Discipleship, Leadership

God Ain’t Done with Me Yet!

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“God ain’t done with me yet” was my grandmother’s favorite saying as she got older.  She lived her life like the old man in this illustration.

The great evangelist George Whitefield was relating the difficulties of the gospel ministry to some friends. He said that he was weary of the burdens and was glad that his work would soon be over and that he would depart this earthly scene to be with Christ. The others admitted having similar feelings — all except one, a Mr. Tennant. Noting this, Whitefield tapped him on the knee and said, “Well, Brother Tennant, you are the oldest among us; do you not rejoice to think that your time is so near at hand when you will be called Home?”

The old man answered bluntly that he had no wish about it. When pressed for something more definite, he added, “I have nothing to do with death. My business is to live as long as I can, and as well as I can, and serve my Savior as faithfully as I can, until He thinks it’s time to call me Home.” Whitefield accepted that word as a gentle rebuke from the Lord, and it helped him go on with his work calmly and patiently.  – Our Daily Bread.

For my older, wiser readers, don’t give up being a blessing to the kingdom.  The church needs you.  The mission of God needs you.  Young believers need you.  Finish the race marked out for you.

How Will You Finish Your Race?

In Hebrews 12 it says, “Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders.” Paul is using the metaphor of running. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance.” There’s that “P” word I know that I don’t enjoy very much.

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

A cross-country team ran on a golf course. In order to do this, officials had to go out and place flags on the course to show the runners where they were supposed to run. One color indicated “left turn.” Another color meant “right turn.” Another indicated to the runners to go “straight ahead.”

That was the race marked out in advance for the runners; if they wanted to win a medal, they had to follow the course marked out.

In this Christian life, God has gone before us laying out the flags for our journey.  The faith given to us by God himself allows us to run the race God has marked out.  Faith in the God who knows your end from your beginning. The God who knows all the days of your life. In his great foreknowledge, he has gone ahead of you and planted these flags ahead of you. And the Scripture says, “Run with perseverance the race marked out for you.”

Each race is unique.

This is one of the most difficult parts of the life of faith.  The Christian life at times seems unfair.  There are times in your race when you will wrestle with thoughts like, “Why does my race seem so tough?”  You want to feel sorry for yourself.  It will become easy to look at someone else and say, “Boy if I had his or her race to run, no problem. I could handle that. If I had their bank account, I could do that “p-thing”, persevere.  What If God had given me a better partner then I could complete this race?   For those traveling this journey alone, you may wish God gave you a partner to run alongside you.

When the race gets tough Satan tends to whisper in your ear “It’s okay for you to quit. You don’t have to run with perseverance because God gave you a raw deal.  Your course is so much harder than that of other people’s. It ok, just quit.” Have you ever felt that way?  I know I have.  When the going got tough I wanted to just quit going.

But God says, “I want you to run this race. This is what I hold you accountable for. Don’t think about others. You just look at me. And together, we’ll run your race.”  I am writing this to encourage each of us regardless of age, stage, or situation to run your race.  Persevere because God ain’t done with you yet!

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Discipleship, The Journey of Faith

The Dangers of a Joyless Christianity

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There is a sense in some circles that being joyful is not a part of the Christian life. The tension is between reverence of God and the joyful expression that others may see as drawing attention to oneself.  I understand the delicate balance, but I also recognize that if what we do for the Lord does not give us joy and fulfillment how long can we survive the rigors of Christian service.

Is there a place for joy in Christian service?

George Bernard Shaw said, “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one: the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap, and being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”  – Jon Johnston, Courage – You Can Stand Strong in the Face of Fear, SP Publications, 1990, p. 171.

Take this journey with me.  We will take this quote in sections because there is a wealth of wisdom contain it this paragraph.

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one…”

Joy is not something we can internally produce just like grace is not a natural concept to accept because both are birthed outside of our natural sinful human condition.  Joy is almost infused in us through the work of the Holy Spirit.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we have been called to carry out a great mission.  To announce the reign of Jesus Christ to the world “…as you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’” Matthew 10:7

We are a people called for a divine purpose, to get the message out to those far from God. The heart of our message has the power to turn cold, unrepentant hearts, alive and ablaze with zeal for God.  The good news is God has sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world to announce the forgiveness of sins through His death and resurrection. Jesus confronts the world lost in sin, while also comforting that same world with his offer of forgiveness and everlasting life.  Fellow travelers, you have the privilege to be ambassadors of reconciliation.  How can this not enliven your heart and give you a reason for celebration?  You have been set apart for a holy purpose and sent on a vital life-saving mission.

The alternative to embracing Joy.

“Christian joy is like that singing, yellow bird. One of the first effects of sin or doctrinal error is that we lose our joy in Christ. When your heart stops singing, that is a warning to watch your life and doctrine closely.”- Jim Johnstone

“…the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap, and being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

Our other choice in life is to go around miserable and to complain about what a horrible lot life has afflicted upon us.  The danger of doing ministry without allowing your joy to shine brightly is the witness it gives to a believing and unbelieving world.  Who wants to journey with people who appear not to enjoy the ride?  The love we have for God should overflow to people around us in our preaching, teaching, and service. That overflow is a joy.

The psalmist describes it this way, “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.” Psalm 43:4. It is possible to lead with a quiet, reverent sense of awe at the wonders of God while also having a heart filled with exceeding joy over the love and grace of our Lord and Savior.  Ministry is not about us, it is always about Jesus.  Since ministry is about Jesus, understand the awesomeness of God while rejoicing in the joy of our salvation.

Discipleship, Servant Leadership

You Have Been Called Up For Active Duty

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When the topic of using our spiritual gifts comes up, this illustration comes to mind.

The great violinist, Nicolo Paganini, willed his marvelous violin to Genoa — the city of his birth — but only on condition that the instrument never is played upon. It was an unfortunate situation, for it is a peculiarity of wood that as long as it is used and handled, it shows little wear. As soon as it is discarded, it begins to decay.  The beautiful, mellow-toned violin has become worm-eaten in its beautiful case, valueless except as a relic. The moldering instrument is a reminder that a life withdrawn from all service to others loses its meaning. -Bits & Pieces, June 25, 1992.

But far too often those people resources go under-utilized and sit in our buildings rotting like an unused violin. The apostle Paul wanted the church not to be ignorant about the use and importance of spiritual gifts.  God gave the church these gifts to be used and often used for the advancement of the gospel.

The Common Good

 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

 1 Corinthians 12: 7.

The Holy Spirit gives gifts to the church to unite it around a common good of announcing to the world the reign of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  Spiritual gifts are intended never to divide the body or cause in-fighting, or jealousy.  The concept Paul introduces of “the common good”, is a powerful and inspiring phrase, one worth holding on and lifting up often in our congregations. The old Adam has a strong desire to live a selfish, self-centered existence, seeking to use his or her gifts solely for personal gain or boasting. However, the new man recreated in Christ through the washing of regeneration understands that our spiritual gifts are for the enjoyment and advancement of the whole body of Christ and the kingdom. This revelation begs the question then, “How can I use my God-given gifts in, with and among the body of believers?” And not “Do I want to exercise my spiritual gift?”

Paul accentuates the authority of the Spirit in the distribution of the gifts (v. 11).

All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Next week we will look at the gifts listed in I Corinthians 12 in more detail, but understand this: the Holy Spirit does not give all Christians the same gift or gifts. Rather he gives them “…just as he determines…” (v. 11). I know when I started out in ministry I wanted certain gifts that I thought would make ministry easier and benefit the body of Christ.  Like the gift of evangelism.  But the Spirit did not grant me that wish.  So, while we may pray for particular spiritual gifts, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.” 1 Corinthians 14:1.  The Holy Spirit has the authority to give gifts as he determines.  Gifts that the Holy Spirit feels will benefit the body and meet the needs of the body of Christ.  Whatever gifts you have been given, use them to the glory of God and the common good of the body of Christ.  The body needs you. The mission of God needs you.  Go and be a blessing.

Discipleship, Servant Leadership

Rugged Individualism vs the Common Good

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Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (ESV) 1 Corinthians 12:4–7

 Having served with and on many different teams on this perfectly created biosphere during the course of my fifty plus years of my existence, I have come to the realization that doing ministry is challenging. Team ministry is uniquely challenging because sin has an ugly way of rearing its head and messing with us. Our natural inclination is to elevate and even overestimate our importance to the team, to God and His kingdom. It is so easy to believe that the very life and fruitfulness of the ministry rises and falls on our spiritual gifts alone. The truth of the matter is that a fruitful God-pleasing ministry does not contain one dominate gift nor gift-recipient, like a good salad the perfect team and ministry has more than one recognizable ingredient. A good salad is not all lettuce or dominated by onions or garlic unless you are trying to keep people or vampires away. An effective ministry team like a good salad encompassing a wide variety of flavors and gifts. Each spiritual gift is unique and retains its distinctness but when mixed into a well-oiled team packs and incredible kingdom punch that can meet human hurts and needs in a holistic way, that one single gift could never do.
As a background text for this post, we will dig into the issues the apostle Paul was facing the church in Corinth. The believers in that church were fighting over spiritual gifts. You may have been in a situation where there are people on your team who believe their gifts are far superior to anyone else’s gifts on the team and they have no problem reminding the team how gifted they are. People tend to get enamored with the gifts that are more public. The gifted orator, the dynamic teacher, shrewd administrator and overlook the people whose gifts are behind the scene, but are critical to the success of the ministry. Gifts like hospitality, the ability to welcome the stranger and make them feel like a part of the family.  The organizer, who has the ability to take the leaders vision and work out the details of what it’s takes to make this dream a reality.  The volunteer coordinators, who can get people to give up their free time to come and join you on a greater mission for the kingdom.  In the next two weeks join me on an adventure and learn six lessons about spiritual gifts.

Paul establishes the foundations of his answer in six ways. We will cover three in this post and three in the following post.

  1. It is important not to be ignorant about spiritual gifts (v. 1).

The Greek word Paul uses in verse 1 means ‘spiritual matters’ but verse 4 and Paul uses the Greek word charisma to distinguish the shifting of the discussion to spiritual gifts.

The Corinthian pagans should serve as a caution to the church. Their pagan background shows how easy it is to become carried away in jubilant worship and lead astray by a flashy, charismatic orator, even one who is articulating falsehoods in the name of a false god. Thus, Paul is warning the people not to be blindly inspired by the gifts and ignore who it is that is the giver of the gifts, namely God. Our message must be inspired by the Spirit of God.  Our gifts must only be used to share with the world the saving message of the Christ and Him crucified. The truth of God’s word is our test for whether the gifts we possess are being used to the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom.

  1. We share one common Faith (1 Corinthians 12:1–3).

A nationwide poll was taken in the United States on religious questions. When asked whether they believed in God, 95 percent of those polled answered “yes.” When asked whether religion in any way affected their politics and their business, 54 percent said “no.” They had a belief, but they did not have a directing faith. Faith is action. Faith encompasses the entire spectrum of life’s encounters and experiences.
No true Christian could call anyone but Christ “Lord,” so this was a definite test of whether or not a person was saved. It is only by the Spirit that we can confess Christ as Lord.[1]

  1. We serve the same God (1 Corinthians 12:4–6).

The church is not a gallery where we exhibit the finest of Christians. No, it is a school where we educate and encourage imperfect Christians.[2]
The church has been blessed with diversity and bounded together in unity by our God. While our personalities and our gifts all differ, yet they work together for the health of the body of believers, the Church. We have been gifted at our baptism with gifts from the Holy Spirit (v. 4).  Each of us has been called into service by the same Lord Jesus Christ (v. 5).  Each of us shares in the workings of the same Father (v. 6).

As we serve with these band of brothers and sister in God’s kingdom it is helpful to keep us grounded to remember why we serve.  We don’t serve to puff ourselves up.  We serve because we hold to one common faith.  We have one common baptism.  We serve the one and only one unique Savior, Jesus Christ.  This common good is what unites us and binds us together into the perfect team.

[1]  Green, M. P. (Ed.). (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[2]  Green, M. P. (Ed.). (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

 

Discipleship

How to Develop Disciples and Build a Missional Church?

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As I look at the landscape of the church today. I wonder if due to our declining numbers we have shifted our discipleship practices to respond more out of fear and less out of a sense of mission. Have our discipleship methods created more silos because we are responding to the increasingly less Christian culture around us? Instead, should we be viewing discipleship more as an opportunity to equip followers for the challenges of this unconnected to God culture? The German Pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was martyred at the hands of the Nazis once said, “the Church is the church only when it exists for others” what he meant was for outsiders.

Silo Thinking

In one of my former congregations sometime in the fall was time for the pastor to trick and guilt (00ps I mean encourage them to take on this opportunity to serve our Lord on our various dysfunctional boards and committees) members into filling positions of leadership in the church. I remember one time when I had decided gain some history as to how things had been done in the past, thinking that maybe there was a method that proved effective. My research uncovered a troubling bit of information when I inquired of my then 80-year-old Financial Secretary how he got the opportunity to serve. He described a sad, but I would discover a recurring tale of woe. The current Financial Secretary went on vacation and asked him to cover for him while he was gone, but the guy never returned. So this poor fellow had been stuck with this job for over 20-years. Me being who I am said to him so, “I guess you haven’t been able to trick anyone else into taking your place, eh?” This congregation was in the Rust Belt and upper a Midwestern culture.

To be honest, I fell into this trap of trying to get people into God’s Word to show them how they are called to serve in our congregation’s current congregational needs only. I fell into silo thinking. Silo thinking caused me to spend most of my time trying to keep the current institution alive and functioning.  Our ministry had become far too internally focused in our thoughts and practice. It made sense at the time we only had 54 in worship and were on District welfare. We needed to change our focus. We were creating silos and part-time low commitment disciples. We thought that asking for a higher level of engagement would only drive people away. We were not equipping the saints to share their faith and the congregation suffered.

Silo thinking produces part-time disciples, and part-time disciples are:

  • More concerned with what people think. Gal. 1:10
  • More concerned with their public image. Gal 2:6-9
  • More concerned about bringing people into the church.

lightstock_788_small_byrene_haneyA significant shift took place in how we equipped our members for ministry. Our members spend only a few hours in church, but the majority of their other time trying to navigate the hard realities of the world that was becoming less and less Christ-centered. The challenge for us became how to we prepare them for being sent every single week into an ever increasingly hostile mission field. The answer was shifting to a sending mindset. Allow me to share this story, once my congregation made from silos to disciple-making, God blessed us with an increase in membership from 54 to 74 in worship in 18-months.

Sending Thinking produces disciples who are:

  • Concerned with what God thinks. Gal. 1:10
  • Concerned about their private devotion. Rom 12:1-2
  • Concerned with the Glory of God. Rom 10:14-16

How Does Jesus Defined Discipleship in Luke 14:25-35

Jesus stated, at least, four key elements for becoming His disciple:

  1. Jesus talked about the priority of a relationship with Him.
  • If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:26).
    • A question to ask your leadership in response to this is: How do we grow in our love for Christ so that it becomes passionate? I don’t define passionate as solely an emotional response. I define passionate as what is that ministry or cause of Christ’s that will tug on your heartstrings and moves you to let that tug of faith cause you to act.

2. Jesus discussed having the right purpose.

  • Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:27).
    • A way to evaluate this in your local congregation is by asking this question: In what specific ways could you use faith stories and parables to help the church feel the tension of being off-course and too internally focused?

3. Jesus told prospective disciples that their commitment must be long-term.

  • Christian discipleship addresses every dimension of life. It is concerned not only with doing the right thing in every circumstance but also with doing the right thing for the right reason.
    • “Most important, live together in a manner worthy of Christ’s gospel. Do this, whether I come and see you or I’m absent and hear about you. Do this so that you stand firm, united in one spirit and mind as you struggle together, to remain faithful to the gospel.” Phil. 1:27
  • Christian discipleship is a work of grace. It is the Holy Spirit who transforms life, not someone who tries to be good. The term, disciplined grace describes this process. While God changes, a believer’s spiritual practice creates the transforming environment in which the Holy Spirit works
    • “But stay away from the godless myths that are passed down from the older women. Train yourself for a holy life! 8 While physical training has some value, training in holy living is useful for everything. It has the promise for this life now and the life to come.” 1 Tim. 4: 7-8.

4. Jesus stated that the disciples must be willing to practice generosity.

  • Christian discipleship was intended by Christ to be reproductive. Those who follow Jesus’ life and teaching will be prepared to share their faith experiences eagerly and to invest themselves in the spiritual nurture of others with their time, talents and treasures.
    • “The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. “A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles.” Acts 2:42-43

We can look at the challenges of this age and try and circle the wagons and hide away until Jesus returns, but is that the mission Jesus gave us to do? I am reminded of the message Jesus gave a frightened bunch of disciples hiding in an upper room. He appeared to them and said, Peace be with you and then this interaction. “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.”  Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22. It is about equipping our people to be sent with the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the mission of God is a world that at times is hostile to the Truth.

Discipleship

Remaining Connected to the Vine

 

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Live in me, and I will live in you. A branch cannot produce any fruit by itself. It has to stay attached to the vine. In the same way, you cannot produce fruit unless you live in me.” -John 15:4

 

“The vine clings to the oak during the fiercest of storms. Although the violence of nature may uproot the oak, twining tendrils still cling to it. If the vine is on the side of the tree opposite the wind, the great oak is its protection: if it is on the exposed side, the tempest only presses it closer to the trunk. In some of the storms of life, God intervenes and shelters us; while in others He allows us to be exposed, so that we will be pressed more closely to Him.”—B. M. Launderville

John describes the need for us to remain connected to Christ the vine. Why is that connection so necessary?

A branch cannot survive apart from the vine.

I have heard many Christians say, “I don’t need the church.” That statement always bothered me and here is why. A branch is not a self-contained entity. It cannot exist outside of the community, apart from the Vine. And neither can the Christian disciple. Just as a branch cut off from the vine is separated from its supply of nourishment so it cannot produce fruit. That also applies to the Christian. If the Christian is not connected to God and community, they are cut off from spiritual nourishment. Bearing fruit in the life of the disciple is entirely dependent on a direct connection to Jesus. Attachment to Jesus or abiding in him is, therefore, the focal point, the foundation of Christian discipleship.

Discipleship

Developing A Discipleship Plan

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As this discipleship series nears completion I wanted to give you some resources to use to assist and equip you with the necessary tools to add your discipleship ministry. In order to accomplish this monumental task, I cast a wide net calling to my aid all 1,500 of my Facebook connections. So the call went, please send me your best discipleship tools. Sounds like a great idea right? Well, the results of my cry for help resulted in disappointing mixed results. Some respondents gave me really good material that I did not know existed, other people said, use the Bible or Luther’s Small Catechism.  While any worthwhile discipleship program better contain the Bible as the foundation for content.  And Luther’s Small Catechism is a great resource it is often one that is taught only once or twice in a person’s lifetime?  My sincere question to some are how do you make the entire Bible a discipleship program?   What I mean by that is have you developed a plan to work your members through the Bible in such a way that it strengthens their walk with God.  I could never get more than ten percent of my members to attend more than one Bible class a year, let alone walk through the entire Bible.

Nevertheless, this exercise revealed one major revelation, the term discipleship is squishy. If you ask 10 pastors to define it you would get ten different answers.  However, the way people define it determines what resources would be most effective.  With that revelation, it makes it difficult to provide people with useful resources.

Well, the results of my cry for help resulted in disappointing mixed results. Some respondents gave me really good material that I did not know existed, other people said, tripe things use the Bible or Luther’s Small Catechism.  While any discipleship program better contain the Bible as the foundation for content.  How do you make the entire Bible a discipleship program?  No one could answer that question.  My frustration with that response is, I could not tell if people were being sincere or sarcastic. Nevertheless, this exercise revealed one major revelation, the term discipleship is squishy. If you ask 10 pastors to define it you would get ten different answers.  However, the way people define it determines what resources would be most effective.  With that revelation, it makes it difficult to provide people with useful resources.

Armed with this new found information this post will attempt to help you develop a discipleship plan.

Determine Your Definition of Discipleship.
Is discipleship for your congregation at 12-week adult instruction class followed up with the Holy Spirit working through the power of God’s word in preaching and teaching his disciples? Or is your view that discipleship is more hands on.  Do you view it as an ongoing outpouring of God’s Word into the life of believers, through living life with, and equipping your people for mission and ministry? How you define this will determine what kind of resources fit your discipleship plan.

Determine What Is Your end goal in Discipleship.
Think of your discipleship plan as sort of a church boot camp. What are you equipping and preparing your people for? Look at the world around you what tools do your members need to live out their calling as followers of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in an ever increasing hostile world?

Paul makes it very clear that the role of the shepherd is to equip the saints. Here is the context for that preparation from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 4, “12 His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ 13 until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we aren’t supposed to be infants any longer who can be tossed and blown around by every wind that comes from teaching with deceitful scheming and the tricks people play to deliberately mislead others. 15 Instead, by speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ, 16 who is the head.”

If you are unsure of the end goal Paul gives you some insights into this passage, God’s goal is for the Christian to “become mature, fully grown and measured by the standard of Christ.” For what purpose are we equipping them, so the disciples are not “tossed and blown around by every wind that comes from teaching with deceitful scheming.” If you don’t have an intentional plan to develop the people under your care let me encourage you to do so. The times they are a changing, and we need people well-grounded in God’s word and prepared to stand firm in the midst of opposition.

Other blogs in this series:

https://revheadpin.org/2016/06/16/How-to-define-discipleship
https://revheadpin.org/2016/06/23/characteristics-of-a-disciple

 

 

Discipleship

What Are the Characteristics of A Disciple?

 

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“An African American minister once prayed: “Lord, we can’t hold much, but we can overflow lots!” A Christian is a mind through which Christ thinks; a heart through which Christ loves; a voice through which Christ speaks; a hand through which Christ helps.” -Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 336).

As we continue this series on Discipleship I will attempt to define some of the basic characteristics of a disciple.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you will find in it some important, foundational character traits.

Characteristics of a disciple

  • A disciple of Jesus is a person who is becoming spiritually mature.

Notice we used the term becoming.  I don’t know if we ever reach full maturity as a Christian in this life.  However, that maturity happens as the disciple knows his Bible inside and out. That’s what’s most important in our church: knowing the Bible. Having a hunger to thirst after God’s word. That happens in Bible study, in worship where God gives the gifts of His Word and the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

  • A disciple is a person who cares for the lost.

This is often a point of contention.  It is not that because we don’t all want to see people come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, but we argue often over whose responsibility that is.  Is that the work of the trained paid staff, the people in the pew or some combination?   Here is what Jesus says to the disciples in Acts 1,

Here’s the knowledge you need: you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you. And you will be My witnesses, first here in Jerusalem, then beyond to Judea and Samaria, and finally to the farthest places on earth.

From Paul speaking to those in Corinth in chapter 15,

10 Today I am who I am because of God’s grace, and I have made sure that the grace He offered me has not been wasted. I have worked harder, longer, and smarter than all the rest; but I realize it is not me—it is God’s grace with me that has made the difference. 11 In the end, it doesn’t matter whether it was I or the other witnesses who brought you the message. What matters is that we keep preaching and that you have faith in this message.

A disciple regularly invites his friends, neighbors, and others outside the family of God to have a life-saving relationship with the Savior.  We can be used as a vehicle so they can hear about this Jesus through the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit working faith in the heart of the not yet believer. That is the mission in a nutshell: to get people to hear the good news!

  • A disciple is a person who is doing life together with others.

He has made all he has available to others in his sphere of relationships. He is focused on working together in a small group to serve some need in the community. He wants to right a wrong in the culture in the name of Jesus.

This is a difficult shift in our culture today.  We have so many things that take us out of the “doing life together” mindset.  Nevertheless, as disciples we need to find time in our hectic busyness to make ourselves available to others so we can develop authentic relationships. Imagine the impact of being focused on working together in a small group to serve some need in the community and doing this in the name of Jesus.

  • A disciple is a person who loves the poor and marginalized in Jesus’ name.

From the moment I heard the passage from Matthew 25, read in the church it has always been on my heart.

King: Come here, you beloved, you people whom My Father has blessed. Claim your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of creation. 35 You shall be richly rewarded, for when I was hungry, you fed Me. And when I was thirsty, you gave Me something to drink. I was alone as a stranger, and you welcomed Me into your homes and into your lives. 36 I was naked, and you gave Me clothes to wear; I was sick, and you tended to My needs; I was in prison, and you comforted Me. 

37 Even then the righteous will not have achieved perfect understanding and will not recall these things.

 Righteous: Master, when did we find You hungry and give You food? When did we find You thirsty and slake Your thirst? 38 When did we find You a stranger and welcome You in, or find You naked and clothe You? 39 When did we find You sick and nurse You to health? When did we visit You when You were in prison?

 King: 40 I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother or sister hungry or cold, whatever you did to the least of these, so you did to Me.

We as disciples are called to live and love like Jesus lived and loved. That means serve those who are poor, marginalized, those whom society has turned their backs on.  We need to be especially kind, compassionate, and tolerant to people God has placed in our path on a daily basis.  I love how Jesus made time for people others ignored or were annoyed with.  When disciples model that behavior LOVE wins!

Other blogs in this series:
https://revheadpin.org/2016/06/16/discipleship-in-5-easy-steps-step-1

 

 

 

 

Discipleship

How To Define Discipleship

Thebook

Whenever we talk about discipleship it is helpful to start with defining what we are talking about.

Ann Swindoll defines it this way: “What is discipleship? Put simply, discipleship means intentionally partnering with another Christian in order to help that person obey Jesus and grow in relationship with Him—so that he or she can then help others do the same. Jesus taught His disciples to follow Him and obey His commands so that they could lead others to do the same after His death, resurrection and ascension. The Apostle Paul continues the pattern with Timothy and encourages him to keep the cycle going: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).”

I love the reminder that one of my main duties as a pastor is to equip the saints for service to God and his kingdom.  But this service, to be clear, is not some new way for us to earn favor with God because good deeds do not save us.  Discipleship is not some new code word or term for Salvation through adding new requirements on the backs of believers.  Discipleship is a response to God’s love shown to us through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Foundational facts about discipleship

  • Christian discipleship addresses every dimension of life. It is concerned not only with doing the right thing in every circumstance but also doing the right thing for the right reason.

“Most important, live together in a manner worthy of Christ’s gospel. Do this, whether I come and see you or I’m absent and hear about you. Do this so that you stand firm, united in one spirit and mind as you struggle together, to remain faithful to the gospel.” Phil. 1:27

  • Christian discipleship is a work of grace. It is the Holy Spirit who transforms life, not someone who tries to be good. The term, disciplined grace describes this process. While God transforms, a believer’s spiritual practice creates the transforming environment in which the Holy Spirit works

“But stay away from the godless myths that are passed down from the older women. Train yourself for a holy life! 8 While physical training has some value, training in holy living is useful for everything. It has the promise for this life now and the life to come.” 1 Tim. 4: 7-8.

  • Christian discipleship requires more than preaching alone can achieve. I love the analogy that preaching to make disciples is like going into a nursery and spraying the milk on the newborn babies.  Preaching is powerful, it has behind it the full power and might of the Holy Spirit.  But notice Jesus did not just preach at the disciples, he lived a mission with them.  You need to be on a journey with the people you are called to equip for service.
  • Christian discipleship should involve a ton of celebrationsThis may sound odd to you, but here is why celebrations are important. What you celebrate from the pulpit and in your general assemblies expresses to your members what you value.  If you value equipping people for ministry, are those the announcements you get excited about and lift up before your people? Season vigorously in your sermons what God is doing in discipleship in the lives of your people.
  • Christians want to grow in discipleship, but they usually just need direction. You may have heard it said, “Do as I say, don’t do as I do.”  Unfortunately, that does not work as a plan to develop disciples.  We must emulate the behavior we are expecting from our people.  Jesus didn’t just write a book of rules and regulations.  He wrote a book, the Bible, that describes in great detail how dearly loved we are by God and his Son Jesus Christ.  Then Jesus goes the extra mile and models the life he would have us lead.  He said to follow this example.

This is the foundation that I will build on over the next four blogs.  I welcome your thoughts and discussion on this.  May God bless you and our country as we see every day the need for us to be prepared to witness in a hurt and broken world.  Our responsibility as pastors is to prepare a people ready to face these days ahead grounded in the Word of God and strengthened for the journey ahead.

Other blog post on discipleship:

https://revheadpin.org/2016/04/14/discipleship-silos-vs-sending