Tag Archive | Church

His Disciples

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Buried in the account of Paul becoming a Christian and a leader in the church there is a small phrase that I think has some fairly significant implications for how we understand discipleship:

Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus,  and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”  All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, “Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?”  But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.

 When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him,  but their plot became known to Saul. They were also watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death; but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.

-Acts 9:19-25 (emphasis mine)

This story is about the tremendous transformation that happened in Paul’s (then Saul’s) life.  Just prior to this, Saul had just been killing Christians and was finally stopped when the Lord knocked him to the ground, blinded him, and subsequently healed him.  But one of the indicators of Saul’s total transformation was that within a few days (and possibly a few weeks) of his conversion, Saul had his own disciples.

Don’t miss this. These weren’t just random disciples. These weren’t disciples that already existed in Damascus. These weren’t disciples that were made by Paul after he had known the Lord for a decade or better. These were *his disciples*. Saul’s. They were disciples of a man who had come to know the Lord only days or weeks before.

Why is that significant? Well, when was the last time you expected a new believer to have disciples? When was the last time you saw someone who had just come to Jesus preach Christ in a way that caused others to gather around them? When was the last time you expected your new convert to begin pointing others to the Christ they had just received?

What this story tells me is that discipleship is not for the oldest believers or the most experienced believers in our midst. Discipleship is the responsibility and the inheritance of even the youngest believers among us. When we teach them to wait until they know more about Jesus, the church, and everything, we teach them discipleship is about knowing stuff. But discipleship isn’t about knowing stuff, it’s about obeying Jesus. Even relatively new believers can teach newer converts how to obey, if they’ve learned how to themselves.

My point isn’t that this is the story for every believer or we should expect this out of everyone who has come to Christ yesterday. Instead, I want us to be open to the possibility that the Holy Spirit can do this. The Holy Spirit can so transform a person’s life in an instant that they can make disciples quickly.  There will be those that the Lord powerfully moves on and can start making disciples from day one or day two following their conversion. It’s not impossible.

More specifically, what if instead of doubting this possibility, we encouraged those who came to Christ to do this? What if we stopped believing that God only works through those with seminary degrees started believing that Christ within someone is enough to point others to Jesus and help grow them into maturity? What if we encouraged people in this direction instead of encouraged them into immaturity and dependency on us?

Saul had disciples within days or possibly weeks. Not everyone you lead to Jesus will be like this, but I think we sell our disciples short when we don’t believe that it’s even possible.

Maybe it’s time we started encouraging our disciples to make disciples, even right out of the gate. Who knows? Maybe we might find a few more Paul’s that way.

Photo Credit: NT309.Paul Escapes in a Basket by pcstratman

Minding the Gap

 

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Sometimes doing the thing God called you to do will require you to get more uncomfortable than you’d like. It means stepping out beyond where you feel comfortable, safe, or even assured everything will work out okay.

It probably won’t.

Think about it. The Holy Spirit can meet you in an Acts 2 moment. You still have to step outside of your upper room and address the people who are making fun of you for being drunk.

You may be called to pray for the sick and see healings. But you still have to lay your hands on people and pray for them to recover.  You still have to confront the awkward moment between when you finish praying and you have to turn and ask the sick person if they feel any difference in their body.

See, it’s all about the gap.

No matter what God has called you to, there is always a gap between what is and what we’re called to accomplish.  You can hear God clearly, but you’ll still have to face the gap. The gap can hurt people. The gap can be costly.  The gap is scary. You can believe what God said, but you still have to stare the gap down.

It’s those people, the people who see the gap and run with all of their might towards it, trying to jump the ravine, those people who know the odds but fling themselves at the obstacle anyways that we call people of faith.

This is the thing that separates those who are afraid from those who breakthrough–those who break through face the gap and still make the leap. They aren’t less scared. They just still jump. What has God called you to? What is the gap? What’s the scary, crazy unknown that is keeping you from doing what God is saying?

Perhaps it’s time, instead of ignoring the gap, that we face it head on.

Photo Credit: MIND THE GAP by Christopher_brown

A Key to Heaven’s Power

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Often when we hear people talk about God’s power from the front of a room it’s in the context of words like faith, holiness, “filled with the Spirit,” or even words like fasting or prayer.  There are times I’m even one of the guys sharing messages just like that. Sometimes, though, I wonder if we may be missing one of the true keys to seeing God’s power activated in our lives because it’s something we fear talking about.

What would be so scary, you ask, that we would purposely not talk about it? What topic would be so off the table that even though it leads to God’s power being manifested, we avoid it? What truth would be so unthinkable to talk about that we would not pass on a secret to God’s power?

The answer: Your weaknesses

Now, I know that seems a bit counter intuitive and maybe even a little too easy. Isn’t that not speaking in faith? How could talking about your weaknesses give you access to more of God’s power in your life? Paul tells us this:

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!  Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

-2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Pay attention to what Paul says here: I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. There was something about the way that Paul would talk about his weakness, his set-backs, his trials, and possibly even the ways he still felt imperfect in himself, that actually caused him to trust more fully in the God who raises the dead and does what no one else can do. As Paul boasted about his weakness and trusted in God’s power more, the power of Christ would dwell more in him.

I would tell you that in my brief experience following Jesus, the same thing has been true. Whenever I’ve known someone who truly moved in God’s power, they were always telling me stories about how the odds weren’t right, or how they weren’t deserving enough, or some impossible setback that made true breakthrough against the odds for them. They were quick to make Jesus the hero of their story. These people–the ones who boast in their weaknesses–have been the kind of people who I’ve seen God use powerfully.

So, if you want to have more access to God’s power, stop pretending to be a rock star. Instead, purpose to be weak. Be forward, even in your speech, that you are weak. Let the weakness not just be something you say, but something you believe. Begin to trust, not in your greatness, but trust in a God who is great, even when you  and things in your life are not. It’s a doorway to God’s power in your life, in a way that few ever truly learn or comprehend.

Photo Credit: Skeleton Keys by Paris on Ponce & Le Maison Rouge

Rhythms of Prayer, Holy Spirit Activity, and Mission

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When I was in Bible College, I had one of the best roommates I could have asked for. We had both come to the school to learn more about the power of the Holy Spirit. My friend was an evangelist, but our school focused almost exclusively on prayer and the power of Holy Spirit. So late in our first year at the school, he got permission from the head of the school to do some intensive research about how those three topics intersect.

My friend completed his paper, but I always remember the conclusion he came to in the paper was simultaneously simple and profound: The New Testament church’s experience was one of rhythms. Instead of focusing on one aspect or the other (something the church is exceptionally good at), the church of Acts would continually move through rhythms: The community would gather and pray, the Holy Spirit would respond, and the result would be a missionary thrust that lead many people to the Lord.

You see this in Acts 1-3. Jesus ascends into Heaven but tells the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit is poured out on the believers and a great harvest is gathered in from Peter’s message. The Harvest continues in Acts 3 with the healing of the lame man and many people coming to Christ.

The rhythm begins again in Acts 4-6.  The apostles are brought before the high council and warned not to speak of Christ.  When they are released they gather together and pray. This time the building they are praying in is shaken by the Holy Spirit and those gathered were filled with great boldness. Miracles begin to happen, a great number of people came to the Lord, other leaders were raised up, and the mission continues to go forth.

One more example is Acts 13-19. Acts 13 opens with believers in the diverse church of Antioch ministering to the Lord and fasting. It was during this time of prayer and fasting that God by the Holy Spirit spoke to the church to send Paul and Barnabas on their first apostolic mission. This apostolic mission was marked by signs and wonders and culminated in a number of new churches in Galatia and Asia Minor.

This is important for a simple reason: There is a great divide in the church. Often people who devote themselves to prayer are separated from those who give themselves to evangelism.  Oddly enough, people who experience the Holy Spirit in profound ways are often separate from the people who pray and the people who evangelize. This isn’t the way God designed the church to function. We weren’t designed to live in continual prayer meetings that never see the Holy Spirit spill out to the streets and touch the lost. Nor were we designed to be constantly evangelizing without the power of the Holy Spirit that comes when we gather together and pray.

Instead, the church often will find itself somewhere in this cycle, praying, going in the power of the Holy Spirit, and then proclaiming the Gospel to lost people. In fact, this is the testimony of many of the great moves of the Spirit throughout history, starting with the book of Acts right up through the church planting movements that are happening across the globe right now.

Are you in a season where evangelism and mission is low? Maybe it’s time to return to the place of prayer and ask God to pour out His Spirit. Are you continuing in the place of prayer, but not much else? It may be time to lift your eyes to where the Holy Spirit might moving. Are you experiencing the Holy Spirit in profound ways but not seeing much harvest? It’s possible that the Holy Spirit is sending you to people outside of your church community to share the Gospel with power. The key is knowing what season you’re in. We get stagnant (even disobedient) when we choose one activity over what the Holy Spirit has us in.

So, what season does the Holy Spirit have you and your church in right now?

Photo Credit: Group Prayer by Opacity

Prayer Request:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ around the country,

Our house church network is in a season where we need to hear from the Lord about a number of things. There is no external threats, per se, but a number of us our sensing its time to gather together and seek the Lord in prayer in the way I described above. We are gathering tomorrow night for an extended time of prayer and listening to Jesus. Will you pray for us, that God would speak and help us forward in the next season of our lives together?

I would greatly appreciate it.
Travis

There’s Something Special on the Other Side of This Moment

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Yesterday was a hard day. It was the kind of day that would normally discourage me and cause me to wallow in self-pity for more than a few days.  The good news was as I was preparing for the event that made my day hard, a Pharrell Williams song started playing in my head. Now, that’s not unusual, because Pharrell’s song “There’s Something Special” has been a song my kids and I have been listening to and singing since we heard it in Despicable Me 3.

But this time, it was different. This time, as I heard the words, I heard them as if the Lord was singing them back to me.  I started singing along and felt the Lord draw close to my heart as I sang the song:

There’s something special on the other side of this moment
And it’s about what you and I decide
And it’s important for you to remember we did this together
And finally, they’ll know the story of our lives

It was more than just a song. It was an invitation to remember that no matter how bad the day got, no matter what went wrong or right with yesterday, my reward wasn’t what happened yesterday, but what waited for me “on the other side of this moment.” As I sang and received from the Lord, I could sense He wanted me to know there was a reward for treasuring Him in that moment, not the outcome.

We weren’t promised ease in this life. We were promised joy and trouble. William Barclay wrote, “Jesus promised his disciples three things—that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.” How do those things go together? How is one absurdly happy and in constant trouble?

Much of it, I believe, is done by keeping our eyes on the reward that awaits us for perseverance, faithfulness, and loving well.  This reward may be found to some degree in this age, but it is fully realized in the age to come. There is an eternal reward that is stored up for us that is so easy to lose sight of right now, but it’s real and designed to encourage us when things are difficult.

Friends, regardless of what you’re going through, “there’s something special on the other side of this moment.” We need to remember that even the trials and difficulties we encounter here are forming something is us…something that can receive a reward greater than we can contemplate. Don’t forget the eternal things that are being stored up for you, right now, in this moment, based on your obedience.

It will strengthen you to follow Jesus.

Love Builds the Church

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I just returned from a short trip to Kansas City. We went for a wedding of some dear friends, but it was a good excuse to make my way there to see some people I haven’t seen in far too long. The funny thing about our trip is I usually am looking for something “substantial” to happen: An important connection, a time of pouring into a friend, a time of being poured into by a friend, or a chance to do a little ministry. This time, none of those things happened. Instead, I got to love and be loved.

And what’s amazing to me about that is how often I forget that being loved and giving love is the point. I’m the first to point out that the pursuit of knowledge makes us proud but doesn’t profit us, but that’s only half the equation. The profitable part of understanding knowledge doesn’t build us up is knowing what does: love. Love is what causes the church to grow and be built up.

This weekend I saw that: through the family that hosted us and treated us like family, through the many, many hugs I got throughout the wedding, through friends who made time in their schedule and bought us pizza, through the friends who made time for us even though we just dropped in with no notice. There was no knowledge transfer, no official “ministry” activity, but I feel built up on the inside.

One of the friends we saw this weekend has always modeled this so well. I remember a time about 12 years ago where we spent time with a couple and I walked away from it feeling so empty. My wife pressed me on why I felt that way, and the only thing I could do was bring up my friend from Kansas City: “Whenever we’re with him, I just feel so loved. I don’t feel like a project or like I have to be entertained or entertaining. He just loves people.” It wasn’t that the couple we were with was bad. Instead, it was I realized the absence of the kind of love my friend from Kansas City shows when we’re together. Seeing my friend again this weekend reminded me of how essential love is toward building up the church.

Friends, knowledge inflates us beyond what we are, but love builds us into what we can be. As the church, we can be puffed up beyond what we are, which is not good. We could forsake the pursuit of knowledge, which would at least keep us from pride, but won’t take us very far. Or we can begin to grow in receiving love, finding our identity in being loved, and share the love we have received. If we can do this, in a hundred ways that are intentional and a million more that are spontaneous, we will build the church.

Join me, will you? Join me in pursuing an understanding of God’s love for us at a deeper level. Join me in accepting the ridiculous, undeserved, unmerited, never-stopping, never-giving-up, always-and-forever love of God. And when you have received it and have no more doubts about your status of being loved, will you share that love with someone else, just because?

Because that that kind of love builds the church.

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

Prayer Request:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ around the country,

Lumbard-Ric-16Recently a brother in Christ who is dear to many of us hear in Iowa suffered a massive heart attack. Rick Lumbard is the Director of Wind and Fire Ministries, a man of prayer, and a servant of the Lord that has been used in a number of peoples’ lives throughout our city and the state.  He currently is unconscious and in a hospital in Des Moines. Would you join us in prayer for Rick as we believe for healing for him? He has a wife and several children that would be thankful for the prayer support.

Sincerely,
Travis

On The Road to Multiplying Movements

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And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number

-Acts 5:14

But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied.

-Acts 12:24

There was a season of early church history where believers were added to the church. Adding speaks of taking people who didn’t know Christ and attaching them to the church.

There came another season in the church, however, where the word of the Lord was being multiplied. This described people not just joining the church, but becoming workers like the ones who led them to the Lord and bringing other people to Christ as well. It wasn’t just one more lost person joining the church (as glorious as that is!) but it was one person leading three people to Jesus who each led three to five more to Christ.  One person was in some way responsible then for fifteen or more people coming to Christ.

We’ll always take addition. We want people coming to Christ no matter how they come. But we strive for multiplication, where disciples are made who can make more disciples  and the math of multiplication takes over. Eventually, when the body learns how to multiply in a healthy way, we can see movements of people coming to Christ.

Here’s the path to multiplying movements1:

Multiply Disciples

Multiply Leaders

Multiply Churches

Multiply Movements

We continue to work towards multiplying disciples. When multiplication of disciples begins, those responsible for the multiplication are functional servant leaders.  When the functional, servant-leadership is multiplied among multiplying disciples, we start to see churches birthed. As churches are multiplied, we begin to see movements. As these movements grow, we even seek to multiply them where they are happening for the glory of Christ.

All of this starts with beginning to make disciples. You can’t get to movements without churches being birthed and you can’t get to churches being birthed without servant-focused leaders being formed. And servant-formed leaders are birthed through multiplying disciples.

So if you want to get to movements, begin discipling people.Begin asking yourself how do I multiply disciples. Discipleship is where movements start.

Prayer Request:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ around the country,

Lumbard-Ric-16Recently a brother in Christ who is dear to many of us hear in Iowa suffered a massive heart attack. Rick Lumbard is the Director of Wind and Fire Ministries, a man of prayer, and a servant of the Lord that has been used in a number of peoples’ lives throughout our city and the state.  He currently is unconscious and in a hospital in Des Moines. Would you join us in prayer for Rick as we believe for healing for him? He has a wife and several children that would be thankful for the prayer support.

Sincerely,
Travis