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Welcoming Guests and First Impressions

The sermon starts in the parking lot, and the impression you make for your guests on Sunday morning during the first 10 minutes will be indelible.

Technology and The Church

Leveraging technology for ministry can be an incredible blessing. But it can also be fraught with problems and pitfalls. Learn how to use technology well.

Vision and Leadership

Our God longs for leaders to request of Him to do that which they cannot. Faith filled vision, leadership and risk are key ingredients for ministry.

Preaching and Communication

You know and understand how challenging it is to communicate. It is hard to get and capture people's attention. Learn how to communicate effectively.

Creativity and Innovation

Being creative means asking the right questions and making new associations. Discover new and creative ideas for your ministry.

Showing posts with label Discipleship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Discipleship. Show all posts

The State Of Spiritual Growth In The Pews

discipleship

from the Barna Group:

Two thousand years ago, Jesus approached twelve seemingly unsuspecting Galileans and bid them: “Come, follow me.” For the next three years, they walked alongside him as he discipled them. Toward the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus commissioned his disciples to go and do the same—to take the Gospel message to the world and make disciples in all the nations.

The Great Commission is an audacious undertaking, all the more so given the fast and sweeping changes taking place in the broader culture. People are lonelier, more distracted and more tethered to their screens, and searching for meaningful lives. As Christians bring the unchanging message of the Gospel to the world, effective approaches to discipleship become more important, especially in a world that is increasingly polarized around spiritual issues.

So what is the current state of discipleship in the U.S.?
Is the church effective in its efforts? Are churchgoers involved in discipleship activities, and if so, which models do they prefer? And perhaps most importantly, do investments in discipleship actually affect spiritual growth? To answer these questions, Barna Group, commissioned by The Navigators and NavPress, conducted a comprehensive, multi-phase research study among Christian adults, church leaders, exemplar discipleship ministries and Christian educators. Here’s what the research uncovered.

Read the entire report and see the results HERE

How Not To Make Disciples


Want to know how NOT to make disciples? In this humorous and insightful 2 minute video clip from the Verge Conference, Francis Chan begins to answer the question, “How can we make true disciples of Jesus?”


(ht: Verge)

12 Unfortunate Reasons Why Churches Neglect Church Discipline

excerpted from Chuck Lawless at Thom Rainer's blog

Here are the twelve (8 posted here) unfortunate, yet true, reasons why churches neglect church discipline.

  1. They don’t know the Bible’s teaching on discipline. I can only guess what percentage of regular attenders in evangelical churches even know that the Bible teaches the necessity of church discipline. This topic is one that some pastors choose to avoid.
  2. They have never seen it done before. Some of the reticence to do church discipline is the result of ignorance. Frankly, I admit my own ignorance when I began serving as a pastor 30+ years ago. If you’ve never been part of a church that carried out discipline, it’s easy to let any of these following reasons halt the process.
  3. They don’t want to appear judgmental. “Judge not, lest you be judged” takes precedence over any scripture that calls for discipline, especially in a culture where political correctness rules the day. Judging, it seems, is deemed an unchristian act.
  4. The church has a wide-open front door. Church discipline is challenging to do if membership expectations are few; that is, it’s difficult to hold someone accountable to standards never stated in the first place. The easier it is to join the church, the harder it is to discipline people when necessary.
  5. They have had a bad experience with discipline in the past. For those churches that have done discipline, the memories of poorly done discipline seem to last long. They remember confrontation, judgment, heartache, and division – with apparently no attempt to produce repentance and reconciliation.
  6. The church is afraid to open “Pandora’s box.” If they discipline one church member, they fear establishing a pattern that can’t be halted as long as human beings comprise their congregation. To put it another way, they wonder how many members will remain if they discipline every member with unrepentant sin.
  7. They have no guidelines for discipline. For what sins is discipline necessary? At what point does church leadership choose to make public a private sin? Rather than wrestle with tough questions, many churches just ignore the topic.
  8. They fear losing members (or dollars). We hope no congregation makes decisions based solely on attendance and income, but we know otherwise. Sometimes churches tolerate sin rather than risk decline.
Read the last 4 at the original post

Eight Steps For Training Disciples

Robert Coleman’s eloquent and succinct The Master Plan of Evangelism essentially took apart Jesus’ life and put it back together again, identifying eight steps Jesus used to make and to equip disciples.
Let’s look at a summary of those steps.

1. Selection — people were his method. Jesus believed that people should reach other people. He could have used an exclusive barrage of miracles, or he could have brought everything to conclusion while on earth. Instead he chose common men and women like us to reach the world. This demonstrates not only his love for us, but also his confidence in us.

2. Association — he stayed with them. With the first disciples, the essence of Jesus’ training meant just letting his disciples follow him. He drew them close to himself, becoming his own school and curriculum.

3. Consecration — he required obedience. Jesus expected his disciples to obey him. He didn’t require them to be smart, but he wanted them to be loyal — to the extent that obeying him became the distinguishing mark they were known by. “Disciples” meant they were the Master’s “learners” or “pupils.” Later Jesus’ disciples became known as “Christians” (Acts 11:26), a fitting description of obedient followers who took on the character of their leader.

4. Impartation — he gave himself away. Jesus gave his disciples everything: what the Father had given him (John 15:5); his peace (John 16:33); his joy (John 15:11); the keys to his kingdom (Matthew 16:19); and his own glory (John 17:22,24). He withheld nothing, not even his life.

5. Demonstration — he showed them how to live. Jesus showed the disciples how to pray, study, and relate to others. More than twenty times the Gospels recount Jesus’ practice of prayer. He taught the disciples about the use of Scripture by extensively using words from the Old Testament. As the disciples saw Jesus interact with Nicodemus, the woman at the well, the rich young ruler, and many others, Jesus showed them how to talk to and how to treat others.

6. Delegation — he assigned them work. From day one, Jesus prepared his disciples to take over the mission. He gradually turned over responsibility, sending out the seventy (Matthew 10:1-42) and giving extensive instructions to the Twelve (Luke 10:1-20). He told the disciples to follow his methods, to expect hardships, and to go out in pairs. Following his resurrection, he clearly gave the disciples the responsibility to take the gospel to the entire world (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).

7. Supervision — he kept checking on them. When Jesus gave the disciples work to do, he followed up. He listened to their reports and blessed them. When he was with the disciples, he spent time helping them understand the reason for a previous action or preparing them for a new experience. He used questions, illustrations, warnings, and admonitions to teach the disciples what they needed to know to reach the world.

8. Reproduction — he expected them to reproduce. Jesus told the disciples to pray for workers (Matthew 9:36-38), and he called them to teach everyone to obey his teaching (Matthew 28:20). He required the costly elements of leadership development and reproduction, and expected the disciples to reproduce by finding other disciples who would also follow Jesus.

The Most Important Question To Ask During Conflict

Conflict With Friends
"When you write a very angry letter to a friend who has hurt you deeply, don’t send it! Let the letter sit on your table for a few days and read it over a number of times. Then ask yourself: “Will this letter bring life to me and my friend? Will it bring healing, will it bring a blessing?” You don’t have to ignore the fact that you are deeply hurt. You don’t have to hide from your friend that you feel offended. But you can respond in a way that makes healing and forgiveness possible and opens the door for new life. Rewrite the letter if you think it does not bring life, and send it with a prayer for your friend.”
 – Henri Nouwen

Great advice from Henri Nouwen. Friends are a tremendous gift from God and yet real friends will at times offend and wound us (and let us not forget that we will wound them too). So although it is important to bring truth as you confront and address that friend, it is also equally important to bring grace too.

Email and texting has made it too easy to send out, at light speed, angry and thoughtless words. Take time. Sit prayerfully on your words and don't forget to ask the question, Will what I am about to say bring life to me and my friend?

Following Jesus Is Not For Wimps

Wimp
When I travel down to central Florida to visit family, I find myself in the heart and epicenter of the retired world. During one visit while browsing in a local shop I saw a funny and clever t-shirt that said, "Getting Old Ain't For Wimps".  And while that sentiment may be true, I think that it is even more certain to say that "following Jesus" ain't for wimps either.

You don't have to be a Christian too long to know that being a follower of Jesus isn't easy.
It's messy
It challenges us
It provokes us
It is not always simple
It calls for surrender
It demands that we die - to ourself

G.K. Chesterton wrote this very insightful thought:

“Christianity has not so much been tried and found wanting, as it has been found difficult and left untried.” (Tweet This)

So how do we follow Jesus when it is so hard, difficult and challenging? Contrary to popular practice, the answer to following Jesus isn't found in trying harder, gritting your teeth and striving. 

Rather following Jesus is simply about relationship and rest.  It is about leaning into Him and resting in Him with complete surrender and trust. It is about knowing the truth and efficacy of the gospel when it says that in Jesus we are found completely righteous, accepted and loved.

We are to rest and trust in that reality and truth. This is why I appreciate Jesus' invitation in Matthew 11:28-30:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

25 Evidences Of A Backslidden Condition

Backsliding

The term "backsliding" may not be in vogue these day. For some it may even seem to be considered archaic. Yet regardless of the term you want to apply for someone who retreats in their faith, the issue and concerns are nevertheless real and relevant.

Too often we hear of public evangelical leaders, our pastors, Christian friends, and others who profess Christ yet succumb to a pattern of grievous sin.  Or perhaps we hear about someone who had at one time claimed faith then all of a sudden they deny it. We ask ourself, how did they get there? (or perhaps a more important question is, how is it that we won't go there ourselves?)

Backsliding is not an overnight journey, rather it is a slow progression.  It is a sliding back and away from Jesus, the cross and the means of grace  - to a state of religious outward conformity but with no inner spiritual life that matches it.

In his book, Revival, Richard Owen Robert lays 25 evidences of a backslidden condition. He expounds on each in greater details, but below are just the main points. Consider them seriously.

1. When prayer ceases to be a vital part of a professing Christian’s life, backsliding is present. (Tweet This)

2. When the quest for biblical truth ceases and one grows content with the knowledge of eternal things already acquired, there can be no mistaking the presence of backsliding.

3. When the biblical knowledge possessed or acquired is treated as external fact and not applied inwardly, backsliding is present.

4. When earnest thoughts about eternal things cease to be regular and gripping, it should be like a warning light to the backslider.

5. When the services of the church lose their delights, a backslidden condition probably exists.

6. When pointed spiritual discussions are an embarrassment, that is certain evidence of backsliding. (Tweet This)

7. When sports, recreation and entertainment are a large and necessary part of your lifestyle, you may assume backsliding is in force.

8. When sins of the body and of the mind can be indulged in without an uproar in your conscience your backslidden condition is certain.

9. When aspirations for Christlike holiness cease to be dominant in your life and thinking, backsliding is there. (Tweet This)

10. When the acquisition of money and goods becomes a dominant part of your thinking, you have clear confirmation of backsliding.

11. When you can mouth religious songs and words without heart, be sure backsliding is present.

12. When you can hear the Lord’s name taken in vain, spiritual concerns mocked and eternal issues flippantly treated, and not be moved to indignation and action, you are backslidden.

13. When you can watch degrading movies and television and read morally debilitating literature, you can be sure you are backslidden.

14. When breaches of peace in the brotherhood are of no concern to you, that is proof of backsliding.

15. When the slightest excuse seems sufficient to keep you from spiritual duty and opportunity, you are backslidden.

16. When you become content with your lack of spiritual power and no longer seek repeated enduements of power from on high, you are backslidden.

17. When you pardon your own sin and sloth by saying the Lord understands and remembers that we are dust, you have revealed your backslidden condition.

18. When there is no music in your soul and no song in your heart, the silence testifies to your backsliding.

19. When you adjust happily to the worlds’ lifestyle, your own mirror will tell the truth of your backsliding.

20. When injustice and human misery exist around you and you do little or nothing to relieve the suffering, be sure you are backslidden.

21. When your church has fallen into spiritual declension and the Word of God is no longer preached there with power and you are still content, you are in a backslidden condition.

22. When the spiritual condition of the world declines around you and you cannot perceive it , that is testimony of your backslidden stance.

23. When you are willing to cheat your employer, backsliding is apparent.

24. When you find yourself rich in grace and mercy and marvel at your own godliness, then you have fallen far in your backsliding.

25. When your tears are dried up and the hard, cold spiritual facts of your existence cannot unleash them, see this as an awful testimony both of the hardness of your heart and the depth of your backsliding.

(taken from Revival, Richard Owen Roberts)


13 Resources For Ministry Leaders Who Struggle With Porn

Church Drowning Porn

The culture is drowning in porn and unfortunately the church and it's leaders aren't doing much better. Below are some helpful resources for ministry leaders to help them out of the bondage of porn and onto the pathway of freedom. Please feel free to add in the comments section any resources that have been helpful for you.

from Covenant Eyes:

Internet Pornography: A Ministry Leader’s Handbook —This free e-book, written by pastors and counselors, helps ministers who struggle with pornography understand the importance of confession and accountability. It addresses why pastors are particularly vulnerable to pornographic temptations and what should be done to bring this truth into the light.

10 Stories of Pastors in the StruggleRead, watch, and listen to the stories of pastors who have struggled deeply with porn and sex addiction and how God set them free.

PornToPurity.com — Jeff and Marsha Fisher were church planters until Jeff’s porn addiction came to light. After he was removed from church leadership and found help in overcoming his sin, he started PornToPurity.com, a website for anyone trapped in sexual temptations.

Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle, by Michael John Cusick — Michael was sexually abused and exposed to pornography as a child. Later in life, serving as both a youth pastor and a counselor at a Christian university, his sexual struggles only became more acute with porn and prostitutes. This book talks about what he learned in the midst of recovery

Ashamed No More: A Pastor’s Journey Through Sex Addiction, by T.C. Ryan — Pastor Ryan had a lifelong struggle with sexual addiction and secrecy. This book shares his story of learning to let the gospel of Christ transform him into a man who can be open, honest, and unashamed before God and his Christian family.

Breaking the Silence: A Pastor Goes Public About His Battle with Pornography, by Bernie Anderson — Bernie Anderson battled behind closed doors with pornography for years. In this book, Anderson tells his personal story of struggle and how God changed his life, giving practical tips to protect yourself and your family.

My Struggle, Your Struggle, by David Erik Jones — Pastor Jones struggled with porn as a pastor. This book is his personal story of porn addiction that lasted 20 years and how he found freedom while serving in the ministry.

Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn’t Good Enough, by Justin and Trisha Davis — Justin didn’t just struggle with porn. As a pastor, he also began an affair with another church staff member. This book shares Justin and Trisha’s story and how their marriage recovered.

The Pornography Trap, by Dr. Mark Laaser and Ralph Earl, Jr. This book addresses what should be done when ministry leaders (pastors, deacons, choir directors, Sunday school teachers, etc.) struggle with Internet pornography. The authors share the core issues related to sexual sin and how to develop a biblical view of healthy sexuality.

Restoring the Soul of a Church, edited by Dr. Mark Laaser This book from the The Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institute describes the devastation that can happen to a church congregation when a pastor sexually sins and is removed from the church. It gives insight about the neglected secondary victims of abuse: the congregation, the wider community, other clergy, the wider church, the offender’s family, and the pastor who takes over.

Stone Gate ResourcesDr. Harry Schaumburg has been counseling Christian men and women about sexual and relational brokenness for years—with a special emphasis on caring for pastors and ministry leaders caught in sexual sin. His intensive counseling is known around the world as one of the best for sexual addiction.

ThrivingPastor.org — This is a ministry of Focus on the Family for pastors, including a pastoral care line for ministers who need to speak with a trained counselor.

PornFreedomNOW.com - This site is part of the Ministry Best Practices network. On the site are valuable resources and articles to combat and address pornography within the church.

excerpted from Covenant Eyes

Please feel free to add in the comments section any resources that have been helpful for you.

How God Uses Our Spiritual Dryness In Our Life

Spiritual Dryness and Desert
Sometimes we experience a terrible dryness in our spiritual life. We feel no desire to pray, don’t experience God’s presence, get bored with worship services, and even think that everything we ever believed about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is little more than a childhood fairy tale. 
Then it is important to realize that most of these feelings and thoughts are just feelings and thoughts, and that the Spirit of God dwells beyond our feelings and thoughts. It is a great grace to be able to experience God’s presence in our feelings and thoughts, but when we don’t, it does not mean that God is absent. It often means that God is calling us to a greater faithfulness. It is precisely in times of spiritual dryness that we must hold on to our spiritual discipline so that we can grow into new intimacy with God.
- Henri Nouwen

How do you move and press on through those seasons of spiritual dryness? 

I know that as a ministry leader or pastor it is much tougher to experience those times, because we are often expected by those we serve and minster among to always and perpetually be hearing from and drawing near to God. Yet we will also experience periods and occasions of spiritual dryness.

So how do we work through those seasons of spiritual dryness? What should spiritual dryness teach us? Firstly, spiritual dryness should drive us to desire and seek God.  It should push us deeper to the Lord. Also, it should prompt us to ask, God - what are you wanting to teach me? Spiritual dryness should be seen as a means, tool and instrument of God to help us examine our lives more closely. 

Isaiah 50:10 - "let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God."

4 Tips For Memorizing God's Word


As followers of Christ, we need to hide God's Word in our heart - here are some great tips to help integrate memorization of the Word within our daily life.

excerpted from Gloria Furman and Crossway

1. Pray It
Are you faced with a situation that grieves you? Circumstances that frustrate you to no end? Things that make you feel like there’s no point to life? Seize the opportunity to pray through the Scripture that you have memorized. Pray the words that the Spirit divinely authored. You never know when those verses you have memorized will lead you to prayer, comfort you as you pray, and instruct you in your prayers as the Lord intended them to do.

2. Announce It
How many times have you had an opportunity to share the gospel and felt frustrated by a loss for words? When we memorize verses about the gospel, we will become better prepared to announce the gospel. Since faith comes through hearing and hearing through the word of Christ, we can take seemingly outlandish confidence that the verses we have memorized explicitly concerning the Good News (and other verses!) will be of unparalleled benefit to our hearers. Taking opportunities to announce the gospel as the Spirit leads also drives God’s Word deeper into our own hearts.

3. Sing It
Do you need to hear something that is “music to your soul”? There are hundreds of verses in the Bible that were written so God’s people could sing them. Some modern musicians have even put lots of other verses to music in really enjoyable arrangements. On one memorable day this year, God steadied my heart as I sang with my kids in the car, “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name” (Ps. 86:11). Singing Scripture on different occasions is one more way that our circumstances can serve our Scripture memory.

4. Teach It
Scripture doesn’t “come alive” when it is skillfully taught because it already is “living and active” (Heb. 4:12). God’s Word is what makes us come alive! Dive deep into the study of the Bible and talk about what you’re learning with other women, and see how the God’s Word gets stamped indelibly on your own heart. When we take the passages we’ve memorized and explain them to others, defend them to skeptics, and talk about how we are applying them to our lives, the Word not only edifies those who listen, but it also works in us.

(ht: Crossway)

4 Lessons From The School Of Suffering



from Darryl Dash:

Suffering is real, and it is a very good teacher. Okay, I knew this, but I knew it in a new way last year. There is something about experiencing an intense period of suffering. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but I’m the better for it. What Spurgeon said is true:
Do we not profit most in stormy times? Have you not found it so -- that your sick-bed -- your bereavement -- your depression of spirit, has instructed you in many matters which tranquility and delight have never whispered to you? I suppose we ought: to learn as much by joy as by sorrow, and I hope that many of my Lord's better servants do so; but, alas! others of us do not; affliction has to be called in to whip the lesson into us.
Christianity has rich resources for suffering, but Christians often don’t. The Psalms and other writings became real to me in new ways. My prayer life was deepened even as my prayers contained fewer words. The consolation from knowing that Jesus was no stranger to suffering became even more precious.

At the same time, I found that there’s a stigma to certain kinds of suffering in the church. We aren’t always comfortable when the answers aren’t easy. Perhaps it’s an over-realized eschatology (complete victory is ours now!) or a lack of experience, but I wish we were better equipped to stand with those who are suffering.

There’s a secret group of sufferers. Begin to speak about your suffering and you will find a lot of people who say, “You too?” I was amazed by the number of people who understood what we were going through, because they’d been through it too.

Weakness is the way. One of the things I’ll never forget is Charlene’s reminder that weakness isn’t a distraction from ministry; it’s often in our weakness, not our strength, that God most powerfully works. God seems to love using weak people. As J.I. Packer writes:

For all Christians, the likelihood is rather that as our discipleship continues, God will make us increasingly weakness-conscious and pain-aware, so that we may learn with Paul that when we are conscious of being weak, then— and only then— may we become truly strong in the Lord. And should we want it any other way? (Weakness is the Way)

At some level, the suffering continues, as do the lessons, although at a completely different level. I pray I’ll never forget the lessons I’ve learned in the school of suffering.

Four Kinds Of People

As you approach discipling and shepherding those within your church and ministry, it is helpful to see and understand that there are four kinds of people in the world and in your church (via Tim Keller):

Law-obeying, law-relying. These people are under the law, and are usually very smug, self-righteous and superior. Externally, they are very sure they are right with God, but deep down, they have a lot of insecurity, since no one can truly be assured that they are living up to the standard. This makes them touchy, sensitive to criticism and devastated when their prayers aren't answered. This includes members of other religions, but here I am thinking mainly of people who go to church. These people have much in common with the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.

Law-disobeying, law-relying. These people have a religious conscience of strong works-righteousness, but they are not living consistently with it. As a result of this, they are more humble and more tolerant of others than the “Pharisees” above, but they are also much more guilt-ridden, subject to mood swings and sometimes very afraid of religious topics. Some of these people may go to church, but they stay on the periphery because of their low spiritual self-esteem.

Law-disobeying, not law-relying. These are the people who have thrown off the concept of the law of God. They are intellectually secular or relativistic, or have a very vague spirituality. They largely choose their own moral standards and then insist that they are meeting them. But Paul, in Romans 1:18-20, says that at a sub-conscious level, they know there is a God who they should be obeying. Such people are usually happier and more tolerant than either of the above groups. But usually there is a strong, liberal self-righteousness. They are earning their own salvation by feeling superior to others. It is just that this is usually a less obvious kind of self-righteousness.

Law-obeying, not law-relying. These are Christians who understand the gospel and are living out of the freedom of it. They obey the law of God out of grateful joy that comes from the knowledge of their sonship, and out of freedom from the fear and selfishness that false idols had generated. They are more tolerant than number 3, more sympathetic than number 1, and more confident than number 2. But most Christians struggle to live out number 4, and tend to see the world as a #1, #2, or even #3 person. But to the degree that they do, they are impoverished spiritually.

Porn In The Church - Infographic

- this infographic is cross-posted and developed in coordination with PornFreedomNOW.com

A Promise Keepers survey at one of their stadium events revealed that over 50% of the men in attendance were involved with pornography within one week of attending the event. Porn isn't just a problem "out there", it is running rampant within the church - from the people in the pews all the way to the person in the pulpit

We must be willing as Christ's church to bring this issue into the light in order to address it and not let shame or denial create silence.

For online help for internet porn - for you, your family and your church - visit Covenant Eyes.

5 Strategic Fails Of Making Disciples


Information doesn't guarantee transformation. Information alone doesn't change people. If it does, what's our excuse? (Because never before in the history of the church has it been sooo resourced.) There's been a big disconnect between the head and the heart. Discipleship isn't merely about information download. Too often we have treated discipleship like a classroom. But Jesus didn't disciple in a classroom. It was life on life. With life on life spiritual investment comes true, meaningful and real spiritual transformation.

Never equate longevity with maturity. It is possible to be in the church a long time but not have increasing evidence of Jesus' indwelling. Any congregation can become a spiritual club, where graytops are merely infants in diapers. I heard a friend say that too many people in the church suffer from the Sponge Bob problem - they just come to church to sit and soak. If that is all people do, they will never grow. Spiritual transformation is never passive.

The measurement of discipleship is merely obedience.  This statement by itself is false, although obedience and life transformation is certainly a part of spiritual growth.  Yes it is true that discipleship isn't merely about "knowing", but we must be "applying", otherwise it falls short.  But I would add this qualifier - we don't want obedience stemming from legalism, but rather a person whose heart and life is captured by the love of the gospel.

Personal charisma doesn't guarantee transformation. You can be a nice guy and still be a damned nice guy. Having spiritual manners -- even some spiritual sensitivity -- doesn't make you mature. Nice people are adept at fooling others. Of course it is true that external niceness doesn't necessarily indicate internal heart transformation. People can wear masks and be posers. Discipleship demands that we are willing to delve beyond external behavior and manners and get deep into matter of the heart.

Disciples aren't made effectively in classes. There's no way around it: time, time, more time. Coffee, coffee, more coffee. One conversation, then another. Classes are components but shouldn't be the main method. Disciples are made within the messiness of real life. There is no substitute for it. People want to see how faith intersects real issues, struggles and challenges in life. You can't teach that in a classroom.

(ht: Fresh Ministry Ideas)

Danger In Loving The Ideas More Than God

Bad things happen when maturity is more defined by knowing than it is by being. Danger is afloat when you come to love the ideas more than the God whom they represent and the people they are meant to free...... 
....The ultimate purpose of the Word of God is not theological information but heart and life transformation.
- Paul Tripp, Dangerous Calling

Why Pastors Need The Body Of Christ


I've been reading recently Paul Tripp's book - Dangerous Calling, and it's been an incredibly challenging and convicting book.  One theme that Paul discusses, is the need for pastors to be connected and ministered to by the body of Christ - the very body that they themselves serve.  Pastors need the church every bit as the congregants...yet too often pastors are disconnected and isolated from the life of the church either in an attempt of self protection or spiritual pride.  Paul discusses this issue in a commentary from the Christian Post:
Pastor, have you ever asked the question, "Who am I, and what do I spiritually need?" Or have you ever thought about your pastor and asked, "Who's my pastor, and what does he need in order to remain spiritually healthy and to grow in grace?" Does it seem right and healthy to you that in many churches no one gets less of the ministry of the body of Christ than the pastor? Does it seem best to you that most pastors live outside of and above the body of Christ? 
If every pastor is in the middle of his own sanctification, shouldn't he receive the normal range of essential ministry from the body of Christ that God has ordained for every member? Is there any indication in the New Testament that the pastor is the exception to the normal rules that God has designed for the health and grow of his people? Is it possible that we've constructed a kind of relationship of the pastor to his congregation that can't work? Could it be that we're asking something of our pastors that they'll be unable to do? Is it biblical to tell pastors that they won't be able to be true friends with anyone, that they must live in isolation that we'd say is unhealthy for anyone else. 
Blind Leading the Blind 
You only need to take seriously what the Bible says about the presence and power of remaining sin to know the great danger in allowing anyone to live separate from the essential ministry of the body of Christ. How much greater is the danger then, for the person who's charged with leading, guiding, and protecting that body as a representative of Christ? If Christ is the head of his body, then everything else is just body. The most influential pastor or ministry leader is a member of the body of Christ; therefore he needs what the other members of the body need. An intentional culture of pastoral separation and isolation is neither biblical nor spiritually healthy. 
Let me suggest one passage, which I've written about before, that powerfully reinforces this point. It's Hebrews 3:12-13. "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." This passage gives a critical warning and an essential call that together reinforce the presence and power of remaining sin and the need for the daily ministry of the body of Christ. 
I don't know if you noticed, but the warning in this passage pictures the progressive steps of the believer's heart hardening. (The greeting, "brothers," tells us this passage is written to believers.) The warning reads like this: "See to it that none of you has an evil – unbelieving – falling away – hardened heart." It's a picture of what sin does if undetected, unexposed, and unforsaken. Pastor, could it be that many of us are progressing toward hard-heartedness and don't even know it? Could it be that we spend so much time warning others that we fail to heed the warnings ourselves? Could it be that there are subtle places where you've already fallen away? Could it be that even in your heart as a pastor there are pockets of unbelief? 
So pastor, here's the critical question: have you taken this warning seriously? Do you properly observe the presence and power of sin that remains in your heart? Does this cause you to live and minister with a personal sense of seriousness and need? Does it drive you to daily seek the forgiving, rescuing, transforming, and delivering grace of Christ? Does it lead you to seek, participate in, and submit to God's instruments of grace readily available in the body of Christ? Or have you attempted to do alone (your walk with God) what was designed to be a community project?

How Porn Is Harming Our Churches


Ministry leader, I hope that I don't have to tell you that pornography is prevalent everywhere today.

In fact, one in eight online searches is for pornography. Because pornography thrives in secrecy, many members of your congregation may be trapped in a cycle of sin and shame, thinking that they’re the only ones facing the temptation.

Download this FREE e-book, Porn-Free Church: Raising up gospel communities to destroy secret sins, to find out how you can help your congregation find freedom from porn in the Gospel. You’ll learn:
  • How pornography is harming our churches.
  • How to talk about pornography to people in your church.
  • What the Bible says about accountability.
  • How to counsel men struggling with pornography.
  • How to move past large events and pancake breakfasts to create a culture of accountability in your church.

How To Disciple A New Believer


How do you disciple new believers?

Discipleship involves a lot, but one of the most important things you can do with a new believer is read the Bible with them–teaching them how to read, understand, respond to, and apply God’s Word.

How I disciple, from Justin:

-Every Wednesday night these guys come to my house to join in our Neighborhood Group with a bunch of other people from our church and neighborhood.

-I have the guys come 30 minutes early so that the three of us can read the Bible together.

-Each week we read one paragraph of Scripture together and talk about it. Right now we’re reading Philippians because it’s the book I’m preaching through, it’s the book all of our Neighborhood Groups are studying, and because I think Philippians is a pivotal book to master for new believers.

-Each week I ask the guys two questions about the text: 1) What did this text mean in its original 1st century context? 2) What does this text mean for our lives today? As we work through these two questions I connect our thoughts to Jesus and the bigger storyline of Scripture.

-From 30 minutes of Bible reading and these two questions we end up covering a ton of theological and practical ground. Last week’s study of Philippians 1:3-11 led to conversation about the Trinity, the second coming of Christ, how to pray, and God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.

Most believers have never been intentionally discipled and most believers have no clue how to go about discipling a new believer. The problem is that people don’t have a good understanding of what discipleship is. Here’s a definition for you:

Discipleship is truth transferred through relationship.

It’s that simple.

What are you waiting for? Find two people you can start doing this with.

Discipline Is The Other Side of Discipleship

 “Discipline is the other side of discipleship. Discipleship without discipline is like waiting to run in the marathon without ever practicing. Discipline without discipleship is like always practicing for the marathon but never participating. It is important, however, to realize that discipline in the spiritual life is not the same as discipline in sports. Discipline in sports is the concentrated effort to master the body so that it can obey the mind better. Discipline in the spiritual life is the concentrated effort to create the space and time where God can become our master and where we can respond freely to God’s guidance.
Thus, discipline is the creation of boundaries that keep time and space open for God. Solitude requires discipline, worship requires discipline, caring for others requires discipline. They all ask us to set apart a time and a place where God’s gracious presence can be acknowledged and responded to.”
 - Henri Nouwen

(ht: Dream Awakener)

How To Ask The Right Accountability Questions


We can't effectively live the Christian life isolated from others.  We need others to walk beside us, encouraging us, motivating us, and speaking grace and truth into our life.   Having those kinds of people such as accountability partners is only successful if you consistently meet, are brutally honest, and ask the right questions. Here is a sample of those types of "right" questions.


Spiritual

#1 - Did the Bible live in you this week?
#2 - Do you give it time to speak to you everyday?
#3 - Are you enjoying prayer?
#4 - Do you trust God?
#5 - When did you last speak to someone about your faith?

Relationships

#6 - Have you been honoring, understanding, and generous to your family and important relationships?
#7 - Have you damaged another person by your words, either behind their back or face-to-face?

Lust of the Eyes (Generosity)

#8 - Have you been materialistic or too focused on having something?
#9 - Have you been generous?

Pride of Life (Humility)

#10 - Have you been proud or too focused on being something?
#11 - Are you giving God the glory?

Lust of the Flesh (Integrity)

#12 - Is God honored in the way you eat and drink?
#13 - Are you improving your health through nutrition and exercise?
#14 - Have you been exposed to sexually alluring material or allowed your mind to entertain inappropriate thoughts about someone who is not your spouse this week?
#15 - Have you been with a woman anywhere this past week that might be seen as compromising?

These questions don’t cover everything, but they are manageable and help keep a broad scope of lifestyle goals in the forefront of your mind throughout the week.

(ht: Kent)