJD fad several years ago?

[bctt tweet="Do we understand the depth of Jesus' example and His model for us to follow?"]

What we need to do is to observe His heart, not just what He did (Matt 11:29). Otherwise, we won't escape the never-ending treadmill of behavior modification as a means to getting or being right with God.

We need to see obedience as Jesus saw it—an act of trust, an expression of love for God. That's it. It is not blind obedience, but open-hearted surrender to a merciful and gracious Father.

[bctt tweet="Jesus saw obedience as an act of trust, an expression of love to His Father"]

Where do you struggle most with trusting and obeying God?

Fuel for the Soul—part 3

Photo credit: lightstock.com I had two interesting conversations this week. They covered two ends of the spectrum on what can be a polarizing subject.

Earlier this week I sat across from a millennial-aged believer who had questions about the Bible and Jesus. This weekend I talked with another believer in his late 40's among a group of men. We were discussing whether or not another men's Bible study was needed in our church.

The younger man showed great interest, but found resistance from other Christians when he questioned specific teachings. The other man seemed to prefer talk about life issues over Bible study and discussion. In which conversation would you be most engaged?

Here's what I think

America has a surplus of biblical resources, literally. A Christian leader from a developing country (MOTROW) visiting a LifeWay Christian bookstore would be like a child entering a candy store.

So, back to my conversations, what do you think? Is there really a need for one more Bible study for men? Also, is there any place for preaching in our post-modern world?

I admit that I gravitate toward the younger man than the older, and here's why. I came across a post this week that resonated with my heart—3 Ways You Can Be the Church for Millennials.

[bctt tweet="Those grounded in God's Word are responsible to mentor younger generations"]

Those of us who have a grounding in God's Word have a responsibility to mentor younger generations.

Preaching and teaching

This is the third part in a series of posts titled Fuel for the Soul. Last week, I started to look at Paul's admonition to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:13, where we looked at public reading of Scripture. As I said last week, it is a lost art, in my opinion.

Here are a couple more links to check out—

This week we'll look at the place of preaching and teaching of the Bible as a means of nourishment for our soul, both personally and within the church. "...devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching" (1 Tim 4:13).

Before we dig into these, another point why these are important. The first verse provides some context, as do my two conversations this week—

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. (1 Tim 4:1)

Preaching and teaching can play an important part in keeping people from abandoning the faith.

[bctt tweet="Preaching & teaching are important for keeping people from abandoning the faith"]

What's the difference?

Is there a difference between the two? Is preaching any different from teaching? Yes. Here's a simple way to distinguish them.

  • Preaching is persuasive in nature, and aims to stir the heart to respond in some way to the message preached, to be moved to take action.
  • Teaching is instructive and intended to provoke thought. The purpose of teaching is to explain the truth so it can be processed and internalized.

Both expressions of communication have various styles, depending on the training and personality of the person presenting the message. Most pastors do a little of both, but not everyone.

Some people are more predisposed to preaching and exhorting people. Others like to lay out the truth in a linear, systematic way.

The place of preaching

Preaching is what most people are exposed to in church services. Many pastors are trained through homiletics courses and develop certain styles of presentation. Of course, there are plenty of stereotypes from judgmental broadsides delivered by fiery preachers warning them to repent, to the eloquent pontification on a certain topic.

The typical American evangelical church features more toned down or conversational messages. There are three general styles commonly used—topical, textual, and expositional. Here's a very brief and general description of these—

  • Topical messages are just that, focused on a topic, and often include several different Bible texts.
  • Messages that use a certain text to launch from to discuss a topic or theme are textual.
  • Expositional messages are tied to a specific Bible text of varying lengths. These focus on bringing the truth out of the text in a persuasive manner.

Did Jesus preach? He did! We see Him preach in public and in the temple area throughout the gospels.

[bctt tweet="We see Jesus preach in public and in the temple area throughout the gospels"]

One thing He did that may not seem like preaching is telling parables, stories with a simple truth. We can find seven parables in Matthew Chap 13, and three related parables in Luke 15.

He spoke these to stir the hearts of the people, as well as their minds. Did it work? Most definitely, as we see by the reaction of both the crowds and the Jewish leaders (Matt 21:45-46).

Biblical storying is a natural way to preach, and is very effective because stories engage our hearts, not just our minds. I've found biblical storying quite effective as a prelude to preaching, rather than just reading a text. I'll include an audio clip below this post as an example.

The usefulness of teaching

When it comes to teaching, Bible study comes to mind. There are many different styles and approaches to teaching the Bible.

A common way the Bible is taught in churches is what I call the "stand and deliver" approach. One person, the teacher, delivers their teaching in a linear, one-way conversational manner.

[bctt tweet="There are many different styles and approaches to teaching the Bible"]

Often this becomes an information dump of biblical knowledge. Does this engage people well? Perhaps if it's short, but not if it goes on and on. Why? Because there's no dialog, no opportunity for people to ask questions when things aren't clear to them.

Is there a better way? I think so. Questions can be used, as long as they are genuine inquiries, not just posed for straw man arguments. Then the teaching needs to clearly answer those questions.

This is more of a socratic teaching approach. It also helps to be willing to answer questions after the teaching is finished.

My preferred way is using this socratic method in an interactive discussion with those gathered to learn. It's how I lead the three Bible studies I'm involved with each week. It's also how I taught in our Bible school in the Philippines.

What is your preferred way to nourish your soul with the truth of God?

Have you had a memorable experience with preaching or teaching that blessed you?


Here is a message I shared last Easter (2015) while up in Juneau, AK. It includes the story of the two disciples encountering Jesus on their way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-49)

[audio mp3="http://word-strong.com/wp-content/uploads/trip_kimball-easter_4-5-2015-1.mp3"][/audio]

 

Fuel for the Soul—part 1

Photo credit: lightstock.com What makes humans different from all other mammals? We have a soul, that is, we are a soul with a body—a spiritual soul. We don't live by instinct, but reason.

We have emotions connected to our thoughts, which effect our behavior. We are moral beings and are made like our Creator.

Generally speaking, we know right from wrong. We reflect on the past, imagine the future, while living in the present. And we need something more than just food, water, shelter, and other basic necessities. We need nourishment for our soul.

A need to know

The first human was created in the likeness or image of God, as are all humans. Humankind was created to rule over all other creatures on the earth, in the sea, and the air (Gen 1:26). This was the original design.

God also gave the first humans responsibility and purpose (Gen 1:28-30). He also gave us the capacity to think and reason (Gen 2:15-17), along with the need for companionship (Gen 2:18-25).

We also have the capacity to be wrong. This is made clear in Genesis 3. We have an innate need to know the truth, which spurs our curiosity and imagination. This enables us to be creative and productive.

[bctt tweet="We have an innate need to know the truth, which spurs our curiosity and imagination"]

"What is truth?"

But what truth do we need? Many claim to know and understand the truth, but all truth is not the same. This is revealed in the dialog between Jesus and Pontius Pilate, where Pilate asks, "What is truth?" (John 18:37-38)

I was somewhat like Pilate earlier in my life. I sought out truth from various sources including the Bible. Along with other religious and philosophical books, I read the Bible every day for about two years.

Did I understand what I was reading? No. I was like the Ethiopian reading from Isaiah whom Philip encountered (Acts 8:30-31). I needed some guidance, but where would I go and who could help me?

[bctt tweet="I sought out truth from various sources including the Bible for about two years"]

Fuel for my soul

Right before 1970, I was invited to a church where the Bible was taught in a simple, clear way. This church became a reference point for me.

I still wandered a while longer, but returned there, made a commitment to be a disciple of Jesus, was grounded in the truth, and began serving in God's kingdom.

What was the key? The truth of God's written Word. I realized it was the fuel I needed for my soul to grow in a healthy way. It was the nutrition—the food—my soul longed for and needed.

[bctt tweet="The truth of God's written Word was what my soul longed for and needed"]

Spirit and life

As pointed out by many, when jesus was tempted by the devil, Jesus answered him with the truth of Scripture (Matt 4:1-11). The devil's first temptation appealed to the Lord's hunger, after a 40-day fast.

Jesus' answer was, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matt 4:4). This is a reference to Deuteronomy 8:3, where God reminded His people that our spiritual need is greater than the physical.

[bctt tweet="God's truth is spiritual in nature and is the only thing that satisfies my soul"]

This is what struck a chord in my heart. God's truth is spiritual in nature and is the only thing that satisfies my soul.

Jesus made this clear to His first followers—

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63)

But not everyone either accepts or realizes this, only those with a personal commitment to Jesus. Here is Peter's testimony about it—

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)

What do you think is the best way to be nourished in the truth of God?

What role is the church to be involved with this?


We'll look at answering these two questions in a follow-up post soon.

 

More Than Promises

Photo credit: unsplash_SWijers Commitment. Is it a forgotten value? Many express commitments, but how many follow through? Companies, politicians, the media, people making New Year's resolutions, all talk commitment, but are they only empty promises?

Promises, promises. Talk is cheap. Words are many, actions are few. However you express it, rhetoric and rants fill the air, but not resolve.

Resolve is the root word for resolution, "I resolve to...." Resolve, resolution, commitment, whichever term is used, is a promise requiring action. But what's the basis for making such promises? This is important.

The "C" word

The "C" word, that's what I called it. At the beginning of each new year, I'd craft a message on commitment. Each message was framed within the current need of the church in view.

Throughout most of the 80's, I challenged those I pastored towards some commitment. It became something we joked about, "oh no, the 'C' word again!"

It was joked about, but understood. Each of us in the church, including me, knew we needed to be challenged, reminded of our commitment to follow Jesus.

When I moved overseas, my challenge was directed towards pastors and leaders to study, preach, and teach the truth of God's Word. Later, I challenged my staff and students in the Bible college. I also challenged myself.

Over the years, many of these messages and challenges focused on the importance of God's Word, the Bible.

[bctt tweet="Resolutions are promises that require a commitment to action"]

A spiritual famine

When I returned from the mission field in 2005, I saw a great need in the church. I didn't have the same opportunities to address this need, as I had while pastoring and as a missionary. So I addressed it within a much smaller circle of influence.

Still, the need grew. It continues to grow. We are moving ever closer to what the prophet Amos spoke hundreds of years ago—

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.
They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it." (Amos 8:11-12)

How would this be possible with so many biblical resources available today? We (Americans) are awash in study Bibles, devotionals, study guides, conferences and workshops, small groups, and mega and home churches.

[bctt tweet="We are rich in resources and Bible knowledge, but poor in commitment"]

We are rich in resources and Bible knowledge, but poor in commitment. We lack commitment to walk in the truth of God's Word. Let's face it, we're more talk than follow through.

Take responsibility

We don't need to be more articulate and erudite in Bible knowledge. We need to live the truth of the Scriptures out in daily life.

  • Live out the truth whether people notice it or not.
  • Live it out so it transforms our life from the inside out.
  • Live it out even when it doesn't meet the expectations of others.
  • Live it out even when it costs us something to do so.

[bctt tweet="We don't need more articulate and erudite Bible knowledge, but to live it out"]

How? Each believer needs to take personal responsibility for their own life.

Don't blame the church, the culture, pastors, anyone, or anything else. Each of us need to commit to seek the Lord, understanding His Word, and living out our faith each day.

Back to basics

What do you think is needed to make this kind of commitment? What does real commitment need to be based on?

In sports, when a team is making careless mistakes or playing without focus or passion, it's said that the players need to get back to the basics. Practice of simple, but essential fundamentals.

I believe this is true for Christian believers, pastors, leaders, and the church as a whole. But what are our basics? What are the essentials we need to put into practice?

[bctt tweet="What are the essentials Christian believers need to put into practice?"]


Over the next few weeks, I hope to explore some of these essential basics. I gave a hint above for the essential I'll focus on first. But what do you think?

What do you see as essential to live out the Christian faith?

The Work of Making Disciples

Photo credit: unsplash.com_ABurden Over the past few decades, the work of making disciples seemed to get set aside for other things. What things? Bigger and better ministries, with a broader approach and appeal.

At present, much more attention is given to disciple making, and I'm glad for this. But it brings up some important questions.

What is the work of making disciples? How did Jesus do His work in making disciples?

The mandate of Jesus

The Lord Jesus gave a mandate to make disciples. It's called the Great Commission. As pointed out by many, it's not the "great suggestion." Jesus gave this mandate after His resurrection, before His ascension into heaven (see Acts 1:1-8).

This mandate began long before His going to the cross to provide redemption for humanity. It was embedded in His public and private ministry. What Jesus did in public ministry was training for those involved in private ministry.

I say private ministry to distinguish it from what everyone saw in the open. The more private work was done with a select group of men, and included others, even women, who were also His followers.

More informal settings is where the work of making disciples took place. His followers saw Him in real life. Conversations came about in a natural way, but these were intimate teaching and training sessions.

[bctt tweet="The Lord Jesus gave a mandate to make disciples, not a suggestion"]

The real Jesus and the real you

This more informal approach is difficult for some people to grasp as disciple making, but it is. Consider this. How can people know you are a genuine believer unless they see you in unstructured, non-formal settings? This is where they see the real you.

Jesus preaching to the crowds was instructional for His followers, but it wasn't the heart of how He made disciples. In my work as a pastor and missionary, the most effective work equipping others took place during informal, unstructured times.

People need to see our heart in every day action, so they'll catch our heart for making disciples. This is how the disciples caught Jesus' heart for making disciples.

[bctt tweet="The disciples caught Jesus' heart for making disciples by being with Him"]

More than instruction and training

The work of making disciples isn't just instruction or training, but sharing our inner spiritual life with those we disciple and mentor. It is this more personal, intimate sharing that has the greatest impact.

This can be seen with Jesus and the disciples—

  • The disciples first personal encounter with Jesus– John 1:35-51
  • Jesus with Levi and the tax collectors– Luke 5:27-32
  • When Jesus walked on the water– Matthew 14:22-33
  • In the garden at Gethsemane– Matthew 26:36-46

In all the accounts above, Jesus made Himself known within life as it unfolded. It wasn't staged or formalized, but raw reality. In the end, in Gethsemane, He bared His heart with those closest to Him.

[bctt tweet="Jesus made Himself known & made disciples in everyday life occurrences"]

Who's disciples are we making?

One more thing. The work of making disciples may be our work to do, but it's His mandate. Whoever we would disciple, they are always to be His disciples, not ours.

Many years ago I learned this lesson. I worked for several weeks with a few men. I taught them what I knew about studying the Bible, preparing to teach, and what it meant to serve in the church.

In my mind, I was developing leaders to help in the ministry of the church I pastored, but the Lord had other plans.

One by one, these men moved out of the area because of work opportunities. All those I invested in moved on from the church, and I had to start mentoring another group. I complained to the Lord about this, pointing out how unfair I thought it was.

[bctt tweet="Whoever we would disciple, they are always to be Jesus' disciples, not ours"]

An important lesson

I remember clearly how the Lord impressed on my heart that my job was to make disciples. His job was to distribute and place them where He wanted them.

Once I realized this it set me free from trying to hang on to anyone. Of course, I wanted to equip them and get their commitment for service where I pastored. But the ultimate commitment is to serve Jesus.

The work of making disciples is God's work through His servants (us) for service in His kingdom. As leaders, we must be careful not to make disciples of our own, for our own ministries.

[bctt tweet="Making disciples is God's work through His servants (us) for service in His kingdom"]

Something to consider

If you're a pastor or leader in God's kingdom, here are some questions to consider—

Are you intentionally engaged in the work of making disciples now?

How closely does your approach to making disciples match the way Jesus did it?

Are those you've discipled also discipling others?

4 Elements of Leading Well

Photo credit: unsplash.com_BWschodni Is leadership just influence? I'd say it's a lot more, but certainly includes influence. The question is, what kind of influence does a leader have?

Some leaders are authoritarian, almost tyrannical in their style and influence, while others use a mentor or guru approach.

True leadership is more than a style or approach. True leaders lead the way for others with confidence, and people follow them.

Example is essential

This is the third post related to grassroots leadership where we've looked at three words—love, feed, and lead. As with the other two posts, I'll use the four letters of lead as an acrostic—L-E-A-D.

What can be said about leading? A lot! And a lot's been written and spoken about how to lead.

Our prime model for leadership in ministry is Jesus. He's the example for all believers wherever they may lead. How did Jesus lead? He led with authority and humility, as noted in earlier posts, and used various means to prepare His followers for leadership.

A major part of Jesus' leadership was His example, not just as a sinless human but as a genuine one, and a Son who followed His Father (John 4:34; 5:19). This is important to note. We need to be lead-able our selves to be good leaders of others.

Our own life example is essential for leading as Jesus led others.

[bctt tweet="We need to be lead-able our selves to be good leaders of others"]

4 Elements of leading well

L– Listen and Learn

Listening and hearing well is somewhat of a lost art. We all want to be listened to, but how good are we at listening to others? This is a vital part of good leadership. Leaders need to listen, and they need to hear what's being said.

A missionary friend of mine pointed out how Jesus listened, even asked questions, as a young man (Luke 2:46). Reading through all four gospels this is still seen in Him, especially His dialogs with people. He was observant and heard what His followers talked about, and even asked them questions (Mark 9:33-37; Matt 16:13-15).

Jesus didn't listen to look for a place to jump in with what He wanted to say, He listened then responded. If you're a leader, are you able to listen to others and hear what they have to say? If not, why should anyone listen to you?

I've learned a lot by listening to others, some of it good and some not so good. I try to hear their heart, as well as their words. I also try to pay attention to what's not being said, as this can reveal much.

One more thought on all this. A good leader keeps learning from others. This is a sign of humility and openness, and the people you lead will see this and be more willing to follow you.

[bctt tweet="A vital part of good leadership is the ability to listen and hear well"]

E– Educate and Equip

Education is often reduced to teaching and transferring knowledge. But a good education needs to be practical, useful for life. An academic education won't prepare God's people to serve in the church.

God gave leaders to the church to equip them for service (Eph 4:11-16). I spoke about this some last week when we looked at the word feed.

Look at how Jesus equipped His followers, those who were chosen as apostles, and those who chose to be His disciples. Yes, He taught them as spoke to the crowds, but he also revealed things to them that weren't shared publicly ( Matt 13:10-17).

Those who followed Jesus learned by watching Him, hearing Him, and being with Him. They watched, they learned, then they were given the opportunity to do.

Perhaps you're familiar with Jesus sending out the twelve, found in Matthew 10 and Luke 9. Later, Jesus sends out others who followed Him, who were not His chosen apostles (Luke 10:1-3).

Teaching and training needs to be useful and productive, otherwise it's just knowledge. Nowadays we can get that on the internet. We need to educate people for a specific purpose or purposes.

A simple question for any leader is—Are we talking about truth or equipping people in the truth?

[bctt tweet="Are we talking about truth or equipping people in the truth?"]

A– Accept and Acknowledge

I've served in many different ministries over the past four decades or so, often at the bottom of the "food-chain," as some of my friends say. You name it, I've probably done it, from cleaning toilets to running a backhoe. But my wife and I have also been in leadership roles.

Because of our own experience, we learned to accept people as they are, not how we think they should be. Not everyone can do everything.

We've had staff who didn't do well in certain things, but excelled in others. This taught us to find the right place for each person within the ministry.

When a specific role needs to be filled, it's important to find the right person. Otherwise, they will be frustrated and we (their leaders) will be also. We need to accept people for who they are, and not have unrealistic or unreasonable expectations of them.

When people feel valued, they do their work better and they're a lot happier doing it. They need to be acknowledged, noticed, appreciated. This is especially true for those who serve in a volunteer capacity.

I think we all want to hear the Lord say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." (Matt 25:21)

[bctt tweet="We need to accept people without unrealistic or unreasonable expectations"]

D– Disciple and Delegate

Last week, we looked at discipleship, but here I'd like to see how it benefits the Kingdom of God as a whole. Discipleship isn't just about knowing doctrine and how to live it out, it has a purpose. Yes, a good disciple is a disciple-maker, but there's still more to it.

Jesus knew He was preparing the apostles to lead and establish the church, the Kingdom of God on earth. Discipleship should involve doing. Yes, it's good to do life together, but it's important to have shared experiences.

By shared I mean a mutual participation, on equal footing. How? Prayer, worship, serving others or any activity where the leader isn't in charge of the disciple. This helps create a shared trust of one another.

Delegation works best when trust exists. Genuine discipleship sets the stage for reliable delegation. Delegation isn't just dishing out responsibility for a task.

You come to trust those you disciple, and they trust you. When trust exists, it's a lot easier to delegate a task or responsibility with confidence that it will be done well.

Early on in the Lord's training of His followers, He sends them out to do what they've seen Him do (Luke 9:1-6). He delegates ministry to them. He entrusted His authority to them along with responsibility.

Jesus shows us how discipleship done well leads to fruitful delegation. It includes authority with responsibility because of mutual trust.

[bctt tweet="Genuine discipleship sets the stage for reliable delegation"]

Love, feed, lead

This is the last of four posts, three that looked at three primary elements of leading as Jesus led, based on His role as the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18).

If these posts blessed you, please share them with others. My hope is that they're helpful for any leader within the Kingdom of God, whether you lead in a church or ministry, or lead in some other capacity.

Here are the other posts from first to last—

Grassroots Leadership

How Do You Spell Love? L-O-V-E

Well Fed

Well Fed

Photo credit: babycentre.co.uk Feeding a baby or toddler can be a challenge. They still need to be fed much of the time, but their self-will is in full-bloom.

They can close their mouth and refuse to eat. They're often distracted by more interesting things. Most young toddlers want to feed themselves, even though they haven't developed the dexterity to do it well.

It can be a challenging and messy process, and it's only the beginning. Children are often finicky and picky eaters, and hormonally challenged teens have odd eating habits.

Pastors and leaders also face challenges in feeding their flock. It can even get messy at times.

Last week, We looked at leading with unselfish love, as we see in Jesus, our Good Shepherd. This week we'll look at the second of the three words related to what I call grassroots leadershipfeed. Again, We'll look at this word as an acrostic—F-E-E-D.

Keeping God's people well-fed

Just opening up the Bible and letting-it-rip (preach) isn't going to keep the people of God well-fed. There's more to it than that.

It's not just about preparation and presentation, although they're important. Certain priorities impact our preparation of any ministry with God's Word and however we present it.

Let's look at four important priorities needed to keep God's people, His sheep, or anyone we lead or disciple, well-fed.

"F" stands for focus

What's the number one priority? Focus. Our focus always needs to be on Jesus in whatever ministry we do, and whatever capacity we lead (as a believer).

How do we do this? First, each leader needs to be focused on Jesus, not the people we lead, nor on any ministry task. He is our Good Shepherd and we are His under-shepherds.

All ministry, even teaching in whatever form, is relational. It always needs to be connected to our relationship with Jesus.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me" (John 10:14 NIV)

Our ministry and leadership also need to point to Jesus, in all we do. We are to follow His example, so others will follow our example of following Him.

[bctt tweet="Our ministry and leadership need to point to Jesus in all we do"]

"E" speaks of the need to examine God's Word

If we want to feed people with the truth, we need to understand it. We need to examine it well before we teach, preach, or share it in some other way.

We need to be clear on what the priority of God's Word is. Would you be surprised if I told you it's Jesus? It is!

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.... (John 5:39 NIV)

Many different methods are used for studying the Scriptures. I've used the inductive study process for the past thirty years. It is a simple, systematic, and self-contained approach to Bible study, which is why it works well in any place in the world, within any culture or language.

Whatever method you use, be diligent in it. Keep examining the Scriptures so that your understanding moves from your mind to your heart. Then it will flow out of you in a natural way in whatever setting or circumstance you share the truth.

[bctt tweet="We need to be clear on what the priority of God's Word is—it's Jesus!"]

"E" also reminds of the need to explain well

Thankfully, I learned early in my call to ministry the value of teaching the truth in a simple way. My general premise is this—if a child can understand and grasp what you teach, then you can teach it to anyone. This is an oversimplification but it's essentially true. If you can explain the truth to a child, you can explain it to anyone.

How can people feed on the truth of God if they don't understand it? This is obvious, but I find many preachers, teachers, bloggers, and others don't always make things simple for the average hearer.

Here are two simple ways to make God's Word hear-able and easy to grasp. First, use stories and parables, but learn to tell them rather than just read them. The second way to make things simple works with stories—put the truth in your own words (IYOW). Telling stories and parables IYOW helps people connect well with the truth.

Sound heretical? Not hardly. Remember, the original version of the Bible was oral, not written. The process of putting things IYOW requires processing the truth. It takes some practice, but it's very doable, and makes the truth more understandable.

[bctt tweet="If you can explain the truth to a child, you can explain it to anyone"]

"D" is for disciple

The Lord Jesus said we are to "make disciples... teaching them...."  (Matt 28:19, 20). This was not a suggestion but a command. It's called the Great Commission.

Discipleship has become more popular over the past several years. Of course, as with other things, several approaches and methods are used, but discipleship isn't just teaching and training.

Discipleship needs to be intentional and relational, a pouring into the life of others what God has poured into you.

Feeding God's people needs to go further than dispensing biblical knowledge. Lecture style teaching may be the most common form of Bible teaching, but it's the least effective. It's unidirectional and can be dull and difficult to understand for many people.

Like feeding a toddler, you can try pushing the food into their mouth, but they can close their mouth or spit it out. Also, there's a big difference between feeding people and equipping them to feed themselves.

Jesus, as always, is our example. His primary method for establishing the church was to disciple twelve men. This included teaching, but much, much more. Eleven of those twelve, and thousands who followed them, were well-fed. They continued what Jesus began with them.


Here are some related posts related you might find helpful—

How Did Jesus Teach?

Discipleship—How Did Jesus Do It?

Lasting Fruit

Here are a couple of links of people I trust regarding inductive Bible study (aka IBS)—

Dan Finfrock

Jeremy Brummel

If you'd like a copy of the workbook I've developed for IBS, contact me and I'll let you know how you can get one.

How Do You Spell Love? L-O-V-E

Photo credit: NASA As the song goes, "Love makes the world go 'round." But does it? Really? You wouldn't know that from reading and hearing the news headlines.

Then the question is, if love were to make the world go around, what kind of love is it? Is it romantic love like the song, "The Power of Love"? I think it would need to be something more substantial than that to keep the world turning on its axis.

Who comes to mind when you think of a more substantial love? Maybe Mother Teresa? Perhaps St Francis of Assisi, as reflected in his prayer?

But who was their role model? Jesus, of course. He is the personification of love, literally (John 1:1, 14; 3:16; 1 John 4:8).

Love, feed, lead

Last week, I talked about grassroots leadership as an illustration of the style of leadership we see in Jesus.

I also spoke of three words that summarize the role of a pastor, but which also apply to truly great leadership at all levels.

Those three words are—love, feed, and lead. I want to focus on love in this post, and I want to use the four letters of this word as an acrostic.

L-O-V-E

A lot's been said about this short, four-lettered word, but I want to look at each letter as it represents the leadership of Jesus.

This applies especially for pastors and others in a leadership role within the church, but I also see it as representative for believers who are leaders in other arenas in life.

What are those other arenas? Anything from business (small or large) to military leaders, and even less formal roles within life, even parenting.

L–

I originally saw the words love, feed, and lead based in John 10:1-18, where Jesus speaks of Himself as the Good Shepherd.

Jesus expresses what He means by being the Good Shepherd in verse 11—

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Of course, most believers think Jesus refers to His sacrificial death on the cross. But there's more to it than that.

The most basic call of discipleship, in Matthew 16:24, makes it clear that we are to die to our self if we would follow Jesus.

Jesus extends this idea to leadership when He tells the disciples—

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13)

"L" stands for love. Love is the mark of a great leader in God's kingdom—someone who is willing to lay down their life for another, and for Jesus.

[bctt tweet="Love is the mark of a great leader in God's kingdom"]

O–

The love of God is spelled out for us in the well-known text of 1 Corinthians 13. It's also the natural product of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22, 23).

It's also seen in the way Jesus called, led, and trained His followers. It wasn't by compelling them, but with humble leadership.

The apostle Peter learned this the hard way when Jesus restored him, after Peter had denied the Lord three times. We see this in John 21:15-19.

Peter passed this on to those he discipled as leaders. He exhorted them to "shepherd the flock of God..., not domineering over [them]..., but being examples to the flock." This is found in 1 Peter 5:1-5.

So the "O" stands for oversee. Godly leaders are not to be overbearing or domineering as lords, but caring for people as Jesus, the Good Shepherd, did.

[bctt tweet="Godly leaders are not to be overbearing or domineering as lords"]

V–

When a godly leader understands their power or authority is based in an unselfish love and oversight like that of Jesus, they value people.

Over the years, many churches have undervalued people, especially their volunteers and part-time staff. They undervalue them by taking them for granted.

Too often I've heard of people who get burned out serving in a church or ministry, and are left hanging in the wind, as others take their place. This should not be. Nor should this need to be explained.

We need to see people the way Jesus saw them, as sheep who need a shepherd (Matt 9:36).  This is the heart of Jesus, hear what He says—

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

"V" is for value. Any smart leader at any level, but especially godly ones, will value people, especially those who volunteer their services.

[bctt tweet="Many churches have undervalued people by taking them for granted"]

E–

One of the simple ways to value people is by empowering and enabling them to do what they are to do. Many in roles of leadership think they need to keep people under control, but this is not how we see Jesus leading people.

This brings us back to the earlier nature of the love we are to have as we lead people, a love that lays itself down for others.

Do we want others who serve under our leadership to succeed? Do we want them to do well? Then we need to find ways to empower and enable them to do so.

This is to be a basic role of all leadership in the church, and it makes sense for any role of leadership. The apostle Paul tells us that God gave gifts so the leaders could empower and enable those they lead.

This is what we're told in Ephesians 4:11-13, and the result is enormous and beneficial to all, including God. As it says in verse 11—

to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

"E" reminds us that good, godly leaders empower and enable people.

[bctt tweet="A simple way to value people is by empowering and enabling them to do things well"]

L-O-V-E—love that is unselfish, overseeing not overbearing, valuing people, and empowering and enabling them. That's how I spell love every godly leader needs to lead others. Just as Jesus did.


Next week I'll take a look at the word "feed" as I see it in relation to leading people.

If this post is worthwhile, please share it with others. Thanks for reading!

 

Grassroots Leadership

unsplash_path_thru_grass This year's presidential political campaign has surprised many who follow it. It's even made Black Friday look pale by comparison.

One political party has too many candidates, while the other has few. One grabs headlines, the other spawns yawns. What's happening?

You could tag it with various labels, including the old standbys of populism and grassroots politics. I think it's just one more indicator of what's needed in the world, let alone America.

People need leaders

A good friend told me long ago, "People need leaders." I was a young pastor and he was a young captain of fire fighters.

What he said rang true in my heart. It reminded me of my responsibility in God's kingdom. Not just as a pastor, but as a follower of Jesus.

One seemingly forgotten characteristic of the Jesus People Movement was the importance of life example in leadership.

[bctt tweet="Life example is important for leadership in God's kingdom"]

I'm concerned this is a neglected emphasis today in all aspects of leadership, but especially in God's kingdom.

Grassroots leadership

Look at the leadership of Jesus and what He endeavored to instill in His followers. What was the key?

People were drawn to Him in a natural way. From the first to the last, people saw Him, heard Him, and could not ignore Him.

[bctt tweet="People saw Jesus, and heard Him, but could not ignore Him"]

Even those who opposed Him and later plotted to kill Him, even they couldn't ignore Him.

So what was it about Jesus that drew people to Him? You could call it grassroots leadership.

Humble leadership

There was no fanfare, no clever strategy to draw more people.

This is so backwards to what's most popular today, the prevailing mantra—more is better.

But that's not the way of Jesus. It's also not the way of great leadership, according to Jim Collins in his book, From Good to Great.

What set apart the companies that rose to greatness? One essential was humble leadership.

[bctt tweet="Humility is essential for great leadership and to lead like Jesus"]

In a business model, this means putting the company and your people above your self.

Jesus the Good Shepherd

In God's kingdom, it means following the example of Jesus. It's seen throughout the gospels, but illustrated and explained in John 10 where Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd.

I am the good shepherd.

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

Several years ago, I was asked what the basics were to pastoring. A young missionary pastor to Thailand to whom I'm a mentor, asked me for a simple explanation.

I came up with three words to summarize the responsibilities of a pastor—love, feed, and lead—based on John 10:1-18.

[bctt tweet="3 words can summarize the responsibilities of a pastor—love, feed, and lead"]

Over the next few weeks I hope to unpack these three words related to the leadership of Jesus.

Hopefully, we'll see how they can apply to leadership at any level.

 

What Can We Learn from Dead Churches?

Photo credit: unsplash.com KHillacre Throughout the history of the Christian church, there have been cycles of life and death. Cycles of revival and decline are evident by their impact upon the culture around them—both good and bad.

What about individual churches? You can find similar cycles of revival and decline. Some churches seem to thrive, while others struggle to survive.

Is death and decline an inevitable destination for every church? Not if we're willing to learn from history.

Thom S Rainer's book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, doesn't sound like a fun read. I wouldn't call it fun, but it is enlightening, and in the end, encouraging.

I could easily see various churches I've known or been involved with that identified with Rainer's post-life church assessment. These are actual churches Dr Rainer worked with and knew.

He begins with a story of a church as if it had been a patient, in denial of her real condition. She no longer had vision and followed a familiar path to death. It's a sobering look at fourteen different churches who died. The author provides insights as to why, and later gives twelve responses to the question, "Is There Hope...?"

What is learned from the autopsy

Amazon-Autopsy_ChurchAll the insights Rainer writes about are helpful, but a few struck home in a sad way. He speaks of the Slow Erosion (Chap 2) that takes place, and of the inward and rigid focus a church develops.

In the The Past Is the Hero (Chap 3), a fixation develops on the "good old days." I've seen this too often in churches who experienced high points during the Jesus Movement, but this applies to other churches also. Rainer says this was the "most pervasive and common thread" in all of the autopsies, which created a backwards-looking vision.

This nostalgic, inward focus eventually leads to a church with ...No Clear Purpose (Chap 10). I've seen this way too often, churches that "do church," but have no clear direction or purpose except to exist.

Out of place and out of sorts

Rainer's small, succinct chapters yield insights into churches who didn't change, though the community around them did (Chap 4). Other churches rarely prayed together (Chap 9), and others became ...Obsessed Over the Facilities (Chap 11).

A chapter that struck a sad, familiar chord is where, The Great Commission Becomes the Great Omission (Chap 6). As a missionary and pastor, this one grieves me the most. The focus of the church becomes so inward that the command to "Go!" is set aside and forgotten.

I see this in both a lack of local evangelistic outreach and disinterest in world missions. This is pervasive throughout America today, along with a diminished focus on discipleship and equipping God's people.

Another great insight looked at the life stages and decrease in pastoral tenure (Chap 8). Rainer lays out five general stages of relationship between a pastor and the church. From my own experience, I found these to be accurate and remember going through or seeing each stage.

Is there hope?

An autopsy isn't fun, unless you're a forensic doctor I guess. So the book doesn't end on a down note but with hope.

Rainer lays out twelve responses to give hope. These are laid out in three categories of churches— those with sick symptoms, very sick, and dying.

You might think the last category isn't going to have much hope, but you'd be wrong. It's all a matter of focus and perspective, which is lost in a sick or dying church.

Final thoughts

I was sent this book by my friend, Pastor Bill Holdridge, who established Poimen Ministries, and graciously allows me to be part of this ministry to pastors and churches. He's seen all of this more than I have. If you're a pastor and concerned about the health of your church, I encourage you to contact Bill or any of us with Poimen Ministries.

So I recommend Dr Rainer's book for any pastor, no matter what your current role may be in church. It is well worth the read.

Here's a blog post of Dr Rainer's that echoes much of the same issues in his book– 8 Reasons Many Churches Are Living in the 1980's

Another resource I recommend is the blog of Pastor Karl Vaters, especially for pastors of small churches– New Small Church. Karl has a clear focus and purpose that is healthy and outward, and is a great encouragement to many.


If any of this post encourages you, or you see its value for someone else, please feel free to share it! Thanks for reading!

 

Discipleship Made Simple

Photo credit: unsplash.com_LRaper What does it take to be a disciple-maker? One might assume a seminary education would be a basic requirement. Perhaps expertise on personality traits and leadership qualities, possibly organizational skills.

All of these may be useful, even helpful for large-scale discipleship models. But is this what Jesus had in mind? Is this what we see in the early church?

No seminaries existed in those days, nor any personality trait tests. How did they do it? Like many things, it's a lot simpler than you might think.

Like Jesus but different

Jesus is the obvious model for a disciple-maker. He discipled the first leaders of the church, and gave the command to make disciples (Matt 28:19-20). We call this the Great Commission. I've written about this earlier.

All Christian believers are called to follow Jesus, but we aren't all exactly like Him. Each of us have different personalities, gifts, skills, and backgrounds.

So, is there another more ordinary example to follow besides Jesus, or Paul and Peter the apostles? There is.

Joseph the generous man

We get our first glimpse of our ordinary example in Acts 4:36. His introduction is sandwiched between a wonderful testimony and a woeful one.

A heart-warming insight of the early church's life is found in Acts 4:32-25, and Joseph is part of that. He sells some land and donates the proceeds to the church for the benefit of everyone. This view of the church reaches back nine verses earlier (Acts 4:23-31), and even earlier than that (Acts 2:42-47).

But an abrupt shift follows Joseph's generosity when one couple's deceit and greed costs them their lives (Acts 5:1-11).

Joseph known as Barnabas

Joseph was best known as an encourager. In fact, his name changed to Barnabas, which means son of encouragement. This became his identity. It was what he was known for, and this is seen as we track his life through the Book of Acts.

Our first insight into the character of Barnabas, our ordinary example, is that he was unselfish, faithful, generous, and an encourager.

In this man, we see discipleship in a simple form. It wasn't a planned out program. It flowed out of his life in a natural way.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship should flow out of our life in a natural way"]

A simple example of discipleship

Barnabas, first known as Joseph, is only mentioned five times in Acts, but each time is significant.

A stand up guy

After Saul, later known as the apostle Paul, converts from Judaism to the new Christian faith, Barnabas is right by his side. We pick up this story in Acts 9:26-30. Saul, who had once been an enemy of the faith, now proclaimed the Christian faith.

When Saul (Paul) tried to join in fellowship with the church in Jerusalem, they were still afraid of him. So Barnabas stepped up. He stood up for Saul and spoke on his behalf before the apostles, so Saul was accepted into fellowship.

Barnabas was a stand up guy, as we might say today.

Someone you can trust

The church began to expand into other territories, often without proven leaders. They sprung up from the life example and testimony of new believers. In Antioch of Syria, many non-Jewish people became believers.

When news of non-Jewish believers reached Jerusalem, the leaders sent someone they trusted to check this out. Who was that? They sent Barnabas (Acts 11:20-26).

When Barnabas saw the work of God's grace among the people, he encouraged them to continue in their new-found faith. He also saw this was the ministry God had called Saul (Paul) to do (Acts 9:15-16). So Barnabas brought Saul from his home in Tarsus, and the church was discipled by these two partners in the gospel.

This is Barnabas' testimony—

Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and full of faith. (Acts 11:24 NCV)

A true leader

As a leader among leaders, Barnabas was sent out on a mission with Saul (Paul), in Acts 13:1-3. This is the first intentional sending out of missionaries by the church, the daughter church of Jerusalem.

This mission resulted in many conversions of faith and several churches being planted. Barnabas was a humble partner with Paul, he didn't need to be the primary leader. He was the one who encouraged Paul to step into the ministry God called him to do.

A man of integrity

One test of character is how we handle opposition. When faced with a situation that could compromise us, how do we respond? Barnabas shows integrity of character in Acts 15:36-40.

On the first mission, Barnabas and Paul took the young man John Mark to assist them. But when things got rough, John Mark left them for home (Acts 13:5, 13).

When these partners in ministry were set to go out on their second mission, they argued. About what? Barnabas wanted to bring John Mark with them, but Paul did not. They ended up going in separate directions.

I've heard people say Barnabas was wrong, which was proven by his name never being mentioned in Acts again. But Barnabas wanted to give a young man a second chance.

I'm glad he did. I'm thankful for those who've given me second chances. In the end, Paul was glad Barnabas stood up to him and insisted on including John Mark in the ministry. [see Col 4:10; 2 Tim 4:11; Philemon 24]

Our take away

What do we learn from the life of Barnabas—the son of encouragement? 

First, he was known as an encourager. This became his identity. That's not a bad identity to have. Wouldn't you like to be known for being an encourager of people? I would.

I've had and have several people in my life who are encouragers, both in word and deed. Sometimes people need more than encouraging words. They need acts of encouragement that flow out of our life example.

Barnabas shows us integrity of character in many ways

Barnabas stood up for Saul, but also stood up to Paul. How? When he stood up for Saul (Paul) before the apostles, and when he took John Mark under his arm to mentor him.

You could say that we have Barnabas to thank for the epistles Paul wrote, and for the Gospel of Mark. Why? Because Barnabas believed in Jesus and saw Jesus in others, and he encouraged them in their faith. This is simple discipleship.

Do you see how these qualities see, in Barnabas' life don't require a special education or skill-set? They flowed out of his character—who he had become as a follower of Jesus.

Barnabas made disciples who followed him in the same way Barnabas followed Jesus. It's a simple pattern—be who you are as you trust in Jesus each day, and share it with others.

Some Thoughts on Discipleship

Photo credit: unsplash_JQuaynor What is discipleship? Here are a couple of dictionary definitions—

A person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another (Dictionary)

One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another (Free Dictionary)

That's what the dictionary says, but what does Jesus say? Is discipleship simply a matter of following and spreading the teachings of Jesus?

My thoughts on discipleship

My simple definition of discipleship is— the transfer of our personal, experiential relationship with the Lord to others within a relational framework of one on one, or one to a few. It requires a mutual commitment of time, willingness, respect, patience and discipline.

Too often, discipleship can be reduced to a plan or program of training. But it is not something to be learned through lecture, study, and assignments. Nor can it be reduced to the idea of being caught rather than taught.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship is the transfer of our personal, experiential relationship with the Lord to others within a relational framework"]

This idea that it is caught can be a copout for a passive or lazy style of discipleship. This would put most of the responsibility onto the disciple, rather than the discipler. Is this what Jesus had in mind when He said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...," (Matt 28:19)?

As we look at the most obvious example of the Lord Jesus, our supreme model for discipleship, we see His simple method. This is explored in some detail by Robert Coleman’s book, “The Master Plan of Evangelism,” as well as other books by the same author.

Many other books on discipleship provide plans or methods, but how can we really hope to improve upon the Lord’s example?

Intentional and relational

Discipleship—to be effective and to have a lasting impact—needs to be intentional and personal. It needs to be relational. Inherently, it requires mutual discipline and commitment.

It has no specific style nor format, and can be personalized and subjective. Although this may seem likely to produce doctrinal errors or biases, it appears to be the method of choice in the New Testament.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship needs to be intentional and relational, it requires mutual discipline and commitment."]

Paul says in 1 Cor 11:1, “imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” This is echoed in his exhortation to Timothy, his “true son in the faith,” in 2 Tim 2:2. Although there are other models, there are no ironclad, standardized patterns.

The obvious models are Jesus, Barnabas (who mentored Saul/Paul), Paul (and his instructions to Timothy and Titus), and others recorded in the book of Acts, including Peter and what he wrote in his epistles.

More recently, notable leaders of movements within the church have mentored others who, in turn, are discipling people. Are these perfect models? No. Are there idiosyncrasies of the mentor passed onto those discipled? Undoubtedly. Yet, it appears this was understood by the Lord.

The Jesus model of discipleship

The Lord’s confidence in this method of discipleship—His model—rests upon the indwelling guidance of the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20, 27). A review of the Gospel of John (chapters 14 through 16 [1. John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:7-15.]) makes this clear. So, why would we do it any differently?

Reluctance is more likely based on a lack of trust in the Holy Spirit, and our human tendency to put our own imprimatur on the process. Or perhaps, it's concern about error being passed on, or the disciple not grasping everything we think they should get.

[bctt tweet="The Lord’s method of discipleship rests upon the indwelling guidance of the Holy Spirit"]

Whatever the reason for this reluctance, one thing seems clear to me over the past couple decades. There is little intentional, relational discipleship taking place in the US. Sadly, because of our influence upon the rest of the world, it has not been common where western missionaries have been.

The good news is, Jesus is still the Head of His church and is quite capable of maintaining a remnant who disciple as He did. Discipleship has become a hot topic in the past decade or so in the US. Church planting movements driven by intentional, relational discipleship are alive and well globally (such as T4T).

The question is— Are you (and I) following Jesus so others will also follow Him?

The command of Jesus remains— 

So go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything that I have told you to do. You can be sure that I will be with you always. I will continue with you until the end of time. (Matt 28:19-20 ERV)


For some more of my thoughts on discipleship, check out— Discipleship—How Did Jesus Do It?

A Culture Conflict

Photo credit: Unsplash.com_TLefebvre A culture shifts and changes with time. It often changes when there is some conflict with established cultural norms. This was seen in the 1960's.

But many cultural changes are less obvious, they are more like subtle shifts than an abrupt turns in direction. Perhaps the 1990's are the most recent example of that.

Not all changes in culture are the result of external forces or conflicting trends. Cultures can also change when one person's values change and their internal change influences others. 

A basic call to all

The basic call of discipleship is quite opposite from what our culture expects. The same was true for the disciples then. It is true for any people, anywhere, and at any time. All people are born with an innate selfish nature.

In Christian terms, it is the sin nature or the flesh. Whatever term is used, it’s true. A simple observation of toddlers and two-year olds will confirm it. What word is expressed early on? “No!”—the first expression of the selfish, self-centered nature of every human being.

Jesus tells those who want to follow Him three things that are needed—

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)

Another way to express this is to deny our selfish nature, die to our selfishness, and surrender our self-will to Jesus.

But this is easier said than done. Why? Because it goes against all we know and experience in life within this world. Is it even possible?

Surrender is not defeat

Jesus goes on to clarify it—

If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? (Matthew 16:25, 26 NLT)

Here Jesus gives an explanation of His original call of, “Come follow Me.” He’s says, “If you want to continue trusting and following Me, you need to exchange your self-centered way of life for a life centered on Me, then you will be transformed.”

The key is surrendering the self-will to Jesus. This is the difficult part. An honest question would be, “How can this be done?” The answer is more about what not to do. Denial of self—the selfish nature and self-centeredness—is an internal action, not external.

[bctt tweet="Self-denial is an internal action, not an external one"]

Internal not external

Most efforts at self-denial are focused on external changes in behavior, the self-effort of trying to lead a pleasing life for God.

The season leading up to the observance of Good Friday and Easter is called Lent. Many observe this season by denying themselves some pleasure or usual part of life, offering it to the Lord as a form of fasting.

This form of self-denial is not bad, and may bring about some good realizations and insights. A person may find they are too dependent on something in life, or can do without certain things.

Unfortunately, focusing on outward efforts of being good, as a means of denying the selfish nature, leads to a performance-based Christianity—something akin to Buddhism.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines Buddhism this way: “a religion of eastern and central Asia growing out of the teaching of Gautama Buddha that suffering is inherent in life and that one can be liberated from it by mental and moral self-purification.”

When good isn't good enough

Many people live good lives, at least outwardly. One of the best-known examples in the past century is Mahatma Gandhi, who grew up in a Hindu family, but later followed his own mixture of Buddhism and Christianity. He was known for his non-violent example and influence for world peace.

Self-denial goes deeper than what is done outwardly—it must go to the core of who we are. How? By surrendering the self-will to the Lord daily, even moment by moment.

[bctt tweet="Self-denial goes deep to the core of who we are, that's why it's hard"]

Jesus shows us how

Jesus shows the way in the Garden of Gethsemane. Though He knows the Father sent Him to die on the cross, He asks the Father if it can be avoided. A spiritual battle ensues and Jesus asks His closest disciples to come pray with Him.

Three times He lays His request before the Father, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Each time Jesus returns from prayer, He finds the disciples asleep.

At one point Jesus admonishes them, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41). Another version says, ”Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak!" (NLT).

Why it's not so easy

This speaks to the heart of the matter. What we may intend and want to do is difficult because of our natural weakness—the weakness of self. Our natural disposition is to put self first above all else and everyone else.

Our physical body and its desires are powerful, but they make us weak spiritually.

[bctt tweet="Our physical body and its desires are powerful, but they make us weak spiritually"]

This is why Jesus calls each believer to follow Him with a personal call—to surrender our free will to Him, and put Him first in our lives.

It is a call to set aside selfishness, self-centeredness, and self-fulfillment. It involves no striving, only abandonment and surrender to Jesus and His will.

Impossible, and yet doable

This is difficult. No, impossible without God’s help and His power at work in us internally.

When we surrender to Jesus it becomes an amazing testimony to the power of God. It captures the attention of people, and brings lasting change to the world.

Real change in the world only comes when people are changed within their hearts. Only Jesus does this. But He chooses to do it through true self-denial—choosing to trust in Jesus implicitly, and dying to a life fixated on this world.

[bctt tweet="Real change in the world only comes when people are changed within their hearts"]

What is your greatest internal challenge to surrendering to Jesus?


This post is an excerpt from my book on the Essential Gospel. Here's the link to the previous excerpt before this one— Who Jesus Is

To learn more about Jesus and the gospel, get a copy of my book– The Mystery of the Gospel

Risking Community to the Next Generation

Photo credit: unsplash.com_lukepamer I've found a kindred spirit in Pastor Ed Underwood. Ed is pastor of the historic Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles, CA.

We are both products of the Jesus People Movement of the early 1970's, fans of the LA Dodgers and the USC Trojans, and grandparents.

We're ministry veterans (old guys) who want to see a fresh revival in the church, and are committed to intentional, relational discipleship to equip and raise up the next generation of leaders. Here's Ed's post

Sooner or later, the ones who always get things done in a local church, the ones who make the key decisions, they will die.

It’s a one-to-one ratio. Everyone in our faith communities will die–pastors, elders, deacons, volunteers, teachers, and everyday serious disciples of Christ–every one of us will die.

A sad reality? Yes. But it doesn’t have to be a desperate problem.

Unless the ones who are closest to the end refuse to risk what Jesus risked: Handing off his community to the next generation.

[bctt tweet="We need to risk what Jesus risked: Handing off his community to the next generation. @EdUnderwood" via="no"]

Jesus’ community is the church. Notice that he didn’t choose one person over forty to birth his church.

Notice also that Jesus’ devoted followers, the Apostles, were constantly building into the next generation. Peter took John Mark under wing, Paul had his Timothy and Titus.

But all the teaching, equipping and modeling is lost if those of us who are on in years refuse to pass through the threshold of trust.

The Threshold

The day will come when we not only speak truth into the next generation, train the next generation, equip the next generation, and encourage the next generation, but we also hand off to them. Until we trust the next generation to do what we’ve been doing all of our talk about loving community and caring about the future of the work of God is just that.

Talk

Because we’ve stepped back from the real test of trusting God’s Spirit at work in the next generation.

Trust

Until we actually give them voice, space, and ownership, we’re just one more bunch of old Christians clinging to the inertia of institutionalized church.

And we’re the ones who lose, because if we’ve done what Jesus asked us to do–make disciples–we’re missing the greatest earthly joy of community: watching the next generation’s giftedness glorify our Lord.

The Payoff

Last weekend we risked our beloved community, Church of the Open Door, to the next generation.

When I first proposed this radical idea to hand off responsibility for our 100th Centennial Celebration to the next generation there were a few raised eyebrows. I mean this was a big deal. What if they blow it? What if it doesn’t work out? What if? What if? What if?

If you’re reading this and you’re over forty you need to know that you’ll never run out of “what ifs.”

I have some better what ifs:

What if they have creative ideas we would never imagine?

What if they could energize a demographic we’ve lost touch with?

What if they, not us, are on the cutting edge of what the Holy Spirit’s doing in this world?

A tent, family, and hashtags

We risked it.

And rather than blowing it the next generation of Church of the Open Door blew our minds.

With creativity.

With energy.

With a front row seat to the power of the Spirit in their lives.

They wanted informal, not formal. They wanted family friendly, not program driven. They wanted it outside under a tent, not in the worship center. They wanted to build a memory for their children. And they wanted a hashtag rather than a videographer and a memorial magazine.

Wow!

I still can’t figure out how to use the #cod100th hashtag, but every time someone under thirty shows me how I can’t believe how spectacular our 100th Anniversary was.

It seems Church of the Open Door’s future is in good hands.


 

I read Ed's book, Reborn to Be Wild: Reviving Our Radical Pursuit of Jesus, and realized we were kindred spirits. We have similar passions! We want to pass on to the next generation all that Jesus has poured into us.

I hope you'll visit his site where you'll find more great posts and some great resources. Here's the link to the original post on Ed's site— Risking Community to the Next Generation

Ed is featuring one of my recent posts, so check it out at— EdUnderwood.com