Follow – a Practical Calling

In keeping with Ken’s theme in this summer 2020 FOLLOW series, the chosen passage today also contains the word FOLLOW – “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” from 1 Peter 2:21. The title and emphasis today is very compelling, to follow is… a practical calling. At first glance, I see three things that grab my attention. The first is that we are CALLED.

We are CALLED For a Purpose – From reading the gospels, we easily see that Jesus gives us an invitation to follow him, just as we have seen in the messages and in the passages Ken has unpacked in this series. Jesus shows up in everyday life and offers an invitation to discover that he is someone worth investigating. He has a message for all people and will meet the needs of all those who are willing to allow him to enter into their lives. Upon entering the life of a person, Jesus puts his claim on their life. They are called for a purpose, which is to allow the mission of Jesus to become THEIR mission. It is all about obedience to the one who has called us.

The focus in this verse is on being called for a purpose; salvation not just about going to heaven after we die. So many believers think about heaven as their final destination, but they fail to remember that we have a job to do right here and now. The kingdom is upon us. The King has called us into his service. The King tells us that we are to be his ambassadors, to represent him as we live in this earthy world. We don’t do whatever we desire and pray that Jesus will bless it. We are called for a purpose, to build his kingdom on earth, to spread the message of salvation to those living in darkness, to recruit players to join God’s winning team, showing up at practices, working hard at the drills, getting better at playing our positions. We need to get off the sidelines and into the game, and develop the passion to win, not just be content with wearing the team jersey.

Not only do we have a CALLING with a purpose, we have our CHRIST as our example.

Jesus – He is the example set before us. The text mentions that he left us an example to follow. In context, Peter is talking about suffering in this life, but let me bring in a little theology. Jesus was the God-Man, 100% divine, 100% human. I know the math doesn’t add up but sometimes theology can get a little complicated. The point is that Jesus is the unique Son of God, (as described primarily in the gospel of John) and he is also the unique Son of Man, (as described in Book of Daniel and the four gospels). He lived a life worth imitating. That which Jesus teaches and does, we are to follow in his steps, allowing him to be the example for us. The best way for us to follow his example is to KNOW his example, meaning we are to know his life and his teaching so well that we can believe and behave in a similar fashion. Check out these passages about following the example of Christ…

the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” – 1 John 2:6 NASB

so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; – Colossians 1:10 NASB

so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:12 NASB

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” – 1 Peter 2:21 NASB

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 11:1 NASB

It’s very difficult to defend that we can say YES to following Jesus just enough to get into heaven, yet still live a life of open rebellion by how we act, the attitudes we possess, the things that we say, how we treat other people, our failure to make disciples. We live in open rebellion when we fail to walk in obedience to the Scriptures, and in some cases, we flat-out embrace sinful activity, promiscuous behavior, racism, sexism, and even mixing American patriotism of God and Country with the authentic gospel of Jesus.

We are called to live and love as Jesus did. Paul says to “be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” To me, this statement is like saying, “if you want to know what a Christian looks like, what a follower of Jesus looks like, look at ME. Since I am following Christ, you can look at me and see an authentic Christian.” Who among us is ready to make such a claim? Probably none of us because we each know the darkness that resides within. But what if we constantly dealt with that darkness and daily laid our sin at the foot of the cross? What if we confessed our failings and sinfulness as in 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

What if we look back at our lives over the past year and we see progress toward conforming to the image of Jesus? What if we looked more holy today than we did last month or last year? If you are not ready to say, “be imitators of me,” what is it going to take for you to grow in godliness?

And did you know that you don’t have to do all this on your own, that’s what the church is for. We exist as a community of faith to extend the love of Christ and His Kingdom in Virginia Beach and to the world. We are in this together, helping each other to grow in godliness, eliminating from our lives everything that doesn’t look like Jesus. There is strength in numbers. There is success in numbers. There is sanctification in numbers (becoming more and more like Jesus over a lifetime).

Let me remind you that all of this is simply head knowledge unless we internalize it. The way we internalize our faith is to develop conviction.

We will never follow in his steps without CONVICTION.

Just what is conviction? Is it knowing the right thing to do? That certainly is a good start, but the dictionary defines conviction as “a fixed or firm belief.” But with this definition, we can easily believe something and still not act on it.

Christianity is a faith that is constantly being put into practice; it is more active than it is passive. There are many things in which we BELIEVE but we are called to OBEY because of our belief. It is not obedience that saves us, because we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is not obedience that saves us, but how can we say we are saved without it? (James 2:14) Let me illustrate conviction…

I had a friend in high school that joined the Marines that summer after graduation. He was in the 6-year reserve plan, and Parris Island was his starting point. He learned discipline, how to defend this country, fight, shoot, work as a team, and likely he learned how to kill a man just by using his thumb.

Now, when he came to my college town for work, we roomed together for a while. You would think that a man who learned how to keep his uniform perfect, his shoes impeccable, and his rack neatly tucked in with tightly fitted sheets, that he would not have been such an untidy roommate. I love this guy, but I learned an interesting spiritual lesson – good behavior does not continue without the conviction that it is the right thing to do. You make your bed each day and clean up after yourself only if you have the conviction it is the right thing to do, otherwise, without the threat of a drill instructor, some things just might not get done.

So, we need conviction to do what Jesus has called us to do. And it starts with understanding that you are CALLED for a purpose (and that purpose is NOT just to go to heaven when you die). Jesus has work for you to do no matter what your station in life, or your livelihood, or your chosen career. We are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) representing our King, Savior, and Lord. We carry out HIS marching orders!

You know, we cannot carry out his marching orders if we don’t know what those orders are, so without holding up the entire New Testament, let me show you the abridged version. We find it in Matthew 28:16-20, the Great Commission.

But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

I love the way Jesus looks around and then looks right at the camera, at us, right in the eyes. And then the invitation for join him, to follow after him…

His last words are supposed to be our first concern. What does this Great Commission mean for us today? Let me suggest a few things, because if we want to follow his in his steps, according to 1 Peter 2:21, it might be a good idea to look at what he did with his disciples.

Let me point out a few observations I see in the Great Commission.

First is the TASK in the Great Commission – Matthew 28:19 – we are called to make disciples. That’s what Jesus spent the past three years doing, investing in these 12 men who would in turn spread the gospel and change the world. Because of their obedience, they transformed the lives of billions of people around the world since the first century. Remember that a disciple is a learner. A disciple learns FROM Jesus, learns ABOUT Jesus, and then actively helps others to do the same. It is one thing to receive knowledge and instruction on biblical matters, but we are challenged to be the providers of biblical knowledge and instruction. The writer of Hebrews tells us that there were some who ought to have been teachers by now (Hebrews 5:12). What about you? How are you making disciples? The Great Commission is given because we are CALLED for a purpose. Let’s not stop short.

The second thing to notice is the PROCESS in the Great Commission – Matthew 28:19-20 – we are to make disciples with the aid of three helping words in the text.

We are to GO – but as a participle, this means more accurately, “as you are going…” make disciples. We make disciples as we live out everyday life. It is not about involvement in a discipleship program, it is a part of who we are. We must be disciple-makers. Follow me as I follow Christ. In short, we are to put in a good word for Jesus as we find lost people in everyday life.

Not only are we to go but we are to BAPTIZE – This means to baptize in water but also has the understanding that we will help to establish these new converts in their newfound faith. As followers of Jesus, they now have a new identity and must make progress toward spiritual maturity. Those who are secure in the faith need to help those who are new to the faith. How are you doing this in everyday life?

Not only are we to go and baptize, but we are to TEACH – Many times we think that teaching is the goal, but it’s not. The verse actually tells us to “teach them to OBEY all that I have commanded you.” This verse appears to be all about obedience. Are you obeying Christ? What areas in your life are yet to be surrendered to Jesus?

This also tells us to teach them to obey all THAT HE HAS COMMANDED, so what are the commands of Jesus he expects you to obey? He then gets even deeper because he wants us to teach them to obey all that he has commanded YOU. That makes this very personal. You can’t teach something that you have never experienced. How is Jesus dealing with you? What is he teaching you? Then pass THAT on to others.

The third thing I see in this passage is the SCOPE of the Great Commission – Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:8 – here it tells us to make disciples of all nations. This is not just to become a missionary to another culture somewhere around the world. For some, that may be exactly what it means, but for many, we are called to reach those in our circles of influence. Who are the people around you who don’t know Christ? Who is unchurched? Who appears to be far from God?

The fourth thing I see in this passage involves the RECIPIENTS of the Great Commission – Matthew 28:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:6 – While Jesus is speaking to the eleven disciples, there is evidence that the crowd may have been much bigger. 1 Corinthians 15:6 mentions Jesus being seen by over 500 at one time. Could this be that time? Matthew 28:16 tells us that some who gathered there, “doubted.” Who of the eleven could Matthew be talking about? Thomas doubted for a week but when he saw the risen Jesus, he made the most significant declaration ever, “My Lord and my God.” I can’t imagine that any of the eleven doubted, after what they had witnessed. So, it IS plausible that there were more people present at the Great Commission than just his closest men. Certainly, this is something to think about.

The fifth this I see here is the FUEL for the Great Commission – Matthew 28:16 and Revelation 7:9 – when the eleven saw him, they “worshipped.” The fuel for the Great Commission is worship. I love what I read in the book called, Let the Nations Be Glad, that “missions exists because worship doesn’t.” We are a missionary people because all nations need to hear about the saving message of the gospel. Missions will one day end, but worship will continue into eternity with Jesus!

Finally, we see in this passage the DURATION of the Great Commission – Matthew 28:20 – until the end of the age. He is with us to help us to make these disciples and spread the gospel around the world, and to all those in OUR part of the world. Remember that he is with us, and apart from Jesus we can do nothing (John 15:5).

So, I’ve spent the past 25 minutes talking about how we are CALLED for a purpose, that CHRIST has left us an example to follow in his steps, and that in order to be an effective witness, we must develop a spiritual CONVICTION that people are lost without Jesus. When we finally get this truth, our focus is forever changed.

Perhaps you have been challenged in a new way by the familiar story of the Great Commission. Maybe you now see some things a little differently than you did before. Ken’s series is FOLLOW, which is all about how to better follow Jesus, and my challenge today is to follow the leader, follow Jesus, who has set before us an example for us to follow. Commit to being a disciple and discovering how to better make disciples.

You know, the Bible never calls this commission “great.” This commission is an everyday commission for everyday kind of people who offer themselves to be used by our risen Savior. Will you allow Jesus to use you to do great things in your life and in the lives of those around you?

Let’s pray about it…

Dear Lord Jesus, we humbly come before you to submit to your lordship. Help us to embrace your calling on our lives. May your Spirit shake us out of complacency and burn deep within our souls. Work through us for your kingdom’s sake. Plant deep within us a holy discontent, knowing that we are not fully surrendering to your calling on our lives. May you be glorified as we follow you every day. AMEN

If you need to talk about where you stand with Jesus, I would welcome that conversation, as would any of us on the leadership team here at King’s Grant. Just contact us on our the website you see here, or text the word MORE to our church mobile number. We’d love to hear from you!

I love you a lot. How can we help you grow in your faith? How can we help you get connected to a small group community (even in these days of COVID-19)? How can we help you find a place of service, and live your life on mission for Jesus’ sake? Let us know.

Church is a Team Sport

Below are my notes from Jim Putman’s book called, Church is a Team Sport. Buy this book!

In Church Is a Team Sport, Jim uses the analogy of coaching and teamwork to show how God built Real Life’s team from two couples to over eight thousand people in eight years—all in a northern Idaho town of ten thousand people.

When he started Real Life, he wanted to get back to the primary task of the church—making disciples. Many churches assume they can make disciples incidentally, but Real Life makes disciples intentionally.

Real Life’s vision is to fulfill the Great Commission. Following are some of the unique ways they are accomplishing this vision.

Disciple Making. Their vision to make disciples is the determining factor in everything they do. Most churches make it one of many emphases, hoping disciple making will take place by osmosis. At Real Life, however, if an activity does not contribute to making disciples, it takes a backseat.

A Relational Context. Real Life makes disciples in a relational context. That means making disciples in small groups. They believe that you can’t make disciples in a vacuum such as a class where you just pass on information.

Unity. Disunity in the church drove Jim Putman from the church and the faith of his father. When God led him to start a church, he resolved that unity would be a core value. Real Life focuses on the basic doctrines of the Bible but will not get sidetracked with peripheral issues.

Ministry. Ministry takes place in small groups, but it does not stop there. The church meets the needs of hundreds of needy people every month.

Evangelism. Evangelism is a natural outgrowth of all the things mentioned above. Because people get help in their small group, they naturally tell their friends. Every event sponsored by the church has the purpose of introducing people to Christ and making disciples.

Leadership Development. Because the goal is making disciples, Real Life is always looking for new leaders.

Teamwork. The name of the book hints that a winning team is the defining work of a coach. At Real Life they have one goal—winning. Winning is defined as making disciples who are like Christ. Every player is important.

Innovation. For Real Life innovation is not doing something that no other church has done. It is getting back to the basics and living as disciples. I have been surprised at their willingness to change.

Jim Putman is a coach at heart. He is a leader of people, and they follow him.

Here is a bit about Jim’s call to plant a church…

I hated the idea of church planting. The instant they asked me if I had an interest in planting this new church, those memories flooded my mind, and I rationalized there was no way this was from God. Even if I were to plant a church, I would never do it alone.

I remember thinking, Lord, if you want me to come to this place, you will have to change my heart. I also told God, even if He did change my heart, He would have to do a miracle.

On October 18, 1998, we had our official first service. It was a glorious day—and everything that could go wrong did. We had a single guitar, a bad sound system, ministry equipment that was built by hand, homemade signs, and bulletins that looked amateurish. It may not have looked good, but we had the Lord, each other, big dreams, and most of all, we had a simple biblical plan that was reproducible.

We continued to trust God for our needs. After that first year, we had grown to about five hundred people. We needed three services.

In three years, God had grown His new church from four families to 2,300 people!

We had always done things in small groups, because this was the only place that could provide the care we felt people needed.

We were overwhelmed. The largest church any of us had ever been in was three hundred. None of us had ever done what we were doing. I had never been a senior pastor.

We had a value system that drove everything we did. We believed in relationship and shepherding—in discipling those we won to the Lord.

One of the staff said, “What’s up with you?” I explained I had finally called all the people and now I had to write a sermon. His question: “Why are you doing all of that?” I told him that a pastor is supposed to pastor his people. My co-worker said something that still sticks with me. He said, “No, your job is to make sure people are pastored. You always talk about raising up people to do what you do; now let us do what you do.” Our team realized that we were at a crossroads.

Each team member had to make a decision. I was beat; our staff was exhausted. We had a choice to make. If all we looked at were the numbers, we’d say the success was killing us. But we knew in our hearts this wasn’t success. We were on our way to losing. We were becoming a show.

Since two of our church values were to raise up leaders and to pastor our people, we had to make a decision. If we could not or would not do this anymore, then we had to change our church’s purposes, which we had written on the wall and in our weekly bulletin. It had become obvious that we could not do it the way we had done it anymore.

The next Sunday, as a leadership team we stood in front of our people and explained our dilemma. We outlined the two options, reminded them what we had believed since the beginning, and told them what choice we had made. We would not seek to be like other big churches. We honestly shared our hearts and our convictions, and we let them know we were tired and needed their help if we were to be successful in the next step.

Then, we shared the plan. We would become completely small groups driven. We would spend our money on pastors who could disciple and release, rather than hire people who focused on the worship service. We would de-emphasize the show and focus on shepherding, discipleship, and relationship. We let them know they would have to step up and become ministers, not spectators—after all, this church is called Real Life Ministries (RLM), and we must all be ministers. The people went nuts. They gave us a standing ovation!

We concentrated on building leaders. Instead of merely feeding those who had been Christians for years but had never really grown up, we were going to force those who stuck around to grow up and serve.

We would be taking a chance. We knew that. Most of these men and women had never done anything but sit in a church pew, if they had been in church at all. Most had no training, no history of service, and certainly no experience in church leadership.

A LOOK AT THE EARLY CHURCH – During this time I had been reading the first few chapters of Acts in a new way. I was thinking about what starting a church must have been like for them. In the upper room, on the day of Pentecost, there were 120 people. By the end of the day 3,000 had gathered. What did the disciples do? How did they handle what must have been such utter chaos and confusion?

The early church was organized chaos. As I continued to study, I remember thinking, I see us in here! We can relate to these circumstances. We understand being overwhelmed. It gave me a picture of what we could look like. If God could use green, confused people in the first century, He could do it here and now.

We moved for many reasons. The foyer had come to resemble a mosh pit before and after services. Our children’s ministry could not squeeze one more child in. It could easily take thirty minutes to park and then even longer to get into the building. New and unsaved people were turning around and going home. We watched them in frustration as they circled the parking lot in their cars and left. We wanted to reduce the number of weekly services because our staff was exhausted.

We added one truly new component. We developed a way to track our people’s attendance in services and small groups. We wanted to know that our people were okay. We called it the C.A.R.E. Tool—Caring for All, Reaching Everyone. It took cooperation from our people and a computer system that could track attendance.

People don’t want to be a number. People want to be loved and affirmed and trained. A good shepherd chases the strays because he loves them. If they get away, it won’t be because he simply let them go.

When we first started, we put whoever we could find into leadership. Now, our leaders are coming from within the system. Our apprentices see a model to follow, and they are following and implementing our values. Our most effective small group leaders often became community coaches of six to ten small group leaders. Some have become elders in our church and others have come on staff.

God has indeed worked here at Real Life Ministries. He loves to use people who are clueless so He gets all the credit. It would be foolish to say this story has happened as the result of any one person. God wanted a church here and He acted. He is awesome! He is holy. He is unstoppable. All we can do is hold on and pray.

I believe a change is needed. The average church in America, as it is currently put together, is failing. This book will challenge you to rethink the box you were handed by those who taught you. As a leader, you are God’s coach, and He wants to use you to lead His team to victory. This book will also challenge you to discover a “new” way to find true victory.

I called my dad to gloat with the proverbial “I told you so.” Instead of responding the way I anticipated, my dad said something I will never forget: “Jim, I think you should get involved there and let the Lord use your abilities to fix some of the problems rather than point at them.”

That night my father called. “I have been thinking a lot about what you said. Jim, I want to give you an analogy I have been reflecting on. A healthy lake has water coming in and water going out. If no water continuously comes in, then the lake dries up. If a lake has water coming in but no water going out, then the lake floods and kills everything around it.”

You have choices to make, Jim. God is asking you to give. Instead of pointing out all the blemishes on His bride, the church, I believe God wants to use you to help clean her up.”

It’s God’s team, these are God’s people, I thought. As I traded in the mats and ball fields for the church boardrooms, I found something I did not expect. I found people who not only couldn’t play together but didn’t know how to play at all—a losing team. Over the years, it’s been disappointing to see God’s teams (the church) all over the country doing things that a good high school or college coach would never allow on a sports field. Many of God’s teams have created playbooks that were not approved by The Coach, and as a result we have lost more than we should have.

As I listened, I realized that these people, though they loved God, were not a team with a mission. They didn’t have a common view of what winning even was. They were not in agreement about where to go, so they were not going anywhere. As near as I could tell by their conversations and actions, their goal was to keep their people comfortable.

With no vision, the people had stopped moving toward anything meaningful; rather than fighting the enemy, we were fighting each other. I think the worst thing was to see that people just didn’t seem to care anymore. There was this sense of complacency that permeated every aspect of the church.

Some of the coaches I met with had given up altogether and were biding their time, waiting to retire. They were not conquering the enemy, battling in the trenches for the souls of men; they were just surviving. Many a well-meaning pastor told me that I was far too idealistic. They had once been that idealistic, but they had learned what I would learn soon enough—to lower my expectations. Many of the younger ambitious pastors were using their churches as stepping-stones to other, bigger ministries. It was a career for them and they wanted to reach the top.

I heard a lot about the show on the weekend, how to use video projectors, or how to tweak the worship service to really draw a crowd. The buildings I visited were probably full on the weekend, but they were like cemeteries during the week. As I walked away from those many meetings, I once again believed that the team was losing in most places.

George Barna, a Christian pollster who researches the church in America, sheds some light on the matter. His group has found that an incredibly small number of people expect to have an experience with God at church.

SO WHAT IS A CHURCH? – As I am sure you have noticed already, I believe that the church is supposed to be a collection of transformed individuals molded by God into a team.

GOD’S DEFINITION OF A CHURCH – When I say these kinds of things, people ask me how I define the word church. When I speak of church, I mean a body of believers working as individuals and together as a team to achieve the Lord’s goals. God’s plan is to glorify Himself through this team. As individuals we minister wherever we work and live. We use our talents, gifts, and resources to minister in our communities in ways that can be done only as a collective force. Our winning team reaches the world with the message of the gospel and then disciples those who have been won to obedience and replication.

DEFINING TERMS: WHAT IS WINNING? – During a game, coaches and players are constantly looking at the scoreboard. They want to know what the score is because game strategy changes based on that tally. If their team falls behind, they double their efforts and change the game plan. As the clock winds down, those on the losing team become more desperate. The intensity heightens during the last few minutes of the game.

Jesus will always take us as we are, but He will not leave us that way. He will start the process of unmaking what we have become so that He can remake us into something useful for His purposes. God’s plan was to disciple us through the Word, through His Spirit, and with the guidance of His coaches. In this discipleship process, He gives us teachers (coaches) who will help us understand what it means to follow Him. He also gives us His Word as a guidebook so that we can understand the game. He gives us teammates who help us win this game that can only be won as a team. He gives us the Holy Spirit who guides us into His perspective of life and eternity. He gives us His heart to care about what He cares about, his eyes to see what He sees, and His power to do what He would have us do.

So what is winning? Many think winning is about numbers. We want converts, they say. Wrong! Winning is making disciples— converts who are discipled onto God’s team and taught to take part in Christ’s mission. Numbers don’t mean much unless you are counting the number of people being transformed by the Holy Spirit. Disciples are those able to stand up under the pressure of the world. They are able to share their faith unashamed. They are filled with the fruit of the Spirit, which results in increased relationship with others and glory to God.

According to the Barna Research Group, there are about 360,000 churches in America. Current numbers tell us that only 15 percent of these churches are growing, and only 2 to 5 percent of the churches are experiencing new conversion growth.

The statistic that breaks my heart is the one Josh McDowell gives in his book The Last Christian Generation. In it he reveals that 85 percent of kids who come from Christian homes do not have a biblical worldview. Most of them are leaving the faith between ages eighteen and twenty-four, never to return.

We are told to teach those we baptize to obey all that is commanded. First we make converts, secondly we make disciples. So how is the team doing with those who have been converted? How is the church doing with those who are supposed to be Christians? When you look at the statistics for those who do go to church, you will see very little statistical difference between the churched and the unchurched when it comes to giving, the divorce rate, and views on morality. While part of the battle may be getting them to church, the greater task lies in what to do with them once they come to church.

Only 51 percent of pastors questioned had a biblical worldview.

Barna went to people in the congregations of those pastors who did have a biblical worldview and asked the same questions. Less than one in seven had a biblical worldview. In other words, though the pastor believed and taught biblical truths, the congregation did not share those views.

Let’s sum up what we see on the scoreboard. As we look at what is being produced in America’s churches, I see nothing like what was intended by our Lord. American Christians are not on a mission. They look far more like the world than they should. They live the same way and chase the same things. Their marriages and families look the same. They are biblically illiterate and care little about sharing their faith with others. Churches are producing people who do not and cannot share the gospel. You tell me, how are we doing? What’s the score?

HIS TEAM WINS! – In Matthew 16, Jesus tells Peter, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (v. 18). When I compare this statement with the church in America as a whole, I am left with a problem. Since I am a black-and-white kind of guy, I can only come up with two alternatives. Option 1: Jesus is a liar because the gates of hell are prevailing against the church. Or option 2: The church that is being prevailed against isn’t Jesus’s church at all. Jesus did not promise the gates of hell would not prevail against a church but that it would not be able to stop His church.

It is better to have no church in an area than to have a church that makes Jesus look powerless and irrelevant.

Another reason a team might lose is found in 1 Corinthians 9:22–23. Paul makes it clear that he will do whatever it takes short of sin to reach the lost. He says it this way, “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

There are many other reasons a team might fail, but let me just mention one more. Some of the coaches of God’s teams have decided that they don’t want to use the Lord’s playbook, the Bible, anymore. They are more interested in hearing the praises of men, culture, politicians, etc., than they are the praises of God.

A coach is expected to lead. It is part of the job. We do not pay for our kids to play in a sport where there is little control and leadership. We don’t want our kids to dictate the pace or the schedule—we want them to learn, to improve.

PLAYER OR COACH? – When I was a player, I had a player’s mind-set. I wanted to compete at the highest level, so I concentrated on acquiring and honing the skills and stamina that I would need to win on the mat or field. My focus was on my position, and I hoped everyone else would carry their own weight. If each part of the team did their job, we would win. When I became a coach, my job was no longer about what position I was going to play; I was no longer going to play a position. My job was to develop people so that they could play their positions or wrestle their weights. It was no longer about what I would do on the mat or field. It was about what I could train the athletes to do in their moment of decision.

There is nothing worse than having a player in a coach’s position.

WHAT IS A COACH? – Just as a coach can hurt the team by not understanding his role, a pastor can hurt the church for the same reason. God has given His coaches a job description in Ephesians 4:11–13.

This passage tells us that the job of a pastor has two parts. First, they are to prepare or equip God’s players to play, or in biblical terminology, to serve one another and reach out to the world. Secondly, pastors are to lead their people to become unified. No team, no matter how great the players, can win if they are not unified. The team must have the same goal, the same language; they must have a common understanding of the part they play; and they must work together to achieve that goal.

Pastors are taught that if they have (1) good preaching, (2) good worship, (3) good children’s ministries, and (4) good location, they will have a big church.

As a result of a pastor’s “show” mentality, many Christians have come to believe their job is to attend the show.

The Scriptures tell us that we are to be part of a team that works together to achieve God’s purposes. We don’t go to church; we are the church. In a church you are invited to volunteer; on a team you are expected to play a part.

A coach’s job is to make sure everyone understands his obligation to the team. A coach makes sure every player understands what “the Owner” requires. The One who bought us for a price expects us to play. Winning is not gathering a crowd. It’s raising, training, and releasing a team.

THE PAID-PLAYER MENTALITY – Let me point out again that somehow pastors have come to believe that they are the paid players, and the people who attend are the fans. Game day is Sunday and the building is the arena. People in the area will follow the best team in town, so ours better be the best. The elders or board members are the general managers and owners who watch to make sure the people are getting what they pay for.

When the paid-player mentality guides the church, everything becomes a show, and soon they think they have to have a whole cast of paid professionals to create little spectacles for their assigned demographic groups.

They scour the land to steal a great player from another team, while their best players are being scouted as well.

Because the show is so important, they spend most of the week developing the next show and have little time for relationship with the people in the church.

THE POWER OF RELATIONSHIPS – As Real Life grew, we came to a real crossroads. Our small band of leaders and I believed in shepherding our people. We believed in relationship, in real discipleship, but we had grown past our ability to do that successfully in the way we had in the past.

Conversely, if you love your people and help them grow in their relationship with Jesus and find relationships with others on your team, people will put up with less because they know they are loved. If people know they are loved, and have been affected by your mission, they will be more likely to get involved in it.

DITCHING THE SHOW MENTALITY – God’s idea of a coach is one who creates a system that develops people into great players.

However, a good coach develops a way to turn those he gathers and leads into great players. He creates a way to guide them into their position on the team. Every person is a player. Success is creating a team that can work together. Success is finding and developing players who will later become coaches themselves.

When I look at churches filled with people who have come to watch the show and I don’t see any intentional attempt to move people into the discipleship process, it saddens me. A congregation that is informed about the game is not the same as a congregation that is committed to learning how to play the game.

So the goal of a coach is to follow God’s guidance toward creating a team that can win. A winning team is one that reaches the lost and makes disciples who can disciple others. The goal of winning is not to fill stadiums with fans; it’s not about numbers, unless what you are counting is the number of godly disciples. Life change is the goal.

You find out what a person values by how he treats people who can’t add value to the person’s reputation or success.

Great coaches have something special that many knowledgeable leaders lack. The Bible uses a word that I think describes a great coach perfectly—shepherd.

We forget that the devil now sees the one we just baptized as an enemy. This is not like a physical game we might play, where at worst we get hurt accidentally and need medical attention. Satan is not happy about losing that person to Jesus.

We often don’t understand that we just got this new believer into a war they are not equipped to fight. They don’t know the rules, or the weapons available, or even how to use them.

Every player needs to go through a process of learning that will eventually lead him or her to become fully equipped to play the game. The coach’s job is to guide the rookie by creating a climate of shepherding. We teach them and allow them to make mistakes. We must disciple our people. It starts with taking responsibility not just for winning the lost but for shepherding them too. The pastor can’t do this by himself. Part of his job is to create a shepherding environment where everyone is challenged to shepherd others and win the lost.

Jesus gave us the example of a true shepherd when He gave up His life for us. In Acts 20:28, Paul tells the elders to shepherd the flock of which he had made them overseers. He reminds the leaders in that passage that the sheep were purchased by God.

God describes His expectations of a shepherd in Ezekiel 34:2–10:

We see God judging the shepherds because they failed to fulfill their responsibility—they had not fed the sheep but only themselves.

In Ezekiel 34, the sheep were not cared for. When they were hurt, they were not nursed back to health. When they strayed or were lost, the shepherd didn’t look for them. They became food for wild animals. This is what happens in the church when God’s people are not shepherded.

Unfortunately, sheep stink, bite, and wander, and they can be stubborn. Yet God expects shepherds to care for His flock.

Many pastors teach but are not around when the sheep need help. Granted, a pastor can’t do everything, but his responsibility is to make sure all the positions on the team are filled.

Every coach needs to have a game plan for shepherding the hurting and chasing strays. We are often like the hired hand Jesus talks about. When the wolf comes, we run or ignore the plight of the sheep because we don’t really love them.

Sometimes, shepherding means getting dirty. People’s lives are messy, and it takes time for the Lord to clean them up. Too often our lives are so busy that the only people we can see ourselves working with are those who won’t take much time. We don’t think in terms of relationship; we think in terms of information.

Volunteer organizations are unique. People do not have to follow. You can’t hold a paycheck over their head. You don’t have the power to make them do anything. If you want to lead a volunteer organization, you have to understand people will only follow if they want to. They will only follow if they believe you care for them.

Most of us think this means writing better sermons, but you have heard the true statement that “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” A leader must be someone who knows his sheep and understands their needs. He leads them, teaches them, and models for them how to serve God and others. There is mutual accountability and trust. The shepherd knows when his sheep have succeeded, and he celebrates with them. He knows when they feel defeated and need encouragement and support. He grieves with them, and when the sheep wander, he does all he can to get them back on track.

When a church becomes a shepherding community, when they care for the needs of others, when they help people beat the habits that have always beaten them, when they dare to be real, others can’t help but notice. They see joy and a change in the person they have always known, and they become interested—even excited. At the very least, they keep watching.

Churches often have stated goals but behaviors that circumvent or work against them. For instance, we might say we want to reach the world, but we do things that keep us from being in contact with the world we want to reach. We plan an outreach, but it is really designed to attract people who already think like us (other believers). We don’t know how to relate to lost folks, so we pray and expect that God will bring them to us.

REACHING OUT WITH BRIDGES – At Real Life we do a variety of special outreach events. We call them bridges. They are designed to meet unsaved people in a place that will allow them to be comfortable.

A good outreach event always bridges people to the next step in the process. We know the goal is to see them become disciples who can disciple others. Our goal at the outreach event is to make sure they are invited into the next step in the process. We must have a process in place to take them to that next step.

However, public displays of emotion can be something many shy away from because of their upbringing, so lighting matters. I believe the darker the better, because it makes people feel alone with God. The more they are made to feel like they are the only ones there, the more they may worship publicly.

Every message must motivate people to action. Every sermon must encourage believers to live an authentic lifestyle of love.

We also have the people who were a part of their conversion baptize them. This promotes what we believe about every person being a player, a priest, a minister, with the purpose of declaring the praises of Him who saved us.

During our worship service, we have something we call directed prayer. It’s a time where we have someone on stage direct the thoughts of those in the service to a particular person or thing.

Most of our decision cards come in after directed prayer and communion and before the message. At first this puzzled me because I wanted the message to inspire people to make decisions. Yet what I’ve found is that when you allow people to spend time with God in worship and prayer, reminding them during communion of what Jesus did for them, the Spirit convicts them and they make decisions.

THE INVITATION – Though many make decisions before the sermon, we believe that an invitation ought to be given every time we get together in a service. We do this in two ways. First, we have a card in every bulletin where people can either write a prayer request or ask to receive a call from a pastor.

Many people come forward after services also. Our staff, elders, and prayer team members pray with them or share God’s plan for their lives with them.

Every week we encourage small group participation, because it’s not God’s plan for them to be loner Christians.

If they don’t come, you know there can only be a few explanations: (1) they found water somewhere else; (2) they were attacked by a wild animal or are sick; or (3) they broke through the fence and are lost.

In our bulletins and on our walls, we advertise different ministries and events for people to check out. These are connecting points where people can find places to serve, places to learn, and places to form relationships.

One of the things we have learned over the years is to use the worship service as a time to promote and praise what you value. If you value service, then praise service. If you value decisions for Jesus, praise those who help people make decisions. If you want people to get connected, then make sure you speak about it often. If you value discipleship, emphasize discipleship. What you value you promote.

Every program’s leadership must understand its dual purpose in the context of the goal: winning the world for Jesus, one person at a time, and making disciples in a relational environment.

A ministry in our church is a part of the process or system we use to meet God’s goal.

Programs are a strategy used in the game; they are not the game! Someone with a program mentality is only interested in their own program. They think if they create it, people will come, and when they come, that’s it. Job well done! They are satisfied when someone comes to their programmed event as a spectator.

Every leader in our church understands they are in a shepherding community. They understand they are part of a network of shepherds, all working together to care for the flock. If one of their sheep strays, we will do everything we can to bring them back.

Programs must be about more than just performance. We are instructed to use our gifts and talents to glorify God.

Every coach, no matter what the level, has a two-tiered job to do: (1) develop skilled players that understand their positions and (2) coach them to play well together.

Typically, a high school coach is responsible for overseeing a program that extends from the little kids’ age group to the high school varsity program. He aligns all the coaches throughout the age groups to produce athletes who understand the style of play expected when the athlete hits the varsity program.

A college coach also develops players, but he deals with athletes who already have a skill base developed by past coaches and experiences.

I believe most leaders of churches behave like college coaches, looking for stars that can be plugged in immediately with little or no development. Jesus, on the other hand, taught His future coaches to work like good high school coaches.

Consider the people Jesus chose to follow Him. Almost every disciple was unprepared and unqualified. Jesus loves to use people others would bypass. He loves to develop people to be more than anyone thought they could be so He gets the glory.

If you develop them, they can be great players and eventually great leaders. If you expect to receive skilled players out of the blue, you will usually be disappointed.

If you want to be a great coach, you must look at what great coaches do. The best way to become like them is to watch them, listen to them, and mimic them. Jesus is the best example of what it means to be a great coach. He gave us a picture of real discipleship that works.

When I give this scenario to loving parents and they imagine it happening to their child, it makes their blood boil. Of course they would never stand for such a thing. Why do we react so adversely to this but allow the same type of thing to happen in our churches every week? The people in our pews are struggling with the most important subject there is—salvation. We stand in front of them for forty minutes a week and describe on the big screen what it takes to solve life’s biggest problems. We don’t have time to tutor them, and we don’t raise up people who do. Is it any wonder why our people can’t answer the easiest of biblical questions?

As a teacher, I learned to value small class sizes. A good teacher, in the right setting, can get to know each student. In other words, in a “relational environment,” a teacher can really teach each student. The teacher can discover what learning style a student has, how a new principle applies to a student’s life, and when a student isn’t getting it. A good teacher will also recognize when a child is going through a difficult time outside the classroom and can come alongside the child and help them deal with the life issue immediately.

When dealing with our children, we often hear that character is caught, not taught. Jesus modeled everything from how to deal with enemies to how to deal with sinners.

Few of us have accountability in our relationships. It takes time to build a relationship, especially one that allows others to know us well enough to speak truth to our hearts. I have seen many pastors fall because they hid from those who could help them in times of weakness.

Jesus modeled effective discipleship for us through building relationships. He could call His disciples on the carpet when they got it wrong. He encouraged them and provided a safe place where they could voice their shortcomings and ask for help. He had a small group of men He could really know and thus keep accountable. Once again, real discipleship happens in small groups.

A discipleship environment must include authenticity. Churches can be full of pretentious people trying to make an impression. If everyone is a fake, there can be no accountability. Church relationships are then shallow and superficial. Discipleship must provide a safe place to share your struggles without rejection.

Before people will be real, they must see their leader be real. This doesn’t mean we constantly air our dirty laundry, but we let others know that we struggle, we fall, and we keep trying.

If our goal is to make disciples who can disciple others, we must release them into the field of ministry. Jesus modeled this when He sent out the seventy-two to preach in the area towns. He then brought them back to debrief their experiences.

We learn by doing. The job of a disciple maker is to teach and release so that those being taught can truly learn.

In the same sense, the job of a coach is to provide a place for the athletes to practice what they learn and eventually do it in their own life.

Jesus calls us to follow Him and take up our cross daily. God’s Word tells us to seek after His kingdom and His righteousness, and to stop chasing the things of the world. Instead, some try to take the gospel message and package it in a way that is compatible with the American lifestyle and culture, regardless of whether it’s what God wants. We must reach people where they are, but that doesn’t mean we make it easy for them to stay there.

Pastors are trying their best to preach the gospel but are employing a model for discipleship that doesn’t work. As a result, they are producing the wrong product—church-attending Christians who live like the rest of the world.

The result of the discipleship process in a community is growth. When a church works as a team, they develop people—people who look like Jesus.

THE DEFINITION OF A DISCIPLE – The first question is “What is a disciple?” To answer this, we point them to Matthew 4:18–20

First, a disciple is one who has made Jesus the Lord of his or her life. Jesus said, “Come, and follow me.” He is the leader. We must be committed to being the followers.

Second, a disciple is one who has entered a process of relational discipleship with other maturing Christians. Jesus invited His disciples to be in relationship with Him. It was the primary way He shaped them.

Third, a disciple is one who is becoming Christlike. He or she has begun a process of change that is orchestrated by Jesus. Jesus said, “Come, follow me, and I will make you” . . . into something.

Finally, a disciple is one who is committed to the mission of Christ. Jesus said that He would make us into “fishers of men.” When we spend time with Jesus, we start to care about what He cares about.

AN INTENTIONAL PROCESS FOR REPRODUCING DISCIPLESHIP – The second question we are often asked is “What is the reproducible process you use to make disciples?” We call it the Share, Connect, Minister, and Disciple process, or S.C.M.D. for short (see pages 157–58).

Share We call the first stage the Share phase. Share-level people are those who have either not accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior or have accepted Him but have not been connected to other believers.

Connect Once disciples have entered the Connect phase of the process, the leader and the group they connect with will inspire, teach, and model for them what it means to love God and others.

Minister People who are properly connected and have the right heart will eventually start to move into the Ministry phase of discipleship. In this stage they will start to see things as God sees them, because they are connected to Him.

Disciple Finally, the young disciples will move into the last stage of the discipleship process. We call this the Disciple phase. In this stage the disciples learn not only to minister to those around them but to train others to do the same thing.

COACHING PRINCIPLES In wrestling, I had kids at all different levels on my team. My job was to figure out where each guy was and put together a plan to help him attain the next level of his development. I did not train each guy the same way, because what would help one person would hurt another. By the same token, what would help one might bore another to death. A good coach develops a plan that helps each person attain the next level of their development and then helps his coaches understand the process so they can develop the ability to do the same with others.

The team at Real Life created a way to help leaders recognize where people are. The key is to ask questions and listen—to listen to the phrase from the phase. Remember, the phases in the process are Share, Connect, Minister, and Disciple. At each phase of the process, people say things that tell us where they are. Once we know where they are, we as leaders can help get them what they need for growth.

SHARE-LEVEL PEOPLE There are different kinds of Share-level people—the unsaved and the saved. When unsaved people are at the Share level, we know what they need—they need salvation, they need the gospel.

Share-level people who have been believers for a while are a little trickier to understand. They may have “prayed the prayer” years ago and may even know the Bible inside and out and have all the right answers, but they are missing the will of God by not being connected and involved.

CONNECT-LEVEL PEOPLE – Connect-level people are those who have moved into a group led by a Disciple-level person (best-case scenario). They are in a relational environment for the purpose of discipleship.

MINISTRY-LEVEL PEOPLE – Remember, a Ministry-level person is one who has made the transition from “I” to “others.” They will seek to do what they do so that God will be glorified. They are also interested in serving in a ministry for more than what they can get out of it.

DISCIPLE-LEVEL PEOPLE – Before too long, people in the Ministry level will desire to do more than care for a need. They will begin to ask questions like, “Who can I get to help me reach more people in this ministry?” When we as their Disciple-level leader notice Ministry-level people desire to train others, it’s time to help develop a strategy.

Notice that our goal is to raise up those who can make disciples. Disciples learn as they go. They do not have to be perfect to get into the game, because perfection is not possible.

Our method for raising up people is through small groups. In those small groups, our leaders have access to people. They can start to know them well enough to really teach them, and they can see their talents and walk beside them as they develop them.

Notice a few things. First, Disciple-level people see the need to grow a ministry they are passionate about. Second, they notice that the ministry could expand if they had help. Third, they notice the gifts and passions of someone else who could play a part in the ministry. Fourth, they are willing to invest in another who they see needs to be trained.

CATCH AND RELEASE: THE KEY TO GROWTH – We have all heard the saying, “If you give someone a fish, you feed them for a day; if you teach them to fish, they will feed themselves for life.” The main objective of discipleship is to bring everyone to the Disciple level where they have learned to minister with another purpose: to train others to do the same things they have been taught to do.

A WORD OF CAUTION – As we put this plan together, it was never our intention to build a comprehensive process for discipleship. People are so different, as are their needs, backgrounds, and leadership and learning styles. Our goal was to try to put together a process that would give people a place to start. Our heart is to see people discipled.

THE FUNNEL CHART – Our church has put together this chart that attempts to lay out our entire strategy for others to see and understand. The 101 (Share Level) Class teaches them what we believe about salvation, basic theology, church structure, and philosophy. The 201 (Connect Level) Class gets them connected if they are not already. It teaches them the basics of discipleship, what a disciple is, and where they are in the discipleship process. The 301 (Ministry Level) Class explains what a leader in our church is expected to do. The job description and expectations of a leader are clearly explained. We have all our leaders go through the 301 every year. The 401 (Disciple Level) Class teaches ministry skill sets to our leaders as well as deeper spiritual and theological truths. As we discover weaknesses, we create new classes that we add to the 401 Class list. Every road leads to a small group where our people learn to actually live out the truths that our classes teach. They become small churches within the church.

As we walked back to the locker room, some of my teammates came running over, laughing and shoving each other. They wanted to know where we were going for pizza. I wanted to smack them! But then I realized they were the guys who never got to play. They were the ones who sat on the bench, along for the ride. Sure, they were bummed not to get another weekday off of school, but it occurred to me: those on the bench have little at stake in how the team does. Their heart and soul are not as involved; they are spectators in uniforms.

They don’t care when the team loses because it wasn’t something they invested in, and I don’t mean just financially. They don’t participate in any ministry; they haven’t invested their personal time physically or emotionally. They have put forth no effort caring for others. They have nothing at stake!

This is often how many churches deal with their people. Many of God’s coaches have no playbook to give the potential players that may come to their teams. They let people do what they want or, just as bad, they let them do nothing, just sit and watch the coach perform.

IT STARTS WITH THE COACHING STAFF – When we first started conferences at Real Life, we thought that the reason most churches failed was their methodology. We found instead that the first problem was a lack of unity in the leadership.

FROM THE STAFF TO THE PLAYERS – Once the leadership is on the same page, it is essential that you put together an official playbook all the players can read and understand. In our church it is the 101–201–301–401 classes. We took the names from Saddleback Church in California and changed the content to fit who we are.

Church life is the same. If the leadership of a church has agreed upon a system but cannot get the players to run by the plan, that team cannot win. People choose a church based primarily on the one that meets their needs. They come with expectations and demands. Many have come from other churches that ran a different system or no system at all. They may not bring you their playbook, but they definitely run by their own set of understandings and expectations.

Once again, the leadership must intentionally bring the team together. A good coach must have a way to bring the new players on board and keep the existing players inspired—all going the same direction. There must be a common language, a common goal.

We start with a Joining the Team class that is offered every month. Our 101 class is designed as an overview of our playbook.

We share with them that Jesus also tells His future team that the message will not be delivered powerfully or effectively if the team will not work together (see John 17).

We tell them, “At Real Life, people must agree to this playbook and our unique execution of the plays if they want to be involved on the field with this team.” They must sign a covenant and agree to the code of conduct given to us by God in his ultimate playbook, the Bible.

After our people attend the 101 class, the next step is the 201 class. This class explains the discipleship process to people who more than likely have not understood what a disciple is.

At Real Life, every leader including myself, our staff, and our elders must take our 301 (Ministry-level) class every year. Our new leaders will take it as they take on leadership responsibility, and our existing leadership is brought back to the fundamentals of our team by repeating the class yearly.

The goal is not to come up with something new but to commit to the things that have made us a winning church.

Every year a good coach takes his team through the fundamentals again.

If your church is like ours, some of your people grew up on other teams. We are not naïve enough to believe that one class will undo all of the habits and beliefs people hold.

At Real Life we take our leaders through ongoing training, our 401 (Disciple-level) classes. Our goal is to continue their education by teaching skill sets they will need to pastor and lead their individual groups. These classes may teach them to defend the Scriptures, help them learn to facilitate a group more effectively, train them in entry-level counseling, or cover things like hospital visitation.

Obviously, classes alone are not enough. One of the other things we do is preach a series on RLM’s goals every year. The goals are then taught in our small groups with curriculum that corresponds with the sermon series.

Every week I remind those who come how important it is to be connected in a small group. It is the place we get pastored and discipled. We also show a video of the previous week’s baptisms in each service. It’s one more way we remind our people why we exist: to reach the world for Jesus.

To further honor and inform our leaders, I send out a leadership email that shares upcoming events and points of interest. They have earned the right to know before anyone else because of their service.

The job of a leadership team in a church is to guide the team to a God-glorifying, biblical vision. The job of a coaching staff is to make sure that everyone is running the same play at the same time and that everyone knows the goal of the team and is able to state the goals effectively.

Each believer has a function that is essential to the success of the mission. We must be unified to win, just as a team of talented individuals cannot win without teamwork.

It sounds simple, but there’s a problem. We have an enemy seeking to push each individual to the top. Pride is the ally of the enemy.

The first is accountability. A leader who has free rein to do what he wishes is in a dangerous situation. Power without accountability corrupts.

Second, many leaders working together can see more than one can alone. Some pastors have elderships where they surround themselves with those who see things the way they do or those who will give in when pushed. This is foolish. Scripture tells us multiple counselors give wisdom.

Third, when the congregation knows there is a team working together for their best interests, it gives them a sense of security, much like a child with two parents who love and respect each other and the child. Multiple leaders provide the church with stability.

Finally, with a joint leadership team you are promoting what you value by your example.

SERMON CLUB – Every week at RLM, a good portion of the staff meet with me in Sermon Club. We generally work on the sermon a few weeks out. Doing that allows time for our other ministries to find or develop dramas, videos, or props that will help drive the message home.

Sermon Club is my answer to several problems related to preaching.

1. My goal is to prepare disciples who can disciple others. Sermon Club gives my staff, some of whom are future preachers, a chance to see how a sermon is created.

2. Sermon Club is an answer to my sermon preparation problem. How can I create good sermons in less time so that I can spend more time with the flock and have more time to disciple future leaders?

3. These meetings also give me an opportunity to hear about the cares and concerns of people from the congregation.

4. Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects to this method is the varying perspectives. Individuals share what they think would be the best way for me to speak to people in their demographic and ministry groups.

5. A coach must make the team feel valued. These meetings are a great place for me to reinforce to the team that their opinions are important and can make a difference.

6. By the end of Sermon Club, we have created something we worked on together. I’ve modeled teamwork and I let the congregation know that we came up with this message together so they don’t give me too much credit.

I was in the office working on the next sermon series, tired as usual, when one of my close friends and staff members came in to see how I was doing. I told him I was tired, and he asked if he could share something with me. He said some things I didn’t really want to hear. He shared that I was not living out my own philosophy when it came to preaching. He asked why I wasn’t raising up people to do what I was doing. He told me I was losing my joy, and I was at risk for burnout.

I believed in the philosophy of raising people up, but my actions weren’t reflecting it. I needed to live what I believe.

I decided to make some changes. I went to my staff and asked some of them to start team teaching with me.

This accomplished several goals: the congregation got used to hearing another perspective, and they saw that I approved of the person speaking with me; it saved my voice; it allowed others to see that these guys could answer questions and pastor them as well as I could; and it allowed my staff the opportunity to speak in front of large crowds.

When we started training leadership from other churches, we thought we’d find the biggest need would be new methodology. We were wrong. The greatest need was for unity.

William Wallace asked the clans to unite, but all they would do was squabble. They had the ability to take their country back from the British tyrant Longshanks, but they didn’t.

The job of the leader is to unite the clans, the team members. A good coach unites his team leaders with a common vision, but he also must bring his team together into a relationship that resembles godly, loving, nurturing, Christian fellowship. Relationships are like ropes that tie people together. The more ropes, the more stable you’ll be on the side of the mountain you are climbing.

Bickering among team leadership or staff will destroy a team.

When there is strife between brothers, God won’t accept a sacrifice, let alone bless the church. How can we expect to win or go forward if God isn’t blessing us?

As disciples, our job is not only to transfer information about the definition of love but also to model love in our actions. People need living models of what love looks like.

If Christian leaders, supposedly committed to Jesus and to His ways, empowered by the Holy Spirit, cannot stay in relationships, then what hope do our new believers have?

GOD’S LEADERS NEED ENCOURAGEMENT – Encouragement is another reason relationships are a must for God’s leaders. We are in a spiritual fight.

Pastors are often expected to be people who have already arrived instead of fellow travelers. Many times the congregation does not feel that way, but somehow the pastor believes they do.

These fears cause people to live in the dark. The devil loves the dark because he can play with our minds there.

My sociology teacher told me Christianity was responsible for the Inquisition, the Crusades, and many other evils in the world. Biology taught me that I was the product of a natural process of evolution. Philosophy taught me there were many roads to heaven, and it was my choice, because I was the ultimate decider of truth. I came away believing God was a crutch for broken people, and since I wasn’t broken, I didn’t need Him, if He existed at all.

I will never forget what he said. “Son, you are not an intellectual. What you are saying is foolish. An intellectual is one who studies both sides of the issue, then makes an informed decision. You have not studied the claims you have just made. You’re merely quoting other men who have not studied the claims that someone else made to them.”

My father replied, “Jim, you are a coward. You have made some big claims. Back them up! If you study this subject and find I am wrong, fine. I will accept that and respect you for doing the research. But if you do not study, I will think you are afraid.”

Unity mattered to me. One of the arguments I would use on Christians before I became one was, “You people can’t even get along with each other. If Jesus said He came to bring peace, then He must be a liar.” Non-Christians notice church splits, angry words, and denominational differences. I used to say, “If Jesus can’t keep His word down here, how can I believe He has something better after I die?”

There are many issues we can highlight that fit into the same discussion: eternal security, eschatology, the gifts of the Spirit, and more. Can you be saved, no matter what side of the debate you take on these issues? If the answer is yes, let’s concentrate on things we can agree on and get the work of the church done.

The goal of Scripture was not to get Christians to fight each other.

Though we allow differing opinions without judging someone’s salvation, this doesn’t mean that as a church we don’t set policy for our people to adhere to as members of the team. In our 101 class, I make the statement that we will not allow non-salvation issues to become something that divides the team.

Though you can believe different things about non-salvation issues, the unity and the direction of the church must be preserved.

When a different coach teaches something that is not heresy but is different from what we teach, we say, “That is great for that team, but our team has a playbook, and we stick to it so we can be unified.”

As a leader, never give a false picture of another’s view or make someone appear to be stupid. Give an accurate, balanced account of both sides. It is best to allow someone you respect, but who differs with you on a subject, to share his or her perspective.

Spirit-filled Christians should fight only the fights that God wants them to fight. We don’t fight because we love to, only because we have to. One fruit of the Spirit is peace.

Remember, the goal of God’s team is to win. We win when we attack the culture with our thinking, energy, resources, and abilities. The goal: to take territory from the enemy. The objective: souls restored to their Creator. God’s team, the church, is not just hiding out from the enemy. In coach’s language, we are trying to build the program. We are trying to recruit new players for the team.

Jesus makes it clear that we are to look out for and care for the hurting. Scripture tells us that pure and undefiled religion is to care for the widows and orphans. Jesus said that to care for the least is to care for Him.

REACHING YOUR COMMUNITIES – I have four recommendations for church leaders who want to reach their communities. These recommendations come from my own experience at Real Life.

First, pray that God will reveal to you how He would have you reach the area where you live.

Second, vision-cast as a leader the idea that God has given you a mission and every person is an important part of it.

Third, as you do this, people will start to share those dreams with you and the leadership. New ideas for outreach will rise to the top. Your job is to figure out which are Spirit-led ideas.

Fourth, you must take the ideas that are given and discern if the need is real or imagined.

Remember, the job of a coach is to get other gifted people to play the positions they are gifted for. If the coach is busy playing all the positions, he won’t have time for anything new.

As you start to reach out in your community, remember that the end goal is to bridge your people to the discipleship process. If all you do is move people from the world to the church service, you have fallen short of discipling those you attracted.

Your job is to make sure that a process is developed that takes people from the world all the way to maturity through relationship and service.

If we have the “we have arrived” attitude, it won’t be long before we become complacent. Worse yet, we may begin the downward spiral of self-destruction; pride comes before a fall.

An accurate and honest assessment encourages better leadership. In order to improve, constructive criticism is essential. When we accept our faults correctly, as something that can be changed, rather than seeing ourselves as complete failures, we are able to grow.

A TEST IN PERCEPTION – Not long ago we developed a test for individuals to figure out where they were weak so they could improve. This test evaluates people in eighteen areas of leadership competency. We call it The Summit. The Summit is not an evaluation you give yourself; rather, it is the result of feedback from those who know you best: your co-workers, those you lead, your friends, your family, and your spouse; some may even go to the elders of the church.

We see why the devil works against God’s plan for resolution so aggressively. He doesn’t want God’s team to improve. He likes bitter roots to grow up in hearts and in churches. He hates unity; he loves factions and splits. He wants us to self-destruct in the locker room before we hit the field!

PROMOTING HONESTY AND RESOLUTION – If a culture of resolution is to be created, it starts with the leader. The leader must lead the way by dealing with issues immediately, lovingly, and truthfully. The leader must also allow others to confront him or her.

Before changing an organization, some of us need to become coaches who can be followed.

Change takes time, especially if you serve in an older church. A rapid change could cause a church split or worse, even if the newfound truth is what the church needs. It’s important to get the rest of the leaders on board so they will understand why change is needed.

He needs to include these leaders and allow them to be a part of the change.

Before you attempt to change a church, you must have God’s help. Prayer is essential to implementing change in the church.

To implement change you must eat, sleep, and drink the vision.

Be sure to include your whole leadership team when it comes to the creation of a new plan. It is essential that they know why you need to change.

Don’t forget to count the cost of the plan to your congregation. Be ready for those who will disagree. Take your ideas to the next level of leadership and then to the congregation.

If you’ve done all you can to change the church, but there’s a significant number of leaders opposed to the direction you feel led to take, be careful. God’s reputation is at stake, and when Christians fight, it causes unbelievers to reject Jesus.

Of course, change can’t be implemented when a leadership is divided in purpose and direction.

Some allow those with money to control what happens because of fear of lost income. Remember, it’s God’s church and He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Do what is right and He will provide.

I want to be able to say like Paul, I have fought the fight, I have finished the race, and now I have a crown waiting for me. Let’s give our all on the field and teach those who follow us to do the same.

Coach then said something that has stayed with me over the years: “Most people will never be great at anything. They have no desire to do more than just get by. They will never even try to do something great, because they don’t care about anything enough to put it all out there. Others like the idea of being great, in your case becoming an All-American. They like the thought of the glory, they like the idea of wearing a national champion letterman’s jacket, and they also like the thought of being interviewed for the paper or on television. Many of you like the dream, but I know that not many of you will do what it takes to be great. It will take too much sacrifice.

As I look back on that day, I learned a very important lesson. Greatness costs, sometimes more than we want it to. Coach was wrong. We ended up with only twenty-three when it was all over, but all twenty-three won the national team title.

Now I look back, and I know that I learned what it means to put everything you have into something and to see others do the same. But now I also feel kind of silly. I was willing to work that hard for a crown that would not last. I was willing to commit myself to something that very few would care about later.

As the ceremony below was being ignored, I gathered the guys and asked them why they were not paying attention to the old guys who were being honored below. They said things like, “We don’t know them” and “We don’t care.” I asked them why they were working so hard for something that future young wrestlers, just like them, would not care about either.

I then asked them what they were going to do with their lives that future generations would respect, unlike what was going on below.

We all like the idea of winning but aren’t willing to commit to the lifestyle.

As I watch God’s players, I often wonder, “What is their mission? Do they have one at all?” They show up for the team meeting and cheer with the crowd, yet they have no intention of finishing what they started. They like hanging around the team, being associated with the players, but will never do what it takes to win.

First, people leave because they were never really committed to the team and the mission in the first place. It was a good idea, but it was a conditional commitment. They were not committed to the coach as the authority, rule maker, and expert, and they had not decided that a wrestler was really what they were. In the spiritual realm, many have not really accepted the spiritual reality that Jesus is Lord, that the Word is the rulebook, and that there is a war going on. They go to church but are not part of the church. They believe in Christ but are not Christians. They like the idea but are not committed to the lifestyle.

Second, people leave because of an unwillingness to sacrifice personal desires to attain the goal. A good example for a wrestler would be food. Some wrestlers are not willing to give up what they want to eat for what they should eat so that they and the team can win. Nothing great happens, in sports or in the church, without great discipline.

Third, people leave because they are unwilling to do what they don’t want to do. There are times when you must push yourself beyond your comfort zone. You must run when you don’t want to. You must lift when you don’t want to. You must keep going though every part of you says stop. How many Christians are willing to expend a similar amount of effort for God?

Fourth, people leave because the going gets tough. I watched wrestlers who had won championships in high school quit because they could not immediately win in college. They did not see losing as a lesson that if learned well could propel them to greatness. Christians too can learn from their failures, but often they walk off God’s team, despondent and forever defeated.

God honors commitment. God doesn’t always use the most talented, but He does use the most committed.

In this battle we are in, we don’t have the option of quitting. How can we quit, knowing what Jesus has done? How can we quit when we have peered into the spiritual world and know people are at risk of going to hell?

I will never forget the time Coach Owen walked up to a junior high wrestler who was incorrectly doing the move just demonstrated. He kindly tried to correct the kid, but the boy would have none of it. I could not believe what I was hearing. This kid told Coach Owen that he did not do it that way. He had a way of doing things that worked for him. He wasn’t going to change, even though he was absolutely wrong. That kid had the opportunity to be coached by a person who had shaped national champions, but he would not listen because he thought he knew better. The kid’s explanation was that it had worked on all the little kids he had wrestled. Coach tried to explain to him that it would not work on an experienced, older wrestler. The kid refused to listen, so Coach just moved away to work with someone who would listen.

I believe God gives us those who can help us if we are willing to learn and listen. God wants His team to take new ground, which means we will have to learn and grow.

He is looking for coaches who will stick around no matter what. In 2 Chronicles 16:9, Scripture tells us, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” He doesn’t need excessive talent. He likes to use little people to do big things.

The church world recognizes that biblical literacy is at new lows. We recognize that few have a biblical worldview, and few know what to do about it. The old way of teaching the Bible is less effective as our culture becomes more visual—more story driven.

We are using Orality as the basis for teaching in our small groups. Orality is a method of using stories as the main vehicle for teaching the Bible in the discipleship process.

All of our people can tell a Bible story and ask good questions. It leads to better participation and better learning.

Biblical Disciplemaking – Bearing Fruit

While not an expert on all matters of discipleship, I have a passion and goal for people to grow in their faith and relationship with Christ. I believe that all followers of Christ need to be FAT (faithful, available, and teachable). If we are no longer learning, we fail to be a disciple. The vision of the discipleship ministry is to “move people toward higher levels of commitment to Christ and his church.”

We measure maturity a lot of different ways in our churches. Sometimes it’s measured by church attendance. Other times it’s measured by Bible knowledge. But the biblical evidence of maturity is fruit. (For a great study on what it means to bear fruit, check out the teaching of Bruce Wilkinson’s Secrets of the Vine).

In Matthew 7:17-20 Jesus says, “Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit, thus by their fruit you will recognize them.” Maturity is all about fruit.

How many times have you heard that “God doesn’t expect us to be successful, he expects us to be faithful”? I think that is only half true. The Bible makes it very clear that God expects far more than faithfulness. He also expects fruitfulness. What a great time to think about this and make needed changes, the Sunday before New Year’s Day.

Fruitfulness is taught all throughout the New Testament. Many people will be surprised when they get to heaven and God says, “You didn’t bear any fruit?” Remember, Jesus cursed the fig tree because it didn’t bear fruit (Mark 11:12-14)!

God expects fruitfulness in our lives, and he says it over and over and over again. But how do we help people bear spiritual fruit in their lives? How do we turn them into mature, mission-minded believers who minister to others? I’m not interested in the modern way, the postmodern way, the emergent way, the missional way, the seeker way, the charismatic way, or even the purpose-driven way. I’m interested in how Jesus helped people become fruitful.

In Jesus’ prayer in John 17:4 he says, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” He hasn’t gone to the cross yet, so what work has he completed? It’s the finished work of Christ that most churches never understand – making disciples.

MAKING DISCIPLES ACCORDING TO JOHN 17

How did he finish the task? His prayer in John 17 tells us.

1. He led them to salvation: Jesus prayed, “For you granted him authority over all men that he might give eternal life to all those you have given to him” (John 17:2). This should be obvious. Discipleship begins with evangelism. Of course, we want to disciple people who are already Christians. But remember, Jesus started with lost people. We’ve got to win people to Christ before we can train them to be disciples. The spiritual birth always precedes spiritual growth.

2. He taught them the Word: Jesus taught his disciples the Word of God. There is no spiritual growth that’s not based on God’s Holy Scripture. In John 17:8 Jesus prays, “For I gave them the words that you gave me, and they accepted them.” And in John 17:14 he says, “I have given them your word.” The Word of God is the foundation for all discipleship. Want people to grow spiritually and be fruitful? Get people into the Word every day. Just sitting in church and listening to sermons won’t help people be as fruitful as getting them into the Word for themselves.

3. He prayed for them: To see people grow spiritually, we need to pray for them. Jesus said, “I pray for them. I’m not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours” (John 17:9). We need to pray with them and pray for them. Paul followed this example of Christ as well. In fact, he starts almost every letter in the New Testament he wrote with a prayer for the church.

4. He checked up on them: Jesus says, “While I was with them…” (John 17:12). We can’t disciple somebody that we’re not with. We’ve got to be with people if you want them to grow spiritually. We’re not going to be able to personally check up and mentor everyone, but our church needs a system of coaching, mentoring, and discipling. We need small group leaders who will follow up with people. Jesus protected his disciples from false teaching and kept them from backsliding. He guarded them. At the end of his ministry on earth, he says “I haven’t lost a single one of them – except Judas to fulfill Scripture (John 17:12). If we want people to grow, we need some sort of accountability in our ministry.

5. He sent them on mission: Then Jesus says, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). Who do we think are the most mature people at our church? Could it be the people who’ve gone overseas on mission? It changes people. When they come back, they’re not thinking about materialism or consumerism anymore. Once people have served around the world, it changes our value system. We care more about people overseas, and we care about people in your own community, too. These short-term missionaries have come back and loved the poor and get involved in the lives of others. Now that’s maturity.

The goal of discipleship in any church must be ministry and mission. Maturity is never an end in itself. In fact, you can’t be mature until you’re ministering and living on mission. Jesus said “I didn’t come to be served. I came to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The words give and serve define the Christian life. If we want people to be like Christ, teach them to give and to serve.

6. He expected reproduction: We know he expected reproduction because in John 17:20 he says, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” He not only sent the disciples out into the world, but he implied that he’s expecting reproduction. Because they went out, there are nearly two billion people who claim the name of Christ around the world.

7. He focused on character, not just content: Jesus didn’t simply expand the knowledge, perspective, skills, or conviction of the disciples. He focused on their character. Spiritual maturity is about character and conduct, not just content and competence. We don’t want to just fill up people’s minds with facts and figures. Paul says, “I want to present every man perfect in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). If people we’re training aren’t more like Jesus after we’ve worked together, we’ve missed the point.

8. He loved them: Jesus said, “You sent me, and I have loved them as you have loved me” (John 17:23). This is so typical of Jesus. All that Jesus did for his disciples was in a spirit of love. We must love those we train. If we don’t love them, it doesn’t count. If we don’t have a sincere abiding love for the people in our church, then do you know what discipleship is? It’s manipulation. We’re just manipulating them toward a goal.

Sometimes we forget that Jesus is the best model we have when it comes to ministry. No one in the history of the world discipled people more effectively. Jesus was able to say at the end of his ministry that he had finished his work. I hope we can all say that as well.

Here is the video of this message at King’s Grant Baptist Church:

Biblical Disciplemaking – the Pathway

While Ken was out of town, I delivered this message on October 13, 2019.

BIBLICAL DISCIPLEMAKING – The Pathway (2 Timothy 2:2)

HOW TO GROW A CHURCH:

I have an observation. Seminary has taught a whole lot of pastors how to plant and grow a church. Let’s look at the typical method used.

  1. Start out with a small group to cast a vision for what could be.
  2. Canvas the community with invitations and advertising.
  3. When the original location gets full, find a larger meeting place, an auditorium to rent.
  4. Attract more people with a worship experience, but still have small groups to make relational connections.
  5. When financially able, build something to have worship on our own property.
  6. Still have small groups, but these groups are now a little too clique-ish and crowded, and besides, we don’t have space to start new classes.
  7. We continue to emphasize our gateway ministry (the worship experience) to get people saved and then mature in their faith, and now people don’t sense the need for the community we find in a small group.
    1. I come for what I want on Sunday morning and don’t need connection with others.
    2. I like the anonymity of the crowd, just showing up at worship without the messy-ness of relationships, I can keep my spirituality private.
    3. I even arrive just on time and leave during the last song to avoid getting involved.

OH, MY GOODNESS, LOOK HOW FAR WE HAVE FALLEN

This method allows us to look back at what we have built and wonder if Jesus is pleased with the way the American church doing church. In the beginning, there was passion and fervor for reaching people with the gospel and inviting them to church, but has our culture turned church into something more like this?

  1. The community knows where we are, they can find us and visit if they want to.
  2. My church is full of friends, I don’t have time for more relationships.
  3. We are a friendly church, but when they don’t come back, is it because they are looking for a friendly church or are they looking for friends in church?
  4. If people want to come to my church, they need to be more like us to fit in. Look like us, dress like us, listen to music like us, have their lives all together like us.

IS THIS WHAT JESUS HAS CALLED US TO DO?

The only imperative command in the Great Commission tells us to make disciples. The word GO is a participle, like “as you are going…” So, my question is this: How are we doing at making disciples? Are we making disciples or just making converts? Are people on a lifelong journey of becoming more and more like Jesus or just involved in the programs we have at the church building? If that is the case, how are we different from the YMCA? Maybe we need to understand what a disciple really is…

THE DEFINITION OF A DISCIPLE:

The place to start with discipleship is having a CLEAR definition of a disciple. A “disciple” is a FOLLOWER of Jesus (meaning a learner, student, apprentice, intern) who IS DEVELOPING the…

  1. Convictions of Jesus (HEAD)
  2. Character of Jesus (HEART)
  3. Competencies of Jesus (HANDS)
  4. Compassion of Jesus (HEELS)

…at the same time, LEADING OTHERS to do the same. 1

So, with Jesus as our example, we need to identify the CHARACTER qualities Jesus possessed, and begin working on them in our lives in the context of Christian community, and then do the same with Christ’s CONVICTIONS, COMPETENCIES, and COMPASSION.

Without getting into too many details, what does a disciple of Jesus look like? How about this picture?

THE GOAL OF DISCIPLEMAKING?

I submit to you that a disciple LOOKS LIKE JESUS.

  1. Romans 8:29 says, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to BECOME CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF HIS SON, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”
  2. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:1 – “Be IMITATOR OF me, just as I also am of CHRIST.“
  3. A third verse worth sharing here is Galatians 4:19 – My children, with whom I am again in labor UNTIL CHRIST IS FORMED IN YOU.

Paul lived this… in Acts 14:21, Regarding Paul and Barnabas, “After they had preached the gospel to that city and had MADE MANY DISCIPLES,”

Whatever Paul MADE, he accomplished it before he appointed some of them as leaders. The text says that after Paul’s team returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, he “appointed elders for them in every church” (Acts 14:23). Looks like Paul had a PLAN and a PATHWAY.

This may be a “duh” moment, but before you make something, you need to define your END PRODUCT. Years ago, Stephen Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.” We are NOT going to make a disciple of Christ if we are not INTENTIONAL about discipleship and don’t have clear GOALS for spiritual formation.

So, the church model that I described at the beginning of this message… does that look like the method Jesus used to grow disciples and to build HIS church?

THE JESUS METHOD:

Did Jesus make disciples by attracting a large group of people? Think about the Sermon on the Mount and the Feeding of the 5000. He didn’t ignore the crowd, but he also didn’t use the crowd to make disciples or to build his church. So, this observation begs the question… why do we do it THIS WAY now?

Let’s look at the more biblical method for making disciples… I think THE JESUS METHOD looks more like a MAP than a MENU.

  1. Church is often like ordering off the MENU – I’ll take a little worship a couple times a month, a Wednesday meal or two, maybe snack on prayer once a week (when I am in trouble) but hold the Sunday School class and the Life Group. If I like what I experience, I’ll leave a good tip and return for another Sunday. THIS is very consumer oriented; it’s all about me and what I want at church.
  2. But if church is more like a MAP – there is a discipleship pathway that we need to follow in order to make it to our destination. When I say destination, I’ll not talking about heaven at the end of this life.

Remember – we are NOT just saved FROM something (sin, death, hell, and the grave) we are saved FOR something. The disciple’s life is so much more than showing up at church a couple times a month. Unless we pull out the MAP and experience the JOURNEY set before us, we will miss all that Jesus has in store for us.

Let’s quickly look at the Jesus method for disciplemaking…

Out of the large CROWD of people, Jesus turned to a smaller group of followers… as an example, look at the 70 (or 72 in some translations, in Luke 10:1-16) and also the 120 in the Upper Room (Acts 1:15). These are the people who embraced the message of Jesus and attended a larger gathering, let’s call this level the CONGREGATION.Image from Rick Leineweber

This really is the FIRST vital relationship we have, LIFE WITH GOD; it is a relationship with God where we become a MEMBER of God’s forever family, which is an issue of salvation. But it is also an issue of fellowship since people are invited into the local community of King’s Grant Baptist Church.

After seeing the larger group of followers (the Congregation) Jesus prayed one night and chose the Twelve to be with him, and then send them out to preach and have authority over demons (Mark 3:13-19). These are the men with whom he spent most of his time, investing not only in THEIR future but in the future of Christianity and the gospel message of salvation. This smaller group of people I will call the level of COMMUNITY.

Image from Rick LeineweberIf the first vital relationship is LIFE WITH GOD, the second vital relationship is LIFE IN COMMUNITY.

Since King’s Grant is a Community of Faith, and not a Congregation of Faith, involvement in a small group is EXPECTED. But this part of American Christianity is often neglected, because people prefer the anonymity of the congregation. To get involved in the community means I will have to take a risk and allow people to get to know my name and something about me, the good and the bad.

I see THIS is where we are at King’s Grant. We have a congregation that meets in here and we also have a community that meets in small groups. Since I’m talking about using a MAP to follow a Pathway of Discipleship, THIS is not our destination, the place where we want to end up.

We have built a big church, but have we made disciples? Are we full of disciples who have conformed to the image of Christ, who are pressing on toward maturity measured by the stature of Jesus, and are these Jesus followers also making disciples?

DREAM WITH ME:

What would it look like to get people from within the COMMUNITY (Life Groups and Sunday School classes) into what I have heard called microgroups of 3-4 people, for the intentional purpose of becoming disciples who make disciples, who make disciples?

Image from Rick LeineweberI would call this the level of the CORE. This is where lives intersect and where people share life together. This is the third vital relationship, a relationship I call LIFE ON LIFE.

Even in our large classes here at King’s Grant, people can still be anonymous and travel in and out through our doors without making any real connections. The idea here is that those at the CORE level will experience life together and encourage one another through the hard times of trials and temptations, as well as share the good times of growth, celebration, and victory. People in these microgroups also would hold each other accountable for conforming to the image of Christ (which is a topic for another day).

Image from Rick LeineweberFinally, this Pathway leads us full circle back to the CROWD because this fourth vital relationship is what we have termed, LIFE ON MISSION. At this stage we are involved in serving others and giving back to our community because it is part of our life mission and our character. We live life ON MISSION, which in our 3M vision at King’s Grant, this is living at M3 level.

Regarding the pathway, we don’t have to walk through these first three vital relationships to be on mission with God, but how effective will we actually be while serving God and others with an empty tank? How much more effective and useful to the Kingdom will we be when we are serving God and others out of the overflow of our relationships with others in our community of faith?

LET’S DO A LITTLE SELF-ASSESSMENT:

Perhaps you have listened to all of this and have discovered where you are on the MAP. Hopefully you are not satisfied with where you are in your walk with Jesus, because he is perfect, and we are far from it. The purpose of a Pathway is so that all of us at King’s Grant will know the next steps we need to take in becoming a disciple of Jesus and disciplemaker of others.

Over the next several months I will be working with my Discipleship Leadership Team on how we can develop a clear Pathway of Discipleship, using the model that Jesus left with us. Time will be spent in prayer over who to invite along this journey but perhaps God has already spoken to you TODAY about taking a next step in your walk with Christ.

If you are ready to take a next step in this Discipleship Pathway, any of these four vital relationships, text the word DISCIPLE to 62488

I pray that NO ONE in this room feels that they have arrived, gone as far as they need to with Jesus, or believe something like, “me and Jesus are just fine.” The Disciple’s Pathway takes us on a lifelong journey. Ask yourself, “Is it time to get out of the Rest Area?”


1 – Definition of a Disciple and the Four Vital Relationships
are from my classes with Rick Leineweber.