Monday, February 24, 2014

Making Disciples Who Make Disciples



I wrote the following article for the weekly electronic newsletter of my church, Cornerstone Church in Easton, Pa., where I serve as church chairman and head elder.

The American evangelical church has had no shortage of movements and fads in recent years, from “seeker sensitive” to “purpose driven” to “missional.” At the annual joint board retreat last month, we focused on a direction that we hope will become an integral part of how we carry out Jesus’ mission at Cornerstone: discipleship.

Discipleship is far beyond a flavor of the month—it’s what Jesus called us to do in the Great Commission, His last recorded words before ascending into heaven.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  
Matthew 28:19-20

Notice that Jesus didn’t say to make Christians of all the nations. It’s not our call to just share the Gospel and move on to the next person. It’s to make disciples. A disciple is someone who:

  • knows and follows Christ
  • is changed by Christ
  • is committed to Christ’s mission

Making disciples involves teaching others the disciplines of the faith and helping them mature as followers of Jesus. This requires a relationship. It means sharing our lives with others and showing them what we’ve learned about reading and applying the Bible, prayer, servanthood, and so on.

But our job doesn’t end there. We need to help others become true disciples—those who will make other disciples. Jesus taught His disciples the gospel, showed them how to share it, then assigned them to preach the Gospel themselves. The teaching method in discipleship, as outlined by Dave and Jon Ferguson in the book Exponential, goes something like this:

I do. You watch. We talk.
I do. You help. We talk.
You do. I help. We talk.
You do. I watch. We talk.
You do. Someone else watches…

I’m excited about this direction! It’s a process of multiplication that we believe will result in many more Christians being:

filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
Colossians 1:9b-10

Thursday, February 13, 2014

School and Suffering

Last school year was a dark one for my daughter, Isabelle. "Dark" may seem a melodramatic word for a 5th grade experience, but it fits. It was her first year of middle school and she suffered through a bully, some nasty and petty kids, frustratingly repetitive instruction, and the personal changes that start happening at that age.

It's painful to see your children go through this. You want to rescue them. You want to drive to school and say some inappropriate, your-name-will-probably-appear-in-the-Express-Times-type words to those causing her misery.

At my elementary school in Annapolis, Maryland, intimidation and bullying ran rampant in fourth through sixth grades. I can remember being chased, struck, and belittled. It wasn't until sometime in sixth grade that I realized I had nothing to lose and stood up for myself. (In one memorable incident, I accidentally nailed the most notorious bully in the most sensitive location during dodgeball. He menacingly approached me. Adrenaline coursing through my body, I let him know that I was ready to fight right then and there. Nothing really came of it.)

I also remember the indignity of walking onto the bus, seeking a seat as other kids sat toward the edges of theirs, letting me know I was unwelcome. One kid was questioned as to why he let me sit with him.

I could go on, but I'll get to the point. It's found in the Bible, Romans 5:3-5:
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

I'm far from being able to "glory" in sufferings. Sad to say, I'm just not that godly. Maybe one day. But the fact is, my difficult experiences in school made me stronger. They also gave me a particular compassion for the underdogs in society that I'm told is noticeable.  I don't wish the adversity that I or Isabelle experienced on anyone, but I recognize that it can build character--character I've seen in Isabelle--especially if someone lovingly guides the person through it.

I desperately hope that I'm doing a good job of that.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Oliver Gets Dance Fever

Ever had one of those moments with a family member where you think, "Now where did THAT come from?" It happened with my son, Oliver, during March Around the World, an annual cultural/educational event at his elementary school that my wife organizes. Some of her international students teach the children about an aspect of culture and lead them in a related, interactive activity. I took the brief video below during a session on Bollywood dancing.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Moments of Genius #1: Toothpaste Snack

Some years back, I went to a new dentist after mine retired, and I was horrified to learn at my first visit that I had many cavities. Since then, I've kept a toothbrush and toothpaste at work so I can brush after eating sweets.

I have this weird habit of brushing at my desk for a bit while looking at work stuff on my computer and then taking my toothbrush to the bathroom to finish and rinse. Today in the middle of this, a coworker entered my office and began talking to me. I had no choice but to feign laryngitis or swallow everything. I chose the latter. Really gross.

Maybe one day I'll grow up.

Monday, November 12, 2012

So Jesus Didn't Know Everything?

Well, I caused some controversy in Sunday school yesterday. (I attend Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Easton, Pa.) The class was discussing Jesus' calling of the 12 disciples, specifically how He knew things about them that could only be known supernaturally. The prevailing sentiment was that Jesus knew because He's God. After all, Jesus knew us "before the foundation of the world."

I disagreed. Strongly.

Yes, Jesus was fully divine and fully human, but He "emptied Himself" (Philippians 2:5-7) to live as a man, accepting the limitations of humanity. How could it be true that "Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature" (Luke 2:52) if he exercised His divine omniscience? Knowing things supernaturally and performing miracles through the Holy Spirit is consistent with this. It was the "power of the Lord," not the power that He set aside, that was "present for Him to perform healing" (Luke 5:17).

Jesus lived a Spirit-filled life. He was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matt. 4:1). He "returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit" (Luke 10:14) and quoted the prophecy stating that "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me" (Luke 10:18). He "rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit" (Luke 10:21). God "anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power" (Acts 10:38). He gave instructions to His disciples through the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1-2).

It was through learning, not omniscience, that Jesus realized John the Baptist had been taken into custody, which led Him on a particular course (Matt. 4:12). He marveled at the centurion's faith (Matt. 8:10). While sometimes He asked questions as a rhetorical device, at other times He posed them to gain information. For example, when the woman who had suffered a hemorrhage for 12 years touched His garment, He asked who touched him and looked to see (Mark 5:30-32). He asked a father how long his demon-possessed son had been exhibiting such behavior (Mark 9:21). Also, He said that He did not know the day and hour when heaven and earth will pass away (Matt. 24:35-36). And He wouldn't have needed to be led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit if He were acting in omniscience.

Jesus also did incredible miracles through the Holy Spirit while maintaining the vulnerability of having emptied Himself of His omnipotence. When He fasted, He became hungry (Matt. 4:2). After being tempted by Satan, he needed angels to minister to Him (Matt. 4:11). He needed an angel to strengthen Him in the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:43). He experienced agony (Luke 22:44).

If we understand that Jesus emptied Himself and was empowered by the Holy Spirit, we appreciate how He humbled himself and accepted the limitations of humanity in His incarnation. We also gain a sense of the power available to us.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Keeping the Past from Disappearing

Lack of time and atrophied writing skills have discouraged me from starting a blog. But this seems like a good way to record some thoughts and experiences before they disappear from memory. I have no illusions of attracting a significant number of readers; that's not the point. This is a place to prevent too much of the past from disappearing, and perhaps to share a little bit of my life with a few people.

I was surprised to find so many possible website addresses for the blog already taken. I was even more struck by how many of these blogs had one only post or none at all. I mean, if you're going to take up a good blog web address, at least use it, right?

But to be honest, I wrote the above two paragraphs on January 10 and just took this up again today. So, yeah, I've been one of those non-writers. Ironically, as part of my job at Lafayette College, I oversee a student blogging website, and I'm always reminding my students to write because it's been too long since their last post. Let's hope none of them stumble across this!

How does anyone find the time to write a personal blog anyway? Between work, family, church/volunteering, a little bit of exercise and a little bit of TV to relax, I don't get enough sleep (like most everyone), much less have time for a blog. But let's see if I can manage my time better and write here from time to time.

A little background: I'm 41, married to the most beautiful woman on earth, Janine, and have a 10-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son. We live in the College Hill neighborhood of Easton, Pa., where Janine and I graduated from Lafayette College.

Janine works part-time advising the international students at Lafayette and enjoys cooking, Japanese culture, Disney World, and the TV show Lie to Me, among many other interests. She loves her work with the students and does so much to make their lives better.

Isabelle began at Easton Middle School and loves reading, anime, and spending time on the computer, where's she's started and abandoned three blogs herself (guess you know where she gets it from).

Oliver is in first grade and began playing soccer on a team this fall after playing baseball in the spring. He loves playfighting with me and our dachshund, Rupert.

This year I joined the elder board and the missions committee of the church I've attended since 1993, Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Easton. I started and led a two-church ministry to a Burmese refugee family for its first 14 months in the United States, after which they moved. I enjoy playing basketball, reading comic books, and watching superhero cartoons with Oliver. I work at Lafayette as associate director of website and video content. Previously, I worked at a newspaper company and then a magazine company in writing and editing capacities.

Thanks for reading my first blog post. I'm sure you're in select company.