Archives For discipleship

I posted a question yesterday that has been on my heart lately.  You can read the question HERE.

My struggle with this question has prompted me to really study the lives of some great pastors and evangelists. I want to see how their lives reflect the answer to that question.  I recently read of a study on the Gospel accounts done by Pastor/Evangelist John Wilbur Chapman.  Chapman is probably lesser known for penning the lyrics to the hymn “Oh, Glorious Day!” which has been made popular recently by the group Casting Crowns.  But as a Pastor/Evangelist from the 1880s to 1918, it was estimated that he had preached 50,000 sermons to some 60 million people.  Learning about his life and ministry has been some help to me in processing the question that I mentioned in yesterday’s post.    

Back to his study of the Gospel account… Chapman found that there were 40 individuals mentioned in the Gospels, each suffering from the same disease, who were healed by Jesus.  Of the forty, thirty-four of them were brought to Jesus by friends, or He was taken to the individual.  Only six of the forty sufferers found a way to Jesus without assistance.  The majority (85%) of them found Jesus Christ because a friend was concerned with their health and well-being.

I haven’t done a case study to prove this, but I would say that the vast number of people who find their way to salvation in Jesus today, most of them reach Him because a friend took the time to be concerned about the welfare of their soul.  I know that there are amazing testimonies of people who came to Jesus without the direct involvement of others, but the majority of salvation testimonies I’ve heard involve a friend, teacher, pastor, or parent that spent a lot of time praying for and witnessing to the person.

This thought draws me back to the question that I started with…
What if the purpose of every relationship you have was to lead the other person closer to Christ?

It also raises some questions for me as a Preteen Pastor…
How are we teaching preteens to have a concern for the spiritual condition of their friends?
How are we preparing/discipling them to be the hands and feet that carry the Good News?
How are we unleashing them to do this?
When we share testimonies or baptism, how do we celebrate the “friends” that invested in the life that has come to Jesus?

As a parent, pastor, individual, how do you answer these questions?
What’s your thoughts on the premise of the study by Chapman?

I’ve been living in two worlds lately.  On one hand, I’m establishing a lot of new relationships in my new ministry role.  On the other hand, I’m back living in my home town and so I’m reconnecting with a lot of old relationships that I’ve had for many years.  With this resurgence of my social life, God has really been speaking to me about the purpose of those relationships.  And in those conversations, He has really challenged my heart with one gripping question.

The questions is this…
What if the purpose of every relationship you have was to lead the other person closer to Jesus Christ?

What if I was intentional enough so that every person that I met, talked to, worked with, played softball with, or had a meal with was encouraged to move to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ?  What if I took the focus off of me and placed it on Him?  I don’t fully know what this would look like if it were played out in my life, but I’m dying to discover what God can do if I will submit to it.  I know that to do so, I need to be walking much closer to Him.  I need to be much more obedient to his calling when he says go or when he says speak.  And I need to have much more boldness and confidence in sharing my faith with every contact I make.  This questions has really stretched me and continues to do so.  My prayer is that God would show me what it looks like to use every relationship to point the other person closer to Jesus Christ.

I’m interested in hearing others thoughts and insight into how to live a life that could answer this question.  What does it look like in action?  What does it take? What would the end result be?

 

I mentioned in an earlier blog that we are hosting a summer reading with our small group leaders.  We are reading D. A. Carson’s The God Who is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story.  We haven’t started the group yet, but I decided to read ahead to try and create a reading schedule and some discussion questions.  About 40 pages into the book, God moved.

I have to admit that I struggle with grace.  I struggle with receiving it and with giving it.  I always feel like I will be judged or evaluated based on my performance.   I feel like I need to earn everything.  But that’s not grace.  Grace is unmerited favor.  Grace is an undeserved blessing.  I know this, I teach this to students, but I struggle with it. 

While reading Carson’s book, the third chapter discusses the covenants of God from the Old Testament.  The discussion turned to a practice of the ancient world that was often a part of a peace treaty between super-powers and smaller states.   It was a deal struck to keep peace and provide protection.  The smaller state would pledge allegiance and pay taxes to the super-power, who would in return provide protection.  Carson describes a process that was used to symbolize this covenant:

Sometimes one of the signs of this covenant agreement and corresponding threat was to take animals, tear them apart, and put them side by side with a kind of bloody alleyway between the two parts, and then the two parties of the covenant would walk between the divided animals so as to signify “May this be done to me if I break this covenant. May I be torn apart. May I be cut in half.”   (Carson, 51)

Genesis 15 describes a very similar process between God and Abraham.  God’s covenant with Abraham included his promise that all people on earth will be blessed through you.(Gen. 12:3)  This is God promising to do something supernatural and sovereign through Abraham’s line.  We know and understand that this is speaking towards Jesus Christ.  But what is Abraham’s responsibility in this covenant?  After all, a covenant does have two parties.  The role of Abraham was to be a people of God, fully devoted and obedient to Him.  But how in the world could we do this without making mistakes? This is where God taught me a new understanding of grace.

Back to Genesis 15 and the similar event.  God has Abraham take the animals and cut them apart.  He directs Abraham to arrange the halves opposite one another with a bloody alleyway between them.  Sound familiar?  But here is the difference.  Abraham falls into a deep sleep, God speaks to him in that sleep about how his family will fall short of their end of the covenant, and then God moved.  Literally, God moved.

“When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.  On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram.”  Genesis 15:17-18

What happens here is Grace.  God passes through the bloody alleyway ALONE.  This means that only He is responsible and accountable for the terms of the covenant.  This means that Abram, and you and me, will mess up and God will still show mercy, love, favor, blessings, etc. toward his people.  I’ve heard about grace, taught grace, and definitely experienced grace.  But this illustration really helped me to visualize God’s grace.  It widened my understanding of His love.  It gave me a deeper understanding of God’s grace.

Amazing grace how sweet the sound!

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear,

The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,

We have already come;

‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.

 

The Lord has promised good to me,

His word my hope secures;

He will my shield and portion be,

As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,

And mortal life shall cease;

I shall possess, within the veil,

A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,

The sun forbear to shine;

But God, who call’d me here below,

Will be forever mine.

–John Newton  Amazing Grace

My wife, Dana, and I have been having some conversations about how we plan to raise our 9-month-old daughter.  It’s not so much about the “everyday” things (although we have had those conversations as well), but it’s more about the transitions of life that are worth a pause and celebration.  We call these milestones.

We haven’t mapped out her entire life’s worth of milestones.  I mean she is only 9-months-old!  But we have been discussing the first of those milestones: baby dedication. We have absolutely nothing against the way our church or any church does baby dedication. As long as it doesn’t violate Scripture in some way, then I think baby dedication is a great event in whatever format the church decides.  It was just a choice for us that we do something different and unique to our family.  We wanted the event to be a charge to our family, our friends, and ourselves.  We want to be held accountable for the physical and spiritual upbringing of our daughter.  We want those that we feel will have an influence on her spiritually or physical development to be a part of this milestone and future milestones.

We haven’t nailed down all the details yet, but here is the framework so far:

Create a Network
We want to invite family and friends, and recognize their role as an influence on the spiritual development of our daughter.  We want to invite them to take hold of that influence in her life.  We also want this group to hold us accountable to our role as the primary spiritual influence.  The have the right to speak into our daughter’s life, as well the life of Dana and me.

Establish Values for Our Family
We want to structure our family around what is most important and model that for our daughter.  We are placing a high importance on worshiping as a family, praying as a family, and studying Scripture as a family.  Other things that we want our daughter to value are service and giving.  We want to establish certain times of year that we model service for her, even at this young age.  We understand that our service is never limited to those times, but we do want to be intentional about modeling that part of our Christian duty.

Protect our Marriage
I know that the best thing I can do for my daughter and show her that I love her mother.  I want to protect my marriage from the dangers of neglect that often accompany the addition of children.  Again, we understand the need for accountability.  We are committing to spend time, energy, and money on the enrichment of our marriage, and we want others to hold us accountable for that. 

I can’t wait to get together for this milestone.  We’re planning on it being a casual dinner where we will explain our intentions and values for parenting.  Following dinner, we’ll have a time of prayer to thank God for our daughter and to ask for His guidance in he upbringing.  We will also ask others to pray for their role as spiritual influence and an accountability partner.

This event has just been on my heart the last few days, so I wanted to throw the idea out and see if there was any helpful information you could give.  I would love to hear if you have done a similar event at your church or for your own child.  I will definitely post pictures and stories following the event.