Posted tagged ‘Discipleship’

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 (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: 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.

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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.

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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.

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Gospel-Centered Discipleship: Great New Resource!

July 6, 2011

At the very heart of the church’s mission is the call to make disciples.
At the very heart of the Christian faith is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It makes sense then that these two passions ought to become the focus of our lives.  Not only that, we should seek to understand how the gospel serves both as fuel and a filter for discipleship.  That’s why I’m glad for the vision of Jonathan Dodson to provide a new resource and website called Gospel-Centered Discipleship.

The values that shape the resources of GCD.com include being:

  • Culture-sensitive
  • Practitioner-tested
  • Gospel-centered
  • Community-shaped
  • Mission-focused

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this website with a great group of other gospel-centered theologians and practitioners desiring to encourage a robust commitment to the church’s mission to make disciples of Jesus.  Starting this summer, GCD.com will host various resources including articles, eBooks, and curriculum on a host of discipleship issues, all from a gospel or grace centered perspective. I encourage you to stay tuned and tap into all the great tools this website will have to offer.

For now, be sure to follow GCD on Twitter and subscribe to receive regular email updates.

This is discipling.

June 30, 2011

A great little video which packs a big punch. From the FourSquare Church:

HT :: Caesar Kalinowski

What is a disciple?

November 27, 2010

“With the world under his feet, with heaven in his eye, with the gospel in his hand and Christ in his heart, he pleads as an ambassador for God, knowing nothing but Jesus Christ, enjoying nothing but the conversion of sinners, hoping for nothing but the promotion of the kingdom of Christ, and glorying in nothing but in the cross of Christ Jesus, by which he is crucified to the world, and the world to him.”

– John Venn, Rector of Clapham (circa 1805)

GCM Everyday Audio

November 26, 2010

Last month, he GCM Collective held a one-day training focused on the gospel, community, and mission in everyday contexts.  Steve Timmis and Tim Chester has a new book coming out soon on the “ordinary” church–living as gospel communities on mission in everyday life, not just Sunday’s.  The audio from this one-day conference is not available, so check them out!

There are some additional resources that you can check out here.  I also recommend that you check out their online community, which is a great place to learn with/from others.

Monday is for “kingly” administration: Disciple-Making Venues

November 15, 2010

Last week, I talked about disciple-making structures, emphasizing church gathered (attractional), church scattered (missional), and leadership development (training).  This week I want to take a little different angle at disciple-making at discuss the three venues, namely large gathering (macro), small gathering (micro), and one-to-one (organic).  A church with a healthy emphasis on disciple-making will leverage all three “venues” to accomplish that goal, and those who are responsible for kingly administration should have assessment metrics to determine how well each venue is being accessed.

I’m not the guy who says there is only one venue for disciple-making.  I’m a big fan of church gathered (large venue), of church scattered (small venue), and of organic church (one-to-one venue).  In evangelical circles today, however, there tends to be those who emphasize one venue to the exclusion or at least downplaying of the other.  Traditional churches who accustomed to large venue gathered services will downplay micro church because they like the kind of discipleship large venues offer (generally preaching and teaching).  Micro churches can undermine gathered church because it feels too institutional, hierarchical, or professional.  While churches may have a venue that is a strong suit, they ought to be accessing all three venues for healthy and robust disciple-making.

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Monday is for “kingly” administration: Discipleship Structures

November 8, 2010

It’s been a little while since my last post on “kingly” administration, but I thought I’d pick things back up again (after the prodding of several friends).  The big picture of these systems has been along the lines of what I call the “commission continuum”.  This is the “metaprocess” in the life of a “great commission” church as summarized in the following four sub-systems: assimilation, membership, discipleship, and leadership development.  I know there are other aspects besides these, but I’m limiting the commission continuum to these four to avoid being to complex (as is often the case when talking about administration).  For review:

* Assimilation (Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4)
* Membership (Part 1 | Part 2)

While I will occasionally throw up kingly stuff in a general sense (such as the hub and spoke paradigm), I want to turn my attention to disciple-making.  If you are a fan of the book, The Trellis and the Vine, you know that the focus is the vine, not the trellis.  However, a “fruitful” ministry needs good trellis.  Because it is inevitable, we should make sure it is profitable.

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