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one-to-one

Alongside and distinct from growing homegroups I’ve been so encouraged by increased life-on-life discipleship. We’re nurturing that in triplets and they’re motoring! New combinations, unlikely combinations and kingdom combinations are popping up in surprising ways. Here’s why I think they matter….

Up-close discipleship invites everyone to bear his or her weight. It nurtures self-leadership and growth in accountable ways. We want what God desires in his church, and that’s spectators! Spiritual health comes through hunger and engagement. And simply put, prayer takes us to a pure place. Passive consummation and low-level silliness are diminished, when we sit with others and desire God’s best for our growth and transformation.

Up-close discipleship necessitates honest conversation. We speak profound untruth often when we default to those well-worn words, “I’m fine!” The vocabulary of the church should be noble, good, and true! Real life-on-life honesty to name our struggles, pursue holiness and seek the Holy Spirit’s help is challenging in a large scale context so smaller contexts are vital. Repentance and change come best in one-degree shifts and they best happen in small groups.

Up-close discipleship allows for personal application. Stories are the data of the soul, and where we work out our salvation. Big picture teaching concepts and scriptural ideals getting translated rather than lost happen best life-on-life. Smaller settings equip us for meaning and joyful whole life goodness with Jesus!

Up-close discipleship nurtures evangelism and more. Churches with a culture of one-on-one discipleship have no question with what to do with someone who comes to faith in their church. They are welcomed and plugged in. The flames are fanned, encouragement and equipping come from life-on-life. Imagine the long-term fruit that could result if every church could say to new believers, “We have someone who would love to walk with you over the next six months, as you grow in your faith?”

Up-close discipleship encourages ongoing accountability. Simply put, this reaches places little else can. It’s the place to go to as we submit to God’s word and His Spirit, in genuine community. Genuine change happens when we bring our lives and struggles into the light, both to God and to fellow brothers and sisters.

Up-close discipleship allows for struggles and burdens to be carried together. In an age of incessant social media chatter, we assume that every believer is surrounded by people who will pray when they hurt, and love and support them when they suffer. Yet, in an age of constant connectivity, people are as lonely as ever. Facebook ‘friends’ may be barely acquaintances and there’s the precious gift of others sitting with us, listening to our muddled conversations, making us something to eat, and praying us through the tears. This is irreplaceable. We need burden-bearing relationships.

Up-close discipleship enables other ministries and service to flourish. Discipleship relationships are not an alternative to other interactions, but rather a compliment to these. A church community filled with a culture of disciple-making can trust that their groups don’t have to do it all, freeing these groups to do the very things they do best.

Up-close discipleship supports mutual growth. It’s that glorious expression of the biblical ‘one-another’ mandate. One-on-one discipleship is often explained as if it is only for the benefit of the younger Christian who is being discipled. Yet, it is for all of us! Meet with someone who doesn’t have it all together and is looking to you for help. Do you want to see change in your personal sin struggles? Invite someone into your life and say, like Paul did, “follow me as I follow Christ.” And finally,…..

Up-close discipleship cheers on healthy relationships. Biblical community is a cheap buzzword in some circles: it can be easy to define, yet hard to find. Sunday gatherings alone are unlikely to nurture the deep love and community impact we long to see among the people of God. But one-on-one discipleship can. Imagine what faith hope and love in the power of the Holy Spirit might generate over five years!? Here’s to this shape of formation and this reality in our churches for the sake of the world.

five

“At the back of it there lies the central citadel of obstinacy: I will not give up my right to myself – the thing God intends you to give up if ever you are going to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.” Oswald Chambers
1 Baggage worth reclaiming?
2 Helping the quality of our application in preaching
3 Exploring our cutlure’s blindspots on calling 
4 Mark Dever on four elements of the discipleship process
5 Seven key relational sklls in leadership

lower

“The gospel begins with our brokenness and inability, not our power and potential. Billy Graham once said that rarely is it someone’s sin that keeps them from heaven; usually, it is their good deeds. In the same way, it is our false sense of ability, not our inabilities, that keeps us from the power of the Spirit. Thinking we can get along fine “apart from” him keeps us from the gift of power available in Him – John 15 v 5

When you finally come to the place where you realise you have no true power, then you are ready to receive his. The great irony in the Christian life, you see, is that the way up is the way down. The lower we sink in ourselves, the higher we rise in him.”

Jesus continued, by JD Greear, p217

five on Friday

“To the degree you face and name and deal with your failures as a leader, to that same extent you will create an environment conducive to growing and retaining productive and committed relationships in ministry. Sometimes the quickest path up is down, and likewise, the surest success comes through being honest about failure.” Dan Allender
1 Drop this vague-trio from your leadership!
2 Emotional intelligence is a treasure to be nurtured!
3 Immaturity of faith in the life of the believer?
4 Platforms and pride….and the reason for caution
5 ‘What if…..?’ is the most important question

another day?

Peter and John had been in the forefront of ministry but they weren’t alone. As soon as they were released from prison, they returned to the other believers. This Acts 4 v 23-31 passage has provoked me over the last few days. Who do you and I go to when things get tough?

Simply put:- some days work out differently to the way we expect! It was only yesterday that Peter and John had made an entirely routine visit to the Temple. But look what had followed: healing, preaching, a huge influx into this young church, prison and an order to keep things quiet. They would have been exhausted and more than a bit stretched.

Their response was straightforward: they went back to base and prayed. And it’s quite the prayer. They were united – verse 24, focused on God verse 24, used scripture verse 25 & 26, remembered their previous experience verse 27, recognised God’s sovereignty verse 28, and concentrated on mission, not their own needs verses 29 and 30. And this pattern is for our encouragement and echo.

And the result? A mini-Pentecost, seen in verse 31! In trusting confidence, the community did not pray to be kept safe from persecution. They didn’t turn inward but rather kept outward facing in their desire to fully be God’s grace for their community. They did not seem to consider obeying the rulers. They appealed to God’s justice in dealing with their opponents. Then they prayed for strength, courage and boldness freely to proclaim his word, so that the good news would continue to spread and Jesus’ work of healing and performing signs would authenticate their witness to him.

Sometimes my prayers default to the self-centred and trivial. We are challenged to know God in a deeper way through his word and to pray, trusting that his purposes are being worked out in this troubled world. We need the Spirit’s courage to proclaim Jesus through our words and efforts in His name. Then we can be confident of Gods favour. Here’s to more of verse 31 in our communities!

others and more…

“My greatest joy as a pastor is seeing people come alive in their spiritual gifts. If there ever has been someone I knew who had the spiritual gift of faith and intercession, Curtis was he. Curtis was an older gentleman in our church who had worked more than thirty years in the Veterans Affairs hospital. One day, in his late fifties, he listened to a message by Jim Cymbala of the Brooklyn Tabernacle on how God answers prayer. Curtis confessed he’d never seen God clearly answer a prayer in his life, so he set aside five minutes a day to pray for others. That grew to ten minutes, then half an hour, then eventually an hour and a half each day. He developed a large email chain in our church that involved hundreds of people praying around the clock for one another’s needs. At every stage of our church’s growth, he bathed our steps in prayer. He spoke prophetic vision into my life, and into the future of our church.

Curtis has gone to be with Jesus, but he remains for our church an example of the extraordinary accomplishments God brings about through those who pursue his mission in step with the Spirit.”

from Jesus continued

five

another clutch of favourite reads and these sage words from Thomas a Kempis, “Let this be thy whole endeavour, this thy prayer, this thy desire, that thou be stripped of all selfishness, and with entire simplicity follow Jesus only.”

1 James KA Smith and his remarkable cultural exegesis
2 A kindled heart and other preaching counsel from Kevin De Young
Leading for the love of Jesus, and regularly checking motivation!
4 Marriage and being that ‘right person’? 
5 Searing social media challenges and when to walk away

five…..returning?!

Yep a stupid amount of delay….
“Ministry to broken people is messy. And there’s no more beautiful ministry to be involved in! In fact, we leaders, we teachers, we pastors need it way more than we’re willing to admit. It’s the best way to extend the ministry of Jesus through the church as we “bind up the brokenhearted.” Brandon Cox
1 A big five theological influences?
2 Healthy emotional engagement matters
3 Learning leadership from Leicester City FC
4 Bono and Eugene Peterson talking the Psalms!
5 Disciple making culture….and progress?

the door

I was reminded of this poem leading our recent Evangelism and Witness consultation, some abbreviated words by Sam Shoemaker – The Door

“I stand by the door.
I neither go to far in, nor stay to far out.
The door is the most important door in the world –
It is the door through which men walk when they find God.
There is no use my going way inside and staying there,
When so many are still outside and they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only the wall where the door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind men,
With outstretched, groping hands,
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
Yet they never find it.
So I stand by the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world
Is for men to find that door – the door to God.
The most important thing that any man can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands
And put it on the latch – the latch that only clicks
And opens to the man’s own touch.

Men die outside the door, as starving beggars die
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter.
Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live on the other side of it – live because they have not found it.

Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,
And open it, and walk in, and find Him.
So I stand by the door.

Go in great saints; go all the way in –
Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
And way up into the spacious attics.
It is a vast, roomy house, this house where God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms
And know the depths and heights of God,
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.
Sometimes I take a deeper look in.
Sometimes venture in a little farther,
But my place seems closer to the opening.
So I stand by the door…….

Where? Outside the door –
Thousands of them. Millions of them.
But – more important for me –
One of them, two of them, ten of them.
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch.
So I shall stand by the door and wait
For those who seek it.

‘I had rather be a door-keeper
So I stand by the door.”

suffering…

In all of our joys Christ is better and in all of our sufferings Christ is enough! or as Tim Keller would say, “there’s not shelter apart from God. We must continue to trust in Him because all other ‘shelters’ will prove to be places of greater danger. There is no other place to go. He has the words of eternal life.”  And so in our preaching we’ve felt we should look straight there….

For even in the face of suffering and struggle…. for it’s where we can grow most in our confidence about Christ, about the long arc of God’s story and how we increase trust for the inbetween. I found more and new things in Romans 5. I believe in declaring, and living that “Christ will win out in me more than my circumstances.” So here’s my approximate transcript  and the audio files’ here.

 

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