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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One thing that’s wrong with Crossway’s “Read through the ESV Reader’s Gospels in 30 Days”


Reading the Bible is a good idea. Reading through the Bible in 30 days is a good idea. Getting people to read their Bibles is a good idea. I applaud Crossway on their new Bible, Reader’s Gospel, and I pray that many will use it and find life through it, and the reading plan designed to go with it. And that’s what’s wrong with their reading plan. The purpose of the plan is to tick the box that says you did it – that’s it. They follow the same pattern of most Bible reading plans. Here is what you are to read today. Read it. Tick the box that says you have read it.  Celebrate.

THE problem with their reading plan is it’s purpose. Read your Bible. Tick the box that says you read it.

Doing spiritual exercises for the sake of doing spiritual exercises may, perhaps, if you get lucky, produce Christ-like character. Spiritual exercises are like physical exercises. If you haven’t done any before than anything is good. But aimless exercise won’t sustain you, nor help you long-term, and could actually hurt you if you aren’t really ready for it. If your purpose is to read the gospels in 30 days then at the end of 30 days you get to say, “I read the gospels in 30 days.” How does that help you? If you are a brand new Christian then just like the couch potato that decides to exercise you have a good chance of getting something out of ‘just reading your Bible’. But if you have been a Christian for awhile, if you have read through your Bible before, chances are this exercise will not help you at all. In fact, it will probably put you off consistently reading your Bible because there will be little benefit to doing it. You exercise to get healthier. If you aren’t getting fitter, stronger, faster – you quit.

Intentional exercise for an intentional outcome is always better than a suck and see approach. Those who train with purpose will produce better results.

A better approach is to have a better purpose behind your reading. For example, as you read through the gospels in 30 days ask yourself, “What do I learn about God from this passage?” Answering that question alone will cause you to engage with the passage as you read it. Anyone can read without thinking. Anyone can read a passage and at the end of it not remember a thing they read. So ask a question before you read it and see what it says about that question. Take 30 days, read through the gospels and ask, “What do I learn about God, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit from this passage?” Or perhaps, “What do I learn about people from this passage?”

Here are some other ideas:

  • How does Jesus disciple throughout the gospels?
  • How does Jesus connect with people?
  • How does Jesus teach?
  • Jesus always acts in love, so what does love look like in the gospels?
  • In what ways is this good news to me?
  • How does Jesus live in the grace of God?
  • What does this passage mean for those who in live in the Kingdom of God?
  • What do the gospels talk about the most?
  • Perhaps you might want to read emphatically, through the eyes of someone else.
  • Is there an example I can follow from this passage?
  • How can I apply this passage to my life today?
  • What do I need to change to align my life more to this gospel?
  • What is my response to this passage?
  • What is the writer trying to tell me?

Perhaps you will want to read it empathetically, through the eyes of another person:

  • What hope does this book offer me as a homosexual? How will Christians who believe in this gospel respond to me, a homosexual?
  • I am a refugee arriving in this country. I will encounter Christians. How will they treat me? I am a Muslim.

There are lots of questions you can ask about the gospels that will produce a richer and deeper experience than a “I read the gospels in 30 days – yay”.

I want to encourage you to print out a Bible reading plan and work your way through the gospel section over the next 30 days. On top of the plan write one question you will ask every day as you read through it. Let me know in the comments below what question you ask yourself 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.


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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Watch Movie Online Logan (2017)


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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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A Reproducing Group – Week 4

One of the stated goals of this discipleship group blog series is to reproduce. While the group process will equip the group participants to facilitate their own small group a few more things are required to get to reproduction. The first thing is a list of people whom they can invite to join their group. How do we do that? You ask them to map all the people they know: family, friends, neighbours, co-workers/student, and common interest people they know. If this sounds like the exercise you did in week 1 it’s because it is. Teach them how to do week 1. At the end of it they will have their own map of the people they can begin praying for an to invite to a group. If they have developed their facilitation skills to the point of leading a group then it’s time to have them practice how to invite and then releasing them to start. But, and this is a big but, don’t abandon them. I will talk more on this in week 6. But this week we need to address a small problem.

There’s one small problem with this model of reproduction and I hope you have noticed it and are wanting an answer. If all we do is start and reproduce discipleship groups with Christians when and how do we grow the Kingdom of God? While the Great Commission focuses on making disciples we see in Acts and the historical record of the Apostles that sharing of our faith with those far from God is what Jesus meant when he said ‘Go’. Some people are very gifted at this. In fact, about 1 in 10 people have some sort of evangelism gift. God bless them and their ministry. I love watching gifted evangelists. They naturally flow from whatever to the gospel story. I wish I could express the message of life like they do but I can’t. So the rest of this post is about how a non-evangelist can seek to bring life to others.

I use three stories. People like stories. Youtube and Facebook and TV all tell us that people love stories, even the 140 character ones on Twitter. There are three stories that need to be told. The first is their story. The second is your story and the last one is God’s story.

Their Story

Sadly, despite learning to sit and hear a sermon every week most Christians don’t listen very well and this first story is about listening. You will want to listen to the story of the person you are wanting to share with. I want you to genuinely listen to them. In fact, as an exercise, I would encourage you to have 5 conversations where you just listen to them without any other agenda. Just listen to them.

There are 5 questions/statements you will want to ask. They are a slight modification of William Fay’s taken from his book, “Share Jesus without Fear“. The Kindle version will cost you about US$3. It’s a great book and helped me learn how to start conversations. Most books on evangelism focus on why and how to share our faith but this one includes how to find out if the person wants to hear the gospel. If they do then proceed and if they don’t then don’t. Personally, I love his whole approach on how to safely share with others. I highly recommend you get a copy.

There is one question/statement which proceeds these five depending on whether you know the person well or not. If you know them well and have never truly listened to their story then say, “I’ve never taken the time to hear about what matters in your life. I would really like to know. Tell me …” If you don’t them well then say, “Tell me about yourself.” This will lead naturally into the first request below. Here are the 5 questions/requests:

  1. Tell me about your spiritual beliefs
  2. To you, who is Jesus?
  3. Do you think there is a heaven or hell?
  4. If you died tonight, where would you go and why?
  5. If the truth was something different, would you want to know?

These are the broad questions. Please, please, please, if they have spiritual beliefs then explore them. What do they believe and what does that mean for them? Don’t debate them. Don’t tell them they are wrong. Listen to them. Probe out of interest not to score points. People are happy to talk about themselves so let them. Be interested in what they believe for what they are believe is the essence of who they are – get to know them deeply and well.

The way you ask the second question is really important. You are not asking, “Who is Jesus?” or “What do you know about Jesus?” These questions are about facts and will lead to arguments. Don’t go there. And worse than that, they don’t tell you what the other person feels and thinks about Jesus as he is to them. Look again at question 2 – they can’t be wrong. That makes it a good question to answer since they can’t get it wrong. And if you can’t be wrong then you are more likely to honestly reply. They could say that Jesus was a hippie from the 70’s sent back in time. I don’t think that’s true but I didn’t ask them for the truth; I asked them who Jesus was to them. It’s the ‘to them’ that makes it a safe question for them to answer.

Throughout this conversation in what they believe do not, DO NOT, start a debate. Listen to them. This is crucial for three reasons. Firstly, it’s polite. Secondly, it’s wise. It’s said that when an amateur speaker is asked to come and present a message they will ask what to speak on while the professional asks to whom they will be speaking. Knowing them, hearing them, listening to their story and their beliefs is more important at this stage than what you are going to say. Yes, what you have to say is important, but first know your audience. There are four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Four different audiences. Four different stories. Know your audience first. The last reason is that we are given two ears and one mouth and they should be used in that proportion. Spend time listening to people and you will find they will give you an opportunity to speak. We aren’t listening to them to manipulate them into listening to us, we are listening to their beliefs because their beliefs are the core of who they are and as precious human beings whom God loves they deserve for us to listen to their deepest selves.

Now, notice the last question. Question 5. What do you think you do if they say ‘No’? You do nothing. If they don’t want to know then go no further in the discussion. If, however, they say yes then ask one more question; “Can I share something with you?” If they say ‘No’, stop. If they say ‘Yes’, continue. Respect their ‘No’. If they say ‘No’ then it’s no. Jesus let people walk away and so should we.

Your Story

If they have said yes then it’s time to tell your story.While you could tell your whole story it’s best to keep it short as a lead in to God’s story. Your story is the answer to the question, “What difference has Jesus made to your life?” There could be many, many answers to this question. You have many, many stories to tell. Choose one of those answers and tell them that one story. It shouldn’t take more than 1-2 minutes. The more answers you have the easier it will be to identify with their story as a bridge to God’s story. Practice with the people in your group. Take turns telling each other how Jesus impacts your life. Practice listening to each other.

God’s Story

Lastly, you will want to tell God’s story and invite them to place their trust in Jesus. As I stated above, I love the way William Fay does it. His method uses questions and self-discovery to share the gospel. His approach ensures they understand the gospel story before asking for a commitment. I love this approach. There are lots of other great approaches out there. The Roman Road, the Hand Gospel (God, Man, God, No, Yes), Do vs Done, The Bridge, Creation to Christ, Four Spiritual Laws, Evangecube. I suggest you find one and use that as a model for your group. Get them sharing with that one method and perhaps introduce them to another one if you need to. By keeping to one model you make reproduction easier. Everyone understands the model approach and can help each other get better at it. Which approach is best? The one you are using. Due to the length of this post I won’t elaborate any more on the various methods. Find one that works for your cultural context and teach it to your group.

For Aussies

I need to mention this for my Australian readers. In Australia there are two taboo topics – Politics and Religion. In most parts of the world these are daily topics and asking someone about their spiritual belief is fine and normal. But not in Oz. Some good news and some bad news. The good news is that it is White Australians that have the biggest problem with talking about religion. If you are talking to an immigrant, an Afghan Aussie, or a Greek Aussie, or an India Aussie, then it’s actually ok to talk about spiritual matters. They come from lands where these topics aren’t taboo. The bad news is that White Aussies don’t like to talk about religion. So don’t. Back to the good news. Spiritual beliefs are different from religion. Everyone has some kind of spiritual belief – even atheists. Keep it to their beliefs without asking them to defend themselves and you will be fine.

That’s it. Teach them how to facilitate a group and teach them to share their faith. Many will not lead a group even though they know how. Train them anyway. Many will not share their faith even though they know how. Train them anyway. What you don’t know is who has the gift to do it and those who don’t. People will surprise you. Train everyone. Equip, Empower and Encourage everyone. Some won’t but some will. Years ago George Barna wrote a book called “Evangelism that works”. His conclusion was that those who do evangelism see people come to new life in Jesus and those who don’t do evangelism don’t see people come to new life. You may not have a gift of evangelism but by training those in your group to disciple others who disciple others evangelists will be found and they will reap a large harvest. But if they are never trained, never shown how to make a map, never empowered and released then they will sit in church never knowing the joy of giving their gift away. Train for reproduction and you will see results.

Let me know how you are going with your discipleship groups. What’s working? What needs more important? Where are you getting stuck? What are some of the success stories?

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A Reproducing Group – Week 3

There are many different types of small groups that you can start. Some groups are prayer groups where their primary purpose is to pray. Other groups are Bible study groups where, guess what, their primary purpose is to study the Bible. The type of group I am suggesting over these 6 weeks is a Holistic Small Group.

This term, Holistic Small Group, is a term coined by Christian Schwartz in his book, “Natural Church Development“. There is not a single purpose to this group. Instead, the small group is holistic, in that each element is intimately connected to one another. Three core elements are summarised by the words, “Head, Heart, Hands”. Let me begin with Hands, discuss Head and then Heart and finish with the challenge and tension of Hands vs Heart.

In the Great Commission Jesus says, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” It’s not enough that people know God’s truth. It must be applied. James says it well, “be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). If someone can’t apply God’s Word the problem may be that they don’t understand it but it could be that they don’t know how to apply it. And even then they may need to train in order to develop the spiritual muscles to apply it. Physically, I could show you how to do a one-arm push up. I could clearly explain it to you. But, if you are like most people, you will not be able to do it. No amount of effort will help. If you don’t have the strength then you will be stuck. Spiritually is no different. Too often we are asking people to do something they are spiritually unfit to do. It’s not a question of understanding or desire but one of unfitness. If you are seeking to bless and not curse the first step may be learning to be silent and not cursing and once that is mastered then moving on to learning how to bless. Growth is a process. Granted, sometimes God miraculously gives growth but more often than not it comes from Spiritual training. Paul wisely tells Timothy, “train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim 4:7). It is for these reasons that in this group process the Bible study finishes with a discussion on how you will apply the passage. It’s important that the group process moves people to becoming doers of the Word. The application may be different for each member as we are all at different levels of growth. Knowing what you want to do and doing it are two different things and so you move from the desire to do to practising what you will do. A whole third of the group time is given to practising because it’s that important. It’s best to teach less and practice more than know more and not be able to apply it. Obviously, before we can apply we need to know.

There are many, many passages that talk about the need for us to change our minds (eg. Rom 12:2, Col 3:2) The transformation toward Jesus requires thinking. Thinking about Scriptural truths and challenging our current thinking is essential in the Christian walk. It is through thinking that God graciously gives us understanding (2Tim2:7). Within your groups you will want to give people time to think, to question, to wrestle with God’s truth. Through discussing the passage, without judgement, the group members can explore what God’s Word has to say to them. Often God’s Word is very, very clear and people filled with God’s Spirit understand it easily. The challenge for many is not what God’s Word says but the inability to apply it. The command to love our enemies is not difficult to understand but can be terribly hard to live out. However, it is through intentional thinking that we can find ways to apply Scripture to our lives. But our faith is not just about our heads. The Christian faith is filled with emotion and feelings and we need to consider them also.

We are emotional creatures. If the environment is safe we are less defensive, more open, more honest. If I ask you “How are you doing?” you will answer according to the safety of our relationship. The strength of discipleship in a group is that we can open our lives for others to speak into areas we cannot see, areas we are afraid to go into, areas where we struggle to make any progress. In a group we get to stand with one another in these dark areas, these scary areas and challenge them together. However, unless I feel safe with you it is unlikely that I will show you these dark areas. If there is judgement then I am unlikely to be open. If I am struggling with pornography will you stand with me, as a fellow sinner, without judgement,  and help me overcome it through God’s grace? If I feel safe in the group, knowing that you are for me and not against me, then I am likely to share my darkness, my struggles, my stuckness. It is through developing intimacy in the group that I am best able to discuss how to apply God’s Word more meaningfully and relevantly to my life. Taking the time to worship God together, to pray for each other’s needs, to dialogue about God’s Word, to hear what each other likes and dislikes will lead to greater intimacy.

A challenge that comes from developing intimacy is the need to multiply. If left unchecked, intimacy may become a barrier to new people. The group, once open, becomes inward looking and self-focused. The message of Jesus is one of outward looking and reaching out. One of the greatest challenges to intimacy is the dividing of groups. There are two ways to develop intimacy and multiply.

The first approach is to maintain a closed group. That is, the group doesn’t allow new people to join. Multiplication, however, can still happen if each member of the group is encouraged to belong to a group and to lead a group. If this pattern continues then generations of groups would be established. The strength of this approach is that personal and leadership development happen together. The original group members would grow from members, to leaders, to coaches, to Disciple Making Movement leaders. In this way the group maintains an outward focus without losing the intimacy of the original group.

The second approach is to have an open group. This group permits new people to join. Once the group becomes too large multiplication occurs through developing new leaders who birth a new group. There are other ways to describe the birth process. Positively, we can say ‘birthing’ and ‘planting’ while negatively we can say ‘splitting’ and ‘dividing’. Those against multiplication are likely to use these negative terms while those in favour of multiplication will use the positive terms. ‘Splitting’ relationships doesn’t sound nice. ‘Birthing’ a new group sounds painful yet a joyful as a new ‘baby’ group is born. ‘Planting’ implies hard work but fruitfulness comes to mind. ‘Dividing’ sounds less than the original.

The strength of this approach is that some group facilitators are very good at developing leaders and inviting new people but not so good at coaching them. This allows them to release group members into a system (hopefully) with trained, gifted coaches who will take those new leaders and continue to develop them. The weakness of this approach is that if too many new people keep joining the group then intimacy falters. It is difficult to share intimately with those you don’t trust. One solution to this challenge is to close the group for a season and have times of openness where growth can occur. Adding just one person every 3 months means that you would double your group every two years which would lead to a new group being established every 2 years.

In reality, both approaches will be needed at different times. The important thing is to continue to develop intimacy without losing an outward focus. In the small group process described in week 2, there is ample opportunity to develop intimacy while maintaining an outward focus. These two elements need to be balanced with the application of God’s Word to our lives. Intimacy builds the safe environment for change to take place while an outward focus is what gave us the opportunity to belong to a group and one which gives others the same opportunity.

What is strongest in your group, Head, Heart or Hands? What is weakest? What about for you personally? Which one feels most comfortable for you? What has surprised you as you apply this process? What’s working? What’s not?

Please leave a comment and let me know how the group process is working for you. If you would like this emailed to you directly the please hit the subscribe button.


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A Reproducing Group – Week 2

group processThis is going to be a fairly long post as I am going to describe how to facilitate the group process. It’s worth the read. I have tried to be thorough yet brief. If something isn’t clear or you have any doubts leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

One of the goals of this small group process is to reproduce. It’s aimed at being simple but not simplistic. While you could run your small group with this format and process indefinitely I would hope that you would develop and grow beyond this simple process. The simplicity of this process is so that it can easily be reproduced. It’s a starting point so that even a new believer could start a group with their friends with little or no Bible knowledge.

The process is broken up into 3 parts. Each part is to receive one third of your time. If you have 60 minutes then each part gets 20 minutes. If you have 90 minutes then each part gets 30 minutes. These parts are called: Gather, Grow, Go.

The focus of the Gather part is to bring the group together with Jesus, to share what has happened throughout the week, and to care for one another. The second part, Grow, is a study in the Scriptures. The final part, Go, focuses on how the group members will apply what they are learning in the group. It is in this part that members will practice what they are learning including how to run their own group. This final part is crucial to reproduction and should not be skipped. Let’s break each part down further.

gather titleGather

There are five key elements to this part. The first is to worship God. This can be done through music, through reflection of a psalm, to answering the question, “What are you thankful to God for this week?” The goal is to centre the group on God. The second element is to move from the vertical to the horizontal and show care for one another. Take time to listen to the high’s and low’s of the member’s week and pray for one another. The third element is to ask each other about what they said they would do the previous week. This is to be a time of loving accountability. Later in the group each person will share how they intended to apply the Word to their life – it’s important to ask them how they went with implementing. There are many reasons why people fail to apply Scripture such as time, fear, incompetence. If you don’t ask them what happened you will not be able to stand with gatherthem and find a way to overcome their barriers to obedience. The fourth element is a time of casting vision for the discipleship of other believers and sharing their faith with those far from God. In this time take out your maps and pray over them, pray for each other’s maps, pray that everyone on the map would have a chance to grow in God’s grace. The final element is reviewing what you have been doing and studying together as you move into the second part, Grow.

So, the gather part may look like this:
1. What’s something you are thankful to God for this week?”
2. What are some of the high’s and low’s you have experienced since the last group?
How can we pray for you tonight?
3. Last week you were going to try and do [insert their action], how did that go?
(If it went well, praise God. If it didn’t go well, ask, “How can we help you do it this week?”)
4. Let’s take out maps and pray for them. (Obviously the first week only you have your map but they will develop theirs in the coming weeks).
5. Let’s review what we have looked at so far in our group…

grow titleGrow

One of the biggest fears people have of running a small group is that they don’t know the Bible well enough to teach it. In this format you won’t be “teaching” the Bible. Instead, you will be facilitating a discussion about it. While people will learn and be taught the emphasis is not on you as a teacher but as a facilitator. Instead of being the Bible expert you will ask questions and help them to see what the Scriptures say. This method has some problems. People could miss the point of the passage and come up with some weird thoughts and ideas. The passage could be very difficult and beyond what the group is able to grasp. Despite the potential problems most Christians don’t struggle to grasp the basic meaning of the Bible but rather they struggle with how to make it work in their life.

growThere will be six questions that you will ask each week. For a few weeks you will want to restrict yourself to just these questions. The reason for this is to help in reproduction. If the Bible study component is based on your Bible knowledge then you need to teach them what you know in order for them to reproduce. If you ask deep, creative questions each week then you will need to teach them how to generate deep, creative questions. If you ask the same six questions each week then you need to teach them the six questions. This restriction makes reproduction easier. I’m not saying you must remain with just these questions. These questions are for the starting of groups in helping them to get to reproduction – that’s all.

These are the six questions:
1. What does the passage say? (If they say something that isn’t in the passage ask, “Where does it say that?”) It’s helpful to have the group read the passage out loud, in different translations if they are present, and then to retell the passage in their own words. The purpose of this question is not to discuss what the passage means only what it says.
2. What do you like about this passage? (Everybody can answer this question because they can’t be wrong.)
3. What do you dislike about this passage? (Again, there can be no wrong answer. Question 2 and 3 get people talking.)
4. What do we learn about God (Father, Son and Spirit) from this passage?
5. What do we learn about people and ourselves from this passage? (If there are multiple groups of people in the passage you can ask, for example from Mark 5, “What do we learn about people from the demoniac? From the Apostles? From the town folk?”)
6. What can you apply from this passage? (We don’t just want to be hearers of the Word we want to be doers.)

In the final question help them to be as specific as possible. eg from Mark 5 they might say, “I will share my faith with my friends.” You could ask, “Which friends?” The more specific someone can be in their application the more likely they are to do it.

go titleGo

If you have ever been involved in a small group you are probably familiar with the first two parts. This part is crucial to helping people actually apply the Scriptures to their life and get to starting their own group. This part is all about practising. Discipleship is about training. You may know every detail about how to run a marathon but unless you have trained for it you are unlikely to be able to do it. So to with the Christian life. Studying how to love our enemies is easy. Stating what I seek to do during the week is easy. Living it out – now that’s the hard part. Notice that in the Great Commission that Jesus doesn’t ask us to teach everything he taught but rather, he asks us to teach them to obey everything he taught. People need to learn obedience. Sometimes obedience comes easily but often it doesn’t. We need to train for obedience through discipleship. This time doesn’t have to be serious. Try to make it playful in the sense that it is training. It’s ok to fail in training. In fact, that’s what training is for. It’s in training that you want to try new things and fail. Keep this section focused on having a go and not on getting it right. With consistent training positive results will come – trust the process.

goThere are three elements to learning obedience in this final part. The first element is to practice what they have just said they will do during the week. Using Mark 5 as our example, if they said they will share the gospel with a friend have them practice with another group member. It is here that people discover the cliche, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, in practice there is.” Many people will discover that they don’t know how they are actually going to do what they said they would. This is the time to show them how. If you don’t know then as a group you will seek the answer and grow together. The second element is to practice the first two parts. While you may not have time every week to practice all the elements of the first two parts you can choose one element and have the group practice it. For example, if in the worship time you begin with a song then have the group members practice introducing the song to the group and how to start singing it. This may sound simple but if you have never introduced a song before and led off as the first singer it’s a very difficult task. Asking the six questions needs to be taught and practised. At the end of this practice time look for someone who could lead that element the following week. Each week involve more the group members and you will slowly train them how to facilitate the group. It’s this practice time where they get to train that will lead them to being able to do during the group time. Lastly, you will want to pray for each other that you would have God’s grace to live in obedience to his will.

That’s it. Here is a simple small group process that isn’t based on how much you know and more on facilitating a process of discovery. It’s a process that helps people to practice in a safe environment where they can build their confidence through developing their competence. Give it a go. You will be amazed at the insights people will have as you study Scripture. Their applications will astound you – I promise. Often in the groups where we study Mark 5 people will identify with the demoniac and come up with the application of sharing of their faith. In one group a lady identified with Jesus and “We should go looking for those who are harassed by demons and pray for them to be set free.”

Oh, one last point – which passages do you study? There are no limitations on what you can look at but here is a list of passages I like to use for a starter group whether they are hard-core Christians or far from God.

  1. The Weeping Woman Luke 7:36-50
  2. Tax Collector Luke 18:9-17
  3. A hole in the roof Luke 15:17-26
  4. God loves the world John 3:16-21
  5. A Hard Road Mat 16:21-17:9
  6. Trial and Crucifixion Mark 15-16:8
  7. Two Sons Luke 15:11-32

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