Be Fruitful and Multiply Disciples

Ah! A blog from a fellow -SPU graduate. Good read by Seth McBee from Gospel-Centered Discipleship

Historically, movements have stopped because they were primarily leader-led information dumps. Information isn’t a bad thing, but information-driven movements are limited in influence. Why should we create disciple multiplying movements? How can we create them?

It’s What We Were Made For
In the garden of Eden, we see that image bearers of God we were made to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:22, 26-28). By issuing his first “great commission,” God did not merely intend for us to have more people over for Thanksgiving dinner. Rather, he wanted his beautiful image to fill the entire earth through the multiplication of his image bearers. But through Adam, we sinned and were separated from God.

In the attempt to author our own story, we sought center stage–pushing God’s goals for us aside. We sought to multiply our image for the sake of our own fame rather than God’s fame.

When someone repents and turns to God, it is our responsibility to show them their new mission by pointing back to the garden. We must show how their mission is all about multiplying for the sake of God’s glory not multiplying a life that is all about them and their legacy.

Most small groups in churches believe their goal is to get to know each other or form a close bond. If this is the goal, multiplication will never be desired. Drawing close to one another is not the goal of missional community, but making disciples who make disciples is (being fruitful and multiplying images of Jesus). Drawing close to one another happens because Jesus has given us the same Father, and we are a part of the same family. So, forming a close bond is a bi-product rather than the goal of living together on mission as family.

This Must be on Our Lips
If our goal is to make disciples who make disciples (to be fruitful and multiply), then this must be on our lips constantly. I tell those who aren’t even followers of Jesus yet, that we desire to see communities like ours across the world doing the same thing. So, when they join our community as a follower of Jesus, they’ve already been discipled to know that we desire multiplication.

But it doesn’t stop there. We continue to talk about it as a group and continue to seek to hear from the Spirit on his timing and his power to send us out. The best way I can describe this is by relating it to your child. Do you desire to see your child stay in your house until they die? Or do you desire to see them leave the house and have a family of their own? Do you then wait until they are 18 and spring this on them and then kick them out? Or, do you continue talking to them about it, train them and seek for them to be ready when the day comes to leave your house and go and be fruitful and multiply with their new family? This is the same thing we need to be doing with our church families. We need to seek to see them grow in maturity and grow in the gospel so that they too can lead a family of missionary servants to live out the effects of the gospel with those around them.

People often ask me how I make it easy for our groups to multiply. I say the same thing every time: You must regularly talk about multiplication and train the next group for its certainty. It must always be on your lips and prayers, and always on your people’s lips and prayers. If it’s not, then it will be very difficult when it happens–like kicking out your unsuspecting child and telling them it’s healthy.

Transforming and Transferable
You will do well by building the foundation of multiplication. You will also do well by regularly talking about it and listening to the Spirit in the process. But what happens if you have no leaders to lead the multiplication? This is where many groups and movements fail. The reason is that people in the group look at the leader and think, “There’s no way I can do what he’s doing. This takes too much time and too much theological knowledge.” Not only that, but you’ve merely spoken about multiplication without transforming people’s hearts to seek it out.

Merely talking about making disciples is sometimes fun and it’s a great theological exercise for the mind. But mere talk and theologizing rarely inspire people to make disciples.

If you desire to see others gripped to make disciples, you must not only penetrate their intellect. You must also aim at their hearts. If you merely aim at their heads with theological reasons why it’s good to make disciples, people will always come up with reasons why they are not convinced of its realities.

I think of Jonathan Edwards when he spoke of God’s holiness and grace and compared it to honey.[1]

In this way, he says, there is a difference between having an opinion that God is holy and gracious, and having a sense of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness. A man may have the former, that knows not how honey tastes; but a man cannot have the latter unless he has an idea of the taste of honey in his mind. So there is a difference between believing that a person is beautiful, and having a sense of his beauty. The former may be obtained by hearsay, but the latter only by seeing the countenance. When the heart is sensible of the beauty and amiableness of a thing, it necessarily feels pleasure in the apprehension. It is implied in a person’s being heartily sensible of the loveliness of a thing, that the idea of it is sweet and pleasant to his soul; which is a far different thing from having a rational opinion that it is excellent.

So, we must, as leaders, show others what it means to make disciples. When a follower of Jesus sees new disciples being made, and they are a part of it, their heart will rejoice. And like honey on the lips, they will desire more honey instead of merely talking about honey. Jesus did the same with the blind man in John 9. He healed him, so that the blind man would taste and see that the Lord was good. Then he supported that heart-transforming act, to theologically tackle the implications of who Jesus was afterward in John 9:35-41. Notice the way the blind man desired others to taste and see that the Lord Jesus was good–because his heart was transformed.

Not only do we seek to transform, but we must also make sure what we do is transferable. I have many things I can share from experience that I believe are transferable for my people, but you must ask yourself these types of questions:

  • Do I need a theological degree to lead the community like I do? Remember, not all people like to read and study as much as many of us pastors do. If we want to create a movement of disciple-making, then we have to move away from leading from a position of “trained” men, into leading like “untrained” men. (By the way, I’ve never been to seminary, nor am I paid by the church.)
  • Do I need to be paid by the church to have the time to do what I do? See above.
  • What resources are available to give future leaders so that they don’t feel like they have to think of new topics to discuss and study in their Missional Community? I do not do any book studies in the Bible that cause me to do an immeasurable amount of study and reading on my own. If I do, then people will see the group as one that can only be led by someone with my capacity. Instead, I use easily transferable studies (e.g., check out  www.bild.org)
  • How can I model all of this, so that I am going to be able to transfer leadership, instead of being the functional savior for our groups? Make sure you lead as you want others to lead. Don’t do studies that can only be led by a seminarian. Don’t do so many activities that can only be done by those with a job inside the church. Remember, as you lead, you are discipling those in your group on what it looks like to lead a group of disciple-makers. You can’t say one thing and model another. They’ll see right through that.

Because I have worked hard to hear the Spirit’s leading in this, 80% of those that are a part of the Missional Communities in my expression within Soma Communities desire to lead MCs at some point. When I baptized a new disciple, he first desired to lead a group of disciple-makers. He saw this as the only option for someone who was a follower of Jesus and, that it wasn’t anything special. In spite of being a new disciple, he didn’t see this as some “high calling” only for a few.

Since we want to lay the foundation of multiplication, we regularly talk about making disciples who make disciples. We seek to do this by modeling it for them in ways easily transferable. New disciples often can’t wait to lead others in the making of disciples who multiply to make more disciples.

So, go! Be fruitful disciples of Jesus by multiplying his beautiful image everywhere.

1 http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/edwards_light.html

Seth McBee is the adopted son of God, husband of one wife and father of three. He’s a graduate of Seattle Pacific University with a finance degree. By trade Seth is an Investment Portfolio Manager, serving as president of McBee Advisors, Inc. Today, he’s a preaching elder, City Church leader and coach with Soma Communities in Renton, Washington. In his down time he likes to watch football, cook BBQ, host pancake ebelskiver breakfasts at his home and many other neighborhood events in his hometown of Maple Valley, Washington.

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Discipleship Is More Than Conveying Information

A good blog by Trevin Wax, who is an editor, author and blogger at “Kingdom People.”

Recently, I read an article from The Wall Street Journal about the loss of apprenticeship in preparing a young person for adulthood. It’s interesting that the writer recognized the difference between being book smart and wise with regard to life.

I wonder if there aren’t some parallels here with how Christians think of discipleship.

The culture of the first century put a high priority on learning through apprenticeship. You see hints in this direction as you read the New Testament, particularly in how Jesus spoke of His relationship to the Father. But it’s also likely that in the early Christians’ desire to “make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Christ had commanded them,” their vision of “teaching” was somewhat different than what we mean by the term today.

Teaching and the Delivery of Information: Two Camps

To be clear, teaching involves the transfer of important information. The New Testament authors were steeped in the Old Testament, having probably memorized entire books of the Bible. When I say that making disciples and teaching them involves more than conveying information, I’m not saying that it is ever less.

Camp 1

One of the problems plaguing contemporary evangelicalism today is that pastors and teachers have rightly diagnosed a problem: there is more to teaching than just giving information to people. But the proposed response is often worse than the problem.

Once they recognize the deficiencies of an information-only type of teaching, these leaders begin to downplay the need for verbally teaching people the fundamental doctrines of the faith. The result is a largely atheological ministry that inevitably leans toward a behavior-focused, moralistic message. The good news (powerful, life-transforming information) subtly shifts into good advice (“Just tell me how to live!”). And we wind up with a biblically illiterate mass of well-intentioned Christians being told each week what to do.

Camp 2

In response, other church leaders swing the pendulum back. We must teach people and teach them well. The problem, however, is that “teaching” in these churches is often reduced to conveying important biblical information. The assumption is that once we learn the right things, we will live the right way.

Francis Schaeffer, no lightweight when it came to doctrine, warned against this way of thinking:

Most of the Reformation then let the pendulum swing and thought if only the right doctrines were taught that all would be automatically well. Thus, to a large extent, the Reformation concentrated almost exclusively on the “teaching ministry of the Church.” In other words almost all the emphasis was placed on teaching the right doctrines. In this I feel the fatal error had already been made. It is not for a moment that we can begin to get anywhere until the right doctrines are taught. But the right doctrines mentally assented to are not an end in themselves, but should only be the vestibule to a personal and loving communion with God…

Teaching right doctrine matters. Discipleship without a strong emphasis on teaching will inevitably be stunted. But there is more than one way to stunt your growth. Just as the first approach reduces discipleship to behavioral modification, the second approach reduces discipleship to information dump.

Teaching and the Modeling of the Christian Life

The biblical vision of teaching, particularly with its emphasis on apprenticeship, opens up new windows as to how “teaching” needs to include both the delivery of Christian truth and the modeling of a Christian lifestyle. Belief and action go together. Schaeffer again:

It seems to me that the real question is what we really believe. It seems to me that we do tend to have two creeds—the one which we believe in our intellectual assent, and then the one which we believe to the extent of acting upon it in faith. More and more it seems to me that the true level of our orthodoxy is measured by this latter standard rather than the former. And more and more it seems to me that there is no such thing as an abstract Christian dogma—that each Christian dogma can be experienced on some level.

So dogma and experience go together. How does that shape our vision of “teaching”? In particular, what does “teaching them” in the Great Commission refer to? Sermons? Bible studies? Lectures? Maybe. But there’s a clue there in the text itself. Teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded. This necessarily involves both modeling and verbal teaching.

Without verbal witness we are unable to teach what Christ taught. But teaching to obey, in this context, surely demands more than just telling people what to do. This is the language of apprenticeship – a teaching that takes place through doing life together, as a teacher models what this life is supposed to look like. It’s the kind of “teaching” that takes place implicitly when Christians welcome one another into their homes, when Christians do good works together for the community. It’s the kind of life that is caught, not taught. Or better said, it’s taught through doing life together, inviting people to follow us as we follow Christ.

That’s why in conversations about the mission of the church, making a sharp distinction between representing and proclaiming Christ introduces more problems than it solves. Making disciples is the mission of the church, yes, but the teaching aspect of this process is more than delivering the gospel verbally and teaching the Bible verbally to new Christians. It is certainly never less, which is what the pastors in Camp 2 instinctively and rightly realize. But neither can it be just this.

David Mathis asks:

Does “disciple all nations” not call to mind how Jesus himself “discipled” his men? They were, after all, his “disciples.” And when they heard him say, “disciple all nations,” would they not think this discipleship is what he did with them – investing prolonged, real-life, day-in, day-out, intentional time with younger believers in order to bring them to maturity as well as model for them how to disciple others in the same way?

The answer, of course, is yes! Discipleship and teaching must mean more than conveying true information.

Bottom Line

Apprenticeship is serious business. Never downplay the importance of sermons, theological education, and deep Bible study. Just make sure you match all of these with doing life together, modeling a new way of being human, inviting people to come alongside of us and learn what it means to follow Jesus – not merely by what we tell them but also by how we live.

Trevin Wax is the Managing Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum developed by LifeWay Christian Resources. He blogs daily at Kingdom People and is the author of Holy Subversion (Crossway, 2010) and Counterfeit Gospels(Moody, 2011).

Is Your Bible Crammed with Relevance?

I like this from Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition blog

In David Powlison’s article “Do You See?” (The Journal of Biblical Counseling, XI/3 [1993]: 3-4) he asks his readers what they see when they look at the Bible:

  • What do you see when you look at your Bible?
  • Do you see a book crammed with relevance?
  • Do you see a book out of which God bursts as He speaks to what matters in daily life?
  • Is your Bible packed with application to the real problems of real people in the real world: inexhaustible, immediate, diverse, flexible?
  • Or is the Bible relatively thin when it comes to addressing human struggles?

Powlison then explains the two kinds of contemporary Bible‑believing, evangelical Protestants that he sees.

  • One sort has a Bible crammed with relevance to human life.
  • The other sort has a Bible of modest utility.
  • This difference in seeing underlies many of the conflicts and misunderstandings within Christian counseling.

He first discusses those Bible-believers whose Bible is only a moderately useful resource.

They may honor the Bible with noble‑sounding descriptions. God’s Word provides a framework of ultimate meaning. It is a “resource” for comfort in trials or for “spiritual” strengthening. Scripture maps out the way of ultimate salvation. It is useful for “theology,” for theoretical truths about God, heaven and hell, life and death, the kingdom, “the Christian view of . . .” It is an honored authority for reflecting on the “large” questions of life.

What is wrong with that paragraph?

On the surface, nothing, except that all is rather vague and highflying. Even theological liberals have uttered similar sentiments.

The divide comes when you ask whether the Bible is truly useful in the trenches of daily life. Here this sort of Bible‑believer turns to other sources for insight and guidance. Some turn to new and personalized revelations, prophecies, leadings and intuitions. Others turn to the secular psychologies for understanding and guidance. In either case, the Bible doesn’t say enough about what really matters in daily life.

Powlison identifies these people, with their relatively thin Bible, as having a vision defect.

Their Bible is seen as a child’s eight‑key, tin toy piano. Those eight white keys may be of central importance in music theory: the key of C‑major, beginning with middle‑C, sounds the basic do‑re‑mi after all. They’ll do for the Sunday School songs. But you can’t play much of depth and interest. No sonatas. No fugues. No concertos. You can’t sound the nuances, the variations, the minor keys of life. And no mature pianist would bother plunking around on an eight‑key tin piano. There are more interesting and flexible instruments around.

He then goes on to describe the other type of Bible-believer:

But for the other sort of Bible‑believer the Bible is a grand piano. In fact it’s a grand piano, plus the rest of the orchestra, plus the great composers, plus the great pianists, plus the great conductors. It sounds all the notes, all the tones, all the rhythms, all the keys, all the special effects, all the nuances. That’s the vision biblical counselors have of the Bible. It’s crammed. The Composer, Conductor and Musician is active.

When people with thin Bibles hear people with crammed Bibles talk about the sufficiency of Scripture for counseling, they hear, “Something thin and incomplete is sufficient for a very complex job.” That sounds ridiculous. Biblical counseling sounds absurd, doctrinaire, obscurantist, the rantings of small‑minded know‑nothings who glory in their ignorance.

But when people with crammed Bibles speak of Scripture’s sufficiency they mean—or ought to mean—”Something living and active, inexhaustibly rich, comprehensive and relevant, is sufficient for a very complex job.” That sounds reasonable. And when in the trenches of face‑to‑face ministry the Lord Himself speaks to people, that profession of vision is vindicated.

The evidence for the Christian case

by Michael Green

 The evidence for the Christian case is very strong. Though incapable of compelling faith, it is quite sufficient to warrant it.

Runaway World (1976), p. 36.

The victim was the victor

by John Stott:

Any contemporary observer, who saw Christ die, would have listened with astonished incredulity to the claim that the Crucified was a Conqueror. Had he not been rejected by his own nation, betrayed, denied and deserted by his own disciples, and executed by authority from the Roman procurator?

Look at him there, spread-eagled and skewered on his cross, robbed of all freedom of movement, strung up with nails, pinned there and powerless. It appears to be total defeat. If there is victory, it is the victory of pride, prejudice, jealousy, hatred, cowardice, and brutality.

Yet the Christian claim is that the reality is the opposite of the appearance. What looks like (and indeed was) the defeat of goodness by evil is also, and more certainly, the defeat of evil by goodness. Overcome there, He was Himself overcoming. Crushed by the ruthless power of Rome, he was Himself crushing the serpent’s head. The victim was the victor, and the cross is still the throne from which he rules the world.

~ The Cross of Christ, 227-28.

What do congregations really need?

Or from the other side of the coin, perhaps this could be titled: “How then shall we preach?”

I get overwhelmed with the bewildering number of “wants” (usually described as “needs”) people have when they talk about the church.  An active youth program.  A big and enthusiastic music program.  An energetic social life.  A vibrant community service program.  A big multipurpose room.  A minister who is funny and social and cool and relevant. Etc. Etc…

But how often we hear – either from ministers or from congregations – that preaching needs to be focused less on highfalutin doctrine and more on practical application.  “Yeah, talk about theology is all well and good, but we’ve got a battle to fight and it’s time to start giving us the tips we need to make an impact starting Monday morning.”

All this to say, the word on the street is that it is more important that sermons provide us with tips for overcoming low self-esteem or anxiety or conflict with co-workers or ______ (fill in the blank) than it is that they talk about things that don’t really help us – things like imputation or the hypostatic union or the simplicity of God or anthropomorphism in scripture or ______ (again, fill in the blank).

“Pastor, be more relevant!” (Read: less doctrine, more practical advice.)  Although if truth be known, “be more relevant” actually means less gospel, more law.  Is this really the case?  Do deeds really trump creeds?  Does action really outdo accuracy?  Does practice really outweigh profession?

The following section from Michael Horton’s Christless Christianity hits the nail on the head:

Confident in ourselves, we will naturally incline toward moralism, asking Jesus, along with the rich young ruler, “What is the one thing that I must do in order to inherit eternal life?”  And until we are, like that ruler, faced with the real intention of the law, we will naturally assume with him, “All this I have done since my youth” (see Luke 19:18-21).  We do not naturally assume that we are wretched, poor, blind, and naked.  We do not like being brought to the end of our rope any more than that rich young ruler did.  Even the disciples asked, “‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’” (vv.25-26).

Secularism cannot be blamed on the secularists, many of whom were raised in the church.  We are the problem.  If most churchgoers cannot tell us anything specific about the God they consider meaningful or explain basic doctrines of creation in God’s image, original sin, the atonement, justification, sanctification, the means of grace, or the hope of glory, then the blame can hardly be placed at the feet of secular humanists.  If, for example, privatization entails “the transfer of truth claims from the objective world to the subjectivity of the individual,” then American Protestants  have not only adapted to a secular culture but are part of a revivalistic heritage that helped to create it.

All that is necessary for us to become unwitting Pelagians is less preaching and teaching of the law and the gospel – downplaying the means of grace (Word and sacrament) in favor of our means of transforming ourselves and our world.  Since self-trust is our default setting, we can never assume that we really get the gospel and can now move on to our own works.  Even when we talk about our obligations to God and neighbor, it must be grounded first of all in the gospel of salvation by grace apart from works.

Christless Christianity, pgs. 243-44.

Fellow minister, fellow Christian congregant – never forget humanity’s greatest need: the gospel.  Christians aren’t just all-around decent folk who need some instruction.  They are sinners – dying and in need of good news.  Christians aren’t custodians of a pretty-good life who need some help at making a better difference in their community.  They are pilgrims, on their way to the promised land.  They are getting cancer, they are burying loved ones, they are getting kicked out of their homes due to foreclosure, they are struggling to care for parents with Alzheimer’s.

Christians need good news.  Even when they are being exhorted unto maturity, they still need good news!  Never accept the premise that the gospel is good … but the real action is over here ….  O that a day might come when every sermon from every Christian pulpit thundered the de-centering announcement to Christians that their sins are forgiven and they are no longer under the condemnation of God!  O that congregations and ministers both might relish in the news that Christ has borne their sins, suffering the curse in their place, and that he has obeyed the law perfectly, fulfilling all righteousness in their place as well!

Praise God for that all important biblical distinction between Law and Gospel!

Courageous

Courageous

by Casting Crowns


We were made to be courageous
We were made to lead the way
We could be the generation that finally breaks the chains
we were warriors on the front lines,
standing unafraid.
but now we’re watchers on the side lines,
while our families slip away.
where are you men of courage?
you were made for so much more.
let the pounding of our hearts cry,
we will serve the Lord.
we were made to be courageous,
and were taking back the fight.
we were made to be courageous,
and it starts with us tonight.
the only way we’ll ever stand,
is on our knees with lifted hands.
make us courageous,
Lord make us courageous.
this is our resolution, our answer to the call,
we will love our wives and children,
and refuse to let them fall.
we will reignite the passion,
that we buried deep inside.
may the watchers become warriors,
let the men of God arise.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM