Key #2 for Breakthrough Growth: Perseverance

When I was a kid we had a dog named Snoozy.  She loved to play.  We would take an old sock, tie a knot in it, and let her grab a hold of the end.  We would then play a game of “tug of war.”  As soon as we got the sock away, (and it was hard work to finally do that) Snoozy would lunge after it again.  The game could go on for hours!

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This isn’t our dog but another dog who enjoyed the same kind of game!

What I loved about that dog was no matter how long you played with her, she wouldn’t give in.  She was always ready to give it another try.  Once she got a grip on the sock, she wasn’t letting go.  You could literally pick her up high off the floor. She’d be hanging from the sock she had gripped in her teeth like she was permanently attached.

That is perseverance.  It is a refusal to give up.  It is a refusal to give in. 

As we pursue the making of disciples among the unreached, we need that kind of attitude.  Hold on tight to the promises God has given you and refuse to let go of them.  When your God-given dream seems to be slipping through our fingers, you need (like my dog did) to lunge after it and take hold once again. Fight to keep a grip on the dream of seeing a radical multiplication of disciples among the people He has called you to. Press through the obstacles you are facing.

Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippian disciples about perseverance.  He said,

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14-NIV).

My husband and I run half marathons together.

A few months ago we were training for an upcoming race.  We had just come back from a ministry trip and we were tired.  We woke up that morning and knew we had a long run ahead that day. We had to go 18 kilometers.

It was hard to get out the door, but even harder to keep running that day.  My legs felt like rubber.  Breathing was difficult.  My knees hurt. I really didn’t feel like training that day!

15 kilometers into the run, I was ready to quit.  “I think I’m going to be sick,” I told my husband.  I really thought I might pass out right there on the roadside.

With empathy, he asked me, “Do we need to stop and walk?”

“No. Let me keep going.  I can go another little bit” I said.

I just focused on the next kilometer, and then the next, and then the next.  Pretty soon, I’d made it through that difficult training run and it was behind me.

Sometimes our journey toward a DMM (Disciple Making Movement), with thousands of Jesus followers and multiple generations, feels a bit like that training run.  We feel weary.  We are worn out.  Progress feels difficult or impossible, and doing some other kind of ministry looks extremely attractive.

Do two things when you feel like this.

  1. Remember Your WHY.

Why did you embrace the goal of a DMM in the first place?

I embraced DMMs because I genuinely believe it is the fastest way to impact lostness in the communities of unreached people I love.  I embraced this vision because I knew God was calling me to it.  I embraced this goal because I desperately want to see the nations worship Jesus and for Him to receive the glory and worship He deserves. Remembering the WHY helps us keep moving when we feel like quitting.

2. Focus on the NEXT STEP.

Just do the next action that will take you forward.  Share the gospel with one person.  Learn 10 new words of that difficult language.  Coach one person this week.  Set up one new discipleship training group. You get the idea.

Your next step in the journey may be different than mine or someone else.  That is fine. We all need perseverance, though, to finish the race God called us to.

I am so glad Paul didn’t give in to his weariness and the hardship, but persevered to the end.  He refused to give up on His calling.  Key churches began that later multiplied across Asia Minor and the rest of the world.

I wonder what is at stake if you were to stop pursuing the dream of a DMM in your area? Of reaching your city?  Maybe thousands of people would remain lost.  Maybe whole cities would fail to be transformed.

Don’t give up and don’t give in.  This is the year of breakthrough for you.  Press on! Persevere!

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Key #1 Breakthrough Growth: Praying With Faith

I can’t remember a time I’ve ever included a joke in my blog!  Here goes…this is pretty funny!  Let me know in the comments, if you like it or not.

A journalist was assigned to the Jerusalem bureau of his newspaper. He gets an apartment overlooking the Wailing Wall. After several weeks he realizes that whenever he looks at the wall he sees an old Jewish man praying vigorously. The journalist wondered whether there was a publishable story here. He goes down to the wall, introduces himself and says: “You come every day to the wall. What are you praying for?”

The old man replies: “What am I praying for? In the morning I pray for world peace, then I pray for the brotherhood of man. I go home, have a glass of tea, and I come back to the wall to pray for the eradication of illness and disease from the earth.”

The journalist is taken by the old man’s sincerity and persistence. “You mean you have been coming to the wall to pray every day for these things?”

The old man nods.

“How long have you been coming to the wall to pray for these things?”

The old man becomes reflective and then replies: “How long? Maybe twenty, twenty-five years.”

The amazed journalist finally asks: “How does it feel to come and pray every day for over 20 years for these things?”

“How does it feel?” the old man replies. “It feels like I’m talking to a wall.”*

Do you ever feel that way about prayer?  Ever feel frustrated and like it isn’t making much difference, so why do it? Ever feel like it is something we do first before we get to the “real work” of church planting?

There have been times in my life when I felt like prayer was a duty and a chore more than a joy.

That has changed a lot for me in the past few years.  Prayer is now a great blessing to me. Prayer is my first priority.  It is now some of the most meaningful kingdom work in my life.  I have repeatedly seen God use prayer to dramatically impact the amount of fruit He releases.  I’m sure that all those who have seen disciple making movements truly multiply would say the same.

Not all prayer feels that way or produces those results however.  What makes the difference?

In Matthew 21, there is an unusual little story of Jesus and a fig tree.  Jesus is hungry.  He sees a tree without fruit.  A bit frustrated (it seems), he curses it and it withers.  His disciples are amazed at His power and comment about it.  He then tells them, this is nothing…

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matt 21:22)

What makes the difference in our prayers according to Jesus?  Faith.  When we pray with faith, amazing answers start to be released.  Prayer becomes much more exciting, and much more effective. 

Jesus wants us to have child-like faith when we pray for the Lost, for those we train, and for the release of movements among the unreached.

I had a pretty amazing childhood.  I grew up in West Africa.  One of the perks of living there was that my dad decided to buy me a new pet every birthday.  It was pretty fun!

One year he bought me a parrot- An African gray.  The problem was, this parrot wouldn’t talk.  We previously had another parrot that talked a lot, so we kept trying to teach our new parrot (his name was Mark). Sadly, he just didn’t seem to have it in him.

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One day, my dad said, “If that parrot doesn’t talk by the end of this month, I’m going to get rid of it!”

I was so upset!  My little ten year old heart was shaken.  I started praying daily for the parrot to talk….together with all manner of other tactics I tried to make Mark spit out his first parrot words.  Nothing.  Nada.  I kept praying.  I knew God could help him talk!

On the very last day of the month, (this is the absolute truth) my dad walked into the empty house.  No one else was there.  Do you know what happened?

The parrot said “Hello Jerry” (my dad’s name)!  Prayer answered!  Parrot saved.

Child-like faith goes a long way.  Jesus said “If you believe…”

God wants us to pray from a place a faith, not out of duty.  He wants us to pray from a place of authority. We pray knowing that He has promised us an inheritance among the unreached and that He will be faithful to release it. We must pray specifically and consistently.  We must pray believing that, as Jesus said in Luke 10:2, “the harvest is plentiful.”

When I pray in this way I get excited.  I know the answer is coming.  I know it is impossible for me to pray and for God to do nothing.**  As soon as I pray, He is taking action.  Angels have been sent on assignments as a result of my prayers.  God is working.  I get to be part of that!

Take a moment…I know you are busy, but just a short one.  Stop and think about your prayer life.  Is it what you want it to be?  What needs to change this year? How could you pray differently so you enjoy it more and see your prayers produce better results too?

Prayer is a major key to seeing the release of movements of disciples.  It’s not hard to do. Just get started.

Why not take 5 minutes right now to pray for the Lost around you and for those you are discipling?

Then, plan a time this week to set aside for prayer.

You will be taking an important step forward in releasing a disciple making movement.

*Joke was taken from: http://jokes.christiansunite.com
**I believe I first heard and took hold of this idea after listening to something from Bethel Church’s LDP program.

 

Are Your Goals Too Small? Lessons from a Nepalese Farmer

On New Year’s Eve, I wrote a post called “3 Important Things to Do as You Start the New Year.”  I hope you took time to think about the questions I listed there. Have you started thinking about your goals for coming year?  I hope your goals were God-sized goals.

It is sometimes hard to know how ambitious to be in goal setting.  Some of us struggle with risk aversion.  We want to set nice safe goals we can achieve.

Some years ago, I was visiting Nepal, a country I had worked in years before.  It was early morning and I was sitting outside in the crisp air, overlooking a beautiful valley of terraced rice fields.  I remembered back to the early days in our ministry when we had traveled each week by scooter, our baby strapped on in a front pack, driving up and down the windy mountain roads to the unreached valley area God had called us to.  I love Nepali villages!

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For the first and only time in my life so far, God spoke to me by filling my mind with a story.  It was about a Nepali farmer.

A Nepali farmer had 3 sons.  He worked hard, saved his money, and rather than wasting it on immediate needs invested it in small business he heard about.  Those businesses grew and some prospered greatly. 

One day, one of those businesses he had invested in sold and paid off all the share holders.  He received a huge payout of about 50 lach rupees (about $75,000).  This was a lot of money in the village!  His years of careful investing had paid off.

“I want to share this money with my sons”, he thought. “But I don’t want to spoil them.  What should I do?”

The Nepali farmer decided to call his sons and tell them that he had received some extra money and that if they had any needs they should come to him and let him know.  He would see what he could do about those needs.

The oldest son was grown, married, and had a child in elementary school.  He went home and thought about what his father had said.  “My father is a good man” he thought. “But he is just a simple farmer.”  He wondered to himself about how much money a simple and not very well educated man could have. 

He decided to ask his father for money to pay for his son’s school books for the year- for about 1,500 rupees (about $15 USD). 

He went to his father and presented his request.  Lovingly, his father replied “I’m happy to do that son.” He went to his bedroom, came out and gave him the money.  The elder son left happy!

The second son was working in the capital city, Kathmandu.  He had a job working for a travel agency there.  Every day he had to go by bus or shared auto into the city.  “If I had a bicycle, I could save money and get there faster too” he thought.  He wondered about how much money his father had received.  “My father is a good man and a great farmer.  But, he is just a simple guy.  I don’t think he has that much money to give and my other brothers will also be asking him.”  He decided to ask his father for money to buy a bicycle that cost about 5000 rupees ($50 USD). 

When he asked his father, he received the same loving response.  He got his 5000 rupees and left happy!

The third son was still living at home in the village.  He worked closely with his father on the farm each day.  He too thought about what his father had said, but his thoughts were a bit different.

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“My father is the smartest man I know!  He isn’t that educated, but he is incredibly wise.  I’ve watched his life and how he uses money.  I bet he has a huge amount of money saved” he thought.  “I am going to ask him for money to purchase a Tata truck.  I can start my own business to take vegetables from our village to the city for sale.” 

That was what he did.  He went to his father and asked for a Tata truck.  The cost would be about 22 lach (about $35,000 USD). 

When his father heard his request, his response was the same as with the other sons.  “Sure son, I’d be happy to do that for you.”  His father went to the bank, got the money and they purchased the truck.

When the other two brothers saw that their son was starting a business and driving a new truck, they were incredulous!  “How did you get the money for a truck?” they shouted.

“I got it from Dad” he replied.

Angry, they stormed into their father’s room that night.  “Why didn’t you give us a truck too???” they exclaimed.  “We have much greater needs than our younger brother does!”

The father calmly replied to his sons, “My beloved sons, didn’t I tell you to ask me for what you needed?  And didn’t I give you what you asked for?”  He then told them to stop complaining and be happy as they had been before.  “I gave you, exactly what you asked.  You have no reason to be upset, with me or with your brother.”

That morning, sitting outside and looking over the fields, I thought about the story God had put in my heart.  The limiting factor (Michael Hyatt calls them limiting beliefs) in the elder sons’ lives was their view of their father.  They couldn’t see him for who he really was.  This limited view of their father affected their ability to ask him for more.

Many times I can’t see God for who he really is.  I don’t really understand or acknowledge His incredible power and greatness or His goodness.  I might say I believe He is great, but my actions, my goals, show me that isn’t my real belief. My God can be pretty small.

The only thing that limits what God can do through me is 1) how much I am willing to believe in His greatness and 2) how much I am willing to ask him for.

I knew this was His Word to me that day.

As we think about our New Year’s goals, as we look at what we want to see God do through our lives to impact the lost in the coming year…let’s remember we serve a BIG God who is able to do the IMPOSSIBLE through us.

Don’t set too small of goals.  Don’t set goals that you can accomplish on your own.

As you look at the New Year, remember who you are.  Remember who God is.

Listen to His voice.  What are the dreams on His heart he is inviting you into this year?  What does He want to do through you to launch movements of disciples or transform your local community?

Believe Him for more!  Ask Him for more!

He is longing to give you the Kingdom.

 

3 Important Things to Do as You Start the New Year

One of my favorite moments this Christmas came the day after.  I sat for a few hours beside our Christmas tree. It was early morning.  I found myself reflecting on the goodness of God in my life over this past year.  I allowed those moments to surface in my memory- the times when He had protected me, given guidance to me, surprised me with His kindness or favor.  How very, very good He has been!

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Remembering His goodness in the Past Year

  1. REFLECT.

-How has God shown you His goodness this past year?

-When did you experience unusual kindness or grace?

-When did you sense His support, protection or Presence in a unique way?

I’m not a huge fan of face book, but I do appreciate the way it helps me keep in touch with people.  That morning as I scrolled through my news feed, I was struck by how many smiling faces I saw…people wishing me a Merry Christmas…people who didn’t know about Jesus before our path’s crossed.  Now they were posting pictures and videos of Christmas gatherings, people dancing, preaching, celebrating the amazing story of the King of Kings born into this world.  I saw pictures of spiritual grandchildren and great grandchildren.  My heart was warmed.  Disciples were making disciples.  His kingdom and His government had and were increasing.  I had somehow played a part in that.  What a blessing!  What a gift!

-Who is celebrating Christmas this year who wouldn’t be, if it wasn’t for your witness?

-Who is passing on the gospel message to others because you were willing to live out the message before them?

2. RELEASE.

As we reflect, painful feelings also surface.  There are things we wished for, but didn’t see accomplished.  People we prayed for, who still seem so hard and closed.  Times we hoped and fought for a miracle, but it didn’t happen like we expected.  There might be memories of offense and disappointment you experienced. Heading into the New Year,  RELEASE those things to God. Let go.

What offense have you been carrying in your heart?

Is there anyone you need to forgive?

Are there any disappointments or losses you need to grieve then release to God?

One thing that helps me release the pain of the past is looking for my “take aways.”  There are lessons I’ve learned from the painful experiences of the past year. These  can become building blocks for my future leadership and ministry.  It is my choice if those painful memories will be burdens I drag with me into the New Year, or if I turn them into stepping stones for something positive in my life.

I like stepping stones better than burdens!  How about you? 🙂

3. RENEW & SET GOALS. The New Year is a great time to both set and renew God inspired goals.  I am not a huge believer in New Year’s resolutions.  I definitely believe in practicing the habit of goal setting with God each year.  Pause and listen at this time of year.  Hear what God has on His heart and know what He is inviting you to do with Him in the New Year.

-What is God inviting you to do with Him this year?

-What Promise is He giving to you?

-Is there One thing He particularly wants you to focus on? Something that would make a significant difference in moving toward your God given destiny?

-What promises from the past is He speaking again?  What keys has he already given that He wants to show you how to use more effectively this year?

God has an incredible year planned!  He invites us to join Him in establishing His Kingdom among the last, lost, least and lonely.  He has some major miracles on His agenda.  He is looking for those who will reach out in faith and take hold of His promises, for those who will dream with Him.  It is going to be a year of expansion, a year of growth, a year of going deeper with God to see greater Kingdom fruit.

Take time today in the midst of the parties and activities to reflect, release and renew.  Embrace the New Year and all God has ahead.  It is going to be amazing!

 

 

Christmas Eve Reflections

Merry Christmas! I hope you are reading this blog with a happy heart as you celebrate the miraculous arrival of our Lord!  What incredible good news we have to share with the world!

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Sometimes this message seems so incredible it is almost scary.  The shepherds definitely felt afraid when they first heard of Jesus’s birth through the angels.  It was so incredible, so supernatural, so beyond them.

Luke 2:9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

Four things to take note of.

  1. Don’t be afraid.
  2. It is good news.
  3. It is cause for great joy.
  4. It is for all people.

Do you feel afraid?  Afraid to believe fully? Afraid of persecution? Freaked out by the supernatural aspects of working with God among the unreached?  Afraid of the challenges? Afraid of hoping something incredible will happen, only to be disappointed?  Afraid to take a step of faith and obedience?

The message of the angels is a message for you.  Don’t be afraid.

Do you ever forget it is good news we have to share?  It’s not politics.  It’s not religion.  Its not a matter of trying to convince people to believe what we believe or to adopt “our God” instead of whatever they are currently worshiping. It’s good news.  His arrival in on earth and in our lives is incredible good news!

It’s good news that He loves us.  It’s good news that He cared enough to come and be one of us.  It’s good news that He paid a price for us so we wouldn’t have to.  There is SO MUCH good news to share!

It is cause for great joy.  Not fighting, not arguing, not taking of sides.  Not bombs and wars and crusades.  Great joy.  The kind of joy we see in the eyes of children when they open gifts tonight or tomorrow.  The kind of joy we see in grandma’s eyes when she hugs those grand kids who have come back for the holidays.  The joy of reunion, reconciliation, forgiveness, delight, intimacy, pleasure, peace.  He came to bring great joy.

Last but not least, this message if for ALL people.  Not some.  Not a few.  Not one people group, or class, or status.  He came for all people.  This message is for all!

Yet not all have heard it.  That is our job.  The angels did their part.  They announced His arrival to the shepherds.  The shepherds had to do their part too.  They had to spread that word to everyone they met.  That is our job too. What about the homeless man you saw the other day?  What about the grumpy neighbor who keeps to themselves? What about the person from another culture and religion that you work with? Who will you tell about the true meaning of Christmas today? If we don’t share the message, how will it become known by all?  His message is for all.

I know its Christmas and we all have parties to attend, food to prepare…but take a moment, just a few minutes, and tell someone the good news we celebrate on this   holiday.  That goes for those of us who preach today too.  If we want to make disciples who share the gospel, we need to be active in sharing it in our personal lives too.  Today is an awesome day to take a few moments to do that.

Let the joy and love overflow.  Let the fear go.  Let His supernatural message go deep in your heart once again today.

Christmas Blessings!

 

Glory, Peace & Favor- Advent Thoughts 2

This time of year can be a bit stressful. We have so much to do, we sometimes miss the glory of what God is doing. We look right past it.  We see but don’t see.

For me, the end of the year is a time when I look back on the past year.  This past week I’ve been busy writing end of year reports, comparing data, making sure everything is properly accounted for.  This season can also be a busy time with parties, events, gifts to buy, sermons/messages to prepare, family visiting, guests coming by, etc.

In the midst of these details, added tasks and the stress comes with them, it is so easy to loose our sense of awe and meaning. It’s easy to feel anxious, bothered, frustrated. It’s easy to forget about the angels. It’s easy to forget to notice the “glory” around us, or to give God “glory.”

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His glory is what it is all about!

The angel’s declared “Glory to God in the Highest.”  He must receive glory!  Pause a minute…okay, even half a minute…and give Him glory today.  Quiet your heart and notice His Presence.  Let His peace enter your earth bound heart.  It’s why Jesus came.

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14)

Take one more minute.  Thank Him for His favor on your life.  Ask Him to let His favor rest on you and all those you influence; on those you train, mentor, disciple, and pray for.

Join with me in this prayer today.

Increase your Glory Lord!  Fill us, and those who don’t yet know you, with the peace that only You can give.  Let them “see” your glory in my life. Let your favor continue to increasingly rest upon us.  This Christmas, fill the nations…ever nation, tribe and tongue, with Your Glory Lord… on Earth as it is Heaven.

Advent Thoughts: Who Did God Use?

Who does God delight to reveal Himself to?  Who does He so often choose to spread His message of love? Is it the qualified and trained? Or the ordinary person?

This Advent season, I’ve been reading again the incredible story of Jesus’ birth.  There is so much to be amazed about, to ponder and think about in this story.

Today I asked myself the question: If I were the Messiah coming to earth, who would I first announce my arrival to?

I’d probably look for people of influence, good communicators, people who are believable and have credibility.  I’d want to choose those who are well educated and could clearly and eloquently articulate the message of my coming.

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Jesus chose to announce His long awaited, miraculous arrival to shepherds in a field.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Uneducated laborers.  Common people who lived outside among sheep.

Why in the world would God choose them? Doesn’t he know they don’t understand things very quickly?!! (I’m kidding of course, though I have definitely experienced first hand how it can sometimes be hard to get less educated people to understand certain concepts and principles!)

Why not the Rabbis?  Why not the High Priest?  Why not the upstanding citizens of the big city Jerusalem, or at least the scribes who could properly write it all down??

God chose to give the first announcement of His coming to Earth to very ordinary people.  He then chose to spread that word, the testimony/witness of His birth, through them.

Luke 2:17-18 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

If God chose to do this, maybe we should consider the key role that ordinary people play in sharing His message.  Maybe we should trust and empower the less educated, the less articulate, the day laborers and field workers to do the work of the ministry.  Maybe it isn’t God who thinks we need lots of qualifications to share His good news.  Maybe it is us as humans who have put all these conditions on who is qualified to do the work of the Kingdom.

A major key to seeing a DMM (Disciple Making Movement) released is that we believe in and give genuine authority to ordinary believers to do the work of the ministry.  God was willing to trust lay people without much training.  Shouldn’t we?

Give the “Best Jesus presents” in 2017!

It’s His birthday that we celebrate each year on December 25th, right?  He should definitely be given a birthday gift.  The question is what?  What do you give to the One who made it all?  What would really make His birthday a party in Heaven?

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In Luke 15, we find three very similar stories; the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost Son.  Each of these stories ends with a description of what happens in Heaven when even one person repents.  Can you imagine the party in heaven if 50 people repented? What if it was a hundred?  Or 500?  That would be a pretty big angelic celebration!  I can imagine Jesus joining right in the dance!  Woohoo!  My beloved ones have come home!

I’m thinking that what really makes a party a party for Him is when there are lots of new names written in the Book of Life He keeps.

This Christmas, what if instead of focusing on our having a great party on earth, we focused on what would give him a fun party in Heaven?  It is His birthday after all!

Many of our Christmas traditions, feasts, songs, dances and programs are geared to help Christians enjoy themselves. We might even invite people who aren’t yet believers and include a little message at the end, especially for them.  This year I’ve been asking though, what could we do differently to see more lost people get introduced to Jesus- the One who the Big Celebration is all about.  What if we did something different and the people we invite, not only met Him casually (prayed some kind of prayer of response), but what if they actually made a decision to repent, follow Him and become a disciple? What if what we did at Christmas actually resulted in new groups of disciples meeting together regularly to learn His ways and obey His commands?

I think that would make a pretty awesome Jesus present!

Seriously… as disciple makers, lets re-evaluate what we have done in the past at Christmas. How fruitful was it, in light of the goal of making disciples who make disciples?  What could we do differently this year to see a different result?

I’ve talked recently with a few people about this.  Plans are being made to include more one on one sharing of testimonies.  Plans are forming to prioritize follow up immediately after the “program” on Christmas day, to immediately invite the seekers or new believers into groups where they can learn what it means to be a disciple.  Church members are being challenged and trained to share the good news of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection more this month than normal- believing for many new disciples to be made in December.

Jesus is going to have an incredible Christmas Birthday party!  What gift will you bring Him this year?

Starting strong with New Believers

You shared the story of Jesus.  At the end, you asked the question – Do you believe that what I’ve been sharing with you is true?  Do you want to receive the free gift of salvation Jesus offers you today?  They respond with a yes!  Woohoo! Praise God! You pray with them and introduce them to Jesus for the first time and He becomes their Lord and Savior.  Things are going well.  You are thrilled at what is happening in their lives!

What is next?

It is at this critical point when the “slow down” factor often happens in our disciple making when it comes to the goal of a movement.

Immediately after someone receives Christ is as critical a time in their spiritual life, as  the first month is for a new born baby.  We would never think of bringing a child into the world and then telling the baby, “Now come once a week to this meeting we have and you will get the food and care you need.”  Would we? Of course not!  Yet this is exactly what often happens with new believers.

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When we don’t train people how to disciple new believers, they don’t know what to do next. At this point, many simply invite the person to start attending church with them.  That is all the follow up they do. This is a major loss of opportunity for that person and for the movement. If we train on this issue, and make a few key changes, we can see much greater multiplication!

There are a few critical things we must train our disciples to do with new believers.

  1. Get them to immediately start sharing their story (testimony) with others.
  2. Start meeting them often to teach them the basics of what it means to follow Christ.

In Mark chapter five we read the story of Jesus casting many demons out of a man.  The man begs Jesus to let him stay with him.  How did Jesus respond?

Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”(Mark 5:19)

Immediately after this man met was set free, the Lord instructed him to begin evangelizing others. If Jesus felt new believers were ready to start ministry immediately, then I too can follow that model!

In addition to encouraging them to share their faith, get your disciples to also start meeting with those new believers often.  They need to learn some basics!  Ying Kai, of T4T, calls these the Baby Lessons.  There are lots of different foundational discipleship tools you can use though.  Just make sure you get them to regularly start praying, receiving from the Word of God daily, and connecting with their new spiritual family in real and significant ways.  For this to happen those who led them to Christ will need to meet with them often.

What are the biggest obstacles to this?  Time and training.  Disciples we are training often learn how to evangelize but aren’t trained about how to make disciples once someone believes.  Those who have normal full time jobs and families, don’t have a lot of free time to follow up on those who are responsive.  Encourage them at this point to give more time to discipling those who receive and getting them to start to witness to their friends and family.  This may mean they will have less time for evangelism. That is okay. They also can utilize phone, whatsapp and other means to stay in touch frequently during the first few months when someone has believed.

Start strong with new believers.  Quickly turn them into disciples and trainers of others.  Train your disciples to do this.  Your movement will leap forward into new generations!

What Makes a Church a Church? Part 3

“Is my home group a church?”  you may ask.  “We don’t have a pastor and we are only a few families that meet together.”

“Does time of day and day of week have to do with if we should call this a church?  Can a church meet on a Tuesday night and still be a church?” Again, good questions.

It is  important to answer these.  What is it that makes a church a church? A great place to find answers is to look at the early church described in Acts.

In Part 2, we looked at five of the characteristics of the early church from the passage below.  We will now take a look at the remaining five.

41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.

Acts 2:41-26 NIV

GENEROUS & SACRIFICIAL GIVING

Generosity is one of the characteristics of revival. When God is at work, our natural response of gratitude and love is to give!  In the early church, extreme giving was seen.  People sold what they had to meet the needs of others.  There was a lot more than “tithing” happening in this New Testament church.  Sadly, what we often see in developing nations is a hesitancy to train new believers to give.  We sometimes don’t even give new believers the opportunity to obey Jesus in this way, because we fail to take offerings.  We are afraid to offend them, or we think they are too poor to give.  This is a big mistake! It hinders the growth of both the individual the church.

CARING FOR EACH OTHER

Not only in this passage, but in many other passages in the New Testament, we clearly see that disciples of Jesus loved and served each other.  They noticed one another’s needs and took action to help.  Whether it was food, protection, housing, encouragement or churchprayer, we see them reaching out to one another in love.  How well is your church doing at helping the members to care for each other?  Are you as the leader doing all the caring? Trying to meet all the needs?  Part of the church functioning is when its members spontaneously serve each other.  A church that functions well will notice needs and respond.

MEETING TOGETHER

This one seems obvious!  The New Testament church met together often, even daily! Many churches are meeting together less and less.  What does that say about the presence of life in the church?  Or the busyness of people’s lives?  Church is much more than another “service” with songs and preaching.  I’m not advocating that we increase the number of times we do that.  Churches that function well, are life giving.  People actually want to meet together often, because they are receiving life when they gather.  How life giving are your times of meeting together?

PRAYER

Prayer was a vital part of the New Testament church.  They gathered often to pray and prayed often when they gathered.  Many churches pray to open and close the service but that is about the extent of their prayer as a body.  Look for ways to incorporate prayer into your church life.  Encourage disciples to make prayer a part of their daily lives and rhythms.  Consider hosting a special prayer emphasis during particular times of the year for increased time in corporate prayer.

EATING TOGETHER

Yes, this too is part of church life. Yeah!! It builds relationships when we eat together.  church eatingThe New Testament church shared meals regularly.  In many cultures, to eat together indicates equality and acceptance.  In Hindu society, certain castes and classes do not eat together.  As we come to Christ, we are united as one.  There is neither Jew, nor Greek, slave nor master, male nor female, we are one body (Gal. 3:28).  Eating together is a powerful symbol of the unity and love we share because of Christ.

What if we don’t do all these ten things?  Are we a Church?

If you are doing many or most, then yes! This is not a list of things you have to do to qualify as a church.  Its also not an exhaustive list! There are many other scriptures that could be considered. These characteristics of the church in Acts Chapter Two are good to keep in mind though.

Which of these could you include a bit more?  Perhaps you see some gaps in your church function.  Don’t feel bad!  Take steps to start including those things more in the future.

Let’s Be the Church!