What if we let them change the world?

We've all met that kid just out of college who's planning to change the world. He's full of life and energy. She's got a plan to solve every social ill.

If you haven't met that kid, you are that kid.

"Naiveté," we say. They'll be disabused of that notion soon enough. They'll see the world for what it is, and how hard it is to change.

But what if we let them keep their naiveté?

What if we were already busy changing the world? What if we brought all of our experience and wisdom and cynicism to bear on the task at hand? What if instead of telling them they can't do it we invited them to be a part of what we're already doing?

What if we taught them what we know and unleashed their boundless energy to go about the task?

What if we let them change the world?

Francis Chan – Catalyst 2012

Do you guys realize what just happened there?

You guys, we can't just do things like that. We can't say Gungor, awesome. Isn't Jesus great? Yeah!

Jesus is just in such a different category. I don't want my name in the same sentence as Jesus. I get caught up in this is awesome, that is awesome, oh yeah, Jesus is awesome.

I'm here, you're here, the musicians are up here all because of one being. We say that name Jesus all the time, but we can't let that name be common.

I want us to just stop right now and think about who He is who created us all and died for us all. I want to do something very sacred and just talk to him right now.

I just want to pray, to have still, quiet time.

I was looking at my notes from last year because that would be embarrassing if I gave the same talk again. Last year I told you the Trader Joe's story about how their refrigerators broke down right after we announced we had no meat for our outreach to serve thousands of meals.

So this year we're doing the same conference again, and the kitchen manager says to me we only have enough meat for one day. Half an hour after the staff meeting we get a call from Trader Joe's. They had a power outage.

We're like no way. It's just so nice to know he's with us, and he's leading us.

This last year there's just been miracle after miracle. I've never had a year where I've had so many miracles. I met with some guys just to type them out. We had the greatest time of celebration for hours. These crazy, crazy stories.

The thing is, even with all of the things that happened and all of these people we've been reaching out to. My ministry is in inner city San Francisco. On Sundays we sing for 10 minutes. I speak for 10 minutes, and then we go out for two hours to these apartment buildings and do outreach. And then we get back together after two hours and talk about what happened.

A couple of weeks ago my daughter called me. She's freaking out. She asked this guy to read his Bible when she visited him. She asked him to read Ephesians 1 and 2. And she goes back the next week and asks if he read it. He said this morning, I get this weird text message, and I pushed this button and the phone starts reading Ephesians 1 and 2.

These things just keep happening over and over and over.

But this thing is driving me crazy. The people still don't repent. It's just unbelievable. I wish I could say there's hundreds of people showing up who have turned from their addictions and we're going to baptize them right now. It's like two.

It's frustrating. It got me thinking about thinks. I'm seeing God work. God revealed to me at one point that I was worshipping revival more than I was worshipping Jesus.

The Bible doesn't promise revival. In 1 Timothy 4, he promises the opposite. He says people will be lovers of themselves and not teach sound doctrine.

He says go and make disciples. He doesn't say there will be revival. He says he will be with you.

There's this thrill of knowing we are walking with Jesus.

There's probably plenty of you in here that have had a discouraging year. As much as I've seen God do, it's been a discouraging year. I'm exhausted. But it's not about that.

Are you walking closely with Jesus? Are you living by faith?

I think at the end when you see Jesus, I think you're going to be surprised. I think who God looks at and says, "Well done," will surprise you. "Man, you made those 8 disciples." And you're like, man, that's all I did. We're a church of 9. And he's going to say, "Well done. You followed my model."

You see it happening out there. More and more people are saying, man, I need to make disciples.

I got so excited about making disciples and started writing down all of these reasons to make disciples. But then I started thinking and I thought, "We probably don't want everyone in this room making disciples." Because some of you don't really act like Jesus. People don't look at your life and say you're just like Jesus or you remind me of Jesus, so why would we want more of you? What we want is Jesus right? What the world needs is Jesus. What we need is more of Jesus.

What Paul says in 1 Corintihans 11:1 is "Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ." But we know there are people in this room right now who are cheating on their spouses, so why would I tell you, "Go, duplicate yourselves." There are people in here who are greedy, arrogant. Man, some of you don't really love and know Jesus, so why would we multiply that? You see what I'm getting at? So we're supposed to be about Jesus, but maybe we've forgotten that it's about exalting Jesus and making our lives look more and more like him, being selfless and giving ourselves to other people, but if we're not doing that, why would you make a convert that's twice the son of hell that you are?

So look at yourself and ask yourself, "Who am I?" We need to judge ourselves. Are you becoming more and more like Christ, I hope so.

There are times I get so busy and focused on other things that I'm not looking at my life, and I'm not asking if I'm becoming more and more like Jesus. Look at my life as I learn more and more about Jesus.

Part of being like Christ is making disciples. Jesus says, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." He spends his whole life making disciples, gets nailed to a cross, rises, and says go and start making disciples. So as we follow his example, we live a life of disciple making.

The church has to get back to making this the primary thing, right. If I'm going to be a pastor, then I want to act like Jesus. That's the question. Does he remind you of Jesus. That's what I'm supposed to do. When's the last time you had someone look at you and say, "Follow me ,as I follow the example of Christ."

So why be disciple makers? Well, it's commanded. I should be able to close with that.

Imagine a person rising from the dead and saying every bit of authority on heaven and earth belongs to you. And he prefaces that by saying, "Go and make disciples."

I get concerned. Again, "Be hearers of the Word, right?" No, be doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves.

We're hearing tough messages, but what are we doing? Walking away sad isn't achieving something. That's what the rich young ruler did.

I'm not trying to make anyone feel guilty. That's the last thing I want. Repent. Change.

I do it because I love the lost.

Paul says, "Be imitators of me as I am of Christ." RIght before that he says, whatever you do, eat or drink do it all to the glory of God, not to Jews or Greeks or the church of God, but I try to be all things to all people. Be imitators of me as I imitate Christ.

That's a weird thing to say. He's saying he's a people pleaser. He's trying to make everyone like him so that he might win some.

Let's admit it. I just want us to be honest. Don't you hate sharing your faith? Don't you hate it? Wouldn't you rather do just about anything than go up to a stranger and share your faith.

It doesn't make sense because based on what I know in Scripture this guy is going to spend eternity in hell because I don't want to talk to him about Jesus. I used to feel this as a pastor. I'm just so scared to talk to them about JEsus because I don't want them to reject me.

This pastor is telling me about this christmas program where people are spending 20 hours a week rehearsing. And I said, wouldn't that time be better spent just getting to know their neighbors? And he said, yes, but people won't do that.

That made sense to me then. Now I realize we don't change the system because it's hard.

Scripture says "Go, make disciples."

Paul tells Timothy not to be so scared. Paul asks for prayer from the Ephesians for boldness.

We do this also so that our people will experience God. Don't you want your people to experience God? That's one thing I can guarantee. I don't know if we will get that many people, but we will experience God. That's what Jesus says, he'll be with us when we're making disciples. He sends his Spirit so that we can make disciples.

This is it. This is the huge conclusion.

We've all heard the stats, right, how many of the kids walk away from the Lord when they turn 18. No one knows what the real number is, but let's go on what seems to be the low end: 60%. 60% of kids who grow up in church will ditch it at 18. I've got 5 kids, so if I played the odds, three of them will not walk with the Lord by the time they hit college? Are we okay with at?

When my daughter wasn't following the Lord, I prayed and balled my eyes out. SO I'm looking at the church, and my five kids and I'm saying, so three of them? We've got to have the experience God. We're raising disciple makers.

My daughter is experiencing God. The excitement on her face when she comes home after going out and trying to make disciples. MY daughter sees a homeless lady and asks if she can get her a cheeseburger, goes in gets a a double double and asks if she can sit and have lunch with her. So she sits down and starts laying out the Gospel to this lady, and the lady goes, "This is so weird. Two months ago this guy came up to me and started talking to me about Jesus, and I was thinking about him as you were walking up and this guy told me about this pastor moved to San Francisco and started this ministry." And my daughter goes, "Is his name Francis Chan? That's my dad." Is there any chance onEarth?

We have got to make disciples so that our kids follower our examples. We experience the presence of God. And our kids, we don't just keep them from all of the "bad people" they experience God. My daughter is going off today. I'm not scared anymore. I see how my daughter lives. I go wow, God. You love her. She's starting to experience you.

I don't know how we're going to get back there, how we say I'm just going to worship Jesus and become like Jesus and then just start talking to these people that I'm afraid to talk to. We've gotta get the church back to this.

We've got these people still coming back week after week who should be teachers who are saying, "You didn't feed me enough." I trained my daughter so that she can get her own job, have a family, not coming back asking for allowance. We've got to be training people and equipping people and saying go, start making disciples now.

That's my prayer. SOmehow we've got to get back to that. It starts with leaders. We ourselves don't go out and share the Gospel. We've got to get back to that.

We've got to do what they did in the Bible. They prayed and the earth shook. I worship the same God. But the issue isn't the earthquake. THe issue is they were filled with the Holy Spirit. I would like us to have a prayer just for power, that we would walk out of this room more courageous.

Discipleship. Community. Theology. Life.

Last night my small group was at my house until nearly 11 PM, and my co-leader didn't leave until 11:40.  We had wrapped up the group around 9:00, but as people sat around the circle chatting, two of the group members began to talk about a play they had seen over the weekend, "A Bright New Boise."  As they related the story, it paints a picture of Evangelical Christians as people who disengage from the world because they're really only concerned about getting to Heaven.

This began a conversation about how well (or not) this stereotype represents the American Church, role of faith and works, the Church's response to homosexuality, the need to serve the poor, the tendency for a purely social gospel to replace the Gospel, the need to love others, whether ongoing sin will cause someone who believes in Jesus to go to hell, the problems with faith as our parents practiced it, the blind spots of our generation of Christians, and the perception of the Church by those who are not a part of it.

As I sat there listening and participating, there was a moment when I remembered and rediscovered why I do what I do, why I lead small groups, why I help others organize and lead small groups.  I help create environments where conversations like this can happen.  I help create environments where people can wrestle with their faith, where they can figure out what it means to live out their faith, where they can disagree and still walk away as friends.

It was a rich conversation.  It was the sort of conversation that is worth its weight in gold.  The feeling is much the same feeling as giving your all on the soccer field or the basketball court with a team of friends.  It was challenging, draining, and invigorating all at the same time.

It was discipleship.  It was community.  It was theology.

It was life-giving.

The challenge now is to make sure it translates into life-change.

Photo by ElvertBarnes

Grace and the Heart of Discipleship

Just had a post featured on Pastors.com:

It was a rainy day in Los Angeles, as it often is that time of year, and as I sped along in the left lane I hit a pool of standing water and began to hydroplane. I let up off the gas, but it was too late. I spun backwards across four lanes of traffic before slamming into the concrete barrier along the right shoulder.

Continue Reading »

Andy Stanley at Catalyst (Session 2)

I think this is one of the most important things as it relates to leadership, especially as it relates to church leadership. And it’s overlooked because it’s intimidating. And the younger you are the more intimidating it is to you.

It’s something that the last generation of Church leaders and maybe the current generation of Church leader hasn’t done very well./Je

The Church is the hope of the world.

Pop Quiz

Luke 5 – How did Matthew get to be one of Jesus’ disciples? Jesus selected him.

Luke 6 – Jesus calls his disciples to him and chooses the apostles. So how did the rest of them get to be apostles? Jesus selected them.

Some of you would be tempted to say, “That’s not fair.” But I think Jesus would have said, “That’s not fair.”

If we’re not careful, we’re going to make the same mistake the previous generation did.

I want to talk about the word apprenticing.

We started North Point Church several years ago, and we spent hours and hours and hours talking about what the values of our church would be. We asked what our strategy would be for developing leaders.

The single focused strategy for developing leaders in our congregation is “intentional apprenticing.”

You can be an accidental apprentice, but our whole leadership strategy was going to be intentional apprenticing.

  1. Defining terms.
    1. Apprenticing: Selecting, modeling, and coaching for the purpose of replacing yourself.
      It is that first word we have the most problem with.
    2. It seems unfair. And even among the 12 there were the three, and there had to be times when they said, that’s not fair.

    3. The New Testament Term is discipleship.
  2. Jesus’ Approach
    1. He began with succession in mind.
      We wait too long. We think “I’m 25, I can’t think about apprenticing.” And then we’re 35 then 45, then 65, and we’re tired.
    2. He handpicked those to whom he would entrust his ministry. He didn’t ask for volunteers.
      We think in terms of classes and training. He didn’t think in terms of volunteers at this level. Obviously there’s a place for that, but there has to come a point where we decide there are people we will spend more time with.
    3. He rarely did ministry alone. But…
    4. He gave his disciples opportunities to do ministry alone while he was still around to debrief.

      Jesus decided he wanted to be around to see it work without him. Even if you started the church, you’re not going to be around forever. Someday, someone is going to take your place, your job. Most people say, “No, I’m not going to be around.”

      That’s a perfectly good answer in the marketplace, but not in the church. If Jesus did it, I think that’s something we should pay attention to.

      Churches almost always ignore this principle. W’ere too busy to apprentice. We’re too insecure to apprentice. And when you’re young, you think the people who are younger than you are too young to do what you do.

      And we completely miss the idea of handing off what was handed to us in better shape than it was handed to us.

      We do lots of training. We do lots of leadership training, but this is different. This is, “I want you, and you and you, and I don’t want the rest of you.”

      This is not a talk about succession planning. Jesus picked his successors. He only had three years, and he was the son of God. I’m not finding the next person to have your actual job. I’m talking about being intentional about pouring into the leaders coming along behind you.

      At every point along the way, if you are a professional church person, your responsibility and my responsibility is to look behind us and point to specific people and pour into them, not because some day they will have my job but because at some point they will be in a similar place.

  3. But Removal

    1. But I’m not an expert.

      This is what kills apprenticing. If you wait until you feel like you’re an expert, you will never, ever do this.

      If you ever get to a point you feel thoroughly equipped, you’re arrogant. Leaders are constantly learning, and if you’re constantly learning, you’re always aware of what you don’t know. There’s something on the inside of you that says you are not ready.

      1. You will never, never, never feel like you are adequately prepared to apprentice another leader.

        Which means if you are in this room and feel that way, you are prepared. If you wait until you feel like you’re ready, you will never, ever do it.

      2. You are not responsible for the following
        1. Knowing everything there is to know about your field.
        2. Knowing more than everybody else in your field.

        This is where we get hung up.

        This is what the current generation hasn’t done for some of you.

      3. You are responsible for passing along what you know to somebody else.

        Your responsibility is to empty your cup. We think our responsibility is to fill someone else’s cup. You’re not that good.

    2. But what will I do?

      If they become as good as I am or better than I am (which is actually the goal), what am I going to do?

      1. In a healthy organization, if you replace yourself, you will always have a place.

        Do you know how it lights me up as a leader and pastor when someone pours themselves out to the point that their apprentices can replace them.

      2. In an unhealthy organization… Why would you stay in an unhealthy organization?

        If you’re worried about being kicked out if you pour into someone who replaces you, put your resume out.

  4. Two Outcomes
    1. You’ll be a multi-site leader.

      Suddenly your impact will be felt in new places.

      We started group crazy. We spent tons of money on it.

      People are always volunteering to be in my small group. I handpicked people and said, “This is what a small group is supposed to be like.”

      And then after 8-12 months we helped them form their own groups.

      It’s amazing to see how many of those leaders that we apprenticed are now leaders in community groups at our church.

      The same with our communicators. I love meeting with our communicators. I love pouring into them. When they’re preaching, it’s like I’m preaching at 3-4 locations without the use of video screens.

    2. You become a multi-generational leader.

      You know why our churches are so full of old people? Nothing against old people. I want to be one. Old people complain there are no young people. The problem is they wouldn’t let young people do anything. You know why? Because they’re not ready. Well whose supposed to make them ready.

      Anytime someone blames the next generation, they’ve abdicated leadership.

      We have three teenagers. The best thing we’ve ever done in our church is a program called Student Impact. It allows 6th graders to volunteer in a children’s small group. The great thing about 6th graders is that no one has told them they can’t do it. No one has told them they’re not an expert. When you put them in a circle with children, they don’t know any better but to show up and lead a small group. When the little kids are promoted, we just promote the middle schoolers with them, and suddenly they have a relationship with those kids. And our high school students help lead the middle school groups. And they haven’t been told they’re not mature enough. Last year 101 students in high school left our student ministry who had been with their kids in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade because no one told them they couldn’t do it. And now the first thing they do is go off to college, find a church, and want a group.

      You know what we’re teaching high school kids in our church, it doesn’t matter how old, mature, or smart you are, if you are one step ahead, you have something to offer.

      I am overwhelmed.

      My mom is over for dinner one Saturday, and she has a medical emergency, and I’m not preaching the next day. So we decided I’m not going to church the next day. So my kids get dressed for church and tell us they’re going because they have to lead their small groups. I looked at Sandra, and said, I love my church. Don’t tell them they’re not ready.

      I don’t have to be an expert, and I don’t have to know everything.

  5. Application

    There is no curriculum. If there’s a curriculum, it’s not apprenticing. It’s a class.

    You don’t even have to tell someone you’re apprenticing them, it’s often a bad idea.

    1. Hire for the future

      hire young, and hire smart. You need to hire people who are smarter than you, who might intimidate you a little bit, who will blow past you in no time, because the Church is worth it.

    2. Don’t work alone.

      This is almost the whole thing. This is incredibly important.

      Invite people to participate with you in tasks that are part of your job description even if they don’t work in your department or don’t share your job description. Just make sure whenever possible you don’t work alone.

      If you’re interviewing someone, don’t interview them alone. Invite someone younger. It doesn’t matter if you’re not good at it. You don’t want to expose your weakness and insecurity.

      This generation is afraid of engaging in the local church, because we’ve made it big and spooky.

      Don’t budget alone. Invite someone into that. Find the brightest person.

      Don’t produce alone, plan alone, design alone, create alone. Do things alone as little as possible. Invite people in.

      This is where preferential treatment is preferred. You can’t do this with the whole church.

      I have a friend Tim who is a federal judge. A federal judge is like a mini-God. I went to lunch with him the other day and walked into his office. There are these three twenty-somethings in his office sitting on the couch with notepads. He’s talking to these attorneys who are about to bring a case before him. And there’s a stenographer taking notes. So he finishes up, spins around, and asks the kids on the couch what they learned. They’re interns.

      In the church, here’s how we do it. We send them outside and whisper to each other.

      I bet there are opportunities to pour into the lives of your staff and the people around you because we work alone.

    3. Remember your MEDs
      1. Model – Here’s what I do.

        Show them what you do. It may not be the best way. They may have a thousand other ideas.

      2. Explain – Here’s why I do it.
      3. Demonstrate – Here’s how I do it.

    Here’s your assignment, it’s simple: Replace yourself.

    Who’s the sharpest young leader on your staff? What could you begin doing to empty your cup into theirs? You look at them and know they’re sharp. What can you begin to do now? You don’t need to set up any formal relationship. What can you begin to do now to pour into their lives.

    Success is not measured by how capable you are at handling your responsibilities. Success is measured by whether or not you leave your responsibilities in capable hands.

    Someday, somebody is going to be doing what you’re doing. Wouldn’t it be fun to be around to see it?

    Leave the next generation more equipped than you are.

What the Church can Learn from Starbucks

Last week Rachel and I had the opportunity to visit Starbucks' headquarters thanks to Erin, a friend of a friend of Rachel's who was kind enough to give us a tour.  Being a huge Starbucks aficionado, I was thrilled.

When you walk into the lobby you'll see two things on the walls: the Starbucks mission statement and a timeline of their history.

I had never heard their mission statement before touring their headquarters: To inspire and nurture the human spirit, one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.

I asked Erin if the mission statement is something that the employees are aware of and think about, and her response was that they most definitely do.

Curious if the corporate mission had made it all the way down from HQ to individual stores, I texted my friend Tim Holland—who manages a Starbucks in DC—and asked if he knew the mission statement.  His response, "You kidding? Of course I do." And he proceeded to write it out.

When I asked if his baristas know it, he said, "I make them recite it to me. No better way to get them to buy into the culture than teaching them our history and values. Both are encapsulated in that simple statement."

The Starbucks mission statement isn't just something that's on the wall.  It permeates the culture and affects how the company operates, from the CEO all the way down to the front-line barista.

In the last 25 years, Starbucks has grown from a small company to a huge international corporation, but when the recession happened a few years ago they took a hard hit.  Their response?  Refocus on the mission.  The results speak for themselves.  They recovered and are growing again.

Before he left Earth, Jesus gave the church a mission statement: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

The mission of the Church is to move people closer to God, if they don't know Him to help them get to know Him and if they do, to help them know, love, and obey Him more.

While Starbucks has spent the last 25 years experiencing phenomenal growth, the influence of the western Church has declined markedly. I can't help but wonder if at least part of that is attributable to a loss of focus on our mission.

Tim said that not all Starbucks stores are as focused on the mission. "Those [managers] are comfortable staying where they're at and keeping their baristas put, too.  There's too much talent in our stores to ignore its development potential. Really sad."

Pastors, is your church like Tim's store, with a laser focus on the mission and leadership that is committed to seeing the mission lived out?

Or is it more like the stores where the managers "are comfortable staying where they're at and keeping their [people] put too"?

Making Disciples or Producing Programs

I ran across this thought provoking video from Kelli and Niki Tshibaka on a missionary friend’s blog.

It got me asking…

What am I about?
What is my ministry about?
What is my church about?

Am I—are we—making disciples or just putting on programs?

How much time should I be putting into creating a program, a framework through which people can be discipled, versus just directly discipling people myself?

I say to myself that the small groups fair we put on this weekend helps connect people with others in relationships where discipleship can occur, but maybe if I just spent time discipling people rather than organizing an event, they would reach out to others and the people at my church wouldn’t need help getting connected.

Or maybe an event like that is exactly how people do wind up getting discipled.

What is the church? And what is it about? And how are we to best fulfill Christ’s command to make disciples?

Small Group Leaders, You’re Leading People not a Group

A couple of days ago I was considering handing over leadership of my small group to one of the group members.  As I was considering what nuggets of wisdom (such as I have) to convey to the new leader, the statement, “You’re leading people not a group,” popped into my head.

The importance of that statement struck me.  It got me thinking about how I’m serving the people in my group, about how I’m helping them develop their faith.

Leading a small group isn’t about making sure that people get together for a weekly discussion.  It’s not about sitting in a circle and chatting, discussing, or debating.  Leading small groups is about caring for, connecting, discipling, and teaching people. It’s about helping people grow closer to one another and closer to God.

The “group,” the officially organized and named entity, is really irrelevant. It exists only to serve people.

I may be guilty of focusing on the group over the people more often than most.  Charged with creating opportunities for discipleship and community through small groups, I sometimes fall into the trap of being more concerned about whether a group itself lives or dies than what is best for the people in the group.

Whether you’re leading a small group or directing a small group ministry, never forget that groups are about and for people, and they’re otherwise meaningless.

Alan Hirsch – Advance the Church – Discipleship as a Missional Strategy

I value opinions. I want to hear what you have to say, but please keep it on topic and timely.

I’m a hack. I just started pursuing ecclesiology, but I think if we can unlock the phenomenology of the movement, there’s something we can uncover. If you take disciple-making out a movement, it won’t explode. Every movement that has grown that rapidly has involved disciple-making.

Disciple-making is a strategic activity. It might be the most strategic activity we can undertake.

You get a text in Scripture that captures the very essence of the subterranean energies that undergird the Scriptures.  Deuteronomy 6 is one of them.  It sums up a worldview.  Hear O’ Israel, YHWH, our God, YHWH is one.

We in the West are trained to think of monotheism when we think of God as one.  Our minds immediately go to this concept of ontology because our minds are shaped by Hellenistic influences.  We immediately think God in his being, indivisible in his one-ness and in his three-ness.

That’s true, but that’s not what the Bible means when it talks about God’s oneness, especially not in Deuteronomy 6.  It’s hard to find many if any ontological statements in the Bible, especially in the OT.  The Bible never leads it up there, it brings it down to us.  The Word became flesh.

If I were God’s PR guy, I’d tell God to have Moses give a lecture about the being of God when Moses comes down from the mountain, but God doesn’t do that.  He starts into the 10 Commandments.  Don’t have any other gods before me.  Don’t make idols.  Then he moves into Sabbath.  He wants to have time with us.  Then he moves straight into ethics, teaching us how to live together without killing each other.  Monotheism requires that ethic of us.

All spirituality tackles this topic of idols.  In the Ancient Near East they were basically polytheists.  Our lives exist in different spheres, society, culture, politics, etc.  Polytheism doesn’t have a unfied God that controls all spheres.  Each sphere has its own god.  Most of those gods didn’t care much for human beings.  It’s dangerous.  There’s no cohesive sense.

It’s into this context that God says, “I am one.”  One God for every aspect of life.  It’s a claim to absolute loyalty, not a statement of being.  The heart of Biblical spirituality is bound up in this.  That is why the Bible deals with idolatry throughout.

All Christian spirituality, including discipleship, needs to deal with our idols.  Worship is offering the world back to God. Jesus’ act of worship is to offer everything put under his feet to the father. The Rabbis call this yichud.  The oneness of God is our response to God with every area of our life.  There is nothing that is not under the domain of God.  There is no room for a sacred and secular divide.

Our job is to make the world holy by offering it back to God.  Sexual idolatry will enslave you if you don’t offer your sexuality to God as an act of worship.

Ending idolatry is the agenda for discipleship.  Idolatry is the key to the human soul.

The church doesn’t do well in NYC where Tim Keller is.  It doesn’t do well in Australia where I am from.  We are only 2.1% of the population there.  If the only tool that you’ve got is a hammer, then everything begins to look like a nail.  Those of us who love the reformation tend to understand everything through the lens of justification by grace.  I can tell you that most people in NYC do not lay awake at night worried about their standing before a holy God.  Most people nowadays don’t feel the guilt and fear that Martin Luther felt.  So if we approach people with justification by grace, then we have to make them feel bad before we make them feel better, and that makes us Pharisees.  It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict.

If you ask someone in NYC if they feel captured or enslaved by their work because they want money or status or whatever.  They’ll say yes. They can recognize the idolatry in their lives.  That’s when we offer freedom in Christ.  You can’t love anything too much.  You can only love it too much in relation to God. You must love it less than God or else it’s an idol.  But the point isn’t to love something else less but to love God more.

All of our vices are corrupted virtues.  They’re looking for love and value in all of the wrong places.

Most of our churches are professing monotheists but practicing polytheists.

Do you think our one day a week discipleship in a classroom can actually make disciples?

Most of us in the Protestant churches are weary of spiritual formation because we think it’s works righteousness.  But it’s not just teaching doctrine that’s discipleship.  We think our sermons are going to cause spiritual formation, but I don’t think so.  We need another way of forming people in Christ.  Context is everything.  Don’t take people out of their context.  You can’t learn leadership outside of the context of leadership.  You can’t learn ministry outside of the context of ministry.  We take our interns to the edge of their experience, where they don’t know half of what they need.  And then we have them take another half-step.  Now they don’t know 75% of what they’re doing.  That’s how we make disciples.  We put them a little bit at risk.

Can you give them a specific example of what that looks like?

Well, a youth pastor comes to us and wants to learn how to do that better.  Why don’t we take a project where you try to reach out to the punk culture in your youth group or even plant a church in punk culture.  That’s outside of your comfort zone.

What is your definition of discipleship?

Becoming more and more and more like Jesus and having more and more of Jesus living in me.  Now, you are not Jesus, and if you think you can become him, you should take pills, but we do need to become like Him.

In terms of structuring the type of discipleship I hear you talking about, would you say that our sort of “build it and they will come” mentality is the wrong answer?

I wonder if it has to do how we conceive of church in a largely churched society, within the cultural distance of a church and has some memory of church.  The attractional model somewhat works here where people have some familiarity of church, but that won’t work in San Francisco.  But when we do that we pull people out of the community that they’re in, so then they’re no longer impacting that segment of society.  We must go into those areas.  We’ve won a lot of people to faith through a seeker sensitive model, but we just got decisions not disciples.  We created a clergy class.  Movements change the world.  Everyone gets to play.

The way that YHWH is king in the NT is Jesus is Lord.

We must reframe evangelism in the context of discipleship.  We’ve largely misread the Great Commission as an evangelistic command.  We think we know what evangelism is, that we have to pass out this information about Jesus and then someone responds.  And I have no connection with them before or after.  We think evangelism is conferring some information about Jesus.

We’re to go into all of the world and make disciple of all nations.  We are called to be a disciple-making people.  I’m not saying people shouldn’t come to Christ and they shouldn’t share some information.

Here’s what you’ve got:

Pre-conversion * Post-conversion



But it’s all discipleship.  On both sides.

What about this? You get to know your neighbor and ask them how you can help them become a better person.  They may start with how to get a Ferrari and women, but quickly they’ll turn to their pain and existential issues.  That’s when you reach down into their imago Dei and grab ahold of it.  That’s discipleship.

Let me take you to the Bible.  When do you think the 12 disciples were born again?  I’m going to say it’s probably somewhere around the death and resurrection or after that.  So what was Jesus doing?  He was dealing with pre-conversion disciples.

The early Christians were persecuted.  When someone was considering joining the Church, he was blindfolded and brought to the elders.  They questioned him on his belief system and when he failed, sent him away and told him to undergo catechetical study for two years with the person who brought him to the church.  At the end of two years he is brought back to the elders, again blindfolded and after more intense questioning, he is finally allowed back into the church.

Is there a difference between discipleship and evangelism?  Evangelism is a sharing of good news and recruiting to the cause, but I would argue it is best done in the context of discipleship.

How do we become good at addressing our own idolatry, trying to apply the Gospel that should set us free form idolatry and get to the root of our struggles?

Again, I would say the communal side.  We shouldn’t be alone in our struggle.  It takes a community to say, we take Jesus seriously.

One of the problems is that we in the western church are confessional.  I’ve never been in a church where I didn’t believe with the value statement they have on the wall, but it should be an embodied belief.

Here’s the idea:

  • Bless x 3 – Everyone in the community has to do three acts of blessing a week, how and why they do it is entirely up to them.
    • One to a person inside the community of faith
    • One to a person outside of the community of faith
    • One to either side
  • Eat x 3 – You’re going to eat with people at least three times.
    • One to a person inside the community of faith
    • One to a person outside of the community of faith
    • One to either side
  • Listen 1 hour/week – One hour a week of contemplative prayer, just listening to God.
  • Learning reading each week:
    • 1 Gospel
    • 1 Other Book of the Bible
    • 1 Other Book – Doesn’t matter what kind of book, but it has to be a good book, the best you can find in any given category.
  • Sent – Everyone in the community spends at least 10 minutes reflecting on their day, answering 2 questions:
    • Where did I work with Jesus today?
    • Where did I resist Jesus today

When they come together on a sunday, they just go through the BELLS exercise again.  They bless each other, eat together, be quiet before God for 20 minutes, they learn from someone with a gift of teaching, at the end of service they send one another out.

This is largely a group of 20-30 somethings who are notoriously difficult to organize.  So what happens?  The community begins to move together in rhythm.

Alan Hirsch – Advance the Church – How the Gospel Changes Christian Discipleship – l

Liveblog of Alan Hirsch’s talk at Advance the Church on How the Gospel Changes Christian Discipleship

The 2/3 world is doing pretty well without us, but as far as the West is concerned, if the Church in America can get it, that is where the battle will be won or lost.

But right now there is not a setting where the church is advancing. This conference is very much a part of that recovery. We’re very scripted to think in certain ways by the media. We take our doctrines lightly and have become familiar with them. We need to think differently.

What I want to wrestle with is some of the big ideas. I come very much as a friend, with some of the same concerns about Christianity in the west, the centrality of the Gospel and how we understand these things.

I want to shoot from the hip and speak from the heart. I haven’t weighed every word.

Discipleship is one of the biggest issues of our day.  It has strategic significance.  Our quality as God’s people is determined by how well we can disciple people.

Discipleship begs the question, discipleship to what, or to whom are we being discipled?  What forces in our culture are discipling us?

The obvious answer seems to be Jesus, but how we answer that question determines what it means to be a Christ follower.  If it’s not Jesus, then other forces are filling that.  I’d argue that consumerism is winning the day.

People are in search of meaning, significance, and belonging.  That’s what buying a brand is.  Marketers reach into people’s worlds.

I had a conversation with a marketing director years ago and he said where the church is stepping back, we are stepping into that void.

It’s idolatry, false worship, the most fundamental of our sins.

What are we following is a huge question, which leads to an even bigger one which gets at the heart of Biblical doctrine, the link between Christology and soteriology.  What is the nature of the connection between these two things.  Unless we understand that link, all we get is more of what we got.

The way I hear the word Gospel being used, it’s as if it’s some stand alone thing disconnected from the rest of Biblical doctrine.  We often use it to bash people around or argue against other Christians.  What I love about this conference and why I canceled other things to come is that they’re trying to put the revolution back in context with the original Revolutionary: Christ.

The most systematic theologian of the Bible doesn’t have that clear cut of separations between doctrines.

I’d argue that the problem goes even deeper.  It is elusive to us.  Partly because we live in America.  The word Gospel has been used in America for a long time.  We use it very easily.

The ancient Stoic philosopher Epictetus said it is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.  We think we know what the Gospel means, that we’ve got it all worked out, we understand this.

And in fact that might be our biggest problem, that we think we’ve got it all figured out.  Sometiems you’ve got to take another look at something.  We’ve got to step back from it and take another loving look.  It’s like the doctrine of God, once you think you’ve got it down, it escapes from your grasp.  It can’t be boiled down into four spiritual laws, that’s a dangerous reduction of the Gospel.

Henri Matisse is to look at something as though we’ve never seen it before takes a lot of courage.

As we recalibrate the church at this critical time in history, it has radical ramifications for the Church in the future.  What we do now will have major impact in the future.

I get the sense that we think we understand the Gospel.  It’s what Paul taught, right?  Well, yes, Paul’s writings are God-given and God-inspired.  It’s canonical.  But here’s the thing, Paul was given the authority by God to explicate the Gospel.  But here’s the thing, he’s explicating something else, the Christ event.  The Christ event is the Gospel, Paul is just explaining something beyond himself.

It’s all about Jesus in the end.  It really is.  That’s got a very specific shape.  It’s not just some vague notion of God.  It’s not some ideology.  It’s a person.  We can’t just extract our soteriology from the salvation story.  They’re inseparable.

In the NT you have the religion of Jesus.  You get a sense of who Jesus is, but you also have in the NT, the religion about Jesus, led primarily by Paul.  You’ve got to have both together. The liberals have always tried to just focus on the religion of Jesus.  The conservative theologians have focused on the other piece, the religion about Jesus.

What you end up with when you focus only on the religion about Jesus is cheap grace.  You’ve made it cheap and you’ve made it too accessible.

We Evangelicals have tended to focus on the Cross, and that’s a good thing.  We’ve argued about the return piece.  We pretty much stay with the death, resurrection, and return of Jesus, and I think we’ve got it largely right.  But here’s the thing, what ever happened to the incarnation.  The eternal, immortal God enters into creation and becomes one of us.  Is that not a foundational truth.  Should that not shape our engagement of the world?

Jesus enters in doesn’t speak without.  The best we do is think about little baby Jesus at Christmas rather than lord of the world, savior, mystery.  It doesn’t even really play for us at Christmas.  Father Christmas trumps Jesus.

Whatever happened to the other piece in the equation, his historical life, his teachings, his example, the quality, how he showed us to be something.  What happened to that in his teachings?  What happened to the kingdom of God, his lordship, what it means to live under the sovereignty of god?

You can only get that by focusing on his life.  It’s the whole Jesus phenomenon that is the Gospel.

That’s where that whole discipleship piece is, in Christ’s life.

We have all kinds of influences pushing on us, and if we’re not going to allow Jesus to be the force that shapes us, what else is?

We’ve got to re-engage the Gospel as a whole event in which Jesus plays the key part.

It’s a heresy to split the person from his work.  We believe in both things.  We have no right to separate the two, to extract one from the other.  You end up with a Jesusless Gospel.  If you take Jesus out you end up looking like something other than Jesus.

There are books out right now by non-Christians that say the Church doesn’t look like Jesus.  They don’t always know what Jesus looks like, but they’ve got a handle on that.  Jesus isn’t always Mr. Nice Guy, but there is something alluring about Jesus.

This is what Gnostics do.  They believe you’re saved by certain ideas, certain codes.  We are not Gnostics.  We don’t believe you are saved by a piece of information.  Christians have always fought this idea with everything.  Our Gospel has a face, and his name is Jesus.

There is a difference between a disciple and an idealogue. The Pharisees separated Doctrine from the whole God piece of the equation, so much so that they missed Jesus.  They were idealogues.  So was Stalin. So was Hitler. So are the Tea Partiers and their opposites.  And it’s ugly.  Ideology can’t save us.

Of all of God’s people, the Reformed have the most tendency to be ideological, to be Pharisees.  It’s our covenants, that we don’t believe in a separation of law and Gospel.  We’re the guardians of truth and morality.  The problem is that you extract these from Jesus and they’re ideologies.

Jesus changes everything, absolutely everything, the way we understand God, and not just that Jesus is God-like, although that is true.  The greater truth is God is like Jesus.  There is nothing unChrist-like in God.  Jesus says this: If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.  It is Jesus who introduces us to trinitarian dynamics.

Jesus changes what it is to be God’s people.  It’s now the body of Christ.  We’re distinctly Jesus-people.  We should be shaped by him, representing him.  It changes everything, how we do mission, how we see people.

This has everything to do with discipleship.  Discipleship is based on Jesus Christ.  Jesus is Lord and savior.

John Stott says Jesus is the curriculum. He is the classroom, and He is the teacher.  We are to become more and more and more and more and more like Jesus every day, and this is what the Spirit does to us.

The doctrine of Jesus is taht God has been manifest in our humanity, so we understand God because all way have to do is look at Jesus.

Isn’t it funny that Jesus looks like a liberal in liberal churches, a fundamentalist in fundamentalist churches, a teeteetotaler in teetotaling churches.  Jesus breaks all of those categories.

How about this?  What kind of holiness is it that hookers loved to be around this guy?  The sinners loved him.   The religious people hated him.  They put him on the cross.

I often ask people what would happen if Jesus showed up at their church.  One guy said after pondering it, “I think we’d probably kill him again.”  We all sat they’re silently for two minutes.  He was probably right.  Who is this Jesus who shows up at a wedding and provides wine at a party where people are already two sheets to the wind.

Jesus has them bring over the holy water.  That’s what those barrels were used for.  They bring them over and he turns them into wine.  Put that into your teetotaling pipe and smoke it.  I’m not saying you should go grogg it up, but perhaps you could stand to relax a bit.

We put Jesus in a box.  Voltaire said God made us in his image, and we return the favor.

How does Jesus treat sexual sinners?  He is very gracious with them.  He reserves his harshest words for religious people.  We should become like him.  Hang around with some hookers, for the right reasons.

That’s what we must become like.  Discipleship is the process of becoming more like Him.

Once you put discipleship in the context of Christology, it must culminate in a life of following him, a life of obedience.  Obedience to what, to whom? You become a slave to what you obey.

Again, I take us back to Jesus.  The Gospel teaches us how to become like Jesus.

The Great Commission is not an evangelistic text. It is a discipling one.

What does it mean that the truth will set us free?  Look at the context: John 8:31-32.  Jesus says: If you hold to my teaching, you really are my disciples, then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.  If you hold to his words and follow him, only then will you know the truth and be set free by it. You’ve got to hold to the Word.

Discipleship is not an impersonal idea.  It initiates us into a journey of what it means to follow Jesus.  That’s the kind of truth that sets us free.  If you take discipleship out you can’t get there.  Obedience is the respect we pay to God to enter in to relationship.  Obedience plays a major role in entering in to discipleship.

The tropoligical interpretation of discipleship has a long history.  The only way you can truly understand the Bible is to obey it.  If you refuse to obey it’s commands, you cannot possibly understand it.  By eliminating simple obedience on principle, we drift into an unevangelical interpretation of the Bible.  You can’t understand it unless you obey it.  Only he who believes it can understand, and only he who understands can believe.  This is Luther’s understanding, trusting ourselves to God.

Have you ever thought about this? Jesus never commands us to worship Him, but he does command us to obey him.  That’s the worship we give to Jesus, obedience.

Folks, if you’re using the Gospel as ideology, seriously, I call you from the bottom of my heart to repent.  If you’re not becoming more and more and more like Jesus every day and are committed to doing that, just step aside because you’re just making it harder for the rest of us.

We’re not supposed to be nice, but we’re meant to outlive everyone else, outparty, outserve, outlive, outdie.  We’re to do it all more fully.

This is our Lord.  This is the one we obey, and it’s good news.  It’s not heavy.  It’s good news.