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.

Leaders who invest their lives have ministries that outlast them. I hope that’s you.

In last week’s article, I shared four principles of investing your life in a way that outlasts you, according to the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:

  1. The Principle of Ownership: Everything we have belongs to God and has been entrusted to us to bring him glory. 
  2. The Principle of Allocation: God gives each of us unique gifts.
  3. The Principle of Accountability: God expects us to make the most of the abilities, talents, opportunities, and resources he has given us.
  4. The Principle of Utilization: When God gives us talents, he expects us to use them.

This week, I’d like to share with you three more:

The Principle of Motivation

Satan loves to use fear to prevent us from using our talents. You see this in the response of the lazy servant in Matthew 25:25. When the master confronted him with his poor stewardship, he said: “I was afraid.” Because he was afraid,…

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You have three options for what you can do with your life. You can waste it on pursuits that don’t matter. You can spend it on making a name for yourself. Or you can invest your life in ways that will bring God glory for future generations.

Leaders invest their lives in ways that will outlast them. I want you to have that kind of ministry—one that will still bear fruit years after you’re finished on this earth. 

Matthew 25 gives us seven great principles for how to make the most impact on others for generations to come. I’ll share the first four principles this week and the next three the following week.

The Principle of Ownership

From the very beginning, God said our role on earth was to take care of his world (Genesis 2:15). We’re managers of what he made.

Matthew 25:14 says, “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them” (NIV). In this parable, the master represents God, and we…

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In ministry, tight personal budgets often come with the territory. When Kay and I first moved from Texas to Southern California in 1979, we came with little money and a big vision. In fact, we didn’t even have enough money for a motel the first night we were in Southern California.

We started Saddleback Church on faith.

When you have to stretch your finances to meet your obligations, you need to learn how to manage money effectively. Most pastors weren’t taught how to do so in Bible college or seminary, but it’s an incredibly important part of your ministry. 

Throughout my ministry, I’ve used principles from the book of Proverbs to teach my congregation how to manage money. If you haven’t made these five commitments, consider making them today. 

Keep good records. Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds” (Proverbs 23:23 NKJV). One of the big reasons most people face pressure concerning their finances is they’re not sure where their money is going. You need to know what you owe, what you own,…

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August is often the driest month of the year here in Southern California. Not only is it physically dry, but it can also be spiritually, relationally, and emotionally dry. 

The fact is, you’re more than halfway through the year, but you still have a long way to go. It’s about that time when you start to reflect on all your goals and wonder how you’ll get everything done.

We all face dry periods. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been in ministry. Dry periods are a part of everyone’s spiritual journey—a truth we often forget. 

When I find myself in a spiritually dry spot, I use it as an opportunity to evaluate my life and examine whether I’m living in the will of God. It’s easy to get out of the will of God, but it’s also quite easy to get back into it if you will simply ask God these three questions.

  • Who do you want me to be? God wants us to always grow more and more like Jesus. If you ask this question, God will show you areas where…

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If you’re a pastor or church leader, God has given you a task much bigger than you can handle on your own. Leadership in 2020 has certainly put a magnifying glass on this truth. At times this year, I’m sure your work has seemed utterly impossible.

The book of Nehemiah shows the importance of good leadership in the completion of a project. With the right leadership, the Israelites were able to complete a project in 52 days—a project that, for 80 years, people had said couldn’t be done. When you get the right catalyst, important projects get finished. 

What kind of leader does your church and community need? Nehemiah shows us four critical markers of a great leader. 

Compelling Purpose 

You need a vision that drives you forward. Nehemiah had that. When some of Nehemiah’s enemies tried to entice him into leaving his work, he responded, “I am doing a great work” (Nehemiah 6:3 NCV). Nehemiah was very single-minded. He committed to his project because he realized he was doing something that mattered.

Great lives are produced when they’re committed…

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You likely came into 2020 with big plans. You had dreams of doing great ministry that had nothing to do with a global pandemic. Then March came, and all your plans had to change. 

I know many church leaders who have seen God work in ways they never expected. I also know many church leaders who are discouraged as we pass the year’s halfway mark. For them, it seems as if nothing has gone right. 

For those of you discouraged today, please don’t give up. 

Why? God’s greatest work in your ministry may be just around the corner. The greatest shortages of ministry are often followed by fullness. 

Remember the story of Exodus 15? After Moses had led the Israelites through the Red Sea and out of Egyptian bondage, the people began complaining about their lack of good drinking water after just three days.

You wouldn’t blame Moses if he’d decided to quit at that point. You’ve probably been in his shoes. It doesn’t take long for people you lead to begin complaining—even if you’re coming off exciting movements of God. It’s frustrating and…

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How to Deal With Disappointment in Ministry

Have you ever noticed how forgetful people can be? They quickly forget all the ways others have helped them in the past, and they end up complaining later on. 

Children forget what their parents have done for them. Spouses take one another for granted. Bosses move on to other employees.

It’s human nature.

Many pastors experience this firsthand. Despite years of faithful service, their congregations only remember the failures. These pastors work so hard, and no one seems to notice.

Maybe this is the position you’re in today. You’re not alone. Moses also experienced this kind of disappointment. 

Just three days after Moses led God’s people through the Red Sea—one of the greatest miracles in history—the Bible says, “The people grumbled to Moses, ‘What are we going to drink?’” (Exodus 15:24). Israel was quick to forget what Moses had done for them.

At the first sign of trouble, the Israelites complained. Their motto during their time in the desert was: “When in doubt, grumble against Moses.”…

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It’s likely you and the people you’re leading are more short-tempered than usual this year. This shouldn’t surprise you. There are many reasons to be angry right now—from being quarantined for long periods of time to massive job losses to clear examples of injustice all around.

But anger doesn’t need to win. More than ever, now is the time to look at how our faith can keep us calm, even during times of crisis. 

Anger isn’t always wrong. The Bible tells us that God gets appropriately angry. The only reason you’re able to experience anger is because you’re created in God’s image. 

But mismanaged anger is a problem, and it’s a sin. 

Thankfully, God can help us manage our anger in the midst of chaos as we follow this six-part biblical pattern.

Realize the cost of uncontrolled anger.

You can always identify a price tag on your anger. Proverbs 29:22 says, “An angry person causes trouble” (NCV). You’ve likely seen this play out in your life—and in the lives of others.

Take note of…

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The Difference Between Real Faith and Fake Faith

If 2020 has taught us anything about faith, it’s that fake faith isn’t enough.

Our culture is literally overrun with fake products. You can get fake versions of just about everything at a cheaper price than the originals. I fly through many international airports, and in many countries, you can buy a fake $15,000 watch in airports for $100. It looks and functions just like the real one.

Most of the time, getting a fake version of something isn’t a big problem. You may be able to get by with a fake watch, but you can’t survive spiritually with a fake faith. Fake faith won’t give you security in the midst of a global pandemic. Fake faith won’t help you survive an economic catastrophe. Fake faith can’t heal generations of broken cross-cultural relationships either. 

James tells us fake faith is “dead.” In times of trial, this dead faith won’t help our churches. That is why there has never been a better time for us to help the people in our congregations develop real faith. 

What does real faith…

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As we reflect on what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis, we’re grieved that this kind of injustice is still happening to our brothers and sisters in the 21st century.

We know injustice makes God angry, and it makes us angry, too.

If one of us is denied justice, none of us can ignore it. If one of us isn’t safe, none of us are safe. If one of us can be abused, all of us will lose. The Bible says, “Open your mouth on behalf of those unable to speak, for the legal rights of all the dying” (Proverbs 31:8 NET).

That verse applies to anyone whose life has been threatened by prejudice and oppression, not just the unborn who can’t defend themselves from death. The next verse tells us to “plead the cause of the poor and needy.”

Because of what the Bible teaches, we can’t be silent when injustice happens. A few weeks ago, during my James series explaining the principles for living through a pandemic, I warned against the rise of racism and…

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If you’ve ever watched a marathon, you know there’s a big crowd of runners at the starting line. As you get toward the finish line, it thins out. Ministry is like a marathon. Many people start out great but don’t make it to the finish line.

I want you to make it to the finish line. 

What are the keys to ministry that help people thrive over a lifetime?  

The life of Samson shows us a negative example of what not to do. He had everything going for him—a great start, abilities, good looks, and strength. But one day, he lost it all. His strength had left him, and he ended up a broken man. 

Here are lessons from Samson’s life that can help you maintain spiritual strength throughout your ministry.

Discipline your desires.

When we begin to make decisions based on pleasure rather than principle and live out of convenience rather than out of conviction, we risk losing our spiritual strength. Even good things—like food, money, sex, and sleep—can zap our spiritual strength if taken to the extreme.Continue Reading

In the coming months and years, the world will be in rebuilding mode. We’ll be rebuilding churches, communities, and economies.

Most importantly, we’ll be rebuilding lives. 

Leadership is critical to any rebuilding effort, and Nehemiah is my favorite leader in the Bible. Jerusalem had been in shambles for more than a century when he arrived, yet he led the effort to rebuild it.

Nehemiah gives us a great example of leadership as we enter into a time of rebuilding. 

What made him such a great leader? I believe it boils down to eight characteristics. 

Compassion

Nehemiah really cared about people. Just four verses into the book and you’re confronted with his compassion. Nehemiah 1:4 says, “When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven” (NLT).

Nehemiah had a cushy job with the king of Persia. He didn’t have to care about the problems in Jerusalem, where he had never been, but he cared anyway. 

Love is the foundation of Christian leadership. People don’t…

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