Distinctives of Christian Training – Discipleship Series Part 3

26 01 2008

We’ve defined discipleship and unearthed training methods but what elements must be a part of Christian discipleship? Below is a list of seven that have been important for us as we’ve initiated processes intended for transformation from our old life into the life of Christ.

Strict Training – What little Christian training does exist it seems to have a level of intensity somewhere between Kindermusic and the Brownies. Perhaps this is why we would rather endlessly pontificate abstract general truths from the pulpit rather than get up in each other’s “bidness”. After all, isn’t hurting someone’s feelings a sin? (God save us from this lie).

Here’s a little explored passage these days. 1 Cor. 9:25olympiad.jpgEveryone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Notice that when Paul says “they go into strict training…but we” But we what? We go into strict training to get a crown that will last forever. We do? Do you remember the date you went into strict training? Further. Paul compares our training to Olympic training. Here is one of those cultural illustrations that actually still works for our culture but to no avail. We all know how Olympic trainers train but we have an Olympians skill at avoiding these kinds of uncomfortable Scriptures. Oh well, it’s only the Bible. And this was a long time ago. Maybe the people of Paul’s day needed strict training but today our transformed lives are so evident that all we have left to do is come together for 1 hour a week to celebrate the achievement of our unsurpassed maturity in Christ. Paul would be so proud (when the Christian activity of almost all mediocre Christians is “weekly celebrations” what exactly are they celebrating anyway?).

Faith-building – One big difference between training someone to master a skill (like playing the piano) and discipling someone in Christ-likeness is a shift from focusing first on behavior to faith. Jesus knew better than anyone that behavior naturally follows faith and the best way to transform behavior is to build the disciple’s faith. Our aim in discipleship is to tear down false beliefs that naturally lead to godless action and to carefully construct a new set of beliefs strong enough for the weight of real life.

Let me illustrate this process. In Genesis 1 we learn that men and women are created in the image of God (The Imago Dei) which is the foundation of our worth and that every human being. It’s a nice idea but I’ve never met a Christian that believes it. On a scale of 1-10 the may, if they are lucky, believe in the Imago Dei at a 1 but they believe in the culture’s definition of human worth (performance, appearance, and self-esteem based) at a 8 or 9. So almost all Christians think of themselves and treat others just like the culture because we believe the same as they do. If you teach them about the Imago Dei they will say to themselves “Come on, I’ve heard this before. I already know this.” And they are right, but they don’t believe it.

You see, the instant their faith in the Imago Dei grows (to say a 6) and surpasses their faith in the culture’s definition of human worth (say it falls to a 5) that person will instantly change. No joke. I’ve seen this over and over again. What is not instant is the process of increasing one’s faith in the truth and the deconstruction of one’s faith in the lies. Jesus didn’t care about what people knew, he cared about what they believed. We’ve replaced an obsession with faith with one of knowledge. A discipled congregation for most leaders is when their church knows all of God’s truth once they spent 20 years preaching through the Bible. Never mind these things they “know” they only believe at a 1. So how do you build faith instead of merely impart knowledge? It requires specific training methods we’ll build on later but for now I’ll say its often the dynamic interaction of two methods 1) intensely, intentionally and personally testing the real beliefs of trainees through invasive questioning followed by 2) aggressively, systematically deconstructing worldly beliefs by a skilled faith-filled Spirit-led trainer the trainee trusts and respects.

Christ-centered – He is our model our inspiration and the physical embodiment of the truth we are growing to believe. The Gospels that painstakingly describe Christ’s life must paint the target.

Narrative-based – What are we building faith in? Unfortunately we’re still recovering from a devastating period of human thought called “the Enlightenment” which ripped truths out of contexts, which tends to work fine for disembodied abstractions like math, but is devastating for theology (truths about God). We are living in God’s story and the Bible is mostly narrative, so we can experience God through his real life actions, not so we can dissect him in neat pieces for scientific evaluation. People need to become personally identified with who they are through the story of God. This Story-formed Life contains the categories for all the faith elements necessary for life changing discipleship.

Calls to Repentance – As disciples work through the story and identify truths they clearly don’t really believe (given the evidence of their life) we need to call them to repentance in every area. Radicle disciples have chosen to turn their back on lies and reorient their lives toward the truth the first step of which is repentance every time.

Spirit-filled – No doubt some have received teaching about the Spirit that they use as their excuse for avoiding this activity. I’m sorry but Jesus didn’t command the Spirit to make disicples, he told the disciples to make disciples (and us by extension). But with that said, discipleship, like everything in the Christian life, must be done through active dependence on the Spirit. Few things are more amazing to watch than a discipler, filled with the Holy Spirit, unearth the secret faulty foundation of a trainees heart in a way that brings a flood of freedom, life and Christ-likeness.

Lifelong – It doesn’t stop until we reach full maturity (which doesn’t happen in this life) so this process needs to keep going. But it’s precisely this unending nature that makes it so important to separate training into clear, burstable, bite-sized modules. Modular training allows everyone to start where they actually are at, but gives freedom to push well-trained disciples even farther in their pursuit of the Christ-like life.

In part 4 I’ll describe what we do at Koine to give one (imperfect) example of these principles applied.

Restructuring the Church for Explosive Growth

19 01 2008

What if there was a way to restructure the church that would –

1. Consistently train church members into devoted disciples
2. Create deep community and body life
3. Release the priesthood of all believers
4. Free up to 90% of church resources for expansion

What would you say? Let me guess – “Come on Jeremy, you hopeless idealist. We all know that only a fraction of our members will grow into fully-devoted disciples, that community might happen on accident if people find friendship, that people will only be released when given small jobs by full-time clergy and that it takes 95% of our resources to pay for our staff, facilities and ministry expenses.”

Really? Should we settle for these kinds of results? Most have because they don’t see anyone getting different results. But I contend that, no matter how adamant you may be to see these four things happen in traditional church structures, you cannot achieve results that your system is not designed to produce. It’s a systemic problem. People in the business world understand this. They have to be brutally honest about the flaws in their system using the business axiom –

“Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting”

We have to admit that the reason we’re not making disciples, creating community or fully releasing others is because our system is not designed to produce these results. It’s designed to produce something else. Often a passive, sacrificially giving, spectator who consistently attends church meetings and services. A far cry from fulfilling the Great Commission.

Let’s do a quick thought experiment. What if we were to build a system from scratch that was simply designed to make disciples, create community and fully release each other’s gifts? What would the church look like? The church would look strangely similar to the first church. There are only three very simple structures you need to build in order get these results but you need them all at the same time. Only building one or two will not give you the desired results.

Structure One – Body Church. This is a group of people (15-25) who live life together (like a body), regular share meals (like a family) and consistently gather in homes to build each other up under the direct headship of Christ.

Structure Two – Discipleship Training Center (the city church) – This is the School of Tyrannus idea where the teachers and trainers of a cluster of body churches (3-5) hold constant trainings designed to “make disciples” “teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded” and would be overseen by a group of city-wide elders.

Structure Three – The Apostolic Team – This is a diverse team of people with apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and teaching gifts that take responsibility for the health and well-being of many different city and body churches while using most of their resources to expand into new areas without ever neglecting the needs of existing works.

This strategy works, its simple and it leads to explosive growth both in maturity of individual believers as well as Kingdom expansion into new areas. It’s what Paul and hundreds of other apostolic teams did in the first century. Its why Christianity spreads virally (until it becomes institutionalized like in the West today). This strategy is the reason why every believer reading this post is a Christian today.

This strategy also requires no full-time people in the first two structures and, therefore, no permanent church positions that result in the disaster that is building churches around the gifts of one man. It gives all full-time workers deep community and support with others on the apostolic team ensuring no one becomes isolated or burnt out by working outside of their gifting. It is flexible enough to pour resources into areas that are growing fast while allowing almost instant response to threats that emerge to established works (dispatch a person or team).

I’ve only scratched the surface of the benefits but even with this slight amount of detail can someone please tell me why Paul’s strategy is not preferable to ours?

Why wouldn’t we do this?

The Pastor-ization of Christianity – An Alternative

17 01 2008

internetmap.jpgThe story has been repeated endless times. Whether you were at a Christian camp, on a missions trip, at a youth group meeting, or spending alone time with the Master you suddenly began to believe there was nothing you would rather do than minister to others. There are a million different ways you can experience this call on your life but its what happens the moment afterward that is rather uniform and that must be questioned.

Within seconds most of us have built in our minds the narrative for how this decision will play out in our lives. Unless you decide to become a missionary overseas you will decide attend a Bible College or Seminary and be trained to fill a full-time pastoral position in an institutional church for an indefinite period of time (maybe for the rest of your life). A few will choose to plant a church with the intention of quickly taking off the church planters hat and donning the pastor’s hat, and this is even more commonly a life-long commitment to pastoral ministry.

But what if we’ve got it all wrong? What if, instead of 99% of ministers taking permanent pastoral positions, no one is supposed to take that path? What if this kind of call is apostolic and not pastoral? First lets consider how men interpreted this call in the first century and then explore an alternative path.

Where are the Pastor’s of the first century church? Where do we get our biblical foundation for the way virtually all church ministry is directed today? Of course the answer is, we know of no Pastor who held a permanent position in an institutional church in the first century. The closest example people use is Timothy at Ephesus but was he their permanent Sr. Pastor? This would be an enormous stretch and reading our context into the Scriptures. When you turn to the book of Acts. where first century church practice is actually described, you never see this pastoral position in action. Church after church the apostles travel to and not one mention of these church’s having pastors. Letter after letter Paul sent to direct these churches how to mature and not one mention of the existence of a Pastor nor the admonition to seek calling a Pastor to help. Even churches in desperate straights like Corinth were not encouraged to lean on a single leader. In fact, Paul makes reference to the visits of many other apostles (there were literally thousands of little “a” apostles at that time) who had temporary ministries in Corinth but none settled down there. Why?

Because neither Paul, nor any of the first century apostles, would stifle a church, nor damage Kingdom expansion by holding a position in a single church. They believed they were to work their way out of job and quickly. Two years was the maximum time Paul spent anywhere and that was in a huge city where much training was required. Are we happy with the net effect of replacing thousands of scrappy, entrepreneur, independently funded apostles (and no paid Pastors) with millions of institutionally trained stay-at-home Pastors (and nearly no apostles)?  I’m not suggesting that every Pastor has apostolic gifts (that they can begin a new work) but that every gift (including the pastoral gift) should find its place within an apostolic team (be dispatched to temporary assignments as a part of the larger apostolic ministry).

So let’s imagine…

What would happen if EVERY pastor in the U.S. decided to leave their church in under 2 years and that their position would be dissolved after they left (no one could come and fill in the vacuum). Here’s a short list of what would happen –

  • Kingdom expansion would EXPLODE in growth with millions of trained ministers being released on apostolic missions to start new works or assist with struggling ones.
  • Lay ministry (non-paid disciples) would be released and, for the first time in our country, we would see the royal priesthood emerge.
  • Churches would be totally restructured from large complicated institutions into home-based bodies with almost no overhead, living in community.
  • Billions of additional dollars would be available for even further releasing of apostles
  • Cities would create a city-church structure over the house church complete with a School of Tyrannus to organize constant discipleship training, host visiting apostles, city elders to shepherd the smaller bodies and organize city-wide ministry efforts to bless their communities.
  • Apostolic networks would be formed where gifted ministers would be dispatched to equip churches exactly in the area of the minister’s strengths and that church’s (temporary) need.

So let’s do it! Let’s ask every Pastor to make a pledge to dissolve their position in 2 years or less and to be released on an apostolic mission. Let’s stop talking about seeking the Kingdom first and let’s actually do it. Don’t let petty excuses stop you. Yah, it would be an act of trust. You would actually have to be led by the Spirit to find your next assignment. You would actually have to trust God for provision instead of a comfortable compensation package. You would actually have to earn the right to be heard everywhere you went instead of listing academic credentials on a resume. But if you’re called by God you can do it. And if you’re not called to this type of ministry you should stop anyway.

If we had the faith to try I believe this approach would see the nations discipled in 2-3 generations. Jesus said “Go” not stay, and every apostle of that century obeyed and kept going (their obedience is why we are here today). Why should we be any different?

Discipleship Methods – Discipleship Series Part 2

15 01 2008

drillsgt_moves_troops.jpgNow that we’ve defined Christian discipleship as “A defined training process that continues until the disciple’s life is brought into conformity with Christ’s teachings” from the elements of the Great Commission (click here to read more) let’s get practical and describe methods.

The first thing that must be said is that the prevailing definition seems to be that discipleship is any conglomeration of activities that might grow a Christian (sermons, relationships, small groups, books, seminary etc.). NOTHING has been more destructive to the creation of a real and effective discipleship process than this self-serving definition of discipleship by serendipity (happy accident). The reason for this (as I’ve described here and here) comes from a backward approach to mission and method (designing one’s ministry around a method or model instead of a mission). What church leaders and planters do is first determine their methods (creating a hip weekly worship service for example) and then try to accomplish the mission (discipleship) with this ineffective tool or with whatever is left over. And despite the enormous resources of Western Christianity we simply can’t disciple our congregations (much less the nations) while using less than 1% of our time, energy and money on the development and execution of an intentional, discipleship process.

So what methods fit this definition? To understand all the possibilities simply undertake this experiment. Ask at least 15 people you know (preferably a mixture of Christians and non-Christians) to describe anytime they were effectively trained in their life (don’t mention Christianity specifically) where they began not having a skill or mastery in an area and afterward had attained this and it changed them. Further ask them to identify what elements about that training they found to be particularly effective. I’ve asked more than 50 people this question and I can’t remember anyone mentioning Christian training (maddening considering this IS our mission and most of those I asked were committed Christians). What I have found is that almost everyone can remember effective training in the secular world whether in the military, nursing or even as a barrista in a coffee shop. Over and over the following elements were mentioned as essential (below is only a partial list) –

1. Intentionality – They showed up specifically to be trained (changed) and for that reason alone.
2. Commitment – They had made a decision to be trained in this area and had alloted the time, money and energy required.
3. Scope of Time – Each skill had a reasonable amount of time associated for mastery which was told to the trainee in advance so they could plan.
4. Outcome Defined – The trainee clearly knew what the training was expected to produce to greatly focus both the trainee and trainer.
5. Skilled Trainer – Some people have amazing gifts as trainers and when these people are the ones made responsible the outcome is vastly improved.
6. Clear Process – The steps to the training explicit and followed so successive progress can be monitored.
7. Group Learning – While individual attention can enhance training most find a group experience designed to not let anyone slip through the cracks most effective.
8. Interaction – Since the outcome is clear and successive steps can be measured interaction is essential to know where everyone is at at all times and to facilitate the possibility of group discovery.
9. Respected Models – While trainers are one kind of models, having access to many models you respect and can relate to gives trainees a clear picture of where they are headed.
10. Encouragement – Change requires us to be pushed and pushed people must also be encouraged to maintain the requisite energy and interest to complete the process.

Have you been through a process like this? If you’re like the random group of people I’ve asked most of you have but not within the church. We are all familiar with effective training methods, we simply fail to see their relevance to our Christian ministry (can you see how absurd this detachment is considering the Great Commission?). In later parts of this series I’ll describe our method and how we’ve incorporated these elements but there’s nothing revolutionary about what we’re doing. All we have done is actually attempt to train Christians with the methods that generally work.

One call in this series is to say that, before we do anything else, before we plant any more worship services ministries or start another Christian small group we must do at least the bare minimum to ensure that EVERY Christian under our care has access to a clearly defined process that will take them from wherever they are to an increasingly radical state as a disciple.

You may see how these elements can work well with training in a finite skill but how are they adapted to changing the way we live.

Check out Discipleship Part 3 – Distintives of Christian Training.

What is Discipleship? – Discipleship Series Part 1

15 01 2008

jesus-talks-to-his-disciples-about-heaven.jpgThis question seems to come up quite often so I’d like to try and define discipleship as I’ve grown to understand it from the Scriptures.

A disciple may sound like a unique part of Christian jargon to us today but in Jesus’ day it was a common word that described the most radical adherents to the teachings of a rabbi. These disciples were actively working toward the assimilation of the rabbi’s particular life philosophies into their lives under the direct care of a trainer (the actual rabbi or one of his apprentices).

Jesus defines discipleship clearly in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) by saying “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Here are the elements –

1. A teacher possessing authority (in Jesus’ case ultimate authority over everyone. This is why Christians must evangelize. If Jesus had authority only over those who had willingly submitted to his teachings than no evangelism would be necessary. But Jesus has authority over everyone including those who are actively in rebellion against his authority creating the mandate to proclaim this new reality to everyone.)

2. A clear, public demonstration of ones decision to become a disciple – Baptism is the fork and the necessary rite of passage to signify to the world, spiritual beings and the individual that they have chosen sides and are now ready to begin the discipleship process (what a tragedy to baptize someone who has committed their entire life to Christ’s teachings and have nothing more for him or her than a simple “see you next Sunday”)

3. A defined training process that continues until the disciple’s life is brought into conformity with Christ’s teachings. Here we have the definition and this is where so many activities designed for purposes other than discipleship (sermons, small groups, seminary classes, sunday school, friendship, etc.) fall far short of meeting the minimum elements of the definition. Jesus said to MAKE disciples which requires a defined, intentional process (making something is clearly distinguished from something that happens accidentally). I dig deeper into methods in Part 2.

4. This process must consistently result in a radicalized follower. Jesus said this training was to be exhaustive (EVERYTHING I’ve commanded you). Here we have a distinction between someone selectively following the rabbi’s teaching and the one who is a walking, talking, real life demonstration of the results of this teaching. Many I’ve described this to have recoiled at the use of the word radical because of its recent use to distinguish a radical Muslim who might resort to violence and a more moderate Muslim. In my opinion, this is the best time to use the term radical to distinguish a Christian disciple from an enculturated Christian. Our Christian equivalent to the radical Muslim is precisely the Christian disciple. What better way to demonstrate the clear superiority of the teachings of our Lord than for people to see when someone becomes a radical in the Islamic faith it leads to acts of violence but when someone becomes a radical disciple of Christ it leads to a life of love, peace, joy and hope which blesses the world in a way that is rarely seen? Christians must not only be willing to be radicals but must be systematically radicalized if disciples are to be made and Christ’s commission is to be fulfilled.

Click here for Part 2 – Discipleship Methods

New Urbanism – An Experience inside the town of Celebration, Florida

13 01 2008

I’m spending a couple of weeks with my family and the Mowry clan in Kissimmee, FL and Stephen, my business partner, and I were looking for a coffee shop to work from on Friday away from the barrage of plastic, flashy gift shops and flavorless food chains that dominate most of Kissimmee’s commercial strip. Mindlessly following our Iphone directions we landed in a beautifully planned community with an early 20th century feel we thought was perhaps old downtown Kissimmee.

The next day I took my family back to the town and we got lost (literally) weaving through the neighborhoods and countless parks. No doubt this place was carefully planned from the ground up and the way its various “villages” were planned (rectangular cul-de-sacs with common areas for every 10 single family homes mixed with nearby matching apartment buildings, condos and town houses with a clear central club house, community pool and recreational facilities) really fit with a philosophy of urban planning I’ve been interested with for sometime called new urbanism.

When we returned to our rental home I began to do some research and discovered we were not, in fact, in Kissimmee but in a town called Celebration. The town of Celebration was the brain child of the Walt Disney Corporation and an outgrowth of Disney’s EPCOT dream (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) and required an estimated 2.5 billion dollars of investment.

Taking a quick step back, most people think of Urban planning and development as a highly specialized field (if they think of it at all) and totally underestimate how this factor, in so many ways, dictates the culture in which we live. For most of human existence we were forced to live in small tight communities needing to keep all things necessary for life (food supplies, religious gatherings, employment, education etc.) within walking distance. This gave rise to a particular culture involving a clear town center where, ideas are exchanged, cooperation is encouraged and individuals and families are deeply known by a long standing reputation.

Then a decision was subtly (and mindlessly) made that decimated the urban landscape with an incalculable and unimaginable series of consequences we have only begun to experience. We decided, beginning in the 40s and 50s, to plan new communities around the needs and capacities of the automobile instead of the needs of human beings. This choice, more than any decision of our century, has done more to destroy modern western culture (replacing interdependent community living with hyper-individualism) and our only hope for recovery is to choose to intentionally design communities around a totally different philosophy.

OK, back to the town of Celebration. Even if you don’t find the communitycelebration.jpg especially appealing it was clearly planned with the people in mind. Celebration contains so many miles of trails into deep woods that I disturbed a sleeping family of wild boars during our meandering hike. We heard live music playing in one community space as the villagers gathered for an evening meal. After spending only 2 afternoons there I saw several people for the second time and, due to this growing familiarity, was tempted to actual start a conversation with these complete strangers (and for an introvert like me you know that’s saying a lot).

All this to say I’d like to let you in on a little dream of mine. That someday, when my urban philosophy has matured and my resources have multiplied, I, along with a group of like-minded families, would like to architect a village designed to help humans flourish (instead of multi-national oil corporations). But its going to take a bit of introspective questioning on all our parts. Perhaps you can start by asking yourself a few questions like –

Why did you choose to live in your community?
Do you frequent a clear town center with other members of your community?
Do you know the philosophy that dictates the plans of your city?
Do you get involved in city elections and proposals?
Are you adding to the culture of your community through your lifestyle or contributing to its disintegration?

Recommended reading – The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs

Mission Detachment

11 01 2008

subtitle: “Why 95% of all Christian Ministries should Immediately Cease to Exist Because They Are Detached From Our Mission ”

Disclaimer – What I’m about to write I actually do believe but only recently and I’m putting it out there so it can undergo further testing so give me your honest response.

I used to believe that Christian activity involved a conglomeration of often separate mini-missions and each one was an end in itself.

Feeding the Poor
Assisting the Fatherless and the Widow

And various people could more or less pick what area they are most passionate about and either create a ministry inside their church (if they go to a big church) to fulfill the mission or join a para-church ministry that has a specific focus on that mini-mission.

However, I’ve recently undergone an enormous shift with regard to my belief about the Christian mission. Specifically that we have one central mission – to make disciples. This is how the Kingdom of God expands upon the Earth. This is the activity that consumed the life of Jesus, of Paul and it is the narrow enterprise that they released their trainees to do.

So here’s the question I’ve been working through – what is the logical conclusion of our central mission of discipleship to every area of the Christian life?

One conclusion I’m throwing out there today is this – if discipleship is the mission, then is it appropriate to build ministries that are detached from that central mission? Feeding the poor with no strategy to disciple them. Building Christian community apart from a clear discipleship process. Launching a worship service as the primary goal of the church instead of making disciples.

Isn’t this the problem? Isn’t this the reason the country with the most ministries, the most churches, the most seminaries is having a decreasing impact on the lives of professing Christians?

What if 100% of people involved in ministry in the United States only continued if their ministry was structured and driven by the goal of making disciples. I believe 95% of them would cease to exist. And then what would happen? Those gifted people would be forced to reconstitute their ministries in alignment with our mission. The food kitchen worker would only continue if they worked hand in glove with those willing to pour time into these souls not just food into stomachs. Imagine the worship leaders, prayer warriors and mercy ministers all coordinating their efforts in line with an intentional discipleship process that actually transformed people’s lives. Imagine the massive change this would create and the Kingdom fruit that would result.

But who wants to design a coordinated focussed attack around a clear mission when we can all simply group up with people who share a like-minded passion for a mini-mission?  It would be like in war where all the pilots went to one battlefield, the mechanics to another, and the fuel supply to a third. When they begin to fail at their mission and the general tries to bring them into alignment or orders them to disband they might cry out “But what we’re doing is so important.”. Yes, but it’s not as important as the mission and you’ve been given gifts and training for the purpose of the mission.

So why not either disband or reorient all Christian ministries around our mission?

Here are some of the objections that have been raised thus far:

1. “Why shouldn’t we just increase discipleship instead of alter or disband existing ministries?” Everyone seems to say this at first but I think what Christians so often fail to realize is that the good is the ENEMY of the best. What that means is the main enemy of discipleship is NOT the sinful world but the well-intentioned ministries that, on one hand, suck the resources, passion and personnel away from discipleship and on the other, subtly replace that mission with another.

2. “Jesus told us to do many things including giving people a cup of water in his name and that is not discipleship.” So by this are we saying that Jesus was just as likely to set up a water distribution ministry but he just happened to spend most of his time discipling because that was his gift? No, Jesus discipled because that was the mission. Other things Jesus told us to do – visit the sick, feed the hungry are things you do as part of discipling and being a disciple. That was the way he did it not instead of discipleship like is being done today.

3. “Didn’t the early church have a widow feeding ministry in the book of Acts?” This was only for widows who were disciples. Paul even lays out the widow feeding rules in 1 Timothy 5 where he tells Timothy to only put widows on “the list” if they are believers who have no believing family to take care of them. It’s not hard to see how keeping disciples from starving is directly connected to discipleship. But are we to have a ministry to feed the poor outside the church?. Sure, if its a part of a larger strategy to also feed their souls. What if its just to feed them? I can’t find a single example of the early church doing this and I’ve been looking (someone help me here).

4. “Aren’t you being a jerk? People who are doing these ministries are doing them out of love.” Let’s go back to the war analogy. Is the general being a jerk when he insists that the elements of his coordinated attack work together and for the same mission? If you have 10,000 hungry people in your community are you being unloving when you alter your ministry to feed 500 because through coordination you can actually feed AND disciple 50? Does the Christian food kitchen and the Christian prayer ministry have the same mission or not? If they do then why shouldn’t we choose to only move forward when we work together and when our ministry is designed to accomplish the mission we’ve been given.

5. “What if God specifically calls me to feed someone and I don’t know why?” This, I want to declare, is the one exception to the rule (I’ve found so far). If the Holy Spirit prompts you to do something for an unknown reason you do it and you don’t ask questions about strategy. But that doesn’t mean you build an entire ministry around it if its detached from our mission. If God is calling you to start a ministry simply insist that it be designed to accomplish our mission and refuse to allow it to become a mini-mission off on its own.