When asked by Pew research to define what Jesus’ teachings were, people answered:
- Take care of the environment
- Buy from companies that pay fair wages
- Live healthy and exercise
Not bad things at all, but Jesus actually didn’t say any of that. What did Jesus actually say? We can find his commands in the four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And his commands, his directives, were on his mind when he stood in front of his disciples before going back to heaven. He told them to “Go. Make Disciples. Baptize them. And teach them to obey EVERYTHING I HAVE COMMANDED” (Matthew 28:19-20).
What if we focused on obey everything Jesus commanded? If you look at and seek to obey his commands, you’ll find everything you need for a dynamic spiritual life that will make an eternal impact. There are commands for situations, like “What happens when someone attacks me?” Jesus says, Love them, Bless them, Pray for them. “What happens if I’m running out of food?” Jesus says, don’t worry. The father knows your need and will provide.
You also find commands that give meaning and purpose for all of life and that you can literally build life on. Like, “Seek first the kingdom of God” and “Love God and Love Others” and “Go and make disciples.” Jesus commands give us more than enough to build life on and to know how to live in difficult times.
And the best news of all. We’re not alone when it comes to obeying Jesus. This is not a checklist that we have to struggle with. That’s religion. And its powerless. These commands are given in the context of relationship that Jesus paved the way for with his own life. Jesus, as part of this relationship, has promised to put these commands in the hearts of those who follow Him (Ezekiel 36:27). And he has promised power to obey in the person of his Holy Spirit to live within us. To struggle with obedience to Jesus may reveal something amiss about your relationship with him. Obedience is a product of an abiding relationship with Jesus. Saying no to Jesus’ commands is saying “I am the Lord of my life. Jesus, no thanks.”
Saying Yes to Jesus is a way of life. For the person who has made Jesus the leader of their lives, we find joy and strength in obedience to him. It’s the best yes of every life and should be the first yes of every day for those who follow him. Have you said yes to Jesus today?
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.
How can I know where I am or where those I’m trying to disciple and lead are spiritually? Try listening. My last post was about Things Spiritual Giants Say. A few years ago, I posted about Jim Putman’s great book Real-Life Discipleship: Equipping Disciples Who Make Disciples. In the book, he breaks down five stages of spiritual maturity by what will be common phrases for a person at each stage. Jesus said, “The mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart” (Matthew 12:34 HCSB), so our words reveal our spiritual condition.
- “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.”
- “I pray and read my Bible. That’s good enough for me.”
- “I didn’t know the Bible said that.”
- “Jesus helps me be a good person. I don’t need church.”
- Characterized by ignorance, confusion, dependence, worldly perspective.
- Needs personal attention of a spiritual parent, teaching and modeling the Christian faith, accountability to develop new habits.
- “My church isn’t taking care of my needs.”
- “I didn’t like the music today. If only they did it like…”
- “I love my small group; don’t add more people to it.”
- “I’m not being fed at my church, so I’m going to a church that can meet my needs better.”
- Characterized by self-centeredness, pride, idealism, spiritual highs and lows.
- Needs relational connections to a church family, help to start feeding themselves, teaching about identity in Christ.
Spiritual Young Adult
- “I love my small group, but there are others who need a group like this.”
- “Randy and Rachel missed church today. Their kids have the flu, maybe our group could make meals for them. I’ll start.”
- “I have some friends I’ve been witnessing to. I think I could lead a Bible Study for them with a little help.”
- “In my devotions, I came across something I have a question about.”
- Characterized by action, zeal, God-centered, others-centered, independent, desire to serve others.
- Needs opportunities to serve, ongoing relationships that offer encouragement, accountability and skills training.
- “This guy at work asked me to explain the Bible to him. Pray for me.”
- “Our small group is going on a mission trip, and I have given each person a different responsibility.”
- “We get to baptize someone from my small group today. I want them to get plugged into a ministry right away.”
- Characterized by intentionality, reproduction mindset, dependability, desire to see others mature.
- Needs ongoing relationships with other disciple makers, a team approach, accountability and encouragement.
So where are you? If you’re moving toward spiritual maturity you may want to get this book or the training manual to learn more about how to be a spiritual parent and make disciples who make disciples. Here’s a few other great quotes from the manual:
- Every Christian is commanded to participate in the mission to make disciples.
- Your work is complete when the person you are discipling can make a disciple.
- The church was not designed to be a group of spectators who attend weekly lectures; it was designed to be a trained army with a powerful message.
- We cannot change the definition of discipleship to sit and listen and then expect to make disciples as Jesus did.
- Don’t mistake Bible Knowledge, years of church attendance, physical age, education, and so forth for spiritual maturity.
- A church is successful when everyone is in the game, maturing into disciples who can reproduce disciples.
- Relationships create the environment where discipleship happens best.
- Serving produces players, not spectators. Service helps a disciple develop and mature.
Evangelism & Discipleship takes place today over multiple if not many conversations (Billy Graham says at least 20). Here’s a few tools that work well over coffee or in a small group setting:
- How to START or Re-START the Christian Life – PDF
- How to Get a Grip on the Bible – PDF, Issuu
- Allowing the Teachings of Jesus to Go Deep. How to use HERE.
- Discover Your SHAPE for Ministry – PDF
- 25 Training Objectives for Disciples by David Platt
What tools have worked for you in growing in your faith & making disciples?
“every individual Christian will find in the communion of a local church the most perfect atmosphere for the fullest development of his spiritual life.” ~ A.W. Tozer
My observation is that most people never experience “the fullest development of his spiritual life” through the church or see the great value, because they may GO TO CHURCH, but they don’t get involved in the LIFE OF A CHURCH. There’s a big difference. Going to church makes you a CONSUMER of its services. Getting involved in the life of a church puts you in “COMMUNION” with a life source fed by God himself. The Apostle Paul said it like this
“From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” ~ Ephesians 4:16
It’s consuming vs. serving, sharing life, supporting, being supported, building up, being built up, etc.
The enduring image of church for me is that of a forest. A forest stays strong, even in dry seasons, because BENEATH THE SURFACE, the roots of the trees are feeding off of one another for growth & strength. Roots can’t share their life with a tree that just lays itself upon the surface. It has to take root & do life with the others.
“I tried church, but it didn’t help.” Probably not, if you just showed up every now & then with little commitment, little humbling of yourself, little sharing of your life, little getting involved in relationships, little investment in ministries, little digging deep to support & be supported.
I love the Tozer quote, because I’ve experience it. Now, don’t read it wrong. The church is NOT a “perfect atmosphere.” Far from it. It is the perfect atmosphere for spiritual development BECAUSE of its imperfections. Relationships with people that are struggling through life together, growing as individuals, utilizing unique gifts no matter how imperfectly. And seeing God in Christ feed & nourish & heal & empower each other. It’s a beautiful thing! But you won’t see it on the surface by just GOING TO CHURCH.
That’s the message of the book Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life. Shared a few of my favorite quotes from the book in this earlier post. The thing I’ve come to appreciate most about Jeff Vanderstelt & the Soma story, is that you come away from this book believing that EVERYBODY can do this. How? Not by adding anything, but by redeeming the rhythms of your life. The challenge:
Seeing church mainly as an event creates a significant problem for mission, because most people are very busy. And the more we fill our lives with church events and programs, the more we get pulled out of everyday life with people who don’t yet know Jesus.
We need to see that life is the program, because people need to see what i means to follow Jesus in the everyday stuff of life.
When we engage in these everyday rhythms with Jesus-centered, Spirit-led direction, mission can happen anytime and everywhere, and anybody can be a part of it.
Vanderstelt and Soma identified six regular rhythms that most people are already engaged in, that can be changed through submission to Jesus.
1. Eating – “Eating is not an extra event added on to your life. What if you ate with others more often?” We eat 21 meals each week. How many could we commit to disciple making conversations with other people?
2. Listen – “One of the greatest gifts we can give one another is a set of open ears and a closed mouth.” Are you listening to God & others? Who is the dominant voice in your life? If we listen, people will often tell us how to reach them.
3. Story – “Everybody lives in light of a larger story… and the stories provide the lenses through which people view their worlds.” “The larger narrative of God’s story can bring redemption to each of our individual stories.” Do you know God’s story & how to apply it to your life & the lives of others?
4. Bless – “Whatever God gives to his people, he plans to give through them to others.”
5. Celebrate – “Disciples celebrate the grace of God given to us through Jesus in order to express how good & gracious God is.” Are you able to celebrate like God? Can you look back at what He’s done through you and say “This is very good!”
6. ReCreate – “Too many of us can’t rest and create. But we should be the most playfully rested people on the earth, because our Dad has it all taken care of for us!” Can you rest? Can you create freely? Can you play?
Eat. Listen. Story. Bless. Celebrate. ReCreate. Not really catchy. Doesn’t spell out anything. But these represent things happening all the time around us. As disciples of Christ we should embody his desires for people as we live them out.
No program needed! You can make disciples in the everyday rhythms of your life! Live it!
What everyday rhythm of your could you turn into a disciplemaking opportunity?
Check out Saturate by Jeff Vanderstelt. Great primer for Disciplemaking & doing church in the rhythms of your life.