Making Ministers through Difficulties

*I finished reading Lectures to My Students yesterday. The journey took almost two years and included some breathtaking sights. The Void previously published highlights related to the preacher and praying, preaching with clarity, and holding on to the truth. While creating my index inside the back cover I retread precious, providential, faith-focusing ground concerning how God makes His ministers through difficulties.

Afflictions make sensitive shepherds.

It is of need that we are sometimes in heaviness. Good men are promised tribulation in this world, and ministers may expect a larger share than others, that they may learn sympathy with the Lord’s suffering people, and so may be fitting shepherds of an ailing flock. (155)

These infirmities may be no detriment to a man’s career of special usefulness; they may even have been imposed upon him by divine wisdom as necessary qualifications for his peculiar course of service. (155)

Troubles make clean vessels.

The scouring of the vessel has fitted it for the Master’s use. (160)

Adversities make humble instruments.

Those who are honoured of the Lord in public have usually to endure a secret chastening, or to carry a peculiar cross, lest by any means they exalt themselves, and fall into the snare of the devil. (164)

Serve God with all your might while the candle is burning, and then when it goes out for a season, you will have the less to regret. Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are. When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord. (164)

Instruments shall be used, but their intrinsic weakness shall be clearly manifested; there shall be no division of the glory, no diminishing of the honor due to the Great Worker. (163)

Trials make trusting servants.

Put no trust in frames or feelings. Care more for a grain of faith than a ton of excitement. (164)

Continue with double earnestness to serve your Lord when no visible result is before you. Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light; faith’s rare wisdom enables a man to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy. (165)

A Vision for Young People

Here’s a great start to a new series on a gospel vision for the rising generation of young people. From someone who’s in the thick of parenting and pastoring youth:

living for the glory of Christ is not on hold until you are eighteen or twenty-one. There is a way for six-year-olds to make much of Christ and a way for ten-year-olds to make much of Christ and a way for sixteen-year-olds to make much of Christ. And there is a way for parents and church leaders and all of us to create a matrix of relationships and teachings and expectations and blessings that awaken young people from the emptiness and aimlessness of our popular youth culture and give them a vision for Christ-exalting significance throughout their pre-teen and teen years.

The Practical Discipleship Plan of Attack

Series | Making Disciples

Making disciples is job #1 for every Christian. So far we’ve identified the three target levels of discipleship: we evangelize unbelievers, we edify all believers, and then we aim to equip believers to make disciples themselves. Those are the goals of discipleship, or where we’re going, but how do we get there? How do we make a disciple? What is the process?

Many Christians simply don’t know. Even if making disciples is on the radar they have no instruction or training for it. No doubt there are other believers doing a lot of the right things but who couldn’t define their approach or pass it on to someone else. That’s why we need to outline a practical discipleship plan of attack.

There are (at least) five stages for developing a disciple. The stages overlap; they are not entirely exclusive, but isolating each phase in our discussion should be helpful in the equipping process. Just as everyone fits somewhere on the bulls-eye, so everyone is found at some stage of development.

It is also important to say (again) that this is not new or original. I’m simply trying not to drop the baton that’s been handed to me. In particular, the seed of these stages grew in the soil of The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman.1 It is the classic study on discipleship and a must read. I believe every Christian should own a copy and it continues to be one of the most influential books on me. It traces the Master Himself, Jesus, as He modeled the most effective method for making disciples.


  1. I had the privilege to hear Dr. Coleman in person when I was in high school along with my youth pastor who, not coincidentally, was my first real discipler.

What I Did over Spring Break

My post on Monday hinted at some travel; boy was there traveling. Sunday afternoon I left Marysville around 2:00 pm, picked up Tim Lugg in in Woodburn, OR, and drove through the night to Santa Clarita. Our mission was to attend Monday morning chapel at The Master’s College where Micah was on tap to kick-off Spurgeon Fest. We conquered the Grapevine in time for a breakfast of champions at Noah’s Bagel’s (cracked potato peppercorn, toasted with spread) and Starbucks (quadruple shot grande Americano with light cream) and slipped into a back row in chapel right after it started.

The preacher and meWe enjoyed and were edified by Micah’s message and I think he was surprised and encouraged by our presence. I decided to Twitter the message for the sake of the time stamp and because it’s easier to post line by line on the iPhone. You can read my notes here, and for those unfamiliar with the Twitter format, start at the status for 09:16 AM March 31 and read up the page. After chapel we took the preacher to In-N-Out for double-doubles then headed north a little after noon.

We took a slight detour to Seaside to drop Tim off with the rest of his vacationing family and I finished the course around 9 am. When it was all said and done the Passat covered almost 2400 miles over 38 hours with the four hour layover for chapel and lunch.

UPDATE [10:26PM April 8]: Micah posted his own account of chapel with a link to the video. [11:54PM April 10]: Even better, now you can download the mp3.

Ronald`s way to breakfastThe rest of the week has been no less tiresome as I’m fulfilling the role of Mr. Mom while Mo endures the throes of the first trimester. I’m doing the kind of things I’m least good at and least naturally patient about. So like any dad in my situation would, on Wednesday we went to breakfast at McDonald’s. Otherwise we’ve played in the yard and on the swing set, watched Mary Poppins and Cars, repeatedly wiped the boy’s head and tail, and generally tried to enjoy the process.

One to One Ministry

Here’s a BRIEFING on one-to-one ministry that compliments much of the Biblical Shepherding Bulls-eye and prepares the way for a Practical Plan of Discipleship. For a taste:

Effective one-to-one Christian ministry is not limited to counseling, nor is it essentially about solving personal or emotional problems. What is it then? It is forming a relationship with another individual for the purpose of mutual growth in Christian understanding, obedience and service of others.

I don’t love the recommended resources near the end but the rest of the article is worth the time to read and implement.

How Good Is God?

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.

Recapping the Three Target Levels

Series | Making Disciples

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.

discipleship bullseye

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:

  1. Evangelizing. In order to make disciples among the spiritually dead we must reach out for Christ.
  2. Edifying. To help believers obey everything Christ commanded we must build them up in Christ.
  3. 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.

Target Level Three – Equipping

Series | Making Disciples

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.

discipleship bullseye

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.