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Never Been Exposed to the Truth

Jesus said that He came to “seek and to save that which was lost.” He clearly described what it meant to follow Him when He declared, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” A disciple, a follower of Jesus, is defined as a person who knows Jesus and has decided to follow Him. That disciple is being changed and transformed by Christ daily and has committed himself to the mission of Christ. We seem to do well focusing on being biblically sound and relationally connected but somehow fail miserably when it comes to living missionally.

A recent Barna Report has reinforced many concerns about our culture in America moving further and further away from God. Mike Huckabee offers this summary of that report: “The Barna Group just released a new study of Generation Z (current teenagers) that found they are the least-Christian generation in US history. Nearly twice as many claim to be atheists as Millennials (13% to 7%), and 35% of current teens say they are either atheist, agnostic or unaffiliated with any religion. Just 59% say they are Catholic or Christian (a six-point drop from the Millennial generation), and only 4% hold what is considered a true Biblical worldview.”

He continues, “The survey places the cause of this change on today’s teenagers having been brought up in a post-Christian, post-modern environment where they’ve never been exposed to Christianity or church.” The phrase that stands out shocking and troubling me the most is, “never been exposed to Christianity or church.” Can that really be right here in our own backyards? Have we lost our passion and burden for the lost where most Christians are not even sharing their faith, ever?

J.D. Payne recently shared that as of October 2017 there are 207 Unengaged Unreached People Groups here. This is even of greater concern than just being an Unreached People Group because this means there is no (none) evangelical planting strategy being executed at this time to build a gospel bridge to these people. Before we pass this off as a metropolitan problem in New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles we need to ask ourselves, “What am I doing to reach the unchurched, unengaged, and those far from God in my city and community?”

Mike Breen expounds upon a huge problem in the American church when he laments that in the United States, “96% of church growth is due to transfer growth and not churches striking into the heart of our enemy’s territory. We’ll consider it a win because we have the new service or program that is growing…but that growth is mainly from people coming from other churches. That’s not a win! That’s a staggering loss.” Research supports his claim because only 15% of all churches are growing and only 1% of that number is increasing because of conversion growth.

What is your church’s strategy to reach those who are far from God in your city and community? Ed Stetzer challenges us to discern whom the lost are, where do they live, and how will we reach them? Yet it seems that what dominates most church cultures today is attracting those who are already believers and attending church. Without even realizing it we have become enamored with having a better product than the church down the street, which perpetuates a spirit of competition where the church with the best music and programs wins!

First, we need to repent.

We need to ask God to forgive us for our lack of burden and concern for the lost that work and live next door to us. Then we need to recommit to being the salt and light that He has called each one of us to be. Is your light shining? Are you shining as you are supposed to be? Philippians 2:15 says, “We are to shine like stars in the world.” As we are praying we need to put some feet to our prayers through random acts of kindness and to love in word and deed. Can those living in darkness see our good works?

Second, we need to develop a strategy as an individual believer and as a church.

Give people a way and opportunities to share their faith. Dave Ferguson with Exponential and Community Christian Church in Naperville, IL, utilizes a 5-step plan that he has called B.L.E.S.S. Begin in prayer. Listen to them because no one ever feels more valued than when we listen. Eat with them to build relationships and get to know them personally. Serve them in a way that blesses their lives. How can you best serve them? Share with them what God has done for you and for them.

Third , we must place tools in our member’s hands.

This can be done at the end of the services and through your small groups to aid and help them in being light. It could be a card with the gospel message in one verse (Romans 6:23) or it could be an invitation to a special event. One thing here, though, is try to change your culture from a “come and see” (which is good) and add to it a “go and tell!” Think of multiple ways and multiple doors of how people can be connected and connect with others. It really is more a lifestyle of “as you go” being light and witnesses than a program.

Fourth, do the work of an evangelist.  

If we want to see God move in the area of evangelism then we must be ready to do the work of an evangelist in the same way Timothy was challenged. It is heartbreaking that the reality is that there are many churches that never see one person saved or baptized. This does not mean that anything goes just so we can get numbers and brag about the notches on our gospel belts. If we desire a movement of God it will require extraordinary prayer, abundant evangelism, a white-hot faith, and sacrifice with God giving the increase.

BE A GENEROUS CHURCH

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II Cor. 9:15 gives us one of the richest statements in scripture; “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” Christmas is all about the greatest gift ever given. The word indescribable literally means too wonderful for words. The words in this verse are the concluding comments of chapters eight and nine. They tell the story of the generosity of a people who display their appreciation through their generosity. This unspeakable gift is the basis, foundation, and motivation for all Christian giving.

Your church is never more like Jesus than when you live generous lives. Every church is there is help people find and follow Jesus. Notice the “helping people!” True biblical prosperity equals generosity. When Paul was headed to Jerusalem with a love offering from the believers in Macedonia and Achaia he said they were pleased to make a contribution to the poor. They were not just willing but saw it is a blessing and privilege to help. They were thrilled to have an opportunity to be a blessing.

We need to be mindful of those who may struggle during the holidays. This time of the year is wonderful but to many it reminds them of their loneliness, their losses, and their lack of hope. They need a little extra giving of our time and attention. Their hearts are breaking and they should not have to face this season alone. We can be generous with our love, encouragement, prayers, and other expressions of kindness. They need to be reminded that they may struggle and suffer for a season but God’s purposes will prevail.

We must make sure our motives are pure in our generosity. What we do is very important but why we do it is even more important. Remember, God loves a cheerful giver who gives out of their appreciation for Him as the indescribable gift. Paul told the Corinthians that the key to their giving was their eagerness and had nothing to do with how much they had. The Gentile believers felt a debt to the Jews who had brought the gospel to them. Generosity to others comes out of His generosity to us.

Here are some things to consider, as your church desires to be a generous church.

First, make sure you are not defined by what you have but rather by what you give. People see our nice buildings and wonder if we have placed too much emphasis on what we possess rather than how we can help those who are less fortunate. There is nothing wrong with nice things but materialism can cause so much focus on what we have that we are then unable to focus on helping others. Do people see your church as a generous church?

Second, make sure you are not defined by how much you give but by your willingness to give. II Cor. 8:12 says, “…it is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” The principle is not equal amount but equal willingness. God does not ask us to give what we do not have. It is not about the size of the gift but the size of your heart in doing what you can to help others. Prov. 3:27 says, “When it is in your power, don’t withhold good from the one it belongs to.”

Third, make sure you are not defined by what you do personally but by how it glorifies God. If you do it for recognition or to be noticed you already have your reward. God blesses it the most when we do not care who gets the credit. You should be more concerned about Jesus getting the credit than you or your church. We are not in a competition with other churches but rather with the devil. Praise the Lord when someone turns to Christ because the love of Christ was displayed to him or her in a practical way.

Fourth, make sure you are not defined by how you look but by how you live. If you are going to help people you will have to help them where they are and that can be very messy. They are often broken and looking for someone who cares about them. People want to know that you are real and authentic without pretense. They are not impressed by outward appearances that are not backed up by your daily practices. Matthew 6:1 says, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people to be seen by them.”

Fifth, let’s not be defined by a tight grip but by an open hand. Your church should always be eager to help and ready to respond to the needs of others. Sometimes we hold on too tightly to what has given to us. God told Abram in Gen. 12:2, “I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” You are blessed so that you will be a blessing to others. Open your hands and see what God has given your church in order that you might bless your community.

Your church may say it values lost people and wants to be a blessing to the people in your area but that must be backed up by regular practices that show you really do care. It is not just monetary but is a combination of investing your time, talents, and treasures. God is not asking you to give out of what you do not have but instead is looking to see if we are eagerly excited to be generous with what we has entrusted into our hands. Live with open hands and do not hold on too tightly!

Healthy churches are always generous churches!

The Time is Now

Finish Well Pic

 

In The Making of a Leader, author Bobby Clinton states that only 30% of leaders finish well. Unfortunately, time takes a toll on many leaders who quit, throw in the towel or disqualify themselves. Too many lose heart, lose their joy, and become casualties of the pressures of leadership. All of us have been disheartened by news of a well-known leader who did not finish well. Sadly, the temptation is to only focus on what caused their demise instead of many contributions they made to the kingdom.

The truth is that most people will remember how we finished not how we started. How can we stand the test of time? How can we make sure we finish well? How do we make sure that our spiritual life, passion for Christ, and joy is not choked out of us? In How to Lead & Still Have a Life, H. Dale Burke describes a lot of leaders as “Busy, Buried, and Behind.” They have slowly but surely become overworked, overloaded, and overwhelmed. Many leaders talk far more about burnout than how blessed they are.

First, you must stay centered on Jesus! It is way too easy to make the ministry and our work the center of our universe, but it isn’t. Following Christ is first and foremost about developing an intimate relationship with Him. It is not about fulfilling obligations, checking items off our to-do list, or following a list of regulations. In Leaders Who Last, Dave Kraft says, “Great men and women are great because they enjoy exceptional intimacy with Christ.” Do not fall in to the trap of thinking it is all up to you! The power of God works in you and through you but it is not from you.

Second, you must stay focused on your calling! You cannot do it all and here is the good news; God never asked you to! Andy Stanley has said it this way, “Opportunity does not equal obligation.” It is imperative for you to determine what God has called you to do and then remain focused on that calling. If you are already overloaded and overwhelmed you must decide what you will say no to if you are going to say yes to a new project. If you have not written out your own personal purpose statement you should consider taking a prayer retreat and asking God to reveal that to you. Take a look at Jeremiah 42:1-3.

Third, be willing to place your to-do list through a filter. We must seek God regularly to guide our use of time. Wayne Grudem says it like this, “I find the most helpful thing I do regarding use of time is to spend time in prayer each morning bringing my plans and my ‘to do’ list before the Lord and seeking his direction.” How can you best leverage your time to have the greatest influence and impact for Christ? Change takes time and it is wisdom to remember that you hardly ever accomplish as much as you would like in one year but can accomplish far more than you thought in five years.

Fourth, reignite your passion for the great commission and the great commandment. Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, wrote: “For many years, one of the first things I do every morning is to evaluate all the day’s competing demands against a single criterion: How will each opportunity enable me to maximize my contribution to helping fulfill the Great Commission? I prioritize accordingly. Some of the demands go to the top of my list, some down the list, and some get eliminated.” How will you meet and build relationships with those who are far from God?

Fifth, remember the example of the apostle Paul. When Paul went before King Agrippa he once again shared his salvation story on the road to Damascus and says this in Acts 26:19-20, “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. Instead, I preached to those in Damascus first, and to those in Jerusalem and in all the region of Judea, and to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works worthy of repentance.” He testifies that He received “Help that comes from God.” He not only provides saving power but also sustaining power.

Sixth, know that Christ wants more for you than you can imagine. It was Paul who wrote in Philippians 1:6 “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Now is the time to go back to the basics of point number one and remind yourself not to fall into the trap of thinking it is all up to you! God wants to do greater things in your life and in your ministry than you do. Paul goes to the next level in Philippians 4:13, “I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Seventh, make sure you are getting enough rest. Fight the temptation of thinking that if you are not busy then you are being lazy! David Kraft also says, “Sometimes our schedules and egos are writing checks our bodies cannot cash.” If we are travelling at a break neck speed the best thing we can do is to slow down. Where can you find margin in your life to get some much needed rest? Everyone needs to make sure they are able to find ways to get refreshed, recharged, and renewed. You can only run on empty so long before everything comes to a screeching halt.

Healthy Christians and healthy churches find rhythms led by the Holy Spirit of God that allow them to stand the test of time!

Authentic Values

Businesswoman hands holding white card sign with What is important to you ? question text message isolated on grey wall office background. Retro instagram style image

Much has been said and written about values. Are our values preferences or practices? In Acts 2:42-47 we are given the core values of the early church as teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. They were not just preferences but daily practices. We know this because we are told they “devoted themselves” to these values. The passage does not say they sat around discussing or debating them but, rather, they were the daily practices of their lives.

In his book Value Driven Leadership, Aubrey Malphurs describes values as either “actual” or “aspirational.” Is there a difference? James 2:18 makes a clear distinction between the two in stating, “But someone will say, ’You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works.” James also states in 1:22, “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Malphurs describes actual and aspirational values in the following ways:

First, Actual Values are the beliefs we own and act on daily. These values come from inside of you and are who you are. It is authentic because they exist now, in the present, and describe what is true about you right now. Actual values are not just preferences but what you practice daily. When you share your actual values people around you shake their heads in affirmation because they see it and agree with you.

Second, Aspirational Values are beliefs you do not currently own. You know you should own them but you are not quite there yet. Aspirational values deal with what should be, not necessarily what actually is. These are values we would like to adopt such as being evangelistic. We desire to reach people with the gospel, but the truth is, we are really not that evangelistic; not yet. We aspire to be!

With these two descriptions of values by Dr. Malphurs, allow me to share a couple of observations we need to be aware of about values:

  1. Our Biblical values will be tested! For example, it is one thing to say we value loving people but we must realize that unconditional love can be put to the test daily. I John makes this very clear, “If any one says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen.”
  2. Are Biblical truths our values or our goals? We say we are burdened for the lost but what are we personally doing to reach them? It is wonderful to have the goal of reaching the world for Christ but what daily practices are we involved in that are helping us in that direction? The results will never change if we do not change our daily practices. What will we begin doing differently?
  3. Are Biblical truths our actual practices or just aspirational preferences? Jesus said that “men ought always to pray” but how much time are we actually spending in prayer? We say we value the word of God and should study it daily but is it our daily practice to have a quiet time in the word with our Lord? For our results to change our daily practices must change also.
  4. You cannot fake Biblical values! What you really value always shows up! If you really believe in the importance of sharing the gospel with people far from God, then you are constantly building relationships and bridges to them. You do not just talk about what you are going to do but you actually practice what you preach. Matthew 6:21 says it well, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
  5. Make sure your values are genuine and authentic! Be honest about it! At our church I like to say, “We want to be the friendliest church in the world!” I never say, “We are the friendliest church in the world, state, or even our city!” There is nothing wrong with openly admitting what goals you would like to adopt without claiming you have arrived. You cannot intellectualize values nor can you rationalize them.

Malphurs challenges us to examine our values to determine whether they are actual or aspirational. You can determine this by whether they are verbalized preferences and goals or are actual daily practices. Here are some excellent questions to ask about ourselves and our ministries: What values or beliefs should we adopt? What values and beliefs have we adopted? What would those looking in from the outside say we value? What are our real values? What key value ingredients are missing?

This is where many churches get in trouble and struggle because they resist what they need most; a complete or partial transition from one set of values to another. Do we value keeping members happy or do we value reaching our neighbors with the gospel? Do we value our traditions or do we value reaching our children and grandchildren with the gospel? Do we value our personal preferences or being culturally relevant while remaining Biblically sound?

Realize that conflict in churches often arises from differing values. Some value safety, comfort, and routine. Others value risk, sacrifice, and shaking things up. Every church must decide what they really value and if those values are not consistent with God’s mission for His church they must be willing to do whatever is necessary to be obedient to His plan for His church. Values can be measured by what our calendars contain and by our checkbooks.

Healthy churches and healthy Christians are authentic about what they value and are willing to change to make sure God’s values are genuinely theirs!

Help Somebody – Please!

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The book of James is all about doing and taking action. The reality is that before we go any further talking about doing we must first address the issue of our attitude. God has always been into motives and while what we do is very important He also looks at why we do what we do. It we serve without the right attitude we submit to legalistic guidleines. It becomes all about a list of “do’s” and “do not’s.” All you hear is you “must do that” and you “can’t do that.”

James focuses having the right attitude and having the right actions. Obedience in both areas is required. Legalism produces the wrong motives while a lack of service produces the wrong actions. It can become easy to criticize what others are doing because it is different but we must remember that different is not necessarily wrong, it is just different. Many of the tried and true methods we are comfortable with today were radical, outside the box, innovations at one time.

First, we must have the right attitude! This places the focus on who I am. James 1:2-3 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” Attitude is everything because if we serve with the wrong attitude we become easily frustrated and eventually will burn-out emotionally.

Here is what you need to consider in having the right attitude:

  1. Guard your heart! Pro 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” You must be careful to not allow bitterness, envy, jealousy, or pride to control your heart. A great way to test your heart condition is to listen to yourself. How do you sound? Are you more positive or negative? Do you talk more about your needs or the needs of others?
  2. Change your thinking! Pro 23:7 says, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:” Once again listen to yourself. Do you gripe and complain more than you tell others how wonderful a God you serve? Todd Wilson said it this way, “You can’t always change your context or the hand you are dealt, but you can change your thinking.” What and who does your mind dwell upon?
  3. Adjust your focus! Phi 2:3 makes this clear, “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.” How do we take the necessary steps to no longer be consumers of the goods our church offers to becoming contributers for the cause of Christ? The truth is that there is more joy found in serving others than in serving yourself.
  4. Know the real treasure of Christianity! It is not that we get to do good, or that we are bleesed when we help others, nor is it even that we get to go to heaven one day. The real treasure of Christianity is that we get to know God intimately and personally. I Jn 3:1 says, “Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are!”

Second, we must have the right actions! Now the focus is on what I will do for Christ because I have the right attitude. James 1:27 says, “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” This is a challenge to focus on those who need our help the most. God has blessed us so that we can be a blessing to others. Who is it, in your circle of influence, that needs your help?

Here is what you need to consider in having the right actions:

  1. Have a servant’s heart! It starts with leaders who have a love and concern for others. When we send church planters to their communities we challenge them to go serve their city and then God will build His church. Remember leaders, if you want people in your church to have a servant’s heart they must see it in you. Speed of the leader, speed of the team.
  2. Love your city! When Jesus saw the multitudes He was moved with compassion and as He looked over Jerusalem He wept. Daniel Im puts it this way, “To many times we have a vision for our church but not for our city. Develop a vision for your city.” If your church closed it’s doors would anyone in your community even notice?
  3. Redefine church membership! The true definition of membership is not attendance but rather service. I Corinthians 12 tells us that if a member of the body is not functioning then it is not fulfilling it’s role properly. Do not allow atrophy to set in where there is a gradual decline in your effectiveness and vigor due to underuse or neglect. Make sure you are exercising your serving muscles.
  4. Glorify God and spread His fame! Be a church where the glory of your church  takes a back seat to the glory of God. All of us need to talk more about the gospel of Jesus Christ than we talk about our church. Hopefully, you are excited about your church, enjoy your church, and want to invite others to come to your church. However, make sure you tell them about Jesus. Tell them how wonderful a savior you have and that you would much rather talk about Him because He is what it is really all about!

Healthy Christians and healthy churches are helping others spiritually and physically. Find someone to serve. Look for ways that your church can be a blessing to your community. Help somebody – Please!

Extraordinary Prayer

PRAY

Pastors Oasis this year was excellent and we were challenged to seek through prayer an extraordinary movement of the Spirit of God that produces extraordinary results.  Bill Eliff and Todd West did a wonderful job of reminding us of the need to cry out to God in desperation.  Without God and His power in our ministries everything can and will come crashing down like a house of cards.  Bill Eliff asked, “How in the world do we think we can build the church if we are not interceding with the head of the church?”

Is your prayer life ordinary or is it extraordinary!  The one thing Nehemiah did night and day for over four months was the only thing that could save his nation; he prayed!  We talk about prayer often but how often do we pray?  We talk about fervent prayer but how often do we pray fervently?  We talk about praying without ceasing but how often do we pray unceasing, unrelenting, and unending prayers?  We often say we have not because we ask not but how often have we asked with desperation?

Todd West chllenged us with the need for a time of retreat in our lives.  We need to to place a self-imposed time into the regular rhythm of our lives to break away every so often for a focused time of prayer.  We should divert daily, withdraw weekly, measure monthly, and quartine ourselves quarterly.  Mac Lake says, “Too often I wake hurried to do things for God when what I really need is to slow down and hear from God!”  Psalm 27:14 says,  “Wait for the Lord; be strong  and courageous. Wait for the Lord.”

What is a prayer retreat?  In our Dynamic Church Planting International training a prayer retreat is defined as, “A time you set aside to go away to be alone with God.”  Let’s examine this definition, one phrase at a time.

  • First, “A time you set aside.”  A personal prayer retreat must be a time that you intentionally schedule and then not allow anything to keep you from having. We are all so incredibly busy, it is easy to be trapped into doing the urgent rather than the important.

Is there any time more important than the time you could spend alone with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords? I consider the time that I schedule for my personal prayer retreats the most important time that I will invest in any given year.  If you don’t set it aside, you simply will not have a personal prayer retreat. Other responsibilities will suck up all your time. Satan wants to keep you from enjoying this sweet fellowship with God. He loves for you fill your schedule with everything but a block of time to experience the Lord.

  • Second, “to go away.”  You must determine a good location.  Make sure that you “go away” for your personal prayer retreat. Trying to “retreat” at home or at the office will be frustrating. There are too many distractions in these places. We need to go away in order to focus on being with the Lord.  We live down in the valley—the valley of our everyday lives, where it’s too noisy to hear God very well. In the valley we have too much to do, too many people to talk with, too many problems, too much time pressure.

We need to leave this valley of noise and pressure, and get away to the quiet of God’s presence.  Why?

  • Third; “to be alone with God.”  You must free yourself of all distractions.  This is the essence of a prayer retreat… to be alone with God. In the intimacy of fellowship, your relationship with the Lord will be renewed. You will experience Him. And then you’ll ask Him what He wants to do in your personal life, in your family, and in your ministry. Usually, I find that God wants to work in all three areas during most prayer retreats.

Get alone with God and let him reveal what he wants to share with you.  Wayne Cordeiro describes prayer as “thinking in the presence of God.”  When you plan a retreat consider having at least four sessions focusing on this acronym for pray (Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield) out of the Model Prayer.

  • Praise Him!  “Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.”  Use the Psalms, praise music, and count your blessings.  Write in your journal the multiple blessings of the Lord.
  • Repent of your sin!  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Spend time focusing on your sin and ask God to reveal any impure motives you may have in your heart.
  • Ask!  “Give us this day our daily bread.”  Now that you have spent time in praise and repentance you begin to make your requests known unto Him.
  • Yield to Him!  “Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”  There must be total surrender to His leading and direction.

When entering a prayer retreat ask the Lord to guide you to a particular passage in the scriptures to focus on.  Remember, He speaks to us through His word and we must always be asking ourselves two questions.  What is He saying? And what does He want us to do about it?  As you read the scripture He has led you to being looking for a sin to confess, a command to obey, or a promise to claim!  Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted in the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

When will you plan your prayer retreat?

Healthy Churches Focus on Discipleship

Disciple Makers

Every follower of Christ needs to be discipled.  Discipleship is mentoring or coaching someone on what it means to obey and serve Christ.  The Apostle Paul invested in the life of Timothy because God wanted Timothy to go where Paul had already been.  Are you personally involved in the spiritual development of someone else?  Every Christian should have a Paul who disciples them and a Timothy whom they disciple.  Where is your Paul and who is your Timothy?

Discipleship really is an easy process (Matt 4:19) but difficult for many to complete:

  1. “Follow Me” (Jesus) – A disciple knows and follows Jesus!
  2. “And I will make you” – A disciple is being changed and transformed by the Holy Spirit!
  3. “Fishers of Men” – A disciple is committed to the mission of God!  (Making more disciples!)

What does the process of discipleship look like in your church?  We know the biblical characteristics of a disciple, but how do you get the new believer there?  Dynamic Church Planting International training says, “There needs to be an easily explainable process of the steps, opportunities, and experiences your church offers to help unbelievers find Christ and grow into spiritual maturity.  Discipleship will not occur without a plan and intentionally preparing your church to be involved in the process.”

In a recent national survey of evangelical church attenders 24% said they are sliding backwards spiritually while 41% said they are static and not growing.  That means 65% are not growing spiritually.   While a healthy church must be strong in discipleship it seems to be one of the greatest weaknesses.  Something is wrong when there is a gap between what we say we believe and what is actually happening.  Bill Hull in The Disciple-Making Church calls us to the three D’s of disciple making: “Deliver them, Develop them, and Deploy them!”

  • Deliver Them: Discipleship begins with pre-believers.  They come with baggage but they are not just delivered “from” their past.  They are also delivered to their present community of believers.  Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can change a heart and transform a life from the inside out!
  • Develop Them: Discipleship requires that you have a step-by-step process for helping new believers to become maturing saints over time.  Dynamic Church Planting International defines a spiritual growth system as, “When people come to Christ, our job is to partner with the Holy Spirit in helping them grow in Christlikeness.”
  • Deploy Them: The goal must be to make disciple who are disciplemakers.  The real litmus test for discipleship is when we see those we disciple discipling others!  Is it reproducing to the 4th generation? (II Tim 2:2)  Do you currently have a simple process in place that leads a clueless unbeliever to a committed, mature, reproducing disciple?

Discipleship requires someone willing to teach and someone willing to learn.  We must be careful not to overcomplicate discipleship but make it easily attainable and reproducible.  Discipleship is not gaining knowledge and getting a certificate to prove we have been “discipled” but rather it is learning what we need to know and then doing it.  Jesus spent his time preparing the disciples for greater responsibility so that His influence could be multiplied.

In Transformissional Coaching by Steve Ogne and Tim Roehl they reveal the following:

  • 5% of learners will transfer a new skill into their practice as a result of theory.
  • 10% will transfer a new skill into their practice with theory and demonstration
  • 20% will transfer a new skill into their practice with theory, demonstration, and practice within training.
  • 25% will transfer a new skill into their practice with theory, demonstration, practice within the training, and feedback.
  • 90% will transfer a new skill into their practice with theory, demonstration, practice within the training, feedback, and coaching.

Where is the best place for this kind of training to take place?  In a local New Testament Church!  Equipping our members to be the ministers, members, and missionaries God has called them to be.  The work of the church belongs to every believer in that community of believers (Eph 4:11-12).  We must equip and empower every follower and then release them with accountability to make disciples within their network of relationships!!!

“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”  2 Timothy 2:2

A disciple is a lifelong learner and follower of the ways and commands of Christ!

The Cross, Community, and Culture

God has called us to proclaim His gospel to the ends of the earth.  According to Matt. 4:19 if we are following Christ we are fishers of men.  The logical conclusion is that if we are not fishers of men we are not following Christ.  Partial obedience is still disobedience.  The truth of the gospel is unchanging and His children are the carriers of that truth.  Interestingly enough, one of the primary challenges to carrying out our mission is the Christian subculture many churches have created.  This has caused them to turn their focus inward instead of outward on those who desperately need Christ.  The challenge for every believer is to transform from a consumer of Christian product to a compassion for those without Christ.   

There is one act of obedience that we can do on earth that we cannot do in heaven.  That is sharing the gospel with our lost friends and family.  The goal in our churches should be to help people get over their instincts to stick together and form a “holy huddle” and empower them to live their lives on mission for God.   We must develop missional communities that remain focused on their neighbors rather than on their church.  Sadly, it appears that we would rather close ourselves up in a sanctuary several hours a week than open up our homes to share dinner with unbelievers who live right next door.

First, we must embrace the cross because without its truth we have no message.  If a church is focused on the community (serving their needs), and the culture (the context in which we live) but does not share the truths of the gospel it offers a Christless mission without hope!  A gospel-saturated congregation proclaims that Jesus is Lord, knows who they are in Christ, knows how to enter into culture without losing their Christian distinctiveness, knows its neighborhood, and exists not for itself but for its city, neighborhood, and block.  CULTURE + COMMUNITY – CROSS = NO Hope!  Any message without the cross produces a dead religion, a consumer Christianity, a social gospel, a country club mentality, and usually salvation by works.

Second, we must experience community because loving nurturing relationships in a local body of believers is necessary for spiritual development and service.  Everyone needs a place to belong.  God created us to function in authentic community where we learn to experience Christ through one another.  Jesus always had “sinners” around Him who could tell how much He cared about them and because of His compassion they were interested in His message.  The problem is that many churches require that you believe before you can belong (not talking about church membership).  CROSS + CULTURE – COMMUNITY = NO CHURCH  A churchless mission produces spiritual orphans, loneliness, individualism, selfishness, immaturity, and forces parachurch organizations to do what churches quit doing.

Third, we must also engage the community where God has placed us.  We must quit making excuses for why we do not verbally share the gospel.  God has allowed us to have impact and favor within our circles of influence.  If we truly desire to bless someone’s life we must tell them there is hope because of Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.  Someone has said that everything preaches but not everything reaches.  Contextualization is the particular way in which we as Christians communicate the gospel.  We must consider the context (the setting and the culture) into which we are communicating the gospel.  Darrin Patrick explains it this way, “Contextualization is not ultimately even about the content of the gospel.  It’s primarily about the way you communicate the unchanging content of the gospel.”  CROSS + COMMUNITY – CULTURE = NO MISSION

When we ignore and neglect the culture we live in we become a Missionless Church.  We become isolated and separated from any contact with lost people because of our “Come to Us” mentality.  CT Studd lived from 1860 -1931 and was an English missionary to China, India, and Africa.  He said, “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”  The gospel is our message of our mission and it is unchanging.  The method of our mission is contextualization.  We must admit, though, that the temptation of far too many churches is to neglect our communities and ignore the culture God has placed us in while believing we are protecting our churches.

            Thanks to my good friend Dave DeVries and the development of these principles from his Multiplication Workshop.  Check him out at www.missionalchallenge.com .

Be Attractional and Missional

Missional Living

 

Many churches rely almost completely on attracting people to their churches through their worship services, programs, and their friendliness.  All of those are great things to have but is it enough?  We must become also become “Missional.” We need to be living every day as a mission trip.  Missionaries work hard at relating Christ in the best way possible to reach the people in the culture where they have been called.

This means that we are intentionally and strategically representing Christ in the community at large.  We are getting close to people who desperately need Christ so that they can see Him in us.  Attractional churches do everything they can to draw non-christians to them and their ministries.  Missional churches refuse to become inwardly focused or “sociologically cocooned.”

A good friend recently shared that he attended a recent training where they were required to decide whether their church plant would use a “Come and See” or a “Go and Tell” approach.  He raised his hand and asked why it couldn’t be both?  Exactly!  The goal is to have as many doors where people can connect as possible.  Doors are entry points where people can connect with the church.

Some examples of doors are: Worship Services, Activities, Oikos Events, Small Groups, VBS, Back Yard Bible Clubs, and YOU!!!  Yes you!

Attract away but also live on mission.  Here is a definition of  missional from Reggie McNeal, “An inherent understanding of our being the people of God partnering with him in His redemptive mission in the world.”  Notice the ingredients of being missional:

  1. Being: What you do comes out of who you are.
  2. Partnering: As the Father sent Jesus now Jesus is sending us.
  3. His: This is God’s plan and there is no plan B.
  4. Redemptive: It is all about His gospel of salvation and redemption.
  5. Mission: It is not the church that has a mission but God who has a mission and has churches and followers to carry out that mission.
  6. World: He is not willing that any should perish.

Here are some steps to being missional (partnering with Him):

  • Be Incarnational: We must focus on living, demonstrating, and offering Biblical community to a lost and dying world. We have become very good at doing church but are we being the church every single day?
  • Be Indigenous: We do not choose the culture we live in but we can choose whether we withdraw into the comfort of the church cultures we have created or thrive where He has planted us.  How can your church reach your community better?
  • Be Intentional: There is nothing wrong with being strategic in how we minister to those around us.  Are we willingly die to personal preferences so that Christ’s name may be proclaimed in the most effective way possible in our context?

In Breaking the Missional Code, Ed Stetzer says, “It is the discipline of seeing your context through missional lenses and then exercising faith by taking risks to live the Great Commandment in such a way that you can fulfill the Great Commission.”  A great need today is to figure out how to get beyond the institution into the places where people live and hang out!  A couple of thoughts here:

  • Choose engagement over retreat.
  • Build bridges don’t burn them..
  • Open up more doors for entry points.
  • Be willing to meet people where they are.
  • Engage unbelievers, don’t avoid them.

In Revolution in Leadership Reggie McNeal says, “Authentic renewal will come to the North American church when God’s people are led to accept their commission to live on mission with Him in the world.”

LIVING LIFE LIKE A SHORT-TERM MISSIONS TRIP

Short Term Mission Trips

Mission trip opportunities are all around us!  You do not have to get on a plane to serve on one.  Every day is an opportunity to live on mission.

Who is a missionary?  The answer can be very different according to who you ask.  Most would define a missionary as a person who lives in a foreign land, studies the culture, learns another language, and makes great sacrifices to reach a certain people group.  That is true but what about the rest of the church?  Should not every believer be on mission for God?  What if we lived every moment of every day as if we were on a mission trip, how would your day change?

When people take a mission trip they are ready to sacrifice and suffer discomfort to share the gospel with people they have never seen or met.  There is a very determined focus and plan to each trip whether it is medical, teaching, evangelistic, or humanitarian.  These trips are great and everyone should consider taking one because they are life changing experiences.  Shouldn’t we begin living with a missionary focus right where we are, today?

We must begin celebrating those who are living a missionary life right in front of us.  Unfortunately, the main metric we have used for spiritual growth is how many attend, how often they attend, and how much they give.  What if we began measuring how much time we all spent in community service?  What if we began to measure our goals of ministry in terms of what the body of Christ does outside the walls of the church and not only inside?

What if we lived every day as if we were on a short-term mission trip?

Churches have historically celebrated the dedication of the men and women who have been sent to the mission field (i.e. Barnabas and Saul Acts 13:1-3).  They have become “heroes of the faith” because of their willingness to study a culture and prayerfully discern the best way to reach them with the gospel.  What about your neighborhood, your community, and your city?  We need to also begin celebrating those who are using their “Life Assignment” as a “Missionary Post” to share the love of Jesus Christ.

Three words need to be considered if we are going to transform our culture and accept our missionary assignments.

  1. Intentionality. We must be focused on reaching out to those we come into contact with daily at the “missionary post” God has placed us.  That can be at the hair salon, the grocery store, the factory, the senior citizen center, our school, or wherever God has purposely placed us.  We must daily remind ourselves that we are on a “long-term” mission trip called life.
  2. Integration.  The good news is that we are not on this trip alone.  The Holy Spirit will guide and direct us to individuals that we need to minister to and serve.  The other good news is that we are not on this trip alone because there are other followers of Jesus who have purposed to live a missionary life also.  It would be great to sit down with others and discuss potential ways to work together and help one another to increase the effectiveness of our intentionality.
  3. Incarnational.  This is living our lives so that others can see Christ in us.  Our neighborhoods, apartment complexes, condominiums, and trailer parks need us to dedicate ourselves to being resident missionaries.  Here is the question of the day.  Is Jesus Christ visible or invisible in you?  Many groups who have gone to a foreign mission field on a trip have prayed that the people they come into contact with will see Jesus in them.  Is that our daily prayer as we accept the assignment that God has given for us to live our lives on mission for Him?

Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Living as missionaries in our zip code!!!

What if we lived every day as if we were on a short-term mission trip?