encouraging young leaders to create environments that invite people to new life in Christ // thoughts from Rick Duncan, founding pastor and pastor of Missional Living and Leadership Development at Cuyahoga Valley Church // Rick is now accepting a limited number of speaking engagements, please check with his assistant, Elena Golsch, for opportunities. email@example.com
What do the clubs in your golf bag have to do with discipleship? I once heard Tony Merida (www.tonymerida.net) share an illustration about discipling, the putter, and the driver that has me thinking about effective discipleship strategy and the rest of the clubs in your bag.
A golf bag has lots of clubs. The best golfers master them all to become winners. But it's what you do around the greens with the short irons, wedges, and putters that turn an average pro into a great one.
A Discipler better have lots of ways to accomplish disciple-making, too. But he/she better have great skill in up close and personal disciple-making skills to be an excellent Discipler.
How do we know that? Jesus discipled people in lots of environments. He used every club in His bag! But He focused on and excelled in up close and personal disciple-making.
Compare Jesus' disciple-making strategy to the use of the clubs in your golf bag.
The driver: Jesus spoke to the thousands (Matthew 5).
The fairway woods: He appeared to 500 (I Corinthians 15).
The long irons: Jesus had a loyal following of 120 (Acts 1).
The mid-range irons: He sent the 72 out two-by-two (Luke 10).
The wedge: Jesus chose the 12 to be with Him (Matthew 10).
The putter: Jesus majored in a one-on-three "huddle" relationship with Peter, James, and John (Matthew 17).
Jesus discipled people by the thousands and the threes and everything in between.
In golf, if you want to win, you better become proficient in using every club in the bag! In the spiritual life, if you want to grow disciples, you better become proficient in many differing discipling contexts/environments/group sizes.
But remember: You drive for show but putt for dough. That means: preach and teach powerfully to the crowds, but don't you dare neglect the 1 on 3 huddle!
“The one who
conquers will be clothed… in white garments, and I will never blot his name out
of the book of life. I will confess his name before My Father and before His
angels.He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit
says to the churches” (Revelation 3:5-6).
Two Sundays ago, I preached my
heart out at 5 weekend services at CVC. After one of the services, I made my way
to our guest reception when a young man, in front of about 6-7 CVCers, greeted
me with... "Chad, right?"
Chad is our new Lead Pastor, the
man that I passed the leadership baton to back in September, 2012.
I smiled at the “Chad, right?” guy
and said, "I will answer to whatever you want to call me!" People laughed.
Inside, though, I must admit that
I felt an "ouch." And that "ouch" betrayed an
"ugh" in my heart.
I thought I was beyond it or above
it, but I sinfully found myself wanting recognition and appreciation for being
the founding pastor of CVC. It’s fleshly, I know, but I felt slighted that someone
didn’t know me and my history here are CVC.
That “ugh” is pretty ugly.
As I have reflected on the
internal ugliness of that "ouch" and "ugh," I am convinced
that God is working in me to help me not get my identity from CVC, but from the
sent our team a blog post from Paul Tripp that speaks to these issues. The post
is entitled Pastoral Ministry is War.
inertia of sin leads away from God’s purpose and glory toward my purpose and
glory, as long as sin is inside of me there will be temptation in ministry to
exchange God’s glory for my own. In ways that are subtle and not so subtle, I
begin to pursue the accoutrements of human glory. Things like appreciation,
reputation, success, power, comfort, and control become all too important.
Because they are too important to me, they begin to shape the way I think about
ministry, the things I want out of my ministry, and the things I do in
forget the gospel, you begin to seek from the situations, locations, and
relationships of ministry what you have already been given in Christ. You begin
to look to ministry for identity, security, hope, well-being, meaning, and
purpose. These are things you will only ever find vertically. They are already
yours in Christ. So you have to fight to give the gospel presence in your
Paul Tripp!Thank you.
We must decrease so He can
increase. I know that from John 3:30. I have preached it. Now, can I live
O Lord my God, I know these truths in my mind.
Please move them 18 inches lower from my mind to my heart. Please. Remind me that
what matters is not whether I am called Rick or Chad or anything else. What
matters is that there is a new name reserved in heaven for me – one that will
be known only to Jesus and me. Make me long more and more for that day and that
name, Lord Jesus! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
You cannot profess to be a disciple of Christ without being a Discipler. Jesus commanded His disciples to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).
I have friends in ministry who are very passionate about discipleship, but their model for discipling is one dimensional and doesn't really follow the pattern set down for us by Jesus.
Some of my friends who have been trained by ministries like the Navigators and Cru think that it's not really discipleship unless it's done in a one-on-one relationship. While I have personally benefitted greatly from both prominent ministries, I think "it's-not-discipling-unless-it's-one-on-one" is a view that is short-sighted and minimizes the communal aspects necessary for effective discipling. One-on-one discipling is not the Jesus way.
Jesus discipled people in lots of environments. He spoke to the thousands (Matthew 5). He appeared to 500 (I Corinthians 15). He had a loyal following of 120 (Acts 1). He sent the 72 out two-by-two (Luke 10). He chose the 12 to be with Him (Matthew 10). He also had a one-on-three relationship with Peter, James, and John (Matthew 17). Jesus discipled people by the thousands and the threes and everything in between.
We don't really see too much one-on-one discipling in the New Testament. We do see Jesus restoring Peter one-on-one in John 21. But even a quick reading of that encounter reveals that another follower, John, was not too far away. Evidently, Jesus' one-on-one restoration of Peter flowed out of and then back into a group setting.
Could it be that believers for the last 60 years have missed the discipling model that Jesus gave us by over-emphasizing the one-on-one model of discipleship? The Bible has no record of Jesus in any long-term discipling relationship that's one-on-one. Jesus invested in groups, particularly the 72, the 12, and the 3.
Intense discipling - deep-dive discipleship - for Jesus seemed to have happened best in what could be called a huddle - an intimate group of 3 followers: Peter, James, and John.
These three always head the list of the 12 disciples (Mark 3:16, 17; Acts 1:13; sometimes with Andrew and Matthew 10:2; Luke 6:14). These three had been among the first ones chosen by Christ to make up the twelve. They had been previously associated in the fishing trade (Luke 5:10). Repeatedly, they are mentioned as the three-some who accompanied the Lord in unique situations (Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 5:35-43; Mark 14:32-42). They were leaders among leaders.
Peter, James and John appear together five times in the gospels: as the audience (along with Andrew) for the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31), at the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51), at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1; Mark 9:2; Luke 9:28), for Jesus’ message about the last days (Mark 13:3), and in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33).
If we are going to disciple like Jesus, then we must find three people into which we can pour our lives deeply. Think about it. Jesus spent most of His time with twelve and the majority of that time with three.
So, what is a huddle? What happens in a huddle? I am grateful for Mike Breen and his book, Building a Discipleship Culture, for many of the following thoughts.
... are groups of 3 people plus the leader that imitate Jesus' discipling relationship with Peter, James, and John
... are created for deeper discipling of current or future leaders
... are attended by invitation only
... are formed through a natural affinity between the leader and the members
... are environments that are caring, open, honest, confidential, accountable, challenging, relaxed, and fun
... are established for a one year commitment that can be renewed as needed
... are asking and answering 2 primary questions: 1) What is God saying to me? and 2) What am I going to do about it?
... are focused on producing the New Testament profile of a disciple
... are able to multiply organically over time
... are closed groups
... are relationships where leaders challenge and inspire members by speaking the truth in love
... are relationships so connected that 100% attendance is expected
... are directed in jazz-like fashion by the leader under the direction of the Spirit as the leader evaluates the needs of the group and needs of the individuals in the group
... are effective because they utilize the wisdom, insights, and challenges of the group rather than the leader only
... are successful since members watch the leader disciple others in the group and, therefore, learn discipling skills by observation
... are leveraging group accountability rather than simple one-on-one accountability or a watered-down small group accountability
... are maximizing a leader's time in that he/she disciples 3 at a time rather than just one
... are motivating for people since attendance is by invitation only from someone who cares deeply about them and then personally challenges each person to max out as a beloved child of God
So, who are the 3 people that you think God wants you to disciple - to share your new life in Christ with? When will you invite them join you on your journey?
What does being a missionary look like in America in the 21st Century? What does it mean to be a Christian in a world that is disenchanted with our movement?
The perceptions that many, many people have about Christians are incredibly negative. Non-Christians perceive us as judgmental, hypocritical, and too political.
When you encounter non-Christians as work, in the coffee shop, on the campus, in your neighborhood, at weekend parties, or working out at the gym, how do you engage them?
What kind of America are we living in?
Pluralism: We are living in a pluralistic society where all faiths have a seat at the table. Muslims roll out their mats at airports. Buddhists build their temples in the suburbs. America has become the world’s most religiously diverse nation.
Post-modern: We are living in a post-modern world where many, many people resist a unified, all-encompassing explanation of the way things are. When we say we have the answers to life’s greatest problems, our culture says, “Yeah, right.”
Post-Christian: We are living in a post-Christian world. The church is seen as peripheral. We have less and less influence in our communities. The days of the power of the Religious Right and the Moral Majority are over. Our culture is less and less influenced by Christianity every day. There is more religious skepticism and less institutional trust. Is it any wonder, then, that the church is not as influential as it once was?
It’s a world where people are saying:
“It doesn't really matter what we believe as long as we are sincere." "We all believe in the same God just by different names." "All paths lead to heaven."
We must not waste our time mourning over what was – over what we’ve lost. We must focus on what is and envision what can and will be!
So, what should we do as believers? How now shall we live?
I've noticed that believers seem to swing between one of two extremes. We're passive; some of us choose not to do anything. Or we're abusive; some of us blast out at those who we perceive are the problem. Both extremes kill the Missional Living impulse.
God's word asks us to live a third way. We must connect before we correct.
Remember, you can win the argument, but lose the battle. As one of my married friends, Nate Green, says, "You can be right, but still sleep on the couch!"
Our attitude and approach to people and to culture must be just as biblical as our beliefs lest we alienate the very ones we have been called to reach.
In our pluralistic, tolerant culture, we must stand firm on the foundation that there is one truth, one God, and one way of salvation through Christ. But because Jesus is for everyone, we must connect before we correct as we live as Missionaries in this culture.
In the book, The Next Christians, Gabe Lyons points out that MIssional Living today can't utilize old forms of evenagelism. He quotes Billy Graham to make the point, “Today, I sense something different is happening. I see evidence that the Holy Spirit is working in a new way. He’s moving through people where they work and through one-on-one relationships to accomplish great things. They are demonstrating God’s love to those around them, not just with words, but in deeds.”
We can respond to a pluralistic, tolerant relativist in several ways. Which best describes you?
The Coexist-er. We cave in. We start buying the arguments of the pluralists. We adopt thier world view.
The Shoulder-shrug-er. We don't know what to do. We're confused. So we do nothing and say nothing.
The Megaphonist. We debate. We fight. We find ourselves fighting, not for the souls of the other, but in the culture wars. We scream at our relativistic friends. We post alienating things on Facebook.
The Back-turn-er. We give up. We don't care about the eternal destiny of the others. We are too busy with our own agendas and lives.
The Conversationist. We engage. We ask questions. We want to hear their story. We want to know why they believe what they believe. We are curious. We offer our relationship not based on their acceptance of our views. We stay connected and engaged.
I think it's clear which approach is the best!
CVC's Lead Pastor, Chad Allen, says it well: “If we truly want to help people navigate out of religious myths, it’s best done through a caring relational connection. The best communication is eye to eye and heart to heart. We don’t have a license to be rude, obnoxious or insensitive. Soul care for others is demonstrated through genuine listening and graceful speaking. Care in communication leads the content of communication.”
So, who is it that you know who needs to come to the knowledge of the truth? Are you there for him – for her? Everybody needs someone. Will you take his hand/her hand? He’s lonesome. She’s lonely.
Sure, she’s prone to doubt. But give it just a little time. Share a meal. Make her your friend. Talk. Share. Laugh. Love. Live in community. Don’t be shy. Talk a while. And watch the walls fall down.
Because Christ is for everyone, we connect before we correct.
Last night I taught a mini-seminar on evangelism to our mission team headed to West Virginia. Part of what I taught was how to write and share our stories - our testimonies - of coming to faith in Christ.
It's especially tricky sharing a childhood conversion story.
Below is how a ministry called the Navigators taught me to put it together my childhood conversion story. You might want to try it this way.
1) Start with a current issue that you are facing that you think others might be facing, too. Create a bit of tension by moving from talking about "me" to talking about "we."
2) Go back to tell about when you trusted Christ. Be sure to share facts about the gospel.
3) Come back to the present and share how Christ is helping you deal with the current issue that you are facing.
Below is my story that might give you a better idea of how you could organize yours if yours is a childhood conversion, too.
Rick Duncan's story
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a winner – to succeed. I was pretty good at baseball, a pretty good student, and, as a kid, a pretty good musician. Somehow, I started to believe that to get the approval and applause of important people in my life – parents, coaches, teachers – I had to perform at a pretty high level.
So, I became driven. For many years, I was able to keep up the façade of competence. I received a scholarship to play baseball in college. After graduation, I spent a few years playing baseball professionally. I was seen as one of the good guys. I got married and started a family.
Then, I went into the ministry as a career. I thought, “I didn’t make it to the major leagues in baseball, but I’ll make it to the major leagues as a minister, as a husband, as a dad.” Deep inside, I felt like I didn’t quite measure up – like I didn’t quite do anything good enough.
The pressure to perform began to take its toll. Life wasn’t as enjoyable or restful as it should have been. I wasn’t truly life-giving for the people around me.
As a child, my parents made sure they took me to church. I learned that having a personal relationship with Jesus can give you peace and purpose as well as eternal life. I knew I had broken God’s laws and deserved to be separated from Him forever. I knew God sent His Son, Jesus, to live a perfect life and to die on the cross to forgive me. I knew that He rose and that if I confessed my sins and trusted Jesus, He would forgive me and send His Holy Spirit to live in me and change me.
So, one night, I told my dad I wanted to receive Jesus. He led me to pray, “Dear Jesus, I know I have sinned. I believe You came and died on the cross to forgive me. Come into my heart and change me. Help me be who You want me to be.”
I believe He changed me that night. But I unnecessarily carried that performance-based baggage for many years. No matter how well things went in my life or ministry, I wasn’t satisfied. I thought, “I’ll have to do better next time.” I wanted to be “big league” in everything. It wasn’t a good way to live.
God began to teach me more about what it means to be loved unconditionally by Him. Someone encouraged me to go to some counseling training. I thought that I was going to learn to help others. Instead, I gained a whole lot of insight about myself – how I was driven by a desire to be seen as competent. Later, I read what God has to say about how to find true significance in life and about how to live with the pressure off.
I still want to succeed and win. But I can honestly say that it’s becoming more and more about God and less and less about me.
Now I realize that I have great worth apart from my performance – apart from my success or lack of it – simply because Christ gave His life for me and imparted great value to me. No matter how badly I perform, I know that I am deeply loved and fully pleasing to God. The pressure is off. And I’m enjoying ministry and life more than ever.
There are times when I still fall into old patterns of life. Sometimes, my relationships and my career don’t go the way I want them to go. And I often blame myself for things I didn’t do or for things I did. The pressure to perform perfectly starts to mount.
But during those times, I often remind myself that Jesus is my friend, my Savior who says, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
One of our attenders at CVC is a missionary cleverly disguised as a businessman. One of his manufacturer’s reps was in his office on Monday to discuss a very complex audio conferencing system that he's integrating for a customer. When they were finished with business, the conversation turned to tech, family, hobbies, and… faith.
His company's rep attends a Universal Unitarian church, which is the epitome of tolerance. They ended up having a great discussion about God, Jesus, science, creation… It just blew the CVCer's mind that he was talking to this guy the very day after a message at CVC in our Religious Myths series on the topic of tolerance.
He wants to discuss how he can share Christ in effective ways with his Unitarian Universalist friend. He really wants to be able to show Christ’s love for people, respect their views, but successfully lead them to Jesus.
I sent him some ideas to help. Maybe the ideas might help you reach a friend - even if he/she isn't a Unitarian Universalist.
7 steps to share Christ with a Unitarian Universalist
I would encourage you to pray daily for your Unitarian Universalist friend. "Speak to God about men before you speak to men about God." You can use II Timothy 2:24 as a basis for prayer.
Set up some offsite social time to build a friendship with him. What does he like to do? Play tennis? Hike? Play golf? Ride a bike? Find some common ground. Paul said, "I become all things to all men so that I might win some." In this stage of the relationship, you are seeking to build a bridge over which you can one day carry the gospel.
Ask a lot of questions about his life and his world view. Try to understand his story. Don't react to every non-biblical statement he makes. Don't make your relationship a debate. He already knows you are a Christian, right? Find common ground. Surprise him with your focus on your relationship with Jesus, not on the rules of religion. He's probably expecting a debate. Surprise him by not giving him one. Don't take the bait from him if he is itching for a debate. Answer questions he asks very simply and directly, but then turn it right back onto him with another question about him.
Reflect on his beliefs to understand why he came to see the world and God the way he does. Read a good theology (Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology) and a good book on apologetics (Tim Keller's The Reason for God) so you can see where and how his world view is faulty. Equip yourself to be ready to give and answer for the hope that is in you (I Peter 3:15). This will give you even more fuel to pray for him.
Share your story. People can debate doctrine. But they can't debate your experience. If he's a true relativist, then he should say, "I'm glad that truth works for you, Matt." Make sure Jesus, not religion, is the hero of your story!
When the Spirit gives you the green light, tell His story. Keeping in mind all you have learned about your friend's worldview, tell the simple gospel and answer his objections as you speak about Creation, Fall, Rescue, and Restoration. Show that Jesus is the One who restores the broken, answers his questions, frees from guilt, grants forgiveness, demonstrates perfect love as well as justice, and gives us supernatural power. Keep the conversation focused on the cross and resurrection. He must answer Jesus' question: "Who do you say that I am?" The response, "A great teacher and moral leader" isn't an option as the "trilema" (made famous by C.S. Lewis and Josh McDowell) teaches. Jesus is either liar, Lord, or lunatic.
Stay in relationship. Keep praying. Be patient. This is likely going to be a long process. He needs to see you living a genuine Christian life over the long haul. He's probably never seen that. He needs to see you apply biblical truth in your own struggles and pain. He needs to see your generosity, sacrifice, and service. He needs to see you on mission. He needs to see you loving your family. Be there when something falls apart in his life. When he hits a wall and you are there in loving relationship, then your words as well as your deeds will be used by the Spirit with power.
Let's be excited about the possibility of God using us in the adventure of seeking to reach our friends for Christ!
One of the common problems in ministry is a leader's tendency to look over his/her shoulder at another leader.
We can become jealous of another leader's ministry. We can envy other leaders who we think have had a too-easy road to success. We can be tempted to think that the favor of God rests on others unfairly. We think others have had a relatively easy pathway to a wide influence.
But we must never forget that Jesus deals with us individually/personally. He calls each of us us to very specific acts of service and sacrifice. The path that He asks us to walk may not be the path of that many in the church world would see as successful. It may be a path of suffering.
He calls us to serve sacrificially. He calls us to suffer as we feed those He's entrusted to us.
We might squirm and resist His call. To take the heat off ourselves, we then look at other followers of Christ and want Jesus to deal with them. We want Jesus to ask them to sacrifice and suffer, too.
That doesn't impress Jesus very much...
Peter turned and saw [John]. When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about this man?" Jesus said to him... "What is that to you? You follow me!" (John 21:20a, 21, 22b).
We must follow Jesus with a whatever, whenever, wherever spirit.
Never compare His call to you with His call to others. So what if His calling on your life is seemingly tougher than His calling to another?
He's the Master. We are the servants. Let's follow Him fully, unquestioningly, immediately.
This is the way to find new life in Christ.
How is are calling you? When are you most tempted to compare your call to another's call?
On this National Day of Prayer, I am concerned. I am concerned about the way we believers engage our culture.
The violence in our schools, the bombings in our cities, the disregard for the sanctity of life, the immorality rampant in the media, and the re-definition of marriage are all causes of great concern.
So, what should we do as believers? How now shall we live?
I've noticed that believers seem to swing between one of two extremes. We're passive; some of us choose not to do anything. Or we're abusive; some of us blast out at those who we perceive are the problem. Both extremes kill the Missional Living impulse. God's word asks us to live a third way. We must connect before we correct. As one of my married friends, Nate Green, says, "You can be right, but still sleep on the couch!"
Paul, the great culture-restorer, gives some clear instruction about how believers should live in a culture that is neutral at best and hostile at worst to our faith. We must remember that Jesus is for everyone, even - and especially - those who oppose biblical values.
7 principles for being an effective culture-restorer
"And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will" (II Timothy 2:24-26).
What kind of approach is going to win the people who ignore or despise biblical values?
1. Kind, not quarrelsome."And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone..." 2. Teaching, not preaching."...able to teach..." 3. Patient, not annoyed."... patiently enduring evil..." 4. Correcting, not acquiescing."... correcting his opponents..." 5. Gentle, not harsh."... with gentleness..." 6. God, not me."God may perhaps grant them repentance..." (Note: This is why we must pray on this day and every day!) 7. Hope, not despair."... they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil..."
Remember, you can win the argument, but lose the battle. Our attitude and approach to people and to culture must be just as biblical as our beliefs lest we alienate the very ones we have been called to reach.
Question: Which of the 7 principles do you think the church is lacking the most?