What’s Next: 3 Major Stages of Discipleship

A Church must continually evaluate where it has come from, what places it has gone off track, and where it currently stands in regards to Jesus central call to “Go and make disciples.”  I take that as Jesus’ mission statement to the Church quite literally.  The Book of Acts shows us the earliest picture of how the Church lived out that call.  For the past month, on Wednesday nights we’ve looked at Acts 2:37-47 as a model of a three stage process of disciplemaking.  It certainly doesn’t fill in all the blanks methodologically, but it helps piece together a workable model for what we are to be moving people through.

It shows us Three Major Next Steps beginning with the non-believer.  Peter preached his famous sermon on the day of Pentecost, and in the response to the sermon we find the first step in Disciple Making.  The lost being saved.  In response to the preaching of the Gospel the hearers asked a question I love, “What shall we do now?”  Peter answered first Repent.  I take this statement as one where repentance entails belief in the message and the decision to build ones life around it.  So the Church must evangelize to see the lost saved. 

The second step, then, is taking the newly saved, and seeing them go through the waters of Baptism.  We don’t recognize this as a salvific event, but a public profession and demonstration of the inner change that’s taken place in the new believer.  You want a concrete next step?  It couldn’t be any clearer than “Repent and be baptized.”  And so 3,000 on that day trusted in Jesus and followed His command to be baptized.  

The third step is integration of the newly baptized into active involvement in a local church.  This is often where the breakdown occurs.  But here in verses 42-47 we see these new believers’ rock solid commitment to the local church in Jerusalem.  What were they committed to?  The Word of God (apostles’ doctrine), and True Christian Fellowship.  Further clarifying fellowship, Luke outlines that this involved mutual meals, mutual prayers, and mutual care for one another.  They became partners, formed around the Gospel, who regularly experienced the fellowship of the local Church.

As I evaluate our church, I must ask the question, is our church organized to take people through the stages of discipleship, and further, are we in fact doing so.  They say that the system you design, is designed to achieve precisely the results that you get.  If our system were designed to take people through these stages, then we need a new system, or at the least a return to an older system.  What I’ve noticed is an unhealthy balance between teaching times and times of other kinds of fellowship involving mutual care and prayer.  We design our official service times to be primarily teaching/preaching points, which is great, if there are other times to accomplish those other things.  We have Sunday School, Sunday Morning Worship, Sunday Evening Worship, and Wednesay Evening Bible Study.  Ample time for sitting under the Word.

The great problem is this hasn’t led to a fruitful, full fellowship in our church.  In fact there’s breakdown from the first stage all the way to the third.  Few ever are saved, few ever follow into the waters, and few take the next step to join with our church.  The challenge for us is to examine the system to figure out where the train went off track, and make the necessary adjustments to get back on track again, so that we are known as a Church that makes disciples.  There may be resistance, but it may just be urgent enough to make the effort worth it.  We shall see how the response is.  We leave this in the capable hands of God.

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Tents to Castles

My daughter got a “Dora the Explorer” tent for her birthday a few weeks ago.  It’s not any more than about 3 feet by 3 feet, w/a couple of openings on either side to crawl into.  This past week, she was playing with the tent, and in the course of her play she called the tent, “Her castle.”  It struck me as a wonderful example of how a child can take a tent and make it a castle.  Meanwhile, the average American can take a castle and call it a tent.  

We live in the most prosperous place in the world, and each day, hundreds of thousands of us are so caught up in being upwardly mobile, that we are discontented where we currently are.  We live in an apartment, and want a house.  We live in a house, and want a bigger house.  We live in a mansion, and figuratively want a castle.  We live in a castle, and what’s next?  I long for the same child like quality that enabled my daughter to look at her tent as a castle.  Scripture tells us that “godliness with contentment is great gain.”  I don’t want to be the guy living in a castle and wishing it wasn’t a tent.

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Links: Revival Prayers

I read Trevin Wax’s blog semi-regularly, and this post on prayers for revival was a timely one for me.  In a rural church, Revival is associated with an annual or bi-annual time to bring in a guest preacher with the hopes of firing the congregation up, and possibly winning the lost to Jesus.  I’ve stately adamantly that until I see an outpouring of prayer for Revival in the true sense of the word, that we will most definitely NOT be having a Revival meeting.  But a movement of God that awakens the Church, convicts the lost, and converts them from death to life?  That I pray for each and every week.  Welcoming it with open arms.  Click the link, and scan through these Scriptural prayers for Revival from God’s Word.  And then pray those prayers shamelessly.  

Prayer for Revival « Kingdom People.

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Thanksgiving Day Thoughts

The family just left.  I just ate way more food than I needed to.  The kids are asleep.  The Detroit game is a blowout.  So I had about an hour before my Cowboys come on and I get to watch a game I really care about. So that gave me a few minutes to think of a group of people I am VERY thankful for.  It’s the volunteers who work in our AWANA program at Little Mountain.

In these workers, I have seen a fire, passion, desire, drive, and zeal to reach out to children that no one else is ministering to.  By mega church standards, we have a relatively small program.  But in Little Mountain standards, we are reaching a lot of kids.  Since we started, we are averaging around 35 kids per week, most of whom come from modest to poor areas.  None of whom regularly attend church anywhere.  We can safely assume the majority do not know Jesus.

But our workers run two church vans every single Sunday night, and fill them both with eager children, who experience literally one of the highlights of our week.  They devote two hours each Sunday night to play games, speak a message, do small group counseling and Bible study.  And very impressively, the kids are actually memorizing more Scripture than the average church member.

I could not ask for any more from these dedicated leaders.  They have stepped up and out in faith in a major way, many of them working with children and youth for the first time.  They were uncertain about their ability, but excited about the opportunity.  I’m amazed at what God is doing through these guys in the lives of these children.  I fully believe that the kingdom of God will be expanding through the work they are doing.

Not having regularly posted on the blog lately, I do not know how many of you will read this, but for whoever does, you should know that you are the backbone of what God is doing in needy children’s lives week in and week out, and that makes me so proud I can’t express it.  So on Thanksgiving day, I just want to reflect on the folks investing in what I pray will be the next generation of leaders at Little Mountain, or wherever they wind up.  In 10 or 20 years, they will forget many things, but I firmly believe they will remember you!  Thanks.

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Roused From Sleeping and Dreaming

It’s easy enough to be the Pharisee, haughty and proud in the temple, thanking God and all around that “I’m not like that poor fellow over there.”  That one over there is beating his breast, crying loudly, saying things like “God have mercy on me a sinner!”  What a scene that fellow is making.  Right?  

Let’s just let me be very honest.  I struggle with the same condescending tone of the Pharisee.  I regularly want to give thanks that I’m not one of “those guys.”  How good I must be.  How righteous I must be.  How pleasing to God I must be.  How fortunate He must be to have me as His son.  You fill in the blanks for whatever your situation is.

Last week I FINALLY finished reading Tim Keller’s book, “The Reason For God.”  The last few pages were worth the price of admission.  He recounted a short story from Flannery O’Connor called “Revelation.”  It’s about a self-righteous pharisaical southern gal, who pays a visit to a doctor’s office where it is clear that many “social misfits” are in the same waiting room with her.

So the lead character, Mrs. Turpin, finds a young girl there to share all of her condescending rants about these of other races, ethnicities, mental status, etc.  Finally the young girl is fed up, and hurls a book at her, hitting her in the eye.  Mrs. Turpin lunges for her and begins to choke her, screaming “What have you got to say to me?!”  The girl snarls, “Go back to hell where you came from, you old wart hog!”

She’s blown away at what she comes to believe is a revelation to her from God.  She can’t figure it out.  She’s been an upright, moral, good little church girl, and how can she simultaneously be a pig from hell?  So she fights with God, questions God, and finally shakes her fists at God saying, “Who do you think you are?”  God’s Reply?  Breathtaking.

I don’t know copyright laws, so I’ll post the gist of it.  The sky changes, and she is taken into a vision of a flaming bridge to heaven.  In the front of the line are what’s described as “companies of trash, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs.”  After them filed the good, the moral, the upright in their own minds.  They were utterly confused as to why these ragtag bunch would be ahead of them in line.  As the vision began to fade all that was left was a chorus of voices, simultaneously shouting to God, Halleluia.  

It was at that moment that I was roused from my waking sleep, and it hit me violently that I am Mrs. Turpin. I’m the smug man perplexed at the throng of people God’s letting in ahead of me.  I’m the Pharisee.  It’s these realizations that stick with me.  What do you do when you’re the wrong character in the story?  When you identify and find yourself in the wrong place.  Not the place or person you want to be, but the person you really are?  

It led me down a path of repentance that I’m still recovering from today.  There is no other answer to this kind of problem.  Repentance and Faith.  A long, hard, meditation on the cross, on Jesus.  Remember that he was rich, but became poor.  That he became abandoned so we might not be.  That he became sin, that we might gain his righteousness.  How can I look on another with condescending eyes when he did not do so with me?

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Sea and Dirt – The Natural Man

On Page 4 of Richard Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline,” he offers some wise insight into the inner workings of engrained sin our lives.  That it is just natural.  That left to or own, we will stir and kick up dirt and mire, and expunge it out into the world.  Why?  Because those are the kinds of things that are inside a person by nature of being a person.  In a sense, it can’t be helped.  Like the sea, so are we.  That is, apart from the battle that rages once we become a Christian.  At that point there is more than just your inner dirt maker.  You have the divine Spirit of God.  This is about what is, not what should be or how to get there.  Simply what you are, apart from divine grace.

“Isaiah 57:20 says, ‘The wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot rest, and its waters toss up mire and dirt.’  The sea does not need to do anything special to produce mire and dirt; that is the result of its natural motions.  This is also true of us when we are under the condition of sin  The natural motions of our lives produce mire and dirt.  Sin is part of the internal structure of our lives.  No special effort is needed to produce it.  No wonder we feel trapped.

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In those days…

We’re 3 chapters short of finishing our series on the book of Judges.  We finally read what really sums the book up quite well (though it’s certainly debated).  That is that, “In those days there was no king in Israel, and every one did what was right in his own eyes.”  The statement is a big, fat, juicy, slap in the face.  It practically leaps off the pages calling our attention to everything that’s happened, which we’ve just read.

That Moses and Joshua were dead.  No one picked the mantle of leadership up for good, after them.  And the nation is in the promised land, and immediately begins to, surprise, surprise, disobey and rebell.  Rather than clear out the idolatrous nations, they became quite cozy with them.  And the cozier they were in Canaan, the more they began to look like those nations, which of course God’s point all along.  So God begins to give them over into their hands.  Israel becomes oppressed, but as of yet still cries out to God for a deliverer.  God hears, relents, and raises a deliverer to yank the yoke of slavery off of His people.  Soon, they return to their old ways, and the next time is inevitably worse than the last.

Finally we get to the last account of the Judges, who were deliverers.  We read of Samson.  Without rehashing the details, Samson from beginning to end follows his eyes wherever they lead him.  Typically to dangerous women.  Finally he meets one who gets the better of him, and he’s enslaved.  While in slavery, the man who follows the passions of his eyes, has them gouged out, so that he’s now bling.  It’s a symptom, right?  A sympton of the nation he is representing.  The point becomes, the more you follow the passions of your eyes, the more blind you will actually become.

Now as we look at the end of the book, we find that the whole thing has spread to a place of complete corruption.  Corruption in the household.  Corruption in the priesthood.  Corruption in the tribes.  And corruption in the whole of the nation.

And after the Samson narrative about spiritual blindness, we find the phrase, “There was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”  At that point, there’s no reference to following YAHWEH.  It’s all self seeking, abhorrent, degenerative actions that reveal that their hearts are truly far from God.  How will the whole thing end?  We find out in 3 weeks.  If you’ve sat through this series, I’d love to know what things really stuck out to you?  I want to go application, but my content filter is about to cut me off in a few minutes.  So I’ll leave it for another post.

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