NPL’s goal is not house church, building church, simple church, legacy church, or organic church. It’s healthy church. I really love what Brett and Abigail have done the last two years with the church they lead. They take the church circles illustration and start over again by asking this question; “What functions of the church are we healthy in and what are not?” Healthy functions stay in the circle. Functions that need improvement are put on the outside and goals are set to improve in these areas. The discussion was filled with honesty, humility, and compassion. The Church Circles is not a “one and done” exercise. I like a church that is willing to walk in the light and beg Jesus to draw them closer individually and corporately.
In the past, I’ve challenged disciples to study the Gospels and line up their top ten priorities and use them as a guide for personal growth and discipling others. Over the years my top 10 have morphed but here’s my focus for 2019.
Chuck’s Top 10
- Abide deeply in the Lord Jesus Christ and imitate Him
- Be filled with His Holy Spirit
- Be saturated with the Word of God & Prayer
- Share the gospel abundantly
- Grow in reproducing Christ-like discipleship
- Gather as a healthy reproducing church
- Multiply generational leaders
- Implement a strategic model of ministry
- Cast a strong vision to reach the world for Christ
- Persevere in all circumstances
Call to Action: Write down your top 10 and review them at least once a month.
“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”Matthew 4.19
As a young sergeant, I was taught that there are three parts in leadership development; Character, Intellect, and Skill. We summed it up in BE, KNOW, DO. People try to prioritize and separate the three but the truth is you can’t. Part of who you are is what you do and part of what you do is what you know, and so on. I was a paratrooper who knew how to jump out of airplanes and did. Take any one of those away and I would not be a paratrooper. Jesus’s disciples are followers and fishers. Their identity is wrapped up in Who they know and what they do. There is no separation.
Call to Action: Find three verses for Be, Know, Do and talk about them with your Timothys
“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”Matthew 4.19
Sergeant First Class Mike Ramsey. He was the one leader in the Army that I respected so much, I wanted to be just like him. Have you ever met someone like this? Put the shoe on the other foot. Have you ever met a leader with the expectation that you become just like them? That’s exactly what Jesus had in mind; to help His disciples become just like Him. And He begins His agenda with one simple vision cast; “Follow Me and I will make you a fisher of men.” Following was not the act of walking behind Him. It was an invitation to become, to be conformed, into the kind of man He was.
Call to Action: Do you believe Jesus wants you to become like Him? Why or why not?
Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.(John 1.35-39)
Cecil and Jeannie asked my brother and I if we were interested in coming to their house for dinner. A month later we moved into their basement and lived with their family for the next year. It was the beginning of a mentoring relationship that would last for decades. And it all started with a simple question.
Cecil’s vision-casting began with a question. But that was only the first of many questions. As far as we were concerned, we were going to eat dinner with an older follower of Jesus. But Cecil’s invitation for dinner extended far beyond just having a nice meal and small talk. There was something Cecil was looking for; Did we want to see God? Could we see ourselves as Jesus’ ambassadors to a lost and dying world? Did we see ourselves as the generation to carry the torch of Christ to the next generation? In a sense, he was asking the same question Jesus did, “What do you seek?”
These questions were not answered that night. But over the next few years, Cecil would ask vision-casting questions over and over again in many different ways. And just like Jesus, he invited us to “Come and see.” Cecil’s agenda/vision was to turn us into passionate followers of Jesus and fishers of men.
Jesus had an agenda/vision too. When He asked the disciples “What do you seek?” I’m sure Jesus knew exactly where He was going with them. His vision was far more than these fishermen could even imagine for themselves. They responded with a seemingly mundane question to answer Him; “Where are you staying?” Really!?! This is completely understandable considering these guys were at the front end of discipleship and probably didn’t fully understand the magnitude of the journey they were about to embark on. They didn’t even know the right questions to ask. And Jesus was not put out by the underwhelming request even though He was the Messiah, Creator, the King of kings. His invitation to “come and see” was a gracious opportunity that would go well beyond seeing the geographical location He was living.
The two disciples spent the rest of the day with Him. Jesus’ vision had begun. In time, He would turn them into His passionate followers and fishers of men. But it all started with a question; “What do you seek?”
Vision-casting is all about helping people answer the question. “What do you seek?” As disciple-makers it is our responsibility to lift up the eyes of the disciples to look beyond what presently exists and see what is possible when one follows Christ. They may not see it in the beginning. In fact, they probably won’t. But as we see the vision for them and keep reminding them of their identity and purpose from the Scriptures, they will be able to see the glorious hights the Master is calling them to.
Call to Action: Ask someone you are discipling; “What do you seek?” Don’t try to fill in all the blanks for them, but use Scripture (John 1.35-39) to lift up their eyes and see the next steps in the journey to glorify God. It should be a very interesting discussion. 🙂
A Blast from the Past: Success and Failure
We are sure that the bullseye in discipleship is Jesus Christ. He is our ultimate aim. Our goal is to help people become like Him and completely dependant on Him.
A young single person was sitting in the back seat of our car on the way to a retreat and, as is our custom, Deb and I grilled them on their walk with Jesus. They went on and on about the quality of their spiritual life and finally, I asked this question; “How does Jesus fit into all of this?” They responded very matter of factly, “Oh, yeah, that too.”
Now we were super kind and patient with them but, in my head, alarm bells were going off. WHAT!?! THAT TOO!?! First of all, Jesus is not a “that” He’s a He. Secondly, you just relegated Jesus off to an inconsequential appendage of your spiritual life. And if we are not careful, we can do the exact same thing with the most well-meaning discipleship program.
Jesus is the Bullseye
I hope you noticed that in almost every blog post, I use Jesus as the primary example. In fact, I get my definition of discipleship straight from Jesus Himself.
*“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master…”(Matthew 10.24-25a)
**“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”(Luke 6.40)
Our aim in spending time, proximity, influencing, and casting vision all has to do with the objective of helping the disciple of Jesus become like Him and fully dependant on Him. That’s why I use the word “apprentice” to define a disciple rather than just a follower or student. An apprentice’s aim is to become like the teacher. I think apprentice conveys a much better definition.
One last point. I never call the men and women I’m discipling “my disciples” (even though there is biblical precedence – Act 9.25). I may call them Timothys, my guys, or mighty warriors. But I never call them my disciples. Why? Because I want our aim to be crystal clear. Their goal is to become like Jesus, not me. The name disciple is a term of endearment that belongs to the Master and to the Master only. Besides that, could you imagine a bunch of little chuck woods running around? 😳
Are you making disciples of Jesus?
Call to Action: In a conversation with your Timothys, count the number of times Jesus’ name comes off your lips. Read Colossians 1 out loud and time the reading. How many times does Paul refer to Jesus in that short amount of time?
A Blast from the Past: The Main Thing is to Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing
- Bullseye Discipleship – Time
- Bullseye Discipleship – Proximity
- Bullseye Discipleship – Influence
- Bullseye Discipleship – Vision
- Bullseye Discipleship – The Ultimate Aim
*Matthew 10.24-25 is in the context of describing persecution. If they persecuted the teacher, they will persecute the disciples.
**Luke 6.40 is in the context of warning. Jesus is exhorting the people and making the point that if one follows hypocritical leadership, they will become a hypocrite too.
Even though in these two contexts Jesus does not explicitly define a disciple for the purpose of definition, Jesus makes His definition of a disciple quite clear; One becoming like his teacher.
We think the bullseye for discipleship is when a disciple’s passion is to reach the world for Christ.
I was sitting across the table from a cadet in Grant Hall. The hall is a popular cafeteria/hangout at West Point, home of the United States Military Academy. The walls are decorated with portraits of great American leaders like Eisenhower and MacArthur. West Point is a hero factory. It cranks out a thousand highly motivated, supremely educated, and physically fit leaders each year. West Point also happens to be fertile soil for serious spiritual leaders. What was I doing there? Fishing for leaders! Fishing in a pond stocked with America’s finest. To catch these fish though, you need to use the same bait that Jesus used, a challenge to make a real difference in the world. I usually went right after the jugular; I presented the Great Commission
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20).
As I explained the challenge and the rewards to this young leader brimming with potential, his eyes gleamed with enthusiasm. I hit the crescendo and ended my vision casting the way I always did, “Does this grip your heart? Is this something you can give your life to?” More often than not, it was a resounding “YES.” But now as the disciple-maker, I needed to roll up my sleeves and turn this enthusiastic “wannabe” into a real spiritual warrior. That takes intentionality and time. People generally don’t catch vision because of one good sermon or because its posted in some conspicuous place. Vision is infused by the visionary through repetitive, inspiring, challenges that move a person from clueless to passion. I’ve recognized some very distinct stages over the years.
Stages for Vision Development (C-MVP)
- Clueless – They wouldn’t know the Great Commission if it walked up and bit them.
- Mission – They acknowledge as a task that should be completed by someone in the church
- Vision – The blinders have come off and they are taking personal responsibility
- Passion -They are all in. The GC is what they breath, eat, drink, sleep, and dream.
They may be diamonds in the rough but these are the kind of men and women you look for. You will need to do the hard work of inspiring them to the next stage. I believe these kinds of men and women exist all over the world and Jesus is calling them just like He did during His days in Judea.
I’d like to spend a few weeks talking about how I cast vision but first I need to finish the Bullseye Illustration with one last thought, which happens to be the most important.
Call to Action: Study the Great Commission with your Timothys and ask them these questions; Does this grip your heart? Is this something you can give your life to?
A Blast from the Past: BEING JESUS AS THE BODY