The worst mistake a church could ever make is to “do church without being the church” Often we incorporate much of the marketing world and secular understanding to the Church that Jesus purchased with His shed blood. It may work for a short time, but because of the shallow and temporary nature of “our own solutions,” it fails.
Real discipleship is more than just trying to stop the exodus of people from church. Using new methods and developing programs in and of itself is not enough. We must have the effectual working of the power of God with teaching, and that will energize God’s people. One heart set on fire by the Spirit of the Lord can capture an entire city (John 4:28-30, 39-42). It takes the supernatural working of the Lord and then adding to it relevant Bible training and teaching to make a lasting difference.
I pray that the following resources will be of benefit to you as you serve and work for the Kingdom of God.
The 1 Thing Missing From Many American Churches
by Bert M. Farias
From the 1960s to the early 80s many people exited traditional and mainline denominational churches because their needs were not being met, and they were hungry for the deeper things of God. As a result, para-church organizations were raised up and played a key role in the training and discipleship of new converts. Bible schools were established to equip pastors and leaders. I was a part of that move of God.
Many of those pastors and churches that were raised up during that time, however, have now become as structured, rigid and set on their own agendas as the churches they formerly exited.
I see a trend today that is attempting to reverse this process and avoid another mass exodus from our churches by using methods and developing programs that will either keep current members from exiting our churches, or draw new people into them (that is what spurned the seeker-friendly church philosophy). Usually this is done by planning various events or offering new and exciting programs that attempt to produce a quality in the church from the outside in. And this is not the pattern of the New Testament.
The Lord gave me a word a few years ago that further magnifies this truth: "Let the fruit grow the ministry and not the ministry grow the fruit." He went on to use the example of the woman at the well who had an encounter with Jesus that led to an entire Samaritan city being impacted with the gospel (John 4:28-30, 39-42). The fruit of that woman's testimony produced greater ministry among the men of that city. The effectual working of God's power in her heart activated her to works of service and to testify of Jesus.
It is amazing what the effectual working of the power of God does in a human heart! This power is what energizes God's people and activates the zeal of God in them. I believe the greatest miracle is when a heart is touched by God and set on fire as the woman at the well was.
True Spirit-filled fellowship and prayer is what initially makes tremendous power available (Jam. 5:16). The fruit of this power is souls being touched for God.
We cannot produce a quality in the church from the outside in as is common in the church world today when we start a ministry or a program, embalm it with some sort of structure and then try and breathe spiritual life into it that will produce fruit. The New Testament pattern is to find out where the Holy Spirit is already moving, and where spiritual life is already flowing, and follow that. Then build just enough structure to facilitate that life. That way if the operation of the Spirit of God changes or fruit is no longer forthcoming, there is so little structure established that things can easily be shut down or changed to facilitate a new way or a new flow of life.
The cart before the horse mentality would apply here. We've been guilty of painting and decorating the cart while neglecting the sick horse—the cart being the external workings of the church and the horse being the true spiritual condition of the people.
"Another meeting, another offering, another song, another convention, another banquet, another special speaker, another concert, another project, another program ... and so 'church life' continues, but the changed life remains scarce. If the horse is healthy the cart will be pulled. If the horse is unhealthy, making the cart more attractive is useless." —Roy Farias
Don’t Miss These Three Markers for Discipleship
By Ed Stetzer
What Are We Missing in Discipleship?
Lately there’s been a lot of talk about spiritual formation and discipleship, and rightfully so.
I think we can all agree there’s a discipleship deficit in many churches. There isn’t a whole lot of discipling going on, even though that’s precisely what we, as Jesus’ followers, were commissioned to do—make disciples.
Four discipleship principles found in Scripture:
A Pathway to Maturity
- Maturity is a goal for disciples.
- God wants you and your church on a clear path toward spiritual growth.
- God involves us in our own growth, as well as our church’s growth.
- God calls you and your church to be spiritual leaders.
If we can agree that spiritual maturity is the goal for disciples, how do we achieve it? How does God expect us to disciple?
Though essential (and actually a gift from God), having a desire for spiritual growth is not enough in the Christian life; we must be on the path. That’s one of the reasons why we call this a "spiritual walk."
Here are three things that mark the path of spiritual formation:
Being filled with the knowledge of God’s will is a vital part of becoming a disciple of Jesus. We can tell people to be more like Jesus all day long, but if they don’t know Jesus, they won’t be like Him. This knowing happens individually, and through relationships.
Reading the Bible is obviously essential here. Show me someone who isn’t reading the Word of God, and I will show you someone who isn’t growing deeper as a believer.
We don’t learn about God to become theological encyclopedias. Rather, we learn and know so we can be. That's learning to walk worthy by being, increasingly, who we are in Christ.
There is a mysterious transfer of spiritual DNA that occurs as a believer walks the path of discipleship. It is a becoming.
It's true in every area of life. The more time you spend with a mentor, read a certain author, or listen to a certain speaker, the more you will begin to think like that person.
The same is true when we walk with the Lord—the very nature of walking with the Lord helps us to walk worthy. Walking with him shapes us to be like Him—to walk worthy.
In Romans, Paul talks about this kind of being in our spiritual walk—being who we are in Christ. He says, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). We begin to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord when we take on His traits as His children.
Just as our mindsets are formed by our training and belief, our actions flow from who we are.
Knowing who you are in Christ, then being who you are in Christ (by walking worthy), leads you to doing the work of God. (Getting them in the wrong order is a problem... )
Everyone looks forward to the day a baby can walk. But that development is not the end of their journey. After they walk, they are expected to contribute in other ways, from chores around the house to getting an education, and eventually a job. When they produce in these areas, it is a sign of maturity. It means the child understands the path he or she is on.
Bearing fruit in every good work is an indicator of development.
If being a disciple is about taking on Christ’s traits, producing fruit is about exhibiting the presence of Jesus. We were designed to produce spiritually. He is the vine. We are the branches.
Paul tells the church at Ephesus, “For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Fruit is a sign that a tree is maturing. Fruit in a believer’s life is a sign that a disciple is growing.
There are no accidental disciples—God gives new life in Christ. Then, disciples learn to know, be, and do what the Christian life is.
Unexpected Blessings of Reverse Mentoring
By J. Lee Grady
When mentoring youth, don't think for a second that they can't teach their mentors anything.
These days, I spend lots of my time mentoring young leaders. I take them on ministry trips, speak in training schools and lead discipleship retreats. But I'm learning that mentorship does not work in just one direction. Even though I'm the "old guy," I benefit in amazing ways from the time I spend with younger Christians.
* My friend Daniel is an associate pastor in North Carolina, a gifted preacher and a fitness buff. When I recently decided to get serious about exercise, he set me up with an easy-to-follow weight-training and cardio schedule as well as common sense advice on diet. Did you notice that the younger generation today tends to be avidly health-conscious? We could actually live longer if we took their advice.
* My buddy Alex is on fire for God. He is also a budding entrepreneur in Philadelphia who knows as much about Mac computers as any salesman in an Apple store. Alex taught me most of what I know about modern technology, and every time I have a question he's eager to help. Hint: Churches could upgrade their effectiveness by inviting tech-savvy 20-somethings to staff meetings.
* I have a spiritual son named Paul who is originally from Ukraine. He has traveled with me on 10 ministry trips, and he's like a sponge when it comes to soaking up any spiritual insight he can get from me. But our relationship is not just a one-way street. We have learned the importance of "processing" after ministry events, and he's been an excellent sounding board. Today's young leaders don't want to just carry out your orders; they want the freedom to give feedback.
* My four daughters, who are all in their 20s, don't always agree with me about every social issue. But I've learned a lot from them about cultural sensitivity. They are painfully aware that the American church has turned off many people by being religious, racist, political or mean-spirited—and they aren't afraid to sound off when they think I'm being unnecessarily offensive. Their critiques have made me a better listener and, hopefully, a better communicator.
In the church, we often think of mentoring as a top-down arrangement. We think discipleship is basically saying: "Listen to me, watch me and do what I do." To make matters worse, some leaders who are bossy, self-absorbed or heavy-handed end up hurting those they mentor. Or they view mentoring as way to get cheap labor—by forcing their mentees to serve as "armor bearers," bodyguards, butlers or glorified valets.
We should scrap that horribly flawed model and recognize that Jesus calls mentors to serve. If we take a humbler approach to mentorship, we might actually learn something from younger people while we model Christ-like character and teach valuable skills.
More than 150 years ago, British preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote: "The church needs young blood in its veins. Our strength for holding the faith may lie in experienced saints but our zeal for propagating it must be found in the young." That means we can't allow generation gaps in ministry; the young and old must work together to reach the world for Jesus.
J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma.
9 Ways Being a Pastor Is Like Being a Parent
by Chris Hefner
Recently, we had a birthday party for our oldest son, Will. He turned 4 on January 11. His mother and I planned, prepared, and invited a handful of his friends. We spent a lot of time investing in his party. We expected his reaction to be wonder, enjoyment, and gratitude. What we received was complaint, ungratefulness, and pouting. This little experience got me thinking about some of the ways being a parent is like being a pastor.
Sometimes our children are ungrateful. This sometimes happens as a pastor. We invest, spend time, and pour ourselves into a parishioner or a ministry and receive little or no gratitude. It is easy to take such things personally. But we must not.
Sometimes our children are disingenuous. When we pointed out our son’s failure to be grateful, he rather quickly told us, “Thank you for my party.” He didn’t really mean the thank you. If you’ve been a pastor for long, you’ve had church members tell you to your face what you know they don’t mean in their heart. Now, I don’t think most of the comments coming from our church members are disingenuous, but some are. We have to learn to discern the truth and show grace when we hear disingenuous comments. Saying “thank you” and moving on is generally the best thing we can do.
Sometimes our children are disobedient. It is our job as parents to correct and discipline our children, which are important aspects of teaching obedience. As a pastor, there will be times that correcting a church member will be necessary. As with our children, correction must take place with compassion, deliberation, and consistency. Restoration to obedience is the goal, not pointing out the sin.
Sometimes our children are needy. Church members are no different. Those who are hurting, emotional, going through difficulty, or sick may need more attention from their church or pastor.
Oftentimes, both parents and pastors feel overwhelmed. The tasks and expectations of parents and pastors are never-ending. Pastors, there’s always the next sermon, the next lesson, the next counseling appointment, project, mission trip, or task. If we’re not careful, we’ll let our lives be run by our schedules and the next thing on our to-do list.
Our children were created to grow up. Our privilege as parents is to assist the natural growth of our children. They were made to grow. Similarly, those we pastor were made to grow spiritually. It is our privilege to provide systems, ministries, and opportunities for the spiritual growth of those we lead.
Our children bring us unprecedented joy. Witnessing their development, smiles, wonder, love, and dependence is incalculable. I realize that pastors are not parents to their parishioners. But in part, pastors have been tasked with the spiritual development of their congregation. Much joy comes from watching the spiritual growth of people. Seeing the relief and joy on the face of a new believer whose weight of sin has been lifted by Christ is incomparable. Or participating when church members give of themselves and their heart on a mission trip or project is deeply encouraging.
No investment in life is as important as the investment in others, especially our children. When our life concludes, the influence we’ve had on our children will be one of the few things that will last beyond our days on earth. While not as directly impactful, the investments we make in the lives of our congregation can also be far-reaching. Like being a parent, a pastor’s influence and impact is not defined by outward success, popularity, twitter followers, Facebook friends, or blog readers. The true impact of a pastor, like a parent, will be found in the relational investment of lives changed, disciples made, and people equipped for ministry.
Ultimately, how our children and our congregations turn out is the Lord’s responsibility. Sometimes, being a parent and a pastor, we think we’re in control of the spiritual progress of our children and our congregations. We’re not. God is. Yes, we partner with God in the process of the spiritual development of those we parent and lead, but we are not ultimately responsible. Learning or in my case, relearning, that truth is deeply liberating and encouraging.
For those who are parents, let your parenting inform your responsibilities as a pastor. And to all, cast the burdens of being a parent or pastor on the Lord who is able to carry them.
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