July 14, 2012 § 4 Comments
Actually, I don’t know if that’s true or not. But neither do I know that he was an extrovert. There are plenty examples of Jesus engaging in introverted behavior – recharging alone rather than with people.
In fact, this is the basic difference between introverts and extroverts. Introverts recharge by themselves and extroverts recharge by being with others. One is not more healthy than the other – just different wiring.
As a general rule, western culture sees extroversion as ‘normal.’ Introverts are sometimes portrayed as damaged, fearful, and perhaps even pathological. One faith healer even claims to be able to ‘heal’ introverts. So it’s to be expected that we would picture Christ as a loving extrovert.
But even if Jesus was an extrovert, he understood the need to be alone. He often withdrew from the crowds ‘to lonely places’ to pray (Luke 5:16). Introverts aren’t afraid to be alone with themselves, and neither was Jesus. In fact, he depended on it.
Someone once pointed out that Moses, Jesus, and Paul – 3 men who ignited revolutions – all spent significant time in the desert – alone.
While God uses many different personality types, introverts often have an ability to withdraw from the noise and see the bigger picture. Though often confused with being shy, many introverts exercise a quiet courage to stand for their convictions. This ability gives introverts unique and needed leadership skills.
March 15, 2012 § 5 Comments
Occasionally I’m asked why the Discipleship Networks promote one-on-one discipleship as the basic building block of the Christian life and ministry. Some feel they aren’t called, aren’t gifted, or don’t have the spiritual maturity, biblical knowledge, or time for one-on-one discipleship. I’ll address those issues in another post, but some have also questioned the importance of one-on-one discipleship on biblical grounds. It’s been suggested (correctly) that there’s no evidence of Jesus engaging in one-on-one discipleship, though he did have one-on-one encounters. For the most part, Jesus’ discipleship took place in the context of a small group of 12 men.
It’s also been suggested that the large number of new believers who entered the church on the Day of Pentecost were simply the fruit of the Holy Spirit and Peter’s street preaching. Discipleship followed this growth. It didn’t precede it.
Here’s why I still maintain that every believer and every leader should engage in personal, one-on-one discipleship.
- Discipleship, as Jesus modeled it, requires “doing life” together. For most of us, sharing life communally with 12 other people isn’t an option. But we can share life with a few other people in one-on-one relationships. When small groups are the primary vehicle for discipleship, it’s too easy for it simply to become a Bible study. Focusing on one-on-one discipleship keeps it real, life-based, and relational.
- Without one-on-one discipleship it’s too easy to justify all ministry as discipleship. When preaching, teaching Sunday school, training leaders, and leading small group Bible studies are all discipleship, then everything becomes discipleship. When everything is discipleship, nothing is discipleship. All ministry should promote discipleship and equip for discipleship, but promoting and equipping for it isn’t the same as doing it.
- For disciple-making movements to start, discipleship must always be primarily a grass-roots ministry. Group-based discipleship puts the disciple-making responsibility in the hands of the leaders. Local churches must envision effective discipleship at the grass-roots level, equip people for such discipleship, expect multi-generational discipleship, and model it among the leaders.
- Discipleship principles are best learned in the context of relationships rather than the context of Bible studies. It’s in the close context of a one-on-one relationship that we see God’s transforming work, we learn how to apply the Bible to real-life situations, we learn how to hear the voice of the Spirit, and we experience the cost of discipleship. One-on-one discipleship is one of the most effective ways for a disciple-maker to grow. Pastors who are making disciples one-on-one preach differently than those who aren’t.
- One-on-one discipleship gets the disciple-maker out of the church. It is difficult for most of us to gather groups of unchurched people to hear the gospel, explore the Bible, and encounter God. But we can do it one-on-one. Allowing small group discipleship to dominate our disciple-making ministry probably means that our discipleship will be primarily among those already in the church.
Jesus modeled each of these in a small group of 12. So if you can honestly do it in a small group then go for it! There’s nothing more biblical about doing it one-on-one. I’d just ask you to be honest. Are these 5 things really happening in your small group?
One-on-one discipleship can be intimidating and the temptation is always present to justify what we’re already doing rather than embrace change. But the rewards of one-on-one discipleship can’t be matched. As one pastor confessed to me, “Once I started discipling someone I said to myself, ‘This is why I entered ministry!’”
As for the Day of Pentecost, well … yes. The Holy Spirit broke in, the gospel was preached, and 3000 were added to the church in a single day. But remember that the Day of Pentecost was preceded by 3 years of Jesus’ equipping the 12 through personal discipleship.
November 10, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Good conversations, healthy disagreements, passionate prayer, and repentance would be good ways to describe our meetings over the past few days.
The western Europe discipleship network is a diverse gathering of gifts, cultures, and occupations for the purpose of co-creating strategies for discipleship in western Europe. Here are a few of the ‘take aways’ from yesterday’s conversation:
- Mobility means that disciples made in one part of the world may end up in another. Discipleship Networks are facilitating global disciple-making.
- All Christian leaders need a disciple-making strategy that is potentially reproducible by anyone in their church.
- Christian communities need to recognize, affirm, and cultivate diversity of gifts and callings.
- Disciples are ‘living seeds’ that take and live the gospel in schools, work places, neighborhoods, sports clubs, etc.
- People with a vision for disciple-making communities
- Power, signs, and wonders
- Leadership gifts (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor/teacher)
October 13, 2011 § 2 Comments
In the previous post, I shared a few of our ideas for equipping and encouraging prayer in a local church. In addition to prayer, the other wheel on the leadership bike is the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4). Here are some of the things we do to foster a culture of the word:
- We follow the church calendar and the corresponding lectionary readings. This will eventually require its own post to unpack, but among other things it means that as a church we annually remain embedded in the salvation story revealed to us in the written word of God.
- Following the lectionary means we deal with chunks of scripture every Sunday rather than with topics. It’s more difficult to stray from orthodoxy when preaching expository sermons (sermons taken from passages of scripture).
- Following the lectionary means those of us who teach can’t keep harping on our own pet issues or using the sermon time to promote our agenda or vision. It keeps us preaching the whole of scripture.
- We try to back up our leadership decisions with scripture.
- We study the scriptures together as leaders.
- We’ve initiated ‘The Truth and Wisdom Project,’ which is a strategic way of grounding people in the scriptures over a three year period in the context of a small group community.
- A major component of our leadership development is equipping leaders who know and use of the word of God.
- We have a ‘verse of the year’ to guide the attitude or quality that we hope to develop as a church.
- We give away free Bibles in multiple languages.
- We encourage and equip people to read, pray, and apply the Bible for themselves through training and example.
- The goal of Bible study is to know God and equip mature us in faith, hope, and love.
What else would you suggest?
October 11, 2011 § 1 Comment
There’s little doubt that great movements of God – what we call discipleship movements – are often preceded by and always accompanied by prayer movements. One cannot speak of discipleship movements without simultaneously considering prayer movements.
In the Nicosia International Church elders’ meeting last night we returned to Acts 6, a passage that has strongly influenced our leadership practice. In Acts 6 the apostles were confronted with the problem of Greek widows who were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. As important as this was, they saw it as a distraction from their primary leadership function: the ministry of the word and prayer.
We’ve taken deliberate steps to develop a ‘culture of the word’ in our corporate life together (I’ll share about that another time), but last night we addressed the need to cultivate a culture of prayer.
The foundation of our thinking is that we must transition from a meeting centered prayer strategy to a people centered prayer strategy. IOW, our strategy isn’t about multiplying prayer meetings or increasing attendance at prayer meetings, but multiplying people who pray. Here’s what we’re going to do to encourage this:
- Recreate our intercession team.
- Distribute weekly prayer requests to them via email and update them with immediate prayer requests via SMS.
- View our Sunday meeting as a prayer event by doing two things: first, by singing to God rather than singing about God. Second, by encouraging more spontaneous prayer from the congregation during the service.
- Arranging for two members of the intercession team to be praying in the church vestry for the service during the service.
- After the service, elders will rotate praying in the vestry with anyone who needs prayer and to receive prayer from anyone who would like to come and pray for the leaders and/or church.
- Rather than weekly prayer meetings, we will organize one-off prayer events such as prayer walks, flash prayer, concerts of prayer, 24/7 prayer schedules, etc.
- Develop a prayer seminar to equip people for healthy prayer lives.
- Link our prayer ministry with our teaching ministry.
- Take the Sunday morning intercessory prayer as seriously as the preaching by scheduling the leader ahead of time so he/she can prepare.
- Collect written prayer requests each week that are brought to the front and prayed over in bulk by the teaching pastor prior to the sermon. Then the requests are given to the intercession team to pray for specifically during the week.
What creative things has your church done to cultivate a culture of prayer?
September 25, 2011 § 3 Comments
As a Christian leader, if you try to motivate people by vision – no matter how good or biblical you may think that vision is – there’s a strong likelihood that you will do more harm to the local church than good. The reason is that when we try to predict what God will do, we often (usually?) get it wrong.
Yet in nearly every Christian leadership book we’re told again and again ad nauseam that essential to Christian leadership is the ability to cast vision. Of course, as the experts are quick to remind us, casting vision is not for the faint hearted. In fact, you can expect to encounter opposition. But the strong leader perseveres and stays the course regardless of how bloody it gets.
Personally, I think vision is a lousy motivation. If people are following you because of your vision it’s just a matter of time until they’re disillusioned and move on.
Gratitude is a much better motivator than vision because gratitude isn’t based on a tenuous promise of future success, its based on the objective fact of past sacrifice. Strong churches look back to the cross, not to the future.
We can love our neighbors unconditionally because we think it will make the world a better place (vision), or we can love our neighbors unconditionally because Christ has unconditionally loved us (gratitude). If we go with the first and the neighborhood doesn’t become a better place, then we become cynical and move on. If we go with the latter, then even if our neighbors don’t respond positively we can still love them remembering how Christ has continued to love us in spite of our rebellion and rejection.
Leader, don’t waste your time filling people’s heads with your ideas of what the future could look like. Fill their hearts with gratitude for what Christ has done.
September 7, 2011 § 2 Comments
According to Muhammad Abbas in the video below, it was the Mubarak regime that taught the various Egyptian factions to hate and fear one another. The Arab Spring isn’t merely ending a political era, but in a way similar to how postmodernity shook the West, a new generation of Arabs is discovering that not everything they once thought to be true may true after all.
But what does this have to do with western Christians?
Times of fear and crisis often breed polarization. There are those who will encourage such polarization by demonizing the other side to acquire or consolidate power. Yet such polarization is often short-lived because eventually people discover something that shows the other side isn’t as bad as they’d been taught and that their side isn’t as pure as they’d believed.
And when that happens, worldviews start to crumble.
When the worldviews are questioned, institutions associated with either pole should get the hint that they’re on the way out.
So here are the questions: are we seeing a similar phenomenon in the growing rejection of evangelical church institutions in parts of the West? Has the evangelical church been ‘hijacked’ by those who would use it to acquire or consolidate power? Just as Muhammad Abbas and others break ranks with the previous power brokers such as the Muslim Brotherhood to form new movements such as the Egyptian Current, what types of movements will emerge in the Western evangelical community and what long-held orthodoxies will be challenged?
Is this good or bad?
August 17, 2011 § 2 Comments
This list is by no means exhaustive, but here are some of the more significant changes in missions that I’ve noticed recently. (If you’ve been in one of our seminars or heard me preach recently in the US, you’ve probably already heard me talk about these).
Discipleship: It’s less about coming and more about becoming. Strategies for spiritual formation, maturity, and reproduction.
Partnership: Missionaries, national leaders, and US churches working together as equal partners with different gifts to co-create new ministry initiatives. Partnerships integrate people of spiritual influence from all walks of life – professionals, students, clergy, etc. – into the ministry development mix.
Community: We multiply communities and we multiply as communities. After the gospel and prayer, one of the most powerful things we have to offer is a gracious community in which to experience the transforming love of Christ. We can’t program community, but neither does it happen without intentionality and discipline.
Shifting power base: Change can come from anywhere and everywhere. If you want to have influence, you’d better say something worth listening to. Denominational loyalty and organizational hierarchy mean little if anything.
What else would you add?
July 14, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Jesus is often held up as the model disciple-maker. Of course, there’s plenty of support for this assertion. Among other things, the four gospels tell the story of how Jesus made disciples from 11 of the 12 men given to him (John 17:6).
But here’s the problem I have with using Jesus as a model: I can’t make disciples the way he did.
I can’t walk on the water while ‘my’ (quotes intentional) disciples are caught in a storm. I can’t call to one of ‘my’ disciples to get out of the boat and walk on the water towards me. I can’t tell ‘my’ disciples to take a fish and bread lunch and feed 5,000+ people with it. I can’t breathe on ‘my’ disciples so they receive the Holy Spirit. And I can’t command ‘my’ disciples to go and make disciples because ‘all authority on heaven and on earth has been given to me’ (Matthew 28:19).
In a previous post we talked about the theology of leadership, which was about God’s role in developing and empowering leaders. We also need a theology of discipleship, which is concerned with God’s role in the discipling process.
Maybe those incredible stories in the gospels aren’t meant as a model for me to follow, but as evidence of how Jesus can turn anyone into a disciple. I can’t make disciples the way Jesus did. But I can point others to Jesus and maybe help them recognize Jesus’ work and Jesus’ voice.
Maybe that’s what it means to make disciples.
June 27, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Knowledge can easily create false security when it comes to spiritual matters. Because someone understands the faith, he may assume he has the faith.
St. Anselm wrote of ‘faith seeking knowledge.’ St. Paul said, ‘Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’ Knowledge is not enough and never saves, but true faith always seeks greater knowledge, and true faith is not possible without an element of knowledge. We must know what or who it is we’re believing.
J.I. Packer says that the Christian church is a fellowship of learning-teaching. Teaching is at the heart of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) as well as central to Paul’s ministry of multiplying churches (2 Timothy 2:2). Look at the centrality of sound doctrine and teaching the word in a healthy church as Paul describes it in Titus 1 and 2.
This has implications for local church leadership. While elders/pastors should not be appointed on the basis on knowledge alone, neither should elders/pastors be appointed who do not have knowledge and the skills to teach believers the basics of the Christian faith.
It also has implications for missions. How are local pastors/elders equipped with the biblical knowledge to lead and teach a church? How much biblical training is enough?
And it has implications for the teaching ministry of the local church. Does the local church have a teaching strategy (traditionally called a catechism)?
These questions have been on my mind and my prayer list for some time. In our elders’ meeting yesterday, I shared some thoughts on these things with the other men who lead our church. They enthusiastically encouraged me to explore further how we can mature in these areas.
Watch this space.