Archive for category Spiritual Growth

A New Old Way to Make Disciples

By Allen White

Photo by Kasto via 123rf.com

Photo by Kasto via 123rf.com

How do you make a disciple? If you don’t know how, you may be living in disobedience.

Jesus in the Great Commission told us, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV).

This is one of those passages we’ve read so often that we don’t really think about it anymore. It’s become, “Yada, yada, yada” to us. Let’s pause for a minute to answer our question about how to make disciples.

If we share the Gospel with someone, and they pray to receive Christ (or whatever vernacular your theological tradition dictates), have you made a disciple or a convert? Are they the same thing? It seems that a disciple must be a convert, but could a convert not be a disciple? Let’s look at the “recipe” for making disciples.

Baptism is in there. Whether you dunk, sprinkle, or pour is determined, again, by your theological tradition. Get them wet. Step one.

Now, here’s the kicker, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Notice the wording here. Jesus did not say, “teaching them…everything I have commanded you.” He said, “teaching them to obey.” That just upped the ante. Just teaching them doesn’t guarantee obedience.

When I studied Christian Education in seminary, we learned a lot about outcomes. Do we want the student to have a change in knowledge, attitude, or behavior? The default tends to aim us toward a change in knowledge. It’s easy to portion. It’s easy to measure.

How many verses have you memorized? How many chapters have you read? Do you read through the Bible every year? How many classes did you attend? We can measure these things. But, if this is the sum of our disciplemaking, then we are either assuming what we are teaching is sinking in, or we are offering a placebo for making disciples.

As D.L. Moody once said, “The Bible was not given for our information, but for our transformation.” Why? The Bible tells us, “Knowledge puffs up, while love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). If the end result of our Bible studies and classes is a group of people who are proud of their biblical knowledge, then we have missed the mark. Unless we have to win “Bible Jeopardy” to enter the pearly gates, what good is more information doing for anyone? After all, some students of the Bible are not longing for transformation, they are Bible connoisseurs searching for something new to learn.

Howard Hendricks took things a little further when he stated, “In the spiritual realm, the opposite of ignorance is not knowledge, it’s obedience.” Now, we go back to the words of Jesus, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Discipleship is more than “book learnin’.”

A disciple is more than just a brain. Sometimes we learn to obey when we serve. Other times we learn to obey by processing strong emotions. When was the last time you poured high voltage chemicals into a low voltage situation? Why did you react that way? Did it trigger something? Did you slow down long enough to process it?

I’m not against education. I do have a few problems with how we make disciples. As a whole being, we worship and love God with our whole selves. Why can’t we learn to obey that way as well?

In looking at effective discipleship methods, I have found something new that’s actually very old. Mizizi was brought over from Kenya by Kenton Beeshore and Mariners Church in California. Known in English as “Rooted,” it focuses on experiential learning. There are large group experiences, small group experiences, daily reflection, and dedicated times of prayer, serving, and celebration. The ideas practiced in Rooted go back to the First Century church, the Moravians, the Celtics, and the early Wesleyans. Rooted is a non-Western approach at making disciples, and it’s working.

Mariners Church has seen 90 percent of their Rooted participants continue in on-going Life Groups. They are also serving more (70%) and have increased their generosity (82%). But, beyond statistics, the personal stories of life change are remarkable. There is something to the rhythms of a variety of experiences in making disciples and teaching them to obey.

Making disciples could never be summed up in one blog post, not even close. There will be more. I hope you would leave a few thoughts of your own in the comments. Please understand often the way I state things is to provoke people to think, including myself. If I’ve provoked you, please let me know.

For more information about Rooted, please attend one of the upcoming webinars: allenwhite.org/rooted

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How Mariners’ Rooted Journey Grows Groups, Service & Giving

By Allen White Rooted tree

Pastor Kenton Beshore and Mariners Church started something six years ago that intrigues me.

I’m more than a little leery when a ministry presents a new strategy which they claim is the best thing since sliced bread. (I also wonder what the best thing was before sliced bread). I’ve been in ministry for a long time. I preached my first sermon 34 years ago. I’ve been part of the small group movement for the last 20 years. It’s not that I’m old — I’m only 51 and I have a two year old — I was called to ministry early in life.

There have been so many faddish things over the years. Some of them produced temporary results. Some produced no results. Just a few produced lasting results. I’m talking everything from the launch of bus ministry to the introduction of praise music to the comfort of seeker services to the impact of church-wide campaigns. Each one of those basically claimed their own decade from the 1970’s on.

People were saved. Churches grew. Impact was made. But, then they disappeared. Some strategies and ministry ideas had a much shorter shelf-life.

So, now that you understand my jaded, skeptical point of view, you can certainly understand why I very rarely endorse anything. I want to see how it plays out. Is this just the next new shiny thing that we pastors tend to chase after? Is this an attempt to copycat what’s working somewhere else in hopes it will work here? Then, I get real honest — is somebody just out to make a buck?

My Introduction to the Rooted Experience.

About nine months ago, Caleb Anderson, Lead Pastor of Mariners Church, Huntington Beach, CA, introduced me to Rooted. I was blown away. It’s not a program. It’s not merely a curriculum. It’s a catalyst that produces dramatic transformation. He had my attention, but I did go to school in Missouri, so he needed to show me.

Then, I began to hear story after story of transformed lives. People coming to Christ. Marriages saved. Addictions forsaken. Bodies and minds completely healed. Lives and finances surrendered to God. But, here’s the most intriguing thing — all of this was happening over a 10 week experience. Now, I really had to see this to believe it.

I was part of the Rooted Training in November of last year and met churches of many denominations, sizes, and locations who were telling similar stories. I’ve spent the last month on the phone with pastors from across the country talking about how lives are transformed, congregations are emboldened, and communities are impacted because of a simple 10 week experience in Rooted. My doubts were quickly erased.

What a Kenyan Church Taught Kenton Beshore about Discipleship

In partnership with a Kenyan church, Kenton Beshore was introduced to a non-Western, experiential learning process which was seeing dramatic transformations in Africa. Having exhausted many means of discipleship, assimilation, and church growth in the U.S., Kenton thought, “Why not bring Rooted (or Mizizi in Swahili) to Mariners?” The results have been remarkable.

After six years of leading the congregation of Mariners Church through Rooted, 90 percent of Rooted groups have gone on to become on-going Life Groups at Mariners Church with 90 percent of the group members continuing in the Life Groups. Rooted graduates have increased their giving by 82 percent and 70 percent have increased their serving. Now, imagine those kinds of results in your church.

Here’s the thing about Rooted, if you just perused the curriculum, you would probably find it fairly unremarkable in and of itself. In fact, at first glance it appears fairly uncomplicated, and yet those who have completed the 10 week Rooted journey have discovered the experience is bold, focused, and powerful. They have seen health in their members, their churches, and their ministries unlike what they’ve seen before.

Like I said, I am leery of new shiny things. But in Rooted, I have found something so remarkable and so special that I actually joined the Rooted Team.

Find Out More About Rooted:

Webinars and Conferences — experiencerooted.org

 

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Quick-Fix Parenting vs. Intentional Parenting

By Doug and Cathy Fields Doug and Kathy Fields

If you’re a parent, most likely you joined the parenting ranks with good intentions and excitement. But then somewhere along the way, you lost your confidence. If this describes you — don’t worry — you’re not alone. Every parent struggles at some point because the truth is, parenting is difficult! After all, our children didn’t arrive wrapped in a how-to instruction manual.

So it makes sense that most of us wind up relying on something we refer to as Quick-Fix Parenting, which is exactly like what it sounds — a quick fix to a problem. It’s not necessarily a good fix or a healthy fix or an empowering fix, and it’s definitely not an effective long-term strategy.

At its foundation, Quick-Fix Parenting becomes about stopping your children’s behavior or the agony connected to it — which is often the your pain. It focuses on fixing your kid’s problem behavior, usually through verbal reprimands (often out of anger or frustration), negative instruction, and discipline for the sake of compliance.

But using these quick fixes to solve problems does not help kids grow up to become healthy and independent young adults.
So why do we resort to Quick-Fix Parenting?

Most parents embrace Quick-Fix Parenting for the following reasons:

• Their parents modeled it, and that’s all they know.
• It’s easier, more convenient, and relies on impulse rather than intellect.
• It can be effective in stopping and correcting a child’s behavior in the moment to quench potential conflict.

So, how about you – do you frequently find yourself using Quick-Fix Parenting? If you do, that’s okay for now. Most parents start here… but we don’t want you to stay here. Instead, we’d like to suggest that there’s a better way to navigate through the parenting landlines we all face with an intentional approach.

In contrast to Quick-Fix Parenting, which is reactive and spontaneous, Intentional Parenting is about having a long-term plan for how you want to parent your kids.
All of us have dreams for our kids. And caring parents passionately want their kids to become a certain type of person — one that’s prepared and well equipped to succeed in life. But they won’t actually become that person unless we as parents first define what we want them to be like.
To be an intentional parent, we would encourage you to make a plan for your children by beginning with the end in mind. Think about what types of qualities and values that you want you children to have by the time they get out of the house. Then, write them down.
These qualities should be based on inner values and not outer performance (i.e. grades, athletics, popularity, etc.). For instance, we decided that we wanted our kids to possess the “5 C’s”: Confidence, Character, Convictions, Compassion, and Competence. Yours could be similar or completely different. What’s important is that you articulate the qualities you’d like for your child to embody.
Deciding which qualities you want to instill in your kids for life will inform everything that you do as a parent, whether it’s being a role model, creating a peaceful home, using encouraging words, or providing discipline. We can’t promise that being an intentional parent will always be easy, but if you keep the end in mind and ask God to guide you along the way, you are on your way to having a huge, positive impact on the life of your child.

 

Doug and Cathy Fields
Doug & Cathy Fields have been married over 30 years and have three grown children. Their primary passion and joy have been family, but along the way they spent their years helping others — especially young people. They have worked at both Mariners and Saddleback Church in Southern California for three decades as youth, family, and teaching pastors. Doug is an author of more than 60 books, consultant, co-founder of Downloadyouthministry.com, and he the Senior Director of the HomeWord Center for Youth & Family at Azusa Pacific University.
Cathy and Doug speak together on marriage and parenting and have more information available at www.DougFields.com. For more information on Intentional Parenting pilot: allenwhite.org/ip-pilot

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Guest Post by Keri Wyatt Kent on Spiritual Formation in Small Groups

By Keri Wyatt Kent

Life change happens in small groups. If we ask ourselves and our groups the right questions, we can create environments for transformation.
If you lead a small group, one of your goals might be to help those in your group grow spiritually–transformed spiritually, even. As leaders,

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we want to take people on a journey of transformation. But in order to do that, we ourselves must be on the journey.

After all, the Bible tells us that transformation should happen as a result of our encounter with Christ. Like vinegar on baking soda in a kid’s science experiment, our bland lives should bubble up when the Spirit is poured out on us. But in order for that to happen, we need to create an environment where there is space for God’s Spirit to come in.

Two verses about transformation:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

I spoke recently to a gathering of small group leaders at Christ Community Church in St. Charles. What an eager and receptive group of women, who are prevailing against the gates of hell by simply gathering women into groups and loving them toward a new life in Christ. I was impressed by their love and commitment. We talked about how our lives, our circumstances form us–they cause us to be formed. Sometimes our lives are shaped by love, other times by shame. Often, it’s a bit of both.Every situation, every challenge, all the voices that spoke into our lives, whether positive or negative, have formed our spirits, molded our souls.

As Dallas Willard wrote in Renovation of the Heart (a book which has, indeed, formed me in so many ways):

“Spiritual formation, without regard to any specifically religious context or tradition, is the process by which the human spirit or will is given a definite form or character. It is a process that happens to everyone. The most despicable as well as the most admirable of persons have had a spiritual formation. Terrorists as well as saints are the outcome of a spiritual formation. Their spirits or hearts have been formed. Period.”
In small groups, we lead people who have been formed, for better or worse. Their families (of origin and of right now) have formed them. Their traumas and their triumphs. Every incident and casual word influences, shapes.

What about when it comes to Christian spiritual formation. And how do we facilitate that in our groups? Willard goes on to write:

“We can say, in a preliminary manner, that spiritual formation for the Christian basically refers tot the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself…Christian spiritual formation is focused entirely on Jesus. Its goal is an obedience or conformity to Christ that arises out of an inner transformation accomplished through purposive interaction with the grace of God in Christ.”
Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart

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As I led these small group leaders through a discussion of how to create environments for transformation, I reminded them first that growth–given the right conditions. Happens. For example, my children, when first born, were tiny. I fed them, kept them warm and fed. I loved on them, guided them. And they grew. I didn’t “mak

e” them grow, but I tried to provide an environment conducive to growth. As a result, my son who was 21 inches long when he was born is now 6’4″. I can’t take the credit–God did that. But I did provide the right conditions for growth to occur.

To talk about how we can help our small group members to grow, I asked leaders to grapple with four questions:

I believe it is when they fully embrace and own the fact that they are deeply loved. Being deeply loved changes everything.

1. What motivates people to be transformed?

The Holy Spirit is ultimately the one who changes us. So in many ways, the pressure’s off. But we need to create the right environment for growth and change.

Ironically, when people know they are loved just as they are, they are more motivated to change.

2. Do we expect transformation?

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Are we clear that change is the goal? How do we communicate that? Is transformation “normal” in your group? How often do you cast a vision that reminds people God loves them as they are, but loves them too much to leave them there?

3. Do we model transformation?

How are you, as a leader, changing and growing? Do you share your victories and your setbacks with small group members, reminding them that your goal is to be formed into the image of Christ?

If you find yourself stalled out, look at the pace of your life. The biggest barrier to spiritual growth is hurry. Slowing down will allow you to model spiritual transformation.

4. Do we celebrate transformation?

One of our most important jobs as small group leaders is naming what we see in people’s lives: noticing and affirming both steps of growth and obvious struggles, and walking with them through both. Celebrate transformation by telling people what you see, where you notice God working in their lives.

One way we can celebrate transformation is to make a regular practice of Gratitude in our groups. And that gratitude not only celebrates transformation, it facilitates it. Grateful people experience God and they grow closer to Him. If you lead a small group, your mission is to help people to be attuned to the work of God in their own lives. What better way than to celebrate this regularly?

Our lives and souls are going to be formed, whether we are deliberate about it or not. Why not help your small group to be formed into the image of Christ, to find the freedom that the Spirit wants to give them?

PLEASE COMMENT: Are you a small group leader? Or in a small group? How has the group helped you to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”? What questions does this post raise for you?

For More Posts by Keri Wyatt Kent, please visit http://www.keriwyattkent.com

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Misfire

You’ll have to wait until Tuesday, August 16, 2011 for the review of Steve Gladen’s book, Small Groups with Purpose.

Sorry.

Allen

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Review: Let Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer

by Allen White

I grew interested in this book from the number of quotes that were included in Pete Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. For those of us who desire to know and fulfill our life’s purpose, Palmer’s book contains some rather interesting insights.

The book speaks to discovering things about yourself and your purpose or “way” through failures as much as successes. Closed doors speak as loudly as open doors. He also discusses a Quaker method of decision making where a group is gathered to question the seeker for three hours to determine his or her thoughts and motives regarding the decision. Palmer openly discusses his own self-discovery through depression.

Palmer offers a refreshing perspective. He is a member of the Religious Society of Friends or Quakers. For evangelical Christians, there may be some points of disagreement, yet there is much food for thought. While evangelicals may expect God’s will to be revealed moving forward, Palmer takes in all aspects of one’s being in determining God’s will or way: emotional, intellectual, successes, failures and God’s voice within.

I have just finished this short book, and I’m ready to read it again.

To purchase your copy of Let Your Life Speak, CLICK HERE.

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What if Plan B is Actually God’s Plan A?

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3

Proverbs are not guarantees. But, a proverb does point out what typically happens the majority of the time. They’re sort of like how an investment firm reminds its investors that past performance doesn’t guarantee future results. But, for most people on most days following Proverbs is a wise choice.

I think that this proverb is great, except that there are some things that I have committed to the Lord that actually failed. For instance, every Bible college student pursues the answer to basically two questions: What is God’s Will for my life? And, Who is God’s Will for my Life? Nothing that I committed to the Lord in 1984 actually came to pass. I didn’t become a missionary, and I didn’t marry the girl I was dating. The good news is that God has used me in ways that I never imagined, and that I married someone who is way out of my league.

I found success, not in getting the answers to my specific prayers, but in the fulfillment of godly desires for ministry and marriage that far exceeded my expectations.

We really want this “commit to the Lord” thing to be like a GPS. We are at point A. We would like to arrive at point B without any detours, roadblocks, inclement weather, or for men, no potty breaks.

I’ve been reading a book called Plan B by Pete Wilson, who pastors Cross Point Church in Nashville. His premise is “What do you do when God doesn’t show up the way you thought He would?” It’s a great book, especially for those of us who have been frustrated or devastated by a Plan B.

The interesting thing is that God only has a Plan A. When His Plan A doesn’t correspond with our Plan A, then God’s plan seems like Plan B to us. Just look at next proverb in chapter 16, “The Lord works out everything for his own ends – even the wicked for a day of disaster” (Proverbs 16:4).

Rick Muchow, the Worship Pastor at Saddleback Church, wrote a simple song that has encouraged me over the years. It says,

Trust God, from the bottom of your heart,
Don’t try to figure out everything on your own,
Trust God, for where your life is going,
God is in control, God is in control (repeat)


How are you trusting God these days? What Plan Bs has God thrown your way? How is using these roadblocks and obstacles to build your faith and shape your character?

Commit to the Lord, whatever you do, and your plans will succeed,
Pray Lord, I’m available to you, Here I am, Lord use me, Trust God…

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