Discipleship and the Body of Christ

Every church is faced with the following question: How do we go about making disciples, mature followers of Jesus. One way we try to do this at our church is by having a “discipleship process.” This process is intended to cover the basics of what it means to follow Jesus. The “steps” of this process are Worship, Connect, Grow, and Reach.

Worship is what we do on Sunday mornings, singing together, praying together, and listening to the preached Word of God.

Connect covers the fellowship portion of discipleship. We get together in “Bible Fellowship Groups.” We work together to apply the Word to our lives. We develop deeper relationships that enable us to meet each other’s needs.

Grow refers to those things we do which deepen our understanding of Scripture. It includes special Bible studies and the Sunday night service.

Reach refers to all those ministries that either directly serve within the church (like working on the building and grounds team, visiting our shut-ins, etc.) or serve those outside of our church (like working in Attic After School or putting on our Fall Carnival).

Put another way Worship means to love God. Connect means to love one another. Grow means loving God’s word. And, Reach means love God’s world.

I was also thinking about these components of discipleship in relation to a metaphor common in Scripture, that of the church as the “body of Christ.”

If we relate discipleship process to the body of Christ metaphor we can see, through a new perspective, why each of these is important.

The goal of worship is to strengthen our connect to the head; to Christ. A church cannot function if it is disconnected from Christ. He is the one who gives us direction and from him springs the life and vitality of the church. A church disconnected from Christ has lost its identity. This is one of the purposes of worship, to ensure that we are single-mindedly focused on Jesus and to ensure that we regularly enter into his presence through the Holy Spirit. When we gather in His name, He is present with us. When we forsake that fellowship, spiritual life wanes and spiritual direction disappears.

The goal of connect is to strengthen our relationship with one another. A hand cannot function as a hand if it is disconnected from the body. A foot cannot function as a foot if it is not disconnected to the body. A collection of parts cannot function unless those parts are built together in love. Discipleship is part and parcel with obedience and there are a great number of commands, like the “one another” commands, which we simply cannot perform apart from connection to the body of Christ. If you are not connected in a meaningful relational way with a church, you will be less effective as a Christian. If you are connected then not only will you be more effective, but so will those around you.

The goal of grow is to increase the fitness of each individual part. A hand is not effective if it is disconnected from the head (worship) or if it is disconnected from the rest of the body (connect). But it is also ineffective if it is itself weak or diseased (or, in my case, had a dislocated finger). A believer grows, becomes more spiritually mature, in direct relation to their understanding of and obedience to the Word of God. As we let that word take root and as we nourish ourselves on it, we become more effective within the body.

Finally, the goal of reach is to provide action and function to the body as a whole. Some parts of the body serve primarily within the body. I have internal organs which keep me healthy and active but which is not particularly visible to the outside world. But with other parts of my body, like my hands or my mouth, I can serve and communicate with the world around me. A body with no movement, no matter how well connected with the head, or within itself, even if it is physically fit, is still useless. Without movement, without mission, without action, a body will do no good. And a body with no movement will eventually become lifeless itself.

We need all of these elements in order to become fully mature in Christ, as individuals and as communities. How we do all of these things will be different based on the individual and the church, but each of these (corporate worship, fellowship, study and application of God’s word, and service to others) is an essential aspect of the Christian walk and of discipleship.

Lists

Here’s the interesting thing in Galatians. Paul takes pains to emphasize the freedom we have in Christ which is freedom from these lists (in his case circumcision, special observance of certain holy days) but in Galatians 5 we still see two lists. The first list is a “vice list” and the second list is a “virtue list.” ... Virtue and vice lists are common for Paul. So, we might ask, why can Paul make lists and we can’t? Or, rather, what makes a list a form of legalism (in opposition to the gospel) and what makes it legitimate (springing from the gospel)?

Our Core Values

I have tried to rephrase these values as “loves” since you value what you love. What you love you also pursue, so when we hold these things as values they also form what we aim for – our vision and our daily and long-term goals.

Selective Hearing

When I was a kid I spent a lot of time at my friend C’s house. His dad had some seriously selective hearing. If we were in the same room as him we had to practically shout to be heard. But, when I would spend the night we would often stay up late watching TV. The TV was in the living room downstairs and C’s dad slept upstairs. We would turn the TV down as low as possible and sit really close. Even then, it seemed, C’s dad would come down stairs and tell us the sound of the TV was disturbing his sleep. I think we eventually resorted to using those wireless TV headphones, sharing a single pair, straining to hear the improv show In Living Color.

Despite Doubt: Sunday Night Series starts 2/23/2014

Everybody doubts; Christians, Atheists, scholars, students, pastors, even you. What do we do with those doubts? Are they beneficial or harmful? Are they essential for faith or do they hinder it? If you’re troubled by doubts, how do put them to bed?

A “Top-Button” Truth

In gods at war Idleman offers a jewel of a metaphor for idolatry. In describing “the god of family” he observes that we are called to honor our parents, but are called to worship God. We are to love our children but only God is worth of worship. He describes this as a “top-button” truth

7 Questions that Diagnose the Idols in Your Life (via gods at war)

While on our recent trip to South Carolina we stopped in Kentucky to visit some friends. At a restaurant on the river we met up with Corky, the pastor who performed our wedding. Corky is on the pastoral staff of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville and was gracious enough to give me a copy of gods at war by Kyle Idleman, who is the teaching pastor of Southeast.

Reconciling Hebrews 4:12-13 with my experience of it

In a couple of Sundays I will be teaching on Hebrews 4:14 – 5:10. If you would like a recap of where we are in Hebrews, here’s a brief reflection on Hebrews 4:12-13. This well known text powerfully captures what theologians call the “efficacy” of God’s Word.

Baptisms, Business Meetings, and Busted Knees

This past Sunday was quite exciting at our church.

I just want to be ______. [Attic After School Recap]

As the kids streamed in to Attic After School I asked each to complete the sentence “I just want to be _____” on a little slip of paper. I got a total of 35 responses.

Praying with the Church, for my City

Tonight at 7:00 a group from our church will be meeting together for our weekly prayer meeting. I have the privilege of leading it for the next few months with a study called Praying with the Church, for the City.

On Faith: Something Better for Us

After inspiring us with stories of bold faith the author of Hebrews 11 takes a somewhat surprising turn when he says, “these were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised…”

On Faith: In Victory and Defeat

This passage teaches us two things. First: Defeat for the sake of Christ is really victory. Second: If you live by faith your reward will come. It might not come in this life, but it will come.

Book Review: Altar Ego by Craig Groeschel

Altar Ego by Craig Groeschel is a book about becoming who you are in Christ, followed by an exhortation to live out that new identity.

Can I Thank God For This?

I’ve heard a broad range of opinions on how Christians should consume media - what we should watch, listen to, etc. This Sunday, in my class on The Hole in Our Holiness, we’ll spend some time looking into that question.

On Faith: Life Without Fear

I want to live a life without fear.

When I was in High School and Middle School I feared a lot of things. I feared being lonely, being left out. I feared failure. I feared those around me I saw as being popular and powerful. I feared death. More specifically, I feared what would happen to me after I died.

Moses, the man of faith, learned how to live a life without fear.

On Faith: Rube Goldberg Machine

I struggled for a while on how to teach Hebrews 11:20-22 to the Attic After School kids. The first challenge was to figure out what in the world these verses had to do with faith. Before this we saw great acts of faith from Noah and Abraham - guys who really went out on a limb to please God.

These verses are about Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph doing something that by comparison, seems a lot less daring - giving speeches before they died. Isaac is blessing Jacob. Jacob is blessing Joseph’s sons. And Jospeh is giving instructions about his bones. Bo-ring.

Five Dangers to Your Faith

There are many dangers, internal and external, to your faith. These five share a common theme: they are each the result of simple neglect.

Advice for College students

My first year of college was a positive experience (and so were my second, third, fourth, fifth, etc.) It was a time for me to gain a greater sense of self-identity and to reaffirm and “own” my childhood faith. I didn’t know it at the time but it was also a perilous period of my life. Since that time I’ve seen how the failure to engage with a Christian community in college can seriously damage a college student’s faith.

On Faith: A Painful Story

When I was in Seminary I had to translate Genesis 22:1-14 (God testing Abraham). Translation requires slow and careful attention to every word. It’s impossible to translate (for non-experts) quickly. The problem is that Genesis 22:1-14 is one of those stories you want to get to the end of quickly.

Church Values: Church has Value

The response of worship is first of all a posture of the heart, mind, and will. But, like all religious responses, the internal “heart” response must always be followed by actions (James 2:14-26, 1 John 3:17-18). So, if we are to worship God properly we must do so not only in our hearts, but with our actions as well.

Book Review: Church for the Fatherless

“Our culture’s decision-making created the mythology of the superfluous father.” -Jonetta Rose Barras

By Faith: Delay Gratification

I heard about a study where researches offered young children the choice between getting one marshmallow now and waiting for a few minutes to get two marshmallows. Some kids took the single marshmallow while others waited and received two. As the researches followed the lives of the kids, they discovered that those who waited generally did better in life. This is the principle of delayed gratification and it is a very important life skill.

Church Values: Leadership Accountability

Over the past few weeks, Pastor John and I have been trying to highlight some of our church values. A couple weeks ago I did a blog post on our value of “holistic Gospel mission.” Yesterday, John spoke to our church about our value to have accountability in leadership.

On Faith: Believing the Impossible

I knew this was an unsafe question to ask – “what do you want, wish for, hope for, that you believe is impossible?” This is how I should have expected the middle and high school students at Attic After School to respond.

On Faith: Loosen Your Grip

In the words of Jim Elliot: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to save what he cannot lose.”

Our Values: Gospel Mission

Halfway around the world, fighting has broken out along the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. The violence has thrown the already volatile and troubled region into renewed chaos. Residents are fleeing the city of Goma.

The Prophet and The Great Commission

The Gospel of Jesus contains within it the double joy of proclaiming the truth the future is already here and that the fullness of our hope is yet to come.

On Faith: Crazy Guy with a Boat

When I was in High School, the worst part of the day was lunch time. It was the worst part of the day because I didn’t have many friends to sit with in the cafeteria. I did find some people I sort of knew, but I was always the odd one out and rarely participated in their conversations. After they ate, I would either awkwardly hang around or head off alone to my locker.

On Faith: Pleasing God

Who are you trying to please? What kinds of rewards are you looking for?

God’s Presence, Union and Communion, and Deuteronomy 31-33

The presence of God for Israel, both in taking the land, and in experiencing the blessings of the land, resulted in tangible results and, for them, it made all the difference in the world. We as Christians, however, are left with the challenge of understanding what God’s presence means for us today.

How to get the most out of fixed-prayers

I am relatively new to the practice of praying fixed (that is, pre-written) prayers like the Lord’s Prayer, the Gloria, and the Psalms. Praying these fixed prayers has added new vitality into my prayer life but, like any religious practice, praying fixed prayers can actually become lifeless or even dangerous.

On Faith: Enoch

Abel’s story of faith ended with his death (11:4). Enoch (Gen 5:21-25), on the other hand, never experienced it.

#YouGotPastored

I was part of a brief Twitter exchange today. After my initial response, my interlocutor replied. “you are right. #IJustGotPastored” I’m pretty sure that makes me an official pastor now.

On Faith: Abel

From a human perspective, Abel’s story is kind of tragic. He offered a sacrifice that pleased God. This offering made his brother Cain jealous, which led to Abel’s untimely and violent demise. What does an offering offered in faith get you? Murdered by your jealous brother.

On Faith: Creation

“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what is visible.” Hebrews 11:3

Last week, after coming home from Attic After School, I commented to my wife that the students did a really good job of paying attention during Talk Time. This was surprising to me for two reasons. First, it’s just really hard to get twenty middle and high school students to pay attention for a ten minutes – no matter what it’s about. Second, my Talk Time last week was rather philosophical in nature.

On Faith: Defined

This semester for Talk Time in Attic After School I’m working through Hebrews 11, affectionately called “The Hall of Faith.”

Are All Sins the Same?

One issue that Kevin DeYoung addresses in The Hole in our Holiness is “the notion that every sin is the same in God’s eyes.”  DeYoung points out that in many cases, this sentiment is expressed as a form of genuine humility – “I deserve God’s wrath too. So how can I judge your mistakes?”  Since ours is a church quick to love and slow to judge (excellent qualities!) you hear this sentiment expressed a lot.

According to DeYoung, though, it’s only partially true.

The Hole In Our Holiness - Book Review

“The hole in our holiness is that we don’t really care much about it”

Donald Trump Tells Liberty Students to “Get Even”. Really?

Donald Trump gave the convocation speech at Liberty University’s earlier this week and it should surprise no one that he said some controversial things. I haven’t listened to the speech, so I don’t have the whole context, but I was taken aback by one line:

“I always say don’t let people take advantage - this goes for a country, too, by the way - don’t let people take advantage. Get even.”

The Unique Task of the Church

I was blessed to attend the West Cannon Pastors conference over the last two days. Kevin DeYoung and Michael Horton were the speakers and both did an excellent job. One message from Kevin DeYoung, on the mission of the church, had me saying “amen.” I was so excited, in part, because his message resonated with a recent experience of mine. First, I’ll share the story, then I’ll share a little of Kevin’s message.

Swiper, the helpful fox?

“Swiper is getting the ball for Boots out of the volcano”

A Faith of Our Own – Book Review

I thought my upbringing was pretty political but after reading A Faith of our Own I don’t think it holds a candle to Jonathan Merritt’s. He grew up in the highly politicized church culture of the South. In his book, he questions the wisdom of such a close wedding of faith and partisan politics. He also describes how younger evangelicals are reacting against this strategy of political engagement. The question Merritt addresses in his book is whether this is simply a knee-jerk reaction of the young and idealistic, or whether it actually comes from a deeper reflection on the Bible and the Gospel as demonstrated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He also describes the various forms this “reaction” takes. Here are two:

A Faith of Our Own – C.S. Lewis Money Quotes

I’m about half the way through Jonathan Merritt’s A Faith of Our Own and hope to post a review once I finish. For now, however, I want to mention a couple of quotes that sum up a lot of Merritt’s thesis (so far anyway). Ironically, these quotes aren’t from Merritt, they’re his quotations of C.S. Lewis.

What I meant to say is…

MLive.com posted a story about my book project, “Prayers for My City: Wyoming”. The article gets the basic idea across but many of my quotes are, well, terrible.

Review of The Juvenilization of American Christianity

The Juvenilization of American Christianity by Thomas E. Bergler is one part history book and one part critique of what he calls the “juvenilized” version of Christianity.

Individuals and Groups

When I was in Seminary one of my professors asked the class the question, “what is the relationship between individuals and groups?” At the time, my answer was that groups are simply collections of individuals. If you want to change a group, change the individuals. I’ve come to believe that my initial answer is really only part of the truth.

What Is Fixed-Hour Prayer?

I have recently started researching and practicing something called “fixed-hour prayer.” So what exactly is fixed-hour prayer? One excellent resource of this topic, especially for low-church Protestants like me, is Praying With the Church by Scot McKnight. He does an excellent job of introducing the reader to this historic practice.

To Transform a City p2: Words Clarify, Deeds Verify

“The incarnational message of Jesus was made manifest through word and deed. He would both show and tell, and his words clarified his deeds while his deeds verified the truth of his words.” (To Transform a City, 128).

Is the Church a “who” or a “what”?

Is the Church a “who” or a “what”?

Deuteronomy 27-28 in < 400 Words

Last Sunday (7/8) the message was on Deuteronomy 27-28 which covers the pronouncements of blessings and curses for Israel. Brevity takes (and builds) discipline. To that end, here is my attempt to summarize the main points. As an exercise I limited myself to 400 hundred words. Word count starts now…

What’s The Problem?

Every worldview needs to answer the question, “what is the problem in the world?” How you answer this question will determine the kind of solution you look for.

Review of Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy

“The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and a man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God”. – A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy

Reflections on Too Busy Not To Pray

I just finished reading Bill Hybels’ classic “Too Busy Not To Pray.”

Why it’s OK to Sing “Our God” in Public Worship

I got into an interesting online discussion this week. I will spare you the details but one interesting question arose that I think is worthwhile to discuss here. The question was this, is the pluralism of Paul’s (pre-Christian) time different from the (post-Christian) pluralism of today? You may wonder why this is an important question. It turns out how you answer this question as serious implications for worship and mission today.

Deuteronomy 12-26 in Under 400 Words

Last Sunday (6/10) the message was on Deuteronomy 12-26 where I attempted to answer the question “What’s the Purpose of the Law in Deut. 12-26”? Brevity takes (and builds) discipline. To that end, here is my attempt to summarize the main points. As an excise I limited myself to 400 hundred words. Word count starts now…

Family Worship: Final Reflections

Our family is now into a pretty good groove when it comes to family worship. We’re still not 100% consistent but the pattern is established. God has given our family a few blessings I did not expect.

Baptism Sunday

This Sunday, we have Wyoming Park Bible Fellowship get to experience the joy of four baptisms. Here’s a brief reflection

Book Review: Reimagining the Kingdom by Jeremy Bouma

Jeremy Bouma and I attended Grand Rapids Theological Seminary around the same time and, I believe, even shared a class or two. This week he sent me a copy of his new book, Reimagining the Kingdom, which takes a hard look at some theology present in the Emergent church. The book is a great resource for those interested in the movement. He asked me to write a review for him, which I have included below.

The Fourth Lie

The fourth lie Israel had to reckon with was this: “Sin isn’t really that bad.” This would lead them to two related lies; “leaving some sin around won’t be a problem” and “as God’s people we’re above God’s judgment.”

Lies God’s People Tell Themselves (Deuteronomy 7-10)

Last Sunday (5/13) the message was on Deuteronomy 7-10. Brevity takes (and builds) discipline. To that end, here is my attempt to summarize the main points. As an excise I limited myself to 400 hundred words. Word count starts now…

Family Worship 5: Simplicity, Authenticity, Participatory

Sometimes I overthink things. I know, it’s hard to believe but it’s true. I can think around in circles and never actually do anything. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone, though. This can be a danger when establishing family worship in our homes.

Family Worship 4: Make Time

The best way to get into a consistent pattern of family worship (or to get into a consistent pattern of anything) is to put it on the schedule.

Family Worship 3: Taking Leadership

If family worship is going to happen parents will need to take on that leadership role. Family worship and discipleship doesn’t “just happen.” It requires the intentionality of someone who is willing to make it happen.

Family Worship 2: Being Convinced

The main thing that will kill family worship before it even gets off the ground is a lack of conviction. If you don’t believe you really need to do it, you won’t, or at least not for long.

Family Worship Part 1

Christian parents bear the responsibility to teach their children about God and his Word. And, as the above passage from Deuteronomy shows, this is a continual activity. As Voddie Baucham puts it, “multi-generational faithfulness is an all-day, everyday process.” Given such a massive task, where should parents start?

Can you make judgments without being judgmental?

In modern usage, “making moral judgments” and “being judgmental,” are nearly synonymous. It is impossible to say that a particular action is wrong (making a moral judgment) without also being labeled as judgmental. The Bible, on the other hand, regularly encourages us to make moral judgments (or more accurately faithfully accept the judgments revealed in God’s Word) while strongly arguing against being “judgmental.”

Hope Without God?

A new billboard went up in Grand Rapids this week which read “You don’t need God to hope, to care, to love, to live.” This billboard has caused quite a bit of controversy but it is also an opportunity for Christians to clarify, embody, and proclaim a message of hope, love, and eternal life only available through God.

Reflections on Osama bin Laden’s death

My emotional reaction to hearing of bin Laden’s death was much stronger than I would have expected it to be.

What I Learned About Worship: College

After high school I attended college at Grand Valley State University. Aware that my faith would be challenged in this secular school I began attending InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. The group was committed to sharing the story of Jesus with the campus, to studying God’s Word, and to practicing multi-cultural worship.

What I Learned About Worship: Summer Camps

In my last post I wrote about what I learned about worship in childhood. Part of the learning process came through my experiences at week-long summer camps I attended in middle and high school. These camps introduced me to a whole new model of worship. I went from singing in pews to standing and raising my hands in an emotionally charged atmosphere.

What I Learned about Worship: Childhood

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing stories from my life which mark turning points in my understanding of the meaning of worship in the life of the believer and the church. This week: Childhood.

I grew up in a small Southern Baptist church in Northern Michigan. My dad was an elder and my mom played the organ. The pastor’s wife was the pianist. We sang a lot of hymns. My friend and I used to see who could open the hymnal to the exact right page on the first try. We were successful more often than you might imagine. We sang a lot of hymns. In many respects our church had the epitome of the “traditional” worship service.

Five Ways to Connect at WPBF

At Wyoming Park we love to get together and have fun! We don’t just do it for our own enjoyment. We do it because we believe that in coming together we’re taking the first steps towards following Jesus’ command to “love one another.” Here are five ways to join in the fun.

Five Great Quotes on Teamwork

I’m reading through “The Leadership Challenge” by Kouzes and Posner. Some of my favorite quotes are from the chapter on collaboration and teamwork. These quotes, though written in a secular book, ring with biblical wisdom.

Friday Five: 5 Reasons WPBF can Praise God this Week

I’m sure we have a lot more than five reasons to praise God as a church this week but here are a few I’m grateful for.

Friday Five: 5 New Year’s Resolution Ideas from Ecclesiastes

Struggling to find some New Year’s resolutions? Here are some suggestions inspired by the big ideas of the book of Ecclesiastes.

  1. Find joy in everyday life (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13): In your daily prayer life commit to giving thanks. Better yet, over dinner with your family give thanks for the blessings of your day.
  2. Remember God in your youth (Ecclesiastes 12:1): The New Year is a great time to refocus and commit to regular times of prayer and Bible reading. Read through the New Testament. Pick up one of WPBFs devotional guides. Set aside time each day to turn your heart and mind to God.

Friday Five: Five Things to Remember on Christmas Morning

  1. It’s all about Jesus: Take some quiet time to consider what you’re celebrating – God coming to earth to redeem the world. Growing up my family read through the Christmas story. I think that’s a good tradition to bring forward.
  2. You have a family: As transplants in GR sometimes my wife and I sometimes feel a little disconnected around the holidays. It’s good for us to remember that we have a church family who loves and supports us. On Christmas, it’s also good to remember that Jesus is our “eldest brother.” (Hebrews 2:11)

Friday Five: Five things I’m thankful for this Christmas

  1. New life: This is my baby’s first Christmas and while she won’t remember it, we sure will.
  2. Roots: After years of school and living in apartments, it’s good we can begin the process of putting down roots.