How do you gospel you?

In a recent conference, I had the opportunity to share a workshop on developing one-to-one discipleship in your church. One of the questions in the seminar that we sought to answer was What does every believer need? We discovered at least 5 helpful answers to that question, and one of the foundational answers is – a healthy understanding of their identity in the Gospel. If you’re going to live by the Gospel, you have to know how to identify yourself in Christ, get back to the Gospel when facing various situations, marinate in it, and calibrate your every step to it.

Well, the above all sounds good, but for a new follower of Jesus it sounds daunting. So, how will a young or new believer really gain a healthy understanding of a life permeated by the Gospel? They “get it” in a one-to-one relationship; by asking, watching, and relating to more mature believers. Titus 2:4,6 says to “train the younger women… and urge the younger men…”

 

friendship is the key to discipleshipSo, the value of intentional discipleship relationships is that new and younger believers can feel safe enough to simply ask, How do you gospel you? In fact, whether they say it or not, each gathering which young believers attend (whether large or small) they are asking that very question. I think they are simply saying, I am here, so teach me the Gospel. Show me how to love and obey Christ.”

Yet, one of our current challenges in the church today is that many people who may attend our gatherings believe the length of time they have invested in attendance = maturity in the Gospel. Therefore, what is closer to reality is that we have many young believers who have been sitting a long time. I believe that maturity in Christ is understanding how to get back to, live in, and press forward in the Gospel. So, we need to take a healthy look around our ministries and inquire to see if we have ever asked others the question, “How do you Gospel you?”

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Discipling Love into Community

In my last article, I was writing out some principles that help gospel communities be loving and other-centered. Immediately after sharing the article, another principle came to mind (which often happens after I preach, too, and leaves me with that how-could-I-have-forgotten-such-an-important-point feeling. Ever get that?)

So, here’s a third point:

Assign It

Literally, ask others to love others. Notice what Jesus did after he washed the disciples feet during the Last Supper. He commanded them to wash each other’s feet and directly linked it to loving one another.
washing = loving. Ordinary task done with a heavenly mindset = the sharing of the love of Jesus to others. 

And then, by nature of the holy motive and the caring deed put together, Jesus equated that to following him. The meaning and the action must go hand-in-hand.
loving = following. The sharing of the love of Jesus to others = devoted obedience to God

Jesus first provided the model, and then he said, “Now you do this simple task for each other, and the whole world will know you belong to me. Just as I have washed your feet, now you wash each other’s feet.”  (John 13:14,34-35). It’s painfully simple. Jesus did love in this way. Then, he assigned it to us and said,  “You do it — in this way — for my sake.”

Therefore, I don’t think it is wrong at all to ask people who we are connected to in Christian community to serve others around us. In fact, it is for their good! We will literally be releasing the healing oil of heaven upon an aching world.

A Christian community will never go beyond the level of a “physical Facebook gathering” unless there is a release of the washing > loving > following principle. Discipling friends in this simple yet foundational way is critical to helping them break the chains of choking selfishness. Therefore, godly living is relational; sacrificially oriented to God and others around us.

10 Redemptive Practices of Social Media

off the wall     In a recent article that I shared with you about social media, I mentioned that my wife and I would be collaborating on a more positive and helpful article regarding our practices and habits with different social forums. Below, you will find a summary of a number of discussions that Sandy and I have had and we hope that our discussions will prove beneficial for you as well.
     Please understand that we as a couple are claiming neither to be experts nor to be the moral authorities on your tweeting or FB activity. Our simple goal in this post is to pastorally share with our people some of the things we have been able to discern and then pass them along for positive and constructive communication within our ministries.
     As I mentioned, you will find our summary of many good and at times, aggravating discussions. Ya, you read that correctly, aggravating. We are married and marriage is one holy, spicy minestrone of two very different people bound together and commanded to make it work. Don’t you just love it? So, here’s the simple rule: if you like something, it came from Sandy…if you don’t, it also came from Sandy. Fair enough. Let’s go avanti!
    1. Communicate a great image — We Christians often forget that our words don’t belong to us but to the one who has redeemed us. What we communicate is a representation of who Jesus is. And, as soon as we share or click-on items in social media, we are communicating openly.
      A practical application of this can simply be found in the automatically generated articles, pictures, game achievements, and horoscopes. We should strive to be alert to what is being communicated. Do these things represent Jesus well?
    2. Avoid foolish arguments that never cease — This is an oft-forgotten biblical injunction. There’s not too much more to add to this one.
    3. Keep it positive and light because it is so easy to forget who is on your friend list. Once our friends list reaches triple digits, we begin to broadcast more than “share”. We may be expressing an opinion that we feel should be heard, but have we passed it through the filter that it could hurt or offend someone publicly? Similar to email, status updates have a major disadvantage — they cannot express authenticity and emotive genuineness. It seems a bit obvious to say, but we should remind ourselves to avoid embattled language and any hints of hatred toward anyone (including those who work at the Casa Bianca). Are we possibly doing damage to our “in-person” relationships? This is one reason that we like private groups because the personal friends that we invite have most likely had genuine interaction with us. They can “hear” our voices in our updates and give us a deeper level of understanding (if not tolerance) because they have already encountered our authenticity in-person.
    4. Post things that count; not items that say “look at me here! … and now! … and again!. . . and now. . . and now again. . . . . . .”  yup. no likes.
    5. Watch the pictures you post. Social media is really capitalizing on photos and videos. Again, remember that we all take for granted just how public these sites are. Once you upload a photo, you have surrendered its rights to the company. It’s no longer yours. Also, more people than you realize may see the photo. To give some examples, we have seen vengeance photos uploaded. This is when someone is trying to get back at another person in some way.  So, they post a kind of  “in-your-face” picture. “Vengeance is mine and not the domain of social media, says the Lord.”  Two other examples could be posting photos that are compromising or immodest and pictures of moments and places that should just remain private within a marriage or family. It will actually take a good deal of discernment and a desire to only share that which is truly beautiful, uplifting, or hilarious.
    6. Build others up — We call this body-building and wrote an article on it here. On social media, we can post comments to let others know that this person is doing a good job. It might be that others don’t see that side of them. This encourages the whole body when we express gratitude. It also challenges people to join-in service to others. We can really leverage the organization of social media for thoughtful and caring activities, too.
    7. Don’t buy the ads. We might think that the adverts are mostly about things that we want. However, it’s not about the stuff, it’s the medium that we’re supporting to get the stuff. Many reports have been written showing that you are the ad. Don’t contribute to the consumption of people. With all of the data that the social mediums are collecting, they will sell you to others if they’re not already doing it.
    8. To FB, time is money – but not to Christ. Time on FB is more of a chance to make money from you or your friends or to gather information to make future money. However, for the believer, time is not money – time is morality. Remember that the time you take to be on FB is time you have taken from someone or something else.¹ Let’s just throw in a verse from Paul here, “Making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16) In other words, we need to watch our time on things like this because those who care only for their appetites will consume it and try to get us to do the same. In fact, we believe FB will push the envelope more and more in ethics because its revenues are falling. If you are a Christ-follower, you have a moral obligation to devote one of your most precious gifts, your time, to the pleasure and will of God.
    9. Be in community — social media does have an ironic benefit in this area. Social media appears to work best for those communities that have already developed outside of the social medium first.
    10. Bless creatively — utilize Scripture in a positive way. Summarize biblical truths and blessings when you can. Some people just blast verses out there and they come-off like, “I’m a Christian,so deal with it.” How counter-productive is that? Most likely, we all have friends who don’t like it when we are “preachy” even if being preachy was not our intent. If God has done something wonderful in your life, thank him humbly for it and give grace to those who hear.

¹for more Gospel-oriented insights on time, image-presentation, and building real relationships, you can check out Tim Chester’s 7-part series called Will You Be My Facebook Friend? 

8 Signs that our African Friends are Receiving the Gospel

Ngwa Smith Isoh from CameroonThey are “ours” because we share life together in this land and church.
They are “friends” because the Good News is for everyone, and then Jesus makes them “brothers“.
They are “African” because they have immigrated by the tens of thousands¹ to find work and they are bringing a very distinct cultural perspective on life and truth. Subsequently, when the Gospel begins to win the hearts of our friends it produces a number of signs that transformational change is occurring. Here are some of the excellencies of Christ that shine through:

  1. Our brothers think more about Jesus than money
    Our brothers have so much cultural and familial pressure on them to perform and become wealthy with European money.  The main motivation is often summarized in the word prosperity. Money — obtaining it, having it, showing it, and sending it — becomes the all-consuming focus. One of our brothers shared with us that he had lived every day for thirteen years trapped in the agony of perpetually thinking about money. At the thirteen year mark, the Savior and Lord Jesus broke in to his life and rescued him. Now, he shares with us that he thinks much more about Jesus each day than he ever does about money. The weight has been lifted and the victory allows his soul to rest.
     
  2. Our brothers repent of being their family or tribe’s savior.
    As mentioned above, our African friends arrive seeking not just for employment for themselves but often for their entire family or tribe. A family in Africa is greatly assisted if their loved-one can send them 30-50 euros each week from Europe. The grim reality is that it is often harder to make money in Europe than what their dreams and ideas had originally informed them. So, this sets up a tenuous system. There is a lot of pride if you do well and a lot of shame if you don’t. When the Gospel comes in, however, that system is up-ended. Our brothers and sisters are no longer motivated on one hand by pride and on the other hand, shame. Jesus buried the first and and bore the second. Now, we see a wholistic and generous love being offered to their families. We also notice that there is much more honesty in reporting their circumstances to their families. They tell them what they can and cannot do — and that Jesus is their family’s Savior, not themselves.
     
  3. Our brothers seek to bless the city and not just take from it
    It follows simply that if you are here in Europe to prosper yourself,  your family, and your tribe back home, you are most likely not interested in integrating into the city or looking to spend your time and resources to benefit the people around you. However, the Gospel settles us and helps us to look around at others. It causes us to give and to seek the good of the society where we live. Our brothers from Africa begin to take an interest in the history of our cities as well as the social conditions. What a surprising message is broadcasted when the natural outsiders seek the benefit of the indigenous insiders who are predisposed to not want them here. Only the Gospel brings our African brothers to say with eager humility, “We are all here.”
      Continue reading

The Meeting Fixation

Circleofchairs
I recently posted about thepulpit fixationwhere churches practice the great majority of their ministry from the pulpit — to the exclusion of operational Christian community. In this post, my thought goes to another ministry extreme that we’ve encountered among small groups. That tendency is to say that as long as we have “small or home group meetings” all of the ministry is being done through those meeting times. And that leads us to this important point: what we have is a meeting fixation to the exclusion of life lived together in Christian community.

The benefit of small group meetings is that they are another opportunity along-the-way of missional community life that is lived all week long. The default tendency is to put all of the emphasis onto the event of the meeting and to load all of the ministry into a 2-3 hour block of time together. NO, beware of doing that. Jesus is the King, not an event or program we’re running.

Again, the small, gospel community meeting at a home is meant to give people a friendly, family-time with Jesus. We can think of it as a rally point within the week that intentionally eats and shares both the Word and life together. Another way to say this is that a small group meeting is one of the numerous ways that we share life together throughout the week — not the only way. A meeting can richly assist our relationships to grow more deeply, but it is too short to have the necessary face-to-face and foot-washing time that spiritual friendships really need. Our friendships and Christian communities need the Bible coursing through them in a thousand different ways.

A Great Definition of Accountability

The Apostle Paul writes to some of his life’s best friends — the loving, supporting believers of Philippi. And he says to them in chapter 1:

7 “It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,”

There are a lot of deep “connection phrases” there in those verses (ie. hold you in my heart, you are partakers with me, I yearn for you with all affection etc. ) What I see Paul describing is a rich, mutual sharing where each party has each other’s best interests in mind. They really like and love each other. The Philippians want Paul to flourish, and Paul wants the same for them.

They are deep, spiritual friends. Only friends who know that other friends have their best interests at heart will open themselves accountably.

Therefore, accountability is spiritual friendship operating at its very best.