Maturing Believers Through Process Not Events

Discipleship is at the heart of the church. Jesus commanded us in Matthew 28:19 to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” The issue for the church throughout history is discerning the most effective way to do it. How can we lead people to salvation and develop them into mature disciple makers?

In many churches in our country, it involves a wide variety of moving parts. We start with worship and a core ministry of Bible study. Then, we add on additional classes, involvement in local ministries, accountability groups, mission trips, and taking on various roles such as deacon, committee member, usher, preschool volunteer, student chaperone, and the list goes on. On top of what you do, it also becomes a question of what you attend. We too easily equate being busy with being discipled.

I want to remind you that we can make disciples without adding an extra hundred or two hundred or one thousand events to the church calendar. Here are a few simple ideas.

Disciple children in Bible study rather than moralize them. Too much that passes for Bible study with kids that is no more than benign morality lessons. “God is good and He is watching so you need to be good” type of lessons only make God into a cosmic kind of Santa Claus. To disciple children, you do not have to add a single event, social, party, or any other thing. Start with what you have as Sunday School; or whatever name you call the primary age-graded time slot with children. Train your leaders to focus on developing their understanding of God through the scriptures and do not shy away from the difficult ideas.

Teach teenagers to become self-feeders of the Bible. Middle school and high school students who are Christians are learning how to care for their faith on their own. It will happen as you use the existing Bible study groups to allow them to plow through the Bible. Our aim should be to train teenagers in how to understand a passage and its implications upon their life and culture. Lock-ins, retreats, and social events are fine but they should all be placed as secondary to the work of helping students to be self-feeders of the Bible.

Focus your current adult small group ministry toward discipleship rather than baptized social hours. Again, if you have a Bible study hour or system in place, you have the primary piece of what you need. Rather than adding more events (even religious ones), help your Bible study groups be focused on their real purpose. Group leaders and members want personal growth to occur so don’t pile on events that steal away their time to prepare, meet, and live out the results.

Church leader: You will constantly face the temptation to plan more stuff so the church will seem to have forward momentum. More events is not evil unless those events interfere with the purpose for the church. Just remember, the purpose of the church is not more events but more disciples.

> Read more from Philip.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Philip Nation

Philip Nation

I serve as the pastor at First Baptist Church of Bradenton, Florida and frequently speak at churches and conferences. I earned a Master of Divinity from Beeson Divinity School and a Doctor of Ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 2010-2012, I was the national spokesperson for the Back to Church Sunday campaign from Outreach. Over the years, I’ve served as a pastor, minister of education, and a church planter. In 2016, I published Habits for Our Holiness: How the Spiritual Disciplines Grow Us Up, Draw Us Together, and Send Us Out with Moody Publishers. I’ve coauthored two other books: Compelled: Living the Mission of God and Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow. I was also the general editor of The Mission of God Study Bible. Along the way, I have written the small-group studies Storm Shelter: Psalms of God’s Embrace, Compelled by Love: The Journey to Missional Living and Live in the Word, plus contributed to The Great Commission Resurgence: Fulfilling God’s Mandate in Our Lifetime.

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Joining God in Your Neighborhood: Think Big and Local

Just for fun, ask this question to a group of church leaders: “Is an attractional model of ministry or incarnational emphasis more effective?” Then sit back, as a vigorous discussion is sure to follow.

Attractional ministry implies that the church’s basic strategy for reaching the lost revolves around getting “seekers” or the “unchurched” into the church building. Once inside, the opportunity to present the gospel defines the primary opportunity for evangelism. This is often known as an “invest and invite” approach.

In contrast, the incarnational emphasis of a missional mindset focuses on living and sharing the gospel “where life happens.” The emphasis is placed on the church “disassembling” itself for the primary work of evangelism in the nooks and crannies of everyday life.

In the attractional mode, big church buildings are important, and the church gathered is the consummation of evangelism. In the incarnational mode, fluid and flexible communities of faith are important; the church scattered is the consummation of evangelism. A common rally-cry against the attractional model is that the church should be measured by its sending capacity, not its seating capacity.

The missional reorientation described above represents an important shift in focus from methodology to identity. Sending is not something you do, but being sent is something you are.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood, by Alan J. Roxburgh

The burgeoning missional church movement is a sign that believers are increasingly feeling the call to impact their communities, which is a good thing. But, says Alan J. Roxburgh, these conversations still prioritize church success over mission–how can being missional grow my church? But to focus on such questions misses the point.

In Missional, Roxburgh calls Christians to reenter their neighborhoods and communities to discover what the Spirit is doing there–to start with God’s mission. He then encourages readers to shape their local churches around that mission. With inspiring true stories and a solid biblical base, Missional is a book that will change lives and communities as its message is lived out.


A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The idea of the missional church has singlehandedly captured the imagination of church leaders of all backgrounds and denominations.

Essentially, it is a way of thinking that challenges the church to re-form and re-forge its self-understanding so that it can relearn how to live and proclaim the gospel in the world. Church is not something you do or a place you go to, but what you are.

This in turn helps moves the idea of being on mission from something we do – church-inspired and project-oriented – to something we embody – personally inspired and life-oriented.

At the risk of becoming cliché, author Alan Roxburgh dares to put the church in its place – literally.

Roxburgh invites us to relocate the center of missional life from churches to the neighborhood.

The real challenge we face is how to transform the imagination of our leaders for them to see it’s not about getting their churches filled; it’s about joining with what God is doing in the world.

There is no simple, painless method of change. The risks involved in practicing Luke 10 are high; the story is full of warnings about this all along the way. Those late-first-century Gentile Christians were being challenged to let go of a deeply entrenched imagination and trust that God was up to something radically outside anything they had come to expect.

Here are a series of proposals for taking that same journey.

  1. Go Local – the focus of a local church and its leaders needs to be in reconnecting and reentering the neighborhood.
  2. Leave your baggage at home – the local church needs to learn together how to become like “strangers” who receive the hospitality of the people in the community.
  3. Don’t move from house to house – settle into the neighborhood, bloom where you are planted, and stop imagining there is a better place.
  4. Eat what is set before you – indicates our readiness to enter into the world of the other on his or her terms rather than our own.
  5. Become poets of the ordinary – enter the stories and hear the music of the other in ways we could never do if we relied on programs or formulas.
  6. Move the static into the unpredictable – an art that involves listening well to a congregation to hear the Spirit-created desires people have to disrupt the static.
  7. Listen people into speech – creating spaces where people can give voice to their anxieties, hopes, and fears.
  8. Experiment around the edges – empower people to imagine alternatives or do their own work of discovery through experimenting.
  9. Cultivate experiments, not BHAGS – resist the temptation to come up with something really big, and cultivate simple, small experiments.
  10. Repeat one through nine over and over again – real change in the culture of the local church takes place as we practice these simple rules as ways of life.

Alan J. Roxburgh, Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood

A NEXT STEP

An important part of joining God in mission in your neighborhood is learning to see again with fresh eyes. How might you learn to see your neighborhood through God’s eyes?

Here are some activities from author Alan Roxburgh that you might begin to practice:

Dwell in the Word around Luke 10:1-12 on a recurring basis.

Learn to walk through your neighborhood with a simple notebook reflecting on simple questions such as:

  • Without asking anyone, can I list the first and last names of the people who live beside, in front of, or behind me?
  • What can I describe about their lives that can only be known by someone who has been inside their home?
  • What are some of the God-shaping longings and/or questions that currently shape their lives?

Connect with the stories of your neighbors:

  • Share with each other what your neighbors have been discovering in some of their walking around the neighborhood.
  • Share some “first” stories about the neighborhood.

Practice naming what you believe God might be up to in your neighborhood.


 

This is part of a weekly series posting excerpts from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix book excerpts for church leaders.

SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; each solution is taken from a different book. Additionally, a practical action step is included with each solution.

As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS Remix provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

>> Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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— Ann Stokman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Are You Caring for Your Community or Just Consuming From It?

In the summer of 2010, Kaye and I were on vacation in New York City and we attended services at Redeemer Presbyterian church. Before the sermon, a young man stood in front of the congregation and prayed to the Lord on behalf of the whole congregation. He prayed specifically for the city they lived in and he prayed that the Lord would help the church not to “use the city” but to “serve the city,” that they would be a people who would “contribute to the city” and not only “consume from the city.” The language revealed the heart of the church and it was challenging to me. As tourists, we were there in NYC to consume from NYC. We were there to watch plays, eat from great restaurants, and enjoy adventures NYC offers. It was our vacation and not our home, so our consumption was the point of the trip, but the prayer increased my conviction for how I should live in the community the Lord has placed me.

Here are three thoughts on caring for your community and not merely consuming from it.

1. Our posture should be one of caring and not consumption.

The Lord has determined the time and place where we live (Acts 17:26). Of all the times we could be living and all the places of the world we could live, the Lord has placed us right where we are. We are to represent Him as ambassadors of His Kingdom (II Corinthians 5:20) and we are to be salt and light where we live (Matthew 5:13-16). Salt both preserves and adds flavor. Rather than merely consuming from our community, we are to contribute to our community. We are to preserve it and add flavor to it – make it better. Christians should make their workplaces better not worse, their neighborhoods better not worse, and their cities better not worse. As believers in Christ, we must care for our communities not merely consume the good things from them.

2. Caring, not consuming, is what causes us to love where we live.

Living as a tourist in your own community causes you to love what your community offers and not your community itself. When you serve where you live, your heart for where you live will expand. You will find yourself praying for your community more, enjoying your community more, and filled with a greater love for the people around you.

3. Caring for a community does include consuming from it.

The above is not to say we should not consume from our community. In fact, one way we care for our community is to consume from it. Practically speaking, consuming from my community supports the businesses and the leaders in my community. Consuming from my community also helps me and my family enjoy our community, know our community, and speak in relevant way to our community. You can’t learn the language of your community if you don’t consume from it. If you import all your consumption from outside your community via your Prime account, you will miss opportunities to see the beauty of your local community. Enjoying local activities, food, arts, and sports helps you connect with your community. Enjoy the good of your community with an eye on caring for your community. Consuming from your community should be done with a view of caring for the community where the Lord has placed you.

> Read more from Eric.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
— Mike
 
comment_post_ID); ?> This is hilarious. Well done!
 
— RussellC
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Love this
 
— Ann Stokman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Joining God in Your Neighborhood: Stop, Look, and Listen

Just for fun, ask this question to a group of church leaders: “Is an attractional model of ministry or incarnational emphasis more effective?” Then sit back, as a vigorous discussion is sure to follow.

Attractional ministry implies that the church’s basic strategy for reaching the lost revolves around getting “seekers” or the “unchurched” into the church building. Once inside, the opportunity to present the gospel defines the primary opportunity for evangelism. This is often known as an “invest and invite” approach.

In contrast, the incarnational emphasis of a missional mindset focuses on living and sharing the gospel “where life happens.” The emphasis is placed on the church “disassembling” itself for the primary work of evangelism in the nooks and crannies of everyday life.

In the attractional mode, big church buildings are important, and the church gathered is the consummation of evangelism. In the incarnational mode, fluid and flexible communities of faith are important; the church scattered is the consummation of evangelism. A common rally-cry against the attractional model is that the church should be measured by its sending capacity, not its seating capacity.

The missional reorientation described above represents an important shift in focus from methodology to identity. Sending is not something you do, but being sent is something you are.

SOLUTION #1: Stop, look, and listen

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Gospel Fluency, by Jeff Vanderstelt

Even if they want to, many Christians find it hard to talk to others about Jesus. Is it possible this difficulty is because we’re trying to speak a language we haven’t actually spent time practicing?

To become fluent in a new language, you must immerse yourself in it until you actually start to think about life through it. Becoming fluent in the gospel happens the same way—after believing it, we have to intentionally rehearse it (to ourselves and to others) and immerse ourselves in its truths. Only then will we start to see how everything in our lives, from the mundane to the magnificent, is transformed by the hope of the gospel. 

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

For many people, learning a second language occurred in high school or college, most likely in a classroom setting. You probably had a textbook and some sort of audiovisual support.

Maybe you learned a second language from an audio course of some kind, or an online course.

In each of the scenarios above, you probably were merely translating an unfamiliar language into a familiar one.

However, it’s one thing to know the basics of a language and quite another to become fluent in that language.

Fluency requires more than just translating from the unfamiliar to the familiar; it requires interpreting all of life through that new language.

When you begin to think, feel, and speak in that language, you are moving toward fluency. That language becomes the filter through which you perceive the world – and help others perceive your world and theirs.

It’s the same with gospel fluency.

Gospel fluency begins in you, gets worked out within community, and is expressed to a world that needs to hear about Jesus.

We have to become gospel-fluent people.

Such fluency is what God wants his people to experience with the gospel. He wants them to be able to translate the world around them and the world inside them through the lens of the gospel – the truths of God revealed in the person and work of Jesus. Gospel-fluent people think, feel, and perceive everything in light of what has been accomplished in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

They see the world differently. They think differently. They feel differently.

We are Jesus’s people, who speak the truths of Jesus into the everyday stuff of life.

Speak the truths of Jesus for rightly ordering our budgets. Speak the truths of Jesus for finding a spouse. Speak the truths of Jesus for how we respond to our employers or employees. Speak the truths of Jesus for how we parent our children. Speak the truths of Jesus into everything.

This is gospel fluency.

Language fluency requires immersion into a community of people who speak the language constantly. Gospel fluency requires immersion into a community of people so saturated with the gospel of Jesus Christ that they just can’t stop speaking the truths of Jesus wherever they go and in whatever situations they find themselves.

Jeff Vanderstelt, Gospel Fluency

A NEXT STEP

How can you become gospel fluent?

Just like the example of learning a second language recounted above, the best way to become gospel fluent is through immersion in a gospel-speaking culture.

And, again like the example, you don’t become fluent through classes or passively listening to another language.

You become fluent through immersion in a gospel-speaking place and through ongoing practice.

Consider the following common actions and the related gospel fluency questions:

Listening to people

  • How is this in line with the truths of the gospel?
  • What about Jesus and His work might be good news to this person today?

Experiencing culture

  • What themes of the gospel do you see?
  • What themes represent a false gospel?

Personal transformation

  • How are you experiencing personal changes as the truths of the gospel are integrated into your thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and actions?
  • How is hearing and speaking the truths of Jesus Christ into everything helping you grow up into Christ in every way?

Create a way to confront these questions each day for the next seven days. Record your observations around the three areas above each evening as you prepare for bed. Assess your growth in gospel fluency and take steps to continue growth.


 

This is part of a weekly series posting excerpts from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix book excerpts for church leaders.

SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; each solution is taken from a different book. Additionally, a practical action step is included with each solution.

As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS Remix provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

>> Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<

 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
— Mike
 
comment_post_ID); ?> This is hilarious. Well done!
 
— RussellC
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Love this
 
— Ann Stokman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Mobilize Disciples Like the Early Church

For the past 2,000 years, Christians have been praying for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

And we’re still not there yet. But it’s within sight. We’re closer than ever before.

More than 2 billion people have never even heard the message of Jesus, so it’s time to take a radical stand and say, “This has to be completed in our generation.”

Nothing matters more than getting the Good News to people who haven’t heard it.

It’s why you’re still on this planet. It’s why every person in your church is still around. There are only two things you can’t do in heaven: You can’t witness to other people, and you can’t sin.

Nothing matters more than getting the Good News to everyone—and finishing our task. History depends upon it. The spiritual destinies of people depend upon it.

The church’s birth in Acts 2 gives us a great model for how we’ll reach the remaining unreached people groups on the earth. Within the story of these early Christians, we get the biblical foundation for mobilization.

1. We must depend upon the Holy Spirit.

If we don’t begin, continue, and end with the Holy Spirit, we’ll never finish the task before us. We can’t finish the task without the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s presence is what makes us different from every other organization. No business or government has the Holy Spirit, but we do.

In Acts 1:8 Jesus tells us, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (NLT). The Holy Spirit gives us his power for evangelism, to share the message of the Gospel.

We’ll never finish the task of reaching the unreached without supernatural power. If we don’t have supernatural power, let’s just close up shop. Nothing we do on behalf of the unreached will get done.

2. We must use every available communication channel.

If we’re going to reach people without any other access to the Gospel, we must employ saturation evangelism. We can’t leave any options that work off the table.

In Acts 2, these early Christians spoke in different tongues. The people in Jerusalem on Pentecost came from countless nations. The apostles couldn’t have communicated with them using just one language, so the Holy Spirit enabled them to speak in the heart languages of the people to whom they were preaching. We won’t finish the task unless we speak in the heart languages of those we’re engaging.

We need each other to do this because it’s not just about reaching people who speak different languages. It’s about using multiple channels to reach people with different backgrounds, interests, and experiences. Your church might need to partner with another church with experience speaking into a rural community or an urban one. Or maybe you need help speaking the language of art, music, or accounting.

No channel should be off-limits. Our task is too important and our mission too urgent to quibble over methods.

3. We must use everyone’s spiritual gift.

We can’t just depend on those with the gifts of evangelism or prophecy. To finish the task before us, we need 100 percent participation. There are no spectators in the mission of God. We must mobilize every member in our churches. Everyone can have a role and use their gifts. The church isn’t an audience; it’s an army.

To do this, we’ll need a discipleship process that turns attendees into members, members into mature members, and mature members into ministers and missionaries. That’s why we developed the CLASS system at Saddleback.

Peter certainly understood this. In his Pentecost sermon, he quotes this passage in Joel: “‘In the Last Days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people: Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters; Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams. When the time comes, I’ll pour out my Spirit on those who serve me, men and women both, and they’ll prophesy’” (Acts 2:17-18 The Message).

The passage mentions sons, daughters, young men, old men, and women. No one should be left behind as we engage the unreached! The church’s mission has always taken the whole church to complete. It still does today.

4. We need to give people the Bible.

Our opinions won’t help the unreached. Psychology won’t help them. Western culture won’t save them either.

The Bible is what transforms the hearts of people. It’s the truth that sets us free. No other message on planet Earth transforms people into saints.

Peter’s sermon on the first Pentecost was full of God’s Word. He pointed to what God was doing in those days and showed how God had prophesied about that unique moment in his Word. As God formed the church out of the 3,000 saved at Pentecost, the church was devoted to the apostles’ teaching. Why was God’s Word so important in the early church? Because you can’t reach the unreached without it.

5. We must demonstrate God’s love by cooperating together.

Our greatest witness to the world isn’t our apologetics. It’s how we love one another. The world needs us to show them a different way as we work together to fulfill the task God has given us. Political and denominational barriers shouldn’t divide us in this. That’s why our upcoming Finishing the Task conference is so critical. It’s an opportunity for you to connect with others committed to fulfilling the Great Commission.

We’re not in competition to reach the unreached. We’re on the same team. The early church understood this. Acts 2:42 tells us the early Christians “were like family to each other” (CEV). We need to learn from their example.

6. We must go with the spirit of joyful praise.

Acts 2:46-47 says, The believers had a single purpose and went to the temple every day. They were joyful and humble as they ate at each other’s homes and shared their food. At the same time, they praised God and had the goodwill of all the people. Every day the Lord saved people, and they were added to the group” (GW).

The early church knew that the Great Commission isn’t a task we complete out of duty. It’s a mission we embark on in delight. We don’t tell the world about Jesus in drudgery but out of gratitude because he changed our lives. Worship energizes missions, missions creates more worshipers, and worship creates joy.

7. We must make generous sacrifices.

We’ll never finish the task in our spare time. It’ll never be convenient. It’ll take sacrifices.

It’s why the early church grew so rapidly. Acts 2:44-45 says, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need” (NIV). Think about this a bit. They sold their land and everything they owned to give money to those who needed it. How many people in our churches would do that today?

Pastor, your church will become generous when you’re generous. If you want to know the temperature of your church, put the thermometer in your mouth. You don’t grow a generous church by accident. Your church becomes generous when you intentionally build it to be generous. We must teach people in our congregations that the greatest thing they can do is sacrifice for something greater than themselves.

8. We must expect exponential growth.

I call this the “faith factor.” When I was still in seminary, I wrote to the 100 largest churches in America and asked them a series of questions. I read every book in print on church growth. At that time, there were about 72 books. I also did more than 120 crusades before I was 20 years old. During this period, I kept notes about what was working in those communities—and what wasn’t. I kept looking for common characteristics. I discovered God uses all kinds of churches and all kinds of methods. Anyone who tells you there is only one way to reach new people is simply wrong.

The only common denominator I could find in churches and other organizations God uses in an unusual way is that the leadership isn’t afraid to trust God. Jesus said in Matthew 9:29, “According to your faith let it be done to you” (NIV). God tells us we get to choose how much God blesses us.

When will we finish the task? We’ll do it when enough people believe we’ll finish the task.

My dad died a few years back. During the last week of his life, he began dreaming aloud. For that last week, I sat by his bedside just listening to him dream. You learn a lot about somebody listening to their dreams. I never once heard him talk about being a war hero in World War II. I never heard him talk about the books he’d read or the movies he watched. I never heard him talk about fishing, which he loved.

More than anything else, he talked about the mission projects he had been on. I’d hear him all the time reliving building projects he had participated in.

The night before he died, he was in this dream like state. He became very agitated and kept trying to get out of bed. Every time he’d try, Kay would tell him, “Jimmy, you can’t get out of bed. Whatever you need, just tell us. We’ll get it for you.” He still did it over and over again. He could barely stand up though.

Then my dad started saying, “Got to save one more for Jesus. Got to save one more for Jesus.” He said it over and over in front of my wife, my niece, and myself.

As I sat by my father’s bed, tears ran down my cheeks. I thanked God for a heritage of a father like that.

Then my dad frailly reached up his hands and put them on my head like a blessing as he said, “Reach one more for Jesus. One more for Jesus, one more for Jesus.”

I intend for that to be the theme for the rest of my life. It’s why I am committed to the very core to finishing the task of reaching all of the unreached people groups around the world. There is nothing more important than bringing God’s lost children back to him, building them up to maturity, training them for ministry, and sending them out on mission. I decided a long time ago I didn’t want to waste my life.

I’m addicted to seeing God change lives. I hope you are, too. That’s why we’re going to finish the task before us. And I hope you’ll attend the upcoming Finishing the Task conference at Saddleback.

Together, let’s reach one more for Jesus.

> Read more from Rick.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
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10 Leadership Skills Inherent in Missional Leadership

Leadership essentials…discipleship essentials. What’s the relationship?

You can lead and never actually make disciples.  But, you can never make disciples and not lead.

“Why didn’t we learn this stuff you are teaching us in our church when we were kids?”

Youth Week 2016-Camp Okoboji

The question was so honest, so raw. A teenager, learning to listen, to build conversations, to be curious…all in an effort to be an everyday missionary every day. His excitement over what he was learning quickly turned to a regret. Why didn’t someone teach him this earlier?

With all the focus on leadership in the church we have not been gaining Kingdom ground.  We don’t have a leadership void in the church today, we have a discipleship void.  The issues facing the church in America will not be settled by more advanced leadership training, or better run organizations, but by a dynamic movement of the Spirit as more and more people follow Jesus.  How will we get there?

By focusing on discipleship…leadership skills are “in there.”

As an emerging leader you can receive advanced leadership training in the church and not actually make disciples.  But, you can’t make disciples and not be growing in your advanced leadership skills.

You can lead and never actually make disciples.  But, you can never make disciples and not lead.

I think we may have missed the point.  Jesus never called us to leadership.  He called us to follow Him. The promise?  “I will make you fishers of men.”  Mark 1:17  And, as you fish for men, others will follow.  That’s leadership.

We don’t strive to learn leadership skills and build our leadership acumen so that we can run a “tighter ship” or more efficient organization.  We grow as leaders so that we can make disciples.  We invest time and energy into our craft as leaders so that we might join in the movement of God and see more and more people move from darkness to light to the glory of God and the benefit of the world.

When we focus on discipleship as first priority, leadership skills are caught.  Leadership essentials are discovered and lived out as we follow Jesus and join Him in making disciples. Leadership development and missional leadership are not at odds with each other.  Missional leadership demands the artful application of basic leadership skills.  Here’s a quick list of 10 basic leadership skills that have emerged in my own ministry over the years. And, by the way, am still learning them today as I follow Jesus:

10 Basic Leadership Skills Inherent in Missional Leadership

The Art of Following

How do you follow Jesus in this changing climate, and what are you learning from Him?

The Art of Obeying

Are you following through on what God is asking of you and allowing someone to hold you accountable?

The Art of Invitation

Who are you inviting to follow you as you follow Jesus?

The Art of Imitation

With whom are you “dwelling” so that they can see how you follow Jesus?

The Art of Fractal

Have you boiled down what you want replicated to the simplest, most basic form?

The Art of Replication

Do you have apprentices at every level of participation in your ministry?

The Art of Release

Are you controlling or freely sending others?

The Art of Focused-Support

Are you giving mandates and directive measures to those you lead, or are you helping them discover and own their own calling?

The Art of Vision Clarity

Can you answer with clarity the 5 core questions of visionary leadership for your missional context?

What are we doing?

 

Why are we doing it?

 

How are we doing it?

 

When are we successful?

 

Where is God leading us?

The Art of Execution

What are you doing every day to integrate those answers into the fabric of your ministry?

What missional leadership essentials would you add to the list?

> Read more from Jeff.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff Meyer

Jeff Meyer

I am Jeff Meyer, and I start fires. Ever since that basketball game in college when I came off the bench and lit a spark for my team, I have carried the nickname "Fire Meyer." (Until that point in my career my jersey #22 never saw the floor in an actual game. Perhaps the #22 was a symbol of my life calling: 2 Timothy 2:2?) I live to see sparks ignited and connections made. I long to see the church wake up and live. I long to see Jesus-followers display passionate commitment to Jesus. Jesus' invitation to follow Him was an adventure of epic proportions. Can we recapture that today? I long to see communities transformed into healthy places of wholeness. I believe that communities are transformed when Jesus-followers are stoked and respond. Perhaps you've heard it said that the church is the hope of the world. I believe that a responsive Jesus-follower is the hope of the world. "Igniting connections" is my way of setting off some inspirational sparks; sparks that ignite a passionate response to the call of Jesus.

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dmmsfrontiermissions — 11/12/18 9:23 pm

Great article. Thanks. Love this emphasis.

Kim William Coutts — 11/15/16 10:12 am

Many thanks Jeff. The American church must rediscover her roots in relational discipleship driven by her leaders. I intend to use your set of questions with our supported missionaries challenging each of them to go deeper and wider as disciples who make disciples. I appreciate you stoking my fire.

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What to Do When Your Faith Goes Stale

We never had the problem of stale chips and crackers when I was a kid. But that’s because I grew up in a part of the country where there was humidity about 3 days out of the year. But here in middle Tennessee, it’s a different story.

These days of summer are not just hot – they are thick. It can feel sometimes like walking around in a bowl of soup with a wool sweater wrapped around your face. And the chips and crackers in the house are one of the casualties.

You know that feeling? Of biting into something that’s supposed to satisfyingly crunch, and instead coming away with a mouthful of gummy mush? Here’s another question – does faith ever feel like that? It certainly does to me.

In an ideal world, our faith should have some edge to it. Some emotion. Some excitement. Some vital tingling that comes from knowing we have been rescued from the gravest danger imaginable with the best news possible. And to know that we live in perpetual safety because the grip of the Savior who holds us is mighty, mighty strong.

But there are days… even seasons… when what should be so joy-producing just seems stale. Soft. Punchy.

You bite into God’s Word, or prayer, or fellowship with the saints, and you feel… not very much. And you know deep inside of you that this is wrong, and you want it to be different. So what do you say to yourself during those times when your faith feels stale? Here are three things:

1. God’s affection for me has not grown stale.

One of my favorite gospel images comes in Jesus’ story of two prodigal sons. While the older son stayed at home under the guise of faithful service to the father, the younger son sought adventure and satisfaction elsewhere. Taking his inheritance early, the younger son abandoned the family and went to life his best life now in the far country. Eventually he came to awakening of everything he had sacrificed and began the long journey home. And when he finally gets within eyesight of his childhood home, his father meets him on the road, and that’s when we get the image.

The Bible says the Father, literally, “fell upon the neck” of the son. Despite his arrogance, despite his abandonment, despite his stale heart, the father’s affection had not grown cold. He still burned with love for his boy. What an image. And here we find ourselves. True enough, perhaps we haven’t exactly spent time in the far country. We may have actually been more like the older son, going through the motions of service all the while feeling less and less joy and more and more bitterness. But the affection of the father for both his sons is near palpable.

What an amazing thing to know – not just feel, but know – that God’s affection for you is rooted in the sure foundation of the gospel, not how much emotion you can gin up for Him. So when you feel your faith growing stale, stoke the fire a bit with the confidence that God is still ready to fall upon your neck.

2. Beware the lure of substitute joy.

The human heart is made to seek joy. We are crafted for enjoyment. But in our sin, we have sought that joy and fulfillment in false sources. As the prophet said, “For my people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves—cracked cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jer. 2:13). When we feel our faith growing stale, we often wish it was different. We long for the seasons when the feelings were stronger and the joy seemed greater. But we should also be aware – these days of staleness are precisely the moments when the lure of sin will be great.

Thirsty for joy, we will look to broken cisterns instead of to the fountain of living water. Speak it to your soul, Christian, and urge yourself to be on your guard because sin will find a foothold.

3. It will not always be this way.

And then there’s this. This wonderful news. When our faith seems to grow stale, we can remind ourselves that it will not always be this way.

Here’s a portion of John’s glorious revelation about the day when everything bad and wrong will be undone:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God” (Rev. 21:1-3).

This is the new day. When all things are made new. And “all things” include our elusive emotional lives. In the present day, we are fickle and rebellious. We know the right we should do, and we know the right we should feel. But we don’t. Far too often, we don’t feel as we should. But our glorification in Christ will include the setting in proper order of our emotions. We will value what is truly valuable. We will be satisfied by what is truly satisfying. We will feel what we ought to have been feeling all along. And this is good news.

A stale faith, if you recognize the error in it, is an opportunity to long for heaven when it’s not going to be this way any more.

So don’t give up, friend. Don’t give up if it feels a bit stale. Trust in what you know to be true – and in whom you know to be the source of truth, and keep going.

> Read more from Michael.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Kelley

I’m a Christ-follower, husband, dad, author and speaker. Thanks for stopping here to dialogue with me about what it means to live deeply in all the arenas of life. I live in Nashville, Tennessee, with my wife Jana who is living proof of the theory that males are far more likely to marry over their heads than females are. We have three great kids, Joshua (5) and Andi (3), and Christian (less than 1). They remind me on a daily basis how much I have to grow in being both a father and a child. I work full time for Lifeway Christian Resources, where I’m a Bible study editor. I also get out on the road some to speak in different churches, conferences and retreats.

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Growing People Beyond the Baptistry

One of the most exciting moments within the life of a church is when someone comes to know Jesus Christ as Savior. We celebrate having new believers in our churches, but are we leading them to become lifelong disciples of Jesus?

Are we helping them continue through the transformation process or are we leaving them in convert mode?

Conversion is not the end. It is the glorious beginning.

We have become masters at getting “decisions.” Conversion is a powerful event in the life of the believer. It is a great moment. But it isn’t the end of the game. Converting those decisions into disciples must be part of the church’s purpose.

Sometimes we put such an emphasis on that moment, we make people think that is all we are after. The not-so-funny joke is that some people are willing to receive Christ just so the pastor will leave them alone. Our goal is often for conversions. But God’s goal is for transformation, which really just begins at conversion.

Paul remarks in his letter to the Philippians (1:6), “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” Conversion is central to the beginning of new life, being relocated (spiritually) to another kingdom. Colossians 1:13 tells us that we are “transferred through the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the Son He loves.”

They have been born again, Jesus says in John 3. So there is now a spiritual life present now that was not present before. The Spirit of God dwells in them. They have new life. They are a new creation in Christ even as Christ in them is the “hope of glory.” But that event is not the end. It is a taste of the ongoing transformation that will come.

Spiritual growth should always follow spiritual birth.

How do we follow up for spiritual growth?

It’s a really bad idea to give birth to a baby and leave them on their own. We call that abandonment. People go to jail for that—and rightfully so. But I think sometimes we do that in church.

I call people to trust and respond to Christ every week in our church service. We ask them to share that decision through a card. Others use an altar call where new believers are connected with an established believer.

Whatever you use, it is at this point the process of partnership in spiritual growth is now stewarded to you and your church. We need to prioritize the discipling of anyone who has trusted Christ in our church.

When a church I helped start had ten people, I would meet with that person the same week. Now that our church has grown, I am not necessarily the person who meets with that new believer (unless they are in my neighborhood).

But in that context we grew to where we had dozens of groups that became the “under shepherds,” leading people into the spiritual growth process. Those groups were made of small group leaders—lay pastors in a sense—who were empowered to do the disciple making.

It is essential that someone connects with a new believer. As a matter of fact, I would say that there is no more important person in the life of the church, my church and yours, than the person who has just called upon the name of King Jesus for Salvation.

Spiritual mentoring creates a pathway to stabilization

Why is it so important to connect a new convert with someone who will walk through the spiritual growth process? More often than not people respond to Christ because they are in a life crisis, not just because they wake up feeling the need to be closer to Christ.

Adults who become Christians usually do so because of a challenging situation of some sort, and that means they probably need some help, and often need it fast.

A person who responds to Christ in a crisis then needs three types of stabilization, as I first heard from my friend Dan Morgan. And a journey companion can help with each of these.

Personal Stabilization – Most of the adults who I see trust Christ are doing so as their marriage is in trouble, or they’ve just had a drunk driving incident or whatever it may be. They need personal stabilization. Their personal life is spinning out of control. They are facing and making some crazy decisions. Becoming personally stable is part of what happens during spiritual transformation. So we have people in our church who can help with that.

Relational Stabilization – Now that they’ve become a believer they’re probably leaving behind some things and certain people behind who aren’t on board with their new life. These are usually people with whom they used to get into trouble, and some who helped them into the crisis God used to reach them. Losing friends and family can sometimes be part of following Jesus—not because that is our desire, but sometimes because the old friends aren’t too keen about that new life. But, either way, it isn’t easy. So they need people who can help with relational stabilization.

Doctrinal Stabilization – The unregenerated person does not think properly about God, life, truth, etc. So part of the discipleship process is renewal of our mind. We know “all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) So the convert will definitely need to exchange their belief system for God’s truth. However, most follow up only focuses on doctrinal stabilization.

Yes, let’s teach them what they need to know, but there may be some other stabilization that needs to take place first. Eventually good doctrine will help sustain them through crisis. But in a crisis, a whole new set of truths is not the only thing that is needed.

Spiritual mentoring is follow-up that encourages following.

This piece won’t answer every question, but I mainly want to remind us all that we need to immediately help people grow—and to do so through a process.

Every church needs a pathway which will provide direction for their discipleship plan, and also show how they grow together as a church. So we want them to travel on the pathway—maybe through classes, intentional relationships, a workbook, and more. But particularly when they’re older we want to recognize there’s probably a lot of instability we need to engage.

Part of that process has to involve people. The best thing you can offer a new believer is an older believer. It doesn’t have to be someone older in age, but rather someone who has been walking with Jesus for a longer period of time and experienced ongoing life-transformation themselves.

> Read more from Ed.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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Why Minding Community is Better than Finding It

One of the great myths of relational life is that community is something found. In this fairy tale, community is simply out there – somewhere – waiting to be discovered like Prince Charming finding Cinderella. All you have to do is find the right person, join the right group, get the right job or become involved with the right church. It’s kind of an “Over the Rainbow” thing; it’s not here, so it must be over there.

Which is why so many people – and you’ve seen them and probably flirted with this yourself – go from relationship to relationship, city to city, job to job, church to church, looking for the community that they think is just around the corner if they could only find the right people and the right place. The idea is that real community exists somewhere and we simply must tap into it. It’s not something you have to work at; in fact, if you have to work at it, then you know it’s not real community.

This mindset runs rampant in our day. If you have to work at community in a marriage, you must not be right for each other. If you have to work on community where you are employed, you’ve got a bad boss or bad coworkers or a bad structure. If you have to work at community in a neighborhood, you just picked the wrong subdivision. If you have to work on things with people in a church, well, there are obviously just problems with the church or its leadership or… yep, its “community.”

I cannot stress enough how soundly unrealistic, much less unbiblical, this is. Community is not something you find; it’s something you build. What you long for isn’t about finding the right mate, the right job, the right neighborhood, the right church—it’s about making your marriage, making your workplace, making your neighborhood and making your church the community God intended. Community is not something discovered; it is something forged. I don’t mean to suggest any and all relationships are designed for, say, marriage. Or that there aren’t dysfunctional communities you should flee from. My point is that all relationships of worth are products of labor.

This is why the Bible talks about people needing to form and make communities, not just come together as a community or “experience” community. It’s why principles are given – at length – for how to work through conflict. It’s why communication skills are articulated in the Bible and issues such as anger are instructed to be dealt with. It’s why the dynamics of successfully living with someone in the context of a marriage or family are explored in depth. As the author of Hebrews puts it so plainly:

So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet… run for it! Work at getting along with each other. (Hebrews 12:12-14, The Message)

> Read more from James.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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Developing the Mature Mind of Christ

God wants you to grow up.

“God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love – like Christ in everything” (Ephesians 4:15 The Message).

“We are not meant to remain as children ….” (Ephesians 4:14 Phillips).

Your heavenly Father’s goal is for you to mature and develop the characteristics of Jesus Christ, living a life of love and humble service.  Sadly, millions of Christians grow older but never grow up.  They are stuck in perpetual spiritual infancy, remaining in diapers and booties. The reason is because they never intended to grow.

Spiritual growth is not automatic. It takes an intentional commitment. You must want to grow, decide to grow, make an effort to grow, and persist in growing.

Discipleship – the process of becoming like Christ – always begins with a decision.

“As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him” (Matthew 9:9 ESV).

When the first disciples chose to follow Jesus, they didn’t understand all the implications of their decision. They simply responded to Jesus’ invitation. That’s all you need to get started: decide to become a disciple.

Nothing shapes your life more than the commitments you choose to make. Your commitments can develop you or they can destroy you, but either way, they will define you. Tell me what you are committed to, and I’ll tell you what you’ll be in 20 years. We become whatever we are committed to.

It is at this point of commitment that most people miss God’s purpose for their lives.  Many are afraid to commit to anything and just drift through life. Others make half-hearted commitments to competing values, which leads to frustration and mediocrity. Others make a full commitment to worldly goals, such as becoming wealthy or famous, and end up disappointed and bitter. Every choice has eternal consequences, so you’d better choose wisely.

“Since everything around us is going to melt away, what holy, godly lives you should be living!” (2 Peter 3:11 NLT).

Christlikeness comes from making Christlike commitments. You must commit to living the rest of your life for the five purposes God made. Jesus summarized these purposes in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

A great commitment
to the Great Commandment
and the Great Commission
will make you a great Christian.

Once you decide to get serious about becoming like Christ, you must begin to act in new ways. You’ll need to let go of some old routines, develop some new habits, and intentionally change the way you think.

“Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12 NIV).

This verse shows the two parts of spiritual growth: “work out” and “work in.”  The “work out” is your responsibility and the “work in” is God’s role.  Spiritual growth is a collaborative effort between you and the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit works with us, not just in us.

This verse, written to believers, is not about how to be saved, but how to grow. It does not say “work for” your salvation, because you can’t add anything to what Jesus already did! During a physical workout, you exercise to develop your body, not to get a body.

When you “work out” a puzzle, you already have all the pieces – your task is to put it together. Farmers work the land, not to get land, but to develop what they already have. God has given you a new life; now you are responsible to develop it “with fear and trembling.” That is to take your spiritual growth seriously, because it will determine your role in eternity. When people are casual about their growth in Christlikeness, it shows they don’t understand the implications.

To change your life, you must change the way you think. Behind everything you do is a thought. Every behavior is motivated by a belief, and every action is prompted by an attitude. God revealed this thousands of years before psychologists understood it:

“Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts” (Proverbs 4:23 GNT).

Imagine riding in a speedboat on a lake with an automatic pilot set to go east. If you decide to reverse and head west, you have two possible ways to change the boat’s direction.  One way is to grab the steering wheel and physically force it to head in the opposite direction that the autopilot is programmed to go. By sheer willpower, you could overcome the autopilot, but you’d feel constant resistance. Your arms would eventually tire of the stress, you’d let go of the steering wheel, and the boat would instantly head back east, the way it was internally programmed.

This is what happens when you try to change your life with willpower: You say “I’ll force myself to eat less. . .stop smoking. . .quit being disorganized and late.” Yes, willpower can produce short-term change, but it creates constant internal stress because you haven’t dealt with the root cause. The change doesn’t feel natural.

Eventually you give up, and go off the diet. There is a better and easier way: Change your autopilot – the way you think.

“Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Romans 12:2 NLT).

Your first step in spiritual growth is to start changing the way you think. Change always starts first in your mind. The way you think determines the way you feel, and the way you feel influences the way you act.

“Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes” (Ephesians 4:23 NLT).

To be like Christ you must develop the mind of Christ. The New Testament calls this mental shift “repentance,” which in Greek literally means “to change your mind.” To repent means to change the way you think – about God, yourself, sin, other people, life, your future, and everything else. You adopt Christ’s outlook and perspective on life.

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5 NIV). 

There are two parts to thinking like Jesus. The first half of this mental shift is to stop thinking immature thoughts, which are self-centered and self-seeking.  Babies, by nature, are completely selfish. They think only of themselves. That is immature thinking.

“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things” (Romans 8:5 NLT).

“Stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults” (1 Corinthians 14:20 NIV).

The second half of thinking like Jesus is to start thinking maturely, which focuses on others, not yourself. In his great chapter on what real love is, Paul concluded that thinking of others is the mark of maturity: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:11 NIV).

Today, many assume that spiritual maturity is measured by how much biblical knowledge and doctrine you know. While knowledge is one measurement of maturity, it isn’t the whole story. The Christian life is far more than creeds and convictions; it includes conduct and character. Our deeds must be consistent with our creeds and our beliefs must be backed up with Christlike behavior.

Christianity is not a philosophy, but a relationship and a life, where we practice thinking of others as Jesus did:

“We should think of their good and try to help them by doing what pleases them” (Romans 15:2 CEV).

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (Philippians 2:3-4 NLT).

Thinking of others is the heart of Christlikeness and the goal of spiritual growth.  This kind of thinking is unnatural, countercultural, and rare. The only way we will learn to think this way is by filling our minds with the Word of God.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
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Clarity Process

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