Monday, March 26, 2012

The Inside View of Disciplemaking

Discipleship...check out this video!

It has been said that parenting is the highest form of discipleship.  As parents we have the incredible privilege and responsibility of the spiritual formation of our children especially in their formative years. In this passage, Paul drew on the parallels between parenting and family life showing how deeply personal discipleship was to him, which is what it took to do well in seeing others become fully devoted followers of Christ.

A Gospel shaped community is enabled to form deep community and yet only in deep community can we become gospel shaped people.  Tim Keller

We often think of discipleship of a very formal thing and yet I can identify how I took significant steps in my journey with Christ through informal times with others as we do life together.  I believe that we need formal times for disciplemaking where we sit down, share Scripture and pray together; however we learn so much from just spending time with each other.

One person who played a significant role in my life was Bob Gage.  He passed away a few years ago, but here is what I remember about him

He was an amazing mentor, encourager and friend in my life and inspired me to lead as a young man who was part of a ministry to boys called Battalion.  It was Bob who would take us on a survivorman weeklong canoe trips on the Madawaska River.  We would learn to take risks as we navigated through some pretty incredible rapids and I can remember as clear as day how he taught us to be not hearers only, but doers of the Word.  He also taught me so much about conversational prayer with the Lord I know he is a big part of who I have become today.

It was his wife Rose who shared this with me following his funeral.

She said people spoke of Bob as a soldier, but he was a genuine fun loving man of God who taught us the joy of the Lord.  During Bob's last days that he never complained and always had that silly grin on his face and would look at her to say, "I love you'.
 She shared with me, “Joy in the Lord is infectious Jack, so use it mightily in your home, in your ministry.  I was a very fearful person until I grew in the Lord, Bob always saw everything as a fun challenge.  We then both came to understand it's a wonderful opportunity to grow in the Lord.”

How we thank God for you!  Because of you we have great joy in the presence of God.  1 Thessalonians 3:9

1 Thessalonians 2:7-12

Now remember that Paul was only here for 3 weeks with the believers at Thessalonica and yet look at the profound effect they had there.

I want to focus on how you and I can be effective disciple makers.  We can do this by properly connecting three parts of our body and how they relate in a family relationship.

Connect to others with your heart v7,8  - like a mother


The passage refers to a mother caring for her little children.  Now the word here actually refers to one who nourishes or feeds; a nursing mother.  So you want to describe a gentle approach!   Paul is talking about a mother and an infant and he is saying that is the kind of bond we had with you.  A person who makes disciples doesn’t take anything for granted.  They know that everything they experience together can be so formational in the life of the person they take under their wing.

Sometimes you don’t even realize the little things you do for the people you come in contact with can have such a profound effect on them.  This was really brought out to me when I left my first youth ministry position and the youth prepared a scrapbook for us.  In their letters they shared about how they saw Sharon and I love each other and our kids that spoke so much to them,  often more than all the talks and events.

This gentle approach wasn’t always this way for Paul.   Earlier on in his ministry he had a disagreement with Barnabus, whose name meant son of encouragement.  It was Barnabus who never gave up on people and John Mark had deserted them on an earlier trip as you can read about in Acts 15:36-39 

A person who is gentle gives people second, third chances even when they mess up in their spiritual journey. 

The great news for Paul is that things did turnaround with John Mark as we see in Colossians 4:10.  We find him in prison with Paul who sends greetings on their behalf. 

For some of you the idea of a gentle approach may seem impossible, but here’s the good news, God can make you gentle as His Spirit works in you.

My parents took in foster children as I was growing up and 3 of them ended up staying with us for close to 10 years.  They would eventually profess faith in Christ and I can remember pulling them into my bedroom to do morning devotions growing up.  Well, one day, I had a disagreement with one of them and I remember one of them swearing at me using the Lord’s name in vain.  I remember being so upset by that that I clenched my fist and drove it through the wall next to him.  Obviously, it wasn’t my finest moment, but when I think of gentle, I think of how much more effective it would have been for me to place my arm around him and let him know how much that hurt His Savior who died for Him and for me as well as his brother.

I also reflect back on a student who came from a blended home arriving at church with a ball cap on Unfortunately, it was all one person could see and they let him know that he was being disrespectful.  While I’m not here to debate clothing, the young man left the church for a number of months only to arrive back because someone else loved him enough to reach out to him.

Gentleness helps us to see the people that other people miss in our church and outside of our church.  Gentleness reaches out beyond our comfort zone to connect with people who others don’t have time for. 

We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.

God has allowed us to open our home in the past to people who were in need of a room to stay.  We were fortunate enough as a family to have a room in our basement to take in people usually for 6 months at a time from  a niece to a youth pastor, someone in a time of transition from the ‘women shelter’ and later a church planter who came from Nigeria.  It was God who impressed on me that in doing so we were entertaining angels unaware!

I know some of you have done the same and want to encourage you in this.  I want you to give some thought about how you could use your home to share God’s love.

Connect to others with your hands – like a brother or sister for that matter v9,10

He speaks of toil, hardship

Working night and day not to be a burden - They served others ‘pro bono’  They weren’t looking for something in return.  As missionaries, they would have received some support from Antioch, but they had to work to support themselves.

Paul never expected anything in return for being a mentor, he knew that it meant being available at any given time.  While in prison, the only things he really requested for himself was a writing pad and a sweater.  The thing that stands out to me about being a brother or sister is time.  A spiritual brother or sister in many ways made the time even after a long day of work.  This is the call of a disciple maker and it goes beyond the pastors of the church who are fortunate enough to be paid to do it.   It is a sacrifice of time.

Paul also encouraged Timothy to invest (your life) in faithful men who would also be able to teach others.

2 Timothy 2:2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. 3 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

Connect to others with your words - like a Father –v11,12

You are witnesses of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.
Paul was saying that his conduct was above board.  We honored God, we treated people right, and we gave no one a legitimate reason to blame us for our behavior. He was saying we lived among you with integrity.

·         Encouraging – to exhort, to challenge to live with a particular conduct.  He was calling them to a holy lifestyle.

·         Comforting –  addressing one’s feeling as opposed to their will.  He knew that what they were feeling would not always line up with the steps of obedience that they needed to take.  Often obedience and follow through don’t always match up with how we feel about a situation.

·         Urging you to live lives worthy of God – solemn charge

We were at a men’s breakfast recently where the speaker challenged us that the sin in the garden was Adam’s silence when Eve was being tempted by Satan.  Sometimes we think that Adam was somewhere else in the garden at that time, but he wasn’t.  He was right there, with her (Genesis 2:7) and by his passive silence, he let Eve be deceived and in doing so was deceived himself.  He didn’t speak up when he knew the thing that was very wrong happening right in front of him.

Paul had to be straightforward and be courageous enough to speak the truth in love with his words.

If he saw error or abuse, he called it out.  Now I don’t have a specific example from Thessalonica, we see his boldness in the city of Antioch.

Galatians 2:11 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

Paul had to call Peter out on his bad behaviour.
John also expanded the picture of maturity from childhood to adulthood and parenthood in 1 John 2:13,14.  Spiritual children learn about forgiveness of sins.  Young men learn how to overcome the enemy and become strong in doing so and this passage states that spiritual fathers ‘have known him who is from the beginning’ and reiterates it a second time I believe because they have developed a history with the Lord.  A spiritual father can share about his journey in the faith.  He can leave a legacy.

Spiritual generations (one generation teaching another generation) are God’s strategy for reaching the world.  Any plan that ignores the natural process of parenting (as it relates to God’s family) through successive generations is doomed to fail because it goes against God’s design for ministry. 

Also, I believe that the failure to pass on the truths of the faith to another generation is a mark of immaturity in the church. 

Here’s the truth.  I know many of you feel like I could not be gentle enough to be a spiritual mother or have enough time to be a brother or sister, much less being bold and courageous enough to be a spiritual father.  However;  if you are a follower of Jesus, I am bold to say on the authority of God’s word that you have Christ (Romans 8:10), you have the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), you have the Word of God (1 Corinthians 2:13), you have spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10), you are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and you are a fountain (John 4:14; 7:38).

The Takeaway

The Christian life is a shared life.

This is not a matter of personality. This is a matter of faith. Trust him, and give yourself to others.  Be a disciplemaker!

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