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.
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 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 …
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 …
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 …
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.
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.
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 …