How many RED groups do you already have?

A RED group is, by definition, Reproducing, Evangelistic and Discipleship orientated.

What that means is that the group intends to multiply. It intends to multiply through reaching out to others rather than waiting for them to come. And it intends to grow people to be like Jesus. How many of those do you have in your church? How many of those would you like to have? You probably have more in your church than you think.

Here I am going to use the word ‘Evangelistic’ in a broader term. In this article I am defining ‘evangelistic’ as the act of reaching out to those uninvolved with the intention of involving them. A lose definition but a helpful one. A mindset of reaching out beyond our own group is contagious and will lead to a desire for evangelism toward seekers.

Within any church there are a lot of small groups of people. Some of these sets are organised and some aren’t. And they go by all kinds of names. Bible Study Groups, Connect Groups, Care Groups, Prayer Groups, Youth Meetings, MOPS, ALPHA, Committees, Teams, Worship Teams, Ministry Teams to name a few.

Although they all have different purposes they all have a few things in common. They are small. Each group can grow through recruiting outsiders, growing them, developing leaders and giving birth to new groups. The church (and God’s Kingdom) will grow as these groups multiple.

Firstly, they are a small group. By definition a small group is small. Sounds obvious I know. The strength of growing and multiplying small groups is that it decentralises ministry. For example, if all the pastoral care was in the hands of one person then as the church grew the quality of pastoral care would diminish. If the pastoral care was decentralised across a growing network of small groups then the quality could be maintained as the church grew. Likewise, in a decentralised network if one group leader is struck with illness (or needs to step down due to sin) the whole network isn’t affected.

Secondly, each group has outsiders that they could recruit to make the group larger, develop new leaders and birth new groups with a similar purpose. This is also true of a worship team. If you have 1 drummer, 2 guitarists and , 1 keyboardists and 3 singers who make up the worship team and they sought to RED their group then purpose over the course of a year or 2 you would have 2 worship teams. This could lead to a second service or even a church plant.

 

Lastly, when every group (team, committee) within the church is looking to reproduce leaders, recruit new people and help each grow the impact is a growing church. When different groups in your church take on board a reproducing, evangelistic, discipleship mindset it affects everything. The guy at the sound desk starts to ask who else could be discipled in their role. The drummer starts to help others to learn, not just the drums, but how to love others through music and worship.

Which of the two scenarios would you prefer?

A team of 2 greeters who faithfully, cheerfully, and lovingly meet people at the door for 10 years.

A team of 2 greets who faithfully, cheerfully and lovingly group their RED group. They invite people to be a part of their team. As new people join their team they begin to disciple them in hospitality. As the new team members learn how to create a warm welcome for visitors they in turn also recruit others and disciple them. As the team grows they find new ways to offer hospitality and welcome to visitors. They make sure that no visitor is left standing alone after the church service. They spend extended time with guests. They help connect those on the fringe with connect groups and affinity groups.

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Discipleship is not a curriculum, it’s a relationship.

Discipleship was never meant to be a set of studies that do to become like Jesus. Too much ‘discipleship’material is cookie cutter curriculum. Look through the life of Jesus and try to piece together a curriculum. Look at Moses and Joshua or Barnabus and Paul. See if you can find a curriculum. Good luck with that.

Discipleship is a relationship.

Discipleship is a relationship between you and your spiritual dad. They are helping you live your life now. Hear that. It’s now. They help you work out your life in Christ, NOW. They help you work out your next step. Your next step. Hear that. It’s YOUR. You can’t program that. You build a curriculum around that. But you can build a relationship around that. Your life. Your life now.

Discipleship is a relationship.

Gillette put out a great ad (less than 3mins) for Father’s Day. It’s a great example of this. Here is the link.

They did a 39 sec followup with Philip Rivers on why the ad worked. Here is the link.

Discipleship is a relationship.

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This is the most effective thing to do to grow health and numbers in your discipleship groups

Men_Praying_3-407x275There are a lot of activities we can do for our small groups. But there is one thing that we all know that we need to do more of. You will hear preachers preach it. You will discuss it at length in your groups. In leadership meetings it comes up all the time. And now, research has shown that it is in fact the most important thing you can do to grow your discipleship group. In the very well researched book, Small Groups, Big Impact, they say, “The practice that impacts the health and growth of a small group the most is the prayer life of its leader.  If you walk away from this book with only one insight, perhaps it should be this: If you want a vibrant and growing small group, consistently take time to grow in your relationship with God!” If you want to grow your group, pray.

The prayer life of the group leader impacts every other area of group health. If you want to increase the outreach to those far from God – pray. If you want to increase the love of group members toward one another – pray. If you want to increase the empowering, equipping and releasing of members to leadership – pray. Their  research shows that those leaders who were strong in their prayer life were four times more effective.

But this we already know.

The reality is that we already know this. We already know that prayer is crucial. There is nothing this research is telling us that we don’t already know. We know we need to be strong in our prayer life. Living it is another story.

It is difficult to have a strong prayer life. Spiritually there is active warfare against you when you seek to pray. We need to draw near to God and resist the devil. Secondly, our culture creates lives that are often very busy. To be stronger in prayer we will need to carve out time (this may not be as hard as we think given that on average Australians watch 2 hours of TV per day!) Lastly, we need to stand against our own sin nature that moves away from God. How we see God will impact how much time we spend with him.

What’s interesting, though, is that the amount of time we spend praying is not as important as what we pray for. Passionate, focused prayer is the key. There are 3 key areas to pray for a healthy growing group.

Firstly, pray for those far from God to come close to God. Pray for an area of your city to have more disciples of Jesus. Pray for people you know who are far from God to hear about how to follow Jesus. Take time to listen to God for any ideas on what part you are to play in fulfilling this prayer.

Secondly, pray that your group would have love for one another. Pray for there to be a high level of encouragement, of laughter and of honesty. Pray that they would deeply forgive one another.

Lastly, pray for the leaders you are raising in the group. Pray for them to have courage in the group to practice their leadership. Pray that they would be empowered by God’s Spirit to be bold in starting a new group (or taking over this group so that you can start a new one).

If you find it hard to find time to pray then I suggest the following two tips. Firstly, watch a little less TV. Watch a little less and pray a little more. Secondly, drastically reduce the amount of time you spend preparing the Bible study for the group. Again, in their research they found that the amount of time preparing for the group had no bearing on health or growth of the group. Spend that time preparing your heart instead of preparing the lesson. I suggest moving to a discovery Bible study format instead.

I think one word that best describes how much time you should pray is generosity.The Apostle Paul tells us that God loves a generous giver. I think that applies to time as much as it does to money. So be generous with your time. What does a generous amount of time for God look like for you? That’s a great place to start. God doesn’t despise the little things. Give what you got.

Be a generous giver of your time to prayer and specifically pray for those three things and see what impact it has on your group.

Let me know how it works out for you.

 

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Grace Time

graceIn any group where people are serious about growth there is always that difficult question that needs to be asked, “How did you go with what you said you were going to do?”

All good groups seek to implement what they are learning. There is little point in studying about loving one another if there is no effort to change throughout the week. It really doesn’t matter how much we know about Jesus or the commands of Jesus or anything else the Bible has to offer if we aren’t seeking to live it out. I’m not talking about getting it right the first time we try but I am talking about making progress. Jesus didn’t say in the Great Commission “teach them to know everything I taught you”. He said, “teach them to obey all that I taught you.” We are supposed to be on a journey of becoming like Jesus. That implies progress of action and not just thought.

If you are going to ask the group,  “What are you going to do this week given what we have been learning?” then take the time the following week to ask them how they went with it. If they know you won’t ask them then there is a good chance they won’t bother trying. When people know that you are going to ask they are more likely to try. Call it laziness, call it busyness call it apathy. If they know you are going to ask then they are more likely to do. So make sure you ask. They want to grow. Honour that desire and make sure you ask the question.

In many groups this time of questioning is called “Accountability”. It’s a horrible word though. It’s a confusing word. Who are they accountable to? The group? God? You? It’s a horrible word because it doesn’t really explain what you are trying to do. If you aren’t careful it degenerates into law. Law is where you state the standard and if they fall short you reaffirm the standard and send them out to try harder. The law is useless when it comes to change. Encouraging someone to do something they can’t is soul crushing. Please, if someone has tried something and they can’t do it then, please, discourage them from trying harder. Trying harder is rarely the answer (admittedly it is the answer when people didn’t really try in the first place but most people who are serious about change are trying really hard).

Instead of applying the law you want to apply grace. Grace is where you state the standard and if they fall short the group, together as a community of God and with God, seeks to help them to grow beyond this sticking point. Grace is receiving something you don’t deserve. That’s what this time is about. Receiving from the community. Allowing their love and acceptance to help you move forward and to change.

What does law and grace look like? Imagine a person belonging to discipleship group who wants to stop yelling at their kids every night trying to get them to bed.  In  the law group  they confess that they yelled 3 times during the week. Their confession is heard. The group prays that they have more strength and self-control next time. That’s the law. In the grace-filled group they confess that they yelled 3 times during the week. Their confession is heard. The group asks how they can help? They decide to call just before bed time to help prepare for the evening routine. They discuss different strategies for motivating the children instead of yelling. They find one new method and take time to practice that in the group so the person feels more competent and confident to try it during the week. They pray together for growth in self-control.

In my groups, to be really clear about what we are seeking to do, I call it grace time. It’s a time where I am going to ask, graciously, the tough questions about an area they said they wanted to grow in. It’s not a time of condemnation. It’s not a time of law. It’s not a time of waving the disappointed finger at them. It’s a time of grace. It’s a time of receiving the support and love of the group to help them become the person they want to be.

 

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Replace anxiety with peace

Worry QuotesAnxiety manifests in physical and emotional ways. Nausea, fatigue, sleeplessness, muscle ache, headache, high blood pressure to name a few. It is a sense of dread, of fear about tomorrow. It causes worry, stress, and often panic.

It is a disease of “What if?” “What if…I can’t do this? What if she doesn’t like me? What if I go bald? What if I lose my job? What if  my children turn their backs on me? What if people know what I did 20 years ago? WHAT IF?” And it’s just not in the bad times that these questions pop up. Even when things are wonderful anxiety challenges that things will stay that way.

Anxiety is not just a mental challenge that can be overcome with logic. Those suffering with anxiety often know that they are anxious for no reason but feelings of fear and dread are real. They know it doesn’t make sense but they can’t shut down the emotions. Living with anxiety is like being followed by a voice. It knows all your insecurities and uses them against you. It gets to the point when it’s the loudest voice in the room. The only one you can hear.

 

God doesn’t want you to live with anxiety. When you became a Christian you found peace WITH God. He wants you to experience his peace. Peace WITH God is supposed to move you toward having the peace OF God. Anxiety is part of living in a broken world but we can grow through it and experience the peace OF God.

There is a lot written in the Bible about having the peace of God. I want to look at one small passage. There is much more the Bible has to say on this and I would encourage you to explore that. The passage is in the book of Philippians and was written by Paul who had suffered much and had learnt to overcome worry.

“I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:2–9, ESV)

There are 6 things in this passage that we can do toward having the peace of God.

At the beginning of this passage Paul asks both Euodia and Syntyche to get alone. The conflict is so severe he asks the community to help them work through it. When we are out of relationship with people the peace of God escapes us. We cannot have a vertically great relationship with God without having a great horizontal one with others too.

Granted, there are some people you will never make peace with. Some people are just too far gone to ever be reconciled with. But, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. If your relationship with another can be restored then restore it. If they made the offensive then you can take the first step to fixing the relationship. And if you made the offensive then take the first step to fixing the relationship. Either way, take the first step and restore the relationship.

And include others. Sometimes the gulf between us and another is too big and we can’t hear them anymore. Get others involved and have a mediator to help you work it through. That’s the beauty of living in a community of people who are focused on helping you grow without judgement – you can get put your hand up and say, “Please help me fix this.”

So, the first step is People. Fix your relationship with people. Having looked horizontally and sought to fix things it’s time to look up and rejoice in God. Rejoicing in God moves our attention from us to the glorious. This is actually very hard for some people to do because they are so self-absorbed. Praising God is a selfless act. It’s an important discipline in dealing with anxiety. When we praise God we lift our lives from the physical realm to the Spiritual realm. We remember that life is not about us. We remember that God is big and our problems are small. That God is eternal and our problems are finite. Take time to praise God. When God is praised we seem him for who he is and we see ourselves for who we are. We were broken and God restored us. We have faults but God is growing us. We have made mistakes but God has forgiven us.  And when we see that of ourselves we can see that in others and our stance, or poise, before them changes.

When we look in the eyes of God in the midst of our brokenness our mistakes and see eyes of love shinning back we are better able to pass that look onto others. We can be reasonable with others because God has been (more than) reasonable with us. We can be gracious with others because God has been gracious with us. We can approach others with a win/win attitude.

And if there was one thing you simply must do it is to pray about your situation. Anxiety and prayer are more opposed to each other than fire and water. Don’t just winge and whine to God. Take time to look around your life and see those things you can thank him for. God will hear your prayer and begin to make changes not just in your head but also in your heart. How you think about the issue causing you to be anxious will change. How you feel about the issue causing you to be anxious will also change. Both your thinking and your feelings will be altered. The peace of God comes from God. He is the source of our peace. We pray, not to change God’s mind, but, to change ours. When we pray we change. So we pray for our needs. We pray for the needs of those around us. We give thanks to God. Giving thanks and being joyful go together like a shoe and a foot or a glove and a hand.

It’s no good praying if we don’t actively move our minds to those things that will bring positivity into our lives. We can’t stop the anxious thoughts from entering our minds but we can decide what we focus on. We can choose what to thing about. The happiness of your life comes from the quality of your thoughts. Before you can change what you think you must change what goes into your mind. What you put into your mind is what comes out. What do you think about? What do you ponder on? When your mind drifts where do you let it go? Paul calls us to think on truthful things, upon excellent things, upon good things.

Never try and force a thought out of your head. That doesn’t work. For example, don’t think about a pink elephant with yellow dots. The harder you try to get rid of that image the stronger it becomes. Instead, let the thought stay but gently bring in the thoughts you want. Refocus your mind. Positive thoughts lead to positive feelings which leads to positive behaviour. Ponder on these thoughts.

I deliberately have 3-4 thoughts that fit this description. Thoughts that I allow my mind to go towards and away from anxiety. One of those thoughts are the memory of watching my son play a table tennis match. He was down 5 to 9 in a game to 11. He stayed ca
lm. He took one point at a time. Even when it got to 8-10 he didn’t let it phase him. he drew that game at 10-10 and then after several back and forths he won the game. That’s a lovely, excellent thought for me. Pondering on that helps to dull anxiety.

Lastly, we need to practice these disciplines. We have tendency toward brokenness and negativity. Chances are nobody has ever taught you how to fight worry. Often we think of the Christian life like a light bulb – it’s on or it’s off. Black or white. Top or bottom. In reality there are levels of ability. And we can grow in these qualities just like we do physically. God has given each of us a body with the promise that this body can do amazing things – but it’s up to us to develop our bodies. If we want to be strong we need to lift heavy things. If we want to be flexible then we need to stretch. And if we want the peace OF God then we need to practise those things that help us to have more of God’s peace. We call these spiritual disciplines. Just like physical discipline we develop and grow in those areas which we exercise. If you want to be stronger than you exercise your strength. If you want to be fast then you do exercises that will make you faster. Paul, here, outlines those spiritual disciplines we need to grow so that we have the peace OF God in our lives – all the time. If you don’t exercise then guess what? You won’t get any better. You will remain anxious. Life will knock you around. Or, you can grow spiritually using these exercises and experience more of God’s peace.

Peace of God = People + Praise + Poise + Prayer + Ponder + Practice

  • Make peace (as far as it depends on you) with others. Get help to restore relationships if you need it
  • Praise God
  • Maintain a gracious stance and be reasonable with everyone (including the @#%# who just cut you off while driving)
  • Pray with thanksgiving
  • Ponder positive thoughts
  • Practice these things until you can do these disciplines well (forgiveness, praise, poise, prayer, pondering)

Try these disciplines and let me know if your sense of peace increases.

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Learning to Fly and Following Jesus

IMG_4469I had the privilege of learning to fly with Temple Pilots earlier this month. Flying is an amazing and dangerous thing to do. In the first day they teach you how to take off. On the second day they teach you how to land. On the third day they take you up a 100m up a hill and throw you off. To put this into perspective, a fall from 12m up is typically fatal.

I wish I could say I was brave and without fear but that would be a lie. Standing on the edge of take off I would badly quote to myself the lines from the movie ‘After Earth’ by Will Smith, “Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. But fear is a choice.” Judging by my heart rate, my thoughts were saying, “The danger is very real. Stop what you are doing.” Fear might be just a by-product of my thinking but in the moment my thoughts weren’t going to let me feel too comfortable.

Just before take off they would ask a question, “Are you ready?” How did I answer that? On the inside my answer was, “Nope, I’m scared.” The way I saw it their question was incomplete. If I reworded their question to, “Are you ready to jump off a cliff that will likely kill you if something goes wrong?” then my answer is most certainly, “NO!!!!!” But what if I reworded their question to, “Are you ready to trust our judgement? We have trained you. We have watched you. We believe that you are ready for this. Do you trust us that you can do this?” My answer was yes and I jumped and I flew. Not because I believed in my thoughts but because I believed in theirs. If I relied on my judgement then I wasn’t going to fly.  It’s the same with following Jesus.

Jesus invites us to learn from him how to live an abundant life (Matthew 11:28-30). He is asking us to trust him. He asks us to rely on his judgment. There will be some things he asks us to do that will fill us with fear and we won’t want to do them, like, “love your enemies”. Hmmm. Love isn’t the word that comes to my mind when people do me wrong. “Forgive”, “Bless those who curse you.” These aren’t easy to do in our modern world and I’m not sure I want to. “Worship the Lord your God”. Again, not sure if I want to lock myself into the worship of just one God or any God for that matter. “Nobody can come to the Father except through the Son.” That sounds a bit intolerant and exclusive Jesus – can’t we all just accept everyone? My thoughts. His thoughts. Which one’s am I going to trust? Am I going to rely on his thinking and jump into situations I would rather avoid or am I going to trust him?

Proverbs 3:5 holds the answer for us, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

He calls us to trust his thoughts. My understanding is limited. My thoughts are incomplete. My assessment of many situations come from fear, frustrations, envy, jealousy. His thoughts come from love, compassion and light.

One of the safety measures by Temple Pilots is to use radio contact throughout the flights. Their goal is to provide instruction while you need it but no more than necessary. They don’t want you to always be tethered to the radio. They want you to become mature as a pilot, to think and feel for yourself. In the beginning they are telling you, “Turn left.” “Go straight.” “Left Brakes. More Left Brakes.” And my favourite instruction, “Turn left. Your other left.” Over time as you learn to think like they think they use the radio less and less. Maturity as a pilot is about internalising their thinking. Thinking like they think. Making judgements from within because I have internalised their thinking processes. I feel like they feel. I see like they see. And then I respond like they respond.

Likewise, Jesus provides us with his basic instructions before leaving earth (B.I.B.L.E) but he wants us to go beyond just following them. He wants us to internalise them, to know them, to think them. Paul says “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). Jesus’ thoughts are to become our thoughts. His way of feeling is to become our way of thinking. How he sees the world is how we are to see the world. As he brings light and love into the world we are to bring light and love. Discipleship to Jesus is learning how to think like him, how to feel like him, how to respond like him. It’s a process that begins when we put our trust in him, his thoughts. He believes in us. He believes that we can grow. That we can love like he loved.

Jesus trains us to respond in love and in light in a dark world. He takes us up high mountains and tells us to jump off. Upon those mountains we are filled with our thoughts and fears. If we jump people will misunderstand us. People will reject us. People will laugh at us. Forgiving, blessings and loving is not always easy and sometimes very dangerous. It got Jesus killed after all.

It’s dangerous following Jesus. But if we want to be like him then we need to listen to him. We need to internalise his message so that we think like him. And when he asks if we are ready to dangerously love those around us he isn’t asking if we have confidence in ourselves, he’s asking if we have confidence in what he thinks about us. So listen to him, learn from, jump and fly.

 

p.s. If you are interested in paragliding in India then I highly recommend Temple Pilots. templepilots.com

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Green Light means “Going” or “Go”?

greenlightIn my last post I made mention that ‘Go’ kicks off the Great Commission and that there are some disagreements about the translation of this word.

Some people suggest that the best translation is “as you go” while others believe that “go” should be treated as strongly as ‘make disciples’. Which is it?

I think both are right. Granted, my Greek is not nearly good enough to justify my answer but let me give some examples to show why I believe it’s both and finish with what I think it means for disciples of Jesus Christ. two examples, Jesus and Peter:

Jesus, in Mark 5, crossed the sea, brought healing to a man with an unclean spirit, sent him to go and proclaim what God had done for him, got in the boat, and returned to the other side. Jesus went out of his way to meet this guy. Jesus did ‘Go’.

Jesus, in John 4 is walking through Samaria, sits down at a well, meets a woman, shares about the kingdom, she runs to her village and brings them to Jesus and many believe in him. Jesus did ‘as you go’.

Peter, in Acts 10, has a dream about a man called Cornelius, travels to Caesarea, shares the gospel with Cornelius (along with his friends and family) and they all come to faith. Peter did ‘Go’.

Peter, 7 chapters earlier in Acts 3, is walking to the temple to pray, meets a lame man at Beautiful Gate, heals him, which leads to a lot of praise to God which attracts a crowd so Peter breaks out with a mini-gospel message. Peter did ‘as you go’.

Jesus and Peter did both. They intentionally went out of their way to share the gospel (‘Go’) and they shared the gospel with those they came across (‘As you go’). They did both because it could mean both. With an attitude that says, “People need to hear the Good News”, the gospel is intentionally shared deliberately through planning and circumstance.

The problem with translations is that the translator needs to make a decision which way they will translate a passage, a sentence or a word. The vast majority of translations use the more forceful ‘Go’. That’s a great translation but it does lose something which ‘as you go’ keeps. If ‘Go’ is too forceful then it’s seen as something separate from ‘make disciples’. When ‘make disciples’ is kept at full force then ‘go/as you go’ becomes how we do it. If we overemphasis ‘go’ we end up sharing the gospel, getting a ‘yes’ response and then doing nothing else. Churches then end up with lots of converts but no disciples. People holding tickets to heaven but no life-transformation here on Earth.

When we emphasis ‘as you go’ we move away from the need to get out of our comfort zones, to cross seas, to travel to distant lands or even to enter into our communities and look for those God has already prepared to hear the gospel. ‘As you go’ can become an excuse to sit in church each week and play safe because ‘God didn’t bring anyone across my path this week.” Churches then end up with lots of well fed Christians that are fat on the Word but poor on the application. They know the truth but the truth fails to set them free. Truly knowing is applied knowledge. For that, we need to ‘go’.

We need both ‘go’ and ‘as you go’. When we embrace both views we develop outward attitude that says, “I’m intentionally sharing my faith whenever, wherever.” We pray for the circumstances to share and we plan to create circumstances to share. We pray for opportunities we pray for open communities. We embrace both views and build that into making disciples. We teach everyone to share. We expect everyone to share.

So what could this look like in your setting?

Let me suggest a simple idea that starts with ‘as you go’ and moves toward ‘go’.

In your small group (please tell me you belong to a group where you discuss your spiritual journeys) always finish with a prayer like this: “Father, throughout this week, how many times would you like me to share the Good News?” Listen to what he says and share the answer with your group. During the week look for opportunities to share the Good News that number of times. Seek to be obedient to what God is calling you to do. ‘As you go’ share.

If you find that you consistently share that number of times each week then praise God for your faithfulness and his faithfulness for bringing those people across your path. Keep up the good work. As they respond positively disciple them (not forgetting to help them to ‘as you go/go’ too). I don’t think anyone who believes in ‘Go’ will say anything negative about what you are doing. I am sure that they will say you are fulfilling the Great Commission.

However, if you find that you do not find people to share with then discuss this with your group. Perhaps you have fear of sharing the gospel and are not seeing opportunities. Grow in that area. Have the group help you to see with whom you could share. Maybe start with those whom you know. Draw an Oikos map of all those you know and look at how you could share with them. Seek to grow beyond your fears and live out the Great Commission.

Perhaps you are trying and still nothing is happening. In that case you may need to try ‘Go’ instead. In seeking out to ‘Go’ you could organise a PUSH into an area in your neighbourhood or into another town or suburb. Recruit at least one other person to go with you. If you aren’t ready to take the lead then join someone else who is doing it and partner with them.

When we start sharing then we will make sharing a core component of making disciples and then those we are training will start sharing too. Imagine your church where everyone is sharing the Gospel each week. Imagine yourself out sharing each week? Does that thought scare you or excite you?

Let me know how you get along. Do you find yourself consistently sharing the Gospel or is this an area for growth? Do you prefer to share ‘as you go’ or do you like the idea of ‘go’? If you don’t have someone to help you grow in this give me a yell and I’ll be happy to help. I’m not too good at this myself so we could help each other to grow.

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The journey begins with a single step

a-single-stepIt’s interesting that when Jesus gave us the Great Commission he began with ‘Go’. He didn’t have to. He could have started with the main thing – disciple-making. Or, he could have started with ‘Baptising’ or ‘Training’. He didn’t. Instead, he started with the most difficult and the most challenging part to disciple-making, the first step. ‘Go’

I acknowledge up front that there is disagreement among some as to whether Jesus meant, “While you are going [about your daily life] make disciples” vs “Go [intentionally and deliberately out of your way] to make disciples”.  I will deal with this in the next post but for now trust me when I say that the difference doesn’t matter. Jesus began with ‘Go/Going’. Jesus chose to tell us the most difficult step is to ‘Go/Going’.

We know that this is the most difficult step because it’s THE thing Jesus told the 12 Apostles, and then again the 72, to pray for just before he sent them out to preach the good news. Notice in the prayer what Jesus doesn’t say and what he does say. He doesn’t pray for more money. He doesn’t pray for buildings. He doesn’t even pray for more labourers. He prays that God would sent out labourers into the harvest.

And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2, ESV)

There is enough money to ‘Go’. There are enough buildings to ‘Go’. There are even enough ‘Labourers’ to ‘Go’. But they don’t. The labourers are not going. I don’t think it’s because they don’t want to. I don’t think it’s because they are apathetic. I do believe that it’s spiritual warfare. If our enemy can stop us before we get out of the front door, for whatever reason, the battle is already lost.

Thom Rainer lists “Fifteen Reasons Our Churches Are Less Evangelistic Today“. In my context I find 1, 2 and 6 to be the most prolific of reasons. There is no priority of evangelism. Laypersons believe that that’s what the staff are paid to do (and who taught them that – the staff!) and that most church ministries are not intentionally evangelistic. The other 12 are worth reading too. The bottom line, churches are not making disciples because they are not ‘Going’.

For a long time I separated out evangelism from making disciples. In my mind, evangelism toward a person is what we do before they become a Christian and discipleship is what we do with them after they become a Christian. My passion is making-disciples. Evangelism is probably one of my weakest gifts. I was happy to focus on discipleship and leave evangelism for those who are good at it. But God never let me off the hook. What God has shown me through the years is that evangelism is not separate from making-disciples but rather it’s the first step.

Years ago I read “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5, ESV) Grrrr. I realised that even though I wasn’t a gifted evangelist I could still do the work of evangelist. And so I tried. And I failed. My heart wasn’t in it. I know that we are supposed to have a passion for the lost but it wasn’t there. I loved to see people grow in Christ. My passion was discipleship. And I tried and I fell short.

It took me a long time to realise that ‘Go’, evangelism, is a part of making disciples. Not just a precursor, but a central component of it. To take out evangelism is to rip out the heart of making disciples. Jesus made it the first word. Evangelism is not separate from making disciples – it’s the first step.

When we make discipleship and evangelism two subjects we lose the heart and soul of making disciples. We don’t weave evangelism into every step of the discipleship process. We take the most difficult part of making disciples and we side-line it.

When Jesus brought healing to the demoniac in Mark 5 Jesus tell him to ‘Go’. Jesus didn’t send him away on a mission trip. Jesus sent him away to begin his discipleship journey. Jesus gave him a path of progress (discipleship) that lies at the very heart of following Jesus, that lies at the very heart of living in the Kingdom of God. If we are going to see people transformed into the likeness of Jesus we need to reintroduce ‘Go’ as a crucial component of making disciples.

Application

I see three applications.

Firstly, every disciple who is seeking to fulfil the Great Commission needs to be a part of the ‘Go’. If you are in leadership it’s important to train everybody in church how to do this. You may not know how to do this yet but I will talk on this later and show just how easy it is for people to do this. It’s not nearly as difficult as we make it out to be. The hardest part is ‘going’. ‘Going’ is hard; Sharing is easy.

Secondly, when someone does put their faith in Jesus the first thing we need to do is to help them ‘Go’. Help them see who they can share with. Teach them to share the gospel. Send them out. They may have nothing more than their testimony and a simple gospel presentation. That’s all the demoniac had. That’s all the Samaritan woman had. Help them to fulfil Great Commission and get them out there.

Lastly, and this really should be the first step but I left the hardest part till last, you need to personally get out there and share. You need to ‘Go’. In the upcoming post I will share a simple way to do this.

For now, ask God to send out more labourers and listen for whom he asking to go. You might just hear your name.

 

 

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Pastoral vs Apostolic Discipleship

There are lots of different models of discipleship but in this post I want to paint two very broad strokes to distinguish between two different approaches. The first approach, the Pastoral approach, dominates. This approach is used in most churches throughout the world. The Apostolic is also used throughout the world but to a much lesser extent. Neither approach is new. Both have been around for a very long time.

The Pastoral approach is primarily inward
looking. The focus is on the health of the church. Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Church” is a good example of a Pastoral approach. The focus of his book is on how to build a healthy church. An outward element is built into the health mix but the main focus is on a balanced healthy church. Resources for ministry come from within the church. Most ministry happens in the church toward the church. Discipleship is seen as ‘teaching content’ rather than ‘Going, Baptising and Training’. Another example of the Pastoral approach is Christian Schwatz’ “Natural Church Development“. Again, the focus is on building church health where evangelism is one element built into the health mix (in his case it is 1 of 8 key elements).

In both of these Pastoral books people are taught the fundamentals of the faith, life-application happens new leaders are raised. While both books mention church planting their primary focus is upon church health. The key question that is being asked in both books is, “What do we need to do in order to grow a healthier church because healthy churches grow in number?”

The Apostolic approach is primarily outward looking. Steve Addison’s “What Jesus Started” and Steve Smith’s “T4T a Disciples The Re-revolution” are two examples of this approach. The resources of this approach are found, not in the church, but in the harvest. Based on Luke 9 and 10 very little money is used in this approach. The advantage of this is obvious. Every church, every person, regardless of resources is able to afford this approach. Money often limits expansion of the Kingdom but the Apostolic approach solves this.  In the Apostolic approach the outward element is always present. In this approach new outward growth is pursued. Evangelism, teaching and leadership developments happens all at the same time. The key question that is being asked in both of these books is, “What do we need to do in order to reach this area/town/city/state/country for Jesus?” This change of question has serious consequences for the local church which wants to be more apostolic.

If you are a local church looking to be more apostolic what are you going to put on the table? Will you send out your best leaders? Will you sell your church building? Will you start new works even if your church isn’t “healthy” enough?

My personal concern in this blog entry comes from what I see in how churches disciple new people with the Pastoral approach. When someone comes to faith the Pastoral approach will, typically, invite them to their church and get the new believer plugged into the discipleship program. I have seen many very talented, gifted, new believers fill the pews of churches. Their talents, their enthusiasm, their preparedness to sacrifice is slowed down and sat on the pew. In the Apostolic approach new believers are immediately sent out to evangelise, to start their own groups, to take up the Great Commission and start making disciples. In this approach expansion is always being attempted.

I’m not against either approach. Both are necessary and I believe that both can co-exist. It was exciting to hear of a church recently that had 115% of it’s Sunday service in mid-week small-groups. How exciting is that? More people are involved in small-group discipleship than attending the church! That’s a really impressive church considering that most Pastoral churches that try really hard at mid-week groups having amazing attendance if they get 50% of their Sunday service.  To me that sounds like a church that is focused more on extending God’s Kingdom than extending their church service.

My second concern is this blog entry is this – what is your bias, “Pastoral” or “Apostolic”? If you are Apostolic in gifting and passion and only been trained in the Pastoral approach then there is a good chance you are frustrated in your ministry. I want to encourage you to investigate the Apostolic approach and see if it’s a better fit for God’s call on your life.

Let me know which approach best fits you.

 

One last thing, Steve Addison has a new book out on Apostolic leadership. I am yet to read the book but based on his previous two I’m looking forward to reading it.

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The Easiest (most difficult) Spiritual Exercise

woman_sitting_alone_on_a_bench-wallpaper-800x600Some spiritual exercises require activity – such as worship, prayer, evangelism. Other exercises require inactivity – such as fasting and solitude. These exercises of inactivity are not necessarily easy to do even though they involve less direct action. Inaction can be tougher than action.

This blog entry is about an easy (difficult) exercise called solitude. Solitude is giving God time and space with no competition. It means removing yourself from the constant interruptions of life and just ‘being’ with God. What makes this exercise easy is that there really is nothing to do. It’s not about talking with God or studying the Bible or even reading the Bible – it’s about being in the arms of your beloved. It’s about stopping, embracing God with a man-hug, and just being.

The purpose of this exercise is to stop ‘doing’ and start ‘being’. It means being completely present to God with no distractions. You may pray but you don’t have to. You may read your Bible but you don’t have to. It’s a non-agenda time. Perhaps, if you are a person with a prayer list or Bible reading plan, you may need to put them aside. I would strongly encourage you to actually put these aside for a while just to ensure you break the ‘doing’. We need to be careful that this time is ‘with’ God. Often our (good) spiritual exercises, such as prayer and reading of our Bible, can get in the way of simply ‘being’. In the Biblical account (Luke 10:38-42) of Martha and Mary it is Mary who is commended for just ‘being’. Martha, while serving the Lord and doing good was too busy to be ‘with’ the Lord . Ministry, prayer, Bible Study – all of these things are good but a time of solitude puts all of these things aside to just ‘be’.

What makes this exercise so difficult is that it challenges our activity. It challenges our desire to be seen, wanted and needed. It challenges our addiction to others, their approval of what we do and who we are. Solitude with God, looking at him and him alone, challenges our conformity to our culture. Solitude strips away our masks. Solitude brings us face to face with God, in silence, and takes the focus off those around us reducing the need to define our lives by those we see everyday.

In prison, solitary confinement is used to break the strongest of wills. We are made to be with others and the fallen human personality depends upon it. Life with God is strengthened by being alone with him. We find ourselves without our social mirrors and we come to see our inner self. Solitude, as it takes hold of our inner being, causes us to ask, “Who am I when all is stripped away? Who am I when I am not being productive? What am I when I am not connected?”

Solitude helps us to see the things, and the people, and our priorities for what they are. We begin to see God more clearly and more importantly we begin to see what he is reflecting back in what he sees in us. God becomes the mirror to our soul. We stop seeing others opinions and start seeing God’s perspective. We see that we loved by God not because of our achievements but because we are his.jesus-hugging

In the midst of these challenges you will likely feel agitated, scattered, distracted. The faster your lifestyle the more likely you are to feel this way. We dislike being unproductive, unapplauded. To stop and just be will take time. If you are sleep deprived (like most people) you are likely to fall asleep. That’s not a bad thing. You would have fallen asleep in the arms of your beloved – enjoy it.

If you haven’t ever tried solitude it’s really very easy. Be still and be with God. No agenda. No activity. Just allow yourself to be embraced by his love. Do it now. Take 1 minute and be still.

I was once challenged to enter a time of solitude for 3 hours. 3 hours! How hard could it be? No agenda, no activity, no problem. I fell asleep. The second I tried I fell asleep. It took me 4 attempts. In the fourth attempt of just sitting still I had one of my best conversations with God. I didn’t set out to. I had no agenda after all. After an hour of sitting silently I sensed an invitation from God to talk, to pray about what was bothering me. Sitting silently, just being for that hour, stripped from me all the superficial concerns I had been having. I encountered God at a much deeper level than I had experienced before.

I wish I could say every prolonged time of solitude had the same response but it hasn’t. Sometimes God has remained silent and withdrawn. A time of solitude may not be a wonderful time of ecstasy. There are dark nights that God will put us through and times of solitude may make those times seem darker. It may not feel like it but these a tremendous blessings which I will talk about at another time. Our culture runs from the dark night but God uses it to bring life.

In order to have a 3 hour time of solitude you you may need to be ruthless with family and friends – 3 hours is a long time to be absent. But it’s worth it and I encourage you to try it. This isn’t to say that 1 minute is not worth it. It is. If you aren’t in a position to be still for 3 hours then be still for 1 hour. If you can’t for 1 hour then try for 10 minutes. Even 1 minute will help you to connect with God. It’s a spiritual exercise that has many benefits at many different levels. Think of it like running. If all you have time for is to run 100m then do it – you body will love the exercise. If you can get out and run a marathon then do that. It will be a different experience but both are worth it.

Let me know how you get along. Am I right – is it really difficult or did you find it easy? What was your experience? Is this an exercise you would encourage others to do? Will you try it again? Leave a comment and don’t forget to subscribe.

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