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Where do I begin when it comes to being a disciple maker?

Picture taken from Jrbriggs.com

Picture taken from Jrbriggs.com

Sep 13 we will begin a new sermon series on Isaiah. So before we get started with “Isaiah: Beyond Religion” I have one Sunday to talk about discipleship. Below is a document that I created this week that I will have available to people just to help them grow in their understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

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WHERE DO I BEGIN WHEN IT COMES TO BEING A DISCIPLE MAKER?

We have been talking quite a bit about being a disciple and making disciples here at New Life. Few of us would argue against the idea of making disciples because we know that Jesus commanded it in the Great Commission of Matthew 28. But you might have questions. You might wonder what it looks like to begin making disciples. Where do you begin? We can’t expect a train to run as it should unless the tracks have first been put in place. This brief paper is an attempt to put down a track on which discipleship travels throughout our church, the city of Watertown and around the world.

RECOGNIZE THAT THERE IS A DISCIPLESHIP PROBLEM

We have been busy doing church in America but in too many instances that does not mean that we have been good about making disciples.

“Why is it that we see so little disciple making taking place in the church today? Do we really believe that Jesus told His early followers to make disciples but wants the twenty-first-century church to do something different? None of us would claim to believe this, but somehow we have created a church culture where the paid ministers do the “ministry,” and the rest of us show up, put some money in the plate, and leave feeling inspired or “fed.” We have moved so far away from Jesus’s command that many Christians don’t have a frame of reference for what disciple making looks like.” –Francis Chan, “Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples”

RECOGNIZE THAT EACH ONE OF US HAS BEEN CALLED TO MAKE DISCIPLES

The phrase “make disciples” in Matthew 28 is in the imperative which means that Jesus is highlighting the importance of it. The short and sweet of it is this; every Christian is commanded by Jesus Christ to go and make disciples who make disciples. In fact, making disciples is a primary characteristic of someone who claims to know Christ.

BEGIN AT HOME

If you are a parent the place to begin making disciples is in your home. It is easy to think that if we get our kids in Children’s Ministry, Youth Group or a Christian School that we have done our job of developing our kids into disciples. The truth is that we, moms and dads, are the primary disciple makers of our kids.

Here is a great article that will encourage you when it comes to making disciples in your home: “Finding Christ in the Family Room” by Luna Simms.

IN THE CHURCH

The main mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. All of our programs, services, events need to function in such a way that people are becoming more like Christ. The American Evangelical church has become way too dependent on programs when it comes to making disciples. Discipleship (the way that Jesus did it) requires that relationships are developed. So if you don’t feel qualified to run a big ministry or lead a program, relax, you are still qualified to make disciples of Jesus Christ! Here is an excerpt from a wonderful book called “The Trellis and the Vine” that I hope challenges, encourages and inspires you when it comes to the Great Commission.

Imagine a reasonably solid Christian said to you after church one Sunday morning, “Look, I’d like to get more involved here and make a contribution, but I just feel like there’s nothing for me to do. I’m not on the ‘inside’; I don’t get asked to be on committees or lead Bible studies. What can I do?

What would you immediately think or say? Would you start thinking of some event or program about to start that they could help with? Some job that needed doing? Some ministry that they could join or support?

This is how we are accustomed to thinking about the involvement of church members in congregational life-in terms of jobs and roles: usher, Bible study leader, Sunday school teacher, treasurer, elder, musician, song leader, money counter, and so on. The implication of this way of thinking for congregation members is clear: if all the jobs and roles are taken, then there’s really nothing for me to do in this church. I’m reduced to being a passenger. I’ll just wait until I’m asked to ‘do something’. The implication for the pastoral staff is similar: getting people involved and active means finding a job for them to do. In fact, the church growth gurus say that giving someone a job to do within the first six months of their joining a church is vital for them to feel like they belong. However, if the real work of God is people work-the prayerful speaking of his word by one person to another-then the jobs are never all taken. The opportunities for Christians to minister personally to others are limitless.

So you could pause, and reply to your friend, “See that guy sitting over there on his own? That’s Julie’s husband. He’s on the fringe of things here; in fact, I’m not really sure whether he’s crossed the line yet and become a Christian. How about I introduce you to him, and you arrange to have breakfast with him once a fortnight and read the Bible together? Or see that couple over there? They are both fairly recently converted, and really in need of encouragement and mentoring. Why don’t you and your wife have them over, to get to know them, and read and pray together once a month? And if you still have time, and want to contribute some more, start praying for the people on your street, and then invite them all to a barbecue at your place. That’s the first step towards talking with them about the gospel, or inviting them along to something.

Of course, there’s every chance that the person will then say, “But I don’t know how to do those things! I’m not sure I’d know what to say or where to start.”

To which you reply, “Oh that’s okay. Let’s start meeting together and I can train you.”

DOES DISCIPLESHIP ALWAYS NEED TO BE SUPER FORMAL AND STRUCTURED?

Absolutely not. There will be times when God leads you to come alongside someone in the church and meet formally for an extended period of time to teach them the basics of the Christian faith. Yet we also need to see all of our interactions with people as a discipleship opportunity. If we remember that discipleship is helping someone to become more like Jesus Christ then we will recognize that there are discipling opportunities all around us in everyday life. Asking a Jr High student about school and how you can pray for them is discipleship. Encouraging a grieving friend about the loss of a loved one is discipleship. Inviting a new couple over to your house for a meal and getting to know them and their spiritual journey is discipleship. To think more about this read “Everyday Discipleship” by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis.

“The “show Business,” which is so incorporated into our Christian view of work today, has caused us to drift far from our Lord’s conception of discipleship. it is instilled in us to think we have to do exceptional things for God; we do not. We have to be exceptional in ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, surrounded by sordid sinners. That is not learned in 5 minutes.” -Oswald Chambers

ARE THERE SOME GOOD RESOURCES IF I WANT TO DISCIPLE SOMEONE FORMALLY?

  • Reading through a book of the Bible and praying is always a great place to help someone grow in their relationship with Christ. As you read Scripture together all kinds of practical questions will come up and give you the opportunity to share the truth of God’s Word in love.
  • Downlinebuilder.com. It is an online resource that allows you the freedom to pick and choose biblical topics to discuss. It also encourages you to do more than just study but to be intentional about building a solid relationship with the person you are discipling.

OUTSIDE THE CHURCH

When we look at the life of Jesus we recognize immediately that he did not start making disciples with people inside the church. In Matthew 4 Jesus calls his first disciples (Simon Peter and Andrew) as they were catching fish by the Sea of Galilee. These men were not Christians yet Jesus opened up his life and spent a great deal of time with them so that they could learn what it means to be his disciple. We need to be watching for those people that God strategically brings into our life so that we can love, encourage and build relationships with them.

The first step with a person we meet outside the church is not to ask them if they want to “do a Bible study.” The first step is to get to know them. Build a relationship with them. This person is not a project, they are the lost sons and daughters of God.

THE IMPORANCE OF LIFE GROUPS

Community is the greenhouse whereby discipleship flourishes. There are many important things we can do on our own when it comes to helping a person become a disciple of Jesus Christ. Yet, our discipleship of others will never be what God intended if we are not introducing them to the community of Jesus Christ. A Christian who is not in community is in fact an oxymoron (Ephesians 2:19). One of the things we must do is encourage those we are discipling is to get involved in a Life Group so that they can experience the full body of Jesus Christ.

IN CONCLUSON

If we want to see the gospel move beyond our church walls, into the city of Watertown and around the world each one of us must personally own the responsibility for the Great Commission. “The successful expansion of any movement is in direct proportion to its ability to mobilize and involve its total membership in constant propagation of its beliefs, its purposes, and its philosophy.” –R. Kenneth Strachan

ARE THERE OTHER RESOURCES THAT WILL HELP ME GROW AS A DISCIPLE?

The Bible

The Trellis and the Vine by Collin Marshall and Tony Payne

Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

Gospel Centered Discipleship Website (Jonathan Dodson)

Follow Me by David Platt

Real-Life Discipleship by Jim Putman

The Master Plan of Discipleship by Robert Coleman

I can’t feel my face when I’m with you

Yes, I have blogged about romance and our culture before. But when I saw that The Weeknd (yes, the spelling is correct) had 297 million hits for his song “Can’t Feel My Face” I decided to chime in once again. Over and over again Abel Makkonen Tesfaye informs us that because of the girl he met he can no longer feel his face. Being a pastor who loves the stories in the New testament I thought, hmmm, leprosy?

Nah. He’s talking about a drug known as romance. Powerful stuff.

But I have a question for Abel. A question for all of us…

What do you do when you can feel your face? Bail? Find the next relational buzz?

cantfeelmyface

Again, allow me to lean on Tim Keller for some perspective.

“This principle – that your spouse should be capable of becoming your best friend – is a game changer when you address the question of compatibility in a prospective spouse. If you think of marriage largely in terms of erotic love, then compatibility means sexual chemistry and appeal. If you think of marriage largely as a way to move into the kind of social status in life you desire, then compatibility means being part of the desired social class, and perhaps common tastes and aspirations for lifestyle. The problem with these factors is that they are not durable. Physical attractiveness will wane, no matter how hard you work to delay its departure. And socio-economic status unfortunately can change almost overnight. When people think they have found compatibility based on these things, they often make the painful discovery that they have built their relationship on unstable ground. A woman “lets herself go” or a man loses his job, and the compatibility foundation falls apart.”

― Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

Goodbye dad.

On Monday my father, Lee Wallenmeyer, passed away. Words that come to mind as I think about my dad….

scan0082Gentle

Kind

Patient

Compassionate

Prayerful

Playful

Man of God

There will never be anyone else quite like you dad…look forward to seeing you again some day…

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. -Revelation 21:4

 

11 of my favorite quotes from “Show Them Jesus” by Jack Klumpenhower

show them jesusOur Children’s Ministry Director (Janet) and I have been reading and discussing “Show Them Jesus” for a number of weeks now. I believe this wonderful book should be read by anyone who is leading, teaching, or raising kids. It’s just that good! My greatest desire for the children and youth of New Life is to see them grow up and love Jesus Christ more than anything, or anyone else. This book will help give you ideas on how to make that happen. “Show Them Jesus” is loaded with references to God’s Word and it is thoroughly gospel centered.

You can find Jack’s website here. (You will find lots of great articles and resources.)

Here are just a few quotes from the book that I wanted to share with you.

When kids go to college and stop following Jesus

Today, a frightening number of kids are growing up in churches and Christian homes without ever being captured by the gospel of Jesus. As children and teenagers they may seem to be believers, but then they reach their college and young-adult years and quit. They quit church-and any growing commitment to Jesus.

These kids actually have good reasons to quit. They look back and realize that they learned much about Christian behavior and churchy experiences, but whatever they learned about Jesus didn’t really change them. They never saw him so strikingly that he became their one, overriding hope and their greatest love. They were never convinced that Jesus s better-a zillion times better-than anything and everything else. p. 3-4

The way to handle every sin

It means that the most powerful way to handle every sin in the life of the church is to apply a deeper understanding of the cross of Christ. p. 15

Raising little Pharisees

No how-to-live lesson can wake the spiritually dead. You might as well be teaching corpses. If a kid is still dead in self-love, such a lesson will, at best, only get him to work harder at a selfish, manipulative sort of religion. But new life springs up where the good news is proclaimed. It hatches loving wonder at Jesus and true gratitude to God. “For it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). p. 46

How do kids grow spiritually?

We make a mistake if we think kids are saved by hearing the good news and trusting Jesus, but then grow as Christians some other way. p. 49

Jesus is always better

If kids are leaving the church, it’s because we’ve failed to give them a view of Jesus and his cross that’s compelling enough to satisfy their spiritual hunger and to give them the zeal they crave. They haven’t seen that Jesus himself is better than any “Jesus program.” He’s better than the music used to worship him. He’s better than a missions trip. He’s better than their favorite youth leader. He’s also better than money. Better than video games. Better than romantic teen movies. Better than sex. Better than popularity or power.

We’ve failed too many kids. We’ve fee them things to do. We’ve feed them “worshipful” experiences. But we’ve failed to feed them more than a spoonful of the good news. Now they’re starving and they’ll eat anything. They’re trying to feed their souls with something-maybe even a churchy thing-that feels like it fits them, when what they need is someone utterly better than themselves. p. 52

My favorite quote from the book

The good news takes us daily from despair to astonished laughter. With relief in our eyes we look at the man who’s done all this for us. And who do we see? We see the strongest, yet gentlest, most regal, and yet most humble person imaginable. Most of all, we see the kind of lover we’ve never known before. Jesus’s love for us is pure love. It has nothing to do with us being the least bit lovely. If it did, we’d feel pressure to keep up whatever earned his love. But no, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful” (2 Timothy 2:13). He loves us forever. No payback needed. No conditions. No guilt trips. We are loved, period.

And where that is believed, the heart is won. p. 69

The Bible is one epic story

The Bible is one epic story about God saving his people. We can’t rightly understand any part of it unless we understand the context. This epic story centers on the person and work of Jesus. If we cut individual stories off from the Bible’s central story arc about Jesus, we miss the main thing the Bible wants to say-and fashion Bible stories that aren’t biblical. p. 86

Teachers need to think through the lesson carefully ahead of time

If you teach Bible lessons, you do need to come up with your own lesson content. Even if you use published lessons-even if they’re good, Jesus-centered lessons-you still need to set them down for a time. You need to go through the process of studying, thinking, and finding wonder in Jesus yourself. p. 102

Teaching the good news to kids from the Old Testament

Years ago someone told me to never mention Jesus when teaching the Old Testament. That way, the theory went, my students would feel the full brunt of the old ache-the weight of sin and the hunger for salvation. When I get around to teaching Jesus, the good news would feel that much better.

Well, I can’t do that. Never mind that it’s bad theology-the good news is just too good! I’m not able to keep such a secret. How could I possibly know the full song begun in the Old Testament and not sing it out every time I teach? It’s too explosive. If I tried to hold it in, I would burst. p. 120-121

Making all of this very practical for teachers

The next week I came to class with a plan. I had a sign that I taped to the wall. It read:

Jesus is better than anything else because…

“Here’s what we’re going to do, ” I told the kids. “Every week, when we’re done with our lesson, well write out at least one thing we learned about Jesus that completes this sentence. Some weeks we may learn two or three things, or even 5 to ten things. But whatever we learn about Jesus we’ll write down on a card and tape to this wall. We’re making a list. This way I’ll have to teach you about Jesus every week, and you’ll learn lots of ways he’s the best.”

I laid out the rules: “Every card needs to be different-something new every week. And it has to be something amazing enough to go on the wall. We’re going to do this all year.”

One kid was looking at the wall, imagining. “That’s going to be a long list,” he said. “The longest list in the church.” Exactly. p. 128

Teaching Jesus to kids the wrong way

The first point of studying the person of Jesus must always be to wonder at him, not to copy him. There are teachers who show kids how astounding Jesus is only to tell them, “You should be like that.” Ouch! Those kids quickly get to where the last thing they want is to hear another way that Jesus is better. They learn to resent Jesus. Then our chance to wow them with Jesus is lost.

Yes, Jesus is our example. As kids come to love him, they will want to be like him. When that happens regularly, wanting to be like him will follow naturally enough. p. 133

Who is desperate to see the church regain it’s missionary identity?

skyline

“It was the missionaries who became the brave storm troopers of Christianity, slashing their way through jungles, going where no one had gone before. Mission was now reserved for work among the unreached nations and no longer simply happened next door or around the corner. But the churches that had outsourced their missionary activity to the mission societies tended to drift languidly into the role of fund-raiser for the mission societies. This dilemma was seriously exacerbated when, after World War II, a number of parachurch societies, mainly aimed at reaching young people, were formed. These included Youth for Christ, the Navigators, Campus Crusade for Christ, and so on, and were aimed at reaching students and teens right under the noses of existing churches.

Once again, mission was outsourced to specialist agencies, leaving the local church focused primarily around pastoral issues and Sunday worship. Not only did this create the great stepchild, the parachurch, it crippled the church’s witness beyond the Sunday gathering. And again, given the significant cultural effect of the postwar baby boom, we understand the historical reasons why such specialization of local mission occurred. But it only deepened the cleft between missionary activity and church activity.

Again, long before all this happened, Roland Allen was deeply concerned. We may compare the relation of the societies to the Church with the institution of divorce in relation to marriage. Just as divorce was permitted for the hardness of men’s hearts because they were unable to observe the divine institution of marriage in its original perfection, so the organization of missionary societies was permitted for the hardness of our hearts, because we had lost the power to appreciate and to use the divine organization of the Church in its simplicity for the purpose for which it was first created.

In the end Allen himself despondently capitulated to this great divorce, concluding that “the divine perfection of the Church as a missionary society cannot be recovered simply by abolishing the missionary societies, and saying, let the Church be her own missionary society.”

Maybe not in 1926, but today there is an increasing unease with this “divorce” between mission and church. Allen was ahead of his time. He forecast the situation we now find ourselves in—with missionless churches and churchless missions, and neither one being all it should be.

We contend that the whole missional church conversation was one that the church has been building toward for over a century. And now is the time to have it. A new generation of young Christians is desperate for the adventure of mission. They were raised in the hermetically sealed environment of missionless church, and those who have emerged with their faith still intact are hungry for the risk and ordeal that only true missional activity can offer.” -Michael Frost

9 Of My Favorite Quotes From Everyday Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

everday-church-2

What happened to Christendom?

In Christendom many people attended church, sometimes by legal constraint. In this context churches could legitimately speak of faithfully proclaiming the gospel, because each Sunday they has gospel-centered sermons. This is no longer the case. We cannot claim to be faithfully proclaiming the gospel to the lost through our Sunday preaching when most of the lost do not attend church. We need to do mission outside the church and church events. This is something we need to recover rather than discover, for the modern evangelical movement was born out of a recognition that the United Kingdom was not a Christian nation and that it needed to be evangelized outside of church buildings and services. p. 27

Living like missionaries

Imagine you woke up one day to discover that you had become a missionary in a foreign land. The language, the culture, the worldview, and the values are all unfamiliar. Fortunately you are part of a team. What are you going to do? Together you are going to learn the language and the culture. You are going to explore how the Bible story interacts with the outlook of the people around you. You are going to try to connect with them at a relational level. This is the situation in which the church in the west finds itself. The culture has moved on. It is not what it was a hundred years ago when it was significantly shaped by the Bible story. We need to wake up and realize we are in a missionary situation. We cannot  continue to undertake mission in a pastoral mode. We cannot assume that people feel any need or obligation to attend church. We cannot even assume we understand the culture. We need to operate as missionaries in a foreign land. p. 37

When living like a missionary is just rhetoric

Claiming that the West is a mission field is now common, but there is a big gap between the rhetoric and the reality of our attitudes. One of the measures of that gap is the extent to which we are willing-or unwilling-to learn from the experience of the mission and the church around the world. If we really believed we are in a mission field, then we would all be reading books written by third-world Christians and cross-cultural missionaries. We would be looking to operate as missionaries to another culture. p 40

As we are marginalized will we see culture as a threat?

It is so important to love your neighborhood and its culture. As we sense our growing marginalization with the wider culture, it is all too easy to view it as a threat. But viewing the culture around you as a threat is not a good starting point for reaching people with the gospel. p.45

Should we try to be more relevant and do cool church events?

But it is a mistake to pursue relevance as an end in itself or to emphasize how we are like the world around us. For one thing our “product will always be inferior to that offered by Hollywood, Facebook, and Nintendo. Brits spend 20 hours a week watching television, Americans 28 hours. We are entertained by multimillion-dollar movies. We undertake role-play and action computer games. We are naïve to think the church can compete with these stimuli through three songs and a thirty minute sermon or drama and a worship band. We cannot compete on entertainment. At best this distracts us from the need to create distinctive communities that communicate a distinctive gospel, a gospel which more often than not grates with the wider culture. At worst the medium becomes the message, and the challenge of the gospel is lost among the entertainment or watered down to make it palatable to the audience. We have already seen that in a Post-Christian context we cannot rely on church events however cool, because the majority of people will not attend church. p 49

Programs are what we create when Christians are not doing what they are suppose to be do in everyday life.

Because we are not pastoring one another in everyday life, we create accountability groups. Because we are not sharing the gospel in everyday life, we create guest services. Because we are not joining social groups to witness to Jesus, we create our own church social groups. Please do not misunderstand. We are not against meetings or programs. The regular meeting of the church around God’s Word is vital for the health of everything else. This is where God’s people are prepared for works of service. But the works of service take place in the context of everyday life. p. 50

Celebrating ordinary Christians

It is not simply that ordinary Christians live good lives that enable them to invite friends to evangelistic events. Our lives are the evangelistic events. Our life together is the apologetic. There is a place for meetings at which the gospel is clearly proclaimed, but let us affirm and celebrate ordinary Christians living ordinary life in Christ’s name. p.89

What is step one in evangelism?

Step one in evangelism is being passionate about Jesus. Step two is being passionate about people-not just seeing them as evangelistic fodder or targets for gospel salvos, but as friends, people to love. Love will care for all their needs-physical, social, emotional-but gospel love also recognizes our greatest need, which is to know God through Christ. So true love will always want to introduce people to our greatest friend, Jesus. p. 93

Mission by being good neighbors

Once upon a time a group of largely middle-class graduates in their mid-twenties moved into a deprived neighborhood. Three made the first move, and they were gradually joined by others. There are now ten in total, a combination of marrieds and singles, male and female. There is nothing remarkable  about these people. None of them are hard-core or edgy. There is not a tattoo among them as far as we are aware. Initially the plan was to plant a church. A lot of time was invested in recruiting leaders, but to no avail. For some time this failure to plant a church was a cause of considerable frustration, animated conversation, and earnest prayer.

As this was going on, the Lord quietly got to work. How? Through these ordinary, unassuming individuals doing nothing more spectacular than being good neighbors. They were not a church (they attended a church elsewhere in the city). They did not hold meetings or do formal evangelism, nor did they significantly change the way they spoke or dressed. They just lived there-all very ordinary and unspectacular. Nothing they have done would mention merit in a missional manual, but over a few years they have built credibility in their neighborhood through simply being the neighbors everyone would want to have. They do have a corporate identity: they are known as “the Christians.” p. 97

Isaiah: Beyond Religion. Part 3. True Worship Leads To Mission

worship

“Worship turns out to be the dangerous act of waking up to God and to the purposes of God in the world, and then living lives that actually show it.”   -Mark Labberton

Soon I will be preaching a very familiar passage, Isaiah 6:1-13. You know the story. Isaiah comes face to face with a holy God and is completely undone. If it were not for God forgiving Isaiah of all of his sins Isaiah probably would have died from remaining an unclean man in the presence of a holy God.

The result of this encounter?

Isaiah literally begging God to let him go and warn people about their desperate need to repent.

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” -Isaiah 6:8

The point? Encountering God, worshipping God, leads us to want to serve him.

The problem? Why is it that so much of our “worship” seems to leave us unchanged and unwilling to give our lives away for God’s glory?

The answer. Maybe we are not really worshipping God at all. Maybe we are singing, gathering, listening…but not really worshipping.

Is it possible to truly encounter God, behold his majestic holiness, and leave his presence unchanged?

Perhaps part of the problem is that we have misdiagnosed our greatest need. If we were honest, many of us would have to admit that we love knowledge. We want to learn something new. More info. Scripture is clear that learning and knowledge is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. What we most desperately need is to be still in God’s presence long enough for our hearts to be spiritually transformed. What changed Isaiah? Coming into the presence of a holy God.

There will be no mission if there is not first true worship. Mission will remain undesirable and unsustainable without ongoing worship of our holy, gracious God.

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