The Importance of Discipleship and Growth P5

 

“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” Psalm 37:5-7

Obedience will override our feelings so that we will remain steadfast and secure. 

We are all called to put our faith into practice. We can now take the relationships, mentoring, and learning, and carry them out in daily life. This is often expressed in service projects and missions, but that is only a small, although necessary aspect of service. Service is how we daily live our lives, modeling His character to those around us. When we are in ministry, we need to realize, it is not what we do, but whom we can equip. As we practice by reciprocating what we have learned to others, we will also be built up. We are called to build a network of relationships so we can build one another up in the faith through friendship and mentoring.

The Word must touch who we are and transform the very core of our being.

We cannot lead others to Him when we do not know the way, and, in order to know the way, we must have knowledge. Knowledge comes from experience, and experience comes from discipleship. The will of God is that we study His Word which will change our behavior.

A real impacted Christian, especially a leader in the church, must have the knowledge and experience to put into practice the work that needs to be done. The disciple will be studious so that the Word nourishes them. They must study and apply the Scriptures, not just read them occasionally, like a novel. The Word must touch who we are and transform the very core of our being. This is the knowledge that leads and transforms.

From the character of Christ comes the conduct of Christ-if we choose to follow Him.

Then, the values of our daily walk, those which drive our behaviors, will, in turn, influence others. You cannot lead where you have not been, or when you do not know the direction to go. This is why discipleship is so essential to the aspect of being a Christian, especially a witness.

We are called, not to just visualize faith and discipleship, but to do it, not to just read about it, but to do it, and not to just talk about it, but to do it. One cannot just think about dinner and satisfy hunger; the meal has to be gathered, prepared, and then eaten. The effective church will take Scripture and the call of our Lord seriously, gather, prepare, and then put it all into practice so we partake of His feast.

What do you consider to be the key to finding and developing faith?

A worship-centered heart will help create a church that grows because it is also poured out to Christ and effective in the community, a lighthouse of God’s love and care through prayer and action to the world. 

Some passages to consider: Psalm 119:89-90; John 3:30; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

How to be a Capable Leader

There is no substitute to time spent in the face of our Lord! 

The capable leader for any church or ministry must be rooted in Christ first and foremost! Like a Bible student who is and grounded in the spiritual disciplines of the faith, whose drive is their passionate love relationship to the Lordship of Christ which give the knowledge base and empowerment for ministry. And what flows out of it is the desire to love God’s people, to herd them with love into the pastures of maturity. To lead where the leader has been before, and the people have not been. The mature Christian or leader must exhibit the maturity of the Christian life as the result of their growth and experience in the faith. An effective leader cannot be new to the faith. Even the Apostle Paul spent three years being discipled by Barnabas, and he received his call and was empowered directly from Christ Himself. I have seen too many immature Christians who lead by who they are in society, and not who they are in Christ.

A few years ago while on staff at a church, we received a family who came to faith at a crusade, and the father was the founder of a major fast food franchise. So in less than a year he was my boss, and the president and ruling Elder of the congregation. Now he was a great guy and very successful in business, but he did not know how to run a church. So he instinctually ran it like a business and his policies failed. He did not know how to lead in a church, which is more like a family and less like a business and much different than in a corporation, even though a lot of the principles are transferable. After several years he did become a good leader as he matured in the faith. But the church suffered during his learning curve needlessly.

There is no substitute to time spent in the face of our Lord, with a surrendered heart and a learning will. We must be willing to be humble no matter who we are and our experience.

I had to learn this lesson a few years back when I went from being on staff at a large and influential church to a small church in a small town. My first thought before accepting the call was that I was too good for it. But God wanted me there to teach me to walk closer to him, and not walk in the position that I held. So I did, and I experienced humbleness. Nobody knew me as the conference speaker or author or big position in a big church, but just a youth pastor in a small church. But this is where Christ wanted me, and I learned a lot. It prepared me for the road He had for me. And I’m glad I went there because I learned things in a broader context, that I could not have in a large “mega” church.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.

Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. (2 Timothy 2:15-16; 22-24)

This passage is a testimony to the importance of holiness, and to keep ourselves growing in our spiritual lives so that our emotional selves are impacted and grow too.

Spiritual maturity will lead into emotional maturity most of the time, unless there is some physiological or psychological problem, or deep stress that has never been resolved. It is imperative for the leader to be in control of their emotional health. If not, they need to step down and seek help both spiritually and psychologically. If the leader is given to fits of rage or is just overly emotional, they cannot set the example that Christ has. We are not to be Vulcan’s exhibiting pure logic and no emotions, absolutely not. God created us as emotional beings, but as with anything we must have control of the excess and the potential for rampage.

What are the best interests for your church?

 

We usually do not like to submit in American culture; we think it is against our best interests. But, think this through a bit. In Scripture, the wife is in submission as a response to the husband’s love for her, his provision, and his having her best interest and care at heart. It is like our response of the fruit of our service to Christ because of His love for us and because of His free gift of grace. We do not earn salvation for our service; rather, it is a fruit of our gratitude. In the same way, this is how submission works. It is not to be forced, but offered freely in response to love. It is something we replicate as we respond in kindness, so our response to one another fuels the other’s response, and so forth. In this way, we are escalating love and kindness instead of repression and dysfunction. In like manner, we are to run our churches this way; the context of the Ephesians passage indicates the Church. 

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:19-20 

Christ and the church are the prime models for us in a lifelong commitment of a monogamous marriage. So, the Church needs to be that model, monogamous in Christ; He is to be our One Mate. If our church breaks down in its fruit production, so will our families and then so will our society. Remember, Jesus did not give up on us when things went from bad to worse. His grace, forgiveness, and perseverance came through. It is the model relationship for the home, for loving of children, and for the fellowships and relationships we are to have. The church is the bride of Christ, and He loves her. Your church will either fall or grow depending on how you and the leaders model righteousness, love, commitment, and holiness. These fruits are to be practiced and exercised in the best and fullest way possible!

How is your churches compassion, care?

 

The theme of submission to God is understating His love that covers and protects and in turn helps us relate to others more harmoniously. Real submission brings about closeness when it is formed from love. If it is subjugated, such a barrier to God is formed that, according to Peter, even our prayers will not be heard. Thus, compassion, care, and love pave the way to effective, relational harmony and blessing from God. Pride and our strong-willed attitudes set up a barrier, making all we do ineffective, destructive, and meaningless while also creating distrust and suspicion that breeds disharmony and creates gossip. If we want God to be attentive to us, we must do our part by being attentive to others without iniquity. Harmony in Scripture means to show peace in all situations. It is sympathetic, meaning we understand and identify with another person, putting ourselves in their shoes so we can have real compassion. We are called to bless and do good to those who do not like us; when we pay someone back to get even, we only end up escalating the issue and thus hurting ourselves and usurping God’s authority to judge. This does not mean we are to endure abuse or unlawful actions; rather, it has to do with our attitude. It is a balance between the exercise of the Fruit of the Spirit and the setting up of boundaries to protect us. 

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18 

The bottom line is this: be considerate in all that you do, to whomever is in your life, showing love as if they have forgotten what Christ and the Fruit of the Spirit are all about. We must see gossip as the antithesis of who Christ is and what Christian living is all about. If we are healthy in Christ, let us show it by demonstrating the work that He did in us. To make this point in part of the Ephesians passage, “Husbands, love your wives,” the verb for “love” (Greek: agapete) designates a continuous routine of action all of the time, not just when one feels like it. Christ loved the church not because it was holy, but in order to make it holy! Thus, we are not only called to know Him more and build our relationship in Him, but also to work at keeping our relationship with others within those parameters of love, submission, and commitment. Even if you make mistakes, misuse your words, and/or manipulate others through impatience, wrong thinking, desires, and/or sin, you still have the call and opportunity to make it right so the church can be better!

Is the Love of Christ in your Church?

 

If you want to be successful as a church you must be willing and able to love! And… real love takes us beyond ourselves!  

How many of us have ever ventured into a church that was filled with unkindness, where we were ignored or even mistreated? As a pastor, I engage in a tough battle to make sure my flock behaves so that Christ would be pleased. I can try my best to set an example and I can try to teach them to behave by showing them and doing my best to model the words of our Lord, but I cannot force them to behave. Real, authentic, Christian love only comes from our real, authentic, Christian formation, which comes from genuine discipleship. Why is this important? If someone is not growing in the Lord, then they are not willing or able to treat others with love and respect. Care, compassion, and love will be moot, and the church will become that annoying noise of 1 Corinthians 13, modeling what love is not rather that what it is. That church will become a club of stubborn pride, devoid of harmony and brotherly love.I do not believe any of us really want that. 

How loving are we?  

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2

The problem tends to be that we come across as unloving people! Even a good church is not always as loving and a caring as it should be. This comes down to a spiritual problem, a disconnect between what we are practicing and what we profess to believe. We may say and believe His precepts of love and care, but has His Truth transformed and renewed us deeply, on both the inside and out? If your church is having problems (and all do at times), it comes down to the fact of our faith. We will only obey God to the point that we trust Him. When we know He is faithful with us, we can be faith-worthy in Him to do a better job at being a steward of His Church. The solution is to be more loving. And, we do this by further growing in Him, then modeling so others can catch on to what they should be—Christians functioning in Him and from Him. 

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  Ephesians 5:15-17

When we are unloving, it is because we are unsubmissive. Submission is respect, and the honoring of the will of God and righteousness. As an example, submission is never an excuse to batter or put one’s spouse down in any way. In the Ephesians passage, the directive to husbands is even more daunting than the one given to the wives. Husbands are called to love, which is much greater in importance and prominence than submission! Love is what sets the tone and standard for the relationship—our relationship with God, with family, and with others in the church too.