Liberation from Loneliness

God also wants you to reach out to make the cord stronger. Yes, I’ve charged the lonely with taking the initiative. But I think each of us also has the responsibility to look out for the stray sheep. Just as Jesus spoke of leaving the ninety-nine to seek out the lone lamb, you and I have a special ministry in pulling in those who are estranged and alienated. We should rise on Sunday morning, have our time with God, and ask Him to send us to the one who needs us the most. It’s easy for us to gravitate to the great herd of sheep where we’re comfortable and loved. That’s a good thing, but let’s also go where we’re needed. The ministry of acceptance and encouragement is our distinguishing mark in this world.

Many today know the name of Anne Frank whose family was imprisoned in its own home during the Second World War. We read about the family’s troubles in the diary that Anne kept all through the experience. Millions have read it or seen the movie based upon it. This family lived every day with the fear of discovery. And yet along with the claustrophobia and daily fear, Anne nurtured other feelings in her heart—including joy. Anne spoke of climbing the ladder to the loft and looking out at the blue sky.  She said, “ ‘As long as this exists,’ I thought, ‘this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?’ ” She reminds us that we can lose everything external—people, things, even prestige—“But the happiness in your own heart can only be dimmed.”

You and I can have that kind of overcoming hope as we look to the heavens, but our hope is not in clouds or sun or sky. We have Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe, living in us. The ground beneath us may crumble, and the skies may pour torrential rain or the chaos of the whirlwind. But those things are not eternal as He is. The light of day lasts a few hours, and the light of a lifetime burns for perhaps eighty years. But the Light of the Savior shines now and forever. That’s why my circumstances don’t define me, don’t limit me, don’t even thrill me. My hope is in Him, and He will never fail. He will never depart. He will always be greater than our needs.

David Jeremiah, Slaying the Giants in Your Life (Nashville, TN: W Pub., 2001), 52.


This article excerpted from Slaying the Giants in Your Life.

Slaying the Giants in Your Life is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Postponing Your Procrastination

Spurgeon was once preaching on eternal life, and he caught the eye of a godly woman sitting near the front. She had been in his church many years, and Spurgeon knew her faith was strong. There was some special gleam in her eye today; Spurgeon couldn’t be certain what it meant, but preachers draw power and encouragement from attentive faces. He caught her eye repeatedly as he preached on paradise—until a certain possibility occurred to him. Spurgeon paused in his preaching and asked the man beside this woman to check her wrist for a pulse. She had none. The woman had gone on to the next life with the gleam of heaven already present in her eye.

In her case, everyone was able to praise God for the assurance of her salvation and the peaceful and appropriate manner of her death. But what about you? What unfinished business do you have? Are you counting on the next day, the next month, the next year without really being certain if such things will be available?

Tomorrow is an uncertain proposition. “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). The Bible makes this point on several occasions. Only today has been placed in your hands; God set you in time. He locked you into the present to cut you off from the past and the future. The Bible employs eighteen different metaphors to remind us of the brevity and uncertainty of life. It’s like a vapor, for example, appearing for a moment before dissolving forever. You planned a picnic for tomorrow, and it rained. You expected to pay your bills tomorrow, and your child became ill. Tomorrow you’ll start that diet; tomorrow you’ll spend time with God; tomorrow you’ll call your grandparents. Let’s pause with that one.

Have you ever wished you had just a piece of yesterday back—just a tiny piece—to speak one more time to someone who passed away? Are there things you wish you had said to your departed parents? A brother or sister you’ve lost? An affectionate grandmother you never thanked? A question you’d like to ask?

If you pile up enough tomorrows, you end up with a lot of empty yesterdays.

James was one of the three men who slept in the garden while Jesus agonized on the night of His passion. After Jesus’ ascension, James knew what it meant to lose the most important person in the world—to long to say, in the flesh, the things that went unsaid. He lived to write a letter about the Christian life. Perhaps the most urgent of all the epistles, it efficiently contains one command for every two verses. Included in James’s wise counsel is this:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:13–14)

Tomorrow, James is telling us, is the most deadly word in the Bible. It is lazy. It is presumptuous. It is reckless. The word God prefers is today. Hebrews 3:13 warns us that we’d better exhort one another “while it is called ‘Today,’ ” before sin hardens the heart. It happened to Felix. It can happen to you.

David Jeremiah, Slaying the Giants in Your Life (Nashville, TN: W Pub., 2001), 164–165.


This article excerpted from Slaying the Giants in Your Life.

Slaying the Giants in Your Life is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Facing Your Failure

We’ve established that failure is a real-world inevitability, and that we have reasons for failures—reasons that actually look to our long-term benefit. But we need a little bit more than these reassurances when we’re standing in the rubble of shattered dreams—when the marriage has been destroyed, the dream job has been torn away, or the children have broken our hearts. We need a few smooth stones, at least, to hold in our hand as we face the giant.

What ammunition is available to us in God’s Word?

Acknowledge Your Failure

First, we might as well stand up and admit it. It’s no good to call it something else—call it by its name, failure. You didn’t “select an alternate strategy path” in that big work assignment; you fouled up! You and your spouse didn’t have “irreconcilable differences.” Your God has already bridged the greatest estrangement there could ever be: the one between humanity and Himself. Do you really think that your “differences” were irreconcilable in His power? No, and for that matter, marriage never fails. God created it perfectly. It is people who fail. It sounds harsh, it feels uncomfortable, and yet the truth doesn’t care much for comfort; it promises only to set us free.

Before all else, we need to call a failure by its true name, and we need to borrow that sign from President Truman that says, “The buck stops here.” Going easy on yourself or passing on the blame shows a disrespect for your spiritual identity and godly potential. Own up to your failure. Step up to take responsibility. Then you can move forward. Living a lie doesn’t work, so wise believers deal with their past honestly before walking away from it.

President Truman, by the way, was once asked if he’d been popular in school. He replied, “No, I was never popular. The popular boys were good at games and had big fists. I was never like that. Without my glasses, I was blind as a bat, and to tell the truth, I was kind of a sissy. If there was any chance of getting into a fight, I took off. I guess that’s why I’m here today.”

The buck stopped with him, didn’t it? He owned up to the truth, embarrassing as it might have been. He was more right than he probably realized when he smiled and said, “I guess that’s why I’m here today.” Oddly enough, it is only those who honestly connect with their past who successfully walk away from it. Those who run away from the past are bound to it forever.

As you face up to your misfires, keep in mind that not every failure is sinful. Some things are out of our hands. They’re simply the product of living in a broken world. Job lost his family, his home, and all his holdings, but he committed no offense against God to bring any of it about. Jesus was seized, convicted, and executed, yet He lived a sinless life. Perhaps you’ve failed in the past despite the purest motives and godliest actions. Failure doesn’t always point to sin—at least not always your own.

On the other hand, of course, if you have disobeyed God in some way, the Spirit will make you aware of it. There will be no peace in your heart until you confess it and repent—which, of course, is the Bible’s way of saying that you acknowledge your failure.

Admit. Confess. Then you can look to the perfect forgiveness of God.

Accept God’s Forgiveness

Psalm 103:10 assures us that “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities.” The implications of that idea are profound for you and me. He doesn’t deal with you on the basis of your failures, but in the light of His grace.

David Jeremiah, Slaying the Giants in Your Life (Nashville, TN: W Pub., 2001), 178–179.


This article excerpted from Slaying the Giants in Your Life.

Slaying the Giants in Your Life is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

WHAT GOD IS DOING IN THE WORLD — OSERVATION OF THE PAST FOUR YEARS

I received this from Elmer Towns recently. Enjoy.
 
My first wife Ruth died approximately four years ago and I resigned as Dean from both the School of Religion and Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, but remain active as Vice President and Co-Founder for Liberty University. I have traveled to 19 nations (invited by national churches and groups, not through Western mission agencies), and I have spoken in foreign churches and for graduations in ministry-based educational training centers). I have read extensively what God is doing in the world. The attached are observations about the future of Christianity from a Western perspective.
 

What God Is Doing In The World

 1.      Explosion of multisite churches around the world. One church (with one pastor, governance, and DNA) located in multiple locations with a singular vision and values. This new strategy of church planting is a possible way to finish the Great Commission.
2.      National Fellowship of Born Again Pentecostal Churches of Uganda, Africa, is a church of 22,000 and Bishop Alex Mitala has begun over 10,000 additional new churches in past few years.
3.      World Harvest Center, Suva, Fiji, Suliasi Kurulo pastor; (the world’s 164th poorest nation) has planted over 5,000 churches throughout the islands and other nations. The home church has 5,000 people.
4.      Bethany Church of God, Surabaya, Indonesia, seats 25,000 with a weekly attendance of over 140,000 worshippers not including its 600 daughter churches in every island of the nation.  The pastor told me, “Even though we are the 5th largest nation in the world with the largest Muslim population there are more Pentecostals in our nation than any other in the world.”
5.      Word of Hope Church, Manila Philippines, David Sobrepena, is pastor of the church that seats 4,000 with attendance of 70,000 each week in multiple services and home groups, not counting attendance in 60 satellite churches.  Plans to have 250,000 through home cell meetings.
6.      Jotabeche Methodist Pentecostal Church, Santiago, Chile, seats 14,000 with 120,000 worshipers in the Central Cathedral, and 20 temples (attendance 2,400 each) and 80 churches averaging 100, and multiple missions.  There are multiple church complexes like this throughout different cities in Chile with approximately 5 million in Chile.
7.      The Full Gospel Church, Seoul, South Korea, Yonggi Cho, founder, had 760,000 members; the largest single church since Pentecost.  It had 34,000 home cells, and 50 satellite churches.  When Cho resigned 10 years ago, all satellite churches were released to be independent churches; now the mother church only averages 300,000 members.

Where is Christianity in the World?

 A.  Identification
1.      Global South:  refers to Latin America, Africa, and most of Asia.
2.      Western Christianity refers to the United States, Canada, Europe, Russia, etc.
3.      The Oriental Crescent refers to churches in China, South Korea.
4.      Media has identified the world politically and culturally into the West and the East (Russia and allies). The rest is called Third World.
5.      The dominant strength of global faith no longer resides in the Western world.
6.      The fastest growth of Christianity is in the Global South, not traditional Western Christianity.
7.      In 1900, African Christians comprised about 10 million (about 10 percent of Africa’s population). By 2000, there were 360 million Christians in Africa (just under 50 percent of Africa’s population). In 2014, there were 500 million Christians in Africa. By 2050, there will likely be one billion Christians in Africa.
8.      Fifty years ago, evangelical Christianity represented about 1% of the population of Central and South America. Today, evangelicals represent approximately 10 to 20 percent, some nations it is 30%.
We are living through one of the greatest ages of change in the history of Christianity . . . wider, and faster than the era of the Reformation itself . . . change . . . produces tumult and turbulence as a sign of growth and health and birth. ~Philip Jenkins, PhD Cambridge University is Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, The Next Christendom: The Rise of Global Christianity.
B.  Conflicts
1.      As Christianity has grown in modern times in the Global South, (Africa, Asia, and Latin America) and the Oriental Crescent (Indonesia, China, South Korea, India) much of that story has been told in the Western media in terms of conflict. ~Philip Jenkins
2.      The untold story in media (Christian and secular) is the expansion of Christianity in the Global South.
3.      Westerners assume African and Asian churches suffer from ignorance, lack of education, lack of church sophistication, or represent only elementary church methods and practices.
4.      Westerners believe religious, economic, and cultural Bible terms are foreign or irrelevant to non-Westerners. 
5.      Asians and Africans assume the opposite, they believe their societies operate in ways in which the social, economic, and cultural terms of the Bible are relevant, i.e., they readily accept and follow the authority of the Scriptures.
6.      The fastest growing churches across Africa tend to be associated with the poor and the hungry.
7.      Christianity is currently a religion of the poorest in African nations.
8.      A person living in poverty connects with certain realities of life in Scripture.
9.      Read the epistle of James twice; once with “Western eyes,” and then with the “eyes of the global church.”
10.     Churches that practice healing, deliverance, and spiritual warfare are not found typically in mainstream Western churches. These are practiced in growing churches in the Global South.
11.     Mainstream churches in the West seem to focus on overthrow of social injustices, not focused on healing, deliverance, and spiritual warfare. Churches in the Global South believe social injustice can be changed by personal regeneration.
12.     Global South churches treat liberation and deliverance the same. Any church that does not offer the healing of body, self, spirit, and society is only offering a partial message.
13.     Western Christianity tends to focus evangelism on media (television evangelism advertising) and attract seekers through music and methods that lead to persuasion. Global South focuses on evangelism by relationship.
14.     The Roman Catholic Church has declined in Western Christianity (not elsewhere).
15.     Almost every church group (denomination) is seeing a shift to the Global South.
16.     While the numbers of believers are increasing in the Global South, the money is in Western Christianity.
C.  How Christianity Thrives in the Southern Asia Crescent (the Orient)  
1.      Christianity is not the faith of the poor, uneducated, and illiterate.
2.      Christianity appeals to a wide variety of groups in different forms.
3.      Some of the most influential areas of Christian growth are in very prosperous areas.
4.      The most successful churches in the “Oriental Crescent” are those that appeal to professional and technological groups.
The church in South Korea is primarily a “white collar” church, i.e., middle and upper class Christianity. In the Global South, Christianity appeals to the poor. See Korean Revival of 1906, and the printing of a simple Korean grammar book by Samuel Moffatt, a Ph.D. graduate of Princeton University. This grammar book created 22 consonants (similar to Hebrew) and was read in parallel lines, rather than vertical pictorial characters. It was used in Presbyterian schools, and influenced Korean students to think in cause and affect relationships, hence prepared the way for Western approach to Christianity. Moffatt’s book instructed students to learn phonetically letters and speak them out. These Presbyterian schools influenced and contributed to a middle class culture.
D.  Christianity is a Modernizing Faith
1.      The newer emerging Christianity is modernizing parts of the world where it is growing.
2.      Women’s roles are not restricted as seen in foreign culture, but they are a force in transforming their cultures.
3.      Foundations are being laid for civil societies and government (the church was the foundation of American democracy).
4.      Churches emerge that believe in healing, purity, and economic political stability.
Forty or fifty years ago, everyone was predicating the end of the church . . . killed by urbanization, modernization, industrialization. You come back today and it is exactly those factors that have been most responsible for the growth of churches . . . taught their believers ways of coping in an industrial world . . . they are the ultimate social and cultural revolutionaries.  ~Philip Jenkins 
5.      Christianity not only heals societies but also brings growth, stability and liberation from former tribal thinking and acting.

How Christianity Got Here

 
A.  Identificational Terms
1.      Interface: where users connect with the operating system.
2.      Gutenberg world: the historical primary technology was print and written sources.
3.      Google world: the value of relationships and connection via social media (IT, Internet Technology).
B.  From Gutenberg to Google
1.      The world has transitioned out of the Gutenberg world into a Google world.
2.      Google world: Experiential, Participatory, Image-rich, and Connective.
3.      The interface of today’s world is E.P.I.C.
4.      The Gutenberg world was rational; today’s world is experiential.
5.      The Gutenberg world was logical and linear encouraging people to “intellectually comprehend and understand.”
6.      Google world people want to experience God.
7.      The church can better interact with the world today by shifting to become more experiential rather than just intellectual as a basis of outreach.
8.      We are in a taste and see world.  People want to experience God, not just have rational thoughts about God.
9.      The Gutenberg world valued individual performance; now people value participation.
10.     People live in a “karaoke” culture centered around interaction not just receive listening and observing.
11.     The church must shift from performance of the gospel to participation in the gospel.
12.     Gutenberg world was communicating words, but now people value images.
13.     Today’s culture is picture-rich, image-driven.
14.     The advertising industry utilizes storytelling with images more than words.
         The World Is An Oral Learner
Over half of the third world countries cannot read or write. They are illiterate, or functionally illiterate. They are best reached by telling the story of Jesus, not explaining doctrines or sermon explanations. They understand Jesus. After He changes their lives, they are motivated to learn to read (the Bible).
15.     The Gutenberg world focused on the individual, but now the focus is on connecting people, i.e., relationships.
16.     Social media has caused a shift to a connectional society.
17.     Today’s world focuses on community, which is the nature of Christianity.
18.     The church can better reach the world by focusing on community (church planting) than focusing just on individuals.
What Shall We Preach?
 
A.  Identification
1.      Jesus is the Word.  “In the beginning the Word already existed.  The Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1, NLT). When you think of Jesus the Word, He has two identifications.
a.      Objective, Jesus is Who is described on paper identifying the Person represented.
b.      Subjective living, Jesus is real in our experiences.
2.      The Word is both the Bible and Jesus, “I am alive forever and ever” (Rev. 1:18, NLT), “For the Word of God is alive and powerful’ (Heb. 4:12,NLT).
3.      Jesus is the truth, “I am the truth” (John 14:6). Truth is living which defines a subject in life.  Truth is objective; it is consistent with itself and corresponds to the real world.
B.  Presenting The Case
1.      The Guttenberg West had presented Christianity in words and doctrine.  The Global South/Oriental Crescent has presented Christianity as a person in relationships.
2.      Doctrine divides while a person draws/attracts.
3.      Jesus chose His disciples, “Follow Me.” However, the church has asked people to adopt a set of principles, practices, rituals, rites, creeds or conducts   . . . Christianity is relating to a person.
4.      The heart of Christianity is a relational God who will relate to us.
5.      We need to introduce people to Jesus by a living relationship (cells, house churches, family evangelism, etc.).
6.      Jesus redeems and restores three broken relationships; with God, with ourselves, with others.
C.  What We Must Have Done
 
Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, (ethnic groups) baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.Teach these new disciples (in assemblies) to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure  of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20, NLT).
 
1.     Missional component – Go.
2.      Result component – make disciples (followers).
3.      Geographical component – cover all places on the earth.
4.      Influential component – influence all cultures with Christ.
5.      Salvational component – all people can have a relationship with Jesus.
6.      Relational component – God has planned our salvation relationship in an assembly (church) with other believers where all believers will together worship, learn, serve, and fellowship.
7.      Repetitive component – once a church is planted to obey this original command, plant another church to repeat the process and complete the command.
8.      We must plant reproducing churches that multiply.
D.  The Focus of Our Message
1.      Make disciples of “all nations” means making disciples of and in all cultures, by learning a culture, living in a culture, and bringing people to Jesus in that culture.
2.      God wants you to make Jesus incarnational in your culture.
3.      Christianity spreads as a seed that grows differently in different cultures, just as a seed planted in different soils has a different taste (hydroponic tomatoes), although there is a similarity of taste from that seed.
E.  Why The West Has Not Been More Effective
1.      Wrong attraction – “Come to our church building.”
2.      Wrong proposal – learn truth in propositional words instead of in a Person Jesus Christ.
3.      Colonialism – All Christians should have our culture (Western).
Christianity is unique to all the religions of the world because it is
the only religion where truth is a Person (Incarnational).
 
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Elmer L. Towns
Co-Founder, Liberty University
Lynchburg, Virginia

How to conquer fear

Yes, you can confront your fears by drawing near to God. Think back to those spies who entered Canaan.

Up to now, we haven’t mentioned that there were two dissenters in the group. They went on the same trip, saw the same walled cities and the same giants, and they brought back a minority opinion. Joshua and Caleb listened patiently to all the worst-case scenarios and calmly said, “We can do this.”

As I’ve read this narrative over the years, I’ve always felt the difference between the ten and the two was that they used different yardsticks. The negative group measured the giants by their own stature, while Joshua and Caleb measured them by God’s stature. These two were the only ones who finally measured up to the privilege of entering the Promised Land. The others fell short.

What made the difference for Joshua and Caleb? The Scriptures state it clearly.

In Numbers 32:12 we read: “For they have wholly followed the LORD.” You’ll find the same message in Deuteronomy 1:36 and Joshua 14:9. Joshua and Caleb were simply different creatures from the rest. The Bible makes it clear that they were absolutely filled with the Spirit of God, and they walked with Him in every way. It caused them to think differently, act differently, decide differently. And when the time of crisis came—the time when we find out what people are made of—Joshua and Caleb were living proof of what it means to have godly courage. These two looked at a land that “devoured its inhabitants” and said, “This is God’s will for us. Let’s do it!”

Your fear level is ultimately a referendum on the closeness of your friendship with God. It’s a spiritual yardstick. Do you see things in human dimensions or godly ones? After you spend time with your Creator, you’re simply incapable of shrinking in fear at the appearance of every human anxiety. You’ve seen His power. You’ve seen His love and faithfulness. You’ve seen that His purposes are the best for us. If you have “the fear of God,” as we used to say, you won’t fear the things of this world. If you donhave the fear of God, then everything else is to be feared.

David Jeremiah, Slaying the Giants in Your Life (Nashville, TN: W Pub., 2001), 14–15.


This article excerpted from Slaying the Giants in Your Life.

Slaying the Giants in Your Life is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Only the obedient believe

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.

It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

The idea of a situation in which faith is possible is only a way of stating the facts of a case in which the following two propositions hold good and are equally true: only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes. It is quite unbiblical to hold the first proposition without the second. We think we understand when we hear that obedience is possible only where there is faith. Does not obedience follow faith as good fruit grows on a good tree?

First, faith, then obedience. If by that we mean that it is faith which justifies, and not the act of obedience, all well and good, for that is the essential and unexceptionable presupposition of all that follows. If however we make a chronological distinction between faith and obedience, and make obedience subsequent to faith, we are divorcing the one from the other – and then we get the practical question, when must obedience begin? Obedience remains separated from faith.

From the point of view of justification it is necessary thus to separate them, but we must never lose sight of their essential unity. For faith is only real when there is obedience, never without it, and faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience. Since, then, we cannot adequately speak of obedience as the consequence of faith, and since we must never forget the indissoluble unity of the two, we must place the one proposition that only he who believes is obedient alongside the other, that only he who is obedient believes. In the one case faith is the condition of obedience, and in the other obedience the condition of faith. In exactly the same way in which obedience is called the consequence of faith, it must also be called the presupposition of faith. Only the obedient believe. — The Cost of Discipleship (SCM Classics) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer


This article excerpted from The Discipleship Course.

The Discipleship Course is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

4 Movements I’m Watching in Small Group Ministry

I received this from Allen White and found it interesting.

Most of us have cycled through small group strategies and discipleship methods and ended up with mixed results. Some strategies helped us start a bunch of groups, but didn’t help our people growth. Other pathways raised the quality of groups, but could not multiply groups fast enough.

Currently, I am dedicating my time, talent, and treasure to four movements where we are seeing lives transformed and communities reached with the Gospel. If that sounds like an outrageous claim, then I would ask you to look into the webinars and websites connected to each of these movements. I hope you see what I am seeing and learn how God is using things old and new to build his Church.

1. Rooted

Rooted is based on a non-Western approach to experiential discipleship. Through a mix of large group gatherings, small group meetings, and experiences, people are coming to Christ, taking their next steps in faith, and finding lasting transformation. Rooted motivates congregations unlike anything else I’ve seen. People who “graduate” from the 10-week Rooted experience join on-going small groups (90%), serve more (73%), and give more (84%) than before they participated in Rooted.

Website: experiencerooted.com

Webinar: Wednesday, March 8, 2pm ET – Register at experiencerooted.com/events

Rooted Gathering: March 22-24, 2017 in the DFW Area – Register at experiencerooted.com/events

2. Neighboring

Neighboring is the future of ministry.

Whether your church rocked the attractional model in the 1990s or deployed your congregation in the missional movement in the 2000s, the days of big box worship services and churches serving the community in matching t-shirts are coming to an end. As our culture becomes more secular and less favorable toward the church, headline-making large events will become unwelcome in the coming years.

Neighboring is based on Jesus’ second command : “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Who’s my neighbor? Well, what if you neighbor is your actual neighbor? Neighboring is a focus that believers don’t love their neighbors so they’ll become Christians, we neighbor because we are Christians. While this is outreach, neighboring would more correctly be viewed as a spiritual practice. By taking believers out of their comfort zone, they face their fears, learn to trust God, and building relationships that will inform their own spiritual growth and challenge their comfort.

Website: theneighboringchurch.com

Resources: The Neighboring Church by Rick Rusaw and Brian Mavis

Coming Resources: The Neighboring Church Staff Training Curriculum and The Neighboring Life Launch Kit recently filmed at the Neighborhood Collective at Oak Hills Church, San Antonio, TX features teaching by Randy Frazee, Rick Rusaw, Brian Mavis, Tom Anthony, Dave Runyan, Chris Freeland, Nate Bush, Lynn Cory, and other thought-leaders in the neighboring movement. (June 1, 2017 release).

3. GroupLife Southwest

Okay, this is a conference that represents a movement. GroupLife Southwest fills

the gap left by the end of Willow Creek’s Small Group Conference. By presenting multiple voices, Mark Howell and Canyon Ridge Christian Church, Las Vegas, demonstrate the genius of applying multiple strategies to a church in both connecting and growing their members.

Speakers include Bill Willits (North Point Ministries), Dave Enns (North Coast Church), Chris Surratt (Lifeway), Hugh Halter (Forge), Mindy Caliguire (SoulCare), Mike Foster (People of the Second Chance), Todd Engstrom (The Austin Stone), Boyd Pelley (ChurchTeams), Mark Howell (markhowelllive.com), and Allen White.

The conference is March 27-28, 2017 in Las Vegas.

Use the code: ALLEN for a substantial discount.

For more information and to register: http://www.grouplifesouthwest.com/

4. Exponential Groups

It’s not a coincidence that the title of this fourth movement is also the title of my

book. It seems the American church has retired. We cater to ourselves. Do enough to feel satisfied. But, act as if we have the luxury of time in reaching our world. Not all churches act this way, but the vast majority do.

Time is short. It is time to turn our audience into an army. By empowering and equipping our people to serve, the quest is no longer to connect 100% of our people into groups, but to enlist 100% of our people to LEAD.

We have coddled our people into complacency for far too long. The attractional services where we invited people to be comfortable backfired, in that, they took us up on the offer to be comfortable. It’s time to wake the sleeping giant. It’s time to stop catering to Baby Boomers. (And, for the sake of full disclosure, I’m 52 — the last of the Boomers). In fact, in the next decade, ministry to Boomers will be called “Senior Adult Ministry.” That’s not the future of the church!

As the Church, we have been thinking and planning for 2,000 years. It’s time to take action.

Website: allenwhite.org

Webinar: Help, My Groups are Stuck at 30 Percent! on:

Thursday, March 9 at 1pm ET/ Noon CT/ 11am MT/ 10am PT

Tuesday, March 14 at 2pm ET/ 1pm CT/ Noon MT/ 11am PT

Register: allenwhite.org/webinars

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