Archives For February 2013

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Logo Transparent jpeg without wordsYesterday I  briefly explained the historical meaning of the word disciple and listed six conclusions we can draw from the historical similarities. Today I want to draw some implications for modern Christian discipleship.

 

At the heart of what it means to be a disciple is the idea of apprenticeship. In my post  A MORE EFFECTIVE WAY TO MAKE DISCIPLES? I wrote:

In the church we have primarily depended on teaching and preaching to transform lives. But experience shows that these are just about the most ineffective ways to bring about real change in attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Research repeatedly shows that supplementing the teaching process with coaching/mentoring results in much better outcomes. For example, a study by Joyce and Showers in 1995 about teacher training revealed that “when coaching accompanies training, teachers transfer 80-90 percent of what they learn into the classroom, compared to only 5-10 percent with training alone.”

Traditional teaching in a classroom, when done well, can be great at Continue Reading…

 Logo Transparent jpeg without wordsDISCIPLES AS APPRENTICE 

In this post I will discuss how disciples in Jesus’ time served as an apprentice who constantly shadowed his teacher.

 

We call it the Great Commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a CEB). But exactly what did Jesus have in mind? What was his concept of a disciple?

Throughout history there have been various systems whereby the older and experienced have taught the young. From the writings of ancient Greece we read how Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and others trained their “disciples.” In the Old Testament we also see the concept at work. Moses discipled Joshua and prepared him to lead his people. Isaiah had disciples, as did the prophet Samuel. Elijah discipled Elisha, who in turn discipled the “sons of prophets.”

In New Testament times the concept of discipleship was common. Continue Reading…

Logo Transparent jpeg without words“The church should be taking the gospel to the people, rather than seeking to attract people to the programs of the church.” In other words, doing it the way Jesus did it!

 

Ed Stetzer is one of the movers and shakers in the missional church movement. This movement, which seeks to rethink the character and purpose of the church, began at the end of the 20th century and has grown in recent years. The main point this group makes is that the church should be missional, not attractional, in nature. Leaders like Ed Stetzer, Mark Driscoll, Mike Breen, Tim Keller, and Alan Hirsch insist the church should be taking the gospel to the people, rather than seeking to attract people to the programs of the church. In other words, doing it the way Jesus did it! Of course, this idea is not new. Many of us have been saying this for years. But the initiative is spreading and more churches are seeking to put this into practice than at any time in my memory.

At the last Verge Conference put on by many of the leaders in the missional church movement, Ed Stetzer talked about obedience-based discipleship. He also wrote about it in a recent blog. He described how this is Continue Reading…

Logo Transparent jpeg without wordsIn my last blog I stated that “Making disciples is not about a church program. It’s not ONE of the things the church does. It is THE thing. Jesus’ last words to his followers were, “Go and make disciples.” So if this is the mission of the church, its reason for being, its all-encompassing purpose, then why isn’t this the focal point of all that we do?” I suggest here nine contributors to this problem.

  • We don’t like being disciplined. The word “disciple” comes from the same Latin word discipulus as does the word “discipline.” The dictionary defines a “disciple” as one who is a pupil or an adherent to the teachings of another. Discipline is defined as the “training to act in accordance with rules.” It also means “behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and control.”

Do you see the problem? We don’t like to discipline ourselves, much less Continue Reading…

Logo Transparent jpeg without wordsMaking disciples is not about a church program. It’s not one of the things the church does. It is the thing. Jesus’ last words to his followers were, “Go and make disciples.” So if this is the mission of the church, its reason for being, its all-encompassing purpose, then why isn’t this the focal point of all that we do?

I’m not suggesting that the church should never sponsor a Christian concert, or pot-luck supper or an exercise class. All of these things could contribute to its mission. But who can convincingly argue that discipleship is really the focus of most churches?

Of course, it is important that Christian disciples Continue Reading…

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In his book The Cost of Discipleship Dietrich Bonhoeffer insisted, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” Was he right?

This famous quote from Bonhoeffer, who was killed by the Nazis because of his public resistance to Adolf Hitler, is contained in the following passage:

Discipleship means adherence to Christ, and, because Christ is the object of that adherence, it must take the form of discipleship. An abstract Christology, a doctrinal system, a general religious knowledge on the subject of grace or on the forgiveness of sins, render discipleship superfluous, and in fact they positively exclude any idea of discipleship whatever, and are essentially inimical to the whole conception of following Christ. With an abstract idea it is possible to enter into a relation of formal knowledge, to become enthusiastic about it, and perhaps even to put it into practice; but it can never be followed in personal obedience. Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.

It remains an abstract idea, a myth that has a place for the Fatherhood of God, but omits Christ as the living Son. A Christianity of that kind is nothing more or less than the end of discipleship. [(New York: Macmillan, 1937), p. 64]

Evangelicals often criticize mainline churches for rejecting Continue Reading…

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The Christian church should be a factory for making disciples. This is its purpose for being. Jesus commands this in the Great Commission. However, too many churches have forgotten what its product is supposed to be.

 

Hugh Hughes told a wonderful parable about a man who visited a particular town for the first time. It was a windy December day when he arrived. He immediately noticed something very strange. Strange indeed. Many of the people were well-dressed as they walked along the streets wearing heavy coats. However, these obviously prosperous people wore no shoes. Absolutely no one wore shoes! Many of the locals limped along apparently suffering from frostbite, chilblains, and bruises.

After checking in he had lunch at the hotel’s restaurant. He sat with a prosperous older man who seemed very friendly. Continue Reading…

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Do the members of your church REALLY understand its mission? Is your church primarily about developing mature, obedient disciples of Jesus Christ who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and do whatever else God calls them to do?

 

Most churches these days have a mission statement. But what does it mean to the typical member who sits in the pew week by week? When asked about the mission of the church most Christians I have surveyed give all kind of answers, very few having anything to do with the Great Commission. Unless. . . they have been specifically taught that the Great Commission is our mission. And yet, even then. . . Continue Reading…

Making Change Stick

February 15, 2013 — 1 Comment

Logo Transparent jpeg without words(This is the fifth and final post in a series: How To Change an Organization and Create a New Culture.)

Making significant changes in an organization, corporation, or church is tricky; making those changes stick is even more difficult. Don’t forget that structural, systemic, and cultural change in any organization is a process and not an event. In most instances it takes years to make significant changes that won’t revert at the first opportunity.

In this post I will make several suggestions that should help you negotiate your way through the mine field as you institutionalize the changes you have implemented.

1. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate ad infinitum. Many leaders make the mistake of thinking that once the change is implemented, significant communication is no longer needed. Don’t ever think that everyone knows about and understands the change you have put into action. Use as many channels as possible to tell as much as possible to as many as possible, as often as possible. Keep telling the story. Keep explaining why the change was necessary; keep explaining exactly what is being done, who will do it, and what the expected results will be. Remember that people are fearful of the unknown. Communication is not something you do early on and then you move on to other things.

2. Reward those who support the change. Use your creativity to do this. Start with praise and affirmation.

3. Provide regular opportunities to get on board. For example, Continue Reading…

Logo Transparent jpeg without words(This is the fourth post in a series: How To Change an Organization and Create a New Culture.)

The best thing leaders of any business, organization, or church can do to instigate needed change is to engage in a thorough strategic planning process. However, there are some important things you need to keep in mind as you do so. I will list in this blog some of the more important things to remember as you work to institute needed change in your organization:

1. Build on your strengths. Many of the churches I know who are experiencing decline tend to focus on their weaknesses. One should never completely disregard problem areas and should do what they can to improve them. But most of the resources should be applied to what is already getting the best results. Of course, there may be exceptions to this rule. There may be times when you need to go in a completely different direction.

2. Keep it simple; More and more leaders are learning the importance of simplicity. Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger have written an excellent book on this called Simple Church. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Complexity is the enemy of effectiveness.

3. Focus on your core process/mission. Continue Reading…