Archives For Discipleship

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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Pews

I’m a recovering idiot, meaning I tend to learn most lessons the hard way.

I’m also a church planter and the founding pastor of Eastpoint Church in Spokane Valley, Washington. My peeps would tell you they love me, and they would also confirm my proclivity for taking the less-than-glorious path of church leadership at times.

Before we launched Eastpoint in 2003, I read and reread Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Church. The inspiring and biblical insights within this book challenged and motivated me. I knew in my knower that this book was a timely gift from God to me (and many others).

From the beginning, we identified our mission, vision, and values based on the five purposes (i.e. fellowship, discipleship, worship, ministry, evangelism). I told our launch team “we are a purpose driven church”, and we were pumped to begin the adventure.

At first, things went extremely well. We started with hundreds of people, and the church grew rapidly. It was exciting, and I started hiring staff. By year two we were looking for a larger and more permanent facility. Then that “recovering idiot” thing started to kick in, and I made a series of serious…

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Radio Shack Ad

How many gadgets featured in this 1991 Radio Shack ad does your smartphone outperform today?

  • Mobile cellular phone with memory speed-dial & answering machine – Check.
  • All weather personal stereo, AM/FM clock radio, and calculator – Seriously?
  • Tandy 1000 computer – My 3-year-old Keurig is more complex.
  • Handheld recorder, desktop scanner – There’s an App for that.
  • VHS camcorder – Remember when your dad had one the size of a small piano?

Is it any wonder then, why we’re so attached to technology? It practically puts the whole world in our hands!

Studies show most people check their phone over 110 times a day. Americans also consume over 34GB worth of information every single day. That’s more than 10 hours of TV or 40,000 Facebook posts. Every. Single. Day.

A simple walk around the block means our devices stream data from a myriad of sources unbeknownst to us. And even at bedside, our TVs and tablets have access to more information and images than folks of a few generations prior had in their entire lifespan.

Neil Postman, author of Amusing Ourselves to Death & Technology: The Surrender of Culture to Technology put it this…

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father son in worship 420x_38c0fd08dae84f30bbbe4fd59505ee26-fea651ee573cb4c66e76b2c27b9948ad48328aa3Worrying about the future is big business and a big burden. We ask our kids what they want to be when they grow up. Tiger moms and dads pressure their kids to perform at a high level at very tender ages in order to get little Johnny and Jenny out in front of the future. In the process, we are creating kids who are paralyzed by the prospect of not meeting expectations. Case in point, I asked a high-school senior the other day what her college plans were and she walked away from the whole group. In her mind it was easier to excuse and embarrass herself than to take on her future.  This obsession with controlling the future is getting out of hand and adults are no better.  We are constantly peering into the crystal ball, planning ahead, forecasting, imagining what may be, dreaming of new realities, and how to avoid potential pitfalls.  But what happens when my future fails to meet my own, someone else’s, or culture’s expectations?

ANSWER: It becomes a burden.

Not meeting forecasts, getting behind on “the plan”, missing goals, dates and…

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Healthy relationships matter…

You can implement the best time management strategies known to mankind.

You can preach a masterful sermon or enthrall a room of preteens with a Biblical message.

You can have a staff of extremely talented individuals who create the best worship sets, graphics, and social media engagement.

You can have or do all of these things and still have an unhealthy church if you don’t have healthy relationships.

Don’t believe me?

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-7

  • Speaking well
  • Prophesying
  • Having incredible knowledge
  • Having faith that moves mountains
  • Giving everything you own to the poor
  • Giving up your very life

All of these talents and offerings are worthless without…

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Revival FireDoes prayer make any difference? Absolutely! And prayer makes a difference because the living God, the Holy Spirit, lives inside the one praying. Further, when God’s people get together and pray as a community, amazing things happen!

I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of those before-and-after photos advertising the latest weight loss and fitness program. The Bible gives us a pretty neat before-and-after picture of the early church. Before the Holy Spirit empowered the church at Pentecost, the apostles are waiting, hiding, and hoping. And they’re praying.

Then Pentecost occurs. The fire falls. The Spirit empowers. And things begin to happen. Thousands are saved and added to the church. Miracles occur. Healing takes place. The impact is so tangible that the church leaders start getting in trouble for bringing attention to the crime of the unfair crucifixion of Jesus. Peter and John heal a crippled man at one of the temple gates and it lands them in jail where they take a beating and are sternly warned not to speak any more in the name of Jesus.

Upon their release, instead of cowering away in fear, the Bible says this…

As soon as they were freed,…

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Have you ever wondered what’s the real reason you’re not as far as you’d like to be spiritually?

We blame it on the enemy, our busy lives, our careers, children, even the church we attend. The real reason you’re not as far as you’d like to be spiritually isn’t because of the enemy, busyness, or the complexity of sermons; it’s because we’re distracted. Despite knowing that distractions hamper productivity, most people don’t realize how it affects their spiritual growth.

Barbie distracted while driving

In the few minutes it takes to read this blog post, chances are you’ll pause to check your phone, answer a text, switch to your desktop to read an email, or glance at the Facebook or Twitter messages popping up in the corner of your screen. And pastors wonder why it is people are not growing spiritually. They’re distracted!

The Danger of Distractions

The day before I began writing this post, I decided to run a small-scale case study on myself to count the number of times I was interrupted during the day. I did not silence my phone – nor did I disable any social media notifications (e.g., email, Facebook, Twitter) – so I could…

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