Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Can Making Disciples Be Simple?

I look forward to Saturday mornings.  Not because I can sleep in but because I get to meet early with my friends.  We talk, laugh and enjoy some really good bagels together (check out Tony's Bagels).  All week I pray about Saturday mornings.  I pray for my heart to be filled with love for my friends but also that their hearts would be filled with love for me.

When we get together, we enjoy sharing our woes, joys, the way we messed up during the week and how we need to love our wives better.  We share about our jobs and our attitudes and how our sports team did during the week.  We enjoy being honest and sharing life.  It is very encouraging to hear each others stories and to give and get encouragement.

We talk about portions of the Bible we are all reading and some really good insights get exposed to us.  We share things we understand, things that stood out to us, truths that seem distant or on the horizon.  Sometimes one of us is confused about things the Bible says and at other times, we find ourselves excited to be reminded of important truths.

About our second cup of coffee (soda for Zac :-), we find ourselves instilling in each other a heart and mindset of praying for and engaging people who really need Jesus.  Prayers begin to flow and a begging of God to move in the lives of our friends becomes our cry to heaven (Psalm 126:6).

Saturday mornings are a bunch of fun and it is part of the way that we men are becoming like Jesus.  We are interacting with God's Word, being honest about our lives and really begging God for people's hearts to be changed.  

Our time together on Saturdays spills out to texts, e-mails and phone calls throughout the week - some encouraging, some funny, some annoying - but we love each other and point each other to Christ.  Throughout the year we'll go camping, golfing, swimming, share meals together help each other with home repairs.  We will bring our families together and savor the life of our Savior in each of us.  

This is how disciples of Jesus are made.  LIfe on life and one step at a time.  Sometimes the growth in our lives is slow and other times we grow out of our agony...but we grow (Colossians 1:5-6), and we can see it in each other's lives.  I would guess that pretty soon, one of my friends will see someone on our prayer list decide to give their life to Jesus and then the two of them will begin the same process all over again.  One by one people come to Jesus and one by one in the groups of a few, men and women become followers of Jesus.  It happens through interacting with the Word, being honest with each other while loving well and by having a God size concern for those who do not yet know Jesus.  

If you would like to be part of one of these simple groups that see men and women become like Jesus, click will not be disappointed.  If you do begin one of these groups, please shoot me an e-mail and let me know.

Making disciples can be really simple; own it, do it, reproduce it! 

Thursday, September 09, 2010

You Are Worth It!

I wish I could draw and paint well enough to capture the expression on a ladies face that I had a conversation with last week.  Anything beyond drawing a stick person is a stretch for my creative abilities and there is no way I could capture this woman's expression but I really wish I could.  Maybe my words will give you some insight into what I saw.

The woman I'm referring to is an older woman with some mobility and health issues.  Carla (not her real name) has had a very hard life like so many others.  She has raised her kids and grandkids and finds herself still rescuing them from the challenges life brings their way.  I was attempting to encourage her because I know she is hurting.  I do not think that this dear woman is yet a follower of Jesus but I think she will be.  I was telling her how God saw her.  She had never thought about God even taking notice of her.  In her mind, she is not worth God's focused attention.  I shared briefly with her that she was created in the image of God and that she was a masterpiece, a one of a kind project that brought a smile to Jesus' face.  That was the moment I wish I could capture on canvass.

Her eyes turned downward as did the corners of her mouth.  Her shoulders hunched and you could just read her feeling that "I'm not worthy of such care".  If only I could capture her face on a canvass.  My reason for capturing her expression is because it is the face I see on so many when I speak to them about the goodness and grace of God which is at work all around them.  For way to many, they do not believe they are worthy or they simply do not want to believe that God would even bother with them.

Here are some verses that speak to the point that God is always about assisting us to become more and more like Him.  Every person (that includes you) is able to have a vibrant faith that is growing and spreading out to impact many.  Take a look at these short sections of the Bible and simply stop - stop, and meditate (think deeply for a period of time) upon them...

" previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth."  Colossians 1:5-6 (NASB)

"For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him."  Philippians 2:13 (NLT)   Here is Philippians 2:13 in the more recognized translation of the NASB, "...for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."

After you have meditated upon these two sections of the Bible jot down what you sense is most important or that jumps out at you and your heart.  What is God speaking to your soul regarding these passages?  If you would, write your thoughts in the comment section below.  If many will do that, I think it will begin a revival of souls to see things truthfully, as God sees them.  Go ahead, jot down your thoughts and enjoy the work that God is doing in you...right now!

Next time, I'll give you some of my thoughts about these passages and the powerful truths that they reveal about God and about us.

Be encouraged because you are worth it!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

What Stops You...Part 2?

This week we enjoyed dinner in our backyard, on the patio with our children and grandchildren.  At the end of our dinner, my wife asked our oldest grandson if he would pick up the dog poop.  He agreed and began the not very pleasant task, taking breaks and teasing his younger brother (with the poop of all things)!  As he reached about the halfway point, he wanted to stop and forget about what His grandmother has asked of him.  It was at this point that his father called him over and had a chat about responsibility to do what was asked of him and to obey his grandmother.  My grandson responded with some reluctance but did a fine of job of finishing.  He was rewarded with two dollars.  It is good to instruct people regarding responsibility, obedience to those who lead us and the importance of finishing what we begin.  

Last time I began discussing the prime directive that Jesus left all of His followers - as we go through life, we are to be intentionally helping people become more like Jesus (we are to make disciples - Matt. 28:19-20).  This was not intended to be optional for you.  It was not intended to be only for the 'clergy' or the more spiritually mature.  This directive (command) was meant to for all followers of every generation and culture.  If it is important to teach our children to be obedient and responsible, shouldn't it also be important for children of God to be obedient and responsible to what He is asking of us?

Helping people to become like Jesus can take many forms and should happen in many ways.  It can take place on a camping trip, a trip to the mall, while doing chores or while sipping good coffee (or even bad coffee).  These times should be both formal and informal, intentional and spontaneous.  The key is for everyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus to be about the business that Jesus left us to accomplish - encouraging others to follow Jesus with radical, passionate hearts.  

In defining discipleship, I would state that it is simply taking a long walk in the same direction (towards Jesus) with close friends.  However you practice making disciples, it must be intentional and a consistent part of your life, otherwise, you are not following through with what the King has told us to do while He is preparing places for us in heaven (John 14).  

For almost 20 years, I have been in an Life Transformation Group (LTG) with at least one or two other men.  LTG's are powerful, proven and productive in helping people become like Jesus.  They are simple, reproducible and I have not found another tool that alone accomplishes all of this and has the simple, reproductive part to the equation.  So, if you are not making disciples, what is stopping you?  If you are not in an LTG, what is stopping you?  Allow me to briefly respond to some of the most common questions and complaints that I have received from people who choose not to be in a LTG.

LTG's are a program and I want to be more organic.
LTG's are flexible and versatile.  They are not designed to be rigid - going through the same things in the same way each week simply to get the 'tasks' completed.  If that becomes your perspective, then LTG's can be viewed as a program.  However, if you have 2 or 3 people who know that they need Jesus' words in large quantities for their spiritual health and they are interested in truly loving those involved with them, you will find it hard to view LTG's as a program.  As I inquire further into what people mean by their wanting to be more organic, I usually find that they want to be spontaneous and free flowing which, when pressed even more, often means they aren't discipling anyone in intentional ways.

I don't retain things when I read 20-30 chapters of the Bible in a week.
Sometimes, there is a real problem with functional illiteracy in people where they are not able to retain what they read and this should be addressed (check out this web page on retention).  When this is not the case, most often people are simply not interested, not motivated or just plain distracted from wanting to consume large portions of God's Word by the cares of the world.  When one does discipline themselves to read 20-30 chapters of Scripture a week, their lives become enhanced.  It took a friend of mine about 3 to 5 months in our LTG before he started taking notes and finding nuggets of truth from the Scriptures.  If you are desperate and faithful to the process of this amount of reading, you will find gems that God will use to bless your life.

One of the biggest and most common mistakes made in LTG's is to diminish the amount of reading you are assigned in a given week.  Most frequently, this amount bottoms out at five chapters per week and even then, the reading doesn't get done.  If you find yourself in an LTG where this is happening, I would suggest you let it die naturally and find others who are willing to invest in consuming the Word of God in larger quantities.

I don't have the time to meet with another person for an hour or two.
We are all very busy but we must put first things first if we are to accomplish what is actually important.  Please evaluate your schedule and trim it down or re-prioritize your schedule to make room for an hour to meet with others in order to helped and to help others become more like Jesus.

I can't trust people with private information that I may share in an LTG.

Trust must be developed over time but even when you are comfortable with another, it is always possible that what you share may be 'leaked' out, whether innocently or intentionally.  Honesty and transparency is what is required of us to love others well.  We must take risks or there will be no reward.  We must trust Jesus or we will trust no one.  Start slow and listen to the Spirit; follow His lead in becoming more open with a few others.  You will gain more health and strength by doing so.  Secrets have power over you so ask God to bring one or two people into your life with whom you can share deeply.

I don't want to get close to people only to have to multiply and leave them.
This is similar to saying that you don't want to have children only because one day, they will move out on their own.  That would be a silly reason to not have children.  It would also be selfish.  It should be our goal to reproduce ourselves and watch them do the same, over and over again.  I certainly do understand this tension of wanting to stay together with those we love, trust and are comfortable with, but what is the Father requiring of us?  Do we not think He understands this need?  Do we not believe that He will meet our needs as He sees fit?  Be excited to help develop spiritual men and women of faith in Jesus - that is your task.

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;

Search and Rescue (Neil Cole)

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