Archives For Discipleship

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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Prayer

Does 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, Peter…

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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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Baptisms

Every church loses people. It’s a natural part of living in our current culture. Two to three percent will likely move away – more if you’re in an urban area. One or two percent will die. And some will just fade away and stop attending without connecting to another local body. Obviously these figures will vary depending on your local context.

You can’t stop people from moving. You certainly can’t stop them from dying. But there is one group of people you can do something about. Some of the people who leave are people who started attending, became regular attenders or even members, and then fell away within a few months because they never really became rooted. They simply didn’t stick.

There are only two ways to experience net growth as a church: reach new people, and keep the people you reach. And you must focus on doing both of these.

Reaching new people

The biggest single difference between churches that are growing and churches that are struggling is that growing churches invite new people well. Promoting your church through advertising is a great idea, but most of the people who actually walk through the doors and experience what…

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We are sent, on mission, to make disciples. It is for making more and stronger disciples that the church exists. So… what’s your process for making them?

There are two significant weaknesses common to struggling churches.

  • They’ve never discovered or clarified the biblical purposes for which they were founded.
  • They’ve never clarified or pursued a basic strategy for making disciples.

Healthy, purpose driven churches have made these two issues very core to their existence. They understand that they exist for the five purposes of worship, evangelism, discipleship, ministry, and fellowship. And they understand that discipleship happens best through an intentional process.

Particularly, there are five questions that must be answered by every church’s leadership about their discipleship strategy.

  1. How do we help the community around us become part of our crowd? This is the evangelistic mission of the church.
  2. How do we help the crowd that gathers on Sunday become a congregation? This is a matter of helping people discover membership in the body.
  3. How do we help the congregation remain committed to growing spiritually? This is discipleship – helping people grow in spiritual maturity to be more like Christ.
  4. How do we move committed members into the core to serve others? This is how we expand the ministry…

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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. Some of our more well-known campaigns have included Decade of Destiny, 40 Days In the Word, What On Earth…

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I am committed to God’s inerrant and infallible Word and its final authority for all we believe and practice… period. Every word from a politician or preacher, author or educator, king or a president is secondary. We filter everything through God’s Word.

Therefore, as pastors, it is incumbent upon us to teach people the Word of God. One of the premiere principles we must teach them is how to walk with God personally.

The Need is Obvious

It is more than obvious that we must teach people how to walk with God personally. The world we live in today is a constant challenge. Promises are continually broken. Faithfulness in friendships is rare. Marriages are in crisis. Families are falling apart. Unforgiveness in relationships is normative. Financial crises happen.

People need to know how to navigate through these and other challenges they face not just periodically, but continually.

The need is obvious. We must teach people how to walk with God personally. Here are some ways I suggest we can do this:

1. Teach People the Importance of Reading the Bible

I really believe reading the Scripture daily is the major way people learn to navigate through challenges in their own…

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Every member of your congregation is driven by something, and you need to discover what those forces are in order to better disciple those under your care. Ultimately, you want to lead each member to be driven by God’s agenda – to live a purpose-driven life.

Most dictionaries define the verb drive as “to guide, to control, or to direct.” In your congregation, there are some driven by a problem, a pressure, or a deadline, and others driven by a painful memory, a haunting fear, or an unconscious belief.

There are hundreds of circumstances, values, and emotions that drive people’s lives, and understanding what’s driving them is a key to reaching them.

Here are five common “drives” –

Some people are driven by guilt – They spend their entire lives running from regrets or hiding their shame. Guilt-driven people are manipulated by memories. They allow their past to control their future, believing their past mistakes to be bigger than God. They often unconsciously punish themselves by sabotaging their own success. When Cain sinned, his guilt disconnected him from God’s presence, and God said, “You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” (Gen. 4:12, NIV) That describes…

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