Archives For Discipleship

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…

Continue Reading

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…

Continue Reading

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…

Continue Reading

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…

Continue Reading

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…

Continue Reading

Sad

Christians get depressed too — even pastors. I know because it’s part of my story.

Years ago, my family and I went through a series of difficult events. I was hurt. I was bitter. It led me down a dark road.

The first feeling I remember was like being tired. I didn’t know I was depressed. But getting out of bed every day took all the strength I could muster.

I had been working in the trenches of ministry for years. Was I just burned out? I’ve heard so much about burnout. Maybe this was it.

So I got a lot of rest, but it didn’t go away.

If you saw me at church or around town, I would have smiled and told you I was good. On the outside, I wore the mask that so many Christians do. Inside, I was dying.

My wife will tell you that it was the darkest year of our life. I was tired and sad every day. I was present with my wife and kids physically, but mentally I had checked out.

Six months in, I finally admitted that I wasn’t just burnt out. I was depressed.

But I’m a pastor! I’m…

Continue Reading

God wants you to grow up.

“God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love – like Christ in everything” (Ephesians 4:15 The Message).

“We are not meant to remain as children ….” (Ephesians 4:14 Phillips).

Your heavenly Father’s goal is for you to mature and develop the characteristics of Jesus Christ, living a life of love and humble service.  Sadly, millions of Christians grow older but never grow up.  They are stuck in perpetual spiritual infancy, remaining in diapers and booties. The reason is because they never intended to grow.

Spiritual growth is not automatic. It takes an intentional commitment. You must want to grow, decide to grow, make an effort to grow, and persist in growing.

Discipleship – the process of becoming like Christ – always begins with a decision.

“As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him” (Matthew 9:9 ESV).

When the first disciples chose to follow Jesus, they didn’t understand all the implications of their decision. They simply responded to Jesus’ invitation. That’s all you need…

Continue Reading

One great way to connect your church into small groups is to focus on life transitions. More than at any other time in our lives, we need people when we’re going through periods of great change. Helping people join small groups during these times provides immediate comfort as well as the potential for years of ongoing support.

What transitions should your church use to connect people?

Significant events: Take a look at significant events in people’s lives. When you baptize several people at the same time, try to get them together in a small group.

After you hold a baby dedication, start a parenting small group. In your premarital counseling process, recommend that young couples join a small group. These events happen all the time in churches. Use them to help people build meaningful relationships.

Struggles: Pain motivates people to get connected with other people. No doubt about it. For example, many people are struggling with finances right now. Help them connect with others who are struggling in that area. You can find all sorts of great small group curriculums that deal with finances. Whenever we do a stewardship message at Saddleback, we give people…

Continue Reading

Steps

When I think about the commitments I’ve made that led to spiritual growth, often a very small step took me to a place where I could make the next commitment. Here are some baby steps that will help your members make the next commitment toward spiritual maturity.

1. Put a place to commit on your welcome cards. If you have a card for guests to use to give you information about themselves, that’s also a great place to offer an opportunity to commit to a class. Your guests will see from the beginning that these classes are a priority at the church. It also gives them an opportunity to sign up without leaving their chair during worship services.

2. Personalize the weekend announcements. When you’re announcing the classes from the pulpit, think about the person who needs to make a commitment to the next step. Ask yourself, what will help him or her to do that? Focus on who needs to take the commitment step. Don’t simply tell people when and where the class will be. Remember, you’re inviting people, not numbers, to the class.

3. Make the commitment to the next class a…

Continue Reading

By Dee Brestin

Idol Lies by Dee Brestin

At the root of every destructive behavior is a deception. We may think that our identity is in Christ, but in reality it may be in the success of our marriage, mothering, or ministry. We may think that God is our refuge, but in reality, we may find refuge in friendship, food, or Facebook. Seeing the lie is half the battle in being set free. These are deceptions that are common among Christian women, though they certainly can snare men as well.

My Friends Can Be My Security

Women are the relational gender and, generally speaking, their friendships are more intimate, more enduring, and more satisfying than the friendships of men.

But the dark side is that women can begin to expect their friends to be what only God can be. When Christy’s best friend, Brooke, began to be less available because of a new boyfriend, Christy felt avoided as if she had the flu. A wise friend gave her the name of a good Christian counselor, and Christy finally decided to go. She remembers the opening conversation verbatim:

“Christy, you became a…

Continue Reading

Not Giving UpStatistically, this is the time of year when most people abandon the goals they set just a few weeks ago, giving into the idea that change is either hopeless or just too hard. We often give different names to the reasons for our failures:

Time – usually not enough of it.
Tough – the task is just too hard.
Terrible – to describe how you feel on the new diet, wake/sleep pattern, budget, etc.

The answer for most of these problems is simple though: maintaining consistency. Simple concept, yes, but difficult practice. The behaviors we repeat often define the reality of our lives. Aristotle may have said it best when he said:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

– Aristotle

You have probably heard that a habit can be created or broken in a matter of just 21 days. But more recent research has shown that this isn’t really accurate. The study reveals that the actual number is 66 days with variation of between 18 and 254 days depending on the specific habit being developed. Yes, some habits are harder to form,…

Continue Reading

Forgiveness is everything. Seriously, everything, especially when you realize how much you and I need it.

I’ve lived about 22,000 days. Let’s say I’ve sinned an average of four to five times a day or about once every three or so hours while awake. That would mean I’ve blown it about 100,000 times in my life so far.

Of course, you’re thinking, “No way, not Kurt; he’s much holier than that!” Or, you might truly know me and think that number is far too low!

The fact of the matter is, the Bible defines sin as missing the mark. Anytime I miss the mark of perfection, that qualifies as a sin in God’s eyes.

I think something that God would never think. Sin.

I look at something that God would never look at. Sin.

I say something God would never say. Sin.

I don’t do or say something God would do or say. Sin.

I look at a person in a way God would never view a person. Sin.

I treat my wife, children, grandchildren, family or friends in an uncaring or thoughtless way. Sin.

I pretend to be something I’m not. Sin.

I react in fear rather than respond in faith. Sin.

I act…

Continue Reading