Archive for the ‘Discipleship’ category

Revisiting Discipleship (No Plan B)

May 31, 2012

I encourage you to watch this video as though you were hearing about Jesus’ life and ministry for the first time. Kevin Peck nails it, and the method of Jesus is truly staggering and encouraging. It is also counter-intuitive and cuts across the incredible pressure of novelty, trendiness, and superficial measureables of temporary “successes.”

Indeed, there is no plan B to the Great Commission. Let’s make disciples.

HT: Verge Network

Revisiting Discipleship (Definitions Matter)

May 21, 2012

It is commonly said that if aim at nothing you will hit it every time. The aim of biblical discipleship begins with understanding the nature of a disciple. What is a disciple of Jesus Christ? How do you define that? Without definition, there cannot be direction; without direction, there cannot be devotion.

So last Saturday night, I pitched the question on Twitter, asking people to define a disciple of Jesus by answering the question “What is a disciple of Jesus?” in 140 characters or less. To give you an idea of why definitions matter, let me provide you a sampling of some of the responses:

A slave.

Someone who has turned away from sin, and trusted in Jesus. And who keeps doing so.

Sitting at His Feet and eating His Word and living your life for Christ!

Life touching life.

[Someone who] follows Jesus, being changed by Jesus, committed to the mission Jesus.

A disciple of Jesus Christ is one loved by Jesus, bought by Jesus, taught of Jesus, dying to self and living by faith in Jesus.

One who is affected by the saving Cross of Christ in such a way as to strive to emulate the character of Christ in faith+works.

One who seeks to see from gods perspective, be in his presence and live out his purposes.

Bought by His blood so I glorify God with my mind and body to spread the fame of His Name that others may know the same gift.

5 Solas saved sinner: Joyfully submitted, faithfully obedient, content & thankful 2b dead 2 self & alive in Christ.

One who reads their Bible and does what it says.

Someone who is listening, learning, and leading others to the Word of God, the Son.

Someone who has been born into the kingdom by way of the gospel & who now loves, learns from, and leads others to the king.

One who now has the story of the gospel written in pencil, waiting for that day for it to be written in stone.

One who delights in and finds his deepest joy in Jesus Causing him to devote his life to pursuing that joy, living in community & on mission.

There are some common threads to this list of definitions, but there’s a lot of differences too. Granted, you can’t say everything you want to say in 140 characters on Twitter, but there is a value in being able to define your aim in a short and succinct statement.

At the very heart of the church’s mission is to make disciples. Do we know what we are making? Are we clear on what we are developing? How we are growing people? Without a clear definition, there won’t be clear direction. Could it be that a major reason a majority of churches today are not disciple-making powerhouses is because we don’t really know what we are doing? Could it be that a simple place to start in revitalizing churches today is to get back to the fundamental question of “What is a disciple of Jesus?” and set about implementing the biblical answer to that question as the governing filter of all that we do?

Revisiting Discipleship (As You Yourselves Know)

May 18, 2012

I’ve been hanging out in 1 Thessalonians this week for devotional meditations, and one of the things that surfaced after multiple readings is how often Paul employs the phrase “as you yourselves know” or simply “you know.”  When you take a look through his letters, I believe it can be argued that the majority of the content is not new information. It is truths or practices they already know but are being called to remember, be faithful, and work it out in gospel-fueled obedience.

I wonder how much of a role “remembering” has played in our discipleship process. How often do we tell people we are investing in “as you yourselves know . . .”? Take a look at this short letter to the Thessalonians how many times Paul does this:

because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
1 Thess. 1:5

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.
1 Thess. 2:1-2

For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness.
1 Thess. 2:5

For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.
1 Thess. 2:9

For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
1 Thess. 2:11-12

Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker1 in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.
1 Thess. 3:1-4

For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
1 Thess. 4:2

Compiling those verses like that, it sounds like Paul is a broken record! But then again, perhaps Paul is keenly aware of our natural tendencies to forget, to wander, to lose our focus. I think Paul’s letters are instructive to us when it comes to discipling others because we discover patterns of gospel transfer from the portrait of Paul’s life and ministry.

As you yourselves probably know this already.

Revisiting Discipleship (The Three I’s)

May 14, 2012

Revisiting discipleship, I have found three “I’s” that shape the methodological convictions of a robust commitment to disciple-making. Let me explain them briefly.

Intentional

The goal for every Christian is Christ-likeness. Therefore everything we do in the church corporately and in our investments individually should intentionally be driven with that purpose/goal in mind. In Galatians, Paul tells his disciples that he wants “Christ formed in you” (Gal. 4:19). In Ephesians, he tells his disciples that the goal is “mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). In Colossians, Paul’s goal is to present every man “mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28). All of his efforts from personal visits to writing letters to training up leaders was so that every believer would grow up in Christ-likeness. He was intentional about it, and so should we.  That means our systems, processes, programs, etc. should be have this as a governor on them – how are we maturing people to know and love Christ, serving and giving themselves in the mission of making other disciples?

Interactive

Disciple-making should not be relegated to a classroom experience or curriculum.  The sphere of discipleship is all of life.  Discipleship should be relational, so that their “manner of life would be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27). It should be practical, so that the knowledge is met with experience, understanding with application. To the Philippians Paul wrote, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9). And it should also be missional, so that the maturity of the Christian is intrinsically connected to the growth of the church. As Jesus put it, an invitation to follow (discipleship) is a promise to make you fishers of men (mission). The two should never be divorced. Biblical discipleship begets missional Christians because, inherent to the Great Commission is the sending thrust of the word “go.”

Integrated

Evangelical tribes tend to focus on one aspect of discipleship more than the others. The Reformed evangelical tribe tends to emphasize truth and doctrine (head), and rightly so. We need to have a refocused understanding and growth in truth. The Pietistic or revivalistic evangelical tribe tends to emphasize experience and motivation (heart), and rightly so. We need to have our motivations rewired and have our affections stirred to know, love, and experience God. The missional evangelical tribe tends to emphasize social justice, mercy ministry, and serving the needs of the community (hands), and rightly so. We need to have our lives reoriented away from self and toward others in sacrificial service. However, when one is emphasized to the exclusion of others, discipleship is disintegrated. He need to balance head, heart, and hands. We need growth in truth (understanding), growth in experience (affections), and growth in service (mission).

So, methodologically speaking, I believe that discipleship should be intentionally pursuing Christ-likeness, interactive in engaging the relational, practical, and missional dynamics, and integrated so that our head, heart, and hands are all transformed in the process.

What do you think?

Revisiting Discipleship (Fruit That Remains)

May 9, 2012

With the missional emphasis in the past decade, there has been a renewed emphasis in defining the mission of the church.  The Great Commission is all about making disciples, but how do we do that?  Within the missional genre of literature, there’s a growing stream of resources revisiting the practice of disciple-making, and I’m encouraged to see this take place.

Growing up, I only understood discipleship in one sense: discipleship training.  That is the 5:00PM time slot where the really dedicated church members attended church (that is, after Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, then discipleship training).  During that time, I participated in things like bible drill and youth choir.  For all I knew, it was another period and program provided by the church that dedicated Christians should participate.

Going off to college, I did not understand the relationship of evangelism to discipleship, and I was making converts, not disciples.  I would make it my goal to lead X number of people to Christ and was determined to do whatever it took to see that happen.  When the goal was reached, I thought I was really getting somewhere as a Christian.  But then I began to look back and realize that hardly, if any, of the people I led to Christ were discipled, growing, and flourishing in their relationship with God.  There was little to to no “fruit that remains.”

It was “fruit that remains” that was a central concern to the ministry of the apostle Paul.

To the church in Corinth, he warned them not to believe in vain (1 Cor. 15:2) and not to receive the grace of God in vain (2 Cor. 6:1).

To the church in Galatia, he was deeply concerned that he may have labored over them in vain due to their waffling on the gospel (Gal. 4:11).

To the church in Philippi, he pleaded with them to work out their salvation with fear and trembling so that “in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain” (Phil. 2:16).

To the church in Thessalonica, he sent Timothy to this church facing persecution out of fear that their labor would be in vain (1 Thess. 3:5).

It is clear that one of Paul’s overarching concerns and fears is that his life and labor among the people of God would be found useless and bear no fruit in the end. If we were to embrace this kind of concern for the souls of men and women, how would this affect our evangelism and disciple-making?  What measurables would need to change?

Whatever might be said on this topic, we are dealing with souls that will never die.  We must hear the words of Jesus who said that we have been appointed to go and bear fruit and that fruit should remain (John 15:16). The Great Commission is not just about sinners being made Christians, but sinners made saints and ushered into the presence of God.

Perhaps one of the most glaring failures in evangelical life today is the absence of Paul’s concern that Christians remain faithful and finish strong to the end so that no one would “receive the grace of God in vain.”  His concern was not so much how many were being converted in but that not a single “child” in the faith would fail to make it to maturity. Like a father, he could not envision a single child orphaned and departing from the faith. Perhaps this is what Paul was talking about when he said “there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28).

Fathers don’t bring children into the world and leave them once they are born. Shepherds don’t ignore the one sheep leaving the ninety-nine. Soldiers don’t abandon the trenches when fellow comrades are in battle. Athletes don’t beat the air or run aimlessly when training others to win the prize. These are all illustration of discipleship from Scripture intended to remind us of the Great Commission. Make disciples. Run. Labor. Fight. Shepherd. Because all of them are people for Jesus shed his blood and appointed to bear fruit that remains.

Gospel-Centered Spiritual Formation: Spiritual Disciplines

May 4, 2012

So far in this series, I have provided a little background, the triperspectival framework, and the role of gospel forms in the development of the diagram I created to illustrate what I’m calling gospel-centered spiritual formation.

Role of Spiritual Disciplines in Gospel-Centered Formation

Now we have come to the role of spiritual disciplines in gospel-centered spiritual formation. What I’ve done with this approach is create subsets of disciplines that correspond both to the triperspectival framework and particular “form” of the gospel.  The reason spiritual disciplines are intrinsically connected this way is to correct the bifurcation of gospel centrality and formative spiritual disciplines. The former tends to focus on delight (gospel), and the later tends to focus on duty (disciplines). But duty can been an overflow of delight when we discover how spiritual disciplines are cultivated in light of the person and work of Jesus Christ.  In other words, they are not exercises of spiritual growth as much as they are exercises in gospel application (leading to spiritual growth).

(more…)

Gospel-Centered Spiritual Formation: The Gospel Forms

April 26, 2012

At the conclusion of my last post about the triperspectival framework, I mentioned the role of gospel “forms” in the diagram I created to explain gospel-centered spiritual formation. Before I jump into the perspectives individually, I want to explain what I mean by gospel forms and how those forms overlap to give greater gospel focus to spiritual disciplines through the triperspectival framework.

Tim Keller and Gospel “Forms”

One of the most significant articles Tim Keller has written on the gospel can be found at Christianity Today, entitled “The Gospel in All Its Forms“.  In this article, Keller borrows from Simon Gathercole’s chapter in God’s Power to Save to explain the various “forms” of the gospel. Contrary to liberal theologians, Keller says there is not multiple gospels, but one gospel expressed in different forms.

For instance, when Jesus speaks of the gospel in the Synoptic Gospels, kingdom language is employed (“gospel of the kingdom”). In this case, the gospel speaks to the inauguration of Christ’s reign as King, and the focus is more communal and social.  When the Apostle John writes about the Gospel, there is no mention of kingdom language but rather “receiving eternal life,” and the focus is more individual and personal. When you get the writings of Paul, you hear little emphasis on “kingdom” or “eternal life” but instead the focus is on “justification by faith“. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul are all talking about one message, but that message is expressed in different forms. Through an analysis of these forms, what you find is that the gospel can be expressed as story-arc focused (creation, fall, redemption, restoration) as well as content-driven (God, man, sin, Christ). Not to be left out, Keller stresses the eschatological implications of the gospel with the in breaking of God’s kingdom and renewal of all things.

(more…)

Gospel-Centered Spiritual Formation: The Triperspectival Framework

April 25, 2012

In my first post, I provided a little background to the development of this paradigm I’ve created, called gospel-centered spiritual formation. I argued that the literature on spiritual disciplines largely does not factor in the gospel, and gospel-centered literature has yet to address the role of spiritual disciplines in the life of a gospel-centered Christian.  This dichotomy is an unfortunate one, and I think it can be addressed, which I intend to do through a triperspectival framework.

Brief Primer on Tripespectivalism

Although I have written several articles on triperspectivalism, I don’t want to assume everyone knows what I’m talking about.  The two pioneering theologians on triperpsectivalism (or multiperspectivalism) are John Frame and Vern Poythress.  Generally speaking, triperspectivalism focuses on the three offices of Christ’s mediation, namely prophet, priest, and king. In his book Symphonic Theology, Poythress says “each of the three main offices can be expanded into a perspective on the way in which Christ mediates the presence of God to human beings” (39). Ultimately, prophet, priest, and king–the three roles of Old Testament leadership–culminate in the person and work of Christ.

(more…)

Gospel-Centered Spiritual Formation: A Little Background

April 23, 2012

I never heard about spiritual disciplines until I took a class on it while in college. In those early years of my spiritual development, I was directed to books like Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, and Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines. As a lifelong athlete training who loved to train for physical fitness, I really liked the idea of spiritually training/discipline for godliness.  I am grateful for this period of time in my life where I was not only taking the call for spiritual growth seriously but also the call to gospel ministry.

Fast forward four years, and I am ending a four-year stint in youth ministry and entering seminary.  It was at this time that God began to work deeply in my about the sufficiency of the gospel, and more specifically understanding how my union with Christ changes how I live as a Christian.  When I looked back at the intentional efforts of being spiritually disciplined, I realized how little attention was being paid to the gospel. For whatever reason, the gospel was absent from a lot of the literature pertaining to spiritual disciplines, and the consequence (in part) was that the gospel was assumed in a lot of my spiritual development.

Over the past 2-3 years, there has been a renaissance of gospel-centered literature, and for that I’m extremely grateful. I have attempted to argue for years that the greatest need in evangelical life is the recovery and rediscovery of the gospel. In the midst of all the excellent literature coming out on the gospel, I have not seen anything written on the relationship of gospel centrality to spiritual disciplines. They appear to have two different approaches to spiritual formation, angling in two different directions for living the Christian life.

And yet I don’t think that must needs be the case.

I have recently thought about this, in particular how the gospel-centered life and importance of spiritual disciplines work in concert for a believer’s spiritual formation. The result is a triperspectival diagram that I want to break down for your consideration.  For now, I’m simply going to post the diagram. In the coming days, I hope to explain it in detail for those interested in my attempt to bridge the gap between gospel centrality and spiritual formation through a triperspectival framework.

The Outworking of the Gospel [Roots Reading Initiative]

January 4, 2012

Last week, we finished the first installment [Nov/Dec 2011] of the Roots Reading Initiative focused on the mission of the church.  In this installment, we read What Is the Mission of the Church? by Greg Gilbert and Kevin DeYoung (November) and Everyday Church by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester. With each week, discussion questions are made available in the PLNTD Training community, and as each book concludes, we are making a PDF study guide for the entire book that can be used for personal application and training leaders in your own context.

Installment two [Jan/Feb 2012] of RRI begins this week, and the focus is the outworking of the gospel.  The goal is to deepen roots in the nature and implications of the gospel individually and corporately.  The two books that we are focusing on are Gospel: Recover the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary by J.D. Greear (January) and Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson (February).

For those interested in the self-feeding initiative of this installment of RRI, here is the reading schedule for the next two months:

Gospel: Recover the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary
January 1-7                         (1-68)
January 8-14                      (69-144)
January 15-21                    (145-90)
January 22-28                   (191-256)

Gospel Wakefulness
January 29-February 4    (1-58)
February 5-11                     (59-112)
February 12-18                  (113-68)
February 19-25                  (169-218)

If you know a church leader or planter  who could be helped/edified by an informal regiment for personal growth and development, please pass this on. Our desire at PLNTD is to facilitate meaningful and accessible ways of teaching and training those leading the mission in the local church.

The Discipleship Downline

November 29, 2011

Make » Mature » Multiple Disciples. 37 years to reach the world for Christ.

Downline Builder | Discipleship

November 21, 2011

This has to be one of the most creative and cool resources I’ve seen in a long time as it relates to the church.  I can see how this web-based application could serve churches in numerous ways.  Check out the Downline Builder by Downline Ministries.

HT: GCD

While we’re on the topic of discipleship videos, here’s one from the archives worth reposting . . .

Triperspectival Church Structures

November 7, 2011

I’ve come to find that healthy churches make disciples in multiple venues, namely church gathered (large group), church scattered (small group), and life-on-life (one-on-one).  From a triperspectival approach, church gathered focus on the normative perspective (prophetic), church scattered focuses on the existential perspective (priestly), and the life-on-life focuses on the situational perspective (kingly).

Church gathered is normative because it deals directly with the text with the primacy of preaching and calls disciples to repentance and faith where God’s revelation becomes normative in their thinking, believing, and living.

Church scattered is existential because it deals directly with the context of one another’s lives and calls disciples to apply and appropriate the text to each other’s lives in a gospel community.

Life-on-life is situational because it deals directly with the subtext of what is going on beneath the surface of people’s initial responses and probes deeper the matters of the heart, enabling disciples to expose areas where they are not gladly submitted to the reign and rule of king Jesus.

(more…)

Gospel-Centered Discipleship Website Is Live

September 21, 2011

The new Gospel-Centered Discipleship website is live.  Spearheaded by Jonathan Dodson and Winfield Bevins, this website is going to provide a wealth of theologically rich and practically relatable resources on the crux of the Church’s mission, viz., the work of making disciples in and through the power of the gospel.  As their website explains, “GCD exists to promote discipleship resources that help make, mature, and multiply disciples of Jesus.”

I encourage you to subscribe to the RSS feed, download the free articles, and return to their site where you will find new articles from a variety of contributors including Bill Streger, Alvin Reid, Mike Breen, Jonathan Dodson, David Fairchild, Matt Adair, Winfield Bevins, and many more (including myself).

J.I. Packer’s “Three Facets of Faith” or Triperspectival Catechesis

September 2, 2011

J.I. Packer, in his excellent book, Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way, unpacks the practical out workings of the “the glorious Gospel of our blessed God” in what he calls the “three facets of faith.”  Here is how Packer explains it:

“The essential content of the Faith, then, includes first of all the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, which covers the whole many-sided reality of the divine plan and work of salvation.  Secondly, the Faith includes the sound doctrines of the truth that properly accord with that glorious Gospel.  It includes thirdly the Way of living that conforms to those doctrines.  And fourthly it includes the experience of all the life-giving benefits that flow from the power of the Gospel and enable us to walk in the Way of the Lord.  The last three of these elements may be regarded as three facets or dimensions of the Faith that derive from the Gospel” (121, emphasis added).

So Packer argues that the three facets of faith are the truths to be believed, life to be experienced, and ways to conform our lives.  Anyone familiar with Scripture will see that Packer is pulling from John 14:6 where Jesus defines Himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  These three facets inherent to the Gospel, Packer argues, are confirmed from three witnesses, namely they are “historical affirmed, biblically grounded, and psychosocially validated”.

Similar to the “multiperspectivalism” of Poythress and Frame, Packer believes there is “sufficient biblical warrant for a multifaceted approach to the content of our teaching ministries” (127).  He argues, “When we take the testimony of these various witnesses together, we see how the glorious Gospel of Christ and the three dimensions of the one Faith speak powerfully to the deepest of our human needs and desires” (130).  Packer agrees with Frame/Poythress that the multiple perspectives or “dimensions” (or facets) are not intended to be viewed in isolation but rather comprehensively and holistically.  He explains, “These facets overlap and interrelate, and we therefore make no overly fine distinction between them.  But we do well to name each of the three facets so that we may better understand and apply ourselves more effectively to them” (ibid.).

In summary, Packer provides the relational claims of each facet to the whole of the gospel this way. We proclaim Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life, and who is our prophet, priest, and king.  Each one of us is called to be a disciple, worshiper, and servant together with all the saints who make up the pillar and foundation of truth, the temple of the living God, and the body or bride of Christ.  As such, we are called to live in light of the faith once for all delivered, the new and better covenant, and the kingdom of God, exercising faith, hope, and love as those who are taught the Truth, liberated by the Life, and walk in the Way.

(more…)