Category Archives: Grow

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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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)


Filed under Discipleship, Grow

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 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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Filed under Gather, Go, Groups, Grow

You can’t have a bucket bath with a thimble

bucketbathIn an outback camp in Australia, or in many homes in India, where there is little running water and no shower if you want to clean yourself you need to take a bucket bath. You fill a bucket with water (my preference is with warm to hot water) and you take a smaller bucket and you dip the smaller bucket into the bigger bucket and pour the water over your head. Your body gets wet, you soap it up, rub all over, and then repeat the pouring of water over your body to wash it all off. Right there is an image of how we can make progress in our walk with Jesus.

In 1 Timothy 4 Paul gives instruction to Timothy on what it will take for him to be a good minister. At the end of the list of things to do Paul finishes with the encouragement to “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” (1 Timothy 4:15, ESV) If we are going to see progress in our Christian walk we are going to need to practice and immerse ourselves so that the change can take place. You wouldn’t try having a bucket bath with a thimble – you would never get wet enough to start applying the soap. The progress with a thimble would take far too long for us to even bother. And yet, many times we dabble with spiritual disciplines and never really get wet enough to make a change. For a spiritual breakthrough more may be required.

The idea of practising and immersing may not require a long time but it needs to be an intense time. The reason we get wet in a bucket bath is because we pour enough water on ourselves to get fully wet. The same thing applies spiritually. Perhaps an intense time, a thimbleshort intense time, may be required for a spiritual breakthrough. Having chosen an area you want to change in an all out effort may bring more change in a short period of time than dabbling over a very long period. You might see more progress from an hour a day for a month than dabbling and hoping for change over a year.

The starting point is knowing what you want to change and why you want to change. Having worked that out you now need to sort out which disciplines will help you make that change possible. Perhaps a long slow process will be required but perhaps a shorter, more intense time will work better.

In 2015 we can end the year the same or more like Jesus. While a lot of change will be out of control we can intentionally seek to make progress. Pray it through, talk it through with others, and conduct an experiment and see what kind of progress you could make.

What change would you like to see by the end of 2015? Which approach do you think will work best to bring about the progress you are after?

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Why don’t some people grow?

dyingflowerThere is nothing more exciting in a church than to see transformation take place. Pastors live for it. When a marriage that is falling apart is restored everyone wins. When an addict can turn away from their addiction and trust in Jesus alone it’s a thing of beauty. When a dad no longer shouts and screams at his kids the whole church rejoices. When a young teenager fails in a suicide attempt and then finds meaning, hope and purpose the world is a nicer place. Churches thrive on transformation. So why doesn’t it happen as often as we would like? Why doesn’t it happen in our lives as much as we would hope for? There are primarily two reasons, laziness and fear of success.

A key ingredient to growth is grace. We need God’s grace flowing through his people to change. A huge misconception with receiving grace is that there is nothing for the receiver to do. That’s simply not true. Peter implores his readers “to make every effort” to add to their faith (1 Pet. 1:5-9). Paul, in 1 Tim 4:7, encourages Timothy to train himself to be godly. Both Peter and Paul teach, preach and breathe grace and yet they encourage their readers to act, to make an effort. Grace is not opposed to effort. Receiving grace is a gift, that is, you cannot earn it. But receiving it requires effort. And many simply aren’t willing to make the effort.

Many Christians desire to be more like Jesus but they are lazy. The pain of effort is too much for them to change. Internally they lack the motivation to change. Two things will help them. Firstly, they receive such an incredible vision of what they could be like if they made the effort that the motivation to overcome the pain of change occurs. It could be a verse they read in the Bible that inspires them, or a sermon, or hearing a testimony of transformation. They get a vision that motivates them to their core. People need vision and if you can help them see what they could be like, how being more like Jesus will bring life and wholeness to their life and relationships then cast the vision. The second thing you can do is let them suffer.

Allowing others to suffer is difficult but Proverbs 19:19 reminds us that rescuing people from their poor behaviour doesn’t help them. For many, the pain of staying the same needs to become worse than the pain of changing and then transformation happens. It’s incredibly difficult watching people you love reap the consequences of their actions but sometimes it’s the only way to bring about their motivation for change. You can’t force motivation upon people – they either have it or they don’t.

The second reason people fail to change is the fear of success. Discipleship changes one to be more like Jesus. Jesus was a man of love, of compassion, of holiness – and this scares people. To be like Jesus, powerful yet compassionate, fearless yet approachable, holy yet associating with sinner, brings enormous responsibility. To be like Jesus is to be his ambassador. To act on behalf of Jesus, to speak on behalf of the Kingdom of God; this a terrible responsibility to place upon mortal man but alas it comes with being like Jesus.

Many yearn to be like Jesus but they don’t want the responsibility of being like him. Teenagers desire the benefits of being an adult but they don’t want adult responsibilities. Likewise, some want the benefits of being like Jesus but they shirk from the responsibility it brings. They fear what it would mean to bear such a burden. To be a person of love would mean forgiving my enemies, loving my enemies, seeking the good of my enemies. Success in maturity would mean discovering my unique gifts and talents and then using them to extend God’s kingdom. Involvement opens me to criticism and failure. Fear leads us to believe that it’s better to remain a Christian infant who gets to watch others from the sideline of life than to try and fail and hear the sniggers and laughs from others.

God’s grace is available to all who want it. Some don’t see the benefit in making the effort. Others are too comfortable. Others fear the responsibility the change will bring. Love those who are struggling to grow. Love them with casting vision. Love them by letting them suffer. Love them by taking their hand and facing their fears together. Perhaps the greatest struggle with growth in Christ is wanting it for those you love more than they want it for themselves. If only the drunk realised the joy of sobriety. If only the adulterer knew the delight that comes from faithfulness. If only the hater knew the freedom of forgiveness.

What are some other reasons that people don’t grow? What have you done for others that helped motivate them to make the change? How do you minister to those who are resistant to change in your ministry? What are you working on right now to be more like Jesus?

Watch Movie Online Logan (2017)


Filed under Discipleship, Grace, Grow

Is this just for children?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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