Spiritual Disciplines

spdiscwhitneyDEFINITION. What is a spiritual discipline? Think about it this way.  Just as regular rest, good diet, and regular exercise strengthen you physically, spiritual disciplines are actions you take regularly which strengthen you spiritually.

LISTS. There are many lists of spiritual disciplines. Donald Whitney in Spiritual Disciplines for the Cchristian Life lists: Bible intake, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, stewardship, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling, and learning. Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline includes the following:

  • Inward disciplines: mediation, prayer, fasting, and study.
  • Outward disciplines: simplicity, solitude, submission, and service.
  • Corporate disciplines: confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.

PURPOSE. Our purpose in doing spiritual disciplines makes a difference. Are we meditating or praying because it is part of our routine, or are we doing so to understand God, His Word, and His ways better? Are we submitting and serving in order to be seen or out of our love for God, others, and self? Are we worshiping because of how it makes us feel or because God is awesome and deserves our praise and worship?

FREQUENCY. Notice the word I used for frequency in the definition: regularly. Some disciplines will be daily (or even hourly). Others will be weekly, monthly, or periodically. But the word, discipline, begs for regularness in order to contribute the most toward spiritual strength, relationship, and progress.

Balance is often helpful. Personal reflection and assessment are needed from time to time. Don’t just study the disciplines. Practice them. Grow as His disciple. Make disciples.

For more ideas about discipleship, check out these posts:

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Review of a Disciple’s Day

questionsAt the end of the day (or beginning of the next), stop. Stop to review. Ask yourself some questions:

  • What did I learn about God?
  • What did I learn about people?
  • What did I learn about myself? How did I grow closer to God and man?
  • Did I make biblically-based decisions and take biblically-based actions?
  • Did I sin or make mistakes? Whose forgiveness should I seek?
  • What decisions and actions are coming tomorrow? How can I ensure they are appropriate for a disciple of Jesus?
  • How will I grow closer to God and man tomorrow?

What would you add to this list? Spend a few minutes reviewing each day for Him. Be a disciple. Make disciples!

For more ideas about discipleship and spiritual growth, check out these posts:

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The Source Book for Disciple-Making

bibledeckAs followers of Jesus Christ, our ultimate source for examples and teaching related to disciple-making is Jesus Himself. Sometimes we miss His disciple-making actions. The Bible is our source book about Jesus, and as a result it is our source book about disciple-making. The further we get from the source, the greater the possibility for distortion or distraction. Open the Bible. Read passages that involve Jesus.

PRACTICAL IDEA: I want to challenge you to go through the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) with two different colors of highlighers (eg. yellow and green). Every time Jesus speaks, highlight with yellow. Every time Jesus acts, highlight with green. This will help you you focus on His teaching and example. Remember Jesus’ words in the Great Commission, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 19:20a, ESV). Ask yourself what is the disciple-making point of His teaching and example.

Test everything you read in disciple-making articles and books by the source book and by Jesus’ example and teaching. Instead of asking “What would Jesus do?”, ask “What did Jesus do?” or “What did Jesus teach?” Teach what you learn. Teach this skill. Help your disciples pass along this skill. That is disciple-making!

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

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Jesus as Disciple-Maker, Part 2

FishermanI mentioned in Part 1 that what follows are some of my observations of the biblical account of the disciple-making example of Jesus. I am not attempting an exhaustive treatment.

STOP. At the beginning of Part 1, I invited you to press Comments and list 4-6 descriptors of how Jesus made disciples. I want to invite you to do so again. Broaden your list. Share scripture references if those come to your mind.

What did you list?

ATTRIBUTES. In Part 1, I shared these five disciple-making attributes of Jesus: prayerful, selective, biblical, visionary, and stretching. In Part 2, I will share 5 additional disciple-making attributes of Jesus. Consider the following:

  • TOGETHER. Jesus spent time with the disciples. He walked and talked with them. He ate with them. He asked and answered questions. They observed, listened, and did life together. He spent time with the group, subgroups (eg. Peter, James, and John), and individuals. Together reduces potential disparity between your ministry self and your private self.
  • EXAMPLE. Jesus spent time with God in Bible study and prayer. He went to the Temple and synagogue. His disposition on the Law was not to do the minimum required (Matthew 5:17ff). He came to fulfill the intent of the Law. His teaching, life, and example all showed obedience.
  • COMMUNAL. Not only did Jesus do life together with the disciples, He also sent them out together (Mark 6:7). Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare the Passover meal. There is strength and encouragement in doing life and ministry together. Disciple-making is not a solo sport.
  • ACCOUNTABLE. Jesus sent the disciples out to do what He had been doing. Then He called them together for a report (Mark 6:30). There is much celebration and learning that comes from times of sharing. Jesus reported to the Father. When is your report time?
  • MULTIPLYING. The 12 disciples were not the end result. Jesus sent them out to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). Disciple-making bears fruit in disciples who make disciples. If our disciple-making efforts are too unimportant or complicated to multiply, something is wrong!

I could list many more attributes of Jesus’ disciple-making. What would you add? Leave your comments.

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

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Jesus as Disciple-Maker, Part 1

NetsFrom the beginning, I want to be clear that what follows are some of my observations of the biblical account of the disciple-making example of Jesus. I am not attempting an exhaustive treatment–though the thought of writing that book sounds enticing.

Before plunging in, I want to invite you to press Comments and list 4-6 descriptors of how Jesus made disciples. Share scripture references if those come to your mind.

What did you list?

I expect my list to stretch out beyond this post. I will share 5 disciple-making attributes of Jesus in Part 1. Consider the following:

  • PRAYERFUL. Jesus spent extended time in prayer before launching his disciple-making ministry. He prayed all night before calling his disciples. He prayed with them and for them. He modeled prayer.
  • SELECTIVE. He did not make a public announcement inviting all who were interested to come to an information meeting. Instead, He called the disciples by name. He had observed them and was led to them following prayer.
  • BIBLICAL. Jesus knew scripture. He connected scripture to life. He responded to questions and situations with scripture. The answers to daily and eternal life questions and concerns could be found in God’s Word.
  • VISIONARY. Jesus gave them a picture of the process and end result: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” He was a storyteller who connected life object lessons with spiritual realities and potential. He pushed them to see beyond the surface. He raised expectations and hopes.
  • STRETCHING. Jesus asked questions, lots of questions. Sometimes he even asked questions in response to questions. He was a great teacher who wanted His disciples to think fresh, deeply, and beyond traditional responses.

What would you add? How do your efforts reflect His attributes? Follow Jesus and His disciple-making example. Make disciples!

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Getting to Know My Disciples

ConversationWhether you have been discipling for years or are just starting, investment in relationships is important. Discipling and care are strengthened when you invest well in getting to know your disciples beyond meeting time. While doing so takes time, it does not have to overwhelm your schedule and it will pay dividends.

Where do I start? Consider some of the following ideas. Use as many of them as possible to enrich your knowledge of your disciples and deepen your relationships with them.

  • Add birthdates to your calendar. Make a 2 minute call that day.
  • Add married members’ anniversaries to your calendar. Send a text or email to them that day.
  • Invite them to a fellowship or project every 6 weeks. Intentionally spend time during the fellowship with your disciples.
  • Visit disciples annually in their homes (or yours), at work, or over a meal (maybe lunch).
  • Add each disciple to a day of your monthly calendar. Pray for the disciple on that day. Send a text that day asking how you can pray for him/her.
  • Arrive early for your disciple-making session. Spend a few minutes visiting with the disciple beyond your meeting agenda.
  • On another occasion, hang around for a few minutes after your meeting. Ask about life, work, and prayer requests beyond what was shared in the meeting.
  • Arrange to meet 15 minutes early before Sunday or Wednesday evening church activities. Ask questions and listen.

This list does not have to require tons of time. But the results will greatly enrich your disciple-making efforts. Print out this blog post. Highlight three that you want to work on over the next quarter. Connect. Fellowship. Make disciples!

For more ideas, check out these blog posts:

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Discipleship Conferences at the EQUIP Tour 2016

Equip2016During August, the Kentucky Baptist Convention EQUIP Tour is coming to a town near you!  The EQUIP Tour could be described as a mini-Super Saturday with the goal of providing practical training to equip believers to serve their churches with confidence and excellence.

LOCATIONS. Training will be from 6:30-9:00 p.m. (local time); registration begins at 6:00 p.m. This Tour has already stopped in Prestonsburg and Ashland. Choose one of these remaining EQUIP Tour stops:

  • August 18 in Bardstown
  • August 22 in Somerset
  • August 23 in Glascow
  • August 25 in Walton
  • August 29 in Paducah
  • August 30 in Hopkinsville

For the host church address, go to the EQUIP Registration page.

CONFERENCES. Training will be provided for the following ministry areas:

  • Women’s Ministry, Sunday School, Discipleship, Church Finances, Revitalization, Children’s Ministry, Youth Ministry, Worship and Music, Evangelism, and Church Security.

For a list of conferences titles/descriptions, check out the EQUIP Conferences List. For a list of the EQUIP faculty, check out the EQUIP Registration page.

DISCIPLESHIP CONFERENCES. Here are the 2 one-hour Discipleship conferences offered at every location:

  • No Destination = Lack of Discipleship. Many leaders and churches are immobilized due to lack of a discipleship picture or definition. Defining what a disciple looks like clarifies your target and destination. As a result, you can develop a plan for moving in that direction. Let’s start at the beginning. This is a disciple.
  • Steps Toward a Personal Discipleship Lifestyle. Does your discipleship lifestyle include these six elements: Jesus, intentionality, relationships, Bible, journey, and multiplication? Answer six questions to start discipling someone this year with confidence, understanding of, and practical ideas for these discipleship lifestyle elements.

REGISTRATION AND MORE INFORMATION. Register on the EQUIP Registration page. For more information, call the Church Consulting and Revitalization Team at (502) 489-3571 or toll-free in Kentucky (866) 489-3571. Or email cheryl.frerman@kybaptist.org.

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Measures of Disciple-Making, Part 2

MeasuresIn Part 1, I shared that Dr. Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, wrote an article in the most recent edition of Facts & Trends. The article was entitled 7 Indicators of True Church Discipleship. There he shared 7 evidences, measures, or indicators of disciple-making taking place in and through the church.

In Part 1, I shared the first 3 of his 7 “indicators” along with my comments about each: (1) members read and study the Bible daily, (2) members are engaged in some type of Bible study group, and (3) members are sharing their faith on a regular basis.

In Part 2, I will share his final four measures or indicators of disciple-making along with my comments:

4. Members are generous with their giving. In Matthew 6:21 (ESV), Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Giving is often the sail catching the wind of the the heart’s priorities. If self is the priority, it will show. If God is the priority, evidence will be obvious. This is a heart measure of discipleship. Disciple-making churches are not afraid of addressing this important topic and practice.

5. Members are expected to attend a corporate worship service each week. A lack of interest in corporate worship is a measure or indicator of a lack of connection to God and understanding of His expectations and Word. The author of Hebrews recognizes the problem in the early days of the church, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” (10:25, ESV). A coal pulled out of the fire, burns out. We are meant to be together with Him. Disciple-making churches lift up the value of corporate worship.

6. Members are involved in ministry and missions. The natural outcome of a life spent with Jesus is serving and making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). His priorities become our priorities. His concern for the lost and hurting become our concerns. Encountering God in His Word leads to a life of obedience in the world among hurting people who need Jesus. Evidence of individual disciple-making can be seen in the move from self-centeredness to other-centeredness. Disciple-making churches expect and lead opportunties to pray and care for others locally and beyond.

7. The church has an entry-point class all new members attend. How can people coming from a variety of backgrounds become a team? Pointing them toward the Savior is an essential start. But offering a first steps or new member class can also lead new members to understand the vision, purpose, and priorities of the church. An entry-point class can undergird and support new Christians and new members as they begin their journey with Jesus and the church. If there is resistance to participation, it is a sign of a discipleship issue. Disciple-making churches understand the value and expect all new members to participate.

Now pause to evaluate your church or group’s disciple-making. How are you doing with these 4 measures? Which of these 4 measures is your strength? Which needs work? What can you do this week to strengthen disciple-making? Measuring can be painful but is necessary in order to be more effective for Him. Make disciples!

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

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Measures of Disciple-Making, Part 1

MeasuresDr. Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, wrote an article in the most recent edition of Facts & Trends. The article was entitled 7 Indicators of True Church Discipleship. In the article, Dr. Rainer shared 7 evidences, measures, or indicators of disciple-making taking place in and through the church.

I encourage you to read the original article. In Part 1 of this post, I will share the first 3 of his 7 “indicators” followed by my comments about each.

  1. Members read and study the Bible daily. Opening God’s Word daily leads to hearing His voice. Daily Bible study in its most basic sense is opening our minds and hearts to listen to God and understand His plan and purpose for us. How can we follow Jesus as His disciples if we are not spending time in the Word? Disciple-making churches value and support this vital spiritual practice.
  2. Members are engaged in some type of Bible study group. Gathering with a group of people to study God’s Word together is essential. Those in groups are more likely to stay connected to the church and to living lives as disciples. At the same time, groups serve as important sources of encouragement, challenge, and correction for disciples. Disciple-making churches expect active participation in a Bible study group by all members.
  3. Members are sharing their faith on a regular basis. When we (1) have a living relationship with Jesus Christ and (2) open God’s Word to hear His voice, we have experiences worthy of a testimony. Disciples look for life moments where that testimony can be shared. Disciples seek opportunities to care for and share with all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). Disciple-making churches value, encourage, and utilize testimonies in worship, groups, and life.

In Part 2, we will look at the last 4 of Dr. Rainer’s 7 “indicators.” But pause now to evaluate your church or group’s disciple-making. How are you doing with these 3 measures of disciple-making? Which of these 3 measures is your strength? Which of them needs the most work? What can you do this week to lead your church or group to strengthen disciple-making? Measuring can be painful but is necessary in order to be more effective for Him. Make disciples!

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

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Favorite Post: Support for Six Expectations of Disciples

I recently reExpectationsad an article by Thom Rainer entitled 6 Characteristics of Disciple-Making Churches on Outreach Magazine  In the article, Dr. Rainer listed six common expectations of churches who are effective in making disciples. In these churches, members are expected to…

  1. attend an entry point class,
  2. attend an open group Bible study,
  3. be involved in one or more deeper studies throughout the year,
  4. attend corporate worship service each week,
  5. be involved in at least one ministry or mission activity each year,
  6. read and study the Bible daily.

Making disciples is not optional. Jesus commanded it (Matthew 28:19-20). How, then, could we begin to lead in the direction toward these expectations? What could we do to encourage and support these expectations? There are many possibilities, but allow me to offer two examples:

SUNDAY SCHOOL or SMALL GROUPS. What if adult and youth Sunday School group leaders were the champions for these expectations? What if groups organized themselves to encourage disciple-making by leading group members in pursuit of these expectations?

  1. For instance, what if new class members were encouraged to attend a new member class with another class member?
  2. What if the age-appropriate class welcomed and invited the new church member at the end of the service in which he/she joined?
  3. What if the class talked together about discipleship studies needed by class members and encouraged attending together?
  4. What if classes sat together in worship?
  5. What if every adult and youth class had a class leader who encouraged serving in a church ministry? Or what if the class pursued, sponsorted, and carried out a church ministry or mission activity?
  6. What if class got into groups of two or three to encourage one another to read and study the Bible daily?

ASSIGNMENT TO AN EXISTING MINISTRY. Another possibility for supporting these expectations would be to assign each of these expectations to an existing church ministry. Rather than pulling people in even more directions by adding new ministries, why not strengthen your existing ministries by giving them disciple-making responsibilities? Think about which ministry could best champion each of the expectations. Consider the following:

  1. new member class:  could be assimilation or discipleship ministry
  2. open group Bible study:  could naturally be Sunday School or small groups ministry
  3. deeper Bible studies:  could be men’s and women’s ministry, discipleship ministry, or other
  4. corporate worship service:  could be worship team, Sunday School/small groups ministry, or other
  5. serving in ministry or missions:  could be missions ministry, men’s/women’s ministry, Sunday School/small groups ministry, or mobilization or nomination team
  6. read and study the Bible:  could be men’s/women’s ministry, Sunday School/small groups ministry, or other.

Church ministries should support disciple-makers’ efforts. Without support for these expectations, most will never produce results or fruit. Someone must lead. Someone must expect. Someone must champion and encourage them and even check on progress. Where do you need to start in raising expectations and providing support for them this year? Make disciples!

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

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