Which generation are we living for?

“[This kind of training ministry] will be slow, tedious, painful, and probably unnoticed by people at first, but the end result will be glorious, even if we don’t live to see it. Seen this way, though, it becomes a big decision in the ministry. We must decide where we want our ministry to count– in the momentary applause of popular recognition or in the reproduction of our lives in a few chosen people who will carry on our work after we have gone. Really, it is a question of which generation are we living for.”

The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman

Staff Thought of the Week: Connecting with Visitors

stotw_edited-1New visitors need to be greeted, welcomed, and connected. We are responsible for reaching out to them and connecting them with the group. Let’s make sure that when a new-ish student walks in the door, he/she is pursued and welcomed. Let’s make sure we:

WELCOME THEM to the youth group. If you’re having a conversation with someone who’s well established in the youth group, politely break off the conversation so you can go talk to the new person. Or better yet, bring along the person you were talking with.

INTRODUCE THEM to some students. Especially those of the same age and gender. We want them not only to connect with the staff but with their peers. Might be good at some point to talk with your M3 about how to greet and welcome new students.

CONNECT THEM to an M3. If the person doesn’t have an M3, seek to connect them to one. If they have friends in the youth group, put them with their friends. If they don’t know anyone, then you’re their closest friend and you should take them with you.

INVITE THEM to whatever’s next. Tell them you want them to come next week! Or tell them about the upcoming thing you’re doing with your M3. Or tell them about Summer Camp, or broomball, or whatever’s next on the calendar.

THANK THEM for coming. This is not only polite, but it shows genuine care. It shows that you noticed their appearance. It shows that they didn’t just blend into the crowd.

Staff Thought of the Week: Give Them Specific Tasks

stotw_edited-1

(Matthew 10:5-15 ESV)

[5] These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, [6] but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [7] And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ [8] Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. [9] Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, [10] no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. [11] And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. [12] As you enter the house, greet it. [13] And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. [14] And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. [15] Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

Jesus included his disciples in his ministry not long after he called them. Part of their training involved doing very specific tasks Jesus gave them. At this point, he didn’t give them a choice about what kind of ministry they wanted to do– they weren’t ready. He gave them very clear and delineated instructions and sent them out.

We do believe that being the right person comes before doing the right things. But Jesus knew that specific direction accompanied with input and correction brilliantly wedded the thinking and doing parts of being a Christ-follower. This is an important way to shepherd and disciple. This is how an M3 mobilizes.

Give your group a specific task. Here are some ideas:

  • Go visit some elderly shut-ins and give them each specific Scriptures to read. Assign certain students to pray.
  • Go over to Regal and strike up some conversations about the gospel. Tell your students to be bold, kind, respectful. Make sure they’re praying. And then grab lunch afterwards.
  • Choose one Sunday morning to serve as a team of greeters. Gather at the church early, pray together for the sermon, the congregation, and visitors, and as people start coming head out to the lobby and shake hands.
  • Bring a few students to your shepherding group and ask them to simply observe. Spend a few minutes afterward and get their thoughts.

Got any ideas of your own?

Staff Thought of the Week: “Relentlessly Loyal”

stotw_edited-1In Matthew 15 the Pharisees accuse the disciples of breaking the “tradition of the elders.” This was a big deal in the culture at that time, and the disciples probably felt a considerable amount of pressure to fit in with the cultural norms. It would have been easy for our Lord to agree with the Pharisees and go along with how difficult and unruly the disciples were, but he wouldn’t.

Instead he opposed the Pharisees and was relentlessly loyal to his disciples. They weren’t perfect, there’s no question about that, but Jesus stood against their attack and protected them. They were his sheep, and he loved them in spite of their flaws. He was zealous to guard them from their accusations, which could have very easily discouraged and confused them. Jesus could have pointed out how the disciples were hard-hearted (which they often were), or impetuous (they were), or self-centered (they very much were) or thick-skulled (which, again, they were), agreeing with the Pharisees and easing the tension. But he didn’t. He stuck to his less-than-perfect guys.

Be loyal to your students. They will be wrong– a lot. They will do foolish things. They will not progress exactly how you think they should. But they already have an accuser– his name is Satan– and you need to be their advocate, and consistently bring them to the Advocate. Show them loyalty, show them love, show them grace, show them gospel.

It’s been said so much it’s somewhat cliche, but there’s a reason people keep saying it: “They won’t care what you know until they know that you care.” Let them know you’re with them for the long haul, through thick and thin, rain or shine, ups and downs. Be relentlessly loyal.

There is a time and place for tough love. You will have to do that too. But by and large, Jesus’s commitment to his disciples was one of grace and patience and teaching– working with them through their sins and struggles and failures.

Be relentlessly loyal to our drifting, wandering, learning, struggling, young friends.

 

Staff Thought of the Week: “A Powerful Question You Should Ask”

stotw_edited-1

Here’s a powerful question you should be asking your M3 (small group) regularly:

What can we do to…” and you fill in the blank. It’s especially effective to do this in response to the sermon that was just preached. For example, if the sermon was about the power of Scripture, it would be good to ask something like:

What can we do to make sure we’re all reading the Word? What can we do to become more consistent in our devotions?

But there are a multitude of good questions to be asking. Like

  • What can we do to make the new people around here feel welcome?
  • What can we do to help out that single mom?
  • What can we do to become better at sharing our faith?
  • What can we do to get to know each other better?
  • What can we do to help each other stay pure?
  • What can we do to meet this need in the church?

As the students begin to answer these questions, opportunities to teach and shepherd will abound. Talk about what our ultimate goals are, what the mission of the church is, what means God has given us to accomplish those things. With your guidance and oversight, run with their ideas.

This is powerful for several reasons.

First, it teaches them to think about ministry. Most students are not doing this yet. With your guidance, they will start imagining how they can use their gifting to serve others. All believers are to be engaged in the work of ministry (Eph. 4:12). This is how we help them think in those terms.

Second, it opens up new venues of creativity and gifting. The students who are saved have the Spirit’s indwelling and gifting, with different talents and abilities. They may think of doing things we could never have imagined.

Third, it gives them ownership. When they come up with the ideas they tend to be more passionate about them, and this enables grassroots ministry to flourish.

 

Staff Thought of the Week: Helping Them Own It

stotw_edited-1Much of the success of our M3 depends on the students– especially the upper classmen, owning their responsibility to create a culture of openness and acceptance. New students and younger students will be intimidated, maybe even scared, at the thought of meeting with a close-knit group of older, more secure, more comfortable, more “belonging” students. So we must teach our upper class students hospitality (welcoming people who feel uncomfortable). We must help them own their M3. Here are a few tips:

Model it. Engage the new student. Ask him questions, get to know him. Make him the center of attention for a little bit. Give him attention so he knows he’s cared for.

Create links. Look for things he may have in common with other members of the group. Try to facilitate relationships and make connections.

Talk about it. Never stop accentuating the need for Jesus-like kindness– the type that reaches out to the fringe, the neglected, the hurting. Talk about how it is not Christ-like to only associate with the popular. Get together with just your upper-classmen and talk this through.

Pray. True and genuine love is a blessing from God. No system can create it; if our students would show this love toward new students, God must do it. So pray.

 

True Discipleship: Fishers of Men

true discpleship

Part OneFollow me.  A true disciple is following Christ

Part Two: And I will make you A disciple is being changed by Christ

Matthew 4:18-20

[18] While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. [19] And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” [20] Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

Fishers of men.  A disciple taking up the mission of Christ.

With these words Jesus clarified the mission. Becoming a disciple means becoming interested in the eternal well-being of people. He says, “I’m going to change you. If you follow me, I’m going to make you something. Now you catch fish, soon you’ll catch people.” Let’s make it more modern. “Now you strive for As on your report card, soon you’ll strive for people. Now you strive for a successful career, soon you’ll strive for people. Now you’re building a platform, soon you’ll be building people. Now you strive for popularity, soon you’ll strive for people. Right now athletics are all-consuming, but there will be a day that the well-being of others consumes you.”

The underlying assumption is that the premiere sign of maturity is a genuine concern for other people. Jesus’s goal is to make them more interested in people than their careers. Jesus wants them to be more concerned about relationships than about their education, their status, their achievements, their awards, their scholarships, their accolades.

He didn’t say, “follow me and I will make you successful businessmen.” He didn’t say, “follow me and I will land you a good, well-paying job.” He didn’t say, “follow me and I will help you achieve your goals and dreams.” He says, “If you follow me, I’m going to reshape the way you see the world. I’m going to change your whole outlook on life. I’m going to show you that the greatest purpose you can give your life to is people.” Look at it this way: Jesus spent the last three years of his life with his people, teaching and training them to follow Christ. Your job is to do the same thing: spend your life with people teaching and training them to follow Christ. A true disciple is a disciple-maker.

If this is true, then we must understand that being relational is not an option, it’s a calling. The greatest thing we can give our lives to is relationships. The Bible speaks about two things lasting forever: God’s Word and people. Do you want to have a meaningful life? Do you want to labor for things that vanish like steam or for eternal treasures that never fade? Jesus’s call was to invest in the eternal—God’s Word and people. True disciples learn to do exactly that. They become “fishers of men.” That means, they orient their entire lives around this calling. They see that in order to be faithful they must give themselves to God’s Word and people.

So a true disciple is following Christ—believing, changing, submitting. He is being changed by Christ—learning and growing in grace. And he is taking up the mission of Christ—as a disciple-maker.

True Discipleship: And I Will Make You

true discpleship

Last timeFollow me.  A true disciple is following Christ

Today: And I will make you A disciple is being changed by Christ

Matthew 4:18-22

[18] While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. [19] And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” [20] Immediately they left their nets and followed him. [21] And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. [22] Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

When Jesus said “I will make you” the offer was out on the table. Jesus was being straightforward. His intention was to make them into something they were not. Jesus wanted to fundamentally change their priorities, their desires, their goals, their dreams, their purposes—and he was clear about it. It was like he said, “I know you’ve spent your life catching fish. Not anymore. I’m going to change you.” To our modern ears, that sounds offensive. What right does he have? We shouldn’t try to change people, that’s rude. Let them be, man. Tolerate.

Jesus didn’t fit it then and he probably wouldn’t fit in now. His goal—and he was absolutely unashamed of it—was to change people. To make them into something they weren’t. From the beginning, this was laid out on the table. A disciple, then, is something who is being changed by Christ.

If you are to start following Christ—by believing, by changing, and by submitting—you must understand what you’re agreeing to. Almost everything you sign up for these days has a long tedious document with terms and conditions. Does anyone actually read those? Well, Jesus has terms and conditions that we must agree to if we are to follow him. But they’re not long, hard to read, annoying and complicated. They’re actually simple. He says” if you follow me, understand this: I am going to change you. That means you must be eager to learn and eager to change.”

True disciples are learners. People who think they have nothing else to learn aren’t good disciples. The best disciples are the best learners. They are hungry for knowledge, hungry for information, hungry for insight, hungry for wisdom, hungry to acquire skill, hungry to hone their talents, hungry to practice what they’ve been taught. Part of what it means to follow Jesus is admitting you not only have the deep-seated problem of sin, but the deep need of being taught.

True disciples want to change. This goes right along with being a learner, but it takes it to the next level. Being a true disciple means not only learning but practicing what you’re learning. True disciples aren’t about acquiring information for information’s sake. They want to change. They hate their sin and they want to grow. That’s why Jesus’s call must have been so appealing. I love it—Jesus promises to change them. “I will make you.” Perk up whenever Jesus makes an “I will” statement. He said to his disciples that he would make them fishers of men. He would set out to change them and he wouldn’t fail. This is great hope for us, because the promise we receive is that Jesus will change us to make us useful for his service as we follow him.

So a true disciple is following Jesus and eager to learn and change. And he is also someone being changed by Christ. 

True Discipleship: Follow Me

true discpleship

Follow me. A true disciple is following Christ

Matthew 4:18-22

[18] While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. [19] And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” [20] Immediately they left their nets and followed him. [21] And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. [22] Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

The first requirement to be a disciple—a Christian—is to follow Jesus.

To follow involves three elements: belief, life-change, and submission.

Following Jesus requires belief in who he was and what he came to do. Simon Peter and Andrew weren’t asked to follow someone they didn’t know. They had spent time with Jesus previously (John 1:35-42), and even believed he was the Messiah. When Jesus approached them in Matthew 4, they had already known Jesus for some time, scholars say a year. So we understand that the first requirement of a disciple of Jesus Christ is to believe.

Of course, the Simon Peter and Andrew didn’t know a lot about Jesus. But they believed he was the Messiah, even though they didn’t entirely understand. And this is the beauty of following Jesus—you don’t have to be a genius to figure it out. Your understanding of Jesus doesn’t have to complete. In fact, usually it’s the simple ones who get it best. “God chooses the foolish to shame the wise.” You can’t follow someone you don’t believe.

What you do have to know is that you have a sin problem that has earned you punishment and Jesus alone can save you. There are more details—a glorious and beautiful treasure trove of details—but the essentials of following Jesus today remain quite simple. God made you. You rebelled. Faith in Christ saves those who repent and believe. Those who believe those things are saved.

Following Jesus also implies life change. When Jesus says “follow me” the underlying directive is stop following that. If he says follow me, he means give up on your ways. If he says live for me, he means stop living for yourself. Simon and Andrew got it—they left their nets and followed him. Following Christ meant giving up their careers in fishing. James and John were mending their nets, trying to fix them so they could catch more fish. And suddenly when Jesus called them, they left the nets in the boat. They weren’t important anymore—following Jesus meant leaving behind old ways.

That’s what following Jesus is—not literally following him around, like the original disciples did. For us, following him has a much broader meaning: we are to follow his way of life, his teachings, his priorities, his goals.

Following Jesus also indicates submission. Jesus says follow me, and that means we give up the rights to run our lives. This is called repentance. We have handed over the title deed of our lives. We gladly submit to Jesus as our lord, master, leader, and guide.

Some try to make Jesus’s call easier than it actually was. They like to accept Jesus as Savior but not as Lord or Master. And so they think they’ll can be saved without submitting to Christ. This isn’t so—the truth is that if Jesus ain’t your Master he ain’t your Savior. If you haven’t submitted you haven’t been saved. It’s the blunt truth that Scripture is careful to repeat over and over again.

So let me recap quickly: When Jesus says “follow me” this is what he means: believe me, make a change in direction, and submit completely.

Next post will look at Jesus’s intention: “and I will make you…”

True Discipleship

true discpleship

So a man shows up on the scene unlike any other man. He’s teaching with authority. He’s healing the sick. He’s casting out demons with his voice. People are amazed, shocked, and sometimes afraid. His message is one of impending judgment and free grace. The masses are drawn in.

The man has an iron will, determination like a freight train. Unstoppable. Fearless.

He’s something of an enigma—making a whip and clearing out the temple one day and laughing with children and comforting the sick on another.  One day he approaches some fishermen and says, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

These men– and some others– start following him around. They become something of the inner circle—those who really, truly know the leader. They are given secrets into the mysteries of God. They are given insider information about the parables. They devote themselves to this man, and they are called disciples. And of course, the man I’m talking about is Jesus.
And, in a strange and somewhat unexpected twist of circumstances, their leader dies. The masses turned on him, the disciples fled, and Jesus got crucified. But three days later, he resurrects.After some time, Jesus starts giving them authority. They are sent on missions—spreading the message of good news and healing the sick. Sometimes, they even do miracles. They become something like an extension of Jesus, operating with his power, speaking his message. These disciples are the hands and feet and mouth of Christ.

And he speaks his parting words to his disciples before ascending into heaven. And you know what they are? Go make disciples. He says “I have all authority, so make disciples. I will be with you always, so make disciples.”

You see what happened? Here were some men who were everything but disciples. Fishermen. Politicians. Tax collectors. You name it. And Jesus calls them and makes them into disciples. And then, when Jesus leaves them, he tells them to make disciples. Now it’s their job.

Jesus’s life in the gospels has abundant description of his dealings with these certain twelve men. How he trained them. How he taught them. How he got them ready for ministry—how he made them disciples. And then, essentially, Jesus says—“You watched me do it. Now you do it.”

We talk a lot about discipleship here at Grace Brethren, mainly because we think it’s the central calling given to the church. I already mentioned Jesus’ final commissioning statement: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” in Matthew 28. A simple look at Jesus’ life is another strong case for discipleship—are we really faithfully modeling our lives after Jesus Christ if we have no concern for training and equipping the people around us? Not to mention the fact that in Ephesians 4 the pastors and teachers are given to the church “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” That’s training—or, discipleship. 2 Timothy 2:2 couldn’t be clearer: central to pastoral work is training up young men who train up others also. So we are convinced that our God-given task is to preach, to pray, and to prepare young men and women for lives of service to the church—that is, make disciples.

Over the next few days I’ll be blogging through ten words: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). I’ll divide it into three sections:

  • “Follow me”
  • “And I will  make you”
  • “Fishers of men”

The goal is to think hard about what Jesus has called us to and come into a deeper understanding of our role in the story of redemption.