5 Sermon Illustrations on Discipleship

Disciples are people who follow a leader’s teaching and example. As Christians, we are disciples of Christ. We study Scripture to learn who Jesus is and what He expects of us. Like the disciples who sat at His feet, we learn about Christ’s ministry to carry on His mission. Here are some examples to use when challenging Christians to live as disciples:

The Examples of Christian Leaders

Henrietta Mears’ Bible class at Hollywood Presbyterian drew as many as 500 college students. Dissatisfied with published curriculum, she wrote her own and eventually founded Gospel Light Publications. The title of her biography, “Dream Big,” illustrates her approach to life. Rather than let those involved in the entertainment industry intimidate her, she led many entertainers to the Lord. Bill Bright and Billy Graham were among those she nurtured in the faith.

And those men in turn dreamed big and became giants in the faith. Bill Bright founded Campus Crusade for Christ (now CRU), an organization committed to fulfilling the great commission, and Billy Graham’s career as an evangelist has touched countless lives. The legacy of these three Christians illustrates discipleship at its finest. Just as Mears invested time and energy to bring people to Christ and grow in Christian maturity, Bright and Graham carried that ministry forward in their own lives. And they pass that ministry on to us.

The Example of Jesus

Charles Monroe Sheldon (1857 – 1946) was a minister in the Congregational church who preached a series challenging his congregation to consider what Jesus would do under certain circumstances. He then wrote the novel In His Steps based on those sermons. The story involved characters faced with moral choices who made decisions according to what Jesus would have done. In our day we have WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets that we wear as reminders to consider how Jesus would react to everyday circumstances. As disciples of Jesus, we want to make choices as Jesus would. Next time you’re faced with a moral choice, ask yourself: What would Jesus do? That is the response of any true disciple.

An Example from the Prophets

In 1 Kings 19:16 God told Elijah to anoint Elisha to succeed him as prophet, and succeeding verses tell how Elisha turned from the plow to follow the prophet. When Elijah was taken into heaven, Elisha carried on his ministry. We too can influence people to walk in our footsteps as Christians. Titus 2:3-4 encourages older women to train younger women.  And men too need role models, especially those without father figures in their lives. In our day, that’s called mentoring or discipling.

Elisha would not have known how a prophet lived if he had not spent time with Elijah. How are young men and women today to know how a Christian lives if they do not spend time with mature Christians? Some schools, churches and community organizations offer opportunities to serve as mentors. And associations may naturally spring up as you get to know neighbors and people in your congregation. A life well-lived at any age has much to offer. Don’t keep it to yourself. Our society needs men and women who have the courage to make moral choices based on Scripture and live out Christian principles in visible ways that touch the lives of others.

Examples of Every Day Discipleship

Parenting offers ideal opportunities to practice discipleship. In fact, scripture commands it. Read Deuteronomy 5:6-9 to learn how God challenged the Israelites to build the faith of their children. They were to talk about their faith, keep symbols of faith visible in their homes and even write commands on their doorframes. As parents, we make disciples around the dinner table as we discuss with children the events of the day and consider whether our reactions reflected biblical principles. We might even schedule a devotional time where we read scripture and discuss how it applies, according to the ages of our children. We make disciples as we carry on daily lives based on honesty and integrity. Our language, our decisions and our attitudes all show our children what it means to honor God. And we pray our children will be drawn to lead a similar lifestyle as they mature. That’s discipleship.

The Example of Paul for Christian Leaders

The apostle Paul studied under Gamaliel, a revered rabbi. The teaching about the law that Paul  received led him to become zealous for the law, so zealous that he persecuted Christians who preached salvation by Christ. Such is the influence of a teacher upon his students, the influence of one who disciples upon the disciple. Paul was a disciple of Gamaliel—until Christ showed Paul the better way. Pastors, Sunday school teachers and Bible study leaders influence students (disciples) as they interpret Christian doctrine. This is why it’s imperative for leaders to prepare well. In fact, scripture warns us “Not many of you should become teachers . . . because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1 NIV 2011) If you are a leader, do you see your attitudes reflected in those you lead? If you are a learner, are you reflecting the attitudes of your Christian leaders?

Conclusion

Discipleship is costly. It requires the one leading to be well versed in scripture and to lead an exemplary life. None of us ever reach perfection, but all of us are called to move from learners to leaders. Are you ready to lead or do you need to spend more time as a disciple?

 

Shirley Brosius is a former director of Christian education who enjoys writing devotionals and newspaper articles. She also speaks as a member of Friends of the Heart, three women who share God’s love through messages and skits at women’s retreats and events. Shirley coordinates the women’s ministry and the nurture committee at First United Methodist Church in Millersburg, Pennsylvania. She can also be found online at www.shirleybrosius.com.

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Where is Discipleship Today?

Last week, my family of four had only 3 nights where we did not have any events or prior engagements planned. That means before the week began over half of the week was shot. In today’s society, busyness and overscheduled seems to be the new norm.

In the middle of all of this, our family is supposed to make Sunday morning church, small group, serving in the church and various ministries a priority. Plus don’t forget about raising your kids to love and fear the Lord. Where is discipleship in the midst of competing priorities? How should the church minister effectively in this high-octane world?

1. Discipleship requires patience

I love Amazon Prime. If you are not a member, then you have no idea what you are missing out on. If you need anything, you simply order it, and two days later it’s right at your front door.

You need a paper shredder. Boom! It’s there. Need a new keychain. Two minutes and a few clicks later, you will be the proud owner of a brand new key chain. Amazon has virtually anything you need and it happens so easily. Amazon Prime is wonderful to get Christmas presents. It’s terrible if people view discipleship the same way. If I go to this Bible study, a small group for a few weeks, and a few Sunday morning services, then BAM! I am disciple.

Pastors and church leaders must repeatedly teach against the instant discipleship mindset. A better way to explain discipleship is exercise and diet. Rarely does one meal or one weight lifting session change everything. Working out and changing your eating habits over time makes all the difference.

Discipleship is a process that requires time and patience, and our church must passionately teach what Eugene Peterson calls “long obedience in the same direction.”

2. Small Groups don’t solve all discipleship problems

Small groups are incredible. My wife and I currently lead one, and have either led or been a part of one for years. We love the transparency and authenticity that comes with being in a group. I believe it is one of the most valuable ministries in a church for too many reasons to explain in a couple paragraphs.

But despite the positives, small groups don’t solve all the discipleship problems. Not everyone can join groups for health reasons, schedule reasons, or myriad of other problems. Plus, while small groups are highly relational, they often struggle with necessary biblical information needed for people to grow individually.

This is why our church offers both classes and groups. We believe they both serve different functions and accomplish different goals. One season an individual or couple might need a class on how to read the Bible, foundational theology, or apologetics. That same individual or couple might need to join a recovery group, marriage group, or some other type of group in a different season of their life.  Discipleship takes both classes and groups. Both function and serve different purposes, but are equally necessary to growth process.

3. Measure relationships over rules

The old paradigm for success in churches was attendance. Pastors would often ask each other “What are your numbers?” Which invariably led to both pastors giving their Easter Sunday numbers hoping to sound just a little bit better.

We wanted to know how many people attended church, went to small group, and volunteered in ministry. While those measurements aren’t bad, they are still rules based. You attend or go to this event or do something then the church sees you as good.

What churches often find is that people attend church less, get involved in groups more infrequently, and serve less. These trends are happening all over the place. Now it feels like our discipleship processes are failing, but what if we weighted our measurements a little bit different?

What if attendance and involvement became less of a value, and relational connections became more of a value?

Currently one of our students is going through a rough patch (to put it mildly). This student despite the challenges has connected with a great God fearing and loving family. Now both the child’s parents and this family from the church are working together to help love on this student. Together they are trying to disciple her.

In my estimation relationships like this are far more valuable than whether or not someone missed a Sunday. What if the church learned to measure these types of relationships and started placing emphasis on them? Discipleship might become even more effective.

4. Use social media to disciple

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are wonderful tools to keep up with family and friends. They can also be used to inform others of thoughts, opinions or upcoming events. That’s not all they are good for though.

Social media is also a wonderful discipleship tool that gives churches a spiritual touch point with its members throughout the week. Sharing sermon clips, offering to pray for people, and giving devotionals gives the church a chance to impact the daily lives of the congregation. All of these platforms are a blessing from God to be used for the benefit of others.

Discipleship has never been a one size fits all, and it never will be. God uses all sorts of methods to train and develop all kinds of people. Your church or ministry, while holding true to the gospel, might need to adjust some of your discipleship methods to minister more effectively.

 

Chris Weatherly is the current Associate Pastor over discipleship at Christ Community Church. He regularly writes at chrisvweatherly.com. Stay connected with him through Facebook or Twitter.

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How to Teach Others to Follow Jesus

Many people “follow” others on Facebook, but statistics indicate many people are not “following” the church. According to an article in Church Leaders, an online publication, less than 20 percent of Americans regularly attend church.

If people are not coming to church to hear pastors and teachers, we must teach people about Jesus outside church doors, through everyday relationships. Here’s how:

God’s Word to Us

Biographers teach us about people from prior generations by writing their stories. Those inspired by God down through the ages wrote about Jesus; their writings form the Bible. Offer to partner with someone to study God’s Word. The gospel of John presents Jesus as God’s Son and tells about the miraculous signs he performed while on earth. Read and discuss a chapter a week with someone who wants to grow as a Christian and be discipled.

Form a small group Bible study with friends or colleagues. Work through scripture, such as the gospel of John, chapter-by-chapter or follow a study guide that focuses on Jesus’ teaching, such as the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5.

Partner with someone to hold each other accountable to read through the Bible in a year. Do a Google search for a daily reading plan and call or meet weekly to discuss passages covered. Less mature Christians will be fascinated to learn how Old Testament prophets spoke about Jesus as the coming Savior.

God’s Spirit in Us

As the saying goes: More is caught than taught. As we allow God’s Spirit to control our lives, we will respond to life situations as Jesus would. We demonstrate patience. We respond with kindness. We show compassion to those in need. And as others observe us, they learn how to follow Jesus.

Jesus modeled a life of prayer, so we will spend daily time in prayer . . . and let others know we’re praying for them. Even better, pray with others as they express needs and face life’s challenges. Even unbelievers appreciate prayers for their needs.

God gives each Christian spiritual gifts to use to build up other Christians. Exercise your gifts in a loving way and help others to discover their gifts. If they relate well to children, suggest they teach Sunday school or Junior Church. If they gravitate to teens, they might become youth leaders. Those with leadership abilities might serve on church boards or lead committees. In any of these roles they will be stretched and challenged to grow in their faith.

Mentoring and discipleship relationships offer a great venue to teach others about Jesus. If you’re married, you and your husband might take a newlywed couple under your wing. Mature Christians might mentor new or younger Christians. Just decide how often you want to meet and what you want to focus on.

You might pursue a shared interest, such as antiquing, read and discuss Christian books chapter-by-chapter or even serve together by visiting shut-ins or by helping at a local mission. As we get to know people and share how God has worked good out of bad situations in our lives, we prepare them for life’s journey. That’s mentoring and discipleship.

God’s Opportunities around Us

Religious holidays offer tailor-made opportunities to teach others about following Jesus. Let your Christmas cards celebrate the true meaning of Christmas by featuring manger scenes or other religious symbols. Invite others to join you in celebrating the resurrection of Jesus at Easter. Introduce them to God’s people, and let them observe the corporate joy of worship. After all, Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine happened at a wedding celebration.

Give gifts that express your faith. Subscribe to devotional magazines for family members and friends. Buy books for others that deal with challenges they face.

Suggest websites and blogs that others may follow to draw daily inspiration. Send cards when people fall ill and encouraging notes when they face struggles. Call, text, email. Keep in touch regularly so that as opportunities to speak of Christ arise, you have built a relationship and can easily converse.

Take someone to a Christian conference or invite them to a simulcast at your church. Hearing inspirational stories of courage and survival reinforces what we hear in our own circles.

Conclusion

We rub shoulders daily with people who need to know Jesus or need to be taught what it means to follow Him and grow as Christians. Some people have a knack for bringing God into conversations. Some of us have to work harder at it. But God needs all of us to represent him. He has no hands and feet here on earth except ours.

By faithfully living according to God’s Word, we model what it means to follow Jesus. And by keeping our eyes and ears open, we find daily opportunities to teach others of Jesus through our words and actions.

Shirley Brosius is a former director of Christian education who enjoys writing devotionals and newspaper articles. She also speaks as a member of Friends of the Heart, three women who share God’s love through messages and skits at women’s retreats and events. Shirley coordinates the women’s ministry and the nurture committee at First United Methodist Church in Millersburg, Pennsylvania. She can also be found online at www.shirleybrosius.com.

 

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Who cares about making disciples?

Jesus said it: “go and make disciples” There it is Matthew 28:19 but who is doing it?  Do you know someone who is ?  I’ve known a lot of Christians, for many years but I can’t say that they are making disciples. Where is it happening?…anywhere? Who is doing it well? In what church or ministry, by what group of people, program or denominations. Who cares about making disciples?

It was said recently that 80% of people are lost, whether that is true or not we can’t really know. we want to reach the lost and they need to be discipled. Our task is clear: “Go and make disciples” some call it “the great commission” and by almost every account is seems we are ignoring or just plain failing on the discipleship front. There are plenty of church members, do they count as disciples? People claim they are Christians, do they count?

Or perhaps that’s not for us, that was just for Jesus’s disciples, they were supposed to go unto all the nations and make disciples, but not us?

Let’s assume for a minute it is for us and that we want to go and make disciples. Where does one begin? Where do we go to make disciples? What does a disciple look like? Am I one? Who would want to be my disciple, for that matter who should be discipling me?

Should we be enlisting disciples? Jesus did, he hand picked his entire group ,even Judas.  And they changed the world. Of course He was Jesus. What should be our response? This is a sincere question that we should have an answer for.

Perhaps we should be doing it the way Jesus did it.  They seemed to drop everything and focus on Jesus. They left everything, their family, their work and followed him. Was that the best model? is that what is expected? Is anyone doing that? How is it working for them? If someone somewhere is doing that we should know about it.  I just don’t understand…This appears to be an insurmountable task that is very difficult if not impossible to achieve. 

The Navigators.org have some tools. Where are the best tools? Please share below.

Help me Jesus to go and make disciples.

3 Invaluable Things I Learned From My Mentor

What 3 things did I learn from my mentor?  What things have you learned or think are important?

Mentoring — An Ongoing Process

I would rather rephrase the question of what three things have I learned from my mentor to what three things am I still learning from him?  I believe everyone needs a mentor and everyone needs to be mentoring someone.Older women should be mentoring younger women as Paul wrote in Titus 2:3 “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good” but older men need to be mentoring younger men as well.  Every Timothy needs a Paul and every Paul needs a Timothy but every Paul needs a mentor too.  No matter what age you are, everyone needs a mentor. 

I am a senior pastor but have an older mentor that helps me in so many ways but I’m also mentoring a younger man.  On the day that I cannot learn something from someone else, including my mentor, then God may be done with me.  We find mentoring going on throughout the Bible; Elijah mentoring Elisha to Paul mentoring Timothy so we should understand that mentoring is both biblical and also essential for the one being mentored but also for the mentor.

It’s Okay to Make Mistakes

When I confessed to my mentor, a retired pastor who still fills the pulpit from time to time but is physically limited due to a disability, he told me it’s okay to admit mistakes and to admit them to the congregation.  I tend to correct myself if I catch something wrong that I said in the previous message and I also tell them that I am still a work in progress and have so much to learn.  My mentor said that transparency is a strength among Christians because James said to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another” (James 5:16). I find the connection James makes very interesting; to confess our sins or faults and then pray for one another. Maybe James is saying that once we confess our faults to one another then we can pray for one another for these areas of faults in our lives.  My own mentor has so often told me of his own mistakes that he has encouraged me to do the very same thing…to him and to the church.  He wants me to realize that our mistakes add to our wisdom and experience and make them more valuable for mentors to learn from.  I have learned more from my mistakes than nearly anything else in my life and I jokingly, but still seriously say, that if not for my many mistakes, I  wouldn’t make much of a good mentor to this young man I am mentoring.  From my experience in being mentored, I have learned what he taught me but he’s been a guide for me and not doing it for me.  If my mentor did things for me that I need to learn to do on my own, I might not learn to do them for myself.  He gives me the freedom to make mistakes and not fear coming to him to admit them.  That is valuable to me.  I know he won’t “beat me up” on my failures because he’s had his own fair share of them so by his telling me it’s okay to make mistakes, I see my need to be honest and admit my shortcomings and failures to the young man I am mentoring.  This really helps both of us.

Be Yourself

I touched on this in the previous paragraph but something my mentor said stuck in my mind; be yourself and don’t try to be your favorite pastor or Bible teacher. I so admire the late Adrian Rogers and I just loved his style of preaching but I must be me as he was himself.  My mentor told me to listen to what others say, including him, but be your own man.  Don’t let anyone tell you to be different from whom you are.  God made each of us in His own image but we are as unique as snowflakes and our makeup is exactly what God had in mind when He created us so I say “Be free to be me” as long as it’s biblical.  I am not who people think I am nor am I who people think I should be; I am who God made me to be and I am accountable to Him and not anyone else. To try and be someone who you are not is a labor done in vain because after you’re done…you’re still you.  God makes no mistakes.  Your individual personality is what God wanted you to be like…your strengths and weaknesses all work together for His purpose, not other people’s purposes or what they think you should be doing or shouldn’t be doing. My mentor said don’t let the world conform you into its own image (Rom 12:2) but also don’t let anyone else do that.  Not one of us are a “cookie cutter” Christian because God knew exactly what He was doing when He made you and me.  He broke the mold after making us and so we must be our own man in the way in which God made us.  I love to listen to different pastors and Bible teachers but I am not them.  I can’t be.  I have enough trouble being me but I’d be in more trouble trying to be someone who I’m not or someone who I’d like to be.  We have to be honest with ourselves; some people will like us but some people won’t.  We have to accept that and not try to be who they think we should be. That’ what my mentor taught me and I am teaching the young man I am mentoring the same thing.

Know What Matters

I am accountable to God for what I preach and my mentor reminds me of that from time to time.  When we had to go through a church discipline issue with a church member, along with the great difficulty of going through that process, my mentor said that I am an under-shepherd to the Great Shepherd and am accountable to Him (2 Cor 5:10) so I must do what He would have me do, not what is popular or what will be well received. Jesus spoke some very hard words but hard words can soften hearts while using only soft words tends to harden hearts and so I am committed to doing what the Bible teaches and that’s really the only thing that matters.  Knowing what God expects of me and what the Word of God compels me to do is what matters and my mentor has often come to my side when I face difficult times and have to make hard decisions in the church.  He comforts me with the knowledge of what I do, as long as it’s biblical, is the right thing and hopefully, done for the right reasons.  What really matters is that the Word of God is preached, that Christ is at the center of all our worship and teachings, and that the only truths come from the Bible.  Everything else is of secondary importance in respect to that.  My mentor has been an invaluable aid in showing me that the bottom line is truth and truth is found only in the Bible.

Conclusion

Everyone needs a mentor and everyone needs to be mentoring someone; both men and women.  I strongly suggest you have a mentoring program in your church and team up older men with younger men and older women with younger women to teach them what they have learned, to prevent them from making the same mistakes, to be authentic and be themselves, that it’s okay to make mistakes because that’s how we really learn, and finally to rest upon the only thing that really matters; God’s Word and the Word taught without watering it down or mixing it with clever human ideas.  There is enough power in the Word (Rom 1:16; Isaiah 55:11) that I have no business messing it up or mixing it with anything else. That’s perhaps the most important thing my mentor has ever taught me.

What is Discipleship and Why is it Important?

What exactly is discipleship?  Is it important?  If so, why and should your church have a discipleship program?

What is a Disciple?

When Jesus commanded the disciples to go into all the world to make disciples of all nations and to teach them the things that He had taught them, this was an imperative command.  A command that is non-negotiable like repent and believe but what does this word “disciple” mean?  What does it mean to make disciples?  The Greek word for disciple is “mathēteuō” which in the verb form means “to be a disciple of one, to follow instructions” or “to instruct, to teach” so a disciple is a student who is learning one or more disciplines.  This comes from the Greek root of the word “mathētēs” meaning “a learner” or “a pupil” so Jesus is telling His disciples to go and make disciples of others and this should have a self-replicating effect like ripples in the pond that go forever outward. We are all commanded to make disciples but how do we make disciples?  Is it simply preaching to the lost about the gospel of Jesus Christ?  No, it is much more than that.

Every Timothy Needs a Paul

We have a mentoring program in our church where older, more experienced Christians are mentoring the younger ones but every one of us needs a mentor just as every one of us needs to be mentoring a younger or newer Christian, regardless of their age.  Mentoring, simply stated is just another word for discipling. I am 60+ but I too have the need for a mentor and I have one.  The church where I now pastor at had a pastor who used to be here but he moved and now fills the pulpit at another church when needed.  This man is discipling or mentoring me because I will never reach a point in my life where I don’t need the input, the correction, and the experience of another man.  Women have this same opportunity of course.  Read what Paul wrote about the older women in Titus 2:3-4 “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children.”  Even “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness” (Titus 2:2) and should “urge the younger men to be self-controlled.  Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (Titus 2:6-8).  Every mentor must “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (Titus 2:15) so a mentor sometimes has to exhort their mentee and to rebuke them when necessary.

Discipling is…

Discipling is being a godly example, being a godly model for someone to follow after as Paul wrote “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1) and “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do” (Phil 3:17).  Paul narrows the focus down to this: “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess 1:6). If someone you know is a biblical model of a godly woman or man of Christ, then imitate them but only if they are imitating Christ and do as Paul says, “keep your eyes on those who live as we do.”  Paul told the Corinthians to “Be imitators of [him.just as he is] of Christ.”  Ultimately, the Holy Spirit is the one who directs us to be more Christ-like but outwardly, mentors can show them what that looks like in the skin in our everyday life.  Right now I have a young man going out with me in evangelizing the community where our church is located.  He can see by my (hopefully) godly example how a person is called to do this it is part of the imperative command given by Christ in what is called the Great Commission but for many churches this has been the “great omission.”  Yes, we are to reach out to the lost but a major part of that commission is to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:18) and to be “teaching them to observe all that [Christ has] commanded” us (Matt 28:20) so discipling someone includes going out into all the world and making disciples but it must include “teaching them to observe all” that Jesus taught the disciples and commanded them to do.

Our Responsibility

As we have read it is all Christian’s responsibility to go and share the gospel and to teach them to observe what Christ has commanded us to do but it is not our responsibility to save them — that is the work of the Holy Spirit.  He convicts the sinners. He points them to Christ. He makes them see their need for repentance and faith in Christ.  It is not our responsibility to save anyone but it is our responsibility to tell others about the Savior.  It is their response to His ability so that they might be saved.  Some key passages in discipling include Romans 12 and I Corinthians 13.  Mentoring or discipling begins with developing and establishing a relationship with someone and being transparent about strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and confessing faults for both the mentor and the mentee for both the disciple and the one being discipled.  A good part of this includes teaching, serving, praying for one another, and humbly accepting rebuke or correction when needed.  The Word of God is like a sharp two-edged sword that is alive; it has two edges on it so it cuts both ways, both to the one giving it and to the one on the receiving end (Heb 4:12).  Sometimes it must cut in order to heal.  The proverb (27:6) is true; “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” and “Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor rather than one who has a flattering tongue” (Prov 28:23) and putting it bluntly, “Blows and wounds scrub away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being” (Prov 20:30).

Conclusion

Does your church have a discipleship program?  Are people in your church being discipled right now?  If not, they are losing out on a precious resource for growing in the grace and knowledge of God.  We should be taping the experiences of the mentor’s wisdom and failures, to help shape the future leaders of the church. Every Paul needs to be mentoring a young Timothy just as every Timothy needs a Paul to have as a mentor but only as long as that mentor is imitating Christ. We are commanded to make disciples and to teach them the things that Christ commands.  If we are not doing this, then the only commission we are fulfilling is the “great omission” and not the Great Commission.

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

5 Common Obstacles to Church Growth

By Jack Wellman

Church growth can be hindered in many ways.  What are five common obstacles to church growth?

Lack of Evangelism

There is no doubt that until a church has a heart for the lost, the lost will see the church as having no heart for them.  As I have written before, a church can never grow until it is willing to go.  When the lost are not coming to the church the church must be going to the lost and this is the model we see Jesus using when He was speaking about leaving the 99 to seek the one that was lost in Luke 15:4-7 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”  That one sinner who repents must be told that they have offended a holy God and must repent and trust in the Savior but they’ll never be able to do that unless they are told.

Paul may have been the greatest missionary to have ever lived and he didn’t sit and wait and expect the lost to come to the churches.  He wrote “For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent” (Rom 10:13-15a).  They will never hear unless someone goes and tells them because as Paul wrote “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17)? Charles Spurgeon once said that “Everyone is either a missionary or an imposter.”  Pew potatoes that never leave the church but are only interested in getting into holy huddles are sinning the sin of omission; the great omission, instead of obeying the Great Commission of going into all the world to make disciples (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). This commission is given to all believers and it’s an imperative command but the sad fact is that only 1 in 10 believers will ever actively share their faith with at least one other person in their entire lives.

Church Growth is the Church’s Responsibility? Wrong!

There is so much frustration at times in churches because they are not growing.  Perhaps they are preaching the gospel that is directly from the Word of God and maybe they’re evangelizing the lost and have an active Outreach program.  Maybe they are also highly visible in the community where they’re being the hands, mouth and feet of Jesus Christ.  Even if a church is doing all of this and they are increasingly becoming frustrated because they are not growing, the church leadership thinks that they’re failing, but there’s something that they’re missing.  It is not their responsibility to grow the church it is people’s response to God’s ability, even though it is the church’s responsibility to seek the lost and share the gospel.

Jesus clearly shows this in many Scriptures in the Gospel of John like in John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”  Let’s break this down to see what Jesus is actually saying.  “No man can” means that it is not humanly possible for any man at any time to “come to [Jesus]” which means that it’s not possible that any man or woman can come to Jesus at all unless this happens; “the Father who sent me draws him.”  To put this verse in another way; No one can ever possibly come to Jesus without the Father first drawing him but the word used for “draw” is a bad translation because it is the Greek word “helkō” which means “to drag.”  This Greek word is the same word used when Paul and Silas were dragged to jail so if we used the same translation that was used in John 6:44 we would see that “Paul and Silas were drawn to jail” or “wooed” to jail or “enticed, coaxed” or whatever else you might want to use.   Can you see how ridiculous that is?

When churches take the pressure off of themselves, get out into the community perhaps they can relax and leave the results up to God because God is the one Who draws men and women to Christ because the Word of God says that:

  • “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47) and
  • “the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7) while
  • “more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number” (Acts 5:14) and
  • “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day” (Acts2:41) and
  • there were still yet “many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand” (Acts 4:4).

Every one of these verses about the explosive church growth in the Book of Acts proves that God is the causative factor is saving men, women, and children so we must preach the gospel, seek the lost, and then trust God and leave the results up to Him. You cannot force the hand of God any more that you could save yourself (Eph 2:8-9).

Weak Leadership

When I came to the church I am pastor of now, I came to help them create an Outreach program.  They had no evangelism going on, they had no curriculum to speak of in Sunday school, they had no structure for supporting the shut-ins, the widows, visiting the sick, and keeping in touch with members who were now residents in the local nursing home.  The deacons were not doing what their office called for them to do.  There was no Outreach coordinator.  There was no discipling of one another.  There were no mentoring programs and in fact, there was no true leadership at all.  What was sorely needed was to train members in leadership skills and make assessments on what each of the leaders strengths were.  We needed to find out what each member had skills and desires in and match them to the positions of leadership that fit them the best.  One book that I highly recommend for pastors is Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie.  I went through this book and used three powerful sections called Investing in Your Strengths, Maximizing Your Team, and Understanding Why People Follow. There are sections that help leaders plug into their heart’s desires and then match those natural skills and abilities, and talents to what they had strengths in and then assign them to whatever positions that seemed to be the best fit for each of them.  We found out who was the best youth leader, who was a natural Outreach coordinator and so on.  They were reluctant at first but after a time, they began to catch a vision and a church with no leadership skills and no vision is destined to bump around in the dark aimlessly.

Mentoring and Discipleship

I believe that every Paul needs a Timothy and every Timothy needs a Paul.  That is, everyone needs to be a mentor to someone and everyone needs to be mentored.  I had a mentor when going through seminary and this retired pastor is still my mentor.  Every mentor needs to pour into a man or woman the experience and knowledge that they have acquired in their life, often through the school of hard knocks but without their pouring into someone’s life, they only accumulated knowledge for themselves and the Body of Christ is to grow up together into the fullness of Christ.  It’s like the Dead Sea. There is no outlet from the Dead Sea, therefore it is dead but on the other hand the Sea of Galilee has an outlet and a resource.  It takes in water from the Jordan River but is also fed by fresh underground springs and the lake is the largest freshwater lake in Israel and has been called a sapphire in an emerald setting.  The Dead Sea is also fed by the Jordan River but has no outlet so it continually builds up sediments and huge deposits of salt make it void of life.  One has sufficient and consistent intake (the Sea of Galilee) but the other has no outlet and is not fit for fish or drinking (the Dead Sea). In reality, the Sea of Galilee is not really a sea but a large lake; a rich source for life having a continual source of fresh water and the Dead Sea is stagnant and lifeless because it has no outlet.  The same principle applies for Christians who only take in rich resources but don’t have an outlet.  The object lesson here is that every Sea of Galilee needs a source (a mentor) and an outflow (someone to mentor); otherwise it ends up dead and stagnant (like the Dead Sea) and is of little use for others.

Self-Focused

A church that is self-focused does not have an outward focus; therefore it’s all about them!  I know that as a pastor, they will never lead until I take the first step in leading. We had some of our church members go into the nursing home because they reached a point where they couldn’t take care of themselves so I thought, if they can’t go to the church, I’ll take the church to them.  That’s what I did.  We went outside of the church to bring the church to them and in the process we had the chance to expand our Outreach program by witnessing to the residents, the residents family members, and the staff.  We also began collecting clothing and school supplies and talked to the local schools about this (prior to the end of the school year) and set up a school supply giveaway just before the start of school for those who were unable to afford school supplies.  We also had the chance to tell them a little about ourselves and our children’s ministry and youth programs.  If your church went out of existence, would anyone notice?  If the answer to that is no, then you have not made yourself visible and an aid to the community in which your church is located.  Focus on others and you’ll take the focus off of yourselves.

Conclusion

Prayer is vital, of course, to church growth but we must understand that God is really the true evangelist and the church is not responsible for saving the souls of men, women, and children.  The church must also have a vision and be developing leadership skills.  Also, the church should be actively involved in growing one another through a vital mentoring program where mentors and mentee’s are matched and then take these growing believers outside of the church and get their eyes off self and onto the needs of others.  We are called the Body of Christ for good reason and since Jesus is the Head of the Church, He expects us to be His hands, mouth, and feet here on earth.  If you are missing any or all of these elements, then you are inhibiting church growth and the expansion of the kingdom of God and also failing to fully glorify God and God is always interested in bringing glory to His Great Name.  Amen?

Take a look at this other one by Jack: Too Predictable

Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Rath, Tom, and Conchie, Barry. Strengths Based Leadership. New York: Gallup Press, 2008.

3 Ways to Avoid Spiritual Burnout as a Church Communicator at Easter

By Josh Burns

Source: JoshBurns.net

Let’s face it. If you’re a church communicator the next 10 days are going to be consumed by Easter prep for your church. After being in church communications for 6 years, and being married for 2 of those years, I’ve learned to just warn my wife that these 2 weeks leading up to Easter are just crazy. If you’re like me, you’re cranking out last minute materials, and even if you’ve got a good plan in place, you’re probably just now executing on all of that planning.

’ve also learned that ironically spending so much time preparing for Easter can cause me to easily forget the entire reason we’re working so hard in the church for this day. I can spend hours designing an Easter invitation and so many other materials that the actual meaning of what we’re celebrating is so easily lost. And as a church communicator if I’m not taking care of myself spiritually, then I can’t expect to create something that is going to help lead others to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter [Tweet That!]. So I want to share a couple things I’ve learned to avoid Easter burnout as a church communicator.

1. Don’t sacrifice personal time in the Word
This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to neglect personal time in Scripture when you’re working extended hours to complete everything for Easter. And you may not realize that you’re neglecting it until Easter is over. What you also may not realize is how much this is actually hurting your work as a church communicator. There have been countless times when I’ve been reading my Bible in the morning and I’ve been inspired with an idea for something in my work. I view this as the ultimate form of inspiration, and you’d be surprised how well you’ll be able to communicate the gospel to the rest of your church as a result of the time you’ve spent in the Word that week.

2. Challenge and be challenged
One of my best friends works on our tech team at Park, and we’ve been asking each other this question recently,“How are you personally reflecting on the death and resurrection of Jesus leading up to Easter? And how is that changing your life?” Your best friend may not work on your team, but if you work on a team of people, don’t be afraid to challenge them with these questions. And give them permission to challenge you with it as well. The more frequent reminders I have to personally prepare myself for Easter, the more I’m going to slow down and let the gospel change the way I live my life.

3. Reflect on what you’ve created
Oftentimes it’s easy to hit the ground running when it comes to creating materials for Easter, and we don’t take time to just sit and reflect on what God has moved us to create to communicate the Gospel. Don’t be critical of it. Don’t analyze it. Just reflect on the process and how you got there. Reflect on what inspired you to create that piece.

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Again, these are probably no-brainers for most of you, but I just want to make sure that we’re not trying to communicate the gospel to other people while we’re actually forgetting the gospel in our own lives [<– Tweet That!]. It doesn’t matter how many late nights you have, or how many revisions you have to make to that Easter slide, let’s commit to living out the gospel in our own lives this Easter so that we can lead others to that same gospel that has transformed our lives.

 

Have you ever dealt with this type of burnout?

How have you dealt with it?

 

Secrets for Dealing with Rejection

By Phil Cooke

Source: PhilCooke.com

I’m constantly reading quotes from famous people about the importance of failure and rejection. Learning from it, turning rejection into action, owning it, and more. The problem is, failure and rejection are HARD, and while everyone tells you it can be a good thing, very few people tell you how to handle it. To that end, here’s a few thoughts that might help you handle rejection the next time you experience it:

1. Don’t over-think it.  Sometimes we wallow in our rejection in an effort to understand it. But often, it’s just a matter of timing, chemistry, or circumstance. Actors see this all the time in auditions. Their performance might be brilliant, but the producer was looking for a blond, a deeper voice, or a taller person. More often than you think, rejection has nothing to do with your performance or lack thereof.

2. Don’t take it personally.  I know that’s easier said than done because in my twenties, I took rejection really hard. But over the years, I learned that in most cases it’s not about me, it’s about the project, idea, or job. Learn to separate criticism of the project, from criticism of you. It will keep you from jumping out a window, and keep you in the game. And never forget – they could be right. Poet Carl Sandburg said, “I sent [poems] to two editors who rejected them right off. I read those letters of rejection years later and I agreed with those editors.”

3. Find objective advice.  Occasionally, the person who rejected your idea or project is an idiot. Find another experienced person you trust and run it by them. It’s always good to have a bigger perspective on the potential reasons for rejection.

4. At the moment of rejection, keep a cool head and ask for constructive criticism.  It’s tough to keep your emotions from running wild at the moment, but if possible, keep calm and politely ask for some reasons. If the person is mature, they’ll be happy to offer a teaching moment and you could end up in a much better position. James Lee Burke said, “There’s nothing like rejection to make you do an inventory of yourself.”

5. Finally – Don’t let rejections derail your dream.  Nothing is perfect, no idea is sacred, and we’re all human. Rejection and failure happen. Understand that, keep tweaking your idea or project, and most of all – keep moving forward. Maybe the best rejection quote is from actor Sylvester Stallone: “I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.”

How do you handle rejection or failure? What keeps you coming back for more?

Why YouVersion’s Bible App 5 is a Step Forward in Bible Engagement

Source: YouVersion.com

Since the Bible App’s launch in July 2008, we’ve seen incredible changes in the landscape of Bible engagement. Many of the numbers we look at every day are now so big that, in some ways, it’s hard to get a handle on what they even mean. But one thing is for sure: a revolution is taking place. Millions and millions of people all over the world are making the Bible a part of their everyday lives, many of them for the first time. And our mission at YouVersion remains the same: to help people fully engage with the Bible.

Up until now, the Bible App was designed mostly around you as an individual—you reading or listening to your Bible, adding your personal notes and your insights. While many people have told us that this kind of personal experience has helped them grow closer to God through His Word, we think there’s still more we can do—a lot more. The all-new Bible App 5 transforms the way you experience Scripture…from “me” to “we.”

post launch 1

 

Historically, people were only able to experience the Bible in community. Before the printing press, very few people had personal copies of the Bible. But movable type changed everything. For the first time in history, anyone who could read could experience God’s Word with their very own printed Bible. In more recent times, audio Bibles in several languages invite even more people to enjoy God’s Word by listening—even if they can’t read.

Bible App 5 was designed from the ground up to bring the best of all these things together again. It draws the Scriptures back into community, without sacrificing personalized access. You can keep enjoying your own Bible, just as you always have. But now, for the first time, you can also easily experience it within the context of close, trusted friendships.

That’s why we are so excited about Bible App 5, the most radical update since the Bible App began. Inside, you’ll find all-new features that let you discuss and discover the Scriptures—not with just anyone, but with the people you choose, real friends that you know and trust. Bible App 5 was designed specifically to help you connect more with God’s Word than you ever have before…through your relationships.

Update your app or download Bible App 5 for Android or iOS today.

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sirma.mobile.bible.android

App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bible/id282935706?mt=8