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!

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.


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?

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.

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?

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

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.


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


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.


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

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?

Pastor, Where's Your Timothy?

Photo credit: lightstock.com_pearl Mentoring is a hot topic these days. Access to information, even for repairs and DIY projects, is unprecedented through the world-wide web. A whole new industry emerged over the past decade—online entrepreneurship. It's spawned a new generation of experts.

A new wave of experts has rippled through the church, as well. New, trendy, cutting edge churches are launched every week, at least it seems so. Notice I said launched, not planted. But something is missing.

The need for mentoring is great in the church, but for more reasons than you might think.

Experience needed

The older generation in churches are a valuable part of the church. They provide stability and commitment, and are often the most consistent and generous givers. But many with gray hair have more to offer than consistent giving and commitment.

They have experience, and that experience is valuable and needed.

Older pastors and leaders can be valuable mentors for young leaders and potential leaders. They are a living resource for the church. And what do young leaders lack? Experience!

[bctt tweet="Young leaders lack experience and need mentors"]

Responsibility of the church

Discipleship is more than a buzzword, as is the idea of being missional. I've heard many pastors and leaders speak on equipping the church, but I don't see it happening enough.

Oh sure, Bible colleges, seminaries, and other ministry training options exist, even discipleship curriculum. But the church lacks well-equipped leaders ready to lead the church into the next decade or two.

Equipping does not take place through teaching or training programs. None of those existed for the early church.

[bctt tweet="Equipping leaders doesn't just take place through teaching or training programs"]

What did they have? Leaders who discipled in simple ways. Their goal was to personally transfer their own relationship and experience with Jesus to others (2 Timothy 2:1-2), as Jesus did with His followers.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4:11-13 NIV)

Life example was a key element of discipleship and leadership development in the early church (1 Cor 11:1). They were on a mission, the Lord's mission (Matt 28:19-20).

New wine, new leaders

A healthy physical body requires new cells to replenish and promote continued health. In a healthy church, those new cells are young people. They are potential leaders.

I say potential because they need to be equipped and trained up, as Jesus did with His first followers, and as we see the apostle Paul did with Timothy and others (John 13:15; 2 Tim 1:13).

In a dialog with some religious leaders, Jesus said that new wine needed to be put into new wineskins. In that context, He was speaking of the New Covenant—a new way of relationship with God.

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the skins burst and the wine is spilled out and the skins are destroyed. Instead they put new wine into new wineskins and both are preserved. (Matt 9:17 NET)

Many of us want God to bring revival, a new outpouring and moving of God's Spirit. But are we ready for it? Not if we aren't training up Timothy-type leaders and releasing ministry to them.

[bctt tweet="Many of us want God to bring revival, but are we ready for it?"]

If you're a pastor or in a place of pastoral leadership, you need to ask yourself an honest question— Pastor, where's your Timothy?

What's a pastor to do?

  • Personally disciple people— those who have a genuine relationship with the Lord Jesus and those who seek Him
  • Give people opportunities— those who are both faithful and ready to step out in faith
  • Provide further training— for those who show commitment and aptitude for leadership
  • Encourage and equip all the people— not by yourself, but through those raised up in leadership
  • Be an example of a servant-leader— Jesus' is our prime example, as in John 13:1-17
  • Find a Timothy—a son in the faith—to pass the responsibility of ministry on to them

This is a two-part post. Stay tuned for the follow-up on this one.

These links help provide some background for this article—

Aging Congregations

8 Implications– of aging boomer pastors & church staff

5 Guidelines for a Healthy Spiritual Life

Photo credit: lightstock.com The failure rate is enormous for those who focus on diet. I'm not sure what the stats are, but my fitness coach buddy tells me it's about ninety percent. That's nine out of ten! Not very good odds.

Countless offers fill the TV screen and magazines for dieting, exercise equipment, gyms, and other options to gain physical health. And yet, obesity and poor health remain at epidemic levels. The problem is known, and so is the solution.

Sadly, there's a parallel when it comes to spiritual health. America has more resources for spiritual growth than any other nation in the world, and that's not an exaggeration. But are we spiritually healthy? No. So, what's wrong?

The physical is an illustration of the spiritual

My friend the fitness trainer tells me the basics for good health are pretty simple. Good nutrition is vital, which includes limiting our caloric intake. Exercise needs to complement healthy nutrition. Oh, and another important element is discipline.

Discipline seems to be the hardest for most of us. We may do well for a while, but then fall out of our routine of diet and discipline.

I speak from experience. I'm not overweight by too much, but I slack off when it comes to exercise. I'm too busy. Or is that laziness disguised as busyness? And do I like comfort more than discipline? Um, yeah, that seems about right.

This is where I see a parallel with spiritual health. I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago— Shouldn't It Get Easier? So, let's continue looking at this issue of spiritual health.

The classic list

When I was a new believer, I heard a list of important elements for a healthy spiritual life. I still hold these as valuable, but this list tends to become more of a checklist than guide. Here it is—

  • Read your Bible daily, all of it
  • Pray often, including prayer for others
  • Be in regular fellowship with other believers
  • Worship the Lord, both corporately (in church) and privately
  • Service– find some way to serve others, both within the church and outside it
  • Share your faith with others

As I said, these things are all good, but I find many people do them out of obligation. They should not be done out of duty or obligation to the Lord or the church. They are valuable disciplines, but should flow out of our personal relationship with Jesus.

But how does that happen? How can we keep these disciplines without them becoming obligations?

It's all about relationship

Keeping the focus on relationship is the only way we can keep our Christian faith from becoming mere duty. First, we need to understand it is our natural tendency to take what is spiritual and make it religious.

[bctt tweet="Focusing on relationship is the only way to keep our Christian faith from becoming a duty"]

We all gravitate towards some form of religious list-keeping, often seen as legalism. Why? Because we are by nature like Adam and Eve after they ate from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen 3:6-8). We try to cover our own nakedness, shame, guilt, or fears. We do this by justifying ourselves—trying to make ourselves look good in God's sight.

In many of the Pauline epistles, the apostle Paul addresses this tendency in one part of the epistle, then explains how to live a life free of this default behavior.

As Paul exhorts the Colossian believers that they don't need to follow man-made rules, he reminds them how they are to live. The focus is on their relationship with Jesus. It may not be obvious at first until we see the simple but key phrase in Him.

As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so continue to live in him. Keep your roots deep in him and have your lives built on him. Be strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always be thankful. (Colossians 3:6-7 NCV) [emphasis mine]

5 Guidelines for a healthy spiritual life

  1. As you received [Jesus]... continue to live in Him How do we receive Christ Jesus as our Lord and Savior? By faith, and because of His grace! So, we need to continue to live by faith, not by our own efforts to be Christian. Any disciplines we keep need to be done in faith, not our own strength and reasoning.
  2. Rooted in Him Our relationship with Jesus is our foundation. Who is He? Many Scriptures could be used, but here it is in His own words— I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). He is our way. If we are followers of Jesus we need to be led by Him. We need a solid foundation in the truth (Scriptures). And we need to live each day for Him.
  3. Built on Him When we have a strong foundation in the Lord, we can grow in a strong and healthy way. The obvious illustration is a tree. If a tree doesn't have a strong, healthy root system, it will fall in the face of storms or drought or pests. This speaks of our need to be discipled and mentored by other more mature believers.
  4. Strong in the faith We need to be grounded in the truth of the Christian faith, and be able to explain it to others. As we mature in the faith, we become examples and mentors for others. But this is an ongoing process. Just like the illustration of the tree, we need to continue to grow to bear fruit.
  5. Always be thankful— An important element to a healthy spiritual life is thankfulness. Our day needs to start and end with being thankful, and throughout the day. This is a way for us to keep a right perspective. Thankfulness for God's kindness, goodness, mercy, provision, and so many other things, reminds us who we love, serve, and live for—Jesus.

Are you rooted in Him and is your life built on your faith in Him?

How is your spiritual health? Are these guidelines helpful to you?

Let me know by commenting on this blog site or where you see this post on social media. And thanks for reading!

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 That to You?

Photo credit: lightstock.com We are told over and over, "You can be anything you want to be. You can do anything you put your mind to." But, honestly, that's not quite the case. I get it. It's positive thinking and motivation to take risks, move beyond perceived barriers, so we're not held back by what keeps others from excelling.

That's fine, but when a person makes a commitment to do something, there are inherent limitations. The obvious is that a commitment is a choice to do (or not do) one thing over a host of other things. It could be to quit smoking, go on a diet, get into a fitness routine, or something else beneficial.

But relational commitments like marriage, parenthood, even friendships are different. These commitments involve loyalty, even sacrifice of one's own desires or preferences. True commitment also involves risks, moving beyond limitations, and not going along with the crowd.

Choosing to follow Jesus is a commitment

When I was a young believer, I remember hearing something about commitment to Jesus that stuck in my mind and heart. It went something like this— "When you make a commitment to follow Jesus as your Lord, it's like signing a blank contract. The Lord fills in the details as you follow Him daily."

[bctt tweet="Making a commitment to follow Jesus is like signing a blank contract"]

This is a pretty counter cultural thought, especially today, as it was then also (the early 70's).

We are steeped in the pursuit of self-fulfillment, with a host of self-serving options in life. But an open-ended commitment to self-denial (Matt 16:24), that's always been counter-cultural, or at least, counter to what comes natural to our selfish nature.

What is your response to Jesus' call on your life? For me, it's summed up in the encounter Peter has with Jesus when He restores Peter after his three denials of Jesus (in John 21:15-22).

"...what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22)

Do you love Me?

Jesus appeared to His followers several times after His resurrection. On one occasion, Jesus surprises them with a breakfast of fish and bread on the beach of the Sea of Tiberias. They had fished all night but caught nothing. Jesus suggests they throw their net out "on the right side" of the boat, which resulted in a miraculous catch.

On the beach after breakfast, Jesus proceeds to ask Peter if he loved Jesus more than the others. Not just once, but three times. Each time Jesus tells Peter what He wants him to do—feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep. Peter was grieved that Jesus asked him this three times (John 21:15-17).

Why would Jesus ask Peter the same question three separate times, giving him essentially the same instruction three times?

The obvious reason is that Jesus was restoring Peter after his three denials of the Lord. Peter claimed all the others might deny Jesus, but not him! And yet, Peter did deny Jesus three times (Luke 22:54-62). But there's more to the story.

It begins when Peter, the one whom Jesus chose as a leader, told the other disciples he was going out to fish, and they followed his lead (John 21:1-3). What had Jesus told Peter when He called him to follow? “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” (Luke 5:10 NKJV)

Peter returned to his former livelihood. He lost sight of the Lord's call upon his life. This happens to all of us at some point along the path of following Jesus. We tend to lose sight of God's calling on our lives when things don't go as we expect.

[bctt tweet="We tend to lose sight of God's calling on our lives when things don't go as we expect."]

You follow Me

Jesus goes on to tell Peter the way he will die later in life, then says "Follow Me." What is Peter's response? He questions Jesus about another disciple, wondering what will happen to him.

I've heard many teachers mock Peter's actions and reactions throughout the gospel, including this one. Truth is, we're all just like Peter. When the Lord shows us the path He has for us, we want to know if everyone else has to do the same.

Jesus' response to Peter is pointed— "...what is that to you? You follow me!”

Our path in following Jesus is going to be different from that of others. Each of us is unique, and so is our relationship with Jesus.

[bctt tweet="Our path in following Jesus is going to be different from that of others"]

How do you react when others are blessed in a way that you want to be blessed, but aren't?

When you go through various struggles and tests in life, do you question God why it's happening?

5 Ways to Lead Like Jesus

Photo credit: lightstock.com You might remember the Christian marketing craze of WWJD. Well, that's how I saw it. It was a craze, a fad, a marketing ploy with a quasi-stamp-of-approval from Jesus. The acronym was based on the Christian classic, In His Steps, by Charles Sheldon.

I've read the book. It was better than the marketing fad. It encouraged a daily lifestyle reflecting the humble, yet practical way Jesus lived while on earth. People were encouraged to ask themselves the question, "What would Jesus do?" How would Jesus handle the various relationships and situations of my life?

So the question can also be asked, "How did Jesus lead?" What are the ways Jesus displayed leadership? One thing is certain, He demonstrated servant-leadership in everything He did.

The qualities and roles of Jesus' leadership are seen in His humble expression of servant-leadership, in John 13:1-17. This is where Jesus washes the disciples feet, including Judas, the one who would later betray Him.

Jesus shows us an example of confident, yet humble leadership. Then we see Jesus pointedly addressing the lack of humble leadership in His own followers. They had a penchant for arguing who was the greatest among them. Jesus even used a child as an example, to make His point in a couple of instances (Mark 9:33-37; Luke 22:24-27).

[bctt tweet="Jesus shows us an example of confident, yet humble leadership"]

In John 13, Jesus provides a clear example by carrying out the job of the lowest household servant. He shows us how a servant-leader leads.

Here are 5 ways a true servant-leader leads.

Know the way

We see the Lord’s confidence in knowing who He was as God’s Son, in John 13:1, 3. Jesus knew where He came from, and where He was going, and that His Father gave authority over all things to Him.

Our confidence is not to be in ourselves, nor our abilities, but in the Lord. Who has He called us to be? How has he called us to serve Him? Our confidence as leaders needs to be based in our own, healthy relationship with Jesus.

[bctt tweet="Our confidence is not to be in ourselves, nor our abilities, but in the Lord"]

Knowing the way for us is to deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Jesus daily (Luke 9:23). Surrendering our will to Jesus, we will be guided by the Holy Spirit each day.

Walk the Way

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 (John 13:4-5). It is something we see in Him throughout His leadership and training of the disciples.

[bctt tweet="The most common, important element of true servant-leadership is our life example"]

It was an essential element of Jesus' leadership, as it needs to be for each of us.

Show the Way

This is 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.

Here in, John 13:6-13, we see Jesus do this in His dialogue with Peter, then in His instruction to all the disciples. This is not classroom or pulpit teaching, but a relational discipleship process.

[bctt tweet="Sound discipleship includes teaching and training in a personal and relational manner"]

It takes an investment of time in people, the very thing we see Jesus do.

Make a way

An important part of leadership is training up new leaders. This is not a program to be developed, but an intentional and relational process of discipleship. This is what we see Jesus doing in John 13:14-15).

Discipleship done well naturally produces leaders. The responsibility of leaders and mentors is to make way for others to step up into leadership roles. It is often a simple matter of creating opportunities to enable others to move forward.

[bctt tweet="Leaders and mentors need to make way for others to step up into leadership roles"]

Jesus' vision was eternal, and He prepared and made the way for His followers to lead others.

Step away

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

Again, we look to Jesus as our prime example in, John 13:16-17. Other examples are Barnabas bringing Paul to Antioch (Acts 11:22-26) and Paul in his pastoral epistles. It requires more self-denial on the servant-leader’s part.

[bctt tweet="A difficult role of leadership is to know when it’s time to move on or get out of the way"]

On the night Jesus washed the disciples feet, He was preparing them for His departure and for them to step up and into the Jesus-style of leadership—servant-leadership.

Do it

Knowing and doing are two different things. Doing is often what's missing in the church and in leadership. Before you run with this to rail against Christianity, churches, and leaders, remember—this is not just for those with identifiable roles of leadership, it's for all believers.

An old adage reminds us to be part of the solution, not the problem. It's easy to find fault with others, it's much harder to follow through on what we know to do. This is why Jesus tells His followers, after explaining why He washed their feet—

If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:17)

Whose lives do you influence? How can you lead them as Jesus led?

Are you leading others in any of these 5 ways? If so, continue to move forward through all five. If not, why not?

For a more detailed look at how Jesus led, I highly recommend the book, The Jesus Style. It has become a Jesus Movement classic written by my friend, Gayle Erwin.

Another great book on how to make disciples who will disciple others is, The Master Plan of Evangelism, by Robert E. Coleman.

Are You Casting a Shadow, or In Someone's Shadow?

Photo credit: Ptr Larry Anderson Over the past few weeks I've been filling in for a pastor on sabbatical. I'm in Juneau, Alaska as part of a team of five pastors who've served this church (and their pastor) over the past several months. Each of us brings a different style and area of ministry focus.

It's a healthy church body and my role is primarily working with discipleship and developing leaders. In my opinion, I've got the gravy job. Most of the nuts and bolts ministry work was done before I got here. So I'm thankful for my fellow Poimen Ministries pastors, including those serving in other places.

This third and final post, in a series on leadership transition, is a combination of questions and thoughts to help you look toward and plan for a good transition of leadership.

Leadership Transition—part 3

If you've followed along, this is the 3rd post related to the story of leadership transition from King Solomon to his son Rehoboam, as told in 2 Chronicles 10. If not, you might want to review the previous two posts in this series. The first is– The Importance of Passing the Baton Well, and the second is– Leadership Transition and the Value of a Team.

As with part 2, this will mostly be questions to consider, and these will focus more on the one coming into a leadership role or position. Although it can be looked at from a younger leader's (pastor's) perspective, there are good things to ponder for those of us who've been in leadership for quite a while.

Do you cast a shadow, or are you in the shadow?

A couple things to keep in mind...

It's always tough to follow in the footsteps of a founding leader or pastor, especially if they were a very charismatic personality type of leader, who is popular and well-liked. It is especially difficult when they remain nearby—it's hard to get out from under their shadow.

[bctt tweet="It's always tough to follow in the footsteps of a founding leader or pastor"]

Can you imagine what it was like to follow someone like Solomon? Solomon did very well, but his dad (King David) set things up very well for him. That favor was not returned for Rehoboam—a lesson to be learned!

[bctt tweet="Do you cast a shadow, or are you in someone's shadow?"]

Some questions and thoughts to consider

  • If you're a founding leader or pastor– What are you doing now to provide for a smooth transition for whoever will follow you?

We have the example of King David setting things up for Solomon, but we also have Jesus.

Once Jesus began His public ministry, He started grooming those who would become the leaders of the first church. He chose twelve men and trained them through teaching, example, and delegation. He told them and showed them, then sent them out.

[bctt tweet="How are you providing for a smooth transition for whoever follows you?"]

I over-simplified Jesus' training process, but a more thorough look at it can be found in many good books. One I always recommend is the classic, "The Master Plan of Evangelism" by Robert Coleman.

And don't forget the apostle Paul, who wrote most of the epistles of the New Testament, especially those called the Pastoral Epistles—1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. Paul has much to say about discipling and raising up leaders!

  • If you're a new leader or pastor– What model of leadership are you following? That of Jesus, or someone you're trying to emulate?

I served as a missionary and pastor in the Philippines for fifteen years. Another pastor and I served as interim pastors at a local church, and my friend recruited a young Filipino pastor to serve at our church. I had the opportunity to help this young pastor get settled as the new senior pastor.

He was discipled well by another American missionary-pastor, so he was equipped to teach and he also led worship. But, I encouraged him to develop his own vision for the church, and with his own style of leading.

[bctt tweet="Whose example are you following? Jesus, or some successful person?"]

His mentor had a strong personality, so I was concerned the younger pastor would tend to emulate him. He followed that advice and developed into a strong pastoral leader and teacher. He is also committed to discipling other leaders within the church.

  • Are you following a founding pastor? If so, what are you doing to help the people of the organization or church adjust to a different leadership style and personality?
    • Are you starting out fresh with a new vision and direction?
    • What are you bringing along with you as a leader from your own experience, good or bad?

King David had a vision for the Kingdom of Israel while he was king, and saw beyond his own reign. Because of his passion for God he wanted to build a temple, but this was not God's plan. So King David set things in place for the temple to be built by his son, as well as the transition of leadership (see 1 Chronicles 22).

  • Has God given you a fresh vision for leadership?
    • Can you articulate this vision clearly so others can see it with you?
    • Has God revealed His plan for how this vision is to be implemented and fulfilled?
    • Have you sought out counsel from more experienced leaders?
  • Or...
    • Are you moving forward with your own ideas as it seems best to you?
    • Are your plans based on borrowed ideas from someone who's "successful"?

Some final thoughts

A leadership book I've found very helpful over the years is, "The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make," by Hans Finzel. I like it because it's based on real experience, it's concise and practical, and provides clear direction for how not to make these same mistakes. It is well worth the read.

Hopefully, along the path of leadership, we can learn how to make good transitions, so others may follow well. If you want the top 10 ways to lead, observe the master leader, Jesus! No one can improve on His methods, nor match His example.

If you'd like the help of some seasoned pastors, check out Poimen Ministries— we're committed to serving pastors.

Leadership Transition and the Value of a Team

What does good leadership transition look like? Should it be on a grand scale and made with great promises? How long should it take, and what's the secret to a successful transition?

Last week I started a three-part series on leadership transition, using the illustration of passing the baton in a relay race. A relay race is composed of teams of four runners who must be quick, strategic, and smooth in running, pacing the handoff of the baton, and the handoff itself.

One critical element is often overlooked in our age of super-stardom. The four runners must work together as a team. No one runner is more important than the other. Each has a role to play. Yes, it's great to get off to a good start, and have a strong kick at the finish. But, it's also vital that the second and third runners gain, regain, or keep the lead, along with seamless handoffs so no precious seconds are lost.

Teamwork is critical for good transitions of leadership. But where and when does this teamwork start?

From great to not so great

Last installment (part 1) we looked at the story of Rehoboam in 2 Chronicles. It is a sad example of a transfer of leadership from one leader to another, from King Solomon to Rehoboam, his son. It can also illustrate a transition of leadership in most any organization, including a church.

[bctt tweet="Teamwork is critical for good transitions of leadership."]

One thing especially difficult is a transition from a founding pastor (or leader), to a younger, much less experienced leader, as in this story (2 Chronicles 10:1-19). "Filling the shoes" of someone who established the culture of a church (or organization) is very difficult, and is even more difficult under the shadow of the founder, if they stay within the organization or church.

Here are several questions that should help bring some healthy consideration towards a good leadership transition. Healthy leadership transition shouldn't start as an afterthought, or in the last few months of a leader's tenure, but needs to start early on. It should be embedded in the whole vision of the church or organization.

[bctt tweet="Healthy leadership transition shouldn't start as an afterthought"]

Self-accountability questions for leaders—

  1. How is your relationship with the Lord? Are you going through a spiritual growth period or a dry spell? Are your devotional times with the Lord somewhat hum-drum or are you experiencing some special times as well?
  2. Who are you discipling? Are you investing any of your life and walk with the Lord in someone else? How are you transferring any of what the Lord has done in your life to bless others?
  3. Who are you training up for positions of leadership? Who is able to take your place if you're called to do something different someday? Will what you are doing outlast or survive your involvement and presence?
  4. Are you accountable to anyone? Who? Do they know this? Do you make regular time to be held accountable? If not, who can you go to when you need guidance, help, or restoration?
  5. What vision do you have for ministry now and the future? Do you have a sense of vision for the ministry you're involved with now? Do you have vision for other ministry beyond what you're doing now?

Now rather than later

That's a bunch of questions all at one time, but these are not to be answered once and set aside. They should be looked at and considered from time to time within a given year—maybe 2 or 3 times a year.

Discipleship will naturally produce leaders. It worked well for Jesus, and it still works. It's just a slow and deliberate process, which is why now is the best time to start doing it! Keep it simple, personal, and deliberate. It will spawn good spiritual growth for the discipler, as well as the one discipled.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship will naturally produce leaders, as it did for Jesus"]

Looking ahead

In the next installment I'd like to address some questions for younger leaders. But even young leaders can benefit from the above questions. If Rehoboam followed the advice of the team of advisors to his father (King Solomon), it would be a very different story. But he didn't.

Trusted and proven advisors are a valuable asset to young leaders, any leaders for that matter. New and young leaders can bring fresh vision and energy to the table, but not know how to get things started or how to implement the vision.

[bctt tweet="Trusted and proven advisors are a valuable asset to young leaders"]

Next week, we'll look at a few ideas to prepare for leadership transition long before it needs to happen.

What is your experience with discipleship?

Are you investing any of your life and walk with the Lord in someone else?

Who are you training up for positions of leadership?

What vision do you have for ministry now and the future?

2 Observations of How the Law Is Relevant Today


It's all good and well to want to read through the whole Bible, but what about reading through the Law—the first five books of the Bible? Genesis is interesting, but what about the next four books? Trying to make it through the various laws and requirements can get dry and monotonous.

So, is it relevant for Christians to read it? Well, we know as good Christians we ought to read it all, but do we want to? What if there were a couple of good reasons that made it relevant?

[bctt tweet="We know good Christians ought to read the whole Bible, but do we want to?"]

2 Initial observations

First, reading through the books of Law, especially Exodus through Deuteronomy, can seem slow and tedious. So, unless you're studying it for a specific purpose like teaching, I've found it helps to read through them in a readable version.

[bctt tweet="Finding a good, readable, reliable version is helpful for reading the whole Bible"]

What version of the Bible do you usually read? Here's a couple I've found that are readable and reliable—

Second, these books related to the Mosaic Law speak of things that took place a long time ago. Not only that, Christians aren't under the Law anymore (Rom 6:14), they're under grace! But since they are still in the Bible, we need to understand their purpose. A hint is given to us in Hebrews 8:5 (NCV)—

The work they do as priests is only a copy and a shadow of what is in heaven. This is why God warned Moses when he was ready to build the Holy Tent: "Be very careful to make everything by the plan I showed you on the mountain."

2 Things stood out to me

As I continued in my Bible reading plan for this year, I came to the book of Leviticus. Even though I've read through it many times, I was struck by the tedious details of the Law. It's not so much the details, but the repetition of their explanation.

But then I saw a couple of things in a newer light. They've been there all along, and I've heard similar thoughts, but they came into focus more clearly.

First, Moses learned everything directly from God. All the things he would pass on to the first high priests, Aaron and his sons, originated from his personal interaction with God.

[bctt tweet="What Moses learned and passed on originated from his personal interaction with God"]

Second, most of what Moses directed to be done, he did. In other words, he didn't ask Aaron and his sons to do what he hadn't already done.

As I thought on these two things, I saw how relevant the Law is today for Christian believers. It became clear because I could see it in how Jesus discipled the apostles.

2 Simple observations

1– Here's a key element of discipleship that produces leadership— a teacher/mentor needs to not just know things, but do them first. Whatever truth or training is passed on must be instruction or guidance given by God personally. It isn't formulated theory or strategy, but spiritually revealed.

The leader doesn't just teach, but demonstrates by example whatever is to be passed on. This involves clear instruction, guidance, and the opportunity to work alongside a leader, not just teaching and delegation.

[bctt tweet="A leader doesn't just teach, but demonstrates by example whatever is to be passed on"]

2– The detailed instructions for the sacrifices and offerings gave clarity and meaning to them. They weren't capricious, meaningless, or arbitrary demands of some impersonal deity. They were requirements and instructions given directly by a personal, all-mighty, and living God.

[bctt tweet="Detailed instructions for the sacrifices and offerings gave clarity and meaning to them"]

The origin of the way God's people were to worship this living God, originated from God, Himself. Idolatry and most religious rituals originate from the worshippers, not by God's direct guidance. True, they may be a sincere response of worship and have value, but their perspective is human and of earthly origin.

Relevance or relevant?

Today, much is written and spoken about relevance. A common question is, how can discipleship become more relevant for a younger generation? Most praise and worship, and Christian music in general, is already driven by relevance, or at least what is most popular.

This brings me to my two observations of how the Law is relevant today.

  1. Genuine discipleship, which results in the equipping of leaders, is personal, relational, intentional, and provides an experiential example, rather than theological theory.

[bctt tweet="Genuine discipleship provides an experiential example, not a theoretical one"]

  1. Genuine worship is God-centric and of heavenly origin, rather than worshipper-centric and of earthly origin.

[bctt tweet="Genuine worship is God-centric and of heavenly origin, rather than worshipper-centric"]

What are your thoughts on discipleship and worship?

What is your experience with reading and understanding the Law?


Here's a link for a relevant article on Bible reading— 3 Reasons Why Reading the Bible Feels Like a Chore

Have We've Become Too Results Oriented?

Photo credit: weknowmemes.com "What's the bottom line?" This was the classic question of the 80's. Similar clichés abound today—the most bang for your bucktrading time for dollarsetc.

On one hand, I expect this in the business world, even though many leaders tell us it shouldn't be that way (Ex– Good to Great).

During our small group men's study last week, I saw how much this attitude permeates the Christian realm. I don't see this as a good trend for the Christian faith. But how can we change it?

How many followers do you have?

As an author and blogger, I hear a lot about building my platform, increasing my email list, and getting more subscriptions. All important things in this day and age. Why? So the message will get out to more people, and to sell more product (books, courses, etc.).

I understand the reasoning and incentive, I'm just not so sure it's what is most important.

If the goal is success, a better lifestyle, fame or money, then I guess those things are really important. But those things aren't so important to me now.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against such things or see them as wrong. I just think there's more important things than focusing on results.

What's most important?

What could be more important than results? Relationships!

In our discussion last Friday, we talked about sharing our faith and helping others grow in their faith. We talked about online devotionals and studies, book and pamphlets, and different local ministries.

It's subtle, but we realized this is part of the getting results mind-set. Do you see it?

[bctt tweet="Are results more important than relationships?"]

All these are great ideas, but they all move in a common direction. Each are a suggestion that replaces spending time with whomever we want to share our faith.

Where did we get so off track in our commitment to share our faith or encourage others in faith matters? Does it matter...really?

What matters is getting back to what is centrally important—building relationships.

[bctt tweet="What matters is building relationships"]


Remember the WWJD fad? Let's be honest, it became another marketing trend than a means of sharing faith. I posted an article that addressed this by looking at what Jesus didWDJD.

Reading through all four Gospels, it's not too hard to see what Jesus' priority was. It was people.

When people brought children for Him to bless, or asked Him to heal a child or deliver someone from demonic power, He didn't suggest some alternative to taking time to personally deal with the request. In fact, He insisted on personally taking care of the need.

Was Jesus result oriented?

Was Jesus result oriented? I suppose you could make a case for that, but it seems He was more concerned about the people themselves, not just caring for their need.

How did Jesus disciple those closest to Him? He spent time with them. He used real life situations to teach them. And the closer He got to His main mission (the cross), He intensified the time spent with His apostles.

[bctt tweet=" When Jesus discipled those closest to Him, He spent time with them."]

Whether we consider the approach of Jesus and His apostles to evangelism, discipleship, leadership, or extending God's kingdom (i.e. church growth), it most often started with one or a few persons. The goal wasn't numbers, but relationship. Bringing people into relationship with God, and guiding them in their relationship with God.

Can we do better? I don't see how.

[bctt tweet="Consider the approach of Jesus—it most often started with one or a few persons"]

Results or relationship?

Do we need to choose between results or relationship? I don't think there's a need to choose one in exclusion of the other. Based on what we see in the Gospels and Acts, it seems that results naturally follow building relationships.

I would rather have ten to twenty personal friends than hundreds of Facebook friends. I'd rather see more followers of Jesus than followers on Twitter.

What about you? What's more important to you—results or relationships?

It's a matter of time and priorities. Wherever we make the greatest investment of those two, reveals what we value most.

[bctt tweet="Whatever we invest in the most reveals what we value most."]

The Missing Part

OldCalvary_study I just started to read a book I came across this week. It's written by Ed Underwood, someone from my era, the Jesus Generation. When I finish it, I'll do a book review.

This book hooked me in a couple ways. First of all, I relate to it experientially. I was part of the Jesus Generation on the west coast. It was also known as the Jesus People Movement. Whatever you call it, it had a great impact on the late 1960's and early 1970's, something I've posted about before, and also written about.

Secondly, it addresses the question I spoke of in last week's post.

Something missing

We returned to the US after fifteen years in the Philippines, and I sensed something was missing in the church in America. I wondered what happened, but after a while realized it was more about what didn't happen.

In the early days of the Jesus People Movement, young people were disenchanted with the status quo and shallow life of middle class America. Social unrest, fueled by issues that ranged from civil rights to anti-war protests, helped accent an emptiness that cried out to be filled.

Great interest in eastern philosophies and religions, coupled with a surge of psychedelic drugs and "love-ins," intensified this emptiness. The political scene and economy also contributed to it.

God's Spirit began to flow into a broken and lost generation, to fill up this emptiness.

A generation found and filled

No specific leader started the Jesus People Movement or headed up the Jesus Generation. It was a sovereign move of God's Holy Spirit.

Some people did have influence in this move of God, but because of God's favor, not their expertise at leading. Young people began to gather in public and private places, as well as in many churches. They were hungry and sought to be filled with the truth of God and God's power.

A generational revival began to grow across the nation, which led to the raising up of evangelists and disciple-makers. They had no special training and needed no prompting to spread the gospel. This was not the product of a well designed program.

Simple, but mighty

Simple Bible study, often led by non-seminary-trained teachers, was a core element of the movement. Pastors and teachers who did have training were also swept up in the movement. My first pastor, Chuck Smith, was one of those teachers, but he was one among many solid teachers of God's Word.

The gospel was preached and the Bible was taught in a simple way. Theology was simple in the early days, mostly born out of an organic biblical framework. Praise and worship was typically a blend of folk and rock music led by young people with long hair and buckskin. It was simple and genuine, and seemed innocently spiritual.

Even prayer had a simple power to it. People were set free from their brokenness and bondage.

Communal life and mindset

In much the same way as the early church, communities began to spring up where everything was shared. Communal life seemed to thrive off the flow of people being set free. Houses, ranches, and even apartment buildings became homes to people who had fulfilled lives with broken pasts.

These communities were inclusive, non-discriminatory, and often had strong leaders. It was a shared life with shared resources. My wife and I lived a few blocks from one in our first year of marriage. It was called Mansion Messiah located in Costa Mesa, CA.

They became models of biblical discipleship. Because Bible study was a core value, it spawned young people who were grounded in the truth of God's Word, filled with God's power, and released to share their faith with others.

At first, it seemed there was a constant flow of new young people equipped and prepared to disciple others. It did last for quite a while, but then it seemed to fade.

What changed?

As happened with the radical activists of the 60's, the Jesus Generation became more and more mainstream. Where once they were anti-establishment, they became the establishment. Once shunned by society, and many churches, the blended with the culture of the times.

When Christian believers don't seem very different from the culture around them, something is lost. But what was lost?

There are several books and blogs that speak of the so-called demise of the Jesus Generation, and lots of factors are involved.

But I see one thing in particular at the core of that movement, which is not as strong as it was then.

The missing part

In a word discipleship—intentional, relational, organic discipleship led by the Holy Spirit. In the past several years, even the last decade, discipleship has once again become popular. But I wonder if it's just the next thing to catch people's attention. I hope I'm wrong about that.

The difficulty with intentional, relational, and Spirit-led organic discipleship is that it's hard to package. So, it is by nature hard to control. It also takes considerable time to do well, and requires genuine commitment. Commitment not to the task, but to the person discipled. Commitment is also needed on the part of the one being discipled.

Do you see the dilemma? Genuine commitment isn't very popular nowadays, not in this distracted ADHD-culture of ours.

We can't go back

It's easy to long for the good old days, but that genders useless nostalgia. We need to look forward, not backwards.

About fifteen to twenty years ago while on a furlough, I spoke at one of our supporting churches. A young man came up to me and said, "I miss the days when we learned about the Holy Spirit." He was telling me that the moving of God's Spirit and teaching about Him wasn't as common as before.

God hasn't stopped being God. He's supernatural and sovereign. He alone is the one who stirs up a revival that produces something like the Jesus Generation. But believers do have a part in what God does upon the earth. He's chosen us for such things (Eph 2:4-10).

What can we do?

So, what can we do if we long for revival like the Jesus People Movement of the 60's and 70's?

  • We can start with prayer and follow after the Lord with a radical commitment. A commitment as simple as, "If anyone wants to follow me [Jesus], he must say no to himself. He must pick up his cross and follow me." (Matt 16:24 NIRV)
  • Daily Bible reading is important. Yes, I said daily. And while we're at it, reading through the whole Bible would be real valuable.
  • Church fellowship, or at least a home group, is important for building relationships that can grow into a shared community.
  • Then we can began to share our faith with others. When we find someone who is hungry for spiritual life, we can begin to disciple them with what we've learned ourselves, and share how God changed and fulfilled our own life.

Sound too simple? It's not. It's the way it was with the first church, and during the Jesus Generation. It's our choice to make this commitment to God.

Let me know your thoughts on all this, I'd love to hear them!

Still want some nostalgia? Here you go— Jesus People Film (1972) | The Jesus Movement of the 70's