Category Archives: responsibility

“Education or Transformation?”

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Then Jesus came to them (the disciples) and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.                                                                                                                Matthew 28:16-20

These are the instructions Jesus gave to the leadership of the early church after His resurrection and before His ascension back to the Father.They were to go, to make disciples, to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to teach them to obey His commands. Jesus prefaced his command with a proclamation that “all authority” was His to give such a command and followed the command with a promise to be with them “to the very end of the age”.

This was and still is the primary work of the church!

However, I believe it is one of the greatest challenges facing the church today. We  invite, entertain, include, educate, baptize, teach them God’s commands and add them to the membership rolls.

Now all these things are important but it seems that in our haste to move new believers along we tend to jump over the “making disciples” part. And I believe one reason we do is because we aren’t sure how to disciple because we may not have been discipled ourselves. God has been convicting me in the area of making disciples but, honestly, I didn’t know how.

Unfortunately, we, “the Church”, in varying degrees, seems to have lost the focus on “making disciples” and in many of our churches we have become more of a social club, entertainment club, and/or an educational center where we can learn many things about what Scripture teaches and the principles we are to live by but fail to move God’s truth from our heads to our hearts, our hands, and our feet. We are not often challenged to put them into practice and can become comfortable with gaining information but not  walking in obedience to God’s commands and according to His principles. Therefore, we see little transformation in our lives. Some who have been Christians for years don’t know how to disciple because many have not yet been taught discipleship themselves, present company not excluded!

To many times I have been guilty of wanting to make it comfortable for new believers so I didn’t challenge them with the truths that sometimes are difficult to live by and in so doing have watered down the scriptures. After all they were saved, and were doing all the things they needed to do.  They were attending church, getting involved in a ministry in the church, tithing, and the list goes on, but there was no significant maturing of fruit in lives as a result of the doing. I realize now believers should do all those things but we also need to be challenged by the God’s word to be more Christlike in our daily activities.

We have programs to increase attendance, to grow the Sunday school and children’s programs and increase membership numbers. We post attendance and offering numbers (see my blog post) Are We Counting What Really Counts There are places on our annual reports for the number of those accepting Christ as Savior and those sanctified.

But how many disciples are we making who are in turn discipling others? Do we have effective training in our churches in discipleship or are we teaching new believers just enough to make them comfortable in their salvation so they can get into heaven but possibly with the smell of smoke on their coattails?

Having been involved in both Bible Studies and Sunday school classes where the teaching on Scripture was excellent and ideas for practical application were discussed yet often where there were few testimonies shared of how God’s truth had transformed lives or the lives of others. To often the story of our conversion, important as it is, is the only testimony we have, but that should only be the beginning. God’s continued changing grace through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit adds to our testimony and God’s power can be seen in our lives as we walk in humble obedience to the principles and commands in His word every day.

However, if what we learn is not applied to everyday life; if we don’t meditate on God’s truths and let them become the guiding force in our lives, we have education but without transformation. We grow in knowledge but lack understanding and do not mature in our faith and we miss out on His best for us. If we don’t interact with God and become  teachable; if we aren’t allowing the Holy Spirit to transform our thinking and understanding; if the truths of God are not seen in our lives how can it help others believe Jesus could transform their lives.

 

Are our small groups and Sunday school classes just providing information or seeing transformation as a result of spending time together in the Word?

If not, why not?

As we reach out to those who are lost and share the gospel and they respond by receiving Christ as their Savior do we continue to disciple them and help them to grow in their faith? Do we share scriptural truths and God’s commands and challenge them to live by them while sharing our testimony of the challenges where He has brought us victory? Do we share our own testimony of how God has transformed our lives and the lives of so many others?

Do we really disciple?

Are we making disciples?

Just what does it mean to “make disciples”?

Got Questions Ministries web site answers that question pretty well:

“A Christian disciple is a person who accepts and assists in the spreading of the good news of Jesus Christ. Christian discipleship is the process by which disciples grow in the Lord Jesus Christ and are equipped by the Holy Spirit, who resides in our hearts, to overcome the pressures and trials of this present life and become more and more Christlike. This process requires believers to respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to examine their thoughts, words and actions and compare them with the Word of God. This requires that we be in the Word daily—studying it, praying over it, and obeying it. In addition, we should always be ready to give testimony of the reason for the hope that is within us (1Peter 3:15) and to disciple others to walk in His way.”

(© Copyright 2002-2016 Got Questions Ministries)

Just how do we go about “making disciples”?

How do we measure how we are doing in this area of the Great Commission, “making disciples”?

In any educational institution there is always a book learning aspect so we know the basic principles we are working from and then a skills lab where we are shown a demonstration of how to apply the knowledge in order to connect what we learned from the book to practical application. Along the way there are test that include both aspects to evaluate proficiency in obtaining the desired outcomes for the skill and the course.

The Bible is our text book and Jesus is our instructor for the skills lab. He made it simple for us by demonstrating how it is done. All through life there are tests used to help us to grow and obtain God’s desired outcomes in us and in His church.

We simply follow the example Jesus set as he went out and chose 12 ordinary men and made disciples out of them, praying for them, spending time with them, speaking God’s truth to them,teaching them and challenging them to obey His commands and live by His principles. This is what should be happening in our Bible Studies, our Sunday School classes, our Small Groups. Praying, teaching, training and practicing the same principles that Jesus taught,  challenging and expecting those we are teaching to do the same. To follow our example as we follow Christ’s.

 

To make disciples we must pray for them, spend time with them, teach them from Scripture and by what the Father has given us to speak, practice what He taught and challenge them to do the same.

His disciples learned from him, watched him, saw how he taught them and followed his example. Believers in the early church followed the disciples example as they followed Christ’s and the church grew in strength and in faith and unity.

How do we measure? Not in tithes or attendance but in the strength and unity of our churches. In how we are able to reach the lost for Christ and make disciples who will go and do the same. And then we will see a steady increase in both tithe and attendance that will blow us away!

“I (Jesus) have set you and example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”                                                                                                                                        John 13:15-17

Is there someone willing to come along side of you to disciple you? Ask them!

Is there someone who needs you to come along side them to disciple them? Reach out to them!

Maybe your sensing a call to begin a discipleship ministry in your church? Start one!

You will be blessed if you do!!!

 

 

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Filed under accountability, character study, communication, Discipleship, faith stages, humility, Promises, responsibility, self-examination, Uncategorized

Are We Counting What Really Counts

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For those of us that attend church on a regular basis or even those who are occasional attenders we probably all remember seeing one of the “Attendance and Offering Registers” hanging in a prominent place on the wall for everyone to see.

I often wondered just what purpose they served and have come to the conclusion that this information served two purposes depending on whether the current tally was a plus or a minus: 1. To encourage and/or  2. To motivate.

Now please don’t get all fired up and send me nasty-grams!

As one who has been a part of a church leadership team I do understand the importance and purpose of having attendance records and keeping track of finances. They both give leadership a measurable picture of where the church is headed and how to proceed. It helps to know how to plan to meet the needs of ministry in the most productive way  so that we honor God with the resources He supplies. I also understand that it’s good to have that same information available to the congregation to encourage them and to make them aware of where we are in our growth and finances, or lack of, and for financial accountability.

However what I don’t understand is why we don’t have a “Soul Register”? Isn’t our first priority to see souls come to Christ; to find salvation? And isn’t that the greatest measure of where we are spiritually and our success as the local body of believers?   Yet we don’t put up the stats for the number of souls saved as a result of ministry and sharing our faith, the Gospel.

It has been said by many in the leadership of the church that “It’s not about numbers, it’s about souls.” and I agree with that, however it is about the number of souls being saved.

“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

So why are they not counted on our church’s public registers? I can’t think of anything that should motivate  us more. Maybe we need to see those numbers and just maybe it would motivate us to step out in faith and share the message of salvation more often. God will provide the opportunities in our ministries in the church and individually, it is up to us to take advantage of them, and may it begin with “me”.

What do you think your church’s “Soul Register” would look like if you had one?

There is a register in heaven of all the souls saved and the angels rejoice over each and every one that comes to Christ, shouldn’t we?

 

 

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Where’s Your Trigger Set?

As the wife of a Master Gunsmith I have found there is much to learn about life from the care and repair of firearms and their ability to help or harm. My husband is retired now but still does some “trigger work” every year for a couple of long time customers. These customers keep coming back because they want someone with experience and the right tools needed to keep the trigger settings within a legal and safe margin.

If the trigger pull is to light (to touchy) the gun can go off prematurely without warning, randomly hitting whatever is in its path. If the trigger pull is to heavy (harder to pull) there is a tendency to pull away from your target and hit what is not intended, missing the mark completely. Adjustments are made by filing and/or adjusting tensions to get just the right trigger set point. Each firearm may have a different set point when it comes from the manufacturer that is within what is considered to be the legal and safe range. Set points may need to be changed in order to accommodate an individuals stature, strength, and the purpose for which the firearm is used, always keeping in mind the legal and safe range.

Just as a trigger on a firearm can be dangerous if it isn’t evaluated and adjusted from time to time, in order to respond appropriately to the pressure being exerted on it, we too have a point where situations, circumstances, and others can “trip our trigger” (pun intended). Where our trigger is set can make the difference in whether or not we miss or hit our mark, whether we harm or help as we fire off our response.

The place we see this analogy play out most often today is in the realm of  social media. With the rapidly increasing social media available, every thought, opinion, and challenge is out there for all to respond to and with many of the opinions and responses having little or no filter. Because there is no personal contact, personal responsibility or immediate repercussions to the response or comment posted, the comments are often shot from the hip. When an opinion or comment hits a nerve we are often quick to fire off our own responses and/or comments, defending or rebuking without any thought that they may consequently ricochet and harm an innocent bystander. But on the other hand we may delay our making positive comments or fail to consider not responding at all in order to diffuse a conversation gone rogue.

So where is your trigger set?

Does your trigger need to be reset?

Is it to touchy? Or is there too much delay? Either way you could be missing the mark and end up needing damage control!

Our set points may need to be changed in order to accommodate our individual natures, strengths or weaknesses, and the purpose of our response, always keeping in mind the safe and effective range.

So what are we to do?

How do we find the experience and the right tools to reset our “trigger point”?

Of course a master gunsmith won’t be able to do the job, but on the other hand we have a Master Creator who made us and He knows just where our triggers are set and has given us the tools to adjust them and maintain them at that safe and effective level that will enable us to fulfill His purpose. God has even given us the instruction book, His own word, on keeping that set point in line with His will, His target for building His kingdom here on earth in a positive and effective way. He will guide us, file down our rough spots, and tighten or loosen the tensions to adjust the response time to where it needs to be.

He gives much attention to instructing us to “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:9) , to have “soundness in our speech that cannot be condemned” (Titus 2:8), and to “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6) These are just a few of our instructions regarding our speech, whether spoken or written.

In the final analysis are we going regularly to the Master to assure our trigger point is set where it needs to be or are we just letting emotions and others determine our set point? Is our aim to be right or to live the righteous life that God desires? Do we want to show how much we know or how much we care, to be grumpy or gracious?

To conclude I leave you with a quote from  King Solomon’s practical words for living in the Proverbs:

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”  Proverbs 25:11

Let your words be like “apples of gold” and you will find the “settings of silver” that the Lord wants to reveal in and through you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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