Archive for the ‘Discipleship’ category

Discipleship: Program or Process?

June 10, 2009

A question I ponder frequently is – how are we doing making disciples?

Southern Baptists (in general) tend to be very program-oriented, and that is apparent in many of our discipleship ministries. Churches offer short-term courses that deal with marriage, finances, parenting, or biblical themes. Often, this involves sitting in a class-room watching and listening to a talking head on a TV screen while we fill in the blanks of a workbook.

Yes, I do find value in (some of) these courses, but part of me wonders how well they really work in making disciples? I think there must be more.

I came across a great post by Michael Spencer on his “Jesus Shaped Spirituality” blog that addresses this question. It’s great food for thought – I hope you will give it a read: The Jesus Disconnect – The Process of Discipleship.

So . . . how are we doing? Let me know what you think after you read Michael’s post.

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Top 10 Book Recommendations for 2009

January 12, 2009

Here’s my top-ten list of recommended books for Christian educators and Bible study leaders. (Actually, I would recommend these to any follower of Christ.) I don’t include the Bible in this list because I’m making the assumption that if you’re leading a Bible study, you’re already reading it. If not, forget these ten and start with the Word.

These are not listed in any particular order. I’ve based my selection on doctrinal soundness, practicality, readability and availability. (There are some books I’d love to recommend that are, unfortunately, out of print and very hard to find.) The titles are linked to Amazon or other sources if you’re interested in purchasing one. And no, I receive no commission.

1. Knowing God by J.I. Packer. A classic work on the nature of God and how we may come to know Him. Not a systematic theology book, but a well-written foundational tome by one of our generation’s leading theologians. I recommend reading it slowly. The section on the Trinity is worth the price of the book.

2. The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. Tim Keller is pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He has led Redeemer to reach out to the city’s secular culture and lovingly challenge them with the truths of Christ. This book is an excellent work on apologetics (a defense of the faith) that addresses many of the common questions posed by skeptics, agnostics and atheists. The arguments are respectful and well-reasoned – a tremendous resource for those engaging our post Christian culture.

3. The Six Core Values of Sunday School by Allan Taylor. Allan Taylor is Minister of Education at First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Georgia – one of the largest churches in the Southern Baptist Convention with a tremendous Sunday School organization. Dr. Taylor shares his philosophy of Sunday School work and provides practical helps about reaching people, teaching people the Bible, ministering, involving people, assimilating people and building relationships with people. If you teach a Sunday School class, you need to read this book!

4. Disciple-Making Teachers by Josh Hunt. Josh has a passion for helping Sunday School classes grow. In this book, he challenges teachers to become equippers, helping adults become growing, serving disciples of Christ. He provides a detailed description of a disciple and offers a helpful process for a teacher to guide a group in spiritual transformation.

5. Basic Christianity by John R. W. Stott. In this short book (142 pages), Stott addresses the central tenets of the Christian faith. If we desire for our teaching to be Christ-centered, this is a worthwhile resource and a great gift for anyone interested in the Christian faith.

6. Living by the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible by Howard Hendricks and William Hendricks. A very helpful book about personal Bible study. Hendricks and Hendricks provide insightful tips for reading the Bible in a systematic manner, taking notes, and digging for application.

7. Celebration of Discipline – The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J. Foster. This classic book on spiritual growth addresses the ancient practices of the faith that still are valid for modern believers. Foster covers these disciplines under three major sections: the inward disciplines, the outward disciplines and the corporate disciplines. This book should be read by every Christ-follower who desires to grow deeply in their faith.

8. The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. A powerful challenge to live the life God intends for us. Dr. Willard covers redemption, justification, discipleship and our growth in grace. A deep but readable book that will give you greater appreciation and awe of the work of Christ.

9. What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey. A book that explores grace at “the street level.” A very real and gritty account of living out grace in a graceless world. Believers will be challenged to live lives of grace and mercy when their own beliefs are challenged and ridiculed.

10. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin.  While this is a secular book on leadership, Godin’s insights have tremendous application for those who teach Sunday School or lead small groups. Find out what a tribe is (and your own tribe!) and how people connect over an idea. I think you’ll like this book.

You may wonder why I chose these ten books. To be honest, there were several others I wanted to include, but I intentionally limited the number to ten. I believe that most anyone could read these ten books in a year. Also, these ten address foundational issues of the faith as well as contemporary challenges. Certainly, there are many others I could recommend or even swap out with the above choices: for example, C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity in place of Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. I chose the latter as it directly addresses many of the contemporary arguments against the faith. So please don’t take these selections as a thumbs down to other works – far from it. But, hey! I had to start somewhere.

Feel free to leave comments or suggestions for books you might wish to include in a top ten list.

You’re Being Watched

December 22, 2008

People are watching you.

Oh yes. They are. But there’s no need to be paranoid – for many of the people who are watching you may not realize they are doing so.

“So, who is watching ?” you may ask. I’m pretty sure you could figure this out on your own, but for time’s sake, I’ll give you some likely culprits:

Your family
Your co-workers
Your class-mates
Your neighbors
Your employer
Your small group

Not all are watching you with a critical eye, mind you (though some may be). But subconsciously, they notice you. They see how you treat other people, whether you have a quick temper or a critical tongue. They notice whether you are kind or brusque, generous or selfish, humble or pompous. And, they notice if your words and your deeds match up consistently.

“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16.

Those of us who teach must take special care as we live out our lives, lest our actions contradict our confession. Certainly, none of us live perfect lives, but we should always keep in mind that we are setting an example for others. In fact, it behooves us to teach with humility and trasnparency – not as “one who has arrived,” but as a fellow traveler who struggles with sin and righteousness and what it means to put on holiness in a fallen world.

As the Apostle Paul put it, “Not that I have already obatained all this, or have been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:12-14.

If you’re like me, you can probably think back on many times you were less than a good example. I know I’ve made many mistakes, missed many opportunities, and have done or said things that have hurt the cause of Christ. But that is no excuse for us to quit living out our faith. Satan will whisper in our ears and accuse us – “Hypocrite!” he will hiss.

Perhaps.

Thankfully, God’s grace is sufficient to cover our hypocrisy. Or our critical spirit. Or our indifference. We own up to our sin, and press on. And keep pressing on.

“Be confident of this – that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6.

We’re all still works in progress. None of us have yet arrived. Let’s keep that in perspective as we seek to be  imitators of Christ – imperfect examples, to be sure – but living authentic lives of faith and encouragement.

Oh, and those people who are watching us? They’ll pick up on that, too.