Suffering and Discipleship

Photo Credit: Brad.S.Cook via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Brad.S.Cook via Compfight cc

I recently had a conversation with a group of friends about the role of suffering in discipleship. We all agreed that most books or sermons we have read or heard don’t really talk about the relationship between people’s pain and suffering as it relates to the life of a disciple of Jesus. We also agreed that pain and suffering are realities in life and necessary parts of our progress toward godliness.

Sadly, many Christians and others have been deceived by false teachers, leading them to believe that the whole goal of the Christian life is to be happy not holy. [Read more…]

Do You Know Your Story?

What’s your story? Everyone has a story about life, hopes, fears, joys disappointments. We live in a day where people are captivated by stories. People can tell the stories in their lives that are most meaningful to them. This should be especially true about our faith. In his book, A New Way To Be Human, Charlie Peacock challenges Christians to, “Know the story you profess to be participating in. Know it well and tell it with enthusiasm.” That statement inspired the theme for the North Carolina Baptist Disciple-Making Conference coming up on February 23 at Center Grove Baptist Church in Clemmons, NC: One Story.

The purpose of the conference is to help Christ-followers to hear the stories of the people around them, connect their own stories with the stories of others, and ultimately share the One Story that unites all of our stories; God’s story of hope, forgiveness, and redemption through Jesus Christ. If you are in North Carolina, I hope you will consider coming to this conference featuring Ed Stetzer, Robby Gallaty, Afshin Ziafit, and Jon Erwin. The conference is free and will feature over a dozen equipping sessions with hands-on application for hearing, connecting, and sharing God’s story with those around you.  Lunch is $7.00 with limited space. You can register here!

Turning Toward Mission, Step One

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Photo Credit: Lel4nd via Compfight cc

Last week I wrote about the need for churches to turn outward and amplify the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I also promised practical steps for making your church systems a megaphone for making disciples. We are all seeking effective approaches. Everyone is seeking the steps that will lead to success. I am always reluctant simply to give a pragmatic answer. The books, articles, seminars–and blogs–offering the step-by-step approach are legion. But no matter what system or steps one chooses to implement, I believe true missional realignment in ministry or in your personal life comes from two key ingredients. The first is spiritual renewal. The second is disciplined, hard work. I want to focus on step one. [Read more…]

9 Steps for Self Examination

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Photo Credit: nathanmac87 via Compfight cc

“The hardest person to be honest with is yourself.” I don’t know who said it, but it certainly rings true for me. Honest self examination, though, is an essential spiritual discipline. In order to plot a course to where we are going, we have to know where we are starting. I’m really talking about confession – acknowledging our sin and our need for God’s grace in our lives. We know confession is essential, but many times we limit confession to our actions. In Mark 7:14-23 we find Jesus teaching His disciples that what really defiles a person comes from within—from the heart. Growth in Christ necessitates times for personal reflection, admission of faults and failures, and repentance. Here are 9 steps to help you in practicing the art of self examination. 

[Read more…]

We’re All Broken

One of my college pastors used to say we that we should treat everyone we meet as if they have a broken heart because they probably do. That statement has hit home lately as I have encountered lots of brokenness in the lives of those around me. This brokenness includes grief over the death of a parent, a young mom suffering with cancer, parents with a teenager in crisis, friends whose adoption process was short-circuited, a marriage in jeopardy, abuse, addiction, even suicide. And I think I’ve forgotten some.

Here’s the truth: It hurts.

Another truth: Brokenness is a common denominator. Some of these friends that I am thinking of are very far from God while others are some of the most mature Christ-followers I know. Brokenness touches everyone regardless of faith, class, race or tax bracket. And, do you want me to be honest? I’m broken, too.

We’re all broken. We may try to act like we have it all together, but each of us is damaged in some way. We live with the scars of wounds inflicted by our own choices and the choices of others. We live in a fallen world. We are fallen people. In the words of recording artist Lecrae, “We some broken people, came from broken homes, broken hearts inside of a broken soul.” Reality. [Read more…]

Planting the Church or Planting the Gospel?

This post originally appeared on The SendSFL Blog. Cross-posted here by permission.

We didn’t mean to plant a church. In 2008, when our family relocated to the suburbs of Raleigh-Durham, my concept of church planting was pretty conventional. It involved the need for funding, a core group, a place to meet, etc. My conversations with other planters and some experience with church planter assessments had convinced me that I wasn’t wired with the entrepreneurial skill set to be successful as a church planter. If this is where you have found yourself, keep reading.


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As with all transitions, our move gave my wife and me an opportunity to reevaluate our values and behaviors. One of the things we wanted to do well in our current setting was to order our everyday lives around Jesus’ Great Commandment to love God with everything we were and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). We wanted to see a new culture emerge in our community—a disciple-making culture. We believed that the missionary pattern of the Apostle Paul was foundational to creating this culture. Particularly gripping was what we read of Paul’s life with the people of Thessalonica: “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8, ESV).

[Read more…]

How family discipleship can make your job easier

The not-so-subtle assault on families in our time is real. This should drive us to be intentional in making disciples of our children so they can know biblical answers to the moral questions they will face. For decades Christians have looked to the church as the primary institution for instilling faith and values into our kids. Here’s a simple question: How’s that working for us? A solid family ministry strategy that is intentional can help parents and church leaders be effective at making disciples of the next generation.

Timothy Paul Jones is a major voice in creating a new culture where churches are more intentional in partnering with parents. The second part of my recent conversation with Timothy is now up at www.churchandfamilync.org. I hope you’ll take time to listen. There are take-aways for parents and church leaders that are super-practical and encouraging. Here are my top 10 (5 for parents, 5 for church leaders):

As Parents:

  1. Take your own discipleship seriously.
  2. You don’t have to be perfect. Be genuine and sincere.
  3. Start a Family Faith talk at least once a week. Keep it simple and gear it to the age of your kids.
  4. Don’t see the church staff as the main disciple-maker, but see them as partners to help you take that role.
  5. My favorite: Consistency matters more than content! Your kids will remember the time you spend with them more than the teaching itself.

As Church Leaders:

  1. Ask your leaders, are you doing this in your home?
  2. Start a family ministry team.
  3. Don’t blow up the bride of Christ. Love people to change, don’t try to force change.
  4. Re-culture the church. Create a new culture, not just a new strategy.
  5. Provide the tools. Give parents simple resources they can use to do family faith talks at home. This can simply be a take home question or two from the sermon.
Recently, I encouraged some friends to start spending time in prayer together as couple. The husband said, “When should we start? The wife said, “How about tonight?”
The same question is a good one for family discipleship. When should you start?
How about tonight?

 

What’s your excuse?

“If you’re not doing church this way, then you better have a good excuse.” This is a powerful and provocative statement from Alan Hirsch. Alan drives right to the heart of our theology and practice in the church. Here’s the bottom line: We are to embody the gospel “in the flesh” among our neighbors, truly loving them by walking as Jesus walked. So, what’s your excuse?

You can purchase the whole message at the Verge Network Store.

A Grandfather, Siberia, and a Bible

He removed the 110-year old family Bible with care from a simple white plastic bag. With his most prized possession in his hands, Alexander told the story of his grandfather with tears in his eyes. His grandfather was a pastor in the Ukraine in the former Soviet Union where it was illegal to teach the Bible and preach the Gospel. The grandfather was arrested and sentenced to 10 years of hard labor in Siberia for preaching the Gospel. Before he was arrested, he was able to hide the Bible with a friend. Not knowing whether her husband was dead or alive, Alexander’s grandmother continued to teach her children using that Bible. The grandfather barely survived Siberia but was released after he completed his time. When he returned home his family didn’t even recognize him after all the years of neglect in the prison camp.

Now Alexander is a pastor in Moldova and uses the family Bible to teach his grandchildren about Jesus Christ. I was able to meet Alexander last week and had the privilege of preaching in the church he planted and pastors. Our entire mission team was treated to dinner in his kitchen where he told of his grandfather. When he told the story I was moved to tears. I was witnessing first-hand the impact of generational discipleship. The family Bible was a physical reminder of the commitment of a man to pass his faith down from generation to generation.

I thought about Psalm 78:5-7:

He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.

Christians in the Soviet Union didn’t have the luxury of a church down the street to handle the discipleship of their kids. The church was underground and it was up to parents to pass faith along to their children. In fact, I don’t think it would have ever occurred to those parents to rely on someone else to teach their children about faith.

What about you? Are you teaching your kids to love God through His Word? Do they know about your faith? What if you were separated from your family like Alexander’s grandfather? Would your family know to set their hope in God?

Today, we’ve been conditioned to look for helps like devotional books or curriculum lines to help us know what to say to our kids. Those tools can be helpful to be sure. But it seems that believers in places that don’t have access to other literature are doing just fine with God’s Word alone.

So, try this:

  • Read a chapter of the Bible yourself.
  • Make a note of a principle or promise you need to apply to your own life.
  • Share that chapter and principle or promise with your kids.
  • Pray together as a family, asking God to help you walk in His ways.

Train your kids to know the Word even if your not around!

Read more about Alexander.

Find out more about the NC Baptist Moldova Partnership.

 

Do Your Church and Family Connect?

I have an intense burden to see parents grasp a vision to make disciples at home. That burden extends to helping churches do a better job of equipping families. I believe we in church world have unintentionally communicated to parents that their role in discipleship begins and ends with getting their kids to church. In their sincere efforts to minister to families, churches have created stellar programs and sophisticated curriculum offerings that seem to do a much better job at discipleship than parents could ever do. Notice that I said seem to do a better job. To depend on these church solutions alone to disciple kids is unbiblical! Scripture is clear that faith formation must begin at home (see Deuteronomy 6). The larger faith community–the church–has a role to play as a partner with parents, but parents must see themselves as the primary disciple-makers of their children.

The good news about family discipleship is that many voices are emerging that are championing this idea of connecting church and home. They share my conviction that the institutional church must resource, train, and involve parents as disciple-makers. Churches simply cannot continue just offering a litany of good programming for children and youth and call it discipleship. They must discover ways to equip and empower parents to take the lead in discipleship.

Re-envisioning family ministry in this way can be a daunting task. That’s why I am excited about the Church and Family Connect Podcast. This podcast highlights thought-leaders in the area of family discipleship, giving practical ideas to churches and parents on how we can better make disciples of the next generation. In the latest episode, pastor and author Brian Haynes offers practical advice on how churches and families can use natural family milestones as opportunities to build faith into children and teens.

It’s my prayer that you will subscribe to this podcast and use it as a resource to help you re-think the way your church and family connect. Don’t forget to tell your pastor and children’s/youth pastor about it too. New episodes from pastors, authors, and practitioners are on the way!