Tag Archives: discipleship

7 Reasons Why You Need a Pathway for Discipleship

Although some churches do a wonderful job of discipling, I continue to be amazed at the number of churches that have no pathway for growth for their members to follow. Yet, we all know that spiritual growth is essential! And while we know that growth is a work of the Spirit, it is also healthy to have a plan to follow as you let Him do His work in you. I’ll share another time on how you can set this up, but for now, here are 7 reasons why you need a pathway for discipleship, both individually and collectively as a church:

  1. You are tempted to sin. Sin has been here for a long time, and temptation is not going to stop.
  2. You need a far off view. A big picture view is an important part of objectively tracking areas where you are growing and where you need to grow in.
  3. You are tempted to be passive. There are more tools for spiritual development than ever before, but there is a great irony that biblical illiteracy is so high. It is very easy for you to sit back and not get intentional with your spiritual growth.
  4. Accountability is needed. The rugged individualism of the American culture tends to shy away from accountability, but there are many passages in Scripture that call us to submitting to each other in Christ.
  5. You can avoid an unbalanced diet. Having a strategy for study will help you develop a healthy, balanced diet for discipleship and avoid doctrinal “hobby horses.”
  6. You’ll study topics and books that you might not normally study. It’s natural that we tend to avoid the areas we are unfamiliar with, but a properly implemented pathway will stretch you a bit.
  7. You can be humbled and challenged. You might see growth in some areas and a lack of growth in other areas of your life. This is a great opportunity for you to be further challenged!

Hope this helps. Next time, I will write on the “how” of creating a discipleship pathway.

Fran

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What Does God Even Want??

As I have enjoyed moving from winter to spring, I have been thinking a whole lot lately about the way that God has revealed Himself to us over the time line from His Creation to His New Heaven and New Earth. One question comes to mind: as we know God, what does He want from us? Let me explain…

He began with His general revelation, that is, the heavens and the earth. He spoke to and through the patriarchs, gave the Torah to Moses, and corrected the people of God through the Prophets. Finally, God spoke through Himself incarnate in the person of Jesus, followed by His Spirit-breathed Words from the Apostles and the early church. And what is remarkable is that every time He spoke, He spoke of the gospel, that grace from Him that is available to us all. The world and the Word reveals the glory of God! What a wonderful thought!

So what does this mean for you and me? Again, what does God want? Well, it means this:

  • Even though we cannot see Him fully, God desires our obedience.
  • Even though we may not understand Him fully, God desires our obedience.
  • Even though we are unable to live life Christ fully, God desires our obedience.

Get the picture? The key is that God wants us to operate on what we know. Jesus said,

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be expected” (Luke 12:48).

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We grow, and we obey even more with that in mind. We grow more, and we are expected to do more. It’s called sanctification, and this is an important part of being a follower of Jesus.

So grow. Grow in the Word, in prayer, in serving, and in sharing your faith in a real way.  And remember, as you go into worship this weekend, take what you hear and see and follow Him even more. Let His light shine from you to others as a sweet sacrifice of praise to Him. And as you do that, He will get all the glory!

Have a great Sunday!

Fran

 

What God Loves…

I’ve been in ministry for over 23 years now, and I can say that I have never been more encouraged to see God’s work than ever before. I have seen first hand several churches explode in worship attendance, in their disciple-making, and in ministry to the world around them. And there is a clear pattern: regardless of style, flavor, or culture, the churches which have a high view of the Word, challenge one another to holiness, and focus on discipling others in the Word are the ones that are healthy, stable, and growing. It’s amazing that I see very few exceptions to this rule. Yet these thriving churches exist all around as the light of Christ to the Midwest. This is so encouraging because it is clearly what God loves!

Of course, I also see the opposite, and yes, when I see this, I do grieve. Obviously, God doesn’t want unhealthy and declining churches. And unfortunately, just like I see a pattern in healthy, growing churches, I also see a pattern for unhealthy ones. In these churches, there are misguided people who focus not on the Word but on procedures, legalism, and even politicking. They place unceasing attention to the crisis of the day. They draw attention to the negatives and create divisions. They stir up trouble in the shadows of the hallways. And disciple making is reduced to an afterthought. The Gospel is secondary. The Word becomes a manipulative tool to attack others versus a revelation from God to live by.

And as we see in this text from Proverbs, God despises this practice:

“The Lord hates six things; in fact, seven are detestable to him: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil, a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers.” Proverbs 6:16‭-‬19 CSB

These are tough words,yet this is a truth we need to be sober about: God doesn’t want discord or strife from within. He doesn’t want His Bride disgraced, destroyed, and disgusted. He doesn’t want the Family of God to be distracted, from the Great Commission and the work of making disciples. He doesn’t want hateful strife and stressful hate. He wants none of that. For those in the church that practice this, it’s kind of hard to differentiate them from those outside the church. And this certainly grieves God the Holy Spirit as it should grieve His godly saints. And if it isn’t grieving you right now, then, well then that’s just messed up. Sorry, but that’s true.

The good news is that there’s always a better way, a much better way. That way is a way of grace, truth, and love. Since the Bride of Christ is not to be a place that is focused on power, a focus should be on Christ, because, after all, power should be completely in the hands of the Lord who we worship.

And we as members of one another should do what is opposite of our fleshly inclination: a practice of full and complete submission in love. This means to follow the biblical pattern to lift up one another, to love one another, to believe the best in one another, and to build up one another. That is a way of grace. That is the way of Christ.

Want to see others come to Christ, grow in Christ, serve Christ, and share Christ in a way like never before? Then repent, get out of His way, submit to His leading, live for Him and help others to do the same as an act of worship. Love, and love some more. And then love again. Yes, even those who are hard to love. No ands, ifs, or buts.

Because that, my friend, is what God loves.

Fran

Pastor, Are You Chasing the Wind?

“Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind…” Ecclesiastes 2:11 NIV

I get to travel quite a bit to talk with church leaders across the Upper Midwest. I’ve spent time in all sizes of churches, from the smallest of urban or rural churches to the upscale megachurch with multiple sites and services. Although there’s been some great research done on growing churches, I can tell you for my own observation that there’s a difference between leaders who are growing on a foundation of Christ and those who are just “chasing the wind” through their own efforts. In fact, I have seen a few commonalities in healthy, growing churches regardless of the context or size. Let me give you a quick list with no order of importance:
  1. A commitment to expository preaching. I’ve seen some really good expository preaching in which the pastor will take a passage and allow the structure of the passage to be the basis of the message. He takes time to explain the passage and the context, both at the time that it was written and the application for today. This is sorely needed in our culture today.
  2. A clear path for discipleship. I am amazed at how many church leaders have no real idea on how to disciple believers on an ongoing, systematic basis. The healthy churches that I have seen know exactly how to take a new believer in Christ through a process of growth to become more like Jesus. Find a process and work it.
  3. An authentic love. One of my favorite pastors does not buy into the CEO mentality as he ministers to his congregation. He spends time with his people, he fervently prays for them, and he also takes time to study so that he can pour into them in his pulpit ministry. He has boundaries, but his people know that he loves them. By the way, he ministers to about 1,500 people in his congregation each week.
  4. A priority on missions and evangelism. Church members focused on going and telling usually don’t major on the minors in the inner workings of the church. They know that their leaders are Godly, praying, loving men of the word and they trust them. They are much less likely to micromanage day-to-day affairs in the church. They also see their leaders right next to them as they do some of the grunt work, as they go out on mission trips and as they share the gospel.

That’s what I’ve noticed. Note that I never talked about hype, worship style, or any “cool factors” related to ministry. That’s because these are secondary issues that usually don’t matter over the long run. In other words, I’ve seen healthy, growing traditional churches in the middle of a cornfield as well as healthy, growing, super contemporary, polished churches in a suburb. The point is that the church will change the method but not at a price.

And this brings me to the possibly convicting news. I’ve noticed plenty of unhealthy disasters where the leadership has tried to “chase the hype,” even going as far as compromising the message (intentionally or not) in order to somehow try to stay relevant with the culture. This includes turning to shallow material that a member can pop into their living room like a Netflix movie and call it discipleship. Or making major cultural changes in the church arbitrarily and without communication. Or discarding the basic foundations of teaching for children and replacing it with moralistic, hypercool content with a verse of scripture slapped on it) that focuses on fun instead of the Gospel. Fun is, well, fun, but let’s not abandon the treasure of the Gospel just to entertain people.

My message to you: stop chasing the hype. You’re not going to grow disciples by trying to be cool. Look at what you’re doing and allowing to be taught by word and by deed. Spiritual growth is a slow, steady, ongoing and patient process, so take your time with others just as God worked in you to make you more like Jesus. Yes, you can have content to help you in the process of growing disciples while still being relevant to the culture of your community. Yes, you can do some awesome and creative things outside of the box to reach people where they are. But don’t forget the fundamentals, okay? Remember, when the leadership is focused on the word, discipleship, love, and missions, God will use His Spirit to produce a great deal of fruit.

Otherwise, you’re chasing after the wind.

Fran

Your Struggle Is Worth It

Are you having a tough time as of late? Join the club! Scripture is pretty clear that we have to struggle in life. And it doesn’t help when someone says something like, “Oh, God is trying to teach you something!” It’s almost like, “God, please teach me less then!” I get it, life can hurt and hurt a whole lot on this side of glory.

But let’s look at the benefits of the struggle. Like a butterfly flapping rapidly to pump blood into its new but shriveled wings once it exits the cocoon, growth can be tough, tiring, and even terrifying. Yet good things can come of it! Even more, when we are in God’s Word and applying God’s Word to our lives, allaof a sudden, our struggles make a bit more sense. It’s a process that God the Holy Spirit uses: We struggle, we pray, we read, we apply, we repent, we worship, we grow.

Here’s another example, the growth of Moses through the time line of the Scripture: Moses was a bumbling, stumbling fool, given to impulsiveness and stupidity which affected him for years. He killed a man and was forced to leave Egypt. He saw a burning bush and went up to see it (and was this a good idea?). When God first gave him the command to save His people, Moses balked and made excuses. But as he matured in the Lord, he went from being a man of “slow lips” (and needing Aaron to speak) to becoming a man who would speak out to Israel with his own God-empowered lips. It was a slow, steady growth in his discipleship, so much that when Aaron performed his own acts of stupidity, Moses was able to rebuke him, too.

And he was humble, so much that he was called the most humble man that ever was. This Moses, this proud, impulsive, even possibly arrogant Moses, became a man that God could use, a man who loved God’s people and rescued them from their enslavement. He struggled, yet God took him through it and did incredible things that glorified God and prepared the way for the Promised Land.

How about you? Are you struggling? I know it’s hard to hear, but God really might be teaching you something. He wants you to be wise in Him, to glorify His Son, and to serve Him to make His name known to all the earth. Get in His Word, worship Him in a community of believers, and let God work His will in you. ☺️

We struggle, we pray, we read, we apply, we repent, we worship, we grow.

Fran

If you are critical of your pastor…

Before I begin, let me warn you that this is going to be a very blunt post. Let me also say that I have had a HUGE amount of support over the years and I am not reacting to how I may or may not have been treated.

That said, I now have something to confess: I am burdened over the habitual practice of beating up on a pastor by some church members with a critical spirit. While I don’t want to get into whether or not such people are actual believers, I have seen too many pastors hurt way too much by too many dragons who call themselves Christians. Brothers and sisters, this must not be so.

Let me be even more blunt: when a pastor is simply trying to fulfill his call to share Christ, it is shameful that such “comfort seekers” will dare pounce on him or gossip about his character. Sadly, I’ve seen pastors fired, forced out, or stressed out, all because a small minority of church bullies thought they knew better. They saw new changes as a threat to “their church” and they wanted control back. Such horrific conduct is a tool of Satan and it hinders our mission of the gospel. There. I said it.

Please know my burden is out of concern for some good, faithful men of God. There is nothing more discouraging for a pastor to fight a battle both inside and outside the church. Scripture is very clear that grumbling and “mob rule” leads to nothing but wickedness within the Body. In fact, it often resulted in death, destruction, and discipline from the Lord. Hebrews 13:17 is very clear on this: do the opposite and submit to your leaders.

Are you burdened about this too? Good! Here’s what you can do about it:

  1. Repent. If you have been critical in any way or worshiped with a critical spirit, stop it. God is not honored by your thoughts or conduct. Repent of your conduct and remove this ugliness from your life and heart.
  2. Return. Return to the gospel and become a person of grace. Be gracious to your pastor, believe the best about him, and be a positive example of the grace God has given you. Paul gives us plenty of these sort of imperatives in Eph 4:25-32.
  3. Resolve. Resolve to support your pastor. Love him and be an encouragement to him in public and in private. I have been blessed to have had encouragers throughout my pastoral ministries, and this meant a whole lot during the tough times. Even more, serve next to him and resolve to place the gospel first in all things.
  4. Pray. There’s no greater love you can ever show your pastor than to ask how you can pray for him, then do it. I had a young sister in Christ who would constantly ask how she can pray for me, and I can tell you that this always left me speechless when she asked. Love him by praying for him, and let him know that you are doing so.
  5. Respond. Respond to his leadership by following him wholeheartedly. Serve the Lord fully and unselfishly. After all, if your pastor is a faithful man of the Word, then let him lead and get into the trenches with him. Biblically, there’s no other course of action.

Since I am now in a ministry position that is an extension of the local church, these principles are especially true for me as a church member. In fact, I can’t wait for when the Spirit leads Teresa and me to find and join a local church. That’s because I want to be the type of member in my church that I always wanted to have. Praying for you as you love on your pastor!

In Him,

Fran

Are You Missing?

I really love my truck. It’s a manly, testosterone laced, V10 F250 beast that pulls anything I want anywhere, anytime. I’ve taken it up hills in the snow, gone into the woods where puny she-cars can’t go, and I’ve never gotten stuck. Ever. Yep, breathe in that manliness!

2000_ford_f-350-super-duty_extended-cab-pickup_lariat_fq_oem_1_500The problem is the only thing it never passes is a gas station! And though I love my truck, 10 miles per gallon on a good day is tough to swallow (7 when pulling my camper). However, I recently had new plugs and wires put in the truck and my gas mileage increased by 20%, not too shabby! You see, it turns out that one or more of the cylinders in my hefty engine wasn’t quite connecting right, and the engine wasn’t performing as it should. My engine was misfiring. It was “missing,” and I didn’t even know it.

There are plenty of churches that are not performing as they should. And what I’ve seen is that they miss the mark on one major thing- the discipling of others. In fact, a church without a clear strategy for discipleship is like a sputtering engine that over-consumes resources and lacks power. The church might exist, but the potential to do so much more is left unused.

If this is you and your church, what can you do? I think it is so important to pray for a strategy that is easily remembered and easily repeatable. As a local church pastor, I encouraged people to come, grow, serve, and share the gospel, and I used this as a process as much as a tag line. New believers were quickly encouraged to be a part of a bible study, serve on a team, and were encouraged to share what Christ did for them. The result: lives were changed, leaders were developed, and a church was changed.

So let me ask you: are you missing? Are all your cylinders firing? You can change this! Begin with yourself, then look to help another. If you are a church leader, begin to think about what discipleship looks like. Pray, think, and ask questions, hard questions, and come up with a memorable, repeatable process. Do this, and let God use you and your church in a remarkable, amazing way!

Pastor Fran

Devotion: (the) Father Knows Best

Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.”

bible-1388427_640No one knows the true heart of men but God, and He knows it thoroughly. What His eyes see, we have tried to hide and what His mind knows, we’ve tried to block it out. No one knows us like God knows us.

But if you are known by God, understand this: God doesn’t just know you and then lets you stay still, He wants you to be sanctified, to grow in His grace. Because of this desire, He will push and press you farther so you can grow from the difficulty. Your stretching is just a part of His process, because it’s hard to grow fully unless you press beyond what you can naturally handle.

He will, therefore, try you and test you and let you fail, only to be there for you when you need His grace and mercy. when you are anxious, He will console you (Ps 94:19), when you are angry, He will challenge you (Ps 37:8), and wherever you walk, He will be with you (Ps 23:4). The One who knows you so well inside will take you outside to greater things for Him.

The Psalmist’s prayer should be our own: “lead me in the everlasting way.” Wherever you are, God knows better. He knows what’s best for you. He has a better way for you. You just need to trust Him and let Him lead. What do you need to let God do today?

Pastor Fran

5 Ways to Grow Your Family Spiritually…

As a husband, father, and grandfather, I have had my shares of ups and downs in trying to disciple those whom I love the most. Check out this short list of actions that you can take to help feed your loved ones spiritually and develop habits within them which can stick with them for life:December_15__2015_at_0441PM_-

  1. Read in front of them. For example, would it be unusual for your spouse or children to see you reading the Word of God rather than sitting in front of the TV with a remote in your hand? If so, maybe some changes need to be made.
  2. Pray with them. Not just pray for them, but pray with them. Not just before meals, but at devotions and whenever other life opportunities arise.
  3. Serve with them. Be involved in a ministry that your family can do. It can be inside the church, out on a family mission trip, or a special moment such as speaking to and praying with a person in need.
  4. Love with them. How you treat (and pray for) servers at a restaurant, interact with workers doing a job for you, or even how you treat the homeless matters. Those who are close to you will see your example and will likely respond in a similar way- love people and your children will learn from this valuable example.
  5. Talk with them. Your spouse and family desperately want you to talk with them, and specifically, to listen to them. As children become teens and teens become adults, communication that’s open, loving, and truth filled will have a incredibly valuable, life long effect that’s contagious for others.

Try these actions. I’m sure that you will be blessed as you care for those you love in a real and practical way.

Pastor Fran