intentional

Beautiful Feet

Photo credit: lightstock.com There is no difference between Jews and Greeks. They all have the same Lord, who gives his riches to everyone who calls on him. So then, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

But how can people call on him if they have not believed in him? How can they believe in him if they have not heard his message? How can they hear if no one tells ⌊the Good News⌋? How can people tell the Good News if no one sends them? As Scripture says, “How beautiful are the feet of the messengers who announce the Good News.”

But not everyone has believed the Good News. Isaiah asks, “Lord, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from hearing the message, and the message that is heard is what Christ spoke. But I ask, “Didn’t they hear that message?” Certainly they did! “The voice of the messengers has gone out into the whole world and their words to the ends of the earth.”

Again I ask, “Didn’t Israel understand ⌊that message⌋?” Moses was the first to say, “I will make you jealous of people who are not a nation. I will make you angry about a nation that doesn’t understand.” Isaiah said very boldly, “I was found by those who weren’t looking for me. I was revealed to those who weren’t asking for me.”

Then Isaiah said about Israel, “All day long I have stretched out my hands to disobedient and rebellious people.” (‭Romans‬ ‭10:12-21‬ (GW)


You've probably heard the sentiment credited to Francis of Assisi—Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words. But the apostle Paul, who predates Francis, makes it clear that words are necessary for speaking the message of the gospel.

So, why is this saying so popular? Francis of Assisi is a beloved figure and a man with a humble heart. But this expression is only attributed to him, it is not certain that he said it. Perhaps more to the point, it's popular because it somehow relieves us from having to intentionally share the gospel message.

Yes, our example is important, and hopefully our life is a testimony to others. But these verses speak a lot about hearing not seeing, and of using words and a voice.

But how can people call on him if they have not believed in him? How can they believe in him if they have not heard his message? How can they hear if no one tells ⌊the Good News⌋?

God says the messengers who announce the Good News have beautiful feet. An illusion to their freedom and their intentional purpose.

Words are important for communicating the gospel clearly, and our life needs to match the message we share. ©Word-Strong_2016

Relational Interruptions

SweetWorship_CCFB_2-14 Life interrupted my plans this weekend. Not in a bad way, but my plans to work on this blog post were disrupted with a couple of valuable life events.

Saturday night, a pastor I've mentored for several months contacted me to ask if I could fill in for him because he was sick. So, I began preparing a message for the following morning. In the morning, I headed south to a church whom I've assisted over the last several months and where I've preached a few times.

By Sunday night, I hadn't started my post, but had two unexpected encounters. One with a young couple I've encouraged over the past few months, another with a young missionary family who served in the Philippines and needed a place to stay.

Ministry and people

Life as a pastor and missionary is full of what might be called relational interruptions. I mean, without people there is no viable ministry. People are the work of the ministry, not all the tasks of doing ministry.

Don't get me wrong. Doing ministry involves many, many tasks, some of them very important and some quite mundane. But these tasks are meaningless if they're carried out at the expense of relationships.

When the work (aka tasks) of the ministry becomes more important than the people, priorities get out of balance, which brings unintended consequences.

[bctt tweet="Life as a pastor and missionary is full of relational interruptions"]

Thousands and thousands of families are sacrificed on the altar of ministry by well-intentioned pastors and missionaries. This is also true for those who volunteer their service to a ministry.

Consequently, people can become collateral damage in the wake of churches, or missionaries, driven to complete their ministry mandates.

Ministry-related injuries

It ought not to be, but too often people get hurt, slighted, taken advantage of, or just plain run over by the machinery of ministry or some heavy-handed leader. I get it. My family and I have endured our share of ministry-related injuries.

But I see that as the norm, not the exception. I accept it as part of the reality of family life—church family life. And I'm pretty sure no one gets excluded from it.

[bctt tweet="The work of the ministry should never be more important than the people"]

Plenty of blogs shout about ministry abuse, but this isn't one of them. I want to share a couple of relational interruptions that were blessings, not disruptions.

[bctt tweet="We had a couple of relational interruptions that were blessings, not disruptions"]

My unplanned appointments

My wife and I got a call Saturday night from our daughter in Daytona Beach. A young missionary family we know needed a place to stay Sunday night. Their plans fell through, that is, someone backed out of a commitment to them, and the four of them needed a place to stay.

How could we say no? I mean, yes we had plans, but we had an empty guest room, and had experienced similar things in our own lives as missionaries. So, we prepared for our guests, which included two preschool boys.

After the morning service, I greeted people and intended to head back home, but was pulled aside for a few necessary conversations. The young couple who lead worship and youth ministry asked me to lunch. OK, so I know I've got guests arriving, but I knew God set up an appointment I needed to keep.

Meals with a purpose

Once again, I enjoyed a meal and conversation with this young couple, and an opportunity to encourage them in what God gave them to do. It was simple. It was relational. It was a relational interruption, and it was worth every minute.

[bctt tweet="God-appointed relational interruptions are worth every minute they take"]

The afternoon and evening were a time of catching up with a young family who stayed with us several years ago in the Philippines. They were in the process of transitioning out of their ministry in the Philippines into a new organization and ministry assignment.

They are still going through what's called reverse cultural shock. This varies for everyone, but it takes up to a year or so to fully transition from your home on the mission field when reentering your home culture. Truth is, you never fully transition, because you're forever changed. But that's another subject for another day.

We all headed out for an early dinner together. Not exactly the kind of date night we planned for Valentine's Day, but it was clear that this was God's plan.

A responsibility, not an obligation

Once again, our meeting with them was an opportunity to encourage those younger than us in ministry we've experienced. They appreciated the time and so did we. Once again, we get to share in the life and ministry of others. This is a privilege, not an obligation. It's also a responsibility.

I see this type of mentoring and ministry of encouragement as our responsibility. Who? Those of us who are older and experienced in ministry, and who live a life of faith in God's kingdom.

[bctt tweet="Those of us who are older & experienced need to mentor & encourage others younger than us"]

Susan and I feel a strong commitment about this. It's part of our passing the baton to another generation. Isn't that the responsibility of every generation? I'm pretty sure that's been true for centuries, and I see that as God's plan for His kingdom.

So...that's why this post is late this Monday. Anyway, it's a national holiday, a time to be a little laid back ;-)

What are some God-arranged relational interruptions you've had?


BTW, here's a link to the (unedited) message I shared this Sunday titled Don't Drift Away

[audio mp3="http://word-strong.com/wp-content/uploads/Dont_Drift_Away-Heb2_1-4.mp3"][/audio]

 

Well Fed

Photo credit: babycentre.co.uk Feeding a baby or toddler can be a challenge. They still need to be fed much of the time, but their self-will is in full-bloom.

They can close their mouth and refuse to eat. They're often distracted by more interesting things. Most young toddlers want to feed themselves, even though they haven't developed the dexterity to do it well.

It can be a challenging and messy process, and it's only the beginning. Children are often finicky and picky eaters, and hormonally challenged teens have odd eating habits.

Pastors and leaders also face challenges in feeding their flock. It can even get messy at times.

Last week, We looked at leading with unselfish love, as we see in Jesus, our Good Shepherd. This week we'll look at the second of the three words related to what I call grassroots leadershipfeed. Again, We'll look at this word as an acrostic—F-E-E-D.

Keeping God's people well-fed

Just opening up the Bible and letting-it-rip (preach) isn't going to keep the people of God well-fed. There's more to it than that.

It's not just about preparation and presentation, although they're important. Certain priorities impact our preparation of any ministry with God's Word and however we present it.

Let's look at four important priorities needed to keep God's people, His sheep, or anyone we lead or disciple, well-fed.

"F" stands for focus

What's the number one priority? Focus. Our focus always needs to be on Jesus in whatever ministry we do, and whatever capacity we lead (as a believer).

How do we do this? First, each leader needs to be focused on Jesus, not the people we lead, nor on any ministry task. He is our Good Shepherd and we are His under-shepherds.

All ministry, even teaching in whatever form, is relational. It always needs to be connected to our relationship with Jesus.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me" (John 10:14 NIV)

Our ministry and leadership also need to point to Jesus, in all we do. We are to follow His example, so others will follow our example of following Him.

[bctt tweet="Our ministry and leadership need to point to Jesus in all we do"]

"E" speaks of the need to examine God's Word

If we want to feed people with the truth, we need to understand it. We need to examine it well before we teach, preach, or share it in some other way.

We need to be clear on what the priority of God's Word is. Would you be surprised if I told you it's Jesus? It is!

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.... (John 5:39 NIV)

Many different methods are used for studying the Scriptures. I've used the inductive study process for the past thirty years. It is a simple, systematic, and self-contained approach to Bible study, which is why it works well in any place in the world, within any culture or language.

Whatever method you use, be diligent in it. Keep examining the Scriptures so that your understanding moves from your mind to your heart. Then it will flow out of you in a natural way in whatever setting or circumstance you share the truth.

[bctt tweet="We need to be clear on what the priority of God's Word is—it's Jesus!"]

"E" also reminds of the need to explain well

Thankfully, I learned early in my call to ministry the value of teaching the truth in a simple way. My general premise is this—if a child can understand and grasp what you teach, then you can teach it to anyone. This is an oversimplification but it's essentially true. If you can explain the truth to a child, you can explain it to anyone.

How can people feed on the truth of God if they don't understand it? This is obvious, but I find many preachers, teachers, bloggers, and others don't always make things simple for the average hearer.

Here are two simple ways to make God's Word hear-able and easy to grasp. First, use stories and parables, but learn to tell them rather than just read them. The second way to make things simple works with stories—put the truth in your own words (IYOW). Telling stories and parables IYOW helps people connect well with the truth.

Sound heretical? Not hardly. Remember, the original version of the Bible was oral, not written. The process of putting things IYOW requires processing the truth. It takes some practice, but it's very doable, and makes the truth more understandable.

[bctt tweet="If you can explain the truth to a child, you can explain it to anyone"]

"D" is for disciple

The Lord Jesus said we are to "make disciples... teaching them...."  (Matt 28:19, 20). This was not a suggestion but a command. It's called the Great Commission.

Discipleship has become more popular over the past several years. Of course, as with other things, several approaches and methods are used, but discipleship isn't just teaching and training.

Discipleship needs to be intentional and relational, a pouring into the life of others what God has poured into you.

Feeding God's people needs to go further than dispensing biblical knowledge. Lecture style teaching may be the most common form of Bible teaching, but it's the least effective. It's unidirectional and can be dull and difficult to understand for many people.

Like feeding a toddler, you can try pushing the food into their mouth, but they can close their mouth or spit it out. Also, there's a big difference between feeding people and equipping them to feed themselves.

Jesus, as always, is our example. His primary method for establishing the church was to disciple twelve men. This included teaching, but much, much more. Eleven of those twelve, and thousands who followed them, were well-fed. They continued what Jesus began with them.


Here are some related posts related you might find helpful—

How Did Jesus Teach?

Discipleship—How Did Jesus Do It?

Lasting Fruit

Here are a couple of links of people I trust regarding inductive Bible study (aka IBS)—

Dan Finfrock

Jeremy Brummel

If you'd like a copy of the workbook I've developed for IBS, contact me and I'll let you know how you can get one.

Some Thoughts on Discipleship

Photo credit: unsplash_JQuaynor What is discipleship? Here are a couple of dictionary definitions—

A person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another (Dictionary)

One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another (Free Dictionary)

That's what the dictionary says, but what does Jesus say? Is discipleship simply a matter of following and spreading the teachings of Jesus?

My thoughts on discipleship

My simple definition of discipleship is— the transfer of our personal, experiential relationship with the Lord to others within a relational framework of one on one, or one to a few. It requires a mutual commitment of time, willingness, respect, patience and discipline.

Too often, discipleship can be reduced to a plan or program of training. But it is not something to be learned through lecture, study, and assignments. Nor can it be reduced to the idea of being caught rather than taught.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship is the transfer of our personal, experiential relationship with the Lord to others within a relational framework"]

This idea that it is caught can be a copout for a passive or lazy style of discipleship. This would put most of the responsibility onto the disciple, rather than the discipler. Is this what Jesus had in mind when He said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...," (Matt 28:19)?

As we look at the most obvious example of the Lord Jesus, our supreme model for discipleship, we see His simple method. This is explored in some detail by Robert Coleman’s book, “The Master Plan of Evangelism,” as well as other books by the same author.

Many other books on discipleship provide plans or methods, but how can we really hope to improve upon the Lord’s example?

Intentional and relational

Discipleship—to be effective and to have a lasting impact—needs to be intentional and personal. It needs to be relational. Inherently, it requires mutual discipline and commitment.

It has no specific style nor format, and can be personalized and subjective. Although this may seem likely to produce doctrinal errors or biases, it appears to be the method of choice in the New Testament.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship needs to be intentional and relational, it requires mutual discipline and commitment."]

Paul says in 1 Cor 11:1, “imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” This is echoed in his exhortation to Timothy, his “true son in the faith,” in 2 Tim 2:2. Although there are other models, there are no ironclad, standardized patterns.

The obvious models are Jesus, Barnabas (who mentored Saul/Paul), Paul (and his instructions to Timothy and Titus), and others recorded in the book of Acts, including Peter and what he wrote in his epistles.

More recently, notable leaders of movements within the church have mentored others who, in turn, are discipling people. Are these perfect models? No. Are there idiosyncrasies of the mentor passed onto those discipled? Undoubtedly. Yet, it appears this was understood by the Lord.

The Jesus model of discipleship

The Lord’s confidence in this method of discipleship—His model—rests upon the indwelling guidance of the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20, 27). A review of the Gospel of John (chapters 14 through 16 [1. John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:7-15.]) makes this clear. So, why would we do it any differently?

Reluctance is more likely based on a lack of trust in the Holy Spirit, and our human tendency to put our own imprimatur on the process. Or perhaps, it's concern about error being passed on, or the disciple not grasping everything we think they should get.

[bctt tweet="The Lord’s method of discipleship rests upon the indwelling guidance of the Holy Spirit"]

Whatever the reason for this reluctance, one thing seems clear to me over the past couple decades. There is little intentional, relational discipleship taking place in the US. Sadly, because of our influence upon the rest of the world, it has not been common where western missionaries have been.

The good news is, Jesus is still the Head of His church and is quite capable of maintaining a remnant who disciple as He did. Discipleship has become a hot topic in the past decade or so in the US. Church planting movements driven by intentional, relational discipleship are alive and well globally (such as T4T).

The question is— Are you (and I) following Jesus so others will also follow Him?

The command of Jesus remains— 

So go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything that I have told you to do. You can be sure that I will be with you always. I will continue with you until the end of time. (Matt 28:19-20 ERV)


For some more of my thoughts on discipleship, check out— Discipleship—How Did Jesus Do It?

Risking Community to the Next Generation

Photo credit: unsplash.com_lukepamer I've found a kindred spirit in Pastor Ed Underwood. Ed is pastor of the historic Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles, CA.

We are both products of the Jesus People Movement of the early 1970's, fans of the LA Dodgers and the USC Trojans, and grandparents.

We're ministry veterans (old guys) who want to see a fresh revival in the church, and are committed to intentional, relational discipleship to equip and raise up the next generation of leaders. Here's Ed's post

Sooner or later, the ones who always get things done in a local church, the ones who make the key decisions, they will die.

It’s a one-to-one ratio. Everyone in our faith communities will die–pastors, elders, deacons, volunteers, teachers, and everyday serious disciples of Christ–every one of us will die.

A sad reality? Yes. But it doesn’t have to be a desperate problem.

Unless the ones who are closest to the end refuse to risk what Jesus risked: Handing off his community to the next generation.

[bctt tweet="We need to risk what Jesus risked: Handing off his community to the next generation. @EdUnderwood" via="no"]

Jesus’ community is the church. Notice that he didn’t choose one person over forty to birth his church.

Notice also that Jesus’ devoted followers, the Apostles, were constantly building into the next generation. Peter took John Mark under wing, Paul had his Timothy and Titus.

But all the teaching, equipping and modeling is lost if those of us who are on in years refuse to pass through the threshold of trust.

The Threshold

The day will come when we not only speak truth into the next generation, train the next generation, equip the next generation, and encourage the next generation, but we also hand off to them. Until we trust the next generation to do what we’ve been doing all of our talk about loving community and caring about the future of the work of God is just that.

Talk

Because we’ve stepped back from the real test of trusting God’s Spirit at work in the next generation.

Trust

Until we actually give them voice, space, and ownership, we’re just one more bunch of old Christians clinging to the inertia of institutionalized church.

And we’re the ones who lose, because if we’ve done what Jesus asked us to do–make disciples–we’re missing the greatest earthly joy of community: watching the next generation’s giftedness glorify our Lord.

The Payoff

Last weekend we risked our beloved community, Church of the Open Door, to the next generation.

When I first proposed this radical idea to hand off responsibility for our 100th Centennial Celebration to the next generation there were a few raised eyebrows. I mean this was a big deal. What if they blow it? What if it doesn’t work out? What if? What if? What if?

If you’re reading this and you’re over forty you need to know that you’ll never run out of “what ifs.”

I have some better what ifs:

What if they have creative ideas we would never imagine?

What if they could energize a demographic we’ve lost touch with?

What if they, not us, are on the cutting edge of what the Holy Spirit’s doing in this world?

A tent, family, and hashtags

We risked it.

And rather than blowing it the next generation of Church of the Open Door blew our minds.

With creativity.

With energy.

With a front row seat to the power of the Spirit in their lives.

They wanted informal, not formal. They wanted family friendly, not program driven. They wanted it outside under a tent, not in the worship center. They wanted to build a memory for their children. And they wanted a hashtag rather than a videographer and a memorial magazine.

Wow!

I still can’t figure out how to use the #cod100th hashtag, but every time someone under thirty shows me how I can’t believe how spectacular our 100th Anniversary was.

It seems Church of the Open Door’s future is in good hands.


 

I read Ed's book, Reborn to Be Wild: Reviving Our Radical Pursuit of Jesus, and realized we were kindred spirits. We have similar passions! We want to pass on to the next generation all that Jesus has poured into us.

I hope you'll visit his site where you'll find more great posts and some great resources. Here's the link to the original post on Ed's site— Risking Community to the Next Generation

Ed is featuring one of my recent posts, so check it out at— EdUnderwood.com

Training Up a Timothy

Photo credit: Lightstock.com Some people speak of getting back to what the first church experienced. I think most of that talk is idyllic nostalgia. It's not based in reality, nor is it biblically sound.

I learned long ago, you can't go back to what was once before. Think of all those time-travel stories. It never works out well, things are always different. It's also not how God chooses to move by His Spirit. God desires to do something new, not remade or revisited.

But there is one thing we can go back to—the example of Jesus. After all, He is our prime example. On the night He was betrayed, He gave us a valuable example of His leadership style, and made it clear we are to follow this example.

More than washing feet

The story of Jesus washing the feet of His followers is full of great truths to teach. It is not just about washing one another's feet, although foot-washing services can be meaningful.

The primary focus of this story, in John 13:1-17, is the Lord's example of servant-leadership. It was a role He demonstrated throughout His life and public ministry, but this was not discerned too well by His disciples (Luke 22:24-27).

If you want to raise up a Timothy, a son or daughter in the faith, it should not be based on a pattern or curriculum or theological theory. It needs to be based on the example of Jesus.

He poured Himself into twelve men whom He chose as His foundation for the church. One would betray Him. All would deny Him, until they were empowered with the Spirit of God, after Jesus' resurrection.

Servant-Leadership as seen in John 13:1-17

Here are five characteristics and ways a true servant-leader leads. These are qualities and roles of leadership seen in Jesus. In John 13, as He washes the disciples feet, we see His example of confident, yet humble leadership.

This is our model. This is our only pattern, not clever leadership strategies designed by men.

Last week I posed a question—Pastor, where's your Timothy? This is a simple answer to that question.

Know the Way (v 1, 3)

We see the Lord’s confidence in knowing who He was as God’s Son, where He came from, and where He was going. Our confidence is not to be in ourselves, nor our abilities. Our confidence is based on the Lord and who He has called us to be in our relationship with Him.

Knowing the way for us is to deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Jesus (Mt 16:24), and be guided by the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:14). This is how we are to live and lead until we see Jesus face to face.

[bctt tweet="Our confidence is not to be in ourselves or abilities, but in the Lord"]

Walk the Way (v 4-5)

By far, the most common and important element of true servant-leadership is being a living example. This, of course, is the picture we have of Jesus as He washes the disciples feet.

This is not unusual, but seen throughout Jesus' leadership and training of the disciples. Example was always an essential element of His leadership.

[bctt tweet="Example was an essential element of Jesus' leadership"]

Show the Way (v 6-13)

This is simply an extension of walking the way, but moves beyond example to helping others see or know the way. How? By teaching and training in a personal and relational manner.

We see this in the dialog between Jesus and Peter, and in His instruction to all the disciples. This is not classroom or pulpit teaching, but a process of relational discipleship.

[bctt tweet="Genuine discipleship involves teaching and training in a personal, relational manner"]

Make a way (v 14-15)

An important part of leadership is training up new leaders. Again, it is not a program, but an intentional and relational process of discipleship. Discipleship done well naturally produces leaders.

The responsibility of leaders and mentors is to make a way for others to step up into leadership roles. It is often a matter of creating opportunities for others to move forward.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship done well naturally produces leaders, so make a way for them"]

Step away (v 16-17)

One of the more difficult roles of leadership is knowing when it’s time to move on or get out of the way. It's usually a matter of timing, but also the way in which a leader steps away.

Again, we look to Jesus as our prime example, but other examples are Barnabas (Acts 11:24-26), and Paul in the pastoral epistles. It requires self-denial on the leader’s part.

[bctt tweet="Knowing when to step back for other leaders to step up requires self-denial"]

The essential element

The essential element of servant-leadership is humility. This is the nature of our Lord Jesus (Matt 11:29; Phil 2:5-8), and it is essential for any leader to lead as Jesus did. Humility is important for mentoring others.

If you look closely at the life of Paul the apostle, you will see it, and Peter reminds all elders and young leaders of this too (1 Pet 5:5).

If you want to raise up a Timothy, someone who is able to lead others beyond your leadership, then know the way, walk the way, show the way, make a way, then step away.

Are you committed to intentional, relational discipleship? Are you ready to mentor someone? If so, follow the lead of Jesus.


This post is a follow-up to last week's post— Pastor, Where's Your Timothy?

5 Ways to Lead Like Jesus

Photo credit: lightstock.com You might remember the Christian marketing craze of WWJD. Well, that's how I saw it. It was a craze, a fad, a marketing ploy with a quasi-stamp-of-approval from Jesus. The acronym was based on the Christian classic, In His Steps, by Charles Sheldon.

I've read the book. It was better than the marketing fad. It encouraged a daily lifestyle reflecting the humble, yet practical way Jesus lived while on earth. People were encouraged to ask themselves the question, "What would Jesus do?" How would Jesus handle the various relationships and situations of my life?

So the question can also be asked, "How did Jesus lead?" What are the ways Jesus displayed leadership? One thing is certain, He demonstrated servant-leadership in everything He did.

The qualities and roles of Jesus' leadership are seen in His humble expression of servant-leadership, in John 13:1-17. This is where Jesus washes the disciples feet, including Judas, the one who would later betray Him.

Jesus shows us an example of confident, yet humble leadership. Then we see Jesus pointedly addressing the lack of humble leadership in His own followers. They had a penchant for arguing who was the greatest among them. Jesus even used a child as an example, to make His point in a couple of instances (Mark 9:33-37; Luke 22:24-27).

[bctt tweet="Jesus shows us an example of confident, yet humble leadership"]

In John 13, Jesus provides a clear example by carrying out the job of the lowest household servant. He shows us how a servant-leader leads.

Here are 5 ways a true servant-leader leads.

Know the way

We see the Lord’s confidence in knowing who He was as God’s Son, in John 13:1, 3. Jesus knew where He came from, and where He was going, and that His Father gave authority over all things to Him.

Our confidence is not to be in ourselves, nor our abilities, but in the Lord. Who has He called us to be? How has he called us to serve Him? Our confidence as leaders needs to be based in our own, healthy relationship with Jesus.

[bctt tweet="Our confidence is not to be in ourselves, nor our abilities, but in the Lord"]

Knowing the way for us is to deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Jesus daily (Luke 9:23). Surrendering our will to Jesus, we will be guided by the Holy Spirit each day.

Walk the Way

By far, the most common and important element of true servant-leadership is being a living example.

This, of course, is the picture we have of Jesus as He washes the disciples feet (John 13:4-5). It is something we see in Him throughout His leadership and training of the disciples.

[bctt tweet="The most common, important element of true servant-leadership is our life example"]

It was an essential element of Jesus' leadership, as it needs to be for each of us.

Show the Way

This is an extension of walking the way, but moves beyond example to helping others see or know the way. How? By teaching and training in a personal and relational manner.

Here in, John 13:6-13, we see Jesus do this in His dialogue with Peter, then in His instruction to all the disciples. This is not classroom or pulpit teaching, but a relational discipleship process.

[bctt tweet="Sound discipleship includes teaching and training in a personal and relational manner"]

It takes an investment of time in people, the very thing we see Jesus do.

Make a way

An important part of leadership is training up new leaders. This is not a program to be developed, but an intentional and relational process of discipleship. This is what we see Jesus doing in John 13:14-15).

Discipleship done well naturally produces leaders. The responsibility of leaders and mentors is to make way for others to step up into leadership roles. It is often a simple matter of creating opportunities to enable others to move forward.

[bctt tweet="Leaders and mentors need to make way for others to step up into leadership roles"]

Jesus' vision was eternal, and He prepared and made the way for His followers to lead others.

Step away

One of the more difficult roles of leadership is knowing when it’s time to move on or get out of the way. It is usually a matter of timing, but also the way in which a leader steps away.

Again, we look to Jesus as our prime example in, John 13:16-17. Other examples are Barnabas bringing Paul to Antioch (Acts 11:22-26) and Paul in his pastoral epistles. It requires more self-denial on the servant-leader’s part.

[bctt tweet="A difficult role of leadership is to know when it’s time to move on or get out of the way"]

On the night Jesus washed the disciples feet, He was preparing them for His departure and for them to step up and into the Jesus-style of leadership—servant-leadership.

Do it

Knowing and doing are two different things. Doing is often what's missing in the church and in leadership. Before you run with this to rail against Christianity, churches, and leaders, remember—this is not just for those with identifiable roles of leadership, it's for all believers.

An old adage reminds us to be part of the solution, not the problem. It's easy to find fault with others, it's much harder to follow through on what we know to do. This is why Jesus tells His followers, after explaining why He washed their feet—

If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:17)

Whose lives do you influence? How can you lead them as Jesus led?

Are you leading others in any of these 5 ways? If so, continue to move forward through all five. If not, why not?


For a more detailed look at how Jesus led, I highly recommend the book, The Jesus Style. It has become a Jesus Movement classic written by my friend, Gayle Erwin.

Another great book on how to make disciples who will disciple others is, The Master Plan of Evangelism, by Robert E. Coleman.

The Missing Part

OldCalvary_study I just started to read a book I came across this week. It's written by Ed Underwood, someone from my era, the Jesus Generation. When I finish it, I'll do a book review.

This book hooked me in a couple ways. First of all, I relate to it experientially. I was part of the Jesus Generation on the west coast. It was also known as the Jesus People Movement. Whatever you call it, it had a great impact on the late 1960's and early 1970's, something I've posted about before, and also written about.

Secondly, it addresses the question I spoke of in last week's post.

Something missing

We returned to the US after fifteen years in the Philippines, and I sensed something was missing in the church in America. I wondered what happened, but after a while realized it was more about what didn't happen.

In the early days of the Jesus People Movement, young people were disenchanted with the status quo and shallow life of middle class America. Social unrest, fueled by issues that ranged from civil rights to anti-war protests, helped accent an emptiness that cried out to be filled.

Great interest in eastern philosophies and religions, coupled with a surge of psychedelic drugs and "love-ins," intensified this emptiness. The political scene and economy also contributed to it.

God's Spirit began to flow into a broken and lost generation, to fill up this emptiness.

A generation found and filled

No specific leader started the Jesus People Movement or headed up the Jesus Generation. It was a sovereign move of God's Holy Spirit.

Some people did have influence in this move of God, but because of God's favor, not their expertise at leading. Young people began to gather in public and private places, as well as in many churches. They were hungry and sought to be filled with the truth of God and God's power.

A generational revival began to grow across the nation, which led to the raising up of evangelists and disciple-makers. They had no special training and needed no prompting to spread the gospel. This was not the product of a well designed program.

Simple, but mighty

Simple Bible study, often led by non-seminary-trained teachers, was a core element of the movement. Pastors and teachers who did have training were also swept up in the movement. My first pastor, Chuck Smith, was one of those teachers, but he was one among many solid teachers of God's Word.

The gospel was preached and the Bible was taught in a simple way. Theology was simple in the early days, mostly born out of an organic biblical framework. Praise and worship was typically a blend of folk and rock music led by young people with long hair and buckskin. It was simple and genuine, and seemed innocently spiritual.

Even prayer had a simple power to it. People were set free from their brokenness and bondage.

Communal life and mindset

In much the same way as the early church, communities began to spring up where everything was shared. Communal life seemed to thrive off the flow of people being set free. Houses, ranches, and even apartment buildings became homes to people who had fulfilled lives with broken pasts.

These communities were inclusive, non-discriminatory, and often had strong leaders. It was a shared life with shared resources. My wife and I lived a few blocks from one in our first year of marriage. It was called Mansion Messiah located in Costa Mesa, CA.

They became models of biblical discipleship. Because Bible study was a core value, it spawned young people who were grounded in the truth of God's Word, filled with God's power, and released to share their faith with others.

At first, it seemed there was a constant flow of new young people equipped and prepared to disciple others. It did last for quite a while, but then it seemed to fade.

What changed?

As happened with the radical activists of the 60's, the Jesus Generation became more and more mainstream. Where once they were anti-establishment, they became the establishment. Once shunned by society, and many churches, the blended with the culture of the times.

When Christian believers don't seem very different from the culture around them, something is lost. But what was lost?

There are several books and blogs that speak of the so-called demise of the Jesus Generation, and lots of factors are involved.

But I see one thing in particular at the core of that movement, which is not as strong as it was then.

The missing part

In a word discipleship—intentional, relational, organic discipleship led by the Holy Spirit. In the past several years, even the last decade, discipleship has once again become popular. But I wonder if it's just the next thing to catch people's attention. I hope I'm wrong about that.

The difficulty with intentional, relational, and Spirit-led organic discipleship is that it's hard to package. So, it is by nature hard to control. It also takes considerable time to do well, and requires genuine commitment. Commitment not to the task, but to the person discipled. Commitment is also needed on the part of the one being discipled.

Do you see the dilemma? Genuine commitment isn't very popular nowadays, not in this distracted ADHD-culture of ours.

We can't go back

It's easy to long for the good old days, but that genders useless nostalgia. We need to look forward, not backwards.

About fifteen to twenty years ago while on a furlough, I spoke at one of our supporting churches. A young man came up to me and said, "I miss the days when we learned about the Holy Spirit." He was telling me that the moving of God's Spirit and teaching about Him wasn't as common as before.

God hasn't stopped being God. He's supernatural and sovereign. He alone is the one who stirs up a revival that produces something like the Jesus Generation. But believers do have a part in what God does upon the earth. He's chosen us for such things (Eph 2:4-10).

What can we do?

So, what can we do if we long for revival like the Jesus People Movement of the 60's and 70's?

  • We can start with prayer and follow after the Lord with a radical commitment. A commitment as simple as, "If anyone wants to follow me [Jesus], he must say no to himself. He must pick up his cross and follow me." (Matt 16:24 NIRV)
  • Daily Bible reading is important. Yes, I said daily. And while we're at it, reading through the whole Bible would be real valuable.
  • Church fellowship, or at least a home group, is important for building relationships that can grow into a shared community.
  • Then we can began to share our faith with others. When we find someone who is hungry for spiritual life, we can begin to disciple them with what we've learned ourselves, and share how God changed and fulfilled our own life.

Sound too simple? It's not. It's the way it was with the first church, and during the Jesus Generation. It's our choice to make this commitment to God.

Let me know your thoughts on all this, I'd love to hear them!

Still want some nostalgia? Here you go— Jesus People Film (1972) | The Jesus Movement of the 70's

Discipleship—How Did Jesus Do It?

Photo credit: Lightstock Has someone ever laughed at you, yet you're clueless as to why?

When I was a young pastor grappling with the responsibility of shepherding God's people, I knew discipleship was key to doing it well. Buy I had no plan or program to do so.

I told a good friend who assisted me in the church that I needed to find out how to disciple people. His response? He laughed at me!

Discipleship as a way of life

Why did my friend laugh at me? He told me I was already discipling people. Because I was discipled, I naturally discipled others. It was how I came to follow Jesus.

Because I was discipled, I naturally discipled others

I can trace it back to one of my good friends in high school who became a believer ahead of me. He was young in the faith, but he shared about his life since following Jesus. Since I knew him from before  ("BC"), I could see the change in his life.

He was gracious with me as I touted my own spirituality. I was caught up in the philosophy and morality, or lack thereof, of the times (late 60's/early 70's), but he shared his faith in Jesus along with the love of Jesus. It was simple, relational, and intentional.

My friend was not a pastor, nor is he today. He was a follower of Jesus. He has remained faithful and still follows Jesus. Though we are separated by a few thousand miles and time, we're fellow disciples of Jesus who disciple others.

...we're fellow disciples of Jesus who disciple others

Everybody's got an opinion

Recently, I read and reposted an article written by Seth Barnes. I saw it in a leaders blog I'm subscribed to and went to his site. I'm funny that way, I like to know something about the person writing the article.

I read and liked the post (appreciated, not just social media "liked" it), so I reposted it. I also read some of the comments. Several people also appreciated his article, but quite a few took exception with it. They thought he should include their view of discipleship.

Here's the thing. It's easy to have an opinion, but opinions are cheap and not always true. The question is— If you think discipleship is important, are you doing it?

From what I see of Seth, whom I don't know personally, he's doing it and doing it well. He has what Jesus says is important in John 15:16 NIV—fruit that will last.

The question is— If you think discipleship is important, are you doing it?

Discipleship is something you do

I'm not a program type of guy. I don't have a grid for discipleship that people need to fit into. I am committed to discipleship. In 1995, I started up a Bible college in the Philippines. The crazy thing is, I never finished Bible college myself.

I developed a curriculum of study through the Bible that was inductive and text-based. It was simple. I realized a few years later that the key ingredient wasn't the curriculum, although it was important, it was the personal involvement with the students as they studied.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I learned how to teach while in the Philippines. Of course, as a church planter and pastor, I thought I knew how to teach. I'm still learning today, as I disciple and mentor others.

Discipleship is done, not taught, per se. Yes, it can be studied, written about, and curriculum can be developed for it, but it must be done to bear fruit—lasting fruit. This is what Jesus did and we cannot improve upon it.

Discipleship is something that needs to be done, not talked about or studied.

Here are some more questions and thoughts to consider

Do you talk about discipleship, or do it?

Do you intentionally and relationally disciple others?

Discipleship is more about life example than doctrine or theology.

Jesus discipled in a very personal and intentional way.

The question is— If you are a follower of Jesus, who's following you as you follow Jesus?

I would encourage you to read some of Seth Barnes's articles (see links above). He's got some practical and proven things to say about discipleship—things he's done throughout his life. It rings true to me and lines up with my own experience with discipleship.

I'm not a well-known expert on the subject of discipleship, but here's some thoughts I have on it— Thoughts-Discipleship_2014 [Feel free to download it by clicking on the link]

But here is what's more important than my thoughts—

  • Learn about Jesus and follow Him (Matt 11:29; 16:24)
  • As you follow Him, be mindful of your example and influence on others, and... 
  • Develop gracious relationships with people who need and want to follow Jesus

That's what my friend did for me, and what Jesus did with His first followers.

New Commandment

Image credit: paffy / 123RF Stock Photo Love each other as I have loved you. This is what I’m commanding you to do. The greatest love you can show is to give your life for your friends. You are my friends if you obey my commandments. I don’t call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. But I’ve called you friends because I’ve made known to you everything that I’ve heard from my Father. Love each other. This is what I’m commanding you to do. (John 15:12-15, 17 GWT)

It seems a simple command. It is not. It requires self-denial and humility, which is hard for most of us. It is not emotional love but intentional, as seen between the Father and the Son. ©Word-Strong_2013