It's All About The "Advance"

by Peter Swann

It is a simple question, but a profound one. To answer it requires courage, for the question defines us. Our lives, our legacies, are known by the answer to this question. And the glory of God hinges on what we do with it. 

It is a simple question, but a profound one: How does my life advance the Kingdom of God?

I saw this question on a missionary application the other day, and it made me pause. The other questions were great as well, but this was different. This question gets down to the root of our existence, the reason God put us here. We exist to bring glory to God as His Kingdom is advanced through our lives. 

How His Kingdom is advanced obviously looks different for all of us. It leads some of us to public positions and some to obscure ones. It leads some of us to make much money and others very little. It leads some of us to a life of adventure and others to a life of service. But this truth marks all who gear their lives to strategically and intentionally answer this question: it's all about the “advance.”

Most of us in the Christian journey slip into a defensive rather than offensive posture. Life is about staying protected, hunkering down, and enduring the storms of life. Yet for those who grasp the reality of life, the cosmic nature of the battle around us, and our responsibility in it... that changes everything. Life is no longer about enduring suffering, but pressing into it. It's not about surviving a move of the enemy; it's about seeing our Lord's Kingdom surge into the darkness. Life is about invading darkness, about capturing the enemy's ground. It's about advancing our Lord's Kingdom at all cost. 

And therein lies the joy of the journey... celebrating our Lord and making His name known, all in the advance of His Kingdom. Only in this is our God-given purpose fulfilled, and our Lord as glorified as possible in our lives. 

So as our lives answer the question that marks each of us, may it be with purpose and joy. May we not shrink back, but surge forward… with strategy and with intentionality. The key is simply in the advance. 

 

"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." -Matthew 6:33 (ESV)

How do I read The Bible with somebody else? (Discipleship: Part 5 of 5)

Daniel Rieke

[See part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4 in this series of posts on Discipleship for more info.]

 

Now that we’ve examined much about “the what,” “the why” and “the who” in discipleship, I want to provide some very tangible action steps and ideas for how to go about studying Scripture together in the context of leading and/or being led in 1-on-1 or 1-on-2 discipling relationships.

First, a few overarching goals of ALL discipleship relationships:

  1. Learn and obey the Word of God

  2. Increase affection for Jesus

  3. Increase surrender to the Lordship of Christ

  4. Reproducing discipleship

Practical ideas for how to get started

The gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16) and the Word of God is sufficient to equip believers for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). So what I want to do is provide some practical ideas for how to study Scripture within the context of a discipling relationship.

How to walk someone through Scripture

  1. Pray. Ask that God would be glorified as we seek to apply the passage this week. The goal of this kind of Bible study is primarily to grow in faith and obedience, not mere knowledge.[i]

  2. Read the passage you’ll be studying that week several times in the week ahead of time, reading before and after the passage to get good context.

    • Read it a few times, silently and out loud, with a pen in hand. Note thoughts that might be significant. Answer the question, “What do I see?”

  3. Study a good commentary on the passage. The ESV Study Bible is a fantastic resource.

  4. Take notes on what the passage means.

    • What is the main point of this passage?

    • Is there anything I don’t understand?

    • What do I learn about God, people or myself from this passage?

  5. Take notes on how the meaning of the passage applies to your life.

    • What does this passage affirm or change in me theologically?

    • What does this passage affirm or change in me practically?

    • What specifically do I need to do (by the power of the Holy Spirit) as a result of hearing this passage?

    • No matter where I am spiritually, what would it look like for me to apply this week what we just read and talked about?

  6. Create questions that will help guide your disciple into rightly interpreting the passage and rightly applying it to their life.

Keys to Reading through Scripture with Someone

  • Pray for the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom and for Him to use His Word to bring transformation.

  • Study the passage in advance to ensure that you are confident about its meaning and life application and how it points to Jesus.

  • Ask a lot of questions to the person you’re leading, rather than simply stating facts. One of the goals of this type of discipleship is to help your disciple grow in their ability to understand, interpret and apply God’s Word for himself/herself.

  • Emphasize the need to obey what is discovered in the Word. It’s not just “head knowledge” that we’re after. We want to see life transformation for the glory of God.

  • Emphasize the grace of God to avoid drifting into legalism.

  • Emphasize how each passage points to Jesus, the gospel, the cross (commentaries like the ESV Study Bible can help especially with Old Testament passages).

  • Don’t feel pressured to get through all the verses you planned to discuss that day. Be willing to take it more slowly, especially if there’s really good discussion about an earlier verse that goes longer than you anticipated. You can always catch up the following week or just take an extra week to finish the content you’re studying.

  • Ask God to give you a delight and a passion for His Word that will be contagious and increase others' affection for the Word of God.

Tips for Success: For the Discipler

Here are a few things I’ve found helpful to ensure that discipleship relationships don’t drift apart:

  • Pray for your group often

  • Set a beginning and ending date to the group (you can always extend later)

  • Schedule the meetings in advance (date, time, location)

  • Communicate the group expectations in advance so they know what they’re committing to

  • Be faithful to your end of the commitment

  • Prepare for your group meetings 2 meetings in advance (i.e. prepare meeting 3’s material right after you finish week 1’s meeting)

  • Be faithful in your preparation

  • Rely on the Holy Spirit to ultimately guide your conversations

  • Spend time with each other as much as possible and in contexts other than your formal discipleship time

Tips for Success: For Those Being Discipled

Here are a few things I’ve found helpful to ensure that you’re a joy to disciple (Hebrews 13:17)

  • Pray for the men/women who are pouring into you

  • Be humble

  • Be teachable

  • Check everything against Scripture (God’s Word is the ultimate authority for life and doctrine)

  • Be a learner and a doer (good theology and obedience)

  • Be faithful to do what is asked of you

  • Be on time

  • Be thankful

  • Grow as a disciple of Jesus, and disciple others

 

 

Good books to check out on discipleship:

The Trellis & The Vine by Marshall & Payne

The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman

 

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[1] Much of this section has been adapted from The Austin Stone Community Church. http://toddengstrom.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/LTG-Overview.pdf

What does success look like? (Discipleship: Part 4 of 5)

Daniel Rieke

[See part 1, part 2 and part 3 in this series of posts on Discipleship for more info.]

 

What does success look like?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed at the thought of diving into discipleship relationships, particularly if you struggle with inadequacy. It’s easy to get discouraged if you don’t feel gifted enough to disciple like this guy or that lady or such and such famous pastor. The good news is that each of us is simply called to be faithful to minister where God leads us and trust the results to Him. We don’t need to try to be any of person or look to others’ faithfulness and the measuring stick for our faithfulness (see 1 Cor. 3:1-15).

So the question I want to ask and answer in this blog post is a VERY important question: “What does success look like in discipleship?”

1. Faithfulness

  • Rely on the Spirit’s leading. Trust Him to bring change. Simply be faithful to respond in obedience to how the Lord leads you to minister to the men and women in your care.

2. Presence

  • Being reliably “there for them”. You’d be amazed just how far this “ministry of presence” will go in impacting people for the kingdom in discipling relationships.

3. Humility

  • God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (enough said). We don’t have it all figured out, but we serve the One who does. It’s important to keep that in mind when discipling others.

4. Selflessness

  • Putting others’ needs above your own; being about their transformation will likely transform you.

5. Love well

  • Be encouraging and kind, and yet also don’t be afraid to speak the truth in love, not allowing them stay comfortable or complacent in their pursuit of Christ

6. Gospel-centered

  • Without the gospel, we tend towards legalism, moralism or depression. Jesus is and must always be the focus.

7. Faithfulness

  • Ultimately, success is defined as being faithful to what God has called you to do and to simply trust Him with the results AND with the process.

 

 

Good books to check out on discipleship:

The Trellis & The Vine by Marshall & Payne

The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman

Am I Qualified? (Discipleship: Part 3 of 5)

by Daniel Rieke 

[See part 1 and part 2 in this series of posts on Discipleship for more info.]

 

Am I Qualified?

Perhaps the first question that stirs up in your heart as we start talking about discipling people is one of inadequacy. “Am I really qualified to make disciples?”

 

There could certainly be some circumstances where I’d recommend you hold off on trying to intentionally pour into others and allow yourself to simply be taught and loved on, but generally speaking most Christians are capable of walking in discipling relationships.

 

If you have the following characteristics, I think you’re ready to take on some discipleship (whether it be pouring into others, being poured into by others, or mutually spurring on someone in a similar level of spiritual maturity)

  1. If you are a genuine believer in Christ, you have His Holy Spirit living in your heart, enabling you to live in such a way as to glorify God and advance His kingdom

  2. If you are walking in repentance and surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ

  3. If you are hungry to grow in Christ

  4. If you trust the power of the Holy Spirit and His Word

  5. If you are willing to pursue a fuller understanding of and obedience to the Word of God

  6. If you love people

To take the pressure off, being involved in discipleship doesn’t mean you have to be the formal leader of anything, but could just mean that you’re actively getting poured into for a season in order to be better equipped to lead others in that way. But for many of us at Hope Church, formally taking on some discipling might be just what God has for you in this season, so my prayer is that everyone would seek the Lord hard on this and ask Him to guide us as we move towards making discipleship THE priority of our lives.

 

Who should I seek to make disciples of?

As we continue thinking about discipleship, another question many of us probably wrestle with is “Who should I seek to make disciples of?” Maybe you’re realizing God wants you to prioritize discipleship in your life and that He’s equipped you to pour into others, but you don’t know who to pursue…here are some questions to help you think through it:

  1. Who is already in your sphere of influence?

  2. Who could you reach out to?

  3. Who is in your home group?

  4. Who has the Lord put on your heart?

  5. Who do you know who is younger in the faith or at a previous life stage that you could encourage and strengthen?

  6. Who is older than you in the faith or at a future life stage who you respect spiritually and could learn from?

  7. Who has expressed the desire to be discipled?

From talking with many of our members, there is a growing hunger for older believers to speak into their lives. The singles and the younger married couples are longing for this discipleship and they are hungry to grow. We have a huge need for older, more mature believers to step into this role. So let me challenge you to pray and ask God to show you if this is something He’s calling you to prioritize…no matter where you fall on the discipleship experience spectrum.

 

It’s going to take time, it’s going to take commitment, it’s going to take intentionality, it’s going to take emotional energy, and it’s going to be hard at times. BUT it’s going to make a lasting impact for the kingdom of God. It’s going to impact families, marriages and relationships in powerful ways. And ultimately it is going to bring glory to our great God!

 

 

Good books to check out on discipleship:

 

The Trellis & The Vine by Marshall & Payne

The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman

How Did Jesus Make Disciples? (Discipleship: Part 2 of 5)

by Daniel Rieke

In my last post on discipleship, I discussed the importance of "last words" as we examined Jesus' final command before ascending into Heaven in Matthew 28:18-20.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:18-20[i]

It’s clear that Jesus wants us to “make disciples,” so I think a logical question stemming from that is “what is a disciple?”

 

We could spend hours discussing the nuances of what all goes into the biblical term “disciple,” but for the sake of time and space, the working definition I’ll use for “disciple” is: one who follows Jesus Christ – one who observes all that Jesus has commanded. So a disciple of Jesus is one who follows, or obeys, Jesus.

 

By that token, then, a disciple-maker is one who makes and equips followers of Jesus. Disciple makers teach others how to follow Jesus, so that they are able to go out and teach others to do the same.

How did Jesus make disciples?

We see that in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Jesus brilliantly made disciples. Since it is Jesus who has given us this command to "make disciples" and since disciples are followers of Jesus, I think the important question we need to consider is “how did Jesus himself go about making disciples?” It’s probably a good idea to look at how Jesus made disciples and then follow His model in our attempt to make followers of Him.

 

And how did Jesus make disciples? Essentially, He lived life with a group of guys for several years. He taught them all time, not simply in formal classroom settings (although there certainly was some of that in His ministry) but also in how He modeled life for them in their day to day interactions. He shared ministry with His disciples, empowering them to minister alongside Him. He focused on going really deep with a smaller group (of 12) and especially with an even smaller group (of 3) and even perhaps especially focusing on one disciple in particular to really pour into (John). He certainly taught large groups, but the bulk of His time seemed to be spent pouring into the Twelve, and Peter, James and John in particular.

 

Jesus didn't simply seek for His disciples to increase in knowledge (although He did seek for their increase in knowledge, while simultaneously critiquing the Pharisees for their love of knowledge at the expense of love for God), but He also sought for His disciples to live transformed lives of love and submission to God.

 

And ultimately, Jesus made disciples who multiplied. Jesus’ followers multiplied from several dozen men and women meeting in a room after His death to a global movement spanning 2000 years and millions of people.

 

In that, we have adopted an approach for discipleship at Hope Church which attempts to model itself after what we see Jesus do in the New Testament. We focus on discipleship happening in small groups and in individual (or 1-on-1 or 1-on-2 relationships).

 

So in my upcoming blog posts on the topic of discipleship, I want to suggest some very practical ideas for how we might go about making disciples in this way – specifically in these individual relationships. My hope is to cast a vision for ways we can tangibly go about pouring into each other through 1-on-1 or 1-on-2 relationships as we seek to make disciples at Hope Church who go and make more disciples.

 

 

 

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Good books to check out on discipleship:

 

The Trellis & The Vine by Marshall & Payne

The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman

 

 

[i] Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Last Words (Discipleship: Part 1 of 5)

by Daniel Rieke

Last words are usually important words. Often last words are THE most important or impactful part of a conversation – the most vital piece of information that we want to be certain is communicated clearly...

  • A parent’s last words as their child pulls out of the driveway and off to college for the first time

  • A commencement speech at a graduation

  • A handwritten note left as a part of a mother’s will as final words to her kids and grandchildren

  • The lawyer’s closing argument in a criminal trial

  • The final line of a band’s album

Last words usually carry weight and meaning. They tend to indicate heightened importance, and they urge us not to miss them or fail to take heed of them.

In light of this, I want to briefly examine Jesus’ last words before ascending into Heaven after having died on the cross and risen from the dead.

Matthew 28:18-20

[18] And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. [19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”[1]

In Jesus’ final words while walking the earth, He told His disciples to make disciples. The mission Jesus gave His followers is to go and make disciples. And Jesus explained what He meant by that in verse 19 and 20. He wants us to baptize, the underlying implication being that we need to make converts to Christ who will publicly declare their faith in and allegiance to Jesus through baptism. And then we need to teach these new converts to obey the Word of God.

So in short, making disciples can be summed up in that way: we’re supposed to share the gospel with those who don’t know Christ and then, when God saves them, we are to teach them how to obey God’s Word (part of which means that these new converts grow spiritually and then begin making disciples themselves). So discipleship is about multiplying the number of believers and the maturity of believers. Or stated differently, discipleship is about focusing on intentional interaction with another person so as to see them submit to the teaching of God’s Word in every area of life so that they are equipped to do the same with others.

On the one hand, discipleship should look very similar in every culture and in every era in that it is primarily about sharing the gospel and teaching obedience to the Word of God. But practically, discipleship can, and probably should, look different in how it plays out practically in various cultures and life stages. The important thing is that discipleship should always be our goal at any stage of life, even though it will likely look different practically during different seasons.

I’ll spend the next several of my blog posts exploring this concept of discipleship at a very practical level, answering questions like: How did Jesus make disciples? Am I qualified? Who should I make disciples of? How do I make disciples practically? What does discipleship success look like? Etc. So stay tuned as we seek to make discipleship THE main focus of our Christian lives.

 

 

[1] Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

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Good books to check out on discipleship:

The Trellis & The Vine by Marshall & Payne

The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman