A Discipleship Path at Last!

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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?

Why We Don’t Pray

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We’ve been talking about the spiritual discipline of prayer in class.  So I asked the question,

“Why don’t we pray?”  The replies were interesting:

  •  We feel like there’s not “enough time”
  •  We don’t understand why it matters/how it works
  • We have no sense of history (our own, or of God’s interaction with man)
  •  We lack discipline – we are lazy!
  • It’s awkward
  • We make it too complicated
  • We want to do it perfectly
  • We don’t know how to listen
  • We have too many distractions
  • Our prayer list is too long
  • We don’t know how to start

Let me start with this simple encouragement:

Understand that prayer is important.  It is a command.  It is something Jesus did, and instructed His followers to do.  To not make time for prayer is a sin.

You don’t have to understand exactly how it works to do it!  You drive your car every day, but can you explain how the engine works?  You microwave food every day, but can you explain the science behind it?

If you are willing to admit to yourself that you don’t pray much because you don’t see the need for it… then take the time to study prayer in the scriptures.  Ask God to show you why it matters.  Ask Him to help you realize how important it is, especially relative to all the other things you waste time doing during the day.

Start with some of these passages:

Matthew 7:7-11 Ask and will receive, God gives good gifts

John 16:24  Ask and will receive

Ephesians 3:20     God can do more than we dream

Philippians 4:6-7 Prayer frees us from anxiety

I Thessalonians 5:17  Command – pray continually

Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16 Jesus’ example

Luke 18    Why persistent prayer matters

I Samuel 12:23  Sin to fail to pray for others

James 5:16-18  Elijah, persistent prayer is significant

2 Kings 20:1-6 Prayer appears to change God’s plan

Jeremiah 33:3  God’s answers reveal hidden things

John 15:7  Condition – remain in word and in Jesus

1 John 3:21-22   Condition – living obedient life

1 John 5:14-15  Condition – ask according to God’s will

James 4:3 Hindrance – wrong motives

Psalm 66:18   Hindrance – keeping sin in heart

You must first come to a place where you understand that prayer matters – and then we’ll talk about making  time for prayer and using your prayer time efficiently and effectively.

Six Kinds of Women

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*guest blog by Susie Walther, www.thewellbiblestudy.org

There are six kinds of women who come to Bible study.

The unsaved woman: she’s the one who doesn’t think she’s a sinner in need of repentance or a Savior because she thinks she’s a “good person” or she loves her sin too much to embrace the Cross and walk away from it.

The spiritually prideful woman: she’s satisfied with how long she’s “been a Christian” and her service in/to the church. She’s not really a disciple (which means “learner”) because she’s quite pleased with what she already thinks she knows.

The lukewarm woman: she doesn’t do her Bible study, doesn’t have a regular quiet time, doesn’t habitually pray, and goes to church or Bible study only when they fit conveniently into her schedule because the spiritual stuff always gets dropped first.

The cheap grace woman: she’s convinced she can live like a pagan and still go to a holy heaven. Baptism, confirmation or “accepting Jesus into her heart” are the golden tickets to eternal life; obedience, holiness, and actual Christ-likeness are optional.

The churched woman: she’s a faithful “attendee,” constantly in the receive and “I need to be fed” mode. She’s a Christian-faith junkie (conferences, Bible studies, books, retreats, Christian radio, etc.) – it’s just that she doesn’t ever, really “go and make disciples” because of her faith.

But there’s one last woman who’ll come through our doors, and that’s the spiritually hungry woman. She knows she needs Jesus. She wants to learn. She wants to grow. She’s transparent. She’s available. She’s willing to invest in the disciplines of her faith because she wants to become like Jesus in her character and a woman of spiritual influence to the people around her.

You are one of these six types.

I hope to God you’re the spiritually hungry one because the church already has plenty of the others.

Are You A Mature Christian?

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She’s at it again: * Guest blog by Susie Walther, http://www.thewellbiblestudy.org

 

Would you say that you are a mature Christian?

Why would you consider yourself “mature” in your faith?

Susie writes, “I recently attended a Verge conference, and one of the speakers cited some recent statistics from the Barna Group regarding women in the church.

She said that 74% of Christian women consider themselves mature in their faith.

But the Barna poll also revealed that less than 25% of those same women actually shared the gospel, helped the needy, valued volunteering/serving or gave financially to support ministry, and that only 13% viewed their main role in life as being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

So, that really begs the question – exactly what do these women mean when they say they’re “mature?”

Obviously, Christian maturity for them has little to do with being a disciple, which would involve spending time with Jesus through the Christian disciplines of daily quiet time and prayer, and intentional involvement in the Great Commission. Maturity for these women did not include the pro-active sharing of their faith, serving others intentionally, helping the world around them or giving generously out of their monetary means.

So, again I have to ask, what the heck do these women mean when they call themselves “mature???”

Are they defining maturity as time in grade – you know, “I’ve been a Christian for 10 or 50 years…so I’m mature” or “I’ve attended church all my life, so I’m mature?” Are they the ones who “read through the Bible once?” Are they dubbing themselves mature because they’re uber-involved in their kids’ lives or they home school, eat organic foods, run marathons and are nice people? Is maturity to them volunteering once a year on a missions trip or helping with VBS, attending a Bible study, listening to Christian radio, and reading Our Daily Bread when they can?

Whatever the case, we should be absolutely alarmed because we are a generation of Christian women who consider ourselves “mature in Christ” who don’t live like we need the Gospel and certainly aren’t living our lives to advance the Kingdom of God.

Righteous King of Heaven, wake us up from our slumber and show us the peril of our deception!”

So I ask you again, “Are you mature in your faith?”

What evidence of maturity can you point to in your life?

Mutual Submission and Marriage

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Submit?!  Arrrgh.  The first book someone gave me on this topic was called “Me, Obey Him?” and I threw it across the room and resolved not to read it…  It sat there for a good six months, mocking me.  Sometimes we women become overly dramatic about the idea of having to submit to our husbands!

It is my personal opinion that our angst is usually a result of misconceptions of submission, or having married a man who does not understand or embrace his part – the part about loving your wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for it.  (Eph. 6:25)

Another reason for our angst about submission is that the context of Eph. 6:22 “Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” is often forgotten.  The correct context is from the previous verse, Eph. 6:21, which reads “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ Jesus.”

So what does that mean?  We were talking in our small group a few nights ago about this very idea – the idea of “mutual submission“.  Here’s what it means according to Andy Stanley,

“I will leverage all of the power, energy, and resources at my disposal for the benefit of other members of the family.” 

Did you catch that?  It’s not all about me!  It’s about me working for what is best for my spouse and kids.  It’s about leaning IN toward the middle of the family circle to help others, rather than leaning OUT and away from engagement and responsibility.

Here is the question that we should be asking our spouse and kids daily, “What can I do to help?”

Now that can be a scary question!  However, it is a question we need to get in the habit of asking – every single day.  What do you need from me?  How can I help?  That is the question Jesus asked.   It was time-consuming, energy-consuming, unpredicatable, frightening. It was the ultimate question that cost Him his life.

It was an unselfish question.  Marriage and parenting are about learning to be unselfish.

On that note, let me recommend a book that changed my view of marriage – it’s not a practical, how-to book.  It’s a book that says – “Wait!  You are thinking about this all wrong. Marriage is not really about making you happy!”

SACRED MARRIAGE by Gary Thomas, (Zondervan, 2000).  sacredmarriage

Gary Thomas asks a shocking question:  “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”  Thomas’ argument is that marriage is one of God’s primary vehicles for character change.  “If you want to become more like Jesus, I can’t imagine any better thing to do than get married.  Being married forces you to face some character issues you’d never have to face otherwise.”  After all, marriage is a temporary institution (’til death do us part), designed to last while we are on this earth (no marriage in heaven), and destined to help us develop an eternal relationship with God.  Thomas has chapters on how marriage teaches us to love, to respect others, to persevere, to forgive, to serve, as well as how it exposes our sin, and teaches us more about God.   If we truly believe that we are called to holiness and not happiness, then maybe we ought to reshape our thoughts on marriage!

I’m going to work on being unselfish this week.  I am going to ask, “What can I do to help?” and not flinch when the answer comes back.  Will you join me?

Apostasy aka the Slow Fade

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“One of the scariest words in the Bible is apostasy, which can be defined as a slow fade or when you face the Cross, but are walking backwards from it, believing that you’re actually following Jesus just because you know it’s there.

The Bible talks much about apostasy in the form of warnings and prophecies, but we don’t hear much about it in our pop Christian culture. We’ve got lots of talk about grace, “decisions” for Christ, health and prosperity, politics, and songs about Jesus living to rescue us 24/7 and mend our broken hearts, but not a whole lot on apostasy.

That’s truly frightening since only Christians can become apostate. The typical weekly spiritual intake of the typical American Christian practically guarantees a slip and slide into apostasy:

We sit through a 20-30 minute sermon once or twice a week, which alone can never bring us to maturity in Christ or help us discover and fulfill our spiritual purpose on earth.

We extend our hands during the “Grip and Grin” on Sunday mornings, which isn’t meaningful, Christian fellowship.

We listen to Christian music during the day, and as comforting and encouraging as that is, music cannot conform us to the image
and character of Christ.

We read through a devotional or Christian book whenever we have a little extra time, which will never be enough to sufficiently
renew our minds in the Truth and overcome the lies already embedded there.

So, if you want to prevent morphing into a religious person who possesses a “form of godliness that has no power,” (2 Timothy 3:5) you’re going to have to live spiritually harder than that. You’re going to have to do the hard work of developing a transformational devotional life in the Word of God, practicing obedience to Jesus Christ (actually doing what He says), and submitting to honest accountability with a sister in Christ running the race faster and harder than you. Begin doing that and it is less likely you’ll wind up a spiritual statistic of the slow fade.”

– Guest blog, Susie Walther, www.thewellbiblestudy.org

   … These are my sisters – who are running the race faster and harder than me…  Thank you for modelling how it is to be done!!

Sinking, Floating, and Sin

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“I read an illustration by J. Oswald Sanders a long time ago about what it means to be in union with Christ.  It goes like this:

I have in my hand a piece of lead.  I hold it over a pool of water, and relax my grip. The lead is drawn irresistibly earthward and sinks to the bottom of the pool. It has been mastered by the law of gravitation. I take the same piece of lead, attach it to a piece of wood and drop it into the pool. Now it floats. No change has taken place in the nature or tendency of the lead, nor has the law of gravitation ceased to function, but through its union with the wood, it has been mastered by a stronger law, the law governing floating bodies, and has been emancipated from the downward pull of gravitation.

I know you know that you’re that piece of lead in this illustration and that sin, like gravity, will sink you every time if it were not for that piece of wood, representative of Jesus Christ, possessing a power stronger than gravity.

However, knowing that doesn’t emancipate you from the downward pull to the bottom of the pool of life – staying attached does, and you stay attached to Jesus Christ by first choosing to repent – i.e., in keeping with this analogy, you recognize that the piece of wood in the water next to you is your only hope and you forsake everything to grab it!

Then you mustn’t lose your grip by doing stupid stuff like grieving the Holy Spirit by sins of commission or quenching Him by sins of omission. You’ve got to hold on tight by choosing to read and apply God’s Word, memorizing it and cultivating a life of prayer.

And should you try to slip off and start sinking to the bottom, it sure does help to be surrounded by women who will try to rescue you, women who don’t merely talk about what holding on and being attached means, but who are attached to Jesus Christ through the power of the Spirit evidenced by floating.

Oh, may God grant us the sense to be the kind of woman who actually holds on.”

– Guest blog, Susie Walther, www.thewellbiblestudy.org Susie Walther