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Archive for May, 2015

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 228

  1. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).

What a sizeable message load for a single verse to carry. Love like I have loved might be the most overwhelming command contained in the Scriptures. When we consider the sacrificial servanthood Jesus demonstrated–the complete laying aside of self to come among us in the Incarnation, the welcoming of the daily press of hordes of the hurting, the unlimited patience with His disciples’ inability to understand, the steady endurance of their self-centeredness, and ultimately the choice to die that they (and we) might live–just go do that seems beyond the scope of possibility. But every time we lower ourselves to raise someone up, every time we give rather than take, every time we escape convenience and reach out toward someone’s need, we demonstrate that we know Him, that we understand what He has done for us, and that we have grasped our true assignment.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 227

  1. “A new command I give you, Love one another” (John 13:34).

There it is–the centerpiece statement of the assignment Jesus is leaving behind. Love each other. Like a mother who’s leaving her kids at home alone for the first time, Jesus knows that any difficulties will best be faced with love and mutual strength. It will be the best parts of their relationships with each other that will carry them through in healthy ways. They must be intentional in such effort for their will be much that will tempt them to pull apart. But “love each other carries a deeper reality too. Only when they love will they keep the light on Jesus’ mission. Only when they love will His purposes go forward. Only when they love will people realize that they belong to Him.

The Big 5 Questions: Their Answers Will Revitalize Your Church – Part 9

Last week, we moved to our third of these critical five questions for strengthening your church–How will we teach them how to follow Jesus? Before we dive in again, let’s review where we’ve been so far.

We have already discussed the first two of five critical questions for the enhanced and ongoing health of your church. Our first question—How do we engage new people?—helped us see the critical need to develop specific strategic steps for connecting with people throughout our community. There simply can be no new day at your church without some new life!

Our second question occupied us for several blogs—How will we treat them when they walk through our doors? As we said, it would be tragic to work hard to connect with someone only to drop the ball when they visited our church. Effective hospitality and assimilation strategies are some of the most critical elements of a church health plan.

In our last entry, we affirmed that making disciples is the primary work of the Church. We simply aren’t getting the job done if we aren’t guiding those who accept Christ’s free gift toward the much deeper commitment to give up their own life and follow Him. Making disciples is job one!

So how will we teach them to follow Jesus? The first part of an answer must address the content of our teaching. What are the most important elements of becoming and living as a disciple? Today, many groups are studying the whole idea of a disciple, trying to decide what a disciple looks like so they can develop tools for making such things happen. This is a worthwhile effort to be sure, but being a disciple is so much more than matching behaviors to the Scriptural list.

What would be on a list you’d construct of things we must teach other Christ followers? Would you start with the fruit of the Spirit or work through an expository approach to the entire New Testament? What are the critical first steps and how can you adequately prepare people for what they might encounter in the next few days? After all, life doesn’t unfold in a systematic way. Needed lessons come in a different order for every individual.

It’s been said that making disciples is the hardest work of the Church and there are good reasons for such an observation. Jesus seemed to make things simple, however, when He handed the assignment to His largely uneducated followers. In the Great Commission, Jesus said “Baptize them and teach them those things which I have commanded you.” Sounds simple enough–baptize them as a demonstration of their faith choice and teach what you have been taught.

Wouldn’t the things Jesus has specifically taught you seem to be the most important truths you could reveal? Discipleship cannot be done on an assembly line. True disciples won’t be mass produced, at least not in any depth. Instead, we can learn from each other as we engage conversation around the truths we’ve been learning.

Remember that Jesus taught His guys on a daily basis–as life unfolded before them. He let each moment provide the teaching opportunity. Why? Because He knew He was teaching a life, not a series of lessons.

So if your “curriculum” started with what God has been teaching you, what would that be? Sure, there’s more to consider because God has been teaching a lot of others too. We’ll look at some of that content next time, but spend some time reflecting on the lessons God has brought clearly into your focus. It seems likely that those are things He wants you to share.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 226

  1. “Where I am going, you cannot come” (John 13:33).

We can probably debate long and hard over the “where” of Jesus statement. Is He speaking of His return to Heaven? Not likely since we’re headed there. Is He speaking of His suffering and death? Again, it would seem unlikely since the guys he’s speaking to will suffer and die for His sake. No, instead the place He’s going–the one place He must go alone–is to the place of carrying the judgment of sin for the whole world. That’s the true “solo” journey ahead of Jesus at this point. He will endure our penalty, all the way and including separation from the Father, the final defeat of Satan and all of his schemes. No one else can and no one else will head down that path. That’s likely the place where we cannot follow.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Big 5 Questions: Their Answers Will Revitalize Your Church – Part 8

Over the last several weeks, we have been considering the first two of five critical questions for the enhanced and ongoing health of your church. Our first question—How do we engage new people?—helped us see the critical need to develop specific strategic steps for connecting with people throughout our community. There simply can be no new day at your church without some new life!

Our second question occupied us for several blogs—How will we treat them when they walk through our doors? As we said, it would be tragic to work hard to connect with someone only to drop the ball when they visited our church. Effective hospitality and assimilation strategies are some of the most critical elements of a church health plan.

Our third question follows these quite naturally—How will we teach them how to follow Jesus.

The whole business of the church is to make disciples. Some have thought that the church’s primary business is the people business, and it is…to a degree. We work among and for the good of people, but people are not an end in itself. If connecting with people were our primary focus, we could be content with large crowds and whatever strategies might bring them.

No, our purpose is to make disciples—we have specific plans for what we want to see happen with the people we reach.  Ultimately, the dream is to help them find the path Jesus marked for all of us and encourage them to take those essential steps down that path.

Jesus defined discipleship in the simplest of terms. He said that we were to “baptize them in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost…and teach them what I have commanded you.” That’s it! Baptize to demonstrate their choice to follow Him and teach what we have learned so they can know how to follow. Frankly, it’s not that complex. After all, Jesus handed off this mission to guys who didn’t overpower the educational scale. It had to be reasonably simple to understand, right? But no one said it would be easy.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll give close consideration to this third question, including both what we must teach and how we deliver such teaching most effectively.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 225

  1. “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in Him” (John 13:31).

Now we will see Him as He truly is. Now we will recognize that He is God. Now…

What does that mean when the next scene is the crucifixion? Does the cross truly reveal Him as God? For those who scoffed and ridiculed Him, there seems to be little change in their perception. But ultimately for a nearby thief and soldier, the evidence becomes overwhelming. Indeed, Jesus is glorified (made known) in their eyes. But how will they see what so many others fail to observe? Somehow in this moment it seems their eyes are not shielded by pride and self-interest. They are able to see because they are willing and available to see. These are the eyes of simple faith.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Big 5 Questions: Their Answers Will Revitalize Your Church – Part 7

Before we move on from our discussion of the second of our critical five questions, there are a couple of additional considerations when answering the question–How will we treat them when they come through our doors?

A few weeks ago, we looked at the first question–How will we connect with new people?  One of our goals when we found ways to connect with new people was that they would visit our church, right? So now that they have walked in our doors, it would be tragic to be careless in how we treat them.

While we can do a lot to care for people when they visit our church, what we do next can prove equally important. So let’s consider how we follow-up with a guest after their visit.

Like we did a few blogs ago, I can again reflect on how my wife hosts people in our home. The day after she has hosted a dinner event with new friends, my wife pens a little note to our guests, thanking them for accepting our invitation and reflecting on the wonderful evening we shared. She’ll usually say something that indicates our desire to continue deepening the friendship and the hope that we can “do it again” soon.

That’s not a bad approach for church either.

Why not handwrite a note on Sunday afternoon that extends a hope of continued friendship? Doing so will have it ready to drop in Monday’s mail so the friendly reminder of Sunday morning will arrive early in the week.

Many consultants recommend some sort of guest contact within the first 36 hours after someone has visited. This may mean an email, text, or phone call–whichever makes the most sense in your cultural setting. When you make contact by Monday night, even in the simplest way, you significantly increase the likelihood of a second visit. Some have suggested that  later likelihood doubles with such an early contact.

Now, you may have a more elaborate follow-up plan scheduled for a bit later in the week. Perhaps you’re community makes a home visit possible. Some bake cookies or prepare some other type of gift for a quick drop-by. I would suggest that you never go to someone’s home empty-handed. Take them something they’ll enjoy and don’t plan on entering the house unless specifically invited to do so. A sincere “just wanted to stop by and say hi” is usually the best approach.

On the subject of gifts, did you give them something when they visited on Sunday? Many churches have a welcome gift, usually given in exchange for a completed guest card. This can be very effective and fun, especially if you give them something the guest will actually want. Coffee cups may be a bit overdone (I have dozens), and no one really wants a dvd of another church service (sorry). Be creative. Try to think of a way to keep your church name in their home for awhile.

So a gift during the visit, a handwritten card from the pastor, an early week contact and a midweek drop by, and you’ve really done a great job of making someone glad they came by. I would recommend that you choose three of these four approaches to implement in your effort to answer that critical second of our five questions–How will we treat them when they come through our doors?