How the Kingdom Multiplies

Recently we had a farewell cookout for Jeremy and Julia Quigley who have been part of our ministry in Chicago for seven years. The first time I remember Jeremy was the night Ryan Seibert had invited him to our apartment for dinner.  Afterward I was cleaning up the kitchen and Jeremy said to me, “Lewie, I need to go home and study but what happened this evening is what I have been looking for my whole life and I am afraid if I leave now I will never find it again.” Well after seven years not only is Jeremy still hanging around but he and Julia have made many disciples and hosted countless meals in their home.

At the farewell we had a limited amount of time so I asked that only those who had been discipled by Jeremy or Julia to share their appreciation. There were tears as one after another men and women shared how their lives were forever changed because of the Quigley’s love. And then the unexpected happened-Peter spoke up and said, “Well I was not directly discipled by Jeremy but I am his spiritual grandson so I want to express my appreciation for him discipling Neal who discipled me.” Then Michael broke in and said “I was not discipled by Jeremy either but I have to say ‘thanks’ because Jeremy discipled my brother which made a huge impact on his life.” Then Derek spoke up and said, “I’m like Michael, though Jeremy did not disciple me he did disciple my brother which so changed his life that it impacted my family and my spiritual life.”

That evening we witnessed the multiplying nature of disciple-making. Jesus used agriculture to illustrate how the kingdom of God spreads and how only if the seed is placed in the ground with warmth and moisture does it germinate and produce a plant that will produce other seeds. Seeds sitting on the shelf do not multiply. Jesus said to his disciples:

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:23-26

Over the years Jeremy and Julie have consistently laid down their lives for others by pursuing them, by listening well, by giving groceries, by having people in their home for dinner, and by frequent hugs. As a result of their love for others there are now men and women throughout the country and around the world who are making followers of Jesus.

Friendship and Surrender

As Jonathan and David’s story unfolds, we see deeper into Jonathan’s heart. He was in line to inherit the throne from his father, Saul, but due to Saul’s stubbornness and disobedience, his family lost the right of succession. Jonathan’s loss of the throne was due to no fault of his own, and yet he stayed submissive to the purpose of God even though it meant a lesser role for him. Not only was it a diminished role, but he submitted himself to the very man who was to take his place on the throne.

    And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and

helped him find strength in God. “Don’t be afraid,”

he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you.

You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you.”

  Even my father Saul knows this.” (1 Samuel 23:16-18,

emphasis added)

Jonathan had the freedom to love and serve David rather than consider him a threat because he was surrendered to God’s purpose in all things. Viewing others from a surrendered heart removes all threat and gives us the opportunity and privilege to lay down our lives for our friends, first out of our love for God but also out of love for our friends and disciples. Also, David could trust Jonathan because Jonathan’s surrendered heart would never allow him to thwart God’s plan. A surrendered heart finds joy in making others a success, no matter the cost.

In closing:

  • As a disciple-maker you must surrender to the Lord’s purpose not only for your life but also for your disciple’s life (or your child’s life if a parent) even if it does not fit into your ideals or desires.
  • Trust is built between you and your disciple and between your disciple and the Lord as he witnesses your continual surrender to the Lord’s purpose for your life and for his life. (David observed Jonathan’s life for 13 years.) Many have felt like pawns in the hands of others, sadly even in the name of God and Christianity, so it will be extraordinary for him to find someone who has God’s purpose and concern for his life over other agendas.
  • Your surrender to the Lord’s purpose will empower your disciple to surrender to the Lord’s purpose for his life.

 

 

 

The Pursuit of Beauty

Beauty transforms lives. To follow Jesus is to pursue beauty because he is the embodiment of all that is beautiful. The story of Jesus in his life, death, and resurrection is the most beautiful ever told.

Jesus demonstrates for us how to replace the odious with the beautiful through his interaction with his disciples. Beauty is cultivated in the life of a disciple by him experiencing the beautiful. Jesus taught his men the beauty of serving by washing their feet. Later they experienced the beauty of placing others ahead of themselves when Jesus laid down his life for them.

The cost of making a disciple is your willingness to sacrifice your life for your disciple in order for him to experience beauty. Just being taught about serving or being instructed about sacrifice does not change a life; rather it is by the laying down of your life for your disciple that he will come to understand spiritual truth. It is only in the experience of being served or in the experience of having another lay down his life for you does the life changing power of beauty take affect.

Longing to Belong

Parents and disciple makers get it wrong when they try and form a person’s character by outward conformity.  It is putting the second thing first, the cart before the horse.  To make a disciple of Jesus begins by engrafting him into a group (family) where he belongs and then out of this belonging will flow the character of Jesus. It is the first thing.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “…you can’t get second things by putting them first.  You get second things only by putting first things first” [1]. It is fruitless to try and get your disciple to live by kingdom values or to have a right attitude if he does not understand to whom he belongs.  You will become frustrated and you will frustrate your disciple if you do not begin by helping him unite to God and to a people, which I would argue are inseparable.

Man is created in the image of God, which means he was designed to belong.  When your disciple feels disconnected his behavior will become erratic and often self-destructive as he seeks to compensate for his detachment.   He will attach himself to some inappropriate group through inappropriate bonds to give the illusion that he belongs somewhere and to someone.

When Jesus called his men to follow him, he was also calling them to belong to a group of 12 other men. Jesus formed a community not only because it flowed out his nature but also because he knew that for his disciples to live as God intended they must belong to one another through bonds formed by love.

In closing:

  • Rarely do I disciple someone apart from being with him in community.
  • A large part of the discipling process is teaching your disciple how to love and receive love and how to serve others and to be served in community.
  • Starting a discipling community is difficult as seen in Jesus’ disciples’ relationship with one another.  It is more difficult than starting a bible study, small group, or maybe even a church plant.  It takes months and years rather than weeks.  The process does become easier as your disciples learn how to love one another.

[1] C.S. Lewis, “First and Second Things,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Eerdmans, 1994), p. 280.

 

Disciple Making and Children #2

Recently I was with a Jewish couple that had converted from Judaism to Christianity.  One difficulty in the transition was the home life.   Judaism had provided for them a template for a Jewish home (e.g., keeping the Sabbath, Passover, and feasts, etc.), whereas Christianity gave them little help on what a Christian home should look like.  (Other than they were told to be sure and get their children into Sunday school and youth group.)  As Voddie Baucham points out, Christianity’s approach to ministry communicates to parents: “leave the spiritual training of your children to the professions.” [1]

God gave the Israelite parent the responsibility for the spiritual training of their child.  To be an Israelite meant to train children for a lifetime-not only were they expected to teach their own children but also their grandchildren.  “…teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Deuteronomy 4:9-10)

Since God is familial (Father-Son-Holy Spirit) the best environment for a child to learn and experience the nature of God is in a family.  Are there benefits for a child in attending Sunday school, children’s ministry, vacation bible school, and youth group? Sure.  But the best context for him to experience sacrificial love, belonging, grace, and a servant’s heart is in a home.  Here, day after day, year after year, a child learns what it means to belong in a family just as the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are in perfect union.


[1] Voddie Baucham  http://media.sermonindex.net/15/SID15607.mp3

 

The Kindness of Friendship

Jonathan is my hero.  He provides for us an example of the heart of friendship a discipler should have towards his disciple.  Though a courageous warrior, Jonathan was a kind man, living counter to his surroundings and upbringing.  His father, King Saul, was an angry, violent, proud, and irrational person. Although his siblings were products of their environment, Jonathan became humble, loyal, affectionate, and a good friend.  He gives us hope that we are not fated to repeat our family’s dysfunction and self-destructive behavior.

As the story of Jonathan and David’s friendship unfolds we get a glimpse into the heart of Jonathan.  Though heir to the throne, Jonathan was submissive to the purpose and will of God even though it meant for him a displacement to a secondary role.  He actually chose to be a friend to the very man who would take his place as king.

But are there really any secondary roles in God’s economy?   I do not believe that David could have become the man of God that he did without the foundation of Jonathan’s friendship in his life.  Jonathan not only loved David but he taught him how to place a confidence in the purpose of God.  Once when David was running for his life from Saul, Jonathan was able to speak courage into the heart of David because of his own trust in the sovereignty of God.

And Saul’s son, Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.  “Don’t be afraid,” he said.  “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you.  You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you.  Even my father Saul knows this.”  The two of them made a covenant before the Lord.  Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.  (1 Samuel 23:16-18)

Placing others ahead of myself is at the heart of following Jesus and making disciples.  To be a follower of Jesus is to live for others.  This is not only what Jesus taught but also what he displayed by his life.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  (Mark 10:45)

When I place the interest of my friend’s life ahead of my own I am illustrating the good news of Jesus to the world.   My nature is to watch out for myself and trust no one.  Only my surrender to the sovereign purpose of God can rescue me from the pull of self-centeredness.

Jonathan embraced God’s purpose for his own life by understanding and embracing God’s purpose for his friend David’s life.  Jonathan then purposed to join God in making David king and to serve him as the second man; in other words, to make David a success.

It is when I recognize that there is a divine purpose for the life of my disciple and that I willingly join the Holy Spirit in fulfilling that purpose, no matter the cost, that I become a true friend.    Many want a Jonathan and David type friendship but few are willing to pay the price.  It is in losing my life for the sake of a friend that I find my own life’s purpose.

Hospitality: A Starting Point For Making Disciples

Hospitality is a good starting place for making disciples.  It provides for you an opportunity to serve your disciple and to carve out a safe place for him to belong. Serving and making followers of Jesus are inseparable.  Jesus told his disciples:

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  (Mark 10:43-45)

Hospitality not only allows your disciple to observe service to others, it also provides him an opportunity to become part of the serving process; whether it is cutting the bread, setting the table, or taking drink orders.  Teaching your disciple hospitality is an important component for the spreading of the gospel through serving others.

Henri Nouwen writes:

How does healing take place?  Many words, such as care and compassion, understanding and forgiveness, fellowship and community, have been used for the healing task of the Christian minister.  I like to use the word hospitality, not only because it has such deep roots in the Judaeo-Christian tradition, but also, and primarily, because it gives us more insight into the nature of response to the human condition of loneliness.  Hospitality is the virtue which allows us to break through the narrowness of our own fears and to open our houses to the stranger, with the intuition that salvation comes to us in the form of a tired traveler.  Hospitality makes anxious disciples into powerful witnesses, makes suspicious owners into generous givers and makes closed-minded sectarians into interested recipients of new ideas and insights.

Recommended Reading on Hospitality:

  • “Real Love for Real Life:  The Art and Work of Caring” by Andi Ashworth.  Colorado Springs: Shaw Books.  ISBN  0-87788-048-4
  • “Contagious Holiness:  Jesus’ Meal with Sinners” by Craig L. Blomberg.  Downers Grove:  InterVarsity Press.  ISBN  0-8308-2620-3
  • “Reaching Out:  The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life” by Henri J.M. Nouwen. Garden City: Doubleday. ISBN  0-385-03212-9
  • “A Gentleman Entertains: A Guide to Making Memorable Occasions Happen” by John Bridges and Bryan Curtis.  Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 2000.  ISBN 1-55853-812-7 (Great for beginners!)
  • Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition” by Christine D. Pohl.
  • “L’Abri” by Edith Schaeffer.  Wheaton:  Crossway Books, 1969, 1992.  ISBN  0-89107-668-9

Why Hospitality?

Making disciples of Jesus is best done in the context of your home, whether for your natural children or your spiritual children.  Disciples are the children of God; therefore the home is an ideal environment for a disciple to experience, (1) the parental nature of God, (2) what it means to belong to a family, (3) how to love and serve others, and (4) how to attach to brothers and sisters.  Children can witness what it means to follow Jesus by observing the daily lives of their parents in various circumstances.

In the West we tend to compartmentalize our lives, often separating our ministry from our home.  Even when ministry is conducted in the home, it tends to be done as a “study” or “meeting” rather than being a family gathering.  (In the many small group training conferences that I have attended, never did “family” or “a meal” enter the discussion.  A house was only a convenient place to hold a meeting.)

Some Benefits of Hospitality:

  • Hospitality provides you an opportunity to serve your disciple.  (Serving is another way to say “I love you”.)
  • Hospitality opens up your life to your disciple.  (A person’s home tells a lot about a person.  I have been in very few homes of pastors or church leaders.)
  • Hospitality provides your disciple an opportunity to observe how you relate to your wife and children.
  • Hospitality provides an opportunity for your children to serve others and to learn how to share.
  • Hospitality provides an opportunity for your children to love others and for others to love your children.   (A hug from a 4 year old will melt any heart.)
  • Hospitality provides an opportunity for your children to observe how you minister and interact with others.
  • Hospitality provides a place for your disciple to belong.
  • Hospitality provides a place for your disciple to serve.  (Help cook, help clean up, help with the children)
  • Hospitality provides you an opportunity for you to observe how your disciple relates to others.

Hospitality and the Gospel

The question I am asked most often is “what does your ministry look like?” Although there are many components to our approach, hospitality would be central. If you would ask how we make disciples, I would say through the means of hospitality.  If you would ask our method for evangelism, again I would answer hospitality.

At my last church we were teaching through the qualifications of an elder, one of which is hospitality.  My immediate question was, “If hospitality is a qualification for spiritual leadership, then why was it not part of my pastoral training?” Although we would have said that our church was hospitable, as an elder I had to admit that I knew little of hospitality.  I had lived in the same apartment for 10 years with only 6 overnight guests and no dinner guests.  (Friends made fun of the fact that I used my oven for storage.)

In contrast, over the past 5 years we have had nearly a thousand overnight guests and even more dinner guests in our Chicago apartment.  Our prayer has been “bring the right people to us and keep the wrong people away.” We keep prepared for the unexpected guest, whether for a meal or overnight.

Rachel Davis is a friend in the hospitality industry.  She taught me the difference between entertainment and hospitality.  Entertainment is about “me” as the host or hostess-how my house looks, the quality of food, how good of a party I can give- whereas hospitality is about others and serving them.  As the Father, Son, and Spirit opened up their family at a great sacrifice allowing us to be adopted as children of God, so we can open up our homes to give an experiential demonstration of the love of the God to others.   It is hard work.  It does take time and cost money, but it is the sacrifice that empowers hospitality to be an illustration of the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Teaching Your Disciples How to Love #1

Love is the mark of a follower of Jesus.  Yet for many, love does not come easy.  It is vital in the training of your disciples that they learn not only how to express their love for others, but also how to receive love from others.  Some love easily but have a difficult time accepting love, while others receive love with no trouble but have a difficult time expressing love.

Recently I was with one of our groups of disciples and in my private conversations I was impressed with the love each of the members had for one another.  I had assumed that they all knew of this mutual respect, but later I found out that none of the members had expressed their love to the others because embarrassment had closed off their heartfelt affection.   Immediately I went to each person (most issues are best resolved outside of a group meeting) and gave them the assignment of meeting face to face with each member to express their love exactly as they had told it to me.

Kierkegaard exhorts us:

Your friend, your beloved, your child, or whoever is the object of your love, has a claim upon its expression also in words when it really moves you inwardly.  The emotion is not your possession but the other’s . . . you should let the mouth speak out of the abundance of the heart; you should not be ashamed of your feelings and still less of honestly giving to each one his due. [1]

Some tips I have learned along the way:

  • Encourage your disciple to express the specific reason(s) why he loves another rather than just a general “I love you, man!”
  • Help your disciple look for opportunities to serve others in the group.  Nothing says “I love you” like meeting the need of another.
  • Discuss with your disciple the strengths of others and then encourage him to express his appreciation for those strengths to that individual.  It is easy to focus on the weakness of another which causes us to be blind to his strengths.  “Wherever there is building up, love is present, and wherever love is, there is building up.” [2]
  • The book “The Heart of the Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman is helpful in providing practical ways for your disciples to express their love for one another.
  • Individual attention.  Have each of your disciples get together one-on-one and for the purpose of listening to each other’s life stories.

[1] Kierkegaard, Soren. “Works of Love”, (New York: Harper Perennial, 1962), 29.

[2] Kierkegaard, Soren. “Works of Love”, (New York: Harper Perennial, 1962), 204.