New Website –

18 03 2011

Howdy anyone who may still have me on your RSS feed.

I just launched a new website – where I’ll be posting my thoughts going forward.

See you over there!


Family-Based Discipleship

4 08 2009

Here’s a teaching I gave on August 2, 2009 on Family-based discipleship training.

Audio – Family-Based Discipleship Audio

Slides – Family-Based Discipleship Slides

By the way I’m working on a completely new blog based more on 30 page articles, videos and mp3s with blog posts being simply one of the mediums but I need a custom platform in order to design and organize the content correctly so it’s taking some time to launch.  Stay tuned.

Controlling Chaos vs. Obedience Training for Young Children

10 05 2009

I love training my children.  There are few things more exhilarating than watching a self-centered, flesh-dominated, God-hating, sin-loving little hellion steadily transform into a soft-hearted, God-loving, others-serving contributing member of the family.  I often joke when holding a new baby in our family that I can’t wait until they get to be about 9 months old where I can begin to discipline them.  As much as I enjoy cute cuddly babies (as anyone who is friends with me in facebook can attest) I enjoy even more the process of training young children.

But I’ve noticed more and more lately that my passion is not shared by many around me.  This has confused me for a long time but I think I’m just now beginning to see possibly why.  Most parents actually don’t train their children and Christian parents seem no exception, but almost all parents still discipline their children.  When I would see a parent discipline their child I assumed it was for the purpose of training, but as I’ve observed more and more families over time, I’ve discovered that their discipline is not really training. It’s for the purpose of controlling chaos.  The two couldn’t be any more different.

Here’s an example.  You’re at a public place with your kids and a couple of friends and their kids and you begin to realize your child is being too rowdy, loud and disruptive.  You call to your son Johnny as he walks by saying, “Johnny, come here, I want to talk to you.”  But he’s having too much fun so he ignores you pretending to not hear.  “Johnny,” you call more loudly this time.  He ignores you again.  Now you’re realizing you’re causing as much noise as he ever did and he’s quieting down so you go back to your conversation.

I’ve seen this scenario so many times and it has often puzzled me.  My thought hasn’t been judging the parent but seriously curious as to why they were willing to let that perfect training opportunity pass them by.  I treasure the rare moments when my children deliberately defy me or my wife because they provide the perfect moment to reinforce the child’s need to obey his or her parents.  But, in the above scenario, I’ve watched parents ignore sometimes 10 opportunities in a 30 minute conversation.  What is going on here?

This is my hypothesis.  These parents aren’t trying to train their children to obey, they are trying to control chaos.  Their discipline is based on the amount of chaos they can handle at a given time.  Deliberate disobedience is far less of a concern.  Therefore the child learns to monitor their parent’s mood and the situation closely knowing that the things they can get away with are not dependent so much on them and their behavior as on their parents and the environment.  This is a disaster for kids.  It makes the parents patience and tolerance the real trigger for discipline instead of the child’s behavior.  It trains kids less how to obey and more how to manipulate a situation.  This leads the child to routinely push his or her parents to the edge since they have been systematically trained to find that edge of tolerance and keep their parents there continuously.  How exhausting for the parents.  How destructive for the children.  And when they see an obedient child their reaction is, “I wish my child had that temperament”.  So they blame their child when they have spent years training their children to behave in this manner.  There’s a much better, easier way.

Parents need to intentionally train their children to obey.  This is a very simple process.  All you need is to 1) believe two passages, 2) have three disciplining tools and 3) to embrace one management style.

Here are the two passages –

1. Proverbs 19:18 – “Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.”

2. Ephesians 6:1-4 – “1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2″Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3″that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 4Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

The three discipline tools vary greatly from child to child but for each child there needs to be tools at at least three levels of intensity.

1) Intensity Level 1 – A tool when you are trying to train a child in a new behavior (i.e. to remember to clear their plate). We typically use only positive reinforcement here.  We give our kids a marble (= $.50) to reinforce each time they do something new we’re training them in.  When they get 30-40 marbles we head to a toy store to buy let them get something special.

2) Intensity Level 2 – A tool that represents when they are reverting in a behavior they’ve already been trained to do.  This, in our family, is usually simply taking away a marble.

3) Intensity Level 3 – This is a training reaction when they are doing something dangerous like run out in a busy street, hitting another child or …. deliberately disobeying their parents.  Yes, disobedience belongs in this category of intensity (if you don’t believe me read above verses).

“But I would be doing level 3 intensity constantly.”  With some kids it can last a couple of years, others a couple of months (and they all occasionally slip) but it will be worth every bit of energy to 100% of the time react to disobedience with the highest level of discipline you believe is healthy for your child.

But if you are going to discipline in this way you need to, as soon as possible, macro manage your children and not micro manage them (Ephesians 6:4).  What this simply means is you can’t create 1000 obedience/disobedience scenarios for your children daily.  The older they get you need to give them more and more freedom and not dominate them but understand the goal is for them to grow up and wisely make decisions on their own allowing for feedback and discussion to disarm the disobedience bomb from going off when it doesn’t need to.  But they have also learned to respect and obey their parents and have learned they can control their will to do the right thing in almost any circumstance.  That is the ideal state in which to begin to train a child how to walk in the Spirit and in obedience to their heavenly Father.

No one is hurt more by controlling chaos parenting than the children.  It is selfish of parents to make their own needs the basis for when and how their child is trained.  Please consider giving your children the gift of obedience training.

Awesomeness Aggregator Part 3

6 05 2009

It’s time once again to spread the awesomeness around so here’s the top 5 –

#5. Sustainable Living Books.  I’m quickly falling in love with this genre.  I was entranced by Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle about her family’s year long local food experiment.  The best writing award in this genre has to go to Michael Polan and his engrossing research narrative The Omnivores Dilemma. Both are available for download at  And if you want to plant a garden you absolutely must get one book – The Backyard Homestead (ht – Liz).  It will blow your mind with what you can do with a small backyard with the best diagrams and how-to’s you’ll find anywhere.

#4. Documentaries. Honorable mention must go to recent hits like Surfwise and King of Kong but the best documentary I’ve seen all year has to be Bigger, Stronger, Faster.  It was beautifully crafted and captured so many stunningly real moments.  Chris Bell (who appears to be Mike Edward’s long lost brother) is the master at gently asking the hard questions.  (available for instant watch at Netflix).

#3. The Hunt for Golem.  This 40-minute fan film has catapulted its volunteer band of film makers into instant hero status within Tolkien fandom and, despite the fact that I expect they’ll spend the rest of their natural lives in court being sued by the dark horde of LOTR license holders, I must say, its the most stunning low budget independent film I’ve seen since Primer.

#2. Family Business Workshop by Gregg Harris.  I’ve been looking for someone to lay out the biblical basis for starting a family business (something I’ve felt alone in teaching) and I was so encouraged to listen to this excellent set of teachings by homeschool pioneer Gregg Harris.  His tips on which businesses to start are a bit obsolete since they are before the internet really erupted but his biblical basis for family business talks were outstanding.

#1.  This is a shameless plug for a business some friends and I are launching this week out of our video production company epipheo studios.  It brings together the latest, most powerful, paradigm shifting videos online.  And if you’re wondering what the heck an epipheo is click on the video below.

Don’t forget to put any awesomeness you’ve discovered in the comments and if you’re looking for even more awesomeness check out part 1 and part 2 in the series

Designing a Weekly Rhythm with God’s People

1 05 2009

I believe God intends us to design our lifestyle in a rhythm of seven days.  God demonstrated this through creation as a model for a healthy way to live (Exodus 20:11).  The day of rest is the culmination of a seven day rhythm.  Jesus reaffirms this gift by saying, “God created the sabbath for man not man for the Sabbath.”  We’re not bound to live life in a seven day rhythm but it is a gift from God to bring balance to our lives.

So what are the things you do EVERY week?  What does a weekly rhythm look like as a church (a body of interdependent disciples).  I wanted to share the four things I’m committed to doing with the body of Christ on a weekly basis.  I also have a weekly rhythm designed in my relationship with God, with my family, my business life etc. but this post is limited to the minimum I’m committed to do every week with Christ’s body.

My weekly church rhythm mirrors the following verse from Acts 2:42 – “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.”

I know many of you probably would like to ideally see these four things happen in your life by accident as you value them more but I’ve found, for myself, if I commit four time periods to these elements every week, they actually happen pretty much every week.  In the past, when I committed myself to these things but refused to design them into my rhythm (hoping they would “just happen”) I would look back at months where they just didn’t happen.

OK, so here is how I do these four –

1. Devoted to the apostle’s teaching.  I do this through repeatedly teaching and training through the 10 areas of the Story.  I always have a group I’m either taking through the 10 weeks of the Story-Formed Life or I’ll train through a 4-5 week intensive on one of the 10 topics (right now I’m developing a 4 week intensive training on Sonship). (Currently Monday mornings and Tuesday nights)

2. Devoted to the Fellowship.  One way I do this weekly is by gathering with a body of believers and engaging in a 1 Corinthians 14:26 style open participatory meeting.  I currently to this with about 30-40 disciples in Bellevue, KY and it is extremely encouraging every week.  There is no agenda we just all bring things the Spirit has given each to build up the body. (Currently Sunday nights)

3. Sharing in Meals including the Lord’s Supper.  Every Saturday night our family hosts a Shabbat dinner where we host different families and groups into our home (usually members of the body).  We have a family liturgy we go through every time where I go over the Gospel by asking the kids various questions, we sing hymns and take the Lord’s supper together.  We then eat the most amazing meal we can make and usually are up until midnight enjoying, talking, drinking, sharing, eating, smoking, laughing etc.

4. Praying Together.  The development of a rhythmic prayer gathering is my most recent obsession.  I’ve taken several stabs at this that haven’t lasted but here’s what I’m working on currently.  I’ve been interested in the way Jesus often took Peter, James and John away with him to pray together.  I feel led to find 3 other men that will commit to being totally vulnerable and then deeply intercede for one another and together for the Kingdom.  I’m organizing this group right now as I feel I’ve neglected this part of my rhythm for too long.

What you might find missing are leadership meetings, worship services etc. which are a part of my monthly rhythm but not weekly.

What elements are a part of your weekly rhythm with other disciples?  How do you engage in these areas?  How have you determined what elements are essential to do every week?  I love comparing rhythms instead of mission statements because what we do in a week better demonstrates what we are actually committed to.

Driscoll’s Great Commission Magic Act

30 04 2009

I’ve recently written how many current Christian leaders I highly respect seem to be replacing the Great Commission mandate to make disciples with church planting.  But why replace the mission when you can just simply slip it right in?  This sleight of hand was performed by Mark Driscoll (ht – Colin) in his latest blog post where he wrote –

“Thankfully, the mission of the church is not that complicated. The mission of the church comes directly from the command of Jesus, who, following his resurrection and just prior to his ascension, said, “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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20; see also Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:20-31; Acts 1:5-8). Jesus speaks of going, evangelizing, making disciples, and planting churches that plant churches to continue the process.”

There is no command in the New Testament to plant churches unless we read it into the text.  Make disciples and churches will form organically but planting churches does not necessarily lead to the making of disciples.  We need to all get on Jesus’ mission not a replacement mission promoted by well meaning men.

Crash Diet Discipleship

20 04 2009

Most Christians have little interest or understanding of their need for ongoing discipleship training.  But when Christian leaders do become interested they seem to almost universally make the same mistake.  They treat discipleship training the same way many overweight people approach a diet – one new wonder diet idea after another.

When you’re overweight the only sustainable way to lose weight and keep it off is to make a lifelong change to your diet.  Sure you may start with an aggressive, unsustainable diet to knock off a bunch of weight in a single blitz, but if that doesn’t give way to a new approach to eating and exercise, the weight will come right back.

Most stabs at discipleship are like wonder diets that take you through a one time process like “40 Days of Purpose” or a membership course or one small group curriculum after another but is this creating a lasting change in your spiritual diet?  Is this an entry point into life-long discipleship training or a quick fix that replaces ongoing training?

So before you pull the trigger on the latest discipleship gimmick guaranteed to help your people grow or your money back ask yourself, is this sustainable?  If someone comes into our community 6 months from now can they get the same training?  If someone trains with us for 10 years can we keep challenging them at deeper levels?

God gave Israel a one-year curriculum for spiritual growth in the Torah that would repeat every year and deepen throughout one’s life.  Classical education involved one year’s worth of material every child would learn and deepen in every year.  The basis of discipleship must be a sustainable process that taps into the creation of an annual discipleship rhythm.  This is sustainable, repeatable, reproducible and endlessly challenging.

So let’s step off the discipleship roller coaster and design a lasting diet that can truly transform lives.

Church Planting – The latest Good Mission to Replace The Great Commission

25 03 2009

bait-and-switchFor years now I’ve read and enjoyed fellow Kentuckian Michael Spencer’s blog and I appreciate and agree with so much of what he wrote regarding The Coming Evangelical Collapse which rightfully spread like wild fire around the blogosphere.  He’s a prophetic voice in the post-evangelical wilderness.  But, like most prophets, he deconstructs flawed ideas far better than he constructs new ones.  He’s ten parts hammer to one part screwdriver and in his uncharacteristically brief post on his proposed solution to the Coming Evangelical Collapse, Spencer lends his voice the cacophony of innovative evangelicals who believe planting more churches is the way we fulfill the Great Commission.  And on this one point he is wrong.

The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is where Jesus commands his disciples to go and make more disciples.  I’m going to say the most simple statement that may sound so obvious even writing it seems absurd.  But I can also say, that in all my life, I have almost never met a Christian leader, pastor, author, speaker, church planter or missionary who actually believes it.  And it is this:  there is only one way to fulfill the Great Commission and it is – to make disciples.

Our enemy will happily promote any idea, strategy, cause or movement that is not entirely focused on the intentional training of disciples.  He will be happy to see our Christian efforts achieve financial, numerical and even reproductive success as long as we’re not counting the completely transformed life of reproducing disciples.

You might be saying to yourself, “wait, isn’t that what we’re doing?  Even our mission statement as a church is ‘to make disciples’.  Doesn’t almost all Christian ministry result in making disciples?”  no, No, NO!  They do not.  Jesus said in Matthew 28:20 “teaching them to obey everything…” in other words – training.  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:25 that Olympic athletes go in to “strict training” to get a fading crown but we go into strict training to get a crown that will last forever.  I’ve asked several hundred Christians this question or a similar one that quickly exposes if you are making disciples or not.  On a scale of 1-10, “10” being Olympic training and “1” being training as a Barista at Starbucks, where would you plot the intentional discipleship training you regularly give or receive.  Guess what everyone says.  “I don’t give or receive hardly any training” or they simply say, “ah… negative 5”.  And here’s the dirty little secret: it doesn’t matter if they are in a main-line denomination or in the most innovative church plant to emerge from Acts 29, they are not making disciples.

So, no Michael Spencer, planting churches does not fulfill the Great Commission.  Church planting has been the latest in a long line of replacements for the Great Commission.  And all of these replacements have been good things – biblical preaching, church growth, church planting, small groups, missional communities anything please but NOT intentional discipleship training.

There are three simple reasons why church planting, as an activity, does not result in the intentional training of disciples and I’ll put it in a three point alliterative outline for my evangelical friends – church planting 1)divides, 2)demoralizes and 3)distracts.

Divides – The most common result of a church planting effort is the creation of a new worship service ministry.  In a city with 10,000 true Christians guess how many are currently involved in a worship service ministry – maybe 9,000+ and guess how many are involved in a weekly rhythm of discipleship training – maybe 50.  Huh…what if you had two choices when going into a town with 10,000 true Christians and 100 different styles of worship services with the goal of fulfilling the Great Commission.

Option #1 – Plant a new more innovative worship service
Option #2 – Start a discipleship training movement as a ministry to the 100 existing churches and the city as a whole.

Which is more likely to result in more trained disciples (i.e. help fulfill the Great Commission)?

We need 100% of the disciples in a city clearly connected to our mission of training disciples and if they coordinated with each other instead of building a new hipper wall against one another it would make the task far more effective.

Demoralizes – You would never think to build a ministry intended to reproduce disciples around a single person.  But we don’t hesitate to build churches around one man.  Why?  Because it reproduces churches.  Of course the byproduct of this activity is passive consumers, and then more churches and then more passive consumers.  How exactly does this fulfill the Great Commission?  Yah, I’ve read countless books of innovated dudes who are trying to find a new and creative way to take this existing hierarchical structure that hinges on one person and PRESTO morph it into a disciple-making machine but it doesn’t work.  Why make more of what isn’t working?  Why not do what Paul did in Acts 19 which was NOT to plant a new church but to start a city-wide disciple-making movement.  Disciple-making movements make more disciples than churches.  I wonder why?  “But in my church of 3000 I’ve seen several new Christians turn into disciples.”  Yes, and you can build an entire house with a edge of a dime instead of a screw driver and ya, a few boards are bound to hold together, but as your brother and friend I feel that maybe I should hand you a screw driver.  Church planting is like a caffeine high.  It works for short time but its biggest result is a head ache and the need for more caffeine.  When the church plant dust settles and the “new” and “exciting” gives way to the routine you still have a bunch of people sitting in chairs, not reproducing disciples.

Distracts – And of course the biggest problem with all this new fervor for church planting is that it is a distraction to a clear mission with a clear solution.  Yes, we can do both/and.  I’m sure the comments will light up with people telling me not to throw out the baby with the bath water.  Can’t we do biblical preaching and discipleship, worship services and discipleship, small groups and discipleship, mega-church and discipleship, social justice and discipleship.  Don’t ask, yes you can, but you won’t.  Why?  Because institutional survival demands you do those other things first and they don’t lead to the training of disciples.  A typical church structure has the following priorities by design –

Priority #1 – The Worship Service – To be involved in that church typically means to regularly attend that worship service (Church member involvement 100%)

Priority #2 – Small Groups – Christian need community and the service doesn’t provide this (Church member involvement 50%)

Priority #3 – Serving in a Ministry (You NEED people to do this to pull of the worship service every week (Church member involvement 20%)

Priority #4, #5, #6, #7….is a list of things churches like to do and discipleship training gets lumped in here so we can get that old guy from the Navigators to shut-up about it. (Church member involvement, less than 5%)

Good discipleship training can and will lead to each of those other things naturally but none of those things will naturally lead to good discipleship training.  God made the chicken before the egg and you need to train disciples BEFORE you experience the fruit of trained disciples – the local church.  But you won’t because you don’t believe me.  As long as their is a glimmer of hope that current programs might some day produce new results without the need to change you’ll keep waiting.  And so on it goes.

Jesus said “go make disciples” and he said “I will build my church” but like Adam in the garden we would rather eat the fruit than work in the dirt.  Disciple-making can be tough, toilsome work but it’s what our Lord commanded us to do and no activity, no matter how seemingly good, should replace it.

A Thousand Splendid Sons

12 03 2009


I’m fascilitating a training on Sonship tonight and I’m consistently amazed at how hard it is for me to receive this identity.  But this is what makes sense of everything.  It explains why Christ came for us and why we must train disciples.  Watchman Nee said it best in the Normal Christian Life when he wrote –

God is seeking full-grown sons; but He does not stop even there. For He does not want His sons to live in a barn or a garage or a field; He wants them in His home; He wants them to share His glory. That is the explanation of Romans 8:30: “Whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Sonship—the full expression of His Son—is God’s goal in the many sons. How could He bring that about? By justifying them and then by glorifying them. In His dealings with them God will never stop short of that goal. He set Himself to have sons, and to have those sons, mature and responsible, with Him in glory. He made provision for the whole of Heaven to be peopled with glorified sons. That was His purpose in redemption.

So what is the purpose of my life – it is the same Christ’s purpose – to “bring many sons to glory.”  The greatest thing that could be said about the fruitfulness of one of God’s children is that his life resulted in a thousand splendid sons.

The Meaning of Missional when only 9% of Americans have a Biblical Wordview

10 03 2009

Barna recently released a survey demonstrating that less than 9% of Americans have a biblical worldview.

This is why I canNOT agree with statements like –

“The last thing Christians need is more training.” or

“Being missional means mainly reaching those far outside the church”

When the question was narrowed to people who considered themselves “born again” (evangelicals) the number with a biblical worldview was only 19%.

A biblical worldview was defined as –

believing that absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today. In the research, anyone who held all of those beliefs was said to have a biblical worldview.

I can’t help but feel that those who go outside the churches in their community to make disciples are like a doctor who has a thousands patients dying of preventible diseases in a hospital yet, instead of curing them, he chooses to spend 90% of his time going door to door to look for more sick people.  This is what my missional friends are missing.  We must put our own house in order.