Archives For Discipleship

Did you know that God uses a very predictable process to build your character?  I call it the Six Phases of Faith.  If you don’t understand the process, you’ll get discouraged when problems arise.  You’ll wonder, “Why is this happening to me?”

But if you understand and cooperate with what God is doing – in your life and with your faith – you’ll develop great strength. It’s like stretching a muscle to make it stronger.

PHASE 1: A DREAM
God gives you a dream: an idea, goal, or ambition.  Every great accomplishment first begins as a God-given dream in someone’s mind.  “God is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of – infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.”  Eph. 3:20 (LB)

PHASE 2: DECISION
A dream is worthless until you decide to do something about it.  For every ten dreamers, there’s only one decision-maker.  This is the moment of truth where you decide to invest your time, money, energy, and reputation – and to let go of security.  If you want to walk on water,  you’ve got to get out of the boat!  “You must believe…

Continue Reading

“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 midweek prayer meeting, plus some other programs. W. A. Criswell (one of my biggest heroes) was a pioneer in 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…

Continue Reading

Second Time Guest

My Experience…

Ten years ago my family and I moved into a new home and neighborhood, and used the summer to search for a new church home. In 8 of the 10 churches we visited, I filled out a visitor card or signed a guest register. (Two churches had no way for visitors to identify themselves.)  Of the churches visited, 6 of 8 sent a “Thank you for visiting” letter, and 2 had a representative phone us the following week.

My family especially enjoyed three of the churches and decided to go back for another visit. I again completed the visitor information and, the following week, checked the mailbox for a follow-up. Monday … Tuesday … Wednesday … no letter … Thursday … Friday … Saturday … nothing. No card. No call. No contact.

We returned to the same three churches for a third visit in our search for a church home. Visitor card? Completed.  Left with the church? Check. Received any follow-up contacts the next week? None.

My Questions…

Do you have a way to let your first-time guests know that you are glad they came? A letter? Phone call? Post card? Hopefully so. But what…

Continue Reading

I was talking with a group a 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…

Continue Reading

Forgiven

Did Jesus battle depression? Seems like a strange question at first, but consider Isaiah’s prophesy of the coming Messiah: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).

That certainly sounds like someone dealing with the symptoms of depression. So why do we immediately push back at the thought that Jesus might have dealt with symptoms of depression?

Perhaps it is because we have the false notion that depression is either 1) a sin or a 2) sign of weakness. But neither is the case.

In fact, depression is not something a person chooses. Rather it is something a person must choose how to deal with.  The real issue is not whether a person experiences depression, but instead, how the person reacts to depression.

For this reason I am of the opinion that Christ did indeed battle depression. And more importantly, He battled it perfectly. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Christ wasn’t the only person in Scripture who…

Continue Reading

GrowthThe discipleship process at Saddleback Church is based on the belief that if we focus on building people, God will build the church. Through a study of how Jesus helped people grow spiritually, Rick Warren developed these eight laws for spiritual growth.

Spiritual growth is intentional.

Spiritual growth is not accidental. You must intend to grow; you must make a choice to grow.

This means that we grow by making commitments. People in churches are at one of six levels of commitment: community, crowd, congregation, committed, core, or commissioned.

The community is anyone within driving distance of Saddleback Church. There is no commitment at the community level.

We want to get the community to come to a weekend service; we want to move them from the community the crowd. What’s required to be in the crowd? One commitment: show up at church. Next, we want to move people from being an attender of the church to being a member of the church — from the crowd to the congregation. At Saddleback, you do this by coming to know Jesus as your Savior, being baptized, attending our membership seminar (CLASS 101), and signing the membership covenant.

Then people…

Continue Reading

Crowded ChurchAlmost every church in the world will see an attendance spike this week. In the this-is-really-obvious-research-finding, we found that Easter was the highest attended day of the church year. (OK, really, it was about Mother’s Day, as USAToday reported in a front page story on our data, but Easter was number one.)

If you work in ministry, you already know this and did not need LifeWay Research to tell you. You’ve been planning for it. But are you planning for next week, too?

Nicola Menzie, a reporter for the Christian Post, asked me some questions for her story, “How to Keep the ‘Chreasters’ Coming: Experts Say Preparedness and Follow-Up Are Key.” The story has lots of helpful information, and the subtitle gets it right, “While Churches Look to Make Converts for Christ on Easter Sunday, Many Fail to Make a Connection.” Her good questions got me thinking—so I turned my comments to her into a full post here.

Let me share some thoughts on what your church can do to follow up its Easter guests.

Seize the Easter Moment.

Easter is an opportunity, but it has to be seized. More people will hear…

Continue Reading

signsYou may want to argue with me, but I think there are certain signs that indicate clearly whether you have a bad disciple-making strategy.  With me?  Isn’t obvious that certain results or a lack of results would indicate a bad disciple-making strategy?  Remember, “your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.”  If you don’t like the results, you must change the design.

I love this line from Winston Churchill.  “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”  If you don’t like your results, change the strategy.

See where I’m going?  Can you go there?  Here are five signs you may have a bad disciple-making design:

5 Signs You Have a Bad Disciple-Making Design

  1. You don’t have enough adults being discipled.  You pray for it.  You talk about it.  You promote it.  But it just doesn’t happen.  Sign-ups for your disciple-making effort fall far short of projections and expectations, and another season comes and goes.  Doesn’t the number of people entering the pipeline determine the number coming out?  See also, Would You Rather: Connect More People or Make More Disciples?
  2. You have plenty of adults being…

    Continue Reading

Little ChurchDisciples Need Leaders

I wonder how many church leaders don’t even realize the success of ongoing discipleship depends partly on how well they develop leaders.

God didn’t design the church to have one person lead everyone else in spiritual formation—far too often the model of evangelical churches. Throughout the New Testament, we see leadership development and delegation—or mass participation—of discipling others.

Paul repeatedly told young pastors to entrust the ministry to spiritual people who could then pass it on to the next generation.

You mass produce cars, not disciples.

I’m convinced one of the reasons we struggle with discipleship is because we aren’t raising up leaders to make more disciples.

You don’t need a priest because you are a priest.

Most people who are reading this are going to be Protestants of some variety. Protestantism was in part a rediscovery that individuals do not need a priest to communicate with God.

This is a key theological issue. Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:9 that we are a “royal priesthood” who are to proclaim the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness. We correctly assert that we don’t need another human as a priest for us…

Continue Reading

Jesus Washing FeetWith whom are you doing life? What I mean is, with whom do you spend time hanging out and talking about the deepest things of life? Whom do you sharpen, and who sharpens you?

Jesus lived toward the cross and the resurrection, and his singular focus on his end game motivated him to live very intentionally. He depended on God for constant guidance and made choices rather strategically. For example…

One day soon afterward, Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles.

– Luke 6:12-13 NLT

Jesus had thousands of followers.
He had dozens of disciples.
He picked twelve to train more deeply and send out.
And he had three that were with him even more often.

I think there’s a pattern there for us to follow when it comes to the goal of our lives as Christians. Whether you want to call it discipleship, leadership development, or just plain friendship, I’m convinced we need to intentionally develop relationships with these circles of people in our lives. We need to pour ourselves into others,…

Continue Reading

Bus-MinistryIt was exciting news. My friend’s eyes lit up as he shared the exciting changes in the church he recently began pastoring. One of the neatest transitions the congregation had made was to begin small group meetings.

Small group ministry has been around for decades now. However, it is still a relatively new concept to many churches. The main idea is that people hold Bible studies in groups of 10-12 (depending on the context) for the purpose of Christian growth, edification, accountability and fellowship. Most small groups meet in homes in order to promote a family atmosphere where people are comfortable discussing God’s Word and its application to their lives without the formalities and intimidation of traditional classroom models.

For many churches, small groups balance the reception of Scripture from a congregational sermon setting with the discussion, response, and application of Scripture within the setting of mutual trust and encouragement.

As my friend and I were talking about his church’s move toward small groups, one burning question arose: how can a church guard their small groups from becoming institutionalized and ritualistic in the way that other church programs have devolved? (i.e. Sunday School, Bus…

Continue Reading

Purpose Driven LifeEveryone in your congregation wants to know if life really matters. Members, visitors, even your staff want to know, “What on earth an I here for?”

They’re asking three basic questions:

First, there’s the question of existence: Why am I alive? For thousands of years people have asked this question. Many people of the Bible did. Jeremiah asked this question, “Why was I born? Was it only to have trouble and sorrow? To end my life in disgrace?”

Second, there’s the question of significance. Is there some meaning and purpose to my life? Is all that I’m doing just a waste of time and energy? Is my life significant?

In Psalm 89, David asked, “I remember how short my life is . Why did You create us? For nothing?”

Job asked the question, “Why should I work so hard for nothing?” If there’s no meaning and purpose, why am I even doing this?

Solomon even questions the significance of pleasure. He says, “Laughing and having fun is crazy. What good does it do?” Is there any significance to what I do? Why keep…

Continue Reading