Archive | January 2018

(482) DISCIPLEMAKING 101 – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

I wish I could say that disciple-making is an emerging trend in the church today, but I don’t think it really is. 

It is really not that complicated.  Think about what the last words that Jesus proclaimed while walking on the earth before his ascension into heaven.  Would it be unreasonable to assume that someone’s last words before departing would carry some level of significance and importance?  Jesus commissioned us, the church, to GO and MAKE DISCIPLES. 

The Great Commission – Matthew 28:18-20

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “Disciplemaking_2_updated-300x200All 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 of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (New King James Version)

Regardless, it may be the most important hole in American Christianity from a biblical point of view.  The effects of this hole, can result in more people moving away from the Faith given to us from God’s word.  The void gets filled with whatever the latest trends are spreading within the church.  Unfortunately, we are usually not talking about replacing one aspect of our faith with a different aspect of our faith.  Rather, many in the church today seek out something that is NEW, AUTHENTIC, BOLD, ATTRACTIVE TO THE YOUTH,….etc.  Descriptions used to describe these include words such as MISSIONAL, INCARNATIONAl….etc.  In some cases, people/churches don’t even teach, train, participate…etc. in discipling others.  

SUMMARY

In Alliance Life magazine, C&MA Pastor John Soper wrote an important article on Disciplemaking.

It is good to see a focus on one of the most important aspects of our faith – yet one that gets overlooked by the church – many times nonintentionally because it is assumed to be taking place by church activities such as sitting in on a Sunday sermon. But, that doesn’t provide all of the educational teaching aspects of learning to live out your faith as well as the mentoring relationship with engaging in your Christian walk with other Christians.

Unfortunately, there are also intentional reasons that groups today either manipulate core principles of discipleship to fit their own contemporary perceived view of what they think Christians “should” be doing today. New words, new descriptions, new catchphrases, new fads…etc. sweep through the church such as “missional” and “incarnational” – commonly echoed in Liberal, Progressive and Emerging Church groups. The focus goes from being a biblically based approach to growing in the faith to a glorified social program out in a community and away from the church.

Pastor Soper his on several key aspects of discipleship and how the leadership in the church can take key steps to follow through – in some cases, they need to change their focus back to what is simply stated in Scripture. That can be difficult to do for some today with all of the Mega Church growth strategies, techniques and practices to reach the Millenials, being missional…..etc.

Soper’s points are well stated – 

“There are other tools that God uses to shape our lives—special experiences that He sovereignly brings into our lives and people who arrive at just the right moment with just the right message—but the primary tools the Holy Spirit uses to shape and form us are the Word of God and prayer.

My primary role as a disciplemaker is then to get men and women into the Word of God—the supernatural Word that is “living and active [and] sharper than any double–edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). I firmly believe that when men and women engage the Word of God with open hearts and open minds, it always changes them.

My primary goal as a disciplemaking pastor will always be to get my people into the Word of God. Then I can count on the Holy Spirit to do something supernatural in them. There is more to being a fully devoted follower of Christ than simply knowing what the Bible says, but until men and women read and learn the Scripture for themselves, they can never become mature disciples.”

http://www.cmalliance.org/alife/disciplemaking-101/

DISCIPLEMAKING 101

By 

 

“Are you guys really sure this is what Jesus told you to do?” That question was posed by an atheist named Matt Casper who had been hired by Jim Henderson to visit several well-known American churches with him. Henderson wanted to get a fresh look at church through the eyes of an unbeliever. Casper’s question came during a debriefing session after their visit to one of America’s well-known mega-churches. I think it’s a good question.

After all, Jesus didn’t tell us to build big churches. He didn’t tell us to build any kind of churches. (I seem to remember Him saying that He would do that.) He told us instead that we should “make disciples . . . baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20).

But after nearly 45 years of ministry, I have sadly concluded we are not terribly proficient at doing that. Our churches are busy places full of life and activity. Some of them are large churches doing many good things and serving both believers and a host of men, women, and children who have not yet decided to become Jesus followers. But we are not producing very many fully devoted “disciples” of the sort that were to be found in the first-century church that Jesus left behind—people who identify with Christ in baptism, who obey His commands, who share His values and priorities, and then proceed to change their world for God by reproducing themselves in the lives of others.

I have no special methodology to propose. In fact, I am fairly certain that “one size” does not “fit all” in this business of making disciples. But I can perhaps offer a few preliminary observations that may in part explain why, despite all the advantages that our North American churches possess, we have not done a better job of carrying out Christ’s LAST command.

You First

First, to be effective in the task of making disciples of others, I must be a fully devoted disciple myself. It is, after all, difficult to lead someone else to a place that we have never ourselves visited.

Two of the most challenging verses in all of the New Testament are Luke 6:39–40 in which Jesus says: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A student [disciple] is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” If the people I disciple do not look as much like Jesus as they ought, the likely reason is because they look too much like me.

My son is a graduate of West Point, and I well remember my shock as a parent when he entered the academy for his first (“plebe”) year. For that entire year, his responses to all upperclassmen and officers on the campus were limited. When addressed, he could answer in only one of four phrases: “Yes, sir (or ma’am),” “No, sir,” “I do not understand, sir,” or “No excuses, sir.”

This rule seemed unnecessarily restrictive to me as a parent, so I asked an officer about it. His answer was revealing. “Our job here,” he explained, “is to produce leaders of character for the nation. But before you can learn to be a leader, you first have to learn to be a follower.”

If there are areas of my own life in which I have found it difficult to obey the commands of Christ or perhaps even refused to follow Him, I will never be able to say to those whom I have been called to lead: “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).

Focus on the Few

Second, it’s possible that in my preoccupation with building a healthy (and a larger) church, I have neglected the more important task of making disciples. Growing a church, at least in our North American context, is essentially a “large group” activity, but making disciples is, by its very nature, a much more selective process. In Robert Coleman’s book – The Master Plan of Evangelism, he makes the important point that while Jesus never neglected the masses, He clearly focused on the few.

UNTIL men and women read and learn the SCRIPTURE for themselves, they can never become MATURE disciples.

That observation runs counter to almost everything I was taught in seminary and in the culture of the American church at the end of the 20th century. My seminary education taught me to think that preparing a 30-minute sermon was the most important task of a competent pastor. And the leaders of the church-growth movement taught me to see myself not as a “shepherd” (an image rooted deeply in the soil of both the Old and New Testaments) but as a “rancher.”

Discipleship is all about dynamic life transformation. The most obvious and lasting “fruit” in terms of changed lives that I can point to in my nearly five decades of ministry are the years my wife and I spent planting new churches. As I reflect upon those years of blessing, I now suspect that one reason for this is that there was no “crowd” to distract us from the primary task of making disciples.

Please understand that I am not opposed to large and growing churches. I am merely suggesting that the focus that Jesus Himself placed upon making disciples must be retained as primary even in the face of the demands of ministering to the “crowd.”

Two Tools

Third, I have come to understand that even though my focus as a shepherd needs to be on the great task of making disciples, the transformation of a human life is a task that requires a supernatural act of the Holy Spirit. In the end, He is the disciplemaker, not me. I cannot effect the changes God wants to make in people’s lives, but I can teach them how to use the two most powerful tools that the Holy Spirit uses to form them into the image of Christ. Those tools are the WORD OF GOD and PRAYER. 

There are other tools that God uses to shape our lives—special experiences that He sovereignly brings into our lives and people who arrive at just the right moment with just the right message—but the PRIMARY tools the Holy Spirit uses to shape and form us are the WORD OF GOD and PRAYER. 

My primary role as a disciple-maker is then to get men and women into the Word of God—the supernatural Word that is “living and active [and] sharper than any double–edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). I firmly believe that when men and women engage the Word of God with open hearts and open minds, it always changes them.

My primary goal as a disciple-making pastor will always be to get my people into the Word of God. Then I can count on the Holy Spirit to do something supernatural in them. There is more to being a fully devoted follower of Christ than simply knowing what the Bible says, but until men and women read and learn the Scripture for themselves, they can never become mature disciples.

It is likewise a certainty that they cannot become “like” Christ until they learn how to pray. That will not happen if I teach them about prayer, and it won’t happen even if I pray for them, though that too must be a part of my task.

In the end, they will learn to pray as I pray with them both corporately and individually. I have learned in recent days to ask myself and other pastors some rather telling questions: How much time do you spend praying for your people? And how much time do you spend praying with your people?

Perhaps we need to spend some time answering the atheist’s question: “Are you guys really sure this is what Jesus told you to do?”

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