Follow updates of Micah Lugg preaching in chapel at The Master’s College here.
Chuck Weinberg started a new blog to give updates on Grant’s condition and to thank God for His goodness. With his son in the Critical Care Unit hooked to a breathing machine, sitting in the waiting room unsure of what’s next, his first thought for a blog name was How good is God? This wasn’t a question for him of whether or not God is good, but a question of recognizing how good God really is. How good is that perspective?
For another first hand account, read what Micah Lugg learned from sitting at the hospital all day.
The Great Commission sets our sights high; we are to make disciples of all the nations. The apostle Paul also emphasized the broad scope of his ministry, teaching every man and warning every man in order to present every man complete in Christ. Everyone falls in one of the three circles on our disciple-making bullseye. Either they are spiritually dead and need the gospel, they have been made spiritually alive and need to grow in the gospel, or they have demonstrated faithfulness and are ready to do the work of the gospel. But everyone is somewhere on the target.
The target may represent an entire country, a city, a local church, a particular ministry within a church, or small group within a ministry. Each sphere includes those who need salvation or sanctification and training for ministry. So here’s a recap of the three target levels:
- Evangelizing. In order to make disciples among the spiritually dead we must reach out for Christ.
- Edifying. To help believers obey everything Christ commanded we must build them up in Christ.
- Equipping. To help the faithful become disciple-makers we must train them up and send them out for Christ.
I believe disciple-making is best facilitated by some form of small groups. Though you can be discipled or make a disciple without being part of a one, small groups provide a place for thorough and concentrated evangelism, for accountability relationships and mutual edification, as well as for quality (controlled) equipping and an obvious place to practice the “focus on the few to reach the many” principle.
As I mentioned in the last post, Jesus is the ultimate example of making disciples. He not only paints the target but demonstrates how to reach it. In upcoming posts we’ll see the practical stages of development that help us hit the center of the disciple-making bullseye.
The fool loves to talk, loves to hear himself speak, loves to share his opinion. Solomon said as much in Ecclesiastes 10:14 (part of a larger paragraph on what comes out of the fool’s mouth which I preached about yesterday.
A fool multiplies words,
though no man knows what is to be,
and who can tell him what will be after him?
I hate to love this verse. It’s so accurate, so common, and so upsetting. The fool is verbose, meaning he’s most happy when his mouth is open. A fool multiplies words. He doesn’t just add them, he multiplies. This isn’t the first time in Ecclesiastes Solomon addressed bloviation.
Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. (5:2)
The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man? (6:11)
The fool’s mouth pours out folly. In particular he delights to declare his convictions on things he has no clue about, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him? Who can predict a man’s future or what will happen on earth after his death? The obvious answer is “No one.” Wise people listen and know their limits; fools babble. They go on as know-it-alls.
Some of the most wordy people are also some of the most arrogant. They’ve so convinced themselves that they know the answers, that they have true knowledge, and no one can convince them otherwise. Yet they have no understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.
Ecclesiastes 10:14 is aimed specifically at future-tellers, at those who talk big even though they have no information and no way to get that information. But the application spills over onto all sorts of issues. For example, it fires me up and tires me out reading blogs (or comments on blogs) by people with little to no understanding and little to no humility. They write or talk like the world’s been waiting for them to arrive with the answer. But multiplied words don’t prove their argument, they demonstrate their arrogance.
Out of the mouth of fools come arrogant verbosity. At times like these my mom and Solomon agree: watch your mouth.
Since some reading in The Institutes yesterday afternoon I’ve been mulling over the lessons of misery under the sun, namely, misery teaches us to regard God and put our stock in another world. Even as Christians we tend to skip this required class (for some reason it’s always early in the morning) so it’s no wonder when we flub assignments like seeking things above and hating the world. Calvin points out,
[I]f you examine the plans, the efforts, the deeds, of anyone, there you will find nothing else but earth. Now our blockishness arises from the fact that our minds, stunned by the empty dazzlement of riches, power, and honors, become so deadened that they can see no farther. The heart also, occupied with avarice, ambition, and lust, is so weighed down that it cannot rise up higher. In fine, the whole soul, enmeshed in the allurements of the flesh, seeks its happiness on earth. (3.9.1)
Though this wasn’t necessarily a new thought, it did cause fresh reflection on all those who sit in Misery 1011, listening to Professor Vanity, but refuse to learn. I wonder how people can read books like Unrecognized and Unappreciated Abilities, Hurtful Relationships and You, Death of Family, Living with Chronic Pain, and Burning Candles on Both Ends to No Effect, and still not get the message. There’s no other explanation than the blinding, deceiving influence of sin. The god of this world is a master-teacher too and persuades his students that the earthly life will yield sweet fruit if they just put their heart into it. But that formula only adds frustration in this life to failure in the next.
As disciples of Christ there is progress to report when
we learn that this life, judged in itself, is troubled, turbulent, unhappy in countless ways, and in no respect clearly happy; that all those things which are judged to be its goods are uncertain, fleeting, vain, and vitiated by many intermingled evils. From this, at the same time, we conclude that in this life we are to seek and hope for nothing but struggle; when we think of our crown, we are to raise our eyes to heaven. For this we must believe: that the mind is never seriously aroused to desire and ponder the life to come unless it be previously imbued with contempt for the present life. (Ibid.)
I am thankful for grace to appreciate and learn from misery, though it does make me even more eager to complete the course.
- I might have mentioned The School of Hard Knocks but it seemed either too easy or too cheesy. ↩
Disciple-making ends (and begins again) here. This center circle on the target represents the third step to present every man complete in Christ. Helping others follow Christ advances from Evangelizing to Edifying to Equipping.
Spiritual birth and spiritual growth toward Christlikeness mark every disciple. One of the clearest signs of increased spiritual maturity is that the disciple is capable of reproducing, that is, making a disciple of their own. Not only is this an important sign of health, it is necessary for fulfilling the Great Commission in coming generations as well as among all the nations.
Therefore, training–equipping–others to reproduce themselves is the final level of disciple-making. To equip means to prepare, to train, to furnish someone with tools necessary to accomplish a task. For those in this center circle on our bullseye we train and reproduce. By instruction, example, delegation, and critique the discipler equips the disciple to disciple someone else.
God gives leaders to the church for this very reason: to equip the saints for the work of ministry. But note that while the pastor initiates and oversees the process, the work of the ministry is done by the saints. In other words, disciples make disciples who make disciples until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God. Pastors/elders and Bible study/small group leaders should be the first disciplers but never the only disciplers.
The center of the bullseye is the smallest circle because it typically includes the fewest number of people. In fact, this target level is aimed at the faithful, those who can be entrusted with passing on truth to others who will be able to teach others after them. While we want everyone to end up here eventually, disciple-making requires us to focus on the few, faithful followers to reach the many in the outer circles.
This is probably the weakest sphere for most churches, including churches with sound doctrine. Equipping certainly includes solid teaching in big church but it involves much more than that. We don’t expect our children to mature by handing them a book to read, is it different for spiritual children? Disciples don’t learn to take responsibility from a distance, so making disciples from the platform or sermon mp3s is only a small part of the process. Jesus modeled for us at least five stages of development with His disciples (which I plan to post about soon). Suffice to say for now, each stage involved more than relaying a message, it involved imparting His very life.
On another practical note, you can always find someone who knows less than you do. So get in someone’s back pocket who knows more than you and then pass that on to someone else. That’s what it means to make disciples, following Christ and equipping others to follow Him. It is every disciple’s mission.
Disciple-making continues here. This second circle on the target represents the next step to present every man complete in Christ. Helping others follow Christ moves from Evangelizing to Edifying.
The Christian life begins at regeneration when God creates new life in a spiritually dead person. From the human perspective this is called conversion as we recognize repentance and belief as God’s work. But conversion isn’t the goal of the Great Commission. Christ did not call us to make converts who sit around and wait for heaven. Conversion is simply the start.
The goal is Christlikeness. So instruction in truth, training for obedience, and encouragement toward Christlikeness–edifying–is how disciple-making continues. To edify means to build up, to strengthen, to develop and improve. So we labor not only for others to profess Christ as Lord but to walk in a manner worthy of their Lord.
One of the clearest summons to edification is Ephesians 4:13-16. Every Christian ministers for the purpose of
building up the body of Christ, 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, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
The emphasis is on building up (vv. 12, 16), maturing (vv. 13, 15), and strengthening (v. 14). The disciple-making job isn’t finished until everyone reaches the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. So until God glorifies us at our death or Christ’s return, there is building of the Body to do.
To this second circle on our bullseye we instruct and encourage for the sake of spiritual growth. We want every believer to live the gospel. We train disciples to obey Christ, studying the life of Jesus and then following in His steps. The New Testament spills over with descriptions of this ever-progressing Christian life: observing everything Christ commanded, becoming complete/mature/perfect in Christ, being conformed to the image of Christ, attaining to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, and growing up in every way into Christ.
One additional label for this process is sanctification, a term that describes the widening separation from sin and intensifying consecration for God that should mark disciple in this target level. It applies to all believers and remains our objective until the end. Christians are saved from the penalty of sin and sanctified from the power of sin. Therefore, making disciples requires not only evangelizing, but edifying.
On a practical note, small groups are a great place to help one another cultivate Christlikeness. They are like a sturdy crock for stirring one another up to love and good works, keeping everyone in the pot until all the necessary ingredients are mixed in. Then we help those who are ready to move on to the third level.
Our Tahoe full of five is about 90 miles north of Los Angeles as I write on my iPhone. I already can see the sun and taste the smog. This will be Shepherds’ Conference six for some of our one28 staff. We all agreed last night (when we departed around 7:45pm) that there’s not much better on our Christian calendar year than a week full of man singing, Scripture marinating, book buying, and black coffee drinking among friends. You’re welcome to check the Void for updates over the next few days, but don’t hold your breath, I’ll probably be busy male bonding.