Thursday, September 17, 2015

Your Children's Faith: Listening for Who's Voice?

I've recently started meeting with some parents of teenagers. Often we focus so much on the teens, that we forget the single largest influence on a teenager isn't the church: it's their parents!

Last night we looked at 1 Samuel 2-3, well we started into chapter 2 but never made it over to chapter 3. Here, in chapter 2, we get insight into what happened with Eli and his sons. They chose not to honor God in their actions, and because of this God cut off Eli's lineage. Instead, God said that he would raise up "a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind" (vs. 35). Wow, I want to raise up my children to be faithful to do what is in God's heart and mind. But how do we do that?

It starts with us. I know that wasn't the answer you wanted. But if we want our kids to be faithful to God and to walk in his heart and will, then we have to be faithful followers that are seeking His heart and will. What is God's heart and will for us?

We get a little picture of this in the next chapter with Samuel hearing God's voice. So often we wish that we could just hear God's audible voice to tell us what to do, how to live, what's next. But I don't think God's voice is the key to chapter 3. The key is in Eli's wisdom in how he tells young Samuel how to respond. "So Eli told Samuel, "God and lie down, and if he calls you say, 'Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.'""

Eli is teaching Samuel how to be open to the voice of the Lord. To wait patiently for him to speak. How to listen. And then how to walk closely with Him.

If we teach our children nothing else we need to teach them how to be listeners. They have to learn to listen for His voice before they can learn to walk in His ways. How do they listen for the voice of the Lord? How do they listen to those who are in authority over them? How do they listen to their friends? How do they listen for the voice of those who can't or won't speak up for themselves?

Children need to learn how to listen. Parents need to learn how to listen. I need to listen.

How is God teaching you to listen for His voice?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Your Children's Faith Begins With You

I woke early yesterday morning, you know the pre 5 am, why am I awake and can't go back to sleep, kind of awake. As I lie there in bed I began to pray and just talk to God. Now don't think too highly of me or that my spirituality is so great that I wake up at 5 am praying. The reality is, I was half way hoping that praying would send me back to sleep (much like it seemed to work for the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane).

After laying there for about 30 minutes it became obvious that I was not going back to sleep. I got up, went out to the couch, and began to read my Bible. God keeps sending me to Ephesians 4 this week...but that is another post.

I read and prayed for the next 30 minutes or so and then I heard a door open and out comes my son. He is an early riser anyway, but on this morning he had a bad dream and came out with a tear in his eye. He snuggled up on the couch with me and asked what I was doing. I told him that I was reading my Bible and praying. He said, "We haven't done that in a while, I wonder where my Bible is."

I pointed over to the shelf where his Bible was sitting and he went over and grabbed it (in case you are wondering it is the age appropriate version of The Story). After a bit of looking, he wanted to read the story of Sampson and we did. Then he wanted to know where the stories about Jesus began. I helped him find the New Testament section and he began to read on his own.

There we were, together on the couch, reading our Bibles. That is how discipleship begins. I look forward to more of these precious times with my children as they learn and grow in their faith!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Small Groups: #1 Pray

I have recently been asked by a good friend of mine to help him learn how to be a better small group leader. There are many things I have learned over the last 20 years or so about leading a small group, so I will attempt to share them in the next few posts.

As the title suggests first you must Pray. By this I don't mean the little sentence prayers that we do before we eat a meal or before we start a meeting. I mean spend time in your prayer closet.

Confession time: I'm not good at this! This may be the area of faith where God is working on me the most right now. Having time set aside to just sit and soak in the presence of God is difficult for me. I want to go do this or that, the list in my head that needs to get accomplished keeps popping, I know there is one last thing to get the picture. But to really be an effective small group leader we must spend time praying for each member of our group and for your time together. Here are a few specifics to pray through.

1) Pray for the members. Jesus went out and prayed for his disciples before selecting some to be his apostles, "In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God" (Luke 6:12). Our constant prayer for those whom we interact with is extremely important. If we are called to lead, we are called to pray for those whom we are to lead.

2) Pray for your time together. I find that very often I forget this in the process of preparation for my small group. I may pray during the week for the individuals and families, but do I spend time praying for our time together? Here the focus is on the presence of the Holy Spirit showing up and guiding discussion.
"Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer" (Romans 12:12).

3) Pray over the scripture to be discussed and the discussion surrounding it. Praying through scripture is something that King David practiced as he meditated on God's word. We must let the scripture infiltrate our being, which only happens through the power of the Holy Spirit. We can not teach and discuss something that has not already penetrated our own hearts. "Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!" (Psalm 4:1). 

4) Pray together as a group. When together pray. Pray when you start and when you finish. Pray when answers or needs occur that you don't have. Praying for each other will bring a closeness and intimacy that can not be reached any other way. "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42).

5) Take the time to lay hands on people and pray about specific needs. It is "easy" at times to just nod and say that you will pray when something specific is spoken during your group time. Don't say you will pray, don't (just) write it down on a list. Pray for the need right then and there. Lay hands on people and pray specifics for their lives. "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working" (James 5:14-16).

When prayer becomes a cornerstone of your leadership, small group, and life, you give God the place he deserves: Lordship. It is in this determination of his Lordship that we can receive the grace to lead boldly. It is in this place of prayer that God's Spirit can move mightily in our lives and in the lives around us. When we rely on our relationship with God, which is fostered in prayer, rather than relying on ourselves, everything moves as He desires rather than as we desire. Ultimately, He knows what is best, He knows our needs, He wants us to come to Him, that we might know Him more. That is relationship. That is closeness. That is the foundation from which small groups should be built.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Leadership: What Vision? Part 4

Vision, vision, vision. We here this term thrown around everywhere in the "business" world. A company must have vision. A CEO must have vision. Corporations do not go anywhere fast if there is no vision.

I liken it to my car. I have a great little car. It has a strong motor, all wheel drive, new tires, etc. But if I can't see out the windshield I won't get very far. Also, if I don't have a plan as to where I am going, I may go somewhere but it might not be of any use to me. I need a place, a destination to aim for, then I have to be able see how to get there.

That's how I see "vision." It can't just be a catchy statement about your group. It can't just point you in a direction. It must give destination, and provide a way to see how to get there. The best visions are closely related to goals: attainable yet challenging.

Look if a vision sets such a lofty goal, that it seems impossible, then you may be sabotaging yourself before you ever get started. This is a motivation killer. On the other hand if it isn't challenging enough, you won't get much out of your team. Again there is a motivation killer at play. So a vision must be attainable, accomplishable, not too far out of reach.  But it must also be challenging, give a mark to reach for, pull the best out of yourself and those around you, and give something to work hard toward.

Will Mancini frames vision as 4 parts: mission, values, strategy, measures. Mission is the what: What are we doing? Values are the motive: Why are we doing it? Strategy is the map: How are we doing it? Measures are the mark: When are we successful?

As leaders we often have passion and giftedness in one of these areas, maybe two. But almost never in all 4 areas. We must therefore gather those around us who can help us to define, communicate, and put action steps around each of these 4 elements. Without this, we may have a nice statement to go along with the company name, that has absolutely nothing to do with day to day operations, much less the future.

Which of these 4 parts to the vision are you currently employing? Which one is your organization lacking? Where are your strengths? What is your biggest weakness? Is there someone on your team that can help in an area that is lacking or do you need to bring in outside help? Can most of your leadership accurately quote and frame their work via the vision?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Leadership: What Action Steps? Part 3

Part three of this series on leadership will focus on Action Steps. There are many different terms used for this stage in the game plan, but in any case; there must be some sort of action plan or steps put into place. Now I know I haven't spoken about vision (I'm saving that till last), but these action steps should be a natural outgrowth of the vision that is cast and communicated.

The problem I most often see is that if there is vision cast and communicated, no one knows exactly what to do next. Back in one of my undergrad classes one of my professors defined a goal as both challenging and attainable. To me that is what you have to do with Action Steps. What are the next 3 to 5 steps to put us in the direction of the vision. What next steps will help the organization align with the vision?

Ways this must be communicated and followed through:
1) Action Steps must first begin with the leadership core. The leadership must work together on what actionable items they must do to align themselves with the vision of the organization. If the leadership isn't together, they must come together here otherwise they will undo the work of the rest of the organization moving forward.

2) Action Steps must be written down and disseminated throughout the organization to all with whom they involve. In other words they have to be seen at all levels so that all of the organization are on the same page as to what is next. To many times only one level receives these steps. This leaves the rest of the employees frozen, unable to see the picture of what is next. Writing them down also brings them into another level of reality, that is necessary for alignment.

3) Action steps must be specific. Specificity is important at this stage. If the steps are too broad then the organization will loose site of the end goal or vision. If the steps are too open for interpretation, then the end result may not look like the vision. When then next steps are written down in simple, easy to see and understand terms, then everyone is able to understand how to execute them. In addition to this, when they are simple and clear it is more evident when the action steps have been fulfilled.

4) Action steps must be followed through in a timely manor. In other words, they need a level of accountability attached to them. If there is no accountability built into the system, it is easy to get distracted by the next fire that one has to put out. Someone has to keep the appropriate timeline. Someone has to hold responsible parties to their specified role in the action step. This must fall on someones shoulders or the action steps are doomed to fail.

When a clear vision has been set forth (more on that in the next post), communicated clearly and from the heart, and action steps have been put into place, then you can see the movement of the organization toward an end result. This movement or change has to happen from the highest levels. This is real leadership, the kind of leadership that inspires, draws people in, and directs an organization toward its goals.

What have you done to create specific Action Steps for your organization? Who is the keeper of the timeline and the accountability? Who will champion these steps for your organization?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Be His hands and feet

"Christ has no body on earth but yours, not hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now." -St. Teresa of Avila

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Leadership: Communicate What?: Part 2

My last post simplified (maybe over simplified) great leadership as three basic principles: Vision, Communication, and Action Plans. Much has been written on each of these subjects but I thought I'd take some time to dive into them a know, because there is still so much that can be said.

I'll come back to vision next week or some time soon. This post is primarily about communication. No vision or action plan can be completed unless there is good communication on the front end, in the middle, and on the back end. Communication is an ongoing process, not a one time event when it comes to leadership.

I remember way back to my collage communications class often, I was terrible! I barely passed with a B. I had no idea what I was doing. I would basically read my "speeches" word for word. My excuse: I didn't have time to memorize. I didn't realize, as I do now after speaking in front of people for the last 16 years, communication happens best when the principles have been internalized and then are spoken from the heart.

Now I'm not saying I have it all figured out. There are people way better than me at speaking, preaching, presenting...I could go on. But I have come a long way and that is because of a couple of basic principles I have learned along the way, oh and I'm still learning how to best apply these!

1.  Begin with the end in mind. OK, I know that is straight up "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" but hear me out. When I don't have a clear picture of how my vision looks a few months or years down the road, it becomes even more difficult to communicate exactly what it is that I see. When we begin communication we have to have an end goal in mind. This is the path that we are attempting to take people on. When I gather people together to attempt a 14,000 ft mountain, I don't tell them about the months of planning, the pain of the heavy packs, or the possibility of altitude sickness. I tell them about the beauty of the mountains as your standing at 14,000 ft looking down across the range. That captures people. That is the end goal. But that is not the full picture of the journey to get there. People have to see where you are going, and your communication has to give them a picture of what this looks like in the end.

2.  Internalize, Internalize, Internalize. Change must first happen in you. Vision must first be captured and must first capture you. When your heart and passions are captured by something you can't help but to share. No one needs to write down the top five things about their fiance, it comes to them naturally from the heart, and you might have a hard time shutting them up at five. The mountains are something that captured my heart years ago. I have been on top of many 14ers (14,000 ft mountains). When describing the experience I can talk about what it has done for me, why I go back, and why others should too. This type of communication comes from within, from the heart, and people are captivated by it. They want to see it. They want to experience it. They desire it.

3.  Speak first to those close to you. Listen to those close to you. Recast to a larger group. This is a part of the process that is often most difficult. We want to go right from thought to actionable items. We want it to roll slickly off the tongue, but it can fall on deaf ears if it has not not been properly prepared. Often as leaders we don't know what others will hear us through. So test out your communication with others. Talk to your managers. Write it down for others to read. Listen to what they have to say. Create a feed back loop. I took a group up to the mountains last year, and did not follow a very direct path. Some on the trip loved it, some thought we should never do that mountain again. I had to take that in, listen and evaluate some of my process. Listen to the thoughts of those around you, stand by your convictions, and recast the vision when necessary.

4.  Tug at heart strings not just thought processes. It is tempting to give all the facts and figures of why our vision will/should work. But people are often first captivated by the story, the heart of the "why." When we communicate from our heart this should happen naturally. One of the reasons I got into hiking was because of the stories that some of my early guides told. I was captivated by them. I was engrossed in the possibilities of experiencing a similar camaraderie that I saw in them. I wanted to tell those stories. Let your communication tell a story. It could be your story or someone else'. It could be that you are telling the story of your company, the people in it, or the people you serve. Story is powerful because it tugs at our heart.

Each of these come from what I remember as "encoding" and "decoding." What we are attempting to encode via communication, is not necessarily what is decoded by the other people involved. We have to know them, know who they are, know their past, know their that we have some idea of how our communication will be decoded. These 4 principles may help you in the encoding, and as you communicate this way, hopefully it will help those who are decoding as well.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Leadership: What? Part 1

What is leadership? What are the characteristics of one who leads? How does one lead well? What does it feel like when you are under the leadership of one who leads well? 

These are questions, and many more,  that have rolling around in my head for a few months now. I haven't really had time to dive deep into it, although in many ways I've been studying leadership going way back to my undergrad days at ACU. I like to watch how leaders act, how they react, how they lead through the hard times, how they stay with it long enough to make it work out.

I'm currently reading a book called "Leaders Eat Last" by Simon Sinek. This book is pulling out some of these thoughts from my head. But the reality is, I've been collecting posts on leadership for a while now. Most of these articles are from a church or christian perspective, but good leadership principles are applicable across many mediums and formats. So here are a couple to kick things off.

1. Great leaders have clear vision. Without vision we can not see where the organization is going. Vision gives people a picture of a dream. Proverbs says "Where there is no vision the people parish." Vision must be clear, concise and actionable. The vision must be clearly stated and stated often. Everything within the organization must be viewed through the lens of this vision. Until the vision invades every aspect of the organization it is nothing more than a dream or words on a wall. Vision must permeate everything you say and do.

2. Great leaders communicate vision clearly. The clarity by which the vision is communicated is directly proportionate to the energy, enthusiasm, and incentive of every member of the team. When a vision is clearly communicated, it is hard not to be excited about it. I can have no connection to an organization, but if the leader communicates vision clearly, I get excited. It is inspiring. On the other hand when a "vision" is cast, and there is little clarity it breeds confusion. You can't pull energy out of confusion. So when a vision is communicated clearly, it looks as if the path is laid out before you. There is no question about when or how it will be accomplished, because it is directly built in to the vision and it is clearly expressed.

3. Great leaders communicate vision via an action plan. It is not enough to only see the vision, for that is a dream. It is not enough to see it and tell others about it, any extrovert can speak about what they see. However, a great leader is able to communicate the vision in actionable items. The next step and future steps are visible from the current state of the organization toward where they want it to go. Without these action steps, the vision becomes simply a pipe dream. A great leader is not only able to see these next steps, but is able to rally everyone around them and move them toward the future.

With out vision clearly communicated in action steps an organization at best is stuck in a perpetual mode of grasping at straws for what the future may hold. Great leaders are able to see vision. Great leaders are able to communicate vision. Great leaders propel people into action based on vision.

Where are you as a leader? Where is your organization? Are there great leaders who's potential is untapped around you? Are you called to lead? How are you doing with that calling?

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

25 Discipleship Resources and Counting...Discipleship #8

Over the past 3-4 years I have come across so many books and resources to help in the process of discipleship. I think it was said best by my friend Jay when asked what the best book on discipleship was and he simply replied by raising his bible. I completely affirm and believe this is true. There is really nothing better than searching scripture and looking at the ways God affirmed and demonstrated discipleship throughout all of time. The bible and especially the life of Jesus Christ really is the best way to learn what it is to be a disciple and how to disciple.

However, I am often helped along by those who have fresh eyes to see what is right in front of me, but for what ever reason I am unable to see. I'm thankful for these men and women who are able to see, teach, and write about it. This is how I feel with so many resources that have sprung up over the last few years in regard to discipleship. I read these resources and have "duh" moments all the time. The reality is, discipleship is simple, I just often fail to recognize it. For example, try reading through the gospel of Mark as a manual as to how Jesus was discipling the rag-tag group of followers he had. Reading the stories and parables as if Jesus is trying to instruct the disciples on what it looked like to walk as he did...will down right change your perspective on so many texts!

All that said, there are certainly some resources that have shaped my understanding over the last couple of years. Here are a few personally & another article that has 25 more.

1. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This book completely changed the way I did youth ministry nearly 15 years ago. The concept of cheap grace still pains my soul.
2. The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee. His view of walking in the Spirit in the face of suffering is a thing of beauty.
3. How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer. The clash of culture and faith, is real, but must be walked through with grace.
4. Discipleshift by Jim Putman & Bobby Harrington. No this is not on the same level as the previous 3 classics mentioned, but it radically changed the way I saw how discipleship could change a church by growing individuals to look more like Christ.
5. Discipleship Essentials by Greg Ogden. This is a great 25 chapter study to walk with a small group through the process of discipleship. I am currently using this as the cornerstone of study for a men's discipleship group. It has brought great, deep, relevant discussions to light, and hopefully is fostering as much transformation in the other 5 guys as it is in me.

Here is also a link to another article with 25 discipleship resources, a couple of which I have mentioned, but with many more yet to be explored.

25 Discipleship Resources on Church Leaders

What are you currently doing that is showing successful transformation via a discipleship process?

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Making Disciples: Discipleship #7

We are called to make disciples. Not Christians. Not converts. Disciples.

I have been under this conviction for years, and yet just in the last few others began to put it into words. I think it may have started when David Platt spoke up against this simple little "sinner's prayer" that we have all heard prayed. Where is that in scripture? Don't get me wrong...I understand why you might have someone pray that is a start. But that is like going across the starting line in a race and then stopping and asking for a metal. Yeah, your a "runner" but you're still not a runner. There is more to it than the start. (BTW- I'm not trying to just pick on the sinners prayer here, we do the same thing with baptism in other circles. "They'll be ok if we can just get them dunked.")

I think that's why this next article I'm sharing is so spot on. I realized a couple of years that we don't tell the difficult side of being a Christian. It's hard, it takes work, there are struggles, there are battles, everyone comes out of it scarred, there will be suffering, you will want to go back to your former life...

But the good news is: you are not alone. The living God is with you. The people of God who have been through the same struggles are with you.

We have been called to lay down our lives. To take up our cross. To be transformed into His image. Sounds easy, like life will be rosy right?

"What happened to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s idea of, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die”?

Here is Tyler Edwards list of contrasts between Converts & Disciples from Relevant Magazine:
1.) Converts are believers who live like the world. Disciples are believers who live like Jesus.
2.) Converts are focused on their values, interests, worries, fears, priorities, and lifestyles. Disciples are focused on Jesus.
3.) Converts go to church. Disciples are the church.
4.) Converts are involved in the mission of Jesus. Disciples are committed to it.
5.) Converts cheer from the sidelines. Disciples are in the game.
6.) Converts hear the word of God. Disciples live it.
7.) Converts follow the rules. Disciples follow Jesus.
8.) Converts are all about believing. Disciples are all about being.
9.) Converts are comfortable. Disciples make sacrifices.
10.) Converts talk. Disciples make more disciples.

Read the full article here: We're Called to Make Disciples not Converts

I pray that you are encouraged not discouraged. I know that God is calling his people out. That we would look more like the bride of Christ, that we would look more like Christ.

Are you making disciples or are you only converting?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Mature Christians: Discipleship #6

What are the marks of a mature Christian? Is it showing up to church every week? Is it the ability to pray in such a way that everyone wishes they could pray like you? Is it the ability to teach and share knowledge? I'm afraid in the world of Christianity we often have things backwards compared to how Christ would have described maturity.

I was reminded this week how in the upper room as He and the disciples celebrated the Passover meal together (yes meal, more than crackers and juice...but I'll save that discussion for another time), Jesus took a towel, knelt down and began to wash their feet. Here he was the King of Kings, doing the work of a servant. Jesus reminded us that the first would be last and the last would be first. Maybe we have this whole maturity thing backwards...

I came across an article that spoke to what a mature Christian looks like:
( 10 Marks of a Mature Christian)

Here are the 10 marks as the author Frank Powell sees it.

1) The highs and lows of life don’t impact your relationship with God. 

2) You find value in the “daily-ness” and trivial seasons of life.

3) You are at peace with situations beyond your control. 

4) You don’t allow disciplines to take a back seat.

5) You maintain a childlike sense of wonder and awe.

6) You do not compare yourself to others.

7) You listen to others who have a different viewpoint … with the goal of growing and not correcting.

8) Your heart breaks for the poor and marginalized.

9) You understand Christianity doesn’t have an on/off switch.

10) You have a sustainable rhythm to your life.


One of the biggest keys to the kind of life in Christ described in this article is consistency. Consistency is built by faith. When we believe God is in control, that He is our life, that He is our source, then we begin to walk in the love and peace that only comes from being his child. That is maturity in Christ.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What is a Disciple? : Discipleship #5

We hear the term tossed around, we read it, we see it, but what is it? What is a Disciple? What do they look like, what do they talk like, who do they act like, what do they do? These are all legitimate questions, with real concerns built in. But let me give you the answer most 3rd graders are taught in Sunday School. If you don't know the answer to a question just say "Jesus" and most of the time you'll be right. So what is the answer to the question: Jesus! OK, that may be a little over simplified, but if we don't go back to the God incarnate person of Jesus we will miss the mark on this ever time. 

I can across an article titled "What is a Disciple? here: Discipleship Tools

One of my favorite parts of the whole article is how simply he defines a disciple:  
"A Disciple is one who grows in Christ and in so doing models and teaches Christians the precepts of the Bible, prayer, doctrine, relationship, Christian living, service, and worship, to name the main ones." 

Those are some pretty core concepts, but really the first few words are what top it off, "one who grows in Christ and in so doing models and teaches..."

First one must be growing. We never arrive in our attempt to be like Christ. As long as we are on this earth we will rely upon the ongoing process of transformation into Christ-likeness. Secondly, we must be living and modeling this transformation in every aspect or our lives. No compartmentalization, no two faced living. In every facet, being Christ to those around us. Thirdly, we must be teaching others. Example is a necessary part of this, but expecting those around us to just pick it up via example is giving ourselves and them way too much credit. We don't look at life that way in most of Western culture. We like to learn on our own rather than from others. In the model Christ gave us however, disciples make disciples. Intentional teaching in the context of life together has to be key for discipleship to occur. 

What are your thoughts on these 3 keys of discipleship?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Discipleship Attributes: Discipleship #4

LifeWay Research has put together a great assessment tool for determining what a disciple looks like and who in your midst may be living a life of discipleship. Here are the 8 attributes that they have defined as characterizing a disciple.

What are the eight discipleship attributes?
  1. Bible Engagement
  2. Obeying God and Denying Self
  3. Serving God and Others
  4. Sharing Christ
  5. Exercising Faith
  6. Seeking God
  7. Building Relationships
  8. Unashamed (Transparency)
Link to article:

What do you think? Do these attributes hit the mark? What would you add? What takes further definition?

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Culture is Everything: : Discipleship #3

I subscribe to a number of "newsletters" via email. It helps me to keep up with the growing world around me that I might not be aware of otherwise. Fairly often I come across articles that really speak to where I am or where my church and the leadership is at currently. This was one of those kind of articles. As a leader we must create culture in order to reinforce what ever is the main goal of the organization.

Here is an excerpt from an article on the Exponential website (a church planting group). Brian Zehr does a great job of capturing the importance of creating culture in our churches (and subsequently in our lives or businesses, I might add). Below is the list that really spoke to me with a link to the entire article after that:

  • What needs to be most important NOW? In other words, what is God saying to us in this season of the church?
  • What priorities must we have to multiply leaders and our congregation?
  • How will we talk about what is most important?
  • How do we engage our people in these values?
  • What is the verbiage that leads our people to the intersection of faith and wisdom?
  • What will we do to live out our most important values?
  • What are the actions our leaders must consistently take?
  • What programs or processes will equip our people to live out the values of multiplication?
Exponential: Culture is Everything 

How do you create culture in your church or business? What would others say about the culture of your organization? How would your employees describe the culture? What is your main value/goal?

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Disciple: Discipleship #2

What is it? What is a disciple? As a Christian, most can recite the great commission given by Jesus in Matthew 28 "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” But what does it mean to make disciples? What exactly is a disciple? A disciple is one who is an apprentice of a master, learning their ways, and eventually passing it on to another disciple.

But that doesn't fully give us a picture of what is it they are or what it is they do. For this definition it may be easier to look at the characteristics of a disciple for further explanation.

Here are a couple that Jay Blackburn and I have put together with Matthew 4:19 as a starting point:
“Follow me, and I will make, you fishers of men.”

“Follow Me”
  • Believes in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and is baptized (immersed) into new life in Christ.
  • Loves the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
  • Seeks the Kingdom first.

“I will Make”
  • Practices Prayer, a person who regularly spends time with the Father.
  • Studies scripture for transformation not just information.
  • Lives life in community with other believers.
  • Carries out the great commission.

“You fishers of Men”
  • Looks for and has the heart to address physical, emotional, and spiritual needs in others, via the Holy Spirit. (Has compassion for the hurting.)
  • Shares the “good news” regularly (the gospel: that Jesus came and died that we might live).
  • Helps others to become maturing disciples.
  • Find men and women of peace.

What characteristics would you add? How have you seen these evidenced in your life? Looking at this list are there areas that are "gaps" in your discipleship?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Followership: Discipleship #1

Yeah, I know, followership isn't a word...but I like it anyway. In our culture today we don't have very many working ideals of what discipleship/apprenticeship is, so I created a word: followership (Just for clarity, I'm not sure I created it, but I don't remember hearing it before). From the time we're small we play a games like follow the leader and Simon says. These teach us to listen closely, to watch closely, to follow what we're being told and shown. This is how many of us work best. Tell me what to do and I may be able to get it right. Show me what to do and I'm much more likely to do what you intended. We are wired that way.

So when it comes to following in an organization, I'm going to do what my examples are doing. This often happens unintentionally. If the leader shows up to meetings 5 minutes late to meetings, employees eventually show up 5 minutes late too. Culture is created by followership. What we see people do makes more of an impact that what they say.

It works the same way in faith. If all of my examples of what a "Christian" looks like is just showing up on Sunday mornings or being a "nice person" then that is what I will assume Christian faith looks like. But Jesus called us to be disciples and to make disciples. That is something entirely different. We must look like Christ. We must act like Christ. We must proclaim the good news like Christ. We must have others that we are bringing along on this journey with us. As we follow him, others follow us. That is followership. That is what we're called to as we daily take up our cross.

I'm going to start posting articles by others on this subject of following of discipleship. I'm still learning and it's always good to look at what others are learning on their journey too.

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." Colossians 2:6-7 NIV

Thursday, March 19, 2015



I'm not sure I've ever met some who likes to wait. No one says, "I'm just going to wait over for as long as it takes and enjoy the waiting." Waiting is tied to patience...the nemesis of the western hemisphere...

In the immortal words of Ed Gruberman "Yeah, patience, how long will that take." (check Dr. Demento's "Boot to the Head" for reference).

On the other hand most of want what we want, and we want it now not later. The idea of waiting is completely contrary to the way most of look at life. And yet, most of us don't get what we want when we want it. We have to wait for it, or wait for the money for it, or wait to pay it off, if we do manage to get it now and not have to wait for it. That is the reality of life as we know it. But that is not the way God designed this world to work.

You get a great picture of this in Psalms. Just after what is perhaps the most famous of all Psalms, the 23rd, in which we are reminded, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." we see how difficult waiting is:

"The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it;" Psalm 24:1

"To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God." Psalm 25:1

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." Psalm 27:14

Sometimes waiting is the hardest to do when we need something. When we need God to speak. When we need to know his mercy. When we are desperately trying to trust in Him for something and all we here is: wait. Just wait.

What are you waiting for? What are you waiting on the Lord for today? What do you do when you're waiting? How does your trust in the Lord determine how you wait?

"but those who hop in the Lord will renew their strength. The will soar on wings like eagles; the will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Here we go...writing and work.

I recently came under the impression that I need to write. I need to write to get stuff out and off my chest. I need to write to release what is building up inside of me. I need to write. The problem is: I don't like to write. That's right, I said it, I don't like it. I'd rather talk. Talking is so much easier, and it's way more interactive (provided I listen at least as much as I talk).

Right now I'm in grad school, so I have to write. Sometimes I'm passionate about a subject and the words just leap from my head on to the document. But more often, it is painfully extracted from my head through my fingers into the paper. This is why I often don't like to write: I may not like what I'm writing about.

It's amazing how much easier it is to write or do something that you actually want to do. This motivation can come from deep within, or be an outgoing expression of an interest. Either way it is much easier to write when it comes flowing out naturally.

I think work is the same way. When it is a passion, work comes naturally, easily. It's still work, but somehow it feels different. You feel strangely alive while working and reaching your accomplishment. This is when you know you reached that optimum place of work with passion.

What are you passionate about? What makes you come alive? How can you incorporate that feeling into your everyday work? 

The summer of recovery and difficulty

The last year and a half have been in a word; hard. The pandemic has left us disconnected, grieving, uneasy, fractured, and wondering what i...