On the 23rd of May myself and Steve met with Jim Kelsey the Executive Minister of New York for the American Baptist Church. The goal of the meeting was to meet directly with the upper authority in the ABC to discuss ministry perspectives, specifically in regards to their stance on certain social issues and their leadership structure in general.
The meeting unfortunately went as expected with both ourselves and Jim being very clear and honest on where we stood. The ABC has a leadership structure where they do not provide oversight or direction unless first asked by a congregation. This leads to a very apathetic leadership structure and in my opinion frustratingly irresponsible on the shepherding side. The ABC as a denomination has a fundamental root where they allow churches to interpret scripture how they choose and ABC will back them fully (except in areas of abuse noted Jim). In the realm of social progressiveness this leads them, as Jim put it, “not to fight this battle anymore” but this is to ensure that they “don’t make their circle too small”. Jim’s position is specifically designed to oversee and to intervene in matters that need to be resolved amidst churches so if there were a person that would be in the know, it would be him.
At the end of the meeting both Steve and myself left understanding that prayer as a body needs to be sought. The ABC has a lackluster structure that they are very content in and it is apparent that they are not ones to stand on Biblical Truth for the fear of dying on the mole hill of some social issues. As elders we would as that as a family we pray through our association with ABC together. Jim proudly stated in our meeting that he has been in many other denominations and “is American Baptist through and through”, so may we pray and seek what the fruit of having ties with this denomination are and if we can confidently and biblically stand with them.
Ever since Johnny Carson, “The Tonight Show” has been a staple of late night television. Our grandparents invited Carson into their homes, our parents invited Leno, and now we welcome Jimmy Fallon every evening to commentate, interview and entertain.
Fallon has taken over “The Tonight Show” and is cranking out viral videos every week. Whether he is tag-teaming with Justin Timberlake, impersonating Neil Young or lip syncing with a celebrity guest, one thing is clear: people love being on and watching “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon.
Why is Fallon so appealing? What makes his show a joy to watch? Why is he a great host? I think Fallon’s success can be traced to three key practices: He doesn’t take himself seriously, he puts the spotlight on others and he speaks through culture. I believe Christians can actually learn from Fallon’s example as they attempt to demonstrate the love of Christ. Here’s how:
Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
Fallon is not afraid to acknowledge his faults. He is quick to laugh at his quirks and cheerfully accepts teasing from his guests. Like all great hosts, Fallon demonstrates that people are attracted to those who are humble.
As believers, we are free to take the gospel seriously without necessarily placing ourselves in the same category. James 4:6 reminds the believer, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” We don’t have to present ourselves as perfect. In a culture where pride is pervasively praised, Fallon shows us that humility can be hilarious, endearing and attractive.
Give the Spotlight Away
I don’t know if Fallon has ever read Romans 12:10, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor,” but his show is a great example of how to consistently give the spotlight away. For example, most late night shows have a house band; Fallon has The Roots, one of the most celebrated and sophisticated hip-hop groups of the last decade. On most late night shows, the band plays background music and gets the occasional nod from the host. Instead of following this model, Fallon has made The Roots a huge part of his show, offering sketches, punch lines and applause breaks to the band.
Whether at work, home, church or the golf course, we generally want the attention to be on us. We want people to see and celebrate our needs, our gifts, our property and our persons. It has been said that people rarely care how interesting you are, but always care how interested you are. How interested are you in the lives and gifts of those around you? Fallon shows us that making others the focus is not only wise, but enjoyable.
Learn How to Speak Through Culture
Fallon has learned how to listen to culture and make us laugh by using words, analogies and stories that are familiar to our 21st-century ears. Every time Fallon, a musical guest and The Roots collaborate to do one of their infamous songs using classroom instruments, we all share, tweet and like the video because it does three things: It makes us feel nostalgic for elementary school choir, it connects that nostalgia with a current pop hit we can’t get out of our head and it does these things while making us laugh.
Even the Apostle Paul saw value in using the cultural works of the day to speak to the hearts and minds of his audience. When Paul preaches from the Areopagus, he references an idol to an unknown god and quotes a pagan poet to draw Athenian minds to the superiority of the one true God over the false works of metal and wood they called gods (Acts 17:22-34). Believers should feel free, though not obligated, to use various cultural works (i.e. movies, songs, books, etc.) to point back to Christ. Everything that is Truth will be rooted in the One who gives all good gifts (Jas. 1:17).
So, the next time you tune in to watch “The Tonight Show,” consider these questions: Do I take myself too seriously? Do I outdo those around me in showing honor? Have I learned how to speak through culture by using words, analogies and stories that will make sense? We as Christians have the opportunity to communicate a message that is far more captivating than that of any guest on “The Tonight Show.” The question is, will we be known for communicating this story in a captivating way?
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In our attempt to continue to provide excellent written communication to the church, the Elders are pleased to offer this report of their current work. Similarly, we would also ask that all other ministry leaders prepare a written report each month to share with the church. Please send your monthly reports to Elder Doug Farley by the 15th of each month.
After a review of our office space situation in the church, the elders decided to make some changes to make best use of our limited space. Youth Director Renae Mansfield will have an office on the second floor of the Fellowship Hall. Pastor Stephen & Pastor Tim are relocating their main offices to the parsonage, and will be sharing an office space on the second floor of the Fellowship Hall. Pastor Tim will be there Tuesday & Wednesday and Pastor Stephen, Thursday & Friday. We are also setting up a conference room that can be used by any ministry that would like to use an appropriate meeting space.
The elders continue to monitor the finances of the church, especially for the property purchase planned for 2014. The good news is (Praise the Lord!) we ended 2013 with $25,000 more in funds then we had at the start of the year. Right now we have about $30,000 dedicated to the land purchase in a savings account. (The purchase price for the property is $85,000.) There is also an additional $15,000 remaining in our operating account to start 2014. We have received financial information (pledge cards) from 17 families in the church (15 that are able to assist over and above their tithe) with pledges that total $25,000. Of that amount, $7,500 has been received and $17,500 is still to come in. Also, several people are giving towards the building who did not give us pledge cards. Thank you all for your prayers and support as we draw closer to our planned purchase date of June 1.
As we mentioned last month, we are now ready to ask everyone who attends church to complete a Connect Card. You will be receiving these cards in the bulletin. These forms will give us important information concerning our church family. Deacon Sherrie Twist has very graciously offered to assist with data entry into our church management software. Doug and Stephen will also work with this. The Welcome Ministry will be involved in utilizing this information.
It was decided to hold a meeting after church today to vote on the proposed Biblical Marriage Amendment to our Constitution. The meeting will immediately follow the service in the sanctuary. Please plan to stay for this brief but important business matter. The proposed amendment is printed here for your review.
Marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God with Adam and Eve. Genesis 2:24 states: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” In Matthew 19:4-5, Jesus reaffirms this: “He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’?” In response to this biblical instruction, the church will only perform marriage between one man and one woman.
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Here are the top 5 most watched sermon by you in 2013, we are hoping that these are something that bless you once again. It is an honor and a privilege to be able to provide this free resource for everyone.
For those of you who read about the PewView announcement last week and tried to access it today but could only access the audio live stream, don’t worry it wasn’t an error on your end, I just haven’t received the webcam yet. I checked it’s status with Amazon yesterday and they said that it is sitting in the Wilson post office. However, as I was checking, I was also unfortunately driving back from the JFK airport after my flight from there was cancelled. I arrived back in Wilson around 3pm and at that point the post office was closed, so I can’t collect it until Monday. I am sorry for any inconvenience or disappoint this might have cause you today. We will have it up and running for next week.
If you are wondering what PewView is, check out my previous post.
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This Sunday we are testing out something new and exciting.
Up until now, if you weren’t able to make it to church because you were under the weather, you could head to wilsonfbc.com/live and listen to a live streamed audio feed of the sermon, which quite honestly, isn’t a bad option for a small church. However the Elders were made more aware that we have some members in our church family that find it difficult to venture out on a Sunday morning in the middle of a Buffalo winter, and so we wanted to provide a better alternative to a simple audio stream.
Obviously the natural step up from audio streaming is video streaming, however to do it well (offering a professional production, the way that mega-churches do it today), you’re talking a few thousand dollars worth of an investment. Which is honestly a great idea, but there is just one problem, we aren’t a mega-church and we can’t afford the large investment.
After several months researching possible cheaper alternative and having no luck, the Lord gifted us with the great idea that we are proud to call PewView. We have purchased a HD 1080p webcam from amazon.com (for $70) and we plan to stream that signal through Google Hangouts every Sunday. Naturally with the video signal coming from a webcam and not our Canon XF100, we don’t have the same versatility that the Canon offers. However, what it will do is provide a High Definition picture that will make you feel like you are watching the sermon from a pew in the church, hence the name PewView.
We will keep the accessibility of this resource just as easy as the audio stream. All you will need to do is visit wilsonfbc.com/live around 10am on any giving Sunday and you should be ready to watch.
PLEASE NOTE This will not replace the weekly edited sermons that our creative team have ready for viewing by Tuesday, they are still dedicated to that process too.
Our hope is that this would not replace your commitment to the local church body. Our prayer is that you still see the biblical significance of being actively plugged into the life of the local church body. Jesus didn’t just save us from hell, he also adopted us into his family, one that we are called to actively be a part of. We are very grateful that this is a resource that that Lord has allowed us to offer, but we can’t stress enough the importance of remaining part of the body too.
We are praying that PewView is a resource that you will enjoy, and perhaps a system that other small churches can adopt too.
Why do you want to make disciples?
Have you ever asked yourself that question? The answer is incredibly important.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we should be focused on making disciples. But if we don’t do it with the right motives, we are wasting our time. Worse yet, we could be doing more harm than good. Ministering to other people has been a deadly trap for seemingly godly people throughout the ages. If God cared only about outward appearances and religious activities, then any effort toward ministry would please Him. But God tells us repeatedly that He cares more about the heart than the externals.
If God cared only about religious activities, then the Pharisees would have been heroes of the faith. They were continuously engaged in ministry: they vigorously pursued outward demonstrations of godliness; they made sure the people around them kept themselves holy, and they diligently taught the law of God. And yet the Gospels present the Pharisees as villains. Jesus’s harshest words were reserved for these religious overachievers:
This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (Matt. 15:8–9)
The Pharisees devoted their whole lives to religious activity. They must have seemed so impressive to the people around them. Yet Jesus came along and declared that it was all in vain! An important theme that runs throughout Scripture is this: “The LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart“ (1 Sam. 16:7). Clearly, God wants us to pursue certain actions, but as we put God’s commands into action, our motivation makes all the difference.
Q1 | Take a moment to examine your heart. In all honesty, why do you want to make disciples? Do you struggle with wanting your actions to be noticed by others?
Teaching Is Dangerous
Ask yourself again: Why do you want to make disciples?
Maybe your decision to be a disciple maker has been reluctant. Perhaps the only reason you are still working through this material is because Jesus commands you to make disciples, and you don’t want to be disobedient. You’re not sure if you have much to offer, but you know you should let God use you however He desires.
Or maybe you’ve always seen yourself as a leader. You have a message that the church needs to hear, and you’re ready to teach anyone who will listen. You don’t need motivation; you just want to be better equipped.
For those of you who are reluctant, remember that God wants you to minister out of joy, not mere obligation. God wants us to enjoy the privilege and pleasure of ministering to others. He wants us to be cheerful when we give (2 Cor. 9:7), and He wants us to lead others willingly and eagerly:
Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly. (1 Pet. 5:2)
For those who are eager to lead, remember that God wants us to be cautious as we lead. Remember that you will be teaching people about the Bible and guiding them into godly living. The Bible takes the role of a teacher very seriously, and so should we.
James gave us a terrifying warning about the power of the tongue. While we can speak truth and bring life to people, he warned that our words can also cause incredible damage. The tongue is untamable, James said, capable of diverting the direction of our lives, producing deadly poison, and “setting on fire the entire course of life“ (James 3:6). Indeed, James even accused the tongue of being set on fire by hell!
If you look at your heart and find even a trace of desire for the glory and prestige that come through teaching and leading other people, take some time to let James’s warning sink in. Think about what your tongue is capable of. As a disciple maker, you could make a huge impact for the kingdom of God. Or you could lead people horribly astray.
Q2 | Read James 3:1–12 and meditate on James’s warning. How do these powerful words affect you? How might you need to adjust your approach to making disciples?
Love Comes First
Paul added a challenge from a different angle. In the most beautiful terms, he said that gaining knowledge and power—even sacrificing our own bodies—is completely worthless apart from love:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor. 13:1–3)
The result of loveless ministry is serious: “I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal … I am nothing … I gain nothing.“ In other words, even the most impressive and sacrificial actions are worthless if they are not empowered by love.
Are you the type of person who would teach someone without loving them? Don’t be quick to answer. Many good pastors have confessed that they got so caught up in the busyness of ministry that they went through the motions without loving their people. Most of us have to work hard to keep love at the forefront.
What do you think and feel when you are in a group of people? Are you overly aware of the ones who are wealthy, attractive, or have something they can offer you? Do you worry about what people think of you? Or do you look for ways to love and opportunities to give? A sure sign of a loveless heart is seeing people as a means to your own ends—they listen to you, give you affirmation when you want it, stay out of your way when you don’t, etc. Teaching other people with this type of mentality is bound to be sterile and unfruitful. According to Paul, every time we try to teach someone with this mentality, we can be sure that we have become nothing more than a clanging gong or resounding cymbal; we have made ourselves both annoying and irrelevant.
Fulfilling Jesus’s command to make disciples is about more than having the right theology or well-developed teaching points. Remember that if you “understand all mysteries and all knowledge“ yet don’t have love, you are nothing. Earlier in the same letter, Paul said, “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God“ (1 Cor. 8:2–3). It’s not about what you know—or what you think you know—it’s about love.
If you’re not willing to make loving God and loving people your highest priority, then stop. Seriously, walk away until you’ve settled this one essential point. Lack of love is the unmistakable mark of death: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death“ (1 John 3:14).
Making disciples isn’t about gathering pupils to listen to your teaching. The real focus is not on teaching people at all—the focus is on loving them. Jesus’s call to make disciples includes teaching people to be obedient followers of Jesus, but the teaching isn’t the end goal. Ultimately, it’s all about being faithful to God’s call to love the people around you. It’s about loving those people enough to help them see their need to love and obey God. It’s about bringing them to the Savior and allowing Him to set them free from the power of sin and death and transform them into loving followers of Jesus Christ. It’s about glorifying God by obediently making disciples who will teach others to love and obey God.
So the question is, how much do you care about the people around you? When you stand in a crowd, interact with your family, or talk to people in your church, do you love them and long to see them glorify God in every aspect of their lives? Honestly assessing your heart and asking God to purify your motives need to become habits in your life.
Q3 | Up to this point, would you say that your desire to make disciples has been motivated by love? Why or why not?
Take some time to consider your existing relationships—family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc. The way you think about and interact with the people that God has placed in your life can tell you a lot about your heart. Think about your relationships and ask yourself how well you love those around you. By assessing your current relationships, you should be able to identify areas you need to work on.
Q4 | Describe your love for the people God has placed in your life. What evidence can you point to that shows that you love the people around you?
Q5 | In addition to praying fervently, what practical steps can you take to increase your love for people?
Teaching by Example
One of the worst things you can do is teach truths that you are not applying. We call this hypocrisy, and it’s the most common criticism of Christians in America. You could argue that it may be better not to teach at all than to teach truth without applying it to your own life. Jesus gave some harsh warnings toward the religious leaders who were doing that very thing. He said:
Do and observe whatever they [the scribes and Pharisees] tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. (Matt. 23:3–5)
Hypocrisy has damaged many, so let’s run far from it.
James also gave a strong warning against this type of thinking. He said that if we hear the Word of God, but don’t do what it says, we are merely deceiving ourselves (James 1:22–25). He went on to say that religion without practical action is worthless (vv. 26–27). Let’s be realistic: a self-deceived teacher who practices worthless religion is probably not the best candidate for a disciple maker.
Maybe the clearest explanation of teaching by example can be found in the book of Hebrews: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith“ (Heb. 13:7). The author of Hebrews actually called us to consider—literally, “to examine carefully“—the outcome of a teacher’s lifestyle. We can get so caught up in examining a person’s doctrinal positions that we overlook his or her pattern of life. But this is essential because Hebrews calls us to imitate the faith of these people. If you are going to make disciples, you need to be putting your faith into practice so that the people around you can imitate your faith.
Because of this, being a disciple maker demands your entire life. The job description of a disciple maker is the same as that of a disciple of Jesus Christ. It requires everything. It means following Jesus in every aspect of your life, pursuing Him with a wholehearted devotion. If you’re not ready to lay down your life for Christ’s sake, then you’re not ready to make disciples. It’s that simple.
This doesn’t mean that you need to be perfect before you start. Perfection is a lifelong process that won’t end until eternity (see Phil. 1:6 and 3:12–14). But it does mean that you need to “count the cost“ (see Luke 14:25–33) and allow God’s truth to change your life. Making disciples is all about seeing people transformed by the power of God’s Word. If you want to see that happen in others, you need to be experiencing such transformation yourself.
Q6 | Would you say that your life is being transformed by the truth of God’s Word? Why or why not?
Q8 | The things you’ve been thinking through in this session are not easy to address—there are no “quick fixes“ here. End your time with this session by praying that God will give you the proper motivation to make disciples, increase your love for Him and the people around you, and empower you to live out the truths that He has called you to teach to others.
This video was shown during week number 3 of our series Multiply. We are praying that it speaks to you the way that it was used during the sermon that Sunday morning.
More teens are leaving the church now than ever before. Ever wonder why? Skye Jethani makes it simple and clear in this video. He goes beyond pointing out the flaws.. he offers up an answer as well.
Imagine your reaction if someone came back from the dead to speak to you. Seriously, try to imagine that right now. What would you feel? How intensely would you listen? How seriously would you take his or her words?
Think about what this must have been like for the disciples. They were working their everyday jobs when a mysterious teacher asked them to follow Him. As they followed, they saw Him challenge religious leaders, embrace sinners, heal the sick, and even raise the dead. They knew that He was not an ordinary man. At various times and to varying degrees, people saw Him as the Messiah who would bring salvation for God’s people. But He never quite fit anyone’s expectations of what the Messiah would do or say.
The disciples walked beside Jesus through all of this. They watched as the blind were given sight. They heard Jesus forgive the hopelessly unrighteous and restore the lives of the broken. They helped pass out bread and fish as Jesus miraculously fed huge crowds. The disciples seem to have been more aware of Jesus’s true identity at some points than at others, but they followed Him until the end, believing that He was the one who would restore the fortunes of God’s people.
And then He died. Just like that. It was over. It seemed that Jesus could do absolutely anything, that He had power over sickness, death, every person, and every thing. By this power, Jesus was bringing the healing and redemption that the world so desperately needed. But the disciples’ hopes of a better world died as Jesus was nailed to a Roman cross.
And so the disciples spent three days in confusion and disillusionment. Everything they had hoped for was gone. Perhaps they had wasted their time following this mysterious person for three years.
Then it happened. He came back from the dead! When Jesus reappeared on the third day, all of their hope came rushing back! Now there could be no doubt! Now that Jesus had conquered even sin and death, He would certainly fix this broken world. Jesus would accomplish what everyone was longing to see. There could be no stopping Him.
Once again, He surprised everyone. Instead of telling them that He would immediately transform the earth, Jesus gave His disciples one final command and ascended into heaven. Just like that, out of nowhere. What was the command? Essentially, He told them it was their job to finish what He started. They were to take the message that Jesus declared and exemplified in and around Jerusalem and spread that message to the very ends of the earth:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:18–20)
Q1 | Stop for a minute and read Matthew 28. Try to place yourself in the disciples’ shoes as they witnessed these things and heard these words from Jesus. How do you think you would have reacted?
The Great Commission and the Church
So what comes to your mind when you think about Jesus’s command to make disciples of all nations? Many read these words as if they were meant to inspire pastors or missionaries on their way out to the mission field. But have you ever considered that maybe Jesus’s command is meant for you?
As we read the rest of the New Testament, we see God’s people working together in obedience to Jesus’s command. They reached out to the people around them, calling them to obediently follow Jesus. The disciples went about making disciples, teaching them to obey everything that Jesus had commanded and baptizing them. Some of them even moved to different areas or traveled around so that they could tell more people. They took Jesus’s words seriously—and literally.
Reading through the New Testament, it’s not surprising to read that Jesus’s followers were focused on making disciples—it makes sense in light of Jesus’s ministry and the Great Commission. The surprise comes when we look at our churches today in light of Jesus’s command to make disciples.
Why is it that we see so little disciple making taking place in the church today? Do we really believe that Jesus told His early followers to make disciples but wants the twenty-first-century church to do something different? None of us would claim to believe this, but somehow we have created a church culture where the paid ministers do the “ministry,” and the rest of us show up, put some money in the plate, and leave feeling inspired or “fed.” We have moved so far away from Jesus’s command that many Christians don’t have a frame of reference for what disciple making looks like.
Q2 | Assess your church experience in light of Jesus’s command to make disciples. Would you say that your church is characterized by disciple making? Why or why not?
More Than a Program
So what does disciple making look like? We have to be careful about how we answer this question. For some of us, our church experience has been so focused on programs that we immediately think about Jesus’s command to make disciples in programmatic terms. We expect our church leaders to create some sort of disciple-maker campaign where we sign up, commit to participating for a few months, and then get to cross the Great Commission off our list. But making disciples is far more than a program. It is the mission of our lives. It defines us. A disciple is a disciple maker.
So what does this look like? The Great Commission uses three phrases to describe what disciple making entails: go, baptize people, and teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded. Simple, right? It’s incredibly simple in the sense that it doesn’t require a degree, an ordination process, or some sort of hierarchical status. It’s as simple as going to people, encouraging them to follow Jesus (this is what baptism is all about), and then teaching them to obey Jesus’s commands (which we find in the Bible). The concept itself is not very difficult.
But the simplest things to understand are often the most difficult to put into practice. Let’s start with baptism. In your church setting, baptism may not seem like that big of a deal. Maybe that’s why so many Christians today have never been baptized. But in the early days of the church, baptism was huge. Baptism was an unmistakable act that marked a person as a follower of Jesus Christ. As Jesus died and was buried in the earth, so a Christian is plunged beneath the surface of the water. As Jesus emerged from the tomb in a resurrected body, so a Christian comes out of the waters of baptism as a new creation.
When first-century Christians took this step of identifying themselves with the death and resurrection of Jesus, they were publicly declaring their allegiance to Christ. This immediately marked them for martyrdom—all of the hostility that the world felt toward Jesus would now be directed at them. Baptism was a declaration that a person’s life, identity, and priorities were centered on Jesus and His mission. Depending on where you live in the world, you may not see the same reaction to your choice to be baptized, but that act of identifying with Christ is essential, no matter where you live.
Q3 | Have you identified yourself with Jesus through being baptized? If so, why do you think this was an important step for you to take? If not, what is holding you back from being baptized?
Just as baptism is more significant than we might have thought, so teaching people to obey Jesus’s commands is an enormous task. Realistically, this will require a lifetime of devotion to studying the Scriptures and investing in the people around us. Neither of these things is easy, nor can they be checked off of a list. We are never really “done.” We continually devote ourselves to studying the Scriptures so that we can learn with ever-greater depth and clarity what God wants us to know, practice, and pass on. We continually invest in the people around us, teaching them and walking with them through life’s joys and trials.
We never “finish” the discipleship process. It’s much like raising a child: though there comes a day when she is ready to be on her own, the relationship doesn’t end. The friendship continues, and there will always be times when guidance and encouragement are still needed. In addition to that, God continually brings new people into our path, giving us fresh opportunities to start the discipleship process all over again.
Following Jesus by making disciples isn’t difficult to understand, but it can be very costly. Jesus’s teachings are often difficult to stomach. By sharing His teachings, we are often rejected along with His message. Jesus said:
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. (John 15:18–20)
It’s easy enough to understand, but it can be extremely costly.
Q4 | Would you say that you’re ready to commit yourself to studying the Scriptures and investing in the people around you? Why or why not?
Equipped to Do the Work of Ministry
Unfortunately, disciple making has become the exclusive domain of pastors (and missionaries). Salesmen sell, insurance agents insure, and ministers minister. At least, that’s the way it works in most of our churches.
While it’s true that the pastors, elders, and apostles in the New Testament made disciples, we can’t overlook the fact that discipleship was everyone’s job. The members of the early church took their responsibility to make disciples very seriously. To them, the church wasn’t a corporation run by a CEO. Rather, they compared the church to a body that functions properly only when every member is doing its part.
Paul explained the function of the church in Ephesians 4:11–16:
He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ … we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Paul saw the church as a community of redeemed people in which each person is actively involved in doing the work of ministry. The pastor is not the minister—at least not in the way we typically think of a minister. The pastor is the equipper, and every member of the church is a minister.
The implications are huge. Don’t think of this as merely a theological issue. See yourself in this passage. Paul said that your job is to do the work of ministry! Jesus commanded you to make disciples!
Most Christians can give a number of reasons why they cannot or should not disciple other people: “I don’t feel called to minister.” “I just have too much on my plate right now; I don’t have time to invest in other people.” “I don’t know enough.” “I have too many issues of my own. I’ll start once I get my life in order.”
As convincing as these excuses may seem to us, Jesus’s commands don’t come with exception clauses. He doesn’t tell us to follow unless we’re busy. He doesn’t call us to love our neighbors unless we don’t feel prepared. In fact, if you read Luke 9:57–62, you’ll see several individuals who gave excuses for why they couldn’t follow Jesus at the time. Read the passage and take note of how Jesus responded to them. It may surprise you.
God made you the way you are; He has provided and will continue to provide you with everything you need to accomplish the task. Jesus commands you to look at the people around you and start making them into disciples. Obviously, only God can change people’s hearts and make them want to become followers. We just have to be obedient in making the effort to teach them, even though we still have plenty to learn ourselves.
Q5 | What excuses tend to keep you from following Jesus’s command to make disciples? What do you need to do in order to move past these excuses?
Taking the First Step
Being a disciple maker means that you will begin to look at the people in your life differently. Every person in your life is created in the image of God, and Jesus commands every one of them to follow Him. God has placed these people in your life so that you will do everything you can to influence them. Following Jesus means that you will be teaching other people to follow Jesus.
Take some time to consider your first step toward disciple making. Whom has God placed in your life that you can teach to follow Jesus? Maybe God is laying someone on your heart you don’t know very well. Your first step could be building a relationship with that person. Maybe it’s someone you’ve known for years, and God is calling you to take that relationship to another level. God has placed you where you are, and the people around you are not there by accident. Keep in mind that the Great Commission calls us to every type of person, to those inside of the church as well as to those outside, to those who are like us and those who are very different. Everyone needs to understand who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him.
Q6 | Whom has God placed in your life right now that you can begin making into a disciple of Jesus Christ?
Working Together to Make Disciples
God wants you to view the other Christians in your life as partners in ministry. God has not called you to make disciples in isolation; He has placed you in the context of a church body so that you can be encouraged and challenged by the people around you. And you are called to encourage and challenge them in return.
As you begin this study, think about how you will proceed. Are there Christians in your life you can study this material with? Are there mature believers you can approach with the questions that will inevitably arise? The goal is for you to think through this material and let these truths saturate your mind, heart, and lifestyle. But you’ll get a lot more out of this if you have other people to talk with, be challenged by, and work together with. Human beings are simply not designed to function in isolation.
Q7 | Whom has God placed in your life for you to partner with in making disciples?
Q8 | Spend some time praying that God will make you into a committed and effective disciple maker. Confess any feelings of unpreparedness and insecurity. Ask Him to empower you for the ministry He is calling you to. Ask Him to lead you to the right people to partner with and the right people to begin discipling.
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