Thursday, August 28, 2014

You Can't Teach Discipleship

You can't teach someone into a disciple, though many churches try.  In the "great commission" Jesus told his disciples to go and "make" disciples.  When we look back at how He made disciples we see many things.  First He made disciple-makers, not just disciples.

Teaching...certainly that is the beginning.  God's word should always be the foundation. One must have the information and fully understand it before moving forward without confusion.  This is however the extent of most of our discipleship training these days, if churches even have it at all.  If I teach someone what they ought to do and they can repeat the instructions correctly back to me, this is called learning.  At this stage many church leaders believe they have done their part to "equip" the people.  Discipleship is more than learning however.

Modeling.....the learners need to see and hear about examples of the desired behavior.  Leaders your people need to often hear examples of you facing situations and acting the right way.  Do you want your people to share their faith?  They need to see you do it and hear you tell stories about sharing yours on a regular basis.

Involvement.....Jesus included the disciples in His ministry.  He allowed them to do certain things while under His care.  Then came a time that He sent them out own their on to put what they had learned and saw into practice for themselves.

Accountability.....this is rarely found in church any more. Jesus held His disciples accountable.  He expected a certain behavior from them and rebuked and corrected them when the situation called for it.  We don't see anywhere in scripture where the disciples got mad and left the group when they were held accountable.

Cost.......spiritual growth always comes with a cost but it is always worth it.  First there is pride.  Are you open to being mentored?  If someone is serious about discipleship it will cost them time and a shift in their priorities.

It took three years and the Holy Spirit's presence to make disciples out of those men.  When a church is determined to make disciples many will not go with you beyond a discipleship class.  Only a few went with Jesus the whole distance.  We must take the few who are serious and invest all we have into them. Then instill in them that they are to do the same. This is how disciples are made.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

An Open Letter To Will My "Former Best Friend"

Do any of you know Will?  I have been deceived for a long time, let me give you some advice from experience, WATCH OUT, he is not the friend he appears to be!

Will I have known you most all my life and thought you were my friend?!  I know we have known each other for years, and have even been closer than brothers but I have changed and am still changing and you are not.  Your logical explanation that any help you have given me in making decisions was in my own best interest made sense.  I know that you have always put me first and that somehow sounds commendable.   The fact is that your influence on me has been greater than anyone else I have ever known.  In recent years though those once easy decisions have become harder and often involves a struggle.  I question your advice more and more and this does not set well with you.  As a matter of fact at times you have given me headaches, loss of sleep and much stress.

This person who came into my life years ago and often tries to get my attention, has evidentially caused you some problems and seems to be turning it up a bit the older I get.  Is it jealously that I sense, fear that this new “Counselor” will take your place?  Don’t worry there is very little chance that I can kick you out of my life completely but then He is not leaving either. Can we call a truce?  If you care about me like you say how about granting a request?  There is one thing that would make it easier on the both of us.  Since He outranks you, how about coming on board with us?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Team God Has Given You.

The number one reason pastors leave the ministry is discouragement and the biggest struggle that leads to that discouragement is the difficulty in leading congregations to follow the pastor’s God-given vision. I don't know of a single pastor who has not faced this at some point in his ministry. 

We must remember that God is the head coach and pastors are the offensive coordinators.  They get to call the plays but the Lord sends those He wants on the team.  As leaders we know our job is to "equip the saints" but many times much of the equipping has already been done by the time they arrive to the church.  The Holy Spirit has already given them gifts, God has blessed them with talents and abilities, each has a certain personality type, everyone has their own love language, their passions and many bring much life experience with them when they come.  While certainly there is a place for more learning and training, much of the equipping has already been done. 

Corporately, the church has one mission:  the great commission.  But individual churches may have specific ministries.  It is through these different ministries that we are given the opportunity to carry out the Lord's mission.  This is also why many times what works in one church may not work in another.  God has a specific purpose for a specific group of believers in a specific location.

Equipping the saints-at-large is helping them to discover how God has made them and uniquely gifted them—their specific place in the body, so to speak—and how this all comes together and is to be used in God's plan.  There is no greater feeling than knowing you are doing what God created you to do.
The Lord knows what kinds of players He needs to run His offense for your team.  When you have a team full of tight ends and run blockers and you try to run a spread offense there is not a lot of victory.  Have you ever taken the church through a complete discovery process?  There are several different ones out there and we are currently putting together our own to help the churches we serve.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Democracy: The Beginning of the End

Long have we felt that the United States has the best form of government in the world.  Oh it is not perfect but it has always been leaps and bounds ahead of the rest..... in our opinion.  Now in our form of democracy, we elect those who represent us but the people are supposed to have the final say...boy has that changed.  The majority of the people in several states have voted in laws only to have the high court trump them.

Democracy really was doomed from the beginning.  We the people have always gone astray even from the very beginning.  When the Founding Fathers created the constitution and other documents that this country was supposed to be governed by, most if not all had one thing in common, their moral standard and guideline was the bible.  So long as most of the people used the same standard to live their lives, then democracy worked pretty well.  When that changes (changed) democracy begins to become worse and worse.

For the believer the times will get harder as the government begins to redefine more and more issues that God has already defined.  This will put the true believer more and more often on opposing sides of our government.  Will the church's presence shrink even more or will we fight?

In scripture the people always got off the right track and never returned on their own.  Will God raise up someone to lead the people back one more time or is this it?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election Results & Sunday School

I did not follow the news on election night and was satisfied to find out the results early this morning over coffee.  I must say that it caught me off guard to learn that the country had voted to give Obama four more years.  One would think that in this "results oriented" world that we live in this would be a confusing move.  All day there have been many explanations of strategies and what ultimately gave the winning side the victory and maybe there is merit to much of this.  In my simple opinion however one thing sticks out more than anything else: perception.

There is a simple principal that I learned long ago from leaders before me and firmly believe to this day.  It is one of the keys to leadership,  "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care about them."  We will overlook some shortcomings in a leader if we really believe that they care about us verses a leader who is smarter and maybe more capable but does not connect.  Certainly as a Minister of Education/Sunday School Director the most important quality I look for in a Teacher is that they care about those they lead.  Teaching skills can be improved but caring about people comes from the heart.

I do not know President Obama or Mitt Romney personally.  From information resources, listening to others I respect and doing my homework, I am convinced that Mitt Romney has the better plan for American and is more capable of carrying it out. Perception is often stronger than reality and it sure appears to be the case in this past election.  The "perception" that was sold to the people is that Obama cares about them and Romney does not.  In my simple opinion this mattered as much as anything else.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Sinner, the Sin, and the Struggle.

Many sins that used to be under the cover of darkness have not only made their way to the light in these times, but are even in the spotlight.  Our struggle with sin will never be over completely on this side of Heaven, though with the Holy Spirit's help, the power of prayer, and the assistance of other believers, we can win some of the battles.

Let's look at some tendencies.  The dictionary defines a tendency as a leaning or inclination towards something, almost like a gravitational pull in a particular direction.  A boy or girl growing up in a home where not much affection is shown may feel unloved and may seek to fulfill this natural need  for love later in life in a wrong way.  They may seek to have intimate relations (outside of marriage) early and often as a way to make them feel loved, and so a tendency develops.  Perhaps a person has always used food to comfort them during stressful times and now they have a weight problem that is difficult to overcome.

People may be raised in an environment where yelling and screaming and cursing is the norm and they acquire this habit which later becomes a tendency.  Having a parent that was a drunk might lead to alcohol experimentation early on that can lead to alcoholism.  Someone can be abused by a person of the same sex and end up confused about their own sexual orientation.  There are so many situations . . . and I am no psychologist.  The point is that these scenarios--and countless others--can cause possible weaknesses or tendencies in our lives that we may always have.

There are many sins I could use as an example here but I've chosen the sin of homosexuality because it has been in the news so much lately.  I pray for the person who has the tendency towards this sin, wherever the tendency came from; not because it is worse than any other sin but because I am limited in my ability to help as I cannot relate.  There are those out there however, who have been delivered of homosexuality and can provide help and direction. 

Please note that there is a difference in struggling with one's sin and glorifying in it. We all have our weaknesses.  There is a struggle when our tendencies come up against our will.  We know something is wrong but because of our tendencies, the pull towards a particular sin is strong. This battle may last a long time and come with victory and losses, but the war continues on.   When two people of the same gender decide to get married, then they are most likely not struggling with this sin any longer and have either just embraced it or tried to convince themselves and everyone else it is not wrong.  They are indeed committing to a sinful lifestyle.

It's important that we remember that lost people are going to act like lost people.  We should continue to reach out to them and try to help them find that one foremost thing that every person needs:  Jesus.  We should do this with love in our hearts but without condoning their behavior or compromising God's Word.    For those who choose to continue down this road and claim to be Christians, the Bible again tells us what to do.  In 1 Corinthians 5:11 Paul states, "But actually I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is a sexually immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler--not even to eat with such a one." 

Monday, June 25, 2012

What if I Don't Agree With the Direction of the Church?

What if I don't agree with the direction of the church?  This question comes up in every church sooner or later, so what is the proper way to deal with the issue?  What should we do? 

First of all let's establish that disagreeing, just like anger, is not a sin.  When times of disagreement come up in the church--and they will, over and over again--a question we should ask ourselves is do we react or respond?  We are all emotional beings and without the Holy Spirit to keep these emotions in check at times we may react or respond sinfully.

God has always been a God of order, it is people who sometimes get it wrong.  The church was never created to be a democracy though we have brought this type of government into the church.  God has always called men to lead His people and then given those men a vision of what He wants them to do.  The leader then shares this vision with the body and they work together to carry out God's plan.

How to best carry out God's plan can sometimes cause a difference of opinion. I believe a good leader will first spend much time in prayer and then try to the best of their ability to present the vision, the plan to carry it out the vision, and the reasons for the vision and the plan.  There should be a time to answer questions and address concerns that the body may have, but not to change the direction God has revealed.

So if all this happens and we are one of those who still do not agree, what then?  We should respond by entering into a time of intense prayer ourselves and seek God's guidance.  God is not going to give the man He has called to lead the church one vision and then give someone else in the church a different vision; that causes confusion and that is not of the Lord. 

If we do not necessarily agree with the plan, then the next question we need to ask ourselves is do we trust the leadership?  Will God confirm the plan in our hearts later?  Can we remain a part of the fellowship without stirring up strife?  If not, it may very well be God's way of letting us know that it's time to move on, He has another place for us to serve.