Category Archives: Discipleship

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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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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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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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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Transformation with this simple change

Last post I posted a “Who am I?” Did you work it out? Scroll down for the answer.

new-habit

The answer is: Your Habits. Our habits form the essence of who we are. From deep within us our beliefs shape our thoughts which shape our actions which shape our habits which shape our lives. With repeated action the habit of doing becomes stronger and stronger and the thoughts become more and more automatic until one day we wake up and find that we are just doing it, without thought, without conscious decision, without really knowing our underlying belief system.Watch movie online Get Out (2017)

I’m not suggesting this process is a bad one nor is it a good one. It just is. If the belief system is good then the habits will bear positive fruit and if the underlying belief system is evil then the corresponding habits will produce pain. The process itself is neutral. It doesn’t care whether we begin with a positive belief or an evil one.

Many of your habits were not chosen by yourself. Your parents, your school, your friends, your culture all feed into your belief system and your habits were born. For some, taking time everyday to thank God for his goodness was a part of daily family life. For others, no such habit ever existed. If you are still a child then many of your daily routines will be determined by others but there are things you do have control over and I would encourage you to develop habits now. If you are an adult then you have the responsibility to address those habits you don’t like and to develop the habits you do like and want in your life.

Some habits will be so ingrained into your life and so socially acceptable that it will take a very long time to undue them at the core of your being. In the same way that developing new habits may take a long time. The key to developing a habit is to forget the destination and just focus on the next step. If the habit takes 5 years then it will take 5 years. The benefits will be experienced along the way anyway so you might as well get started. Having a fully formed habit just makes the doing of it easier, more automatic. The 5 years are going to come regardless of what you do so you might as well get started and at the end of the time you will have your habit. Of course, many habits can be achieved much sooner than that.

There will be two kinds of habits you will want to work with. The first are those you want to get rid of and the second are those you want to develop. It’s often easier to start with those you want to develop as they have a way of pushing out those that you want to discard. Those habits which you want to get rid of are easy to recognise – they are the ones you don’t want others to know about.

In your journey to becoming more like Jesus what are the 3-4 things that would help you the most? What spiritual disciplines would you like to be a part of your daily life? Over a long time what impact would that spiritual discipline bring to your life?

Here are two ideas in how building habits can make a difference in your life. The first example is memorizing the Bible. If you memorized 1 verse per week then over the span of 10 years you would know over 500 verses. In memorizing you also meditate and for me personally, that makes a huge difference in my life. I know that for many people (myself included) that memorization is tough. Learning 1 verse per week might be unrealistic. From my experience, some verses were easy to memorize (John 11:35) while others too me months and months and months (James 3:1-3). In order to build the habit I don’t set a requirement on the number of verses I MUST learn each week. Instead, my habit is to look at my Bible Memory App on my phone.

Did you notice the habit? It isn’t hours of memorization. It isn’t learning a set number or reviewing a set number. It isn’t even spending 5 minutes per day (I was wrong in suggesting 15 minutes in this post). It’s opening the App on my phone. The reason I do this is for 2 reasons. Firstly, I want the habit of reviewing. If I review each day then I will make progress. If I lock the habit into a number of verses per day or for a set amount of time I risk not doing it especially if I am short on for time or mentally exhausted. The habit can be done very, very easily. Remember, the power of the habit comes in the repetition over time. The small increments all add. The second reason is that mentally it is easier to continue to do something which I am successfully doing. The smallness of the habit makes it too easy to do. I can be in bed about to sleep after a HUGE day and still say, “Oh, quick, open the app, look, yep, done, sleep”. I can do it in less than 60 seconds. Every time I do that I carve out a small chunk in brain pathways which says I am the kind of person who memorizes Scripture. Which is, by the way, the ultimate goal of the habit – to define you.

Let’s take another habit – being quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry. I think if I get the first two right then I will get the third one right too. Needless to say, I am more of the quick to speak slow to listen kind of guys. The goal habit is to listen first and then speak. So the starting place for this habit, is to listen to one conversation per day where I clarify what they said before I say anything I want to say. I only need to do this once to be successful. I want to build daily success to become week and then monthly success. I want my brain to say, “This is what I do.” I want to establish the habit and let the process build the depth.

By having small daily goals the pathway in my brain will easily be laid and the habit will be formed. As the habit takes over the results will come more easily. I could have bigger goals – “In every conversation I will listen first” – but I know I will fail and that failure will lead to discouragement and that discouragement will lead to me quitting. So I make it easy to succeed. I start small and build the habit. Of course, if I choose to listen better in every conversation then that’s a bonus but as far as my brain is concerned, it’s not necessary. Just like doing a 30 minute review of all my verses would be good but the habit of doing something daily is more important.

The key to building habits is resting in the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Jesus has already made you acceptable to the Father. Rest in that. Developing godly habits will make you more like Jesus and enable you to experience more of God’s goodness. Make the effort but don’t let your success (or failure) determine your relationship with God; it doesn’t, Jesus does.

 

Leave a comment and let me know which habits you are trying and don’t forget to subscribe so that you will get these straight to your inbox.

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One thing you must do to get your disciple-making beyond second generation

Most discipleship programs are jug to mug. By that I mean, the teacher/disciple-maker talks and the student listens. The teacher may ask questions for understanding but that’s about it. This type of discipleship will lead to head-knowledge but very little else. Knowledge of what to do does not equal the ability to do it.  Training and practice are required if one is to grow and be like Jesus. This style of discipleship almost never attains reproduction. What you end up with is a teacher with students or a preacher and a congregation. Personally, I don’t like it. Jesus asks his disciples to go and make disciples. That commandment is not the number one commandment (or even number two) but it’s still an important command for the church today. No MAWLThe commandment is given to everyone. When a disciple-maker stops people from going and making disciples they undermine the obedience of those they are teaching. We teach so that lives may be transformed, so that people can live well in the Kingdom of God. Why on earth would we ask them to be disobedient to God’s Word when his Word brings life? When we fail to encourage and teach others to fulfil the Great Commission we are undermining their obedience and the good life that Jesus talks about. To me, this is like a music teacher always showing the student how to play the instrument but never letting them have a go or a coach that drills the player at practice and then makes them sit on the sidelines every game. Disciples need to make disciples. It brings life.

The way to move from head knowledge to proficient application is through MAWL. Through Modelling, Assisting, Watching and Leaving the disciple-maker is able to reproduce themselves and develop MAWLanother disciple-maker. Whether it’s teaching them to lead a bible study or how to pray or how to lead a church of 5,000, MAWL reproduces. When MAWL is applied you end up with this diagram: That’s much better than the first diagram, don’t you think? I think so. MAWLing will get you to the second generation (you being the first). To get beyond the second generation you need to do one thing – MAWL MAWL.

MAWLing MAWLUsing the process of Model, Assist, Watch, Leave, you now need to apply this to the MAWL process. In other words, you need to show (Model) your new disciple-maker how to do MAWL. Then you need to coach (Assist) them as they begin to put it into practice. As they build confidence and competence in the process your role moves to observation (Watch) and when they are ready you release (Leave) them. Just because they have been through the MAWL process doesn’t mean they know it. Remember, knowing is not enough. People need training. Training means more than head knowledge. It means helping them to put it into practice and do what they can until they can do what they can’t. When you MAWL MAWL you fully reproduce yourself by enabling them to reproduce too.

For example, let’s say you are teaching someone how to study the Bible at home. You Model, Assist, Watch and Leave. They now can study the Bible at home. What they can do now is to Model it to someone else but that doesn’t mean they know how to Assist, Watch or Leave. Until you MAWL the process they will be stuck at the Model stage. In practice, this is often enough. Often, just seeing how it is done is enough. But for best practice, for best results, MAWL will give much better results. Once you help them to learn the MAWL process they can move beyond applying the truth themselves and simply modelling the truth to others and move toward others applying and reproducing the truth too. MAWL MAWL to get beyond the second generation in your discipleship of others.

When you don’t MAWL you develop people who know the truth.

When you MAWL you develop people who can apply the truth.

When you MAWL MAWL you develop people who can reproduce the truth.

Let me know what you think about MAWLing MAWL in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe.

 

 

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4 steps to discipleship reproduction

BigBrothersJesus said to the disciples to go and make disciples. We are to reproduce. We are to pass on what we have learnt. Disciples making disciples. This is Jesus’ strategic plan to establish his kingdom. Disciples making disciples. In order for this to happen we need a process that will lead to reproduction. Here is a simple 4 step process to reproduce.

In several places (eg. 1 Cor 4:16, Phil 3:17) Paul calls those to whom he is writing to imitate himself (as he has in turn imitated Jesus). Paul has shown them how to live in the Kingdom of God under the rule of Jesus. In 1 Thess 1:4-8 Paul highlights that the message he brought wasn’t just in words but was also in power and in the Holy Spirit. In calling others to imitate him Paul didn’t just use words, he showed them how to do it. The first step is to show people how. If you are leading a group then by default you are showing them how to lead a group. However, if you have had to do preparation work where will they learn to do this? You will need to show them how to do that too. Whatever you have done to prepare for the group discipleship you will need to show them. When you assume that someone knows how to do what you have done you will create holes in their understanding which will cause problems later down the traco. Show them how you do it. This is the first step. Whether it’s leading a discipleship group or helping them to devotionally read their bible, show them.

While the first step is important we saw in my previous post (“Just ’cause you know it doesn’t mean you can do it“) that understanding what needs to be done and doing it are two different things. Once you have modelled to them how to do it’s time to help them do it. In this step you come along side them. You partner with them and be their helper, their sidekick. Whatever assistance they need you provide. Before they have a go it’s important for you to lead them through everything they need to do to ensure they are prepared with what needs to happen. Make it as easy as possible for them to succeed. If they get stuck help them get through it. If they get nervous offer them reassurance. If they forget something offer a gentle reminder.

After they have had a go debrief with them. From my experience people can be really negative and harsh toward their own efforts. Help them see the reality. If they are leading a group I suggest you get the group to give positive feedback and then during the debrief begin with the question, “What did you hear the group say?” Help them to hear the positive. If it’s just one-on-one then give them positive feedback and ask the question, “What did you hear me say?” Help them hear the positive.

As they develop the confidence and ability to perform the new task (such as disciple in a group or conduct ministry meetings, or preach, or devotionally read their bible) your assistance will become less and less and less. You will move from an active helper to an observer. They will still make mistakes just like we all do. In this third step you need to make a conscious effort to move into the role of an observer. Still debrief but back off from assisting. There may be times when they are way over their head so of course you would step in but otherwise it’s important to stand back and see how they respond. It’s here that they grow. Let them work out how they will handle it. Allow them to strive to put into practice what you are learning. Allow them to sink a little but not to drown.

The last step is to leave. In leaving you create a vacuum which they must fill. If you remain then you will take over again eventually. So create the vacuum that allows them to step up and disciple others. It’s a great phase for both of you as you are fulfilling the great commission. Celebrate this phase as you have finished the reproduction cycle. You now have someone who is capable of doing what you have been doing. Praise God.

This process – Model, Assist, Watch, Leave, can be applied at the simplest and most complex levels. From teaching someone how to memorize scripture, to preparing a sermon, to running a small group to running a church with 5 staff. By using Model, Assist, Watch, Leave (MAWL) you can reproduce yourself in others and you empower others to do what you are doing.

Depending on what you are wanting them to learn and their maturity level the time frame of each step will vary. If you are teaching them how to read their Bible devotionally then you can probably work through the whole process in 30-60 minutes. If you are teaching them how to prepare a sermon then it may take a few months. Use the wisdom Christ gives you and work through the process steadily and you will get to reproduction.

Let me know how the MAWL process works for you. Leave a comment and don’t forget to subscribe to get this blog
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A Reproducing Group – Week 5

tagIn an orchestra there is one conductor and lots and lots of musicians. Some musicians are super stars. They could be the soloists or the leader of their section. They do most of the work, sound the loudest, and play all the best parts. And then there are the minor musicians. They have a smaller part to play. Notice two key things about an orchestra.

Firstly, there are lots of different musicians. There are violinists and flautists and tubists and others. Each instrument adds to the flavour and sound of the orchestra. Each instrument is important to the whole orchestra. The role of the musician is to play that instrument well, as a member of the orchestra, to add flavour and variety to the piece of music.

The second thing to notice is that there are often multiple musicians playing the same instrument, playing the same piece of music, at the same time. There are multiple violinists. Multiple flautists. Multiple tubists. The different types of instruments gives width and variety while the combination of the same instruments gives depth and volume. Both aspects are important. The variety of the instruments is important and the sameness of instruments is important.

So to with your small group.

Within your group there will be people with different talents, abilities and gifts (TAG). You will want them to use their TAG so the group is amazing. As each person in the group learns what their TAG is, and has the chance to use it within the group, they will become more competent and confident in using their TAG which will help the group function well. They may use their TAG in the church service, they may use their TAG in another ministry throughout the week, they may use their TAG in any other part of their lives. The best part of helping someone develop and use their TAG is that God is glorified. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, ESV) Developing someone’s unique contribution to the world brings glory to God.

Some people in your group will have a unique TAG while others may have a similar one. Both are important to your group as they add variety and depth. Develop everyone. Train everyone. Give everyone the opportunity to play their part in God’s orchestra.

There are many great tools out there for helping people discover their TAGs. Many are self-discovery while others require feedback from those closest to them. A simple method is to give people the freedom to try and fail within your group. Where there is the freedom to try and fall short there will always be new discoveries. Within your group encourage people to experiment. Using passages like Rom 12:3-8 or 1 Cor 12:4-11 as a guide to the different types of TAGs that people may have ask group members to try an experiment and see if they have an aptitude for it. In this way they will be discover if they have a TAG for helping, or serving, or administration, etc.

For example. Allow different group members to prepare and teach on a passage. Not facilitate a discussion through questions like we saw in week 2 but for them to prepare to teach the passage out of their TAG. Depending upon their teaching paradigm they might teach through monologue, or group exploration, or drama, or through some other means of teaching. There are many different approaches to teaching. But, If they have a talent for it then it should be obvious to the group. And more importantly, it should be obvious to them. Even if they still need to develop skill a natural or supernatural TAG will be obvious. I’ve seen a middle aged man, who just happened to walk in on a jam session, encouraged to sit behind the drum kit and see what it feels like. A simple experiment that led to the birth of a new drummer in the church. Give people the freedom to explore and they will discover what they are good at. Create a fun, safe environment where people can try something without condemnation and they will surprise everyone with what they can do.

You can tell when someone has a TAG. There will be a passion that wells up within them for behaving this way. They will be motivated, alive, fulfilled. Doing a good job leaves you satisfied; doing a job you are made for leaves you fulfilled even when you do it badly. Additionally, there will be something within you and the others in the group that see something in them. Even if they do it horribly (skill often will need to be developed) there will be something that the group recognizes. They may not have a TAG in that activity but in a safe group they will have the opportunity to explore it further.

Once you know their TAG it’s time to fan them into flames. They might require training (the new drummer above within a week of realising this ability signed up for lessons). They may just need more opportunities to practice their TAG so that they can become more competent. Their development may be outside your TAG and skill level. You may not be the best person to help them develop their TAG. But, you can journey with them. You can help them to find those who can help them. You can help them explore where they can use their TAG and where they can receive the support to develop it further. Your job as a disciple maker is not to do all the training but it is to help them to grow in who God has made them to be.

Knowing your TAG doesn’t absolve you of your responsibilities. Some have a gift of mercy and they ooze compassion and concern. If you don’t have the gift of mercy you still are called to be merciful. It will be harder for you but we need to show mercy. Some have the gift of giving and their generosity is outstanding. We all need to be cheerful givers. Some have the gift of encouragement but we can all offer encouragement to the fearful. Maybe not as well as those with a TAG for it but it’s important that we encourage one another, TAG or no TAG.

So the purpose of knowing your TAG and helping others know their TAG is to build up the body of Christ. So that each person can play their part in God’s kingdom as God created them. In a church service there is very little room to experiment and explore what a person’s TAG may be. In a small group members can try and fail and laugh and try again. Some things will work while other things will not. But let us encourage one another to have a go and see if God has something for us that we never imagined.

 

 

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