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.