Tag Archives: discipleship

Growing In Our Faith

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I remember when my son was very young. A few months after he started crawling everywhere, he started pulling himself up and standing. When he would let go, he would wobble a little bit. My wife would be concerned that he was going to fall and hit his head. I would take him by the hands to help him balance, and then I would pull him gently forward to encourage him to begin to take steps. It wasn’t long before he would walk wherever he wanted as long as he had a good grasp on my fingers. Then I would let him hold something, I would move a few feet away and coax him to take steps by himself. Once he was good with that, he began to walk everywhere he wanted to go.

Imagine what we as parents would do if after all that, our kids decided to go back to crawling. It would be frustrating for sure because walking is the better way to move around. When the New Testament was written, there was an expectation placed on believers. Once they accepted Jesus, they were encouraged to grow and take steps in their faith. Their new life through salvation happened in an instant, but growth took time. To be saved was great, but it wasn’t the goal. Growth was. Moving forward in your faith and deepening it was. Becoming a disciple was. Paul, who wrote more books in the New Testament than anyone, wrote consistently to us that salvation should change how we live, speak and act. His letters were like a parent calling out to a child to let go so they could take steps forward.

Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like ignorant people, but like wise people. Make good use of every opportunity you have, because these are evil days” (GNT). Paul is encouraging us to live diligent lives according to God’s ways. We are to be continuously moving towards Christlikeness in our lives. We do that by examining ourselves daily to see what we need to let go of in order to step out in faith. We all have things that we need to let go of in order to live the way God called us to. God is calling out to you to move from where you are to your next step. He wants you to trust Him, to grow, to increase your faith and to walk. Make use of every opportunity to grow that you can. We need deeper faith to guide us in the days we’re living in.

Photo by Bob Price from Pexels

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Fully Surrendered

Photo by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash

One of the books I’ve just read is about discipleship and how churches can create them. The first section of the book helps to define the four areas where people get stuck in the spiritual continuum. Many people never move past exploring Christ. They stand at the edge of receiving Him, but aren’t willing to give their heart to Him. Others who have accepted Jesus struggle to reconcile their private faith with their public life. They have a hard time growing in Christ. Once people become a new creation and develop spiritual disciplines, their life transforms and they move close to Christ. However, the next move is the hardest. It’s one thing to live for Christ, but it’s a totally different thing to completely surrender to Him living a Christ centered life. It’s where we quit asking God for direction and give Him control.

Think of the story of the rich, young ruler who came to visit Jesus in Matthew 19. He asks Jesus what he needs to do to have eternal life. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments. The guy then wants to know which ones. Jesus rattled off several of the 10 commandments. The ruler got excited and let Jesus know he’s been following the rules his whole life and feels like there’s more, so he asks what else. Jesus then tells him to sell everything he has, give the money to the poor and then follow Him. The young man went away sad because he was willing to follow the rules of Christianity, but he wasn’t willing to surrender his life completely to Jesus. He wanted Christianity and eternal life without fully surrendering his life.

Psalm 37:5 says, “Give God the right to direct your life, and as you trust him along the way you’ll find he pulled it off perfectly!” (TPT) We usually look down on the rich young ruler for not giving up his possessions, but you and I hold things back from Jesus all the time. We seek Him for guidance, but are we giving Him the right to direct our life? It’s like my driving navigation app. When it tells me to turn, sometimes I go straight because I think I know better. I’m driving and it’s guiding. When we approach Jesus that way, we may be living a life that is close to Christ, but it’s not fully surrendered to Him. God is calling you and I into a deeper relationship with Him that requires more surrender the closer we get. To fully surrender to Him is to fully trust Him.

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Living a 3D Life in a 2D World

If you aren’t familiar with the term “catfish” in today’s society, according to urbandictionary.com it is “someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using… social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.” Last year, NCAA football Heisman candidate Manti Te’o made national headlines when it was discovered he was catfished. MTV also has a show devoted to catfishing. It’s hard to know who is real in this 2D digital age.

It’s no wonder millennials are skeptical of everyone including Christians. They don’t know who is real and who isn’t. They are dropping out of churches at an alarming rate. The Barna Group says 59% of those who grew up in church leave in the first decade of their adult life. Most who leave the church never had significant relationships in the church. The same research shows that 70% of those who dropped out never had a close friendship with an adult.

They’re looking for relationships from someone who is real and knows how to make being a Christian relevant in today’s society. Going to dinner, hanging out, being open and honest and spending spare time with them is important. They aren’t interested in the masks we wear at church that say everything is fine and life is perfect as a Christian. They need someone who will invest in a relationship with them and isn’t afraid to be honest to the point of showing their faults and doubts.

Another area where we as the Church can help to reach this generation is by being devoted to God’s Word. We have to know what the Bible says and how to apply it to relationships, family, jobs, hard times, uncertainties and more. It’s not enough to Google a scripture, point to it and say, “Well that’s what God’s Word says.” You need to know the scripture and be able to share how you understand it and how you have applied it to your life. They need to know why you believe what you do so you must be able to articulate your beliefs.

Finally, I believe that we need to be mentored by those in the church. They need discipleship in its purest form: one on one mentoring. They aren’t looking to learn about God from Sunday School. They want someone who has experienced God in a real way to sit down with them, befriend them and show them how God integrates into every point of life. They need someone to walk through God’s Word with them and to show them how they can apply it. They want to know your experiences with applying the Bible to day to day life. In short, they’re looking for someone to be real.

I believe they are looking for someone to live a 3D life in this 2D world. They want someone who truly is Devoted to God’s Word, can Dine with them and Disciple them. The early church gave us this model on Acts 2:46-47. It says, “They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved. (MSG)” God’s plan for growing the Early Church will still work today.

I’m writing today’s devotion as a prelude to a book idea. The Barna Group has an idea for a series of books called Frames. They are looking to create short, meaningful reads on the top issues facing us in today’s complex culture. They have nine frames ready and are looking for an unknown author to write the tenth. I’m wanting to write about living a 3D life in a 2D world as a way to attract and keep millennials. You can help me if you have a Twitter account by retweeting this. You can also learn more about Barna Frames and submit your idea by clicking here.

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What Are You Building?

I was looking at some old photo albums at church last week when I came across one from 1993. It was pictures of my first mission trip where we went to a small village in the heart of Mexico to build a church. Not only was I 20 years younger, I was 20 years skinnier! As I flipped through the pictures, I got excited all over again. I remembered the fun I had, the blessings I received, the people we touched and the work we did. I spent more time on that trip building relationships than building the church building.

That trip not only got me excited for a lifetime of doing missions work, but also taught me the value in building relationships. I believe that the best way to grow the church is through relationships. When you look at the ministry of Jesus, that’s what He did. He went place to place building relationships with the people He came into contact with. He focused His ministry on building the kingdom not buildings.

Paul is another great example of someone who built their ministry on relationships. All the books in the New Testament that he wrote were to people and churches he had relationships with. You can’t speak to people the way he did without having first built a relationship with them. He not only spent time ministering in places he went, he spent time working beside fellow believers. He wasn’t just trying to preach to a large crowd, get an offering and leave. He was investing in the people he was ministering to.

If it was good enough for Jesus and Paul, shouldn’t it be good enough for us today? How many of us truly spend quality time getting to know others we’re ministering to or with? In I Corinthians 3, Paul said that some plant seeds, some water and some harvest. Planting, watering and harvesting are all done through relationships. The harvest doesn’t come unless someone has invested time in a relationship planting seeds and watering them.

If God’s desire is to have a relationship with you and me, shouldn’t we desire to have relationships with others? The underlying story of the Bible is God trying desperately to find ways to connect with us so we can have that relationship with Him. Ministry isn’t only done behind the pulpit. Ministry is done on the streets, in people’s homes, at your job and at dinner tables. Each of us have been called to go and make disciples. Discipleship is done through relationships.

Preachers, evangelists and missionaries aren’t the only ones called to ministry. If you bear the name “Christian”, you are called to ministry. You are called to build relationships. You are called to plant seeds. You are called to water seeds. You are called to harvest. You are called to disciple. You may not think of yourself as a minister, but you are. It is the responsibility of each of us to share what God has done in our lives with others.

What relationships do you have in your life that need work? What relationships in your life have you neglected? Who do you have a relationship with now that needs Jesus? You don’t win them by forcing Him down their throat. You win them through relationship. You win them because you’ve earned the right to share what God has done for you personally. Don’t spend more time building a ministry than you do building relationships. If you build relationships, the ministry opportunities will come.

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