Where it all began! 2nd October, 2014Posted by Scotty in Calling.
A few weeks ago I was sitting with some new friends who asked me to share about my faith journey and my decision to pursue vocational ministry. There is a very significant experience in my life that was a “turning point” for me. It’s an important part of my story, and one I have shared many times and in many parts of the world. When I finished sharing my tale, my friend went back to this part of the story and asked me a question that led to this blog!
About 15 years ago, I was away on a music weekend and was told we had to go to a church on the Sunday. To my 15 year old self, it was the most excruciatingly dull experience I’d had in a church. It was a fairly typical church—sandstone building, arched wooden ceiling like an upside down boat hull, two lots of wooden pews separated by a centre aisle, red carpet, organ playing, hymn singing—and I was not very happy to be there (a feeling shared by all my friends!) I had to sit at the front because I was playing some music, which gave me a unique view.
There is a particular moment during this service that I recall vividly. The service was moving along as normal, and the minister was speaking, when I, a not-really-a-Christian Christian, began to analyse what I was seeing…
As I looked out at the congregation, from my vantage point, I was aware of the 15-20 people scattered down the right hand side, all crowned with grey hair; while the left side was packed with a number of my also-forced-to-be-there adolescent musical peers. I distinctly remember thinking, as I looked out at the old congregation, “I’m no expert on the whole church thing, but the elderly congregation don’t have a long time left, so if things don’t change, this church will be dead in the next 10-15 years”.
I turned my attention to the minister who was talking. I remember his beard, and being repulsed that he wore a cardigan! I remember him standing talking with his toes hanging over the edge of the step. I remember a dull monotony to his speaking, random stories from the newspaper, old people drifting to sleep, and young people clearly interested in everything other than being there. I remember clear as day analysing what I saw: “Again, I’m no expert on church, but aren’t you supposed to be teaching stuff about the Bible? Why then are you talking about the news instead? You’re supposed to believe the stuff the Bible says, and so, shouldn’t you be more enthusiastic about what you’re saying, rather than speaking in monotone? The future of your church are sitting right there—all those young people—and you’re doing nothing to get their attention; even your own congregation is falling asleep.”
I remember looking over at the organist who was known best for their consistently unpleasant nature—sitting in a robe that looked like Batman’s Bat Cape—and thinking: “I’m definitely no expert on church, but are hymns not supposed to be a way to honour God? How then can you have a person as horrible as that leading people in worship? That just doesn’t go together!”
And I remember turning my attention back to the minister and having an imaginary go at him in my head: “I don’t get it. This just isn’t working! What are you doing? Your congregation is dying. You’re so irrelevant, and even you sound bored. You’re doing nothing to get the attention of these young people who may be the future of your church. And you have that person leading “worship”. Do you not know how they treat people?! [and the part I’m least proud of…] This is a joke. You are a joke. This Church is a waste of space!”
As I sat back, frustrated by pleased with myself, that’s when it happened. I couldn’t tell you where it came from—inside, outside, above, below, beside, around, a voice, a thought, a feeling—but something went: “Well, Scott, if you’re so clever, go show me you can do it better”.
Never one to back down from a challenge, I thought with a gulp, “Ok, I will!”
Right then, in that very moment, everything made sense. All at once I realised: “God is real. His Word is True. Jesus died for my sins. The Church is His vehicle for reaching the world… and this is not what God intended The Church to be”.
This is not your normal called-into-ministry story. I cringe as I think about my immaturity and corresponding attitude. I’m encouraged by God’s ability to use (what appeared in the eyes of the world to be) a failing ministry to lead someone to Him; and I’m humbled by God’s ability to use a potentially-negative-trait—my competitiveness—to grab hold of my heart. That Sunday morning, I wanted to be anywhere other than in that church. Today, I dread to think what my life would be like if I hadn’t been there!
As I was saying at the beginning of this entry, I’ve told my story many times but this time there was something new in the response. My friend looked at me and said “Have you ever gone back to that church to tell them what happened? If that church has been struggling along years, don’t you think it would be such an encouragement to them to hear that God called you into ministry during one of their services (leaving out the negative details of course!)? If you haven’t, you might want to think about doing that!” And I knew she was right!
A couple of weeks later I was up in Scotland and, with this conversation playing on my mind, I spent some time online working out what church it was that we’d been in and I paid it a visit. The church building was open but empty. It was surreal to be back there realising how much has happened since then! I went and stood where I’d been sitting all those years ago (and took the photo above!)—it looks exactly as I remembered it—and I thanked God for the adventure He’s had me on and the way He’s transformed my life since that day! It was a special moment.
Unable to speak to someone I did the next best thing I could think of… I found their visitor book by the door and in BIG LETTERS wrote a simple message: “15 years ago during a service here God called me into ministry, and since then I’ve travelled the world for Him”!
I hope they read it and are encouraged.
2014 ONE WORD 31st December, 2013Posted by Scotty in Challenges.
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After a break from blogging I’m looking forward to getting back in the game later in the year (summer-ish). For now though, here is my ONE WORD for 2014.
The ONE WORD idea is simple: instead of coming up with a list of resolutions for the new year, you come up with one word that summarises what you’d like to cultivate in your life for the coming year. Last year, I chose “grace”, and over the course of the year I have grown significantly in what it means to receive and to give grace.
This year, I have decided that the attribute I want to cultivate is:
I’m a naturally analytical person which has its strengths and weaknesses. On the negative side, I can be overly critical, failing to appreciate the good because I’m too busy looking for flaws.
Gratitude should be the natural result of appreciating the multitude of blessings God pours over our lives. This year, I am choosing to practice thankfulness! And worship flows from a thankful heart!
What’s your ONE WORD?
House Hunting in Birmingham 20th August, 2013Posted by Scotty in Life.
Forgive me for the serious lack of blogging over the past months. It’s been a very busy time between the reading and assignments for my degree, the fundraising, and preparing to move. Now that things are settling again, I’m looking forward to diving back into the blogging world to share all the things God’s been showing me.
We live in Birmingham (England)!?!?!
On Thursday 8th we loaded up a van.
On Friday 9th I drove it to Birmingham (5hrs), unloaded it, and drove back to Glasgow to spend our last night there.
On Saturday 10th we cleaned the flat and moved out.
We spent a couple of days with my parents, then
On Tuesday 13th, we moved to Birmingham!
Today is a week since we arrived in Brum. We are staying with a wonderful couple, Tom & Judi, who offered to house us while we search for a place of our own. They have been outstanding hosts!
We’ve spent the week recovering from the move, viewing houses, meeting our team, and familiarising ourselves with our new stomping ground. We have a BBQ tomorrow evening where we’ll meet the rest of the people who serve the Birmingham area with The Navigators, and then this coming weekend is a conference where we’ll meet the rest of the staff from around the UK.
We have a lot of work to do in the coming weeks as we continue to house hunt, fundraise, plan curriculum for the coming year, spent time with the team, as well as familiarising ourselves with the area.
We’d appreciate your prayers as we look for a house. At the moment we have to choose between space and location. We’re asking God to make a place available that has both!
We’re excited to be here, and ready to be put to use.
We are exactly where He wants us and excited to share the things He’s been teaching us.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ELLA! 16th August, 2013Posted by Scotty in Blessings, Family.
One year ago today we were given the most incredible gift: our daughter Ella Joy.
She is the happiest, bubbliest, smiliest, most people-loving baby I’ve met.
And I just love waking up to her huge smiles and babbling.
Happy 1st Birthday baby girl!
We praise God for you!
RESOURCE: Kneeling With Giants 30th June, 2013Posted by Scotty in Books, Discipleship, Prayer.
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Back in December I received a message from someone I didn’t really know. I’d followed Gary Hansen on twitter or he’d followed me (which ended in following each other) and that led him to my blog (check out his blog here). After reading my blog and seeing my blogs about prayer and various books, he offered to send me a copy of a book on prayer he’d written, in return for reviewing it on my blog. My thought process went like this:
“Free book? YES PLEASE!!”
I’m glad to say that like the book! I wasn’t all that far through when I realised it wasn’t just a book on prayer, but also a great discipleship tool. So rather than simply reviewing it, I want to recommend it to you as a great discipleship resource you can use to help you (or people you’re discipling) grow in the essential area of prayer.
I’ve read a number of books on prayer and have a couple of “go tos” that I suggest to people but none that I’ve taken a specific liking to… until now.
The aspect of the book that really sold it to me is how practical it is.
There are many books that talk about prayer without really helping you develop your prayer life. While many books provide a new insight into prayer, often prayer books stay quite theoretical, talking about ways to prayer without helping you understand how to do it. Kneeling with Giants provides you with both. More than the other books on prayer that I’ve read, Kneeling with Giants gets into the how, providing us with practical instruction and examples that really help you to engage each style of prayer.
The premise of the book is wise: Awareness of different styles of prayer will help keep prayer fresh over time, and give you access to new styles of prayer which can help sustain you in different seasons of your life. The author’s hope in the book is to help you find a way to pray that you will find life-giving, since for so many people prayer can be such a struggle. By introducing you to different styles of prayer found throughout the history of the church, hopefully you’ll discover a style that will bring new life and enjoyment to your time spent in prayer. Gary’s clear pastoral desire to lead us deeper into the arms of God, and to equip us with tools to enhance our intimacy with Him come through the book clearly.
The book looks at ten styles of prayer. For each one Gary Hansen explains the particular type of prayer, grounds it in Scripture and historical writings, then by using his own experiences he helps guide us in experimenting with that particular method of prayer. Of the ten styles covered, I’d say that his chapters healing and intercession are the weakest, but they introduce you to some great writings you can jump to for more!
When I received the book back in January my thought had been to bash through the book quickly and get a blog up. At the end of his introduction came the exhortation: “However you go through this book, the one crucial thing is to pray (p15)” and I realised that “bashing through” would not do justice to his gift! [If you read this book without giving time to his suggestions, you’ll miss just how rich this resource is and rob yourself of some opportunities to experience God in a new way!!]
The material is rich! Each chapter looks at the writing of a great man or woman in church history (like St Benedict, Luther, Calvin, Ignatius of Loyola, and the Puritans) and explores how they experienced prayer. Coated with Hansen’s personal experiences, which he reflects on throughout the book, the pages take on a humble pastoral persona, like a spiritual director helping you (and challenging you) to experience deep new ways of meeting with Jesus.
This would be a good book to work through as a group study. At the end of the book are two helpful appendices. The first suggests ways to use the book as a small group or class curriculum, and the second is a helpful summary of suggestions for to how to practice each of the 10 styles Hansen discusses.
I’d recommend buying the e-book. It includes a reader (that isn’t included in the paper copy) containing excerpts from the primary source texts, which he draws from throughout the book. Though the book is a fine tool without this, the reader would add an extra element of depth through exposure to some of the writings from the history of the Church.
So… if you find prayer challenging, if your prayer times seem dull, if you’re looking for a prayer study for yourself or a group, or if you’re simply intrigued now that you realise there’s more than one way to pray, I’d highly recommend you grab a copy of Kneeling With Giants!
Thanks go to Gary for sending me such a great resource!
We’re moving to Birmingham!!!! 6th June, 2013Posted by Scotty in Calling, Life, Ministry, Travel.
We’re moving to Birmingham!!!
I’ve not blogged in AGES, but that’s because there have been A LOT of significant things happening in the background. Here’s the brief update and we’ll give you more information later:
Firstly, we’ve just finished a major transition and have joined the ranks of The Navigators. They are an organisation I’ve respected for a number of years, and have always had an interest in being more involved. I am excited to move into an environment that is all about discipleship. We’ve already been having some great conversations with other workers within the organisation, and I just love rubbing shoulders with other people who are as passionate as us about this foundational aspect of the Christian Journey.
Secondly, we’re moving to Birmingham (England, not Alabama!!). When we first started talking with Navigators in December, they asked if we’d be willing to move to Birmingham. Initially, we were very reluctant, but as we prayed and our conversations continued, God confirmed to them and to us that this is what He wants. And so it’s looking like we’ll move down there at the beginning of August to dive in to the work they are doing in the city. Birmingham puts us in close proximity to leadership team, central for a lot of their training, with easy access to a number of key ministries around the UK. This is even more helpful because…
Thirdly, I have begun doctoral studies in Discipleship. After looking at a very specific discipleship-focused degree for the last couple of years, I have finally embarked on that journey. As you know, I love to read and think and write about discipleship, and want to work out ways to assist the Church to become more effective at making disciples. As part of my new role with Navigators, I have been asked to undertake some large research and writing projects…. Which will end up being the body of my doctoral thesis. The doctorate fits beautifully alongside our new roles and will give some added structure to the projects I’ll be working on for Navigators. Not to mention the ways it’s already sparked thoughts for a thousand other blogs on discipleship!
Since chemo God has been refining me, cleansing my heart, honing our calling and bringing more focus to our lives and ministry. It’s always rewarding to see God brings things together and we’re looking forward to seeing what He does in this next season!
I’ll post more soon, so watch this space!
Nostalgia: In the Prayer Chapel 31st March, 2013Posted by Scotty in Heart, Multnomah.
At the beginning of the month—thanks to the gift of airmiles—I was in Portland for one of my best bud’s wedding. During the trip I dropped by the Multnomah Campus to say hey to a couple of friends and to enjoy some moments of nostalgia. I had some time to kill between appointments and as usual my feet walked me to the little Prayer Chapel that sits on campus.
I went inside.
I sat there for about a minute enjoying the feel and the smell of the place. The smell is a funny one for me: I can’t work out if it’s simply that old smell—of old carpets and old wood; or if it’s the smell of years of prayer; most likely it’s a combination of both.
I’d forgotten how much I love this little chapel. I spent 20-30 minutes journalling and reflecting on the numerous hours I’ve spent with God in that tiny little building, learning from the Perfect Teacher, being operated on by the Master Surgeon, and having my heart renovated by the Great Architect. Here are some things I thought about:
- The hours simply praying: It would be fun to know how many hours I’ve spent in that little place. (Though I’m sure if I took the number of hours in the Prayer Chapel and compared it to the number of hours I wasted on nonsensical things, I’d not feel so great!) I spent numerous hours in the prayer chapel praying; praying with friends; memorising Scripture; playing piano and worshipping; reading Scripture or doing lectio divina homework assignments; interceding for friends, family, and difficult situations; asking God to grow and change me.
- The hours growing: I arrived at Multnomah fresh, excited and naive. I’d come armed with lessons I’d learned (or thought I’d learned!), theology I’d absorbed, and ministry philosophy I’d inherited. It was at Multnomah that I really grew. There in the Prayer Chapel God took the things I’d learned from others and sifted them through, leading me to embrace some things and discard others. It was there that my understanding of ministry moved from my head to my heart; and I began to understand who I am and how principles looked when lived out as me, rather than as an imitation of someone else. Seminary, ministry, and close community teach you lots about yourself. I often went to the prayer chapel to talk with God about my pride and selfishness, my fears and insecurities, my hopes and dreams. I went when things were great to praise and thank Him. I sat there when my heart was troubled and downcast pleading with God to intervene.
- The hours breaking: It was there that my heart began to break for the world. Sitting in classrooms engaging leaders from around the world, hearing the plight of various nations, and pining to return to my own to do what God had called me to… much of this was applied to my heart and carved there in that little prayer room. It was there also that my heart broke at itself. Actions, assignments, reflections, and scripture-responses all alerted me to the extent of my depravity; the understanding of my powerlessness to change apart from Christ; coming face to face with my sinfulness and beginning the slow and painful journey of embracing pain and brokenness to walk towards wholeness and holiness. A journey I’m still walking.
- The hours transforming: Although God had been working on me long before I went to Multnomah, I look at that time as the start of a huge season of heart transformation. While learning about God, and about myself, I saw more of the places where my heart was wrong. I wish I had one of those instantaneously-fixed stories, but I don’t. Instead, it’s been the long slow process of gradual change, grieving sin, repenting, making more mistakes, crying out to God, grieving some more, and having Him open my eyes to see my sin as He sees it. (Oh, but there’s the beautiful flip side of this too: having my heart of stone replaced with a heart of flesh! My heart began to grasp grace; my identity in Christ; my role in His Kingdom; the gifts He’s given me; and the Power that works through me.
- The hours committing: On a regular basis I sat in that room offering myself to God. There were things I committed to not doing (wrong actions, attitudes, sins, etc) and then numerous commitments to doing His work, laying down self, and loving others. In the prayer chapel, seeking God’s guidance, I committed to pursue the girl who would become my wife—the greatest gift of my life outside of salvation.
Sitting in the prayer chapel again I reflected on the journey God has brought me on. We talked about my journey around the world and back. We talked about the massive leaps forwards in facing my brokenness. We takes about my journey from singlehood, through marriage, to parenthood. We talked about my season battling cancer. We talked about friends, conflicts, transitions, fears and blessings. I thanked God for His guidance, His provision, His sanctification, the gifts He’s poured out, and the way He’s walked with us so closely through everything we’ve faced.
Today is Easter Sunday.
Today we remember and celebrate the Resurrection Power of God. We rejoice in the incredible work Jesus did to give us the greatest gift imaginable.
Some days I look at my life and all I can see is how far short of Christlikeness I fall.
But today, as I think of the importance of the resurrection, I look back over my life and see how far I’ve come, and celebrate the Power and work of Christ in me.
I would love to say that all those hours spent in the prayer chapel resulted in me walking forward in a flawless pursuit of Jesus. Sadly, that’s not the case. But it did result in me walking forward with a greater awareness of my need for Jesus and knowing how desperately I need His power to be at work in and through me.
Oh how amazing it is to know that Christ is Risen. He is risen INDEED!
Why protestants should pray for Pope Francis 18th March, 2013Posted by Scotty in Church, Heart, Prayer.
Growing up, I never really understood the Pope. As a child, he was just a really old man in funny clothes. As a teen he captained the other team and so wasn’t relevant to me. As a young adult I listened to people debate about him. But as my faith has matured I’ve grown in empathy for this Roman Catholic figurehead. My curiosity was piqued reading Dan Brown’s novels, with their details of the conclave and the process for electing the pope.
I was intrigued when Benedict resigned, and began musing about the papal election. When I was in the airport travelling home from the States all the TVs were focused on the Vatican Chimney, and so I watched and pondered. As I was reflecting, I found myself more horrified for the man than excited for him, and I realised the tremendous responsibility we have as believers to PRAY FOR THE POPE. Here’s why:
- The Pope was appointed by God.
Scripture is clear: “There is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Rom 13:1), and we are to pray for those in authority (see 2 Tim 2:1-4). If you believe the Pope is a good and godly man, pray for Him, for He has been appointed by God to lead the Roman Catholic church, and he needs our prayers for God’s Spirit to empower him to govern wisely. If you believe the pope is the antichrist, pray for Him, for He has been appointed by God, and needs our prayer for God’s Spirit to take hold of his heart. It doesn’t matter where you fall on this spectrum, the result is the same. We have a responsibility to pray that God would move in and through this man.
- The Pope is a sinner and in need of Jesus.
It is quoted that upon accepting the papal office, he said: “I am a sinner, but as this office has been given to me, I accept.” This is a truth we need to remember. The Pope is a sinner and needs to experience Jesus. He comes to his office with a past riddled with sin, and he will continue in sin while in this office… because he is human. It is wrong to venerate him as a god, as some will do. But we must not do the opposite and accuse him of being the devil incarnate, for he is no more a sinner than we are. A sinner in such a high position desperately needs the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
- The Pope is the face of Christianity.
Whether you like it or not, this is the truth! Ask a random person on the street to name influential Christians, and the person they’ll name is the Pope. They don’t know Tim Keller, or Mark Driscoll, or John Piper, or your denominational leader… but they know the Pope. Every move he makes, every success and failure will be broadcast to the world and impact how people view Christianity. The enemy of our souls would love to exploit this situation to mar the image of Christ, so let us pray that the opposite be true.
- The Pope immediately becomes the most loved and hated person in the world.
The instant Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis, he became a figure adored by 1.2 billion catholics, but hated by millions who are antagonistic towards not only towards Roman Catholicism, but towards religion in general. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a “normal” person one day, and one of the most hated people in the world the next day. Moments after the election I saw an insane number of tweets and facebook posts simultaneously blessing and cursing him. The media now has their sights set on bringing out into the open any tiny piece of dirty laundry they can find, and conspiracy theories galore can be found with this man’s name as the focus. Throughout his life time he will receive death threats, curses, and all-night prayer vigils focused on his harm.
- The Pope has an unfathomable burden of responsibility to bear.
I can’t begin to imagine what it feels like to carry the burden that Pope Francis now carries. I think only Benedict and other world leaders can comprehend that amount of pressure. 1.2 billion Catholics are looking to Pope Francis to lead their church. Within the Roman church competing factions all want him to address or ignore various issues. The rest of the world is looking on to see what he will do to address the major failings that the media has made us so aware of. No matter what actions he takes, people in and out of the church will not be happy! In the midst of all this, he is somehow supposed to seek God, hear Him and do His will. I would crumple under such a tremendous load. I have a hard time picturing a Cardinal sitting in the conclave desperate to become Pope for the power and accolades. Instead, I imagine drops of sweat pouring down the face of any man whose name was read out from a ballot because of the gruelling task of implementing reform that is being called for from both inside and outside of the church.
- The Pope has an unfathomable amount of power and influence.
He can use this power for good or evil. His actions will have incredibly large ramifications, sometimes in the direction he is hoping, and sometimes those consequences don’t go quite as planned. Through him, more people can be influenced towards Jesus, but equally, many can be turned away. At the same time, we need to remember that the power to bring someone to Christ lies not with man, but with the Holy Spirit. God can use any person or any circumstance (good or bad) to introduce people to Jesus. With such a visible presence, I am praying that God will use this man to draw people to Christ rather than pushing them away. Pray that God would protect him from the lure of worldly power and use him to influence people toward Christ.
- The Pope is a Christian.
Of all the things I’m going to write, I know this is the place where people may get heated. I believe this pope knows Jesus. I have read some articles by prominent Christians I respect who know this man personally and attest to his love for Jesus. I get frustrated when Christians use blanket statements which state that Catholics aren’t “saved” as if being a Protestant is what saves. I have some wonderful Roman Catholic friends who love Jesus more than most of my Protestant friends and are clearly in a saving relationship with Jesus. Yes, we disagree on areas of theology, but then I don’t see eye-to-eye with every Protestant either. (I’m yet to meet a Christian with flawless theology, and those who claim to have it are making a dangerous claim!) There are people in the Roman Catholic church who think they are saved but aren’t. That breaks my hearts… just as much as when I look at people in my own church who claim to be saved but live lives that show otherwise. Sadly, there are many people around the world who attend churches and confess to be Christians, yet they don’t have a saving relationship with Jesus. I am encouraged that Pope Francis has a desire to ensure that Christ is preached. And I am praying that God will use the Pope’s imperfect-and-sometimes-erroneous preaching to win people to Christ in the same we He works in spite of my imperfect-and-sometimes-erroneous words to the do the same.
For all these reasons and more, Christians world-wide should pray for Pope Francis. We can sit back and criticise, or we can pray. I know which one God commands us to do.
If you are looking for some fuel for prayer, here’s an idea: Spend some time this week imagining what you would do if you were the Pope. Consider how you would fare if you were given his responsibility to bear. How would you address the controversial issues that lie before him? What backlash do you think you’d have to deal with? What changes would you make to the church and how would you implement them? What events in your life would the media dig up and how would it make you feel having them aired to the world? Would you be able to stay faithful under the pressure and while being enticed with power and riches? Then allow this to inform how you pray!
Lord Jesus, I pray for Pope Francis. Enlighten the eyes of his heart that he would know You deeply. Pour your Spirit over him, filling him with grace and humility to advance your Kingdom, not any worldly system. If his ways are opposed to Yours, convict him of sin and align him with Your Word. Give him wisdom to do govern wisely, and use him to bring people to the cross and in doing so exalt the Name of Jesus. Amen.
One Year All Clear!!! 25th February, 2013Posted by Scotty in Cancer.
I have been sitting here taking care of some administrative tasks and just looked at the date and thought… wow… that crept up on me?! Yesterday… is the year anniversary of getting my ALL CLEAR from the hospital! It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since that portion of my journey ended.
In the midst of chemo, I felt like the world was ending. It felt like it would never end. But here I am, a year later, looking back on it and I have a hard time believing that was me?! It feels like a different person, another life. It’s amazing how a difficult season can feel like a lifetime while you’re going through it, but when you’re out the other side and looking back–and especially if you’re looking from the perspective of eternity–it’s such a tiny slither of our existence.
God uses massive experiences like this past season to do huge transformative work in a person’s heart. I have a hard time reconciling the man who was diagnosed with cancer with the man who sits here typing. At some point soon I’ll try to put some of that transformation into words but for now I’m content simply to acknowledge the phenomenon.
I’m alive! My life is His to use in whatever way He sees fit. And..
To Him be the glory
Evangelism vs Discipleship 19th February, 2013Posted by Scotty in Challenges, Discipleship.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about a dichotomy that is often seen in the Church that adds to our weak understanding of discipleship:
“evangelism” vs “discipleship”.
That is, there are those who do “evangelism”—the work of helping someone begin a faith relationship with Jesus—and those who do “discipleship”—used (wrongly) to refer only to the ministry of teaching and maturing existing believers.
So many times I’ve heard people say:
“I’m an evangelist. I stay outside the church and minister to the world. I let the people in the church do the teaching”.
“I’m more of a discipler. God’s called me to work in the church to work with those who already know Jesus. I do the teaching and leave them to do the evangelism”.
[I have a confession to make: That last line has come out of my own mouth in the past!]
Let’s remind ourselves what the Great Commission says:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, 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. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20, emphases mine)
Jesus commands us to Make Disciples. Then he explains what is involved in making disciples: Baptising them and teaching them.
Making Disciples involves evangelism.
The first part of the discipleship is evangelism! When Jesus says “baptising them”, He is talking about conversions. We won’t dive into a discussion of the theology of baptism (yet!), but for now it is enough to say that baptism immediately followed belief. It was the first step of obedience when someone placed their faith in Christ, in which they identified with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection.
When we look to the discipleship process, evangelism is the foundation. It is the beginning of the discipleship process. When Jesus said to baptize, he’s talking about being God’s instruments in bringing people from the place of unbelief to surrendering their lives. Making disciples begins with evangelism, but that is not the entirety of the discipleship process. To stop here is to miss a huge part of the process. If this was what Christ wanted, He would have said “Go, make converts, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”
Making Disciples involves teaching.
The second part of the discipleship process is teaching (or follow-up)! When Jesus says “teaching them to obey”, he’s talking about the process of taking someone who has placed their trust in Jesus, and leading them to spiritual maturity by teaching (not just cognitively, but also whole life modelling) them how to walk in obedience to all that Jesus commanded. Making disciples involves a life-long process of leading people to growth and maturity.
Making Disciples is the partnership of “evangelism” AND “discipleship”.
The Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians to tackle some issues that are causing disunity in the Church. Wrong theology is giving way to ungodly behaviours and so he writes to correct their theology and correct their behaviour. In tackling disunity he uses the imagery of the human anatomy (see 1 Cor 12): a body, with various parts, with different functions, all working together. The absence of body parts can have debilitating effects on the body. The presence of all the parts but not functioning properly in relation to one another, is equally debilitating. Right functioning requires all of the parts doing their job properly in relation to the other parts.
When it comes to making disciples, evangelism nor teaching is better than the other. If there is no conversion, there is no believer for us to teach. If we have no ongoing teaching, then people are led to the point of faith but are swallowed back into the world because they don’t know how to live as Christ commanded. In fact, the two terms, functioning properly, should be cyclical. Evangelism leads us to teaching people to obey, and teaching people to obey leads to them evangelising.
Leading people to faith moves us into showing them to obey; teaching people to obey moves us to show them how to lead others to faith.
Good at one does not mean exempt from the other.
The tendency we all have is to stick with what we’re good at. Those who are gifted in “evangelism”—bringing people from non-faith to faith—want to be out in the world reaching those who are apart from Jesus. They look at people in the church doing the teaching/maturing ministry and get frustrated that they are not out “making (new) disciples.” Those who are gifted for the work of “discipleship” (again, wrong use of the term)—teaching and maturing those who believe—want to stay in the church teaching and training, and get frustrated at those who like to function outwith the church programs which are “making (mature) disciples”.
Sticking with what we’re good at is not in itself a bad thing, but more often than not we use it as an excuse to avoid what we’re not so good at.
Being better/effective at evangelism is not a get-out-of-jail-free-card for taking the time to mature the new believer. In fact, being effective at evangelism puts a requirement on your life to be involved in teaching… helping people in your church to be more effective at evangelism! Conversely, being effective at the ministry of maturing does not mean you can opt-out of evangelism. Maturing-ministries tend to keep you cooped up in the church and out of touch with the world around you, which in turn can make us even less effective at evangelism. We need to be living what we teach. And unless you plan to avoid teaching people about the need to share about Jesus, this requires us doing our best to share the gospel too!
God is the One who works through us.
I am not trying to say that we have to become masters of every aspect of the Christian Journey. God has established the Church so that we are dependent on one another and so that no person can get all the glory. Paul wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.” (1 Cor 3:6-7)
We are the tools that God uses, but God is the One who does the work! Praise God!! That means you don’t have to worry about what you’re good at or bad at in the faith journey… God can produce fruit as you operate in your weak areas as easily as he can bear fruit when you operate in your strengths. The God who moved through Billy Graham leading thousands to Christ is the same God who will lead your neighbour to Him as you boldly share your faith. God, who moved in Paul as He penned a considerable chunk of the New Testament is the same God who moves as you attempt to teach people to walk in obedience to Him.
Dawson Trotman, in his booklet Born to Reproduce, posed a question that demonstrates his understanding of the interplay of the parts of the discipleship process, and in it offers a mighty challenge to us as we endeavour to obey the Great Commission:
“How many persons do you know by name today who were won to Christ by you [baptised] and who are living for him [taught to obey]?”