Archive for mentorship

Individual Discipleship Plans

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 21, 2009 by gospel2live

Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Cor. 12:4-7

Becoming a Christian is a one-time event.  At some point in time, you must be born again.  When you were physically born, the doctor, a nurse, or your parents noted the date and time.  For those who are born again spiritually, there is also a point in time where God takes note that He has saved you – he has given you the faith to believe that Jesus died for your sins and He declares you righteous based on that faith.

However, the rest of the Christian life is clearly a process, not a one-time event.  Just like physical birth leads to various stages of growth, re-birth leads to spiritual growth.  Unlike physical growth which follows pretty set patterns and timeframes, our spiritual growth can often seem to be hit or miss.  We may go through great growth spurts where we mature by leaps and bounds, only to enter seasons where we seem to lose ground and become lethargic spiritually and seem to shrink farther away from maturity.  David Powlison describes this process by comparing it to a person who is using a yo-yo as he walks up the stairs – there is constant up and down motion, but it is ascending as it goes.  At least, we want it to be ascending!  We want to be able to see that there is progress being made and that we are becoming more spiritually mature, despite whatever struggles we may be engaging in at the present time.

So why do we sometimes fail to see any spiritual progress, either in self or in others?  First, growth follows birth.  One reason that spiritual growth does not take place is because there has been no spiritual birth.  Scripture admonishes us to examine ourselves to be sure that we are in the faith.  If you have seen no growth in your love for God, your ability to resist sin, and development of spiritual fruit, then you (or one you are concerned about!) may never have been born again.  It isn’t as much about praying a prayer as it is getting a new heart from God that is capable of loving God.

For those who have been born again, there can be problems in establishing consistent growth.  Sometimes a baby experiences “failure to thrive.”  In these circumstances, the child fails to gain weight, develop skills, or otherwise mature.  Often this is due to a lack of proper nutrition or nurturing.  In the same way, many Christians suffer from a spiritual “failure to thrive.”  They may regularly attend church, or even serve in some form of ministry, but they do not grow in their maturity.  They do not experience a growing love and passion for God, a progressive movement towards holiness, or a sense of their purpose and calling in ministry to the church or the world.

As our children grow, our parenting must change to accommodate their growth.  We make decisions about diet and activities so that they continue to grow to maturity.  As a church, we need to nurture people to provide for their individual growth.  This will NOT be a one size fits all plan!  Different people are at different maturity levels and are being given different gifts to perform in different ministries!  Most churches struggle to see that this is a process that will need different methods for different people.  It is much easier to focus on standard programs that individuals can customize to their own needs, than it is to focus on individuals and tailor make a discipleship program that takes into account their unique creation by God.

We, however, are not willing to be deterred by a challenge!  That is why I am putting together some basic assessments that you can work through, with me, to come up with an Individual Discipleship Plan.  We can look at your life and prayerfully examine where change and growth needs to occur.  Additionally, we can set goals that match up with your skills and abilities, so that you might move into a ministry that God is calling you to participate in – not just something you feel a need to do out of guilt or necessity.  If you want to become intentional in your spiritual growth, please set up an appointment to talk.  Whether you are a spiritual baby, or an aging veteran, there is always room to grow in our likeness to Jesus!

Meth and the Gospel

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2009 by gospel2live

I recently spent an evening helping to get a young man, crashing hard off of meth, to go in to the hospital and sitting with members of his family while he was checked out and eventually admitted.  Because of my days in the public defender’s office, I am familiar with the stages of meth use and have dealt with people under the influence before.  However, this was the first time I was dealing directly with a meth situation in a pastoral role.  

As I have thought about the events of the evening, there are some observations about the Gospel at work that I would like to put out for your consideration….

First, the Gospel is at work in the addict.  I first met this guy in the jail.  His mom asked if I would go see him, so I did.  In the past two years, our contact alternates between chuch and the jail.  He will come to Bible study or services, when he is sober — usually after release, but eventually returns to his old friends, old ways, and old addictions.  He has had been taught about Jesus, and embraces his need for a savior, but he is still a slave to his flesh.  Although he just turned 21, in reality he is still a little boy who is looking to the women in his life to make sure that all the blame and consequences for his actions do not land on his shoulders.  Despite the rage and beligerence of his state, over the course of the evening something checked his rage long enough for him to submit and comply with what he needed to do.  My conclusion is that the war for his soul is very fierce right now.  He is at a crucial juncture where he will yield to the Lord Jesus Christ, or his old masters of drugs and violence will destroy him.  Please pray for his deliverance.

Second, the Gospel is at work in this guy’s family.  Over the course of the evening, our service of the Lord in assisting in the care of this young man was a witness of the love of Christ to his mother, his girlfriend, and his extended family.  God provided the opportunity to present the Gospel to his girlfriend, to exhort her to forgive the church people who have hurt her deeply in the past, and to try to convince her to come back to where the Lord Jesus is her first priority.  I pray that our involvement will provide a good witness to his siblings who have not embraced Jesus, and help his mother to grow in grace and to move towards a deeper maturity through the difficult situations shaping her at this time.

The Gospel is also at work in the hospital staff.  The nurse who served this young man was phenomenal.  She was fearless, despite being less than half the size of this guy.  Without her skillful control of the patient, he would have almost certainly ended up in the jail, rather than the hospital.  Eventually a control team and law enforcement had to assist, and yet the Lord allowed the situation to resolve peacefully as he finally yielded to the waiting wheel chair.  Several times I was asked “you’re his pastor?”  Granted, I am not necessarily a typical pastor, and certainly some of the incredulity could be negative — as in what kind of pastor would lead a guy to become a meth addict — but I hope that the result might be that their stereotypes about churches as stuffy places that have no impact in the real world might be changed.  

Fourth, the Gospel is at work in the man from my Bible study who I recruited to help.  He is a law enforcement veteran who buried his son a little over a year ago — due to a drug problem.  In addition to his training, experience, and connections as a police officer, he provided an empathetic support for the family as they waited at the hospital.  His growth over the past couple of years has been significant, as he has studied the Bible and persevered through some incredibly difficult circumstances.  These circumstances provided a unique opportunity to sharpen one another as we seek to not merely learn about the Gospel, but to carry it over into our real life situations.  I am optimistic that as his faith continues to grow, that he will be a highly strategic worker in bringing the Gospel to the community in ways that a vocational pastor cannot.  

Finally, the Gospel is at work in me.  I am so grateful that God would open my eyes to see the glory of the Gospel in the face of Jesus Christ.  I am so glad that he is at work in my life to convict me of my sin and to move me towards repentence and sanctification.  This experience reminds me of my own frailty and how, apart from God’s grace in my life, I could easily be in the shoes of the addict on this night.  It brings conviction of my own lack of self control and discipline.  I think of my “acceptable’ addictions — food in particular.  I am reminded that I also have a tendency, even if only in my heart, to make excuses and blame shift.  My heart is a factory of excuses that will continually convince me of my own self-righteousness — if I let it.  And so I come away from the experience humbled by my sin in the light of God’s absolute holiness.  I, too, must repent again and turn to Jesus for his healing and forgiveness.  In the process, I find the joy of his salvation and the peace that comes from knowing I don’t NEED to be self-righteous, because I am clothed in the far superior righteousness of Jesus, through faith in his sacrificial death for me.

Meth is an insidious evil.  For this season, God is allowing evil to continue so that those He is calling out of their sin and depravity may not receive the judgment due to them, but that they might be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus.  A day is coming when He will tolerate evil no more.  We do not know how long he will wait until that day, but it is coming and we all must be ready.  We MUST decide whether we will continue in our sin and self-justification, or turn to Jesus, submit to his rule in our lives, and accept that he alone can rescue us from our rebellion against God.  So meth points us back to the existence of the cosmic struggle against God’s good and loving rule of the universe and ultimately should remind us that we ALL need to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.

Leaders in the Making

Posted in Christian relationships with tags , , , on February 3, 2009 by gospel2live

It is a great privilege to be attending the Desiring God Conference for Pastors in Minneapolis.  This year, in addition to the blessing of attending the conference, I have the double blessing of attending with a couple of emerging lay leaders from my home church.  The conference topic is on evangelism and the role of the pastor and church in reaching those who are perishing.

Attending a conference like this with lay men who desire to grow in God is a tremendous opportunity.  It has given us an opportunity to spend time listening to very challenging speakers, but even more importantly, time to digest and discuss what we are learning throughout the day.  Some pastors simply need to get away and be minstered to.  However, for those who have the opportunity to bring key current and future leaders with to such an event, they will find a level of life on life discipleship that is very hard to duplicate.   I am very grateful to the men who came along that they were willing to take the time and make the commitment to attend.

I would encourage pastors and church leaders to multiply the impact of conferences by attending them as teams and taking the time to work through the implications of the teaching for your particular local church!