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LETS GET REAL

Are we building genuine real relationships or are we settling for superficial friendships? We are comfortable talking about the weather, sports, and our family, but are we willing to go deeper? An essential part of building disciples requires nothing less than allowing other followers of Christ to become our close intimate friends. Our connection groups (small groups, Sunday School classes, etc.) need authentic relationships that will hold us accountable in our spiritual journeys.

II Timothy 2:2 says, ”And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Yes, this verse points to the fourth generation but also notice how it speaks to a community of believers by using plural nouns. It mentions witnesses, men, and others. These words have the same thing in common in talking about a group of people. Biblical discipleship occurs through relationships.

We all seek meaningful relationships yet they seem to be painfully absent aspects of discipleship. People are not looking for a friendly church but are looking for friends. Here are some great questions to ask about the authenticity of your relationships. Are the people in your connection groups friendly? It starts there but it must go deeper. Are the people in your group open and honest with one another?

We must not settle for shallowness but strive to build a strong support team. Do the people in your group check on and care for one another beyond and outside of the group meeting? Do you notice when others are not present and check on them to see if they are struggling? Remember, your connection groups are the first responders in your church for ministry and pastoral care. Spiritual growth occurs best when other believers share the same goals.

How well do you know the people in your connection (small) group? Are they just acquaintances or do you know them well enough to know their strengths and weaknesses? What are they struggling with the most? How can you best pray for them and encourage them? We are not called to walk alone but to walk in the light together. The biblical picture of real relationships in community is described clearly in Acts 2:42-47 where they “held all things common.”

In Real-Life Discipleship, Jim Putman defines a relational environment this way. “A relational environment is characterized by authenticity. A relational environment includes mutual accountability. An intentional leader creates a safe relational environment.” Here are a few suggestions on how to build real relationships that help everyone grow and mature in Christ.

First, keep your eyes open for those who are hurting and struggling. If they miss does anyone contact them or reach out to them? Do not take it for granted that they are ok but instead see if there is anything you can do to help them. Whether it is a call, a text message, an email, or even a visit they need to know that someone does care when they are absent.

Second, faithfully pray for those who are experiencing illness. Prayers are appreciated but it also might require doing something to help. Maybe they need someone to drop a meal by or to clean up their yard for them. What practical service could you perform for them that would be a blessing to them and encourage them? Make sure someone is handling this and accepts the responsibility of assigning contacts.

Third, connect them with someone who knows what they need to know. Someone in your congregation can help them when they need it but you will have to be very intentional to make sure they connect with them. When they are overwhelmed with finances, health, marriage, or a multitude of other challenges the beauty is that someone else in your connection group has probably been through what they are going through. They need to know that they are not the only ones.

Fourth, listen to them to hear where they are spiritually. We show someone how much we value them when we are willing to take the time to listen to them. As you listen make sure that you are ready to give them biblical answers to their situation. The importance of authenticity and transparency cannot be overstated. What are they really saying when they express their concerns? What are they not saying about their spiritual walk?

Fifth, speak the truth in love. Real relationships do not offer up false flattery or superficial pleasantries. They seek to speak the truth in love because they care about one another enough to even risk the relationship. This is especially true when you see that the other person is about to go against God’s word. For example: we are all a product of our past but we do not have to be prisoners to our past. They can have victory over their past hurts and habits by trusting in the Lord.

We need to pray for and seek to have an energy that causes us to remain connected and help others to stay connected. When we become disconnected from other believers it is a very dangerous thing. It will not be long before we begin to drift away from our church family and the Lord. Real relationships do not walk away from our family when they are struggling or if they fall into sin. Real relationships cause us step in closer, speak up more, and seek to restore.

Get to know those in your connection (small) group more intimately. Find out what their hobbies are, what fears they have, and what temptations they struggle with the most. Then pray for them, encourage them, and hold them accountable. We cannot grow spiritually as we should without other followers of Christ who are there to challenge us and inspire us in our walk with the Lord!

Accountability

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Accountability is talked about a lot and it is a necessary ingredient for our spiritual growth. It is important to have someone in our lives that holds us accountable for what we say we are going to do.

They love us enough to speak into our lives when they see us headed in the wrong direction. All of us need to build strong accountability relationships into our lives (Matt 17:1; II Tim 2:2).

Here is the reality though. You can only hold people accountable who want to be held accountable. It is kind of like what I have heard locksmiths say about our cars. “Your door locks only keep honest people honest!”

In other words you really can not hold someone accountable who does not want to be held accountable. There must be a submissive humble spirit in the heart of the one being held accountable.

Hear are five key questions you can use to hold yourself accountable:

  1. How is your spiritual life?
  2. How is your home life?
  3. How healthy is your ministry?
  4. How often are you sharing your faith?
  5. How often are you able to unplug to refresh and rest?

There is also the need for accountability partners in our life that we can be completely transparent and authentic with. Neil Cole has implemented 10 accountability questions into his LTG’s (Life Transformation Groups) discipleship process.

These are small groups of 2-3 people who study the word together and grow together. Here are the accountability questions they use:

  1. Have you been a testimony this week to the greatness of Jesus Christ with both your words and actions?
  2. Have you been exposed to sexually alluring material or allowed your mind to entertain inappropriate thoughts about someone who is not your spouse this week?
  3. Have you lacked any integrity in your financial dealings this week, or coveted something that does not belong to you?
  4. Have you been honoring, understanding and generous in your important relationships this past week?
  5. Have you damaged another person by your words, either behind their back or face-to-face?
  6. Have you given in to an addictive behavior this week? Explain.
  7. Have you continued to remain angry toward another?
  8. Have you secretly wished for another’s misfortune so that you might excel?
  9. Did you finish your reading this week and hear from the Lord? What are you going to do about it?
  10. Have you been completely honest with me?

John Wesley developed these questions for his class meetings (small groups) to help them hold one another accountable:

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
  3. Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told me in confidence?
  4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?
  5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  6. Did the Bible live in me today? Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?
  7. Am I enjoying prayer?
  8. When did I last speak to someone about my faith?
  9. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  10. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  11. Do I disobey God in anything?
  12. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
  13. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
  14. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
  15. How do I spend my spare time?
  16. Am I proud?
  17. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the publican?
  18. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard?
  19. If so, what am I going to do about it?
  20. Do I grumble and complain constantly?
  21. Is Christ real to me?

Spirituality does not flourish without accountability.

Dr Dave DeVries (www.missionalchallenge.com) says this about accountability. “Spiritual leaders value personal accountability. They realize that ultimately they are accountable to God for their decisions and leadership. Because they seek to please and honor God they appreciate and pursue other leaders who will help them to maintain high standards regarding character and conduct.”

“They welcome questions of others and don’t view themselves as above accountability. They also ask hard questions to make sure the leaders around them are above reproach. Personal accountablity is mutually required and pursued.”

Fake It Till You Make It

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Once again, this all too familiar statement was made to me, “I’ll just fake it till I make it!” The transparency was refreshing but the reality of how often I have lived by the same motto convicted me. All too often we procede ahead without knowing what we are doing, where we are going, how we will get there, and refusing to admit we need help.

We think, All we need is a little more time and we will figure it out? We reason wirh ourselves, Maybe we will know where we are after two more right turns?  We hope, If I act like I know what I’m doing maybe nobody will notice I don’t have a clue?

One of my favorite commercials is when an emergency occurs that requires the expertise of a doctor. Then the man helping is asked, “Are you a doctor?” To which he replies, “No, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.” Unfortunately, not knowing what I am doing has never held me back.

The temptation can be to never admit that we do not have all the answers and we have not figured everything out. That is why I am committed to being a lifelong learner. Somebody out there knows what I need to know and we should always be on the outlook for them.

Why do we “Fake it till we make it?” Could it be that we are afraid of what people might discover about us? Could we also be afraid that we are no longer the authority on the subject? Maybe we are people pleasers and so we are more focused on impressing them?

Here are some attitudes and things that might be indicators that you are trying to fake it till you make it:

  • First, you think you must always have the answer! This is whay I do not like playing Bible trivia games. It is a no-win situation for a preacher. If you win, “Well of course you did, you’re a preacher!” If you lose, “And you call yourself a preacher?” We do not have to always have the answer and we need to admit it when we don’t. If we are not careful we can be tempted to make up an answer instead of finding the real answer. One of the best things you can say is, “You know, I’m not sure on that but I will do my best to find out!”
  • Second, I know what I am doing! Sometimes we are afraid to admit that we do not have it all together and that we are in way over our heads. We may not know know how to handle certain situations but there are people around us who do. Who is that knows what you need to know? Who do you need to talk to that can help you to figure it out? First, ask the Lord! Ed Stetzer says it this way, “Wise planning is not what I decide and then ask God to bless it, but I ask God what He desires of me, and then I pursue it!”
  • Third, I don’t need anybody else. I can do this! Maybe you can, but that is never the best way because two are always better than one. Tony Morgan has said, “A solo leader might draw a weekend crowd, but it takes a team to create healthy systems that foster sustained growth and opportunities for life change.” Should we be willing to do it alone if we have to? Definitely! Is that the best plan? Never! Be careful to not fall into the thinking that if you want it done right you have to do it yourself! If you do not have help now then begin training others so they can help.
  • Fourth, I’m tired of trusting people and getting burned! No doubt about it, people will let you down and disappoint you but it is worth the risk. Teamwork is messy and it takes……work! It doesn’t just happen but you have to be willing to pour into other people’s lives without any guarantee it will ever be beneficial for you or your ministry. Paul said this, “Demas has forsaked me having loved this present world!” The very people with whom you spend a lot of time and invest the most in may walk away but it is still worth it!
  • Fifth, shouldn’t they know what we are doing by now! Maybe so, but remember, vision leaks. Communicate what the need is and what the job requires up front. Make it clear! D.A. Horton said, “Disappointment takes place when you expect too much from someone you barely communicate with.” All too often we are guilty of placing people in positions without properly preparing them. Could it be that we are faking it till we make it because we were never trained either? In Teams That Thrive Ryan Hartwig and Warrin Bird say, “Less than 20% of leadership team leaders have received special training in how to lead teams.”

People appreciate transparency and authenticity. No one likes a fake even if they have the best intentions. They do love it when a leader says, “I need your help!” They want to know that it is not only their information and effort that matters but their opinions matter as well. Refuse to fake it till you make it!