Archive

Monthly Archives: February 2013

WebcastTVpicFrancis640x457FREEwLOGO

Join Francis Chan and David Platt via the Verge 2013 free webcast beginning Friday, March 1 during Main Session 1 The Priority of Disciple Making: There is No Plan B. The theme of the conference centers around making disciples. Learn from, and be challenged by, various church leaders on topics covering not only the theological foundation, but also the practical outworking of disciple-making.

Watch this video for more information about Verge, and the conference.

Advertisements

Francis Chan and David Platt encourage us to love those whom we are trying to disciple. Discipleship is not simply a task to be accomplished. Let’s make sure we are loving people as we invite them into our lives and pour into them.

This video is a 90 second excerpt from the leader video (over five minutes long) in part 1, section 3 of the Multiply material – “The Heart of a Disciple Maker.”

discipleship10111

When most of us think of ways to help others grow in their faith in Christ, we think primarily in terms of what we have to offer to them. Discipleship for many of us has been primarily a one way street of information imparted from us to them.  And this is good, as well as necessary. Jesus often stands up and preaches in the synagogue or to the crowd. Paul taught all night in Acts 20. But what if the people we desire to grow more into the image of Christ need more than for us to impart information? Certainly not less than imparting information! But what if they also need for us to enter into conversation with them through asking good questions?

I’m convinced that asking good questions is the soil for Christian growth. Notice that questions neither give the growth, nor are they the growth themselves. Rather, questions are the soil in which growth can happen through God’s inspired Word (i.e. impartation of information) and the power of his Holy Spirit. I think we see this in many places throughout Scripture in many different forms and functioning for many different purposes.

How can asking questions be a helpful companion to sound teaching, or some form of imparting information? Questions naturally lend themselves to internalization. In order to answer a question, there must be thought. Thought brings about ideas that interact with beliefs. Beliefs (depending on the subject) are connected with emotions. Emotions are connected with the heart. When you begin to ask others intentional questions that flow from the Word, then you are tilling the soil of Christian growth. Truth enters into the thought processes introducing (potentially) new ideas that interact with beliefs, which draw out emotion concerning the ideas, and ultimately begin to expose the condition of the heart.

For example, suppose you are talking with a couple of people about sinfulness. You are discussing Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden and how since then, sin has corrupted the world. This leads to further discussion about the nature of humans, and with Romans 3 in mind, you ask, “Would you say that all people are totally sinful and unable to do good apart from Christ?” This forces them to think about it.  They weigh the idea that mankind is totally sinful against their belief – perhaps that humans are essentially good. As this new idea interacts with their belief, their emotions may come to the surface. Remember that while emotions are never the means by which truth penetrates the heart with change, they often expose the beliefs of people’s hearts. In this particular example, suppose that they become defensive and a little bit angry. “Wait a second… are you trying to tell me that out of the billions of people on this planet, not one does good?” Their tones and facial expressions give them away – they do not like this new idea. But through your question, they have been forced to deeply consider the idea. You (hopefully) have gently and lovingly challenged their preconceived notion in such a way that they are driven to wrestle with this scriptural truth that is so hard for them to swallow. And now, you also have a good idea of what they believe, which will inform your approach to future discussions with them.

Earlier, I emphasized that growth in Christ does not come only through imparting information. However, information is an obvious component of Christian growth. How? This is where it comes together. It is not to say that information is not important and essential in the discipleship process. It is to say that the main concern should not be on transference of knowledge, but on transformation of heart. The one serves the other. Part of the goal, then, is to be able to see what areas people need to grow in, and then begin to plot out how to help guide them there through asking really good questions and conversing with them about those questions. This then leads to opportunities to impart biblical truth in a (hopefully) relevant and penetrating way. Your questions become a way of teaching truth and imparting information that is needed, but in a way that hopefully takes truth to the heart, where true Christian growth takes place.

We want to encourage you to begin listening more intently to what the people you are discipling are going through, ask the Lord to show you the needs of their heart, and then begin to ask intentional questions that are filled with the truth of God’s Word. As you begin to do this with others, seek to do this in your own life. Whether studying the Bible, sitting at work, or even after a disagreement with your spouse, begin to listen in each situation and ask good questions. I am convinced that asking good questions is the soil for Christian growth.

Note from the editor: Share your experiences and questions related to disciple-making in the comments portion below or on Facebook. We’ll share your stories here with others, and address your most common questions.

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

Ray L. asks: “What’s the best way to present the gospel without being too forceful or raw while at the same time not sugar coating anything?”

This is a common, yet good question among many believers today. The question is good because it brings together two very necessary realities when it comes to sharing the gospel: love for God and love for neighbor (Matt. 22:37-39). Love for God in that we should eagerly desire not to “sugar coat” the gospel, but proclaim it because of the glorious God at the center of it. The question communicates love for neighbor through the desire to share the gospel in a way that is sensitive to those around us (which shows concern for them), rather than dismissive of those with whom we share (which shows concern for ourselves).

I’d like to offer four key biblical truths to help us think through this important question. Certainly more could be added, but these should serve as a good starting point:

Foundations
Foundational Truth 1: The gospel is not popular. “…but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles…”(1 Cor. 1:23). We need to recover a Christian world-view that understands that, in some way, the gospel will be rejected as offensive, foolish, or both to everyone who has either not been born again by the Spirit of God, or who does not have the Spirit already beginning the miracle of the new birth within them. We shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that we could share this good news in the most perfect way possible and still be rejected apart from the Spirit’s work in our sharing and in their hearts.

Foundational Truth 2: We must be dependent through prayer. “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1-4). Pray. This is the next logical step that flows from the last truth. We are dependent upon our Father to change the hearts of those around us, through the work of his Spirit, from hearts that see the gospel as foolish and offensive to hearts that see the gospel as wise and precious. What might happen if we joined the Father in what he is already doing by being a people desperate in prayer everyday for those around us who desperately need Jesus?

Foundational Truth 3: We must be walking in love. “...walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…” (Eph. 5:2). We must love the people we are engaging. This may seem obvious, but loving sacrificially is essential. If the person in front of you doesn’t feel like you care enough for them to sacrifice time, money, pride, etc., then how do you expect them to believe that Jesus cared enough to have sacrificed his own life so they could live? We are the living witnesses to the life of Christ. We model the suffering servant who sacrificially loved us, by sacrificially loving others so that our lives would affirm our mouths in sharing the gospel. Otherwise, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:1-2, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” Without love for the person in front of you, your words are about as good a noisy gong that no one wants to listen to.

Foundational Truth 4: We must be listening. “…be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” (Jas. 1:19). Because the gospel is rejected as either foolish or offensive, we sometimes get into situations where we become frustrated, which can then lead to an argument. James offers this needed admonition in our day. Listen! Listen! Listen! Did you hear that? If not, then listen some more! Speaking is obviously an essential part of sharing the gospel, but before we speak, let us first humbly listen. Ask questions that will allow the other person to do most of the talking. Being genuinely interested in someone else’s life not only shows them that you love and care for them, but it also maps out where all of the land mines are in the field of their life so that you can navigate around them to get to their heavily guarded heart with the good news. We don’t want any unnecessary casualties on the battlefield of evangelism. Remember that the gospel of Jesus is always relevant, but never relative. Knowing your audience enables you to see how the unchanging truth of the gospel is relevant to them personally.

Again, this list is not exhaustive when it comes to sharing the gospel. No one formula is going to fit every person in every situation, but these foundational truths should inform any approach to discipleship as we seek to be both loving and faithful as we share the message of the gospel.

“Go, make disciple of all nations…”

Anyone who has even limited familiarity with Multiply knows that this is at the core of it all.  The Great Commission – Jesus blessing His followers to go and lead others to follow Him as well (Matt 28:18-20).

Does this command feel like a blessing or a burden to you?

TightropeHere’s some encouragement for those of us who sometimes feel burdened by what we perceive to be the impossible task of walking the tightrope of obedience without falling into the sea of legalism below. “The gate is narrow, and the way is hard that leads to life” (Matt 7:13-14).  This is true.  But tip-toeing down a wobbly tightrope that is thinner than your foot may not be the best analogy for obeying God. The reason that the “way is hard” is not because we must earn something from God by obeying Him, but because following Jesus brings opposition from the world.

Of course, just because our obedience doesn’t save us doesn’t mean it’s not important. After all, it was Jesus who said, “every healthy tree bears good fruit” (Matt 7:17).

So where is the connection?  How do you trust in Christ and follow Him well (which involves action, to be sure) without feeling legalistically burdened by the weight of His commands?

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.  (Ps 1:1-2)

Did you catch that?  We are blessed by God in obedience as we delight in His law.  This is because when His law is our delight, obeying it is not weighty legalism, but joyous love.  And the only way we can delight in God’s law is through God-given faith in His Son, Jesus – the fulfillment of the law and Word made flesh (Matt 5:17Jn 1:14). So trust in Him, not yourself, and then freely love Him well by obeying Him.  How gracious of Him to bless us with commands through which we can properly love Him!  This is delight in the law of the Lord.

In other words, while legalism binds us to achieve righteousness on our own via the law, God gives grace so that we can delight in the law from our heart, and this frees us to obey Him because we want to, not because we have to.  This is evidence of saving grace, and this is what the Lord desires of us – an earnest longing to obey, even if our attempts are imperfect, because we love God and delight in His commands.

In that line of thinking, 1 John describes delighting in God’s law like this:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  (1 Jn 5:1-5, emphasis added)

So before you pull yourself up by your bootstraps and force yourself to do some stuff that you don’t really want to do deep down inside (which, by the way, is a pretty decent description for legalism), examine your heart.  Why are you doing what you’re doing?  Why are you making disciples?  Is it because you love God?  The answer to that last question ought to be a resounding and delighted “Yes!” for all who are following Christ.

Trust Christ for your salvation, and then love God by obeying His commands with a heart that is overflowing with thankfulness and joy.  God’s commands are a blessing, not a burden, but only when we delight in them.  If you don’t find yourself delighting in God’s commands, ask Him for that delight.  Over and over, more and more, with persevering trust in Christ.  Only through Him will the burden of God’s commands ever be alleviated.

Other helpful and relevant passages include:  Psalm 119Jeremiah 31:31-34Ezekiel 36:24-29Matthew 11:28-30Ephesians 2:8-10, and Hebrews 12:1-2

Multiply_Full Banner_BlackOkay, you do make disciples, but no disciple of Christ is ever made apart from the Spirit of Christ.

This is what we’d like to encourage you with now… this is your official check-up. We’ve heard many amazing stories of God’s work through many of you as you have sought to be obedient to the Great Commission. At the same time though, we know that some of you are struggling right now. You might be having a difficult time finding someone around you who doesn’t know Christ, you may be finding it difficult to feel a burden for the lost, or you may be giving a discipleship relationship everything you have, following every step you know, but with no apparent spiritual fruit.

We’re here to tell you that what you are trying to do is virtually impossible. In fact, you cannot do it… on your own. Realize that as you look through the book of Acts, the main disciple-maker is a guy that you rarely ever see there in person. He is present in every chapter, every conversation, and every conversion. When you look in Acts and see different individuals and crowds being converted, you almost always see something to the effect of, “And the Lord added to their number…”. Jesus was at the center of the mission in the book of Acts, and lest we forget, Jesus is at the center of the mission in each one of our lives today!

So as you continue in the race set before you, be encouraged that God has promised to bless this mission through inadequate people like us (1 Cor. 1:26-31).

Earlier last month, we asked you to share your stories with us. Today, we do the same. Why? In our next post, we’ll be highlighting some of your stories and offer suggestions for problems you’re running into. The ultimate goal is that we will be able to encourage one another in the Lord from your experiences. So we want to give you one more chance to ask a question or share a story. Send us both successes and failures. What have you tried? What has been helpful? What funny or awkward situations have you encountered, and how have they turned out? How has God amazed you in the midst of it all? Do you have a specific doubt or question? While we want the triumphs, we also want to trials. Let us know how it’s going. We may use your story to help others in the future.  Comment below or post it on the Multiply Facebook page.