Discipleship? A Realignment Process or Product to Develop?

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What comes to your mind when you hear the word “discipleship”?

If you’ve had any exposure to this concept, you may have had either a great, positive experience, or perhaps a negative one. If it’s the later, let me offer one possible reason why that was.

Discipleship was seen as means of creating a product, instead of a person.

Maybe it was a convert to a “tribe” or a leader in a particular “system”. The end, or the product, was another “part” added to something that probably had very little to do with you – who you are and what you were designed for.

That’s the difference between legitimate discipleship. It’s a process of realigning a person back to their original design of living as a human being – a creature in a true, good and beautiful relationship with his (or her) Creator.

In my reading and studies for the sermon on Mark 1:14-20 this week at Christ Presbyterian Church, Mansfield, I stumbled upon this great statement in the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible. It’s rare that I find something truly significant in a one-stop study Bible, but this particular Study Bible has surprised me many times. This quote is but one example. It gets at the heart of what the call of discipleship is from Christ – a call to be brought back into alignment with the design for which we were created – to love and worship God, and have every area of life brought back into that alignment.

“In Christ, God calls people to return to “walking with God”—the creational design of human beings in the first place. Jesus’ call to discipleship is God calling human beings back to himself as the foundation of true and dignified human existence….This is the rhythm of grace. God does not respond to our wayward rebellion with disgust, throwing his hands up in the air. He pursues us in love. This is who he is.” – ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible, note on Mark 1:16-46.

Question: What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of “discipleship”? How does this line of thought add to your understanding of what we see as discipleship in the life and ministry of Jesus?

Links for the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible – Kindle and Hardcover editions.

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Why plant churches?

As some of you may know (and for those of you who don’t, please take this as my apologetic catch-up on all things related to the Gensheers and ministry update), we will be joining a church plant in progress as the new Lead Pastor, starting June 1, 2014 in Mansfield, TX. You can read about it here in its entirety.

Tim Keller

Tim Keller on Need for Church Planting

One question I get with plenty regularity is, “Why plant more churches? I mean, don’t we have enough, especially in the Bible Belt?”

I typically respond with a stat that shows maybe the Bible Belt, especially where we’re going in the greater Fort Worth part of the DFW metroplex, is not as “Christian” as we think. In 2010, only 54% of the nearly 1.8 million people living in Tarrant County espoused any religious affiliation whatsoever. In 2012, that number dropped to 52%. That’s just a little more than half, of almost 2 million people, who generally care enough about religion (of any kind, mind you) to respond on a survey asking about such things. The overwhelming worldview of Fort Worth is one that is largely self-centered – whatever works for me, myself, and I, suffices.

But here’s another great response from Tim Keller in his book Center Church on that question.

“Studies and anecdotal evidence indicate that if there is one church per ten thousand residents, approximately 1 percent of the population will be churchgoers. If this ratio goes to one church per one thousand residents, some 15 to 20 percent of the city’s population goes to church. If the number goes to one per five hundred residents, the number may approach 40 percent or more. The relationship of the number of churches to churchgoing people is exponential, not linear”. – Tim Keller, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (p. 362).

To get Keller’s book, Center Church, click here.

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Charge to Rethink Pastoral Priorities (or Why This Might be My Least Popular Post Ever)

This past week, my wife and I spent our time in Orlando, FL at the Global Church Advancement conference (go #GCA2014). I plan to publish my thoughts on the conference as a whole later, but for now, I wanted to share what I thought was one of the highlights.

I went down a day early for the opening workshop on Discipleship led by Randy Pope of Perimeter Church in Atlanta, GA.  I’ve met Randy years ago through my involvement with Campus Outreach.  I had a sense of what to expect with this workshop having that background and some familiarity with Randy’s ministry at Perimeter.

But I wasn’t quite prepared for this statement he made.  At some point in the Q&A time, he said, “If I had to go back in my ministry, and only pick between Preaching to the masses, or Discipling the few in life-on-life missional discipleship, I would pick life on life every time.”

I know this.  Or rather, I should say, I knew this.

If you look at the impact over a longer time one could have by investing into a few who then do the same with others, the outcomes are astounding.  Plus, it seems to be Jesus’ preferred way of doing ministry.

He wasn’t as concerned with speaking venues, podcasting sermons, marketing and promoting teaching series’.  Sure he spoke to the masses, and taught as One with authority.  Sure he even went to the mountaintops where his voice could project and carry.

He did these things, but they don’t seem to be the focus.

Instead, He lived life with a few, who would later turn the world upside down.

This isn’t sexy.  This doesn’t make headlines.  This doesn’t get your name or brand out there.

But it is highly impactful to the world for spreading the gospel and seeing the change of heart/lives that come with it.

I needed that.  My soul needed that.  As I prepare to go into a season of planting a church, I know my tendency is going to be to focus on the good things, at the expense of the best thing – giving my life away to a few, in a life on life, relationally intentional, purposeful discipleship way.

For those who are interested in delving more deeply into this (and who couldn’t be at the #GCA2014 conference), let me encourage you to pick up two resources along these lines.

Insourcing: Bringing Discipleship Back to the Local Church by Randy Pope

The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman

The Crazy One’s…We Should Be So Lucky!

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Steve Jobs inspiration poster

Steve Jobs inspiration poster (Photo credit: MarkGregory007)

The Crazy One’s….We should be so lucky!

Last night, my wife and I had a rare treat.  We got to go to the movies at a relatively decent time (not too late).  We saw Jobs, and it was great.  Sure, Woz had some historical issues with the movie, but all in all, it was great.  At the end, they ended with the best commercial I have ever heard/seen.  It’s simply Steve Jobs reading the quote below.  I was once again reminded how inspirational and moving seeing someone pursue the radical notion that things can be different matched with the conviction that it should be different – a great reminder for anyone seeking to make a dent in the universe.

Enjoy!

“Here’s to the crazy ones — the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs

Less is Really More, and Beware the Hunt for the Masses

Image representing Seth Godin as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

Seth’s Blog: Most people.

I am an avid reader of Seth Godin (books, blogs, anything really).  I love his ability to crystalize and disseminate wisdom that can be applied to creative (writers, artists) and organizational leaders (marketers, managers, etc.).  In this short blog, he writes on the importance of “less is more” and the danger of following after the masses.

Enjoy!

Book Review: Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft

Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft

Well its time for another brief book review.  I recently finished Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft, published under the Re:Lit banner of Crossway books.  Leadership and leadership development is a passion of mine, so when books like this come out, I’m usually on top of reading them.  This one slipped by me though for a few months before I dived into it.

The reason is because this has been one of the busiest season of my life.  In addition to my full-time pastoral role at Christ Church Santa Fe, I continue to serve other pastors as a Research Consultant.  But also two months ago we welcomed our fourth child into the world in Luke.  We are excited, but to any parent the first few months are the hardest (re-adjusting to an infant’s needs, lack of sleep, etc).

In that context, Kraft’s book was a breath of fresh air.  I have to say that in the pages of Kraft’s book I did not read anything new, necessarily.  Kraft is coming from a Navigator background, and myself having come up through Campus Outreach, I recognized many of the principles from other great books (thinking of LeRoy Eims, J. Oswald Sanders, etc).

But there was more. Kraft also weaved in some good principles and examples from the business side of leadership principles.  While I said there was nothing new, what was refreshing was to see someone integrate the biblical principles, theology of resource stewardship, and the practical insights and outworking in a context where leadership and effectiveness is prized highly.

Kraft wrote this with a particular audience in mind – that of the vocational ministry leader.  Every book needs a focus, so he should not be faulted for that.  Everything that he talks about is applicable to anybody.  His definition of a Christian leader I found to be quite heplful and refreshing in making room for leaders of various sizes and shapes: “A Christian leader is a humble, God-dependent, team-playing [that’s huge] servant of God who is called by God to shepherd, develop, equip and empower a specific group of believers to accomplish an agreed-upon [also huge] vision from God.” (24, Kindle edition).

You can tell by my inserted comments what I like most about Kraft.  He both affirms the role of key/Senior/Primary leadership, but also the “with others” context that permeates the Biblical witness as well as the experiences of many business leaders.  Look at Apple computers (my example, not Kraft’s): where would Apple be if Steve Wozniak hadn’t been working with Steve Jobs (or vice versa).  This was the biggest strength, in my opinion, of Kraft’s book.

The other most helpful section of his book were the sections on Formation (chs. 7 & 8 especially) and Fruitfulness (ch. 11).  These chapters alone are worth the cost of the book.  They are filled with great principles and packaged in a way that can be readily assimilated into whatever context you find yourself engaging as a leader.

Chapter 7 is especially helpful in forcing leaders to think through not just what they have learned (past tense) but at what rate are they currently learning (present).  The leadership dynamic that is most challenging – to leaders and their organizations – is resting on the laurels of previous work, accomplishments.  This is seen in the drastic statement that should never be the determiner of a course of action (though it should be informative to any course of action): “In my experience…”.  I am all for cataloguing experiences, learning from them and implementing them into the present for a desired future, but when they alone are what determines what is done, how its done, when its done, and why its done, we as leaders have effectively stopped growing, reflecting, learning and therefore leading.  Kraft’s thoughts in chapter 7 help shatter that paradigm, and for this I am most thankful for his work.

For all of its strengths, I do wish that Kraft had spent a little less time trumpeting thoughout the book his own personal philosophy of how he is seeking to be a purposeful leader.  I’ll explain that.  Normally, I think its a good thing when leaders know, own and share their personal passion.  For Kraft, his passion is to “develop leaders who develop leaders” essentially.  I share that passion with him.  But what can happen when we make statements like this is we tend to warp our definition of leaders to a particular type of leader.  The effect this can have is that other types of leaders are automatically discounted, not because they aren’t leaders, or not even senior level leaders, but because they don’t fit the mold of what pops into our head when we say “a leader who develops leaders.”  This is a systemic problem in a lot of discipleship-heavy ministries (especially college student ministries) that I think this rhetoric tends to merely exacerbate the problem, rather than speaking truth into it.

With that said, though, I can heartily recommend Kraft’s book, and would counsel any pastor or ministry leader to have it, digest it, and work it out, into your life and various ministries.  That one complaint is not indicative of Kraft’s whole work, just a disagreement on frequency of use and wording.  His thoughts, experiences and insights into leadership effectiveness for ministry leaders in the 21st century are extremely valuable and would assist anyone engaged in humbly leading others for the glory of God.

Worth it = Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft

REEL Conversations Case Study – Toy Story 3: Unwanted Junk or Precious Personalities

REEL Conversations is what I refer to as a ministry of seeing the theme of redemption in modern stories, namely cinema.  This is a brief write-up of a group discussion on the redemptive themes in the movie Toy Story 3.  This was used for a movie night we had at our church.  Enjoy and feel free to share! For a PDF version, click here.

Toy Story 3: Unwanted Junk or Precious Personalities

Toy Story 3 from Disney/Pixar

 “He called us ‘junk’!” yells Mrs. Potato Head in a healthy mix of indignation and shock.  This is the feeling at the very beginning of Toy Story 3.  And that sad assessment of the toys reality send them on a journey to find a new owner, a new home, where they would be appreciated for who they were.

“Welcome to Sunnyside!” This is the siren’s call of a place where they will never have to worry about anyone using them only to discard them later.  At last, the toys have found a place where they are promised to be played with, and never abandoned again.  They are free to be who they are and can enjoy their lives as it was meant to be lived.

Or are they?

Is this really what we want?

In their quest to find happiness they find themselves trapped and enslaved by one who cannot be happy unless others are miserable.  How will they escape?  And what would happen to them if they did?

This movie, the third installment of the hugely successful Disney/Pixar animated film company and Toy Story franchise, delves into the pervasive longing for “home”, for a place to belong and be loved, a place where a toy can be free to be a toy.  They ultimately find their answer not in a perfectly orchestrated system of manufacturing “kids” who replace other “kids” (Sunnyside), but in the loving arms of a “person” who embraces them (Andyà Bonnie).

Questions to consider:

  1. How did the toys feel at the beginning of the movie: like precious toys, or unwanted junk? What made them feel this way?
  2.  Why did they go to Sunnyside?  What did they like about it?
  3.  How do you think Woody felt trying to explain things to the other toys?  Was he right?  Why wouldn’t the others listen to him?
  4.  What happened to them at Sunnyside?  Was Lots-O a good guy or bad guy? What made him so?[1]
  5.  Did you like the end of the movie?  Why or why not?  Was the redemption found in the movie satisfying? Would you say it might even be biblical? (Read quotes below for more on this)

Quotes to consider: From Albert Wolters, Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview

“God does not make junk, and he does not junk what He has made.”

“To sin, in the Bible, is to serve Satan—or rather, to be enslaved to Satan…Bondage in Scripture has to do with enslavement to a spiritual empire.”

“…redemption:  a freeing of creation from the shackles of sin and evil and a reinstatement of creaturely living as intended by God.”


[1] Think along these lines: “If I can’t be happy, then I’ll make others miserable.” Could we imagine Satan saying this?

Peace & Peacemaking in a Broken World: Series Wrap-Up and Link

This past Sunday, I wrapped up a 5-part series on Peace and Peacemaking in a Broken World.  The time spent exploring that topic from Scripture was quote challenging and helpful to me personally.

If you would like, we have posted 4 of the 5 audio recordings of the class with the teaching notes for all who are interested.

If you do listen in or scan the notes, tell me what you thought either here or on Facebook.

bit.ly/l41uUt

The Flow of God’s Gifts

The following quote is great. I love Volf. His insights are penetrating and challenging. And a friend of mine, Jonathan McIntosh who is preaching on the topic of Consummation/Heaven this week made me think of this quote.

The flow of God’s gifts is not aimless spillage. It aims to create human givers and, after they have fallen into sin, to redeem them and finally, to glorify them in perfect communion with God and one another. The flow of gifts is God’s arms opened to the world, enabling us to partake of the gift exchange that makes up eternal divine life and supreme divine bliss. This is our best hope for the world to come: to “enjoy God” by receiving divine gifts and to enjoy one another in God in a perfect exchange of gifts with one another.” – Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge: Giving & Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace

Of course some would object to Volf’s use of plural gifts instead of the singular gift, but that to me is splitting hairs. The gift God gives us in the Son effects multiple gifts to His people, some being reconciliation with God, reconciliation with one another, the ability to live new lives for His glory, etc.

Still, I leave this for you, the world to enjoy!

Thoughts on Thursday – How do you share the gospel with someone who hates you?

Watch this to get an idea of how the gospel can transform the way we retaliate towards others.

Former Ku Klux Klan leader Johnny Lee Clary (Youtube – Watch this in its entirety)

How does the gospel transform the way we relate to those who would be our enemies?

This is enmity towards enmity at its best.