Millennials: Why Are They Leaving the Church?

Most recently, while reading through comments made by people I follow of Twitter, I read the following comment from a 26-year-old female. “From now on, I’m not replying to criticism. The churches obviously don’t preach the truth anymore, there’s way too many patting on the back and tickling ears going on. That’s why I don’t go. I just read my Bible and pray for understanding.”

My reply to her Tweet was, “Please be open to find a church. The Word states do not forsake the assembly. There are Bible believing churches. Send me a PM and I will help you find a church in your area. Blessings! See Hebrews 10:25.” Hebrews 10:25 reads, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Many others responded similar responses.

Her response back to everyone, “I’m sorry to have to say this, but if anyone has one more know it all thing to say, I’d rather that you didn’t reply to me at all. I don’t want to hear it. I’m fed up with your attitudes, none of you know me in person. I hate sounding mean, but do what you tell me and judge yourself.”

I did respond back to her, apologizing if I had over stepped in my comment. I said that I would pray for her and that I would ask the Holy Spirit to go and minister to her.

After reading this, it has made me wonder why many Millennials feel this same way? As a transformed man of God, I love people and genuinely care for their souls and their well-being.

The Bible is very clear that we as Followers of Christ are not to forsake the assembly. Let us review some Scriptures that deal with attending church and meeting on a regular basis so that we might encourage one another.

Hebrews 10:24-25, “24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Ephesians 4:11-13    And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

Acts 2:42, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

Matthew 16:18, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[a] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[b] shall not prevail against it.”

Acts 9:31-32, “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”

Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

James 1:22, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

2 Timothy 4:2, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Attending church is vital for one’s growth as well as encouraging one another. It is essential to our walk with Christ. The Gospel is for all to hear and we as Followers of Christ are all called to priesthood, to take the Gospel and share it with others. See 1 Peter 2:5, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

The Church needs people who will come and contribute, not only their tithes, but more of themselves for the cause of Christ. If you want to see change in the church that you yourself criticize, then you need to become engaged so that you can help bring to light what you find offensive or what you deem to be a fraud. Please do not judge all assemblies and congregations by only one or two pastors who may be teaching heresy. Yes, the “Truth” should be taught and preached. Anything else is heresy. If it does not match up to Scripture, anything else is heresy. Yes, I said heresy several times. Hopefully, it will be driven home!

As I was writing this piece, the young lady responded back and wrote, “It’s not your fault, there was some others that offended me, it wasn’t you. God bless you brother.”

What I do know is that young people are leaving the Church. What they are embracing is not Christianity. We as Christian leaders must do a better job in reaching these people for Christ. We must be teaching and discipling young people with the truth of the Gospel, not some watered-down version to tickle the ears of congregants. If we truly want to see Millennials come back to the Church, we better start taking seriously what Christ has called us all to do, not just sit in the pews as the status quo, thinking that is the Pastor’s job! No, you are wrong in that thinking! It is EVERY CHRIST FOLLOWERS JOB! It’s time to get off the pew and get to work! Don’t be known as a sleeping church, but as a Body of Christ that is on fire for God.

John 4:35, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” The fields are ripe for harvest. Stop preaching sermons that tickle and fancy others with a political correct message, but preach and teach TRUTH, the Gospel of Christ, God’s TRUTH!

You can follow this author at @JosephTLee on Twitter or on Facebook @JosephTLee777.

Copyright © March 12, 2019. The Lantern & Shield Times; a Division of Marketplace Evangelism Ministries Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Racism and Hatred: Derived from One Source

Christians, we need to be on our knees praying for the lost, our leaders (regardless of political party), and for the unborn. The war we fight is not a physical war but a spiritual war. We need to practice our faith in love and stop vomiting hatred towards others.

Most recently, in Virginia we have been faced with accusations against our Governor, Ralph Northam because of a racial picture that appeared in his medical school yearbook under his name. He originally apologized for it, then the next day, he denied that it was him. He then went on to say that he dressed up like Michael Jackson and painted his cheeks black with black shoe polish. He is adamant that he will not step down.

Then the Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax has been accused of sexual assault. This allegedly occurred in 2004 at the Democrat National Convention in Boston according to news sources.

Now our Attorney General, Mark Herring admitted that he painted his face black as an undergraduate in college.

All three of Virginia’s top leaders have controversies that most likely will end their political careers.

In reference to the sexual assault, it is reported that the assault was reported to Virginia Congressman, Bobby Scott, as a #MeToo allegation. It is unknown why this was not investigated a year ago.

In contrast to all of this, there are people who have so much hatred against Democrats and Republicans, that they revert to name calling and distasteful conversation on social media. As Christian’s, we should not be name calling and spewing hatred from our lips. Jesus calls Christians to love the sinner but hate the sin.

The Bible tells us that we should keep our tongue from evil and keep our lips from speaking deceitful speech (1 Peter 3:10). Colossians 4:6, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Proverbs 10:19, “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.” Proverbs 15:4, The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” There are many more, but these are a few to meditate on.

The issue at hand is a heart issue. Many people are angry at leaders, both on the Democratic and the Republican sides. I am not here defending abortion promoters, but I am here to say that the words one speaks against others that do not have your same views can come across as hateful and pushes the unsaved farther from the Christian faith. Name calling will not win souls.

Giving excuses to substantiate hateful speech and comments do not hold water when compared to the Word of God. Calling unsaved people names will destroy any evangelistic opportunities that may come their way. God is aware of what these people believe. Please don’t play God, as if you know best. Anything you do that does not match up with the plumb line in how Jesus has commanded us to live is not godly. There are other ways to change people’s hearts.

Most recently, I read a fellow Christian’s post to a news article in response to the Rev. Al Sharpton coming to Richmond to speak to Virginia Union University students. The fellow Christian posted Matthew 7:15, “Beware of False Prophets.” Someone pushed back with a disparaging remark against Christians only for the Christian to post a disparaging remark back to most likely an unsaved person. Folks, we cannot be speaking like this to people. Proclaiming Scripture and then telling someone to do something that is vile is destroying evangelical opportunity to bring people to Christ. These types of words destroy opportunities and will only close doors to spiritual dialogue which could possibility lead another to Christ.

If Christian people want to take a stand for justice for the unborn and other atrocities, they can do it without hate filled comments of name calling and profanities. Calling an act evil is not name calling. As Christians, we should not get ourselves caught up in the evilness of the world. This is exactly what Satan wants us to be doing. Satan relished in the fact that Christian’s are telling others off with profanities and hurtful responses. Satan is the author of confusion and lies. John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it in full.” 1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

Christians, we need to be on our knees praying for the lost, our leaders (regardless of political party), and for the unborn. The war we fight is not a physical war but a spiritual war. We need to practice our faith in love and stop vomiting hatred towards others. We need to put on the whole armor of God as mentioned in Ephesians 6:10-18. God will not honor our disobedience which can separate us from a full relationship with Christ. Before we attempt to pull the small speck from another’s eye, we need to look in the mirror and remove the large plank from our own eye (cf. Matthew 7:5). If we want to make a difference for the gospel, then we need to have love for one another and for our neighbor. Racism and hatred come from one source, and that is from Satan. Love comes from one source, and that is God and His Loving Son, Jesus Christ. We have a choice. I choose love. What do you choose?

Colossians 4:6, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Copyright © February 8, 2019. The Lantern & Shield Times, A Division of Marketplace Evangelism Ministries Inc. All Rights Reserved.

What is Christmas Really About?: The Rest of the Christmas Story

Have you ever wondered about what Christmas is really about? The Christmas holidays are quickly approaching. The celebration about Christmas is not just Santa Clause, presents, Christmas concerts, Winter celebration, or Christmas Trees. It is about the Savior of the world who came into the world to save it and not to condemn it. It is about Jesus Christ and the beginning of His life and the man that He became to fulfill Scripture. This is just the beginning of a wonderful and divine act in which God sent His Son into the world.

This is just the beginning.

Luke 2 English Standard Version (ESV)

The Birth of Jesus Christ

2 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. 21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

But this is NOT the end of the story…….

May you find the real joy of Christmas that only Jesus Christ can bring. It is through the death of Jesus Christ and His resurrection that we have forgiveness of our sins. Jesus came into the world not to judge the world but to save it. It is only through Jesus that one can be saved.

Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

John 3:3 “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Romans 10: 9-11 ” because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

2 Corinthians 5:15 “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

Jesus stands at your hearts door and knocks. If you want to really experience the “true” meaning of Christmas, then consider inviting Jesus Christ into your heart and life and ask God to change your heart and transform you to be Christlike in all that you do. Believe with your heart and mind. Ask forgiveness of your wrongdoing and sins, and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Transformation means that you are a changed person for Christ.

Although many celebrate Christmas with a baby in a feeding trough, that baby grew up as the loving Son of God who died a horrible death in order to redeem us from our wickedness. He was beaten until his blood was spilled on the ground, crucified with nails driven into his hands and feet, and He died. After three days, He rose from the grave and this is evidence that He truly was the Son of God.

Christmas is really about the Christ who came to save the world! Won’t you give your life to  Jesus Christ and know the real meaning of Christmas?

Copyright © November 1st, 2018, Originally published under Pastor Joseph Lee Blog from March 30, 2017. The Lantern & Shield Times, a Division of Marketplace Evangelism Ministries Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

In Greed We Trust: Money cannot buy you happiness and satisfaction!

I most recently met a man who had everything. He had the best in his mode of living, was dressed in designer clothing, and drove a very nice car. He was married to a beautiful wife and they have beautiful children who have the very best of everything. Yet, they are all so miserable in their life. Because they have the best of everything, their children are rebellious. His wife who lacks for nothing is not satisfied with her circumstance and is constantly looking for more. And the man is very depressed because he feels that he has worked so hard and yet he cannot seem to find what he is looking for? Unfortunately, his marriage is starting to fail. His children are angry and he does not know what to do and where to turn? He is like the fool that Jesus spoke about in Luke 12:13-21.

Let us look at that Scripture: “13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Greed can destroy a marriage as well as destroy the behavior of your children and loved ones. Knowing how to manage wealth does not necessarily give one the permission to spoil your children and your spouse. Giving them everything they ask for gives them a false sense of how the real world will treat them in life. For instance, look at verse fourteen. “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Real life does not consist in an abundance of possessions. I have not always been comfortable in my life concerning my financial well-being. I have had to struggle financially for a very long time. When children are being brought up today by Baby Boomers, their children have seen an abundance, which gives them a false sense of abundance. I see many of these children with an “entitlement mentality” which is sad because they seem to think that they should not have to struggle through life. Another thought is that one may store up wealth and find no satisfaction in this false idol. Satisfaction is only found through the loving grace of Jesus Christ and His salvation and redemption.

As the rich man in the parable stored up great wealth so that he did not have to work hard later in life, he ended up losing his life that very night. What a pity to work so hard sacrificing everything for money and yet people have neglected their families by spoiling them with everything, only to lose their family by the very idol that they are worshipping, the greed of money.

Don’t be the man in the parable who loses everything through the loss of his life. Take time with you family and teach them the ways of the Lord. Instead of hording great wealth, consider giving to your local body of Christ, help others in need, and show your own family the love of Christ. Be generous with your excess and help the poor. You could be just one step away from losing everything.

Just one more piece of advice. If you are searching for “truth” and satisfaction through money, greed, and several other idols, you will never find it. You will only find peace, love, joy, and happiness through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is only through Christ that you can be fully forgiven. All you must do is ask.

If you want to follow Jesus and accept him as your personal Savior, pray this prayer: “Dear Jesus, I am a sinner. I confess my sins to you. Please forgive me and come into my heart. I promise to live for you and serve you all the days of my life. I believe that you died for me and that you also rose again on the third day. Please come into my life and transform my heart. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

Joseph T. Lee, Copyright © May 22, 2018. The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Have You Denied Jesus?

How many of you have been in a group and someone makes a comment about Christians? Why is it that the world hates a follower of Christ who takes a stand for what is right and just? Have you ever been somewhere and heard someone say the word GD? A true follower of Christ would be offended and yet so many professing Christians think that it is excusable because they do not want to be labeled as fanatics. They are very accepting of filthy talk or curse words using God’s name in vain.

I recently was in a group of professionals on Facebook. The moderator of the group posted a picture that many would deem to be soft pornography. He made a comment about her wanting to join the group. I saw it, was offended, and sent him a personal email to request that he remove it. I gave many reasons, but the most important reason was that it was inappropriate. He never responded so I posted that I was resigning from the group and took a stand. Pornography has no place in professional Facebook pages much less on someone’s site who professes to be a Christian. Since then, I saw many hateful comments pertaining to my stance including his own comments of people need to accept him for him being him. But the issue here is a sin issue.

I wonder how many of you reading this have denied that you were a Christian? How many have kept silent when friends, co-workers, or even your boss made hateful statements about Christians or about Jesus or God the Father? Is keeping silent denying that you know Jesus Christ as your savior?

Let’s look at what the Bible says about denying Christ. Luke 12:8-12, “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

If we deny Christ, then He will deny us before the angels of God. Therefore, be bold in your faith. Do not cave to the pressures of the politically correct. But when you are professing Christ as your Savior, also show the love and humility of Christ. When people treat you wrongly, then show love back in return. The Bible says that it would be like heaping hot coals on their heads. It is something that they would not expect (cf. Romans 12:20).

Heaping hot coals reminds me of when I was twelve years old, a bully lived in my neighborhood by the name of Mike. I feared him and typically ran every time I saw him. I could sense that he was very evil and was the neighborhood bully. One afternoon, he caught me across the street visiting a neighbor. He came across the street and said that he wanted to fight me. I did not run, but stood my ground and told him that I was not going to fight. Then he drew his fist back and punched me right in the mouth. Then suddenly, I smiled at him with the blood running down out of my mouth and said that I forgave him and that I loved him. The neighbor could not believe what he heard and with that, Mike walked away. Yes, he punched me in the mouth, burst my lips, and bloodied my gums, but he did not have victory. Jesus took the victory that day. I forgave him and smiled and burst out laughing. He must have thought I was crazy, but I was grounded in the Lord. By my actions that day, I know that I heaped hot coals on Mike’s head, but I returned love to him, even when he did not deserve it.

Let’s look at one more verse. In verse ten, “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. “ What does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit? According to R.C. Sproul, “Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit attributes to Satan the work of the Holy Spirit through Christ in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Such deliberate rejection of the truth is a decisive rejection of the One who can bring a person to repentance and faith, such intentional and defiant sin makes forgiveness impossible.”[1]

Hopefully, you will see that Jesus wants you to truly follow Him and not only when it is convenient. Having a true relationship with Christ means that you are totally committed to Him. It means that when you wake up in the morning, you are thinking about God the Father and Jesus His Son. All throughout the day, you are talking with Christ through your mind and in your heart. It means that when you go to bed, the very last thing you think of is His love and how thankful you are to be called a child of God. Following Christ is a total commitment, to trust Him in all your daily dealings. Do not deny Christ in your actions each day to others. You may not deny him by mouth, but willful sin is a denial.

If you want to follow Jesus and accept him as your personal Savior, pray this prayer: “Dear Jesus, I am a sinner. I confess my sins to you. Please forgive me and come into my heart. I promise to live for you and serve you all the days of my life. I believe that you died for me and that you also rose again on the third day. Please come into my life and transform my heart. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

Notes:

[1] R.C. Sproul, General Editor, The Reformation Study Bible: Condensed Edition English Standard Version (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2017), 1551.

Joseph T. Lee, Copyright © May 21, 2018. The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Disciple Making in the Local Church

Introduction

The Christian community and local church are responsible for spreading the gospel to unbelievers. Once a new convert comes to Christ, the church is responsible to teach and train them in their walk. An analysis and discussion of the Christian community and local church will reveal the roles and importance of the pastor, local church, saints, and spiritual gifts in God’s plan for being and making disciples of Jesus Christ.

How Are Disciples Made in the Local Church and Christian Community?

According to Putman et al., “The true role of the church is to create biblical disciples in relational environments. Following Jesus and the apostles, we seek environments in which disciples are made not just through public gatherings but especially from house to house.”[1] When someone comes to Christ and joins the church, then he or she needs to be mentored in God’s Word. Christian mentors intentionally invest their lives into new converts through relationships. According to Putman et al., before one can be discipled, three things must change in a person’s life, which are the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the People of God.[2]

Putman et al. wrote, “Church leaders must also create systems in which biblical relationships are available to everyone in the church. It’s the job of a church leader to both administrate biblical relationship and regularly communicate the need for biblical relational environments.”[3] Pastors must also train their congregation to see the need and have the desire for discipleship.[4] The discipleship makers are to make a commitment as well as the one who is being discipled.

Role and Importance of the Local Church

As mentioned previously, pastors must teach their congregants the need and importance of discipleship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer made it very clear as to the importance of the church, which is the body of Christ. Bonhoeffer wrote, “The body of Jesus Christ is the ground of our faith and the source of its certainty; the body of Jesus Christ is the one and perfect gift through which we receive our salvation; the body of Jesus Christ is our new life. It is in the body of Jesus Christ that we are accepted by God from eternity.”[5]  The importance of the body of Christ must be taught to the congregants for them to understand the reason why we must make disciples. Bonhoeffer also wrote, “Christ’s body is the spiritual temple built from living stones (1 Pet. 2:5). Christ is the sole foundation and cornerstone of his temple (Eph. 2:20; 1 Cor. 3:11); at the same time, he himself is the temple (Eph. 2:21) in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, filling and sanctifying the hearts of believers (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19). The temple of God is the holy church-community in Jesus Christ. The body of Christ is the living temple of God and of the new humanity.”[6] The key concept is that the church is the body of Christ. It is the responsibility of the body to share their faith and make disciples. According to Rod Dempsey, “The church must be in the absolute middle of God’s global plan of making disciples…. Jesus first mentions the concept of ‘church’ in Matt. 16:18 when He says, ‘And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.’”[7] Jesus said that the church must take the gospel to others as mentioned in Acts 9:31, not only in spreading the gospel but teaching scripture so that disciples can be made. This is done by the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Role and Importance of the Pastor

Every member of the body of Christ has a gift. According to Dempsey, Pastors are to teach, train, and equip their congregation in how to share their faith as well as teach God’s commandments and way of life.[8] They are to do this in love. J. Robert Clinton wrote, “Godly leaders display love for truth. They study the written Word to feed their own soul as well as others.”[9] As pastors teach believers, they will grow spiritually and develop their own spiritual gifts. Dempsey further expands on this by stating, “Spiritual growth involves the disciple discovering and developing his or her gift (see 1 Pet. 4:10-11), within the body (community of believers), to its full potential, for Christ and His kingdom. As the individual believer grows and matures, the body becomes healthier. The more parts of the body that are working ‘properly’ (as He intended), the healthier the body becomes. The health of the body of Christ should be a very important consideration for the leaders of a church.”[10]

For the pastor to help the disciple, he must invest time into teaching so that the disciple will develop his or her spiritual gifts, then internalize the teachings into their lives, which in turn will help continually transform their hearts for Christ and the gospel.

Role and Importance of Saints

The role and importance of the saints are to “do the ministry.”[11] The saints are the members of the body of Christ which is the church of Jesus Christ. Bonhoeffer states it very well when he wrote, “Since Pentecost, Jesus Christ lives here on earth in the form of his body, the church-community. …To be in Christ means to be in the church-community. But if we are in the church-community, then we are also truly and bodily in Jesus Christ. This insight reveals the full richness of meaning contained in the concept of the body of Christ.”[12] Therefore, the saints are charged with training and investing in others to make disciples. The body of Christ is commanded by Jesus who is head of the church, to take the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the utmost parts of the earth. For a member of the body of Christ to do this, they must be in training by learning and studying God’s Word. Then they can teach others to do the same. We must do this with intentionality so that we can reach others, one person at a time.

One method for saints making disciples is explained by Putman et al, “Many of the churches in the Relational Discipleship Network use this simple blueprint, based on four words. They are Share, Connect, Minister, and Disciple.”[13] To expound on this a little more, Putman et al. wrote, “Jesus shared who he was through words and deeds. When people accepted his message, he invited them to connect with him in relationship. During that time of sharing life together, he taught them the truth about himself. As these disciples grew, Jesus trained them to minister to the lost and to his other followers. Finally, after Jesus rose from the dead, he deployed his followers to disciple others.”[14]

The saints must emulate Christ in their words and actions, share, and invite people to come to Christ. Once people have come to Christ, then we are to associate or connect with new Christians and help them consecrate themselves to God. The next step is to demonstrate service to others as well as delegate disciples to minister to others. The last step is to release the disciple maker to reproduce other disciples. Thus, make disciples who make disciples.[15]

Spiritual Gifts in God’s Plan for Being and Making Disciples

God gives all of us spiritual gifts to perform the ministry in which Jesus has called us to do. According to Aubrey Malphurs, “A Christian, then, could have both a spiritual and a natural gift of leadership or a spiritual gift of leadership plus a natural teaching gift or some other combination.”[16] These gifts surround the believer’s temperament and passion. Malphurs states,

A spiritual gift is a unique, God-given ability for service. Every believer and thus every leader will have one or more of the spiritual gifts, but all leaders will not have necessarily the same gifts nor exercise a gift in the same ministry context. Scripture is clear that all three members of the Godhead are the source of these gifts (Rom. 12:3; 1 Cor. 12:11; Eph. 4:7-11). Finally, the purpose of these gifts is to enable leaders to serve God more effectively, not sit on the sidelines and watch the game (1 Pet. 4:10). The different kinds of spiritual gifts are listed in Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:1-31; Eph. 4:7-16; and 1 Pet. 4:9-11.[17]

God knew what he was doing by giving us spiritual gifts that will help advance the gospel and to make disciples. Although there are many spiritual gifts, which all work towards the glory of God, I will mention three gifts which relate to discipling. They are teaching, leading, and encouragement as stated in Rom.12:3-8. These gifts are necessary in encouraging other Christians and leading them by the teaching of the Word of God. God uses our gifts to assist us in working through our specific ministry in which we were called to do. These gifts will assist us in training other disciples so that they will also discover their own gifts. Without these gifts, we would be on our own struggling in a counterfeit faith. In other words, one cannot have these spiritual gifts unless they were a follower of Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit. If every believer used their spiritual gift, then the body is edified, people will come to the Lord, the gospel will be spread, and disciples will be made.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it takes the Christian community, the local church, the pastor, the saints, the Holy Spirit, and using our spiritual gifts to make disciples. This involves taking the gospel into our communities, sharing our faith, connecting with new believers, and ministering and teaching them.  This will ultimately lead to making disciples, who will in turn, make disciples. This is not done alone as the body of Christ has many parts and the spiritual gifts bring those parts together, and together disciples are made. Making disciples takes the efforts of all members of the local church. The pastor must teach the Word and lead believers in how to disciple. The believers in the church use their gifts to disciple others. We must become engaged in this process or the church will not reproduce itself. Reproduction is done through intentional relationships. Being a spiritual leader and mentor can help change the lives of the ones we are teaching to be disciples. Earley and Wheeler could not have said it best when they wrote, “When we lead people to Christ, we must stay with them to help them get established in their faith. They can also be carriers of the good news, and the message of the gospel will multiply through their consistent witness.”[18]

Bibliography
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4. Minneapolis, MN: First Fortress Press, 2003.

Clinton, J Robert. The Making of a Leader: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development . 2nd. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2012.

Earley, Dave, and David Wheeler. Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010.

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is… How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2013.

Malphurs, Aubrey. Being Leaders: The Nature of Authentic Christian Leadership. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2003.

Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E Coleman. Disciple Shift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

Sproul, R C. The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version. Edited by R C Sproul. Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2015.

[1] Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013), 149.

[2] Putman, DiscipleShift, 149.

[3] Putman, DiscipleShift, 150.

[4] Putman, DiscipleShift, 150.

[5] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4 (Minneapolis: First Fortress Press, 2003), 213.

[6] Bonhoeffer,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, 224.

[7] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), 39.

[8] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 41.

[9] J. Robert Clinton, The Making of a Leader 2nd ed.: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2012), 57.

[10] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 41.

[11] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 41

[12] Bonhoeffer,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, 218.

[13] Putman, DiscipleShift, 153.

[14] Putman, DiscipleShift, 153.

[15] Putman, DiscipleShift, 155-164.

[16] Aubrey Malphurs, Being Leaders: The Nature of Authentic Christian Leadership (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2003), 76.

[17] Malphurs, Being Leaders, 77.

[18] Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 134.

Submitted to Dr. Morris Baker in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of DSMN500-D03, Discipleship Ministries; Liberty University School of Divinity, April 22, 2018.This paper may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission. Copyright © April 22, 2018, Joseph T. Lee, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights reserved.

Spheres and Stages of Discipleship

Introduction

New converts to Christianity are not being taught properly in how to become disciples. When they come to Christ, many are left alone to learn the ways of the Lord and what God expects from his followers. The purpose of this paper is to summarize the five stages and four spheres of discipleship. I will identify what spheres relate to the centrality of Christ based on Bonhoeffer’s call to the cross. I will conclude the paper with a summary of what it means to be walking and submitting to Jesus Christ.

The Five Stages of Discipleship

The “Five Stages of Discipleship” is a path of progress carrying the mentee into the direction of spiritual maturity. Stage One: Spiritually Dead, describes a person as defined by Ephesians 2:1-5. According to Putman et al., “these people are dead in their transgressions and sins.”[1] Putman et al. also wrote, “People in this stage have not yet accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. They may reject God, they may be seeking God, they may call themselves spiritual, they may even claim to know God or call themselves Christians, but there is no true fruit in their lives. They may claim to know Jesus, but they do not have the Holy Spirit living in them.”[2] For the disciple to help these people, they must reach out in love and create honest friendships. We are to answer their questions and help them come to an understanding of their unbelief in love and prayer.

Stage Two: Infant, describes people who are new in Christ. Putman et al. referenced in Peter 2:2-3, as “newborn babies craving spiritual milk so they can grow in their salvation.  People in this stage are spiritually alive by deciding to follow Christ, but unfortunately, this is as far as they have gotten in their spiritual walk.”[3] According to Putman et al., “The key concept is that infants don’t know much. They don’t understand yet what it means to follow Jesus. They aren’t aware of the ways in which they need to change.”[4]

Stage Three: Child, describes people who are growing through the leadership of their pastor or teacher. Putman et al. states, “they are beginning to grow in relationships with other Christians as well. They are beginning to apply God’s Word in their lives and are walking with other growing disciples in their spiritual journey.”[5] In contrast, a child may have been a Christian for many years or can be a person who recently came to Christ. The key concept is Christ needs to be taught to people in this stage, to trust God and be obedient to him. According to Putman et al., “They need to learn to trust God in obedience, doing what the Word says rather than what their feelings tell them to do. As they grow, their lives will become more and more about God. They will learn to do the right things for the right reasons. And they will learn what it means to have a servant’s heart, rather than one that is self-centered.”[6]

Stage Four: Young Adult, emphasizes John 2:13-14, which describes people who are spiritually young adults. This stage does not mean literally that they are young adults, but could encompass any age range and the spiritual maturity of the person. Young adults are involved in ministry to others and are grounded in the Word of God. They are Christ centered in their thinking and actions. They put others first as they attempt to carry out the Great Commission. According to Putman et al., “They need deep, ongoing relationships with people who offer encouragement and accountability. They also need help in determining their gifts.”[7]

Stage Five: Parent is the highest goal and stage to achieve. In this stage, the Christian is now considered a teaching disciple. Spiritually mature people make disciples and are strong in Jesus Christ. They have grown to the point that they can now teach others how to be disciples.

The Four Spheres of Discipleship

There are four spheres of Discipleship. The first sphere is the most important sphere as it is the Centrality of a Relationship with God. Putman et al. referenced the first two chapters of Ephesians as the support for this sphere, which is our relationship with God. This is the hub that holds it all together and unites all the spheres together. Without having a personal relationship with Jesus, all the other spheres are in vain. Putman et al. emphasize the head, heart, and hands in three questions. Does the person who is being discipled have a personal relationship with Christ? Has his or her heart been changed? Does his or her life have evidence of change? Are these people willing to go where Christ is leading them?

The second sphere is Relationships within the Family of God, the Church. Putman et al wrote, “Does the person I am discipling know what the Bible teaches about the church and the importance of his or her relationships with other believers? Are they growing in their love for others in the body of Christ? Are they using their skills to minister to others?”[8]

The third sphere is Relationships at Home. This third sphere deals with the relationship of the family and how we can minister to our own families. Paul addresses this in Ephesians 5 and 6. Paul discusses how the husband is to lead his wife and love her, how a wife should respect her husband, how parents are to raise their children, and how children are to obey their parents.[9]

The last sphere is Relationships with the World. As Putman et al. suggests, Paul addresses how believers are to act in the world. We are to interact with unbelievers in love by living our lives like Christ. We are to be missionaries within our own towns and cities. Putman et al wrote, “He teaches disciples to be ethical and consistent and to live in such a way that even if someone does accuse them of doing wrong, the unbelievers will see their good deeds and glorify God.”[10]

What Stage of Discipleship am I in?

The stage of discipleship that I am currently in is a hybrid between a Young Adult and a Parent. I feel a call of God that I just cannot shake. I go to bed thinking about the Lord and I wake up thinking about the Lord. As Putman, et al. had mentioned John 2:13-14, I feel that I have overcome the Evil One and the Word of God does abide in me. I have seen real change in my life, my heart, and my speech. I am involved in ministering to others and have a zeal, energy, and joy as I serve Jesus through my ministry. I also believe that I am in the Parent Stage. I seek to make disciples and mentor those who are in process of growing in Christ.

Sphere Relating to the Centrality of Christ

The main sphere relating to the centrality of Christ would be the first sphere, The Centrality of a Relationship with God. This is the hinge pin that holds all the spheres together. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s call to the cross suggests that disciples will recognize their cross in communion with Christ when they begin to follow the suffering Lord.[11]  Bonhoeffer wrote, “Thus, suffering becomes the identifying mark of a follower of Christ. The disciple is not above the teacher. Discipleship is passio passive (passive suffering), having to suffer. That is why Luther could count suffering among the marks of the true church.”[12] Bonhoeffer mentions the Augsburg Confession. He wrote, “Those who do not want to take up their cross, who do not want to give their lives in suffering and being rejected by people, lose their community with Christ. They are not disciples. But those who lose their lives in discipleship, in bearing the cross, will find life again in following the community of the cross with Christ. The opposite of discipleship is being ashamed of Christ, being ashamed of the cross, being scandalized by the cross.”[13] Without Christ in the center, there is no discipleship.

What Does It Mean to be in Submission to Christ?

A Christian who is in full submission to Christ is a person who loves God will all their heart, soul, and mind. Bonhoeffer wrote, “Everyone enters discipleship alone, but no one remains alone in discipleship. … The promise for those who follow Christ is that they will become members of the community of the cross, they will be people of the mediator, people under the cross.”[14] By submitting to Christ, one is accepting the fact that he or she must bear their own cross alone, and yet in community with other followers of Christ. He or she is responsible for their own salvation and walk with Christ. No one can do it for you.

According to Rod Dempsey, “The church exists to spread the gospel and develop the believer to the point where they become missionaries of the movement.”[15] What is the goal of a missionary? According to Dave Earley, “It is to help people be saved. Yes, they may serve them, feed them, clothe them, doctor them, and/or teach them; but it all is with greater purpose of helping them be saved.”[16] Being in submission to Christ is going all in for him. Not only are we to love God with all our hearts, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves as in Matt. 22:36-40. We are then to apply the Great Commission as in Matt. 28:16-20. When we place other’s needs above our own and can also share our faith, then that is what it means to be a disciple of Christ. That is when we are in submission to Christ. Don Howell wrote that disciples are leaders in training. Howell wrote, “Greatness in God’s kingdom consists in imitating the Son of man who came not to be served, but to serve.”[17] That is what we all should strive to do.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the five stages and four spheres of discipleship were described and discussed. The centrality of Christ was discussed using Bonhoeffer’s call to the cross. I discovered I am a hybrid of Young Adult and Parent in the Discipleship process. I have shown what it takes to be in submission to Christ. It is my hope that I will be able to help new converts who come to Christ to become strong in their walk with the Lord through mentoring and setting an example of my own life to them. This study has moved me and I have come to realize my full potential in making disciples who make disciples.

Bibliography

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4. Minneapolis, MN: First Fortress Press, 2003.

Earley, Dave, and David Wheeler. Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010.

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is… How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2013.

Howell, Jr., Don N. Servants of the Servant: A Biblical Theology of Leadership. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003.

Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E Coleman. Disciple Shift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

Sproul, R C. The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version. Edited by R C Sproul. Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2015.

Notes:

[1] Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013) 61.

[2] Putman, DiscipleShift, 61.

[3] Putman, DiscipleShift, 63.

[4] Putman, DiscipleShift, 64.

[5] Putman, DiscipleShift, 65.

[6] Putman, DiscipleShift, 67.

[7] Putman, DiscipleShift, 69.

[8] Putman, DiscipleShift, 87.

[9] Putman, DiscipleShift, 87.

[10] Putman, DiscipleShift, 89.

[11] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4 (Minneapolis: First Fortress Press, 2003) 89.

[12] Bonhoeffer,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, 89.

[13] Bonhoeffer,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, 89.

[14] Bonhoeffer,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, 99.

[15] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2013) 42.

[16] Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 102.

[17] Don N. Howell, Jr., Servants of the Servant: A Biblical Theology of Leadership (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003), 189.

Submitted to Dr. Morris Baker In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of DSMN500-D03 Discipleship Ministries, Liberty University School of Divinity, April 15, 2018. This paper is the property of Joseph T.Lee and may not be copied or republished without permission. Copyright © April 16, 2018. The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Backscratchers or Heart Surgeons: The Difference between Sermons and Messages

I once got as a Christmas present the best backscratcher ever!  It is made of aluminum, it has a rubber handle, and best of all it is retractable!  Consequently, it takes up very little space in my desk, which is a big draw back with a lot of other backscratchers.  Most backscratchers are long and awkward, so people inevitably put them in out of the way places where they are usually forgotten and lost.  Consequently, many backs go unscratched, which is a problem since people love to have their backs scratched.  A lot of today’s pastors are in the business of back scratching.  Pastors are called to be heart surgeons, but regrettably, a lot of us have turned into backscratchers.  There are several reasons why pastors become backscratchers.  One of the main reasons is that some congregations won’t tolerate a pastor who is passionate and has conviction, so over time some pastors learn that they better start scratching backs or lose their “jobs.”  When this realization occurs some pastors simply keep their cushy jobs, while the good ones leave and find real ministries.  Some pastors are backscratchers because they like being liked, so it comes naturally to them.  Others are backscratchers because they think it’s their job to mesmerize and entertain their congregations.  These pastors are essentially showmen.  They aren’t really backscratchers per se, but rather they are ear ticklers.  Nevertheless, the impact of their sermons is functionally the same, hearts are not renewed and spiritual arteries remain clogged.

Many backscratchers appear to be very successful because their churches are often filled with a lot of “listeners.”  So the question is this: how can you tell the difference between a backscratcher and a pastor who knows God, understands His word, and applies it to our modern lives?  A good test is to look at their impact on the hearts of those who hear them.  In other words, are people convicted and are lives changed?  We can see this kind of impact from the messages of great preachers in the Bible.  Look at Jesus, he once preached a message that caused so much consternation that the audience in the synagogue grabbed him and led him to a cliff in order to demonstrate the effects of gravity (Luke 4.28-29).  Luke actually documented that Jesus’ audience was “filled with rage” by the things that Jesus had said to them.  In full disclosure I must confess that I’ve never preached a message that had that kind of impact, so I’m preaching to myself here as well.  I guess you can say that Jesus wasn’t much of a backscratcher.

Then there is Stephen, in his very last message he gave an exceptional survey of the entire Old Testament that ended with him proclaiming the truth that his very audience had crucified the very Messiah that they confessed to be anticipating.  And what did they do?  They promptly carried him out of that same meeting and stoned him.  I guess you could conclude that he didn’t tickle many ears that day.  The passage actually describes their dispositions as being “cut to the quick” (Acts 7.54).   A lot of people, however, don’t really know what that means; in today’s vernacular it would be like saying that they were “shot through the heart.”

And then there is Paul. He once gave a message where the audience was quiet and listened intently, they were hanging on his every word you could say—that is until he spoke of God’s mandate to share the gospel with Gentiles, it was at that point that a riot broke out (Acts 22.22-25).  The text states that after Paul told them about the great commission that those in attendance literally threw their coats down and started throwing dirt in the air.  Now I’ve preached people into comas, but I’ve never started a riot.  But not Paul, what he said pricked their hearts so much that they began acting like a bunch of crazed chimpanzees.  The Roman soldiers present were so stunned that they immediately began preparing Paul for a scourging.  I’m not convinced that they even fully understood why they were about to scourge Paul, they only knew that something bad had just happened and something had to be done about it.  So in typical Roman fashion someone had to be beaten since everyone knows that scourging a single person is a lot easier than beating an entire mob.  Again, I’ve never been threatened with a whipping for anything I have said in a pulpit.  Someone may have wanted to punch me, but I never knew about it, so who knows.  The point is that Paul wasn’t in the ministry so that he could scratch backs and tickle ears; he was gunning for hearts.

I bring up these 3 events not because they are good examples of well-groomed “sermons,” but because they are excellent examples of impactful “messages.”  And there is a difference between the two.  The difference is that same as the difference between Cicero and Demosthenes.  There is a famous quote concerning these two great ancient speakers, which loosely goes like this: “When Cicero had finished speaking, the people said, ‘How well he spoke.’  But when Demosthenes had finished speaking, they said, ‘Let us march!’”  And that is the point, isn’t it?  Are we supposed to be about sermons or messages?  A sermon is what a pastor prepares and then speaks to a listening audience.  A message is when spiritual shepherds have the guts to proclaim the truth about what Lord desires to do in the hearts of those who are actually “hearing” the word of God.  And if people hear God speaking to their hearts through your message, then people will be brought to a point of decision.  Sometimes they will weep, or repent, or worship, or be strengthened, and then they will serve; and if not, then they will begin picking up stones.  Either way, they will not have had their backs scratched or their ears tickled.  And isn’t that what the church needs?  The church doesn’t need more backscratchers, it needs more heart surgeons.

Monte Shanks, Copyright © April 10, 2018. The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Christ in Discipleship

Jesus gave several commandments. The one that has stood out the most to this student, to help advance the Gospel, was to take the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the utmost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8). Disciples are to preach the Gospel to everyone, (Matthew 28:19-20), thus teaching the new followers of Jesus Christ to make disciples who make disciples. Without Jesus, then there would be no discipleship. Without Christ, there would only be God and people would still be lost without hope.

According to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jesus is the reason for the call to follow Him. Bonhoeffer wrote, “…there is only one good reason for the proximity of call and deed: Jesus Christ himself.  It is he who calls.”[1] It is Jesus who calls people to follow Him. Bonhoeffer wrote about Jesus calling Levi, the tax collector, to follow Him. Bonhoeffer writes, “This encounter gives witness to Jesus’ unconditional, immediate, and inexplicable authority. Nothing precedes it, and nothing follows except obedience of the called. Because Jesus is the Christ, he has the authority to call and to demand obedience to his word. Jesus calls to discipleship, not as a teacher and a role model, but as the Christ, Son of God.”[2]  Jesus is the center of discipleship. He is the sole reason that followers are called to become disciples, who then teach others to become disciples. Bonhoeffer continues to write, “Discipleship without Jesus Christ is choosing one’s own path. It could be an ideal path or a martyr’s path, but it is without the promise. Jesus will reject it.”[3]

Followers are called to discipleship. Robert Coleman wrote, “Conversion is the first step in the discipleship process. … Conversion is the beginning of a journey, whereas discipleship is ongoing. In true conversion, a person must commit to following Jesus. The person becomes a lifelong learner, a disciple. Being a disciple is a learning process that never ends.”[4] Putman, et al states that the definition of a disciple is found in Matthew 4:19.[5] There are three attributes in which Putman et al emphases. They are “Follow Me, And I Will Make You, Fishers of Men.”[6] This Scripture is about Jesus calling Peter and Andrew, who were fisherman by trade, to leave their nets and to follow Him. Jesus promises them that he will make the “Fishers of Men,” meaning that he will teach them how to harvest for men and women’s souls. Putman et al describes that the authority of Christ comes when He said to the brothers, “Follow me.” In their obedience to Jesus, they dropped everything and literally followed him. Putman et al wrote, “Though the notion of obeying Jesus is connected to our hearts at some level, this first attribute of a disciple is primarily a mental acceptance of Jesus, understanding that he is now the one in charge of our lives.”[7] There must be a mental acknowledgement, but also a heart change to become a follower of Jesus Christ. This is a requirement that one must believe and then repent from their sins, meaning to change and move away from sin.

Jesus said in the second part of the verse, “and I will make you….” It is this transformation of the heart in which one then becomes a disciple of Christ. It is at this point that the person should be hungry for what Jesus wants to teach him or her. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that this will occur, through transformation. Putman et al quotes Romans 8:29, “…we are being conformed into the image of Christ.”[8] This is done through the Holy Spirit. Putman et al wrote, “But discipleship, at heart, involves transformation at the deepest levels of our understanding, affection, and will by the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God and in relationship with the people of God.”[9]

The third part of the verse, “fishers of men” means that the disciple will be sent on mission overseas as well as in their own towns and cities. This part is the missionary work. Dave Earley quotes Charles Spurgeon as saying, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.”[10] A true disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ who has had a heart transformation and is willing to allow the Holy Spirit to lead him to where ever God opens the doors. This means that the work of God is at hand and that every Christian convert in the Church are called to be a disciple, who will teach others to become disciples. This is what all true Christians are called to be.

This leads into the final discussion, the three stages of discipleship according to Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey. The three stages of discipleship are Believer, Disciple, and Disciple Maker. Earley and Dempsey expounds on each of these and lists Stage One as a Declaration. It is the conversion of the Believer, which leads him or her to repentance and faith in Jesus.[11] Earley states that there are five steps for Stage One which are that one must make a declaration of faith, that he must repent from his sins and have faith, that he must become a committed believer, he must lay aside all his doubts, and by coming to Jesus, he is saved.[12]

Stage Two is Development. It is the immersion, abandonment, and apprenticeship into ministry.[13] To be a disciple of Christ, one must immerse themselves into a deep relationship with Jesus. This is done by studying of the Word of God as well as through daily prayer. One will also become involved in community and will become engaged with others through Christ. Earley writes, “….it is universally relevant that all disciples of Jesus must immerse themselves into a relationship with Him. He needs to become their premier relationship. As God is to be loved with all their ‘passion and prayer and intelligence.’”[14] Disciples must learn and be teachable. Once they learn what Christ wants to teach them, then they are ready to be sent.

The Third Stage is Deployment, intentional global commissioning. The disciple must be willing to go where Jesus leads him to go. Robert Garrett states, “The greatest missionary in history was Jesus Christ.”[15] Disciples are sent; therefore, disciples must go. David Platt wrote, “Wherever you and I live, we are commanded to go and make disciples there. In light of Jesus’ example, our primary impact on the nations will occur in the disciple-making we do right around us.”[16] But even if the disciple does not go abroad, they are called to take the Gospel to the world within their own towns and cities. Christians can no longer sit on the sidelines and assume that missionary work is not what they were called to do. On the contrary, all Christians are called to be disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples.

The most effective way to accomplish the Great Commission is to multiply. Earley and Wheeler wrote, “When we lead people to Christ, we must stay with them to help them get established in their faith. Then they can be carriers of the good news, and the message of the gospel will multiply through their consistent witness.”[17]

 

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4 (Minneapolis: First Fortress Press, 2003), 57.

[2] Ibid., 57

[3] Ibid., 59

[4] Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013) 44-45.

[5] Putman, DiscipleShift, 45.

[6] Putman, DiscipleShift, 46.

[7] Putman, DiscipleShift, 47.

[8] Putman, DiscipleShift, 48.

[9] Putman, DiscipleShift, 49

[10] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2013) 77.

[11] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 62.

[12] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 61.

[13] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 68.

[14] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 69.

[15]Robert Garrett, “The Gospels and Acts: Jesus the Missionary and His Missionary Followers,” in Missiology (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 1998), 63.

[16] David Platt, Radical (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2010), 198.

[17] Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is…:How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 134.

Bibliography

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4. Minneapolis, MN: First Fortress Press, 2003.

Earley, Dave, and David Wheeler. Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010.

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is… How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2013.

Garrett, Robert. The Gospels and Acts: Jesus the Missionary and His Missionary Followers, in Missiology. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 1998.

Platt, David. Radical. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2010.

Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E Coleman. Disciple Shift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

This material is protected and may not be republished. Paper submitted to Dr. Morris Baker, Liberty University, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of DSMN500-D03, Discipleship Ministries, April 8, 2018 by Joseph T. Lee.

Joseph T. Lee Copyright © April 8, 2018, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved. 

Breaking News: Jesus of Nazareth Has Risen from the Dead! The Tomb Is Empty!

April 1, 30 AD: At about 4:30 this morning, Mary Magdalene reports that she went to the Jesus’ tomb and found it open. She peered inside and saw that Jesus was nowhere in sight. His body was gone and his burial cloth was neatly folded up. According to John, “So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”  So, Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.  Both were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.  Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.  Then the disciples went back to their homes.”

John also stated, “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb.  And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.  They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”  Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”  Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.”

In another eyewitness account, Luke states, “ That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,  and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.  While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.  Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”  And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,  and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him.  But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.  Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning,  and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.  Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”  And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Luke continues, “So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So, he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.  And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.  They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”  Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”

Jesus appeared to his disciples. According to Luke, “ As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”  But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. “And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”  They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,  and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.  And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

It is reported that Jesus ascended to Heaven. Look at what our eyewitness Luke says, “And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them.  While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.  And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.”

Present Day: Surely, Jesus was truly the Son of God! He did rise again and that is why we celebrate Easter every year. Easter is not about the Easter Bunny, eggs, or candy. It is about the very Son of God, who died an agonizing death for the redemption of our sins. It is about the fulfillment of Scripture. In which God would give mankind another chance by sending His Own Son, into the world, not to condemn it, but to save it.

The Gospels are very clear. There is only one way to heaven and that is through Jesus Christ. Look at what the Scripture says about how to be saved:

Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

John 3:3 – “Jesus said, I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 14:6 – “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.”

Romans 10:9-11 – “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

2 Corinthians 5:15 – “And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.”

John 3:16-17 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Revelation 3:20 – “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

It is our hope that if you have been searching for the “Truth” that you would recognize that Jesus is the “Truth.” If you believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for you and your guilt and sins and you also believe that He rose again in three days to show that He truly is the Son of God, then pray this prayer.

“Heavenly Father, I have sinned against You. I want your forgiveness for all my sins. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for me and rose again. Father, I give You my life to do with as You wish. I want Jesus Christ to come into my life and into my heart and live in me. I ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.”

I pray that many who read this story will come to Christ Jesus and that you will know the saving Grace and Forgiveness only found through Jesus Christ. It is a life style change that will forever change your heart and your life. Once you come to Christ, Jesus will send His Holy Spirit to dwell with you and help to teach you, through the Word of God. Get affiliated with a true Bible believing church and become a disciple of Christ. Get engaged in the Word and develop a relationship with God. I know that God’s Not Dead because I speak with Him daily through prayer and through His Word. Having a true relationship with Jesus Christ is a way of life that I hunger for.

I hope that you find Jesus Christ today! Happy Easter! He Has Risen! He Has Risen Indeed!

Sources: The Gospel of Luke and John, The Book of Romans, 2 Corinthians, and Revelation.

Copyright © April 1, 2018. The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved.