Looks like a great new study on discipleship by Timothy Keller. Another great example of the gospel of the kingdom being for every sphere of life.
Archive for the ‘Stewardship’ Category
Posted in Book Reviews, Church Membership, Commitment, Covenant, Dale's Writing, Discipleship, Doctrine & Theology, Holiness, Integrity, Ordained Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Repentance, Revival and Reformation, Salvation, Sanctification, Scriptural Holiness, Shepherding, Stewardship, The Church, United Methodist Church, tagged Church Membership, Discipleship, High Expectations, Mark Dever, Patoral Theology, The Church, The Deliberate Church, The United Methodist Church, Thom Rainer on July 27, 2010 | 1 Comment »
At some time or another, most pastors wrestle with issues concerning church membership. Whether it’s the old 80/20 principle… where 20 percent of the members do 80 percent of the work and give 80 percent of the money or whether it’s trying to deal with the fact that the majority of folks on the membership roll aren’t in worship on a Sunday morning… membership issues are constantly on a pastor’s (and church staff’s) radar screen.
My own observation, and that of many of the folks that I read, is that church membership doesn’t seem to mean a great deal today. (In fact, some churches have stopped keeping up with membership. But that’s a topic for another day.) Some folks, who claim to be members of a particular church, haven’t been inside the sanctuary of that church since Jimmy Carter was in office. Furthermore, they don’t seem to be the least bit embarrassed by that. Indeed, it doesn’t seem to be something that should even be a concern. They have little problem in requesting to have their wedding at the church or to have their baby baptized… and they are quite indignant to be questioned about their relationship with the church.
Choose a typical Sunday morning in the United States. And on this typical Sunday, let us take a hypothetical visit to a church selected at random. The church is a Christian church; it may be independent, or it may belong to a denomination. Let us stretch our imagination a bit and make ourselves visitors from first-century Jerusalem, where the first Christian church is experiencing explosive growth.
While we are amazed at the world two thousand years later and marvel at all the technological advances, we are visiting for another purpose. Our brief journey into twenty centuries of future is made to see how the church is doing after two millennia. We have chosen a church in a relatively new nation called the United States.
Before entering into the church building for worship services, we are told that the church has five hundred members. We are pleased that a typical American church has such a healthy numerical membership. Our pleasure, however, is quickly turned to despair when we enter the sanctuary. Our quick count of those present tells us that only slightly above two hundred members are worshiping together on this typical Sunday. Where, we exclaim, are the nearly three hundred who are absent?
We are further dismayed to discover that only 175 attended the time of Bible study that is called Sunday School. How could it be that only one-third of these Christians come together to study God’s Word? We had originally expected to find all 500 members present, worshiping together, studying Scripture, and doing ministry. We become physically ill to find out that less than 70 members of this typical American church are involved in ministry. We return to first-century Jerusalem with heavy hearts and a report that the future church is very unhealthy, perhaps even dying.
And then Rainer shares these words…
Indeed, the early Christians would have trouble imagining the plight of the American church today. But it comes as no shock to us two thousand years later that less is expected of church members today than civic organizations expect of their members. We have dumbed down church membership to the point that it means almost nothing! (emphasis mine)
I guess the reason why I’m feeling so concerned about this lately is because I realize that the problem is not with (or not exclusively with) these supposed “members” who essentially aren’t a part of the Body of Christ in the local assembly. I’m realizing more and more that the church at large isn’t doing such a great job communicating what genuine biblical church membership is… either before folks join or after (as a reminder). (Though some churches are doing this very well and thankfully are sharing with the rest of us.)
Membership has its privileges, as the saying used to go. However, it also has its responsibilities, requirements, expectations, etc. It seems that many churches today are so overly concerned about not “turning off” folks who come to visit, hiking their numbers as high as they can, not appearing negative, etc., that they’ve shirked their responsiblity to God and to their membership and, as dramatic as this may sound, have put souls at risk. (By the way, I’m pointing a finger and fully aware of the three fingers pointing back at me!!)
In the United Methodist Church we have a “cleaning” or “purging” process for inactive members. But that process seems fairly anemic because all a person has to say in response when they’re contacted is, “yes, I want to remain on the church role” and they stay there. They don’t have to start attending or becoming a part of the life of the church (though one would hope they are encouraged to. One would also hope that a person being asked if they wanted to remain on the membership role would awaken that person to their inactivity).
I know we always want to hold out grace and love to folks. But isn’t there such a thing as cheap grace.. and can’t that cheap grace actually be very unloving? Can’t we be in danger of saying to these folks, as Jeremiah warned us about with the false prophets of Israel, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.” Aren’t we misleading, at best, and lying, at worst, to these “members” about God, salvation, regeneration, holiness, discipleship, and membership… just to name a very, very few?
I’m praying much about this lately (and I covet your prayers!). I’m also reading a great deal on this matter because I believe it is so very important. I’m additionally reminded that shepherds will give an account to our heavenly Father on how we shepherded those entrusted to our care. Much repentance is required of me and I hope to start moving in a more faithful direction regarding this.
I’ve been reading Mark Dever’s “The Deliberate Church,” which is an outstanding (and very convicting) book on just this issue. I would quote from it here, but this post is already long enough. I definitely recommend it if you’re interested in exploring some of the issues I’ve raised. (Rainer’s book too)
I would love to hear from any of you who have some wisdom on this matter, any book suggestions you may have, etc. Don’t be shy!
May the Lord bless his Church as we seek greater faithfulness.
Grace and Truth,
Posted in Catechesis, Children, Christian Living, Covenant Home, Dale Tedder, Discipleship, Family, Family Table, Family Worship, Fatherhood, Generational Vision, Gospel, Home Education, Kingdom of God, Leadership, Legacy, Lifelong Learning, Men, Mentoring, Parenting, Sanctification, Shepherding, Spiritual Direction, Spiritual Formation, Stewardship, tagged Children, Covenant Home, Dale Tedder, Discipleship, Family, Family Worship, Fatherhood, Generational Vision, Kingdom of God, Leadership, Legacy, Men, Mentoring, Parenting, Sanctification, Spiritual Direction, Spiritual Formation on July 19, 2010 | Leave a Comment »
Family Worship is one of my favorite things to talk about. I had the privilege to speak on just that topic to one of our Sunday school classes yesterday. What follows is from the outline that I gave the folks in the class.
Sunday Morning, July 18, 2010
Intergenerational Summer Sunday School Class
Family worship (or family devotions) is as much about the experience of worshiping with your family and modeling your commitment to Christ to your children… as it is imparting information about our faith (maybe even more so). Of course, you do want to use the time together to instruct, but don’t underestimate how powerful the experience itself will be in the life of your family.
The point here is that you are worshiping as a family, not just having Bible study (Although, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a Bible study as well. But that’s another topic). The act of worshiping with your family day after day, month and month, and year after year, in and of itself, will be instructive in the life of your children as the various components of Family Worship sink into their hearts and minds and the Spirit does his work of formation and transformation in their lives.
This is not to mention the wonderful memory that will be with your family throughout their lives as well as the great tradition that is being modeled and hopefully will be lived out generation after generation.
There’s a story that I like that makes this point. I’ve heard several versions of it, but the one that I first heard went like this: There was an atheist in England who wrote the local paper and said that if preaching was so important to Christians during their worship services, why didn’t more Christians remember what was taught in those sermons. Supposedly, the next week a pastor wrote the same paper and responded by saying that he had been married for 25 years and for all those years his wife had cooked him dinner each night. He said that even though he couldn’t remember everything she had ever cooked him, the point was that all those meals still resulted in nourishing him.
Family Worship is a lot like that. To be sure, your children will remember various things that they were taught, devotions that were shared, prayers that were prayed, etc. But they won’t remember most of the specifics. It’s doubtful that one of your children will approach you one day and tell you that the gem that you shared with them on Tuesday, July 2, four years ago, still lingers in their minds as a monumental moment in their spiritual formation.
However, I hasten to add that I wholeheartedly believe that their experience of receiving the daily or weekly blessing of gathering with Mom and Dad and brother and/or sister to pray together, read Scripture together, sing together, etc., will nourish their hearts, souls, and minds, and it will be effectual in their lives as believers.
Stay tuned for a few more of the thoughts that I shared yesterday.
Grace and Truth,
Posted in Catechesis, Children, Covenant Home, Dale's Writing, Discipleship, Doctrine & Theology, Evangelism, Faith, Family, Family Worship, Generational Vision, Gospel, Heidelberg Catechism, Holiness, Jesus Christ, Kingdom Discipleship, Leadership, Legacy, Mentoring, Redeeming the Time, Renovate Your Life, Revival and Reformation, Salvation, Sanctification, Scriptural Holiness, Spiritual Direction, Spiritual Formation, Stewardship, Truth, Worldview, Youth Ministry, tagged Catechesis, Covenant Home, Discipleship, Doctrine & Theology, Faith, Family Worship, Generational Vision, Gospel, Heidelberg Catechism, Home Education, Kingdom Discipleship, Leadership, Legacy, Mentoring, Parenting, Redeeming the Time, Renovate Your Life, Sanctification, Scriptural Holiness, Spiritual Direction, Spiritual Formation, Truth on March 31, 2010 | Leave a Comment »
However, there are two very recent articles that have come out in the last week or so that address the very same issue. Both deal with J.I. Packer’s recent book and his comments about the importance of catechesis, and when Packer talks, we all need to listen.
The first one is found at Christianity Today and is an excerpt from his most recent book, Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way, which he cowrote with Gary A. Parrett. Here’s a snippet from that excerpt…
Historically, the church’s ministry of grounding new believers in the rudiments of Christianity has been known as catechesis—the growing of God’s people in the gospel and its implications for doctrine, devotion, duty, and delight. It is a ministry that has waxed and waned through the centuries. It flourished between the second and fifth centuries in the ancient church. Those who became Christians often moved into the faith from radically different worldviews. The churches rightly sought to ensure that these life-revolutions were processed carefully, prayerfully, and intentionally, with thorough understanding at each stage.
Click here to read the whole piece.
The other column is by Mark Earley at BreakPoint. Here’s an excerpt from it…
There is generally need for three distinct forms of catechetical ministry. They say it’s protocatechesis, which refers to teaching what many today would call “seekers” or what the ancients called “inquirers”; catechesis proper, which refers to the formal work of preparing children or adult converts for baptism or confirmation; and ongoing catechesis, which is the never-ending teaching and formation of believers.
Click here to read the whole column and make sure to see the links at the bottom of it.
PS – Each Sunday I post the questions and answers from the Heidelberg Catechism. It’s a wonderful tool to help you grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Posted in Bible Study, Calling, Change, Christian Living, Coaching, Counseling, Dale's Writing, Discipleship, Encouragement, Holiness, Leadership, Legacy, Mentoring, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Ministry, Personal Development, Priorities, Purpose, Redeeming the Time, Renovate Your Life, Sanctification, Shepherding, Spiritual Direction, Spiritual Formation, Stewardship, Work and Vocation, tagged Barnabas, Becoming A Coaching Leader, Bible Teacher, Biblical Counseling, Bill Copper, Building Champions, Call to Ministry, Chad Hall, Christian Coaching, Christlikeness, Coaching, Counseling, Daniel Harkavy, Disciple-Making, Discipleship Ministry, Faith Coaching, Giftedness, Leadership Development, Life-Coaching, Linda Hedberg, Mentoring, Minister of Discipleship, Paul, Personal Development, Purpose, Renovate Your Life, Sanctification, Spiritual Direction, Spiritual Gifts, Teaching, The Coaching Leader System, Timothy, Vision on March 23, 2010 | 1 Comment »
Discipleship is a broad topic. I believe a case could be made that virtually every area of ministry in a local church could be justly categorized as discipleship. This is quite unhelpful to someone who has the word “discipleship” in the title of his ministry. But at the end of the day, this is what it’s all about. The Lord Jesus himself has charged his followers to go into all the world and make disciples. And the one lesson I keep learning over and over again is that the “HOW” of making disciples is wide and varied.
As I said, the broad heading of discipleship covers a lot of ground. Some have called counseling “intensive discipleship.” The idea behind this is that every now and then a follower of Jesus falls prey to a particular problem that becomes an obstacle that impedes his or her progress on the path to Christlikeness. Thus, the usual means of discipleship don’t seem to work quite as effectively, and so, for a short season, a counselor might come along side the person and help them navigate their way through.
Spiritual Direction could also be seen as discipleship. A primary purpose of spiritual direction would be to help followers of Christ go deeper with Christ in more of a “one-on-one” setting. I believe that in addition to counseling and spiritual direction we could add mentoring, teaching, writing, developing leaders, and coaching as subcategories of discipleship.
What draws me to each of these areas of ministry is the common thread of investing, building, or pouring my life into the lives of others for the purpose of helping a person come to know, love, follow and become more like Christ in every sphere of his or her life. Some have called this “life on life transference.” Many have pointed out that this was Jesus’ primary way of ministering. We might also notice that this was one of the ways in which Paul, Barnabas, and company ministered – by encouraging, strengthening, and building up their brothers and sisters in Christ. (We remember that Paul tells us in Acts 20 that he went from “house to house.”)
Serving in this way is a blessed privilege that brings me a joy that I just can’t communicate. Being given the permission and opportunity to come along side to minister to those God has entrusted to my care is humbling beyond words. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it truly gets me up in the morning. Of course, it’s also accurate to say that it sometimes keeps me awake at night.
I graduated from seminary and took my first church in 1992. However, while I certainly learned much during my first seven years of ministry, it’s been the last 11 years that I’ve been serving as the Minister of Discipleship at the church I serve. When I first arrived I saw my call and ministry almost exclusively in terms of teaching. But over the years, through a myriad of experiences, learnings, reflections, prayer, seeking God’s direction, etc., I’ve experienced a transformation or, perhaps, an evolution of my call. Over the last 21 years (if I count seminary) I’ve had a series of “short-term” calls that led me to my present ministry. And even in my immediate ministerial setting, I’m learning that God is still at work, “tweaking” my call, my passion, my vision, and my gifts.
To be sure, my desire to pour or invest my life into the lives of others hasn’t changed one iota. Actually, that’s not true. It has increased exponentially. But what has caused such a dramatic increase in that desire is the fact that I keep learning more about the wonderful variety of ways in which I can “disciple” others. I’ve always known that discipleship was more than teaching. I never believed it was just that. But until I really started counseling others, discipling (one-on-one) others, mentoring others, etc., my ministry was, in a way, one-dimensional. Yet God continued (and continues) to reveal new ways to minister, with coaching being the latest tool in my ministerial toolbox.
Actually, that last sentence is fairly premature. I’ve been trying to apply what I’ve been learning about coaching when the opportunities arise, but I’m a long way off from being very skilled at it. But I’ve been diligently seeking to grow in this area of ministry. I’ve been learning more and more about coaching over the last couple of years and the more I learn the more excited I get. I hasten to add that the more I learn about coaching the more overwhelmed I get. When I graduated from seminary in Atlanta the only coach I cared anything about was Bobby Cox. “Coaching” as a form or discipline of ministry was certainly not only my radar screen. Thus, while I’m excited to be learning about it and seeking to become trained in this field, even with 18 years of ministry under my belt, I still feel like a rookie. Or, to change the imagery, I feel like I’m drinking water from a firehose.
Well, all of that was to get to this summary. Here’s what I “think” I’ve learned so far regarding my ministerial journey: In many ways mine is not a pure ministry of any particular discipline. It’s more of a hybrid. I’m seldom only teaching, or only counseling, or only spiritual directing, or only coaching. I need to have some skill and aptitude in each discipline because the demands and expectations of my ministry require that sort of fluency in each area. I need to be able to move from teacher to counselor to coach, quite often, within a single ministry encounter. At least that’s how it seems to me presently. While I’m learning so much from the many resources on these various areas of ministry, I guess my task is to learn how and when they apply to my ministry setting.
So that brings me fairly up-to-date. Why have I spent this time sharing all of this with you? At least three reasons.
1.) Because it’s sort of cathartic for me to get this off my chest and share it with others who take enough time and interest to read this blog.
2.) Because it just might be helpful for others who have experienced or are experiencing the same sort of “evolution” in their own call from God.
3.) Because there are a good number of folks who read this blog who are serving in many of the ways I’ve described and I would love to hear their thoughts and to learn about their experiences. So, if you’re a coach, I’d love to hear about how you became one. If you’re in some sort of discipleship ministry, I would profit greatly from learning about your ministry. Perhaps you could offer a comment or a link to something you’ve written that would benefit those of us on this journey we call discipleship ministry.
I look forward to hearing from you.
PS – Here are a few posts I’ve written on the subject of coaching.
- Notes on the book, Becoming A Coaching Leader, Introduction & Chapter 1
- Notes on Becoming A Coaching Leader, Chapter 2
- Notes on Becoming A Coaching Leader, Chapter 3
- Notes on Becoming A Coaching Leader, Chapter 4
- What is the biblical basis of coaching?
- Who is your Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy?
- Renovate Your Life
PSS – I just received today a training resource from Building Champions called, “The Coaching Leader System.” I can’t wait to dig in.
PSSS (is there such thing as that?) – I just ordered and downloaded Linda Hedberg’s Guide to Christian Coach Training. I hope to read it and reread this week. It looks great.
The Lord bless you,
I’m a fan of Randy Alcorn’s. Sure, I like what he has to say in his books. They are always saturated in Scripture and usually appeal to good old fashioned common sense. Even the few excerpts I’ve read from his fictional works grab me. But what I really like about Randy Alcorn is that he puts his money where his mouth is. His life up to this point has been truly inspiring. That’s why, when Randy speaks about topics such as “giving” I pay attention.
Here’s an exerpt from his most recent newsletter, Eternal Perspectives…
We shouldn’t brag about our Bible study, prayer, evangelism, parenting, or giving, but neither should we cover it up. It’s easier for people to follow footprints (what we do) than commands (what we say). If we aren’t willing to openly and humbly discuss our giving, how can we expect to raise up givers? The church has plenty of examples of consumers—we need to see examples of givers. Hebrews 10:24 tells us to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” We can only be spurred on by what we can see.