• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

Who is your one (bis)?

The word, ‘bis’, in French is a way of adding an additional thought.  It’s an ‘encore’ if you will.

Last week, I wrote a post about the ‘slogan’ shared by my brother’s pastor in regards to Ephesians 1:1-14:  “Then he shared this slogan via a question: “Who is your one?”  Who is the person God has put on your heart?  Are you close to anyone who is far from God?  Are you in touch with anyone who is wondering how they fit into God’s mission in the world?

I wanted to cdiscipleship-potential-160526ome back again to that question.  As I thought more about that slogan, I remembered a good friend from seminary (a New Zealander) who used to ask me a similar question every time we met for coffee.  We would sit down at Friendly’s (an ancient version of Starbucks) over a cup of American ‘coffee’ and he would start out by asking: who is your man?  Or later on, the question morphed to: how is it going with your man?

In his language, he was asking about the person that I was reaching out to or discipling.  He was pushing me to get past just talking about people to actually moving towards people and investing in them.

His weekly reminder was the help, the accountability moment I needed.  His weekly question was the reminder that someone was thinking about and praying for me in this regard.  That weekly reminder over a cup of ‘coffee’ was one of the main ways God kept my eyes focused on the His larger mission.

Last week, I asked: “Who is your one?”  Maybe I could state that another way: who are you reminding regularly about God’s mission by asking: Who is your man?  Who is your woman?  Who is the one in whom you are investing?

Handing off the baton

It is a simple statement that gets lost in the larger context of one of Paul’s letter where hehanding-the-baton writes: “and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith.” (1 Thessalonians 3:2).  This is the same Timothy who was earlier called Paul’s ‘beloved and faithful child in the Lord (1 Corinthians 4:17).  This Timothy, Paul’s fellow coworker, is now sent to minister to the church at Thessalonica.

Paul had ‘handed off the baton’ to Timothy.

What that process looked like is not completely clear or written down.  We can see different parts of the process as we read about Paul’s journeys and study his letters to churches.  We can observe that there was a beginning when Paul identified Timothy for development, there was time spent with him in training, and there was a time when he was sent out on his own.

What does all that mean for you and me?  For one, it raises a simple question: where am I, where are you in the ‘passing on the baton’ process?  Are you in the process of training someone?  Or have you not yet taken the first step of identifying someone or some people in whom to invest?

Secondly, this work should take us back again to our Central Ministry Focus: “reach, invest in, and equip others to release them into ministry”.  The Central Ministry Focus is not a one day webinar we host.  It’s a journey of training where we work with others to develop them and release them into ministry.

Another way to put it, that I often heard from a New Zealand brother, was: who is your Timothy?

Forgetting the essentials

Each day when I wake up, I mentally go through the list of ‘things’ I need to do. Some of those activities may be important; some not so important.  In the rush of life though, the tyranny of the urgent can drastically change the order of that list of ‘things’ to do.  You can actually end up doing plenty of things that are urgent, but not necessarily the most important or essentialessential.

So what’s really ‘essential’? What’s really essential in our line of work or ministry?  For one, the Gospel. The Gospel speaks to us of the honor that Christ places upon us by calling us His brothers and sisters; that is a gift we could never have imagined receiving.  The Gospel brings freedom through casting all our sins, our worries and our cares upon Him. The Gospel brings hope that God will still use us, ‘wrecks that we are’, in His mission in the world.

What is also essential is sharing that great news with others. The Gospel truth cannot stay locked up in our own hearts. It must go somewhere.  An essential element of our calling as a believer is to share that Good News with others; to lead others to Christ, so that they might experience a personal relationship with Him.

Thinking through all this at the beginning of this week, I stumbled on this quote from Roland Allen in his seminal work: Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours?: “St. Paul did not go about as a missionary preacher merely to convert individuals: he went to establish Churches from which the light might radiate throughout the whole country around.”  I realized that I might be ‘forgetting’ another element of those essentials I need to remember each day.  What is also essential in our line of work is to demonstrate and declare the necessity and need for community in order that every one of us might grow as a believer and might offer together our praise to our God.

I could summarize these thoughts in this way: Experience the Gospel, live the Gospel, share the Gospel, and call one another to live the Gospel in community!

Call it what you want

Rebecca and I recently participated in the Gen12 conference in Australia. The conference was built around the theme of: “Building a culture of discipleship”. The plenary sessions and workshops sought to demonstrate that discipleship was the core task of the believer.discipleship

A quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer set the tone for the day: “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”

What I found interesting was, that in the midst of this whole day on discipleship, people always got around to talking about planting local communities of believers. A ‘lone ranger’ disciple is an oxymoron. In participants’ minds, it is impossible for discipleship not to bear fruit in the establishment of more and more local churches.

Within our agency and numerous other agencies, I have often heard that people have difficulty relating to the term: ‘church planting’; that this vocabulary is somewhat outdated. Yet, during a whole day with students, faculty and local pastors talking about discipleship, ‘church planting’ or the growth and establishment of more communities of believers, kept coming up in conversation.

Perhaps the precise words may not be best suited to communicating who we are and what we do. However, what we are about is sharing the narrative of Jesus with others, seeing them put their trust in Him as their only hope, being discipled to grow up in Him, and coming together with other believers to offer up praise to their Lord and Savior. This is who we are.

We may work through a variety of means to share that message, disciple people and bring them into community, but our ultimate desire is for disciples to be and to live in community.

However you want to say it, multiplying disciples and communities of believers is our purpose; it is our vision.

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Christmas is both a time to consider the wonder of Christ’s birth as well as an opportunity to again marvel at His ongoing presence and work among us.  Chris Tomlin’s song: “Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground)” underscores this thought in such a clear way.  How unbelievable it is that our God chose to come to dwell among us: “Emmanuel, Emmanuel, God Incarnate here to dwell”.

That intentionality serves as our anchor and our model.  Last January, we began the year by talking about such intentionality.  I wrote: “Missional living is a constant struggle of intentionality.  Our lives and ministries continually call for deliberate and purposeful action.  We do not wait for people to move towards us, rather we must move towards them in an intentional way, just as God did916492-16x9-512x288 and does for us.”

As we start this year, we are keenly aware of two facts that weigh heavy on our hearts.  One is the need that many right around us have for a personal relationship with Christ.  We are surprised by the growing number of irreligious or people who believe there is no God.  In a recent Church Life survey done in Australia, the number of people stating that they believed there is ‘no God’ had nearly doubled in the past twenty years.  Another is the constant need for more workers.  Currently, there are almost fifty appointees from our various Support Centers who are waiting to join teams around the world and who are not able to be ‘sent’ because of a lack of funding, training or ministry allocation.

In light of God’s intentionality towards us, in light of His desire that we be intentional in our life, development and ministry, and in light of these facts which tug at our hearts, here’s my challenge to each of us as we begin this year of 2013:

 

That each worker in the World Team community would intentionally

disciple one person into a relationship with Christ and that each worker

would intentionally disciple one person into cross cultural ministry.

 

If only a tenth of our workers met this challenge, we would welcome over thirty five new brothers and sisters into the community of believers.  If only a tenth of our workers met this challenge, we would have more than thirty five new workers ready to be mobilized to new ministries and people groups.  However, I want to trust God for much more than that!

Many years ago, Paul (WT UK) called to see if I wanted to run the London marathon with him.  I thought he was kidding.  I had never run a marathon in my life.  He simply laid the challenge out, stating that he had two bib numbers for the race.  His question was straightforward: “Are you in or not?

If “you’re in” for the challenge I have laid in front of us, then share your ‘yes’ with another co-laborer in the Gospel so that you might pray for one another, trusting this intentional God to use even us to lead others to Him and to challenge others into service.

 

 

The Peace-Joy Connection

Many of us often dissociate elements of the Christian life and journey to the point where we compartmentalize the work of God’s Spirit in our lives.  For example, there’s the ‘peace’ box in our lives wanting to experience God’s piece.  We might do a word study on the idea of ‘peace’ and draw a number of helpful conclusions.  Then there’s the ‘joy’ box.  This is different from the ‘peace’ box and we’ll probably look at different biblical texts than those we looked at for ‘peace’.Kelly---Joy-and-Peace-762524

Now there is nothing wrong with this approach.  It just limits us from a more comprehensive understanding of what God is doing in our lives.  I was sharing a teaching on Isaiah 9:1-6 recently when I began to see this larger perspective. I was focused primarily on the notion of Jesus as our “Prince of Peace”; bringing that calm assurance of His sovereign care and work in the midst of struggles and difficulties.  What I discovered though as I looked at these verses was that in the larger sphere of life, peace gives rise to joy.  It has to; there is an interconnectedness we just cannot ignore.

God sought to re-establish peace with us. The Son came into our world to break the power of sin; so that ‘the people living in darkness would see a great light.’  Such a truth causes joy to spill out of our hearts as we consider at this time of the year, God’s incredible effort to bring peace, to reconcile people to Himself.

However, what if we applied this notion to discipleship?

I asked myself the question: If such key elements of our Christian experience are interconnected in this way, what impact should this have on how I disciple others?   One outcome would be the need to be more ‘connected’ in my discipleship of others; showing them how the elements of the Christian life influence one another, rather than treating them as individual ‘topics’.  Another outcome would be that discipleship is best carried out in community.  I cannot see all the interconnectedness that is there.  I need others to help me and to help others to see those other facets and push me to grow more in my love and awe at this relationship that God has entered me into with Him.

Discipleship implies connection: connecting with others to help them connect with God.  It is also helping another see the connectedness of the Christian experience as well as grasping that reality for myself.

 

Mobilization discipleship

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with Simon here in Australia.  We were talking about mobilizing new workers when he ‘rephrased’ the task by saying: “People don’t want you to tell them what to do in the discovery process. They want you to journey with them as they discover, with you, what God is leading them into.”

It’s not necessarily about recruiting or convincing someone to join with us.  It’s about journeying with a person and discipling them on the journey as they discover more and more God’s passion for the world.  Call it: mobilization discipleship. 

Looking at the need for new workers in this light should change the way we go about the process.  First, our effort to mobilize new workers must be highly relational.  You cannot journey with a person if there is not regular, ongoing contact.  Second, the process can be messy as people journey in different ways and at different speeds.  And finally, we’ll need to take a more facilitative approach in the journey; listening more and asking questions that cause the other to reflect more deeply on how he/she wants to engage in God’s mission.

God calls us to pray more workers into His work force.  God also calls us to journey with those potential workers as they discern God’s call on their lives.