Monday, February 17, 2014

What Comes to Mind?

What comes to your mind when I say the phrase "Make disciples"?

This is the question I'm wrestling with lately. (among many others) It comes from a personal angst as a church leader. Okay, a pastor.

I'll admit that I've preached a lot the last three years on making disciples who make disciples. I do not apologize for this. This has been intentional and strategic.

Intentional because I've had a growing conviction as I read through God's word and other books (i.e. Radical by David Platt) that we, the Church, are not doing this well in America. It certainly doesn't seem to be our main priority or agenda. If it is, we're doing a pretty lousy job.

Strategic because, contrary to some church growth seminars, the quickest growth is always through the strategy that multiplies over the one that just adds. 

That said, it's also been a bit frustrating. Some of that is just my personal immaturity. I'm impatient to see the Church grow and mature into a Jesus movement in America and beyond. But it's more than that, I think. And I think it's bound up in our cultural paradigm in how we "do" church in America.

So back to my question: When I say "Make disciples," what comes to mind?

For many, if not most, it's probably things like:

How to grow in Christ
Bible studies
Spiritual Disciplines
The importance of the Church
Sermon series
Reaching out to those far from Christ
Equipping others to know and follow Jesus
Sunday school

These are all great answers. I guess I just see a couple of disconnects that still exist in many churches today. Even in churches that are leading their people to make disciples. I want to propose two today:

Mass producing vs. Personally investing

My observations are that we tend to equate discipleship exclusively with classes, small groups and sermons. What seems to be missing, either because of a lack of understanding or an unwilling heart, is that discipleship is akin to apprenticeship. And much apprenticeship happens one-on-one or one-on-two. I wonder if our culture has pushed us towards valuing quantity at the expense of quality. And in the end, I would argue that you get both when you start small and focus on quality. (ex. Jesus and just twelve disciples vs. the crowds he spoke to)

Optional vs. Responsible

Another observation is that we don't seem to feel responsible as Christ-followers to be actively making disciples. It feels like we see it as optional. As in I'll do it if I have extra time. I'm not just talking about discipling co-workers and neighbors. ("Love your neighbor...") I'm talking about discipling your own children.

So there it is. Here's a test. Ask your church leaders (staff, elders, overseers, deacons, etc.) to answer this question and see where they go first. Then, after they answer, ask them how have they been doing this the past six months. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Get it Together - #bookreview of "Torn"

"When every why goes unanswered."

Jud Wilhite writes a book that speaks to you when you just feel wounded. Hurt. Torn.

When you're tempted to ask "Why?" he guides to you better questions and answers. 

Topics he deals with include:

  • Trusting God
  • Expectations
  • Life Interruptions
  • Courage
  • Struggling
  • Waiting for God
  • Joy
  • Learning to forgive

The "learning to forgive" chapter was worth the whole book alone. Jud empathizes with the agony of forgiving someone you know doesn't deserve it. But then you realize that if you don't forgive them, you're the one who will pay. 

In a day when everyone seems to want to sell curriculum with their book, Jud provides group discussion questions in the back--for free. Score!

Kudos to Jud for his helpful message of hope and second chances. His pastor's heart is all over this book.

This book will encourage you to get it together when you feel like life is falling apart.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Priority of Preaching

"Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching." (2 Timothy 4:2 NLT) 

Paul is likely writing his last letter to Timothy. His execution is imminent and he's teaching his son in the faith his last words.

"Preach the word of God" is his first exhortation. He prioritizes things for Timothy. 

Paul continues by telling him to be prepared all the time--no matter what the conditions are. He needs to be ready to preach whenever God gives him an opportunity.

Then Paul tells him how to preach. 

"Patiently correct, rebuke and encourage your people with good teaching." That speaks to the temptation to be impatient with people who hear but don't live the word. A lack of patience is a lack of love. ("Love is patient..." 1 Cor 13:4) That speaks to holding people accountable to live what has been taught. That also reminds him to encourage people who are likely to be discouraged. It reminds him that they are HIS people. And finally, it reminds him that his teaching should be good.

Our response should be the same. I should preach like Paul tells Timothy to. 

I need to be prepared to preach at any time. That comes from spending time in the word daily and then to go live out that word. I'm to make preaching the word a priority. I'm to do it patiently for MY people. MY flock. I'm to correct, rebuke and encourage my people to obey the word. 

Lord, make me a better prepared preacher. Move me to lovingly and patiently teach, correct, rebuke and encourage my people. Start by preaching to me and find me teachable and obedient. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

Monday, February 10, 2014

"Tea with Hezbollah" by Ted Dekker & Carl Medearis Book Review

Ted Dekker and Carl Medearis take you on an amazing adventure through the middle east in 2008 or 2009, I estimate. Along the way they speak to a number of high-ranking political and religious leaders (and not so official leaders) such as the Bin Laden brothers, a Bedouin Prince who loves Jim Carrey, Ayatollah Fadlallah, the Hezbollah sheik, Nabil, the mufti of Damascus, and a top leader in Hamas. In the end they will travel to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel.

Starting out in Denver with the question,”What do Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Jesus all have in common,” they end up talking to these leaders asking them how they understand the teachings of Jesus on loving your enemies. They include word for word (un-edited) dialogue so you can see what it was like too.

They are also in search of the “Good Samaritan”—or at least to see if anyone is taking this parable seriously 2,000 years later. They wonder if there is anyone in the middle east who actually loves their enemy and would respond like the Good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable did.

Along the way, as if this journey wasn’t enough, Ted introduces another story that explores the “Good Samaritan” idea even further. Ultimately, it goes a long way towards illustrating what it looks like to truly love your enemy.

These guys are my heroes. They do some risky things. I love that they believe so much in the story of the Good Samaritan that they would risk their lives to discover it anew and even challenge world leaders with it. In fact, I believe they do just that.

I also learned a great deal about what’s been happening in the middle east all of these years. Like many I know, when the middle east comes up in the news, I just check out. How can I ever understand. I feel like I’m too far behind. Ted and Carl (and those they meet) catch me up quickly. And at the back of the book is a neat timeline of modern middle-eastern history that sheds even more light on it. 

In the end, I feel like I have a much greater appreciation of what it means to love your enemy—or your neighbor. And I also have a greater appreciation for the power of turning the other cheek and the power of peace rooted in Christ.

It’s more than a documentary. It’s more like a docudrama with another story woven in. It’s a sermon and a challenge. If you want to learn more about what Jesus meant when he told us to love our neighbor as ourself (even if they are your enemy), this is the book for you.