“Men are looking for better methods. God is looking for better men.” – E.M. Bounds
Jesus never told us to make a church. He told us to make disciples. What is Paul’s discipleship pattern?
2 Timothy 2:20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work….
Vessels of honor are those you want to receive things from. In our house – my coffee mug is a vessel of honor; my toilet is a vessel of dishonor. We should be a vessel of honor that people want to receive from our life. First we have to be clean on the inside. We have to confess our sins to each other to be healed. (James 5:16) Authentic, real Christians are vessels of honor.
Life Transformation Groups:
1) Gender specific groups of 2-3
2) Confess sins (helped by list of questions…. Have you been a testimony? How have you been tempted this week?) Shadows are removed here.
3) Portions of scripture are discussed. Read 30 chapters a week. Repeating if everyone doesn’t finish. Take in scripture! More than a couple of verses a day on the commode.
4) People we know who don’t know Christ are prayed for by name.
“If we are going to develop healthy patterns and practices as disciple makers we must recapture the art of hospitality.”
Romans 12:1-11 – I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service . . . Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
How can one be truly faithful to discipleship if not hospitable? Is discipleship just meeting once a week in Starbucks? How are we using our house as a weapon for the gospel?
We have lots of guests in our house, and when my wife and I had an argument, we had it in front of our house guests. We couldn’t be fake. We shared our life, not just information. “The apologetics of our day is authenticity.” We are trained to grow the church, we aren’t trained as well to make disciples.
Disciples go on mission. Mission creates community. “Fruitfulness is more important that success.”
(Story of replanting the forest of Provence.— old man, out with his sheep, digging his cane in the ground, planting trees as he went…. Forty years…)
Genesis 1:28 – “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply…” Be fruitful does not simply mean procreation – it is the ability to multiply yourself in to another person.
What do Missional Communities do? (Practices without the Word of God will only produce self-righteousness – or self-loathing. Be rooted. )
1) Family meetings – sharing a meal perhaps
2) Life transformation groups
We want out gatherings to foster obedience to Christ – not just knowledge. It doesn’t have to be complex. Just thinking outside of the box we live in. How are your practices fostering obedience in the people you are leading?
1) Family’s intentionally carve out time to eat together – time to share about our lives. Rather than share a lesson, what if we hosted a meal? Real-life conversations happen in real-life situations. This will reveal what kind of community you have. A meal together is a symbol of your relationship together. This frees people up to be people. You don’t have to have knowledge – you just have to like to eat.
2) After eating together, people will want to obey God individually – LTG are where we ask each other “Are you hearing from God on a daily basis? Are you applying it?”
3) Missionaries – intentionally making time for people outside of our community. Gathering for the sake of people who don’t know Jesus. Mission is about people, not projects. It is more than service or outreach. It’s neutral, natural, informal, regular, non-committal. Some of our places we meet as missionaries are happy hour at the pub, at schools or at the park with other moms…. It is space where someone can belong before they have to believe.
from his blog:
If you could have a big tree with only a little fruit or a small tree with lots of fruit, which would you choose? It’s about a choice, right?
But we’ll get back to that in a second.
I’ve noticed there seem to be two things I can do with Jesus. Either I can increasingly look like Jesus, or I can make him look like me.
I can look like Jesus or I can try to make him look like me.
The funny thing about Jesus is that I’m never sure we give him quite enough credit. Sure. He came to earth, left the throne of heaven, took on the nature of a servant and died on the cross in our place, rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father. Yes. All that happened.
But we really don’t give his three years of ministry much reference.
Here’s what I mean: We think Jesus was the Son of God, but when we read the Gospels, do you think he was the smartest person who ever lived? Most accomplished? Best fisherman? Best evangelist? Best church planter? Best movement leader? Best discipler? Most successful leader?
For instance, in Luke 9 and again in Luke 10, Jesus gave the most detailed strategy you will ever find in the scriptures for how to evangelize, and then we see the exact same strategy used in the early church. Shouldn’t we be using that same strategy? I’m guessing we’re not arrogant enough to think we’ve come up with a better strategy than Jesus. (Example: for most churches, the evangelism strategy is “invite your friends to church and then let the professionals take over. We’ll do the heavy lifting if you get them here.” Not exactly Jesus’ strategy!)
We acknowledge what Jesus did on the cross, but what about what was started before the cross? What about the movement he began that changed the course of human history when it was released and catalyzed after the Resurrection and Pentecost? If being a disciple is “who Jesus would be if he were me” (Dallas Willard), shouldn’t we be learning the patterns and practices of the best whom ever lived if we too want to change the world for the Kingdom?
Yet often when we look at the Western church, I’m not sure we see many of the practices of Jesus among the way we lead. Though…that’s starting to change!
Back to the original question: Big tree/little fruit or little tree/lots of fruit?
It feels that at some point, we might have lost our way. Perhaps we became more concerned with success than fruitfulness. Jesus says we evaluate things in the Kingdom on their fruitfulness…but somewhere along the way it became about the size of your tree. Now having a big tree is a fine thing. Just know you’re only successful in evaluating yourself against the size of other trees, and God has never been terribly concerned about tree size. Just fruitfulness. That’s it. The point of a tree isn’t how big your tree is but how much fruit you have. It’s about fruit! And in the Kingdom, fruitfulness is always about reproduction. (Specifically, reproducing disciples…multiplying Jesus’ life into the life of others who can then go and do the same.)
My experience tells me having a big tree doesn’t mean you have a lot of fruit. In fact, what I’ve seen happen a lot more often is people going after the big tree and hoping to get fruit, rather than going after fruit and knowing you get the tree along the way.
Choose the best, and you always get the good. Choose the good, you very rarely get the best.
Are we trying to start or lead churches, create Kingdom movements and aspire to all the breakthrough Jesus saw apart from the way Jesus did those things? Am I trying to make Jesus like me or do I honestly believe he was the best in the Kingdom business?
The Reformation was a significant moment because among other things, it put the Bible back in the hands of the people. But when we look at the church of the last 100 years, I have to wonder if we have been more influenced by the Enlightenment than the Reformation.
This is the gut check question: If you had to choose between being known as a movement leader but not really having one, or actually being a movement leader but no one knowing it…which would you choose?
Tree or fruit?
Here’s the good news: I believe we are on the cusp of a new Reformation, one that sees the kind of fruit we saw from Jesus’ ministry, because we, once again, embrace not simply what Jesus did on the cross but the way he led and made disciples. Yes. I think we are on the tipping point of a new Reformation and it is about putting discipleship and mission back into the hands of ordinary people. Because when we equip the people of Jesus with the patterns, practices and way of Jesus, it will once again be ordinary people equipped to do extraordinary things.
The key is to embrace the mission of Jesus AND the way of Jesus. He’s just the best there ever was!
Hopefully you hear what I’m trying to convey clearly. I’m not suggesting we should go after a new Reformation. I’m suggesting it’s already happening. And maybe we don’t see it on every street corner yet, but I see it happening all around. A small group of communities, ready to be bloodied in going through the wall first, who are getting the beachhead of breakthrough for the rest of the church.
It’s already happening!
At the end of the day, I don’t want a big tree. But I don’t want a small tree either. I want an orchard. I want a Kingdom movement where reproduction of Jesus’ life within individuals and communities is happening on every level. I’ve seen this happen before. I know it because I’ve seen it. And I think we are starting to see glimmers of this reality again. Lord, may it be so! May we see a Kingdom movement wash upon these shores.