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Committed to Discipleship

committed-to-disciplship

Are we truly committed to discipleship? What does that mean if we are? Has anybody really gotten this process of producing disciples figured out? Why are not more mature disciples being produced who help train and equip more disciples? How do we help people to grow up into mature reproducing disciples? We preach the Great Commission but do we practice it daily? If we are truly committed to discipleship then why are churches not producing more disciples who look like Jesus?

There are many different answers to the above questions, but let’s be careful to not make excuses or rationalizations. All too often, there seems to be a disconnect between our plan for discipleship and the implementation of that plan. In The Disciple Making Pastor, Bill Hull says, “The crisis at the heart of the church is that we give disciple making lip service, but do not practice it.” With such a whirlwind of frenetic church activity it is easy to lose sight of our primary purpose, making disciples!

Bill Hull gives three things a pastor must do to remain committed to discipleship:

  1. The pastor must possess convictions concerning disciple making and declare it as top priority from the pulpit.
  2. The philosophy and its goals should be published in church literature and placed into the constitution as the criteria for measuring success.
  3. The disciple-making philosophy must be modeled at the church-leadership level. The pastor and leaders should be effective disciple makers themselves.”

The observations above could be discussed and maybe even debated but the author is stressing the importance of an “all in” attitude when it comes to our commitment of making disciples. We cannot afford to be defensive or sensitive about such a vital biblical command. A commitment to discipleship means that we are not just theoreticians but, rather, practitioners.

Here are some things to consider in making this commitment and then following through on designing your discipleship process. M

  1. Make sure you know where you are headed and what your goal is! What does a disciple of Christ look like? How do you define being mature in Christ? It is interesting to hear all the different answers you will get from people when you ask them to define a disciple and discipleship!
  2. Develop visuals that will help people to see what the journey looks like. Of course, the first step is salvation. The new believer is an infant in Christ and needs extra special care. Then they grow into children as they continue maturing in Christ. In the next stage the disciple becomes a young adult as they learn to walk with Christ. The disciple then becomes a parent, reproducing disciples who make disciples.
  3. Decide what a disciple needs in each stage. Whether you use 101 – 401 classes, new member classes, small groups, or some other format, you must have a plan in place to provide what is needed at each level. As infants, new believers need to have someone who will help them develop the new habits necessary to ensure continued growth. Who will explain baptism, spiritual disciplines, and other necessary ingredients for spiritual growth to continue?
  4. Decide on how you will implement discipleship and growth opportunities at all levels. The temptation is to focus on certain size groups when spiritual growth is important in all settings and for all sizes. Jesus refers to the 120, 70, 12, and the 3. We have worship gatherings that are important for the entire congregation to be together and for the word of God to be preached but we also need relational environments where more intimate discipleship can occur.
  5. Realize that transparency, authenticity, and accountability occur easier in smaller groups. It is not enough to confess our sin and bring it out into the open without being cared for by other disciples we can trust. In DiscipleShift David Putman says, “Life-changing decisions are supported by accountability and discipline and inspiration that comes through continual relational togetherness.”

Plan out your process that fits your context that will make a Bible-based gospel-focused discipleship system available. Here are a couple more things to consider:

  • First, You need to train your disciplers. If we want more out of our team then we must invest more into our team. For the dream (vision) to work the team must work. You cannot expect it to just happen. It does require intentionality. Yes, we are totally dependent on the word of God and the Spirit of God but the people of God play a crucial role in this also.
  • You need to look for those who are receptive. Do they have a desire to be discipled and are they willing to commit to the process? If you are not careful, you can waste a lot of time with those who are not quite ready for this level of commitment. There is always a risk and there are no guarantees that they will follow through but we must be careful to look for those who are teachable.
  • People are willing to open up more in smaller groups and this is how we can evaluate where they really are spiritually. This is not so we can judge them but rather so we can figure out how we can best minister to them and help them in their spiritual growth.
  • Celebrate growth at all levels and stages. We celebrate when someone is born-again, and we should, but we should also celebrate other spiritual victories. We celebrate when a child learns to walk, when they graduate a certain grade, when an adult achieves one of their goals, and when a parent has a baby.

Healthy churches are committed to planning and implementing a process that demonstrates their commitment to discipleship!  If discipleship is working as it should we are making disciplers not just disciples!!!

Spiritual Growth Campaigns

spiritual-growth

There is wisdom in a having a focused intentional spiritual emphasis in your church. A church wide campaign can help everyone focus on personal and relational renewal. When our hearts get right with the Lord and we are living in unity with our church family it causes us to recommit to the mission of God. A coordinated spiritual emphasis can renew, refresh, and recharge a church in rediscovering its purpose. Here are some steps to help you think through what a spiritual emphasis campaign might look like:

  1. Seek God about what spiritual growth emphasis you believe that He desires to be your focus. Is He calling you to bring attention to faith, hope, grace, or something else? There is no shortcut to discerning the mind of God. Plan a prayer retreat and ask Him what He wants your church to accentuate during this time.
  2. Decide how long an emphasis you should have. There is wisdom in a 6 – 8 week campaign by ensuring it is not too long nor too short. We are told that it takes 7 weeks to develop a habit and this reinforces that principle. Consider how this will unify the entire church while spotlighting a particular priority.
  3. Make sure you challenge your people by utilizing all of their different learning styles. Be sure to appeal to and plan to reach the visual, auditory, oral, or kinesthetic learner. A campaign can bring all of these learning styles together through a planned process that drives the learning home with a synchronized approach.
  4. Get every class and group to buy into the vision of a church wide campaign by casting a clear vision. It has been said that if there is a mist in the pulpit there will be a fog in the pew. You will not have any problem with most but the late adopters may need a little more time to get onboard. Communicate clearly the value of a campaign and ask them to give it a chance to work and you will evaluate afterwards.
  5. Be sure to begin promoting this at least 4 – 6 weeks before you begin. Have your small group leaders to begin talking about the next series and emphasis. Have testimonies from members whose lives were transformed through other campaigns. This celebrates the process and encourages your people to give their entire attention to this spiritual renewal time.

What does a campaign look like? How does it unify the church, revive the body, and bring about spiritual renewal?

  1. Preach a sermon series on the spiritual emphasis. This speaks loudly to the auditory learners and there is power in the preached word of God. This is a great starting point to help everyone focus on the same thing whether it would be spiritual gifts, evangelism and outreach, or prayer and spiritual disciplines.
  2. Read the same daily assigned scriptures. These can be written devotionals or challenge the congregation to S.O.A.P. the passages through journaling. They will be need to be taught and shown what this looks like to help them understand how that can reinforce this spiritual renewal emphasis.
  3. Discuss the sermons and scripture reading in your small groups or Sunday School classes. This gives your oral learners the opportunity to talk it out in a group setting. You can develop questions for your group facilitators to use during this time. Also, be sure to ask several to be ready to share what God is saying to them personally during this time.
  4. As a church, work on memorizing certain passages that emphasize that week’s focus. Memorization uses the eyes and the ears because most people can memorize better by saying it out loud over and over. It is also biblical because David said he hid God’s word in his heart so he would not sin against God.
  5. Take advantage of as many visual tools as you possibly can. Use power points in your messages, print memory verses in your bulletin, advertise the campaign on your website and Facebook. You can also find videos to show to your small groups that give great support to your emphasis. The more people that can “see” it, the better.
  6.  Provide a service opportunity that will apply the spiritual truth being focused upon during the campaign. If the emphasis is living on mission then what could your church “do” that would implement this truth. Brainstorm ways for them to show their commitment in practical ways in the neighborhood and community.

A spiritual growth campaign has been defined by Rick Warren as “a short intentional focus on spiritual growth.” He also says “the idea of a campaign is the secret sauce of Saddleback’s growth.” He gives three reasons for campaign’s effectiveness:

  1. It uses multiple learning styles (Hear It! Read It! Discuss It! Memorize It! Do It!)
  2. It uses multiple reinforcements, and it unifies the entire church.
  3. It will be well worth the time and effort to plan a campaign that will focus the entire church on a theme that God has placed upon your heart.

It must be something you are passionate about and promotes spiritual renewal through a planned synergy of studying and talking about the same spiritual focus. You cannot push all of the time but there are seasons where you as a church much turn up the heat and intensity.

Healthy churches prayerfully consider how they can unify the entire congregation through a spiritual growth emphasis that utilizes everyone’s learning styles. It also capitalizes upon unifying everyone so that healthy interaction and discovering spiritual truths happens as a group. Plan a campaign and equip your people to experience spiritual renewal!

Dare to Disciple

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It is a daring adventure to be a disciple of Jesus and to disciple others. Discipleship involves the process of empowering believers to demonstrate the qualities and characteristics of the one you are following. When that one is Jesus Christ, it raises the bar to an all time high, as our life goal is to become more and more like Him. The challenge is to continue growing, developing, and maturing. The most frequent term used for Christ followers in the scriptures is “children.” While this denotes our position in Christ it also declares our dependency on Him

To be followers of Christ, His disciples, there are two necessary admissions for us to grow and mature, as He desires.

  1. We must declare that we desperately need Him. This journey of discipleship requires an admission of how much we need Him and that we cannot accomplish what He desires without Him. We, as His children, are incomplete, undeveloped, unskilled, vulnerable, and immature. Spiritual growth must occur, it does not happen overnight, and is a lifelong process. We are dependent upon our master teacher!
  2. We must also declare our dependency on our church family. We are meant to be a part of a local church family that can care for us and give us the relational support we all need. The number one need of a newborn, whether physical or spiritual, is a family where they can grow up healthy and strong. You cannot grow into who God intended you to be all by yourself, separated from a local congregation of believers. We not only need to live in submission to our Lord and Savior but also to a body of believers as we serve Him together.

Now that those commitments have been made you can move forward in your discipleship process. This journey involves increasing our level of commitment and sacrifice on a daily basis. As people came to Christ they were sometimes only curious and not ready to make a commitment to be His disciples.

Once they decided they were going to follow Him, He would regularly challenge them to new heights of consecration. Jesus turned up the heat on His disciples on at least fourteen occasions. He would say, “Ok, if you are going to follow Me and be My disciple here is something else you need to know!”

Jesus was showing them that the pathway of discipleship not only demanded that a decision be made (“I have decided to follow Jesus”) but it would also require discipline (“No turning back, no turning back”). Here are a couple more questions that must be asked when we dare to be His disciples.

First, will we follow Jesus? There must be a time that we say yes and began to intentionally follow Him. No longer are we just a curious bystander but we have stepped over the line of decision and will now pursue Him and His ways. We certainly do not understand all that means but to the best of our ability we are all in.

Second, we will consistently be faced with more decisions about how long we will follow Him and how far we will follow Him? We are not to sit idly by. As Jesus turns up the heat on our discipleship are we willing to obey and submit to His Lordship? Jesus regularly added to the expectations of discipleship by saying things like, “If you are going to follow me you must love one anther!”

Then before His own crucifixion He adds, “Take up your cross and follow me!” He was always increasing the level of commitment required to continue as His follower.

If you dare to be a disciple and to disciple others here a couple of things you must realize.

  1. Jesus had a plan. Do you? What does your process of discipleship look like? Can people in your church easily see what the next steps are for them to be the disciple Christ desires them to be? Do you have a system in place for spiritual development and the making of more disciples? Do not think you have to reinvent the wheel but decide what it will look like, implement the process, and then be disciplined to see the process through.
  2. Realize that it does not happen over night. Jesus spent three and half years teaching and showing His disciples what He required of them. It is not that difficult to show you what that looked like but it is very difficult to demonstrate how to do it quickly. It takes time and a commitment to the process.
  3. Start where people are, not where you want them to be. You crawl before you walk and you walk before you run. Remind yourself that you were once there yourself and practice grace and patience with those you are discipling. Don’t expect a three year old to act like a thirty year old.
  4. Make sure you are always increasing the level of commitment. Jesus did and so should we. It is possible to grow older with out growing up – but it should not happen. Listen to what Ephesians 4:13-15 says, “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head —Christ.”

Healthy churches make sure that disciples do not grow older without growing up and maturing in Christ!