Luke Five - Following Jesus to deep waters

Making disciples of all nations.

Category: Disciple-making

My favorite books of 2017

2017 has ended.  2018 is officially here, and so has ended all my chances to read more books in 2017.  When I look back on the ones I read here are a few that really stood out. If you have made a goal or resolution to read more in 2018 here are some good ones to start with.

Contagious Disciple Making: Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery by David and Paul Watson.  Using personal experience with a people group in India and observation of other large movements of God, David and Paul break down seven different strategies Disciple Makers need to have in place in order to create a Disciple Making Movements.  When I read the book I realized I was only focusing on two of the seven.  I should do a whole post about this book because it has been very influential to me.  If you would like God to use you in a big way in your life then definitely put it on your reading list this year.

The Insanity of Obedience: Walking with Jesus in Tough Places by Nik Ripken.  Ok, a little confession, I haven’t actually finished this one yet, but I’m on the way.  In this follow up book to The Insanity of God, Nik continues to focus on what it will take for the church (and individuals in the church) to take the good news of Jesus into the persecuted places of the world.

Larson, Duke of Mongolia.  Written in the early 1900’s by Larson this book gives a lot of great information about the Mongolian culture and living conditions 100 years ago.  Larson found himself often rubbing elbos with the leaders and princes of Mongolia, and writes from a very pro-Mongolian perspective. If you find Mongolians fascinating this is a great read.

Far from Cold (Our Stories Book 1) by Gillian Newham chronicles the birth of the modern Mongolian church.  I put this one on the list because Mark and Gill are good friends of ours and I respect them so much. This is her first book about the Mongolian church. They were in Mongolia almost from the beginning of the modern Mongolian church.  Her account is a very sincere account of God’s work in building His church in Mongolia.  Gill shares the goods and the bads in a very earnest straightforward way.  In reading the book, you see how God was working not just among the Mongols but also in Gill and Mark. I enjoyed this book, and I’m looking forward to her writing another one.

In the Arena by Isobel Kuhn.  I always love reading old CIM (now OMF) books of some of the earlier missionaries in China.  I usually find I am more encouraged and learn more from biographies than I do from other books.  I stumbled upon this one as I was packing up and deciding which books to take and which ones to leave behind.  I had gotten it from another worker who was making the same decisions.  The core idea is that God has us in the arena and the hardships we go through display His glory. Isobel goes through a lot.  I am always encouraged when I read how the old CIM missionaries lived out their faith.  I always find it challenging to me.

One last honorable mention, and just to show you I read some fiction also, I stumbled upon this book and enjoyed it immensely even though it is a little out of my normal genres. Pawn (The Strategy Series Book 1) by J.C Ahern.  Its a combo of chess, humanity being enslaved, and one girl who is still a slave but some how able to play outside the rules.  Its a great mystery to unwind as you figure things out along side the protagonist.

I wish you all a very literary 2018!

Inoculating Your Children from the Good News of Jesus

我不太了解耶稣。I must have gotten a funny look on my face because what that means is “I’m not very familiar with Jesus.”

The evening started with me calling a DiDi car (the equivalent of an Uber). Somewhere along the way I mentioned God and he proceeded to tell me that he was also a Christian. I was excited and I asked when he believed. He said his parents were Christians.

A long history here has led me to the point where the statement, “I am a Christian,” is no longer enough for me so, I pried a little deeper with a question or two. Then, I asked him to tell me his favorite story about Jesus. He replied, “我不太了解耶稣。” (Translated: “I’m not very familiar with Jesus.”)  In other words, “I am a ‘Christian’, but I don’t know Jesus.”

Unfortunately, this is not a completely unusual response. I have met a number of Chinese people in the last few years who said they were Christian and referenced their parents’ belief rather than their own. It is sad, but often these older believers have completely failed to pass on a faith to their children. Instead, what they have passed on is a cultural version of Christianity where the practitioner refers to himself as a Christian, but actually has no idea what that means and has no faith in Jesus. It is sad but true.

I can think of few things more heartbreaking than to have a grown child who professes Christianity, but has little knowledge of Jesus. Our children are our primary discipling responsibilities. We cannot delegate this task to a Sunday School teacher, pastor, or anyone else. We are to disciple our children. Other people can help us, but it is our responsibility.

The driver and I talked about faith a little more, and I told him it was not enough for his parents to have faith. He needed to have a faith of his own.

I do not know what happened with him, but I pray some of my words soaked through and made him re-examine his belief. However, he did not seem especially interested. Had he been inoculated from the good news by his believing parents?

What about you? Are you inoculating your children from the good news? What are you doing to make sure your children are really getting connected to Jesus and not just to a “Christian” cultural identity?

Definition – a Disciple is…

What’s a disciple? A rather innocuous question, but one that receives a variety of answers.

I believe we would all put Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19-20 as one of His most important commands. After all, it was important enough to give it a nickname… “The Great Commission.” People with better English than I, tell me that “make disciples” is the key command in this passage and the other instructions are all supporting this command.

In order to make disciples we need to know what a disciple is. Jim Putman, in his book Real-Life Discipleship Training Manual, said the best definition of a disciple comes from Jesus’ invitation to His disciples. Matthew 4:19 says, “And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

In this we see 3 parts that make up a disciple.

  1. Follow me – A disciple is following Jesus.
  2. I will make you – A disciple is being changed by Jesus.
  3. Fishers of men – A disciple is doing the work of Jesus.

A disciple is one who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and doing the work of Jesus.

Once we accept this as a good definition of a disciple it allows us to do three things.

First, it lets us evaluate ourselves.  Am I following Jesus…. everyday…. in every area of my life?  Am I being changed by Jesus? Am I surrendering and letting Him change me?  Am I doing the work Jesus did/does?

Second, it lets us evaluate our disciple-making efforts. If I say I am discipling someone is he starting to follow Jesus more?  Can I see Jesus making changes in his life?  Is He doing the work of Jesus?  If any of those are missing there is a breakdown in the disciple-making process.  If what I am doing is not producing those results I need to figure out what needs to change so that those results become normal in my disciple-making.

Third, it lets us evaluate what our church’s discipleship.  Are the things we are doing as a church helping people follow Jesus more?  Are we seeing change in people’s lives?  Are they doing the work Jesus did?  Are we seeing a growing number of people with whom we could confidently answer YES to the three questions above?  If we cannot confidently answer yes, then we need to re-evaluate our discipleship plan in our church.

It can be easy for us to make excuses in each of these areas, but until we recognize the problem we have little chance to solve it.

How would you evaluate your disciple-making and your church’s disciple-making?

(If you have not already done so, I really encourage you to memorize Matthew 4:19)

What if, for one day, Jesus were to become you?

Right now, I feel like I have about three full-time jobs.  Naturally, none of them are going exceptionally well. Besides this my wife and I are raising our three daughters in a foreign country where everything takes longer to accomplish… if it can even be done at all.  It is not unusual for me to start the day at 8:30 and still be working on things at 11:00 that evening.

Besides all of that, I have some pretty serious back issues that make it painful for me to sit up for long periods of time or lift very much.  This makes my wife have to do more physically than is healthy for her.  Two of my daughters have dealt/are dealing with speech delays and the other daughter has been struggling with hives for about 6 months.  Getting good treatment anywhere near us is impossible.

You can imagine the range of emotions I experience regularly.

Then a few days ago, I ran into this quote from Max Lucado from his book “Just like Jesus: a Heart like His.”

What if, for one day, Jesus were to become you?

What if, for twenty-four hours, Jesus wakes up in your bed, walks in your shoes, lives in your house, assumes your schedule? Your boss becomes His boss, your mother becomes his mother, you pains become his pains?  With one exception, nothing about your life changes. Your health doesn't change. Your circumstances don't change. Your schedule isn't altered. Your problems are solved. Only one change occurs.

What if, for one day and one night, Jesus lives your life with his heart? Your heart gets the day off, and your life is lead by the heart of Christ. His priorities govern your actions.  His passions drive your decisions. His love directs your behavior.

What would you be like?"

Ouch. What would Jesus’ heart do in my current life?

I have been mulling this over for a few weeks now. I do not have all the answers yet, but here is some of what I am mulling over. If I lived my life for a day with Jesus’s heart I would:

  • …not spend as much time thinking about myself.
  • …build better friendships with locals.
  • …be more engaging to the people I cross paths with throughout the day.
  • …be all present wherever I was.
  • …have better boundaries.
  • …ask more direct questions (with love).
  • …spend more time in prayer and let other less important things go.
  • …be more forgiving to those around me.
  • …be willing to stay in awkward cultural situations longer.
  • …be more patient with my children.
  • …stop worrying about what people think of me.

and the list goes on and on….

What about you?  What would change in your life?  What would you do?  What would you not do?  How would you treat people? Where would you be?

Let me know what you think would be different in the comments.

I was 33 years old when I realized I did not know how to make disciples

I was 33 years old when I realized I did not know how to make disciples. One of Jesus’s most important commands and I did not really know how to obey it. I was trying to obey it, but I was not. I had been following Jesus for 28 years. I had grown up in the church, lead people to the Lord, preached sometimes, lead Bible studies, and even been sent overseas with one of the largest mission organizations… and yet, I did not know how to make disciples.

I had been raised by Godly parents, who discipled me over the 18 or so years I lived in their home. I had some idea how to disciple my children, but if it was a 25 year old man who just believed than I was clueless. Go to church. Read your Bible. That was really all I knew to tell someone. I guess I just hoped they would somehow figure it all out.

Around the time I was 33 God started putting people in my life who continued to bring up this idea of making disciples. Enough of them came around I finally started to pay attention. Then I started to understand and apply it in my life. I slowly started learning how, and as I did all of those other things I learned along the way clicked into place.

In my early twenties, one of my chaplains had been a Navigator (the disciple-making organization not the military position), and so he talked a lot about discipleship. However, for various reasons it did not click with me at the time. I did not see the power of disciple making. He was starting out with the basics of faith and I was pretty board. Unfortunately, at the same time I did really need more training, but not on the basics of following Jesus because my parents had done a good job of teaching me that as I grew up.

After the military, I went back to college to finish my degree. Here I helped out with several college ministries. I was working for God, but I would not say it was especially effective. Our BCM (Baptist Campus Ministry) talked some about disciple-making, but either it was not a big emphasis or I just did not get it. (Just to be clear, I am not saying it was not taught at any point in time in my life. Maybe it was. Maybe it was not. Either way, I did not take it in.) In our churches college ministry we went and talked to another BCM that was doing some really good stuff. It was a great visit, but what I caught was the method of doing Bible studies. This did help, but it still was not complete. I believe this was because I did not have an intentionality with disciple-making to put together with it. I also met for a while with a guy to disciple me, and he was nice but we did not really click. I thought about asking a few other people to disciple me, but I just never got around to it.

My next big jump came when I went overseas with a big Mission organization. They had great training and I really learned a lot. However, I still missed disciple-making. I am sure they asked me about making disciples and I am sure I told them I did, but looking back I know my concept of discipleship at the time was much different than what Jesus modeled. I think they did not catch it in my screening because so many people have a big misconception about what making disciples is really like.

Maybe because we were having to learn a whole new way of doing church in the places we would be sent, what I picked up from them at the time was the methods. If the church just used the right method then churches would grow and multiply. Our goal at the time was CPM (Church Planting Movements). Looking back, I think the only real CPMs were actually a result of intentional disciple-making. As disciples were intentionally made churches formed and knew how to form other churches. What was really happening was a Disciple Making Movement.

How I missed it I am not sure, but miss it I did. I spent a lot of time telling people about Jesus or giving them materials to point them toward Jesus, but all of the actual discipleship I did was accidental. The biggest influences I had on locals were with a friend who traveled with me often and on my language tutor. More is caught than taught, right?

When I came back to the States I thought I would be able to take what I had learned and the methods we had learned overseas and really be fruitful. It was not the case. I think what I learned in the States this time was while the method can have some influence on the fruitfulness of a church, by itself, it is not enough.

When Jesus called us back overseas is when it really started to click for me. This time we were sent out by our church instead of an organization. With this situation we had less specific guidance on what to do. We started out with roughly the same plan we had had the previous time, but as time went on God just kept bringing discipleship back into our lives… this time I listened and this time it clicked.

Now, I am 38. I am about 5 years down the road of making disciples and I am about a million times farther along than I was at 33, but I still have a ways to go. I still make mistakes, still get distracted, and still find myself scratching my head sometimes in disciple-making situations. However, I am still moving forward and I am excited about the future God has planned.

If you would like to join me on this journey of learning to make disciples I would welcome the company. I will share with you the things I have learned and the things I am learning. I will tell you some stories. I will tell you some mistakes. Through thick or thin I hope to encourage you to also come and make disciples as well. It is Jesus’s command. I spent too many years not obeying it. Do not make the same mistake. 🙂

Unpacking the baggage of disciple-making

If I use the words discipleship or disciple-making they come with a lot of baggage.  If I ask 100 pastors if they are making disciples in their church only 1 or 2 would be brave enough to say they really are not making disciples.  The other 98 would all say they are making disciples, but they would have completely different ideas about what it means to make disciples.

For those who say they are making disciples I would ask them this question, “Where are they?”  Churches are generally shrinking.  Those that are growing are usually growing by taking  from other churches.  Where are the disciples we are making?

Discipleship has become a word we throw around a lot, but that we do not really understand. I did not understand it for years.  I had grown up in the church, and been discipled by my parents over 18 years, but other than raising my own children I didn’t really have any ideas about how to really disciple someone.  I had even served overseas as a missionary, but I still didn’t get it.  Thankfully, God begin bringing people who did understand into my life in order to teach me.  The more I learned about disciple-making the more clear it became how important it was.

If we as a church understood disciple-making, we would either start really making disciples or we would at least be honest about not being interested in making disciples.

Let’s take a few minutes and talk about what discipleship is not.  It is not:
-Preaching
-A program where someone goes through a book on Sunday evenings
-Teaching knowledge or facts to someone
-Teaching a large group of people

Discipleship is:
-Cooperating with what God is doing in their lives to turn them into passionate followers of Him
-Helping them learn the truths of God and learn how to apply them in their lives
-A friendship where we encourage and spur them on toward growth
-A small group that has relationships with one another and where everyone is known
-Giving them opportunities to use what they are learning
-Modeling what it means to follow Jesus
-Walking with them through hard times.

I think I could just keep writing the latter list.  The keys are it is relational, intentional, and customized to each person.  Even if I am discipling  a small group I am still looking to make sure each individual has what they need to be growing.

The best way to understand disciple-making is to start looking at Jesus’s life.  How did He make disciples?  Is there anything I or my church is doing that looks like what Jesus did with His disciples? If the answer is no, then it is probably time to start studying the dash.

What is the dash?  You can read about the dash of discipleship here .

The Discipleship Dash

How did Jesus make disciples?  Is there anything I, or my church, am doing that looks like what Jesus did with His disciples? If the answer is no, then it is probably time to start studying the dash of discipleship.

Matt 4:19 – Matt 28:19.

The secret is in the -.  What did Jesus do between Matt 4:19 when He called His disciples and Matt 28:19 when He told them to go and make disciples?

In Matt 4:19 Jesus promises if they follow Him, He “will make them” into fishers of men.  He promises a change.  Then when He tells them to go make disciples there is no evidence that the disciples did not know what to do.  So what did Jesus do during the dash?

We study what Jesus taught, but often we don’t look at what His methods were. We look at all the things He did to prove He was the Son of God, but we fail to look at what He did to make disciples.  When He ascended He left the work in the hands of these disciples (along with a healthy dose of the Holy Spirit).  His plan was to use them to spread His good news to the rest of the world.

His strategy was make disciples.  His command was make disciples.  We should look at His methods to make disciples.

If we, or our churches, want to be successful in making disciples then studying the dash might be one of the most important things we could do.

Manifesto

You know every blog seems to start with the blogger talking about all the things they are going to do or not do with their blog.  Then about 4 posts later you never see anything else again. 🙂  Nevertheless, here is my manifesto on the goings on here on this site.

I have been greatly moved in the last few years by the stories of God.

First, there are God’s stories.  The ones He recorded for us His storybook called the Bible.  There are lots of great stories in there!  Some we know vaguely, others we know more thoroughly , but very rarely do we really take time to experience the story.  We rush through it or gloss over it looking for the spiritual truths there, or we dig in so deep to each jot and tittle trying to find the obscure meanings hidden inside the text.  However, we rarely ever stop and experience the story.  These are real stories.  They really happened.  There was really a certain expression on Jesus’s face when he said, “How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me”  We don’t know what that expression was, but it was really there.  I’m not opposed to digging into the stories, in fact that is good.  BUT I don’t want to dig in so deep that I miss the story itself.  Sometimes we are guilty of slicing up the Bible into such small bits that the people we are trying to help grow can no longer see the story.  God’s stories are great and we need to spend time just learning and experiencing them.

Second there are the stories of God.  The stories about what God is doing in people’s lives today all around the globe.  I think there is a lot to learn from these stories.  As we see what God is doing in people’s lives and we learn about how someone is following Jesus and applying His teachings it is encouraging to us.  I have often said, outside of the Bible, “The Spiritual Secret of Hudson Taylor” has been the most challenging book to my faith.  I have learned more and been more changed by that book than any other except the Bible.  My goal is to bring you more of these stories that will do the same for you.

A few years ago, I came to a point in my spiritual life where I realized God’s command to make disciples was one of His most important commands, and at the same time I realized I didn’t really know how to do that. That lead me on a several year journey of learning how to do that, and now it is one of the things I work on doing most intentionally.  It is also something I encourage others to do as well.  If we as the church were actually making disciples we wouldn’t have all of the problems that we do in the Church and in America. Lets learn to make disciples.

Lastly, as I am a follower of Jesus whom He has called overseas at various times I want to share some of those stories as well.  I love America.  I also love the rest of the world, and it breaks my heart to see so many places where they do not have access to the incredible news that Jesus has died for them and has paid for their sins.  It is our shame as a church that this situation still exists.

Lastly lastly, I’ll talk about whatever else grabs my attention at the moment that might be a work of encouragement or challenge in our life of following Jesus.  I hope you find in these pages encouragement to follow Jesus with all your heart and to surrender everything to Him.

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