09 Jun 2016
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Church Camp 2016 – Leaving a Legacy
Let's jump into it. Father in heaven, as we use this last hour together, we ask that You would grant us a greater sense of comprehension of what You would have us to learn and to apply this night. We pray that what we say here might benefit this church for maybe even years and years and years to come. So bless, we pray and we thank You in the strong name of our Saviour, Jesus. Amen.
I think most of you know the story that Jason and I first were at the same place where I was sharing about life-on-life discipleship, which encouraged him to make a contact to the States and to find out a little bit more about what we were doing. It led to a relationship being birthed, where some of our leadership has come here prior to me being here. Many of you have met some of those staff members of our church and they have been enjoying sharing the truth that we have been learning for now, many, many years about what we call life-on-life discipleship.
We know that you're hearing that term “life-on-life” more and more, and that's a great term to be used. Though it's not a biblical term as such, it does describe a biblical truth and that is the way we see Jesus doing ministry,life-on-life, building in the lives of His disciples who became apostles, who in turn went out to bring the church into existence as we know it today. So in light of that, we have been training churches and trying to just spawn the ideal of labouring in the lives of a few, even as Jesus did in the lives of His disciples, men with men, women with women.
What I'd like to do tonight is, in a sense, kind of share the story with everybody. This will be repetitious to some of those that are already involved in some of these groups, often called journey groups or life-on-life missional discipleship groups. We have a theory that we believe is a very sound one. The theory is that if you really want to do something significant in the life of the church, as it relates to discipleship, you want to think this way: You want to think big, you want to start small and you want to go deep.
You know the way most churches approach things is we want to think big and start big and hopefully stay bigger. Well, that usually doesn't work that way. If it does, it typically is not extremely healthy. What we found is if you really think big, yes, but start small and learn to do well what you're trying to learn, and then go deep and watch the roots go so deeply that it begins to multiply and it begins just to spread very quickly.
Now, you do not have this particular plant here, I know, but in the south of the United States where I grew up, we had this plant called Kudzu. Anybody know about Kudzu? Kudzu would just take over. If you plant a little sprig of Kudzu, it would just be such a small thing there one day and it seemed like in no time, well, that stuff just spread out everywhere. That's what happens in discipleship but what we don't want to do is say, “Well, let's start. Everybody get in a group and do discipleship the way we're talking.” Not the ideal way.
So I'd like to, I'd like to put kind of an ideal into the minds and hearts and particularly of you, the young people. I want you to get a vision for what I got. You see, when I was some of your ages as the young people, there's a man that came into my life experience. As I mentioned, he said, “Would you like to be discipled?” And I think I shared that story. Would you like to be discipled?” And I said, “Yeah, I don't know what that means exactly, but yeah.” And he in turn discipled me, and all I did was begin to think about the importance of me doing in other people's lives what he had done in my life. We call that life-on-life discipleship.
I'd like to leave you with four observations. You have notes, you should have a handout. Does everyone have a handout? On that handout, four simple observations. The first is the profound one that I want to just make sure we understand this. Young people, make sure you get this, alright? It reads like this:
1. First Observation
The greatest of all legacies to be left is mature and equipped followers of Christ. Legacy, whenever we talk about a legacy, we're talking about leaving something behind. Think big, young people. Think big. What do you want your legacy of life to be?
Do you want it to be that you are a great athlete? Do you want it to be that you are a great student? Do you want it to be that you are a wonderful family person? Do you want to be known as a great business success? Nah, they aren't big enough.
I want you to dream big, I mean real big and if you dream really, really, really big, you're going to come to this conclusion that the greatest thing you can do is leave a legacy and the legacy being in the lives of other people, leaving people to be mature and equipped. So let me tell you our story very quickly.
Our story was, we church-planted in 1977. We planted this young church and the church began to grow very, very quickly. We saw God do some amazing things and by, we think, the leading of the Lord, we had some innovation in the life of church that was rare, fairly rare and different for any other churches in the United States and because of that, we got a lot of attention given to our now growing church. Started so small, started with just no one. Carol and I moved to Atlanta with a two month old, didn't know anybody, began to meet people and little bit by little bit, we built a core group and the core group turned into a church meeting that turned into, you know, a growing church.
We were seeing a lot of people come to faith in Christ. There was a lot of harmony and unity and everything looks so good in the life of our church. One noted author wrote a book – 10 of the most innovative churches in America and they picked Perimeter Church to be one of the 10 most innovative churches in America. And there were articles being written so we had every reason to be encouraged in terms of how our church was doing.
I go away on a regular basis to be alone with the Lord and just to think, listen and pray, and think future, and just you know not work on the things for this week but the things that are coming ahead. So, kind of get a picture of the future and work on that, and I do a lot of evaluation during that time.
I like to put a pad in my lap and a pencil in my hands and sit down and say, “Lord, I just want to think about some areas and You will speak to me as I'm sitting here, you know, kind of give me thoughts from my heart and give me convictions,” and I was sitting there doing that and just thinking about the life of our church. While I was doing it, I had this sense that something is not right at our church. We had every reason to believe that things were good at our church, but I had this… and I couldn't explain why it was like something is just not right.
As I was sitting there, I had this picture come to my mind. I don't know why. I'm not an archer, I don't have a bow and arrow, you know, but I had this picture in my mind of me taking a bow and arrow, and be in a big room such as this like here, pull that bow back with an arrow, turn my head away and let it go, and watch that arrow go shoot into that wall and then I picture myself picking up a magic marker of some sort, walking over to the arrow in the wall and then very carefully drawing a circle around the arrow and then stepping back, and start celebrating what a great archer I am that I could hit the very centre of that target. Isn't that impressive?
So I'm having this thought and I actually draw that on my pad. I have a circle and a dot in the middle, and I look at it and think, “There is the problem. There is the problem. What we're doing is not celebrating how excellent we are as a church and hitting our target. What we're being celebrated for is how far we're shooting our arrow maybe in comparison to other churches.”
I'd come to know a couple of pastors in the United States that became very, very, very famous and popular about that same time, and their churches were growing faster than our church and in a sense, they were shooting an arrow further than we were shooting an arrow. And so, the attention and the applause they were getting was even beyond ours and I thought they're doing no more about… they're not doing any better job of hitting target than we are because I don't think there is an identified target, at least not a good one.
So I spent the next time… I'm sit… while I'm sitting there the next few hours, I sat there and thought, “Okay Lord, what is the target? What should the target be?” Well, I know it's not in just numbers – how big you can become, how many people can you get in the church. I knew it was not in how much money can you collect in the church. I knew it was not even just how many people can make professions of faith and come into the church as good as that is.
And I started thinking about it and I said, maybe the real target, I know it's in the lives of people, but how do you describe the target in the life of people? And this is what came into my mind. I said maybe it's people coming into a growing commitment to Jesus and better knowledge of the Word of God. Now, that's pretty good, ain't it? Aren't you excited if you can see your people come into the church and you know, be growing in their commitment to Jesus and knowledge of the Word? And I began to think about it and something didn't settle right about that. I said, “No, I don't think that's appropriate target.”
So then I thought a little bit longer and I thought maybe… and these are two words that popped into my mind – mature and equipped. And those words never left; they've been with us ever since. And I thought, you know, if people are growing in maturity, they're becoming mature in their faith and they're being equipped, they will be growing in commitment to Jesus and knowledge of the Word but I don't know that you can turn that around necessarily and that be true. People might be growing in commitment to Jesus and knowledge of the Word but maybe they're not mature but certainly, they may well not be equipped.
So I said, “Why don't we start thinking about the target being making mature and equipped followers of Christ?” Then I sat there for a while and I began to think. I wonder what portion of our people in our church would be mature and equipped. Well, that's a very hard question to answer unless you have a description of what mature and equipped is.
So I spent the next period of my time, over the next days, trying to develop a… just a description of “a mature and equipped follower of Christ” and it came with multiple bullet points that I described it this way and this way, and I began to hone it and think about it more and more and more until I got it fairly concise in my mind. Now, not that there is an exact description but I think anybody who has a pretty deep education in the Word of God could probably describe the mature and equipped follower of Christ and we would be pretty close as to what that person would be.
In fact, when I began to describe it, I started thinking of things like this: it's someone who lives under the control of the Holy Spirit; it's somebody who lives under the direction of the Word of God; it's somebody who lives under the motivation of the love of Christ; it's somebody who is discovered and developed and are using their spiritual gifts; it's somebody who has come to the place where they really learn to share their faith and are faithful to do that; they're people who manage their lives, their relationship and their resources in an appropriate way.
It's those and I just kept on listing several other things. I just described point by point what I thought would be a mature and equipped follower of Christ. When I came to that description, I said there's the target right there. And then I asked this question: How many people in our church meet that description? And as I thought about it, I said, “Oh we have people but it is a small minority; it's not even a large minority; it's certainly not a majority.”
Then my last question was this: How do you get people to become mature and equipped? I wrestled with that and I wrestled with that and I thought, “Well, we're doing church the best I know how to do church. We're proclaiming the Word of God; we're teaching with depth in the Scriptures; and we are, you know, we've been very faithful in trying to do leadership development; we've been doing small groups and we were kind of one of the early adopters of small group, and we were doing, you know, small group in a very strategic manner; and we had classes and seminars; and you know…” I said I don't know, I really don't know anything we can do much better. In fact, I don't know of any churches really that I would go to that are doing church any differently than we are doing that are having better results in this area, and it disturbed me. I couldn't figure it out.
Well, I spent the rest of my week, the few days I had left or whatever, I spent my time just churning over and thinking and thinking and thinking, and I couldn't come up with an answer. So I come back to our elders after my time alone away and they're always curious to know, you know, what happened when you're away? How did the Lord speak with you? What was going on? Tell us what you're thinking. And so I'm telling them everything that I've been thinking and I say, “I think we're… we maybe have a problem at our church.” “What do you mean?” “Well, we're not bringing about mature and equipped followers of Christ, like it's… you know, important that we should be doing it. I just don't think we're doing a great job of it.”
And so I explained the whole thing, I put out what a mature and equipped follower of Christ would be and you know, they agreed and said, “Yeah, we don't have a large number of people that meet that kind of description.” And so, then the big question came to me: “Randy, how do we get there? What do we do to get there 'coz we need to get there?” And I said, “I have no idea. I follow… I don't know. I really have no idea.”
You know what they said to me? They said, “Randy, your job, number one, is to go find the answer to that question.” “We've been satisfied up till now but you know,” they say, “the gap between reality… expectation, I should say, and reality, is called frustration.” I said, “Now, we realise there is a gap between our expectation and reality, and we'll be frustrated if we don't find the answer.” “So we'll give you all the resources we can, time and money that you need, go find, go ask, go find out the answer to that question.”
And I began a journey of trying to figure out the answer to that question. I could get no answer. I could not figure it out. I happened to be with some of our staff and I was sitting down just talking about it and said, “Guys, let's just think about it.” I said, “Does anybody have any idea how we get there?” Nobody seemed to have an idea. I said, “Does anybody have an idea of what we can do or where we can go to figure out how to get there?”
One of our staff members had an idea. They said, “Randy, what if we were to take the people in our church that do meet that description – a mature and equipped follower,” and we did have a number of people that met the description, “why don't we go to those people who meet the description of a mature and equipped follower of Christ and ask them how they got there? We may see some commonality in what got them to that conclusion.”
Well, we thought that was pretty smart. So we said, “All right, you know we need to do, we need to get a board up and let's start putting up the names of people that we think meet the description of a mature and equipped follower of Christ.” So I was up at the board and I took the pen and I said, “Throw the names out.” And the names were coming, of course we had a number or quite a number of them and so the board just gets full of names, again a small minority but still a lot of names.
Somebody who was in the group of staff hollered out and said, “Hey, I see something very interesting.” I looked around, I looked at the board and said, “The names?” “Yeah, yeah, look at the names.” I look at them and go, “I don't know what you're talking about.” “Look at the men.” I looked at the men and said, “What about the men?” “Look how many of the men have been in your small group.”
Well, I pushed back with that. I said, “Well, I'm not sure that's a fair evaluation because I've had more theological training than almost anybody in our church, and you know… and also I've had a lot of experience in small groups.” They understand small groups were just starting in churches during that time. Do you remember, Paul? And it was like 1970s like… little, little but small groups and so but we believe, gentlemen, we were kind of becoming a church, people were coming to see how to do small group well.
And so I… but I said, “Look how many people were in your small group, Randy.” And I said, “I know that.” Now, what I knew was that I was not… I was not just picking the cream of the crop from our church you know, the best godly people and put them in my group. What I was doing… I was taking people and leaving to Christ… the people that I am picking up early in their spiritual formation perhaps, people that are in moral messes, relational messes.
And they say, “Look at these men. How many in your group, Randy, are now the elders and leaders of our church?” And this is my, you bet, eight years in the life of the church. They said, “Look how many of these people were in your small group.” Now, one of the things that I did admit… I said, “I had become frustrated with small groups because I wanted to see small groups take people to great spiritual development and I don't see that happening in small groups.”
I had met with pastors all over the country. In confidential conversations, I asked, “How do you see small groups?” And pastor after pastor say they're wonderful to keep your people feeling connected, to give them relationship, to give them support and pastoral care but they don't help your people become real mature and equipped; it's just a given, it doesn't happen.” And so with that, they said, “Randy, what are you doing in your group that is different than what is in our group?” And that's what I'm going to conclude with in just a few minutes, but I want to take us from that first observation to the second, third and fourth observation, and I think it will explain it well.
2. Second Observation
The present-day church and Christian leaders, for the most part, have embraced an ineffective plan for making mature and equipped followers of Christ. It's just not a good plan what the church is using. What is the church using?
I had an opportunity to be with a man named Ken Blanchard. Ken Blanchard's a noted business leader and author in the United States. He's written probably… maybe 50 books, 40 for sure. He started many, many, many companies, they've all been extremely successful. And so a group of us as pastors were picking his brain.
He'd become a Christian and he now was moving more of his life and time in the service of the kingdom and we were asking him some questions and learning from him. And somebody asked him the question: “Mr. Blanchard, why is it that your books are so successful, your companies are so profitable?” And he says, “Oh, it's because I use a little paradigm and everything I write about is really about that little paradigm, and I just think it's the reason.” And so, he started to share with us the paradigm, but in doing so, he made a comment. He said, “There's something that you don't ever want to do and it's what we all tend to do in church.”
He says, “What we do is we tend to do this: put a box here and put a box there.” [2 boxes were drawn adjacent to each other] And he says, “We take people into business and we hire new people. We do the same thing in the church. We bring people in new to the church and what do we do? We give them directives. We just direct, direct, direct. We tell them this is what you need to do, this is what you need to believe, this is what you need to know, this is what you need; and it's all about directing, directing.”
And he said, “Then the result of that is what we do, is we take a ride over here and then we delegate [the ride is from 1st box for Directives to 2nd box for Delegation] and say, ‘Now, you go do it,' and it's a plan that fails every single time. It's just not a good plan.”
I was with a group of pastors, I've done this numerous times with a group of pastors and I'll say, “Aye, let's do this. Let's put together a list. Everybody pull out a piece of paper.” They pull out a piece of paper. “Pastors, write down the five best offerings of your church that help your people really become strong in spiritual formation.” That's how we say it: strong in spiritual formation. “Five things that you offer in the church.”
They started writing what did they do. First thing on their list: “my sermons”. All right, number two: maybe it's seminars, maybe it's small groups, maybe it's Sunday school. I don't know but they put down whatever they offer in their church and then I say, “Hey, let's do a fun exercise together collectively. Let's put up a description on the board of what a mature and equipped follower of Christ looks like. Whatever those two words mean to you, give me some descriptions.” And they'll give me point after point after point and they're basically the same things I've come up with; they're not much different.
And then I love to do this. I say, “Hey, pull out your list of five things,” and they pull them out and I say, “Look at your list and be honest. Not do your five things help your people in spiritual formation? I know they do, surely they do, but are they taking the people of your church to that kind of description? And if so, would you do me a favour? Raise your hand.” And you know, I'll look at a group like this and there might not be any hands or a couple of hands that come up and I go, “Isn't that interesting? We're giving our lives as pastors with the desire and the hope and the anticipation of taking people to be like this [that is, a mature and equipped follower of Christ] and the reality is, it's really not working in our own opinions, it's not actually working.”
And so with that... I happened to be with a man... I won't use the man's name but in America, there would not be... maybe I can't imagine any pastors not knowing this pastor's name. He is so noted most of you would perhaps know his name too, but I won't use his name because of what happens.
We're together as a group, about 10 of us and he had hosted us together as pastors, all in our 50s, and we're just evaluating and thinking about our ministry and dealing with topics. And so he's standing there talking to us and he says, “Let's put up the topics we want to discuss.” So we all put them up and I put up spiritual formation. And as it turned out, he was moderating the discussions and he says, “I know what to say about every one of these for I have something I think I can contribute, but this spiritual formation, that one I don't know what to say. I really don't know what to say.”
He says, “How in the world, how in the world could you… do you get people into strong spiritual formation? If you can get people to worship and evangelise and maybe volunteer a little bit, that's about the best you can do in church today.” And my heart grieved as I heard that.
He said... He said to the group... He said, “Hey guys, let me ask you all something. How many of you, when you were young as a Christian, had an older figure in the Lord came into your life experience and kind of, like a loving drill sergeant, kind of pushed you when you needed to be pushed, pulled you when needed to be pulled, hugged you when you needed to be hugged? How many of you had somebody like that in your life, in your spiritual formation?” Do you know of the 10 or 11 of us, every one of us raised their hand? Do you know what his response was? “There you go, how would you do that in church today?”
Well, the reality is I'm convinced it can be done in church today. But we do have a problem and so if you look at your outline there, it says: Every believer (this is why the plan isn't working), every believer has had and/or is presently under great bondage or, I like to think, addiction to sin. And so if somebody is critically ill, or you're critically ill or I am, we want a doctor who can diagnose the problem correctly and then can treat it effectively.
Well, the problem with most people in discipling well, hear this, disciple leaders, is that we don't understand the problem well enough. You know what the problem is? It's sin and we don't understand the depth of the problem of sin. Oh yeah, I got a problem of sin, I got sin. Yeah, I admit I'm a sinner. Oh no, it's like an addiction. Don't know how many of you have much experience in addictions in the United States. There's a bad, bad problem with alcohol and drugs. It's bad, bad, bad and in order to get out of your addictions, almost everybody realises you gotta go to a place and get a treatment centre and get treated, to be helped.
In light of doing that, we have a dear, close friend of ours that had to go to a treatment centre because of alcoholism. And as they were coming out of the treatment centre, I was invited to go to the treatment centre for a few days and learn about how to help this person when they come out of the centre. Well, I'd never really been exposed that much to alcohol, alcoholism. We didn't have it in our family and didn't know any loved ones or close friend. So I didn't know much about it.
Oh wow! We got in there, all of a sudden we're listening to teachers and people that are leading seminars and explaining the problem of addiction. And everybody you met, if they were on the staff speaking or they were one of the people who were addicts, you come up to them and you say, “Hello!” They say, “Hey, I'm George and I'm a... and I'm a alcoholic.” I say, “Hi, I'm Randy and I'm a… pastor. I don't know what am I. You know you're an alcoholic. I don't know what to call me. I don't know, you know.”
Well, they have teachers, older teachers that are up speaking and they introduce themselves “I'm Dr. so-and-so and I'm here to tell you about such and such. I'm an alcoholic.” And I'm going, “Man, you need to get some sober people around here to teach classes like this.” Well, he does well. “I haven't had a drink in 32 years. Oh, but I'm an alcoholic.” I say, “Ah, come on. You're not an alcoholic, not even 32 years, you've been sober.” You know what that person would say? “Oh, the day I quit believing I'm an alcoholic, that's the day I am ruined.”
It made me think when I came back to the guys that I minister to. I thought we ought to begin our day every time we get together and say, “Hi, I'm Randy and I'm a sin addict. Hi, I'm so-and-so. I am a sin addict.” You got to understand the problem before you can deal with the solution. The problem is that decisions to leave, as you see, your last decisions to leave such addictions are routinely followed by relapses.
There's a little saying in AA. Do you all have AA – Alcoholics Anonymous here, AA? In AA, they have a little saying. It goes like this: once an alcoholic, always a what? An alcoholic. And with our sins, we have to learn once we're a sinner, always a sinner, now not always in that when go to heaven, we won't be but while on this earth, we will always be a sinner. And so the idea of this… of alcoholism began to hit me as I came out of this environment, opportunity.
And here's what came to my mind. Let's use a case study. Imagine that you have a very, very, very dear friend and your friend gets into a weirdness that just seems… that just, you know, pushing away and something is wrong, you don't know what it is and you say, “Is something wrong?” “No! Nothing's wrong. You should know nothing's wrong.”
Finally you began to take a big step across a relational barrier, perhaps, and you say, “Are you an alcoholic?” And they fire back: “No, I am not an alcoholic! How dare you think I'm an al… I drink too much from time to time but I'm not an alcoholic.” Nope, can't help that person, but what if that person finally gets so frustrated they say to you, “Listen, you identified my problem. I should admit it, I am an alcoholic, but I want to tell you, my dear friend, I want you to know I made a decision as of today. I'm never ever, ever going to drink again, ever.”
Now, let's assume that you have to bet every dollar you have in your savings and your annuities and your whatever, whatever money you have, you have to bet it all, either that this person either will continue to drink or will not. Tell me, where would you bet your money? They will? Yeah, and if… I mean there are exceptions but boy, look at the odds. You're gonna make money by betting against your friend unfortunately.
So your friend says, “Oh, okay. I'm...” They just can't… They realise they can't help it, they will keep drinking. So they come to you and they say, “Okay, I do have a little problem with drinking and I can't seem to stop on my own, and so tell me what should I do.” And you say to them, “I think you need to go to a treatment centre, and they say okay and they checked themselves in a treatment centre for a couple of months.
They're in there for a couple of months and they come out. As they come out, they call you first and say, “Hey friend, guess what? I am through the treatment and I have no desire for alcohol; I will never drink again. I'm telling you I'm… It's great. I just don't even… the thought of alcohol just turns me sour arrrgh.”
Now you have to bet your money again. Where are you going to bet it? Well, if you do this statistical work, homework, you would find out that you better bet against them because the vast majority of people who come out of a treatment centre eventually go back to their addiction, right? And so, all right. So your friend says, “Okay, if you don't think treatment centre's enough, what else should I do?” You know what I tell them? I say, “You need to get in a AA program and better get a Christian type of AA program,” (which we have some of those in the States) “but you need to get in an AA type program.”
You know one of the most astute brilliant people in the last generation was a man that was known as the father of modern-day management. He's named Peter Drucker, incredible person. I happened to be with Dr… with this Dr. Drucker for a long period of time, for several days, just interacting with him, a handful of meetings with him. And he made a statement one day that caught me off guard. He said, “Do you know I've only seen two social institutions that can really work?” And one of the two that he mentioned was AA. He said there's something that really, really, really works about AA.
So I would tell my friend, “Okay, why don't you go to AA? Give it a shot.” Now they go to AA for a year, maybe once or twice a week, and then they go a second year, and then they go a third year, and they decide, do you know what? I think I will be in AA and go once or twice a week for the rest of my life. Now, if you have to bet your money again, where are you going to bet your money now? Now, you're going to say, “Urgh, I don't know.” Oh, there is a chance of relapse but you know what? There's a really, really good chance they're going to keep going.
Well, when I got this idea from Dr. Drucker about AA, I started looking into AA a little bit and asking some people who had been in AA and was still in AA, “Hey, what makes AA work?” Do you know what they told me? They said, “There are two reasons. One is because you have an accountable group and number two, you have a qualified sponsor.” When I heard that, I thought of who? Jesus.
Jesus had an accountable group, He called them His apostles; and He was the great sponsor. And I thought, I think that's what Jesus was doing for a purpose to show us this is the way you help people get out of their addictions of life – their sin addictions. You see, the same is true if a person says, “You know what? I'm not a sinner. I don't care what you want to say about me. I'm not a sinner.” Can't be helped.
Person says, “Okay, alright, I'm a sinner, I can't quit sin and so tell me what do I do.” What do you and I say to him? We say, “You need to go to a treatment centre.” Right? “So tell me this, where is the treatment centre?” And most people say the church, and you know that's actually somewhat correct but in reality, there's a… a sense in which is not correct and it's this: Yes, you can go to the church and the church will point you to the treatment centre but the treatment centre is the cross of Jesus Christ, right?
So people go to the treatment centre, to Christ, and Christ cleansed them. You tell me, partially or fully cleansed? Fully cleansed, that's right. So no more problem with sin anymore, huh? Oh yes, there is, still big problem with sin – relapse is extremely possible after going to the treatment centre. That's why we have to have a spiritual AA but what I'm talking about there is, we need an accountable group with a qualified sponsor. Folks, it is the ticket for finding your way into maturity and equipping. I can think of none that's any better. Leads us to number three and this will be a quick wrap-up.
3. Third Observation
Number three: Labouring in the lives of a few is God's master plan for rescuing addicts and thus for making mature and equipped followers of Christ. I like to give you a definition for life-on-life missional discipleship. Just listen carefully. I know it's not in your notes. Here's the way we define it. It's labouring in the lives of a few with the intention of imparting one's life, God's truth in such a way as to see them become mature and equipped followers of Christ, committed to doing the same in the lives of others.
You hear that? You do it in the lives of others. It's just this idea of labouring in the lives, bringing people to maturity and equipping so that they may labour in the lives of people, bringing them to maturity and equipping so that they may labour in the lives. That's the way the Great Commission is to be fulfilled. It's as simple as that.
Well, life-on-life missional discipleship-four requirements and again, I wish this were in your notes, but listen, just listen carefully. I'll try to write down. It takes a qualified leader, it doesn't have to be a spiritual giant who knows everything but there has to be a qualified leader. There has to be a faithful few willing to follow that leader. Number three, there needs to be intentionality regarding making mature and equipped followers of Christ. And lastly, hear this: You have to do the right things to make mature and equipped followers of Christ. So what are the right things? I go back to the story now that I started with.
I'm sitting there with these staff and they said, “Okay Randy, if you're doing something different in your group, what are you doing differently? And I said, “Well, I just went to the board and I put up what happens to be five things that I do with my group.” And you know what these five things were? The same five things that I saw this man, back when I was in my teens, do with me. He didn't use these words, he didn't put it in this outline, but when I put them up, our staff saw a little acronym and said, “Hey, turn these little things around and look what you have,” and it was the word “teams” and you see it there in your notes.
T-E-A-M-S and so I put up what those five are you see them in your notes. And I said, “Well, the first thing is, I give them Truth,” but I said, “do you know what I do when I give them truth? I don't do it like small groups where people come to hear truth. No, no, no, this is a higher bar. People have to take the truth – the Word of God and the teachings of God – and they have to take it home with them, and really work at it and study it on their own, and then come to the group prepared to do E, A, M and S. Ah, so it's a little bit of work on it. It takes a little work to do this, not a lot but enough that you have to do weekly.
Well, what's “E” and I said “E” is equipping. They said, “Well, what's the difference in truth and equipping?” And I said, “Equipping is massaging the truth until it becomes understandable and usable.” For instance, week number three in our journey group, discipleship group, or week number four, we talk about how do you personally worship God. Most Christians, young Christians don't even know how to worship God. They just kind of flipping the Bible, reading it and say, “I don't know what to do.”
And so, let's equip them to that end, and so I'll give them all the truth and I say, “Now, would you go home this week and would you try doing what I just shared with you to do, saying what I do in my personal worship, would you try it in your own, you know, home or wherever, at least five mornings or five times this next week? And they do and they faithfully come back and I said, “Well, did you do it?” “Yeah!” “How was it?” “Pretty good.”
“Pretty good, huh? All right, let's do this. Why don't we, this week, do it together? Let me have my personal worship with you kind of eavesdropping in on me, and just to see what you observe.” 20 minutes, I hold it to 20 'cos they always think one must take a long, long, long time with them. And in 20 minutes, I'm finished and I say, “What do you think?” And they go, “Wow! That was cool, that was neat.” And I go, “Wait, wait, wait, wait. Did you see or hear me do anything differently than what I have told you to do for these five days that you were at home?” “No, see it's the same thing, ain't it?” “Yeah,” I said, “then why is this so much better than what…?” “I don't know but I see it now, I got it, I understand now.”
Do you see how they've gone from truth to equipping? You can equip in theological areas, massaging truth or suffering, maybe you're teaching on suffering. Boy, you gotta ask questions, you gotta listen to their questions, you gotta interact and share your life until they go, “Ahh, I get it.”
They said, “Well, what's the ‘A'?” “A” is accountability. Accountability is not behaviourism. Hear this: Much in the church today is behaviourism, which is not biblical. Behaviourism changes the activity but does not change the heart; what we want is accountability in the biblical sense. Now, accountability, yes, it's… you know asking hard questions, it's challenging bad behaviours but it's far more than that. It's really looking for the sin beneath the sin. That's what you're really looking for.
For instance, I had a guy in our group. I asked him an accountability question. He was in his… third year, I think it was, and I asked him an accountability question. And when I ask it, he gave me an honest answer, and he… I don't know what the question was but he said, “Now, I'm really not doing well.” I said, “What's wrong?” He said, “I don't know, my vulgar language has returned.” He's a young guy, he said, “I used to have the most foul mouth and I… then I began to, you know, to follow Jesus and my bad mouth just went away, and now it's come back.”
I said, “It's just come back.” Now, you know, I could do use behaviourism there and say, “Okay, we got to stop that so no more than two curse words next week, okay? Any more than that, we're gonna slap your hand. Now, I'll hold you accountable. No more or maybe zero more, whatever you want to do.” “No.”
We gotta find the sin beneath the sin. So I said, “Can I ask you a question… about your language? Why do you think your language just got so bad all of a sudden?” “Hmmm,” he said, “I guess because I'm staying angry a lot.” I said, “Angry, huh? Well, let me ask you this. Why do you think you're so angry?” “I don't know. I guess because people are not doing what I tell 'em to do.” I said, “Like who?” He said, “My wife, my people in my… that work for me in my business. I don't know. They don't do what I tell 'em to do.”
And I said, “Let me ask you this question. Why do you think just because they wouldn't do what you tell 'em do, that you would get angry?” And he said, “Hmmm, because I'm the king.” I said, “You're the king? What do you mean you're the king?” He said, “Well, I know I'm not really the king but I think of myself like a king, and the king gives orders and people obey.”
I said, “Ahh.” I said, “Let me ask you one more time, one question. Why do you think you see yourself as the king?” His answer: “Pride.” I said, “I bet we'd found the sin beneath the sin. Would you like to repent of that sin?” And I talked about what repentance was. He said he did and we got over him, we prayed over him. He wept, some of our guys did, and it was a beautiful time. That's accountability.
What's “M”? Mission. We gotta get people involved in missional living where they live, work and play. Explain that, and then [“S” for] supplication, last of all. That supplication is another word for prayer and some people say, “Well, why don't you just use the word ‘prayer'”? I said, “Because ‘teamp' doesn't sound as good as ‘teams'.” So, there it is and I share those five basic elements which leads us to the last observation and that is:
4. Fourth Observation
Without life-on-life, we run the risk (and you're missing the word “producing”), it should be saying: we run the risk of producing immature believers and at best, disillusioned learners at worst.
Do you know this, Ken Blanchard, when I was with him, he said, “You know what? There's no organization I know as notoriously guilty for producing a disillusioned learner than the church.” What does the church do? Directing, delegating. Take those pastors that I had at the conference, pull your five things up, look at the five and they all follow this box right here.
But Blanchard shared with us his paradigm and when he did, he had four boxes, and the four boxes look like this [two more boxes were drawn – one each above the earlier two adjacent boxes]. He started with directing [original first box on the left], but then he said you always go up, not across [not across to delegating]. He'd go up and he put the word “coaching” there.
He said you always coach, ask questions, let them ask questions, you observe them, they observe you, live together, mingle together, coach them. And he said, end of a period of time, they get to the place that you can now just kinda set them over here [box on the right side of coaching] and support them [that is, go from coaching to supporting]. Just give them support – be an email away, be down the hall for them.
I've never seen this situat… ah, once in a million years, yeah, let me tell you… and then they're on their own. He said that eventually, you just delegate to them. You just delegate. You don't go from directing to delegating, you go up here [from directing to coaching, then supporting and finally, delegating].
Folks, all you're seeing in discipleship is this model. We'd already come up with “TEAMS” and I saw this and I went, “Wow, look at this!” What is directing? Is that not truth? Sure, it is. Their coaching, is that not the same as equipping? Absolutely. What is support? Is that not accountability? And what about delegation? Is that not… is that not mission? Put supplication right in the heart of it. It's the very, very same thing. I am absolutely convinced if you want to leave the greatest of all legacies, what you want to do is to give your life, year after year, to a small group of men – for you men, women – for you women, maybe their youth, maybe their children that are under you, but you're always doing that.
So I had this man tell me, who had been labouring in my life, I'm only two years in the Lord, I'm a young high school student and he says, “You need to do this with some other men.” As I shared with some of you, that's when I went to the guy down the street, got hold of his little younger brother and said, “Get some of your buddies,” and I began to invest in their lives, one of which was named Bob. He was then Bobby.
Bob is better at teaching TEAM now for many, many years at our church and that was my first year, and that was 49 years ago, and every year since then, every single year consecutively, I've had a handful of men that I've invested in and I can say this with integrity: this is what legacy is, young people.
I can say with integrity, as wonderful as I see our church, as much as I love our church, and I love what I do at our church, if I was told by our leadership of the church, you either have to quit doing this discipleship stuff (which they would never do that) but if they did and they said, “You can't do discipleship. You either have to quit being a pastor with a very expansive ministry now or you give up your small group, one of the two.” That quickly, I'll resign from the church.
And I said, you know my greatest ministry in life is investing in a handful, who invest in a handful, who invest in a handful and so in eternity, that's the way you and I can leave a legacy, that you're gonna see thousands of people down the line from you, years and years to come, who will share in their faith, live in a mature and equipped follower… as followers of Christ impacting other people. That would be my prayer for you.
And I hope in your church that you'll be patient. Let it begin small. That means everybody can't be in a group this year, but as it begins to grow and you leaders, as you develop young leaders under you, you younger leaders you all come out and start leaving and then take on new people who come out and take on new people. And pretty soon, you'll absorb not just the church but all the new people coming in the life of the church. That's when you have life-on-life discipleship rooted in your church. That would be our prayer for you, and that's what we're excited for, okay? Let's pray together.
Father in heaven, we are so thankful for the privilege to be able to be here and just co-partner or partner with these wonderful, wonderful friends. Thank You for the way You brought us together over these years… over these last few years, and I pray Father that the relationship that we enjoy with them would continue for years and years to come, that we might labour together in Your kingdom worldwide and watch Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth even as it is in heaven.
Bless these young people here particularly. I pray that they might have a legacy to leave, of mature and equipped followers, so that 50 years from now, they'll be sharing their story that they heard an old guy appear and talk about it, and they began to do it and next thing you know, it's been a lifetime. So bless them to that end. We pray in Christ's Name. Amen.
Oh, yea, yea, yea… Aye, let me thank you very much. I'm… speaking for Ron and then you clapped for me, he stood up so erm… that he very much appreciates that… I want you to watch this. I've got about a three-minute video that talks about what life-on-life discipleship is. This is a little animation video. I think it will put it together, probably should have shown you videos than have me talking all this time, but watch how it puts it together for you. Watch it very carefully.
[Video is played]
Why is that countless churches excel in preaching and programs but struggle to make mature and equipped followers of Christ? Churches typically go from preaching and teaching to deploy. We tell people what to do, then send them off to do it. But the problem with proclamational leadership is that it sends out believers who aren't yet trained and matured. It leads to discouragement, disillusionment and disengagement.
Jesus didn't direct and delegate; He discipled. He didn't merely inform his followers by sharing his knowledge; He transformed them by sharing His life and having them join in His ministry. Jesus modelled incarnational leadership, discipling His men, joining them in the trenches, or preparing and coaching them to multiply and to be sent to the front lines. We call it life-on-life missional discipleship, and we believe it's the missing middle in the life of the church, the centre of the hourglass.
Preaching, teaching in small groups deliver great truth and create meaningful fellowship. But life-on-life missional discipleship equips us to go from belief to maturity, leadership and impacting other disciples and the lost world. Without Christ-like discipleship, Christ's followers cannot become kingdom leaders; and congregations can cherish the Word but can't change the world.
Remember, when God wanted to build His church, He didn't send a program to implement. He sent a person to imitate and the life that Jesus lived, the model He gave was defined by life-on-life missional discipleship. Jesus shows us how to think big, start small and go deep. He pursued a big vision for the world by selecting a small group of men and investing deeply in their lives.
As Paul says, “We shared the gospel with you and our lives as well.” [1 Thess 2:8] This is the heart of discipleship. When people who were being conformed to Christ share their life, they pass on Jesus' life. The life of Christ leaves a legacy of generations and the gospel spreads around the world. That's why life-on-life missional discipleship groups are unlike traditional small groups. They focus on life transformation, not just fellowship or knowledge transfer. They're small, with four to six people who are carefully selected and highly committed, and they multiply.
We make disciples who can go and make more disciple makers. As each leader goes on to raise up more leaders, and those leaders raise more leaders still, the growth of the movement is exponential and explosive. This is not a novel idea or a quick fix; it's simply the way of Jesus. It's not a new method but an old method with new people.
Jesus said to go and make disciples of all nations. As we focused on life-on-life missional discipleship, the blessing has been profound. By God's grace alone, we're seeing life-on-life missional discipleship movements rise up throughout the United States and around the globe. Wherever God's plan is followed, we see new believers, new leaders emerging and congregations impacting their families, neighbourhoods, cities and nations. Discipleship was Jesus' model, His method, His mandate and His mission. There is no plan B.
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