Archives For Discipleship

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I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I ask God for a word that will keep me focused on what he has for me that year. On the first day of 2017, he gave me my word:

Alignment. 

I like that alignment is a noun. It’s tangible, yet not something you can reach out and touch. You can’t hold it in your hands, but you know it’s powerful — much like faith, which was my word in 2016.

Last year, I stretched out wide and long in my faith. I stepped out of my comfort zone and trusted God in big ways and watched him move. This week, I curled up warm and cozy, on my friend Faith’s couch with a big cup of coffee that lasted more than four hours. I love that she is like me. We don’t do surface chat; a cup of coffee feels more like a long (and much-needed) spiritual therapy session.

As we hunkered in, with the rain washing the outdoors fresh for the new year, our conversation washed our souls new. We settled on variations of one topic for most of the time: ambition.

Both of us are late in…

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Facts

For those who may not be familiar with my story, I became a Christ-follower in high school. I’m grateful for several men who influenced the early steps in my spiritual journey, including guys like Charlie, Lee, and Chris. Charlie, in particular, met with me just about every Saturday over several months. I would either go to his home or his office, and he helped me begin to understand who Jesus was and what he did for me.

Through that process, I was introduced to the Bible. This was a big deal for me. As I was growing up, the church I attended did not encourage people to engage with God’s Word. I heard messages taught from the Bible growing up, but there was no encouragement to read, study, or attempt to apply the Bible to my life. That’s why when Charlie introduced me to the story of Jesus in the New Testament, I was captivated. God’s Word really came alive for me.

Though we were several years away from getting married, Emily also encouraged me in those first steps of faith. In fact, she gave me my first leather-bound Bible as my high…

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From the beginning, Pastor Rick’s vision for Saddleback Church was to attract unbelievers, lead them to Christ, grow them into mature believers through the work of the Holy Spirit, and send them out on mission, all for God’s global glory. His goal was always to be a disciple-making and disciple-sending church. Out of this vision, came the Purpose Driven paradigm as the intentional process to accomplish this goal.

He first asked the question, “What is spiritual maturity?” and then, “How might one measure it?” He knew it was a myth that spiritual maturity is measured only on what you know. Pastor Rick says, “Many churches evaluate spiritual maturity solely on the basis of how well you can identify Bible characters, interpret Bible passages, quote Bible verses, and explain biblical theology. The ability to debate doctrine is considered by some as the ultimate proof of spirituality.” Some people who are not even believers have an incredible knowledge of the Bible without any spiritual growth in their lives. Spiritual maturity is not just cognitive.

So he set about to discover the characteristics of spiritual maturity and how leadership could measure it. He came to the conclusion…

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Steps

We’re all familiar with making New Year’s resolutions, and we all have every intention of following through with them, saying, “This is the year I’m going to lose the weight, quit drinking, fix my marriage, etc.” However, for the majority of Americans, these resolutions often get tossed to the curb along with the holiday garbage, and within weeks, people fall back into their old habits.

According to The University of Scranton, a mere 8 percent of people will successfully achieve their New Year’s goals. For this reason, I propose a change — rather than making a mere resolution this year, focus on making true life transformations. That means not simply addressing the symptoms of problems but taking a very hard look and addressing the heart of those issues. Transformation means a thorough and dramatic change — a real life change.

Here are five key steps below to help get you started in that process.

Let go of the resolutions you made in 2016 that didn’t work.

There is no use beating yourself up for past failed resolutions. Often, those resolutions stem from unrealistic fantasies and expectations, and wind up doing us more harm then good when we realize we have…

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One Christmas GiftWhew, what a year! We couldn’t wait to get past the election and all of its stress and strife.  Maybe the holidays will be better, we thought. Maybe people will be nicer, we hoped. Then came Thanksgiving with the in-laws. Surely another helping of pumpkin pie will cure all that ails us.

Now as Black Friday turns into another Monday and the calendar and the world turn the page to December complete with headlines blaring about school violence, election recounts, and dictator passings, one has to wonder, should we bother to pull out the tinsel and garland or just fast-forward to the New Year?

Do we really need another Christmas? We sing the same songs, put up the same tree, and shop for the same socks and sweaters every year. Is the message of peace on earth, good will toward men still relevant? Still possible?

Consider the story behind Christmas. Hollywood would recast Christmas. Joseph’s collar is way too blue. Mary is green from inexperience. The couple’s star power doesn’t match the bill. Too obscure. Too simple. The story warrants some headliners. A square-jawed Joseph. Someone of the Clooney vintage. And Mary…

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“But the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people’” (Luke 2:10 NLT).

Knowing God is for you will change your whole perspective on life. You’ll stop thinking of God as someone looking down from Heaven, ready to yell “Gotcha!” any time you mess up.

God is for your success in life; he created you for a purpose, and he wants you to succeed. It is God, your Creator, who will measure your success in life, and no one else.

This is extremely good news!

It means you don’t need to be afraid of God because God is for you. Yet some people are so afraid of God they get nervous just talking about him. Do you know why? They feel guilty, and then they start thinking, “If I get close to God, he’s going to lecture me. He’s going to remind me of all the things I’ve done wrong, and then I’ll feel even worse!”

Nothing could be further from the truth of God. Jesus said, “I did not come into the world to condemn it, but to save it.” In effect,…

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Baptism is the outward sign of an inward change in a person who has placed their trust in Jesus. We don’t save people — Jesus does that. We just have the privilege of helping them make their big outward profession of faith in the form of baptism.

While I don’t believe we should manipulate people or manufacture results for the sake of numbers, I do believe it’s significant that the Bible records how many people trusted in Jesus and were baptized on the day of Pentecost. The Bible says in Acts 2:41, “Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day — about 3,000 in all” (NLT).

We ought to do all that we can to share the Gospel well, to make it very clear what the new believer’s next steps are, and celebrate the results of more people on their way to Heaven. At Saddleback, we’ve baptized over 47,000 people in the last 36 years, and I’d…

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If you want to see lasting change in your life, you need to commit to a steady diet of God’s Word, the Bible. We all want to be spiritually and relationally healthy, but we fail to realize the power of this one habit – filling our minds daily with truth from our Creator. James 1:25 says, “The truly happy people are those who carefully study God’s perfect law that makes people free, and they continue to study it. They do not forget what they heard, but they obey what God’s teaching says.” 

We tend to believe a lot of lies – about God, about ourselves, about our world – and the result of believing those lies and repeating negative, untruthful thoughts is that we wind up depressed. We wind up dependent on things other than God. The way to change that mental pattern is to fill your mind with the Word of God.

For emotional and spiritual stability and for mental health, I need to soak up all of the truth I possibly can from God’s Word so that my focus will be on the right things. And the Bible emphasizes at least…

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Healthy, growing churches create pathways for people to take the next step in their spiritual journeys. Recently, Pastor Rick Warren wrote about understanding where people are spiritually as you plan your ministry to help them grow to the next level. Saddleback’s approach has been to offer Class, which is made up of four separate classes people can take to better understand their next step.

Obviously, there are churches of all shapes and sizes, and yours may not necessarily benefit the most from a one-time, four-hour offering of Class. You may be in a new church plant or a very small church with only a handful of people gathering. Or you may not have the facility to host a larger class gathering. Or it simply may not be working, in your context, to do it this way.

It’s important to understand your own context and get creative with how to do things best. We listen to what churches are saying and we observe what is working in purpose driven churches. Here are four other ways of offering Class and helping people take their next step.

1. Offer Class through small groups.

Each class can easily…

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Table

I grew up attending church a lot. I was in a church classroom a lot. When I was a kid, my family attended Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night preaching and prayer services, plus Sunday school, plus missions education programs and Vacation Bible Schools. But… I didn’t grow spiritually, didn’t really experience spiritual depth, and didn’t really learn what following Jesus looked like outside the walls of the church.

When I hit adulthood, I started to grow spiritually, but I would say it was still rather slow going. I started attending church with my wife and soaking up biblical knowledge like a sponge. I entered ministry and attended Bible college and developed the spiritual disciplines. But something was still missing.

Finally, several things happened that prompted a complete perspective change in me and kickstarted my journey toward being more like Jesus. In particular…

  • I walked through pain – depression, specifically.
  • I began to repent of pride, self-centeredness, and other sins.
  • My wife and I began to have tough conversations.
  • I went on staff at a church with a strong culture of discipleship.
  • We joined a small group of people who cared a lot about doing life together.

After a…

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I was talking with a group of pastors in Rwanda a few months back, and they asked me to tell them what it meant to be a Purpose Driven Church in as simple a way as possible. I said to them that the simplest way I know how to express what it means to be Purpose Driven is “to build Jesus’ church the way that Jesus wants it built.” Jesus shows us how to build his church in both what he taught and what he modeled.

Being Purpose Driven means you’re seeking as a church to do all that Jesus taught his church to do. “A great commitment to the great commandment and the great commission will grow a great church.” In the great commandment and great commission of Jesus you find him talking about the five purposes of evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and mission. He talks about these purposes not only in these two passages, but also throughout his ministry – possibly most clearly in his teaching to the disciples the night before he went to the cross in John 13-17. It is his church that we are building, so obviously we are going to…

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My friend tells the story of a pastor who had a certain way with difficult people. You know: the kind of people who are whiny, needy, angry, insecure, volatile, vain, messy, picky, overbearing, ugly, no-fun, un-hip, clueless, or otherwise not-with-the-program. This pastor asked his staff to be patient with such people, and referred to these unfortunates as EGR: Extra Grace Required. The difficult people in the church needed extra grace.

Huh.

The phrase Extra Grace Required stuck with me for days. I began to wonder: how much is the regular amount of grace? Is there a grace manual somewhere that details the proper amount of grace for each person? What about people afflicted with multiple shortcomings? (I qualify for several conditions listed above—but I’m not going to tell you which ones.)

(OK, it’s all of them.)

So here’s the first problem: the well-meaning pastor implies that grace is a tool in the pastoral tool-kit. Reach into ministerial bag and grab some ointment labeled ERG. Apply generously, as if grace is something dispensed from the Haves and given nobly to the Have-nots. As if grace is drug, and the minister is the pharmacist. But grace isn’t a salve…

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