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.

Last year, many churches began 2020 with sermons on vision. The opportunity to preach on “Vision 2020” was too much for many pastors to pass up.

But now, as we head into 2021, many pastors are struggling to cast their vision for the next year.

That’s where many pastors are right now. After the strangest year anyone can remember, they just can’t see what’s next. 

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (KJV). Vision isn’t negotiable for church leaders. Your church needs God’s vision. 

The word “vision” in this verse literally means a dream. You’ve got to have a dream for your life and for your ministry. Otherwise, your church will just drift. Without a dream for your church, your people will perish.

The Gospels of Luke and Mark tell a story of a blind man, Bartimaeus, that can help us as ministry leaders learn to see again and get God’s vision for our ministries, even after all we’ve experienced in 2020. 

Every miracle performed by Jesus teaches us…

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The Discipleship Method of Jesus

A common debate among ministry leaders is whether to use an attractional approach or a missional approach to evangelism. Those who advocate for an attractional approach argue that churches should invest heavily in trying to encourage non-Christians to attend worship services. Those who argue for a missional approach say that worship services are for believers, and evangelism should happen as believers are sent out into the community. 

Both sides are right. Jesus’ discipleship plan included both “come to me” and “go and tell.” To the unbeliever, Jesus says “come.” To the believer, Jesus says “go.” Missional evangelism and attractional evangelism don’t contradict each other. They work in tandem.

Jesus’ discipleship process helped people move from “come and see” to “go and tell.” Every movement of the Spirit of God has created new terminology to explain what that movement is all about. I use the phrases “come and see” to “come and die” to describe the systematic and sequential discipleship method of Jesus. It explains what Jesus did in the three and a half years he trained his disciples. It’s the way…

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What the Christmas Story Teaches Us About God’s Timing (Part 2)

Timing is one of the most important parts of leadership.

In fact, the difference between a great leader and a poor leader is not just knowing what to do but knowing when to do it. The timing is everything.

The difference between a speaker who holds your attention and one who doesn’t is all in the timing.

If you don’t learn timing, you’ll struggle with leadership.

The Bible isn’t silent on the topic. In fact, timing is critical to the Christmas story. Last week, I shared with you three lessons about God’s timing we can learn from the Christmas story and apply to our ministries.

  1. God has a timetable for everything that happens.
  2. God does not tell us the details in advance.
  3. God is never in a hurry, and he’s never late.

This week, I have two more lessons about timing we can learn from the Christmas story.

God’s timing is not always convenient.

God’s plan for your life and his timing is good. It’s for your benefit, but it’s not painless. It won’t always be easy.

Think about Mary and Joseph. Mary…

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What the Christmas Story Teaches Us About God’s Timing (Part 1)

Like many of you, I’ve read and preached the Christmas story many times in my life. 

But a few years ago, I noticed something that I had missed for most of my life. 

God’s timetable is all over the Christmas story.

Once you see it, you’ll never miss it again.

As leaders, it’s important to have a good sense of timing. Getting in sync with God’s timing helps us lead our church to seize the opportunities he gives us. 

So what can the timing of Jesus’ birth tell us as leaders about God’s timing in our own ministries? I’ll share five lessons over the next two weeks. Here are the first three.

God has a timetable for everything that happens. 

God had been telling the world for centuries that he was going to send a Savior. But God waited thousands of years for just the right time to send his Son. 

Why didn’t God send him sooner? 

God had his own timetable for Christmas.

The Bible says, Continue Reading

The work done by your team—your staff and volunteers—has eternal consequences. But your team members cannot serve effectively if they’re under stress; they won’t be able to go the distance. This is especially true during the holiday season—and even more so during a global pandemic.

That’s why I encourage leaders to cultivate the concept of relaxed concern. That may sound like a contradiction, but the quickest way to exhaust your team is to never let people relax. Although they need to realize their work is important, they won’t last if they never take their foot off the accelerator.

I’ve spoken to many pastors whose staff members and volunteers are becoming weary in ministry. It’s not because these leaders aren’t dedicated. It’s because they’re too dedicated. More precisely, their dedication isn’t tempered by the ability to relax—an important skill to learn in order to complete the task God has put before them.

Let me share seven leadership habits that will help your team cultivate relaxed concern and increase the likelihood of finishing well in ministry. 

Have realistic expectations.

Don’t…

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4 Steps to Managing Holiday Stress

Although the holiday season is one of the happiest seasons of the year, it can still be stressful—particularly for those of us in ministry.

Not only do we have our regular weekly stresses, such as preparing sermons, counseling people in need, and leading our staff and volunteers, many of us are not able to gather with family and friends due to the pandemic.

But I don’t want you to just survive this season. I want it to be a joyous time for you—and a fruitful time for your ministry.  

In Philippians 4:4-8, Paul gives us four simple yet profound statements about how to manage stress during this season.

Worry about nothing.

“Never worry about anything. But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks” (Philippians 4:6 GW).

Worry has tempted many of us this year. It’s a killjoy, and it adds unnecessary stress to our lives. We worry about getting sick. We worry about making someone else sick. We worry about how our churches will respond to…

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Have You Thanked Your Congregation Lately?

For many people, this has been the most difficult year they can remember. Surveys show that worry and stress—even for pastors—have increased this year at astronomical rates. 

Pastor, I want to encourage you to do something that might seem counterintuitive and radical in the middle of a year like this.

Be grateful. 

Gratitude provides the deep spiritual roots we need when we’re going through tough times. 

Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this” (GW).

Even in the worst of times, God wants us to be grateful. That’s why I want to encourage you to express gratitude to your church family. As a leader, your gratitude sets an example for everyone else.

Paul knew this. When he wrote letters to various churches, he almost always started with a “thank you”—usually involving the church’s faith, hope, and love. 

Picking up from Paul’s theme, here are three specific ways you can show…

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How to Handle Loneliness in Ministry

It doesn’t matter how many people you have around you, you can still feel lonely. Pastors know this well. They’re around people all the time, visiting families, discipling leaders, and making hospital visits. But even during all that activity, you can still experience loneliness. 

The Bible says in Genesis 2:18 “It is not good for the man to be alone” (NCV). But the truth is, all of us will go through lonely times in our lives—even pastors.

There are four causes of loneliness: 

  • Transitions. Life is a series of transitions. Any of those changes can cause loneliness.
  • Separation. When you’re isolated from those you love, whether through a relocation, illness, or relational problem, it can lead to loneliness. 
  • Opposition. When you feel like everyone’s against you at work or at school, loneliness can creep in.
  • Rejection. When someone betrays or rejects you, loneliness can come.

The apostle Paul gives us a great example of dealing with loneliness in ministry at the end of his life. He wrote…

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To be effective in ministry, you must manage your time well. Whether you’re a full-time or bi-vocational pastor, it can sometimes feel like the time you put into ministry gets crowded out by everything else.

The problem with your time isn’t the clock. It’s not your schedule. It’s how you use the time you have. To get mad at the clock or your schedule is like getting mad at the scales in your bathroom. It’s not the scale’s fault that you don’t like the way it reads. Time is simply a measurement. You must learn how to manage it better.

Throughout the last five decades in ministry, I’ve lived out three truths Paul shares in Ephesians 5:15-17. Each truth has helped me use my time better so I can do what God has created me to do. 

You’ll have the time to do everything God has called you to do if you’ll put these principles into practice:

1. Evaluate your lifestyle.

“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like ignorant people, but like wise people” (Ephesians 5:15 GNT). Continue Reading

Research tells us that more people struggle with setting goals than they do accomplishing them. Sitting down and actually thinking about what God wants us to do with our lives is often the hardest part.

Yet the biggest differentiator between those who were moderately successful in life and those who were highly successful is whether or not they had definable goals written down.

The Bible isn’t silent about goal-setting, either. The book of Proverbs speaks frequently about setting goals:

  • “If your goals are good, you’ll be respected” (Proverbs 11:27 GNT). 
  • “We should make plans, counting on God to direct us” (Proverbs 16:9 TLB).
  • “Any enterprise is built by wise planning, becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts” (Proverbs 24:3-4 TLB). 

God considers it helpful for us to have goals in every area of our lives (marriage, family, work, financial, physical, etc.) and for us to work toward those goals. 

The Bible doesn’t just tell us to set goals, though. It…

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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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