There is a lot to understand about discipleship and making disciples. Today there is the organic vs. the programmatic approach. Examples are a plenty: Alpha, DMM, 3DM, etc. Relationship without intentionality leads to – well problems!
I remember when I was in seminary. With the pressures of doing life and studying, idealistic thoughts of how ministry should be and romantic thoughts of serving in adventurous regions of the world – I pondered: “What could possibly grab my attention and become my life-long mandate?”
One of the reasons I attended the seminary I did was because both of the pastors I grew-up under highly recommended it because the founder, Bill Bright, envisioned an institution that would integrate theology with ministry. As a result, I served in a church as an intern and within the first 3 months voluntarily signed-up to be part of a church planting team. The lag time between the classroom and ministry was compressed. I intentionally focused on things that I could apply or at least, thought I might be able to apply in the church plant where I was establishing a small group ministry.
Back to the question at hand. I remember sitting in the lounge on campus and reflecting on this notion:
“If I could spend my life doing one thing, what would that one thing be?
Making disciples was what we are all charged to do as followers of Jesus.
This would be a worthwhile cause to give my life to.”
Since then I have been practicing, learning, reading observing – you name it – I’ve become somewhat of a nerd!
Lately, I have shifted my focus slightly, asking a related but different question: “What essential support, resources or training does a disciple need to make disciples, that make disciples?”
Back in the fall of 2020 I began a conversation with one of my friends who was asking the same question. We have been working at refining the list. Simultaneously, I’ve informally asked people what they really need. I’ve blogged about some of those ideas. Now I am refining the list. Here is an example of what we have come up with in the informal study I have been conducting. If you would comment or expand on this first idea I would love to read your thoughts. Over the course of the next couple of blogs I will unpack each of the “habits” and then suggest an experiment that you might find helpful with disciples you are making.
Let me begin with the idea of Active Prayer. We identified two areas of focus that a disciple could benefit from in his/her prayer life.
- Prayer for self
- Prayer for people God has placed in their life to coach on their spiritual journey
To test this first habit – ask the question: Could a disciple, make disciples without Active Prayer? If the answer is a resounding “Yes” or “maybe”; then we will need to reconsider. We agree that Active Prayer is a habit Jesus embedded in the DNA of His disciples; therefore, we need to take a deeper look.
What are your thoughts?
1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
Lately I’ve been meditating on Psalm 1 and found myself caught-up by the imagery of the “righteous”.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
Then I came across this Bonhoeffer quote – one of my heroes of the faith.
This weekend we put our two, young adult children on a plane so they could spend the next 10 weeks together in another city before they head-out on what is next for them. It has been a really special time for us as a family since last March when the kids came home for Spring Break but did not return to their respective college campuses for their final quarter. Instead they have remained with us. What a wonderful surprise to have them at home as one graduated and the other has been preparing for graduation this year. I am sure you can relate to this on some level.
I certainly am not an expert on parenting. But I know we need to make the most of every opportunity to love, listen and laugh!
When I overlay the two together – the image of the righteous and the opportunity to influence the next generation – I realize that coaches who are developing emerging leaders have an intense responsibility. We do this well, imagine the fruit. We fumble the “passing of the baton” – everyone loses!
Here are 5 questions to help you reflect on how you can steward your calling to “live for the next generation”:
- How would you describe your vision for the next generation?
- What is getting in the way of you being fully present when you are coaching?
- How can you maximize every opportunity you have to prepare the next generation?
- What are some ways you are willing to experiment to engage more and more with younger leaders?
- How do next generation leaders you coach demonstrate that they are living a life characterized by righteousness?
Take a moment and think about what you really need to accomplish today. Identify the 3 most important activities you can accomplish in a 24-hour period that will move your ministry forward. Now write those out!
I conducted an experiment in 2020 and purchased two different Muju black books. One is larger, about 5″x8″ and the other smaller about 4″x6″.
- The larger book I call my Gratitude Book. Each day I record 3 things I am grateful for, to remind myself of God’s active involvement in my life, His sovereignty and grace!
- The Smaller book I call my Top 3 Book. Each day I do the exercise I opened up with at the start of this blog.
I repeat this exercise Monday-Friday (and sometimes on the weekend).
What has been the results of my notebook experiment?
- I am seriously less stressed-out.
- Coincidentally, my experiment overlapped with the Covid virus which was in the back of everyone’s mind. It was and continues to be an unpredictable time in our society and globally. Questions about safety, financial viability and leadership from all-sectors of society scramble my thought life. But this simple exercise created a moment of clarify that focused my day!
- I am seriously more productive.
- In the midst of a typical day if I am honest – the highs, the lows and the mundane sap the energy and joy from my soul. Keeping this list before me, in addition to the other already planned activities of the day, was like a breath of fresh air. I can always say at the end of the day – “Well done!”
- I am seriously more purposeful.
- I wanted to say “more missional” but that is such an over-used term it can lose it’s meaning. What I mean by purposeful is that these 3 activities, based upon my best understanding of what will move the mission of God forward, will have the greatest impact. Regardless of your particular field you can apply this to your context and feel like you are about the Lord’s work – discovering what God is already at work doing and partnering with Him on His mission.
Let’s play this out in real time!
What if you took out a piece of paper – right now. And you wrote-out 3 things you are Grateful for: They might be random things like:
- your health
- your family
- the chance to serve God through your work
Now take another piece of paper and write-out the Top 3 activities or tasks that will move your ministry forward. They might include:
- call a leader that you need to foster a relationship with in your church.
- write an e-mail to a board member
- mail a check to a vendor
Reflection Questions to Consider:
- How can you improve on what you are already doing?
- What could this give you that you don’t already have?
- What one thing will increase your effectiveness today?
This is not simply a work smarter – not harder idea!
A Spiritual Exercise
I approach this activity as a spiritual exercise. I want to hear what God has to say about my day and the absolute best way I can partner with Him. This has the desired effect of putting things in perspective and joy in my soul.
4 Postures People take when Relating to God:
Did you grow up going to Sunday School like I did? One of the early memories I have was graduating from third to fourth grade and getting the “big kid” curriculum. It revolved around the Bible illustrated in a comic strip format. It felt more grown-up because the art-work was more refined, sophisticated. Can you relate?
Years later I remember being introduced to various tracks including the “4 Spiritual Laws”. It illustrated the gospel in a clear but simple way. There was the throne of life and how one normally puts the “self” on the throne and God outside of one’s life. Until one decides to make God Lord of their life, he or she remains on the throne of their own life until they surrender the throne to Jesus and allow him to take it.
It made sense to many people in the second half of the last century.
Now the culture has changed. The way people engage others to communicate the Gospel has change along with it. But the message remains the same.
Here are a couple of questions for your consideration:
- How do you communicate the message of the Gospel?
- How are you helping other’s share the message of the Gospel?
- Are you satisfied with your results?
If you struggle with a relevant and simple way to communicate the Gospel message you might be interested in what Skye Jethani has to say in the book “with”. He suggests that people typically relate to God taking one of four postures – or a combination. Here are the four postures he shares in a simple stick-figure picture:
- Life Under God
- Life Over God
- Life From God
- Life For God
The title of his book suggests an alternative posture: Life with God.
If you want to learn more about the four postures in a 5-minute video – CLICK HERE.
Check-out the book below!