In today’s world people do not always want to hear what God has to say on any given topic. It takes courage to speak God’s word to a society that has it’s own ideas, worldview and values, yet this is what God’s people have been called to do for thousands of years, and it is what we, as disciples of Christ, are still called to do today. Many people tell me that they struggle to share their faith because either they are not good with words or they don’t know what to say. We are certainly not the first generation of believers who have struggled in this way; the Bible gives us stories of people like Moses, Jonah and even Paul to remind us that God Himself will equip us and strengthen us when we speak God’s word, but first we must follow His direction.
But can’t we just lead good lives? Living a “good life” is not what the Bible calls us to do, we are called to live a godly life - and this is a powerful witness in a world far from God; mainly because one common response to the Christian message is that Christians as hypocritical because we say one thing but do another. So living a Godly life is one part of sharing our faith with a sceptical world - we may not be able to answer all of their questions, but they can’t deny the reality of what Christ has done in our life. But At the same time, we must do more than simply live Godly lives. People need to hear the Gospel—to hear that God loves them, that Christ died for them and that they can have eternal life. Romans 10:13-14 says, “‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
Here are 5 simple steps to sharing the Gospel:
1. Tell them about God’s Plan - peace & life. (John 3:16)
2. Share out problem - separation from God (Romans 2:23 & Romans 6:23)
3. Talk about the remedy - the cross (1 Peter 2:24)
4. Explain the response - receive Christ (John 1:12)
5. Give assurance - Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13)
Remember You can’t open someone’s heart to the truth of the Gospel—but God can, by His Spirit. We see time and again in the Bible how God does not call the equipped; He equips the called—and as Christians, we are all called to share what Christ has done. Some of Christ’s last words on earth were, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Sharing our faith isn’t just a suggestion, it’s a command. And God is with us when we obey Him.
So let’s all Go and make disciples!
Grace & peace
Last fortnight we spoke of the importance of belonging and being active in our church; but how do we, as the people of God help each other, and especially help new comers to belong?
There are two ways in which we (Christians) operate within the church and also welcome newcomers; we either become table people or tower people.
Towers are tall, dominant, imposing, impressive and often quite exclusive. Often when you reach a tower in the city you can’t get in unless you have a code, or unless you already know someone inside. If you do get in towers are often difficult to navigate and there are some floors which are totally off limits without a key or a membership card. From a tower we look down on the world, we look down passers by, and we look down on those who want to access our tower. Towers are made out of uniform materials, they are hard, clean, man made, and they are almost religious in their conformity (and they are very often boring). When God’s people built a tower in Genesis 11 God had to come down to see what His people were doing; and He said “this will never do … My people are not tower people”.
On the other hand tables are flat, low and accessible. Table are usually made out of more natural materials, they are soft and often beautiful. Tables are inviting, they are places of welcome, and feasting, and conversation and learning. The Bible tells us that God has set a great banquet table for His people (imagery of the Kingdom of God), In Luke 14, when God is told that there is still room at the table, He sends ambassadors to bring more people in; in fact he tells His ambassadors to “compel’ people to come, to offer repeatedly, to encourage, to remind, even to beg! God is not satisfied until His table is full. In Luke 14 God’s banquet table is not uniform, but it certainly is interesting! God is a table person … and He calls us to be table people! To go out and compel all people to come to fill His table and His house, and therefore to fill our table with the poor, the cripple, the lame, foreigners, widows, children - those who are the same as us, and those who are different. We help each other, we help new people, we even help ourselves to belong when we become table people.
So a question to ponder this week: Are you a tower person or a table person? Is your church a tower or a table? Are you compelling all people to come and belong?
Grace & peace
People will often tell me how they used to go to church, but they don’t go anymore. The reasons sound different but usually end up the same: They’ve been hurt, the church they went to just didn’t fit, or they couldn’t handle the politics, or they believe they can worship God on their own, or they just didn’t feel welcome. I’m not going to focus on the causes today, but on the power of belonging.
Not being an active member of a church is like what happens to my motorbike when I don’t ride it often enough; when I want to start it - It won’t start! Without regular use, and intentional care and maintenance the battery become weak because it hasn’t been charged, the fuel is stale because it hasn’t been refreshed, and there is dust covering what was once a clean and beautiful thing. The same is true for our spiritual lives, we need to guard against signs of neglect, ensure that we have fresh fuel in the tank and make sure we are plugged into the Source of Life; only then do we have the energy, power and endurance to stand firm in the face of the storms when they come (because the storms always come!).
Of course we can worship alone (I worship alone every morning) BUT something special happens when you are gathered with the Body of Christ. Jesus told us that when two or three are gathered together in His name, He would be in the midst of them. God inhabits the praises of His people, and true worship allows this to happen. Jesus modelled regular church attendance (Luke 4:16), as disciples we are to follow His example. Jesus also demonstrated the importance of fellowship and discipleship; what His time with the disciples shows us is that Christianity is caught and not taught: so if we want to be going deeper in discipleship journey, if we want to be a good example to our children and grandchildren, if we want to be charged, fuelled and ready to stand strong in the storm, or to share in the growth of others and to be disciple makers in obedience to the Great Commission - then, yes we need to attend church - but more than that we need to belong!
So, let go of old hurts, release grudges, get over past issues and re-enage with church. Find a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching, Jesus-loving church, choose to belong and then be the kind of congregation that you would like to encounter as a seeker or new believer.
Grace & peace
With Father’s Day this weekend I have been thinking a lot about families and discipleship. It’s an area which fills most parents with pangs of guilt. There is a sense of obligation in parents for bedtime to resemble a mini Bible College, and for children to be a walking talking concordance by age 3; when our children don’t meet our own lofty ideals parents can often feel like we have failed as parents.
Now, it is true that God calls the family to play a vital role in discipling the next generation - it is the role of the family to equip children to see the world through the world through the lens of the Bible, but it is not supposed to be a burden! The Psalmist describes the role as “commending the works of God to the next generation” (Ps 145:4); the Apostle Paul taught us to declare to them the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27); and Jesus commanded us to “teach(ing)” them to obey all I have commanded” (Matt 28:18-20). Often we consider this to be exclusively the role of the parents, however, based on the context of Deuteronomy 6:1–2 it has a broader application which also includes grandparents. In other words family discipleship is a shared role, and not to be left solely to time poor, over burdened and often sleep deprived parents!
The first thing to understand is that family discipleship isn’t one-size-fits-all; but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming and it doesn’t need to be difficult. The single best was to disciple children is to make it a normal part of the rhythm of life; how this is accomplished varies from family to family and is as unique as the DNA of each home. Here are a few general ideas:
A Christian home is the fundamental discipleship axis for passing the faith along to the next generation. Parents, Grandparents and extended family can all play a role in sharing biblical truth with the next generation. Children who are discipled well at home will continue to grow as disciple makers in their adult lives.
To God be the Glory
I was chatting with someone this week about become better disciple makers by intentionally recognising God’s faithfulness in our everyday life, and putting the WOW back into our witness. This came from a discussion around Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace:
God wants to WOW us - and he wants us to share our WOW with others around us. When we read His word closely, His story and his faithfulness will WOW us; when we bring our lives to the foot of the cross, His grace will WOW us; when we seek Him and walk in relationship, his love (and his correction) will WOW us …
When was the last time you allowed yourself to be WOWed by God?
When was the last time you witnessed like a child who has been WOWed?
Grace & Peace
It’s no secret that life is tough right now - around the world people are contracting COVID-19, many are becoming critically ill, others are dying. The statistics day after day are staggering; but we must never lose sight of the fact that the numbers on our screens and in our newspapers are more than just statistics, they represent people - Mum’s & Dad’s, Nan’s & Pop’s, Children, Grandchildren, Aunts, Uncles, Friends. Whilst this disaster may not be personal to us today, it is personal to someone, and perhaps even someone we know. Here in CQ we can feel removed from it all, and potentially become numb to the issues at hand or perhaps even complacent in the way we respond. But we must never lose sight of the fact that the way we respond has an impact we can’t even see; following the basic hygiene principles keeps us and our loved ones safe; complying with the directions of health officials keeps our community safe and makes the lives of first responders, health care professionals and even politicians a little easier; keeping aware but not alarmed helps protect those in our community suffering from mental health disorders, and helps to alleviate the load on public health facilities; not buying into or spreading conspiracy theories and public revolt ideologies helps to keep effort and energy in the right place, helps people to choose to help others, and helps protect our front line law enforcement officers from violence and abuse. The Apostle Paul taught that we are to obey our worldly masters in so far as it does not violate God’s law; as disciples of Jesus it is important that we follow His lead in this area (even when we don’t like it).
We are ambassadors of Christ, how we choose to react or behave during the pandemic reflects on Christ: as such we are calm because we know that Christ is ultimately in control - we are not those who sneak across boarders, break curfew, go to church or work with a sore throat, gather in sizes not permitted, or break other rules because it suits us to do so. As ambassadors of Christ our message needs to be “we care - even when it is not convenient!” Our role as disciples is: Repent humbly, witness openly, and love unreservedly - this applies even more so today!
Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Grace & Peace
Research and reports are regularly being released at the moment confirming what we already anecdotally know; with the turmoil that COVID-19 is creating, young people are lacking direction, Adults and feeling lost and disconnected. Words which are being used to describe the mental health of our nation include lost, alone, isolated, desolate, fearful, anxious, and angry … and often they don’t know why.
There is a wonderful exchange in Alice in wonderland which I think captures the problem perfectly:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” Asked Alice
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
This exchange is often summarised down to “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there”. And I think this children's story captures the issue at the core of many of the presenting issues of our culture today: We don’t know our (eternal) destination.
As Christians we know that we live for a purpose greater than ourselves and this purpose is set by our (eternal) destination. Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14 that there are only two options with our eternal destination 13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Once we know our eternal destination It’s not so hard to find the way; Jesus said I am the way the truth and the life (John 14:6). So how do we find ourselves walking with Jesus? Without descending into cliché, it is important to remind ourselves of the absolute essential nature of the Bible as a compass for life. The Bible is the only legitimate source of direction for life 2 Tim. 3:16 teaches that the Bible is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. In other words, God’s word gives us guidelines for living, instructions on building healthy relationships, direction for how to make the tough decisions in life, assurance in times of difficulty or doubt; the Bible brings comfort when we are hurting, certainty to our uncertainty and light into our darkness. The Bible reveals the nature and character of God, and through it’s pages, God himself invites us into intimate relationship with him.
But even for the Christian spiritual drifting can be a real issue; without the direction of the Bible constantly correcting our course having a rudder or a steering wheel is useless, as we will go wherever the current of life directs. So as disciples to be intentional in our direction we must read, reflect on and digest our Bible every day and use it's content as our compass. As disciple-makers we must help others to develop a daily habit of Bible reading and devotion to build relationship with God, gain knowledge of his purpose and direction for their lives and intentionally guide them to set their direction to their eternal destination.
Grace & Peace
Each week during the pandemic lockdown we have been using the phrase “plug in - stay connected”. But what does it mean to be connected?
In our world today Connection can look like so many things; from scripture however, we can see that the premise for connection is following Jesus. We become connected to Christ and his body as we follow and obey. In Matthew 4:19 Jesus says “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. Jesus calls his disciples to to follow him, and builds relationship with them before he asked them to feed a crowd, much less go out in his name preaching the gospel.
This pattern of connection to Jesus was followed by the early church, and they enjoyed exponential growth. Throughout the New Testament we see new believers called into relationship with Jesus, time invested by more mature believers into the discipleship of others, and then new disciples learning to serve others in the same way. This model of thinking and discipleship means that our church gatherings become a beautiful expression of our collective connection to Jesus - but not the sole connection itself. What Jesus expressly calls us to a deliberate, whole life and all of life journey of learning and growing; an essential part of that is then the investment into the lives of others. In this way discipleship is not about a program, but rather much more about our own deep and personal relationship with Jesus, followed by a deep investment into the lives of those around us as we make disciples of all nations, “baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything He has commanded (us)”. True Disciple-making is not superficial, but a deep transformative connection to God and others which will change the way we live and “do church”.
In Jesus the invitation becomes the definition! “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”.
I have been fortunate enough to have been discipled on my Christian walk by some wonderful believers who embodied this call; they pulled me into community, encouraged me, guided me, challenged me and followed up with me - it has been, and continues to be a transformative experience. It is the reason I am so passionate about discipleship becoming the very heart of our church community. Every believer, by virtue of our baptism, has the potential to be discipled and become a disciple maker!
Jesus has called us into a relationship unlike anything we have ever known - are you ready to take the journey?
Grace & Peace
It seems at the moment that the entire world is bubbling with social unrest and protest after the horrendous killing of an American man at the hands of Police. Although this crime happened half a world away, our nation is grieving too; we are lamenting the violent actions of some in authority, as well as the cultural racism and systemic oppression which has been vividly unmasked.
I don’t think I need to prove the utter absurdity of the racist position. Racism (and it’s ugly “ism” cousins) in simple terms claim that some arbitrary biological or other attribute, (skin colour, ethnicity, gender or physical ability) rates some people as either inferior or superior. This thinking is the “Open Sesame” of social acceptance and privilege, rendering some in and some out. As a nation we would like to believe that we have grown beyond this, but racism is a problem entrenched in our society which we can no longer ignore or run away from. It has been an issue throughout history and it continues to be an issue today.
When Jesus commanded us to “go and make disciples” he didn’t finish with just so long as they look like you or speak like you: He said all nations! If you were not born Jewish, then like myself you are a beneficiary of this command, and of the Bible’s teaching that is no longer any segregation in Christ Jesus. In Christ we are all in the place of acceptance and privilege.
As His representatives (the Church), we have the opportunity to share how the life-changing message of the Gospel creates a healthy relationship with God and healthy relationships between people, no matter who they are. So, as we strive to be increasingly Christ like in thought word and deed, as we strive to live out the Great Commission, as we seek to make disciples of Jesus, we must address and shift the intrenched racism, classism and sexism inherent in our society; not to do so is simply disobedience to God.
The message of Jesus is clear; We all belong with God - no separation, no difference.
So let’s go out and make disciples of all nations!
Grace and Peace
A question I received this week - Is Discipling a fancy word for mentoring?
It’s a great question!
On the surface Discipling and Mentoring look very similar; after all mentoring is basically a general term used when someone asks another person to advise them in a certain set of skills or a life area, and discipling shares this aspect to some degree. Both have the goal of helping someone else to learn and grow (usually one-on-one) and both are relational in nature. However, this is about where the similarities stop.
In mentoring the saying goes “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The object is to help the mentee grow in the area of their choosing, to their agenda and for their benefit. But when Jesus taught about fishing he said, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). Jesus didn’t come to help his disciples to do what they were already doing better, he came to change the very purpose of their lives. Essentially the message of Jesus is “follow me” or “become like me”, in other words to trade our purpose for His purpose, to exchange the temporal for the eternal. Disciplemaking then, rather than being at the request of the mentee for their own benefit, is rather, a matter of obedience as we respond to Christ’s command to “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19); in other words to lead and guide someone in becoming a strong, fruitful disciple to the glory of God, and the expansion of His kingdom.
By nature discipling is an intentional investment in the growth and maturity of another in Christ; the role is to actively equip a person with the necessary spiritual discipline and resources that will allow them accomplish the mission that God calls them to; to enable them to become a strong, fruitful disciple in their own right (2 Timothy 2:2); to present them fully mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28).
Disciple-making is the model given to us by Jesus himself to bring about His purposes in the world. It is a powerful, purposeful and intentional labour of love, leading, teaching, correcting, and praying for those who God will give us to disciple. As we faithfully water, He brings about transformational growth.
Grace & Peace
Jen is an energetic and passionate disciple of Christ who loves to share Jesus with anyone who will listen!