It’s been a while since I published my last post on this blog. Here is what happened:
During the process of writing I increasingly came to the conviction that I should write a book with only one narrow, unique focus. It’s the question, How can we as churchgoers become missional disciples of Jesus? How can we step beyond church programmes and on a personal level start living an everyday missional life?
The book is now published and available on Amazon.com and in all other national Amazon marketplaces, like Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.se and so on.
Here is a short description from the foreword by Roger Thoman, founder and leader of Appleseed Ministry Group:
“This book gives a sharp diagnosis of the church today and the typical churchgoer who is going through the motions of religion. But it is more than just a critique of institutional forms of church. It provides a pathway for anyone who wants to move from sitting to going and from a place of living in comfort-zone to the spiritual adventure of following Jesus. Turning Missional clearly identifies the emotional and spiritual obstacles to becoming missional disciples and helps anyone interested to overcome these pitfalls and move forward. It provides a blueprint for actually walking out the reality of a life that is devoted to the things that grip the heart of God.
If you hunger for more than your current church-going experience, this book will point you toward a life of becoming a disciple of Jesus who learns the most exciting vocation of all: making others to be disciples of Jesus.”
Does that make you curious? Then you may want to click here and get free access to the foreword, the introduction, the table of contents, and the first articles.
Best wishes / Egmont
Or from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.com.au, Amazon.ca, or Amazon.se
This week I’m asking you for a favour.
Is there anyone among the readers of my blog who in these days is making one or several disciples? Or contributing to it? Disciples of Jesus according to his commission (Mt 28:18-20)?
I’ll be excited to hear from you. Please, write a few lines into the comment box below and tell me in short what you are doing and how you are doing it.
I’ll be glad to respond to your comment.
Advertisements, email marketing, news, gossip, tv shows, facebook, iTube, magazines…
The world is cluttered and filled with millions of distractions, trying to catch your attention and fill your day.
Keeping you from doing your work.
Keeping you from getting your sleep.
Nebulizing your focus and your calling.
It’s not your fault that these things are around, and it’s not your responsibility to change that.
However, you are responsible for what is filling your brain. What do you tolerate? What do you allow to occupy you? Whatever it is, be sure it will influence you and have an effect on your priorities and decisions.
Spontaneously giving in to just anything that attracts your eyes and ears will make you easy prey. You will be one of the millions who take the bait. And be sure there will always be someone somewhere who will profit from your weakness, carelessness, or vanity.
There is a giant, nonstop, worldwide, omnipresent seduction going on, and you are its target. Lamenting and crying won’t help.
The question is, How do you handle it? What do you do to keep the trash out? And not only the disgusting things but the cool stuff, the illusions they offer you. How do you protect your mind? And your time and energy?
We need to create a mental space around us that enables us to stay focused and follow our destiny.
To live our lives.
It’s possible to win that struggle, but victory comes with a price. It will take insight, discipline, some radical decisions, consistency and a good portion of courage. Probably, you will find yourself swimming upstream, rather than downstream.
For many of us this seems a very high price, yet, it’s worthwhile the effort. The question is, How much is your mental home worth to you?
And who is the master in that home?
You can’t save the whole world.
However, there is at least one for whom you can make all the difference. The difference between life and death.
There is a well-known story about a man, who on his morning walk along the beach watches a boy picking up starfishes and throwing them back into the water. When asked about his doing the boy replied, I’m saving starfishes. If they stay on the beach, they will die.
Looking along the beach and imagining the hundreds of starfishes still lying there the man shook his head. You will not be able to save them all, he said. Maybe not, the boy replied, and by picking up another starfish and throwing it back into the water he continued, For this one, it makes all the difference.
As a follower of Jesus, you may not be able to save the whole world. However, to the ones you reach with the gospel, it will make all the difference.
The difference between life and death, even if it was only one.
Let it be at least one.
Some people seem never to learn.
They leave their crumbs on the table, put their dirty coffee cup in the sink, spit their chewing gum on top, and just don’t see - and smell - that the trash is overflowing.
Don’t they know any better?
If this were the case, the solution would be to inform them and show them how to finish a coffee break properly.
However, not knowing rarely is the reason. You may call it an attitude. These people just don’t care. Or, let’s say, they don’t care for what you care. They just seem to have other preferences.
Do we have to put up with that? Can we change someone’s values or preferences?
Some of us would say, It’s impossible, and consider these people hopeless cases. Probably, this would be right if we are expecting the shift to happen on the spot. Pointing a finger, though, seldom changes someone’s attitude or preferences and yelling at them won’t accomplish much; at best you will get a hypocrite.
If we want to see real change, we need to address a deeper level of consciousness. We will have to engage and teach and communicate in a way that shares our emotions, insights, values, and beliefs.
Jesus wouldn’t call anyone a hopeless case, far less start moralizing. Instead, he would aim at changing the people from the inside. And for a higher purpose than just raising their outward behavior.
He would try to touch their heart.
How do you do that?
“In the beginning, God created…”
This is how the probably most significant story of humanity begins. People have told this story for thousands of years, and it still is passed on from generation to generation.
It’s the story of stories.
This story tells us where we come from and what our purpose is, and it connects us humans globally, across the borders of races, nations, and generations.
It’s the story that tells us who we are.
To fully unfold its beauty and its power, you may want to hear it orally. Just knowing about it or being able to state its content does not give you the full experience. Writing it down or reading it word by word is much better, but still not quite the same as listening to it when being told orally.
To fully experience its power, you also may want to get hold of its unwritten values, beliefs, convictions, and experiences.
You may want to capture its spirit.
Therefore, nothing matches up to listening to someone who tells the story orally and with conviction, who not only knows it by heart but loves it and has incorporated it into his or her own beliefs. Someone who has aligned with its spirit.
Then, the story becomes alive.
Then, this story enables us to transcend beyond our self-imposed differences, peering into a more fundamental realm of our existence, one more intrinsic to our nature than many of our rationalistic attempts to understand what human life is all about.
When we unleash the power of this story, it encourages us to strengthen bonds and build mutual trust.
And work for a shared future.
Bitterness is a killer.
Holding onto accusations hurts you more than anything else. Leaves you with a far greater damage than anything people can do to you. Bitterness steals your peace and breaks you down continuously. It kills you not only emotionally and spiritually, but also physically.
So, what can you do in order to overcome? Here follow three steps:
The first step is to stop.
Stop meditating on what happened. Stop accusing. Stop seeking revenge. Stop lamenting. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
Just say, Stop!
Overcoming starts with this decision. Anyone can do it. You can do it, no matter whose guilt it is, no matter what the damage is, and no matter what your feelings are at the moment. Once you take that decision, eventually your feelings will follow.
The next step is to forgive.
This is the hardest part. You forgive, although the people who harmed you never regretted what they did, far less apologized. And don’t just think, I forgive you, but speak it out loudly so you can hear your own voice. Even better, let also someone else hear it.
Call the person by name and shout it out, I don’t accuse you anymore! I forgive you! You are free!
The third step is to admit your own guilt.
Yes, there is guilt with you, as well. In case you cannot think of anything to admit to this other person, at least admit your bitterness. Bitterness is sin. Again, do it loudly and in prayer. And be sure God will hear you and forgive you. He will heal you.
And YOU are free. So precious!
Progress and comfort don’t match.
While not everything that is uncomfortable automatically will give you progress, there will always be a certain amount of inconvenience going along with it.
Performance spikes when we’re doing something out of our norm.
This is not only true for sports but probably for all areas of life, for instance, our spiritual life.
Throughout Scripture, we find that following God’s call and striving for a comfortable life seem to contradict each other. Typically, responding to his call is associated with the requirement of stepping out and leaving. Leaving your family and friends, your familiar environment, and your securities. Changing some of your dear preferences and habits.
Jesus never promised his disciples a comfortable life, yet, he expected them to be ”fruitful”. For those who wanted to follow him, he pointed out what they could expect: inconveniences, uncertainty, mockery, hatred, and persecution.
Is this too much to expect?
It probably is, but not for those who have made up their minds. They are looking forward to their goal and consider it worthwhile the trouble. They know that hardship makes them achieve more than they ever dreamed possible.
They have learned to take advantage of the uncomfortable.
And they enjoy it.
Worrying is NOT a virtue.
On the contrary, it’s absolutely destructive. It’s a poison.
Worrying obscures your faith, weakens your strength, takes away your initiative, and quenches your creativity.
It steals your joy.
Worrying breaks you down spiritually, mentally, and physically. And it keeps you from doing your work.
It keeps you from living your life.
It’s easy to make people and circumstances responsible for your worries. Yet, they are not the producers. Worrying starts with a fearful thought in our own mind, with fearing things to get worse or something dreadful to happen. However, these things have not happened yet, and chances are, they will never happen.
Worrying is a product of our mind.
Outside of us, this fearful thought does not even exist, yet, to us it’s real. And by entertaining it, we let it slowly break down our spiritual and mental health, with possible symptoms even in our physical body.
How can we get rid of it? Here are three steps:
- Take an intentional decision NOT to worry. Just refuse to submit to that thought.
- Then, do whatever is possible for you to avoid whatever it is you fear.
- Finally, focus on a better and higher goal and trust God that there will be a solution, in case things get worse.
Jesus said, Do not worry! Seek first God’s kingdom! He sternly commanded his disciples not to fear and not to worry. Instead, he prompted them to prioritize God’s kingdom.
Worrying is worthless. It doesn’t change anything for the better.
However, to take action and to trust God is wise.
This is practicing your faith.
The status quo of the institutionalized church is powerful indeed.
And we try to keep it alive by small improvements here and there, fancier equipment, trendier arrangements, and popular speakers. We add layers, patches, and small improvisations. Try to be modern.
All to save something we don’t want to reconsider.
We hardly ever question its basic structure, i. e., the institutional system, including constitutions, elections, offices, fundraising, buildings, and programs. Its division into clergy/professionals and laity.
And its politics.
If we could start all over again and design something that actually would express the Kingdom of Heaven as proclaimed and put into practice by Jesus and the first century communities of disciples, what would we consider?
Here are some suggestions:
- The mission of Jesus as the church’s ultimate purpose, to seek and save the lost. To reconcile them and to teach and train them as disciples, in order to send them out and do the same with others.
- Community, not as an institution, but as a family.
- Extended families and their homes as the basic units of the church in a city.
- Not the building of a denomination, but the continuous multiplication of disciple communities as a viral movement.
- Spirit-filled and Spirit appointed leadership.
- The general priesthood of all disciples.
- The proclamation and demonstration of God’s kingdom in everyday life.
- Seeking and saving the lost and training them as disciples on a personal level.
- Authoritative preaching and teaching followed by signs.
- The working of the gifts of the Spirit.
No matter, whether following a more traditional hierarchical or a more democratic system,
institutional churches easily fall into the trap of worldly management and business behavior.
Therefore, let us from time to time consider the original assignment and, whenever there is an opportunity, take the chance to break out of a misguiding system.
And start all over again.
When you pray, who does most of the talking?
You or the Lord?
Your answer will depend on where your focus is. Whether it is on yourself and your problems and desires, or on Him and His concerns.
On your ways or on His.
Depending on your focus you mostly either talk or listen.
God is looking for people who are eager to listen.
He wants you to hear what He has to say and what He wants to do. He wants you to learn from Him and connect with His plans and His purposes.
And become part of His ways.
People who listen have switched their focus from ”I” and ”me” to ”You” and ”Your”.
This changes your prayer radically.
Now you see your own life and everyone around you in a new light. In His light. You look at them from His point of view, and you see what He is about to do and your part in it.
As a result, your long prayer talks will get shorter and shorter and will finally be reduced to a minimum, while the time you spend listening to Him will extend all the more.
When listening, God’s ways become yours.
And your ways become His.
It’s not a bad thing to be controversial.
And it’s absolutely no sin.
Anyone who stands up for what is right will meet opposition. The higher your position, the worse it can get. The stronger the rejection and the more disastrous the possible consequences.
The higher your purpose, the higher the cost.
With this in mind, it seems an easier way to adapt, to conform and be nice, trying to please as many as possible. Follow the public opinion, stay politically correct and socially accepted.
Sadly, this is where spiritual movements tend to end. After an initial period of radical commitment, many times ridiculed, despised and hated by its contemporaries, a movement slowly adapts and finally becomes well respected.
This has been the weakness of mainstream Christianity throughout the centuries. And it still is.
“When the salt loses its saltiness it’s not good for anything.”
Not so Jesus. Jesus was controversial. And he still is.
He never bowed under the pressure from his surroundings. Rather than calming down and taking it safe, he kept challenging his opponents to the uttermost.
He was able to stand up against the storm because he was willing to pay the price.
And he finally did.
As his followers, we need to be prepared for being controversial. Being controversial for a high goal can actually be a very good thing. Facing opposition helps you clarify your purpose, sharpen your focus and strengthen your will.
Shows what you go for.
For some of us, being controversial is more than something to suffer.
It’s a necessity.
Have you experienced this?
You know exactly what would be the right thing to do. Right now, you could change a situation for the better. Help someone, improve an organization, or turn a hopeless situation.
Yet, you hesitate.
Why do you back off?
Is it because of convenience? Or complacency? Or doubt?
Or because of the fear of being taken advantage of? Or because of possible risks? The fear of failure? Would the price be too high?
How can we overcome our inner resistance?
It’s when we pursue a higher purpose. When our goal is greater and stronger than our desire for comfort, security, and acceptance. Then, obstacles won’t scare us. Instead, they make us grow and overcome inner resistance.
When we pursue an important cause and care enough to be willing to pay the price, we don’t let anyone or anything scare us. We take courage and get involved.
We speak up, stand up, and take action.
Jesus had such a purpose. Paul of Tarsus, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa and many others of his followers had.
And still have.
Like you and me.
Life’s value is not defined by its highlights.
Sunday worship services may leave the impression that living the Christian life is a series of elegant meetings. Jumping from celebration to celebration. Like a butterfly, from flower to flower. Looking for the next sensation, the next spiritual experience. With lots of smiles.
Nothing could be more wrong than that.
Rather, it’s the other way around. Your valuable life is the life you live in between the highlights. It’s your daily walk. Including every day, every hour, every minute.
No part of your life is too low, not to be noticed. There is nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of, nothing unworthy. Everything counts.
Everything is valuable.
In the Kingdom of God, there are no shadows. Everything is in His light. Also those moments when you come home from work feeling sweaty and dirty. Exhausted or maybe even discouraged. When you are sick or people have betrayed you and everything seems dark. Still, you are in His light. Still, your life is valuable.
YOU are valuable.
One day, when you will look back and draw a balance, it will not be the highlights that added most value to your life, but your relationships. Your daily habits and your daily work.
The fruit of your faithfulness and consistency.
And your love.
Have you ever had a great idea? And tried to make it work?
Tried to change something to the better? To accomplish something important and really worth the effort? Something that would improve your life and the world around you significantly?
Have you tried - and failed?
It’s easy to blame the opposition or people’s ignorance or the circumstances. Or the bureaucracy or the system…
It’s easy to blame and give up.
However, who promised you it would be easy?
If it was easy, you or others would have done it already. The fact that no one did it probably indicates that no one else saw the value of it or thought it was possible or was ready to pay the price. Or could do it for you.
This means that it’s your turn!
However, if you want to make it work you will have to be prepared to pay the price. Have faith against the odds and against what people say. Overcoming your fear. Battling the resistance from within and without. Being prepared to fail many times and learn from it.
Then, try again and endure.
It’s consistent and persistent effort that leads to success. Great results aren’t accomplished by one try.
But a long-term commitment.
Are you ready to make a disciple?
In case your answer is “no” or “not yet”, what would you still need?
Jesus trained his disciples for only three and a half years, then sent them out.
Where they fully educated then? - No.
Did they master the skills of an evangelist or preacher or teacher? - Probably not.
In fact, they hardly had the faith necessary, nor the skill, nor the understanding.
Still, Jesus sent them out.
And whatever they were lacking, the Holy Spirit provided.
What they had learned by being with Jesus was not all they could have learned, if they had stayed with him for another decade, but it was good enough for a start.
What the Spirit needed in order to work through these people was not more education, but their willingness.
Are you willing?
Let’s face it! Believing that spending more time in church services will make you a better disciple maker is an illusion. In fact, it can be counterproductive. The longer you wait, the more you may want to stay. The less you may be willing to go out.
Is that so?
If not, what are you waiting for?
How many sermons do you need in order to become a disciple?
Or maybe a few. The rest is modelling.
Yet, modelling is not done from the pulpit, but in everyday life. By sharing experiences, communicating kingdom values, demonstrating these values and explaining the hows and whys. Learning to listen to the Spirit and then follow.
By taking action.
Admitted, preparation can take a life time. There will always be something more to learn, more to understand and more to prepare. Yet, when is a disciple ready to reach out and make another disciple?
How many sermons does it take a disciple to make another disciple?
Probably none. Again, disciple makers are not made from the pulpit, and not in classes. Speeches and curriculums won’t take you there.
You’ll just have to do it. Jump the leap.
If you have been a disciple of Jesus for a while, let’s say, for a few months or a year or maybe even two, then you can do it. And if you still feel you need help, then find someone who is engaged in this kind of work and ask that person, if you may join him or her for a while. Just in order to turn the corner.
Wouldn’t that be a good start?
”It’s all about money!”
This is what we hear the critics say, while pointing at the large amounts of money collected by Christian ministries today.
”No, it’s not true”, we answer, believing to have a better understanding. ”It’s all about Jesus and the Good News and about saving people for eternity. It’s about mission. Of course, this costs money. The more money we give, the more people we can reach.”
In order to find out if this is true, let’s look at some statistics. How is the money spent and what is being accomplished?
According to investigations from 2015, www.thetravelingteam.org, all church members around the globe gave in one year on average 1,7% of their income to churches. 2,9% of this money was used for mission inside their own countries and 0,3% for mission in unreached, non-christian countries.
However, the largest part, 96,8%, was used for building the local church, that is, went mainly to salaries and buildings.
In contrast, we are witnessing Christian movements in the third world, and not only there, with an unparallelled growth in history, yet, with very limited financial resources. These are grass-root movements, carried by the believers and their families, many of them poor.
Moreover, some of these fast growing movements are operating under extremely difficult circumstances and even suffering persecution, like in China, South-Asia, and the Middle East. According to Open Doors every month hundreds of believers are killed because of their faith.
Nevertheless this amazing growth!
It’s easy to think that we could accomplish so much more for the Lord, if we just had more money and could give more.
Is that so?
You can’t buy trust.
Yet, it’s one of the greatest assets you can have. It’s a fortune.
At first glance, building trust seems simple. You say what you are going to do and then do what you said. You keep your promises. You act out your words. Never giving less, rather a little more.
Without any hidden agenda, without cutting corners. Without faking the results. And without covering up your mistakes.
Showing up on time - doing your work - completing it. Period.
No need to make it look fancier. No need to add more or better promises. Just keep the ones you already made. No need to improve your image; it’s not a matter of marketing, anyway.
Just be the person you say you are and do what is right.
It’s as simple as that, indeed. But alas! It’s not always easy. We hardly get it without effort and sometimes it takes great courage. And for some of us it just seems impossible, as long as we are hiding something.
In order to build a fortune of trust, you’ve got to be honest. Absolutely, radically honest. At times, and for a while, this may make you look like a looser.
There is a price to pay.
In the long run, though, reliabilty and honesty will pay and amount to much.
This was my last blogpost for this season. The school year in Sweden is rapidly coming to an end and it’s time for a summer break.
Thank you for reading my articles and joining me in the journey. I hope you enjoyed reading at least some of them.
I’ll be back to you in September. Would you like to get a reminder by email? Then, make sure you have signed up by entering your email address in the top right corner of this page.
And, in case you never commented on any of my blogposts since last fall, this is the last chance you can do it. I’d love to hear from you.
Have a nice summer.
Be blessed with the joy in the Lord!
Church isn’t the same as a worship service.
Nothing you go to.
Neither a program nor an event. Far less a building, an organisation or a denomination. It wasn’t that from the beginning, and it still isn’t meant to be that today.
What is it, then?
It’s a family, a movement, a divine fellowship. A calling and a mission.
It’s what we are born into as followers of Jesus, redeemed through him, reconciled with our Father in heaven.
By his grace.
[Molong Nacua], a Jesus follower from the Filipines, put it this way:
Church is where Christ lives, not the place where we meet. It is Christ-empowered people, a kingdom of priests for the purpose of winning against the works of the devil and establishing God’s Kingdom.
It’s about who we are. In Christ. Then follow him. Listen and obey. No matter where, no matter when - everywhere, at all times.
Don’t go to church. Be church.
Some are late comers by habit.
To them, it seems all right to always show up “just a little late”. Nobody will take notice anyway, it seems. And others will be late as well, they think.
To them, coming late is all right, as long as they don’t miss the highlights and as long as they get what they are expecting. And fulfill their social duty to show up.
Why invest more time than necessary?
In contrast, others may always want to come a little earlier. Be there before the program starts. Offering a little extra time. Just for being mentally prepared. Or for encouraging the host. Or for making themselves available. Like being able to lend a helping hand for the last preparations.
Or for chatting with another early comer. Encourage someone who came with a need, with the desire to meet someone who would listen.
Coming a little earlier gives you time to connect. Time to build a relationship. Time to care.
It’s precious time!
You may not want to miss it.
You can hear an inspiring message. You can read a life-changing book.
You can get overwhelmed by a new insight.
Yet, see nothing change.
For most of us, consuming such content just isn’t strong enough
to break through the habits and mental strongholds that we have built up over time.
Not strong enough to overcome our desire for comfort and to crack our fear.
We rather hold on to a lousy status-quo that makes us feel safe than take a step into the unknown.
This is why a personal crisis can work as a door opener, but only if it
is stronger than our desire for comfort and stronger than our fear.
In order to move forward, good insights are just not good enough.
Probably we also need, from time to time, a period of destabilisation. That is, a real good crisis.
The secret of success is to accept the crisis and make it your friend. Take
advantage of the insecurity that comes along with it, collect your strength and intentionally work for a break-through. This is the time to do it. Not waiting for the storm to calm down neither looking behind, but focussing on the future with decisiveness.
For moving into a better future, a crisis can be inestimably valuable. Don’t let it become a stumbling block.
Instead, make it a stepping stone.
It’s never too late to invest in the future.
The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, it is said.
Yet, the second best time is now.
It’s never too late to plant a tree.
No matter how old you are, today you can start an education, start learning a language, start changeing a habit, start building a house, start a project…
Today you can invest in your future. And in others'.
Our lives are far more significant than we tend to think at the moment. Every single one of us is the center of a sphere of influence. And we are reaching out, not only to the people around us during our own life time, but also to those who come after us.
They may not know who was the planter, yet they enjoy your tree and its fruit. And they may not always know who built that house or who started that project. Yet, they still enjoy its benefits.
Today you can invest.
It’s never too late.
Just make this phone call….
Then prepare the dinner, pick up the kids, clean the house, buy a birthday present, fix the bike, get a haircut, wash the clothes, read the manual, answer the emails… The list seems endless.
How do you cope with short-time pressure?
The question is, what is important and urgent? Not everything important is also urgent. And not everything urgent is also important. And some things that claim to be both are neither one.
So let’s have a look at the four options and find out how to cope with them, one by one.
Urgent and important. - Settle these things right away or as soon as possible.
Important, but not urgent. - Schedule a time when you want to do this or reserve a fixed time every day, week or month. Then follow that schedule.
Urgent, but not important. - Two options:
a. Let someone else do it.
b. Don’t spoil your precious recreation or family time or your best working hours with that. Maybe you can do it while commuting or sitting in a waiting room or watching the news. Or when you are too tired for more important things.
Not urgent and not important. - Two options:
a. Never do it. And never let your mind get occupied with it. Don’t let junkmail lie around, but trash it right away.
b. Write it on a seperate to-do-list for less important things and keep it there. Some matters get settled by themselves after a while. Then delete them. Or you settle them when they become urgent.
In order to make this work, you may want to make a deal with yourself and decide about your priorities. You can’t do all things at all times.
Clarify for yourself what your purpose is or your mission. What do you want to accomplish or improve or maximise? Why are you into this career? Who do you want to serve?
Once you know your priorities, stay consistant and let them guide you. Then, confirm or renew your decision from time to time when not under pressure.
This will keep short-time pressure away and get you where you want.
Time is limited. Time is precious. Time is running out.
Life is running out.
Civilisation, in turn, has blessed us with an abundance of time savers: dishwashers and washing machines, vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, cars, airplanes, cellphones, computers…
Where does all the time go that we are constantly “saving”?
With calendars full to the brim, people seem to have less time than ever before. In order to meet with a friend, I may have to book an appointment several weeks ahead.
The truth is that none of us literally ”saves” any time. The amount of time we have stays always the same.
On the contrary, many of these time savers may rather shorten our lives. We may seriously damage our health by eating too much time saving, processed foods or by doing too much time saving computer work. Not to mention the stress created by a time saving life style. Some of us shorten their lives drastically by getting killed during a time saving car trip….
What all these time savers give us is not more time but more choice. More than ever before can we choose what to do with our time. Choose what is important. Do what is meaningful.
Do what is right.
Sadly enough, we often end up filling that time with even more time savers. More computer work and more car trips. Working for still more money which enables us to buy even more time savers…
What are your choices?
No use to spend hours pondering on the past - regretting.
You may say that you can learn from it. Yes, but any useful lesson from the past doesn’t take more than a few seconds, or maybe minutes. Anything
longer than that may become destructive. The past is gone and will
never come back.
In contrast, pondering on the future can be very rewarding.
The future gives you the opportunity to make a better decision, find a better solution, get better results, and avoid the old mistakes. The future is filled with possibilities and choices - good choices.
That is, if you first let go the past.
Did you let go?
You can start your future right away - by letting go and pondering on the future. Admitted, the actual work still needs to be done.
Yet, it’s a good start.
Anonym Hej Egmont, tack för dagens inlägg, stämmer så väl, det är så lätt att fastna i det negativa man varit med om och ge det alldeles för mycket tid. Vi får kasta oss på Gud som verkligen känner till alla detaljer i våra liv och vill att vi ska bli stilla och lyssna in vad han vill säga oss. Uppskattar din blogg som har en enkelhet samtidigt som den är djup.
Growing spiritual movements often have a radical edge.
Their followers are filled with a vision and strongly committed to their mission. They gladly step out of
their comfort zone, take great risks, are willing to sacrifice, and work day and night,
paying the price in order to fulfill that mission.
The first followers of Jesus became such a movement. And today they still are, that is, wherever they
genuinely follow Jesus.
Unfortunately, large chunks of this movement became and still become watered-down over time, loosing their
radicality and their edge. Thinking they have been too radical, too zealous, too different from the world
around them, they may feel the need to become more “normal”, regarded ”decent”, more like everybody else.
Trying to fit in, playing it safe.
This results in the loss of passion and mission. And the loss of life.
Now, all that remains is a skeleton — an institutional framework with its positions, procedures, rituals
and traditions, yet, without the faith and the spiritual power that once made them grow and change their world.
The machinery still runs idle for a while and may survive several generations. However, its life is
constantly declining and finally coming to an end.
Followers of Jesus have no obligation to follow such a development, even less to contribute to it.
Today, Jesus is more present and active in this world than ever before since the early days, and by his Spirit
he constantly moves on, pouring out his life into ever more people, creating ever more ways to fulfill his
mission - to seek and save the lost.
With a radical edge, through his followers.
Through people like you and me.
Everyday you can choose your attitude.
For instance, the attitude of being ready. Ready to engage to the
benefit of others.
- Ready to help
- Ready to find a solution
- Ready to change things to the better
- Ready to give hope
- Ready to trust
Probably, nothing of all that is quite natural to anyone of us. Yet, we can work on it.
Day by day, week after week. Sooner or later, this attitude will become so much part of your
personality you don’t need to remind yourself.
At that point, it’s no big deal anymore. Not for you.
Yet, others get encouraged.
And you satisfied.
Love and fear don’t match.
One primary characteristic of virtually all religious systems around the world is fear:
fear of judgment, fear of curses, fear of hell, fear of punishment, fear of failing - communicated and
held up by some sort of religious authority or system.
Sadly, this also can be found within Christianity.
In contrast, read the following:
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do
with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18 NIV)
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8 NIV)
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will
strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
(Isaiah 41:10 NIV)
The Spirit of Jesus and the spirit of fear are opposed to each other.
The Spirit of Jesus produces love that overcomes fear.
Having said this, here comes the delicate question:
If love makes us strong and able to overcome fear, what does that insight teach us for the art of raising children? Can there be any place for frightening or threatening a child in good pedagogics?
That is a very good question. I wonder what the spanking camp would have to say about that. I remember being pro-spanking, as that was how I was raised and believed how one raised children. I would never say my parents did not love me, but the practice that was culturally and socially accepted did create a lot of emotional damage. For them, ‘sparing the rod and spoiling the child’ held greater bearance. I assume this is what you are referring to?
Yes, Sid. Although, I am aware that I will not be able to change any of the deeply rooted convictions in that direction. In Western Europe, this more extreme position that you describe is not so common among young parents, but I believe that there are all kinds of weaker variations still in use. And many a parent may despise these practices, but still slide into such a behavior, not willingly, but as an emergency reaction. This heritage is often deeper rooted inside of us as a pattern of behavior and thought than we want to acknowledge. And to get out of it requires an amount of effort over a long time.
All we have is each other.
It’s all we’ve ever had of real value, and all we’re ever going to get. Neither less, nor more.
It’s neither your career nor your possessions, power, image or self-esteem. Neither your consumption nor
sparetime activities, nor your opinions and ideas. And it’s not your doctrines.
Ultimately, people are all that matters, and your relationships all that counts. They are the substance of your
efforts and your time investments, worth everything.
The fruit of your life.
It’s up to you how much fruit there is and will be.
It all depends on how you engage with people and on the qualities you build into your relationships.
Also, on the outcome of your interactions.
Are they uplifting or destructive? Reinforcing life or weakening life? Are you a giver or a taker?
It’s up to you.
You can’t argue a person into Heaven.
In spiritual matters arguing is futile. Even worse, it’s counterproductive.
Each argument will provoke at least one counter-argument, supplying your opponent
with still another brick for his defense wall.
Arguing presumes that we can use force of will to change minds - and souls.
Yet, force begets counterforce. And what would be the benefit of winning an
argument, anyway? Probably you’d produce another wisenheimer, (one just like you and me, in this case).
There is a better way.
The path forward, it seems, is to connect, to engage and to serve. To teach patiently and
earn credibility by living what you teach. To build trust. Then, inviting the other person to join you in
However, this seldom happens overnight. It takes time and commitment and humility. And honest
concern for the other person.
Becoming a disciple of Jesus starts with a free and trusting decision from within.
A heart decision.
It’s easy to imagine that the only way to start a church is by:
- Renting an auditorium,
- Engaging a speaker and a worship team,
- Gathering a crowd.
Yet, there is another way.
You don’t need all of this, not even money. Instead of starting an organisation with a program, you could ignite a process of disciple making. And you can do this right where you are, wherever you live, work, study or spend your spare time. You start out by making just one disciple of Jesus. And then another one, and another. One or two at a time, sometimes even a couple or a family.
And by demonstrating and being an example, you teach these people to do the same with their relatives and friends.
Your home base is your kitchen table. This is where you gather, share your meals, pray, teach, mentor and empower those who want to join you. This is where everything starts.
Your area of operation is your social network, your family, relatives, friends and colleagues. Then the city, its streets and squares, the parks, shopping centers, restaurants and cafés, the gyms and clubs… any place where you can meet people.
Sooner or later, there will be a fellowship of Jesus-followers.
This is church.
It may seem a lot easier, faster and more rewarding way to rent an auditorium, engage a speaker and a worship team and make enough noise to attract a crowd, then call it a “church”.
The question is, what Jesus would call it.
And - how would he do it?
Sometimes it’s time for a change.
From time to time, following Jesus requires a new decision.
Why can it be so hard to take that decision?
Would it mean that your former decisions, traditions and habits, your arguments,
convictions and priorities become meaningless?
Would it mean that all was wrong?
Not necessarily. Probably, it all was right, based on the
information you had at that time. But now you know more. Now you have a
Now you feel the need for a change.
So, what will you do?
Will you let your tradition or habit or convenience be strong enough to override your desire
for a new and better decision?
Or will you give in to peer pressure of sticking with
your “tribe”, your relatives and friends or your group (“What will they say?")?
Sometimes, it takes humility and courage to make a new decision.
And trust in the voice of your heart.
Or be afraid that people won’t take you serious because you’re not sticking to what
you built up and believed in and instead run off to something new and often more uncertain.
True. If you need much confirmation you better stay inside
Yes, sometimes God invites you to leave everything. We lived in the big city for about 10 years and have been the leaders of a small home church. However, we felt the need to leave it all and move into a small village with just a few people around. Hard to understand such a decision! But we feel so so happy and God already gave us a new church family with really honest and worm people who accepted us so lovingly. Change is good if it is led by God. Sometimes we feel like God already prepared and arranged things in advance and we just go and find it all arranged and set out waiting for us. He is such a provider!
Thank you for your comment. This sounds so right and good. Peace and joy follow those who are being led by the Spirit, no matter what the circumstances. And whenever the situation does not look so great, the family of the Lord stands out even greater. Making one or a few disciples, one by one, who can do the same with other people is the best we can do. No church program can ever match up to that. It’s quality that counts in the Kingdom, not numbers.
Amen, thank you for your encouragement.
Broken trust is painful.
People can be wonderful, but also give you a nightmare. Loving people includes the risk of getting hurt.
The more you love, the more vulnerable you get, the more pain you may have to suffer.
Worst of all, the suffering of broken trust. Suffering a life-long injury.
Therefore, if you want to play safe, don’t get engaged with people. Don’t love, don’t care. Keep out of reach. Keep the mask. Play cool.
However, what kind of a life would that be!
We are not created as islands. We need each other. Need to care.
And to love.
That requires courage. So, let’s not get intimidated or scared by negative experiences. Instead, let’s engage with people. Make ourselves vulnerable. Take the risk, over and over again.
And be prepared to suffer.
It may make you feel like a looser, yet, would there be an option?
Could Jesus do it better?
You can change things to the better.
The trust you give, the joy you share, the love you invest, the help you give, the standard you set, the problem you solve, the wisdom you share… have the potential to change things to the better, to become a blessing to you and others.
Moving people foreward.
Causing someone to pick up what you did and act in a similar way, and again, change things to the better, for even more people. And in turn, cause some of them to do the same and again, change things… again and again. To the better.
Like ripples on the water.
Someone may go further than you, causing greater change. Causing more and stronger ripples, reaching out even further. Still improving what you and others did.
Some of those decisions and actions may have the capacity to create a movement and, as time passes by, involve hundreds or even thousands.
Probably, most of your influence never gets recognized in public, though. Nevertheless, it can be powerful, although you hardly ever get to know the real impact of what you did, much less can you manage its final outcome.
The secret is to let go, to not expect anything back. Resisting the temptation to take control. Let others receive freely, enjoy the benefit, then pass it on freely and again, let it go.
One day, it will go on without you, yet still because of your initiative - thanks to you.
Still increasing your impact.
To the benefit of many.
And to His glory!
You are a follower of Jesus? In this case, you might be interested in the question,
What matters to Jesus?
Jesus himself said, it’s the glory of his Father in Heaven. To honor Him and to carry out His will. How did he do this?
By loving people.
For Jesus, this meant sharing his life and giving his life.
Today, the Father is about to prepare humanity for eternity by building His universal family. And He does this in the power of His Spirit and through those who already responded to His love and follow Jesus.
As a disciple of Jesus, you are an agent of Father’s love in this world.
For you, this means sharing your life and giving your life.
You may lift your hands and sing worship songs, you may fast and spend hours in prayer in order to honor God. That’s fine.
Yet, if the outcome is not that you do His will and care for the people He wants to reach with His love, then you are just caring for your own spirituality and your own salvation.
You can’t honor the Father without caring for the ones He cares for.
What matters to Jesus? To him, this is totally clear.
What matters to you?
You can thrive your career, acquire wealth and reputation, even experience tremendous impact in your ministry. Yet, if your relationships are poor…
Then nothing else matters.
Investing in people is the best you can ever do.
Giving your time and efforts or whatever you have, ultimately giving your love.
Love is the only currency with eternal value. And its value increases the more you give.
Like any other investment, though, love investments include risks. People can cheat you, disappoint you or just neglect you. Someone you love with all of your heart may one day turn against you and hate you.
Therefore, to pin your hopes on people doesn’t seem to be quite safe, at least not in short term thinking. However, don’t get confused when your love is rejected.
The real value of your investments will finally show. If not in this life-time, then at the latest in eternity.
Jesus was aware of that. He knew he could not fully rely on people, not even on his closest friends. However, in the face of suffering betrayal, hatred and torture to the fullest, he gave them everything.
He never gave up loving. It cost him his life.
Yet, is there anything more worth living and dying for?
Back to: What really matters, Part 1
Most probably, it’s not the public opinion.
And not what everybody is talking about right now at the coffee table.
Like today’s hottest news or sensation or scandal, created by the media. Or this season’s trendiest fashion or coolest design or latest ”must have”, launched by the market. And it’s certainly not the score of last night’s soccer game.
What really matters is probably not whatever tries to steal your attention right now.
Rather, it is what you by focusing on your life’s purpose nourish in your heart and, following your values, diligently, patiently, drip by drip, carve out as your daily walk and your path of life. By translating your purpose into daily action, here and now.
Doing what is necessary.
Overcoming complacency and convenience and the fear of rejection. Conquering the resistance from within you and the opinions around you.
Confidently, faithfully and joyfully pursuing what you can see as your destiny.
Because you know, it’s right.
Are you looking for a thrill? Something really exciting?
You might have been excited when you experienced the Lord for the first time, or when you got baptized in the Spirit and started speaking in tongues, or when you for the first time prayed for someone and this person actually got healed on the spot. Or maybe when you sensed the Lord’s presence during a special worship service… That, if anything, is really exciting! We may call it a thrill.
But now the thrill is gone.
Of course it is.
According to human nature, emotional kicks are temporary; they don’t last. That’s included in the definition of a thrill.
Repeating the same thing over and over again just isn’t that much of a thrill. You may love your work, but it probably doesn’t give you a kick every time you open the door to your office. Not like the day you entered it for the first time.
So, if you are looking for excitement, you will have to find a fresh experience. And after that you’ll need another one, and then still another, again and again. And every time you seem to get satisfied, yet, the feeling just lasts for a little while.
At times, the life of a disciple of Jesus can be extraordinarily exciting, indeed. Yet, a disciple’s life is not at all about chasing excitements, not even spiritual ones.
Rather, it is to faithfully continue the journey you set out on some time ago. You see the needs around you here and now with open eyes, listen to the Lord and do whatever is required. You make the necessary changes in your own life and lead others along that same path.
It’s a long time commitment, and it is put into practice day by day. Changing the world through thousands of small, persistent steps to the better. Joyfully overcoming the resistance from within you and from the outside. Making a difference.
Doing something that matters!
Exciting is fine, yet, mattering is way more important. And still more exciting than a thrill.
Also in the long run.
In Sweden, summer has arrived and it’s time to take a break.
For Åsa and me, this means to close down all of our regular activities and, except eating and sleeping, do other things than we usually do.
That’s what we call ”to rest”.
Like traveling both short and long distances to visit friends and relatives, staying for a while in Munich, my home city, hiking in the Alps and, last not least, discovering new places. This year, it’s going to be the lovely coast of Southern Croatia with world heritage Dubrovnik as our base.
Summer also means no blogging for a while, let’s say, until the end of August.
You can still reach us, though, by mail or phone. And you can still make an appointment, in case you would like to meet us in person.
Finally, I would like to ask you for a favor. Please, would you help me evaluate my writing and make a decision concerning how to go on after the summer? You can do this by sending me a little comment. In case you don’t feel like writing a lot or don’t have the time or think that your English isn’t good enough, I allow you to keep it very short. Just write one single word into the comment box below.
Write either YES or NO.
If you write YES, this will encourage me to go on writing in about the same way as I have done so far, while your NO will encourage me to quit.
Thank you so much for your response.
Have a nice summer! Hopefully, you will hear from me again at the end of August.
Have you ever tried to change someone’s habit without success? You kept arguing, but it just didn’t help?
We probably change a habit on other grounds than logical thinking. Real change is made on a much deeper, emotional or maybe even spiritual level. It’s the level where we manage things like courage and fear, trust and distrust, faith and doubt.
It seems to me like most of us, most of the time are not really ready for a change. Although we may not be quite happy about a certain habit, we still prefer the status quo. It just feels safer or easier; at least we know what we got and we hope that it will not get worse.
This is the situation every preacher is facing. While we as the audience are nodding our heads in agreement to the sermon, our inside is already blocking the change. And for not exposing our half-heartedness, we escape into pretending. However, true preaching aims at change, changed attitudes, decisions and actions, including habits.
How can we go on listening week after week and still stay unaffected?
The explanation is that listening without acting leads into passive, ritualized behavior. And listening to still more sermons leads into even deeper passivity. It immunizes against the message, makes you favor the status quo and end up in self-affirmation and complacency, the perfect setting for a convenient, religious behavior.
Then, listening to more sermons becomes counterproductive. It makes you feel spiritual without being it.
We fool ourselves when we think of having accomplished anything by just listening and agreeing.
On the other hand, in case we are honest and willing to change, good sermons can be quite useful and inspiring. If you are ready to change, they can help you make a good decision and then act accordingly.
It’s up to you and me to make it happen.
I have tried so hard to get people to see their true self so they can get the help they need from God and man and it has only resulted in futile arguments as you point out! Most people just want to talk about their problems and they will go on repeating it to anyone who would listen. The only thing that can change me or anyone is time spent alone with God … unhurried time …. listening to the heart of God and giving control of my life again and again back to Him so Christ can be born in me and live in me. This is a daily struggle until the surrender is total and perfection is won in Christ!! Apostle Paul is a great example to follow!
He was a pastor. A gifted preacher and brilliant Bible school teacher, respected and loved by his church and his large family, particularly known and appreciated for his books and seminars on family relationships.
Then the unexpected happened.
In short, one day he left his wife and family, quit his ministry and moved to a far away country in order to start all over again, leaving his family, co-workers and church members behind in shock.
In a letter, he described his desperation, revealing that he had been depressed for a longer period, feeling like a failure and even planned to take his life.
For the last three years he had been trying to keep a mask and fulfill his duty as a pastor, trying to perform whatever was expected. But now he just couldn’t do it anymore.
The mask had to be removed.
Tragic and alarming! This story may seem exceptional, at least in its final, shocking consequences. However, wearing a mask isn’t that exceptional, not among people in general, neither among believers. In fact, it seems to be a behavior particularly found in certain church cultures, practiced by common people like you and me.
It’s not necessary to be a pastor in order to fall into that pit. Anyone can end up there.
So, what could make believers and Christian workers resort to wearing a mask? And why is it so common? What can we learn from this tragedy?
The reason seems to be fear. The fear of failing and being exposed and rejected, maybe due to a gap between a person’s abilities and the leadership position he was given and unable to fill. In order to compensate for the lack, he resorts to wearing a mask, pretending an ability or spirituality he does not possess.
We could call it hypocrisy, yet, let me add another aspect.
Could it also be due to the gap, which the people around him produced by expecting him to be someone else than he really is? This person may be totally honest, not pretending anything, nevertheless, people identify him with the role they want him to play according to their own concept, according to how they picture him in their imagination.
They may want to see him as the strong leader, the man of God, the apostle, the prophet or the performer of miracles, someone who makes things happen, things that satisfy their desire of affirmation and spiritual experiences.
This could be rapid church growth or anything supernatural, something that gives them a sense of God’s presence, anything that produces the desired spiritual kick they might be missing in their own private lives.
No matter, whether it is a projection of people’s desires or a compensation of their own failures, a tragedy like the one described should not only be seen as one person’s, but also the people’s responsibility, as the outcome of a church environment, a hype that people bought into and cultivated, leaders as well as the ones being lead.
So, what can we do? How can we get out of the trap?
To begin with, there must be an insight. We don’t need to be another spiritual super star or stage hero and there is no need for a success story. Instead, we can remind ourselves of God’s grace given once and for all times and more than enough for everyone of us. Let’s enjoy this grace and together walk the common daily walk of life in love, faith and hope, filled with gratitude.
Lifting any burden of guilt and shame from each other and together enjoy our lives in God’s redemption.
Removing our masks - becoming vulnerable.
It’s not a shame, but a first step into the freedom of an authentic life.
Thank you for this very important statement! I think you are right in describing this tragic story. It is not just one person that failed and went wrong. The responsibility must be shared with the leaders. It is so important to say this!
Wearing a Mask seems to be The Way of life for most Christians! If someone gets real in a prayer group for example, and tells their problem or mention they are in a crisis, the rest in the group become deathly quiet or someone makes an insane move by saying, “Oh she or he must be extra tired. Otherwise they are such wonderful people. We can pray for them.” This shuts down the person who is desperately trying to reach out for help and what God wants to do for that person in the midst of the Body of Christ before it becomes a total tragedy!
One significant characteristic of any organization is the pursuit of stability. The same is true for churches and home groups.
Stability gives us a sense of security, peace and success. The turbulent times of initial struggles are over and we finally arrived at a place where we can lean back and enjoy our accomplishments. Now, we are established and we finally have been accepted by our surroundings. And we know how to run this church.
We are ”maturer”, now.
From now on, all we have to do is to protect what we have got and keep growing from there. Protect it against possible agitators and trouble-makers, against know-it-alls and fault finders, and against these far too creative people and their never-ending ideas. And, last not least, against the naivety of those newcomers.
“Let people come in, but not up!” (Pastor of a mega church)
We really don’t want to make the same mistakes over and over again, and we’re tired of explaining everything a thousand times. Neither do we want to make any new mistakes. Why take a risk, when everything is so well settled?
This is the point when we get stuck in our own ways of doing things, when securing our success becomes a dominant factor and our mission locked in within the boundaries of our home made stability. This is when we give up to engage, to thrive and to change.
This is when we close our doors.
The decline has begun and it’s the beginning of the end. For a while, we still enjoy the cosiness and familiarity of a well-established, stable community and the self-affirmation that comes along with it, maybe also a little hubris (”We’re a good church and way up front.”).
Then comes the boredom.
Soon, the average age of our group is getting alarmingly close to 70 and we don’t know what to do about it.
The solution would be to start all over again. To take risks, to stretch our possibilities, to accept challenges, to explore the unknown, to humble ourselves and engage with people.
To give up stability - and get messy again.
We may loose our stability, the cosiness and familiarity of our fellowship, our comfort, complacency and respectability…
We may loose it all -
but again, win souls and make disciples for Jesus.
Wouldn’t it be worth it?
Church leaders tend to be highly interested in numbers.
Typically, they ask questions like, How many members does the church have, how high is the weekly attendance and how much did the offering bring? And they want to know how these numbers develop from week to week, month to month and year to year.
Admitted, statistics are useful. They enable us to measure and to compare, to set up goals and to stay focussed, and they make us feel successful whenever numbers go up. Numbers seem to show a church’s growth in a reliable, objective way. At least, this is what we tend to think.
Yet, there is a problem.
How can we ever measure essential spiritual qualities like faith and love, fear of the Lord, obedience, maturity and Christlikeness, community and the power of a church’s testimony by counting numbers?
How can we ever find out anything about the quality and the actual spiritual outcome of a church by just measuring quantities?
For instance, does the amount of hours that someone spends participating in church activities say anything about the quality of this person’s discipleship? Or can numbers about a church’s widespread popularity and numerical and financial success be translated into significant impact - in terms of fulfilling the church’s mission to make disciples?
If spiritual qualities and the actual outcome of the church are not included in our statistics, what do those statistics really say? And what do we accomplish by maximizing these numbers?
In the light of the church’s mission, the ultimate question for a leader and for every follower of Jesus must be, Do we really make disciples of Jesus or are we just having programs? And furthermore, do those who have been discipled, in their part, go on and make disciples? These questions are crucial, as they touch the very nerve of the church’s mission.
In this perspective, making a handful of quality disciples may by far outweigh a thousand more names of members or attendees on our lists. After all, disciples are the kind of result that Jesus is expecting. We can’t fool him.
Yet, are we possibly fooling ourselves?
Imagine someone handed you 10.000 USD to spend on whatever you want. The only condition would be that you had to spend it right away, on the same day.
What would you do with the money?
Maybe your mind would go to that fancy computer you had been eying at for a long time. Or that cool hifi-system, or the latest version of your favorite cellphone, or a diving gear for you next dream vacation, or this trendy leather jacket?
Or would you rather spend the money on some event together with other people? Like financing an exotic trip or a beach vacation or a skiing adventure with your spouse or together with all of your family or some friends? Or buying toys for your kids or your grandchildren?
Or could you think of just giving the money away? Like to someone you know who right now is in big trouble and needs financial help? For instance, to a young mother in your neighborhood and her children? Or to a missionary you know? Or to some charity…?
No matter what you do, your choice reveals your priorities. For yourself and for others. The ultimate question is:
What is really important to you? And, is it basically stuff or people?
Is it luxury, image, prestige and short time pleasure you are interested in, or is it quality relationships and spiritual values? Will that money basically nurture your ego, or will it help you build community and bless others?
And finally, would its benefit be consumed and burned up within a short time or would it last a little longer? Would it have any significance after ten, twenty or thirty years from now?
In a long time perspective, stuff almost never matters, yet, people do.
People always matter.
Stuff decays, relationships stay. And you can make them grow by investing in them. By giving your time and energy. And your money.
Again, what would you do with the money?
Meeting people is exciting.
It’s always exciting to listen to someone’s story. Everyone has a story worth listening to and learning from, as long as they are honest and their story is true. And it’s exciting and worth both time and effort to get engaged with people who are honest about themselves and about what they do. Free from pretending.
You can learn from those conversations, widen your knowledge and understanding, getting inspired. And in turn, you can encourage someone and share some of your best insights.
There is a potential to learn and to grow for both of us when we listen to each other and talk about something that is important to us, free from fear and control and manipulation and again, free from pretending.
We need that kind of conversations.
We need them in order to grow. And it’s a great joy to help each other along the way. That’s beautiful!
On the other hand, is there anything more boring than listening to gossip or constant lamenting or judging comments on others? Badly enough, you can have conversations that drain your energy and make you feel empty.
What are your conversations like? It’s very much your own choice - and responsibility.
Let them be honest and joyful.
You can benefit from your enemies.
Indeed, you not only benefit from your families, relatives and friends and all who love you, but you can also benefit from your enemies, from those who oppose you, bother you, despise you, hate you, treat you badly.
If you understand this, you can turn those negative relationships into an asset.
This doesn’t mean that you intentionally will have to make enemies or give people reason to hate you. However, these people happen to be around us, anyway. So why not make them part of a positive purpose!
How can you do this?
Have you ever asked the Lord to give you more love for the people around you, and he answered your prayer by confronting you with somebody who you really didn’t like? Or you asked the Lord to give you more patience, and he sent someone in your way who really challenged your patience?
What we learn from this is that the Lord often answers this kind of prayers, not as we may expect, by miraculously giving us wonderful feelings for these people, but by providing a training opportunity. The Lord is a master of using negative experiences for his purposes - and for our benefit.
That is - for our maturity.
Let’s now apply this principle to your negative relationships.
You may start out on a rather convenient level that most of us probably would be able to manage. Just start with one of your easier ”enemies”. This could be someone who just slightly irritates or opposes you. Maybe there is a neighbor or a colleague or a relative who would qualify in this respect.
You start out by deciding to think and speak positively of this person and by doing so, you increasingly change your attitude towards that person. You also pray for him or her, not in order to change them, but to bless. Maybe you can also find a way to express your new attitude by a simple action, like a smile, an encouraging comment, a helping hand or whatever comes to your mind.
And remember, you don’t do it in the first place in order to turn this person round and make them love you, but for their own sake. For just loving them unconditionally.
And, as your second agenda, you also do it for the sake of your own maturity.
By doing so, you actually may win a friend, which would be most welcome and the ultimate success. This would be your first benefit. However, there is no guarantee for that.
In case this doesn’t happen, you can go on loving this person anyway, and head out for your second benefit.
In the worst case, you may have to continue with this for the rest of your life, without ever getting a positive response; be ready for that. The other person’s negative response is not your responsibility and should not discourage you.
The secret that enables you to go on is your second agenda, that is, your own maturity. And with that in mind, you always succeed, independently of your ”enemy’s” response.
By continuing to bless and love and pray, you are not only doing something in favor of this other person, but you are also improving yourself. Day by day you are proceeding towards a higher level of maturity. After some time of training, you may see your success and be ready to deal with some harder case and then succeed there, as well.
On the outside, your one-way love may look like a hopeless endeavor.
Yet, for you who loves, it always leads to a victory.
Discipleship is a decision.
You don’t just slide into being a disciple of Jesus by accident. Or wake up one morning and find yourself having arrived there.
It always requires a conscious decision on your behalf - your own personal decision.
Neither your father nor mother, nor your buddies can do that for you. Nobody else can, but you. You don’t have to wait for anyone’s agreement, nor is there anyone else to blame for not taking that decision. And it’s not a matter of background or tradition or culture or age or education or talent or intellect or opinion…
It’s a matter of trust.
Trust in Jesus and trust in his Father.
Anyone can make that decision, yet, this doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Before arriving at that point, you will always meet resistance. The way the resistance comes can be different from person to person and it can vary in strength.
Yet, be sure, there will be resistance.
For some of us, the resistance comes from the outside, from our families, our relatives or our buddies, from their expectations and traditions.
From their fears.
It may come as light as a slight sneering comment or as heavy as a solid death threat, or as anything in between.
Resistance may also come from the inside, from our own thinking. From our distrust and doubts. Or from our pride or self-righteousness, or self-assurance…
From our own fear.
The resistance has many expressions, but basically only one root: ours and others fear.
Therefore, when facing the choice, it always seems easier to not follow Jesus or to postpone the decision. Or to pretend, which probably is the worst of all options. Jesus hated hypocrisy more than sin.
However, no matter how strong the resistance, you can at any time frankly take that decision and you’ll always find people who do the same and follow Jesus, in spite of the resistance and even under persecution.
It’s truly a great and powerful decision with long-ranging and serious consequences, and with great and positive results for yourself as well as your surroundings. You won’t ever regret it.
However, it takes courage to follow Jesus.
Destruction doesn’t always have a negative connotation. Many times it is an absolutely necessary part of the creative process.
Farm lands are created by tearing down trees, better neighborhoods from slums, new life from destructive habits. They all go through destructive processes before something new could be created.
Sometimes, new life does not appear unless and until the old has been torn down. It’s not always possible nor is it safe to be building on top of the old.
Sooner or later a conflict will arise between the old and the new and you will have to make a choice. Either adjust and compromise and stay where you are, or tear down and start all over again, on a better foundation.
The same is true for our spiritual life.
A spiritual revival was never started by people whose hearts were still fixed in the past. It rather emerged from something new, a new revelation or a new and fresh spiritual encounter. And as a consequence, there was an overthrowing of the structures and expressions of the old.
In this way, revival not only builds, but also destroys.
If its destructive power scares you, you will not be able to connect to what the Lord is doing today.
In fact, at times the Lord himself is one who ”uproots”, ”tears down”, ”destroys” and ”overthrows” in order to ”build” and to ”plant”. (Jer 1:10)
Probably most of the time, it is wise to adjust, to compromise and to develop slowly. It takes time and endurance to build a house, a family, a church, a business…
However, there are situations when you’ll have to jump the canyon. You can’t do it in small steps.
In case you are in that kind of a situation, the Lord may give you wisdom and courage.
And faith to act.
So, you are a follower of Jesus?
He is your Lord and Master? And your Teacher? Then, what exactly does he teach you?
No, I am not asking you what you know about him, like when and where he lived, what he did and what he said. Neither am I asking about the doctrines or morals, or whatever your church teaches about him.
What I’m asking is, How does he impact you? I mean, personally. Where does he rub off in your life? How does he influence your thinking, your values and attitudes? And your actions?
In short: How does he lead you?
Do these questions irritate you? Or do they inspire you?
No matter, what your spontaneous reaction is, wouldn’t it be worth while to jot down some of your points?
Would you like to do it?
The challenge for you right now is to not just agree to my idea, but to actually grab a pen and a piece of paper and do it. Not just think, but write. Right now.
You may find it hard to get started, but don’t let that hinder you. The flow will come, just you get over the initial resistance. (Writing almost always meets resistance.) And I’m sure your list will turn out far longer than expected.
Then, choose two or three of your points and meditate a while on each one of them.
And let them give you clarity and strengthen you.
You nailed it brother, thanks for touching the sensitive conditions of our faith in JESUS.
This makes me stand still and find back the true meaning of my calling in him.
Great ideas are fun!
Great ideas sound good and make you feel good. Great ideas always find their listeners.
However, an idea is quite irrelevant as long as it isn’t tested.
The testing makes all the difference. It separates the achiever from the mere dreamer. The testing is the real hard part.
Probably, one thing the testing shows is that your great idea isn’t really that great. Others had the same idea before you and didn’t find it worth the trouble to make it work out. Or they gave it some tries and failed. You should know about that, before you start working and investing your time and energy.
This requires honesty, good judgement and decidedness.
Secondly, the testing probably shows that your great idea will not be accomplished as easily and fast as you thought. You’ll have to admit that before you can make a long-term plan and prepare yourself for the process that is required.
On top of honesty, good judgement and decidedness, this requires patience and persistence.
Moreover, the testing will probably show that you are not as smart as you thought. You’ll have to admit even that, before you are willing to learn more, understand more, develop some more skills and start asking for help.
This requires humility and dedication.
Finally, the testing will possibly show that your great idea doesn’t work out the way you thought. At this point, your idea may look like a failure.
After this insight, your real work begins.
From now on, your idea requires faith.
The world doesn’t need more people announcing a thousand bright ideas. What we need is someone who is willing to stick to one idea and test it, develop it, and refine it, and never give up - until it works.
Alas! You can preach as much as you want, yet, making a disciple for Jesus is quite a different story!
If you are hungry, half a hamburger is better than nothing.
If you need to finance a project, raising only half of the money is better than no money at all.
If you’re expecting a thousand people to read your article and only five hundred actually read it, this is still better than none.
Many times, half is better than nothing. But not always. What about half a promise?
- If you ask a baby sitter to come over…
- If you invite friends for dinner…
- If you need a partner for your project…
- If you want to marry…
…and the answer you get never surpasses a ”maybe”, I would call this giving half a promise.
Half a promise can be worse than no promise.
With a ”no”, you still had the choice of asking someone else, but with a ”maybe” you are stuck. You don’t get anywhere, and things can get even worse. Like, when “promising” a beach vacation to your family, or “agreeing” to engage in a project, or “promising” a life-long marriage - and never getting beyond a “maybe”…
In these cases, half a promise can end in a sheer disaster for you and for whoever partners with you.
The same is true for our decision to follow Jesus. He expects us to give him a clear ”yes” or ”no”, not a ”maybe”.
And pretending would be even worse than that.
It’s good for you and me to make up our minds and know what we want and what we don’t want to engage in. And it’s a blessing for everyone around us when we are able give them a clear ”yes” or ”no”.
If you can’t give a wholehearted promise, it’s probably better not to give any.
Jesus called us to make disciples. And making a disciple comes with a price.
It costs you your time, energy, and money. It calls for patience, wisdom and endurance. It’s a long-term commitment.
Now you may wonder: Am I really prepared for this? Is it possible for me to give more time, energy, and money? Am I patient enough, wise enough, and committed enough?
As to time, energy and money, the answer is pretty simple: You already have enough. Jesus didn’t have more. Weed out those projects and activities that you have given undue importance to. You may want to reevaluate your priorities. That should be possible.
Or, it should be possible for those who really care.
As to patience, endurance, wisdom and commitment, these are a little harder to learn and to improve. Yet, there is no use waiting for it to happen.
You learn these things by doing something that requires practicing those very qualities. Try to find a challenging task. Make a decision and then stick to it, no matter how strong the resistance and no matter how often you fail. You can improve along the way.
Probably, most of us already have one or a few areas where we can get that kind of training. There may be an education that needs to be finished, a project to be completed, a language to be learnt, a book to be written, a house to be renovated…
And why not, a disciple to be made?
So, you can start with your mission right away. Start making a disciple, and then improve along the way.
There is always one first little step you can take, little enough to match your faith and your resources. You can take that step and stick to it. From there, you will know what to do next.
Isn’t this exactly what young parents do? None of us fathers and mothers are really prepared for raising children the day we bring home our first baby. That day we get a kick-start. From there we go on, day by day and night by night and learn patience, endurance, wisdom and improve our commitment along the way.
It’s not always easy to be a parent, and for some of us it’s a real struggle. However, it works out somehow, against all odds, and in spite of all the mistakes we make.
This is what making a disciple is very much alike. It’s costly and it isn’t always easy, yet…
It’s possible for those who really care.
Paris, November 13th, 2015 !
Overwhelmed and horrified by what happened that night, I asked myself, What is my response to all those terror attacks in recent years, not only in the Middle East and in places “far away”, but also increasingly in Europe?
Will the horror stay with me and eventually leave me in a constant state of fear? Will it affect my attitude towards the world and the people around me, towards Muslims in general as well as towards my Muslim friends, colleagues, students and neighbours?
And will it possibly lead me to a reaction that ultimately feeds into a culture of resentment, distrust and fear?
One thing is for sure, if I let fear grip me, then the attacks have accomplished their purpose in me and the terrorists have won the victory!
This shall never happen!
Fortunately, there is another possible response.
‘Eagles of Death Metal’, the band that played at Bataclan that night, made the following statement, issued in The Guardian on November 18th:
“Although bonded in grief with the victims, the fans, the families, the citizens of Paris, and all those affected by terrorism, we are proud to stand together, with our new family, now united by a common goal of love and compassion.”
This view opens up for a better response and reminds me of the mission we have as followers of Jesus.
You and I may not be able to stop terrorism and solve all the problems connected to it. However, we can remain the masters of our minds and our faith, guard our feelings and attitudes, care for each other, build trust relationships and cultivate community - Muslims included.
Overcoming fear by practicing love and true humanity.
Taking action for a better world.
Are you looking for a safe and comfortable road to travel on?
Then, following Jesus might not be the right choice for you.
Jesus never invited anyone to a safe journey. Neither did his Father. The Bible is filled with stories about men and women who knew God and faithfully followed him on a rather bumpy road with many potholes, detours and dangers.
Just think of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Elijah, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul… Their lives were characterized by dangers, hardship, risks, threats, agonies and persecution.
Jesus was one of them, and he didn’t promise his followers anything different from what he experienced. Least of all security and comfort.
However, this seems to be what millions of his followers daily pray for and expect for their lives. And churches do their best to make Christianity appear a pleasant experience.
And in case we let Sunday morning performances be the foremost expression of what it means to follow Jesus, this is what we communicate.
Yet, by filtering out the hardship, the pain, the struggle, the risks, the drop-backs, the sweat and the dirt of everyday life, we may end up reducing discipleship to a nice Sunday morning smile. That kind of religion will never stand the test of credibility. Neither the test of authenticity.
On the other hand, if we intentionally face those trials, the hardship and the discomfort, and not only try but actually overcome by strengthening our faith, putting our spiritual weapons into practice and standing side by side as brothers and sisters, trusting the Lord to give us a victory, we make an astonishing discovery.
We then find out that He is with us right there walking alongside with us, leading us through every hardship and towards our destiny. And we discover that this bumpy and tiresome road we are walking on actually is the road of our calling.
The road where His grace becomes most visible.
What a blessing!
Great work doesn’t come out of nowhere.
And it’s not only a privilege for the talented.
Usually great work results from someone working hard and trying over and over again, failing included - many times.
Moreover, it’s risky.
It’s risky before you get started, and it’s risky all the way through until it’s finished. It can cost you everything; your time, your sleep, your comfort, your money, your reputation - and your pride.
Great work makes you humble.
Great work isn’t always recognized as such from the beginning. And you often don’t see its greatness during the process.
For those who don’t have the faith, it really doesn’t look that great. They just can’t imagine that you are building a cathedral. What they see is the sand you are shoveling; and they notice the dirt, the sweat and the pain it causes.
Raising children is very much like that.
Changing diapers just doesn’t feel that glorious. And coping with a teenager’s mood doesn’t always look like a great success. Nevertheless, it’s great work! No matter what you feel during the process and no matter how many times you fail.
It’s great, as long as you carry on faithfully, day by day, year in year out. The time will come when you and even others will see the result of your labour. One day your cathedral will be completed.
Yet, raising children is far greater than building a cathedral.
Having failed isn’t the same as feeling like a failure.
Feeling like a failure can be much worse than the actual failure.
A failure in itself is just an event, not a feeling. It’s something specific that happened to you at a specific time in a specific place. Like you didn’t pass the test, couldn’t keep your promise, missed your flight, lost your credit card, or made a foolish comment.
A failure can be dealt with successfully in basically three ways…
You can repair the damage. There is no use crying over spilt milk. You know what to do, so just do it. Often a simple excuse is good enough.
You can’t repair the damage, but you definitely can learn from it. Notorious late comers can actually stop blaming the circumstances and instead admit their failure, go to the bottom of their issue and take practical steps to change their habit.
You can ignore it. If you just missed an opportunity, there isn’t much that can be done. No use of grieving. It may be emotionally challenging and you may have to pay a price, but so what? You must leave it behind you and carry on.
It’s not always easy to handle a failure, but most failures can be dealt with in a rational way.
It’s much harder to cope with feelings. Feelings can be irrational.
Feeling like a failure has very little to do with actually failing. You can fail a thousand times without necessarily feeling like a failure. On the other hand, you can even feel like a failure in the face of obvious success.
Feeling like a failure isn’t based on what has occurred, but on our thinking. On the story we tell ourselves or what others tell us about ourselves. Such a story works like a prophecy. Once you believe it, you will try to prove it and find evidence for it. For sure, you will always find what you are looking for.
So if you feel discriminated, neglected, looked down at, hated or felt sorry for, rest assured they have their origin in patterns of thoughts… in your story.
However, if you want to protect yourself and stop feeling like a failure, there are a few essential steps you can take:
Stop meditating on your false story. Throw it out of your mind and refuse to let it settle there again, whenever those thoughts show up. Remember that you are the master of your mind.
Stop engaging with the false assumption that in order to stop feeling like a failure you’ll have to succeed. You don’t. You can get rid of that feeling without a single success.
Instead, start meditating on another story, based on the story that Jesus gave us: ”You are a child of God, beautifully made, loved, forgiven and accepted, created for a divine purpose, destined to be a blessing…" Let your Father in heaven determine who you are and what you are.
If you choose the latter and start building your faith on His story, for sure, your feelings will follow and you will be healed and restored.
The decision is yours.
Nobody likes failures.
However, failures are more precious than most of us are inclined to think.
In fact, they can become stepping stones towards our final success. Don’t get me wrong, a failure really is a failure, not a success. It’s ugly, discouraging, accusing, threatening, judging! However…
A failure doesn’t have to be the final word spoken. The crucial question is, what do you do with it? What comes next?
Think of Thomas Edison. Holding as many as 1093 patents in the United States, and in addition many patents in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, he probably was one of the most prolific inventors of all times. Edison became famous not only for the widespread impact of his inventions, but also for his unbroken decisiveness to never give up. It is said that before succeeding with his first well-functioning light bulb in 1879, he went through around 2000 failures. When during the time of his endless struggles being asked, why he wouldn’t give up such a meaningless endeavor, he gave his well-known answer. ”It’s not a failure at all”, he said, ”I just found 2000 ways of how not to make a light bulb”.
Inventions are made when someone thinks outside the box and tries to accomplish something that others call impossible, or at least meaningless, and uses every failure as a stepping stone for still another try.
However, our problem is that we are stuck inside the box and all we can do is think inside.
So, how do you manage to think on the outside? What then makes individuals finally free themselves from the bonds of the well-known and secure paths of thought, risk a failure and jump the leap? How do you accomplish such a feat?
Many times, it’s through a deep crisis caused by a failure. Sometimes, it’s out of pure desperation. You are stuck and can’t see any way out. You hit the bottom and have nothing to lose.
This is when you are ready to stretch beyond what seems possible.
Seen that way, failures are the condition in which creativity is ignited. They are the soil out of which success springs forth, but only for those who stop mourning and lamenting and decide to try again and go on.
Judas didn’t have to end up in a tragedy. That was his own decision, his own self-made judgement. As Jesus restored Peter, I am sure he was ready to even forgive Judas and open up a new life for him, a life of peace and freedom way beyond his failure.
So how do you think about your recent failure? What’s your decision? Are you ready to welcome and embrace it and learn from it?
And open a new and unexpected door.
Geoffrey: Thank you Egmont! This is true and I have been in failures many times, and I have seen the hand of God in the end of it. The worst part was when I was laughed at, but I was deeply convicted that God my heavenly father will turn it up for his glory. Thanks again.
Reply: Thank you, Geoff! You are right. The Lord is a master of turning things round. We just need to wait.
As a disciple of Jesus, do you have a full-time or a part-time ministry?
Or is yours “only” spare-time?
No matter what your answer is, following Jesus is neither one. If you are his disciple, you are what you are twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. That’s neither full-time nor part-time nor spare-time.
The reason for that? Discipleship isn’t based on a service, a duty or a program. It’s neither an employment nor a hobby.
Discipleship is a relationship - your relationship with Jesus. And as his disciple you are a child of God; that’s a position, and again a relationship. Everything you do is done within that relationship and can be seen as an expression of it.
On the other hand, churches and denominations offer employments, full-time or part-time. And they engage volunteers in their spare-time.
All these workers have their specific responsibilities and duties. They follow the instructions, meet people’s needs, and try to make everyone happy.
On top of that, they probably have an idea of listening to the Lord and try to follow him.
Doing both of these doesn’t always work out so well. Following Jesus and fulfilling the requirements for an employee or volunteer aren’t automatically the same.
Following Jesus isn’t the same as building an organization or pleasing the people around you. If it works out for you, that’s fine. As long as it lasts.
At worst, you may feel like having to serve two masters, which can lead to conflict, frustration and stress, and sometimes even burn-out.
Jesus worked hard, yet never seemed to get any of these symptoms. Is it, because he only served one master and never submitted to people’s expectations?
Thus, he was free to wholeheartedly listen to the Spirit and obey the One who had sent him.
Following Jesus rubs off.
As a disciple of Jesus, you influence your environment and the people around you. Discipleship often develops into leadership.
It’s a different kind of leadership, though. Different from what most people would expect. Often lacking the most typical characteristics that you usually associate with leadership, like power, position, title, status, money, popularity, image, good looks, high IQ, education, or whatever else impresses on people.
It’s an up-side-down leadership. It’s built on servanthood and qualities like humility, honesty and integrity. Like trustworthiness, reliability and morality. And faithfulness and wisdom. And love. And the fear of the Lord.
In short, it’s spiritual leadership.
True spiritual leadership is based on discipleship, that is, on being a disciple of Jesus. Discipleship comes first, spiritual leadership emerges from there.
You can’t lead another person along a spiritual path without first having walked that path yourself. And you can’t lead that person into a fruitful disciple relationship without being a disciple yourself. The quality of your leadership depends uttermost on the quality of your discipleship. You cannot lead a disciple beyond your own level.
Therefore, are you looking for a spiritual leader? Then, have a closer look at his or her discipleship. Leaders in formal positions are not necessarily fruitful disciples.
On the other hand, fruitful disciples can naturally develop into spiritual leaders, independently of any formal position.
You might be one of them.
Amelie - LOVE IT!
I always thought I needed more of the typical leadership qualities in order to be a great leader, but I found out that there are people around me that I can disciple. That makes being a leader so easy and it comes so natural.
Susan - I am begining to see this more and more. Strange that it should take so long for me to arrive at this conclusion…Truly desire to walk this path with any who sincerely wants to join. :)
Hospitality is an expression of God’s character.
Our Lord is a welcoming God. He is generous, nourishing, lavish, joyful…
He is hospitable.
And this is what we are communicating to others when being hospital. It’s as easy as sharing a meal with a friend, a colleague, a neighbor, or a stranger. Or why not a beggar! God is indiscriminate.
He is including.
Your meal doesn’t have to be fancy; don’t let it be exclusive. There is no need to impress on anyone. Just share what you have, it may be abundant or little, a three-course dinner or a glass of water. Or a piece of chocolate or a banana. Just act hospitable according to the situation.
Actually, it’s not so much about the food, but about your attitude, what people sense when they are together with you.
Hospitality is an expression of grace.
You give people an experience of being accepted, respected, appreciated and honored. A sense of belonging without having to qualify or to argue. It breaks the power of fear and alienation and prejudice.
It’s an expression of freedom.
You create an environment of generosity, free from control and free from guilt and accusations. Also free from the need to impress and pretend. Allowing people to be who they are. Giving them your love.
Creating an experience of how God is.
When Jesus commanded his disciples to go out and make disciples, they understood this as building a master-disciple relationship. The apostle Paul translated it into his greco-roman world by instead talking about a father-son relationship. Today, we often use the term mentorship.
Still, it’s the same content, the same mission. It’s the mission that Jesus gave us.This is how I use this term in my blog.
Mentorship - Respect, Freedom and Trust
Mentorship requires trust.
And trust presupposes respect and freedom.
For a mentor this means respecting another person’s background and personality, her opinion, taste, religion, or whatever she brings along. Also her negative sides. It’s possible to show respect without necessarily agreeing.
Furthermore, it means respecting that person’s decisions. Granting her the freedom to live her life and follow her own preferences. This includes the freedom to say “yes” or “no” to Jesus, and also to you as her mentor.
Respect and freedom - these are the preconditions, but finally it’s all about trust.
Trust is a relationship. You can’t buy it, neither do you get it by begging or arguing or manipulating. And you never build trust by engaging someone in your projects, thus “using” her for your own purposes. There is no such way.
Trust grows gradually… You’ll have to build it, patiently and carefully through consistency in action, thought and motives.
Trust needs to be cultivated, not managed. There is a world of difference between those two.
Respect, freedom and trust - you can see them in Jesus’ way of meeting people, as three expressions of his love.
As his disciples and communicators of that love, we can never depart from those three. If we ignore any of them, we lose our mentor relationship.
Therefore, acting Jesus-like means in this context:
Showing respect, even when disrespected
Granting freedom, even when controlled, manipulated or threatened.
Building trust, even when undeserved.
You can start out with any acquaintance, on any level of relationship. Sometimes, though, you’ll have to start from scratch. It isn’t always easy. People aren’t easy. For you as a mentor, it’s an investment into another person’s life. An investment of your love, time and energy, although with no guarantees.
However when successful, it’s an investment that produces good fruit.
All the way to eternity.
Give to the Lord what he is asking you for!
No one is born as a disciple of Jesus, far less a disciple maker. Yet, this is what Jesus wants us to be, a disciple and a disciple maker.
Accordingly, somewhere along the road, there must be a turning point, or a new start. For every one of us.
We may argue that we are not gifted like evangelist so and so or pastor so and so…, but that’s not the point! They do it their way, and we are asked to do it our way. There is no one else on the planet who can do it just like you and me, and fill the place that only you and I can fill.
If we don’t show up, the Kingdom will lack some important and unique workers.
We may say that we are decent and regular church goers. We have attended hundreds or even thousands of worship services, dozens of bible studies and we are supporting one or several ministries.
That’s all quite impressive and good… however, being a disciple and making a disciple has little to do with all this. Why did Jesus in his great commission not even mention all these things that today form our Christian culture and keep us busy, week after week?
The question then to ask is: What are we doing? Are we disciple makers?
And by that I am not referring to the success we have achieved…. we must leave that part up to the Lord. All we need to worry about is: whether we are engaging in such a task or not?
I trust this summer vacation will give us time to reflect on this question.
Discipleship is not a selfish act. It’s a service to the world and to every human soul. We can’t cheat the Lord. But let us not cheat ourselves. And let us also not cheat humanity of our contribution. Instead, let us give each other and the world what we’ve got.
And to the Lord what he is asking us for!
”I want patience, and I want it right NOW!!!”
The more you yell, the more you’ll miss it.
No one is born with patience, in fact, the opposite is true. And there is no short-cut to get it. No button to push, no recipe to follow, no course to attend. It’s nothing money can buy…
Patience is learned the hard way. Over time, and through suffering.
By suffering the pain of waiting.
God doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. He is the Master of patience. He can wait. For days and weeks and months and years, and if necessary, a few thousand of them.
Patience is so much part of his character that we can’t even think of him as not being patient. Being patient with us, of course!
We like that idea, yet, it’s not the end of the story. Even in this respect, he wants us to become more like him, share his godly character, and produce some good fruit.
So, if this is his will for you and me, and if this is what we really want, why don’t we go for it?
Welcome every opportunity to train patience and get a little closer to our goal. Or even look out for these opportunities and rejoice whenever we find one.
Every day you can simply find some situation that makes you wait.
And then train yourself in the godly character of being patient. Suffer a little with that purpose in mind…
And enjoy it!
Simplicity isn’t the same as poverty. Poverty is a curse, simplicity is an accomplishment.
The accomplishment of the wise.
Simplicity is obtainable. Everyone can achieve it, but not everyone will.
When you turn around and start following Jesus, many things will turn simpler for you.
This doesn’t mean that you flee from the complexity of life. Rather, you face and embrace it, and then simplify by making active choices.
You structure your hours and plan your activities in order to follow your calling and accomplish an aim. You bring your will in line with that aim, and faithfully and diligently stick to your decisions.
This changes your life and simplifies it.
You’ll know what time to get up and what time to go to bed. You’ll know what to engage in and what to exclude. You’ll know what kind of food you feed yourself with, even mentally and spiritually, what you want to read, listen to and look at.
And you consciously keep away from distractions. You practice mental hygiene.
Most of all, you’ll change your attitude. You’ll take away your pride, insecurities and self-concerns, opening your view for the needs of others. That will save you from a lot of self-made problems. It simplifies it!
Up to your turning point, you allow distractions to fill your life. You don’t want to miss anything. Your days can be filled to the bursting point, but leave you heartbreakingly empty.
After that turning point, this will be fundamentally different.
Now, your life is filled with a purpose and you are on your way. You can afford to miss a thousand things without loosing anything.
And stay simple!
The enemy of faith is fear.
Fearing sickness, death and final judgement, fearing failure… Fearing what others might think of me, fearing their rejection. Or their complacency. Or fearing my boss, my bills, the weather or just anything that might happen in the future.
Before we meet God’s grace, the undercurrent of our life is fear. Fear makes us worry. It makes us live in a state of denial. Denying who we really are. Denying our calling. Denying that small voice in our heart.
Denying the presence of the Lord.
Fear makes us run away into some sort of addiction or distraction. Or into a shadow career, trying to become someone or achieve something that will give us acknowledgment and security and finally somehow wipe out the fear.
When I experienced God’s grace and started following Jesus, this situation changed. Fear didn’t just disappear, though, but I stopped fleeing.
I stopped denying.
I turned around and started facing it. Using my newfound weapon, the knowledge of being accepted, forgiven, and loved.
There is no such thing as a perfect church. Most Christians agree on that!
Why then does it shock us when something happens in the church that absolutely should not have happened? Yes, of course, it’s okay if it happens in the world, but in the church, among the saints?!
Disgusting! How could this be!
But wait a minute! Why are we contradicting ourselves? In one breath we say the church isn’t perfect, and at the same time we act offended by its imperfections.
Isn’t it, because we have an idea of what the church “is” or really “should be”, and we expect it to match up to that picture?
But the church fails. We fail… Again and again.
Yet, where does that picture of the unfailing church come from?
Do we get it from the Bible and the first church? Or is it just our own idealized, romantic view, our illusion of the church?
I don’t think that this is how Jesus viewed his first twelve disciples. They were anything but perfect. And it’s not the picture we get of the first church in Jerusalem either. And definitely not the churches that Paul wrote to!
Would the Early Church ever have matched up to our expectations?
One thing is for sure, Jesus doesn’t get nervous when looking at our failures. Obviously, he knew from the beginning what kind of people we are, and must have taken that into account.
Therefore, he commanded us to forgive each other. And with that he is not willing to compromise, because it is the only way we can proceed.
Moreover, he gave us the mandate to forgive in his name, by his grace. This is powerful! This changes everything!
And in his sight, that makes us truly ‘perfect’.
Following Jesus calls for faith.
Yet, faith and religion aren’t the same. Faith isn’t religion.
Don’t confuse the two!
Typically, religion is made up of two components: There is a set of statements about what a group of people, an organization, a movement, or a society consider to be true. And there are rules, rituals and traditions to follow, as applications of these truths.
Faith, however, is beyond those things. It’s originated in another realm… it springs forth out of your spirit.
Faith is your genuine trust in God, including your actions based on that trust.
Faith cannot be institutional or traditional. It’s always personal, and always fresh.
It’s rooted deep inside of you, generating qualities such as confidence, motivation, vision, courage, mental strength, patience, endurance… Faith is the ultimate motor of your actions.
Religion is great as long as it provides a positive, supporting environment for that faith. At its best, it amplifies your faith. Then, religion may work out for you.
However, that’s not always the case. As you develop spiritually, the opposite can become true. In fact, at some point, religion can hinder your faith. Even kill it.
While faith lets you imagine what could be possible and encourages you to act on that imagination, take risks, explore and conquer, religion reinforces the status-quo.
Religion makes you fit in, not stand out.
Religion is like a blanket overlaid on top of your faith. As long as you accept its limits or don’t ever recognize them, you feel fine under that blanket and enjoy whatever it offers.
However, for those who want to take initiative and practice an amount of freedom that is beyond those limits, the blanket turns into an iron ceiling, mentally and spiritually.
Once you reach that point, you have only two options: stay, adapt to the status quo and let it limit your faith, or leave.
In case you are alive enough to leave, people may wonder whether you lost your faith. Probably, rather the opposite is true, though. Stepping out can be the very consequence of your faith. You leave because your faith requires it. What you leave is not your faith, but just a certain temporary religious, social or cultural expression of it.
Leaving is never a convenient step. It’s painful, because you’ll have to leave a familiar, secure and confirming environment. It’s like climbing an unknown mountain. From time to time, it’s necessary, though, if you want to grow as a disciple and become more fruitful.
To others it may look foolish, or like a heresy or a betrayal. Or they may even envy you but decide to stay, because the price seems too high.
You, however, are ready.
The road of discipleship is a rocky road.
And it’s an all but straight and upward leading walk.
If you expected it to just take you from success to success and “from glory to glory”, you’ve probably never really tried it out.
In reality, walking that road doesn’t look that fantastic. Rather, it’s a slow and drawn-out process, much slower and way longer than we would imagine. And a lot messier than we would expect, filled with challenges, setbacks, failures, disappointments and unexpected turns.
Typically, it seems to lead more downward than upward. And whenever you may think you have a grip on it and finally managed to secure some kind of progress, you’ll soon find out that it really wasn’t that much of a success and that you’ll have to start all over again.
The Lord just doesn’t follow any human standards and he has his own ways to evaluate his work and to reach his goals. He always gets there eventually, never too late, yet never too early, and never without first leading you through the deep valleys of setbacks, disappointments and hardship.
It’s his way of refining you. It’s his curriculum for building your faith and training you for a higher cause.
This is why you need to focus on him and trust him alone and not in your abilities or securities, neither let any opinion or circumstance distract or disappoint you.
On the outside, this road may indeed look like leading into failure. However, whatever you see and experience is never the complete truth.
In the middle of a setback, there is still grace for every single step and every minute of your walk. And whatever may happen to you along the way, defeat is never the last word spoken.
In fact, that last word over your life has already been set by Jesus, long before you ever started your journey.
And that word doesn’t spell “Victory at all times”.
But “Fruit that lasts”!
Thanks, Egmont. You really pointed out many important things. The Lord just doesn’t follow any human standards. We should realise that he has his own ways, and follow them. Thanks again.
Don’t work for the Lord! Work with him!
Why are there so many discouraged and burned-out pastors? Why do so many leave the ministry? Didn’t Jesus say that his burden would be light?
Maybe ministry has become too heavy, because too much has been added by man. Too much of human ambitions and desires to influence and accomplish and control. Too much of duties, worries and fear.
Jesus simply expects us to follow him and make disciples. Then, naturally, we take care of each other as a family.
This is not a problem, as long as there is no position to achieve or to keep. And no other obligations and expectations that come along with it are stealing your focus.
Without position, you can do as little or as much as you are able to, or have faith for, or think that you can afford. In this way, your burden is self-regulating. It never grows beyond your ability and your faith. Still, it can grow, slowly enough to enable you to grow along with it.
I don’t think we need to make up a great vision or strategy or plan, just because this is what all the leadership books tell us and what every great church seems to have. It’s just a guessing anyway. And a burden. Or even a curse.
And we don’t need to prove our spirituality or ability as a leader to anyone, neither to ourselves. The Lord leads by his Spirit and defines what success is, and he alone is to be honoured.
So, don’t worry.
Don’t worry about “your ministry”. It’s not yours anyway, but Jesus'. And don’t submit to wrong expectations from others. Instead, find out what the Lord already has prepared for you.
And join in WITH him!
Are you a pastor or a church leader? The stress doesn’t come from position. It comes from people who have messages from God, who call all hours every day asking for guidance, from different institutions demanding papers and other documents for everything you as a church do. It comes from making constant decisions. It comes from good meaning folks who think you should do this or that. It comes from people trying to take control of the vision God has given to you and go a direction u know is not what God has for your church.
Thank you, Dan, for your comment. You are right that position in itself would not be a problem, but the things you mention are the very things that come along with position.
There is no better way of teaching and learning than the hands-on training in real life situations.
- If you want to learn how to walk, you’ll have to start walking.
- If you want to learn how to ride a bike, you’ll have to start biking.
- If you want to learn how to swim, you’ll have to start swimming.
No matter how lousy you may feel in the beginning, you’ll just have to do it.
In the same way: If you want to learn how to make a disciple, you’ll have to start making one.
- More sermons will not take you there, no matter how good they are.
- More Bible studies will not do it, no matter how much knowledge you get.
- Neither will more prayer, no matter how much more you pray…
…if you never take the first step.
There is no other way.
Just do it!
There are certain things I absolutely don’t feel happy to talk about.
Like telling another person how I made a fool of myself, or the number of times I reacted immaturely or arrogantly. Nor do I want to speak about the time I yelled and screamed and just couldn’t control my anger. But why should I?
Why should I expose myself and admit my failures? Why bother others with my private stuff?
The problem is that others have seen it, and that’s embarrassing enough. Or in case nobody did, at least I know about it and feel ashamed. And of course, the Lord knows…
Is there a way out?
Yes, there is. I’ll have to talk about it.
Admitted, not everybody needs to know all my filth, and probably it wouldn’t be of any public interest, anyway.
However, if this thing is still bothering me, I need to talk about it.
I need to take a deep breath and talk to someone I trust. And contact the person I offended or let down or betrayed, not in order to explain, but to admit, regret and apologize. Then, give myself a new start.
This can completely change my situation. It’s like opening a window and letting fresh air flood into my room.
Are you in that situation?
Then, may I suggest that you talk about it. It isn’t always easy, yet it’s worth it.
You won’t regret it!
Dear Egmont, this is life-saving advice. I know from my own experience! Shame is a feeling among others and a very important one. But we need to go beyond it, because if we get stuck in shame we will run away and hide and the cause of shame will never be dealt with. If we dare to accept the shame and go beyond it and take the risk of opening up and showing ourselves as we are (with the less nice sides included) we give others a chance to give us that healing acceptance that is the key to restauration. I can’t help of thinking of pastor Robert Ekh in this context. I don’t know if that was the inspiration of your text.
Thank you, Sara, for your fine commentary. You are right, this post fits very well into our situation in Uppsala, but I didn’t think of that, when I wrote it.
Jesus said: “Go and make disciples!” As a disciple of Jesus, how do those words rank on your list?
When you think of your work, your spare time, your daily routines, and weekly obligations, including your spiritual engagements and church activities, where on that list would you place your response to Jesus’ words about making disciples?
Maybe you have already made some disciples, or just one, or maybe none. Or maybe you are just about to make one, or planning to. Or have tried and given up, or never tried, but would like to.
Sometimes our routines, habits and obligations crowd out the most important things in life. And most often our church culture with all its programs, activities and obligations keeps us from caring enough for another person and from taking the time, the effort and the sacrifice that it takes to make a disciple.
Yet, whom shall we blame?
No matter how glorious or how lousy you and I may feel about it, this is a new year and today is a new day and along with it comes the freedom for a new decision and a new start. It’s up to you and me how we respond to Jesus.
Disciple making isn’t easy for anyone.
Yet, it’s possible for those who rank it high on their list.
It doesn’t take a denomination to start a church.
Neither an apostle or a prophet, an appointed church leader or an official church planter. You can have a simple community of disciples and follow Jesus.
My wife and I do not hold any of these offices and we never formally started a church. In fact, we never attempted to.
However, there has been an informal community of disciples around us ever since we opened up our family and our home and let others join us in our walk with Jesus.
This community has now existed for more than 40 years, and it continues with informal gatherings for meals, worship, bible study and teaching, prayer, counseling, working on a project, celebrations, hikes and other outdoor activities, parties, traveling, and of course, personal mentoring and baptism.
Some of these people have been living with us in our home for a year or two, or just for a few months, a few of them have been working with us daily. Most of them, though, live nearby in the city. Many of them are foreigners. They came as refugees or to finish their university studies.
We never had a membership list, a formally appointed leader, a board of elders, a budget, a constitution, a statement of faith, a list of core values, a mission statement - neither did we have any conflict, any splitting, or economic problem. And none of us ever got burned out.
We follow the vision and mission that Jesus gave his first disciples, to teach, to baptize and to train others.
Probably, most people today wouldn’t call it a “real" church, because they can’t see the typical signs for what they would regard a church, that is, a formal organization, aa building, an office and a weekly worship service on Sunday morning.
Nevertheless, there has been a constant flow of new connections, of teachings and modelings, and the building of community, in Jesus’ name and under the guidance of his Spirit.
Many of those who have been around us during these years now live in different countries and other continents. With some of them, we still are in touch, per email, through social media and through actually visiting each other. Flights are cheap nowadays and make it possible.
This wonderful bunch of people - we may call it a community - is both very little and quite large, anything between two or three and more than a hundred.
It’s both a local family and a worldwide community. It’s well defined by the people who are meeting at a place and a time, but it’s also hard to grasp due to its openness and flexibility.
It’s not a brand, not an organization, not a building, nor an office, but neither is it just an idea in our heads. It consists of real people, meeting at real places, doing real things together, for the sake of following Jesus and fulfilling his mission.
This community is held together through our commitment to Jesus as Lord and by our relationships. It’s straightforward and almost effortless, but it surely is glorious.
It’s a Jesus community.
God wants a family. Yet, man builds him an institution.
Are you a father or a mother? Then imagine what it would feel like, if your children, as they grow up, turned your family into an institution.
What would that be like?
- Formal membership instead of family relations
- Organized meetings and programs at special times of the week instead of common family life
- Rented facilities instead of homes
- Formal, elected leadership instead of parenthood
- Board meetings instead of family counsel
- Democratic voting instead of common agreement
- Symbolic, formalistic eating and drinking instead of real meals
- Tithings, and offerings whenever you come together… (The list goes on.)
Honestly, as a father or a mother, would you build your family like that? And as a child or a grandchild, would you like to carry on with that kind of a heritage? Is this what you want to hand on to your own children and grandchildren?
I doubt it.
How does the Lord feel about it? Is this how we best express our testimony about him who is our Father and who loves us and cares for us? Is this a true and convincing expression of his kingdom?
Again, I doubt it.
So why are we doing this? Why are we doing this to our Father in heaven, and to each other, and to the ones we disciple, to our spiritual children?
For how long do we want to carry on? For how long do you? – For sure, there is a better way.
Be a family!
It’s not difficult, and it’s not far away. You can start out with two or three others and right where you are. Any follower of Jesus can take the initiative, or join someone else and contribute. No matter, if inside or outside the institution. You don’t need a building or a program or a vision or a name or a constitution or a logo or a budget or a ministry or an office… And you don’t need permission.
It just takes a decision and initiation. Would that be a too hard or adventurous thing to do? What could possibly hinder you?
The choice is yours and mine. And also the responsibility.
Do you want to move forward? Make a positive change in your life?
But feel stuck?
Are you stuck in your past? Or your debts, your reputation, your failures, your self-esteem, your weight? Your salary, your negative experiences…? Is your spiritual life going in circles with mere religious routines and habits?
It’s easy to get stuck. And it’s easy to give up and stay where you are.
People spend huge amounts of time and money seeking to innovate and upgrade themselves, working to give up something, start or build something new, or change something about who they are and what they do.
And ultimately fail.
Reaching a place where they accept failure and stop dreaming.
You may call it wisdom or realism and try to turn it into a virtue, but it’s killing you. Killing your dreams, your ambitions, your initiatives, your self-esteem, your joy…
There is a better way. Change is possible for everyone.
Probably, change doesn’t come by just doing more of what you are already doing now. Working even harder, faster, longer, and sleeping less isn’t the answer. It simply ruins your health and your family.
Neither is it a matter of style or fashion or image cultivation, or of following the trend and trying to be cool. Real, lasting and satisfying change just isn’t accomplished by polishing the surface, but rather by a change on the inside.
To begin with, you’ll have to stop racing, stop pushing and stop forcing yourself.
And the same is true with the negative counterpart: Stop complaining, stop mourning, stop grieving and stop pitying yourself. Stop resigning. You’ll have to realize and acknowledge that whatever brought you to the point where you are now belongs to your past and that you are not obliged to go on with it for still another decade.
And no matter how successful your walk has been in the past, maybe you’ll have to admit that it finally turned out to be a dead end road for you. It may have been good for a long time, but now it’s not working out anymore. Not good enough. Not for the next five or ten or twenty years of your life.
The second step would be to let go.
Don’t try to save as much of the old as possible. Admitted, there are a lot of good things worth sparing. But, as the saying goes, the good is the enemy of the best. If you want to get anywhere, you can’t keep all the old stuff and let it occupy your space and your freedom, just because it might become useful again some day in the future. You can’t save it for eternity anyway.
There has to be some sort of inner capitulation, before you can step out into the new and unknown, the risky and the scary. And the rewarding and satisfying. Into your Father’s arms.
It often takes a crisis to make us willing.
And in fact, every crisis offers an opportunity for positive change. Yet, many never get all the way through to the other side where the new horizon becomes visible and the change possible.
They just don’t want to give up their security and their convenience. Or their illusion of who they are and what they have accomplished. Or their pride. Or fear.
Are you desperate enough to let go?
For being a disciple of Jesus, people may regard you as not being quite normal.
But what is ”normal”? In relation to what?
It could be many things, like eating breakfast in the morning, working during the day, watching the news in the evening, and sleeping at night. In that respect a disciple of Jesus wouldn’t necessarily stick out from the crowd and could be considered quite normal.
Yet, let’s think of some other more subtle aspects of life. Like for instance, our values, our fears and our desire for security.
It could be considered normal to not want to associate with certain kinds of people, like people from a different stratum of life than ours - the poor, the homeless, the foreigners, the social outcasts, those from another religious group, those who don’t share the same political views like us etc.
We usually don’t want to get involved with someone too different from ourselves. Or with someone in great need. We feel they will lower our level of happiness, security and comfort.
Yes, that’s absolutely normal!
It is normal to play it safe. It is normal to prefer the well-known and well-proven solutions instead of trying the new and unexplored ones. It is normal to avoid the unpredictable and the risky. It may even be considered normal to keep God out of the picture.
It is normal to follow the crowd.
Jesus wouldn’t fit in that sort of normality. He was anything but normal.
And as his follower, neither are you.
Brainwashing – the cleansing of your mind – can be something quite positive. It all depends on who is doing it, how it is done, and what the purpose is. Just consider these words from an apostle:
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Ro 12:2 NIV)
Again our questions of interest: Who is doing it, how is it done, and what is the purpose? My answers would be:
- You doing it
- with the help of the Spirit
- to reach maturity.
Maturity is what you see when you look at Jesus. Becoming more and more like him is God’s agenda for you. In fact, it’s an indispensable ingredient of discipleship. And as a follower of Jesus, this is what you are expected to get engaged in.
With all of your heart.
You do it by meditating on God’s lordship and holiness, on his words and his ways of seeing things from his perspective. It’s not a program or special activity. And it’s not something you do at certain times of the day or the week. Rather, it’s an on-going process. At all times.
You do it by filling your mind with everything that comes from God’s mind.
This causes you to constantly evaluate your motives for what you are doing and thinking. And, not to forget, of what you are hiding. It also causes you to adapt new and better attitudes, to take new decisions, and to form new habits.
You do it by casting out whatever you identify as belonging to that old Adam and fill yourself with what makes you more Jesus-like.
That’s brainwashing at its best!
It’s not a brutal process, but rather gentle, yet penetrating the deepest parts of your being.
Admitted, this isn’t easy. And it’s a long walk. At times it’s a struggle, probably the hardest possible for every one of us, because it’s a fight against our own fallen nature. And if it were not for the power and the wisdom of his Spirit, probably none of us would ever win that battle.
On the other hand, it’s also very rewarding, more than anything else we could try to accomplish.
This kind of “brainwashing” isn’t only very positive, it’s a necessity for any disciple of Jesus. The results will be just glorious, like the knowledge of God and freedom from self. And along with it the peace and joy that only heaven can give.
It’s for you!
Jesus didn’t promise you a safe and predictable life.
Many times, following him may rather feel the opposite. Like stepping out of the boat and walking on water…
What would that be like?
Setting a Jesus-standard
First, it demands a clear decision for the standard you want to set. It’s not always a given choice; you’ll have to find out and understand what the Jesus-standard in your situation actually is.
Don’t expect it to be convenient or easy. Nor will it always be familiar or acknowledged by those around you. It may not even necessarily fit into your religious tradition, or correspond to any cultural or political correctness.
Doing What’s Right
Be prepared to take a risk. To act in faith, despite the facts and your previous experience.
Don’t be satisfied with mediocrity. And don’t get trapped by the false security it gives you!
Insist on doing what’s right, not what’s easy or common or accepted.
Be determined to guard your integrity and your clear conscience, thus rejecting the slightest form of corruption and any other common form of wickedness. No matter how accepted they may seem to be.
This may lead you to make the impossible possible. Like making peace in the midst of enmity. Or creating hope where others only see despair. Or building trust in a world of lies and broken promises.
Resulting in slowly changing people’s attitudes. Convincing them to serve others instead of exploiting them.
Causing them, in turn, to step out of the boat.
Getting Involved With People
This urges you to get involved with people. Not only with your buddies, but also with those others: the weak, the poor, the foreigners, the refugees, the odd, and other neglected and marginalised people.
Giving faith to those who have no faith and hope to the hopeless, recognising their potential and investing where others have given up.
Stepping out of your boat…
It challenges your patience, your resilience and your grit. It tests your ability to practise forgiveness and loving-kindness at all times, even in the midst of disappointment, slander and betrayal.
Sooner or later your decisions will lead to action, and eventually your actions will bear fruit.
Looking at Jesus
Let’s resume: “Stepping out of the boat” outlines a way to do life that may be fundamentally different from the way many of us have learned to walk out their Christian life in the past. And the challenge may turn out to be even greater than we ever expect.
On the other hand, it also lets us experience far more of God’s glory than we ever might think would be possible.
Does this scare you? Or make you feel condemned?
Then don’t look at the waves. And don’t look at what you’re not capable of, or what you missed in the past.
Quit defending, explaining and arguing. Stop looking at yourself.
Look at Jesus!
Walking on Water
The only way to get involved with what God is doing today is to step out into the deep water and let him carry you on today’s current of his Spirit.
Today, do whatever his Spirit is leading you to.
Don’t be afraid!
Walking on water only comes to those who get out of their boat.
Following Jesus is more than about receiving his blessings.
A major portion of contemporary church teaching and culture has its focus on the blessings of the New Covenant.
And to an extent this is right. As disciples of Jesus we are living in God’s grace and are richly blessed. There is godly love, forgiveness, healing, deliverance and potentially the restoration of all areas of life available to anyone who believes.
However, this calls for wisdom.
If we make earthly blessings the primary focus of our message, we are straying from the gospel. And yet, if we make those blessings the goal of discipleship, we are dangerously jeopardizing the mission that Jesus gave us.
Don’t get me wrong, God loves to give and wants us to receive his blessings.
However, you cannot build a healthy relationship around just receiving.
A person who does not know God will not necessarily turn to God just because of having received a miracle. And a person that goes from one miracle service to another will not automatically become a disciple by doing this even more.
It seems that Jesus was aware of this. He didn’t take away people’s responsibility for their faith and he never used a miracle or a promise for tying them to himself or for luring them into discipleship. On the contrary, he pointed to alienation, insecurity, inconvenience, and persecution as the possible consequences of following him.
You cannot bless someone into maturity.
And you can’t bless someone into discipleship.
As a disciple of Jesus, your decision to lay down your life and submit to him must be primary. Earthly benefits are no reliable foundation for such a decision.
If preachers appeal to people’s desire for security, health and comfort, they must continue to meet those needs in order to make those people continue to attend their meetings. And if God fails to meet their expectations, these people may leave and look for another “man of God”. That’s what consumers do, not disciples.
The ultimate goal of following Jesus is not about satisfying our earthly needs. It is to bring glory to God, no matter what our needs or our circumstances.
And by his grace and by the power of his Spirit he will transform and glorify us.
More than we ever can imagine or ask for.
Don’t miss sharing your very best story!
As a disciple of Jesus, you have your special story. It’s your story about that personal encounter with Jesus which caused you to respond to his call and surrender to him. It’s the story about how you “got saved”. It’s your Jesus story.
It isn’t necessarily something that is perceived by your natural senses. Nevertheless, it is very real and tangible and very powerful, something that has happened at a certain point of your life between you and Jesus, and between you and the Father.
Before that point you may have had some knowledge about him, facts you had learned… But now you know him in a direct and personal way as your Saviour. Now you know that Jesus is real. It’s moved from just being mental assent to a heart realisation.
This knowledge combined with your personal story is your testimony. Without that testimony, you don’t really know Jesus. And without knowing him, it’s impossible to follow him. Without a testimony, you may call yourself a Christian, but you might just be participating in a good religion.
So what’s your story? Is it still alive? Is it still your treasure, or would it be time to dig it out again? After all, it’s one of the most powerful messages you have as a disciple.
You’d be a fool if you wouldn’t share it!
(In case you are not at that point yet, there is a Jesus story waiting for you.)
The most precious, the most challenging and at the same time the most rewarding conversations I can think of are the missional conversations with someone who doesn’t know Jesus, yet.
These are those sweet moments of grace, when heaven touches the earth, with Jesus present and someone with an open heart at the same table with you. And as you continue to meet, you can see the Spirit working conviction, redemption and transformation - a new life is about to take form.
This is what happened when Jesus met the Samaritan woman. And ever since has His Spirit been flowing in thousands and thousands of similar conversations, generation after generation, whenever and wherever a disciple connected with someone and shared the good news.
To see this happen is our privilege, our joy and our reward as followers of Jesus.
This is what we are called to. This is what Jesus empowered us to. And this is what He is absolutely passionate about.
There is no need to wait for a better time. According to the Lord it’s harvest time now and the harvest to be brought in is greater than ever before. Just open your eyes, it’s all around you.
So be ready at all times and let the Spirit lead you. There might be one of these sweet moments of grace prepared for you today.
The task of discipleship is to represent Jesus. This means to embody man’s redemption through Him, and to express this new reality in all aspects of life.
It’s an individual task of every disciple as well as a corporate one, and it’s a goal as well as an ongoing, daily process. It’s the formation of the disciple into what C. S. Lewis called a “Little Jesus”.
To hand this on to every human soul is the essence of the Great Commission.
Hence, all our efforts as individual disciples and as a community need to match up to that task. If Jesus-likeness is not the outcome, then our spiritual giftings and ministries, our worship services, Bible studies, campaigns and mission trips are all in vain.
I would say, it’s not at all an easy walk. Jesus didn’t promise a comfortable journey. Man’s sinful nature is a strong force that constantly works against us from within, and self-denial has never been a popular option for anyone.
There is a cross to carry for you as a “Little Jesus”. However, the beautiful side of the coin is that his indwelling Spirit has empowered you to overcome those obstacles.
There is victory for you through the power of his resurrection. And with it comes true freedom, fulfillment and joy.
As a disciple, don’t run ahead of Jesus! Let him go first.
That may include just about anything, but first of all it refers to our mission, to proclaim and to demonstrate his kingdom and to make disciples.
Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5), and I believe he meant it to be taken literally.
That’s, indeed, quite an authoritarian statement and nothing we would like to hear! Where does this leave room for my own decisions, preferences, abilities, opinion, taste, creativity…? Who would like to live in self-denial and follow a “despot” like that?
Well, most of us probably won’t. That’s why we have our own interpretations of what Jesus meant.
Our version goes somewhat like this:
Pray about a project.
Plan and start the project according to whatever feels good and seems reasonable, or what the budget allows, or whatever the situation requires or others expect.
Ask Jesus to follow that project, bless your decision and let you succeed in whatever you do. Moreover, whenever getting in trouble, ask Jesus for help, and when getting stuck, expect him to turn up and show the way out.
Isn’t this is a common way to put Jesus' words into practice? To us it may seem close enough to what he meant, yet, it’s far away.
Jesus intended to really lead us as our Lord from the beginning to the end. This means that we follow him in whatever he has prepared. He goes first and we follow him. After all, it’s all about his projects, not ours.
He absolutely did not mean to just walk behind us protecting our stupidities, blessing our self-centred ideas, glorifying our hubris, rescuing us from our failures, and cleaning up our messes after us!
It’s not stupid at all to let him go first and lead, on the contrary, it is very wise and mature. And it’s never a waste of time to wait on him before starting any project. He has the right timing, we don’t. And waiting has always been one of his foremost tools to prepare our character for the task.
Jesus knows what it means to follow; he had been a follower himself. He never did anything on his own, but listened to the Spirit and only did what the Father had prepared for him, right timing included.
This is why we do not read about any teaching or miracle before his baptism, that is, before the Spirit started leading him. And this is why he, in turn, commanded his disciples not to do anything before Pentecost, before the Spirit would come and lead them.
Do we really think that we are so much better than Jesus that we could march ahead on our own? Not first wait on the Lord and listen? We might end up building our own kingdom with having to bear all the costs by ourselves and suffering the consequences.
Therefore, don’t run ahead of Jesus! Wait on him, then follow.
Every revival seems to develop its own worship style and its specific methods and organisational structures for doing God’s work. And it’s quite legitimate to do so. New wine requires new wine skins.
However, it’s not the wine skin that makes the difference, but the wine. It’s not the worship style or a new style of preaching, teaching or praying that makes a revival. Electrically amplified sounds and flashy light effects by themselves do not add any spiritual value, neither is the presence of a large crowd in itself a sign for the Lord’s presence.
It’s not what’s happening around you, but what the Spirit does within you that leads to a revival. It’s the responsiveness of your heart that makes all the difference.
Nevertheless, we can get highly enthusiastic over fancy new ways of worshipping the Lord and “doing church” and are happy to invite others to join us in this “new experience”. And all this is fine, as long as it enables us to open our hearts and move on into a deeper relationship with the Lord.
However, the Lord is far more concerned with us as a person than He is with our worship style or any of our methods or experiences.
After all, He has his own, unique way of reviving sinners and preparing them for his work. It’s one that works through transformation of your mind and the response of your heart. And that transformation always involves emptying, suffering, and loss.
The human way to revive is to comfort, to please and to make happy. The Spirit of the Lord, however, leads to conviction, repentance and the burial of self.
Man’s way is to hand you excitement, the Lord’s way is to hand you the cross.
So, do you want revival the Jesus-way?
Have you ever spent a day or two in an overcrowded waiting room? Tired, sweaty, hungry, and bored to death - condemned to do nothing but wait?
I have been there, and I hated it. Those situations can quench your spirit and dry out your soul.
This makes me think of Nelson Mandela who spent more than 36 years of his life in a prison cell. What made this man survive mentally? What did he fill the emptiness of his imprisonment with? What did he accomplish in that cell that prepared him for presidency?
It also reminds me of those thousands of imprisoned followers of Jesus, their meaningless suffering, day after day, year after year, without ending, even today at this very moment.
What is it that makes disciples of Jesus keep their faith, hope and love in those circumstances? What enables them to bless others in the face of suffering?
Obviously, there is a choice we can make regarding the kind of thoughts we allow our minds to be filled with, no matter what the circumstances are. Even when having been robbed of everything, we still have a responsibility for what is going on inside of us. And we can do something about it.
Maybe an overcrowded waiting room isn’t that bad, after all. No matter how boring the place, I can do something about my boredom. I can remind myself of my calling and create something in my mind that changes the situation.
So, why not try to catch someone’s attention and send a smile? Or start a conversation and share a few encouraging words? It may turn the situation round for both of us and perhaps lead up to something exciting and totally unexpected.
It’s up to you and me to change a situation. Do we have the power to overcome? It all depends on what’s inside of us.
Or rather who is.
Jesus doesn’t want his followers to merely be attenders of church services.
His intent is to create a family, where common life is shared and mutual trust is cultivated. Moreover, he wants us to join him as partners in his mission.
As partners, we have been given the very same mission that the Father gave Jesus - not another mission. Our mandate simply is to proclaim and to demonstrate his kingdom in his name, and to make disciples.
However, as long as all that our leaders expect from us is attendance and tithing, we will never fulfil this glorious calling. And as long as Sunday worship services and programmes are the church’s primary concern, we will never have time and energy to spend on Jesus' primary concern, that is, on making disciples.
Even worse, in larger churches attenders easily get the impression that they wouldn’t really be missed. Once they start feeling this way, their passion will slowly diminish, and with it their attendance. They know the show will go on even without them.
Jesus never meant it to be like this.
He meant his disciples to be powerful tools in his hands. This requires us to reject the attendance and receiver model in church practice. Further, we must abandon any positional and institutional way of thinking. This would also include demolishing the wall between “clergy” and “laity”, between the more and the less spiritual, the professionals and the hobby workers.
We must persevere to see the church as a family, a community on mission with every disciple as an authorised and equipped agent of God’s kingdom.
In this kind of missional community, disciples are connected with each other by the Lord, by his indwelling Spirit and by their common cause, to reach every man and woman on this planet with the good news of his kingdom in their generation.
In churches like this, disciples knit their hearts together, share life and meals, and testify Jesus as the risen Lord. They create a safe and at the same time challenging environment for sharing God’s love.
Their unity is not made up by human loyalty or any kind of declaration or uniformity, but established through Jesus' redemptive power and their deep sense of depending on him and on each other. They stay faithful in that communion, because they know that the outcome of their lives depends on it.
Partners with Jesus know their mandate and their mission, and they form their lives accordingly. This, I believe, is the Jesus way of being his disciples and being his church.
Starting at the age of eight, I took piano lessons for ten years.
The lessons I was given were all about fingerings and techniques, about reading the notes and then playing more and more complex pieces. I did my best to practice these advanced compositions and somehow labored my way through them. I practiced and practiced and practiced…
And yet, at no point did someone show me how to free myself from the slavery of those notes and actually make music. To be able to just sit down and let the music flow, to have a good time creating something that others actually could enjoy.
Why didn’t I ever reach that point? More practice of the same kind would not have been the answer. Practice is indispensable if you want to make music, yet practice alone doesn’t create art.
That reminds me of church…
Pastors try to equip the saints by teaching and preaching from the pulpit, by doing more and more of the same kind of “exercises” week after week. How many sermons does it take to make a disciple? And how many sermons would be necessary to eventually free a disciple from the need of being fed by these sermons? When will a disciple be able to step out and start performing the art of disciple making?
For most of us, it’s probably not done by listening to many more sermons. No, real disciple making only comes from getting involved with people. From caring enough to leap, to bleed for one another and for the lost. From leaving the greenhouse environment and going out into the world, where it’s risky to be a follower of Jesus.
This is when we leave “the slavery of those notes” behind and start making music ourselves. Probably, there will be a lot of improvising, especially in the beginning, and technically this ”music” may not always meet the highest standards, yet it will touch lives.
Disciple making is the kind of “music” the Lord wants us to play, and his Spirit is going to make it sound real heavenly.
There are plenty of books available on discipleship. They tell you what a disciple is and how you can become a good one. Unfortunately, reading books on discipleship does not necessarily make you a disciple.
Real discipleship is worked out only through ’doing’, and doing something that you haven’t done before. Breaking a habit, stepping out into the unsafe, taking a risk, feeling uncomfortable for a while… all these are part of becoming a disciple. It may seem scary, yet it’s the only way forward.
Following Jesus involves to listen to his Spirit inside of you and then take practical steps. It means that you enter a process of transformation and actually change. Unless you become proactive and take that first step forward, nothing will happen, and everything will remain the same. Knowledge that you don’t put into practice just gives you an illusion of progress, in reality there is none.
Admittedly, it’s pretty hard to do something that you haven’t seen someone else do…
Therefore, when it comes to training disciples, we are in desperate need of examples and mentors. We need experienced disciples who are willing to hand on what they have learned through the years and through their own failures. Being only around people who are on your same level of maturity or possibly lower, does not really help in this goal. You need someone who has something you don’t have.
Why not take a moment to think of someone in your life who has spiritual qualities that you’d love to grow into? If you feel the Lord drawing you to such a person, then why not take courage and ask him or her to be your mentor? You might take this person by surprise.
Maybe he or she has never been a mentor before and feels a bit clueless on how to respond to such a request. But this is part of the beauty of this journey. It will be an adventure for both of you. Your friendship will evolve and you will have some wonderful learning experience together.
What if both of you fail? So what! That’s part of the deal! You learn from it and move on. There is no better option.
Why don’t you give it a try!
I strongly dislike imitations.
There’s an honesty and a beauty with plain materials like wood, steel, stone, leather or wool, which an imitation can never achieve. Imitations are cheap, and they are fake. They are made for those who don’t have the feel for the real or just can’t afford it, yet want an illusion of the real stuff.
It’s similar with people. There is a unique beauty in every human being - especially when they are honest, natural and authentic, without any pretension. We are made in God’s image, everyone of us, and it seems that he never ran out of creativity.
So, why should you pretend or try to imitate someone? Become a cheap copy that never has a chance to match up with the original? Why shouldn’t you be true to yourself? Isn’t there a unique beauty just with you and your life?
Well, there is. However, there is even more.
The Apostle Paul wrote about imitating Jesus as a way to maturity. What did he mean by that?
In this case, imitating isn’t the same as pretending, it’s rather the opposite. This imitation leads to authenticity. The more you become like Jesus, the more you find freedom to be your true self.
The hard part is that you’ll have to give up your ego before finding that. Jesus said, “Whoever loses his life… will find it.”
Becoming an imitator of Jesus isn’t cheap and it’s not fake.
And what about Paul? Didn’t he also claim to be an example for others, so that they by imitating him would become more Christ-like? We probably don’t mature as disciples only by listening to speeches or reading books.
We need someone who let’s us get close to them, so that we can see and experience what a disciple is like in all aspects of daily life. In this case, imitation truly is a good thing.
What are your thoughts on this? Let me hear from you.
It’s always inspiring to read about people who have accomplished great things in their lives, like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham…
Or, who wouldn’t be touched by hearing about that African woman who started teaching other women to make baskets, which over the course of several years developed into a multi-million dollar business, and thereby giving a steady income to thousands of women in the villages around?
Have you ever dreamt of becoming such a person, doing something great for humanity, and for the Lord?
Even though these examples have a positive impact on us and success is absolutely nothing to be scorned at, yet, for followers of Jesus these kind of dreams take on a whole new perspective.
As disciples, our intention can never be to do something just for the sake of being remarkable. Our desire must be to please the Lord, that is, to follow the Spirit and to serve others, without any hidden agenda. And the outcome of that engagement shouldn’t be measured by worldly standards.
Success in a spiritual sense is not always visible and seldom is it acknowledged. Many times it may look more like a defeat than a victory, and its special “glory” often seems to come with self-denial and suffering. For instance, take Jesus on the cross or the apostle Paul with his many drop backs.
Hence, the people who we regard as successful in God’s kingdom, probably never did it for the sake of getting recognised. They saw a need and accepted the challenge to do something about it. Mother Teresa didn’t start her mission for the poor of Kolkata with the Nobel Peace Price in mind.
On the other hand, if you start out with the intention to do something remarkable for the Lord, the chances are that you will never get there. He might put you on hold, until those ambitions have come down to zero. Or, in case you keep insisting, let you run right into your failure.
God’s kingdom includes an army of silent, unknown workers, operating in the secret, being independent of public recognition and seldom celebrated as heroes. To others it may look remarkable or not, that’s not the point.
They don’t consider themselves remarkable, but admit their weaknesses and acknowledge their total dependency on the Lord who gives them both wisdom and strength. They have their joy in the Lord and give him the glory.
Is this what you are dreaming of?
All of my five kids are brilliant cooks. At least that’s what I think. After all, they cook like their dad!
They are not merely recipe followers; they are creative and intuitive in their cooking style. For instance, they can develop their recipes on the go, and even whip up something exciting with almost nothing.
How did they become so skilful? I never enrolled them into a cooking school, never gathered them around the kitchen table for cooking class, and never once read a cooking book to them!
Here’s the secret! When they were somewhere around 2 to 5 years old, I would let them sit in the kitchen with me while I did my cooking! Instead of making them sit in front of the TV for hours or sending them to their room, I let them be with me in the kitchen, but only one of them at a time (That’s part of the secret!).
I would make this little guy or girl sit on the left side of my working space, between the sink and the stove, right in the middle of where everything was happening. They watched me cut the onions and tomatoes, wash the lettuce, fry the mushrooms, the eggs and the meat, cook the pasta and the rice, peel the potatoes, and a thousand other things.
While doing all this, I would be giving a live commentary, describing what I did, how I did it and sometimes even why. I also gave them a little taster from time to time. When everything was done, we would eat it together with the rest of the family.
I must admit that I didn’t really have the intention to turn them into great cooks. I never had a curriculum or any specific goal. I just did what was practical and fun.
Today, more than 20 years later, I can see the results. My son Jonas, for example, is managing the kitchen all by himself, with the joy of feeding his own family with two kids, guests included. And he does it with such precision, speed, joy and excellence!
Isn’t that very much what disciple making is like?
You join lives together. Side by side you do what is necessary and useful in the Kingdom and reflect it together. And you’re having a good time!
There is no need for specific programs. You just do your natural life of a disciple, and let someone else join in. And while you are doing it, you describe the what, the how and the why.
You indeed walk the talk and talk the walk.
Everybody likes applause. It’s encouraging, uplifting, satisfying, flattering…
A professional performer will tell you that applause is far more than just an act of courtesy. It’s a reward, many times more worth than wages. It’s a necessity, something worth labouring and living for.
However, the crowd is unreliable, and their applause only momentary. People have a constant appetite for more, and they quickly forget about your past achievements.
They happily applaud you as long as you continue to meet their expectations and as long as they can celebrate you as their hero.
Yet, the day will come when you will disappoint them, and then you are out. Who would care less, then?
Even Jesus received applause from those around him.
However, he was never looking for it and he never trusted it. Nor did his life depend on it. He knew he couldn’t rely on the crowd.
Instead, he totally focused on pleasing his Father and on working out his mission. This is where he found his fulfilment.
It’s nice to receive applause from people. Yet, the Father’s applause is the only applause worth living for.
Jesus didn’t establish a chain of authority.
While some of his disciples expected to receive formal positions in his kingdom, Jesus refused to create a hierarchical system.
He said to them, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so among you.”(Mt 20:25 NIV)
Surprisingly and in spite of these words, most churches are organized as hierarchies, very much like public authorities or business companies, following a system of government that is in effect contrary to what Jesus had in mind.
In contrast, Jesus envisioned a spiritual family with deep covenantal relationships. You don’t accomplish this through bureaucracy or management. In his kingdom, we submit to Jesus’ lordship. Here, authority is not delegated downward but distributed outward, equally to everyone. Its purpose is not to control and govern people, but to advance his Kingdom against spiritual darkness.
Each disciple is connected to Jesus directly. Every new-born believer has the same opportunity to live under his authority, not under another disciple, albeit a leader or a teacher. Still, there will always be leaders and teachers and other anointed ministries. The point is that we do not govern or control each other through formal positions and formal power. There is equal access and empowerment and status for everyone.
Hierarchies with their chains of authority are invalid expressions for what the church is or should be. In fact, these systems are counterproductive to what Jesus had in mind.
Therefore, let’s free ourselves and one another.
Let’s break those chains!
Doesn’t everyone want to be happy? And don’t we all like to hang around people who make us happy? Why not let maximizing people’s happiness be one of our foremost goals then? Wouldn’t that be a good way to serve humanity?
Interestingly, Jesus never spoke about happiness as a goal worth striving for, nor did he promise it to any of his followers. While showing mercy and compassion to those who came to him, he never allowed people’s needs or expectations to govern him. He knew his agenda and followed it consequently. His mission was not to offer temporal happiness, but to rescue us for eternity.
Trying to make people happy is like climbing a slippery slope. It doesn’t matter whether the needs of people around you or their expectations are legitimate or not. In our pursuit to “be all things to all people” we will definitely detour from our mission as disciples.
Jesus exercised tremendous discernment to know what to do in every situation. You and I, as disciples of Jesus, have the potential to act in a similar way. We can and must carefully discern the voice of the Spirit from the never-ending lamentations of unmet needs, ours included.
It takes courage, perseverance and high attention to climb the steep rocks of Jesus' commission. The slippery slope of pleasing people may look like a more convenient option, yet it’s treacherous. Once you start sliding, what security do you have?
Is it possible to think of others and ourselves as being “good Christians” while actually being lousy followers of Jesus?
Or, is it possible to hold a prominent position in church, yet lack some basic Jesus-like character traits, like humility, mercy or a serving attitude?
As long as we keep our audience at a distance, it’s actually possible to pretend and to preach and teach beyond the level of our own spiritual life. However, it’s impossible to make a disciple by pretending.
For instance, we can’t show someone how to pray beyond the quality of our own prayer life, and we can’t lead someone into a serving attitude beyond our own willingness to serve. We can’t foster someone’s character past the level of our own character, and we can’t impart any spiritual qualities that we don’t have…
When letting others come close and share our day-to-day life, our true self can’t help but get exposed.
It’s possible to pretend and to cheat ourselves, yet, in the long run we won’t be able to cheat the people around us. And it’s impossible to cheat the Lord.
This may sound scary, yet should not keep us from doing something about it. Let’s face it. Discipleship calls for radical honesty!
When getting transparent with others, our weaknesses may get exposed and we may have to acknowledge that we are not as mature or spiritual as others or we thought we were. We may even discover that we, in fact, are in great need of help and of getting discipled ourselves.
That acknowledgment in itself, I would say, is priceless and would be a good start!
Church membership doesn’t turn you into a disciple.
We deceive ourselves when we think that membership has any long lasting spiritual significance. We can’t look to it as an indicator for our inner life or spiritual maturity, much less a guarantee for salvation.
However, this is exactly what easily happens when we view ourselves and others within the subculture of our church or denomination. How do we, for example, assess the spiritual condition of our kids? Membership, attendance and a conformed behavior don’t really say so much.
So how can we know better? The short and simple answer is, it needs to be discerned in the spirit.
Our problem is that spiritual reality is not measurable the way we are used to measure things. The kernel of discipleship lies outside the institutional and cultural paradigm. Discipleship is not only more than membership, it is completely different. It belongs to the spiritual realm, and cannot be identified by surface criteria, like formal membership, jargon or conduct.
Perhaps we know people whom we regard as disciples, but who are really not. On the other hand, we may meet someone whom we regard as not being a disciple, but this person actually is. Our spiritual perception is easily blurred, because we get lured by what we perceive with our natural senses. And we are easily impressed by what we consider “good fruit”, like a church’s growing membership and high weekly attendance.
“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16,7)
Large numbers belong to these outward appearances. Counting people is a very human, yet, deceitful attempt to measure spiritual quality. The Lord has never been fond of it.
So let’s take all that for what it is and focus on what really matters spiritually. Let’s learn to discern surface appearance and true, genuine spiritual life. Let’s not be satisfied with making members, but…
Hmm… What did Jesus say?
Institutions and offices cannot make disciples. Only disciples can.
Institutions can plan and execute, administrate and produce. They can influence and direct. And they can do a good job at all this!
The typical process how institutional churches are run starts with bringing people to “church”, engaging them in church activities and programs, making them agree to certain doctrinal beliefs, and socializing them into their specific church culture, with the ultimate goal of generating members and church workers. But we have to realize that all these efforts do not necessarily make one a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Making disciples works at a much deeper level with profound implications.
It starts out with God initiating something new in a person’s life, through a personal encounter, resulting in a new birth on the inside, and over time, a gradual transformation of his motives, attitudes and actions.
This process is most likely facilitated by a fellow disciple one-on-one, bringing the new born under the supreme lordship of Jesus. This person accompanies the new believer for a limited time, training him and empowering him to make disciples himself.
It’s a wonderful, shared journey. At times, especially in the beginning, it can be a labour and a struggle.
Disciples are made by people who are familiar with that struggle and filled with the realization of the victory that Jesus has won for them. They know who they are in him, and what they are able to do in his name. They know his heart and recognize his voice in their spirits. They impart to others who they are and what they are. And in and through all this they give glory to the Lord.
Institutions and offices can never achieve all this. Only disciples can!
You can do what your “church” as an organisation never can.