Category Archives: Discipleship
The book of James gives us some great truths about prayer.
- PRAYER WORKS! James 1:5
- Prayer works WHEN IT’S TRIED. James 4:2
- Prayer works when it’s tried WITH RIGHT MOTIVES. James 4:3
- Prayer works when done IN COMMUNITY. James 5:13-16
James also tells us about the power of prayer:
1. We can BE STRONG and ACCOMPLISH MORE through prayer. This is how the words “powerful in its effect” in James 5:16 can also be translated. Strength and accomplishment.
2. James puts one condition on prayers power: “The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” James 5:16. To gain full advantage in prayer, one must be RIGHT with God. This points to the need of a RELATIONSHIP with God through Christ. This is how we gain RIGHTEOUSNESS (see 2 Corinthians 5:21 and 1 Peter 3:18). Goodness is the best we can do, but RIGHTEOUSNESS is needed to get to heaven and to know all the blessings of life IN CHRIST, including a powerful, strong prayer life.
3. Prayer Requires Intentionality, Commitment, and Faith. James gives an example of the power of prayer from the life of Elijah. Elijah’s prayer actually changed weather patterns (James 5:17-18)! It’s a lesson in the endless possibilities of dependence upon God. As Jesus said it, “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
James says that Elijah prayed fervently or earnestly. This word proseuche is rich with meaning. Here are some ways that its definition and usage can be applied:
- pros means near of toward – prayer brings nearness to God
- seuche means vow or commitment – prayer is bringing our hearts near or toward God. Prayer should bring with it a heart of surrender and sacrifice and a commitment that says we are serious about our relationship, dependence, and usefulness to God.
- proseuche also denoted a real place. The word was used by Jews who lived in a city without a synagogue to mark a place for prayer gatherings. It also was used to describe an altar where people brought gifts prior to prayer and worship. Of course Jesus, encouraged or commanded the use of a prayer closet (Matthew 6:6).
Is your heart RIGHT with God? Do you have a PLACE for prayer? Do you believe in prayers power? Are you ready to give your heart to God? Then get after it, and expect to experience the powerful effects of prayer!
If you are a follower of Christ, hopefully you’re asking, “How will I grow in my faith in the New Year?” Intentionality is the friend of spiritual growth. A goal of mine is to read the Bible through each year. 10-20 minutes of reading each day will get you there. If you’re a believer, reading the Bible through is a must to give you the big picture perspective of the faith and of the book that is our guide for spiritual growth.
A few tips and tricks from my journey:
- I love using technology in Bible Reading. Youversion.com or the Bible App is my go to partner in faith development. Makes it easy to track, share, and be creative with images, etc. Also has a large variety of plans for every persons interest and needs.
- Last year, I used the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan which gives you 5 days off each month. Would be a good plan for busy people because of the 5 days of grace.
- I finished the plan early enough to get in the 40 Days through the New Testament Challenge here at the end of the year. Very challenging. 7-8 chapters each day. I’m a slow reader, and I like to highlight and journal through what I’m reading, so some of these readings took me all day! Very good challenge to take though as I am more convinced than ever that there is nothing more hope filled than the message of the New Testament.
- I’ll probably go back with the One Year Bible Reading Plan this year. I’ve finished it 3 or 4 times. It takes you through the entire Bible and the book of Psalms twice. Psalms everyday is good when your reading is in some of the meatier sections of the Bible.
- How do you make it through the meatier sections of the Bible? I like to use a Bible Handbook when I’m reading through hard to understand sections like the Major Prophets. My favorite is How to Read the Bible Book by Book. Pick up any Bible Handbook as a helpful read along through the Bible.
- “But I don’t always have time to read during the day.” Same here. At least once per week, I leave my house at 4:30am or so. This doesn’t allow me time to get my reading in. So, I use the Bible Apps audio feature and listen through my planned reading for that day. I’ve found balancing listening and reading to the Bible helpful. Most of the Bible was written to be read aloud by others. It helps bring some passages alive to hear it read out loud. Try it.
Get some of my other tips and tricks for devotional life HERE. And let’s connect on the Bible App to encourage one another this year.
If you’re new to Bible Reading, check out our little booklet How to Get a Grip on the Bible to get started.
Wrapping up the 3rd Quarter of the Year this weekend. 92 more days of 2017! Good time to assess ourselves spiritually. A good 4th quarter will probably make those January resolutions a little easier. Ha!
Our church strategizes around Five Catalyst for Spiritual Growth. They are also good tools for assessing our spiritual lives. These came out of a personal investigation of things I’ve heard Spiritual Giants Say. Pray or journal through these questions.
2. Personal Devotional Habits – Am I spending time being fed and filled by Jesus through His Word and prayer? Take an on ramp to this catalyst HERE.
3. Engaging in Ministry – Am I using my gifts with radical generosity or holding on to / burying what God has given me? Christianity and Church only make sense through the lens of service.
4. Building Catalytic Relationships – Am I involved in any relationships that encourage, challenge, and hold me accountable? Why Bother with Relationships?
5. Experiencing God’s Providential Care – Am I depending on God and graciously receiving help from others as I experience trials? Are my eyes open to how I can be the body of Christ to others experiencing hardships?
God desires for you to grow. Spiritual growth is not automatic. These catalysts reflect the tools we have for spiritual growth. Praying that this fall you will “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
I enjoy gardening. Even though I’m not very good at it. Why? I don’t always have the time to do what’s necessary to grow and multiply plants to their fullest extent. The best gardeners know how and put in the time to create the right conditions for growth and multiplication. The very best gardeners will start with a greenhouse to nurse the plants in early stages before they are ever put in the ground. A greenhouse is a tool where you can create the perfect conditions for multiplication & growth of plants at all different stages and with various needs.
I enjoy gardening in part because of the many parallels it has to church planting and ministry. I’ve began to see church as a greenhouse – a tool to create the right conditions for multiplication & growth OF DISCIPLES. Here are five truths I’m learning on church as a GREENHOUSE:
1. Disciples must be nurtured.
Like plants, like a garden, like a greenhouse, disciples need time and attention. One of the greatest books on discipleship has in its title a reminder we constantly need – Disciples Are Made, Not Born. While we are not completely responsible for the growth of a disciple, part of our commission from Jesus requires time and attention and energy and prayer, etc., etc., etc. One of the greatest disciple makers, the apostle Paul, said it like this in Colossians 1:28-29,
“We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.”
If we’re going to make disciples, we must expect to give much time and attention to people from sharing the gospel, teaching basic truths, responding to questions, correcting, forgiving, etc., etc.
2. A Disciple’s needs change over time.
A greenhouse or a garden is organized based on maturity and needs of the plants. Expectation are based upon time and stage of growth. Just like this, as churches, we need to provide a variety of opportunities for growth for people at different stages of maturity. And we need to teach our leaders what you can expect from people as they grow. The best tool I’ve seen that helps with this is Jim Putman’s great book Real Life Discipleship and the Real Life Discipleship Training Manual. Putman guides readers to understand where people are spiritually based upon what they say, and then how to respond and what to provide for them at that stage. (See my post Things Spiritual Infants Say for a run down).
3. Disciples will eventually need to be sent out from the greenhouse to multiply themselves.
The Greenhouse is not the final destination for a plant, nor is the Sunday worship service the climax of maturity for the disciple. Just like plants are meant to be outside, producing fruit and multiplying, disciples should be trained, equipped, and released into this world for maximum fruitfulness and to multiply the gospel in their sphere of influence.
4. Not all disciples will respond to the conditions you create.
A hard reality to face for the gardener, and much harder for the disciple maker is the truth that some plants and some people just won’t respond to the conditions you create. It hurts when a disciple doesn’t respond to God’s word. It hurts when a disciple leaves your church, but maybe they needed conditions you couldn’t provide at the time. Jesus even said that perhaps only 25% of disciples would become fruitful (Matthew 13). It’s important to remember that we’re responsible for our faithfulness, not everyones response.
5. The church is the perfect tool to create the conditions for multiplication & growth of Disciples.
The church, with all its imperfections, does provide a perfect environment for growth of disciples. A church offers opportunities to learn from those walking with God for years, opportunities to get involved and serve in various capacities, opportunities to have relationship wins and losses. These and other conditions help us grow. A lack of desire to learn, serve, love, and forgive REVEALS a lot about where we are spiritually and our potential for fruitfulness, maturity, and multiplication.
Does your church function as a Greenhouse? How are plants maturing? Are you providing opportunities for people at different stages of growth? Are you training your leaders to know what to expect as people grow? Are you moving people out to multiply in their world? Are you spending time with people that just refuse to grow & may need different conditions or to be let go?
Good encouragement here from Tony Evans, for when the Family Devotion just seems like a lot of commotion. Parents, keep showing up!
There were times when our four kids would be acting up around the table while I was trying to lead devotions, and it would irritate me. They would be talking out of turn, or one would be pouting. It just seemed like a lot of commotion rather than devotion! I admit there were even times when I called it quits and told everyone to go to their rooms because they weren’t paying attention or they were being disrespectful. But more times than not, I stuck it out, and then, at a later point, I would be surprised how one child or another would bring up something I thought for sure no one had heard during the devotions at the table simply due to the noise. They were listening— even when it didn’t look like they were listening. Those were the moments God used to remind me to hang in there when I would want to walk away from the table early and call it a night. I would remember that it was my responsibility to train these children to the best of my ability— imperfectly but consistently. I was called to show up and do my part, leaving the hard work of getting the truth into their hearts to God.
Excerpted from Raising Kingdom Kids by Tony Evans
Highlights from our Bridge On Mission Message Series
November was On Mission Month at Bridge Church. We tackled the questions of how to live life ON MISSION to the Vulnerable, the Nations, the Next Generation, & to our Neighbors.
Check out a few great quotes from this series presented by Evan McGinty, Steve Elworth, Cherish Leblanc, Elizabeth Johnson, & myself.
- Christ Followers never say, “That’s not my problem.”
- There’s no such thing as an unwanted child in God’s Kingdom.
- The drive behind our mission is obedience to God. Sustainable mission is a series of small steps of obedience.
- In Christ, our lives will not end in brokenness, but with promised restoration.
- If God calls you to it, He’ll give you the grace to do it. – Cherish LeBlanc
- God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called. – Elizabeth Johnson
- God is a missionary. Therefore, the church is a missionary church.
- Missions is something God does, not something I do.
- “God’s mission is a reason there is a Bible at all.” – Steve Hawthorne
- “Do not ask ‘what is God’s will for my life?’ Instead, ask, ‘what is God’s will for the world and what is my place in fulfilling his will?’” – John Perkins
- If every evangelical gave 10% of their income to missions we could easily support 2 million new missionaries.
- Your Character, Lifestyle, & Example as a parent, or other influence in their lives, help kids know WHAT is right.
- Good character around them can be a kind of North Star. That’s also why we need a church community, b/c our kids are not just watching us, but those we associate with.
- Your Intentional Words, Discipline, Discipleship help them know what AND WHY the Christian life is right.
- “There is just one way to bring up a child in the way he should go and that is to travel that way yourself.” — Abraham Lincoln
- Missions does not equal distance. We have a mission field within walking distance of us everyday.
- Consumers like the mission. Disciples own the mission. Romans 1:14
Listen to the messages HERE or on Itunes.
Our task is to Make Disciples. How? Here’s a great list of to do’s from the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13.
1. Share the Gospel
“we preached God’s gospel to you” – Discipleship starts with evangelism. No gospel sharing will lead to no disciple making.
- Who have you shared the gospel with recently?
- Who are you praying for that needs to hear the gospel?
2. Conduct yourself with Honesty & Devotion
“You are witnesses, and so is God, of how devoutly, righteously, and blamelessly we conducted ourselves with you believers.” – The conduct of the disciple maker sets the example for new disciples.
- Does your conduct match your conversation?
- Are new believers drawn to you?
- Are you living as an example that someone else should follow?
- What gaps do you need to close in your life right now in the area of conduct, habits, words, attitude?
3. Encourage, Comfort, Urge the Disciples On
“we encouraged, comforted, and implored each one of you to walk worthy of God” – Constant contact, encouragement, difficult conversations, patience, love.
- Who needs encouragement today?
- Who is in danger of slipping away that needs a phone call?
- Who is doing great that you can write a note to?
- Who are you ready to give up on? Pray for patience & the right words for that person.
4. Give Thanks to God for Any Progress
“we constantly thank God, because when you received the message about God that you heard from us, you welcomed it” – The disciple maker must recognize God as the giver of the increase. We are His instruments to plant & water the seeds.
- Look back over the last year & think about who in your life has grown the most. Thank God for them. Encourage them with what you see in their life.
- Think of those who are on their way. Imagine where they may be with the Gospel, a great example of faith, encouragement & regular contact, & a humble grateful friend in their lives.
How many disciples have made disciples? Great challenge from Alan Briggs in his new book Guardrails: Six Principles for a Multiplying Church.
Reproducible discipleship looks beyond numbers to count generations – it measures how many disciples have made disciples… When we aim at mere numbers, we will rarely multiply disciples, but when we aim at generations, numbers come naturally.
Love this thinking! If church is about making disciples and one thing disciples do is make other disciples, we should be able to begin measuring generations within the first few years of our church. Take a look at your church roll and see how many generations deep you can go. If not far, examine your goal for people. Are you making disciples or just attenders? This is a mistake I have made in ministry. Attendance makes pastors feel good and populates the chairs on Sunday’s. Disciple making makes the kingdom grow and populates heaven.
Guardrails is a great book to help you get back to the simplicity of discipleship. Here’s a few other great quotes:
- healthy ministry always centers around making disciples.
- Our mission is to make disciples. That’s what missional people do.
- Spiritual leadership is not about gaining followers; it’s about making disciples.
- Disciple-makers are very ordinary people who take God’s mission seriously.
- Discipleship is a beautiful and rugged journey into living like Jesus.
- Discipleship is not something to be comprehended and mastered by something to be lived out and passed on to others.
- Every follower of Jesus has the capacity to become a multiplier of the message.
- When we portray discipleship as complicated, ordinary people leave discipleship to the experts, and reproduction is killed before it starts.
- We simply cannot afford to choose building our churches over making disciples. We must follow the progression of making disciples, developing leaders, and leading churches – in that order.
Grab a copy of Guardrails. Refreshing, challenging book to fuel the mission of making disciples. See the Trailer for the book HERE. Looking forward to having Alan Briggs as one of our Equippers in 2017 & 2018 for our Multiply Louisiana Church Planting Network! More info soon.
Leadership Axiom: It’s not what you do today, it’s what you do everyday that makes a difference. And what we do everyday, over and over again shapes us more than we know. What’s on your list of EVERYDAY priorities?
1. Hit my knees in prayer.
Prayer is a profession of our faith & dependence upon God. Nothing more important than the relationship born on our knees as believers.
2. Connect with a truth from God’s word.
God speaks to us through His word. Why would I refuse to hear from God? Opening the Bible must be a daily practice.
3. Kiss my wife.
Not a difficult discipline. I never want to take for granted the incredible gift God has given me in my beautiful, virtuous wife. And thankfully, one of her love languages is physical touch, so win-win.
4. Share the Gospel with someone.
Billy Graham said it takes 20 conversations before someone gives their lives to Christ. I want to be faithful to move people along toward that life changing decisions.
5. Spend eye to eye, face to face time with my kids.
Kids spell love T.I.M.E. I want to let them know they’re at the top of my priorities. Eye to eye, face to face moments have to be fought for with the flurry of distractions we face. But it’s worth it! Always want to ask, “Did they see my eyes today?”
6. One another a member of my church.
At least 44 “one another” verses in the New Testament – serve, pray, encourage, love, honor, etc., etc. Practicing the one another’s keeps us focused on the needs of others & helps people & our church grow. Great list HERE.
7. Encourage a church planter.
Having planted three churches I know the loneliness, the discouragement, the isolation that planters can face. I also know the fuel that a little bit of encouragement can add to a leaders life. I want to be a daily encourager of those on the front lines through church planting.
8. Read at least one chapter of a book.
Harry Truman said, “All leaders are readers.” Reading is a discipline that must be prioritized. My goal is to read at least one chapter of a book everyday. With 365 days in a year, that means I’ll probably read around 30 books every year. That’s a good goal & a lot of learning.
Better rest, greater stamina, longer life. Lots of benefits to exercise. 20-30 minutes everyday is a must.
10. Watch the sunset.
I’m fortunate to live in a place with incredible sunsets. Never want to take that for granted. If it’s at all possible, I’ll fight for time gazing at the artistry of our Father revealing Himself to us through color & clouds.
What would you add to this list of EVERYDAY activities?