disciple

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?

 

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.

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?

Here's the Reason Discipleship Can Be Difficult

Photo credit: unsplash.com_GRakozy We Americans live in a culture focused on self. More and more, the concept of team or community is just that—more of a concept than reality.

Self-identity is an industry, not just a psychological term. More attention is given to individuals than groups. We fawn over star-power, whether it's American Idol, fantasy sports leagues, or CEO's pulling down outrageous salaries and bonuses.

Yet, focus on self isn't just an American cultural phenomenon, it's a human issue. Self-interest has been with us since the first humans on earth.

Just follow Jesus

When most everyone around you is focused on doing what's best for them, following Jesus can feel a lot like swimming against the tide. It can wear you out fast. Unless you learn how to do it from the Master Himself.

Believers and followers of Jesus need help, His help. Jesus is the core of the Gospel, and the core of the Christian faith. By Christian faith, I mean all the theology, doctrine, and practice known as Christianity. Jesus is the core of the Gospel and He calls each believer to follow Him.

[bctt tweet="Jesus is the core of the gospel and core of the Christian faith"]

His call is a personal one. It's a call to surrender our free will to Jesus, and put Him first in our lives. Jesus calls us to set aside selfishness, self-centeredness, and self-fulfillment. But this involves no striving, only abandonment and surrender to Jesus and His will.

This is difficult, no, impossible without God’s help and His power at work in us internally, but it becomes an amazing testimony to the power of God. It captures the attention of people, and brings lasting change to the world.

[bctt tweet="Jesus calls us to set aside selfishness, self-centeredness, and self-fulfillment"]

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

Are you confused?

Why does the world have so many different ideas and misunderstandings about Jesus and Christianity? Perhaps it comes from the body of believers who profess to be Christians.

What message does the world receive about Jesus, the Gospel, and the Christian Faith through the followers of Christ? What is the church’s living example?

If there is confusion about who Jesus is among Christian believers, it's communicated by speech and example to others, and confuses those who seek to know Him.

[bctt tweet="If we're confused about who Jesus, it's communicated by speech and example to others"]

Jesus, the core of the Gospel and Christian faith, is the core call and purpose of a believer’s life. By core, I don’t mean the center, but the central strength and nature of life in Him.

This could be likened to the nucleus of an atom, defined as “the central point of the atom.” An atom’s particles, protons and neutrons, are bound and held together around the nucleus by a nuclear or residual strong force.

[bctt tweet="Jesus is the core of the Gospel and Christian faith, and core of a believer’s life"]

These properties of a nucleus and atom always remind me of this description of Christ in Colossians—

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Col 1:17 NIV)

Jesus at the core

Perhaps what Jesus expressed about His own self-denial in going to the cross helps make this clear—

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (John 12:24-26 NIV)

Looking at a kernel of wheat, or the seed within a fruit like a peach, the importance of the core is easy to see. The very life of a peach tree is in the core of the fruit itself. The flesh of the fruit surrounding the seed is eaten, and the seed is thrown away.

[bctt tweet="Jesus is not just what we focus our lives on, He is our source of life"]

When the seed is planted it grows into a tree, but the seed has to die before it can germinate into what becomes a tree. This is God’s design. It’s God’s continuing illustration within nature of the importance of the core.

This illustrates the simplicity and necessity of keeping Jesus as the core of the Gospel. He is not just what we focus our lives on, He is the source of our life.

More than a belief

Our daily life example needs to match what we tell others. God’s Story is more than a belief to hold onto, or something to be done—it's a personal relationship with Jesus who transforms our life.

When we can express the simple truths of the gospel and others see Jesus at work in our life, it is an easy and natural thing to share our faith with other people.

[bctt tweet="God’s Story is more than a belief, or something to be done—it's a relationship with Jesus"]

Jesus is the core of the Gospel. He is the Savior of all people and the Son of God. He, God the Son, came into the world, died upon the cross for all humanity, and rose from the grave victorious over death.

He calls every person to follow Him, whoever is willing.

Each follower will need to give up his or her own selfish ways, the natural lifestyle of this world, and trust only in Him for all things, in every way, every day.

[bctt tweet="Jesus calls every person to follow Him, whoever is willing"]

Jesus honors this commitment with life beyond anything the world has to offer, and a life beyond this world. He alone is worthy of a person’s unreserved trust.


This is the last in a series of posts taken from my book on the Essential Gospel. Here are links to the previous posts—

Who Is Jesus…Really?

Who Jesus Is

A Culture Conflict

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

Thanks for reading and please feel free to share these posts!

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

Training Up a Timothy

Photo credit: Lightstock.com Some people speak of getting back to what the first church experienced. I think most of that talk is idyllic nostalgia. It's not based in reality, nor is it biblically sound.

I learned long ago, you can't go back to what was once before. Think of all those time-travel stories. It never works out well, things are always different. It's also not how God chooses to move by His Spirit. God desires to do something new, not remade or revisited.

But there is one thing we can go back to—the example of Jesus. After all, He is our prime example. On the night He was betrayed, He gave us a valuable example of His leadership style, and made it clear we are to follow this example.

More than washing feet

The story of Jesus washing the feet of His followers is full of great truths to teach. It is not just about washing one another's feet, although foot-washing services can be meaningful.

The primary focus of this story, in John 13:1-17, is the Lord's example of servant-leadership. It was a role He demonstrated throughout His life and public ministry, but this was not discerned too well by His disciples (Luke 22:24-27).

If you want to raise up a Timothy, a son or daughter in the faith, it should not be based on a pattern or curriculum or theological theory. It needs to be based on the example of Jesus.

He poured Himself into twelve men whom He chose as His foundation for the church. One would betray Him. All would deny Him, until they were empowered with the Spirit of God, after Jesus' resurrection.

Servant-Leadership as seen in John 13:1-17

Here are five characteristics and ways a true servant-leader leads. These are qualities and roles of leadership seen in Jesus. In John 13, as He washes the disciples feet, we see His example of confident, yet humble leadership.

This is our model. This is our only pattern, not clever leadership strategies designed by men.

Last week I posed a question—Pastor, where's your Timothy? This is a simple answer to that question.

Know the Way (v 1, 3)

We see the Lord’s confidence in knowing who He was as God’s Son, where He came from, and where He was going. Our confidence is not to be in ourselves, nor our abilities. Our confidence is based on the Lord and who He has called us to be in our relationship with Him.

Knowing the way for us is to deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Jesus (Mt 16:24), and be guided by the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:14). This is how we are to live and lead until we see Jesus face to face.

[bctt tweet="Our confidence is not to be in ourselves or abilities, but in the Lord"]

Walk the Way (v 4-5)

By far, the most common and important element of true servant-leadership is being a living example. This, of course, is the picture we have of Jesus as He washes the disciples feet.

This is not unusual, but seen throughout Jesus' leadership and training of the disciples. Example was always an essential element of His leadership.

[bctt tweet="Example was an essential element of Jesus' leadership"]

Show the Way (v 6-13)

This is simply an extension of walking the way, but moves beyond example to helping others see or know the way. How? By teaching and training in a personal and relational manner.

We see this in the dialog between Jesus and Peter, and in His instruction to all the disciples. This is not classroom or pulpit teaching, but a process of relational discipleship.

[bctt tweet="Genuine discipleship involves teaching and training in a personal, relational manner"]

Make a way (v 14-15)

An important part of leadership is training up new leaders. Again, it is not a program, but an intentional and relational process of discipleship. Discipleship done well naturally produces leaders.

The responsibility of leaders and mentors is to make a way for others to step up into leadership roles. It is often a matter of creating opportunities for others to move forward.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship done well naturally produces leaders, so make a way for them"]

Step away (v 16-17)

One of the more difficult roles of leadership is knowing when it’s time to move on or get out of the way. It's usually a matter of timing, but also the way in which a leader steps away.

Again, we look to Jesus as our prime example, but other examples are Barnabas (Acts 11:24-26), and Paul in the pastoral epistles. It requires self-denial on the leader’s part.

[bctt tweet="Knowing when to step back for other leaders to step up requires self-denial"]

The essential element

The essential element of servant-leadership is humility. This is the nature of our Lord Jesus (Matt 11:29; Phil 2:5-8), and it is essential for any leader to lead as Jesus did. Humility is important for mentoring others.

If you look closely at the life of Paul the apostle, you will see it, and Peter reminds all elders and young leaders of this too (1 Pet 5:5).

If you want to raise up a Timothy, someone who is able to lead others beyond your leadership, then know the way, walk the way, show the way, make a way, then step away.

Are you committed to intentional, relational discipleship? Are you ready to mentor someone? If so, follow the lead of Jesus.


This post is a follow-up to last week's post— Pastor, Where's Your Timothy?

How to Be an Evangelist—Without Really Trying

Photo credit: www.deathtothestockphoto.com/ What comes to mind when you hear the word evangelist? Do you think of a fiery preacher challenging you to "Repent!"? Nowadays that might be more of a caricature than common occurrence.

How about the words personal evangelism? Do you shudder at the thought of going out to witness with gospel tracts?

If the idea of personal evangelism or trying to be an evangelist doesn't appeal to you, keep reading! There is a way to share your faith in a personal, natural and easy way.

Calling, commitment, and a command

I know a young man who has a gift and boldness to engage people in conversation about Jesus and offer to pray for them. I have friends who go into neighborhoods every couple of weeks to knock on doors and share the gospel. A neighbor friend of mine often goes out on a roadside with a placard that reads, "Jesus loves you!"

I admire my friends for their commitment and calling. I've done similar things, but it is not my personal calling. My oldest son and I traveled to Scotland on an evangelistic outreach many years ago. It was a great time of ministry, and it helped confirm that I am not an evangelist.

I'm called to disciple people.

And yet, what is called the Great Commission (Matt 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47-48; Acts 1:8) is not an optional suggestion, it is a command. The apostle Paul told Timothy to, "...do the work of an evangelist...." (2 Tim 4:5 NKJV).

So, there is a responsibility for every believer to share their faith with others. Even when it's not our calling, we can commit to do something, even when it doesn't come easily.

But, if evangelism is not your thing, here are some thoughts on how to be an evangelist without really trying.

Keep it simple

  • Start with what you know—your own life story
  • Don't worry about what you don't know
  • Stick to what you know and engage people at that point
  • Find a story in the Bible that relates to your own life story

Keep it personal

  • Engage people by asking them about themselves
  • Find a common point of interest or connection as you talk with people
  • Think of a story that connects with the person's life you have engaged to talk
  • Use plain and simple words and avoid using Christianese

Keep alert for opportunities

  • Look for opportunities in everyday life
  • Get more familiar with various stories in the Bible
  • Pray and trust God for opportunities to engage people in conversation
  • Follow up with the people with whom you share your faith

Give it a try

Over the next few weeks, I hope to dig into each of these thoughts in more depth. The broad view of it can be summed up in these three admonitions—keep it simple, keep it personal, and keep open and be ready.

I've posted on this general idea of sharing your faith before, but want to be more instructive with these new posts.

Here are a couple of posts I hope will be helpful to you—

Need Some Help on How to Share Your Faith?

Need Some Help on How to Share Your Faith? (Part 2)

How Does Your Story Connect with God's Story?

Tell me what you think—

What are your experiences with sharing your faith?

What are the challenges you've faced with sharing your faith?

Thanks for reading and please feel free to share this post with others!

What is Required to Follow Jesus?

Photo credit: http://www.stevegedon.com/ What do you think is most important for being a disciple of Jesus? (Click to Tweet)

Commitment? Faithfulness? Discipline? Moral goodness? Correct theological belief? These are all good things, but I don't believe they are what Jesus is looking for as priority number one.

So... what is the one thing Jesus requires of His followers? A story of restoration gives some great insight into this.

Humbled

Before Jesus is arrested and crucified, He tells His closest disciples that one of them will betray Him. He does this while eating the annual Passover supper with the betrayer among the twelve chosen disciples.

Of course, they all question who it might be and proclaim it would not be them—even the betrayer himself. Peter, the leader and most vocal of the twelve, insists he will not deny Jesus, even if the others do.

But Jesus turns to Peter and says, "I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will say three times that you don’t know me.” (John 13:38 NCV)

In a defiant tone, Peter insists he will never deny Jesus, but go to jail or die for Him.

Jesus doesn't press the point except to say,

“Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to have you apostles for himself. He wants to separate you from me as a farmer separates wheat from husks. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. So when you recover, strengthen the other disciples.” (Luke 22:31-32 GWT)

I've heard people claim they will do many things for God. Likewise, others who insist they won't do certain things. The truth is, they fail to keep these promises. I know this myself only too well.

God has a way of stripping away our self-sufficiency and self-reliance. (Click to Tweet)

Peter did deny Jesus, three times. All the others scattered when Jesus was arrested, but Peter tried to recover and get close to where Jesus was held. This is where God humbled him.

During the third denial, "...while Peter was still speaking, a rooster crowed. Then the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. And Peter remembered what the Lord had said: “'Before the rooster crows this day, you will say three times that you don’t know me.'” Then Peter went outside and cried painfully." (Luke 22:60-62 NCV)

Restoration

As we fast-forward to the third time Jesus appears to the disciples following His resurrection, the disciples have followed Peter's lead to go fishing. They caught nothing the entire night.

While they were still in their boat in the early morning, Jesus calls out to them from the shore, "Did you catch anything?"

Hearing their disappointed "no," Jesus suggests they throw their net on the other side of the boat. As they do, the net fills beyond capacity with fish. John tells Peter, "It's the Lord!"  Peter jumps into the water and swims ashore.

The disciples drag their catch ashore where Jesus has prepared some food for them.

After eating, Jesus engages Peter in a very personal dialogue.

“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

A third time he said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” Peter said, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!” He said to him, “Feed my sheep." (John 21:15-17 NCV)

Reality

Much has been said about this exchange between Jesus and Peter, but what follows (John 21:20-22 NCV) is revealing.

Jesus restored Peter after his three denials, then assures Peter of his place and calling within God's kingdom, in spite of his failure. After restoring him, Jesus tells Peter how he will die, and says, "Follow Me."

What's revealing is Peter's response.

Peter turns and looks at his fellow disciple John and asks, "Lord, what about him?"

Why would Peter ask this?

Well, don't we act the same way? We are often more concerned about what others do, than what the Lord wants us to do. (Click to Tweet) We want to know if others will go through similar difficulties or hardships.

But even still, what's the deeper issue?

Jesus' answer points to this issue. He says to Peter, "If I want him to live until I come again, how does that concern you? Follow me!”

So, what do you think? What is required to follow Jesus?

One simple word. Trust.

Trust is what is required to follow Jesus. Trusting Him wherever He leads.

If you call yourself a follower of Jesus, do you trust Him with your life... everything in life? (Click to Tweet)