Archive

Tag Archives: discipleship

372214

Note from the editor: This blog post by Thabiti Anyabwile originally appeared here at Pure Church on May 1, 2013.

*************************************************************

I wonder if others observe a phenomenon I think I see in many churches: people clustering with others in their generation? The 20-somethings spend their time with other 20-somethings talking about 20-something concerns. The young families hang out with other young families, hosting play dates and trading parenting tips. It seems to me that 60-somethings tend to flock together with other 60-somethings. There are notable exceptions, of course. There are those older men and women who become pillars in the church by investing in younger men and women. And there are the younger persons who seek to serve young families or older members. But by and large, people seem to spend the bulk of their spiritual energy and time with other people in the same stage of life.

There’s much that can be said about this–its scope, causes, benefits, and so on. But one thing that strikes me today is that segregating into enclaves based on age and life-stage tends to weaken the future of the church. What do I mean?

Well, it’s clear that God intends the faith to be taught and passed down from the older generation to the younger. Paul’s words to Titus are perhaps the most well-known words to this effect:

You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:1-8)

But what happens when this vision of body life doesn’t materialize in a widespread way because we cluster into our demographic groups?

Well, 20-somethings tend to learn mostly from other 20-somethings. They’re cut off from the perspective and wisdom gained by being a generation or two older. They develop 20-something solutions to what will likely either be 40-something foundations or problems. They make courtship and dating decisions that look really cool at 20 but turn out to be short-sighted at 40. They make purchasing decisions that seem life-giving at 20 that turn into major burdens at 40. I think I see lots of 20-somethings (guys in particular) running the race without self-control, self-control that older members could and should help them gain.

Meanwhile, the 40-somethings work through marriage, parenting, and career issues without the longer view of 60-somethings. As quiet as it’s kept, knowing how to be a husband, wife or parent doesn’t come to us by osmosis. We have to be taught how to love a wife, how to respect a husband, and how to raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. And sometimes those callings get as nuts-and-bolts as learning how to cook, how to discipline, how to argue and how to make up. During this period, our 30- and 40-somethings develop or continue habits that either help or hurt. Sadly, many will do so without the wisdom that comes from more seasoned experience. Consequently, they take the same lumps others could have helped them avoid. Or they “make it” through that middle-age season via a series of trial and error experiments.

This, of course, affects the temperature and vitality of the church. We have congregations of people “trying to figure life out” largely alone. Great amounts of time get invested in helping young people negotiate the choppy waters of early adulthood, middle-aged people work their way through challenges of marriage, family, and career, and older persons figure out meaning late in life sometimes without much-loved spouses, declining health, and shrinking numbers of living peers. Pastors and elders mistakenly think they must become masters of each stage of life, counsel people through every opportunity and difficulty, and be there in every circumstance. But, actually, the Bible instructs the pastor to teach the congregation to be there for one another and does so by tying the generations together so that the built-in expertise of old age gets leveraged for every younger generation. It’s a beautiful thing.

In this way older members of the local church become the front line of discipleship and care. They brighten the future of the church by teaching younger members how to live out the faith, how to avoid mistakes, seize opportunities, practically apply the word of God to their lived realities. As that store of wisdom, maturity, and experience gets passed on and received with humility, the spiritual, emotional, and volitional maturity of the congregation rises considerably. The more mature the young persons in the body the brighter the future of the church. We sometimes act as if older members have no role vital to the future of the church. But actually they are absolutely essential, indispensable.

—————————————

Thabiti Anyabwile is a church planter in Washington D.C. and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition.

Note from the editor: This blog post by Jeremy Carr originally appeared here at The Resurgence on July 22, 2013.

*************************************************************

Jesus uses Scripture to unravel our misconceptions of discipleship and center us on him, propelling us into true disciple-making.

“You don’t value discipleship.”

That’s what a young man told me recently as he sat down to inform me of his intention to begin looking for another church.

He explained that over the years at our church, he had grown in his faith and in his relationships in community, but that for this next season he needed “more discipleship.” The conversation progressed from criticisms of our discipleship method to the summary accusation “you don’t value discipleship.”

No pastor or church planter wants to hear this. After all, our prime motivation in church planting is to “make disciples” (Matt. 28:16-20). The Great Commission fuels our methods of discipleship. In my case, this young man was someone I had personally invested in for many years.

DO YOU VALUE DISCIPLESHIP?

His accusation left me with the question: Do you value discipleship? As I evaluated my personal discipling of others and our church’s discipleship method, I was reminded of the story in Mark 7:1-13. Jesus is confronted by a group of Pharisees who question certain practices. They refer to “the tradition of the elders” (Mark 7:35) and “many other traditions” (Mark 7:4), equating their oral law with the authority of the written Law.

Our prime motivation in church planting is to “make disciples” (Matt. 28:16-20). The Great Commission fuels our methods of discipleship.

In so doing, the Pharisees were promoting cultural traditionalism at the expense of extending the gift of God’s word. Moreover, they question Jesus on his method of discipleship: “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders?” (Mark 7:5). In essence, they were accusing Jesus of not valuing discipleship.

DISCIPLING BY THE BOOK

When questioned on his discipleship method, Jesus quotes Isaiah and Exodus, packing a one-two punch of Prophet and Law. He draws the Pharisees’ attention back to Scripture, displaying the Scripture’s role in discipleship as supreme over their religious traditions. The Book of Mark, like all the Gospels, reveals for us the truth that Jesus himself fulfills the Old Testament prophecies and meets the Law’s demands on our behalf. Furthermore, Jesus states, “‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:44-45).

The resurrected Jesus then charges his disciples, who are “witnesses of these things,” with the mission that “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in [Christ’s] name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47-48). Jesus uses Scripture to unravel our misconceptions of discipleship and center us on him, propelling us into true disciple-making.

JESUS VALUES DISCIPLES

Jesus did not die for your method of discipleship. Jesus died for disciples. He did not come to shape people into methodological conformity. He came to rescue us by his life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension so that we may be transformed to be like him.

Jesus did not die for your method of discipleship. Jesus died for disciples.

With this in mind, I said farewell to this young man because I realized he had different needs for his season of life. I chose to value him as a disciple more than I valued his discipleship. Trusting the Holy Spirit’s work in and through this young man, I can rest assured that his identity as a disciple is not compromised by his transition to a different context for discipleship.

Scripture reveals the good news of Jesus. This good news shapes how we love, serve, and teach others as disciples making disciples. Rather than asking, “Do you value discipleship?” perhaps we should ask, “Do you value disciples?” How we answer this question will shape our approach to discipleship, calling people to Jesus, unpacking the truths of Scripture, and providing the environment for the Holy Spirit to shape them and empower them for obedience.

—————————————

Jeremy Carr (M.Div, Th.M) is lead teaching pastor and co-founding elder of Redemption Church, an Acts 29 church in Augusta, GA. He is author of the book Sound Words: Listening to the Scriptures.

Note from the editor: This blog post by Godwin Sathianathan originally appeared here at The Gospel Coalition on February 26, 2013.

*************************************************************

I owe a significant debt to four men and three churches who, over the years, became my spiritual fathers and families. These wonderful people walked alongside me through troubling and joyful times. They prayed with me, mentored me, and laughed with me. They celebrated my victories and wept with me when my dad unexpectedly died. They counseled me when I began to explore pastoral ministry and spoke the Word to me when I became discouraged. They reminded me not to take myself too seriously, and they lovingly pointed out sin in my life. God only knows where I’d be and who I’d be without his grace working through them.

Today I am a pastor and long for my church to grow in this kind of intentional disciple-making. Discipleship at its core is the process of growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ. That sounds simple. But what does it actually look like? And how do pastors lead their churches in discipleship? A good place to begin is Jesus’ last words to his disciples: “go . . . make disciples . . . baptizing them . . . and teaching them” (Matt 28:19-20). Three contours of discipleship culture emerge from this passage.

Clarifying the Contours of Discipleship

1. Disciple-making is an intentional process of evangelizing non-believers, establishing believers in the faith, and equipping leaders. 

“Make disciples” implies intentionality and process. Disciple-making doesn’t just happen because a church exists and people show up. It is a deliberate process. Considering the modifying participles of “going . . . baptizing . . . teaching” help us recognize this process. It must include evangelizing (going to new people and new places), establishing (baptizing new believers and teaching obedience), and equipping (teaching believers to also make disciples). How does your church evangelize, establish, and equip?    

2. Disciple-making happens in the context of a local church

It’s a community project, not just a personal pursuit. And that community must be the local church, because Jesus has given her unique authority to preach the gospel, baptize believers into faith and church membership, and teach obedience to Jesus. Disciple-making doesn’t just happen in coffee shops and living rooms. It also happens in the sanctuary where the Word is sung, prayed, read, preached, and displayed through communion and baptism. Jesus didn’t have in mind maverick disciple-makers; he had in mind a community of believers who, together and under the authority of the local church, seek to transfer the faith to the next generation. Does your church view disciple-making within the context of the church, or only as a solo endeavor?

3. Disciple-making is Word-centered, people-to-people ministry. 

When Jesus said “make disciples” we cannot help but remember how he made disciples: three years of teaching twelve men on the dusty road. Disciple-making, then, is the Word of God shaping men and women within life-on-life relationships. It’s demonstrated in Paul’s relationship with the Thessalonian church: “being so affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess 2:8). This is gospel-driven, Word-saturated, intentional one-anothering. It is men and women regularly teaching one another to obey what Jesus commanded. And it goes well beyond watching football and having inside jokes with Christian friends. How would you evaluate your church’s Word-centered people-to-people ministry?

Creating a Culture of Discipleship

If these three contours are essential ingredients for a discipleship culture, how do pastors lead their churches in growing that culture? Here are seven ways:

1. Preach disciple-making sermons. Pastors are not called to preach convert-making sermons or scholar-making sermons. They are called to preach disciple-making sermons. This means that they must craft sermons that will evangelize, establish, and equip. This means that they are teachers, pleaders, and coaches from behind the pulpit. Sermons also disciple through modeling careful exegesis, keen application, and prayerful responses to the passage. After we preach, congregants should understand and feel the text at such a level that they long to be more obedient disciples.

2. Shape disciple-making worship services.

Every church has a liturgy, whether you call it that or not, and every liturgy leads the people somewhere or disciples the people toward something. The question is where. The non-sermon elements of a worship service—songs, prayers, scripture reading, testimonies, and tone—contribute to the formative discipling of your congregation. Does your worship service lead people in thanksgiving for God’s gifts and goodness? Does it disciple people in confession and repentance? Is there an element in your worship service that offers assurance of salvation? Does your service lead people in celebrating our future hope? Thinking through these components with your worship director will strengthen your disciple-making services.

3. Invest in a few disciple-makers.

We’ve heard it before, but let me say it again: Jesus and Paul ask their disciples to invest in a few who will in turn invest in others (Matt. 28:18-192 Tim 2:2). Pastors, choose a few men you can pour your life into and intentionally disciple for a period of time. Create a simple but effective format to accomplish this task. For example, meet with a few men twice a month to discuss sections of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, confess sin, and pray for one another. Keep it relational. At the end of your time together, ask each man to choose a few men with whom he can do the same. The benefits are manifold. You are obeying Jesus’ disciple-making command, you are cultivating a disciple-making culture through strategic multiplication, and you are investing in those who may become your future elders.     

4. Make small group Bible studies central to your disciple-making strategy

Many churches offer small groups like a side item at the buffet, but few offer it as a main course. While Sunday school and other teaching venues certainly disciple people, small group Bible studies are unique in that they achieve multiple discipleship goals. After your corporate worship gathering, consider making small groups ministry your next priority. This means identifying and training mature leaders to shepherd and disciple their members. It also means providing a clear vision for your small groups ministry. For example, our church asks our groups to commit to three disciple-making values: Bible, community, and mission.

5. Raise the bar of church membership

Unfortunately many Christians don’t realize that joining a church is a vital step of discipleship. When you join a church, you are not joining a social club; you are publicly declaring your faith in Jesus and joining yourself to a group of Christians in life and mission. In view of this, pastors should view membership as discipleship and accordingly bolster their membership process and expectations. Instead of making it easy to join your church, make the process more involved. Get your elders teaching multiple sessions on the gospel, central doctrines, the importance of church membership, and your church’s operating convictions (baptism, for example). Broach tough subjects such as divorce and past church history during membership interviews. Finally, ensure membership actually means something for members. What unique privileges, roles, and responsibilities do members have in your church? Are your members actually joined together in Word-centered people-to-people ministry, as they promised when they became members?          

6. Confront sin and practice church discipline. 

Like church membership, discipline is neglected by some churches. Much like encouragement and affirmation are key components of disciple-making, so too are exhortation, confrontation, and if necessary more elevated measures of corrective discipline. God uses all of the above to make disciples and protect disciples within local churches.

7. Read disciple-making books with your leadership. 

Let me recommend four books for your disciple-making arsenal. The Trellis and the Vine by Tony Payne and Colin Marshall outlines a practical vision for disciple-making. One-to-One Bible Reading by David Helm will equip you with the motivation and tools to read the Bible regularly with others. Church Membership by Jonathan Leeman is the best lay-level book on the subject I’ve read and will help you understand how membership rightly practiced is discipleship. And The Shepherd Leader by Timothy Witmer calls elders to lead the way in disciple-making.  

Growing a disciple-making culture at your church might sound daunting. It’s hard enough to make disciples within a small group Bible study, but a church with all its complexities, systems, and baggage? Yikes. Here’s a piece of advice: start small, keep it simple, and focus on areas where a little investment will go a long way. For example, you may want to invest in a few who will do the same with others. Start with your elders. Or perhaps you want to focus on ramping up your small groups ministry. Start by training your current and new leaders around key biblical values that encapsulate discipleship.

Whatever you decide to do, may you find tremendous energy and courage to make disciples from the bookends of the Great Commission: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me . . . and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

—————————————

Godwin Sathianathan earned an M.Div. with emphases in Pastoral and New Testament studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and is an associate pastor at South Shore Baptist Church in Hingham, Massachusetts.

Note from the editor: This post by Jared Wilson originally appeared here at The Gospel-Driven Church July 29, 2013.

*************************************************************

But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

John 17:13

My friend Godwin Sathianathan preached at Middletown Church yesterday morning onMark 12:28-34, and one particular thing he said in his introduction landed on me especially heavily. He was talking about an old friend of his who was very strong for many years in church activities, discipleship groups, Christian conferences, and the like, but who ultimately left the faith, deciding Christianity was no longer for him. Godwin said that one thing that stood out to him about his friend was that his faith always seemed so burdensome to him.

Should it always be so? We all usually agree that to follow Jesus is to take up one’s cross, to constantly be doing battle against the flesh, to constantly be denying one’s self and resisting temptation and pursuing repentance. This is all hard work. Cross-carrying is not “happy go lucky” stuff. And yet, the love of Christ — love for Christ — for the Christian is seen as a more delightful experience than all the world’s charms and flesh-feedings. The very reason we take up our cross is not because dutiful religion is more fun than no religion but because we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, that taking up our cross is better; it’s more freeing, not less. The yoke and burden Christ offers is easy and light.

Discipleship to Christ is very difficult. But it is incomparably joyful. Or ought to be. And the more we walk with Christ, the more sin we find to repent of, but the more joy we experience too. There is fullness of joy in him. The Spirit actually grows joy in us! So if my Christian life has no joy in it — ever — perhaps it is not the Christian life I’m living.

Note from the editor: This article by James Harvey originally appeared here at Ligonier Ministries.

*************************************************************

If you ask a Christian how to grow as a disciple, you may hear a wide range of suggestions: personal Bible study, one-on-one discipleship, small-group discipleship, men’s and women’s groups, attending conferences, campus ministries, community Bible studies, and so on. Within the past two decades, the Internet has grown to offer an abundance of additional resources. Audio and video presentations of sermons, seminary courses, and entire worship services are at our fingertips. We can all be grateful to God for these resources. To the degree that faithful, doctrinally sound study of God’s Word is taking place, all these endeavors will bear spiritual fruit. We are able to share in the gifts and graces of the church universal like never before.

A word of caution is in order, however. While God’s providence affords us unprecedented access to the teaching of the church universal, God intends our discipleship as Christians to be expressed in the church particular. When Jesus told His disciples that baptism was integral to the Great Commission, He was establishing the priority of the local church and Lord’s Day ministry in discipleship. Baptism signifies entrance into the visible church, and the most fundamental activity of the visible church is worship on the Lord’s Day. If we are not committed to a particular church, we cannot receive ministry nor give ministry as the New Testament envisions.

Consider some of the unique discipleship blessings that we find in committing to worshiping on the Lord’s Day with the local church:

A Foretaste of Heaven

It is wonderful to stream your favorite teaching with a cup of coffee in the comfort of your own home. It is sweet to meet at a friend’s home and study the Bible together. But neither private listening nor small-group study give the foretaste of the world to come as corporate worship does.

The corporate worship of the church is a foretaste of the future glory that awaits us in Christ. We hear God’s Word read, sing His praises, confess our sins, receive His grace, join our hearts in prayer, receive the Lord’s Supper, and place ourselves under the proclamation of His Word. And we do this together. What is happening spiritually when we gather like this? “[We] come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God” (Heb. 12:22). In this corporate worship, the church is like a mother, providing weekly shelter and refreshment from the wilderness of the world until the Lord Jesus Christ returns and makes all things new. Without this weekly gathering, we shrivel and die in the wilderness.

A Context for Love

An abundance of solid food does not ensure that any of it will be digested and used for nourishment. We need commitment to the local church to grow spiritually.

The goal of Christian discipleship is love (Mark 12:29–311 Cor. 13:1–132 Peter 2:5–7). The local church is the place where we grow in love over the long haul. Being a faithful church member is difficult. The people are not all like you. But, you grow to accept one another in love. If you spend any time among the same group of people, they will eventually disappoint you in some ways, or perhaps positively harm you. But you grow to forgive one another in love.

If you leave a church because the people are not like you or because you have been wounded, you have cut short the discipleship process before it has begun. The only legitimate lure that Jesus says we have for the world is the love that we manifest in our corporate life as a church: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). This visible expression of love is rooted in gathering on the Lord’s Day as one body.

A Place to Give and Receive

God puts us in a local body of believers to share in the gifts and graces of that body, and this sharing (communion) is essential to discipleship. The local church is your spiritual family; you share mutually in burdens and blessings with one another. The local pastor is your pastor-teacher. He is God’s gift to you, and God will use him uniquely in your life when you receive his ministry regularly with faith and prayer. The elders and deacons are your elders and deacons. They are God’s gift to you to care for your body and soul. All these gifts are from God. How dare we say to any, “I have no need of you”? (1 Cor. 12:21).

I don’t think many Christians actually intend to neglect Lord’s Day worship. It just happens as we let other things draw us away from God’s people and God’s worship on Sunday. Before we know it, we are missing half of the corporate services of worship, waning in our love for Christ, and feeling disconnected from the church.

Pastors can be reticent to speak about the Lord’s Day, fearing perceptions of legalism or self-aggrandizement. But we need to be reminded through teaching and the example of church officers of the importance of the Lord’s Day for Christian discipleship. As Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27). The Lord’s Day is designed by God to bless us. It is foundational to our Christian discipleship.

—————————————

Rev. James L. Harvey III is senior pastor of Evangelical Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Newark, Delaware.

Note from the editor: This blog post by Robby Gallaty originally appeared here at Replicate Ministries on October 7, 2013.

*************************************************************

2 Timothy 2:1-2:

“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what

Imageyou have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

The second step in the Discipleship Process is to Implement the Principles of Christ

We must not only abide in the power of Christ, but we must also accept the principles of Christ. Paul tells Timothy to pass on “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses.” The word witness here actually means, “martyr.” It’s the word for someone willing to die for his or her faith.

Paul is saying, “You can test what I’m saying by the witnesses. These men don’t just speak the Word or listen to the Word; these men are going to die for the Word of God. They are not just church attendees; these men are literally willing to die for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

It’s one thing to stroll into church on Sunday morning and hear an uplifting word from God through the pastor. It’s another thing to live faithfully from Monday through Saturday. Are you putting the words you hear on Sunday into your life? Paul wanted to be sure that Timothy didn’t just hear the Word, but applied it faithfully to his life.

Deuteronomy 4:1 says, “Hear now, O Israel. The decrees and the laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live.” And in Deuteronomy 5:1, Moses summons all of Israel and says, “Hear, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them.

Scripture always makes a strong connection between hearing and doing or obeying. But there is a heresy being taught in churches today. It’s reflected in this attitude: “I can choose to get saved by Jesus today but put off obedience to Him until I die and go to heaven, right? Hey, I don’t really want to be like Jesus! I just want fire insurance, pastor. I just don’t want to go to hell.” I’m sorry but you cannot choose Jesus as Savior without acknowledging Him as Lord of your life.

A few years ago, I spoke to a youth group, and I told the students, “You don’t have to tell me what you believe; just let me watch what you do and I’ll tell you what you believe. Your life will prove (or disprove) the case for the faith you attest to. The way you live will show me if you are a believer or a disciple in Jesus Christ.”

Many relinquish parts of their Life to Christ, but not everything. It reminds me of the life changing night in the life of  theologian and historian F. B. Meyer. One evening he was invited to heard C. T. Studd, the famous cricket player (equivalent to an NFL Athlete today) share his testimony of why he abandoned the sporting world to serve alongside Hudson Taylor in the China Inland Mission. Studd spoke a phrase in his message that pierced Meyers’ heart:

“If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”

After the service, Meyer approached Studd and said, “It’s obvious that you have something I lack, something that I need. What is it?”

Studd responded, “Have you Surrendered Everything to Jesus Christ?”

Without thinking, Meyer replied, “Yes I have.” But he knew deep inside that he hadn’t.
The interaction with Studd caused great anguish in his heart that evening. During his prayer time that night, he logged in his journal the interaction with God. Meyer felt as if the Lord speaking directly to him, “Meyer, I want all the keys to your Heart.”

All the Keys?

“Yes, Meyer, I want all the Keys.”

That night, he took a ring of keys and offered them to the Lord, symbolizing his commitment to God. But he couldn’t fool God. There was still one key that was missing. It was as if the Lord rebuked him, “There is one key missing, and If I am not Lord of all, I am not Lord at All.” As the Lord turned from him, he yelled, “Lord don’t Leave! Why are you Leaving?”

“Meyer, If I am not Lord of All, I am not Lord at All.”

But Lord, its just a small key, a very insignificant place in my Heart!

For the third time he heard, “If I am not Lord of All, I am not Lord at All.”

Meyer’s life would never be the same from the experience that night. Before he stood up, he wholly surrendered his life to the Lord Jesus—his career, his desires, his future,  his thoughts, his dreams, his plans, his heart, and his mind.

Have you Done that? Have you given him all the Keys to your Life?

What could God do with your life if you surrendered it to him?  

Next week, we’ll get into the Nuts and Bolts of Making Disciples.

Stay tuned for part 3…

—————————————

Robby Gallaty (Ph.D.) is the Senior Pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN, and the Founder of Replicate Ministries. He is the author of Creating an Atmosphere to Hear God Speak, Unashamed: Taking a Radical Stand for Christ, and Growing Up: How to Be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples (Coming November 2013).

“Just do something.”  Those words where ringing in my ears as I took my seat on the plane from Beijing to Tokyo.  I conveniently changed seats with one of my traveling companions, which put me in the unfortunate middle seat!  Not only did he subject me to the middle seat but he also made sure I was aware that God might use my new situation as a gospel opportunity.  This was obviously his way of making himself feel better!  I’m not sure he or I knew at the moment how prophetic that comment truly was.

I sat down with one thing on my already jet-lagged, sleep-deprived mind, “I just want to get some sleep.” Well, it turns out that God did have other plans for the three-hour plane ride.  Sleep would have to wait.  The seat beside me was soon occupied by Sam; a kind, friendly, and talkative individual from D.C. who works in the space industry.  Needless to say, based on his line of work, Sam is quite intelligent.  This is where those words “just do something” come into play.  About 24hrs earlier I sat and observed a Q&A with David and Francis in Beijing.  During that time they were asked some questions concerning making disciples and spreading the gospel.  To one question Francis gave a somewhat comical, but entirely serious answer, “just do something.”

As those words rang in my ears I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sleep on the plane.  I was going to do something and engage Sam with the gospel.  One simple question, “Are you are follower of Christ?” led to a three hour discussion of the Christian faith.  Sam asked me just about every hard question one can think to ask.  Over the next three hours I did the best I could to give evidence for the existence of God, to answer the problem of evil, and even to address whether or not Sam was going to hell apart from Christ.  It was not easy, and I know my answers were inadequate at times, but Sam politely listened.  I think I was given the opportunity to correct a lot of misunderstanding in Sam’s mind concerning Christianity, and even help offset the stereotype he had regarding Christians. For that I’m grateful. I’m grateful for Sam’s willingness to engage with me in conversation, and even appearing to be open to being wrong.  I’m grateful for what Francis said the day before that God used to compel me in this situation.

The reality is, I’ve been given this same opportunity many times, and many times I’ve gone to sleep or devised some other rationale for not doing something.  In this situation, by God’s grace, I did something. I can’t express the joy that comes with simply being obedient in that moment; a joy I’ve experienced many times but tend to easily forget. Do you feel stuck?  Do you feel like you don’t know where to begin? Let me urge you, just do something. You won’t regret it.

___________

This story was written by Cory, one of the members of the Multiply team traveling with David and Francis in Asia.

Join us on November 8 for Multiply.  We will live stream our gathering from Austin, TX.  It’s free and easy for churches, small groups, and families to participate.  Register by going to MultiplyMovement.com.

Francis, David, and the team have been privileged to meet with pastors and leaders from China and Japan this week.  Here are some of the pictures from their time in Asia thus far.  Please continue to be in prayer for them and for the Church in Asia as they are making disciples who are making disciples…

Register for Multiply in November  – If you haven’t registered for the Multiply Gathering from Austin, Texas, we encourage you to join us.  Registration is free and easy to do on our website.

image copy

David preaching outside of Beijing, sharing how God has used the people of China to shape his life.

HouseChurchLeaders

House church leaders speaking with the team about the challenges that face the Church in China. The Church is growing due to evangelism but there is a great need for ongoing discipleship.

image copy 2

David and Francis had the privilege to meet with many believers in Japan to encourage them through the Word and in prayer.

The Lord of Grace

multiply-emblem1.jpgSalvation is all about the grace of God. There is absolutely nothing that you can do to save yourself or earn God’s favor. Paul said, “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8–9). No one can brag about his or her good deeds because our works cannot save us. Salvation comes through the grace of God as we place our faith in Jesus Christ. All salvation requires is faith: Do you believe that Jesus is who He says He is?

But keep in mind that while this is simple, it’s not easy. Faith in Jesus Christ means believing that He is Lord (according to Rom. 10:9). Have you ever thought about what that word Lord means? We sometimes think of it as another name for God, but it’s actually a title. It refers to a master, owner, or a person who is in a position of authority. So take a minute to think this through: Do you really believe that Jesus is your master? Do you believe that He is your owner—that you actually belong to Him?

Paul is so bold as to tell us: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19–20). The same Lord who by His grace set us free from sin and death now owns us. We belong to Him, and He calls us to live in obedience to His rule.

The problem is, many in the church want to “confess that Jesus is Lord,” yet they don’t believe that He is their master. Do you see the obvious contradiction in this? The call to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is open to everyone, but we don’t get to write our own job description. If Jesus is Lord, then He sets the agenda. If Jesus Christ is Lord, then your life belongs to Him. He has a plan, agenda, and calling for you. You don’t get to tell Him what you’ll be doing today or for the rest of your life.

It All Comes Down to Love

But don’t get the impression that following Jesus is all about joyless sacrifice. More than anything else, following Jesus boils down to two commands, which He said were the most important commandments in the Old Testament Law:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. (Matt. 22:37–40)

It all comes down to love. Peter expressed it well for people like us, who didn’t see Jesus on earth but follow Him nonetheless: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Pet. 1:8).

Following Jesus is not about diligently keeping a set of rules or conjuring up the moral fortitude to lead good lives. It’s about loving God and enjoying Him.

But lest we think that we can love God and live any way we want to, Jesus told us very clearly, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). The love for God in the first commandment is made practical in the love for our neighbors in the second commandment. John actually told us that if we don’t love the people that we can see around us, then we don’t love God, whom we can’t see (1 John 4:20).

True love is all about sacrifice for the sake of the ones you love: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). When we Multiplyunderstand love in this light, it’s not difficult to understand that love for God and obedience to Jesus Christ cannot be separated. God’s love changes us from the inside out and redefines every aspect of our lives.

This excerpt was taken from Part 1, Session 1 of the Multiply material. You can purchase it wherever books are sold, or you can download it from the Multiply website.

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 4.10.04 PMAs much as we can, we like to point you to other voices that offer different, but like-minded perspectives on disciple-making. Barry Cooper is one such voice. Currently, he is in the middle of a five-part series on the 9Marks blog. In each of the five posts, Cooper discusses a different reason that churches and individual Christians may not be discipling well.

The point is not to be negative or focus on weakness, but Cooper realizes that unrealized problems are rarely ever fixed. So take his reasons we don’t disciple and make them starting blocks from which you and your church can begin to disciple better.

You can access part 1 here. Be sure to keep up with the rest of his five insights for more eye-opening aid in your struggle to persevere as a faithful disciple-maker.

9Marks is a great ministry that focuses on building healthy churches. For more about them, explore the rest of their super helpful website.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 853 other followers