Friday, March 28, 2014

Rethinking Discipleship: 12 Disciple-Making Essentials from Luke 10

Many are talking about "making disciples" these day. But what exactly is disciple-making, really?
What disciple making, or discipleship, has become in most American churches is a program for becoming the best ‘Christian’ an individual can be, whatever that may look like.

Certainly we are called to pursue personal holiness (Ephesians 1:4, Hebrews 12:14, James 1:27) and to grow in the knowledge of the Lord (Colossians 1:10). That’s great...unless it is the only result of our discipleship.

In our self-focused marketing-driven culture, the problem with most discipleship models is that they are, well, self-focused. If I only read this book, attend that seminar, go to that conference, study my Bible, and pray – I can be all that Jesus wants me to be. Or so popular thought goes.
Then we struggle, in our own power, to become that better person and have the ‘ideal Christian home.’  This model of discipleship sells big in the U.S.A., to the tune of many billions of dollars per year.

This is not what Jesus taught as discipleship. Jesus taught his disciples to “teach them to obey” not “teach them everything I taught you” and there is a huge difference.  We are over-educated beyond our level of obedience. The result is we have large and growing churches that are not making disciples.
Jesus taught his disciples to put God’s mission first (Matthew 28:19-20), to put the welfare of others second (Matthew 25:40) and to share life with them – just as he did. That is how we love God and others best (John 14:15). Which is why Jesus sent his disciples out – first the 12 and then the 72.

In Luke 10 (may I recommend you read the chapter before you continue), we learn a lot about how Jesus made disciples and what was important to him in the process. Let’s look briefly at 12 disciple-making essentials, what we need understand to make disciples, from this passage:
1.       Jesus elects us to mission
“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others.”

Jesus had initially sent out the first 12 on a mission training exercise. Either from the fruit of their disciple-making or from Jesus’ own ministry as he set the example, a new crop of disciples is sent out. This now growing band of disciples had been “appointed” by Jesus.  The word “appointed” means to proclaim any one as elected to office. We are “elected” by Jesus to be his messengers, his ambassadors (2.2 Corinthians 5:20) to represent him. This is not a role we self-elect but rather are chosen for (1 Peter 2:9 ). The word “appointed” also means to “lift up anything on high and exhibit it for all to behold.”  Being “elected” to God's mission is a high calling that must be taken seriously and it is a call for all believers.
2.       Jesus directs our going  

“and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.”

Jesus directs are going in two ways. First, there are no lone rangers in disciple-making. Jesus sent out his disciples in teams of two. We can conclude that this was done not only for companionship but for accountability. Second, we can make our plans but Jesus directs our path (Psalm 37:23), which is more about attitude than location.
3.       Jesus instructs us how to pray

“He told them, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'”

Prayer is essential for the task of disciple-making, as it is to the mission of God, as the abundance of opportunity is overwhelming. The fact is today that we don't really have a shortage of workers. As one church planting friend puts it, "There is no shortage of workers. The workers are in the barn, instead of in the field." We need to pray that the "barn" doors would be opened. 
4.       Jesus sends us out

“Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”

Jesus was well aware of the challenges and hazards of the mission he is sending his disciples on but he sends us out anyway. No soldier should enter battle unaware of the perils (2 Timothy 2:3). Jesus  does not want us to be unprepared. As he was sent, he sends us out (John 20:21).
5.       Jesus taught dependence on God

“Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.”

Our dependence is on God alone. Our focus is to be on the task. Jesus was saying do not be distracted from your assignment. There is a sense of urgency and priority in what Jesus was communicating here. How often do we allow even good things to get in the way of great things (Luke 9:57-62)?
6.       Jesus instructs us who to look for 

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you.”

The term “house of peace” is used today to describe this particular instruction of Jesus. What Jesus is saying is that as we “go” we are to look for those places where God is already at work. When we come in the name of Jesus and we are received, if our message is received, that is where God is at work (John 6:44). We are to stay and develop a relationship, not randomly move from “house to house.” We are to work strategically where God is already at work.
7.       Jesus instructs us what to do

“Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’"

The two part mission Jesus sends his disciples on is serve the needs of others and proclaim the Kingdom. We should not separate these two, because Jesus doesn’t. One may follow the other effectively as we allow the Holy Spirit to lead. The Kingdom is more than a message of salvation. It is a living reality where the will of God is done - “on earth as it is in heaven.” That is why the “heal the sick” is so instrumental to the “tell them” about the Kingdom, and vice versa.
8.       Jesus will be rejected

“But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’”

The point here is don’t waste time on those who are not receptive, there are many waiting to hear. What Jesus is saying needs to be understood in the context of the culture of that time. We should be confident in our Kingdom message, while extending a blessing to those who do not receive it. It is simply our job to go and tell, to plant seeds, look for where it is taking root and cultivate that new growth.
9.       Jesus is the message

“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

When people reject our message, they are not rejecting us but the one who sends us. We should not take personally such rejection, but pray that the Lord would open their hearts to receive his word. This should help us to overcome the fear of rejection. Jesus is the message (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 ).
10.   Jesus 'name' is power  

“The seventy-two returned with joy and said, 'Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.'”

Good things happen when we follow Jesus instructions, because Jesus’ 'name' is the power of life and death. Jesus' 'name' is everything that he has revealed about himself.
11.   Jesus overcomes the world

"He replied, 'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.  However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.'”

Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). The enemy is a defeated foe, in the authority of Christ, which means we can be assured that as we follow Jesus pattern of disciple making, we can anticipate Kingdom results. It is not our work that makes the difference but Jesus and our obedience to “go” as he commands.
12.   Jesus rejoices at obedience
“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.’”

Our obedience yields Kingdom results that brings great joy to Jesus. All glory to God!

At the conclusion of this now second short term mission trip. Jesus declares this amazing truth:
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
We are so greatly privileged to be disciples of Jesus!
The more I learn about discipleship Jesus' way, the more I realize just how simple Jesus model of disciple making really is. It can be boiled down to this…

A. It’s all about Jesus
B. It’s not about me, myself and I

C. Therefore, go and share Jesus with others

This is not to discount training in theology, missiology, sotierology, or cosmology. All training however should serve the process of disciple-making that is Jesus-focused. Our knowledge does often get in the way of our understanding (1 Corinthians 8:1).
He must increase we must decrease (John 3:30). There is no better way for living sent today!   

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Rethinking the Gospel: Chicken or Egg Theology?

Word or deed? Deed or word? Which comes first?

The question is like asking the proverbial question, “which came first the chicken or the egg?” The answer is that one is intrinsic to the other. 

Many wrestle with which comes first or, more to the point, which is more important – Word or deed? My answer is ‘and/both. ’ They are both essential to the other. 

Jesus didn’t separate the two when he sent his disciples out and neither should we. What we need more than ever today is a whole Gospel for the whole person for that is what Jesus taught his disciples. 

In Luke 10 we read about a training exercise that Jesus sent seventy-two of his disciples out on. This story has been rediscovered for the powerful principles it teaches us about making disciples (more on that in another post). Today, I want to focus on two important points from this story, as they relate to the whole Gospel. 

I. The whole Gospel includes Prayer and Action

We read in Luke 10:1-2, “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'"

Many today know this passage as a call to prayer for laborers. It certainly is that. Praying Luke 10:2 is even a prayer initiative, with thousands taking a moment to pray at 10:02am each morning for more workers. Prayer is vital to the mission of God. But we cannot stop at prayer because Jesus didn’t. He continues.

“Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” (Luke 10:3). 

When I teach Perspectives students this passage the question I always ask is, “do you know what happens next?” The seventy-two go out on a short-term mission trip to the cities Jesus was going to visit. They become the answer to their own prayers for laborers for the harvest. 

Many today believe they are called to intercession alone. While there are certainly Biblical and historical examples of men and women given to intercession, Jesus never separated prayer from action, praying and going must work together.  What we really need for the Kingdom today is not simply more prayer for laborers. Our first priority must be more praying laborers. 

William Carey, one of the great pioneer missionaries of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, takes away the excuse from those who simply want to be pray-ers when he said: "If you want the Kingdom speeded, go out and speed it yourselves. Only obedience rationalizes prayer. Only Missions can redeem your intercessions from insincerity." 

II.  The whole Gospel is Word and Deed

As we pray and go what should our message be? What should we do? Jesus gives further instruction in verse 9 when he instructs the seventy-two that they are to “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” (NIV)

Many assume that this healing of the sick was miraculous and being myself a recipient of miraculous healing I don’t discount that this may have been so in some cases. We do see miraculous healing power at work in Peter's ministry, in the Book of Acts (Acts 4:30). But there is no evidence to suggest that these disciples were performing miracles and we should not read that into the text.

Instead, what we see is Jesus instructing his disciples to serve the needs of the those who are weak, infirm, feeble – the vulnerable and marginalized, the outcast and broken, the confused and despairing – the sinner. The word “sick” is translated from the Greek ‘asthenēs’ which means all of these things. 

We know that Jesus came to seek and save the least (Matthew 25:40), the last (Matthew 19:30) and the lost (Luke 19:10). He sent his disciples out to do likewise, in his authority. He calls us to a life of service (Mark 9:35).

Jesus sent his disciples out to “heal the sick.” The Greek for 'heal' is ‘therapeuō’ from which we get our word ‘therapy.’ In the Greek, ‘therapeuō’ means to serve, do service, to heal, cure, restore to health. Jesus was as concerned with the physical, emotional and financial (read proper attitude about money) wellbeing of people, as he was with their spiritual condition.   

Jesus also taught his disciples to share the good news that the Kingdom of God had come near. There was now hope for restoration and redemption. Salvation had finally come in the person of the Messiah. This was more than sharing good news, a salvation message, but "proclaiming" a new reality – the Kingdom of God was breaking in. The offer was to repent and believe (Mark 1:15) to receive the new life being offered. 

Is it instructive that Jesus put the “heal the sick” before the “tell them" about the kingdom of God? It was as if Jesus was saying, “Demonstrate my love and mercy by acts of service so that my message will be received.” But the message is of paramount importance because without repentance and believing no one can enter the Kingdom of God, present and future. 

Rethinking the Gospel

Like the chicken and the egg, both word and deed are in fact intrinsic to the other. Only God knows the answer to the “chicken or egg” quandary.

So which are we to put first? I have dear friends who have distinct differences on this point. Some insist that we must put the “tell them" first. Others insist that the “Heal the sick” part comes first. 

Some add the additional requirement that we need to earn the right to share the Gospel.  I don’t know how many times I have heard or seen this thought, of earning the right, expressed today in our Christian culture.  There is however no Biblical support for the idea. 

In fact, there is no logical reason why we must earn the right to share good news. Do you need to earn the right to give someone a free gift, something that you also have freely received? People do not have to receive the gift, we are not force it on anyone (another instruction given in Luke 10), but there is no reasonable way to earn a right to pass along something that is free. It must be offered graciously  - freely we have received, freely give. 

What we must do is allow the Holy Spirit to direct which comes first as we continue to live our lives as sent ones.

Certainly there are times when the “heal the sick” should come first. Someone starving needs to be fed. But there are many times when what people need the most is a message of hope. Many today need authentic relationship, which Jesus also taught about in Luke 10 (which is for another post).

We are called to live a whole Gospel life, because that is the Gospel Jesus preached and taught his disciples to live out. The “whole” Gospel speaks to the Hebrew concept of shalom and we need to recapture the essence of this reality for Christianity in the 21st Century. 

We must minister to the spiritual needs of people, as well as their physical, emotional and financial needs. If any one of these four is not in right order, there is a lack of wholeness, of shalom, and we need to apply the Gospel in that area. 

Asking the question, "which comes first," isn’t asking the right question. The right question is what should I do about both? Word and deed, prayer and action must come together into a cohesive whole, as we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus taught and sent his disciples out to “preach” a whole Gospel, as seen in Luke 10.  That is the way we must “go” for living sent today. 

What do you think?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Rethinking Recap #1: Personhood, Principles, and Propaganda

Famously Facebook asks, “What’s on your mind?” Potentially, it is a profound question.

This past week I came across this Facebook photo that I thought speaks well to where we are as a culture. Yes, on one level it is amusing, and it’s always good to laugh at ourselves. On another, it is also indicative of what we have become as a society, what we think is important and how we relate to others. 

At our fingertips is the stored knowledge of humanity, even as Daniel 12:4 foretold, that we too often use for the meaningless and mundane while the culture decays around us. 

As a new occasional post on my blog, I will recap some of what I have been thinking and shared recently on social media – a Rethinking Recap. On social media, I do occasionally engage in conversations, sometimes debate but try these days to avoid “arguments with strangers.”  

This Rethinking Recap will spotlight some of the better conversations I’ve been having, hopefully. This week, these posts can be boiled down to Personhood, Principles and Propaganda. 


My friend, Dr. Paul Louis Metzger, blogs at “Uncommon God,Common Good” asked this question this past week: “What is a Person?” Most likely, when we think about this question, if we ever do, we simply assume that “we” are persons. But it is actually a provocative question to consider in relation to this Facebook image and what is truly important. Here was my response: 
 “Okay, here's my attempt to answer the question: "We hold these truth to be self-evident" that if we are created in the "image of God" we are a person. Whether we fully grasp personhood is I think a journey of discovering all it means to be made in the image of God. Descartes "Cogito ergo sum" leads us in that direction, since to think about these things gives us a created capacity to grasp the Creator. As Kierkegaard, questioning Descartes, points out concerning the "Cogito ergo sum," we can assume existence. And, perhaps, that is what a person is, a created being,made in the imago Dei, who is self-aware and has a capacity to ask the question "What is a person?" But what of a fetus? We do not know at what point the fetus becomes self-aware, so we should protect that life so that the ability develops to do so. I am sure there is more to it than that.”
In response to another poster who suggested that he preferred the thinking of Martin Buber over Descartes, I added:
“The point is not about Descartes, since as I also pointed out Kierkegaard thought Descartes was simply stating the obvious. The point was about being self-aware as unique individuals in the imago Dei, as a definition of Personhood. The Trinity requires an incomprehensible self-awareness by the unique Persons of the Godhead which informs their ability to relate and be as One. To even begin to approach the ideal of the Trinitarian community requires a healthy, the better term would be Shalom, level of self-awareness and self-acceptance of our uniqueness, such as exists in the Trinity. The image of God inherently implies relationship with God and others, in redeemed community. But to quote Buber, “We can be redeemed only to the extent to which we see ourselves." But thanks Steve for your comment.

Miguel Labador blogs at “God Directed Deviations.” I like Miguel because he tends to think outside the box, as the name of his blog implies. In his recent post, “Putting all your Eggs in the ‘Person of Peace’ Basket. Another Look at Luke 10” Miguel asks three questions regarding the Biblical principle of finding a “Person of Peace” to share the Gospel with. If you are not familiar with this term, in comes from Jesus instructions to his disciples in Luke 10. Here was my answer to these questions: 
1. Have we made entirely too much of this doctrine? Why or why not?

I don’t know if I would call Person of Peace/Luke 10 a doctrine but rather a principle and the disciple-making that is emerging from the application of this principle a philosophy of ministry. This philosophy is rooted in actively discovering where God is working and joining him there. Certainly we can make anything related to a spiritual principle into a system or program and when we do it can become something other than intended.

2. Should we seek to make many persons of peace and let the Lord sort them out, or is that counter productive?

We don’t “make” persons of peace, that was not Jesus implication in Luke 10. Rather, again, we discover them, build relationships with them, and disciple them. One of the keys to understanding this philosophy of “Person of Peace” is John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them”

3. We stumble on these people of peace by going out and announcing the Gospel of the Kingdom. Shouldn’t that be our primary concern?

This question doesn’t follow from #2 but it better speaks to the philosophy of ministry that emerges from Luke 10. Yes, our primary focus should be to live the Gospel everywhere and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal who the Father is drawing. Because it is the Holy Spirit at work in the life of a Person of Peace they will self-identify. I think the clearest Biblical example of this is Cornelius.
If you want to know more about this Person of Peace principle, the latest edition of Mission Frontiers covers this in some detail. Living and teaching these principles is where the Lord has directed my ministry, so this subject is near and dear to my heart. I’ll be blogging about this subject more in 2014, as I believe we need to refocus our attention on some basic principles that we can glean from Jesus example. 


While doing some quick research in response to the Personhood post, I came across this quote from Martin Buber, which I posted to Facebook with the accompanying comment: 
 “'The real struggle is not between East and West, or capitalism and communism, but between education and propaganda.’ Martin Buber. Unfortunately, today in our nation, propaganda is winning the day and our education system is failing miserably.” 
Propaganda is used to convince us an idea is the right way to move us in a direction we may not want to go. It is found across the ideological spectrum with extremes that miss the truth, on both sides as Buber points out. In our sound-bite culture, both sides use propaganda to convince us that their way is right. Propaganda wins when our education system does not produce people who can think for themselves. When that happens we see the rise of totalitarianism, as those with better propaganda win sway over the uninformed. The real struggle, of course, is against powers and principalities in high places ( ) that seek to keep us in the darkness - uneducated. Now reconsider again the photo above in light of this fact.

How do these three - Personhood, Principles and Propaganda – relate? 

When we realize who we are in Christ, understand the principles he has established for us to live by, we won’t buy the propaganda of our culture and will be freed for Living Sent Today.