jump to navigation

RESOURCE: Kneeling With Giants 30th June, 2013

Posted by Scotty in Books, Discipleship, Prayer, Reviews.
add a comment

kneeling with giantsBack 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!!”
Prayer? BONUS!!

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!

Advertisements

Evangelism vs Discipleship 19th February, 2013

Posted by Scotty in Challenges, Discipleship.
6 comments

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.

discipleship-chart-photo

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”.

Or

“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!]

*cringe*

 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.

full-circle-discipleship

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]?”

RESOURCE: Operation World iCal 9th February, 2013

Posted by Scotty in Books, Discipleship, Mission, Prayer.
2 comments

Operation-World-book-cover_Page_01In my last post The Radical Experiment, I said that one of the things my family is committed to doing this year it’s praying for the world.  We’re working through the book Operation World (there’s also a website) which gives information, statistics and prayer points for all the countries

Now that we live in the world of smartphones (and knowing how terribly I function when I don’t have things in my phone/laptop calendar )I decided to perform a labour of love today:

I input the Operation World Prayer Calendar into a google calendar, so that I have daily alerts and quick access to the corresponding website content.  

So, if you like to use digital calendars, and you want to join us in praying for the world, here are the links to access the calendar:

XML       iCal      HTML

And if you like the idea, but still prefer the old school hard copy, it is available to print on the website (http://www.operationworld.org/prayer-calendar).

Discipleship: Empty Your Cup 28th January, 2013

Posted by Scotty in Challenges, Discipleship.
2 comments

Through meditating on the Great Commission I came to a very simple yet profound realisation.

If God commanded everyone to make disciples,
Then everyone is capable of making disciples.

Gratitude-Empty-Cup

The moment someone surrenders their life to Jesus they begin the journey of aligning their life with His Word, and their life comes under the mandate to make disciples.

I mentioned before in The Trouble With Discipleship, that there is no one-size-fits-all discipleship program.  That’s because there is no one-size-fits-all disciple.  God made us diverse, and though there will be similarities in the way we disciple others—since we’re all imitating what Christ modelled for us, and obeying the same Book—who we are, where we grew up, what our job is, and the unique work God has done in us, how we think and interact with the Word, all shape what we have to offer others as we invite them into our lives.

Last year I listened to a message by Andy Stanley (if you don’t know who he is, you probably want to change that!).  Part way through the message he hit on a leadership principle that I’ve adopted as a fundamental discipleship principle:

Empty Your Cup

This is a great image for what we do as disciplers.  Each of us is a cup, filled with a mixture of our personality, life experience, career, relationship with God, biblical knowledge, prayer life, mission experience, life wisdom, and so on.  God has placed people around us and our job is quite simply to pour the contents of our cup into theirs.

When we realise that discipleship is about emptying our cup, we realise that everyone is capable of making disciples.

It flies in the face of some common excuses for why we don’t lead or disciple:

  • I don’t know enough – FALSE
  • I’ve not been a Christian very long – FALSE
  • I’m not old enough – FALSE
  • It’s not my gifting – FALSE
  • I don’t have anything to offer – FALSE
  • Other people need more than me – FALSE
  • I need more training – FALSE
  • (add your own here!)

Like so many things in life, the reality is that if we wait until we’ve got it all together, it’ll never happen!

We will never know it all.

We will never get enough training.

There will always be someone who knows more or does it better.

But that’s not our concern.  Our job is simply to take what we do have and pour it into the people around us.  We ask the Spirit to help us trust the work God has done in us, and we trust Him to use what He’s done in our lives for the benefit of those around us.

(A beautiful thing about discipleship is it is never a one-way process!   As we’re pouring our cup into someone else, they’re pouring theirs into us.  It’s mutually beneficial!  This is the Body of Christ in action!)

If we communicate a message that says you have to be a highly trained expert to disciple people, then we are telling people they don’t have what it takes to do what Jesus commands.

God commands everyone to make disciples,
And so everyone is capable of making disciples.

That includes YOU!  Stop fretting, start trusting, look around

and

Empty Your Cup!

Producing Reproducers 27th November, 2012

Posted by Scotty in Discipleship.
add a comment

When Jesus made disciples, He was training them to imitate Him and thereby carry on His work.  He knew that the key to having His work continued on the Earth was that the disciples He made would obey His command to “make disciples!”  Those disciples would go on to make disciples… who would make disciples… who would make disciples… who would—you get the idea!  With discipleship, we want to produce reproducers.

There are two halves to discipleship “success”.  The first is that those we disciple develop Christ-like character and action.  The second is that they go on to make disciples who have Christ-like character and action.  The latter is the real win—that we produce reproducers.  Like the very first disciples, we obey Christ’s command to “make disciples” and teach those we minister to, to do likewise.  But  often our methods are not best suited to the process of reproducing disciples.

If producing reproducers is the goal, I think we need to rethink our strategy for discipling.

We tend to be over-cautious when we disciple. We don’t want to put immature Christians into leadership prematurely, and we want to guard against wrong teaching being perpetuated.  It is wise and necessary to use discernment and testing before releasing people into “leadership”, but often, but I feel we’ve gone too far in the other direction so that reproducing reproducers is now missing from the DNA.

What we can do to build replication into the DNA of our disciples?

Disciple by relationship, not classes!
It is recorded that Dawson Trotman once said:

“Classes produce classes; faithful men produce faithful men”.

I agree with this sentiment.  While classes can be used to by God to impart Truth and impact our lives, this is not the most effective way to develop disciple-makers.  Why? Because discipleship is about relationship! Christ’s disciples are known by their love for one another (Jn 13:35), not their ability to teach one another, and that love is seen in the way we open our lives up to one another.

I’ve used the term “inviting people into our lives” before, but what do I mean by that?  It’s simple really.  We give people opportunities to be around us.  This can be chatting over coffee or having dinner with your family… it could mean allowing them to shadow you at work or sit in on an important meeting…  it could be talking about a Scriptural Truth you’ve learned or praying together… anything that allows them to see what you do but with permission to ask questions to find out why.  Whatever the case, it is about inviting them to observe and interact with your life.

If replication is in your DNA, by letting them be in your life, observing and interacting, they’ll see the very principles lived out before them.

Build the expectation from the start.
I was at a church service where a man went forward to receive prayer at the end of the service and committed his life to Christ.  I walked past the prayer area to get coffee and someone grabbed my arm: “Scotty, this man has something he wants to tell you.”  I looked up at a man who had tears in his eyes and the biggest grin on his face.  He simply said: “I just gave my life to Jesus!”.  I shook his hand, hugged him, and with great joy welcomed him into The Family.  As I walked away I thought about what a great thing that was.  The man began his faith journey testifying about God’s work in His life.  What a way to embed the right DNA into someone’s life right from the start.  Rather than you-gave-your-life-to-Jesus-so-come-and-attend-our-8-week-class-then-we’ll-consider-you-ready, there was a simple act of empowerment that released him to start his journey pouring out the Truth to others.  He’d been a Christian for seconds.  He didn’t have his life together.  He didn’t have his theology all worked out.  He hadn’t had training in any aspect of his faith.  He was simply released to testify about what he knew!

We need to do this with those we disciple.  Rather than waiting for them to hit a certain milestone, we need to send them out to others right from the start.  We don’t want replication to be seen an optional extra, yet the longer we wait before sending people out, the more established a non-replicating DNA becomes!

Encourage them to share what they learn
When I did my first “Bible Readthrough” I was excited about the insights I was learning so would share them with friends at work.  I was only 4 weeks in to my own readthrough when I was encouraged to start a readthrough and lead them through it.  I found that I interacted differently in my own readthrough because I was engaging it at two-levels:  The first, it was me who was learning and growing; the second, I was observing my own readthrough through the grid of leading others.  I paid more attention to the questions asked, the insights shared, and why.  My own insights deepened when I shared them with others, and I found myself absorbing information, not just for me, but so that I could pass it on!  Having those you disciple share the lessons they learn establishes a DNA that says “the things God teaches me and not just for me”.

Give them tools AND teach them to use them.
It’s easier to do something myself than it is to teach someone else how to do it, but this is a huge roadblock to producing reproducers.  When it comes to discipleship, don’t just take someone through a resource, teach them how to use it!  When I’m looking at resources for discipleship I’m always evaluating how easy it would be for someone else to use it.  Not everyone is an expert teacher… but they are all called to teach disciples.  Not everyone is a gifted pastor… but they’re all called to pastor their disciples.  We can help those we disciple to be more effective by giving them tools they can use, and helping them use them effectively.

The best way to do this is to give them opportunities to use it (particularly with your supervision and feedback).  It’s takes less time to turn up to a session and lead it than it does to meet with someone to talk through the session and then allow them to lead it, but the latter is much more effective in the long run.  One of the benefits is that it communicates a lot to them about your trust in them, but beware:  You got where you are by trial and error, and just like you, they need to be allowed to fail!  We need to create a grace-filled environment where failure is not the end of the line!

Give away your trade secrets!
This can be really hard for people.   Our society is built on having to pay to receive someone else’s expertise, so we tend to be protective of our knowledge and expertise.  (Just try asking granny for her secret ingredient!)  If you’re a plumber and you want to train a plumber, you have to give away the trade secrets.  If you’re a disciple and you want to train a disciple, you have to do the same.

The most helpful moments have been when someone teaching me stopped and demonstrated how they do something, or revealed the underlying purpose in a question or action.  Earlier this year I sat in the office of a woman who is extremely effective at disciple-making.  In preparing some people for the mission field she had them performing menial tasks in her office.  They looked a bit like servants: “Could you get him some water?” “Would you sweep the floor?”  “Could you unplug that?”  After the young people left she explained what she was doing.  “The most important lesson they can learn is to serve well.  And the simplest way to do that is to let them serve here.”  No one was complaining about the menial tasks.  Why?  Because she’d explained that same Truth to them.  They knew that the tasks they were performing were character-building, and that on the field the door to reaching people with the gospel would most often come through simple acts of service.

Rather than preserving the Truths we minister by, we should be quick to reveal them to those we disciple, to help lay the foundation for how to disciple others.  That simple explanation which gave away the secret taught them and me a foundational way to train others.

Sacrifice your opportunities so they can have theirs!
It can be hard to get the opportunities you need to grow and teach, so it’s extra hard to think of giving them up.  We want to be the one at the front teaching or preaching or leading.  We want to be the one vision casting, discipling and investing.  (And that doesn’t have to be for self-centred reasons.)  The best way to teach others is to let them experience it themselves, which means giving them opportunities.  Often this means being willing to surrender our platform to allow them to step into it.  This means humbling ourselves and acknowledging that I’m not the only one God can use!  It means letting go of control and trusting the Holy Spirit at work in the other person!

Look to the future, not the present.
If you want to produce reproducers, you can’t have our eyes on the here and now.  Instead, with everything you do and teach, you must answer the question:  How will this help them to reach the next generation?  It’s not enough to teach the basics now.  You want them to be able to teach the basics then.  God has called us to make disciples, but not any old disciples, disciples who make disciples, who reach the whole world with the gospel.

 

Discipleship Resource: the Making of a Leader 15th November, 2012

Posted by Scotty in Discipleship.
add a comment

The Making of a Leader by J. Robert Clinton is one of the top books in my Discipling Toolbelt!

(In fact, I keep several copies in my bookshelf). It has been a powerful tool in my life and I’ve had great success leading other people through the content. I was very excited today looking on amazon to find that they have just released a 2nd edition with some added material.  I can’t wait to get my hands on it and interact with the extras!)

Why use tMoaL?

tMoaL is a great tool for understanding the way God works to develop us for our role in His Kingdom.  Knowing that process, you are better equipped to understand the past, make sense of the present, and be prepared for the future.

Clinton has studied the lives of over 3000 leaders, examining the way God has worked to develop them.  Through his research he has noticed a general pattern in God’s leadership development process.  In the book he demonstrates the way God is sovereignly at work (from long before we are born) preparing us for our unique role in His Kingdom.  He walks through each of the stages of that process explaining the events, transition indicators and lessons that are typical to each stage.  He uses real-life examples and discussion questions to help you interact with the content, so that you can identify where God has you in the developmental process.

If you haven’t read The Making of a Leader, then you should jump online now and buy a copy!

Some of the Strengths:

  • Helpful vocabulary for discussing God’s developmental processes.
  • Gives insight into where you are in that process and what lessons and skills God may be teaching you.
  • Develops self-awareness of your unique makeup (spiritual gifts, stage in development, unique lessons learned).
  • Helps redeem the difficult seasons you’ve experienced.
  • Increased confidence about God’s hand upon your life and your unique role in His Kingdom
  • By evaluating where you’ve come from, and where you are, the book can give you insight into where you’re heading.
  • The book morphs along with your growth.  Each new stage you transition into unlocks a whole new treasure trove of helpful insights and processing.

Some of the Frustrations:

  • This is not a concrete linear process:  People have often voiced frustration because they feel that the book is too linear.  Clinton has several disclaimers through the book that this is a general guideline that we fit into and not a definite pattern we must all walk through step-by-step.  Use the book as a guide not as a boxing-in tool.
  • He’s obsessed with labels:  In coming up with a vocabulary for our development Clinton has a label for everything you experience. I find them really straightforward and helpful but I have heard a couple of people say it drove them mad.  In my experience, the more you use the book, the more helpful the vocabulary becomes.
  • “I’m not a leader”:  I’ve heard this a lot as a reason to ignore the book or avoid the tool.  The book is focused on ministry leadership, but Clinton’s leadership study has involved leaders from all domains of life and so the principles are broader.  The important thing about the book is the principles and skills that it teaches.  These are applicable for everyone from the flower arranger to the preacher to the chair stacker to the CEO.

Suggestions on how to use it?

  1. Use it one-on-one or gather a group of people to work through it together.
    Hearing the examples from a number of people is really insightful.
  2. Work through the book a chapter a week, then get together to discuss.
    You want time to chew on the content and to journal out your response to the questions.
  3. VERY IMPORTANT:  Make sure you ANSWER the questions!
    This is where the real fruit lies!  You’ll get out of the book what you put into it
  4. VERY IMPORTANT TOO:  Write them down!
    That way, when you come to take someone else through the book, you’ve got all your processing in front of you rather than having to re-answer the questions or pluck thoughts from thin air.  Also, each time you re-read or re-use the book, you come up with different examples and see the way you have grown.
  5. Be Aware:  It’s really common to place yourself further along on the Leadership Timeline than you actually are.  Don’t!
  6. Don’t skip the interview questions!!!
    There are a couple of occasions where the assignment is to interview a mature believer about the chapter contents.  You really miss out when you skip these ones.  (1) There is so much to learn from the experience of those who are further along than us. (2) Their processing helps demonstrate the validity of the books content.  (3) Often, they haven’t processed this themselves (and if they have, they have a different vocabulary), so you become a tool helping them while you gain greater insight into their life (and yours!)

Supplemental Resources

The Trouble With Discipleship 6th November, 2012

Posted by Scotty in Discipleship.
add a comment

The trouble with discipleship is this:

There is no one-size fits all discipleship program

Yet so often that‘s exactly what we are looking for.

Discipleship should honour diversity
Everyone is different, and that’s part of the beauty of creation.  Some people are extremely brainy, others learn slower.  Some love to read, others have dyslexia and want to read but can’t.  We have different talents and abilities, skills, spiritual gifts and passions.  Our discipleship has to reflect that diversity, and it will be significantly hindered if we don’t take it into account.

Discipleship should be a tailor made program
Churches like programs.  But God didn’t hand us a program.   And while discipleship “programs” (like a 6-week discipleship/membership class) serve a purpose, it is not the most effective way to grow someone’s faith.  This doesn’t mean you can’t reuse material, or take several people through a resource or study together, but it does mean that we have a Biblical obligation to get to know the people we are leading.  I have a ministry philosophy that undergirds my thinking and processing about discipleship:

 “The closer to one-to-one, the better”.

This is hard!  (Especially when we don’t have the people, time or resources for it!)  Classes allow us to minister to a large group of people in a short amount of time, but that’s only a small portion of what Christ demonstrated.  While there are times He teaches large crowds, He had a distinct group of people who He was intentionally invested in.  Then within His group of 12, we see a number of instances where He takes one disciple aside to interact with specifically.  These were not just students, but friends who He knew and cared about.  The closer to one-on-one we can get with our discipleship, the better.  Our classroom-style teaching will have a greater influence when we take time to truly know the people we teach.  Our small groups will grow more intimate as the people in the group place their trust in you, trust that is most easily earned one-on-one!

Discipleship involves our passion/gift bias
When we disciple, whether we know it or not, we disciple with bias.  Each of us leans towards who we are.  We feel most confident discipling people with tools we’ve used, in areas that we’re strong at, trying to develop our passions, gifts, and abilities in the other person.  And we use the kind of material (books, audio, studies, videos) that we prefer!  We project.  We project who God made us onto someone else when the goal of discipleship is to help someone else become who God made them to be.  We hold over them expectations that work for us, but are much more difficult for them.  We’re not trying to make mini-me’s, but help the Spirit as He makes mini-Jesus’s.  Our job is to encourage people to stand on the Truth of His Word and to operate out of who God made them to be, even if that means they believe something differently to us or aren’t as passionate about an area of ministry that we are.  We need to be self-aware, making sure our discipleship is honouring to the person we are ministering to.

Discipleship is best when it’s inspired!
Discipleship happens best when you’re sitting one-on-one with someone who you’ve invited into your life (not just you into theirs!).  You have a toolbox that’s full of useful books, studies, dvds, audio messages, conferences, project ideas, and an idea of what you might do with them… but you keep them in your back pocket, come alongside the person and LISTEN.  What is God doing in their life?  What do they want to grow in?  What gifts/abilities can I help develop?  What can I challenge?  And then we support and encourage their growth.

“Follow me” (part 2) 24th October, 2012

Posted by Scotty in Discipleship.
add a comment

Imitate me as I imitate Christ (1 Cor 11:1).

Don’t miss it
Jesus modelled what it looked like to make disciples and then he commanded us to “make disciples” of others.  But today we tend to ignore a vital part of that discipleship process—the call to “follow me”.

Now bear with me a moment.

Being a disciple of Jesus means that we are disciples of JESUS.  When we make disciples, we’re making disciples of Him.  BUT… the discipleship process (as He demonstrated to us) began with the invitation, “follow me”, and so as we make disciples, it’s important that we invite people to follow us.

The Apostle Paul understood this.

As He lived out the Great Commission in the world, He called people to follow Him.  Or to use his words, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).

Discipleship is a relational process.  It is about one person teaching another the things God has taught them.  It’s about allowing someone to see your relationship with God first-hand.  It’s about inviting them into your life to witness first hand the good and the bad, letting them observe and ask questions.

And it starts with an invitation to “follow me”.

Houston, we have a problem
In our culture today, giving that invitation feel a bit… arrogant.  It feels wrong to ask someone to “follow me” as if I’m some big shot.  But it’s an important and defining part of the discipleship process.

The trouble with saying “follow me” is that, while Jesus was perfect, we are not.  When Jesus asked someone to follow Him, they followed the flawless Son of God.  Imitating and interacting with Him only brought good results. Our lives are far from perfect so how can we ask people to follow us?

A simple solution
Thankfully, inspired by God, Paul shows us what the call to “follow me” looks like when you’re not Jesus.  Paul understood his own sin nature and so when he made the call to “follow me”, he invited people to follow him in-so-much-as He was following Jesus.

As we engage the great commission and make disciples we have to be bold.   We need to quit this ninja-like discipleship, where I’m-attempting-to-disciple-you-but-you-don’t-know-it! Instead, we should approach to the people the Holy Spirit is setting us up to invest in and say, “follow me as I follow Christ”.

In doing this you invite them to examine your life.  You’re asking them to look at what they see in the Word and compare it with your life, then to copy the things they see that are Biblical and to challenge the things that are not.  You’re asking them to search your life for evidence of godliness, then to imitate those.

The trajectory of my relationship with God was changed the day someone asked me to follow him as he followed Christ.  He told me:

“if you hear me talk about a book that impacted me, get it and read it.  If you hear me talk about a sermon that I thought was good, go and listen to it.  And if you see patterns and habits in my life that fuel my intimacy with God, try them.  Copy me as I chase after Jesus.”

Interesting things happen
Interesting things happen when you invite someone to follow you!

Even thinking about making the invitation causes you to see your life from the outside looking it.  It forces you to self-examine and make changes.  After all, you really wouldn’t want someone copying those not-so-great habits you have.

There are special moments when you see the good and godly aspects of your life become foundational in theirs.  There are powerful moments when they ask why you did something a particular way and you realise that you probably shouldn’t have done/said that at all!  By letting them watch and ask questions, they challenge you (often without even realising it).  Sometimes you see them imitate something you said or did that was not God-honouring… and it forces YOU to change, which teaches humility as you go to them and explain why changes have to be made in your life, and now in theirs.

And rather than it being a one-way transaction where you pour into them, it becomes a two-way interaction where they shape your life too.

Discipling is not about having it all together.  It’s not about being perfect.  It’s about being honest.  We simply follow Jesus.  We run after Him, doing whatever it takes to become like Him… then we turn to the people around us and call them to follow us.

Are you skipping this important part of the process?

Be bold, and invite people to follow you as you follow Christ.

“Follow Me” (part 1) 20th October, 2012

Posted by Scotty in Discipleship.
1 comment so far

“Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him. (Matt 9:9)

Jesus said “Follow me”.

In Jesus culture, becoming a disciple to a rabbi was a prestigious position, available only to those of great promise.  If you wanted to become a disciple you had to wait until the rabbi you aspired to study under was willing to take on another, then you would approach that rabbi and ask him if you could be his disciple.  By doing so you were saying to that rabbi, “I want to be like you”.  The rabbi would then test you by asking you to quote chunks of Scripture from memory—the more obscure the better—and asking you to demonstrate understanding of how those Scriptures are interpreted, especially through the lens of that particular rabbi.  Based on your performance the rabbi would accept or reject you:  “yes, I think you have what it takes to be like me” or “no, you don’t have what it takes to become like me”.  Unlike university today, this was not “do you have the capacity to learn the material?”, but “do you have what it takes to become like me in what I know, what I do, and why I do it?”

The gospel writers show Jesus flipping this system on end.  Going against the social norm that “Do you have what it takes?  Only the best can do this”, Jesus approached young men with the invitation to follow Him.  With that simple request He said, “I believe you have what it takes to become just like me, so come and follow me”.

He began the relationship by inviting them to follow Him.  This invitation is not directional (I’m walking over here so you walk behind me).  It was far more than that.

The word itself (akoloutheo) has three aspects to the definition:

  1. to come/go behind someone (literally, follow)
  2. to follow or accompany someone who takes the lead in determining direction and route of movement
  3. to be a follower or a disciple of someone, in the sense of adhering to the teachings or instructions of a leader and in promoting the cause of such a leader

It is all of these things.  It was about whole-life pursuit… in all domains.  Following his direction, his theology, his actions, his attitudes, his teachings, his mission and goals, his passion…  By inviting them to be His disciples He was asking them to align their lives with His.

This is what we are calling people into when we invite them to become disciples of Jesus.

Our discipleship relationship to Jesus began with Him calling out to us.  He reached out, telling us that no matter what our life is like or how messed up we are, we can become just like Him.  Then at some point along the way we respond saying, “yes, I’m going to follow you”.

For some people that calling was a distinct moment, for others it happened over a period of time.  But every disciple has a point they can look back on where they made an active decision to stop living life their own way and to start following Him.

There are those who been believers for years, but have never become a disciple.  These people have a saving faith in the Biblical Truth, accept that Jesus is the Son of God who died for their sins, but never experience the fullness of their faith.  Being a disciple is about more than belief.  It’s about making the decision to align your life with Christ’s, no matter the cost.  It’s about saying “yes, I believe Jesus is who He says He is.  I believe what He taught is True and so I’m going to pattern my life after His”.

Jesus didn’t call us to believe and then stay where we were.  He brings us to the point of belief and then asks us to follow.

Jesus turned the system on end.  He believes you have what it takes to be like Him and to do greater works than even He did (Jn 14:12).  But it requires that we “follow Him”

So will you?

The Pursuit 15th October, 2012

Posted by Scotty in Discipleship.
add a comment

Before the creation of the world He chose us (Eph 1).  Through what He created He has revealed His character and nature to us (Rom 1).  The beauty we see around us pours forth His beauty (Ps 19).  Our God is a revelatory God.  Every day He is reaching out to us, pouring Grace and blessing over our lives, showing us the Truth of His nature, and drawing us to Himself.

God’s love is an active love that pursues us.  Before we give our lives to Him, when our hearts are far from Him, He pursues relationship with us.  And when we surrender our hearts and lives to Him, He continues to pursue relationship with us, revealing more of Himself to us, and causing us to fall more deeply in love with Him.

Jesus, when living and ministering on this Earth, modelled this aspect of God to us. We see it when He detours through Samaria to bump into the Samaritan woman at the well.  He did it when He called Zacchaeus down out of the tree.   We see if most when He went out and pursued twelve people to follow Him who become known as “His Disciples”.  As Christ lived His God given purpose on Earth He pursued the people who were placed in His path.

Living out the Great requires that we too go in pursuit of the people around us.  Our world is in a relational mess.  We all long to have someone care for us.  People apply by the millions for reality TV shows in the hope that someone will take notice of them and they’ll begin to matter.  Today, time is the most expensive commodity, and no one seems to have time for anyone else.

In this climate, we have an opportunity and a responsibility.  We have an opportunity to be God’s hands in the world, communicating value to people through our actions.  But it’s also a responsibility placed upon us.  God is a God Who Pursues… and He made us in His image.  Not only did He make us to be relational beings, but He commanded us to be it (Look at the numerous “one another” passages in Scripture, and the Great Commission).

The command to Make Disciples requires that we become physical manifestations of God’s character as we go in pursuit of people.  Discipleship is NOT passive.  While there are many occasions where God drops someone on your path for you to meet that is not an excuse to be passive in discipleship.  When that person is dropped in your lap, it’s time to walk in the Spirit and allow Him to turn you into His instrument of pursuit.  Too many of us sit in churches waiting for God to bring people along for us to disciple.  But there are so many people in our churches who are longing to be discipled.  And they’re praying for someone to reach out to them.

We are to pursue people.  Like God, we are to reach out to people, pouring out grace and blessing, showing them the Truth about who we are, and through our relationship with them, revealing to them the character of God, and leading them closer to Him.

Sitting in your church and in your circles of friends are people who feel alone (even in a room full of friends), and worthless (even in the midst of their success).  Part of living a life of faith, as a disciple of Christ, is that we go in pursuit of the people He’s placed around us.

How?  It’s simple.  We ask them to coffee, we watch them play rugby, we attend their music recital, we go to a movie together, invite them to your birthday, send them a text, we have them over for dinner, we play video games together, we study in the library with them, we find out about the things that they enjoy, we welcome them into our lives, we listen!  Whatever we do, we go seeking them our, we prioritise our relationship with them. As we do, we communicate our desire to have them around.  We communicate that they matter and the things they care about matter to us.  We acknowledge the value they have and increase it as we show them the value they have to us and to Him.  And through it all, we demonstrate God’s character to them, the God Who Pursues.

Are you passive in your discipleship or are you actively pursuing the people you are investing in?  As you look at the people around you, who is God asking you to pursue?