Are You a Convert, a Disciple, or a Disciple-Maker?

mtnclimbingFrom the beginning, let me be clear. I am not trying to judge or brand anyone. I am simply asking a question for mutual self-assessment. Allow me to clarify the terms:

  • CONVERT. The root of the word points toward “one who turns” or “one who changes.” A convert has turned away from sin and self toward Jesus. For our purposes, a convert made the critical first step of turning but did not continue in that direction. They did not grow further in their understanding of Jesus and His demands. Many Christians remain here for a lifetime.
  • DISCIPLE. The root of the word points toward “learner” or “follower.” A disciple is a convert who made the critical second step of choosing to follow the ways and leading of Jesus. Time spent with Jesus changes Christians in thoughts, attitudes, and actions throughout their lifetime making them more like Him. Many Christians remain here for a lifetime.
  • DISCIPLE-MAKER. The point of the term is multiplication. A disciple-maker is one who makes the critical third step of investing in others to follow the ways and leading of Jesus. Jesus commanded His disciples (historical and present-day) to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). All converts and disciples are commanded to join in the effort to make disciples. Too few Christians are obedient to this command. By the way, a disciple-maker will continue as a perpetual learner (disciple) as well.

The separations between the terms are somewhat fuzzy. But with the understanding shared here, where are you? What next step do you need to make to join Jesus in his disciple-making vision for our world? Choose to turn, follow, and make disciples!

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

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Bible Reading Plan Plus Journaling

journaling2Over the years, I have used many Bible reading plans. I can honestly say that those plans have helped me to read more of the Bible. They have allowed me to read the Bible through many times. I have a greater understanding of God and His work in sending Jesus for us.

At the same time, reading plans have not always been easy or even completed. Likely you have experienced some of the same challenges I have:

  • missed days leading to getting behind,
  • some readings/days that are boring,
  • difficulty focusing on what is being read,
  • quitting because I was so far behind,
  • no immediate sense of progress or growth,
  • allowing Bible study time to become routine,
  • reading to check my duty off the list,
  • and more.

How do you turn Bible reading into relationship time with God? How can you make the most of this spiritual growth opportunity? What can you do to turn your Bible reading into a daily experience you don’t want to miss?

My simple suggestion from personal experience is journaling. Get your Bible, a pen, and a bound set of paper. The paper can be a journal, a notepad, a spiral bound notebook, or other.

Daily write down the date, passage(s) read, and questions along with insights from God. Being careful to seek understanding about the original context, write down what God is saying and how He expects you to respond.

Then every few days read recent entries–paying close attention to how He expected you to respond. The purpose is to see if you have obeyed (are obeying).

How does this help? Why does this work? When your Bible reading becomes an appointment with a living God, you look forward to the time. You pay more attention. Your relationship and understanding grows.

I want to challenge you to try it for no less than three weeks. This is the amount of time it takes to develop a new habit. If you give it three weeks, I believe journaling will move from an awkward struggle to a natural spiritual discipline and relationship time with God.

Read. Journal. Listen to Him. Follow where He leads. Make disciples. For more ideas about spiritual growth, check out these blog posts:

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Characteristics of a Maturing Disciple

3stopI know life is fast-paced, and you were looking for a quick, relevant read. But I want to challenge you to STOP and make a list of the characteristics you would expect to find in a maturing disciple. What would the evidence in heart (passion), hand (action), and head (attitude) look like?

After you make your list, look through the following actions, practices, or evidence. What would you add to this list, leave out, or state differently? Consider these practices:

  • salvation
  • membership with the body of Christ (a church)
  • regular participation in private and corporate worship (favor with God)
  • growing relationships (favor with man)
  • regular involvement in Sunday School or small group (learning and practicing together to think, believe, and act like Jesus)
  • daily quiet time (prayer and intake of God’s Word)
  • serving the body using spiritual gives, talents, abilities, passion, and experiences (expressions of leadership as appropriate)
  • tithing, giving, and stewardship
  • sharing, meeting the needs of others
  • witnessing, sharing Jesus and what He has done/is doing
  • multiplication: discipling family, friends, and others.

While this is far from a complete list, it is a healthy start. What would you add, subtract, or adjust? How are you communicating, supporting, and encouraging movement of disciples in the direction toward these practices of maturing disciples? With no target or intentionality, there will likely be no progress. Take one step this week! Make disciples!

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

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Where Does Making Disciples of All Nations Begin?

boysMy sons are young adults. One lives a couple hours away; the other lives nine hours away. But when we are together in person or connecting by phone or electronic means, I am often amazed at how much I hear me in them. I hear my dry humor. I hear bits and pieces of my Christian worldview and philosophies of life. (By the way, they hear it too!)

I fully recognize the truth of Proverbs 22:6 (ESV), “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” That is where making disciples of all nations begins. At home.

Why should the world believe us about Jesus when our children do not? If we do not train (disciple) them to follow Jesus, why should others follow us to Him? Does your family reflect your relationship with Jesus?

If not, don’t beat yourself up over it. But keep this in mind: it is not too late. Start now. One conversation. One Bible verse. One act of care. Keep pointing to Jesus. Point them to God’s Word. Allow the Holy Spirit to draw and convict and change. Even you.

Start at home. Don’t allow yourself to get too busy to invest yourself in your precious family. And never give up!

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

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Discipleship Impacted by the Power of the Gospel

circle3stepsWhile attending the National Disciple Making Forum earlier this month, I attended a breakout session entitled, “How to Use the Power of the Gospel Daily to Bring Transformation in Discipleship” led by Monte Starkes and Charles Hooper of Perimeter Church in Atlanta. They recommended what they called the Gospel three-step waltz:

  • repent,
  • believe,
  • obey.

These steps repeat and flow from one to the next with obey flowing naturally into repent.

Charles and Monte mentioned these two-step failures which need to be addressed/avoided:

  • focusing on obey and repent only can lead to moralism,
  • focusing on repent and believe only can lead to licentiousness, and
  • focusing on believe and obey only can lead to legalism.

They gave credit for their thinking to Bob Flayhart and his Gospel-centered mentoring along with his dissertation.

Could discipleship be as simple as leading those we mentor to dance the Gospel waltz?

If you were designing a strategy based upon these three flowing steps, how would you go about ensuring practice while avoiding potential failures listed above?

During the conference, I recommended that the heart (center of the three steps) should be the word, “encounter.” What I mean is that the Holy Spirit is needed to help guide repenting, believing, and obeying. When we open God’s Word and meet Him in Bible study, He draws us into a relationship with Him, others, and ourselves that changes everything. Without an encounter the circle becomes shortcircuited.

For more ideas about a disciple-making strategy and resources, check out these blog posts:

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Boldly Go Where Others Have Gone Before Us

etheredgeDuring the National Disciple Making Forum earlier this month, I attended four conferences led by Craig Etheredge, Pastor of First Baptist Church, Colleyville, TX. In those conferences, he shared his experiences which formed seven steps (bold moves) necessary to transition a church to become an intentional disciple-making church.

Those seven steps are the chapters of his book, Bold Moves: Lead the Church to Live Like Jesus:

  1. Move from Church Models to Christ’s Model
  2. Move from Decisions to Disciples
  3. Move from Programs to Process
  4. Move from Religious Activity to Relational Investment
  5. Move from Individual to Team
  6. Move from Tradition to Evaluation
  7. Move from Addition to Multiplication.

You will find those moves to be rooted in scripture and Jesus’ disciple-making example. You will find the seven moves to be practical and transferable. You will learn much as Craig shares his experiences with implementing those moves.

Gather a team. Read and discuss the book. Pray together. Get started. The closing section of the book is entited, Urgency of the Hour. Our time is now for obediently carrying out the command to make disciples of all nation (Matthew 28:19-20)!

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

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Ten Disciple-Making Questions for Churches

bobbyOn churchleaders.com, Bobby Harrington asks ten disciple-making questions for churches in an article entitled 10 Disciple-Making Questions You Need to Ask. I encourage you to read the entire article. Many good questions are in his list:

  1. How does our church define discipleship?
  2. What does a disciple look like?
  3. Do we have an intentional process of discipleship?
  4. Does our church know this process?
  5. How does this process relate to the purpose of the church?
  6. Has our church prioritized distinct practices that relate to the discipleship process?
  7. Does our church practice the principle of abandonment based on the idea that activity doesn’t always mean productivity?
  8. How does our church measure maturity?
  9. How does our community describe our church?
  10. Do our church families spend more planned time in a week at church with each other or in the community with non-believers?

Gather a team to start the conversation, assessment, and planning. Pray. Start small. Make disciples!

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

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The Disciple Maker’s Handbook

disciplemakershandbookAt the National Disciple Making Forum, I received a sampler (two chapters) of The Disciple Maker’s Handbook: 7 Elements of a Discipleship Lifestyle by Bobby Harrington and Josh Patrick. Because I have been around Bobby at the discipleship track at Exponential and this year’s Forum, I look forward to reading the complete book when it becomes available on November 9.

The sampler list the seven elements:

  1. Jesus—the original disciple maker and centerpiece of discipleship.
  2. Holy Spirit—fuels the disciple-making process.
  3. Intentionality—making disciples utilizing a strategy and a roadmap.
  4. Relationships—creating a loving, genuine connection with others who trust and follow Jesus.
  5. Bible—using the Word of God as the manual for making disciples.
  6. Journey—forging a traceable growth story from a new birth to spiritual parenthood.
  7. Multiply—reproducing the discipleship process so that the disciple becomes a disciple maker.

I frequently write and talk about six of these seven disciple making elements. I look forward to discovering more about one of them, “journey.” Do you have a disciple making plan? Does it include each of these seven elements? If not, how can you tweak or change your plan so they are fully integrated into the plan?

Making disciples of Jesus is the greatest cause on earth. Then how should we equip people to do it? Order copies of this book. Gather a planning team. Read it together. Build a strategy. Make disciples!

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

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National Disciple Making Forum, October 6-7, 2016

nationaldmfThe local church in America is realizing she needs Jesus-style disciple making. Leaders know they are in trouble without it. Jesus commanded it. And everyday Christians are increasingly expressing their need for it.

There already exists an unorganized group of men and women committed to this focus in America. They bleed for the cause of disciple making. They have started good efforts, but they have natural limitations. The dispersed movement needs a national voice, a rallying point. This is why Discipleship.org will host the first ever National Disciple Making Forum, at Long Hollow Baptist Church, Hendersonville, TN (Nashville area), on Thursday and Friday, October 6-7, 2016.

The forum will bring together leading voices and practitioners from around the country. With God’s help, we seek to create a stronger and clearer voice. We will aggregate the best speakers and practitioners. We will collaborate and show how much more we can do together than we can do separately. We will forge a collaborative community. We will seek to be a rallying point for a national tribe of discipleship-first people.

10 leading voices from around the country have already committed themselves to partner together. They are giving their resources to this gathering and rallying the people in their network to join it.

  • Bill Hull & Brandon Cook – the Bonhoeffer Project
  • Jim Putman – the Relational Discipleship Network
  • Randy Pope & Monte Starkes – Life on Life Ministries
  • Robby Gallaty – Replicate Ministries
  • Dann Spader – Sonlife and Global Youth Initiative
  • Dave Buehring – Lionshare
  • James Forlines – Final Command Ministries
  • Kennon Vaughan & Ariyana Rimson – Downline Ministries
  • Craig Etheredge – DiscipleFIRST Ministries
  • Brett Clemmer – Man in the Mirror

For details and to register, go HERE.

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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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