Thursday, August 26, 2010

What Stops You?

Making disciples of Jesus seems to be the prime directive to believers in the New Testament.  We should each be striving to become more and more like Jesus throughout our life time.  We should also be working intentionally to pour our lives into others to help them become more like Jesus too.

Jesus last words before he ascended into heaven were instructions for those who follow Him to be about developing disciples everywhere they go (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8).  As you read the story of Jesus' life in the Gospels, you will see Him continuously helping women and men to follow Him and His examples in life.  The Epistles (the letters found in the New Testament) are full of instructions, examples and admonishments for every believer to be about the focus of living for Jesus and leading others to live for Him as well.

If you believe that the chief end of man is to glorify God (Westminster Shorter Confession Question #1) and that we are to keep the greatest commandments (Love God with your all and love your neighbor as yourself) and the great commission (go and make disciples of all the nations...), then what better way of expressing this than through intentional reproduction of Jesus' life in others?

We should be asking ourselves if what we are doing as church or as followers of Jesus is actually accomplishing the task Jesus left us here to accomplish - to make disciples?  Do our Sunday morning worship times make disciples?  I would say they do.  But are we satisfied with the disciples that we are seeing raised up and if we are not, what needs to be changed?

Over this past year, I have spoken to many believers in Jesus who are simply not concerned about really making disciples.  Many are concerned to be in church as often as they can, but not so concerned about making disciples.  Most people I talk to do not believe they are ready to do this or they don't have enough time and energy or they have no idea how to go about helping people become like Jesus.  Somewhere in their faith walk, they learned there is a certain or prescribed way or standards that needs to be applied in making disciples and somehow they missed the classes or were not invited to learn how to do it.

When I proceed to tell them of a very simple way to go about making disciples (LTG's) they listen with hope until they hear that although simple, it requires discipline, an investment of time, effort, risk and energy along with a faithfulness to the process itself.  It really is hard work to walk side by side with people, helping them to become more and more like Jesus.

Recently, I had a conversation with a younger church leader who was full of excitement, vision and energy.  This younger leader was employing Life Transformation Groups (LTG's) in his ministry but finding that they were not reproducing nor were most of the people reading more than five chapters of the Bible in a given week.  When I pressed further, these LTG's were not really taking seriously praying for lost people nor connecting to those people.  As our conversation continued, it became apparent that each of the LTG's had a dominant leader who really directed the flow of the meeting.  All of these things pointed to the collapse of these LTG's in the near future.

LTG's consist of very basic Christian disciplines; reading the Bible, having honest conversations about areas in our lives where we struggle with temptation or sin and a time of prayer for people who do not yet know Jesus.  This sounds simple to do...but then there is life :-)  I'm curious as to why people want Jesus and to be like Jesus but do not want to spend the time to know Him and learn and imitate His ways?  I'm curious when people tell me what stops them from actually doing or participating in LTG's.

Is there something stopping you from participating in an LTG with one or two others?  I would love to hear about what those things are so they can be addressed in my next blog or two (e-mail me).  If we are not about the work of making disciples, we are disobeying the prime directive Jesus left us to do.  Let's stay on task so that rapid multiplication can occur and then the world will be impacted with the truth, love and values of Jesus Christ.

Here are a few of the reasons why some people do not do LTG's that I would like to discuss next week in my blog along with any comments you may make on what stops you;
LTG's are a program and I want to be more organic.
I don't retain things when I read 20-30 chapters of the Bible in a week.
I don't have the time to meet with another person for an hour or two.
I can't trust people with private information that I may share in an LTG.
I don't want to get close to people only to have to multiply and leave them.

The bottom line is that we all need to be making disciples.  Jesus said it IS your responsibility.  There are many ways to accomplish this and LTG's are only one way - but LTG's are proven to reproduce, to make strong disciples and to work in many, many cultures around the world.

Please feel free to leave a comment or question below.

P.S. Here are a list of very helpful books on Life Transformation Groups;
Cultivating a Life For God (Neil Cole)
Search and Rescue (Neil Cole)

Click HERE to buy LTG cards to use in your ministry!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Simple Reminders

What is your goal in life?  For those of us who are following Jesus, the answer should be pretty much the same.  We should have in our answer the concept of helping others to become followers of Jesus Christ.  Jesus told us that this is to be every believers focus when He said, "Go and make disciples of all the nations..." (Matthew 28:19).  For some, the concept of making disciples is too hard, too complex or requires more knowledge than they have.  If you have those sort of thoughts, I hope that this short post will help to change your mind.  Making disciples should be a priority and it should be simple (but never easy).

Throughout the New Testament, we find the writers reminding their readers of the same principles and truths over and over and over again.  Here are some examples: 

"For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church..." 1 Cor. 4:17

"Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you."  Philippians 3:1

"For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands."  2 Timothy 1:6

"Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers." 2 Timothy 2:14

"Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed..."  Titus 3:1

"I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder..."  2 Peter 3:1

"Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe."  Jude 1:5

Jude, Peter, Paul and Timothy all taught by reminding their audience of the simple principles and truths to be followed as they go about making disciples throughout their lives.  Here then are some basic simple principles that if each believer would implement with their whole heart, the church and the world would certainly be a different place:

1. Spend time with Jesus each and every day.  This can be accomplished both by being in the Word of God and by communing with the Trinity throughout the day in prayer, conversation, listening and worshipping both externally and internally. This first and greatest principle is what Jesus taught us in Mark 12:30.  we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.  Each believer is responsible for being intimate with Divine Truth.

2. Serve the world by treating others as more important than yourself (Philippians 2:3-4).  The second greatest commandment is like the first, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.  We are to employ our love and the gifts God gives us to serve each other, to encourage one another and to urge one another to move forward in our faith.  Each believer should be searching for ways to love those God has placed in our lives.  We should be Nurturing Relationships throughout our lives.

3. Spread the love and truth of God to anyone who will listen...and even to those who won't (Mark 4:1-20).  As Jesus began his journey to heaven in Acts 1, he told his followers that they would receive the Holy Spirit and power for the purpose of telling the world about all that God has done for them.  God uses his followers to give opportunity for anyone to join in following Him.  This is the great love that our great God has for people.  God has strategically placed and sent each of His followers around the world and throughout time to share the good news of Jesus.  We are all to be on a Apostolic Mission.

So there you have a short and sweet (simple) reminder of the basics of our faith.  What would happen if your church lived out these things with gusto?  What would happen if you would?