Monthly Archives

May 2016

Day 30: Let’s Roll

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The 30 day challenge is over…But the real challenge is just beginning.  It is easy for us to watch the videos and do what we choose to do.  But what if we all joined groups who lived this out and challenged and encouraged each other.  I did not do a great job of doing this every day.  It actually took me close to twice as long.  What I learned from this is that there are times where life is busy and lots are going on but should discipleship take a back seat?  I have been challenged now not to just make it a program but a rhythm in my life.

 

This site has so many resources.  I am looking forward to going through more of them to see what else I can learn and obey.  Thanks so much More Disciples for your vision of this.  Thanks for sharing your knowledge.  Thanks for allowing me to write about my journey on this.
I challenge you all to cast a wide net and ask a lot of people to do the discipleship challenge with the intent once it is done to start a movement.  Most people in the church just need to be asked to do something.  More disciples seems like a nice and easy first step for many.

Day 29:Go tell it…

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I didn’t learn about unreached people groups until 5 years ago when I took a missions class called perspectives.  That class totally changed my view of the world and even gave me a different perspective where I was at.  We are ALL called to go and be missionaries.  We need to hurt for those who don’t know Jesus but our heart should especially break for those who don’t ever have the chance of hearing.  The 10/40 window is where ⅔ of the worlds population is and where 70% of the unreached people groups are.  My heart still breaks for that area and I am trying to do my part right here about educating people about that.  Curtis also said an interesting thing “God has favorites and they are the last, the least, and the lost.”  I know in Christianity we don’t like to talk about God having favorites.  But God’s kingdom is an upside down kingdom.  It doesn’t make sense from the world’s perspective.  

 

Did you know out of every $100 given to the North American Church only $1 goes toward missions in the 10/40 window.  Does where our money goes as a church reflect God’s heart?  Did you know that only 1 out of every 10 missionaries go to unreached people groups?  I am not saying missions in reached areas is bad.  I just am saying if we understood that most people in these groups would be born, live, and die without ever hearing of Jesus our hearts should break.  What if it was a relative or family member of yours?  We are talking about eternity here.  Too many times we are so busy worrying about our small kingdom that we don’t see God’s Kingdom.
Even if you are not going to the mission field position yourself as a missionary here, like Curtis talked about.  Where are the non-christians?  Where can you bridge the gap?  Where are the hurting?

Day 28: Most Failings Train….

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I love the acronym of MAWL for making disciples.  I just sent an email to myself to remind myself about this same concept for work on Tuesday with my employees.  Most failings train…I mean most trainings fail because they are not modeled, they are just taught.  Most people teaching us to do things in the church are not doing them themselves.  Actually most of our trainings aren’t about doing but about knowledge.  Why is that?  It is a lot easier to teach some people just to learn than what to do.  If you want to teach people what to do it takes experience, failure, and time.  Most of us don’t want to put in the time because in the process we might not look how we want to appear.

 

As I have observed in parenting in these last couple of years.  My kids follow a lot more of what I do than what I say.  Yes they listen to what I say but they copy and imitate what I do a lot more than I realize.  A few weeks ago I was working in the nursery at church sitting in the comfortable rocking chair and I was telling my boys to go play with the kids.  But they just sat there.  I was getting kind of irritated that they just didn’t do that.  I mean they didn’t have to sit through church, the least they could do is play with the kids 🙂  Later once I got over what I wanted I just went and started playing with kids in the nursery and just having fun playing ball, trains, puzzles.  After a while of doing this I looked over and saw both of my boys playing with kids.  I was so encouraged but really made me think back.  Throughout the years my kids have been mirrors for myself.  When my 7 year old daughter was 2 she would always grab books and sit on the couch and say I am reading my bible.  She did that because that year in our life we got rid of TV and read our bible’s continually.  Fast forward a few years and my girls started asking if they could play computer or be on the phone.  Immediately an alarm went off and I recalibrated my phone and computer time until after they went to bed so I was fully present from them(I also minimized my time on them both).  Many people in the church want for their own kids this vibrant faith but don’t want that same faith for themselves.  They will do everything for their kids to get it but they won’t do it themselves.  If we want to have brave kids for their faith we need parents to start laying that foundation of bravery.  We don’t need to give them any more lectures we need to be showing them what it looks like by how we treat others and how we live.  We need to be telling our kids stories of how God is working in our lives.  God taught me this years back when my 2 boys moved in with us and didn’t believe in God.  They were 7 & 8 and I wanted to share with them how Jesus affected my life.  I shared how I prayed with customers, truck drivers, God-coincidences that happened, and feeling lead to talk to certain people.  I’ll never forget one day I got out to help someone who was having car troubles and my one son said to my wife, ‘I bet God told him to do that.”  We need to model this faith and that is the first step.  

 

Curtis in the video talked about the first step was the child seeing someone do it.  We need this in the church of Christians radically stepping out and taking the first step so others can follow.  Some good friends of mine are doing that this summer.  They are taking the first step toward going to Unreached People Groups.  This is hopefully planting the seed of modeling in others.  

 

This is a great challenge for today.  I am going to get together with a couple of guys from my discipleship group and talk about how we could do more of this to get to 4 generations.  This challenged me to Model and Assist so that the foundation is in place if I do leave.  I once read that we should all be re-evaluating our life to the question “Where would I spend my time if I was leaving in 3 years and there was no one to replace me?”  This question was directed mainly at pastors but we as the church need to be asking the question of that as we step into discipleship.
So let’s go MAWL some people.  Let’s be intentional and reorient our lives around this.

Who are you Battling?

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“For our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.”  Ephesians 6:12

Think of the most difficult person, most pressing problem, and/or most overwhelming circumstance you’re facing in your life right now.  Think of several if you like.

Whatever it is you’re thinking about, whether a person or a circumstance – whoever or whatever it is – it is not your real problem.  Hear that again:  IT is NOT your REAL problem.  The most troubling things in your life, things that you perceive with your five physical senses, are not your real issue.  Though you may be wrestling with them verbally, emotionally, financially, even physically, you are wasting your precious time and energy that needs to be reserved for the real culprit – the one who is behind the scenes, striving to direct the details of some of your most acute difficulties.  Everything that occurs in the visible, physical world is directly connected to the wrestling match being waged in the invisible, spiritual world.  Sounds like a movie, huh?

But Paul’s words, directly out of Ephesians, tell us that we wrestle not against man but with the ruler of this world which is Satan.

Your real enemy – the devil – wants you to ignore the spiritual reality behind the physical one.  Because as long as you’re focused on what you can see with your physical eyes, he can continue to run rampant underneath the surface.  The more you disregard him, the more damage he is free to do.  The enemy may be invisible, but he is not fictional.  He is very real, and very persistent, waging war against us constantly.
Our enemy celebrates lethargic Christian living.  When we’re giving up on relationships, disregarding the purity of our reputations, yielding to our appetites without putting up much, if any, resistance, he can basically go unchecked.  Ultimately, the enemy can hamstring the church from achieving the purposes of God.  That’s why he works so hard to beat you down with discouragement.  Make you discontent.  Lie to you about who God is, causing you to doubt the Lord’s all-good intentions toward you.  Hammer you with accusations that place a burden of shame and guilt on your shoulders too heavy to carry.  Trick you into thinking your situation will never change, and that God doesn’t hear you or care when you call out to Him.  Soon your fire of passion starts to burn low.  You become disinterested.  Low in spiritual fiber.  Your spiritual armor goes unworn and unused.

Now you’re exactly where the enemy wants you – where you no longer want to fight for peace and passion in your marriage, where you no longer believe your child can be restored, where you no longer hope for healing in your body, where you no longer see any path to freedom from your addictions, where you just don’t see the purpose in praying anymore….so you don’t.   You don’t ask or seek or knock.

Did you know that more than 4,000 churches close each year?  That the 5th largest unchurched nation is the United States?  Could this be because His Church, the Bride of Christ, is not standing together, a vast army, united in prayer?  The more praying there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil everywhere.  God shapes the world by prayer.  Prayers are deathless.  The lips that uttered them may be closed in death, the heart that felt them may have ceased to beat, but the prayers live before God, and prayers outlive the lives of those who uttered them; outlive a generation, outlive an age, outlive the world.

So what if our world is morally declining because our generation fails to pray?  What if this generation has been too busy or too unbelieving to pray?  What if God’s conquering days are when the Church has given herself to prayer – praying for the advancement of God’s cause?

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”  Matthew 7:7

Ask of me is the condition – a praying people willing and obedient.  The strongest one to stand against the enemy is the one who is the best knocker.  The secret of success in Christ’s kingdom is the ability to pray.  To stop the advancement of the enemy we must stand together and fight in prayer.

 

Portions adapted from:

  • EM Bounds on Prayer
  • The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer
  • Moving Mountains by John Eldredge

Day 27: Don’t Just Know..Obey

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Focusing is so hard for me.  There are so many different thoughts and ideas going through my head each day that can confuse almost anyone, including myself.  Lately I have been stuck on the subject of calling.  What am I called to do?  Today hit me right between the eyes with some other things I have been reading and listening to about calling.  Os Guiness said “Our first calling is to be close to God.”  So many times I want to figure out what my gifts are and then decide and tell God what I should do.  But what if it is and was as simple as listening to God and being in his word and then reflecting that to others through us.  It’s not about our gifts but about God’s giftings through us.

 

I had lunch with a friend of mine today who “gets me.”  I shared how I felt like I had failed at 3 things in the last couple of days and was just feeling like I was nothing.  He pointed out how hard I am on myself and I need to maybe slow down and not do so much.  In our Discipleship Group, where we practice something similar to three thirds, we identified 3 things that are our identity in Christ.  We looked at Jesus life and took the following 3 to focus on

 

1)Get Messy: Jesus didn’t stay on the sidelines.  He was a light in the darkness and with those in the darkness.

2)Love Sacrificially: Don’t just love in feeling but love as Jesus loved.  He did the dirty work from washing feet to healing, to dieing for us.

3) Serve Continually: Jesus constantly reminded us of the upside down kingdom and he modeled it.

 

Later in our conversation I told him there are three things I feel like God has put on my heart.  Global Missions, Discipleship, & Equipping.  He told me directly that he feels like I wouldn’t be able do all of them well but if I would focus on Discipleship the other 2 would probably become a by-product.  I feel like I have spiritual ADD and a lot of us do.  We try do so many things because it makes us feel important but we don’t do anything deeply and well.  2 years ago I focused on just discipleship with a group of guys casting vision and being very intentional and it was amazing.  I then got distracted and lost my focus with many other “good” things.  I believe God is leading me back to a heart of discipleship and a renewed focus.  It is “slow” by the world’s standards but the impact is huge.  Spending lots of time with a few to reach the masses is Jesus model he laid before us.  Today’s challenge, along with a conversation, and an email has left me with a new focus on discipleship.  
Discipleship needs to focus on spending time with God and obeying it.  Most mature Christians probably only obey 5-10% of what they know because we have not been taught to obey.  So as we disciple new believers we should be teaching them to obey everything they learn.  I once heard of a pastor that was going through Mark with his missional community and they stayed on one chapter for around 6 weeks.  Everyone kept asking why?  He said “We haven’t learned to obey it yet.”  What if we read the bible with this expectation and took time to obey what we learned instead of continually puffing ourselves up with knowledge.

Day 24 – Importance of Body Life

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The “one another” passages of the NT remind us that discipleship, and even evangelism, are best seen as a team sport.  Years ago, in Taiwan, we prayed weekly for Eugene’s parents, who had disowned him for becoming a Christian.  Later, when Eugene’s parents home was flooded, our small group went and spent 2 days cleaning up the house.  Very few words were spoken, but volumes were communicated.  Not long after that, Eugene’s dad was diagnosed with cancer, and the church prayed.  Eugene’s dad recovered, and they could no longer resist the love and power of God.  Eugene’s mom and dad gave their lives to Christ.  And, Eugene’s small group, as well as the entire church rejoiced; because they all knew that they all played a part in this conversion story.  Ephesians 4:12 reminds us that by being “thoroughly equipped,” we all play a part in building up the body.  It reminds us that we all have gifts and abilities that can bless and build up the body of Christ.  BTW, a footnote to the above story:  we also discover new things about one another when we serve with one another — apparently, I waggle in a funny way when I mop a floor.

Day 22 – 3/3rd’s Groups

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We’ve had small groups for a little over a year now.  They are a new thing in our congregation.  If we’re not careful, they can become like a Sunday morning service, in that we’re asking little of members.  Come and be fed!  Sergeant’s illustration of watching the Tour de-France is accurate.  Watching alone won’t train you to ride a bike.  We’ve got to be “Doers of the Word.”  That’s why the 3/3rd’s groups are so important.  There’s accountability and applicability built into the process.  What does intentional discipleship look like?  This is it!

Day 21 – Equipped and Engaged

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We still have one of our three kids at home.  Noah is sixteen.  We don’t spoon feed him anymore.  In fact, he’s capable of preparing food to feed himself.  How?  Brenda taught him how to use the microwave, stove and even the blender.  We also taught him to clean-up after himself; which he is still in process of grasping.  Curtis Sergeant’s video is dead-on:  many Christians have never left the “consumer” stage to become “producers.”  How important is independent daily feeding on the Word of God!?!  And, I would go a step further — setting aside a specific time each day to meditate on the Word (I prefer mornings), is absolutely necessary.  If every disciple was trained to self-feed; leadership, then, can become not the process of continual feeding, but of equipping the Saints (applying the Word of God already in you).  Now, that’s a radical thought in today’s church!

Watson Scripture List

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David Watson is famous for urging that, when starting a disciple making movement in a new culture, one should always create lists of relevant and life-impacting scriptures for the discovery Bible studies in that culture. His strong opinion (does he have any opinions otherwise? : ) ) is that these scriptures should be custom-created for each context. That’s why he’s so reluctant to release general lists: for fear that others will simply copy those lists and re-use them at large. But, at the request of some of our participants here at MoreDisciples.com, we twisted his arm and asked him to provide a few lists as templates so we could all get an idea of what he means. Here’s a pdf with a sampling of some of his lists — as templates for your context. : )

http://moredisciples.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/watson_scripture_lists.pdf

Day 20 – S.O.A.P.S.

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So, my verses are Phil 2:5-8; which speaks of having the same “mindset as Christ.”  The NIV used to say the that Jesus did not consider “equality with God something to be grasped.”  Now, it says, Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.”  How much more clear, and applicable to our circumstance, the change makes.  This, I feel, is the value of SOAPS.  We realize that God’s Word, and our relationship with Christ, is not for just our own advantage or advancement; but also light and life to our neighbor.  And, if Jesus is indeed our model, if indeed our mindset is missional.  Then, as we meditate on the Word, we’ll automatically be thinking of people with whom to share it.  There-in is the “nature of a servant.”

Day 19 – How Much to Share

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I’m a firm believer that with the first presentation — less is best!  I’m also a firm believer that an excellent indication that the Holy Spirit is working in the life of the individual with whom you’re sharing are the questions they may ask.  These may not come immediately, so prayer until you follow-up with them is critical.

Day 18 – Sharing Your Testimony

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If your ultimate purpose in life is to glorify God, then making disciples should be near tops on your list for how to go about fulfilling this.  Sharing your testimony will be integral in this endeavor.  So will prayer, especially to discern when and where.  Years ago I was praying about what to preach at one of our favorite supporting churches.  Each time I prayed, the Spirit living in me said, “Share your testimony.”  For several weeks I battled this “bad idea.”  In sermons we generally look ahead, rather than look back.  So, eventually, I wrote another sermon, which would be typical for a returning missionary.  On the Sunday morning in question, I got up to speak, with sermon in hand.  As I looked out over the congregation, I felt like Jonah running away from Nineveh.  So, with a deep sigh, I put the sermon away, and with no notes (no net), completely through the Spirit, began to unpack my suitcase.  Apparently, God knew what I didn’t; and as I shared sometimes painful life lesson, people to my left were in tears, people to my right, and people straight ahead.  Definitely, the Holy Spirit was at work in hearts.  Go figure — God knew hearts and needs better than I.   When the invitation was offered many responded — Praise the Lord!  Completely drained, I was relieved to be going off to the safety of the Sunday School missions presentation.  Then, rudely, after what seemed like only a few minutes, a deacon interrupted, and said, “We need to go!”  “Go where?” I asked.  “Second service,” was the reply.  I groaned.

Day 26: The Next Level

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I love the story he shared!  Wow!  It is amazing how God works.  How the mother and daughter both came to Christ.  The power of prayer.  It is just incredible how these young Christians have such faith in prayer we who have had it our whole life just take it for granted.  If we really understood the power we had in prayer and in Christ would we really treat it so nonchalantly.  I want to pray like this little girl with that kind of faith!

 

After reading the challenge I am already thinking how I can take my conversations with co-workers especially to the next level.  I have had many spiritual conversations but I want to share what God is speaking to me lately.  I have been struggling with my calling and what I am made for and as I was listening to a podcast tonight from Francis Chan he said try too hard to figure out what we want.  What we need to do is just draw as close to God as possible and he will show us what we need to do.
I feel like God has given me more boldness in many ways lately especially as I have read through this challenge and watched the videos.  I also have some buddhist friends I want to be more intentional with and start asking more questions and being intentional.  My goal is this week to have more of these conversations and am going to have the guys in my bible study hold me accountable.                 

Day 25: Persecution Here we Come

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When you ask many Christians or Missionaries who are in the midst of persecution or hardship they don’t ask for the persecution to stop.  Why is that?  I know when I am facing just a little persecution I want it to stop. Persecution I believe reveals you have made a stand.  In taking a class called perspectives one of the things we learned is that when persecution happens Christianity thrives.  Why is that?  Because it actually costs us something.  I feel like if something really costs something we truly live it out.  In America being a Christian doesn’t cost us much and that is why we are so nonchalant about our faith.  

 

If we are silent there is no need for persecution.  We need to prepare people for persecution.  Many times we tell people once they have Jesus everything will be better.  That is the prosperity gospel.  What we need to tell people God works everything out for good.  That good is not just right now.
I really loved his challenge when baptizing people  At baptism we should be ready to suffer and die for the Lord.  That would change a lot of things and make people think twice before they count the cost of what it means to be a Christian.

Day 24: One….Anothers

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I love the one anothers on the sheet.  Too many times we think our relationship with Christ is this individual thing.  I feel like when we have true community with others where we love one another and serve one another and help make each other better that is what Christianity is about.  When I have surrounded myself with people who have different gifts and we have all recognized them and encouraged them, we have all grown.  
Our “One anothers” we do in our faith right now is just in Church in a big group.  I feel like we need to get small and intentional again with our “One Anothers” in smaller groups who are on mission together so we can go a lot deeper instead of so wide. How many people do we truly know…I mean actually know deeply…not just know about.  I believe God is calling us all back to intentional community to help reveal to the world what Christian love looks like.

Day 23: Prayer

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The challenge for today was to work toward 1 hour in prayer everyday.  Prayer has always been a little more difficult for me and if most Christians are honest it is one of their main struggles.  We don’t know how to pray, what to pray, and we feel inadequate.  I heard a story of someone who wanted to go on the mission field once.  A missionary asked the person how much they prayed each day.  The person replied around 30 minutes.  The missionary then replied if you are going to be on the front lines of God’s work you need to be praying at least 3 hours!  That was a crazy story to me but a few months ago I met a gal who has been praying like crazy and God has been opening doors in amazing ways.  Many times we think prayer is inefficient but this gal stated that all of these things could not have come about if she would not have been praying.  Too many times for myself I would rather read another book or another article than really spend time asking God in prayer what he wants. 3 months ago God put on my heart to stop reading books for awhile.  In this time I spent time in prayer and scripture more and the fruit of that has been awesome!

A few other ways I am going to try to be more intentional are over my lunch breaks and throughout the day.  Over my lunch breaks I have tried to get away and park in the wal mart parking lot and just pray.  It has been a great time to listen to God. The other way I am going to focus on praying is to pray for everyone I come in contact with.  I tried this a few months back and was amazed how it changed my day.  I found that when I ran into people my first thoughts were usually judgmental but as I switched that to praying for people I had a whole different outlook.

Day 17 – Caring Enough to Save Life

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Jesus said a lot of hurtful things to the Jewish leaders.  Look at Matthew 23, and the 7 woes; repeatedly he calls them hypocrites!  Was it because Jesus didn’t care about them, didn’t love them?  Or, was he harsh to them to try to save them?  He did rescue at least two — Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea — who later buried Jesus.  And, here’s the unescapeable point — Jesus became public enemy No. 1 because of all the things he said about the religious leaders.  In fact, it was their hatred of Jesus, because of his harsh words, that led Jesus to the cross.  Then, Jesus told his disciples to pick up their own crosses and follow him.  If we truly follow in Jesus’ footsteps, will we not then be willing to tell people the truth, in love, and with respect; even though it may lead them to despise us.  Like Penn Jillette says,  “If I believed with all my heart that a truck was coming to hit you and you didn’t believe it, there’s a certain point in which I TACKLE you to save your life.”  If I truly love you, the priority is to save your life.  Eternity trumps every other issue.

Day 16 – Searching for People of Peace

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We had just moved to the third largest city of Taiwan to begin a new church plant.  While prayer walking we noticed lots of children in our neighborhood.  In Taichung, grade school children only went half a day on Wednesdays.  We thought, what if we started an after school program on Wednesday afternoons, and did a VBS style outreach?  Since we were new to the area, we would even invite parents to sit-in.  While prayer walking, we handed out flyers near the elementary school for our “King’s Club.”  One of those flyers landed in the hands of a 2nd grader whose English name was Vincent.  His mother, Joanne, brought him faithfully and stayed to hear the Bible stories.  Joanne and Vincent became the first to believe in Taichung.  Joanne brought many more, including her husband, James.  This couple became like Aquila and Priscilla — a true family of peace.  The church now meets in their home.  I believe God can raise up people of peace in every neighborhood — even in America!

Day 22: Useful tools

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I am really enjoying the tools that I am getting from this challenge.  I am doing a discipleship group using many of the same philosophies but I am always looking how I am going to tweak it.  I really think the worksheet is great that was given on this day.  I like how it is split into thirds and you have blanks to fill in.  I really think it is critical to put in writing what you are going to do and hold each other accountable.  I think it really challenges me to keep pursuing Christ when others are spurring me on.  

 

Recently I have had a lot of conversations on self feeding.  I talked with someone from our church today if sermons are equipping or not.  I challenged them a bit and said we could make them more equipping by helping people see what and why it is being said.  I believe we need to make a big push into equipping people in the church again.  Too many people are satisfied to show up on Sunday and just be at church.  It doesn’t seem like many people are as interested in being equipped.  But I think that could change if the church flipped and asked the people “How do you need to be equipped to be effective in your everyday lives?”  
I need other men around me to keep encouraging me and pushing me in my relationship with Christ.  If I don’t I become stagnant.  This takes intentionality and sacrifice.  I thank God everyday I have many men around me that do this for me.

Day 21: Chew the food yourself.

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Self feeding is hard work!  In a society that thrives on instant and “googling” everything we need to know.  Self feeding is at a premium.  We are constantly distracted by technology and many other things we have at our fingertips.  Self feeding takes time.  I was challenged by something I read that said we should work in 90 minute chunks.  So I thought let’s try reading the bible for 90 minutes.  After about 12 minutes I was looking for a distraction.  After about 45 minutes I was in the groove and really enjoying it and getting a ton out of it.  By the end I realized that this is the type of self feeding I need to do.  I need to solely focus on listening to God for larger chunks of time and scheduling that time instead of just fitting it in here and there.   

 

Pastors Jobs are to equip the saints, but that is not what most congregations want.  Most congregations want from their pastors so many things that aren’t even the pastor’s responsibility that they don’t even have time to equip the saints.   I totally believe this to be true and have tried to push our church and especially our pastor into doing more equipping rather than just preaching.  I truly believe if we just focused on equipping the church to do the work of the saints churches would explode.  I took a preaching class called the “Simeon Course.”  It was great and I understood how to go through scripture so much better.  We are offering more of these classes at church and trying to help everyone understand how to go through scripture.  The pastor should not be like a momma bird giving us pre-chewed food.  We should want to feast on the real thing, the word of God, and enjoy finding, chewing, and swallowing it whole ourselves.  Let’s self feed and help others to do the same.  We don’t need to leave it up to “professionals.”

Day 15 – Sharing the DMM Principle

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I had to laugh as I read today’s assignment!  Sometimes you don’t realize until days, months or even years later that some random events were all a part of God’s Divine providence.  And, then, there are days like today, when it just so happens that you have a meeting scheduled with all your small group leaders, and you’ve been struggling to articulate our new direction.  Of course, you know there is no such thing as coincidence when it comes to Kingdom work!  Again, I ask as much of myself as I ask of anyone else who may read this:  If we aren’t making disciples who can make disciples, then what are we making? And, then, if I’m unwilling to make what God wants me to make; will he continue to send souls my way?  Would He really want anyone to follow me?

Day 14 – Disciples Making Disciples

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What’s hurt the church in America more than anything?  In my opinion, it is the clergy/laity divide.  It’s the idea that you must be seminary trained to lead people to a walk with the Lord.  Interestingly, there is new data suggesting that if the church in America is to survive, we must raise up and empower church members to be disciple makers (The Great Evangelical Recession, Dickerson).  When the church scattered because of persecution, in Acts 8, the Bible says that “those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went.” (vs. 4)  Later, the same man that set-off the persecution of the church would say, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (I Cor 11:1)  Lord, may it be that every member would be willing to say and do likewise!  Let it begin in me!  And, if I’m not; then, Lord, what am I even doing?

Day 13 – Victory through Sacrifice!

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The passages of Scripture for today reminded me that what the Lord wants from me is obedience.  And, obedience no matter the cost!  There was a time when I was in a spiritual struggle concerning my only son.  The Lord wanted me to put my only son completely in His hands.  I was perfectly willing to risk my life, and even made out a will.  But, to risk my son, who was barely a teenager, seemed foolish at best and at worst, criminal.  DCFS would have had a strong case!  Like Abraham, I had a Mt Moriah moment with the Lord; realizing that the Father has already provided for not only me, but also my son.  And, what we give in the way of obedience can never compare to what the Father has already given, and is a reflection of the love the Father has already lavished on us.  It is this same love that compels us — love will always find a way!  Interestingly, love never feels like a sacrifice — it feels like coming home victorious!

Day 12 – Sharing Your Testimony

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Last year we heard the harrowing testimony of a woman who had nearly died while fleeing her war-torn African nation. Her story of adversity, her conviction that God has rescued her for a purpose and her boldness in sharing her new-found faith — are all truly humbling. Chris, who plays the drums on one of our worship teams has resisted giving his life completely to Christ for nearly 20 years. In that time he has heard hundreds of sermons. Yet, on March 15, of 2015; Chris was immersed into Christ by Faith, from Africa. You never know who the Lord will rescue through the power of the Holy Spirit as you share your testimony.

Designing a Hybrid Church

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Currently, I’m really interested in understanding how to integrate DMM principles in an existing (traditional, program-driven) church. How would that work? Jon Ralls recommended this article for starters. We’ve attached it to begin the discussion.

So my initial questions are:

  • What are the essentials to include in a four-lesson compressed introduction to Disciple Making Movement principles?
  • How do we connect the dots to the REST of the story (possibly through something like the 30-Day Challenge)?
  • How do we hold one another accountable actually to IMPLEMENT as well as LEARN?
  • How will we measure our outcomes and progress?

So let’s start with those. Anybody have any feedback?

Day 20: SOAPS with an S

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SOAPS is great.  I feel like the time I put into actually writing the verses that stuck out to me it helped me to focus a lot better.  Then when I had to write them over it made me think through them.  Many times I just quickly go through my devotions just to get done and 10 minutes later I don’t even remember what I did.  This helps me to “chew” on the scripture a little better.  I then like that what we learn we are going to obey.  The guys on this sight mentioned the book “Contagious Disciplemaking” so I chose to start reading it.  One chapter was about how we show love to God by obeying.  What if we were obedient to everything we knew?  Instead we are obedient to only about 10% of what we know because we thought Christianity was about learning.  What if as we discipled people we taught them to obey everything they learned?  That they thought it was expected and normal to obey.  I like taking action based on what God revealed to me in scripture that day.
If we are going to make disciples who make disciples the last “S” is very important.  The last “S” is sharing.  If we share we are having to teach and know what we are sharing because there might be questions.  We will learn things we have to teach a lot more that if we just learn them.  I really love this acronym and have been using it with my boys.  I want to challenge them to write down the verses now as we are doing this so they can think through these things on their own and write down what they mean to them.  ⅔ the way done with the challenge.  Really enjoying it.  

Day 19: Work on the Story

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Why do we not have something like this memorized to share with others?  What if we really spent time preparing and thinking through the story?  It would cause us to think through more clearly why we believe what we do.  In the community I am in it is very religious.  I grew up with people all around me who all thought similarly.  A few years back God challenged me to share my faith with others.  As I did that I ran into different people.  I remember sitting down with a salesman for lunch and I prayed before my meal quietly and after I was done he asked me “What are you catholic?”  That started a conversation where he said he was a universalist.  I asked many questions and he asked what do I believe.  I stuttered a bit and said I believe in Jesus and couldn’t get out more than that.  This lead me to really searching what I really believed and diving in the word more. Our conversations continued from there and we are still great friends.  As he has asked questions it has helped refine my faith tremendously.
I have went through the Story of God by SOMA and the Story of God for Kids by them as well with my boys.  These have helped me greatly.  So many times we see the stories of the bible as just stories.  We don’t see them connected together to form “The Story.”  What if we spent as much time preparing our testimony and the story of the bible as much as we spent watching TV, going on the internet, washing our cars, or any other things.  As I was mowing my lawn tonight I saw many regrets I have made in not taking care of my yard as well as I could have.  Should I have those same feelings toward some of the things I have not done in my spiritual life?  The reason we have regrets about our yard and house is we can see them.  We don’t have regrets in our spiritual life because the deficiencies don’t pop up until trouble or an opportunity to witness comes up.  Let’s take as much time preparing for the spiritual as we do the physical.  We might have some more trees and plants that die in our yard but hopefully we can help point some people to Christ with the time saved.

Day 11 – Intentional Encounters

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I’m amazed that many Christians have no non-Kingdom relationships.  All their friendships are with Christians.  Similar to some horses, it’s like they are living life with blinders on, only able to see straight ahead.  As a pastor, this can be especially true.  That’s why I do a few intentional things:  1)  Bathe all the following in prayer; 2)  Brenda and I prayer walk in our neighborhood, asking the Lord to open doors (literally, not just metaphorically); 3)  I joined a weekly golf league last year, and even go into the clubhouse bar after the round.  Hey, you’ve got to go where the people are!  But, here’s the point, unless you schedule the time (that is, make the time), intentional encounters won’t ever happen.  Then, to take these encounters to the next level you’ll be showing you care by asking questions and really listening.  This will open the door for prayer and maybe even sharing your testimony (the 2-minute version).  Yes, I pray for open doors, open hearts and straight drives!

Day 10 – Disciple Making / Greater Things

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We’ve been back in the US for nearly 2 years, and hit the ground running. We spent the first year raising up and training small group leaders. The second year we’ve spent launching small groups. Why do I mention this? Well, what brings the greatest joy: making and training disciples, or watching those same disciples make more disciples? Truly, it is a greater joy being a grandparent in the faith. How fulfilling it is to see those you raised up going way beyond what you envisioned possible! Jesus did amazing things, but said his disciples would do even “greater things than these” (John 14:12). How cool is that!

Day 18: 1 Down, 4 to Go

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My appointment came today!  I read the assignment this morning, actually I cheated, and peaked the night before 🙂  I love that we need to try schedule times to share our testimony with 5 other people.  We schedule so many different things in our life but hope spiritual things “just happen.”

 

 I had to give my oldest foster son who is 21 a ride to and from an appointment he had.  On the way back an opportunity presented itself for me to share what God has been teaching me this past year.  I used the theme of comparison in my life through my testimony to him.  And as I gave him my testimony I asked him questions to relate the story to him.  Usually when we have our conversations they are tough and go in circles but this one had a direction and started with me being honest about my struggles in life and how God is changing me.  He gave me some great feedback and we really connected.  The time together was great!  At the end of my testimony I told him how hard it was to stop this comparison habit.   To stop comparing myself with others I had to get in the word and be who Jesus wants me to be.  I told him the only way to find that out is through his word.  I felt God wanted me to give him my “The Voice” Bible with all of my great markings so I reluctantly did.  I dropped him off at work and now as I am writing this I am realizing I should have prayed for him.  This reminds of one of my friends favorite sayings:

 

“Experience + Reflection = Transformation”

 

I also have not been doing very good on praying for my 30 people.  And after reading another blogger say she liked what I was doing to put the people on my calendar to pray for.  I did just that today first thing in the morning.  I entered all of the people in my google calendar and had it repeat that day every month.  That way it makes it harder for me not to pray for my person of the day and easier to do it.  I might even set up the reminders to text me every morning.  

 

This challenge has really emboldened me.  I have realized how many times I have held back my faith for fear of offending others.  At work we send out a weekly email to our customers and I have been writing a column in it about our theme for the year “Growing Together.”  This week I laid out that my wife and I along with many of our friends have been doing the discipleship challenge on this site and it has been great!  
So many cool conversations are happening between many people and the 30 people prayer challenging has really been amazing.

Day 17: Tell em’

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That was a great video and a great challenge for us as Christians.  Too many time we just want to have our actions speak but we actually need to speak.  Teller made some great points such as how much we must hate people if we are not willing to tell them.  I think the bigger problem is that we don’t truly believe and go all in.  We don’t truly grasp what Jesus did for us.  If we did we wouldn’t feel guilted into doing things.  We would tell others about this great gift out of gratitude.

 

Yesterday I shared the story of us meeting some internationals on vacation and sharing Jesus with them.  The week before that God laid it on my heart and said “Why are you not being a missionary while on vacation?”  I was challenged that I need to be looking for opportunities all of the time.  Talking about Jesus and my faith isn’t reserved for certain times.  I need to be ready to share.  Tonight I went to Sioux City to the park for my boys’ biological mom’s birthday party.  While there I could have made it all about my kids and their family but at the park I ran into a couple with a thick southern accent.  I joked “You must be from Iowa, I can tell by your accent.”  They laughed and said they were from Louisiana.  As we kept talking out of the blue they shared of an accident that happened at work and after that they started going to church.  I said to them “It makes you think about what the purpose of life is and how short it can be.”  They nodded and we continued to talk I gave him my business card and told him to look me up if he gets to Sioux Center.  God is working all around us and we just need to be ready and willing to be a part of his plan.
If we had the same attitude as that of Paul where he was willing to lay down his life so lost people can be saved what would that do to the church and christianity in general?  What if we had that type of love for others?  I have been really pushed through this challenge to be more bold in my faith and to not leave people guessing what my purpose is in life and what I believe.  Thank you God for allowing me to be a part of your plan.

Day 9 – Urgency

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Curtis Sergeant’s non-stop finger snapping sure got old quickly. But, isn’t it surreal to imagine that each snap is a soul that is forever lost. We might console ourselves by thinking that we don’t know them — until, one of those snaps is someone we know: maybe a friend, a family member, a neighbor or a co-worker dies suddenly. Grief hurts! Can we imagine knowing and loving every single person represented by every finger snap? God can. God does. The people on my list: members of my golf league and my neighbors — may I be found faithful.

Day 16: WANTED: Person of Peace

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It’s 9:30 at night and I just sat down to listen to the challenge for today.  I was hoping to get to it this morning or over lunch but I woke up at 6 and read Romans since I need to read 10 chapters by tomorrow for our discipleship group.  I got to work around 7 and worked straight until 6 without stopping for lunch, got home had supper with the family and helped clean up.  Then spent time with the kids wrestling, playing dominos, and finished with Reading in Romans with my boys and ended up discussing “What is permissible is not always beneficial.”  

 

The person of peace is a concept I have read and learned about and even experimented  in finding.   Figuring out the person of peace can be tricky.  Just like in discipleship we hone in on one person to soon and end up ignoring the ones that are hungry and ready for it.  We can make the same mistake in looking for the person of peace.  We sometimes are so drawn to one person because of their personality when in reality they really aren’t that interested. One of those situations happened with some friends I made at a local restaurant.  I had my focus on the cousin of the owner the whole time that he was the person of peace and the one I should reach because he was fun and less intimidating than the owner.  For 6 months I was intentional to talk to him and have him over.  Then one day when I went to give him a chinese-english bible at the restaurant he had left.  I was crushed, I thought he was the person of peace.  3 months later I was at the restaurant and I saw a bible sitting up by the register.  I asked my friend at the restaurant “Are you reading this?”  She said “Yes it is very good.”  I had given the bible to the owner’s son a year earlier and the owner’s girlfriend had read the whole bible on her own!  God was still working, just not how I had planned or thought.  I have since realized the owner is actually the person of peace.  He was just a lot busier and more intimidating to talk about.  But in all actuality he was the one who held the key to the community of workers there.  

 

Another example of finding a person of peace is when we went on a vacation to a resort.  At the resort there were many different international students working there.  Before and during the trip we prayed for opportunities throughout the weekend to share Jesus.  During the weekend we had many different conversations with different workers and many of them were spiritual.  The last day I was there one of the guys “my person of peace” really opened up to me and invited me to their apartment where I met his 7 other friends and got to hang out with them all for a few hours.  He wasn’t the one I was initially intrigued by the most but he is the one who was the most open.  After the night they all invited me to their country to hang out.  I have kept in contact with him over facebook and continue to pray for him.  
I am going to prayer walk this week and hope for more conversations that could lead me to a person of peace in our community.  

Day 7 – Preparing Your Testimony

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Again, in Taiwan, decisions to accept Christ were seldom made quickly.  Baptism was seen as a point of no return to the old way life; and the beginning of persecution for many new believers.  We would ask them to prepare their testimony and share it with the church on the day they gave their life to Christ.  Makes sense, since they were going to be defending their faith from the get-go!  And, it set a pattern, an expectation, for the believers to come.  When we were called to Memorial, they asked me to bring “my missions mind-set.”  My response was, “Are you sure about that?”  The leadership was, and we have — including, training everyone to prepare and share their testimony.  God can do amazing things when we faithfully share how God has rescued us!

Day 6 – List of 25 Names

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A prayer list is not new for me.  I’ve always worked better from a to-do list, and a daily routine.  Okay, so I made my list of 25 people (or, couples).  My list is sitting here right in front of me, here in my office.  The same place where I wrote it.  The problem — I left it here in my office over the weekend.  So, I learned a valuable lesson right off the bat; one that I can share with others when I pray for them and encourage them to make their own prayer list.  You know what that lesson is:  when you make your list, put it on something you always carry with you, like your cell phone or tattooed up and down your arms.  Though, if you choose Matthew 5:30 as the verse to obey, you might loose the arm with all the names.  So, my advice is to put your list on you cell phone.  I know what you’re thinking — when people have no arms, they learn to do amazing things with their toes — even using cell phones. 🙂

Day 5 – Prayer Walking

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When we were missionaries in sub-tropical Taiwan, most of the year it was really hot and humid. Prayer walking needed to be done in the early morning, or evening (which fits the city-never-sleeps culture nicely). I chose to prayer jog in the mornings. I would run past the temples and pray for them to be empty of people. I would run inside the stadium and pray that one day it will be filled with believers singing praise to the Lord. I would jog past the homes of new believers and pray for them to be strong in the Lord. I would jog past my neighbors and pray, “Lord, give me opportunities to share the Gospel with them; the boldness and the words (Chinese) to speak your truth with love.” Often, on those early morning runs, while most of the city still slept; I would listen for God’s voice. Most of the Kingdom things we did came from listening to the Lord. Like Joshua and the Israelites marching faithfully around Jericho — good things happen when you prayer walk.

Discipleship When Life Is Busy: Day 30

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Day 30: Next Steps.  Well, we made it! Day 30, the last day of the challenge, however, the challenge is only beginning.  We are called to make disciples and we have gained a lot of great tools through this training, but we have so much more to do from here.  Don’t let your journey stop here; make discipleship a lifestyle.

I have loved going through this training and having a resource to share with others who want to begin a life of discipleship as well.  I have had the opportunity to share it with many people from my church, friends who are preparing to move abroad to share the gospel with unreached people groups, students from our youth ministry, small group leaders, etc.  I can’t wait to see what God does through the people in my community once we begin to make disciples who make disciples.  Become a disciple who multiplies.

Day 15: Discipleship is What????

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Discipleship is one of those buzz words in the church that has kind of lost it’s meaning.  We call bible studies discipleship, we call small groups discipleship, and we call Sunday school the discipleship hour.  When you truly look at discipleship as Jesus modeled, it did not look like any of these.  Jesus was constantly teaching his disciples because they were with him  A LOT.  In our culture it is tough to do that, but could we?  Months ago the guys in our discipleship group were saying it is hard to do this because we were living in different areas of town.   I agreed halfheartedly but thought “we still should be able to do this.”  Weeks after that discussion I was visiting some friends in Texas who are training people to go to unreached people groups and one of the gals said “For us to do discipleship well we need to live in the same apartment complex.  If we are across the street it just doesn’t work.”  That really got my wheels turning.  What if we gave up the comforts of our own house and the convenience of our own space for the sake of discipleship?  Discipleship wasn’t meant to just be another program because programs are optional. Discipleship was a command meant to be obeyed.

 

I did love this video so much because it kind of flipped the purpose of the church around.  The people weren’t meant to serve the church but the church was meant to equip the people to be sent out weekly to disciple.  Everyone in the church has a mission field where they work and the people they influence and we have to help everyone realize that and equip them to do something about it.
Around 8 years ago I had two young men start working with me at the garden center.  They were 15 & 16.  I made it my point to train them well the first 2 years. I was out there daily and taught them about plants as we put them away, how to talk to customers, how to water, how to do displays and everything else.   They became an extension of me and the place could run without me, sometimes more smoothly.  I patted myself on the back and thought I had done a great job because they were doing what I was doing.  Not until both of their brothers started working underneath them did I realize I had failed to make them reproducers.  I thought they would just teach their brothers what I taught them, but because I didn’t have that as the expectation it didn’t get done.  I from the beginning did not have the goal of them teaching the next people.  If I would have, they would have been able to do a better job training their brothers.  This taught me a valuable lesson about discipleship that from the beginning the expectation needs to be to teach others to teach others.  As a result of this experience I have switched my approach with my teenage boys I now regularly say to them;  “The reason we are praying, reading the bible, etc. is so that you can do this with your kids someday.”  We need to make sure the blessing doesn’t stop at us or the next person but it keeps continuing on.  If we truly grasp this concept multiplication will happen rapidly.

Discipleship Life Is Busy: Day 29

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Day 29: Unreached Peoples.  Where I live, I pretty much assume that everyone has had the opportunity to hear about Christ.  I am finding more and more that this is not necessarily the case, but there are definitely opportunities for most Americans to hear the gospel at least once.  It is insane to me that there continue to be whole people groups who have never even had the opportunity to hear about a God who loves them and wants a relationship with them.

There was once a time that my husband and I were planning to head overseas to spread the gospel of Christ with an unreached people group.  Then some unexpected things happened which have required us to stay here for at least a while.  It is sometimes hard to feel like you have a place in reaching unreached people groups when you can’t go be with them teaching them about the gospel and showing them the love of Christ, but there is SO much that we can do.  We can start with prayer.  Every great Christian movement was first covered in prayer.  I think sometimes we underestimate the power of prayer because we don’t have the faith that God will actually listen to us or come through for us, but prayer is SO powerful.  A great way to start this is through using an app that was recommended to me called JP Unreached.  It is the Joshua Project in app form.  It gives you an “unreached people group of the day” and a little bit of information about that people group so that you can somewhat more specifically pray for an unreached group of people in the world.  Another thing we can do is give.  There are many missionaries that you can support that are sharing the gospel to unreached people groups.  They need funding to be able to continue the work that they are doing.  We can also encourage.  I once had a friend spend a summer in Russia working with a local church there.  When she came home she talked about how hard it was to feel disconnected from people at home.  She said people wrote for the first few weeks, but then seemed to forget about her.  IF it is safe for you to send mail, an email, or connect with them on social media, take some time to write a missionary an encouraging note to let them know you are praying for the work they are doing.  Lastly, we can go.  We all have a place to be spreading the gospel.  For you, it might not mean an unreached people group, but it could mean an unreached person.  You might go to another country and share the love of Christ in a location not your own.  Or you might stay where you are; in many areas, especially around college campuses, there are members of unreached people groups right at your back door.  You just have to open your eyes to where the gospel isn’t.

Day 14: A Lifestyle not a Program

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Discipleship as explained in the video today isn’t a program but a lifestyle.  This is why making disciples can be so difficult.  People are willing to commit to a program because they know the beginning and the end and the cost is very minimal.  True Discipleship is different.  You need to change your life and hour habits and those changes can be painful.  Those changes can cause some hurt feelings.  That change changes everything.  

 

We have such an abundance of choices and freedom in America these days.  We can watch whatever we want, eat whatever we want, do whatever we want, whenever we want.  The single greatest skill in this day and age that is going to help you is Self Control.  

 

I have tried to reorient my life around discipleship.  I have changed a lot.  I don’t watch TV, I have said no to being on boards of organizations, I have stepped down from other church positions, I have not done things I “should” do such as coaching or volunteering for other things.  I have said no to some opportunities for trips or other vacations because it did not further discipleship.  My friendships have changed in the process and it has been hard.  I care about what people think of me, more than I let on.   Last year I made the commitment to discipleship and I did great focusing on that for 4 months and then I got sidetracked by something new and shiny. You see the problem with discipleship is that it is not sexy, shiny, or quick.  It is a lot of work!  That is why most people don’t want to do it.  But as I have poured into those who are FAT (Faithful-Available-Teachable) the results have been amazing.  A friend challenged me once that our job is to scatter the seeds and provide opportunities to grow.  When you see a seed that is growing and wanting to grow you go help that seed grow.  He challenged me to scatter widely and don’t just ask the people you think are “qualified.”  Give more people a chance.  Some might surprise you.  This has been super-freeing for me.  I used to sit around a couple of seeds and just wait for them to grow and get so frustrated when they wouldn’t grow.  Now I spread seeds liberally and when they grow and want to grow I do everything I can to help them.  

The meaning and context of discipleship has changed quite a bit in the last couple of years as well for me.  I used to think it was one on one but a few years back a friend gave me the book “Spiritual Multiplication in the Real World.” by Bob McNabb.  Through that book and through my experiences in discipleship it has become clear to me that discipleship done in community is the most effective way.  You see I was discipleing a young man for a few years individually and I invited him along with others to be a part of our group.  I loved it!  He loved it as well!  He was getting a more full picture of Christ and able to learn from all of the different guys in our group based on their gifts than just me alone.  We call it “Teamwork Discipleship!”  

 

To end I love the verse shared.  In the verse there is 4 generations of discipleship going on.  That is awesome!  I want to be a part of that!  Have you seen 4 generations of intentional discipleship anywhere around you?  Who do you know who is great at making disciples?

 

Other great books on Discipleship I have read:

“Master Plan for Evangelism” by Robert E Coleman

“The Making of a Disciple” by Dr. Keith Phillips

“Essentialism: The disciplined pursuit of less.”  by Greg McKeown (helped me to focus on discipleship)

Discipleship When Life Is Busy: Day 28

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Day 28: The Training Cycle.  Training others to make disciples is one of the most important things we can do.  It is how we are going to multiply instead of just add.  The idea expressed in this video is training others by slowly letting loose of the reigns and letting someone else lead.

I had the pleasure of seeing this exact thing play out in my life this year.  I have lead a life group of high school girls the last 5 years (okay, the first year they were 8th graders, but you get the point).  This year we decided to use the three-thirds (DBS) method in our group.  The church we attend uses this method often for our small groups, especially with our high school students.  The first semester I and my co-leader led each study and the girls participated.  It was awesome to see how they were interpreting the bible for themselves and encouraging each other each week.  And to reflect back on how groups used to be when they were in 8th grade (can you say, crickets!?), it was incredible to see the growth in their faith and willingness to be vulnerable.  So, in the Spring semester we challenged our senior girls to lead the group.  Each of our girls signed up to lead one group meeting.  We have two girls who are thinking of being missionaries overseas and all of our girls are going out into colleges (and then eventually jobs) where they will have the opportunity to start groups like this.  They did a great job and it was awesome to see them lead the group and be the one challenging the other girls!

Discipleship When Life Is Busy: Day 27

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Day 27: Empowering Those Around Us.  Discipleship and community are so important.  That is something that we have seen time and time again throughout this challenge.  We need other believers for support, for encouragement, for accountability, and for other perspectives/ideas.  That’s what this challenge is all about.  At the church I attend, one of our core values is: Live in community with a spirit of unity.  I think that paints a beautiful picture of the church and ideally of these three-thirds study groups.

Last year, I actually started a three-thirds study group, well sort of.  I wanted to start a bible study at work (bear in mind, this was a new job where I really knew only one person).  I asked some of the girls that I had met and we began meeting together once a week before work.  I didn’t follow the three-thirds format completely (many times I left out the application part…it’s hard to do accountability with people you don’t know, but I wish I would have included it), but it was so nice to be able to meet together and pray for our work place and study the bible together.

Today I made a list of people who I would like to invite to a three-thirds study group, however, I decided not to set it up at this time because I know that my life/schedule is about to change drastically (as are the lives of many of the people on my list).  I work for the school district and school gets out in 2 weeks.  During the month of June I am planning to be out of town 3 of 4 weeks, so in the interest of starting a group that I will actually be able to attend, I am planning to contact them and set up a time to meet in July.  I have been yearning for a discipleship group of women that I can be a part of.  Our church has a women’s ministry that meets, but it is at a time I am unable to attend, so I feel that this would be a perfect opportunity to put together a group of women to do life together and study the bible together.  Just to make the commitment a little more real, I am putting a reminder in my phone to contact these people and get this three-thirds group set up.  I am really excited about starting this group and because I anticipated that this would be a part of the study, have been praying about the people I would ask for a while.

Day 13: Love is…..obedience

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In reading the verses today the Love described in the Bible is not the wavering, touchy-feely, optionally defined love we see in culture.  The Love Jesus described has teeth because it has a cost and is full of truth.  It is offensive in many ways.

 

“If you love me you will bear fruit.”  

“Those who love me will take up their cross and follow me.”

 

That doesn’t sound like the love we see today. The culturally love we see today does not make commands.  It lets someone you love do whatever they want because it is their decision. In culture today love is cheap and doesn’t have a whole lot of value because it is based on a “feeling” not a decision.  If my love for Jesus is based on a feeling I am not going to want to do the hard thing of taking up my cross and following him.  I am not going to love my enemies.  I am not going to do the hard things.  

You see in the church we get love and obedience wrong these days.  We think following God is this set of rules that robs us from our happiness.  When in all reality I have discovered that God’s commands and rules are their for our protection and following after God is the most exciting, truly joyful thing you could experience.  You see Jesus isn’t asking us to do something he wouldn’t do.  He showed us what love looked like.  It was not a weak, pushover, wavering love.  It was a commitment.  A commitment to love God after we truly grasp how much he love us.  He died for us!  Our love and obedience is not bread out of guilt but out of thankfulness.  It is in gratitude that he would die for us and then allow us to be a part of his plan.  After reading these passages and listening to the video I am really wanting to do a study on what love is by definition of Jesus and compare that to what the world says.  I think we would be amazed.
Love and obedience in our culture seem like they are on way opposite ends of the spectrum but in the bible they go hand in hand.  

Day Four – Praying for Others

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Why do we find it hard to pray for others? Is it that deep-down we’re selfish? If we truly wish to fulfill the Great Commandments: love God and love people; then, won’t we want to lift others up in prayer? In fact, I have a suspision that as we pray to a Heavenly Father we are drawing nearer to a God who is Love. As we draw nearer to the Father, our proximity in prayer for people will also be reduced — thereby, making it as natural as breathing or praying for ourselves. Powered by prayer, the Kingdom cannot be stopped!

Discipleship When Life Is Busy: Day 26

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Day 26: You Will Be My Witnesses.  This hasn’t happened so smoothly every day of this challenge, but I actually read the challenge and watched the video this morning before work.  On my way to work, I took time to pray that God would put someone in my path that I could move into a meaningful conversation with.  I am so glad that I was able to do all of that this morning, because I hadn’t been at work 15 minutes and I was given the perfect opportunity.  A parent was late to a meeting we were holding so I was talking with one of my teachers about life and the end of school.  She has a TON on her plate right now with the school year ending, her family purchasing a new home, and her mom having some health issues.  I felt the Spirit nudge me that this was my opportunity, so before I left, I asked her if I could pray for her.  I am so glad that I took that opportunity because as much as I care about her and have had many meaningful conversations about work, life, kids, family, etc. I had never taken the opportunity to offer prayer for her.  I am continuing to pray for her privately as well that she would come to know Christ better and that she would know that her salvation comes from Him.

Discipleship When Life Is Busy: Day 25

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Day 25: Self Feeding in the Midst of Persecution and Suffering.  I finally took the time to complete this challenge and read through the verses on persecution this evening right before bed while snuggled up to our youngest foster kiddo.  I have to say that it sort of hit me over the head when I did.  Particularly, these verses spoke into my heart tonight:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.  Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains.  Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Ephesians 6: 18-20

Our sermon series at church this month has been about persecution.  As that series pointed out, there are different levels of persecution.  American Christians do experience some levels of persecution, but there are many places in the world that experience all levels.  How often do I pray for the persecuted church?  Are my brothers and sisters who are losing their jobs, being kicked out of their homes, and possibly even killed for the cause of Christ on my mind “in all occasions”?  Isn’t it so easy to get distracted and, as Chris pointed out in the video, play into the devil’s game plan by being silent?  I know that I need to be much more intentional about praying for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are experiencing persecution.

I was also incredibly challenged by Chris’ thoughts in the video about training disciples to think about persecution and to be aware that it will come.  I have to admit that if I have a student at church come talk to me about wanting to be baptized, persecution isn’t usually something on the top of my list to make sure that they understand.  I had simply never really thought about it in that context.  His story about how he used to make missionaries going to hostile locations write a last letter really challenged me.  I had to think, what would I write in that letter? Would I be as willing to go if I knew that death was a possibility to the point that I was writing my last words?  Last Sunday, one of the missionaries supported by our church spoke during the sermon.  He said that one of the questions he’s asked most often is “Are you safe there?” and his response was “Is the goal of what we do to be safe?”  I thought those words perfectly explained how we should, as Christians, believe that the gospel is worth it enough to no longer worry about what is safe and make our first priority expanding the Kingdom.

Day 2 – A Running Partner

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Andrew brought Peter. Philip found Nathanael. One found a family member. One found his friend. The point — finding Jesus was too good to keep to themselves. The same is true today! Sergeant’s video reminder — every Marine is a rifleman — every disciple’s first calling is to be a disciple maker; is a great reminder that has been lost in today’s church. It is time for a comeback!

I see something else at work here too — and, oh, how important, how imperative it is! If you don’t have a mate running alongside you; then, who will pick you up when you go down? Who will spur you up and over those mountains? If you aren’t a runner, trust me when I say, running with someone is so much better than running alone!

Day 12: Just get it on Paper!

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The challenge is going decent so far.  I have not done good at calling and praying for people.  So Today I called one of my friends who lost a daughter at 8 months.  They have modeled so wonderfully what it means to trust in God.  The funeral had so many people they had touched and impacted.  I had the privilege of praying for him and it was such a blessing.  He shared a tough situation that I could pray for him with some friends of his.  God is giving him and his wife such a platform through this hard time to share Jesus too so many.  The other challenge today was to write out your testimony.  So beings that this is also our challenge when we get together for discipleship group I would throw an initial one on paper.  So here it goes:

 

“I grew up in a good Christian home and went to Christian School.  This was a blessing in my life but I thought the blessing was for me.  I also thought the Christian life was more about the list of do’s and don’t’s than following after God.  I had Christ in my heart from a young age but I did not start truly following after Christ until about 8 years ago.  On our way back from a vacation with my family we had heard a story of a man hearing God’s voice and acting on it.  It was a crazy story but it got us asking “Why don’t we hear God’s voice?”  We realized one of our first steps should be making room by clearing out time.  We realized one of our biggest time suckers was TV so we got rid of Dish and put the TV away.  Those next  years we dove in the word like never before, I read 52 books in one year, we joined a house church and really grew like crazy.  We also heard God’s voice and he lead us on some crazy adventures that have gone through these last 8 years.  6 years ago we found ourselves helping lead a perspectives class on world missions and taking foster classes at the same time.  We wondered why we were taking both because for the foster license to be valid we would have to live in Iowa, and in taking the missions course we had thoughts of moving overseas.  But like always when God asks us to something we just do it without trying to look too far in the future.  After getting done with perspectives we had an opportunity to possibly move to Turkey and do business as missions but that fell through.  2 weeks later we got a call for our boys to live with us, we then had a baby 3 months later, and had a 17 year old foster son move in with us.  We went from 1 to 5 kids in 6 months.  God was really stretching us.  But through the combination of foster classes and perspectives God gave us a different perspective on foster care and life in general.  Through opening up our home to our kids along with other people through these last 5 years we have learned that nothing is our own and that we truly need God because we can’t do good on our own.  We have had many different people live with us including our boys mom, another gal who struggled with addiction, and 4 college guys.  God has taught me so much about myself and how I need him.  God also has challenged me the reason he has blessed me is so that I can bless others.  After I started following God he has written a story far better than any story I have written.  He transformed me from a self-centered, pious “Christian”: to a broken Jesus follower who is in need of him daily.”
This is the first draft.  I am going to try refine this more as the challenge moves on.  It isn’t great but you gotta start somewhere.

Discipleship When Life Is Busy: Day 24

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Day 24: The Body.  I once had a conversation with a former boss where I intentionally brought up Jesus and the church I was attending.  She mentioned that she thinks its great for me to be in church, but that it just doesn’t work for her.  She felt that she was able to follow Christ and spend time learning about him without attending a church full of “hypocrites.”  At that time, all I knew to say was “Well, I really love being connected to other believers and learning from others and living in community.”  I love that now I feel equipped with some scripture also to back up the importance of not only being connected to God, but also to the body.

Being challenged and encouraged by other believers that are helping you learn new things, holding you accountable, giving you words of encouragement, supporting you through the hard things, etc. is so important.  It is not something that should be optional.  It is something that the scripture makes very clear should be a priority.