Archives For Discipleship

No other institution on earth has the potential to change the world and address global issues as the local church. No force on earth is as unstoppable as the local church when it is functioning as a unified body of believers. And nothing brings a church together in unity better than a growth campaign.

The greatest waves of growth that Saddleback Church has ever experienced have been the result of the various church-wide campaigns that we’ve done. When we set aside six to eight weeks to concentrate, as a church family, on a single theme, amazing things happen, such as…

  • People bring their friends, co-workers, and neighbors to church.
  • Hundreds of people are baptized.
  • All kinds of new small groups form and launch.
  • Some people give financially for the first time, and everyone sacrifices for the Kingdom.
  • The church grows larger, deeper, broader, warmer, and stronger.

As you plan your preaching over the next twelve months, plan at least one, if not two, opportunities for your church to align around a single theme. Our newest campaign, 40 Days of Prayer is available now! Some of our other campaigns have included 

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“The New Testament is the only model we need!” There, I went ahead and said that for you. It’s out of the way. For those pastors and church leaders who highly value the New Testament and actually want to accomplish something meaningful, read on.

Every church follows a model. Most of the church leaders who criticize following a model follow a model that tends to criticize models. Follow that? There are traditional models with an age-graded Sunday School, a morning worship service, evening worship service, and a mid-week prayer meeting, plus some other programs. W. A. Criswell (one of my biggest heroes) was a pioneer of this model in the 1940’s. Back then, grading ministries by age was innovative.

Other churches follow the “simple church” model. They have weekend worship, small groups, and that’s about it. The ministry and mission is carried out by the groups and the individuals in them. It works well for those who do it right. There are also house churches, and still a few quarter-time churches that only have a Pastor once per month. There’s the Amish and Mennonite model – very community-centric. You get the picture.

We started…

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Disappointment

Disappointment is an unavoidable reality in life.

Disappointment is when my expectations do not match life’s realities.

Whether it is being overlooked for a position, passed over for a promotion, or let down by a loved one, disappointment can really sting.

Disappointment sets off a chain of emotional responses including stress, anger, frustration, discouragement, and sadness. Chronic disappointment, if not dealt with, has the potential to evolve into deeper problems such as depression, bitterness, resentment, hatred, and despair.

One of the most vivid pictures of disappointment is recorded in Job chapter 6. In the midst of enormous suffering, Job tells his “friends” how he feels about their so-called support:

My brothers, you have proved as unreliable as a seasonal brook that overflows its banks in the spring when it is swollen with ice and melting snow. But when the hot weather arrives, the water disappears. The brook vanishes in the heat. The caravans turn aside to be refreshed, but there is nothing to drink, so they die. The caravans from Tema search for this water; the travelers from Sheba hope to find it. They count on it but are disappointed. When they arrive, their hopes are…

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Prayer on the Beach

“I will . . . station myself . . .” (Habakkuk 2:1 NIV).

If you want to get God’s vision for your life and ministry, you must want to hear it, you must withdraw to hear it, and then you must wait to hear it.

The New International Version says, “I will . . . station myself“( Habakkuk 2:1 NIV). What does it mean to station yourself before God? It means stay put. It means, “I’m not moving.” It means, “I’m going to be still. I’m going to sit here and I am not going to move until I hear from you, God.”

Hurry is the death of prayer. And, as pastors, we feel all kinds of pressure to get in a hurry. Yet God won’t speak to us as we run out the door. He wants us to care enough to linger and listen in our prayer time.

So many times, we’re running so revved up, we can’t slow down enough to tune in to God.

So, how do you slow down? You calm your mind by relaxing your body. You take deep breaths and you relax your muscles and let the…

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Bread

The Bible is filled with references to the prayers and fasting of God’s people. In Matthew 6, Jesus placed fasting on the same level as praying and giving. He said, in essence, “When you fast! When you pray! When you give!”

I wonder why Christians today and churches in our generation don’t place fasting on the same level as praying and giving. Jesus, by his example and his teaching, demonstrated that prayer and fasting are important and integral ingredients in the lives of his followers.

Fasting and love

One purpose of prayer and fasting is to bring our hearts to a place of being filled with a sacrificial love that results in godly attitudes in our lives. True fasting will draw us closer to God and his purposes.

Fasting and humility

I can’t explain why God has chosen prayer and fasting as the gateway to supernatural power. One thing I do know: Scripture, prayer, and fasting are the ways believers humble themselves in the sight of the Lord. When we humble ourselves, he promises to exalt and lift us up at the appropriate time (1 Peter 5:6; James 4:10). God also indicates that he will resist the proud but will give grace to…

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Hold On

She looked at me with hopelessness as deep as the ocean in her eyes. “I’m tired of holding on to a dream that seems more elusive with each passing day.” Then she literally screamed through her tears, “What’s the point of hoping my husband will change when he’s more abusive now than ever before?”

Have you ever held on to a dream for so long that it’s become a nightmare? What once filled you with hope and gave you strength now sucks the marrow right out of your bones. Your dreams, your prayers, and your promises from God seem to mock you now and leave you in a cesspool of despair.

Maybe it’s not been weeks or months, but years and decades of waiting. For a season, you prayed hard and believed in faith for great things, but your prayers are only whimpers now and you can smell the stench of bitterness growing in your soul.

“Will my son ever be free of drugs?”

“Will I ever get pregnant?”

“Will I ever find a spouse and the love of my life?”

If one more person tells you to “hold on,” you’re going to hurt somebody! If you hear “let…

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Do you want to pray powerful prayers? Charles Spurgeon once said, “Prayer moves the arm that moves the world.”

One of my mentors, Grady Higgs, often says that “nothing heavenly happens on earth without prayer.”

In other words, there are things God is willing to do – wants to do – but he has chosen to do them only in response to prayer.

Prayer, then, is like a great joint venture between the Creator and his creatures. In prayer, we join forces with the God of the universe to accomplish his will around us. He asks us to do the asking, and then he responds by answering.

Jesus even gave us a model for prayer that included praying “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 ESV). So in prayer, God’s will is accomplished around us in much the same way that his will is accomplished in the heavenly realm, where angels attend to his desires at all times.

If all of this is true, then . . .

Powerful Prayers Are a Partnership

Don’t misunderstand. It’s not that we accomplish anything with the help of God, nor is it that God accomplishes…

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Karate Kid

In the 1984 film “The Karate Kid,” an enthusiastic karate student is disappointed when his first lesson involves cleaning and waxing his master’s car. Day after day, Daniel questions the point of laborious tasks such as sanding a wood floor, refinishing a fence and painting Mr. Miyagi’s house. But when Mr. Miyagi finally begins to teach him karate moves, Daniel is amazed to discover he has developed muscle memory ideal for his new knowledge of karate.

Pastors and leaders wanting to disciple other believers could learn from Mr. Miyagi’s example, because it is the same method of teaching that Jesus used to train his disciples.

Jesus took advantage of daily opportunities to lay foundations for learning before telling his disciples what he wanted them to know. He taught the 12 to rely upon God’s provision by involving them in feeding the 5,000. He condemned racism and imparted a vision for missions by introducing them to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. He taught them the cost of serving as he washed their feet. He used the imagery of fishing nets and fields of harvest to teach them about ministry.

Only after they had…

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Discernment

I was recently challenged by a quote by Ruth Haley Barton:

“The spiritual leader is distinguished by his or her commitment and ability to guide the discernment process so the community can affirm a shared sense of God’s desire for them and move forward on that basis” (Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership).

I don’t know about you, but I find myself so easily slipping into a mode of ministry where I make decisions, instead of slowing down and patiently discerning God’s desire for my ministry, whether that is simply leading a small group, or leading the leaders of small groups.

Let me offer my best definition on discernment before moving forward.

Discernment is the growing, prayerful ability to recognize and respond to the presence of Christ in all things, big and small.

The foundation of discernment is the development of an ongoing, prayerful dialogue with the one Holy Spirit who indwells all of us. Jesus tells us in John 16:13a, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (NIV). As we engage in this dialogue with the Holy Spirit, we begin more and more to be able to distinguish between…

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You can be a homebuilder, bodybuilder, reputation builder, or a retirement-nest-egg builder. None of those things will last, but there is something that’s going to last for eternity, something you can put your efforts into now that will last forever.

You can be a people builder.

The Bible encourages us to do just that in Romans 15:2, where it says, “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up” (NIV).

How do you build your people? The key is kindness – giving people what they need, not what they deserve.

If you consider the way Jesus built people up, he did four things, and you can do these same four things as you encourage members of your congregation.

1. Give them a personal challenge.

Ephesians 4:1 says, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (NIV).

Paul is saying, don’t waste your life – make it count. Be all that God made you to be.

Challenge your members to live beyond themselves and to discover their strengths and abilities. God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing…

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Work Harder

As an individual, I have a laser beam focus on discipleship. I’m a consistent practitioner. I’m constantly evaluating effectiveness and brainstorming strategies. I speak and teach about it. I love to write about it. In case you didn’t know I also blog about it.

I was speaking at a church recently and had a friend ask me, “Why are you so passionate about discipleship?” I was astonished to find myself at a loss for words. It was difficult for me to answer the question in a succinct fashion. I shared a couple thoughts but left that conversation in deep reflection.

I eventually realized that there were multiple reasons I was passionate about discipleship. The number of reasons was too many for a simple answer because discipleship intersects with multiple motivations.

I believe it’s more important for us to have clarity on “why” we’re growing disciples rather than “what” we’re doing to grow disciples. As long as you know the “why” you can always discover the “what.”

Here is my personal list of 7 motivations for making disciples:

1. Compelled by Compassion. The Bible says that when Jesus “saw the multitudes, he was moved with…

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Desperation

Desperation can be a powerful tool for change. Nobody knows this better than Bartimaeus, who received a miraculous healing from Jesus because of his willingness to break social norms, reject passivity, and cry out in shameless desperation.

As Jesus passed through the crowds of Jericho, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus was hanging around, just hanging on to hope. When he heard the commotion of those following Jesus, something inside him began to cry out. The Bible says, “he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (Mark 10:47 NLT).

I’m an introvert. I don’t want attention (in spite of the fact that I’m a public speaker). I’d rather just blend in and go unnoticed, hanging out in the corner with a close friend or two. But there are times when keeping a low profile isn’t an option if you want all that God has in store for you.

When I was 18, God was calling me to a life of preaching and vocational ministry. While everything in my flesh resisted the thought of standing in front of a crowd of people and attempting to teach the Bible, I was also desperate…

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