Preparing for the Ministry

Over the years I’ve had numerous friends who left pastoral ministry for various reasons. Some found that it was not what they expected. Others left under difficult circumstances when there was financial troubles or interpersonal conflicts. But many who left, experienced significant guilt that they had failed their “calling” because they are “leaving the ministry”. They were no longer in the “higher calling” that everyone seems to refer to when they speak of ministry as if it was the most important occupation in the Kingdom of God.

But this is clearly not consistent with a biblical understanding of ministry or calling! Just because you are earning your living as a missionary, or an employee of a church or a church organization does not mean that this is a more important vocational choice than others. In fact, many who enter pastoral ministry soon discover that the interpersonal, pastoral function that they felt so drawn to, is often overshadowed by administrative functions, endless meetings, and too often, management of interpersonal conflict. If it were not for the preaching side, pastoral ministry is very similar to any other management position in our communities! Read more …

White Privilege: Is it True Blonds Have More Fun?

The concept of white privilege has become a political hot potato. Strangely, our Black brothers don’t seem to find it as strange as those in the White church. In fact, many reject any talk of “privilege” and will too often respond defensively when someone points out their privilege, as if they are being accused of something that they are not responsible for. The political landscape has muddied the water by coupling white privilege to demands for reparations, guilt about historic injustices, and affirmative action. We need to step away from the political discourse and return to a biblical understanding of privilege.

Caitlyn is my granddaughter, and she has Downs Syndrome. When you meet her she has the most infectious giggle and gives hugs that just melt her grandfather’s heart. She has no formal educational qualifications and cannot perform any occupational tasks. She also has some medical issues that require daily medical interventions. In contrast, I have a PhD, a history of professional occupational accomplishments, and I’m as healthy as a horse! The point that is important here is that I was granted enormous privileges at birth that was not something that Caitlyn enjoyed.

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Checking in With God and Each Other

There are 5 Dimensions of the human person we have identified in our new vision of discipleship:

  • Spiritual Formation undergirds all the others and is the way we summarize what it means to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind (Matthew 22:37-40).
  • Personal Wholeness focuses on emotional heath and proper self-respect, and biblically, emotional and spiritual maturity are inseparable (Ephesians 4:17-5:33; Colossians 3:1-16).
  • Healthy Relationships is the dimension that reflects the biblical command to, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” From our families to our friendships, all relationships can be marked by love and wisdom (I Corinthians 13)
  • Vocational Clarity means we have a sense of calling and purpose that is more than our current job, but informs our daily life and work (Ephesians 2:8-10).
  • Economics and Work is the dimension that speaks to our daily lives as the place where our discipleship and mission are carried out (Jeremiah 29; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; I Timothy 2:1-6)

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From Revival to Awakening

We are thankful to God for every personal, local church, and community-wide spiritual revival. It is wonderful when God’s people reignite their passion for love and truth, consecration, and evangelism. It is a joy seeing new converts baptized and added to our churches. American and global church history are filled with seasons of spiritual refreshing and renewal.

But the Lord has even more in store for us as we pursue God’s glory and the good of others. In special moments of history, the reviving work of the Spirit also overflows to social and spiritual transformation of neighborhoods and nations, touching every people group and domain of society. Put simply, the people of God have influence and impact in economic and social structures. We call this overflow awakening. Read more …

Welcome to Discipleship Dynamics 4.0: A New Era

Friends, we are so excited to share with you all the new developments with the Discipleship Dynamics Assessment (DDA) and the mission we are on with you to transform discipleship. We are calling this new era beginning today, “DDA 4.0.” Why? Because we have learned so much in the last decade that we can confidently declare that our vision is clearer, our assessments are more refined, and the new resources we are offering make our entire mission more complete.

A little history, from 1.0 to 4.0: We introduced the DDA in 2013 with five Dimensions and 40 Outcomes. It was met with approval and many joined us in this unprecedented vision and evaluation of whole-life discipleship. In listening to users, they asked if it could be more streamlined and have an outcome focused on physical health. We heard you and the DDA 2.0 was born a couple years later. Since 2016, we have been refining this tool that offers a unique snapshot of a believer’s current walk with the Lord. Read more …

Online Discipleship during COVID-19

Discipleship has always been a challenge for the church.  We have traditionally been excellent at gathering people together, at delivering anointed preaching, and producing amazing worship experiences.  We do prayer meetings and small groups and invest in Sunday School programs, all as organizational strategies to somehow produce disciples.  After all, making disciples was the “prime directive” that Jesus left for us (with humble apologies to my Trekkie friends!).  Jesus said He would build His church; our task was to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).

COVID-19 has severely disrupted our organizational strategies.  But even if they had been highly successful in producing mature disciples who understand the ways of the Lord, we will not be able to utilize them for the foreseeable future. Read more …

The Future of Spiritual Formation: Transforming Discipleship and Mission

The church has never had more Christian discipleship resources for spiritual growth…and yet leaders everywhere are concerned about the real spiritual depth and breadth of their congregants. From ancient texts to modern authors, we are drowning in content and yet strangely superficial as crises rock of faith of many and failures of the institutional church cause some to question the Gospel itself.

Spiritual formation includes the great disciplines of biblical study, prayer, contemplation, solitude, congregational worship, generous giving and more. The problem is that many believers still have distinct categories for the dimensions of their lives, separating sacred and secular, spiritual and practical, and creating lists of priorities (God, family, church, work, etc.). Read more …

COVID Stole My Job

I was driving to my office on Monday morning when the phone rings. One of our church members tells me a family member tested positive for COVID, so they’re quarantined for 14 days. They call me back 45 minutes later and said they were let go from their job. A staff member walks into my office and says another one of our members is completely out of work because their company is shut down because of COVID. I get a call from an entrepreneur who says the market has virtually dried up – they’ve got zero work coming in.

It’s a terrible Monday morning. It may be true that COVID stole their jobs.  But for a disciple, COVID can’t steal their vocation for their occupation. Read more …

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 incurable form of cancer, his progress towards the end of his life was an amazing example of godly dying. Read more …

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.

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