Your Discipleship Tools Are Too Weak

30 08 2008

As I’ve discussed the making of disciples with church planters and church leaders and they admit disciples are not being made I find myself saying this line over and over again (Your discipleship tools are too weak).  This is the diagnoses I find most accurate for so many churches and ministries.  Their discipleship is Sunday worship, community groups and a class a year.  I find myself wanting to ask, “are you really TRYING to make disciples or are you trying to check it off the list so you can get on with what you believe is the REAL mission?” (which is usually either “being missional” or balancing the four E’s or the the 4 W’s or some other construction of 4 different missions).

So what is the test of an effective discipleship process?  How do you know when your process is intense and complete enough?  Jesus gives us that answer in the Great Commission when he describes discipleship as “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  Notice –

  1. “teaching them to obey” means teaching without obedience is not really a part of discipleship (which passes for the vast majority of what we think of as discipleship).  There’s a word in English for teaching with a direct outcome focus and that word is training.  If your discipleship isn’t training (if it’s only teaching) it’s not discipleship.
  2. “obey everything I have commanded you” which means discipleship must be comprehensive.  Most people ignore this line with a “sigh” and saying to themselves “see, its impossible”.  We have an enlightenment definition of comprehensive knowledge but I think both Jesus and the disciples thought this was entirely possible maybe in a 1-2 year process.  Paul says to the Ephesian elders after 2 years “I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know.” (Acts 20:27)  So we move on to part 27 in our 49 part series through the book of Luke not considering that we are actually responsible to train each disciple in our care to obey “everything”.  This requires an aggressive, comprehensive, systematic plan for discipleship.

So let’s try this approach.  Erase from your mind what is “practical” in your church or context and let yourself dream for just a moment.  Five brand new Christians come to you for training.  You have no tools yet (no worship service, no small groups, no classes etc.).  What would you design that would turn these 5 into fully trainied and obedient disciples?  When you’re done architecting the process ask yourself why we are not willing to sacrfice our sacred cows to weild tools strong enough for the task we are given.  Until we are we’ll never stop being baffled by why our weak tools simply don’t work.

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Toward one Holy Obsession

29 08 2008

I’ve discovered that one reason I’ve struggled in my walk with God was the habit I’ve had of putting it in the wrong category.  I’ve learned that just as the “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” but not the end (the end is love and fear is merely a part of the foundation) so the discipline of spending time with God is the beginning of a walk with him but not the end.  The end is not discipline but the development of a holy obsession – worship.  Discipline is merely the foundation.  Let me make this practical.

Someone in your community became a Christian and confessed Lordship last night.  So tonight you’re training him on how to walk with God.  The first thing you teach him is that he must order his entire life around the discipline of spending time with the Father.  He cannot treat this as a side thing but he must truly believe that it is the most important part of his day.  Once he has re-architected his daily rhythm to reflect this top priority and is consistently spending time with the Father as a discipline you immediately build on that foundation and move from discipline to connection.

Spending time with the Father should never be a checklist of disciplined activities.  It has to quickly become a relational connection.  Interaction between a father and son.  So you ask questions like – do you feel deeply connected to your Father through the time you spent with him today?  Did the two of you interact?  Is a close bond developing through your time with Him?  Is He teaching you?  Is He comforting you?  Is He extorting you?  What activities would you do if you were merely trying to connect and interact?  Is that what you’re doing with your time with the Father?  I’ve found that the category of discipline for my time with the Father is a good foundation but its a horrible place to stop.  It’s like the discipline of dating your spouse.  Yah, its good to have that disciplined one night per week set aside to spend time with her but if it feels like a discipline when you actually go out on that date and you are both satisfied with zero connection, zero bonding, zero interaction because you can check off that you fulfilled your discipline, what kind of relationship is that?  But that’s the way I treated my time with God for YEARS and no one was able to explain to me that it shouldn’t remain a discipline but it must move to connection and interaction, that it must become a Father/son relationship.  But once you are deeply and regularly connecting with God you build on this second foundation a third thing.

Our daily connection with the Father must become our chief obsession.  The essence of the 1st commandment (you shall have no other gods before me) is that God himself is the one holy obsession of our lives.  We were made to worship and be obsessed and every human being will either worship an idol, medicate their lack of worship through addictions, or worship God.  Worship is the reflection that we’re imbalanced and obsessed.  And we were made to worship.  But how many Christians have made other things their ultimate things – work, hobbies, even ministry, and then show up once a week to “worship God” as a discipline.  How strange is that?  We can’t be satisfied with that.  When we gather to worship it must be as a group of people who have been God-entranced all week, through our discipline that led to a deep connection, that leads to continual worship and adoration.  That is how you walk with God.

So as we train others (and ourselves) we need to help people understand how these categories work.  We move from:

  • Apathy to Discipline
  • Discipline to Connection
  • Connection to Obsession

And as our obsession grows and takes over more and more of our thoughts, feelings, time and focus our walk with God deepens until the most natural thing in the world is for us to go home and be with our Father saying with Paul, “for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”





Transitioning Pastors from Paid Positions to Released Callings Part 4 (how does this BETTER release my gift than a paid position?)

28 08 2008

Many of my friends in the house church movement refuse to deal with the issue of how to BETTER release 5-fold callings using a New Testament structure.  They are content to tell John Piper, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll and Rick Warren that they should sit week after week as an equal member of a house church gathering and they wonder why gifted 5-fold ministers reject their model as an unrealistic step backward.

We need 5-fold ministers to be MORE released and for their influence to broaden not lessen.  So how does a New Testament structure that does not depend on the 5-fold endlessly maintaining individual churches, actually better release the giftings of those “called into ministry”?

Here are three ways –

Way #1 – Apostolic Teams. Instead of the modern phenomenon of teaching churches, evangelistic churches, pastoral churches etc. that arises from one member of the 5-fold leading one church, all of these should be on a balanced team.  This team would plant and shepherd many works resulting in each of the 5-fold always working in their area of calling and gifting while providing the correct gift balance to each work they are assisting.  This also eliminates the isolation many ministers feel as they will always go out in teams of 2 or more to do their work.

Way #2 – The City Church (Training Centers). The real domain of the 5-fold is the city church (that does not exist today).  5-fold ministers need to establish the city church (like Paul did with the School of Tyrannus) and then equip the whole church in an entire region from there.  Not only does this better release their gift in breadth (they equip the whole city) but also in depth (they refine particular trainings that they can impart better than any other).  Many 5-fold have specific teachings that they do better than almost anyone else (because of the depth of their faith and understanding in that area) but, nevertheless, they preach sermon after sermon hopelessly diluting the impact of the specific messages God has given them to impart to many.

Way #3 – New Works. Any city of above 20,000 people that does not have a city church where an itinerant 5-fold minister can come in and train the Christians in that city NEEDS A NEW WORK.  A new work is the process through which we establish a city church in a new region (beginning with a training center for the city).  Look around and see how many places, both in America and throughout the world, need a new work.  The 5-fold cannot be fully released without the re-emergence of the city church.  Of course not all the Christians are going to recognize your training center as the city church but over time hundreds and then thousands will see the fruit, and be trained there as you bring the 5-fold of the city together to disciple the city as a whole.

So this New Testament way of releasing moves 5-fold from –

  • Isolated Pastors to Apostolic Team Member
  • Using a Portion of their Gifting to Ministering from the Center of Their Gifting
  • Ministering to one fraction of God’s church in the city to Ministering to the City Church

Yes, they can be BETTER released in a New Testament model than in our current model.

So we’ve asked and answered the top 3 objections to making this transition from paid positions to released callings.  Now we need to have the courage and determination to make this shift happen in our generation.





Transitioning Pastors from Paid Positions to Released Callings Part 3 (who’s going to take care of my flock?)

27 08 2008

A continual concern for Pastors wanting to be fully released is the group of people or the organization they may have often spent decades building.  Releasing 5-fold callings instead of filling in paid positions is such a different philosophy of ministry that its inconsistent to adopt this philosophy while seeking a replacement for your former position.  Your position must be dissolved.  But this requires radical restructuring.  So how is this done as part of your transition period.  Here are some steps –

Step 1 – Refocus your efforts toward radical discipleship training. The structures I’m about to describe where the body “builds itself up” (Eph 4:16) cannot be done if the average person in the body is a baby Christian.  You need powerful discipleship tools and a clear, intentional discipleship process.  Design this process to be 1 year and create entry points into the process every 3 months so by the time 2 years are over you have trained everyone that wants to be trained.

Step 2 – Release discipleship trainers. As you develop the modular teaching courses and training intensives that are a part of the discipleship process, quickly recruit, train and release teachers and trainers to take over those modules so that training is expanding and continually occurring without your direct involvement.

Step 3 – Allow trained disciples to gather in body churches. An equipped and trained body of disciples loving each other like a royal family does not need you or any other full-time person to supervise and weekly lead its life together (typical size 15-40).  The body with gather at least once a week and work interdependently througout the week as it seeks to continue to expand the mission of make disciples.

Step 4 – Replace your leadership of the church with the headship of Christ. This should be done toward the end of your time in that position but this often looks like dissolving or completely changing the focus of your weekly worship service.  Because this is the center of life for most churches and the service centers on the paid Senior Pastor it is a structure that replaces Christ’s headship with a human head.  This often involves recognizing elders.

Step 5 – Cast a Vision for Itinerant 5-fold Ministry. Use the training center you developed in step 1 and 2 to begin to train these disciples about how the 5-fold ministry should really work.  That those of us with 5-fold gifts should not be leading one church (tilting it entirely toward our gifting) but equipping multiple churches as a part of a balanced team that has all five of these people.  Also train them in the advantages in a 5-fold culture of “coming and going”.

Step 6 – Complete your financial support phase. We discusses this in Part 2

Step 7 – Begin to go on extended and regular ministry trips. For the next 2 years spend intensive time building up other works and when you return to your home base, spend intensive and intentional time building up the bodies and the training center you helped established through the steps above.  You’ll quickly find the right rhythm for the works you are equipping and establishing as well as what works best for your family.

So are your people being cared for?  Take a step back and consider the real impact of the above transition.

You replaced

  • Passive learning with Intentional Discipleship
  • Corporate Gatherings with Interdepenent Bodies
  • Human Headship with Christ’s Headship

And you released yourself and many others in the process.





Transitioning Pastors from Paid Positions to Released Callings – Part 2 (how am I going to feed my family?)

26 08 2008

People with a 5-fold calling on their life who are trained and consistently demonstrate fruitfulness in their ministry need to be fully released in their calling.  This includes seasons where they are financially supported in part or fully but this support should primarily come to release the call on their life not to indefinitely hold them to a church or ministry position.

Here are some steps toward getting to that place of financial freedom (imagine you were taking 6-24 months to transition out of the paid position and work through these steps).

Step 1 – Discover your burn rate. Every start-up business has to know how much cash they burn through in a month and carefully hold that line so they can see if they’re headed toward ruin and need to raise more money.  In the same way if you combined all the income you would receive monthly if you left your pastoral position and subtracted your monthly expenses the negative number that would result is your burn rate.

Step 2 – Decrease your burn rate. Cut monthly expenses as much as possible including perhaps a less expensive house.

Step 3 – Diversify your income streams. Many families have only one stream of income and that is the paycheck of the bread-winner.  Because “making a living” is totally different than being “released in your calling” you will not always DO what makes you the most money.  But if you have one income stream this puts both your family and your ministry (calling) at continual risk.  I would recommend developing at least these 4 streams of income – work, support, investment and product (and developing these in this order is the next 4 steps).

Step 4 – Get a super-flexible (non-ministry) job (i.e. a trade). Paul had his tent making business and this is not to say he supported himself 100%.  It simply means he could support himself whatever % he might fall short on a given month and I believe EVERY 5-fold person should develop this.  The best way to do this is to offer some service that is needed by many people and can be done at any hour of the day or night and you control how many hours you put into it.  Here are some examples of trades that allow for this – computer programming, graphic design, internet marketing, editing (video, writing etc.) there are hundreds of others (each of these can be learned in 6-12 months).  You can also get another type of job that is very flexible as opposed to super-flexible like adjunct teaching, counseling etc.  Either way, you need to be able to get money every month (flex work between 10 and 30 hours per week) without compromising your calling and a trade will help ensure you have that ability.

Step 5 – Raise your own financial support. Don’t be too afraid to do this!  Imagine your burn rate is $6K and your income streams bring in $4K.  You are $2K away from being released in your calling and you probably know people who will gladly make up the difference.  A few things to remember about this.  Don’t think it is more noble to compromise your calling to have a ministry position and less noble to ask for support and be fully released.  I would reverse those two.  The church ought to give the vast majority of its money to 5-fold callings not to paid positions and you need to be a part of helping the church make that transition.  During part 3 of this series I’m going to describe how to structure a church without paid positions and once that happens you don’t need a building or staff and close to 100% will go to supporting 5-fold.  When that begins to happen raising support will be easy but in the mean time we need to be willing to do this.  Here’s a group that has amazing resources that help 5-fold raise their own support – http://www.globaltrainingnetwork.org/.

Step 6 – Invest some money. 10-20% of your income should go toward passive investments designed to release you and provide for you later in life.  This is also to assist your children when you’re older and after you are gone.  Do not neglect this area.  Pastor’s are not exempt from the need to be smart with their money and think multi-generationally.  This also provides an area where God could pour out blessing giving you unusually investment opportunities and bless those opportunities abundantly.

Step 7 – Continually productize parts of your ministry.  This means write a book, create a training course, audio courses, video training etc.  This does two things.  1. Can provide a stream of income from what you are already doing in ministry 2. Exponentially increase the scope of your ministry.

After 6-24 months of aggressively working through these steps with other 5-fold who have done and are doing the same thing you will be supported for your calling and NOT through a position.  Remember the minute your income streams overcome your burn rate in a sustainable way you are free.  It’s not easy but it’s right and it’s worth it.





Transitioning Pastors from Paid Positions to Released Callings

25 08 2008

When we feel “called into the ministry” we almost immediately, without thinking, get on a training track to hold a paid position in a church or ministry.

When we transition to an understanding that those “callings” are usually our first realization that we are one of the 5-fold ministry gifts given to the church (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher listed in Eph. 4) we need to ask, is the best way to be released in a 5-fold gifting taking a full-time paid position in a church or ministry?  What are the alternatives?  Ephesians 4 describes these 5 gifts as equippers of the whole church (in context church here = universal church) and are not commanded to lead a single local church but to train many (read here and here for more on this).

Then we have a huge problem.  Once a pastor or paid ministry position holder realizes they are 5-fold and, therefore, they want to be released to minister to multiple bodies and multiple city-churches, they get paralyzed by three difficult questions –

  1. How will I make money (feed my family)?
  2. Who will take care for the people I’m actively caring for now?
  3. How does this BETTER release my gift then holding a paid position?

These questions must be given sound and realistic answers for those holding paid positions to want to transition out of them. In the next few days I’d like to think through and discuss possible answers to each of these questions.  But if you hold a paid position in a church please ask yourself this very simple question first – if you could be financially supported, your people could be better cared for, and you could be fully released with better opportunities to use your gifts and NOT have to hold a specific paid position in one church would you want to?  Many have said to me, pastors don’t want this (and some truly don’t) but I’ve discovered that MANY would love to make this transition if you could only answer these three questions well.





Training in Seattle this Week

19 08 2008

I’ll be doing 3 trainings in Kirkland, WA this week and wanted to post what those are about for anyone who may want to stop by.

Thursday August 21st
Story-Formed Life Leader’s Training 9:30am-5pm

Saturday August 23rd
4 Restoration Conversations (stop by for 1 or more)
Conversation #1 – Restoring Families as Multi-generational Teams 10am-12
Conversation #2 – Restoring the Mission as City-wide Discipleship 1pm-3pm
Conversation #3 – Restoring the Local Church as Interdependent Bodies 3:30pm-5:30pm
Conversation #4 – Restoring Expansion through Apostolic Teams 7pm-9pm

Sunday August 24th
GodWalk Training 5pm-9pm (learning daily, weekly, annual and spontaneous rhythms of walking with God)

Location of ALL 3 events –

The Crawford’s House
13242 86th Pl NE
Kirkland, WA 98034