Weddings, Marriage, and Discipleship

Wedding515Our youngest son, Jordan, was married back in May. Weddings, even simple ones, require a lot of planning and expense. They include rings, invitations, dresses and tuxedos, flowers and decorations, cake and food, gifts and honeymoon plans, photographer and pictures, and much much more.

Weddings are celebrations and rites of passage. The bride and groom move from singleness to oneness. They join hearts, hands, and households. Weddings are front doors for the marriage journey.

There are many parallels for the disciple-making journey in a family. Consider the terminology for the church: the bride of Christ. Think about a few of those parallels:

  • A wedding and marriage begin with a desire to be with the potential spouse for the rest of life. In a similar way, the discipleship journey begins with desiring the Lord and His way more than our own. It is a desire to spend time together for all of life and eternity.
  • Engagement is a time of making commitment to each other. It precedes the wedding and marriage. Likewise, a profession of faith is a time of repentance and committing to Jesus as Lord. The profession of faith precedes baptism and the discipleship journey.
  • Engagement (commitment) leads to a planning for and conducting a wedding ceremony, a public celebration of that commitment to each other. The profession of faith leads to a ceremony (baptism) which is a public celebration and communication of the inward commitment.
  • Gifts are given to the bride and groom to help them begin their married journey together. New Christians receive the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts to enable them to serve well during the discipleship journey with the body of Christ.
  • Honeymoon trips are often planned for the couple to celebrate the beginning of the marriage relationship. In a similar way, new Christians are strengthened early in their journey when an Encourager/Mentor walks with them during the early weeks, talking about daily quiet time and discipleship life practices. This establishes early intimacy with the Lord.
  • Communication is necessary for the wedding, honeymoon, and marriage. All three will be more difficult or impossible with poor or no communication. Similarly, communication with God and with the body of Christ is necessary for the baptism and growth of the disciple.

What other parallels occur to you? Where might discipleship efforts be strengthened as you reflect on how your church begins and does discipleship? Poor starts often produce poor results! Give God and His people your best efforts. Make disciples!

For more ideas about discipleship, check out these blog posts:

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Disciple-making: Using Group Size Advantageously

Groupof5In The Impact of Proxemics on Disciple-making, I talked about four American spatial distances/zones and group size in those zones. Here is a summary of what I shared there:

  • Intimate distance: 0-18 inches (2 people)
  • Personal distance: 18 inches to 4 feet (3-7 people)
  • Social distance: 4 to 10 feet (8-35 people)
  • Public distance: 10 feet to infinity (35+ people).

With that information in mind, how can we use each of the four distances/zones advantageously in our disciple-making efforts?

INTIMATE DISTANCE DISCIPLE-MAKING. This is conversational discipleship. Here we listen, ask questions, and share openly and honestly. Relationships are usually deeper. Accountability is often present. Encounters can be spontaneous or calendared. The disciple-making agenda may be spontaneous or intentional. There is time to practice new behaviors during disciple-making sessions.

PERSONAL DISTANCE DISCIPLE-MAKING. Here, too, disciple-making efforts are often conversational. But they are usually less spontaneous and more planned. Accountability is often present, but less is shared because there is less time per person. This can be worked around by getting group members into pairs, but the group loses some knowledge/relationship depth. These meetings are usually calendared. Group members are able to share stories and ask questions which help and encourage other group members. If done, practice of new behaviors is often done in pairs or triads.

SOCIAL DISTANCE DISCIPLE-MAKING. Moving from personal to social distance in disciple-making changes group dynamics and interation. With more people in the group, not everyone can talk during a group meeting. Frequently here the group (and leader) expects the leader to talk while the group listens. It takes intentionality on the leader’s part to get group members to participate in the session. This comes in the form of questions, group activities, dividing into smaller groups, etc. Neither the leader nor group members know every group member. Accountability is difficult to pursue due to numbers and time. Practice of new behaviors is decreasingly scheduled and may be assigned. This can include training sessions.

PUBLIC DISTANCE DISCIPLE-MAKING. At this level, the leader frequently lectures, perhaps with some visual elements and questions. There is less relationship and more communication of content. Inspiration comes more from passion on the part of the leader rather than from the stories of group members. There is less time for individual questions or interaction unless a portion of the time is spent divided into pairs or small groups. Practice of new behaviors may be assignd but is seldom part of these sessions. This often includes worship and large group meetings and training sessions.

What observations would you add about using these group sizes advantageously in our disciple-making efforts? Press Comments and leave your thoughts and experiences. For more ideas about disciple-making, check out these blog posts:

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Where Does Evangelism End and Discipleship Begin?

ChickenWhere does evangelism end and discipleship begin? Some would say the dividing line is salvation, but check out the Great Commission where Jesus says,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV)

Did you see it? We make disciples by…baptizing them and teaching them to observe. Discipleship includes, even demands, evangelism. They are not separate. That are a seamless part of a relationship. Consider this:

Discipleship is a relationship that loves people to Jesus and nurtures them in Jesus.

The most natural person to invest in a new Christian is the person who led him/her to meet Jesus. While this is not always possible, it frequently is. The content of discipleship is Jesus and all that He has commanded us, and relationship is the medium and method.

Ultimately, discipleship leads the new disciple to do likewise:  love people to Jesus and nurture them in Jesus. How can we tell when our disciple is growing and effective as a disciple-maker? When he/she is loving people to Jesus and nurturing them in Jesus and they are doing likewise. In other words, Paul’s words to Timothy is our measure:

and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2, ESV)

Paul taught the commands of Jesus to Timothy who taught them to faithful men in such a way that they could teach them to others. The measure of Paul’s disciple-making ability was not in Timothy but in the effectiveness of Timothy’s disciples.

So where does evangelism end and discipleship begin? Actually they are interwoven. In evangelism, we love people to Jesus, and nurture them in Jesus. Then our nurturing leads our disciples to love others to Jesus and nurture them in Jesus. So evangelism is the beginning and the end result, and discipleship is the beginning and includes training and mobilization of disciples to start the process over again.

I want to challenge you to make evangelism and discipleship natural and intentional. Make them relational and purposeful. Prayerfully follow God’s lead. Make disciples. Make disciple-makers!

For more ideas about disciple-making, check out these blog posts:

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The Impact of Proxemics on Disciple-making

IntimateProxemics is a sociology and psychology term. According to Dictionary.com, proxemics is

the study of the spatial requirements of humans and animals and the effects of population density on behavior, communication, and social interaction.

Edward Hall wrote a book entitled The Hidden Dimension. There he identifies four American spatial distances/zones:

  • Intimate distance: 0-18 inches
  • Personal distance: 18 inches to 4 feet
  • Social distance: 4 to 10 feet
  • Public distance: 10 feet to infinity.

Group size is impacted by spatial distance.  Reversing the list above:

  • Public: 35 people and more
  • Social: 8 to 35 people
  • Personal: 3 to 7 people
  • Intimate: 2 people.

Think about the disciple-making efforts of your church in each of these group sizes. Worship would be public. Mid-sized meetings or groups would be social. Small groups would be personal. Intimate would be one-on-one.

Sometimes simply adding one person changes group dynamics. For instance, adding someone to a pair ends intimate conversation. Adding a person to a small group sometimes changes the group from everyone participating (personal) to everyone expecting the leader to talk (social) with occassional questions and comments from group members.

How can we best take advantage of these realities? How can we plan our assimilation and disciple-making strategies to take fullest advantage of each venue? There are examples of each venue in use in the life of Jesus, Peter, Paul, and others. Share your comments.

For more ideas about making disciples, check out these blog posts:

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Key New Member Class Questions, Part 2

KeyQuestionsIn Part 1, I shared a set of questions to help you and your team as you plan your New Member Class. The questions related to (1) your purpose for the new member class, (2) the frequency you will offer it, (3) who will lead it, (4) will participation be expected, and (5) what happens after completion of the class?

In Part 2, we will explore several more areas and questions to help as you design your New Member Class experience. Allow me to guide you through (1) for whom to provide the class, (2) what will be covered, (3) how you will handle challenges, and (4) how you will get people to attend.

FOR WHOM. For whom are you providing this class? Is it for…

  • all new members (including children)?
  • all new adult and youth members?
  • all new adult members only?
  • new Christians?
  • those joining from other churches/denominations?
  • the entire congregation when you launch it the first time?

CONTENT. What will be covered in your new member class? Some of this will naturally depend on how you answer the PURPOSE questions from Part 1. Will you cover…

  • the history of the church?
  • the vision and mission of the church?
  • doctrinal beliefs?
  • the programs of the church?
  • membership expectations/covenant?
  • the discipleship pathway (how to continue growing as a disciple)?
  • spiritual gifts discovery?
  • opportunities and expectations to serve in the church, community, and world?
  • the importance of Sunday School/small groups?

PROBLEMS. How will you handle challenges related to your New Member Class? Will you…

  • continue encouraging attendance by those who miss sessions?
  • not send for a church letter from a person transferring from another church who never completes the sessions?
  • continue encouraging those who don’t take next steps after the class?
  • lengthen the time if the agenda is too full?
  • add a meal if the session(s) is/are too long?
  • provide childcare for those with younger children?
  • allow people to exit gracefully if they disagree with your doctrine, mission/vision, or expectations?
  • find another time to offer the class if the first attempt is poorly attended?
  • reduce sessions to one longer session in order to ensure completion?
  • add sessions in order to enrich early relationship development and/or potentially build new Sunday School classes/small groups from the group?
  • have an alternative leader in case the regular one is sick or leaves the church?

PROMOTION. How will you get people to attend the class? Will you…

  • personally invite them to attend the class you are leading?
  • provide a testimony of a new member from the pulpit before you invite new (and potential) members to attend?
  • send out special invitations to all new members?
  • promote it in print and on the church website?
  • talk about it in Sunday School classes/small groups?
  • offer gfits to those who attend?

If you have experience with launching a New Member Class, what additional questions would you add to these? What is the best thing that happens as a result of your class? What is one thing you wish you could change about your class? Press Comments and share you thoughts and experiences. Connect well with new members. Make disciples!

For more ideas about assimilation and new members, check out these blog posts:

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Key New Member Class Questions, Part 1

KeyQuestionsIn this two part series, I want to share some key questions as you evaluate or design your new member class experience. In Part 1, I want to guide you to consider the purpose, frequency, and leader of your new member class. Also, we will look at your participation expectation and what happens when the class ends.

PURPOSE. Does your church have a class for new church members? What is the purpose of the class? Is the purpose of the class…

  • to welcome them?
  • to thank them?
  • to move them from worship into Sunday School or small groups?
  • to connect them to the pastor/staff?
  • to connect them to other church members?
  • to share the vision and mission of the church?
  • to share church expectations and encourage growth as disciples?
  • to undergird the spiritual disciplines of Bible study and prayer?
  • to fulfill the requirements of our Bylaws?
  • to help them discover their spiritual gifts and their place of service in the body and community?
  • to give them a tour of the church facilities?
  • for other reasons?

FREQUENCY. When does your new member class meet? Does it meet…

  • every month?
  • every quarter?
  • whenever you get enough new members for a class?
  • for one to three sessions?
  • for four or more sessions?
  • on Sunday morning or evening?
  • on Wednesday evening?
  • on a weeknight?

LEADER. Who leads your new member class? Is is led by…

  • the pastor?
  • other church staff?
  • a deacon?
  • a church member?

PARTICIPATION EXPECTATION. What is the level of expectation you have for new members to attend? Is the class…

  • optional?
  • encouraged?
  • expected?
  • required for all church leaders?
  • required in order to be a member?

CLASS COMPLETION. What happens after the new member class is completed? Does the church…

  • send for the letters of those who were members of other churches?
  • help new members find a Sunday School or small group to join?
  • help new members find a place of service?
  • assign an encourager to walk together with the new members through the first six months?
  • connect them with the next membership/discipleship class?

In Part 2, we will look at more questions. Those questions can help you or your discipleship team (or assimilation team) to create a new member class (or experience) that accomplishes everything for which you are hoping. Gather a team and start the discussion. Make disciples!

For more ideas about assimilation, check out these blog posts:

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DiscipleShift 1, June 24-25, Richmond, KY

I want to encourage those who are looking for an effective model for discipleship to attend DiscipleShift 1 at Eastside Community Church, 2010 Catalpa Loop, Richmond, KY, on June 24-25, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Eastern time both days. The cost per person is $345. To register, go to DiscipleShift 1.

DiscipleShift 1 is a unique two-day experience that will both challenge and stretch you. This is not the usual conference or seminar. Rather, DiscipleShift 1 will challenge you through interactive relational small group experiences to evaluate and re-think how you do church.

I have attended this conference twice and highly recommend it. It will shift your thinking in some helpful ways, and you will leave with practical ideas for how to begin the shift in your church. It may be three years or more before DiscipleShift 1 is back in Kentucky. Sign up now!

For more ideas about discipleship, check out these blog posts:

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Scratching an Itch: What Discipleship Tips Would Help You Most?

ScratcherIn carrying out his responsibilities of discipleship and assimilation, 28Nineteen was begun by Steve Rice back in 2008. He contributed 101 posts. After Steve was called as Pastor of First Baptist Church, Shelbyville, KY, Mike James carried on the focus of discipleship and assimilation and continued contributing 158 posts to the blog. With Mike’s call to serve Judson Baptist Church, Nashville, TN, I inherited responsibility for discipleship and this blog. This is my 26th post.

While I have lots of ideas and experiences to share, the best help scratches a real itch. In other words, I want this blog to meet your real needs. I want to address your questions and concerns.

In order to do that, I need your input. Where do you most need help? On what questions are you seeking answers, direction, and input? What thinking, writing, and sharing could I offer to help you make progress?

In order to get your thinking started, consider these possible blog topics. Feel free to respond with topics from the list or offer even more specific ideas, situations, questions, or concerns. Here are some starter topics for tips, ideas, and practices:

  • personal discipleship,
  • discipleship application,
  • personal discipleship evaluation,
  • discipling others,
  • focusing on essential doctrines,
  • establishing a Christian worldview and Christian ethics,
  • church discipleship ministry,
  • enlisting a church discipleship team,
  • church discipleship evaluation,
  • spiritual disciplines,
  • spiritual growth experiences,
  • new church members,
  • new Christians,
  • assimilation of new members/new Christians,
  • quiet times,
  • focus/intentionality,
  • spiritual maturity stages,
  • multiplying disciple-makers,
  • discovering spiritual gifts, passions, and abilities to use in service,
  • mobilizing believers into service,
  • leadership development, and
  • resources.

The list could go on and on. Press “Leave a comment” below to share with me what would help you most. From your responses, I would like to put together a list of topics to share in the year ahead.

For more discipleship ideas, check out these blog posts:

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Addressing Transition Weakness: Assimilation and Disciple-making

I shared the following graphic on my Sunday School blog, The Sunday School Revolutionary. But I got to thinking that the graphic applies to assimilation and disciple-making as well. Take a look:

In order to develop a disciple-making strategy and system, some critical questions must be answered about transitions:

  1. What are we doing to invite and attract people into worship?
  2. What are we doing to move worship attenders into Sunday School and small groups?
  3. What are we doing to make disciples and to multiply and develop leaders in Sunday School, small groups, and training sessions and experiences to prepare and move them into leadership in the church and community?
  4. What are we doing to mobilize our classes, groups, and leaders into ministry, service, and mission in the community and world?

Answer thesse questions thoroughly to discover your assimilation and discipleship transitional weaknesses. If there are more than three transitional steps before worship or between any block, your process is too complicated. Your leaders will have a hard time explaining the strategy, and those you are trying to assimilate and disciple will tend to drop out from the process along the way.

Gather your disciple-making team (see Enlist a Disciple-making Team for more ideas). Talk through the graphic and these questions. Simplify and streamline your strategy and your transitions. Take your strategy on a trial run. Get feedback. Make adjustments and improvements.

To get your thinking flowing further, let me ask three addtional questions:

  • Where would you place a new member class in the graphic? Should it be required?
  • Since it is difficult to disciple a drop out, what can be done to encourage and track disciple-making progress? For instance, how could assigning an encourager (personal mentor) help move a disciple through the strategy?
  • Where in the graphic might be the best place to discover a disciple’s spiritual gifts, abilities, experience, and passions for service? What happens if the discovery is separated from mobilization into service?

Do you have questions or comments? Press “Leave a comment” below. Help me and others improve our thinking and questions.

For more ideas about making-disciples, check out these blog posts:

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Enlist a Disciple-making Team

TeamGearsSynergy is defined on dictionary.com as “the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements, contributions, etc.” That is what is possible when you enlist a team to help your church pursue  disciple-making.

TEAM. Who should be on my disciple-making team? Consider the following:

  • God (no kidding, seek His leadership),
  • God’s Word (pay special attention to the words, commands–think Matthew 28:19-20, and example of Jesus),
  • pastor (the people will follow where you lead), and
  • 4-6 people who are passionate about God, His Word, and being His disciples.

GAME PLAN. What is the game plan for your team? While this is not intended to be an exhaustive list, consider the following:

  1. pray together;
  2. study God’s Word to discover a biblical definition of a disciple and attributes of disciples;
  3. brainstorm actions and experiences for an individual (don’t think large group yet) to become the kind of disciple described in #1;
  4. look at the church programs, minstries, and experiences which encourage (and those which hinder) disciple-making growth;
  5. develop a simple growth pathway, focusing on as few major areas and transitions as possible;
  6. pilot your insights, ideas, and plans;
  7. adjust your plans and multiply your efforts.

SEASON. Disciple-making season is upon us. Assemble your team now. Meet. Pray. Brainstorm. Try it out. Adjust. Multiply.

You will gather your team several times to develop the plan and will continue meeting to launch, adjust, and multiply your plan. Adjustments will be needed beyond the first year, so meeting regularly (perhaps quarterly) can help your disciple-making efforts to thrive rather than to fizzle out or become ineffective.

Pray now about the team God wants you to assemble. Be open to surprises of who He wants. Be open to insights from His Word. Be open to adjustments in your own life. Be a disciple. Make disciples!

For more ideas about making disciples, check out these blog posts:

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