Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Dicoveries in Discipleship Part 2.

Probably the easiest way to begin this discipling journey is to begin with those you want to be with. When dealing with people in the church, can I say it baldly - there are those you want to be with, those you need to be with, and those you have to be with!

Begin with those you want to be with. I think if we start with that frame of mind, we will probably be choosing people who have the charisma (Holy Spirit anointing), character (godly) and chemistry with us (energise us rather than drain us) which is vital to any leadership team.

A very helpful thing I have learnt from the 3dmUK guys is to use the already existing rhythms and routines of your life. Do you normally eat dinner as a family at 6pm? Then just invite two of the couples you are discipling to join your family at dinner. Do you walk the dog at a certain time? Ask one of the young guns that would love to have some of your time and your ear to come and walk the dog with you.

Something that has dawned on me with the whole concept of discipling is that my home and my time belong to Jesus. I used to say so before. Now I'm beginning to actually live it. To want to really disciple people must mean that we are willing to be interrupted, willing to sacrifice a lot of our personal time and space (till now heavily guarded!) It's inconvenient if we have a self-protective mentality but it's amazing how it becomes a non-issue once we cross a Rubicon in our mind that we are doing life on life with these people.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012



'Discipling' is a buzzword in the church at the moment. That shouldn't make us dismissive of it. Buzzwords are buzzwords because they have that buzz of God's energy in them and a 'now' prophetic edge to them that is being picked up across the church.

I am fundamentally convinced that disipling should be at the heart of every local church. I am equally convinced that it isn't, certainly not in Jesus' style. Admittedly we do have a lot of:
  1. meetings where a leader teaches - a very one directional flow of information.
  2. structured and programmed get-togethers of a group of potential leaders where no.1 occurs.
  3. mentoring/coaching one on one.
You might think, 'What's wrong with that?'

What's missing is the lion's share of what Jesus did in discipling. I would like to do this blog series exploring this.

Looking at the gospels we can learn a lot about Jesus-style discipling. Mark says,

'And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons' (Mk 3:13-15 ESV).

 Jesus wanted them to 'do life' with Him. Their ministry and their authority would flow out of that. He wanted them to see everyday things in Him, not just arrive at appointed times and listen to a teaching and then go away. Certainly Jesus taught them, but that comprised only (a small?) part of what He did with them. They learnt as much from what they saw as from what they heard. Paul reminded the people he was discipling to do the things they had heard and seen in him (Phil 4:9).

We have got to find ways to 'do life' with the people we are discipling. As leaders, we have to break the lectern style, professional leadership style of Christendom in the Western church. It's barren. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and reminded them that he had not only shared the gospel with them but his own life as well. How much of the inner workings of my life do those I am discipling know? How vulnerable and honest am I with them? Do they see the polished, presentable me, or the real me?

When I set out on this journey of changing my leadership style from one of being a professional service provider to being a disciple and a maker of disciples (and it certainly is a BIG change and quite a journey), I discovered just how much I had held the church at arms length from the reality of my life. It's one thing to talk about 'doing life' with a bunch of disciples, quite another thing to actually begin to be vulnerable and honest. I felt quite uncomfortable at first, a bit like I had started down a slide that I suddenly thought I might like to reverse out of!

'Speaking the truth in love' (Ephesians 4:15), is a core value of discipling. Those we are discipling must know that we love them, deeply, genuinely and sacrificially. They must know that we are covenanted to them. Jesus certainly modelled this! From this relational base, they must also know we are willing to speak the bald truth to them about their lives, addressing their 'un-Kingdom' and therefore unhelpful words, attitudes and behaviours. Jesus definitely modelled this. Some of the Gospel records of Him speaking the truth to His disciples are eye-watering. And mostly He did it in front of all the others!

This is probably the greatest insight into discipling that I have stumbled across. Discipling does not work well in a one on one coaching/mentoring model. It works best in a group context. That's how Jesus did it. Very seldom do we come across Him instructing or challenging any disciple one on one. Just go through the Gospels if you don't believe me. There is something indefinable and yet powerful that happens when we do life together as a group of disciples, when we are committed to each other in love and honest in truth. This is what makes discipleship 'fly'.

Life on life as a group - in our modern context that would mean eating together, going to the pub together, going to movies together, just hanging out in each other's homes, regular phone calls, Skyping, texting, emails and so on.

Without really being aware of it, I think we may be talking here of one of the most fundamental changes to how we 'do' church since the time of Constantine in the early 300's AD.

Let discipleship fly!

Tuesday, 31 July 2012


I started my life as an unwanted pregnancy. My Dad wanted me aborted, Mum wouldn't do it. Much strife ensued. Dad was a lovely man, I just never really felt like he wanted me - probably because of his own terrible inner struggles. Years later, just before my 13th birthday, my Dad committed suicide. The words, 'Not wanted. Not Worth It', seemed to be stamped on my DNA.
I tried to blank out this feeling with alcohol, drugs, attractiveness to women and by striving to excel at everything, but I always eventually felt empty again.
Then I watched my girlfriend get transformed by Jesus Christ. And she introduced me to Him.
He forgave my mess and adopted me with unconditional love. Don't let anyone tell you that this is not experiential. I felt different.
I'm still a work in progress but I largely have peace at the centre of my being now, knowing that He will never forsake me. He has just about completely massaged out the 'Nots', from 'Not wanted. Not Worth It'.
That girl and I have been married 30 years today. We are both so ordinary and full of faults. I am so utterly grateful for the grace of Jesus that made us His friends. I am also deeply grateful to Nola for her love, patience, motherhood and down to earth godliness which makes me feel like a spiritual pygmy at times. I am grateful to have three children that love me as their Dad with all my faults and inadequacies. They are also friends of Jesus. What a blessed life in the midst of the ordinary toil and stress of the mundane.
You might also want to engage with Jesus. Tell Him you're sorry for ignoring Him and offending Him with your sin. Ask Him to forgive you through His blood shed on the cross. Ask Him to take up residence in you by His Holy Spirit.
Reading John's gospel in the Bible is a good place to start engaging with His truth.
Finding a life-giving church that loves Jesus is vital. Christianity on your own is very, very difficult and is not Jesus' way unless you are persecuted and unable to connect with other Christians.
Write to me if you would like.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

A Shy Pastor endeavouring to be Missional

If you're a Christian, you're probably as convinced as I am that we are meant to 'go and make disciples' - right? It's just the execution that gets a bit tricky. I'm a South African amidst Brits who don't really seem to want to know me or my story. On top of that I am an introvert and find relating to strangers very difficult. I just feel awkward and don't know the right thing to say. I sound a bit like I have a learning disability when I am trying to make small talk. I tell you, it can really be discouraging sometimes. So what does a person like me do to make disciples?
I decided to start at the beginning - 'Go...'. I began prayer walking our neighbourhood and a local council estate almost every Thursday. Through that someone offered me Christmas gifts to distribute to children on the counsel estate. Through that I met people on the estate. Through them I met the Community Development Worker. Through him I was invited to the Community Stake-Holders meeting. Through that I am helping the community put together a  community party to celebrate the Queens 60th Jubilee (I also get to play lead guitar in a band performing on the day :) How cool is that. Through all of this I have had two occasions where I was able to talk about my faith. How much impact I have had so far I don't know. All I do know is that going is better than staying. Not easier, just better.
Where could you start by just 'Go' -ing?

Thursday, 10 May 2012

A meditation on courage and faith

Joshua 1:3 (ESV) 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.

Notice the 'have given to you' in this incredible verse. From what I can tell from looking at other translations, this is the better translation of the Hebrew. The NIV slightly contracts the verse by saying, 'I will give you every place where you set your feet...'. In essence those translators thought they were saying the same thing but I don't think it is.
The word 'have' as opposed to 'will' makes a big difference. What God was actually saying to Joshua was, 'I have already given you this land. It's a done deal. Now it's up to you to walk into this land and possess it. Everywhere where you put your feet in this land, I have already given to you'. Because God had already given it to him, all he had to do was to actually walk into/claim/inherit all that was already theirs in God's economy. There would be set-backs, opposition, criticism, grumbling and complaining but ultimately no-one would be able to stand against them because it was already settled in heaven. God tells Joshua this a few times in Joshua chapter 1.
This really speaks to me for the 'land' that God has given me...and you. What has God put in your heart to 'walk into'? What is your 'land'? Whatever He has put in our heart, He has already given us. He is waiting for us to step into that calling so that He can say to us, 'Every place that the sole of your foot will tread (in that particular area of calling) I have given you.'
No set-back, no opposition, no criticism, no lack, no grumbling and complaining can thwart what God has given us. There is only one exception to this litany of 'no .....' and that is 'I'. I can thwart what God has given me through not meditating on God's word, through not walking God's way, through fear, through dismay, and through not constantly being filled with the Spirit.
Note that God tells Joshua three times to be strong and courageous, and the tribesmen around him echo it back to him a fourth time. God is saying it to you, those around you are echoing it to you in the hope that you will take them into the 'land' that God has given you, 'Be strong and courageous'!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Be Unashamedly Spiritual!

Recently I read a study by Prof. William Kay of Glyndwr University, UK  - Apostolic Networks in the UK: the dynamics of growth. 2005. (Available from Glyndwr University Research Online). His study showed a remarkable correlation between the charismatic activity of ministers and the evangelism that happens in their lives. Furthermore, the study showed that the same correlation applied to the members of churches.

They were asked: In the last 3 months, how many times have you: Danced in the Spirit? Prophesied? Given a message in tongues? Prayed for the sick? Raised your hands in worship? etc. They had the options to tick various frequencies e.g. none; 1-6 times; 7-12 times; 13-18 times; 19+ times.

Even more significantly, the study showed that in churches where the minister is more charismatically and evangelistically active, so are their people. Prof. Kay writes, 'We can build up a picture of charismatically productive and evangelistically active ministers who create congregations in their own likeness' (p.8).

'What this also means is that Pentecostal and charismatic churches should be true to themselves and not allow the allure of respectability to seduce them away from their characteristic path. They would be deeply mistaken if they assume that, by dropping the potential embarrassment associated with charismatic gifts, they will secure their future and the continued upward graph of membership. Nothing could be further from the truth' (p.4-5).

Be unashamedly spiritual!

How would you score?

Saturday, 5 May 2012


I was talking this morning with a bunch of pastors about holidays with family and the question of whether we are resting in the Lord or resting from the Lord?

To my shame, I have found that rather than just being like the older brother in the parable - working hard on the farm for the Father but becoming grumpy and resentful for it, I think I have gone one worse - not just working for the Father rather than with Him, but worse than that, realising that a lot of my 'spirituality' was about trying to work the Father in order to gain success and significance. Maybe that is what older brothers are doing at the end of the day? When this was not working all that well (and God makes sure it never does!), then when I was on holiday, I felt a kind of balshy resentment towards spirituality and just went native. What a mess!

The more my relationship with God has been about relationship, pure and simple, not working God or working for God, and sometimes not even working with God but just being with God, I have found that I carry that spirituality into my leave times quite naturally and happily. It also means that I am lighter and happier all round, not this brooding clod of frustration that the family is tip-toeing around :-(