Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Time Management

Much of the emphasis I read about on time management has to do with "hacks" (doing more faster) or "attacks" (how to do big things best). But have you read or thought about "relax" and how to embrace the value of lingering longer? Read more from Dagan Sharpe

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Why Shortcuts Often Meet Dead Ends: Lies, Shame and Forgiveness

The 3-point blog I want to share with you today is by Garrett Kell, lead pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, VA. Read more.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Essential Discipleship

I read a lot of information and focus enormous amounts of energy and attention on what may be called "essentials" in ministry.

Of course, what we call "essential" must always be rooted in biblical instruction. For pastors, churches and all Christ-followers, there is no sole, single text with broader application or greater call to action than Matthew 28:18-20--the Great Commission. 

The Great Commission is the foundation of all ministry focus and formation. Here we meet the "disciple-making" mandate.

Yet, I often read and observe what seems to me to be a myoptic view of discipleship that focuses exclusively on the developmental efforts of current believers to lead or bring embryonic believers into greater maturity in Christ. That is, discipleship is synonymous with spiritual development.   

No doubt the end result of effective discipling investments is a follower whose life bears “observational obedience” (Matthew 28:20) to the commands of Christ. 

I believe a truly biblical model of discipleship requires three essential and integral dimensions:

1. Conversion. We must first observe that the starting point for any discipling model begins with the Great Commission. It is a sending mandate in and under the authority of the name of Jesus Christ to go with the gospel and sow gospel seeds in people groups around the world. Whatever this "make disciples" mandate means, it requires active and cooperative obedience on the part of existing believers to GO. Where? Everywhere. Who? All peoples. What? Bear witness to the name and fame of Christ.

We go bearing the seed of the gospel of which the fruit is evidenced in "baptismal" identification under the authority of the "name that is above every name" (Philippians 2:9). This is not a matter of church tradition or denomination, but rather the observable pattern of those who confessed conversion throughout the New Testament.

It should be noted the word “disciple” appears almost exclusively in the Gospels and Acts, but appears absent in the New Testament epistles focusing on spiritual growth and maturity. Why? Because the first essential component of disciple-making is the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit through the faithful proclamation of the gospel. 

The disciple-making process is not what happens after salvation; it is the very essence and evidence of faithful gospel witness. In other words, evangelism and discipleship are inseparable and are not competitive forces in the church or any model of ministry. All biblical evangelism is aimed at life-change evidenced in a "disciple" and all discipleship is dependent upon faithful gospel proclamation that leads to conversion. 

Disciple-making is not something we do with others for God after their conversion; it begins with God’s gracious work of intervention called salvation. God makes disciples when we go in faith and faithfulness to His command.

The result of gospel-bearing witness is life-changing followship of Jesus Christ.        

2. Formation. This is the most common point of identification within many contemporary discussions of discipleship. It is both personal and intentional in the life of individual Christ-followers and the church. 

No doubt it is "essential" that we give great attention and effort to spiritual formation in the lives of both new and continuing believers as we face and address life in all dimensions with the implications of gospel. 

Formation involves instruction, discipline, relationship, adversity, and more. Yet, this formation is dependent upon the initializing reality of an indwelling enabler, the Holy Spirit, who works to bring a Christ-bearing image in us. 

We encourage, support and surround one another for the purpose of deepening our understanding of gospel truth in life, and we instruct and challenge one another toward greater obedience as is the clear intent of biblical community within the church (Hebrews 10:23-25).

Biblically, spiritual formation is not a random process or an automatic outcome of believing faith. It is challenged through instruction, called out through mortification of the flesh, tested in affliction and commanded in the Great Commission itself: “…teaching them to observe all I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). Who? Those who have been marked in baptism as disciples “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
3. Mission. In the end, discipleship is not an end in and of itself. It is a SEND! It is a journey of conversion and formation in faith that leads to faithful mission and participation in the disciple-making process.

An "essential" part of biblical discipleship is disciple-making with others. We are evangelists, mentors and missionaries. These are the essentials of any disciple-making strategy. 

Any view or ministry effort that seeks to isolate one component or pit these against one another as competitors within local church ministry misses the mark of “essential discipleship.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Shark or Dolphin?

With all the talk in recent days about sharks and the great American tradition of Shark Week, I want to take a little time to think about dolphins. I love the joyful, playful and personable attitudes of these amazing creatures. 

I guess like many of my generation, Flipper splashed his way into my living room and ultimately into my heart through this TV series. 

As an adult, I was blessed for a season of life to serve as a pastor on an inland island in Central Florida. Dolphin sightings became regular occurrences not only offshore, but also in the rivers and estuaries. Dolphins were “friends” I spotted and observed as I went about my daily routines of morning exercise, midday travel and evening sunsets. 

Here are three things I learned and want to pass along to you regarding dolphins and their behavior. 

1. Dolphins are good communicators. From their signature whistle to a variety of clicking and vibration sounds, they are able to interact with each other and even “show off” around humans. 

For you, communication is also an important part of daily life. But how do you communicate and what are you saying to those around you? Are you adding value, offering encouragement and building hope, or are you negative, critical and demeaning? 

The authors of Proverbs as well as the Apostle Paul and James have much to say about words, communication and interaction with others. I especially love this verse:Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29 ESV). 

Listening. Thinking. Processing. Expressing. Each of these steps helps you be a better communicator. And I might add, remember to apply this to the actions of your fingertips as much as your tongue. 

2. Dolphins swim in schools. In other words, they live and thrive in community. They care for one another and for others, even humans. Dolphins can actually develop and exude a culture of caring. 

I think this is the striking difference between sharks and dolphins. Sharks are all about their consuming impulses, but dolphins have another quality. "Dolphins are altruistic animals. They are known to stay and help injured individuals, even helping them to the surface to breath. Their compassion also extends across the species-barrier. There are many accounts of dolphins helping humans and even whales." (source

As I read this description, I thought of all the “one another” insights and instructions found throughout the New Testament. Take a quick look, but do more than give this information a casual glance. Take time to look up the Scripture passages and make a list you can carry with you. Consider how you can help to build a culture of care and healthy community with others around you. 

3. Dolphins are curious and playful. They even look like they are smiling.  Sometimes the journey of life can mark you with wrinkles rather than smiles, but  listen. The ocean is big. Storms come. There are many predators. But in and through it all, there is hope found in knowing, loving and serving Jesus Christ. 

Jesus walked across threatening waves and today He speaks, “Peace be still,” amid your storms. 

Don’t let the circumstances of life steal your joy. “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22 ESV).

I’m curious today. Shark or dolphin? 

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.