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.

Raising Kids to be Leaders – Homeschool vs. Public school dilemma

6 08 2008

If you have school age children you are probably familiar with the long lists of pros and cons for both homeschooling your kids and sending your kids to the public school.  For the time being we’ve settled for doing something a bit odd and that is to be 3/4ths homeschoolers.

This is how it works.  Every Fall, at the beginning of the school year we send our kids to the public school and we present it to them as a mission.  They are there to –

  • Make Friends
  • Train how to learn in a social environment
  • Test their ability to resist negative peer pressure
  • Develop their leadership skills
  • Get involved in a team sport
  • Demonstrate the Gospel to their class mates (primarily through acts of kindness and service)

We are going to use the following tools to assist them:

  • Building them up for and reminding them of the mission everyday before they leave
  • Discuss daily how it went (not asking “how was your day” but asking specific questions like “how were you a leader today”, “did you face any negative peer pressure?  How did you respond”, “Did you deepen any friendships?” “How did your actions demonstrate the Gospel?”)
  • Weekly Family Discipleship on Monday evening where we Worship, Encounter the Story, Midrash, Apply and then Intercede for their classmates.
  • Boys Club and Girls club – We want to watch them and help them develop their leadership skills so once a month they will invite all their classmates and any parents who want to come to our house where we’ll have a huge party complete with things like group games, activities, camp fire, tea party (for the girls), Bible story (taught by our kids) etc.

Then sometime in November or December at the latest we’ll pull them out and begin again our homeschool rhythm but keep doing the boys club and girls club once per month.

There is so much we do to train our kids at home I want them in that rhythm for 8-9 months of the year (and we travel a lot as a family) but I feel this is a better balance.  Yah, the school district will think it strange but I’m sure they’ll get used to it.

What things are you trying to help your kids form a powerful family identity and missional identity?  How do you balance the need for advanced education and peer socialization?

Live with us for a season at Storyhill

6 06 2008

Checkout the page I’ve added to give everyone info on the opportunity of living life with our family for a season – Stay at Storyhill.

Families, young marrieds, singles all welcome!  God’s been really challenging us to open our lives and demonstrating to us that discipleship involves being spiritual fathers and mothers which requires giving people greater access.  This is an attempt to be obedient to that calling and to see what God will do.

On Mission in Kirkland, WA

27 03 2008

I wanted to do something unusual and talk about what’s actually going on in my life in the present.

On March 1st my wife and I, with our 4 kids, boarded a plane bound for Seattle to spend the next 2.5 months developing a new work in Kirkland, WA.

We’re members of an Apostolic Team sent out by our church in Fort Thomas, KY.

Our mission is simple – to develop and establish a Discipleship Training Center in Kirkland that will reproduce disciples who will birth new body churches that will send out Apostolic Teams to launch new works in other regions.

Our team from KY is currently April and I and Ford and Erin Knowlton and our Kirkland based team is Ben and Kami Crawford and Colin and Grace Jones. We expect additional members of our team from KY will pay an extended visit to building up this work in the near future.

So right now our weekly schedule consists of –

  • Team Trainings on Tuesday Afternoon
  • Team Outings on Tuesday Night
  • Story Formed Life on Wednesday Night
  • Body Gathering and Lord’s Supper on Saturday Evening
  • Assorted weekly mentoring meetings

I’m also meeting with other church leaders and planters in this area.

We’ve met significant challenges especially in the way of nasty contagious illnesses but we’re pushing through and we’re seeing disciples made as well as the budding of a new body.

Please pray for our team and that the Lord will establish this work for the expansion of His Kingdom.

For more regular updates on what’s going on check out:

And by the way…if anyone out there would be interested in launching a Discipleship Training Center please contact us. We’d love to help you get it started and send a team to assist in establishing the work.

Team Kirkland


How Worship Services Subvert the Christian Mission – Discipleship

16 10 2007

Great Ommission“All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples…”

Could it be any simpler? Could it be any clearer? Jesus sent us out to make disciples. This IS the mission. Why is this so hard to grasp? There are many reasons why almost no Christians believe this is the central mission. I’d like to explore just one of those reasons namely the pervasive, black hole we call the weekend worship service.

After being on staff at 7 churches and encountering hundreds of others I can say with confidence that, to date, I have NEVER discovered a church with a worship service that believes and practices discipleship as the central mission of the church. Why is this? Is there any causal relationship between having a worship service and a lack of discipleship? For a long time I’ve thought there was not. But the more I’ve pondered the connection I’ve begun to believe that there are elements involved with the maintenance of a weekly worship service that discourage our mission as disciple-makers.

1. Worship Services form the Church’s Identity – Have you ever been to a church with a worship service where that was not the event that defined the church. Every element of the service speaks to what that church is and stands for. What kind of music do they play? Who preaches the sermons? What type of building? etc. What a terrible place to form an identity as a Christian body! We are a worship rockin’, bible preaching church. Really? Is that how the church should self-identify? Not with relationships, nor with beliefs but with music and preaching style.

2. Worship Services communicate that the bar is low (instead of radical discipleship) – The last worship service I went to the Pastor persistently referred to the congregation as “regular attenders”. Huh…so that is who we are. We’re not “the Household of God” or “Disciples of Christ” or “The Light of the World” we’re “regular attenders”. And whether explicitly or implicitly this communicates that what it means to be a good Christian is to regular attend a worship service. What a tragedy! Jesus died on the cross so that we can “go to church”. You may say, “I don’t believe that” but then why does 95% of Christianity act out this belief? Because of the weekly worship service. We’ve trained them well.

3. Worship Services suck up the discipleship resources – Even though we have a hundred million case studies on how useless worship services are at making disciples 99% of churches use their worship service as their primary means of disciple-making. There are a small number of churches that, after tremendous effort, grow large enough to develop other ministries outside of the worship service but when they do discipleship is usually not the focus of those ministries. They feel they need to launch ministries that the worship service does not meet like missions and community so once again discipleship – the central mission – gets the shaft.