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
In John 15:16, Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.”
Even before COVID-19 the Australian church and the Western Church more broadly had been in decline for decades. So, as we now look to build our pathway out of isolation, perhaps it is time to look at how we operate together as the church; how we are being the hands and feet of Jesus in the world; and how we are taking up God’s mission to “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19).
Biblically speaking discipleship is not so much a program, but a culture. The ultimate goal of a discipleship is multiplying faithful followers of Christ to the ends of the earth and to the end of time. Jesus envisioned that the world would be won to to him through the witnessing, teaching and example of His followers. That is His plan! Disciples encouraging and maturing each other, refining our lives until every area of our life simply oozes the love and light of Christ, and bringing others into relationship with Him by intentionally loving those around us in Jesus name. Programs are sometimes valuable parts of a disciple making culture, but in and of themselves can not fulfil the mission to create disciples who in turn make disciples. Discipleship is intentionally relational: the people of God, encouraging each other with the word of God, for the ministry of God, to the glory of God! This was the method given by Jesus, this was the method embraced by the early church, this is the method which will transform the world - one life at a time.
How does it work? Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Paul writes 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ”, and Philippians 4:9 “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” In other words real discipleship happens in the ordinary ebb and flow of life; it must be part of our daily life, not just something we do on Sunday. Practically, on a personal level this investing in our relationship with Christ every day, being willing to look to others for guidance and encouragement in our Christian walk, and then intentionally looking to guide and encourage others as they grow in relationship with Jesus. On a church level disciple-making must sit as the core mission of the church; in disciple-making churches, all members live discipleship personally, talk about it regularly, and go out of their way to make it an everyday reality. Yes they have programs, but they also have pathways, connection/life groups, prayer groups and small group Bible studies. They focus on relational mission and discipleship because they know that this results in Christ-followers who in turn produce Christ-followers. This is what we see take place in the early Church, and this is the mission to which we are called.
We have been commanded to go and make disciples and to bear fruit: This is the mission of God in the hands of ordinary people … are you ready to answer His call?
Grace & Peace
It seems the whole world has gone “online”!
This social isolation has transformed how we do anything and everything. There are things we never imagined doing online, yet here we are: from church to coffee catch ups, choir practice to playdates, even doctors visits and dinner parties; it seems there is nothing which we can not do remotely. Suddenly, it seems we have found that random people in video form have become fixtures of our everyday life, keeping us fit, keeping us laughing, keeping us thinking.
Like so many churches across the globe, we have taken to streaming services and ramped up social media presence as a way keeping us connected as a community, and keeping our hearts and minds focussed on God. So, in many ways it is business as usual (with an online twist). Yet there are still so many who are outside our church community who are isolated, lost and lonely; so the question arises: can we make disciples in isolation?
Our calling as disciples is to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus does not qualify this with “just so long as you can get out and about”, so I read this as saying go and make disciples in any context, and at any time. Disciple making is not simply one on one contact imparting knowledge and wisdom; true disciple making should be considered more as life on life sharing of self, a building of God-honouring relationships in order to transform lives with the love and truth of the gospel, and to help them learn how to live this out in their everyday. The early disciples not only heard the teaching, but they saw an example of how what they had heard could be lived out in their context, and it transformed the world! So how can we share a Jesus infused life in our current contexts? Is it possible to do this in isolation? What examples can we draw on? We need look no further than the Bible! The Apostle Paul managed a disciple making relationship with Timothy from the isolation of a first century prison! Paul used what the confines of his context allowed (letters and messengers) to encourage, build up, correct and caution young believers. Paul chose to be a disciple maker despite his circumstances; by sharing life on life he built an enduring relationship, and we are still beneficiaries of his work today. His example shows us that true disciple-making is about relationship - and not even social isolation can stop that!
So, will you choose to be a disciple maker in isolation? Will choose to encourage others to build their life on the rock of Jesus Christ by sharing your life with them? Will you be an example of a Jesus exalting life from the confines of your home? It’s as easy as picking up a pen, picking up the phone, sending an email, or getting on line; let’s all get on board with true disciple making and transform the world one life at a time!
Grace & Peace,
Jen is an energetic and passionate disciple of Christ who loves to share Jesus with anyone who will listen!