Category Archives: Discipleship

Discipling holiness

While studying the idea of discipleship, I have come across two thoughts. One is that discipleship is best defined as a one-on-one mentoring of another person. The other is that discipleship can also be handled from the pulpit. While you may agree with or disagree with these statements, they are probably both true. Discipleship is one person teaching another person what Jesus taught (Matt. 28:18-20). With God’s help, we need to make disciples.

While my topic involves discipling holiness, I think that we should first consider what the Bible says about making disciples. During our study we will consider the purposes of discipling, the means of discipling, and then the discipling of holiness.

  1. The Purposes of Discipleship

    What is the goal of discipleship? Jesus told the disciples to make disciples by teaching everything He had taught them. If we were to limit our study to the Great Commission, we might miss some of the other goals of discipling found in the New Testament. In my study, I have found four biblical goals for making disciples.

    To make you something you are not (Mark 1:17).

    At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he gathered twelve men to be his disciples. These men were from diverse backgrounds and skillsets. But all of them were in need of something that they did not have. Jesus pointed that out when he called Simon and Andrew from their nets. He called them to follow Him so that he could make them fishers of men.

    Jesus’ goal in calling them to follow Him was to make them something they were not. They were fishermen who could catch fish, but they were not believers who could bring men to Christ. However, their time with Jesus paid off and they became what they needed to be.

    To provide an example to follow (Phil. 4:9; 1 Cor. 11:1).

    Paul worked with the believers in Philippi and Corinth. How long did he stay at each place? He seems to have only stayed in Philippi for a few days (Acts 16:12) while he was a year and a half in Corinth (Acts 18:11-12). But in both cases, he was there long enough to have shown them an example to follow. In Philippians 4:9, he told them to do the things they had learned, received, heard, and seen in him. In 1 Cor. 11:1, he told the believers to imitate him as he imitated Christ.

    It is interesting that in both cases, whether a short time or a long time, they were able to see Paul’s example long enough to learn from it. This was the goal of Jesus and of Paul. Their close proximity to their disciples gave them the opportunity to showcase what a Christian should be like. This is why it is so important to be a godly example to others. People are watching.

    To train future teachers (2 Tim. 2:2).

    During Paul’s ministry, he mentored a young believer named Timothy. Timothy traveled with Paul and saw his example. But Paul didn’t just show an example, he also taught Timothy what he needed to know about the Lord. Later, when Paul wrote his second epistle to Timothy, he told the young preacher to pass along these teachings to faithful men who would do the same.

    Paul’s discipling of Timothy was not an end in itself. It was designed to broadcast the Christian message to more and more people. Paul didn’t just disciple one person and consider his job done. He wanted many people to keep up the good work. And this was done with a right mindset. Mentor a young believer and prepare him to do the same over and over again.

    To address a variety of needs (2 Tim. 4:2).

    Lest you think that discipleship always results in perfection, Paul reminds us that correction is needed at times. Working with people will require difficult responses. This is why Paul told Timothy to “convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” This makes me wonder if Timothy had written a letter asking for help with the people at Ephesus. Whatever the case, you notice that Paul’s recommendation covered a wide variety of situations.

    Have you ever considered how different people are? Each of us has different needs and these needs change based on maturity, time of life, health, personality, and many other variables. Sometimes, it takes time to work with someone to convince them of their need or what the Bible is teaching. Other times, there is need for rebuke. Some need the exhortation of a friend to do what God commands. But in all cases, the one discipling needs to be patient and to continue teaching.

    Each of these goals has an application in holiness. First, we have a need to become what we are not. We are not holy and often need the help of a spiritually mature Christian to help us to become holy for the Lord. Second, we need a holy example to follow. While Jesus is the ultimate example, it sure does help to have an example in front of us living the way we should. Third, discipleship has the goal of creating future teachers. If these teachers don’t disciple the next generation about being holy, we will be in big trouble. Fourth, there are a variety of needs. When a spiritually mature believer spends time mentoring young Christians, he or she will soon see that not everyone is the same. And that means that there is no cookie-cutter plan for helping individuals.

  2. The Means of Discipleship

    We know what discipleship is and its purposes, but do we know how to do it? When Jesus called the twelve disciples to follow Him (Mark 3:13), this was a formal selection of those who would be closest to him from all of his disciples. In their case, they actually lived with and traveled with Jesus for several years. As He discipled them, what means did He use to teach them? You might be surprised that He and other early Christian leaders used a variety of means to disciple others.

    Personal interaction (1 John 1:1-3)

    Can you think of Bible examples of someone discipling another person? How about Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus and the disciples, and Paul and Timothy. Much of what each learned from his “master” was from personal interaction. In the case of Jesus discipling John, the disciple heard, saw, watched, and touched Jesus. In other words, he learned by being with Jesus. There are some things that you learn just by being with another person. And eventually that personal interaction will bear fruit. Do you remember when the Sanhedrin confronted Peter and John? They couldn’t understand why these ignorant fishermen were so bold until they noted the impact that time with Jesus had on them (Acts 4:13).

    Public and Private teaching

    The disciples were with Jesus when He preached to the crowds. So, we can’t discount the discipling that took place when the Bible is being preached publicly. Any time God’s truth is being taught can be a time of discipleship. But also note that Jesus took the time to teach the smaller group of disciples apart from the crowds (Mark 4:10, 34). This special time enabled Him to explain things more fully than He could with a larger group. In this instance, He was explaining the meaning of parables which had been hidden from those who had rejected Him. This private teaching would also allow for more personal applications and answers to specific questions the disciples had.

    During a recent Sunday evening service, we were preparing to commemorate the Lord’s Supper/ One of our church members approached me with a puzzled look on her face. Since I had been studying discipleship, I immediately thought that this might be a time for one-on-one teaching for someone who was struggling with an issue. When she walked up to me, she said, “Pastor… you bought prune juice not grape juice.” I guess my example wasn’t the greatest to follow that day.

    Writing (1-2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon)

    While Peter and Paul often had men traveling with them (discipleship), there came a time when they would go in different directions. But even mature Christians need instruction from time to time. That’s where the ministry of writing came in for them. Paul’s epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon accomplished what he could no longer do in person. If you have read these epistles, you know how much of an encouragement they must have been to Paul’s disciples and to all who later read them.

    It would be easy to talk about making disciples and only deal with one-on-one conversations because these conversations can be a place where people learn the most. But this is not the only way to disciple another person. In fact, you may know of other means that can be used. Whatever the case, we need to take advantage of every means possible to help others to become like Christ. Use the time you are given wisely to teach others and help them to grow. And part of that is our next section.

  3. The Discipling of Holiness (1 Pet. 1:13-16)

    Now that we have a better understanding of the purposes and means of discipleship, let’s look at how we can teach others to be holy for the Lord. As we look at this passage, let us consider how we can help others apply these truths to their own lives.

    Be prepared (1 Pet. 1:13).

    When Peter tells us to “gird up the loins of your mind,” he is telling us to prepare our minds for what we will face every day. “This is a figure of speech based on the gathering and fastening up of the long Eastern garments so that they would not interfere with the wearer’s vigorous movements.”1 Peter’s first-century readers would have understood this. When someone in a long robe wanted to move quickly, they needed to pull up the bottom of the robe to their waist and tuck it into their belt. This would shorten the length and restrictiveness of the robe so that they could move freely.

    As Christians, we need to keep close control over our thinking. If our thoughts aren’t right our actions will not be right. So we need to actively prepare our thoughts on a regular basis by thinking about godly things. Paul said something similar in Ephesians 6:14. He said, “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth….” If we are not filling our minds with good things, we will have a hard time having prepared minds.

    If you were meeting with a new Christian who had trouble with his thoughts, how would you help him? When unholy thoughts are filling a young man’s mind, he can be hindered spiritually for a long time. What would you tell him? I think that this kind of discipleship is best dealt with in a one-on-one conversation. Not many people care to share publicly their struggle with sinful thoughts. But if they know that you genuinely care for them, they might listen and learn in private conversations.

    Where do unholy thoughts come from? They come from inside. So we need God’s help to change our thinking.
    What can influence our minds? Good – the Bible, friends; Bad – worldly books, entertainment, companions
    What should I do? Increase the good input (Phil. 4:8) and refuse the bad (Psalm 101:3).

    Be sober (1 Pet. 1:13).

    While intoxication is forbidden for Christians (Eph. 5:18), I don’t think that is what Peter meant. Instead, he is telling us to be self-controlled in all aspects of our lives. We are not to allow our actions to become out of control. He is also telling us to make sure that our thoughts are clear. We are not to let our minds wander or lead us astray. He is also telling us that our attitude needs to be one of vigilance. We are to keep our eyes open and be ready for anything that might seek to pull us away from God. Every aspect of our lives needs to be controlled by the Spirit and what the Bible teaches.

    As each of us seeks to be holy for the Lord, this characteristic of self-control ought to be seen in our lives. This is where the means of personal interaction would be helpful. As another believer sees your self-control and the holy life that results from it, they will learn from your example. Have you considered how the things you choose to do, say, or take part in affects other believers?

    Have any of you read The Reel Story by Larry Vaughn? It has been many years since I read it, but I do remember an illustration from that book that fits this principle of self-control and discipleship. At some point during his journey toward becoming a Christian, Larry was invited over to a pastor’s house. During the meal, the pastor drank alcohol and became a bit tipsy. The pastor lost his usual self-control and also lost his testimony. You can see how a lack of self-control can be a problem for those watching. But so can the example of self-control. That is why Paul told Timothy to “be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12).

    Be hopeful (1 Pet. 1:13).

    Peter tells us to fully rest our hope on the grace which we will receive when Jesus is revealed. There are three parts to his statement. The first is our hope. This is “an attitude of confidently looking forward to what is good and beneficial.”2 We are to put all of our confidence on what God has promised. The second is God’s promise to give us grace. Peter tells us that grace will be brought to us. That means that it is something that we don’t yet have. But we now know that God has this grace in store for us in the future. The third is the revelation of Jesus. Peter is telling us that Jesus will one day appear and be known to all. To sum things up, Peter is telling us to pin our hopes on the future grace God will give us when Jesus comes back.

    Living a holy life can be difficult. There are times when the pressures and temptations are strong. We want to be left alone. We want to feel good. We want to hide from our duties. And during those times, we may be tempted to loosen are standards and to give in to temptation. But when we look forward to what God has in store for us, it gives us hope. The grace that will be given to us when Jesus returns will be greater than anything that we will face in this life.

    I think that discipling this kind of holy hope should be part of public teaching. While it should be seen in our lives and may also be taught in smaller groups, this hopeful living should be taught broadly to all. It should permeate our preaching. If you look back at Peter’s introduction to the epistle, you will notice that he talks about all that we have in Jesus. When you add our future hope to that, it changes the way we live our lives. We are no longer constantly fretting about now because our hope is fixed on the future.

    Be unconformed (1 Pet. 1:14-16).

    Peter tells us that we are to be holy. This holiness should be seen in our obedience. We are to be like children who obey their parents. This holiness should be seen in our unconformity. We are not to be conformed to our former way of life when we ignorantly lived to fulfill our lusts. This holiness should be seen in our godly character. We are to conduct ourselves like the holy One who called us.

    We ought to be known as people who are different. It may come as a surprise to the world that we don’t go to the same excesses they do. Why are we morally pure? Why are we honest to a fault? Why do we not watch certain movies? Our goal is to be holy for the Lord. And this involves looking at our lives in the magnifying glass of the Bible. Sometimes, we don’t even realize that we have become conformed to the world. So when God shows us an area of our life where we have become more like the world, we should remove it as quickly as possible.

    Holiness doesn’t seem as important to Christians as it once was. The label “Christian” has been added to music, movies, clothing, and even breath mints; but holiness doesn’t seem to be a part of the final outcome. Much of what had been labeled as Christian has very little to do with Christ and is not much different than the world. As a whole, this movement is not holy but has become conformed to the world. And we all know what God thinks about that. The Bible tells us not to be conformed to this world (Rom. 12:2). We need to take a stand in this area of holiness so that other Christians are kept from falling into the same trap.

    Part of discipleship is addressing specific issues. While it is good to teach principles for holy living, if we never apply those to specific situations, we can be left with the same thing that happened in the Book of Judges. “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25). Sometimes discipling about holiness may need to include personal rebuke, teaching about contemporary issues, sharing individual struggles, and giving of personal tips. In this way, we can help others to make wise choices in holy living for the Lord.

Conclusion

Holiness is something that God is. We must never forget that. Holiness is also something God wants us to be. We must strive for that. And as we move toward becoming more holy for the Lord, there are others who are also on the same journey. Is it possible that the Lord could use you to disciple them? To do so, it will take time and commitment. But that time will be well worth the effort. There will be ups and downs, failures and victories. But this is what God has called us to do. I hope that you will consider how the Lord can use you in someone’s life as you seek to be holy for the Lord.

There is one more type of discipling of holiness. And that is the teaching of a church or fellowship of churches likes the Ohio Bible Fellowship. For years, the members of the OBF have written letters and articles, visited with other pastors, prayed together, and made public resolutions about biblical separation. The reason we did this was because there was a great need to remind Christians and churches to be holy for the Lord. The current state of the American church has not improved, and this is in part because of a lack of holiness. I believe that we can be an influence for good by continuing these practices. By our example, by our preaching, by personal conversations, or by writing, let us teach holiness not as an abstract idea but something that applies to our lives and churches today. And as we do that, God will be honored and the church will strive to be holy for the Lord.

Footnotes

1 McGee 683.
2 ἐλπίζω as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/elpizo on 9/25/2023.

Bibliography

Hiebert, D. Edmond, 1 Peter, Chicago: Moody Press, 1984.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. V, 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983.

Raymer, Roger M., “1 Peter” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publication, 1983.

“What does it mean to be sober-minded?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=34020 on 9/24/2023.

“What does it mean to gird up the loins of your mind (1 Peter 1:13)?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=63685 on 9/20/2023.

Five Daily Habits for Healthy Discipleship

During the Fall Ohio Bible Fellowship Conference, Pastor Gordon Dickson spoke about Discipleship in Service. Over the years, he has developed five daily habits that have helped people to grow as Christians. The following notes are based on the outline he shared then.

Before we get into those five daily habits, consider a question. What five things would you suggest that a new believer add to his daily schedule to grow as a Christian? You might think about Bible reading and prayer but what else? Maybe evangelism? These are good things to do, but how does a new Christian do those things and find benefit in them without someone guiding them. These principles, if they are followed, will eventually lead to spiritually maturity because they point toward the source of what God wants for us—the Bible.

  1. Scripture Reading (Psalm 119:105; 2 Tim. 2:15)

    In Psalm 119:105, the psalmist reminds us that the words God has given us are like a light that illuminates the path before us. In other words, the Bible contains inspired statements that will show us how walk through life in the right direction.

    In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul exhorted Timothy to become someone whom God approves, a worker who won’t be ashamed because he is correctly handling God’s truth. In other words, Timothy was to “set forth truthfully, without perversion, or distortion”1 what God had revealed. As he did this, he would be approved by God and not ashamed.

    One of the most important parts of discipleship is teaching the other person to read the Bible. As noted above, God has given us the Bible to guide us, but it takes time to not only read but to accurately understand what God has said. If you were working with a new believer, what would you tell him about Scripture reading? I would tell him that it is important to not just read but to study what God has said3 as if it is important and life-changing. When someone does that, he will soon begin to understand what God is saying and it will make a difference in their life.

  2. Word-based Meditation (Psalm 1:1-3; Josh. 1:8)

    In Psalm 1:1-3, the psalmist shows the benefits of delighting in and meditating on the law of the Lord. Those who do will stay away from ungodly influences and will become established people. In other words, meditating on the Bible will led to spiritual growth.

    In Joshua 1:8, God told Joshua to meditate on the Book of the Law so that he would observe what God commanded and obey those commands. This would lead to good success. In other words, meditating on the Bible leads to knowing and doing what God desires.

    Meditation on the Bible is something that will help every believer. It is not an emptying of the mind but a filling of the mind with God’s thoughts as revealed in the Bible. If you were working with a new believer, what would you tell him about Word-based Mediation? I would tell him to go for a walk and think about what he has read in the Bible. It takes time to meditate. And as you are thinking, ask God to help you to understand accurately what He is saying. When someone chooses to meditate on God’s truth, his mind will become filled with and tuned to what God wants for him.

  3. Exhorting/Encouraging Believers with the Word of God (Deut. 3:28; Acts 15:32)

    In Deuteronomy 3:28, God told Moses to command, encourage, and strengthen Joshua because he would be Israel’s next leader who would lead them into the Promised Land. In other words, the job ahead of Joshua would be difficult. So, part of his discipleship needed to be encouragement to be, do, and lead as God intended.

    In Acts 15:32, Judas and Silas had just delivered a letter to the church in Antioch that corrected the erroneous teaching that new Christians had to obey the Mosaic law. After delivering the letter, both men exhorted and strengthened their Christian brothers with many words. In other words, they used their words to encourage2 the believers toward further faithfulness to God’s truth.

    Exhortation and encouragement are two sides of the same coin. Exhortation is a focused push toward doing what is right. Encouragement is the same thing by showing that it is possible and beneficial. Both of these must come from what God says in the Bible. If you were working with a new believer, what would you tell him about Exhorting/Encouraging Believers with the Word of God? I would tell him that his personal Bible study and meditation should easily lead toward this. The more you are reading, studying, and thinking about the Bible, the more encouragement you can be to other Christians.

  4. Evangelizing Unbelievers with the Word of God (Isa. 55:10-11; Luke 24:27)

    In Isaiah 55:10-11, God told Isaiah that His words would be like the rain that causes the plants to grow. When spoken or written to people, they would accomplish the goals intended by God. In other words, God has empowered the Bible with the ability to accomplish His intentions when it is heard or read.

    In Luke 24:27, Jesus was walking with two disciples who did not recognize Him. They were disillusioned by Jesus’ death because they were expecting Him to redeem Israel. Jesus took the time to point them back to all that the Old Testament Scriptures said about Him. In other words, He used the Bible to explain what it said about Him.

    Evangelizing unbelievers is best done with what the Bible says. There are many methods that have been proposed over the years, but it all must come back to what God has revealed in the Bible. That is where God’s truth will be found. If you were working with a new believer, what would you tell him about Bible-based evangelism? I would tell him that God’s truth is powerful and is the means by which God can pierce the hearts of unbelievers. If you will rely on what God has empowered, you will see Him working in other people.

  5. Prayer using the Word of God (Matt. 6:6; Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-14)

    In Matthew 6:6, Jesus pointed out the problem of praying in public to be noticed by others. Instead of doing that, He told the disciples to find a quiet place where they could be alone to pray to God the Father. In other words, praying in a quiet place eliminates distractions that would hinder God’s blessing on your life.

    In Philippians 1:9-11, Paul prayed that these Christians would grow in their love, knowledge and discernment. He wanted them to learn to know what was good and to live without offense. He also wanted to see the fruit of righteousness in their lives. In other words, Paul wanted these people to become mature in their understanding of God’s will so that their lives would bring glory to God.

    In Colossians 1:9-14, Paul told the Philippians that he was constantly praying for them to know God’s will. Among other things, he prayed that they would live lives that pleased the Lord, that they would have God’s strength and patience, and that they would remember what God the Father had done for them through Jesus. In other words, Paul wanted these people to mature in their understanding and fruitfulness for the Lord.

    Praying using the Word of God involves praying for the same things that God deems important in the Bible. Paul’s specific prayers for the Philippian and Colossian churches is a good template for praying for others. If you were working with a new believer, what would you tell him about prayer using the Word of God? I would tell them to use what they learned in their Bible reading to pray for others. If you have read about persevering through trials, this would be a good thing to pray for others. In this way, you would be truly praying “in Jesus’ name” because what you requested would be what Jesus wanted because it is based on the inspired Bible.

Conclusion

I believe that the things mentioned above can be very helpful for a new believer. As they study the Bible, meditate on it, exhort others with it, evangelize with it, and pray with it, they will be filled with joy and become fruitful for the Lord. But these things are not just for new Christians. These are truths that apply to all believers.

Have you become an effective, listless Christian? Have you lost the spark that drove you when you were newly saved? Perhaps the reason for this change is that you have been neglecting the things mentioned above. Why not take this week to incorporate these things into your daily routine. If you do, it will surely make a difference.

Footnotes

1 ὀρθοτομέω as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/orthotomeo on 10/15/2023.
2 παρακαλέω as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/parakaleo on 10/5/2023.
3 I recommend getting a small notebook for taking notes while reading the Bible. As you read, you should ask yourself three questions about that portion of the Bible. (1) What does it say? (2) What does it mean? (3) How does it apply to me? Answering these questions patiently and in order will keep you from misunderstanding the Bible and misapplying it. It will also deepen your understanding and love for what God has given us.

What are you?

Remember when people came to Jesus and promised to follow him but then made excuses for not continuing with him? (Matt. 8:18-22) One had to be reminded that it might not be comfortable. Another had to be willing to make Jesus more important than family. Those were tough decisions. I don’t know what happened to those two. But it seems like they were unwilling to give up what Jesus mentioned and really follow him.

Many people are happy to believe in Jesus and “get a ticket to heaven.” But when it comes to repenting/turning from sin, joyfully living for him every day, and following him no matter the cost, the group is decidedly smaller. The Lord is looking for men, women, and children who will turn to him not just to escape the coming judgment but who will keep on following him.

Look at the disciples. They didn’t have the easiest of lives. But they chose to follow Jesus and learned so much. They watched him for about three years and saw how he interacted with people, loved them, taught them, and pointed them away from their sin to a wonderful, new life that only he could provide. They knew that following Jesus would not be easy, but they learned that it was worth it because he changed their lives for the better.

I have a question for you. Are you a “Christian” in name only or a follower of Jesus? There is a difference. There will be a difference.

What is a Biblical Christian?

After a discussion with a friend from church I was reminded that I had not finished a pamphlet someone had given me about true Christianity. The pamphlet is entitled “What is a Biblical Christian?” and is written by Albert N. Martin, a pastor from New Jersey. I have been looking for a concise but thorough presentation of the gospel with which to disciple the teens in our youth group. After finishing the pamphlet, I think I’ve found the perfect resource.

Pastoral Shift

“There is now in process a major shift in many churches of the Western world–a shift from clergy-centered ministry to a ministry of laymen equipped for service. This change in the Western world is gradually taking place all around us. Christian leaders are lovingly but firmly leading the Church out of the misconceptions and mistakes of the past to the proper scriptural pattern intended by God. The goal of many individual churches is to transform a congregation of spectators being led by a minister into an army of ministers being led by a pastor.”

Bill Hull, Jesus Christ Disciple Maker, (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1993), 154.

Discipleship Requirements

In a previous post, I discussed two possible reasons for the question asked in Luke 13:23. As noted then, the Lord didn’t answer the question directly, but rather pointed out the individual need of each hearer to be saved. He was more interested in their individual needs than the number of people who would be saved.

As encouraging as that has been to know, the question asked of the Lord has still been nagging me. Why are so few saved? Or put another way, why do so few choose to follow Christ? While we might be tempted to talk about election at this point, the context does not. Jesus clearly addresses each individual’s needs by pointing out the requirements they would need to meet to be his disciple. Without them, they would not be able to follow him.

  1. A disciple must be real (12:1-3; 54-56; 13:10-17).
  2. A disciple must rely on God (12:6-7, 22-34).
  3. A disciple must be committed (12:8-9).
  4. A disciple must be prepared for division (12:49-53).
  5. A disciple must repent of his sins (13:1-5).

When these requirements are placed alongside the question asked in Luke 13:23, it suddenly makes sense. The question was an accurate observation of the generally negative response to Jesus’ call to discipleship. The crowds enjoyed the miracles and interesting sermons, but when faced with such requirements, they were quick to disappear. The cost of discipleship was much too high.

One must honestly consider that following Christ has caused many disciples to lose family, friendships, employment, and possessions. Why then would anyone want to follow Jesus, knowing this would in all probability happen to them? Ask Moses. The Scriptures tell us that he looked beyond the difficulties to what God had in store for him (Heb. 11:24-26). Like Moses, those who have made the choice have been convinced by the Holy Spirit that what Jesus offers is of much more value than the best the world can offer. May each of us do the same.

How sheltered should our children be?

For the past few years my children have had the wonderful opportunity to attend Mentor Christian School. The staff of the school has done a commendable job of pointing my children toward Christ. They have learned much and profited from the godly examples of their teachers. For these things I am very thankful.

But as I consider the future of my children and our family, I must admit that I have wondered whether such a sheltered environment is healthy for the spiritual upbringing of my children. This may seem strange coming from someone who graduated from Northside Christian School, the Bible Institute of Ohio, and Northland Baptist Bible College. Each step in my educational background is still appreciated. However, I still wonder whether being so sheltered was counter-productive in some ways.

With the Great Commission in mind, how sheltered should our children be? Granted, what I have heard about public education in not very inviting. Parents with children in public schools must be more involved in the educational process to correct erroneous views such as evolution, sex education, and a number of other things. But regardless of the choice of education, is this not the Deuteronomy 6 mindset? We should constantly be teaching our children about the Lord so that they are prepared for the world’s influences.

On the one hand, I see the value of sheltering my children from the influences of public education. In a Christian school, I am confident that they will be taught by believers who want God’s best for them. But on the other hand, I see sheltering as a negative limitation. How will my children learn to stand against the temptations of the world, if I never let them experience it until graduation from high school? And how will they see the need to reach the lost if they rarely, if ever, meet the lost?

Ask the average Christian school student how many unsaved friends he has and he will have to think for a while. He is constantly involved with church and Christian school activities which allow little time for meaningful contact with the world. As I have said before, there is good in that … and bad. We must protect our children while also giving them the opportunity to face temptation and see the need to reach out to the lost.

These thoughts have been running through my head for some time now. But they were revived recently, after reading the following thoughts. The author writes about Jesus’ surprising practice of spending time with sinners such as Levi and his sinful friends.

The primary issue in Jesus’ mind was that this motley crew of sinners needed help. Compassion for the needy was the driving force behind his ministry. Christians, like Jesus, must look upon the lost as the victim, those upon whom compassion is the most productive endowment. There is no impact without contact. Unless we go where the fish are, we won’t catch any. The Pharisees weren’t catching anyone; they were fishing in a stained-glass aquarium and were coming up empty. The reason the Church has been so inept in evangelism is partly due to the Pharisaic unwillingness to live in the real world.

Bill Hull, Jesus Christ Disciple Maker, (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1993), 101-2.

Will my children attend a public school in the future? I don’t know. That would depend on a number of things. But I do know that I will continue to involve them in activities that keep them in contact with the world. Our recent contact with people through Cub Scouts has been a positive thing so far. (You may recall that Jefferson was able to speak to some friends about Christ during a camp out last year. That was exhilarating!) In any event, whether Christian, public, or home schooling, I want my children to grow up knowing, loving, and caring for the lost around them. If they fail to do that, they will fail to amount to much of anything for the Lord.

Jesus Christ Disciple Maker — Chapter 3

Chapter three concludes the book’s first section, “Come and See,” which covers the initial stage of Jesus’ method of discipleship. In this chapter he covers many good things including the need for patience, carefulness, leadership, and longevity. I was thinking about using the book with our teens, but believe it would be better used as a tool for training youth group advisors (our youth workers). In any event, this was an exceptionally good read and highly thought provoking.

Evangelism

… As the message of deliverance is carried to the world, it seems that often people are unchallenged and bored by the very news that should indeed excite their souls. And yet at the same time we should recognize that if the ones who deliver the message are bored, the ones who hear it will probably be bored as well. (p. 40)

Success in evangelism comes only when we follow what God commands; the results are his concern, not ours. It is not our responsibility to lead people to Christ. God simply asks us to tell others about Christ, allowing the Holy Spirit to take care of the rest. If we obey God with dedication and creativity in our evangelism attempts, then we are successful in his sight no matter what the results. If, however, we experience no positive results over an extended period of time, we should evaluate our methods and motives. (p. 46)

Patience

Jesus wanted to give these men time to allow the seeds he had planted to settle in their souls. This was one of his most effective methods of ensuring the right selection of men. He gave them time to pray and think over the call to discipleship—the invitation to a radical investment of time and effort. … Plan to allow people the time and information they need, thus ensuring that decisions are made during a time of clear-headedness and emotional balance. (pp. 56, 59)

Ministry Gifts

Recognize your place of ministry and then stay there. When you exercise your gifts faithfully, you always meet needs. You should never try to evade your calling by going off into some other ministry for variety or escape. (pp. 59-60)

Leadership

Demonstrate that you know where you are going. One sure sign of successful leadership is that the person in charge understands the plan and communicates it to those he wishes to enlist in the enterprise. (p. 61)

Bill Hull, Jesus Christ Disciple Maker, (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1984), pp. 40-62.

Come and See

A vital principle of discipleship emerges at this point: do not recruit people for anything without first allowing them to have their curiosity assuaged. Jesus was not afraid to reveal the small print in the contract. We get the distinct impression from this passage that Jesus desired to make it easy to say no. He did not employ the misguided habit of twentieth-century Christendom of “quick-pitching” people into commitments. When this hasty method is utilized, the recruit normally takes off like a rocket, only to fall back later to the earth like a rock. After such a misfire, restoration is nearly impossible, a very messy business. We must not be intimidating when we invite others to take a look at the Master. Indeed, at the outset Jesus himself launched his plan to rescue planet earth with the simple invitation to come and see.

… As we seek to reach others, we must kep in mind that Jesus did not use manipulation or intimidation as a recruiting method. He allowed God’s Holy Spirit to prepare the heart. Indeed, the Spirit utilized John’s ministry to prepare certain men for the Messiah. Jesus himself never used high pressure or arm-twisting tecniques. He trly made it easy for people to say no.

… Part of the problem is that we have manipulated and touchd peple only on the emotional level, thus limiting the long-term commitmens needed to effectively change minds. If only we could take a simple lesson from Jesus–we might not gather suh impressive statistics, but in the long run we would garner more solid choices by people moved by the Spirit.

Bill Hull, Jesus Christ Disciple Maker, (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1984), 19, 22, 23.

Quick Thoughts about Evangelism

During my college years, the Lord allowed me to travel with and direct a number of college ministry teams, presenting the gospel to children and teens in more than fifty churches. That was quite an opportunity and one that I don’t disregard. However, as I look back on my training, experiences, and methodology, I have begun to question the common philosophy behind many of those ministries. What I mean is that most of those ministry teams were geared toward a concise presentation of the gospel as opposed to a long-term period of discipleship. Obviously, an evangelist or ministry team is limited in the amount of time he can spend at any one location. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as Philip the evangelist was used by God to do much the same thing. However, there seems to be an overemphasis on the one-time presentation of the gospel as opposed to what the Lord Jesus intended when he originally commissioned his disciples.

If you attend an evangelistic church, you no doubt have been encouraged to take a pile of gospel tracts with you wherever you go. And why not? You can distribute these inexpensive papers at the gas station, Wal Mart, with a tip, or even under the windshield wipers of the cars in a parking lot. The latter method was practiced recently in the parking lot of a Catholic Church near my place of employment. In this instance, one of my co-workers was interested enough to spend the evening reading the 16 page pamphlet about erroneous Roman Catholic doctrine. With that in mind, I do recognize the benefit of gospel tracts and Christian literature. However, it would seem that many Christians equate this and other “quickie gospel hits” with the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

As many others have said, the main verb used by our Lord in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) refers to “making disciples.” The Great Commission involves giving the gospel, but there is so much more. Notice what the text itself says: “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” While that would include the gospel in a nutshell, it also covers all the other topics he addressed in the gospels, and, mind you, also in the writings inspired by him in the rest of the New Testament. That certainly broadens our responsibility beyond what we have often viewed as a fulfillment of our responsibility.