Monday, October 22, 2018

Eight Key Components for Multiplying Disciples in the Local Church

Ran across these necessary components pastors need to establish the DNA for multiplying disciples in their church.  Worth thinking about for any church leadership team.

  1. A pastor’s first priority is growing every member of the church to be a mature, reproducing disciple.
  2. Every person called to salvation is called to discipleship.
  3. The gospel expects all disciples to make other disciples.
  4. All ministry activities should be evaluated by their contribution to growing mature, reproducing disciples.
  5. The method should be Jesus’ way of personally making disciples who make other disciples.
  6. Success should be measured not by how many disciples are made, but by how many disciples are making other disciples.
  7. Our churches exist for making disciples, and disciples are God’s gift to the world.
  8. The ultimate goal of making disciples is world revolution. When the gospel is preached to all peoples, the end will come.  Conversion and Discipleship, Bill Hull, p 205.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Three Necessary Requirements for Pastors to Make Disciples in the Local Church

A disciple-making pastor has a vision to disciple every person in his church, a determination to make it happen, and a system for sustaining it.  ~ Patrick Morley.

Do you have a vision for making disciples in your context, the determination to make it happen, and a system to sustain it?

Friday, October 5, 2018

Book Review: How to Gow: Applying the Gospel to all of Your Life by Darryl Dash

I think most American pastors recognize that people showing up to church is not effective discipleship and struggle with how to effectively disciple those who attend their church.  Darry Dash is a seasoned pastor who understands that struggle and had the opportunity to develop a process for discipleship from the ground up while planting a church.  How to Grow: Applying the Gospel to All of Your Life is the fruit of that activity, a helpful book on the gospel and gospel growth.  In this review, I will give a brief summary of each chapter and offer my observations at the end.
The author starts out in chapter one by defining the gospel.  After a lengthy summary of the bible’s storyline, he summarizes the gospel with three simple truths: God is holy, humanity is sinful, and God is rescuing both his people and his creation through the work of Jesus Christ.  He then describes several implications for our lives. 
In chapter two, Dash considers spiritual growth, stating that we are designed for growth with the desire to grow that comes with believing the gospel.  He sees growth in a holistic sense, the gospel touching and spurring growth in every area of life.  Contending that spiritual growth is neither just self-help or amassing more information, but rather a radically grace driven transformation process, the restoring of the image of God in us as we are freed from sinful habits and desires. 
Chapter three addresses the often ignored role of desires or affections in spiritual growth, particularly joy.  Joy is not optional or secondary.  It is central to the christian life, finding our greatest delight in God.  Our pursuit of joy is our pursuit of God’s glory. 
Dash then looks at the stages of spiritual growth in chapter four, offering a growth pathway to spiritual maturity he has developed.  It was refreshing to see that one of those stages is making disciples or mentoring others.
In chapter five, while readily acknowledging the complexity of spiritual growth, this veteran pastor challenges Christians to master three basics as the basis for spiritual growth: knowing God, worshipping God, and obeying God.  He concludes the chapter by laying out the case for community being indispensable for spiritual growth. 
The author expands upon the role of habits for spiritual growth in chapter six.  He starts by addressing inadequate ways of pursuing growth through learning more, making bigger goals, and sheer willpower then gives a practical discussion on the role of habits in spiritual growth that puts us in the path of God’s grace.  This includes how they are formed and the necessity of creating good habits for spiritual growth.  This chapter is worth the price of the book. 
Chapter seven builds upon the three basics described in chapter five as the core habits for spiritual growth, bible reading, prayer, and worshipping with a church community.  The author gives sage advice on cultivating bible reading, prayer life, and involvement in a church community.
In chapter eight, Dash builds upon three core habits with six more supporting practices or habits.  These include the Sabbath, giving generously, serving others, sharing the gospel, caring for your health, and developing a rule of life.  For the unfamiliar, a rule of life is a guiding set of principles for your life to help you not only define but also live a productive, fulfilling, and God centered life.  I found his discussion on giving and sharing the gospel especially full of practical wisdom.  And his section on sharing the gospel centers around hospitality as a means of living on mission with the testimony of Rosaria Butterfield.
In the last chapter, the author challenges all Christians to engage in making disciples.  He argues that God calls all ordinary Christians to make disciples.
The book ends with three appendixes.  The first is a good list of recommended resources for growth.  The second is a guide on developing a rule of life as discussed in chapter eight.  The third appendix encourages pastors and church leaders to develop a culture for discipleship by being intentional about making disciples in the local church.  Lastly, the author shares briefly about his ministry, Gospel for Life, as a resource for that process.  If something he wrote piqued your interest, I recommend scouring the bibliography for additional reading!
As a pastor reworking our church’s own process for making disciples, How to Grow is helpful.  The author gives a theological foundation, often missing in books on spiritual growth and discipleship.  Yet he is also very practical.  Chapter summaries highlight the key points made, questions for reflection or discussion, and then suggestions for making application.  This book would be a good option for a discipleship group.
I will close with one minor concern.  The author recommends that those who identify as Christians but have no active or vital relationship with God to not settle for a such a nominal faith.  This seems to contradict chapter two where he argues that we are designed to grow and that faith creates desires within us.  It is possible that someone in this predicament may profess faith but not really possess faith (i.e. Mat 7:21-23; James 2:14-26).
You can get the book on Amazon.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Rethinking the Building of Community

From . . . 
They would rather communicate with their friends online than in person.
They don’t want to learn in groups.
They want to navigate life on their own and, if they need help, they want to get it when it is convenient for them. And through their phone.
All this and more come from numerous studies of late conducted on Generation Z, the most recent being from the nonprofit Common Sense Media. It’s a fast-changing landscape to monitor. For example, the percentage of young people who said their favorite way to talk to friends is face-to-face declined from 49% to 32% in just six years. As co-author and lead researcher of the Common Sense Media project Vicky Rideout mused: “You can’t help but say, ‘Is there something big going on here?’ – some fundamental shift in the way people will be communicating with each other in the future.”
The communication revolution is, to my thinking, self-evident. What is less discussed is the community revolution it reflects, and what that means for those of us invested in fostering community.
Quick: How do you build community in your church if people – particularly young people – don’t want to be in a small group and would rather interact with people online?
If you’re like most leaders, you’re at a bit of a loss. Which is why it’s time to rethink community. Not rethink its biblical dynamics, which are the established target on the wall, but rethink how best to lead people into biblical community. Particularly in terms of starting points.
Let me see if I can stretch your thinking a bit. Right now, there’s a group of apps that are exploding in popularity with Generation Z that allow a form of community and “hanging out” that has never been provided before. For example, the app Houseparty. It allows video chat with up to seven of your friends. When a couple of people open it and start chatting, a push alert that they’re “in the house” is sent to everyone they’re connected with. Soon, the room fills up. Such experiences have been made possible by the availability of video chat in messaging apps like Kik and Facebook Messenger, as well as standalone apps like Fam, Tribe, Airtime, ooVoo and Houseparty.
It’s been called “live chilling.”
Some are even calling it the new “third place.” Do you remember that phrase? There used to be only two places where you could engage community or take up social residence—your home and your work. A third place in the U.K. was always the local pub. In the U.S., Starbucks and other coffee shops became the “third place.” But now, apps like Houseparty are becoming the preferred third place.
Boomers went to their friend’s house after school or, as an adult, to a small group in a home. Generation X would call their friends on the phone after school. Millennials used AOL Instant Messenger and later text messaging to keep up with their friends. Generation Z is back to having a house party.
Only it’s through their phone.
Could that be a starting point for entrance to and experience of community? I don’t know why not. There would be two mistakes to make with our changing culture. One would be to insist on having all entrance and starting points reflect the end game of, say, discipleship or community. The opposite error would be to drop the target on the wall and lower our standards in such areas. Both would be mistakes. Instead, we need to keep the biblical target on the wall for such things as authentic community but innovate in terms of how best to stair-step them into it. Because you will have to stair-step them into it.
And who knows? If we do, perhaps the house party will lead to an even newer third place.
The vision of the new community inherent within the church.
James Emery

Betsy Morris, “Most Teens Prefer to Chat Online, Rather Than in Person,” The Wall Street Journal, September 10, 2018, read online.
Laura Pappano, “The iGen Shift: Colleges Are Changing to Reach the Next Generation,” The New York Times, August 2, 2018, read online.
“Beyond Millennials: The Next Generation of Learners,” Pearson, August 2018, read online.
Emily Drooby, “For Generation Z, ‘Live Chilling’ Replaces Hanging Out in Person,” USA Today/Buzz 60, February 20, 2017, watch online.

Friday, September 21, 2018

3 Privileges of Intimacy with the Father

From Gospel Coalition . . .

1. We can talk to God like a child talks to its father.

‘The Spirit . . . calls out, “Abba, Father” ’ (verse 6). The Spirit gives us the confidence to address God as our Father. We’ve a number of friends who have adopted children. And it’s always a special moment when the adopted child starts calling them ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’. God is infinite, holy, majestic. He’s a consuming fire before whom angels cover their faces. He made all things and controls all things. Can you imagine calling him ‘Father’? Of course you can! You do it every day when you pray–most of the time without even thinking about it. How is that possible? Step back and think about it for a moment, and you’ll realize what an amazing miracle it is that any of us should call God ‘Father’. But we do so every time we pray, through the Spirit of the Son. This is how John Calvin puts it:
With what confidence would anyone address God as ‘Father’? Who would break forth into such rashness as to claim for himself the honor of a son of God unless we had been adopted as children of grace in Christ? . . . But because the narrowness of our hearts cannot comprehend God’s boundless favour, not only is Christ the pledge and guarantee of our adoption, but he moves the Spirit as witness to us of the same adoption, through whom with free and full voice we may cry, ‘Abba, Father’.1
We cry out to God because the Spirit assures us that God is our Father and our Father cares what’s happening to his children.
Think of those adopted children saying ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’ for the first time. What must that feel like for them? Perhaps they do so tentatively at first. They’re still feeling their way in the relationship. And that’s often what it’s like for new Christians, feeling their way in this new relationship. But think, too, what it means for the parents. It’s a joyful moment. It’s a sign that their children are beginning to feel like children. It’s a moment of pleasure. That’s how God feels every time you call him ‘Father.’ Remember, he planned our adoption ‘in accordance with his pleasure’ (Ephesians 1:5).

2. We can think of God like a child thinks of its father.

‘So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child’ (verse 7). Slaves are always worried about doing what they’re told or doing the right thing. They fear the disapproval of their master because there’s always the possibility they might be punished or sacked. Children never have to fear being sacked. They may sometimes be disciplined but, as with any good parent, it’s always for their good. God is the best of parents. And we never have to fear being sacked. You can’t stop being a child of God–you’re not fostered. You’re adopted for life, and life for you is eternal!
The cry ‘Abba, Father’ is not just for moments of intimacy. It was actually the cry a child shouted when in need. One of the joys of my life is that I’m good friends with lots of children. Charis always cries out, ‘Tim!’ when she sees me. Tayden wants me to read his Where’s Wally? book with him. Again. Tyler wants me to throw him over my shoulder and swing him round. Josie wants to tell me everything in her head all at once in her lisping voice. They all enjoy having me around. But here’s what I’ve noticed. Whenever any of them falls over or gets knocked, my parental instinct kicks in and I rush to help. But it’s not me they want in those moments. They run past me looking for Mum or Dad. They cry out, ‘Dad’, and Tim won’t do. That’s what ‘Abba, Father’ means. When we’re in need, we cry out to God because the Spirit assures us that God is our Father and our Father cares what’s happening to his children.

3. We can depend on God like a child depends on its father.

‘And since you are his child, God has made you also an heir’ (verse 7). When Paul talks about ‘sonship’, he’s not being sexist. Quite the opposite. In the Roman world only male children could inherit. So when Paul says ‘we’ (male and female, 3:28) are ‘sons’, he’s saying that in God’s family, men and women inherit. Everyone is included. And what we inherit is God’s glorious new world. But more than that, we inherit God himself. In all the uncertainties of this life we can depend on him. He will lead us home, and our home is his glory.
What could be better than sharing in the infinite love and infinite joy of the eternal Father with the eternal Son? Think of what you might aspire to in life–your greatest hopes and dreams. And then multiply them by a hundred. Think of winning Olympic gold or lifting the World Cup. Think of being a billionaire and owning a Caribbean island. Think of your love life playing out like the most heartwarming romantic movie. Good. But not as good as enjoying God.
Or let’s do it in reverse. Think of your worst fears and nightmares: losing a loved one, never finding someone to marry, losing your health, not having children. Bad! But Paul says, ‘I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us’ (Romans 8:18). The only time Jesus is quoted as saying, ‘Abba, Father’ is in the Garden of Gethsemane as he sweats blood at the prospect of the cross. Even when you feel crushed by your pain, God is still your Abba, Father.
Where does joy come from? It comes from being children of God. How can we enjoy God? By living as his children. How can we please God? By believing he loves us as he loves his Son.
  1. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, Library of Christian Classics 20–21 (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 3.20.36–37.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Pastor, Don’t Be a Secondhander

Some great advice, especially for those new to ministry from Gospel Coalition . . .
Some of the best advice I ever received came from my seminary adviser. He warned me not to use a “bag of tricks” when I got into ministry. I understood what he was saying—in theory. Most pastors stay at a church for three to four years and then move on. One reason, he suggested, was that many pastors only have three years’ worth of sermons, ideas, and programs in their “bag of tricks.” When the pastor runs out, he simply moves on to another church and recycles everything again.
Certainly, it’s good to imitate others (1 Cor. 11:1), not only in lifestyle but in teaching as well (2 Tim. 2:23:10). When I was a new believer, there was a man I revered so much that I picked up some of his body language. I wanted to be like him because he knew the Lord deeply. I hope you have personally known someone worth imitating. I hope you have a life worth imitating.
But merely imitating—instead of owning and believing what we’re doing—is to put on the appearance that something is abiding deep inside of us. This certainly applies to the Christian life in general, but I’m specifically thinking of those in pastoral leadership. Having a “bag of tricks” is being a secondhander, and we must guard against it.
Here are three signs we’re at least bordering on being a secondhander.

1. We Preach Like Someone Else

Preaching is incredibly hard work. It’s easy to copy other preachers. I used to get mailings selling sermon series. But there’s no need any more: the web has all our favorite sermons. We listen to a few sermons, make an outline, add a personal story, and we’re done. Sadly, it’s common for pastors to copy sermons. In my preaching lab during seminary, three people delivered the same sermon. We steal and deceive while portraying ourselves as having studied and been molded by the passage.
This approach doesn’t take your congregation into account. The sermon is self-produced mimicry, not Spirit-produced exhortation. We fake cognitive and experiential knowing. We become like Hophni and Phinehas, priests and sons of the high priest, but “worthless men” who “did not know the LORD” (1 Sam. 2:12). May that never be said of us.
Secondhand ministry flows from secondhand knowledge of God.
Preaching must include studying both the text and also the people under your care. Is it okay to borrow an illustration we found helpful? Absolutely. Is it okay to make a general point from a sermon we recently listened to? Please do. But if, week in and week out, we rely so heavily on others that our own voice is silenced, we’re on the road to quenching the Spirit. Instead, let us cultivate a “well-instructed tongue, that we may know the word that sustains the weary” (Isa. 50:4).
A few years ago I found my old journals from college. Many included profound insights. I was shocked at what I knew! Then it hit me: These were copies of Matthew Henry’s commentary. I had copied them in the hopes of showing someone my insights. I was portraying a Puritan’s thoughts as my own. I had deceived myself.

2. We Stop Learning

As a pastor, how much should you read? Are you discouraged by the number of books others consume? The discipline of reading is vital—Paul continued throughout his whole life and ministry (2 Tim. 4:13). But what happens when the learning stops? We rely on what we learned 10 years ago, instead of knowledge gained the past 10 years. Our insights may be from our seminary professors, not from our own ongoing study and conversations. We also fail to grasp cultural trends around us and miss out on conversation partners only available in print.
What does learning mean for pastors who have no books? Thankfully, reading isn’t a magic bullet, nor is formal training. But we stall our discipleship if we don’t pursue learning as much as we’re able.

3. We Undermine How God Has Hardwired Us

One of my great blessings is knowing Christians around the world and seeing God’s diverse creativity on display. Our personalities are unique. We enjoy different things. Our modes of communication vary. By copying others, we undermine our own gifting. Being secure in who we are in Christ is of utmost importance. And being secure in how God has gifted us—and perhaps more importantly, not gifted us—matters as well.
We don’t need to force ourselves into roles we’re not made for. As Paul said, “The hand should not be jealous it is not a foot, nor should it try to be a foot (1 Cor. 12:12). God has given us the body of Christ, equipped for good works, gifted to serve each other for the increase of our mutual joy. Psalm 139 is not just for Mother’s Day. It’s an affirmation that God has knit us together in our mother’s womb in a multitude of ways. Let’s enjoy how he’s made us.

Truth Covering Falsehood

Secondhand ministry uses truth to cover falsehood. So burn the bag of tricks and never return to it. Secondhand ministry flows from secondhand knowledge of God. In taking this road, we become a caricature of what we had hoped to become. We imagine ourselves knowing far more that we do. I think of the end of C. S. Lewis’s Four Loves, as he reflects on his own experience of God:
God knows, not I, whether I have ever tasted this love. Perhaps I have only imagined the tasting. Those like myself whose imagination far exceeds their obedience are subject to a just penalty; we easily imagine conditions far higher than any we have reached. If we describe what we have imagined we may make others, and make ourselves, believe that we have really been there.
As we continue learning from others, may we minister from Christian experience that is altogether firsthand.