Wednesday, September 26, 2007

How (really) to Make Disciples

     Okay, I am finally writing about how to make disciples the way Jesus did. First, a disclaimer: I am hardly an expert at this, so if you don't like what I write, I welcome your input! Basically I will just take a look at Scripture and attempt to describe what Jesus actually did to make disciples (I think we all know that Jesus told His followers to make disciples, right? And since He had was talking to His disciples, I think I am safe to assume that how He did it was what He had in mind!). So here goes...
     First, make sure you are really Jesus' disciple. Well, that's a bit obvious, but I didn't want to have anyone reading this assume that you can just decide to make disciples without first having been discipled into a place of maturity as a true follower of Jesus. After all, Jesus' disciplemaking was based on His intimate, obedient relationship with His Father, so we must start in the same place. (See some of my earlier posts on what it really means to be like Jesus).
     Next, do something miraculous. What???? Well, that is what Jesus did. In His first contact with Andrew and Simon Peter, He prophesied Simon's future (see John 1:40-42), and He follows that by "reading" Nathanael's heart (John 1:43-50). Furthermore, in Luke's account of the calling of Simon, Andrew, James and John, Jesus starts with a miraculous catch of fish (see Luke 5:1-11). My point is that in New Testament times, following Jesus apart from a supernatural lifestyle was unthinkable. After all, we don't get very far in the Gospels before Jesus is equipping and commissioning His disciples to heal the sick, cast out demons, etc. To be a true disciple of Jesus, then, is to start in the context of supernatural power. This theme is carried through the New Testament, isn't it? The first large ingathering of new followers of Jesus (Acts 2) occurred in the context of a huge outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And Paul describes his ministry as one that was characterized by power, deep conviction and the Holy Spirit (see 1 Thessalonians 1:5 and 1 Corinthians 2:4-5). Just something to think about :-)
     Next, pray all night before inviting people to the discipleship process. What??? Well, again, that's what Jesus did. In Luke 6:12-16 we see that He prayed all night before calling the Twelve to be those whom He would "disciple" the most. And notice as you read this passage that Jesus chose those who were already following Him as disciples. This is a hugely important discipleship principle: You can disciple only those who are truly disciples already (truly born again, truly living in obedience or at least wanting to).
     Next, heal them. What??? Again, that's apparently what Jesus did. In Luke 6:40b it says, "A disciple is not above his/her teacher, but everyone who has been restored and mended so as to be fully prepared will be like his teacher." (Tom's paraphrase). Note that I have yet to find a translation that adequately translates this passage--the word that is usually translated "fully trained" or something similar is a word that refers to the mending of nets so as to make them functional again. My point here is that inner healing and deliverance are part of the disciplemaking process--one that we dare not overlook in this era of badly broken people. I may write more on this at a later time.
     Next, hang out with them. In Mark's version of the calling of the Twelve, we read, "He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons..." (NKJV emphasis mine). This is again a hugely important principle. Disciples are made only in the context of relationship and primarily by means of modeling. Thus the idea of a "discipleship class" where information is poured into people's lives is not a biblical concept. There is only one way to make disciples and that is to live the life of a follower of Jesus in the context of close relationship. That's how Jesus did it, that's also how Paul did it. Consider how many times Paul points to himself as an example (see Acts 20:18-19, 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6 and 2:4-12 for two examples) and also encourages his readers to imitate him (see 1 Corinthians 11:1 and Philippians 3:17 for two examples). And Paul clearly expected those he discipled to do the same--he tells both Timothy and Titus to be examples to those they lead (1 Timothy 4:12, Titus 2:7).
     Well, ponder these for a while, and I will write more in a couple of weeks about the "training" aspect of discipleship. As you can imagine, it will probably be different from some of what you have read or experienced in the past! For now, ponder well what is written above, asking yourself first, "Am I a disciple of Jesus?" and secondly, "If so, have I ever really truly discipled anyone?" Happy pondering to all!

Stay lost in His love, inundated by His power...

Tom, the least of Abba's children

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Five Things God is Saying to His People

As I sat down to write this week, I realized that I have an outstanding promise to share with you five things that I believe God is saying to the Church. So here goes…
Quite some time ago, I began to notice some repeated themes in what God was saying to His people through various prophetic voices. Since these themes resonated considerably with what I have been hearing, I thought it might be good to collect these in one place. The following is my attempt to do so. I have left it in outline form to ensure that this article doesn’t get too long!
Humble Yourselves. We as God’s people need to admit that much of what we have called “church” or “mission” has been based on human effort and ability, and the results have been meager at best and tragic at worst. We need to repent and humble ourselves before God, laying aside all preconceptions and all attempts to do things in our own strength. The good news is that the Bible is filled with promises for those who to humble themselves before God and others.
For/to the humble God…
  1. Saves. 2 Samuel 22:28, Psalm 149:4, Psalm 18:27 You save the humble, but you bring down those who are proud. NCV
  2. Hears. 2 Chronicles 7:14, Daniel 10:12
  3. Guides and gives understanding. Psalm 25:9, Daniel 10:12 Then the man said to me, “Daniel, do not be afraid. Some time ago you decided to get understanding and to humble yourself before your God. Since that time God has listened to you, and I have come because of your prayers. NCV
  4. Gives joy. Isaiah 29:19
  5. Gives grace. Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5
  6. Lifts up. Luke 1:52, 1 Peter 5:6, James 4:6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” NIV
  7. Sustains. Psalm 147:6
  8. Protects their calling. Numbers 12:1-16
  9. Esteems. Isaiah 66:2b “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” NIV
B. Humility is not listed as a fruit of the Spirit! Why? Because it’s an action on our part.
  1. We humble ourselves before God. 2 Chronicles 7:14; James 4:10, I Peter 5:5-6. Note that worship by definition requires us to humble ourselves before God (one of the main words for worship in Hebrew is to bow down—prostrate ourselves!).
  2. We humble ourselves before others Luke 22:24-27, Philippians 2:1-11.
Draw Near to Me. I am sure that no one who reads this blog is surprised by this one. God is calling His people back into intimacy with Him.
We were Created for intimacy.
Romans 8:14-16 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Ephesians 2:13 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
So God says to us, “Draw near!”
James 4:8a Come near to God, and He will come near to you…”Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Psalm 63:1-5 1 O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. 2 I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. 3 Your unfailing love is better to me than life itself; how I praise you! 4 I will honor you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. 5 You satisfy me more than the richest of foods. I will praise you with songs of joy.Psalm 143:6 I reach out for you. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain.Psalm 4:7 You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.
Psalm 34:8
Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Get Close to One Another. We can no longer be content with talking about unity or pretending that we are living in real community when our relationships are so dysfunctional and unhealthy!
Unity is already ours—now we must make the effort to restore it and then live in it!
Ephesians 4:1-3 1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Unity marks us as His people
John 13:34-35 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 17:20-21 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
Be Cleansed. Does the phrase “pure and spotless Bride” mean anything to you? Yet look at the Church as we know it. “Pure and spotless” or “set apart to God” may not be the first thoughts that come to our mind!
Holiness is clearly required!
Psalm 24:3-4 3 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. 1 Peter 1:15-16 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 2 Timothy 2:20-21 NKJV20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.
But He does most of the cleaning. God is saying, “Let me clean you up!” not “Clean yourselves us by your own efforts.” His cleaning is much more thorough than ours is!
Romans 7:4-6 4 In the same way, my friends, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God.5 While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.6 But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit. (NRSV)Romans 8:12-13 12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.(NRSV)
Get Ready. I believe that those who are predicting a huge ingathering of people into the Kingdom are right. And from the place of intimacy and community, we are God’s people are being prepared to be spiritual fathers and mothers to millions (who will be fathered and mothered a few at a time). We are also being prepared to move powerfully in the supernatural realm because this generation will not be reached by a “mental” gospel!
Get ready for the Harvest! Jesus never said to pray for the harvest to be there. He said to open our eyes and to pray for God to thrust workers into the harvest!
John 4:35-38 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” Matthew 9:35-10:1 35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” 1 He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
The Five Things Defined in Paradigm Shifts
  1. From driven, controlling self-reliance to absolute surrender.
  2. From program and purpose driven to “presence drawn.”
  3. From fragmentation and “pretend unity” to genuine, functional unity.
  4. From terrible compromise and pollution to a fiery cleansing by the Spirit of God!
  5. From “come join our club” to “how can we love, serve and heal you?”
The scriptures are from The New International Version of the Bible unless otherwise indicated.
Hope this stirs up something in you!
Tom, the least of Abba’s children