Rss

  • twitter

FAITH vs FOLLOW

Recently I was told of a pastor who shared in his message that 81% of all evangelical churches have no discipleship in their churches of any significance. While not knowing the source of the statistic, I must admit that, unfortunately, I am not surprised. We seem to know how to talk discipleship, but when you dig deeper into many ministries you cannot find of evidence of a clear and easily reproducible process. There is a huge difference between aspirational values and actual values. If we really do value discipleship we will be discipling someone.

Have we valued “decisions” so highly that ongoing discipleship was not as highly valued as it should have been? Please hold back your disagreement with that statement for a minute please. We certainly think we agree with discipleship but is there evidence of it happening and multiplying? If we do not reproduce disciples we will never reproduce leaders. If we do not reproduce leaders we will never reproduce churches. If we do not reproduce churches we will never see a movement.

Have we turned the “faith” into what we believe instead of our actual actions and behavior? It seems that many have turned the word faith into what a person agrees with more than a trust that turns into action by the believer. Jesus made it very clear that we are to “follow” Him not just “believe” in Him.   James says that faith without works is dead. True discipleship is not just stating that we have “faith” but is demonstrated by our willingness to deny all and follow Him.

We must return to the biblical foundation of true faith that leads to action. Jesus said that if we love Him we will keep His commandments, we will do whatever He asks of us, and we will go wherever He asks us to go. Bill Hull says this about discipleship, “The church is up to its eyeballs in agreement, and that moves nothing and poses a threat to no one.” In John 6 Jesus makes this clear, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and don’t do the things I say?” Genuine faith leads to following!

Hull describes this problem of faith verses follow by saying, “A faith that embraces discipleship distinguishes itself from mere agreement or intellectual assent with demonstrated proof.” He describes five distinct characteristics of a disciple in the first century. First, a disciple submitted to a teacher who taught them how to follow Jesus. They also learned Jesus’ words and His way of ministry. Then a disciple imitated Jesus’ life and character. Lastly, a disciple found and taught other disciples to follow Jesus.

Today most discipleship sees very little of a disciple submitting to a teacher/mentor and even less of disciples making other disciples. We have enabled discipleship to become more about information transfer than actual life transformation. Everyone needs a Paul in their life and then they need to begin looking for a Timothy to disciple and mentor.

Discipleship is not a program nor is it an event. Biblical discipleship is a way of life that continues our entire lives. It is not only for beginners but also for all believers and is to be process that multiplies more believers, disciples, and leaders. Discipleship is not to be just one of the things a church does but the main thing it is commanded to do, “Go make disciples.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”

Before we protest or desire to debate, we must be willing to take a closer, honest, and unbiased look at Luke 9:23-25. Jesus makes it clear that the very essence of the Christian walk is following Him and that requires total obedience and humble submission to His commandments. What does it involve to implement that kind of discipleship? Jim Putman says there must be an intentional leader, a relational environment, and a reproducible process.

Putman describes this process beginning with those who are dead in their trespasses and sin. This individual is lost and does not know it. This is where discipleship begins by sharing the gospel with them. When they believe and are born again, discipleship continues by a disciple sharing their life, new truth, and new habits with this infant in Christ. As they grow they will then move from being an infant to becoming a child.

The infant needs everything done for them, but a child can begin to learn how to do things for themself. As a child, discipleship focuses on connecting them with God, a small group, and their purpose. They are still self-centered but as they grow they can then become a young adult. They are becoming more and more God-centered. Now you equip them for ministry, provide them ministry opportunities, and release them to do ministry. Now, as they are growing in Christ, they are focused on serving others and not on being served.

Young adults then become parents where, as mature believers, they reproduce. They become disciplemakers themselves because they have been shown the process, had discipleship modeled for them, and are released to multiply. The real litmus test of discipleship is disciples who are making disciples who are making disciples! Think of discipleship as a clear reproducible process moving those who are dead to salvation and becoming an infant in Christ.

The infant then must be shown how to grow and develop into a child. The child is taught by example to learn how to move into becoming a young adult. They are constantly maturing from being self-centered to being God-centered. Then parenthood is not far behind but mandatory in the process because without reproduction multiplication will never occur.   Our goal is to facilitate a discipleship based multiplication movement by multiplying disciples, leaders, and churches.

Biblical faith leads to godly actions not just verbal agreement!

I REFUSE

help-wanted_t

The words to Josh Wilson’s song, I Refuse, say it well, “Sometimes I just want to close my eyes and act like everyone’s all right when I know they’re not. This world needs God but it’s easier to stand and watch. I could say a prayer and just move on like nothing’s wrong, but I refuse.” The chorus challenges us out of our comfort zone, “Cause I don’t want to live like I don’t care. I don’t want to say another empty prayer. Oh, I refuse to sit around and wait for someone else to do what God has called me to do myself. Oh, I could choose not to move, but I refuse!”

As His disciples, we must refuse to accept the status quo or place our lives in cruise control. We cannot do it all, but we can do something for the cause of Christ. Everyone has something to contribute as we dedicate our lives to following Him. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the truth that there is too much work to be done and too few workers to accomplish it. The need outnumbering the workers is the reality staring every leader, ministry, and church in the face. This is not a new problem and Jesus addressed it during His ministry.

Please fight the temptation to overlook familiar passages without allowing them to speak to your heart again. In Matthew 9:36-38, this is what we find, “When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’” This passage is actually an anthem for a lifetime commitment to multiplication. A discipleship based multiplication of disciples, leaders, and churches.

Jesus makes it abundantly clear that our mission is to “make disciples” and to also “pray for workers.” We must be determined to follow through on that calling and refuse to allow anything to deter us from that God commanded pursuit. There are two elements clearly pointed out here in Matthew 9.

First, every follower of Christ must make himself or herself available for His service. Greg Laurie says, “God’s plans for your life are better than any plans you have for yourself. So don’t be afraid of God’s will, even if it’s different from yours.” It begins by dying to self!

Second, we are called to be faithful in praying to God to send other workers and laborers. Be careful before you answer this question. Is prayer your primary, go to, recruitment approach of enlisting new workers and leaders? In Disciple Making Pastor, Bill Hull says, “Leaders can employ various recruiting tools: entertainment followed by an appeal; guilt stimulation followed by an appeal; calling in favors followed by an appeal; arm twisting followed by an appeal; an old reliable, the tear-jerker film or story followed by a tear-jerker appeal. These are common, but not commanded recruiting techniques.”

This does not mean there is never a time for an appeal or that using one of these recruiting techniques is unbiblical or unspiritual. It does mean, however, that we refuse to elevate other techniques and methods over the one Jesus said we were to employ. Why is this so important? Let me quote Bill Hull again, “Jesus realized that if the unmet needs before Him were to be met, thirteen men working twelve-hour days would produce more than one man working an eight hour day.” Pastor, you need help and God never intended on you having to do it all yourself!

First, refuse to not be obedient to His mission for His church. He made it clear, “Go make disciples!” That will require refusing to only be busy with busy things. Who is discipled you and who are you discipling? You must refuse to not be intentional in this area. It took Jesus two years of mentoring the twelve before He began turning the ministry over to them. He invested in them before He released them to do the work He had called them to do. Everybody needs a Paul challenging you in the next steps of following Christ and everyone should find a Timothy to pass those steps on.

Second, refuse to not be faithful in praying for laborers. There is not only a personal commitment here but a corporate one as well. Some set an alarm on their watch for 10:02 AM or PM to remind them of the call to pray in Luke 10:2. There should also be a call to pray for laborers on a regular basis during our services and other meetings. A great idea would be to tie the time of prayer to a specific need or needs such as children’s church workers, small group leaders, or a youth pastor. Think about how little we pray at church when Jesus said it was to be a house of prayer.

Third, refuse to gripe about how little everyone else is doing compared to you. One of my favorite passages in John is where Jesus is talking to Peter. As they are walking Jesus asks him three times if he really loves Him, Peter switches the focus to John. Jesus tells him to let Him worry about John and says, “As for you, follow Me.”. Here is the reality. What sacrifice could Christ ask us to make that we should not be more than willing to make? Refuse to lose your focus about dying to self, picking up your cross, and following Him. It’s worth it!

Fourth, refuse to measure effectiveness by only measuring the obvious. Several have made reference to the “3 Killer B’s” of bodies, bucks, and buildings. We should not discount their importance, but the temptation has been to make them the metric of church health. Your size, bank accounts, or wonderful facilities do not guarantee that your church is healthy. Is your church making disciples who make disciples? Are you producing disciple makers?

Healthy church members have this mantra, “Oh, I refuse to sit around and wait for someone else to do what God has called me to do myself.”