The Discipleship Crises

The Critical Question

One of the most important questions facing the church today is this; is every believer called by Jesus Christ to make disciples who make disciples?

The Biblical Answer

If there is one passage of Scripture that Christians are familiar with it is the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:16-20.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Just because we are familiar with a particular passage of Scripture does not mean that we fully understand it or obey it.

The phrase “make disciples” 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.

Six Reasons We Don’t Make DisciplesChurch pews

“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” 

1-Christian leaders have not been discipled

In my 43 years of being in the church I have experienced the love and encouragement of many people, yet I have never had someone disciple me like we see Jesus doing with his followers. From the conversations I have had with many people I know that I am not alone.

2-Churches are not looking for pastors who make disciples

Churches are overly focused on the show, the performance on Sunday morning. I’ve seen quite a few job descriptions for pastors in my time. I can’t honestly ever remember seeing “we are looking for a Lead Pastor who makes disciples” at the top of the list. Think about that for a moment. Frightening. Why is it that the very thing Jesus commanded each one of us to do so that the gospel would spread throughout the world we fail to make a priority for our leaders?

3-We assumed that the “church” was responsible for making disciples and failed to own the responsibility ourselves

I think there are many people who would agree with the idea that Jesus commanded us to make disciples but they believe it is the “church’s” job and don’t understand that they personally bear the burden and the joy of discipleship themselves.

4-We mistakenly thought we could make disciples through programs and worship services

Many church leaders have been trained to put together worship services and programs. Sunday morning is important and there is a place for programs, but the truth of the matter is that disciples are made in messy, gospel centered relationships. We have attempted to make disciples like Ford makes automobiles; impersonal assembly lines and mass production. Jesus modeled a very different way to create disciples.

5-We have substituted discipleship for accountability partners

There is nothing wrong with having an accountability partner; the issue is that we are not reproducing disciples. Let’s not throw out the idea of accountability, instead let’s add to it the disciple making component.

6-We don’t feel spiritually mature enough to make disciples

One obstacle is that we do not feel qualified to disciple another person. Perhaps we are painfully aware of our own sinfulness or we have not been a Christian for very long. The truth is that we will probably never feel ready. Chances are good that the Holy Spirit is not going to lead you to disciple someone who is more spiritually mature than you are. But what about your colleague at work? The neighbor at your child’s bus stop? There are opportunities all around us if we will open up our spiritual eyes.

Do you see yourself in one of the above six reasons? What other reasons can you think of for why we are not making disciples?

What Does A Church That Makes Disciples Look Like?

What would happen if a church took discipleship seriously? Imagine being done once and for all with the clergy/laity divide which has led some of us to conclude that the “professionals” are the ones responsible for discipleship. Imagine followers of Jesus who take full responsibility for the discipleship of people in and outside the church. Consider the depth of relationships and community that would exist because there is not an unhealthy dependence on programs and worship services to generate discipleship. Imagine a church where each person is reorganizing the priorities of their life with the purpose of investing in others? Imagine the people in our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces that are being loved and led to Christ by ordinary disciples like you and me. Imagine the gospel spreading and people in our city becoming worshippers of Jesus Christ because of our relational investment. This is a glimpse of what would happen to a church that takes discipleship seriously.

The Way Forward

What are some first steps we can take when it comes to making disciples of Jesus Christ? How do we get started? First of all you must realize that the command to make disciples is not a spiritual gift for a few select Christians, it is a command for every Christian. Second, you must be willing to reorganize your life around disciple making relationships. If you are waiting for a time in your life when you are less busy you will find, unfortunately, life does not slow down on its own. We have to make space for things that are important. Third, pray about it. Ask God who he has placed in your life for you to love and invest in. Fourth, make sure you are very intentional about the fact that the end result of your time together is that each of you will go and make other disciples.

The Christmas Illusion

The Christmas Illusion

For many people Christmas conjures up images of shiny happy families sipping hot cocoa, cuddling on the couch, decorations set up, and lights all aglow while the snow quietly falls onto the front lawn that has been properly winterized.

Then we think about our family, our home…

What we personally experience does not match up with our Christmas image. It leaves us with the sinking feeling that we are missing the party; that there must be something wrong with us.

Let’s be done with the Christmas Illusion that everyone else has it all together. If you look closely beneath the lights, the trees, and the gifts you will find that every family is broken, messy, and imperfect. Some of us merely hide it better than others.

Christmas is not good news if we have to put on a show and act as if we have it all together. That is a burden that will suck the life out of us. Christmas is good news because even in the middle of our broken and imperfect family life Jesus loves us like crazy.

22 Of My Favorite Quotes From “Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work With God’s Work” -Tim Keller

  • During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music. I feel this has been granted through his grace. ALL PRAISE TO GOD…This album is a humble offering to him. An attempt to say “THANK YOU GOD” through our work, even as we do in our hearts and with our tongues. May He help and strengthen all men in every good endeavor. P.9-quoting John Coltrane
  • The book of Genesis  leaves us with a striking truth-work was part of paradise. P. 36
  • According to the Bible, we don’t merely need the money from work to survive; we need the work itself to survive and to live fully human lives. P. 38
  • So author Dorothy Sayers could write, “What is the Christian understanding of work?…It is that work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties…the medium in which he offers himself to God.” P. 38
  • Work has dignity because it is something that God does and because we do it in God’s place, as his representatives. P. 49
  • The current economic era has given us fresh impulses and new ways to stigmatize work such as farming and caring for children-jobs that are supposedly not “knowledge” jobs and therefore do not pay very well. But in Genesis we see God as a gardener, and in the New Testament, we see him as a carpenter. No task is too small a vessel to hold the immense dignity of work given by God. P. 49
  • All work has dignity because it reflects God’s image in us, and also because the material creation we are called to care for is good. P. 51
  • In 1 Corinthians chapter 7, Paul counsels readers that when they become Christians it is unnecessary to change what they are currently doing in life-their marital status, job, or social station-in order to live their lives before God in a way that pleases him. In verse 17, Paul directs, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.” Here Paul uses two religiously freighted words to describe ordinary work. Elsewhere, Paul has spoken of God calling people into a saving relationship with him, and assigning them spiritual gifts to do ministry and build up the Christian community (Romans 12:3 and 2 Corinthians 10:13). Paul uses these same two words here when he says that every Christian should remain in the work God has “assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” Yet Paul is not referring in this case to church ministries, but to common social and economic tasks- “secular jobs”, we might say-and naming them God’s callings and assignments. P. 65-66
  • Christians should be aware of this revolutionary understanding of the purpose of their work in the world. We are not to choose jobs and conduct our work to fulfill ourselves and accrue power, for being called by God to do something is empowering enough. We are to see work as a way of service to God and our neighbor, and so we should both choose and conduct our work in accordance with that purpose. The question regarding our choice of work is no longer, “What will make me the most money and give me the most status?” The question must now be “How with my existing abilities and opportunities, can I be of greatest service to other people, knowing what I do of God’s will and of human need?” P. 67
  • It is pure invention [fiction] that Pope, bishops, priests, and monks are called the “spiritual estate” while princes, lords, artisans, and farmers are called the temporal estate.” This is indeed a piece of deceit and hypocrisy. Yet no one need be intimidated by it, and that for this reason: all Christians are truly of the spiritual estate, and there is no difference among them except by office…We are all consecrated priests by baptism, as St. Peter says: “You are a royal priesthood and a priestly realm” (1 Pet.2:9). P.69-quoting Martin Luther
  • The church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours and to come to church on Sundays. What the church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables. P. 76-77-quoting Dorothy Sayers
  • Research into the properties of the atom become the basis for the atomic bomb. In other words, work, even when it bears fruit, is always painful, often miscarries, and sometimes kills us. P. 89
  • Just because you cannot realize your highest aspirations in work does not mean that you have chosen wrongly, or are not called to your profession, or that you should spend your life looking for the perfect career that is devoid of frustration. You should expect to be regularly frustrated in your work even though you may be in exactly the right vocation. P. 94
  • Brooks’s first point is that so many college students do not choose work that actually fits their abilities, talents, and capacities, but rather choose work that fits within their limited imagination of how they can boost their own self-image. P. 108
  • Without the gospel of Jesus, we will have to toil not for the joy of serving others, nor the satisfaction of a job well done, but to make a name for ourselves. P. 112
  • “In the long term I think being a preacher, missionary, or leading a Bible study group in many ways is easier. There is a certain spiritual glamour in doing it, and what we should be doing each day is easier to discern more black and white, not so gray. It is often hard to get Christians to see that God is willing not just to use men and women in ministry, but in law, in medicine, in business, in the arts. This is the great shortfall today. P. 119-quoting Dick Lucas
  • Yale philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff observes that modern culture defines the happy life as a life that is “going well”-full of experiential pleasure-while to the ancients, the happy life meant the life that is lived well, with character, courage, humility, love, and justice. P. 149
  • While from the outside there might not be immediately noticeable differences  between a well-run company reflecting a gospel world-view and one reflecting primarily the world-story of the marketplace, inside the differences could be very noticeable. The gospel-centered business would have a discernible vision for serving the customer in a unique way, a lack of adversarial relationships and exploitation, and extremely strong emphasis on excellence and product quality, and an ethical environment that goes “all the way down” to the bottom of the organizational chart and to all the realities of daily behavior, even when high ethics mean a loss of margin. In the business animated by the gospel worldview, profit is simply one of many important bottom lines. P. 168
  • So when we say that Christians work from a gospel worldview, it does not mean that they are constantly speaking about Christian teaching in their work. Some people think of the gospel as something we are principally to “look at” in our work. This would mean that Christian musicians should play Christian music, Christian writers should write stories about conversion, and Christian businessmen and-women should work for companies that make Christian-themed products and services for Christian customers. Yes, some Christians in those fields would do well to do those things, but it is a mistake to think that the Christian worldview is operating only when we are doing such overtly Christian activities. Instead, think of the gospel as a set of glasses through which you “look” at everything else in the world. Christian artists, when they do this faithfully, will not be completely beholden either to profit or to naked self-expression; and they will tell the widest variety of stories. Christians in business will see profit as one of only several bottom lines; and they will work passionately for any kind of enterprise that serves the common good. The Christian writer can constantly be showing  the destructiveness of making something besides God into the central thing, even without mentioning God directly. P. 179-180
  • God is creator of the world, and our work mirrors his creative work when we create culture that conforms to his will and vision for human beings-when it matches up with the biblical story-line. P. 184
  • But indeed, as Bible scholar Bruce Waltke points out, the Bible says that the very definition of righteous people is that they disadvantage themselves to advantage others, while “the wicked…are willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves.” P. 203
  • Without something bigger than yourself to work for, then all of your work energy is actually fueled by one of the other six deadly sins. You may work exceptionally hard because of envy to get ahead of somebody, or because of pride to prove yourself, or because of greed or even gluttony for pleasure. P. 230

What if Jesus chose where to live the same way we do?

How would things be different today if Jesus used the same criteria we use before he moved into his neighborhood? Safe, people who are just like us, great schools, low crime rate, private, exclusive, charming, close to good restaurants and shopping, etc…

Instead of seeing brokenness, suffering, danger and poverty as issues to avoid they were the very things that motivated Jesus to come as God incarnate. The gospel compels us to continually be moving toward the darkness, not away from it.

If your neighborhood is not everything you want it to be, if you see it’s limitations, the cracks, the loneliness, the sin, the pain; you have correctly identified the areas in which God wants you to be investing your life.

The places we choose to live, the reasons we choose to move, how we treat our neighbor, all reveal if we are living a life centered on the gospel.

A Man In Love

Sometimes I wonder if we are just sleepwalking through life…

Give me a man in love; he knows what I mean. Give me one who yearns; give me one who is hungry; give me one far away in the desert, who is thirsty and sighs for the spring of Eternal Country. Give me that sort of man; he knows what I mean. But if I speak to a cold man, he just doesn’t know what I’m talking about…You are surprised that the world is losing it’s grip? That the world is grown old? Don’t hold onto the old man, the world; don’t refuse to regain your youth in Christ, who says to you: “The world is passing away; the world is losing it’s grip, the world is short of breath.” Don’t fear, for thy youth shall be renewed as an eagle. -Augustine

Spiritual Revival and Prayer (Excerpt from Center Church, Tim Keller)

While the ultimate source of revival is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit ordinarily uses instumental, or penultimate, means to produce revival.

To start every revival, the Holy Spirit initially uses what Jonathan Edwards called extraordinary prayer-united, persistent, and kingdom centered. Sometimes it begins with a single person or a small group of people praying for God’s glory in the community. What is important is not the number of people praying but the nature of the praying. C. John Miller makes a helpful and perceptive distinction between “maintenance” and “frontline” prayer meetings. Maintenance prayer meetings are short, mechanical, and focused on physical needs inside the church. In contrast, the three basic traits of frontline prayer are these:

  1. A request for grace to confess sins and to humble ourselves.
  2. A compassion and zeal for the flourishing of the church and the reaching of the lost.
  3. A yearning to know God, to see his face, to glimpse his glory.

These distinctions are unavoidably powerful. If you pay attention at a prayer meeting, you can tell quite clearly whether these traits are present. In the biblical prayers for revivals in Exodus 33; Nehemiah 1; and Acts 4, the three elements of frontline prayer are easy to see. Notice in Acts 4, for example, that after the disciples were threatened by the religious authorities, they asked not for protection for themselves and their families but only for boldness to keep preaching! Some kind of extraordinary prayer beyond the normal services and patterns of prayer is always involved.

P. 73 “Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City”, Tim Keller

Neighborhood or Network Missional Community by Caesar Kalinowski

This video by Caesar is helpful for those of us doing Missional Community in suburbia. By nature of our context we are spread out and so the idea of immersing ourself in one neighborhood is not easy to accomplish. We know that being on mission, living as missionaries, is a part of our gospel identity. So…we have to be creative. I guess that puts us in the “Network Missional Community” category.

Admitting Weakness

I won’t be so naive as to say the long, dark valley of leadership can be avoided by learning to name your failures. In fact, new and, at times, more difficult challenges will arise simply because you begin admitting your status as your organization’s head sinner, and the normal challenges will remain whether you confess your flaws or try to hide them. But realize that most leaders invest too much capital obscuring their need for grace, which not only keeps their staff at arm’s length but also subverts their trust and steals energy and creativity they could otherwise devote to the inevitable crisis that continue to arise. And, perhaps even more dangerous, hiding failure prevents leaders from asking for and receiving the grace they most desperately need to live well, not to mention lead well. -Leading With A Limp by Dan Allender