A Discipleship Path at Last!

For the last 6 months I have been chairing a committee at our church that was tasked with designing a discipleship path for people of all ages and levels of maturity.  I was really excited about this project because I agree with Greg Ogden who wrote,

“If making disciples is the primary mission of the church, would we not expect some public pathway to maturity in Christ in most churches?   Yet it is rare to find a church with a well-thought out, easy-to-grasp process or path onto which people can get if they want to become self-initiating, reproducing, fully-devoted followers of Christ.”  Transforming Discipleship

Two weeks ago we unveiled the plan to 50+ teachers and small group leaders, asking for their input in support in this new project.  We hope to launch it this August.  Here is the overview:

Dicipleship Path

*Classes are generally 6 weeks.  This is an adaptation of materials from Saddleback Resources.

STARTING POINT
Introduction to our church and vision, weekly church activities, church facilities; opportunity to meet pastoral staff and departmental representatives; Introduction to the Discipleship Path and help to find best fit. 1 hour, monthly

NEW BEGINNINGS  Introduction to Jesus Christ, basics of Christian faith, and walking with Christ; For new Christians or those who have recently recommitted to following Christ; Various curriculum available. Class or with mentor, 12 weeks

101 MEMBERSHIP “Know” –  Commitment to Christ and the church family  Overview of United Methodist history, doctrine (including salvation, baptism, and communion), organization, Membership vows of prayer, presence, gifts, service, and witness.

201 MATURITY “Grow” – Commitment to habits necessary for spiritual growth Principles of spiritual growth & discipleship, habits necessary for growth, learning to read and study the Bible, developing a quiet time, prayer, tithing, fellowship and small groups, maintaining good habits, and a vision for maturity.

301 MINISTRY “Serve” – Commitment to serving God and others  Understanding how God has shaped you, spiritual gifts, discovering your gifts, heart passion, natural abilities, personality types, past experiences, developing a heart for service, serving in this church, ministry opportunities, expectations of those serving, connection with ministry leaders.

401 MISSION “Go” – Commitment to sharing the gospel with others  Discovering your mission to the world, your purpose in the kingdom of God, discipleship, developing your testimony, learning to share the gospel, building bridges to reach others, introduction to local and global missions.

There it is!  Now, we know that “Programs do not make disciples, people make disciples…” but I think this will be a fantastic tool for encouraging spiritual growth and engagement, and it should open the door for many one-to-one and small group relationships.

So now I’ll be writing curriculum and teaching notes all summer…. Ha ha.  What do you think?

Spiritual Gift Assessment Tools

After a brief poll of folks I know in ministry, here are the best recommendations I have for spiritual gift assessment tools!  (Thank you for your input!)

http://www.spiritualgiftstest.com/   Free on-line test or downloadable in pdf format.  100 questions,  covers 14 gifts.  Results give scores for all gifts, not just top three.  Results can be printed or emailed to yourself.  Website also has lengthy gift descriptions.  Recommended by several pastors.  I took it on my tablet!

https://gifts.churchgrowth.org/analysis/index.php  Another highly recommended free on-line test with 100 questions.

And finally, here is another downloadable test in pdf format, originally from Lifeway Publishing.  Covers 16 gifts, includes definitions and sample of service opportunities.  16 pages.  SpiritualGiftsAssessment

Sincerely yours,

The Teacher/Knowledge/Administrator Type.

Teaching the Old Testament

I’m teaching an 8 week overview of the Old Testament right now.  It’s a class that provides a framework and helps my students understand the big narrative of scripture… plus they finally understand where all the kings, prophets, and covenants fit.  I dare to say that many churches would profit from an Old Testament Overview type class, so here is what I recommend:

Our text is “Full of Promise” by Bryson Smith and Phil Campbell, Mattias Media, 2011.  It hits all the highlights in 8 weeks and the homework load is 60-90 minutes/week.  Students skim a lot of chapters, and I encourage those with time to just sit down and read the extra passages like a novel.  It’s easy for me to add maps, charts, and teaching sidebars on everything from the implications of the fall to details on various characters and events.

http://www.christianbook.com/full-of-promise-ot-overview/bryson-smith/9781921441899/pd/441891?event=ESRCG

Another GREAT find is “The Epic of Eden” by Dr. Sandra Richter, 2008. This is the single best background and teaching resource I’ve ever seen on the Old Testament.  It’s extremely readable and quite valuable.  It helped me bridge the gap from understanding the Old Testament, to being able to teach the Old Testament to newcomers in a comprehensible manner.

My favorite piece from Dr. Richter is her 5 Men, 5 Eras, 5 Covenants framework.  If your students can just remember Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David… then they have already mastered the outline of the Old Testament timeline and covenantal framework.

Happy teaching!

Pick a Bible Reading Plan!

Just in time for the New Year!  It’s time to pick your Bible reading plan for 2015 and this fantastic blog post has every imaginable option you could dream of, and some great pdf downloads.  Disciplers, add this to your library!

http://www.ligonier.org/blog/bible-reading-plans/

If you are a digital reader, or you like having your daily reading emailed to you, then I’d recommend the YouVersion app which has many reading plans.

I think I’m going to do the 5x5x5 New Testament in a year (one chapter a day) this time… and I just finished a whole-Bible-in-three-years plan!

Does Your Church Have A Discipleship Path?

I need to know, does your church have a “discipleship path”?  Many churches have a class for new people where you learn all about the church, and/or a class for those who want to be baptized.

But what about after that?

If your church has a discipleship plan or path for what comes next, please tell me about it or give me the link to the website!

I have recently been asked to chair a committee responsible for designing the Intentional Faith Development plan (aka discipleship path) for our church and I’m studying other successful models right now.  It’s very interesting!

Thank you!

Identifying Potential Idols in Your Life

IdolsI’m guessing that you don’t have a little wooden figurine in your house to whom you pray and pour out daily drink offerings.  Yet, idolatry is one of the main issues in the Bible… so clearly we cannot just say “that doesn’t apply to me” and skip over all those passages.  Idolatry is alive and well today, it just looks different in our culture.

“What if I told you that every sin you are struggling with, every discouragement you are dealing with, even the lack of purpose you’re living with are because of idolatry?” writes Kyle Idleman in Gods at War.

“Idolatry isn’t just one of many sins; rather it’s the one great sin that all others come from.  So if you start scratching at whatever struggle you’re dealing with, eventually you’ll find that underneath it is a false god. … There are a hundred million different symptoms, but the issue is always idolatry.”

It is difficult to see ourselves as idol worshippers.  The battle for supremacy is being fought in our hearts, and there are many things that war inside of us to take the place of God, the place of supremacy that only HE can occupy.  Potential idols are often good things that are morally neutral, until we elevate them, until we value them above their proper place in our lives.

How do you identify your idols or your potential idols?  Idleman proposes asking yourself these seven questions:

1. What disappoints you? When we feel overwhelmed by disappointment, it’s a good sign that something has become far more important to us than it should be.  Disproportionate disappointment reveals that we have placed intense hope and longing in something other than God.  Have you ever thought that our disappointments are God’s way of reminding us that there are idols in our life that must be dealt with?

2. What do you complain about the most?  Ask someone close to you what you complain about the most.  What we complain about reveals what really matters to us.  Are you whining about your finances, your sex life, how people don’t appreciate you, how your sports team is performing, etc.? Complaining shows what has power over us.  Whining is in many ways the opposite of worshipping God.

3. Where do you make financial sacrifices?  Take a look at your bank statement and your bills, and pretend you are examining a stranger’s finances to find out what is important to him.  Where your money goes shows what god is winning your heart.

4. What worries you?  Do you fear a particular loss of your spouse, your kids, or your job?  Do you fear ridicule, or being alone?  What are your bad dreams about?  Whatever it is that wakes you – or keeps you awake – has the potential to be an idol.

5. Where is your sanctuary?  To what or to whom do you run when it has been an awful day?  What place or person is your rescue and refuge?  Is it food, alcohol, exercise, television, novels, movies, porn, video games?  Where we run to when we are hurting says a lot about who we are.

6. What infuriates you?  Everyone has a hot button or two – something that we say makes us crazy.  Do you hate losing a game? Sitting in traffic?  Being disrespected?  Why does some stranger have so much power over your emotions? What’s the real issue here?  Maybe your quick temper reveals the oldest idol of them all – the god of me.

7. What are your dreams?  If nightmares are revealing, so are daydreams – the place where we choose for our imagination to go.  What dream has a grip on you?  Aspirations are fine, but the question is why you aspire to those things.

For me, these questions revealed quite a few potential idols that I might not have been willing to admit previously.  They are areas of my life – of my HEART – that I need to watch closely.

It turns out that I am prone to idol worship after all.  Thanks, Kyle Idleman, for helping me see that.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23