Monthly Archives: October 2014

Is this just for children?

BibleIn many churches I visit the children will stand up and recite Bible verses they have memorized. I’m yet to see the adults do that. Is it because they have outgrown the discipline of memorizing Bible verses? I hope not. Memorizing Bible verses is incredibly helpful in our spiritual growth. As a casual observer I think this discipline isn’t utilized nearly enough in our spiritual development. Perhaps it’s because it’s too hard, perhaps it’s because you don’t think you can. I am yet to meet someone who, having put in the effort, can’t learn verses. For me, there are two main reasons why I do it.

Firstly, I struggle to memorize a passage that I’m not living out. I know this isn’t the case for everyone but I really, really struggle to memorize what I’m not living. When I was first married it took me months to memorize James 4:1-3. Six months to learn 3 verses; 60 words took me 180 days. I was diligent with the discipline but nothing would stick. Everyday I would try but I struggled and struggled for 6 months. But at the end of 6 months I owned the arguments we had. I took ownership of my motivations in our quarrels. Those verses laid down a pattern of listening to each other that has tremendously helped in our relationship. When I get stuck on a verse I know I need to grow in that area. Memorizing Scripture helps me to see my blind spots.

The second reason is that it forces me to meditate. Memorizing Scripture is not easy. It takes a lot of hard work to memorize a verse. It takes a lot of repetition. That repetition forces my brain to think about what I’m memorizing. The act of memorizing forces me to meditate on the verses because I’m going over the verse again and again and again. My mind churns the verse over not just while I’m sitting down intentionally trying to memorize it but at other times too. It’s this meditation that leads to me applying the verse to my life, seeing the nuances of how my life is not in sync with what I’m reading.

I guess the two reasons could be summed up in one – memorizing Scripture makes me a better person. It transforms me. I change when I internalize Scripture in my mind and, through meditation, in my heart. I change. That’s my motivation.

I use an app called RememberMe. Whatever gadget you have you can download it for free here. I also have a notepad where I like to write the letter of each word as a shorthand of writing it out to see if I remember. To be honest I only use the app as a repository of the verses I’m memorizing and because it follows spaced repetition so I don’t have to worry about when I’m supposed to revise the verse. Spaced repetition just means that the verses you find easy will be revised at a later time (say in 10 days time) and a verse you are struggling with sooner (say, tomorrow). It means that you spend more time with verses you are struggling with. With that said, I am find myself using more of the features of the app that aid in memorization. There are lots of apps you can use, including the traditional pen and paper, so choose one and start memorizing.

If you are looking for some memorization techniques, here is a great site with lots of memory ideas.

If you are starting out try one verse. If you are used to memorizing single verses try a passage or chapter. Give yourself 10-15 minutes per day. It doesn’t need to be consecutive minutes. You can steal 5 minutes here or there two to three times throughout the day. The time is really not a factor – let’s be honest about that. The greatest challenge is doing it every day. The daily discipline is tough but it’s well worth it. Each day you will grow, a little bit here, a little bit there. But it all adds up. And one day, in the midst of an argument with your wife the verses will come to your mind and you will see clearly your motivation for the argument, your selfish motivation, your desire to get what you want without regard for the other, and you stop arguing, and you listen, and your wife is happy, and so are you.

Currently I’m memorizing, very slowly, Colossians 3:1-21. How about you? What are you working through? What do you find difficult about memorizing Scripture? What’s your motivation? What benefits have you gained from memorizing verses?

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3 Spheres of Discipleship

3 spheres

The local church needs to immerse people in God, train them to obey the life giving message of Jesus and assist them in bringing that life to their realm of influence. There are three spheres of discipleship that a church needs to develop: culture, groups, and self-feeding.


Firstly, making disciples happens through the church’s culture. Every local church has a local culture. This culture may resemble the local community culture or it may be the complete opposite. Any organisation has a local culture because the leaders are different, the people are different, the environment is different. All these differences mean that each local church has a unique local culture. The closer that culture is to the purity of Jesus’ life giving message the easier it will be for new people to see, experience and take on for themselves the changes needed to live out that life giving message. Developing a local church culture is the first sphere of discipleship in the local church. Developing this culture can be broken down into other steps but I’ll discuss that in another post.


The second sphere is training one-on-one or in a group. That is, taking someone into a learning relationship and helping them grow in Christ. This sphere would involve a set curriculum designed to take someone who knows very little and helping them to a moderate level of maturity. It could involve: the basics of the Christian faith, Who am I in Christ, God’s purpose and plan for their lives, leadership, sharing one’s faith, etc. It should, at the very least, include, “How to disciple a new believer.” That is, everyone should be taught how to disciple someone else at least in the first phase of their discipleship. How a church defines moderate maturity (skill, attitudes, behaviours) will be different in every local church. This sphere would include training parents how to disciple their children (I pray that no church would leave this task solely to the Youth Pastor).


The third phase is self-discipleship. This should be an outcome of the second sphere, that is, if the second sphere is done well then a new follower of Christ would be be taught how to follow Jesus on their own. While gathering with others is a crucial component of discipleship the responsibility to grow in our relationship with Jesus always lies with us. Church culture will not always be healthy and Christ like. Group training will not always address my personal immediate and urgent needs. For example, a student who moves states to study at university will not have their church culture and support groups to keep growing. While they search for a new local church and community they will need to know how to grow on their own.

As these three sphere’s work together discipleship happens. All local churches are at least exposing believers to the first sphere of discipleship. That may or may not be a good thing depending upon the health of the church but all churches are in some way making disciples. The healthier the three spheres are the better chance one has at growing consistently in Christ.

How does discipleship happen in your church? On a scale of 1-10, 1 being ‘O oh’ and 10 being ‘Awesome’, how would you rate your church culture for making disciples? How about your group process? For you personally, how well are you able to grow in Christ on a consistent, continual basis?


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Discipleship begins, ends, and continues with this

pushing_the_wallDiscipleship involves effort. There’s no escaping that. Reading out bibles takes effort. Carving out space in our schedule to talk with God takes effort. It’s the same with any spiritual discipline you want to consider: fasting, bible memorization, solitude, worship; they all take effort. But that’s not where you want to start.

At the beginning of the letter to the Ephesians and at the very end Paul greets and closes in a very similar way using the same key word. It’s this word that makes the difference with all your discipleship efforts. If you really want to grow in Christ you must begin with this word and continue till the end with this word. It’s the only way.

Ephesians 1:2 “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Ephesians 6:24 “Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.”

It begins and ends with grace. We enter the Kingdom of God because he calls us; God awakens life in us through Jesus which enables us to respond to his loving call. That’s a work of grace. If it wasn’t for God’s love we would remain exiled from his Kingdom. Having entered his Kingdom we continue to draw on his goodness to live there, to grow there, to thrive under his rule and authority.

Many, having entered God’s kingdom, will try and grow on their own. Their desire is to be like Jesus and they will strive and struggle with all their might to be like him. Having felt the freedom of forgiveness, the burden of guilt lifted from their shoulders, they forget that their struggle with sin continues despite a new life in Christ. While their spirit yearns to be loving like Jesus their old self drags them backwards. They have forgotten grace.

In Mathew 11:28-30 Jesus calls to those who are trying. He invites them to join him. He invites them to find rest not in standing still and doing nothing but by joining him in the work, to learn from him while the work is done. Jesus wants you, and me, and those you disciple, and those who are disciplining you, to live and work in the grip of his grace.

So when you fast ask God for his grace to sustain you. When you enter a time of solitude ask God for his grace to bring peace to your soul. When you study ask God for understanding. When you walk through the bush ask God for eyes to behold the glory of his creation. Ask God for his grace to deepen you, to help you, to sustain you. God wants you to have life and this life comes through his grace.


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October 9, 2014 · 4:47 am

Stop inviting people to church

stop-inviting-to-churchThis scenario is played out all the time – someone is interested in knowing more about Jesus so we invite them to church. Apart from the fact that Jesus doesn’t encourage this it undermines the person we are trying to help for three reasons.

Firstly, we are asking them to enter a culture they don’t understand yet. Even in the most hip, culturally sensitive churches the language is different, the dress is different, the atmosphere is different. We are asking them to enter into our world, our culture in order for them to understand and meet Jesus.  They may not like our church, and that’s ok, because they aren’t looking for nor do they need our church, they need Jesus. Our church may feel so out of place that they reject the church and Jesus too. They want and need Jesus first and foremost not our Christian culture. The place they will feel most comfortable is on their turf, in their home, where they are familiar and in control. So let’s follow Jesus model and stay in their home as we begin to disciple them (Luke 9:4).

Secondly, when we invite them to church we are are handing over the responsibility to disciple them to the church. We make it the pastors job to teach them through preaching. We make it the welcome team responsible for making them feel connected. We make the worship team responsible for helping them worship God. It’s not their responsibility; it’s yours. Jesus asked disciples to go and make disciples. That’s the job we all need to do regardless of our gifting or passion or the number of years we have been a Christian. We are all responsible for going, baptising and teaching for obedience. If we don’t take up that responsibility from the start then neither will they and then we end up with a church for of people who have been trained to come, sit, sing, tithe, listen, go home. If they are going to take up the responsibility to disciple another then we need to show them how from day 1.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

Thirdly, there are lots of reasons why they won’t come to a church service for the first time. For starters, it’s not part of their weekly routine. And if they don’t come then our strategy is often to invite again and then again and if they never come come we quit inviting. However, typically, mature Christians attend church services. We don’t need to worry about whether they will or they won’t attend a church service, we just need to focus on helping them mature in Christ. Perhaps as they mature they will attend a different church service from ours – are we ok with that? Are we prepare to invest in people, disciple new believers, even if they don’t end up in our churches?

Jesus never said, “Invite them to a church service” but he did say “make disciples”. Perhaps the main reason we invite people to our church services and hand responsibility for discipleship over to our pastors is because we don’t know how to disciple them. There’s a simple solution to this challenge – learn how to disciple some.

What’s your church’s discipleship strategy? Where do you fit into the picture? If your neighbour said they wanted to know more about Jesus what’s your next step?


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