Monday, April 6, 2009

Tribal Leadership - Small is Big

I never got around to writing the thread on discipleship and gardening, chuck that to complacency and over-blogging.

I've decided instead to just start a new thread on Tribal Leadership - Small is big. A big movement can only get bigger if it learns to lead in tribes. It is in leading smaller units that it can become bigger than it already is.

This post is all about how to to possess the land. It's one thing to attack and break into a territory it is quite another thing to possess it. History is replete with conquerors (Romans 8:37) who were unable to effectively occupy and possess. Church movements have also experienced the same the problem. While they start out strong and breakthrough the lines of a nation or a city they fail to completely occupy and possess.

This problem stretches all the way back to the oldest of "church movements" of all time - the Israelites, as they entered the promised land and tried to occupy.

Israel has had considerable success winning as they entered the promised land. However, to effectively and efficiently occupy the land they needed a new strategy, they needed to fight in tribes. Whereas they fought as a nation in the past, it was time to occupy and possess. That meant they needed to break up into tribes.

The concept was not only a wise one, it was God's plan. In His sovereign wisdom He knew it was the most effective and efficient way to go about the conquest. To do so meant they had to empower the tribes. Something the nation was not used to. They were used to fighting as one nation.

Tribal fighting was different. It meant not having the whole nation behind you. It meant that the similar success principles and experiences had to be translated into multiple smaller units. In the end it is the best way to grow and expand.

There's not better book to study than the book of Judges to see the failure of Israel in occupying the land. It outlines the reasons for the failure:

After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, “Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?” The LORD answered, “Judah is to go; I have given the land into their hands.” Judges 1:1-2

Joshua is dead and the leaders had to make sense to how to proceed as they subdued the land as individual tribes. Correctly they realized they needed to ask the Lord for leading and guidance, one that they learned from Joshua who learned from Moses.

The Lord responds by saying Judah was to go first. Judah in turn invites the Simeonites to join them and they did (v. 3). The succeeding verses tell of the success of Judah. They strategically conquer Bezek and subdue it's king Adoni Bezek.

From there they took city after city, first Jerusalem (v.8) then the hill country of the Negev and the Western foothills (v.9). Eventually they subdued Hebron and Debir. Eventually they would expand to Zephath and the key cities of Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron.

All seemed well until v. 19: The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots.

They took possession of the hill country but were unable to drive the people from the plains. Judah and Israel were used to hill country skirmishes. Plains fighting was not the same. There are at least 80 verses in the Bible pertaining to the hill country, many of them indicate that the Israelites were used to the lving and working in these areas. Verses that date all the way back to their father Jacob.

Here are a number of thoughts about from the book of Judges chapter 1:

To fully occupy and possess the land we need to divide into tribes. Tribal advancement means learning to fight in smaller units - small is big. This is achieved by taking the principles of the big army and being able to translate it into strategic plans for tribes.

One reason this is so important is because each tribe will encounter a different kind of enemy as it progresses on. Such is the case is verse 19 when they found that to occupy the plains they needed to learn how to engage people who had chariots.

Hill country fighting lent well to talent, ambush, surprise, pick-up a sword, bow and arrow and you're ready to fight. Plains fighting needed more structure, preparation and discipline. To fight chariots needed a different discipline. The principles remain the same but the realities are different.

In discipleship terms each unit will be faced with dealing with a variety of cultures. Strategies, ministry brand names, outreach modes will vary from Manila to Mindanao, even more so from Nasville to Nigeria.

The tendency is to centralize and not break down into tribes that will have distinct responsibilities. It's the easier path. However, we must be warned that big is small. A centralized unit cannot possess and occupy a wide are, it needs to learn to empower. Then it needs to hold the units accountable. Realizing that each tribe will face a different kind of enemy but trusting that using the same principles as one army they will be able to succeed.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Discipleship and Gardening

Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. Genesis 2:8

After God created the first man He placed him in the garden. Isn't it interesting that God made the first man a gardener. I am convinced that God has an important reason why. That’s because much of life is like gardening.

God’s intent was man would learn how to live life as he tended the garden. It was His way of teaching man – the very first “discipleship program”, if you may.

Like gardening the idea of discipleship relationships involves many different factors and is not quite as simple as transferring information. It requires checking the condition of the soil (heart). Some soils are just not ready and require a period of waiting. Others need to be prepared, plowed and fertilized.

The there’s the matter of the right seed planted in the right season, the changing weather conditions, the nurturing and care of young plants, the removing of weeds, bugs and a host of other considerations. The considerations are too many that even after you’ve done everything you can, you still need God.

Similarly discipleship relationships require patience, certain skills, training and the right attitude and timing. After all the Bible does say that people are like plants, more accurate like trees. In the end the task of disciple making is very much like gardening.

We prepare the soil, we sow the seed, water it, watch, nurture and care, but in the end God is the only one who can make it grow. In the next few weeks I will be posting insights on discipleship and gardening. It is my prayer and hope that these writings will inspire you to go to be a disciple who goes and makes disciples.

How to Overcome Distractions When Praying

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Discipleship and Jaguar

This is the last in a series of 7 posts on discipleship and cars.

I can still recall the day I opened the front door of our home and found a man standing beside a Jaguar XJ. There in the midday sun this classic racing green colored car glistened, it was no ordinary Jag, it was in mint condition, the kind collector’s drool over.

Then the man said something like: “My boss sent me here to give you this car.” You can just imagine how baffled I was about the whole thing. How often does someone send a car to your home, let alone a Jaguar?

As we talked I realized that a generous church member was donating it for our church building project. I called my wife, got in the car, prayed and thanked God for His provision through this man and his family.

Here’s the discipleship relationship interface in this story. The man who gave the car was a disciple. He was someone who was deeply involved in the life of the church.

How did that happen? He was in a discipleship relationship with several men who helped him with his walk with God. Eventually he gave his life to the Lord. Today his wife and 3 children are all disciples of Jesus.

But the story does not end there. His wife leads small groups that reach out to women (young and old) while he reaches out to business associates and friends. His children do the same and one of his sons has become a pastor.

Like cars disciples come in different shapes, sizes, models and colors. And like cars they have a purpose and a function. Disciples are there to go and make disciples.

They do that by reaching out to others with the love of God and by serving in various church ministries. I have also found that disciples who know what the Church is all about are some of the most generous people you will find.

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. Matthew 21:6

Prayer and Sailing

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Discipleship and BMW

A few months ago I was riding in the brand new 7 series BMW of a friend. The minute I got in you just knew this was not your everyday fare of a car. Everything about it was a demonstration of opulence and luxury. The seats, the smell, the sounds, the ride, unbelievable!

When my friend told me how much money he paid for his car it all made sense. You don’t get that kind of luxury for the price of peanuts. In short you don’t get something of value for nothing.

As the title of this blog goes and many of my previous posts have expressed - discipleship is relationship. Christians often say that Christianity is not a religion but a relationship. And this is true. Discipleship is a relationship primarily with God and with the Body of Christ and with the lost world so they can be reconciled to God.

Like my friend's car these valuable relationships don’t come free and the cost is significant and is detailed for us in Matthew 16:24, Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Becoming a disciple is costly. Whether that’s relating with God, His people or reaching out to the world, it requires that we pick up our cross and follow Him. Picking up our crosses simply means letting go of our comforts and conveniences and embracing whatever it takes to follow Jesus, to walk in step with other believers and to reach out to those who still don’t know Him.

Needless to say the cost of discipleship is high. But when you relate the immeasurable value of being God’s friend, the quality of relationships we enjoy with other Christians and the joy of leading others to God, the cost is nothing. It would be like buying my friends BMW for the price of a Kia.

Here’s your discipleship take away: Discipleship will cost you, but the value you get far outweighs whatever price you pay.

Come back here in a few days to link to Steve Murrell's Podcast on: Carrying Your Cross.

Prayer and Laughter

Monday, October 13, 2008

Discipleship and Honda

When Honda was launched in the United States it was an instant hit. The simple secret was they built a quality car backed with world-class service and warranties.

But that’s not the point of this post. Rather this post is about how Honda started the Japanese assault on the luxury car market by introducing the Acura.

Back in the 1960’s Japanese carmakers focused their efforts on building good quality cars that we’re price sensitive (another way of saying cheap). Toyota, Nissan and Honda all succeeded by pursuing this strategy.

After over 20 years of success, Honda decided it was time to take on the luxury car market. In 1986 Honda launched the Acura in the United States designed to compete with American and European luxury cars. It was well received.

In time Toyota and Nissan followed Honda’s footsteps by introducing the Lexus and Infiniti (Toyota’s and Nissan’s version of luxury). Today all three brands are well respected luxury car brands.

Here’s the discipleship is relationship interface with this story. Like these car manufacturers we need to think “and” and not just “or”. How many times have we heard of Christians say things like: “It’s either you do it our denominations way or……” One example is in the way we worship God. Our insistence to worship God with a certain kind of music has prevented us from reaching other segments of society.

Sometimes our own narrow view prevents us from reaching other segments of society because we have insisted on our old proven ways. For instance who says you can’t preach to young people in a bar?

Like Honda we need to excellently do what we have always done while being open to other ways of doing things. Who knows we just might succeed and in so doing inspire other denominations to follow suit?

See also: One Dangerous Prayer

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Discipleship and Volvo

This is a 4th post on a series on discipleship and cars.

The first Volvos were built as far back as 1927. In Europe, however Volvos were not taken seriously by would be car owners.

There are several reasons why, for one Volvos were made in Sweden. And in those early years Sweden was not a country known for cars. Considering the competition – England (Rolls Royce, Jaguar among others), Germany (Mercedes Benz, BMW among others) Italy (Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and others) and even the French had their fair share (Renault, Peugeot and Citroen) Swedish cars were no where near being a contender.

Today Volvos are not only popular but is as respected as it's other European counterparts. What did they do that allowed them to inch closer to their counterparts? For years Volvo focused on just one thing, safety. Here is a short list of Volvo’s string of significant developments to ensure that it is the car of choice when it comes to safety:

Laminated Glass Windshield (1944) to prevent broken glass from injuring passengers.
Padded Dashboards (1956) the first time ever done to cushion the impact in case of collision.
Patented Three-Point Safety Belt (1958) which is today the standard seat belt used by most cars.
Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) (1995) which channeled the force of a side impact away from the doors and into the safety cage.
The Head Protecting Airbag (1998) today a standard in most cars.

These form a short list of Volvo’s attention and commitment to one thing: Safety. Needless to say when someone considers buying a car and safety is a concern – they’ll be looking at Volvos. These small initiatives have not only been approved by regulators but have become the standard for most cars.

Here’s where the discipleship relationship interface is: there is so much detail to deliver the one thing that people expect from us as Jesus' Church. If Volvo’s focus is safety, the Christian Church is called upon to deliver one thing, that is discipleship. The task of teaching people how to be life long followers of Christ.

So the next time you consider doing something new and running around doing new activities, take a seat and write down the many little things that you need to do in order to make disciples. You’ll be amazed at how many things need your attention.

On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. 1Thessalonians 2:4

Monday, September 29, 2008

Discipleship and Ferrari

In the late 1990’s a survey was made of the world’s most recognizable brands. Among the top three was Ferrari together with IBM and Coca-Cola.

The world of business was stunned at these findings because while the other 2 brands have spent billions of dollars on advertising Ferrari never had an advertising budget (not until 1993).

How could a company that sells less cars than most car manufacturers be more recognizable and that popular? The simple answer to this phenomenon is that while not everyone can afford or own a Ferrari, most everyone wants one.

The bigger question is how did Ferrari get the world to love it so much considering it did not advertise? And considering most people can’t even afford it. The answer was it kept its focus on running races and winning them.

More significantly it dominated the world of Formula 1 racing, the World’s most popular race. Viewed by millions Ferrari became a constant winner and set the standard for construction and performance.

Here’s the discipleship relationship interface. Though you may not think anyone is watching, people are. Though you think people are not impressed for now – just keep winning the race of life and in time they will want to know how you do it. Finally, don’t forget that just like the Ferrari we are made from the best craftsmanship, created to do great things – and are set to run a race that was prepared in advance for us.

In short keep being a disciple it will always result in making others disciples.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)