Vaughan Roberts is well known in British Evangelical circles for his strengths as one of the most gifted and faithful writers, preachers and church leaders in the land.
In a recent interview with Julian Hardyman Vaughan talks about how he has sought to live a godly life while struggling with same-sex attraction, and why he has decided to share his struggles more widely.
A few days ago Deepak posted some nice comments about making disciples. His words prodded me to think even more. None of the following ideas are original to me. I'm sure I have taken them from things I've read and conversations I've had--perhaps even here on this blog! Here goes . . .First, every Christian needs to be discipled. We are all supposed to be followers of Christ and we need to be taught how to be followers of Christ. Thinking about a local church, every Christian should be discipled. Every believer ought to be in a relationship or have a network of relationships that are spurring him or her on toward spiritual maturity. The Great Commission of Matthew 28 and the call to encouragement of Hebrews 3:13 makes this clear. So as pastors, part of shepherding the flock means laboring to see that every individual in the congregation is being discipled. Second, every Christian should feel the responsibility to make disciples. How can every Christian be discipled if that job of disciple-making is left to the pastors or a select few in the congregation? That simply isn't possible. Some will be better at this than others. Some will be more interested than others. But we all have the responsibility to encourage others to follow Christ more closely. We all have the responsibility to help others grow. The Great Commission is for all which means discipling is for all.Third, discipling can take place in small groups and in one-on-one relationships. Sure, discipling can take place corporately as well. When I preach I am encouraging the congregation to worship God as I preach and this is disciple-making. But more should take place. As a few gather or just a couple, Christians should take deliberate steps to apply the Gospel to each other's lives. This is how burdens are often carried (Gal. 6:2). Fourth, discipling requires commitment. Often the commitment comes in the form of time. I met this morning at 7am with four wonderful brothers for a time of discipling. I get paid to do this. These men were meeting before their workday began. That is commitment. Sometimes the commitment is emotional. Getting to know someone spiritually means being there to hear tough stuff. Sometimes it means listening while someone is obviously immature but they need to talk and process so they can grow. Sometimes it means being willing to challenge--which can make the relationship awkward. All of this is commitment, and that it costly.Fifth, discipling is less about what you do and more about "life on life." By all means study a Christian book, read the Bible aloud, discuss the sermon, etc. All of these things are helpful. But at the core of it all needs to be humans applying God's Word so that sanctification takes place. This can be done in conversation at a ball game and it can be done through Bible study in the living room. The key is that the Word is being applied to life. This means discipling relationships may look different from person to person. Where does friendship end and discipling begin? It's not always easy to tell. Regardless of the answer, in a discipling relationship lives are being uncovered, challenged, and encouraged.Sixth, discipling may require discriminating between low-hanging and high-hanging fruit. This is the point Deepak made so well. There is wisdom in being discriminating, especially when it comes to expectations. Deepak helpfully reminded us of that Navigators' term "F. A. T." -- find someone faithful, available, and teachable and dig in! Strategy may lead you to invest your time in someone you have reason to believe will be likely to model well the gospel for others. This is all helpful but a word of caution is in order: sometimes the people God puts in our lives--whether they be low-hanging or high-hanging fruit--are exactly the people we should be serving. Seventh, discipling takes time. I'm leery of people thinking they can graduate from a discipling program. There certainly comes a time when someone needs to ask, "have I learned enough to begin entrusting what I've learned to other reliable men?" 2 Tim 2:2. But how do you know when someone is ready? It is certainly not because he's finished a book or a course. It just doesn't work like that. Discipling takes time. It never ends. We never graduate.I'm open to additional points or principles you'd like to make. I know that I am where I am and, more importantly, I am who I am because the Lord discipled me through people. And one of the reasons I'm a pastor today is because years ago I became convinced how valuable it is to help someone see their life through a biblical lens.
One of the ideas I've learned on our staff is to be strategic about the men I disciple and invest in. One of our staff pastors has often talked about being deliberate in investing in low-hanging fruit---men who show a lot of potential, who demonstrate a teachable heart and desire to grow, and with a little investment will themselves be able to invest in others. These low-hanging fruit quickly become disciple-making disciples! The nature of pastoral ministry is that you get all types of requests for help---bad marriages needing attention, wives struggling with depression, young men and women sorting through who to marry and what to do with their life, physical sickness and hospitalizations, etc. Pastors tend to spend most of their time investing in high-hanging fruit--those situations which take a lot of time, energy, prayer, love, and investment, and often reap very little fruit. Without trying, you'll get plenty of these situations come across your door. Don't get me wrong---to be a pastor is to be a shepherd. A fundamental part of your job is to care for the sheep, both through their good and bad days. Yet, what often happens is that a pastor's schedule can get over-run with high-hanging fruit, and we rarely take the time to deliberately invest in the low-hanging fruit. We spend our days investing in that which reaps very little harvest, without spending any time picking the low-hanging fruit. So, here's my question for pastors: How deliberate are you at investing in the low-hanging fruit? Are there men in your congregation who are FAT (faithful, available, teachable) and with a little investment might also be reaping greater fruit for the kingdom? Are you strategically investing in men who might one day become elders and one day come alongside you to shepherd the flock? Look at your schedule and consider if you are always reacting defensively to the problems that arise in your church, or are you deliberately scheduling time with the members who seem to be low-hanging fruit? Both parts of necessary for pastor ministry, and yet one (high-hanging fruit) tends to get much more attention in our schedule compared to the other (low-hanging fruit).
Are you looking for a short 1-on-1 discipleship tool that will help folks who struggle with worry, anxiety or fear? CCEF just published a short 7 session study written by Ed Welch. It's worth checking out, maybe even for yourself....
Don Whitney, author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian life, has ten good questions to ask at the start of the new year:
1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?2. What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?8. What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year different from last year?9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?
If you liked these questions, you can read more here. Have a good new year!
Matt, thanks for sharing the internet baptism. Mike, thanks for starting us off with the correct tone: charity. Brothers, thanks for the interesting thoughts about pastoral relationships and the mediate/immediate nature of communication.
For me, the weakness of the approach isn't really captured in whether or not this form of "gathering" leaves something out or not. I'm sure it does leave many important things out, but if I were pushing back from the other side I think I'd argue that in-person communication doesn't guarantee any more authenticity than does impersonal forms. Arguably, impersonal forms reduce social inhibitions that elicit more passionate and typically concealed reactions. Witness internet confession sites, chat rooms, and many comment threads on blogs. At the same time, personal social settings include a host of rules that suppress certain kinds of information. We even have phrases to describe the ways we deceive in person--poker face, good front, posing, masquerading, and so on. So, I can imagine proponents of this idea saying that the video feed between the two sites does much of what you all are wanting in the gathered setting, and that the gathered setting isn't a guarantee of getting "real" or "genuine" or "authentic" "stuff." She's excited, he's excited, the people there were excited. What's the difference?
Where I fell down with the video was the internet pastor's opening comment: "God has called us to be obedient and follow His example in baptism. That's exactly what we're doing."
Really? "Exactly" what's going on there is obedience and following the example of Christ?
I was left with a question: Does any method for doing something constitute obedience? If I tell my daughter to make her bed and find that she in Tom Sawyer fashion tricked her siblings into making it, does that constitute obedience? Suppose I'd previously given her many examples of how I make the bed and told her to do likewise, is her "obedience" exactly like that modeled when she uses her siblings?
My response is simply I don't think this is what any NT writer had in mind or experienced when they set out to follow our Lord's command to make disciples and baptize them in His name.
Then I'd have all the questions about what at internet campus really is, and what an internet pastor does. And, in what sense is this young woman a "member" of a church, being discipled and taught all that Jesus commanded. With only the bit in the video to judge from, imo, it's all too free radical to be NT church.
Basic Idea: Discipling other Christians involves us in imaging God’s transcendent posture and his immanent posture toward his people. On the one hand, discipling typically occurs in the context of friendship—two individuals who have affectionately drawn near to one another for the purposes of enjoyment and care. This is the immanent posture. On the other hand, discipling is a friendship with a Christward direction. The goal of the enjoyment and care is to help the other person look more like Jesus.