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Family Discipleship

Our church, Cornerstone in Jacksonville, TX, follows a monthly S.O.A.P. (Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer) Bible reading schedule that challenges our people to stay in the word and also to journal what God is saying to them.  They select a verse out of the reading asking God to show them what He is saying to them. We strive to write down our observations and applications hoping it will also lead all of us to deeper study and wrestling with the passage.

In this process we want our families then to disciple one another by discussing the passage sometime during the day…hopefully around the dinner table or during a family devotion time before bed.  A simple way is to have everyone share the verse they selected and why they were impressed by the Spirit to focus on that verse. Just last week my wife, Shelby, shared Galatians 5:25 with me and I asked her to write down what God had spoken to her about and here it is:

“Recently, our SOAP passage at church was Galatians 5.  My Bible I carry to church, the one I normally read from, is the New American Standard.  I focused on verse 25, ‘If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.’  I also regularly use a study Bible that is the English Standard Version.  I was reading the commentary and scriptures and was gripped by verse 25, ‘If we live by the Spirit let us also keep in step with the Spirit.’

I am not a dancer.  The thought is actually quite humorous if you know me well! When our kids were young I demonstrated the basics of the twist to them and they laughingly reminisce that I couldn’t twist back up after having shown them!

‘Keeping in step’ does remind me of a dance.  To keep in step with the pattern of the dance one must lead and one must follow.  What happens when the follower isn’t aligned with the leader’s steps? Missteps, trampled feet, stumbles…perhaps a ruined dance.

We who are the children of God have His Spirit dwelling within us, as well as His word, to guide our every step according to His pattern and design. Our responsibility is to listen, follow, and keep in step.  Part of the beauty of His grace is that even when we have gotten out of step He lovingly guides us back into His pattern for this dance He’s given us called life.”

This description helps me to picture a father dancing with his little girl who effortlessly glides across the floor on top of His feet.  This gives such a beautiful thought of our lives being a dance with our heavenly Father where our feet land exactly where His feet lead us because we are 100% in step with Him because of His guidance and direction.  Psalms 37:23 says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.”

This really spoke to me about the importance of family discipleship and also that reading it from a different source can cause the passage to have a freshness to it with a new perspective and deeper meaning. Our desire is to make the word of God come alive by wrestling with it – not just reading it, checking it off our list, and moving on.  The book of Nehemiah refers to how we need “to give the sense.”  Jacob wrestled with the Lord and hopefully we will be willing to wrestle with what He is telling us as well.  If we then walk with a limp it will be well worth it.

One commentator said this, “I knew that the early readers of the New Testament were captured and engaged by these writings and I wanted my congregation to be impacted in the same way.  I hoped to bring the New Testament to life for two different types of people.  First, for those who hadn’t read the Bible because it seemed too distant and irrelevant.  Second, for those who had read the Bible so much that it had become ‘old hat.'”

If we desire to continue in our walk with the Lord and “stay in step” with Him then we will need to move forward in grace in the same way that we began this spiritual journey in grace.  Jesus gives us this definition of discipleship in Matthew 4:19, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  Notice it does not say you are self-made but that He will make you.  Your salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit and your sanctification is Him working in you also.  You cannot produce spiritual transformation but He does a work in you so that He can then work through you.

This requires discipleship.  It requires iron sharpening iron and having our minds and hearts renewed by staying in His word and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us. Allow me to suggest three areas of discipleship to focus on in order to build environments where we wrestle with His word and grow in His grace.

  1. You must remain tethered to God.  Make sure you are discipling yourself by being in the word daily and through prayer. Provide guidance in campaigns for your congregation to read, SOAP, journal, and participate in spiritual disciplines together.
  2. You must stay grounded in and connected to your family.  Husbands you must disciple your wives and parents you must disciple your children.  Show your families how they can read the same scripture text and then discuss it together later in the day.  This holds everyone accountable and is fun to see what God is saying to each one of you.
  3. Stay rooted to people who are like-minded and have a similar focus on God and following Him.  Make sure you spend the most time with people who pull you up not with people who drag you down.  Encourage one another by discipling yourself, your family, and then one another!

WE NEED A PASTOR

Pastor

     “We need a pastor!”  That is something I am hearing quite a bit these days.  Churches do need a pastor but often I hear desperation and someone will say, “The sooner the better!”  While, yes, a church does need a pastor they do not need to rush into this decision too quickly.  This is one of the most important, if not the most important, decision a church will ever make.  This cannot be rushed nor should a church approach it too slowly by dragging its feet.  You should approach this process prayerfully and with much wisdom as you seek out the man of God to lead your congregation.

     When it comes to making such a major decision there are three basic approaches that are often used.  First, some congregations are time-driven.  The need is now and we must get busy in making sure this happens as quickly as possible.  We live in such a fast paced society which seems to be getting quicker by the minute, or maybe by the second.  Slow down and find out who the candidate is, what his track record has been, and what the references of his references have to say about him.  Remember, the only way you can predict future performance is based upon past behavior.  Adrian Rodgers once said, “A change of scenery never guarantees a change of character.”

     Second, some congregations are goal-driven.  They have a picture of what kind of pastor they need and quite often it is unrealistic.  The “perfect” pastor does not exist and if you are not careful the new pastor will begin his ministry with unrealistic expectations that even Superman could not fulfill.  The pastor is not called to do all of the work but to equip the members to do the work of the ministry.  Make sure your “job description” fits the word of God and that the expectations will not put more pressure on the pastor than it should.  The goal should be the right man, in the place, at the right time!  Some congregations are only going to use a resume to trust their family to, someone they don’t really know and have never lived with!

     Thirdly, congregations should be Spirit-driven.  Most would say “amen” to this, but be careful to not over spiritualize it as a “mystical” decision.  It is difficult when a church member says to a preacher that “God told me you were to be our pastor!”  What if God has not told him that yet?  Being Spirit-driven does not cancel out being time conscious.  Doing your due diligence in the process is very important.  Being Spirit-driven also does not cancel out being goal-driven.  The goal should be to find God’s man.  The unique dynamic in looking for a pastor is that the congregation must hear from the Lord and the man God is calling to lead them must also hear His voice.

     The reality is that there will always be those who want to go too fast and those who will want to go too slow.  Both are dangerous and that is why we must listen closely and carefully to the Spirit’s direction.  Not only is this one of the biggest decisions a church will ever make, it is also one of the biggest decisions a man and his family will ever make.  They may have to pick up stakes and start from square one.  All the transitions a family will have to go through when moving to a new field of service can be quite overwhelming. 

     There is a key question your church must consider as it prays for a pastor to be your spiritual leader.  Are they willing to do the work of an evangelist?  Jesus said, “I have come to seek and to save the lost!”  As you consider someone to be your pastor you must examine to see what their track record has been in this area.  Is there evidence of their pursuit of the lost and of sharing the gospel with others?  Have they trained those around them in how to effectively evangelize?  Have they intentionally built times into their schedules to be around those outside the church and not just hang out with the “in” crowd?  How have they related to the unchurched where they are presently ministering? How will they lead your church to obey the Great Commission locally?  What is their vision to equip your congregation to live as missionaries in your zip code?  All of the other characteristics you can look for in a pastor will have limited or meaningless impact if he does not have a burden for the lost!

     Healthy churches are Spirit-driven!