Avoiding legalism while practicing accountability

Accountability and what I call the “friendly accountability loop” is a vital part of disciple making.  It is one of the greatest strengths I find in the T4T meeting approach.  It is a major key in coaching as well.  What is the friendly accountability loop?  It is the habit of always starting with a report of progress on actions (application, obedience to Christ’s leading, prior goal setting) and ending the coaching, T4T meeting or discipleship one on one with application decisions of what you are going to do to obey what God has been speaking to you. You always start with a progress report and end with new goals.

I’ve found this simple accountability loop extremely helpful to myself and many others as we put our faith into specific actions. We then make ourselves accountable to others about our faithfulness to do what we said we wanted to do.  I highly encourage the use of this, or another similar way of encouraging accountability in a growing disciple’s life.  I think when this becomes organic and natural in our lives as believers, we will see it also become natural to see the multiplication of obedient disciples.  Much of our modern day church praxis avoids obedience and any kind of real accountability to put into practice what Jesus taught.  Jesus said in the parable of the man who built his house on the sand that without obedience, without putting into practice the teachings of Jesus, our lives are not grounded and able to withstand the storms of life.

There is, however, a danger worth noting in this emphasis on accountability, even if we usually add the important word friendly to it, calling it friendly accountability. I wrote a blog a few years ago about the importance of living in the New Covenant as we pursue the release of Disciple Making Movements (DMMs). See https://fmsouthasia.blogspot.com/search?q=new+covenant. It is incredibly important that in our pursuit of friendly accountability and the making of obedient disciples, we not allow legalism or old covenant thinking to creep in and gain a foothold! It can easily happen!

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Are you so foolish? Having begun [d]by the Spirit, are you now [e]being perfected by the flesh?– Gal 3:3

We can easily start to put pressure on people to perform, to share with their 5 people each week, or make them feel less valued if they somehow were not able to fulfill their goals.  We can easily move from “want to” living to “should”, from freedom in the Spirit to a coming under condemnation and the law.  This we MUST avoid!

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor 3:17).  Our T4T, or other disciple making meetings, must be places where freedom, encouragement and love abound.  They can not become places of condemnation, pressure, performance and the law.  We must be watchful not to allow this to enter in the process of practicing friendly accountability.

At the same time, we don’t throw out friendly accountability and obedience as high values and important movement DNA!  It really is both/and, not either/or.  We want to embrace a discipleship approach that is loving, Spirit-filled, encouraging, relational, and also one that calls people to truly put into practice the teachings and commands of Jesus in daily life.  We want to embrace discipleship based on deep relationships where we are willing to hold one another accountable to obey our Lord, while also encouraging one another that with His help and strength, we can do this!

As Paul wrote to the Galatians, we must not be foolish. Having once become free in Christ, we must not put ourselves (or those we are discipling) back under the law!  No!  Never!  Lets look to Jesus as our example of what it means to be obedient, accountable, and absolutely free!

 

Give us our inheritance!

women-2059391_1280An interesting and profound story is found in Joshua chapter seventeen.   It speaks of a man named Zelophehad who had no sons but only daughters.

There must have been others in Israel who only had girls.  These daughters of Zelophehad were different though.  What was different about them? What does this have to do with seeing disciple making movements released?? Read on!

Joshua 17:However, Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons, only daughters; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah. They came near before Eleazar the priest and before Joshua the son of Nun and before the leaders, saying, “The Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers.” So according to the [c]command of the Lord he gave them an inheritance among their father’s brothers. Thus there fell ten portions to Manasseh, besides the land of Gilead and Bashan, which is beyond the Jordan, because the daughters of Manasseh received an inheritance among his sons. And the land of Gilead belonged to the rest of the sons of Manasseh. (NASB)

These daughters of Zelophehad were willing to ask for their inheritance along with their cousins or as we say in India, cousin brothers.  The fact that they were women didn’t stop them from thinking that they were worthy of receiving an inheritance in the land.  It stopped many other women.  It didn’t stop them.  They asked…and they received.

In Psalms, God says…

‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the [f]nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. Ps 2:8 NASB

Jesus said…

Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.  John 16:24 NASB

To see a movement of Jesus follower’s released, every believer must get involved.  Every believer needs to ask God for their inheritance among lost people. Every believer must begin to see themselves as a disciple maker, as a trainer of trainers, not just a church member.  This most definitely includes women!

God is calling women today from every strata of society and from every class; educated, uneducated, urban, village, old and young to join with their husbands and brothers in asking God to release their inheritance among the nations.  He wants women to be bold and ask Him for the lost people around them.  Jesus illustrated bold prayer in Luke 11. He speaks of the man who needed help in the night from a friend.  Though the man won’t get up to help due to the friendship, because of the man’s bold persistence, he gets up to help.  (https://fmsouthasia.blogspot.com/2017/04/shameless-audacity-in-prayer.html)

countryside-1721387_1280Women,  be both tenacious and audacious!  Be bold to rise up and ask Father God for your own inheritance like the Daughter’s of Manesseh did!  Don’t be content to sit on the sidelines of seeing movements released or in the task of making disciples.  The unreached wait to hear the message you have to give.  He has chosen you! God can, will and wants to use women to release movements (and men too)!  He wants to give both women and men, an inheritance among the peoples.  He is just waiting for you to say “I want my part too…along with my husband, along with my brothers…I want to receive my inheritance!”

If you are a woman and are reading this, let me assure you…scripture abounds with evidence that God loves to use women in His great purposes!  The greatest message of hope ever to be shared (the message that Jesus had risen from the dead) was first shared by a woman!  The Samaritan woman was used to bring her whole village to faith.  There are so many more examples!  The question is only will you rise up and ask for your portion from God?

If you are a man reading this, you have a very powerful role to play in encouraging the women around you to rise up to be all that God is calling them to be as disciple makers, trainers and movement leaders.  Encourage and affirm them!  Welcome them and empower them and see them as playing an important, even crucial role in the release of the movement.  Soon they too will see themselves this way.

Pray with me that there will be many, many modern-day “daughters of Manasseh”!

Re-alligning our Priorities

If you had to choose between building relationships with lost people and going to church, which one would you do? Seriously.  Most would answer, “Go to church, obviously.”  Going to church is what “good” Christians do. True. It’s a worthy thing to do, especially if being part of that church community is causing you to grow as a disciple. So often, though, there is a big difference between being a Christian and being a disciple.  What do “good” disciples do? I believe that engaging with, befriending, and loving on lost people friends-1209740_1280and sharing good news with them, is what disciples do.  It’s what Jesus did. He hung out with lost people a lot more than he went to synagogue meetings and conferences right?

Do we share His priorities?

I wonder sometimes why weekly attending church has become such a highly critical component of our “following Jesus” while making disciples is not.  Jesus never once commanded us to “go to church every week.”  He repeatedly told His disciples to “go and make disciples,” that He would make them “fishers of men” and that the Son of Man had come to “seek and save the lost.”  I’m pretty sure the gospels speak a lot more about making disciples of lost people then about attending a meeting in a building once a week.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not anti-church.  I believe in the Church.  I believe in the Church both universal and local. It is the Bride of Christ and absolutely precious to God.  I believe we are to be a part of it, universally and locally.  Still, I wonder how our priorities got so off track from the scriptural mandate.

Some one said to me recently, “Jesus didn’t say to make disciple makers, he said to make disciples.”  They had issues with the expression of the Great Commission by various DMM/CPM speakers like Victor Chaudhrie and Ying Kai*.  I’ve been pondering that a bit this week.  Is it an inappropriate distortion of scripture to add that emphasis on disciple making when teaching on the Great Commission?  I’m a seminary grad so I went back to my hermeneutics training on this one.

It is true, Jesus said “make disciples.” He didn’t say “make disciple makers.”  I believe though, in light of the huge lack of emphasis in the church today on the inherent role of disciple making in the life of a disciple, it is not an inappropriate way to state the Great Commission.  Instead, it is a needed emphasis to bring across the correct message. Jesus’ originally intended message would be consistent with using the word disciple makers, not just the word disciples in Matt. 28:28-20.

He calls us to make disciples.  A disciple is one who desires to follow the Master, become like Him, and who obeys His commands.  One of His primary commands is to make more disciples.  A disciple is therefore, also a disciple maker.

Let’s go back to the issue re-alligning our priorities.  We all have limited time and make constant choices about how we will use that time.  What are your essential activities and priorities?  Is building relationships with lost people around you one of them?  Is opening up space in your life and schedule to share the gospel when God prompts you and the opportunity comes along important to you?  Are you watching for and seeking those chances to share good news and make disciples of those God has put into your life; at work, in your neighborhood, at the grocery store?

Even missionaries can fall into the trap of being so busy with “ministry” that we fail to prioritize the lost, we fail to prioritize disciple making.  Ironically, it was in response to the call to fulfill the Great Commission that many of us are “on the field” now.  So how did it slip to such a low priority in our actions and thinking?

Take a moment to look at your life and schedule.  How could you adjust it to make more space to connect with lost people in genuine ways?  What if you were for a few months to give it the same level of priority in your Christian life as you give to attending church and church events?  I’m not saying stop going to church!  Just give it equal billing- equal time in your schedule.  See what God might do!

*Read more about Ying Kai or Victor’s teaching of the Great Commission and Disciple Making on their websites http://www.t4tglobalmissions.org/the-great-commission, or in this Mission Frontier’s article http://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/church-planting-movements-from-one-indian-perspective.