risky move


The Discipleship Experiment.

This year our student ministry leadership set a goal: be disciples discipling others to be disciples. We decided to do ministry biblically, thus the discipleship experiment took life. It was a risky move, but a bold biblical endeavor.

We had some speed bumps, U-turns, and engines overheat along the journey, but overall I am ecstatic to see our adult leaders become more actively involved in the spiritual growth of our students. Though many would admit, “I feel like I’ve failed.” I would say their input into the lives of the students was exceed by the spiritual output. In other words, high risk [discipleship] equals high reward [disciples].

What is biblical student ministry?

Student ministry biblically is a ministry of the church coming alongside families equipping them to become faithful followers of Christ. Student ministry is intensive discipleship geared towards students and their families. Intensive discipleship is both encouraging one another to follow Christ [evangelism] and equipping follower in Christ [followership].

Discipleship is difficult. It’s difficult because of the cost involved. The cost may involve time, studying the Word to help student see their lives mirrored in the Word, willingness to get messy as students fall into sin, and desire to pour your life into another by living in a way that models a disciple of Christ. Discipleship takes a willingness to be selfless for the sake of another to see and savor Jesus Christ.

Discipleship is all for Christ and all about Christlikeness.

It is easy to disciple for all the wrong reasons. Some disciple to feel needed, important, or appreciated. Others disciple to impress, lord-over, or act as mini-Messiah’s. This is not discipleship. We don’t disciple as matter of self-defense or self-promotion. You don’t pour your life into others to fill yourself up. How selfish. Discipleship is selfless because it is promoting Christlikness.

When you gaze at the cross and get a glimpse of the gospel you see that you are unworthy, but God in Christ is worthy. Discipleship must always be rooted and nourished by the living message of the gospel. Jesus died, He was buried and resurrected that you and I might have abundant life [Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:20-21]. Without the gospel discipleship is dead.

This year I watch Brent pour his heart into middle school boys. Middle schools are not the easiest flock to shepherd. He would take them out to Taco Bell before FUEL or have them work on construction projects at the church. These middle schoolers know that Brent cares. Brent made a risky move–doesn’t feel like he did enough–but was willing to pour Christ into middle school boys. To Brent discipleship was more of a risk than being a stunt man. He was willing to get get messy and be spent of the sake of Christ.

Successful disciples are servants first [Matthew 20:25-28].

Christ became the servant of all. It is crazy to think that a King and Creator of the universe became a servant to His creation. Jesus gives us a genuine model for leadership and discipleship: humility [Matthew 11:29; Luke 14:7-11; Philippians 2:3-4], trust [Mark 10:32-41], shepherding [Mark 10:45; John 10:11], gift oriented teamwork [1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; Luke 9:1-2], responsibility [John 13:15; Ephesians 4:11-13]; and risk [Hebrews 11:1].

Discipleship is a risky move, but it has great rewards.

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book review: radical

I have been reading the book Radical by David Platt it is an excellent book that answers the question, why following Christ means being so radical?

This is one book I wish I had written myself, but that you need to dig into yourself.

Followership is radical. We are not talking about Christian jihad or political-far-right, but being a follower in a passive and putrid American society is risky. Jesus calls us to a lifestyle that is active and living, and revolving around Himself. The cost of committing to Christ is radical and means I must abandon all my American dreams for him. Jesus asked me to leave behind security, money, a life of ease and even those that I love the most to be His follower. That sounds radical. That is exactly what this book is about.

Followership is more than believing in Jesus, it is also obeying Him. Jesus wants to change me and culture from the inside out, not from the outside in. I am ready to take The Radical Experiment. To find out more about this one-year journey to authentic followership you will have to just read the book.

“Are you willing to obey the orders of Christ? Are you willing to be like Him? Are you willing to risk your life to go to great need and to great danger–whether it’s in the inner cities around you, the difficult neighbor across the street, the disease-ridden communities in Africa, or the hostile regions in the Middle East? Are we willing to fundamentally alter our understanding of Christianity from a luxury-liner approach that seeks more comforts in the world to a troop-carrier approach that forsakes comforts in the world to accomplish an eternally significant task and achieve an eternally satisfying reward?” [p.171]

David Platt, Radical, Waterbrook Multnomah, Colorado Springs, CO. 2010.

following in His steps

“Our Lord’s first obedience was to the will of His Father, not to the needs of men. His obedience brought the outcome of the saving of men. If I am devoted to the cause of humanity only, I will soon be exhausted and come to the place where my love will falter. But if I love Jesus Christ personally and passionately, I can serve humanity though men treat me as a doormat.” – Oswald Chambers

followership begins with a passion for God and compassion for people.

True followership begins with a passion for Jesus Christ. Jesus is passionate about building His church. This passion is as contagious as a runny nose in mid-Winter because it flows into our compassion for others. Those who discipled me from middle school until now have modeled a real passionate faith. So passionate that I want to be like Christ because they looked so much like Christ.

Whether we are discipling to Christ or in Christ all Christ’s. I cringe at the idea of calling someone “my disciple”. This is a term we find in the New Testament only coming from the mouth of Jesus. As believers in Christ we are His disciples. I am not a disciple of any man but Christ. Paul talked about “my son” Timothy, “my brother” Ephaphroditus, and co-laborers as “my fellow servants”. New Testament authors never called a fellow believer “my disciple” or “my follower.” in fact, Paul freaks out when he hears that some are calling themselves followers of Paul or Apollos. “ Is Christ divided? he wrote, with evident frustration. “Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?” [1 Corinthians 1:13] Paul had his eyes on Jesus, so He must be our focus and passion as followers too.

followership invites others to “be with” you.

Christ appointed twelve followers and “designating them apostles, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach.” [Mark 3:14] Christ is the initiator in challenging and calling men. His vision is clear: before they were unleashed to the world they were invited to “be with Him”.

As a follower of Christ His presence is with us always [cf. Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5]. The original twelve followers were “with Him”, and Jesus “with them.” We find Jesus in their homes, having dinner with their friends, and engaging lovingly with their enemies. True followership begins by inviting others to be with you.

followership is being shaped into the image of God together.

“We proclaim Christ, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all His might, which so powerfully works in me.” [Colossians 1:28-29] Our goal for every follower is to reach maturity in Christ, that their life begin to look like His.

An artist was asked what he would paint on the white canvas. “You see a blank canvas,” he said. “But I see a mountain, lake and beautiful sunrise. As I gaze at the canvas I smell the mountain air, feel the brisk morning air coming of the lake, and then simply brush the strokes of color onto the canvas.” As followers of Christ His portrait should always be before us, and the canvas of our lives is being transformed into the beautiful image of Christ.

followership is not complete until the follower becomes a teacher.

In Matthew 28:19-20, we often miss the an important point of the Great Commission. I would call it the Great Omission because Jesus says to His followers, “teach everyone everything you have heard and seen in me.”

As a follower of Christ I am doing the ministry of multiplication. No one is becoming mature in Christ until they begin to reproduce Christ in others. Jesus sent His followers out to serve without Him. He warned them they would need at some point to carry the message on their own.  A follower of Christ was prepared from the beginning to make other follower, who in turn made other follower, who made still more follower. And so the gospel of Christ reached you and me.

What if doormat discipleship characterized each of our ministries? What if people were truly shaped into the image of Christ through discipling relationships? What if followership began to take on a life all its own, bigger than any program in our church? What if people left our ministries and continued to make followers of Christ for the rest of their lives? This is the path Jesus destined for His followers to walk after His death [Matthew 28:19-20].

build it and they will come

Build it and they will come: Changing the way we do gospel ministry

Changing the way we do ministry towards a gospel-centered focus is not easy. It is a paradigm shift from the cry of our culture. Or cultural proverb says, “Build it and they will come.” There is some truth to this Field of Dreams proverb. However, it depends what you build on that could affect whether it will last.

We are not about building the greatest ministry that makes the cover of Christianity Today. We are not about growing huge numbers, having the coolest coffee-shop-like atmosphere, blasting the craziest and latest worship tunes, or any other low-level purpose. We have a higher purpose: we build on the foundation of Christ [1 Corinthians 3:9-17]. All other foundations mentioned above–if not grounded in the bedrock of Christ–will blow over in the gale force storms of culture or sink into the quicksand of lustful lures and low-level goals. Christ is our goal and the gospel is absolutely central to a surviving and thriving ministry.

Our number one job and joy as ministry leaders is gospel centered discipleship [Acts 28:31]. Between Acts 1 and 28 the church of Christ grew not by a Christian circus rolling through town, but by constant and relentless followers proclaiming the core gospel truths about Christ. Our student leadership has been growing in their understanding of this truth this year as we have implemented changes to meet this goal. We have seen first hand how difficult it is to cultivate a Christ-centered culture of followership. The past few months, I have observed some amazing blessings through the diligence and sacrifices of our student leaders:

Followership is contagious reformation to Christ.

Our students are recognizing and excited that their leaders really care about their walk with God and want to help them apply God’s Truth [Philippians 2:12-13]. Followership is fulfilling your role as a priest under the Priesthood of Christ [1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10]. Every believer is a priest of Christ who is leading others to Christ worshiping and sacrificing for the sake of the glory of Christ. Like Luther, we are reformers who desire to point people to the person and work of Christ.

Followership is active participation in the Gospel.

Our student leaders are less passive and more active in their faith knowing that they are expected to dig deeper into the lives of one another. By its very nature the gospel is the saving sacrifice of Jesus’ person and work. The gospel impacts every aspect of our life. The gospel never sleeps and is actively involved in the process of conforming us to the image of Christ [Philippians 1:5-11]. Followers are participates of Christ’s gospel to the world and specifically to those they are ministering.

Followership is the incarnational.

Our student leaders are coming along side our students encouraging them to follow Christ. By doing this they are resembling the incarnated Christ to those they are discipling. They struggle along side the students striving to live for Christ even though they see themselves as chief sinners [Philippians 2:4-5] spreading the grace of Christ with compassion.

In conclusion, our number one job and joy as ministry leaders is gospel centered discipleship [Acts 28:31]. Changing the culture of our youth ministry to model this goal is a process that will not happen over night, in a semester or even in a school year, it will be an ever-changing process. Followership is a life-long process followers encouraging others to follow Christ too. Building a ministry that will last is built on the gospel of Christ. He has built it, all we need to do is come to Him.

a nun, a Chinaman, and a Jedi Grand Master

A follower. What a unique word. Not many people aspire to be a follower. When we play the game follow the leader most want to be the leader and have all the followers mimicking behind them. Do you know that you are called to be a follower?

Being a follower is not like being a nun or monk hidden away in a mountain monastery. God doesn’t call us to be quiet, secluded, and sheltered about our faith. Quite the country. He calls us to be actively following Christ and seeking other followers to mentor. He does not call us to a monastic list of rules, but to a monastic view of our sacred vow to Jesus Christ. He doesn’t call you to put on the drab nun garb, rather you are called to be peculiar people because of the change Christ has done in your soul as His follower.

Have you heard of the spread of Christianity in China? It is amazing. I have never been there to see it ground level, but I have heard first hand stories from Chinese followers. There is a movement in China of Christ’s church that is rising up underground taking His message to that nation and others with relentless passion. We can learn from the Chinese followers about true followership in action. Their monastic followership resembles that of Jesus and His followers. It is like an apprenticeship: followership is incorporated with all of life, followers are considered learners, learning is viewed as a lifelong process, and maturity comes through holistic imitation of the Master.

I am not a big Star Wars fan [unlike some of my friends], but another take on followership that follows this apprentice learner mold is the way of the Jedi. Christ follower are like young padawans following their Grand Master. There is no dichotomy between secular and sacred for the progressing Jedi. There is no rush to fix everything today: patience, persistence, and practice over a lifetime will yield results [note: progression from follower to faithful follower; John 1:25ff; John 18:1ff; John 21:1ff; Acts 2:14ff; Acts 4:11-12]. Seeking to emulate the one you follow. At times the process begins when the apprentice is quite young [8 years old], but the process is lifelong no matter when the training begins.

A call to followership is not tucked away in a monastery, but visible in everyday living. Unlike China, the American church has largely lost this sense of apprenticeship. We follow our Master, Jesus Christ the Grand Master, after whose pattern we are recreated as image bearers. Followership is a lifelong process without immediacies, but you must be driven to invest in yourselves in others because that is what followers do.

you are a worshiper

What is worship? What is a worshiper? Worship is about God, to God and for God. Worship is about what you love. You love something or someone. What you love you give time, talents and treasures to without thinking. Worship comes natural to us because that is how God wired us. We are wired to worship.

The Bible is chalked full of men and women who followed God with an unquenchable thirst. Followers of Christ are worshipers. Followership is another word for worship. One such follower is Habakkuk. Even in bleak circumstances battered by extreme doubts he praises God [3:17-18]. Then there is the Paul who is imprisoned for his faith [Acts 16], but still finds a way to share the good news.

Over a hundred years ago there was a songwriter by the name of Fanny Crosby. As a baby she experience a traumatic life-altering situation. This is how she describes it,

“When I was six weeks old I was taken sick and my eyes grew very weak and those who had charge of me poulticed my eyes. Their lack of knowledge and skill destroyed my sight forever. As I grew older they told me I should never see the faces of my friends, the flowers of the field, the blue of the skies, or the golden beauty of the stars…Soon I learned what other children possessed, but I made up my mind to store away a little jewel in my heart which I called content.”[1]

When she was only 8 years old she penned this song:

O what a happy soul am I! Although I cannot see,

I am resolved that in this world contented I will be.

How many blessings I enjoy, that other people don’t.

To weep and sigh because I’m blind, I cannot, and I wont.[2]

I wonder what my response would be like if I were in the same situation as these saints who have gone before? Would I have complained or become calloused? Or would I be content, compassionate and worshiping God? Though blind, Fanny could not wait to see Jesus’ face. She has an eye for worship. She didn’t see an end in blindness, but viewed endless opportunities to praise God.

Once you get a glimpse of God you are never the same, even in a world that does not acknowledge His presence or purposes [Isaiah 6:1-13; 29:13]. What we learn from Isaiah in the divine throne room is that God is full of wonder, awe and mystery. He is Qadesh [Holy]. His name is Holy One. There is nothing or anyone like Him ever. He is set apart, therefore, He is worthy of our fear, reverence and life. Once you have seen God you become a worshipful follower. On this side of heaven we have only get to see a drop of His glory in the ocean of His splendor.

Here is both a comforting and convicting fact of the Bible: You become like what you worship. What you follow you worship. Who you follow is who you worship. You will become like the object of your worship either for your ruin or restoration.[3] You will either be blind, deaf and lifeless like idols or full of life like God. Worship must be about God, to God and for God. Worship is about what you love. You love something or someone. What you love you give time, talents and treasures to without thinking. Worship comes natural to us because that is how God wired us. We are wired to worship.


[1] Fanny Crosby, quoted in S. Trevena Jackson, This is my story, This is my Song, Emerald House, n.p.

[2] Ibid.

[3] G.K Beale, We become what we Worship, IVP, 2008.

transformodification

Does God want to change my sinful behavior into behavior that glorifies God? You bet. However, you must be careful that you do not make behavior modification the goal of discipleship. God desires transformation in His followers.

“When morphing [transformation] happens, I don’t just do the things Jesus would have done; I find myself wanting to do them. They appeal to me. They make sense. I don’t go around just trying to do the right things; I become the right sort of person.”[1]

People will come to your church to know more about God [in fact, this was the number one survey reason why teens come to FUEL]. People are curious how God fits into their life. They take the bits and pieces they like or pick and choose the ideas they are convinced will change their situation. However, viewing God like this is no different that believing He is a psychologist, medical antidote, or genie-in-a-bottle.

Changing the outside of a man doesn’t mean his insides are changed [cf. Matthew 23:25-26]. In other words, asking an unbeliever to be like Christ is similar to asking an alcoholic to quit drinking cold turkey. The alcoholic may go to AA, find community, and successfully quit his/her drinking addiction, but often trade addictions [i.e. begin smoking] because they are not encouraged to deal with the root issue of their addiction. Encouraging a non-follower to change attitudes and actions without the heart motivation doesn’t lead to lasting or permanent change. They will eventually fail because they do not have a relationship with Christ or true connection to the community of Christ [His church].

If we teach change before teach about Christ we are setting our disciplees up for disaster. Changing behavior to be like Christ without having a relationship with Christ can feed pride, give false assurance, and create an I-am-all-right-with-this-now attitude. Behavior on the outside might appear Christ-like, but on the inside they have a twisted and wicked heart. Whatever rules the heart will exercise inescapable influence over the person’s life and behavior.[2] I am reminded often that God is solely after obedient hearts.

“These people come near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship of Me is made up only of rules taught by men.”[3]

Don’t piecemeal God into your life; He wants to break you so that you give Him everything. I want to encourage those I am discipling to or in Christ to stop fitting God into their plans and start fitting their life into God’s plan. I want to help them count the cost of commitment to Christ. Help facilitate change of the heart first and foremost to see God bring about transformodification [and yes, I did make the word up].


[1] John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan, 1997. 23.

[2] Paul Tripp, Instruments In the Redeemer’s Hands, P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ, 2002, 68.

[3] Isaiah 29:13

followership unmasked


Are disciples looking for perfect leaders or authentic leaders? As Christian leaders, it is tempting to want to put on a mask that hides the fact that at times you struggle with sin and fail in your faith too. Now I must never give glory to my sin, but glory in the grace I have in overcoming sin. Here are some biblical ways we can build trust and increase deeper counsel with those you are discipling:

Transparent prayer. Our prayers can be vague and lifeless. Learn to pray honestly and humbly. Pray expresses our neediness of God and that He is the only One able to meet our needs. Psalm 32 and 52 are great examples of transparent prayers that express need for God.

Share your life story. I am sure you have been through some valleys and climbed some mountains. Like the apostle Paul we have a story dotted with dark spots [cf. Acts 22:1-21], but those times make God really big. Sharing how you have been transformed by the power of God and continue to battle against sin take be a tremendous encouragement to those you are ministering.

Ask for Help. You are never self-sufficient or independent of your need for accountability and ministry from others. It is helpful to get others believers to pray for you and hold you accountable. You have not arrived yet, nor are you invincible. I need your help in the partnership of the gospel [cf. Philippians 1:3-18].

Admit you don’t know it all. What do I do if someone asks me a difficult theological or practical questions I do not know how to answer. I say, “That is a good question, I do not know, but I will find it out for you. I believe the Bible has the answers. Can I get back to you on that question?” [cf. 2 Tim. 3:16; Isaiah 55:9]

Be real. Do not hide your pain, sorrow, joy, heartache or frustration [cf. Romans 12:9-21]. God gave you emotions to use for His good [cf. Jeremiah and Lamentation]. Real men cry.

Point to the promises of God. Putting on the mask of sinlessness fails to help others to see the God’s faithfulness [Deuteronomy 7:9; 1 Corinthians 1:9]. Whatever good I have in my life was put their by God. I am not holy, but He that is holy has helped me to become Holy by the Power of His Spirit [cf. 1 Peter 1:13-25]. People need to see and hear that from you. Pull off the mask and let people see how God is at work in and through you.

True followers are seeking other genuine followers who are following hard after God.