Archives For Discipleship

These articles are written to encourage and equip you and your people to grow closer to God and become more like Jesus.

Topics include: Spiritual formation, CLASS, prayer, Bible reading, other spiritual disciplines, campaigns, theology, etc.

How Not To Miss Christmas

The Christmas season adds a lot of extra responsibilities to your plate—including sermon preparation, outreach organization, candlelight service arrangement, Christmas parties, the list goes on and on.

Add to this your personal family commitments. But as busy as you’ll be this Christmas season, that’s not your biggest problem. Your biggest concern is that you’ll be too familiar with the Christmas story.

You’ve read this story a hundred times. You’ve preached it, sung about it, and probably have recited it in your sleep. You know the story too well.

You’re not alone. In fact, you can look at the Christmas story itself for company. During the very first Christmas, there was a group of people who missed the birth of Jesus because of familiarity: the religious leaders in Jerusalem.

You’ll notice that when the Son of God was born, not a single religious person was invited. The people who should have known the most about the birth of Jesus, the spiritual and religious leaders of Israel, didn’t have a clue.

Wise men who had studied the Hebrew Scriptures came from the East because they had seen the Star. They knew the Savior of…

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Turn On the Lights This Christmas

We’re in the season of the year when dark days come with regularity. As we approach the winter solstice on December 21, we’ll see the sun less and less each day.

I think it’s fascinating that Christmas pierces the darkest season of the year with its light. What’s true of the physical atmosphere of the Christmas season is also true of the spiritual.

As a ministry leader, you know this is a difficult season for some of your people. They are facing dark days of disappointment, distress, doubt, and depression right now. Yes, Christmas is a time of great joy, but it also can be a time of terrible sadness.

But it’s not just your people who face dark days during the holiday season—pastors do, too. You’re likely busier than at any other time of the year. You’re balancing church and family demands. You’re challenged to be at your best throughout the entire month.

But here’s the good news: Christmas isn’t the problem; Christmas is God’s solution for you.

Christmas brings good news for anyone struggling with dark days during this season. The truth is, God doesn’t just want to pat…

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Develop an Attitude of Gratitude

Do you need a miracle in your life?

If so, be grateful.

Gratitude is a miracle-creating attitude. It has the power to transform seemingly unsolvable situations. When you thank and praise God in the midst of a problem, he will do a miracle and turn things around.

Acts 16 demonstrates the power of gratitude. Paul and Silas had gone to Philippi to preach and to teach, but they weren’t well-received. In fact, the crowd stoned them, beat them, and threw them into prison.

At midnight, in the middle of the dark, damp, cold prison, Paul and Silas began praising God and singing songs of thanksgiving.

That’s when God did a miracle. He sent an earthquake that shook the whole prison. The prison cell doors opened up, and all the chains and shackles on every prisoner came unbound. Freedom came through thanksgiving.

I don’t know what kind of freedom you need. I have no idea what kind of miracle you’re asking God for, but I know gratitude is the key. Gratitude will do miracles in your life as it releases the power of God. Instead of complaining about your problems, start counting your blessings.


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The Most Powerful Ministry at Saddleback Church

Do you want to see God change lives through your church?

Since the day I started Saddleback, that’s been my prayer for the church. I’m addicted to changed lives; it’s the main reason Saddleback has continued to grow all of these years. I’ve never been excited about the numbers. In fact, more people means more headaches and more crises, but it’s worth it because it also means more changed lives.

In 1 Corinthians 16:15, Paul writes that the household of Stephanas has “addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints” (KJV). That’s a good cause to be addicted to. God wants to heal broken, messed-up lives—and he wants to use us in the process.

No ministry, in the history of our church, has changed lives more than Celebrate Recovery®. God works powerfully through this ministry!

Not only does it produce life-change, it’s a leadership “factory” for our church. When I choose to share a testimony during our weekend services, Celebrate Recovery is the first place I look. Why? Because I know I can depend on finding stories of life-change in that ministry.

The Story of Celebrate Recovery


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How to Fear Less as a Leader

Fears hold us back from God’s best for our lives. As a leader, fear hinders your engagement of God’s mission for your ministry and your church. When you overcome your fear, your deeper dependance on God advances your personal growth and leadership.

Next month, most of us will be teaching on the Christmas account in the Bible. Fear and overcoming fear are key parts of the narrative. Four times God tells different people in the Christmas story to “fear not.” Today, we know that the Christmas story is Good News—God became flesh in order to save us from our sins. But for those who experienced the Christmas story firsthand, the news scared them to death.

When you read through the Christmas account, you’ll find that the characters faced five of the most common fears in existence. You’ll recognize the fears because we frequently face them in ministry, too.

  • The fear of inadequacy (Mary). Mary was a young peasant girl planning to get married. But an angel interrupted her plan by telling her…

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How Not To Train Your Volunteers

I’m convinced that volunteers represent a sleeping giant in most churches. You’ll never embrace God’s vision for your church without mobilizing volunteers. In most churches, you have ready-to-go volunteers looking to serve if you give them the opportunity. In fact, our greatest need in churches today is for people to find their niche and use their God-given SHAPE (Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences) to serve Jesus by serving others.

A Gallup poll I read a few years back showed that only 10 percent of church members were active in ministry. The same poll showed that 50 percent of people won’t volunteer in your church no matter what you do.

However, the other 40 percent would serve if they were given that opportunity. That’s why I think it’s so important to look at obstacles that stand in the way of engaging more people in the ministry of our churches.

I’ve found that most churches spend too much time training volunteers before they get started. It’s an obstacle that’s stunting their ability to mobilize volunteers.

Please don’t misunderstand me: training is important, but you don’t need to load people up with…

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The Biblical Mandate to Serve People with Mental Illness

Healthy living must be an important issue for the church, giving Christians the opportunity to lead the effort globally to minister to people with mental illness.

The Bible says Jesus dealt with people who had all kinds of afflictions—including mental health issues. I love Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Matthew 8:16, where he writes of Jesus, “That evening a lot of demon-afflicted people were brought to him. He relieved the inwardly tormented. He cured the bodily ill” (The Message). Jesus modeled ministry to the mentally ill.

For 2,000 years, the church has cared for the sick. In fact, the church has cared for the sick longer than any other institution. We invented the hospital. Go into nearly any country in the world and you’ll find that the first school and the first hospital were started by missionaries. Christianity has always been a preaching, teaching, and healing faith.

But there’s another critical reason why the church must take the lead in addressing mental illness. Churches are typically the first organization that families in pain reach out to. When a family is having a mental health crisis, they don’t…

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Are You Holding Back Your Church?

Is your church growing like you believe it ought to be?

Churches face many different growth barriers, including small facilities that cannot accommodate a growing congregation, an ineffective strategy to mobilize members for ministry, and unresolved conflict.

Do you ever wonder why growth just isn’t happening in your church?

As a church grows, the pastor’s role must grow, too.

If your role never changes, your church will reach a certain point and never move beyond it. If you are unwilling to change, you will become a barrier to growth in your church.

A pastor must make many changes, but the most common barrier to growth is when a pastor believes they must be the one person to shepherd everyone the church reaches.

For your church to grow, your role must change. To grow, you won’t be able to shepherd everyone your church reaches. You’ll need to learn to shepherd the shepherds. You’ll need to become a rancher.

In fact, your role will change multiple times as your church grows. For example:

  • In a single-cell church of 150 people or fewer, you’re an owner-operator or an entrepreneur. You do most of the work yourself….

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The Power of Authentic Leadership

I believe there are two great confessions in the Bible.

First, you have Peter’s great confession in Matthew 16:16: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (NIV). Then, there’s another one made by Barnabas and Paul in Acts 14:15: “We are merely human beings—just like you!” (NLT).

I know many pastors who are quick to agree with the first confession but are more hesitant to proclaim the second. It’s easy for many pastors to talk about spiritual topics while ignoring or downplaying their own human imperfections. They try to pretend they’re superhuman or super holy.

Authentic leadership admits weaknesses and limitations. Vulnerability isn’t easy because it’s risky. You may have some people in your church who don’t want you to be vulnerable. They want you to maintain an image of being a little bit above the crass realities of life. But when you succumb to that image, you deny a key truth of life and keep yourself from having a full impact on the lives of others.

Why is it worth the effort to be open and honest about your humanity and your weaknesses?

It’s emotionally healthy.

Wearing a mask…

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Great Questions Lead to Great Conversations

I’ve made it my practice for years to have significant conversations with just about everyone I meet. If you have an open mind and humility, you can learn from anyone. The more people I’ve talked to, the more I’ve learned.

It’s easy to have a superficial conversation with someone. Most of our conversations aren’t personal. How often has someone asked you, “How are you?” What’s the universal response? “Fine. How are you?”

What if you didn’t talk to make conversation, but instead you talked to make a difference?

I’ve used “S.P.E.A.K.” as an acronym to help me make my conversations go beneath the surface. You can use these questions with anyone you meet—no matter how much money, power, or popularity the other person has, this tool will help you go deeper and be more personal:

S – Story: “What is your story?”

This is an open-ended question that gets people started. Most people like to talk about their story because being known is a basic need we all have.

P – Passion: “What motivates you?”

Everyone is moved by something. A person’s passion is one of the things that makes that person unique….

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Who Needs Recovery?

By Pastor Rick Warren

I get asked from time to time, “Do I need recovery?”

I love the question because the answer is easy. It’s the same answer every single time: “Yes, you do.”

Everyone needs recovery from something. Why? Everyone is broken, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV).

All leaves little room for questions. Everyone is included. Sin affects all people.

Sin leaves us broken and estranged from God. Every single problem in our lives—from relationships to finances to our health—comes from the brokenness in this world.

There are only two kinds of people: Those who understand they’re broken and need recovery, and those who are in denial.

So, what’s this universal brokenness about? Humans want to be in control. We want to be God. We want to decide what’s right and wrong on our own. And the more insecure we are—the more out of control we feel—the more we try to control.

It’s a problem that began with Adam and Eve. God put them in paradise and told the first couple, “You can do anything you want in this entire paradise except this: don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge…

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Every week you have an audience who gathers to worship, listens to preaching, and considers being on mission in their community and around the world.

However, it’s not an audience you need. To impact your community and fulfill your church’s mission in the world, you need an army. You need to mobilize your congregation to do what God is calling you to do.

You don’t mobilize an army on accident. You do it on purpose. You do it by meeting the specific needs of the groups of people your church should regularly engage—and moving them toward a life that’s on mission.

  • The community: These are the people your church has the potential to reach on any given week. They live near your church and may even visit occasionally.
  • The crowd: This is everyone who attends your church on a regular basis but have yet to join in church membership.
  • The congregation: These are your church members.
  • The committed: This is everyone who is growing in the spiritual disciplines and walking with God daily.
  • The core: These are the people who are not only growing in Christ but are also serving in your church.
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