“As you go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20
We know the great commission well but we don’t know discipleship. It struck me this week in a class setting when a few people showed disdain for material that was presenting face-to-face application of the gospel in the lives of friends. For them it was too prescriptive. And being generous I can see the point. But more so I think we wrestle with something like a script for telling people about Jesus over a meal because we never do it. We don’t know discipleship.
We think what Jesus means in his commission is to raise money so someone can go to far off lands or invite people to programs at the church so they can be discipled. Yet my experience is that very few people in the church actually disciple anyone. So at least anecodotaly we have missed the point.
Look at Jesus’ example first for a picture of discipleship. Giving others access to his life and teaching them along the way. To be a disciple of Jesus was to watch his life and ministry then talk about it. Eventually disciples would be sent to do the same things always coming back to Jesus to nurture the relationship.
In line with the parable of the talents, which is certainly about money but also so much more than that, we are not investing our time in multiplying the people around us we are called to steward when Jesus says “make disciples.” And friend you must know, your twitter followers are not disciples. Face-to-face, life-on-life discipleship is what we were meant for.
This is among the key transformations that must happen in the church if we are to experience revival in our day and on the local, my church, level it a key goal for the year in my mind. Beginning with the elders and other leaders in the church, honestly assessing if we are discipling people and prayerfully expecting that example to stir others to the same.
When the grace of Jesus wrecks you and frees you to life, we can’t help but share it and walk out this truth with others.
Is Fall actually upon us? In SoCal that means overnight temps in the 50’s and 60’s with daytime temps between 75 and, well 100. Ha. I occasionally miss a Midwest autumn with the smell of falling leaves and chill in the air. It smells like football season and Thanksgiving. Ah, nostalgia.
This week I have a trio of phenomenal articles and a video, all worthwhile. Take up and read, and watch.
First out of the gate was a stirring piece by Jared C. Wilson on the recent suicide of Jarrid Wilson. No relation just the same name. “There Should Be Two of Us” is honest and a reminder to all of us that our friends, the people we associate with and those around us can all suffer from depression. Maybe we become more equipped to love, stick with, and care for those in pain.
I am doing well now, and have been for a long time, but I know the feeling of everything being too much, the weight of the fear of never getting better, the emotional drowning of all those breakers and waves. I have heard the lies that nothing will change, that nobody really understands, that people would be better off without the burden of me, and all the rest. And in brief doubtful moments I believed them.
That is the enemy speaking. I don’t know what brought me back from the brink, really. A different kind of fear, I suspect. The fear of missing out on what might happen tomorrow. More than likely, tomorrow would be just the same as today. Every day seems to bring the same pain, the same worry, the same hopelessness. But what if tomorrow’s different? Do I want to rob myself of finding out? And do I want to hurt those I love? A residual curiosity about what might happen if I don’t give up thankfully proved slightly stronger than the despair.
For seriously depressed persons, I know these thoughts don’t come easily, if they come at all. For those seriously struggling with suicidal thoughts, the illness crowds out rationality and logic, as well as sentimentality and hope.
But it is in these moments, perhaps, that faith is most faith. If you cannot see the light, as the saying goes, cast an anchor in the dark. Doubt your doubts. Believe what you can’t.
Next a call to weak leadership by Darryl Dash. It’s not what you think but a call to biblical leadership fully aquainted with weakness and the need for the Spirit’s power to lead.
“I’m convinced our most common leadership model within the North American church resembles that of the Corinthians. We long for the so-called super-apostles. We want the gifted, the successful, the articulate, the men and women who get things done. Our leaders are allowed to suffer, but only in the past tense. We want winners, people who’ve beat the odds…It’s time to rewrite our leadership playbook. It’s time for leaders who’ve learned the power of weakness.”
Dash looks at Paul in 2 Corinthians for guidance and I think he is on to something. This last week I have been meeting with groups in our church to discuss a new network partnership for us. These talks have also brought on questions of the church’s future and I was quick to share that like Paul I am often “burdened beyond my strength.” And that is exactly where I want to be so I keep trusting Jesus.
Thirdly, this bit from the last book written by David Powlison shared by Justin Taylor. In it Powlison gives a front row view of a heart given to Christ. What it means to suffer and have hope. Ultimately hope in our Savior.
In the midst of my confusion, unbelief, and fear of death, God used Ezekiel 36:25–27 to bring me to faith. It was my first encounter with the belt of truth that Jesus gives his people. It was my first encounter with the sword of the Spirit that exposes and heals. At that moment, I knew the truth of what Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). It was God who shone his light into my heart and awakened me from the slumber of sin and death.
Now more than four decades later, I am staring death in the face. Instead of my faith failing, the promise of a new heart holds true. God is still shining into the darkness of my heart to give me the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. The reality of death has made the truth of God’s Word come alive to me.
Are you thinking about how to approach life and discipleship in the New Year? Our resolutions can’t all be about weight loss, can they?! If you are giving thought about how to integrate your faith into all of life, maybe this short talk I gave during a Flourish San Diego learning community session this last year could help spur on your thinking and pursuing:
We set out to build a church, and we come across the promise of gifting for the benefit of the church and the kingdom…
“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,  so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:..” Romans 12:4–6(ESV)
“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Ephesians 4:4–7 (ESV)
Then over time, we adapt this list to the programmatic needs of the church. We focus on hospitality, who will welcome and serve those that attend our church? Musical gifting, who can we train to lead musical worship in the church? Teaching Children, who will tackle the ever-present need to serve in ministry to kiddos? On and on it goes. Practical needs surrounding the weekly gathering of the church take precedent.
We tend then to not recognize gifting but need and pigeonhole people into meeting them. We might see vocational expertise but we see them through a lens of what they can do for the church. So we tap the graphic designers or electricians to do the work of the church and trust that the successful entrepreneurs will give lots of money to the church.
What then develops over time is perhaps a big machine. The only thing that matters is the machine and our sense of mission, place, and vocation are sacrificed on the altar of church success. But this is not the church we find being built in the New Testament…
There is another way, yes gifts are given by the Spirit for the health and flourishing of the body, but that is not exclusive to within the walls of the church, because the church flourishes when all of its parts, all of its members recognize and use the passions, talents, opportunities for kingdom good.
This is discovering and stewarding our vocational power.
This is seeing people as individuals with various gifts, called to be a redemptive, renewing force in our world, that others may experience the renewal that is found in Christ.
This is the equipping for ministry the church is called to, laboring to expose and give examples of how vocation is sacred and our place has a purpose. Shall we be about this work? Let’s.
Almost ten months ago at our church, I invited a small group of guys to purposefully hang out once a month to read about and discuss issues from a gospel-oriented perspective. We have talked about defining the whole gospel, what it means to love our neighbors, how to form deep relationships in the church, preventing and exposing abuse, seeing our careers as the avenue we can do good for the glory of God, and how the church can become a “creative minority” in our culture. We meet each month on the third Thursday in local brewpubs or tasting rooms (which we have plenty of in San Diego) so we called it ‘Brewing Leaders.’ Of course not everyone in the group drinks…
Originally the group was formed to give me more one-on-a-few time with those beginning or continuing to lead in the church and model a discipleship context that could be replicated when each of them begins their own group. But design doesn’t always meet real life and there has been an increasing desire from other guys in the church to participate in something similar.
To that end, in September, I am planning to launch two new groups for guys to study the same articles and have the same discussions in a new relational context. And instead of being invite only, I am opening the group to any guy at Reservoir who wants to participate and can commit to attending regularly.
The new groups will be “Bottled Leaders” on the first Thursday of each month, and “Boba Leaders” on the fourth Thursday of each month. As the names imply, the Bottled gang will stick to the brew-pub/bottle barn venue and the Boba dudes will stick with non-alcoholic beverages which may be highly preferred for a few of us.
So if you are a guy, part of Reservoir Church, and interested in leadership in the church, home, and culture, jot me a note at jonathan[at]reservoirchurchsd.org and let me know which of the two new groups you are interested in.
Six is an optimal number for each group so once we hit that number we will close the opportunity for this season. Of course, if the interest is outrageous, we could always have a “Donut Leaders!”
And ladies, if you are interested in something similar let me know as well as we are trying to form a group for you along the same lines.