A change of topic: Can Jesus deal with the past?

A few months ago, I asked people which topic they would prefer, "inner healing" or church planting.  The majority chose church planting, but a significant number asked me to cover healing.  So I'm taking a break from topics specifically related to church, and will be looking at inner healing for the next few posts.

Part of the reason for this is that most people, when they were in legacy church, left praying about the problems people faced in life to the pastor or other full-time professional minister. But there are some key skills that are useful for church planters.  (Note: if you are inexperienced in praying with people, find someone who has prayed for others with the kind of problem you are dealing with to work with you.)

Glare

I'll never forget the glare that Jenny gave me.

"Incest was the name of the game!" she said.

Tony and I had been married for only a year or two, and Jenny was staying with us because she was depressed. Then we discovered that every day she was swallowing bottles of cough medicine, which in those days contained opiates.  We asked her why, and that was the answer she gave us.

The story came out.  From the age of about 6 through 10, Jenny had been repeatedly raped by an uncle. And we had no answers for her.  We knew that in theory, Jesus could set her free and heal her, but we just didn't have the tools.  This led us on a search to find out how we could help Jenny, and others like her.

At that stage we were living in a very socially depressed area of London.  It has since become gentrified, but in those days every kind of problem ended up there.  Jenny was fairly typical of the sort of thing we encountered on a daily basis.

Our first clues came when we heard a friend of ours, a family doctor like ourselves, talk about something he called "inner healing."  And sure enough, it worked.  We found many people helped by the principles we began to understand.  A few years into this, a book came out, very scathing about the subject, claiming it was a new age practice.  I was troubled, not wanting to be a practitioner of something dubious.  So for the next two years I studied the subject, reading the Bible right through and making extensive notes. 

The next few posts will talk about what I discovered. 

My questions about discipleship

For some years I have pondered the question of
discipleship.  I have to confess, discipling others has been something of a mystery to me.  I know the theory, but have always
had questions about it. 

Discipling someone is usually portrayed as helping a baby in
Christ towards maturity.  Maybe my questions are because I became
a Christian on my own at age 11 from reading a book and didn’t really know any
other Christians for many years. 
Yet the Holy Spirit kept me. 
Would I have benefited from some further instruction?  Undoubtedly!  But during those years on my own, I grew in Christ, having only
the Bible and the Holy Spirit to help me mature.  (I’m not even sure where I gathered the idea that the Bible
was important—the Holy Spirit maybe?)

So my question is this?  Is the process of "making disciples" literally introducing someone to a life of following Jesus (hearing and obeying him), and sharing life will help them to grow, or is "making a disciple" a much longer process that only ends when a person is mature.  I'd be interested to know what you think.

A new kind of disciple


Aaron Snow of Intentional Gatherings recently posted this on his blog (http://bit.ly/cae2Jh).  I use it here with his permission as a great example of the kind of thing I've been blogging about recently.

“…Can you imagine what it would look like if college students who claim Jesus as Lord were equipped and released to lead their friends to Christ, Baptize them, and allow new legitimate local church communities to birth…?”

Michael was a college freshman who found himself deeply saturated in a lifestyle of drugs, alcohol, and parties, which landed him jail. It was then that he came head on with a community of radical believers who were not your run-of-the-mill pew-sitters…

Shortly after encountering the power of God, and a few of these “new kinds of disciples”, Michael confessed his belief in Christ as Savior. Upon his decision to follow Jesus he was immediately Baptized in the river by a student who had been discipling him. He was welcomed into a new “spiritual family”, which met in homes throughout the city, prayed at the house of prayer together for hours each week, and actively pursued the spread of the Gospel in their individual contexts.

What appeared to be a rather healthy and fruitful “local church community” had no “name” or paid staff, but was led by other students. In the DNA of this “spiritual family” was a desire to birth new “families” as disciples were raised up and released into the harvest. Those sent out continued to be a part of the original family, but were simply no longer dependent upon their “mother”. They were anointed, and sent out to further the kingdom by making more disciples and birthing new churches while continuing to foster the close relationships of a healthy family.

(Michael being Baptized by his sister Meghan)

Michael did not know any better than to follow the lead of his disciplers. He simply did what was modeled for him. He devoured the Word, and sought Truth in the context of Biblical community. He carried a confidence in who he was as a child of God much like that of those who have known Jesus for years! This confidence was embedded in the culture of the entire community. The story of his transformation was, and still is powerful among his “druggy buddies” to this day. He still lives with some of them, and has the privilege of frequenting the parties he used to go to, now as a man transformed by the love of a real God.

Because Michael was discipled, and Baptized by one of his peers it wasn’t half a year later that he Baptized a brother in the same river he was “dunked” in. Because he was welcomed into a new spiritual family that had been started by fellow students he and another student also went out from that church to seek the birth of a new one. It’s just “what Christians do” according to the environment Michael came to Christ, and was disicpled in. It was the norm. He simply went and did likewise what he had personally experienced himself – there was no “pulling of teeth”…

There seems to be a new breed of Christ-follower
emerging here in the states. Following these disciples, and surrounding them everywhere they go is a truly unique culture that empowers existing, and new believers alike. Freedom is in the atmosphere; control and manipulation are difficult to find. Some mistake their passion for rebelliousness. The things many pastors/leaders spend a lifetime “pulling teeth” to get “their people” to do are a normal way of life for these radicals who do not know any better.

This type of culture does not currently make the headlines, sell books, or attract financial donors. Sadly, because of how far off our current cultures of discipleship have strayed from what Jesus modeled for us we become easily offended by an authentic example of such when it is lived out in front of our eyes. Our being offended causes truly beautiful examples of Kingdom growth to be doubted, and sneered at because they do not jive with our current practices…

Perhaps we should start asking ourselves why we send thousands of missionaries overseas every year to make disciples & plant new churches, but refuse to do so right here in the states?  What might we be doing to “handicap” those we lead, and how might we be preventing these discipleship cultures from being birthed & fostered in our own lives? We are believing for hundreds and thousands of “Michaels” to rise up as the new norm as existing, and new believers are released to live out this life as a “new kind of disciple”.

Discipleship within simple/organic/house churches

LTG Card  

No discussion of discipleship within the
organic/simple/house church movement would be complete without pointing people
towards Life Transformation Groups (LTGs).  Many years ago the Lord posed a series of questions to Neil
Cole:  What would you do if 100
people came to Christ this week? 
What would you do if 1000 people came to Christ this month?  What would you do if a million people
came to Christ this year?  (I may
have the exact figures wrong, but you get the idea.)  Any idea would have to be so simple it could be easily
multiplied.  It would have to easy
to remember and easy to pass on to others.

LTGs are the result of that question.  An LTG consists of two to three people
who commit to three things: 
Reading large amounts of Scripture on a weekly basis; getting together
weekly to answer accountability questions; praying for their friends who don’t
yet know the Lord.  LTGs are a grassroots tool that equip people to become reproductive disciples of Jesus and to grow in their own personal walk with the Lord and .

To learn more about LTGs, click here

Why Jesus worked with groups

Having written the last post on how Jesus trained his
disciples, yesterday I came across a key point that I had missed.  I discovered it on the blog of Paul
Watson (http://bit.ly/cqS21C ). 
His premise is that "Jesus discipled groups."  Obviously he had one-on-one interactions with individual
disciples, but most of his training was done in groups.

What do we learn from this?

As I have mentioned in other posts, there are only one or
two examples of individuals becoming followers of Jesus in the book of Acts (Paul
and the Ethiopian eunuch).  Mostly
it was households (Lydia and her household, Cornelius and his household
etc.).  It seems likely that as
these groups became followers of Jesus together, they would have learned to
follow Jesus together too. 

If we lead individuals to Christ and extract them from their
oikos by bringing them to our (house) church, we lose the opportunity to bring
a group of people to Christ.  We
find ourselves working with individuals rather than seeing a group growing in
Christ together.

Jesus lived life with a group of disciples.  Yes, he spent time with Peter, James and John, but the majority of his training was in the context of a larger group.  He used their interactions with each
other as training times.  He taught
them principles as a group.   

We are part of a group that spends protracted time listening to God. The Lord told us when we started that there were things he could teach us as a group that he would not be able to teach us as individuals.

My question:  What if this is true in the context of maturing in our faith walk too.  What if there is something about learning together as a group that is important?  Maybe it's the interactions and accountability, or the varied experience of the participants.  Studies show that collaborative learning is more effective than individual learning.  One study states "the collaborative learning medium  provided students with opportunities to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate ideas cooperatively. The informal setting facilitated discussion and interaction. This group interaction helped students to learn from each other’s scholarship, skills, and experiences." This was particularly true in the areas of critical thinking and problem-solving.  (Journal of Technology Education Fall 1995)

Now admittedly these studies are in the context of academics, but I'm guessing they apply in other areas too.  And I'm not trying to knock individual discipleship–I've seen too many positive results in the lives of other people.  But what if Jesus demonstrated to us a better way?

What do you think?

Jesus’ pattern of discipleship

My apologies if you get this post twice.  I've had a couple of people tell me that it came out in Greek!  Hopefully this is now corrected.


 How
did Jesus train his disciples?


·      
He
shared the rough and tumble of everyday life with them (Luke 8:1-3)

·      
He
asked them questions to show them what they needed to learn (Matthew 16:13-20)

·      
He
answered their questions (eg Matthew 17:19-20)

·      
He
demonstrated the practical skills they needed to know (Luke 11:1-3)

·      
He
used teachable moments.  Consider, for example, the occasion in Matthew 20
when James and John persuaded their mother to approach Jesus about letting them
sit next to him in his Kingdom.  Jesus used the opportunity to compare the
world's style of leadership with his Kingdom way of leading. (You know how
leadership is done in the world–rulers lord over those under them.  But
with you it is to be different.  If you want to lead then become a servant
and slave.)

·      
He
gave them assignments and had them report back, using their reports to bring
fresh insight and teaching.  (Luke 10)




·      
Jesus
didn't give his disciples a body of knowledge, but the experience of living
with him.

Jesus’ pattern of discipleship

Symbol">Ho  How did Jesus train his disciples?

  • He shared the rough and tumble of everyday life with them (Luke 8:1-3)
  • He asked them questions to show them what they needed to learn (Matthew 16:13-20)
  • He answered their questions (eg Matthew 17:19-20)
  • He demonstrated the practical skills they needed to know (Luke 11:1-3)
  • He used teachable moments.  Consider, for example, the occasion in Matthew 20 when James and John persuaded their mother to approach Jesus about letting them sit next to him in his Kingdom.  Jesus used the opportunity to compare the world's style of leadership with his Kingdom way of leading. (You know how leadership is done in the world–rulers lord over those under them.  But with you it is to be different.  If you want to lead then become a servant and slave.)
  • He gave them assignments and had them report back, using their reports to bring fresh insight and teaching.  (Luke 10

  • Jesus didn't give his disciples a body of knowledge, but the experience of living with him.





 

H

The core skill of a disciple

In Matthew 28:18-19 Jesus commanded his disciples to make
disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and
the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that he has commanded them.

We have reduced this to teaching new believers all about the
commandments.  But becoming a
disciple is not about a body of knowledge, but about a lifestyle of obedience,
of following Jesus 24/7.

The core skill we teach the new believer, therefore, is how
to hear Jesus voice, how to recognize when he is speaking and then the
importance of obeying what he is saying to them.  The life of intimacy with God is of critical importance. 

A view of discipleship from the Philippines: what do you think?

What is discipleship?

Molong
 

We have just spent a few days with our friends Molong and Lisa Nacua in the Philippines. Apart from the incredible fellowship, food and snorkeling, we had opportunity to question Molong about what he is doing. 

Molong is in the middle of an interesting experiment. He is making disciples who make disciples—literally. The question he asks people is, “Would you like me to make you a disciple?” He speaks to friends, those who “trust him, believe in him and are loyal to him.“ And then he shows them how to become a follower of Jesus—one who hears what the Holy Spirit is saying to them and who obeys. If they are willing to be made a disciple, then he speaks to them of Jesus’ death and resurrection and how to become a follower of Jesus. The important thing is that they become followers of Jesus, knowing how to hear his voice, developing intimacy with him.

When they have been baptized, he then says to them, “You make a disciple of Jesus now, one who will follow Jesus and do what he says, just like I made you a disciple.” And they go and find a friend who would like to be made a disciple.

Molong’s philosophy is that we are to make disciples (Matthew 28:19), the Holy Spirit is responsible for maturing them, leading them into all truth (John 16:13) and Jesus job is to build his church (Matthew 16:18). “Follow up” and “discipleship” are not New Testament language. Molong helps this process by creating deep relationship with them, taking every opportunity of teachable moments, living with them from house to house. For him this is church; no scheduled meetings but a lifestyle of living day by day.

Over the past few months, he has made a few disciples, but they have gone on to make more disciples, going down several generations. There are now at least 27 people who have become disciples and been baptized. On one memorable occasion when Molong was out of town, Albert, one of the people who had become a disciple with Molong, baptized someone he had led to the Lord, who baptized the person he had made a disciple who in turn baptized a person he had made a disciple. This is how the Kingdom of God expands. 

 

What do you think?

Stories from the trenches (3): Students on fire

This story comes from Aaron Snow:

The idea for Student CPx is simple: Gather students together to encounter Jesus for a week or two. Then send them out on mission with Jesus to their campus. When students go to represent Jesus He loves to go with them! The power of the gospel spreads through students to dorms, fraternities, classrooms, restaurants…and radio stations!

Two days ago, right outside the campus radio station at UCSD, students were making new friends and sharing the love of Jesus. They befriended a girl on crutches. As her heart opened to Jesus, they prayed for her. She experienced a miracle … and walked away carrying her crutches!

When rep's from the radio station saw the commotion, they invited students to go on air to explain what was happening.

Jesus is changing people's lives! they explained over the UCSD radio station. "We'll be here at lunch tomorrow. Come on out for free prayer!"

This stuff has not stopped since we started SCPx in SD. Students are recognizing who they are in Jesus as sons and daughters of God, and stepping into the fullness of their destiny in Him. They are being filled with the Holy Spirit, receiving gifts from the Spirit, and going into the world to bring Jesus to them! We've seen our students speaking blessings over the owner of the Pub on campus where we've been having dinner each night. He was touched and let us pray over him! Students are becoming followers of Jesus, learning how to be His disciple, encountering His power, and spreading their testimony to their non-Christian friends.


Students praying