10 Things About Discipleship

I don’t know about you, but I need to be reminded about certain things on a regular basis. As I think through discipleship, here’s my current list of things I need to know:

  1. It takes a disciple to make a disciple: While I sometimes argue that anyone can host a small group (even a non-Christian), only a disciple can make a disciple. Make sure that you are one of HIS before you attempt to disciple someone else.
  2. Real disciples make disciples: I think this is an important distinction. It means that if you’re not actively making disciples, you probably aren’t a disciple. How are you investing in other people?
  3. Disciples are rarely made in rows: From an environmental angle, a disciple is far more likely to made in a circle. After all, becoming a disciple has far less to do with digesting information (like in a class) and far more to do with spending time with those who are becoming like Him. One rule for relationship is that we become more like those with whom we spend time.
  4. You don’t have to arrive before you begin making disciples: (see Philippians 3:12-14 if you don’t believe me). We never arrive, we are always in process. If we feel that we have arrived, we neglect to see how far we still need to go.
  5. You don’t have to use printed curriculum to make disciples: The early disciples made it happen even before they had the New Testament, much less a curriculum.
  6. You don’t become a disciple by completing a course or curriculum: While some studies might be better at generating the kinds of conversations that open eyes and soften hearts, completing a study or a course isn’t like completing a degree program that qualifies you to use a title or certain letters after your name (like Reverend or Phd).
  7. Completing a course or curriculum also doesn’t make you disciple maker: You might earn a credential, but what makes you a disciple maker is that you’re actually making disciples, investing into others.
  8. Disciple-making takes time: You can’t microwave a disciple; it takes a crock pot. The process won’t be hurried. A real disciple is always becoming more like Jesus. It’s what gives the disciple-maker the opportunity to say, “here’s what the Lord is showing me right now.”
  9. Disciples invest in others: Like the servants in Matthew 25, every one of us is given opportunity to invest in others, “according to our ability.”
  10. “Make disciples” was Jesus’ final command: It was his marching orders to his disciples. It isn’t optional or reserved for those with the credential. It is a command for all of us.

By the way, these are the top 10 things I need to know about discipleship. Are they yours? Maybe. You may need to develop your own list.

[From Mark Howell through Pastors.com]

To Be Successful or Faithful?

There has been a debate on whether we are called to be successful in our lives and ministries or simply faithful to what God has called us to do. For pastors, we often view success in terms of numbers; we are successful if the numbers increase.

I read a book by a guy named Kent Hughes called, “Liberating Your Ministry from Success Syndrome.” Imagine a pastor of a small church in a transitional community who faithfully preaches week after week, cares for the congregation, invests in leaders, witnesses regularly, and serves the community; but the numerical growth is just not there. At the Convention he hears stories from other pastors with churches experiencing tremendous growth. The conclusion is often, “I’m not successful in what I am doing. Maybe I should be in a different vocation. God has not blessed with response to he must not be pleased with me.”

So, we beg the question, “Has God called us to be successful or faithful?” Sometimes we see both; but often we have to resign to the fact that even with the hardest work and best laid plans, God is the only one who can bring about growth (1 Corinthians 3:6, 7).

Check out what God says to Ezekiel:

“He said to me: Human one, listen closely, and take to heart every word I say to you. Then go to the exiles, to your people’s children. Whether they listen or not, speak to them and say: The LORD God proclaims!” (Ezekiel 3:10-11)

Getting people to respond to your ministry is hard. If we are doing it in our own strength, it is sure to fail (John 15:5), but even when we rely upon God to make it happen, we must faithfully do our part and leave the results up to him. Let’s look at evangelism as an example.

Most Christians know that they should be sharing their faith with others, that it is part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. But, most Christians feel very uneasy about doing it. Many Christians rarely share their faith with others.

  • Some don’t because they don’t want to look foolish in the eyes of their co-workers.
  • Others hold back because they don’t want to offend someone.
  • Many believers choose not to share their faith because their afraid they won’t do it right.
  • Others fear they’ll mess up the message or be unable to answer unexpected questions, so they don’t talk about it.

If you can relate to these statements or if you’re someone who keeps the lid on our faith because you’re afraid of what might happen if you talked about it, then you’ll be encouraged and challenged by Ezekiel 3:10-11. In this passage, the Lord told Ezekiel to take his word to heart and then to share it with the Jewish exiles in Babylon, where Ezekiel was himself an exile. God told him to speak, “whether they listen or not” (Ezekiel 3:11). In other words, Ezekiel’s calling was to be faithful, not successful.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with success, whether in life or in serving the Lord, but our chief calling as God’s people is to be faithful to him, to serve him with excellence, to obey him wholeheartedly. If God chooses to bless our efforts with success, that’s great, but many times we cannot guarantee success. We should always choose to be faithful and do what God tells us as well as we can.

How do you feel about sharing your faith with others? What about seeing the fruit of your labor (like success)? What do you find uncomfortable about this? What about setting goals and action plans to reach them? What encourages you to continue serving the Lord even when it does not appear to be successful? What would it mean for you to be faithful as a servant or witness for Christ?

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An Anchor in the Storm

Paul is now getting ready to head to Rome. With his history, we cannot expect this to be smooth sailing. Notice in Acts 27:2 that Luke must have joined him, the terminology changes from “they” to “we.” There was this centurion named Julius that appears to show great kindness to Paul during his trip to Rome (Acts 27:3). While we primarily know that Paul was a spiritual man, this story reminds us that he was also a practical man. He spent time on the sea and knew the time was not right for travelling (Acts 27:9, 10).

Like a good disaster movie, the owners put profits before safety. They disregard sound judgment and set sail anyway; we can almost predict that things were not going to progress as planned. There came a tremendous storm, a northeaster that swept down from the island (Acts 27:13, 14, 15).

The spiritual lesson I see is that many times we can suffer because of someone else’s poor decisions. While is it true that we often find difficulty and create storms as a direct result of our own rebellion, or through some form of spiritual warfare, the most difficult storms can be those that result from poor judgment of others. If this happens, we will in all likelihood get stuck in bitterness and unforgiveness.

So what can we do when the storms of life are upon us?

Don’t pull up the anchor (Acts 27:13): the crew was ill advised to set sail but weighed anchor anyway. Christ is our anchor (Hebrews 6:19, 20). When sailing is calm and peaceful, we become less attentive to him. We are not as aware of our need until the storm rage. Don’t let calm breezes and smooth sailing give you a false sense of security; stay anchored in Christ.

Don’t give way to the storm (Acts 27:15): when we are suffering due to the poor decisions of someone else, we tend to feel helpless. Don’t give way to the storm in your life, but give way to our Master.

Do throw some cargo overboard (Acts 27:18): the storm got worse and they threw cargo overboard to keep the ship afloat. Raging storms have a way of identifying a lot of unneeded old stuff we are hanging on to. When upset by someone else, we tend to bring up old hurts and memories of times we were wronged. Storms are complicated enough; get rid of some old cargo.

Do throw the tackle overboard (Acts 27:19): after the cargo the necessary gear was being tossed overboard, stuff like ropes, pulleys, oars, masts and planks. These are all man-made provisions to weather a storm. Storms are not pleasant but they can serve a purpose. They can help us see which provisions we are trusting for our relief.

Never give up hope (Acts 27:20): Luke uses the word “we” identifying those who had lost all hope. He wrote one of the gospels, he witnessed miracles, so how could he give up hope? For me, this is a reminder that even the strongest believer can lose hope when the storm rages. The word “gave up” is the same as “cutting lose” in Acts 27:40. Psalm 62:5 is a word of comfort during these times. God is our ultimate security.

Listen for God to speak (Acts 27:23, 24): listen for the Master during the storm; God will not be silent. When the passengers lost hope, Paul stood to testify to God’s faithfulness. God may not send an angel to speak audibly, but he may send a friend, neighbor, pastor of other believer. Always remember the words of Job 40:6, “then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm.”

Spiritual Weapons and Warfare

We must remember that we cannot live the Christian life on our own and that the enemy will come at us with all he can to disable and distract the followers of Jesus. It is a spiritual battle that affects life in the real world. Stand strong and use your weapons.

Quotes:

Our authority comes out of who we are in Christ, and our capacity to intimidate the enemy comes out of our intimacy with God. — Graham Cooke

God judged it better to bring good out of evil than to permit no evil to exist. — St. Augustine of Hippo

Victory is the normal experience of a Christian; defeat should be the abnormal experience. — Watchman Nee

Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God. — Jim Elliot

Top 10 Weapons of Spiritual Warfare:

  1. Self-control and vigilance: Be of sober spirit, be on the alert Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8).
  2. Obedience: For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).
  3. Confidence and Perseverance: Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. (Hebrews 10:35-36).
  4. The Word of God: For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12).
  5. Justice: And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. (Revelation 19:11).
  6. Worship: Therefore urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2).
  7. Truth: Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, (Ephesians 6:14).
  8. Prayer: With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, (Ephesians 6:18).
  9. Faith: Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13).
  10. Love: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matthew 5:44).