COVID-19, Discipleship, and Death

I have experienced quite a bit of loss through death in my life; parents, grandparents, close friends, and then six years ago, completely unexpectedly, my wife of 44 years! At my age, when you hear of someone who has died, you unconsciously take note of how old they were (and then secretly calculate the difference between your age and theirs!).  I have lost a friend to COVID-19 and several more friends who are terminally ill from various other diseases, and they know they are dying. Death is much closer to me than it ever was, and it tends to pose some interesting discipleship challenges.

There’s a lot written about how to live a life of discipleship, but very little is written on the death process of a disciple of Christ.  I had a father-in-law who was a great man of God, who loved to minister to people, and lived his life focused on the less fortunate. When he was diagnosed with an in curable form of cancer, his progress towards the end of his life was an amazing example of godly dying. Many people who knew him, would come up to him and encourage him to deny that he was dying of cancer. They would prophesy over him that he would surely have many more years to serve the Lord because of his lifetime commitment to the less fortunate. His response was always a kind and generous affirmation of his faith in Christ. He did not hide his diagnosis nor the fact that his time was very limited. But he did not stop living, right up to the very end.  He knew, “it is appointed unto man once to die” (Heb. 9:27) but that knowledge of death just could not immobilize him.  He continued to glorify God in his life and in his ministry, right up to the end.

I think this is what Paul had in mind when he mocked death in his letter to Corinth when he basically said, “come on death, what happened to your sting? Come on grave, where is your victory?” (I Cor. 15:55, my paraphrase).  He understood that Discipleship never stops, it continues long after we have experienced loss, or trauma.  And, it continues even after we’ve been given a terminal diagnosis.

Several of the discipleship outcomes in the DDA speak to the skills we need on our path toward the end of life. I learned how amazingly supportive the Fellowship of the Local Church was when I lost my wife. They figuratively carried me on their outstretched arms, like young people do at concerts when their favorite musician dives into the mosh pit and they keep him aloft with their arms! We all need to learn how to Manage Negative Emotions when our physical bodies start failing us or our eyes grow dimmer.  We need to maintain Hope for the Future when the future is as uncertain as the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted life, work, and fellowship.

I’ve been blessed to be given another chance at love when the Lord gave me a new partner after living alone for five years. She’s younger than I am, so it is incumbent upon me to monitor my Physical Health by watching my weight, remaining active, and always wearing a mask in public. But when my time comes, I’ll be looking to the examples of the saints in my life who not only knew how to live a life of discipleship when they were young and healthy, but those who knew how to die with a stubborn, confident sense of victory over death.

The Discipleship Dynamics Assessment TM is a discipleship tool that allows you to measure your discipleship progress in four of the Discipleship Outcomes that are mentioned in this blog (see the Outcomes in italics).

A Time of and for Change: A Word for Leaders, Part 2

As we endure through and emerge from this pandemic, there are some practical steps leaders can implement so that their people are ready for a world that has changed forever. Pastors and spiritual leaders (elders, deacons, staff, volunteer leaders and so many others): Thank you for your love, sacrificial service, and tireless concern for your congregations and communities. These thoughts are intended to relieve burdens, not add to them! Here are four first steps in forging a new future.

Take care of yourselves. Self-care is not selfish; it is a vital starting point for having capacity to care for others. Nourishing intimacy with God, receiving healing in our hearts, physical exercise and rest, and relational wholeness are all part of being prepared for service. Jesus’ great invitation of Matthew 11:27-30 is an offer of pacing and rest we can embrace.

Read more …

A Time of and for Change: A Word for Leaders, Part I

The current pandemic is bringing untold suffering – and an unprecedented opportunity for re-calibrating discipleship and mission. In this two-part series, I want to offer some insights how we can refine and even transform how we see the equipping of God’s people.

No one knows the future of our global and local economies. “V-shaped” (fairly rapid); “U-Shaped” (slower) and “check-shaped” (quick descent, slow ascent) visuals are all presented, but only time will tell the full effects of the pandemic.

The case for integrating faith, work, and economic wisdom for human flourishing, church vitality, and community thriving is now stronger than ever, and few are arguing for any sacred/secular divides. This said, the need for wisdom is paramount as spiritual leaders empower their congregants for a new economic world.

Read more …

Digital Discipleship Tool

Discipleship has always been a challenge for the church. How do you effectively define discipleship? What does a healthy disciple look like? How can you measure progress? But today in a COVID-19 world, the existing approaches to discipleship have come under even greater pressure. The traditional ways that we used to evaluate discipleship are no longer available! We used to look at church attendance, volunteer involvement, small group participation, Sunday school size, or possibly even financial support levels to the ministry.

I want to introduce you to the Discipleship Dynamics Assessments (DDA™). This confidential online discipleship tool presents the disciple with a model of discipleship that challenges growth in 5 different Dimensions. It is not a curriculum but lends itself to developing a unique discipleship intervention for each disciple. The Assessment takes about 40 minutes to complete. The Assessment has excellent reliability and validity support (Cronbach alpha exceeds .700 on almost all the Outcomes). The results are immediately calculated and provide a personalized, 13-page report to each disciple on 35 Biblically based discipleship outcomes.

Read more …

For Such a Time as This

This moment of coronavirus crisis is a great opportunity to re-calibrate our discipleship efforts, thinking more about outcomes than programs, and more about resourcing one another than having meetings.

There is much discussion on the best ways to make disciples and see true maturity, stability, and vitality in believers. All leaders are emphasizing both relationships and sound doctrine, practical disciplines and inner transformation.

What is missing is a clear vision of flourishing, of health in all dimensions of life. The Discipleship Dynamics Assessment offers this vision and the ability to measure progress. As the Lord is leading your community in making disciples, consider offering clarity about what health looks like! Read more …

The Assessment: History and Hope

When we were creating the Discipleship Dynamics Assessment (DDA), we listened to the insights of hundreds of leaders in all fields of work who were committed to discipleship. We found that everyone was on board for assessing spiritual, emotional, and relational dimensions.

What makes the DDA revolutionary in the INTEGRATION of Vocational Clarity (calling and purpose beyond today’s daily work) and Economics and Work (ALL daily tasks and the fact we are part of various economies) with the spiritual life!

There is no “secular” employment for the people of God – only God’s work in us and through us in everything we do! It is TODAY’s discipline that is tomorrow’s destiny. Yes, there is much injustice and toil in our work – but it is the place where God’s purposes are lived out. Read more …

The Leader’s Quick Reference:

First Steps in Using the Discipleship Dynamics Assessment™ in your Congregation

Dear leader,

Thank you for your commitment to the Great Commission and Great Commandment of Jesus to “make disciples” (Mt. 28:18-20) that love God and their neighbor with grace and wisdom (Mt. 22:37-40; John 13). Thank you as well for leading your group through the Discipleship Dynamics Assessment ™ process and discovering the strengths and weaknesses of your group.

The members of your group each have detailed reports and you have the overall scores detailing the trends in your community. This is biblically grounded and empirically verified information found in no other resource. You can now target your discipleship goals and process to cultivate the strengths and improve and mature the areas that need growth. Read more …