June 2008

Recently I had the opportunity to discuss via email the need for making disciples being a priority for a new church plant. In this discussion I shared a few things that I think would be a value for those who read this blog.

Let me recommend to you a book that has just been published on discipleship: “Search & Rescue: Becoming a Disciple Who Makes a Difference” by Neil Cole (author of Organic Church). This is a great resource with clear application. I would recommend any church that is serious about making disciples read this.

How serious are we about making disciples when planting a new church? What I mean is, if making disciples is the priority, then we should be doing that before trying to organize as a church. When disciples are being made, then church happens, forms, and leadership, vision and direction emerges for that specific congregation. Unfortunately the traditional method of erecting a church with its vision, mission, philosophy and style before disciples are being made causes the church to never really get there (the there being making disciples) because we spend all our time, assets and budget on serving the structure, institution or one man’s vision rather than making disciples.

To do this would take a radical step. That is the way Jesus did it, he poured his life into 12 men, discipled them and from that process the church was birthed in Jerusalem. To erect a “church” first causes the church to fall into the errors of: sectarianism, being a business rather than a family, being staff and facility focused rather than focused on Jesus and making disciples. Other errors are division and constant philosophical battles and playing politics and finally an institution that is not Kingdom of God centered, but the kingdom of that “church” entity centered.

Let me clarify what I stated above regarding making disciples first. The simple biblical pattern for church planting is as follows:

  1. Someone or a team is sent.
  2. They share the gospel and begin to make disciples of these new believers.
  3. These new believers become the church that is planted. (this eliminates the plague of transfer growth).
  4. The form in which the church takes fits the community on all levels rather than having transferred into the community patterns, ideas, methodologies imposed upon them rather than emerging from their own growth and spiritual understanding.
  5. They (the congregation) matures faster and is able to do the same in other neighborhoods and regions spreading the gospel spontaneously rather than institutionally.

This method at the start is much slower, but in the long run many more are reached and lives are transformed by the pure gospel rather than the efforts of men’s ideas, methods and ability to convince people to come to their meetings. They are attracted to Jesus rather than a product or personality.

Sounds like fun – go out and make some disciples!

Recently I have been analyzing my life from several different angles. This is mainly due to the struggle of dealing with disappointments and failures over the past few years. I have found that this exercise is paralyzing! So today I decided to spend some time in the Word and work towards getting back on track regarding the vision that God has placed in my life. (I’ll share about that at a later date).

God’s Word is certainly like a medicine, and I would like to share with you my journey through the scriptures as I attempt to clear the fog. I began to study a few of the Psalms, which always helps me out of the “mully-grubs” and then I did a quick word study. This word study came out of the phrase that kept entering my mind, “It’s all or nothing!” Indulge me a bit while I share this with you . . .

In Psalm 107 we are encouraged to “give thanks to the Lord for he is good.” And then it goes on to reveal how the redeemed experience different situations and their respond to those events. Every situation whether it was circumstances beyond their control, or something of their own doing, the Lord delivered them out of their trouble. Take a few moments and read this Psalm and see that the Lord was there to rescue anyone who turned to him. This is our hope.

We can see life is a series of events that can either destroy us or strengthen us. They can cause us to cry out to God or give up. Wouldn’t it be great if our life was filled with goals accomplished, achievements made without disappointments and having success after success. But unfortunately life does not happen that way. We have disappointments and even failures. But what is the difference between a disappointment and a failure.

Disappointment is when our hopes or expectations are not satisfied. “Dis” meaning a reversal or negation and “appoint” meaning to make arrangements or prescribe, to set in or establish. So a disappointment is when something we have attempted to establish is negated, or reversed. Failure is when actions are insufficient or fall short of missing a goal. There is a lack of success. What is the difference?

Disappointments come from circumstances beyond our control or responsibilities whereas failure is due to our own error. Certainly we can be disappointed at our own failures, but many times the most frustrating form of disappointment was something we could do nothing about. Either way, in disappointment or failure we are disappointed. Disappointment will rob us of all our emotional energy and cause us to want to give up. Proverbs 13:12; “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

How do disappointments happen? We have an expectation that we believe should be met, and because we set up this expectation, when it does not come through we get angry. We get disappointed and possibly depressed. We may even feel that we have the right to have this expectation met in our life and sense that we have gotten a bad deal. Any area of our life that we are continually disappointed in reveals that it is an area that we have not given over to the Lordship of Jesus Christ!

1 Corinthians 6:19,20 says; Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” We are bought with a price, we are not our own. If something is not meeting up to your expectations, and we are continually be angry, and disappointed then have we really given this to the Lord without reservation or condition? Are you disappointed about your finances? Your job? Your family?

What about failure, how does failure happen? Jesus said in John 15:5; “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” Failure is when God is not in it! It is nothing, or it amounts to nothing. God does not lead us to fail, but to bear fruit. God will certainly use our failures to teach us, and he redeems our mistakes (Psalm 107). If what we are doing is in obedience to God we cannot fail even if it looks like failure at first. We may be disappointed, but that is a matter of expectation, but not failure. If we are disappointed we have a problem with who is in charge. If we fail then it is obvious that the Lord was not in charge.

So what is the solution? There is a basic principle that is in God word that reveals to us how to handle things that are beyond our control. These things may disappoint us sometimes, and we may even fail this is what I call the “All or Nothing Principle.”

First let’s look at the “Alls” in God’s Word. As we grasp these and meditate on them our minds will be renewed and disappointments will be few. Let’s take a look at some of these. In 2 Corinthians 4:1-18 look at all the alls! Of course we don’t have the space to put the full text here – but note the following that reveals to us that this is all for our benefit:

“ . . . But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. . . . All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. . . . So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Look at all the alls in Romans 8! V. 28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Even here we see that all things can work together for good, for our benefit. No disappointment there! Romans 8:37 goes on to say; “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Here are some more “alls”:

· Romans 11:33-36 – All things come from God.

· 1 Corinthians 13:7 – God (love) never fails, always protects, hopes and perseveres!

· 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 – God always comforts us.

· 2 Corinthians 9:8 – God is able to make all things abound for us.

· Ephesians 1:11-12 – He works out everything for His will, for us.

· Philippians 2:14-16 – Do all things without complaining.

· Philippians 3:7-9 – All things are considered lost – except knowing Him.

· Philippians 4:11-21 – Be content in all circumstances . . .He will supply all your needs.

· 1 Peter 5:7-10 – Cast all your cares on Him, and He will restore, but you may suffer a little while.

What about the nothings? Here are some scriptures that reveal the nothings which will guard you from failure. Philippians 2:3 tells us to; “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” This will remove the fear of failure right out of the equation because we are not in it for ourselves.

Here are some other “nothings” that will guard us from failure:

· 1Timothy 6:6-7 – We brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out!

· James 1:2-4 – When we are mature we are wanting nothing.

· John 15:5 – we can do nothing without Him.

· 1 Corinthians 13:2-3 – without love we are nothing and we gain nothing.

· Luke 1:37 – Nothing is impossible.

· John 6:63 – Our flesh is nothing.

· 2 /Corinthians 6:1-10 – We have nothing, but we posses all things!

It is amazing that the phrase “all or nothing” can set our thinking straight. I sense I am on my way to seeing my “vision” restored. It is so true that the eye muscle is directly connected to the heart muscle! What is in our heart will always effect what we see.