Sunday, November 4, 2007

Discipleship and Snakes

(8th post on Zoo thread)

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?
Matthew 23:33

If the Lord Jesus encountered snakes there is no doubt that we will. What are snakes exactly? People who have been influenced by the largest snake of all, the serpent of old.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1

The plan of the enemy has not changed. It starts with temptation. The simple act of planting a seed of doubt that questions the Word, Person and Character of God and if that does not work he switches to deception – “you will be like God”.

And when that still does not work – he uses enticement to make us the see the fruit he offers to be much more than what it really is. He presents it in such a way that it appears to be good as food, pleasing to the eye and profitable for gaining wisdom. Something that is good, pleasing and profitable and yet is out of God’s will.

Finally, like the true snake that he is, when all else fails he uses condemnation and accusation. He shouts “you are unworthy of your God and besides he is the cause of all your problems”.

Often he uses people to do his bidding. So the next time you encounter his pattern of attack in your own life or in the lives of those you are I discipleship with it is time to see what’s behind the snakes in front of you.

How does one fight back? By simply exposing the truth behind the temptation, deception, enticement, condemnation and accusation, which is why it is so important to read, know, love confess and believe God’s Word everyday of our lives. This is basic to discipleship and we need to teach those whom we disciple to do the same.

Secondly keep your eyes opened for possible snakes. One way to do that is to be as shrewd as them. To be shrewd simply means to know their ploy by being prudent with your ways while remaining innocent and pure.

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Discipleship and African Elephants

(7th post on Discipleship and Zoo thread)

Some weeks ago I wrote about Discipleship and Indian Elephants. I am writing yet another post on elephants – this time from Africa.

The German theologian, church planting/growth researcher and conference speaker Christian Schwarz wrote in his book Natural Church Development a true story about African elephants.

He wrote about a time when a breed of elephants in Africa were threatened with extinction. They were either being hunted down or their grazing grounds were being over logged they had no food to eat.

To solve the problem zoological technocrats conceived of a plan to save them. They gathered the remaining elephants and placed them in a reserve full of trees and ensured that they would be protected.

After several years the elephants began to thrive and give birth. As the population of elephants grew they began to eat all the vegetation in the reserve. The result was all the vegetation was exhausted and the elephants had no food to eat.

Slowly the elephants started to die of starvation. Only this time there were no longer trees. The simple lesson of this story is you cannot solve problems using short-term programs. These solutions are not sustainable.

Here is where discipleship relationship connects to this story. Programs run by churches are not sustainable. We need to train people to build a lasting relationship with God and with the body of Christ and not rely on programs. Relationships are the only things that last and that are sustainable.

See Also: Prayer and Muscles

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Discipleship and Eagles

I’m back from my 3 week break first to visit a church in California and then to celebrate my 25th Wedding Anniversary.

This post is the 6th in my thread on Discipleship and the Zoo.

In his book Confessions of a Reformission Rev - Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle writes about what eagles are:

“Eagles are skilled leaders who are being developed within the church with the express kingdom purpose of leaving the proverbial nest and leading a ministry elsewhere, such as mission work and church planting.”

As we go and make disciples we need to be on the look out for young eagles. Some of them will come in very young packages and can be very raw sinners. But within them could be eagles – future leaders in society and in the church even pastors and missionaries.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting eagles in various shapes and sizes. Some came in the form of businessmen, entrepreneurs, artists, youth and even plain old sinners. In time through discipleship some of these men have become successful business people, doctors, chefs, pastors and even missionaries.

Here’s a quick thought about discipleship and eagles: It is God who brings and/or sends eagles our way.

‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Exodus 19:4

Because young leaders have strong personalities it is easy to dismiss them as stubborn and tend to have an independent spirit. These characteristics may cause us to disdain them because they cannot be controlled. It is here that we need to realize that our job is not to control them. Rather it is to build a relationship with them.  

Relationships that may start with us but must ultimately end up with God. Raising eagles can be challenging. As such we need to connect them to others (Discipleship and Velcro) who can also give them input.  Raising leaders is best done in a team setting.  In time they will gravitate to other eagles who can take them to the next level of life as a disciple.

Long after these eagles have flown away to their God given destiny we can look from the distance as they soar and realize that we were in one form or another a part of helping them be who they are supposed to be.

See Also: Prayer and Endurance

Thursday, September 27, 2007

25th Wedding Anniversary Break

I am taking a 3 week break from this blog to visit CFIC church in the Bay Area (California) and from there turn around and head for home to celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary.

In the meantime here are a few links that will hopefully continue to inspire and motivate you to go and make disciples and pray:

This first post is an audio link from our EN chuch in London. The message is all about discipleship. It was a bit of unique situation as I was asked to preach inside an authentic English Pub. Had to stumble through the idea of people sitting around holding glasses and smoke coming up from the lower floor, not mention jet lag, but in time I got my bearings. Talk about a church that inisists on being culturally relevant: Discipleship Demystified.

If you want some inspiration on prayer click on this message I preached at the Every Nation Church in Singapore: Enjoying Fasting

And if you just want to read about the latest things going on with my life including some of Marie's posts about our 25 years together click here: One Last Trip And Then Its Our 25th Anniversary

He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD. Proverbs 18:22

I will be back in 3 weeks. All the best to you all!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Discipleship and Wolves

(5th Post on Zoo Thread)

Part of our task in making disciples is outlined in the following verses in Acts, it warns us of the presence of wolves and how we must keep watch:

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Acts 20:28-29

We are being admonished to “shepherd” Gods people, His Church. And what does it mean to shepherd God’s people? One of the ways we shepherd God's people is by guarding and protecting them from savage wolves. The scriptures are clear that they will come even from among us.

Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. Acts 20:30

How can you tell if someone is a wolf? Wolves distort the truth and secondly they draw people away from the flock and want them isolated to themselves.

One of our roles as disciple makers is to connect people to other disciples in meaningful relationships. It is always healthier to have multiple anchors and relationships than to remain isolated and alone. This we can do when we ourselves have meaningful relationships with proven Christians.

In Matthew 7:15, Jesus himself warns us that one of the ways these wolves will come is in the form of false prophets. People who can deliver good words, messages and even enthrall with their gifts.

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

Regardless of how gifted one might be, the question remains is he or she distorting the truth and drawing the people away from their God given relationships.

In the meantime don’t let the presence of wolves detract and distract you from your mission of making disciples. Keep your eyes focused on the harvest despite the presence and reality of wolves in the field.

He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Luke 10:2-3

How does one protect himself and the flock from wolves? By trusting the Holy Spirit. He will reveal who the wolves are. In the mean time be innocent as doves but shrewd as snakes while keping watch for wolves dressed in sheep's clothing.

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16

See Also: Prayer and the Swiss Ball

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Discipleship and Foxes

(4th Post on Zoo Thread)

One of the books that I enjoyed as a child was Aesop’s Fables. I am sure you have heard of the “Tortoise and the Hare” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”, these are but two among the many popular Aesop’s Fables.

Another favorite story was the “Fox and the Grapes”. It was a story about a fox that was trying to reach for some grapes hanging high above on a vine. Unable to reach it he declared: “the grapes are sour anyway.”

It is from this story that the proverbial term “sour grapes” comes from. In essence the lesson behind the story is it is easy to despise what you cannot get. A more Biblical term for these emotions is bitterness and resentment.

There are several “discipleship is relationship” lessons we can glean from this story:

1. Don’t be bitter when people don’t get the Gospel right away, when they do not agree with you or when they persecute you.

2. Some people get bitter and resentful when things don’t happen their way. They may get bitter with God and even with you. Do not allow their bitterness and resentment to defile you. Try your best to keep the relationship, in time by the conviction of the Holy Spirit people can still change.

3. Bitterness and resentment can easily destroy relationships and cast doubts about others. Avoid listening to negative words people say about others, it clouds your view of the other person and defiles you.

See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:15

See also: Prayer and Swimming

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Discipleship and Indian Elephants

(3rd Post on the Zoo Thread)

When speaking of elephants the blind men of Hindustan always comes to mind. It is an old tale about 6 blind men who went to see an elephant.

One touched his legs and thought he was holding a tree. The second held his side and concluded it was a wall. The third grasped its tail and was sure it was a rope, another laid hands on his ears and was certain it was a fan. Still another grabbed his tusks and thought he had a spear and finally the last man surmised his trunk was a snake.

This is true about people and their understanding and knowledge of God. All to often their view of God is grossly limited. Like the blind men and the elephant they draw conclusions about God from the limited perspective they have. In a very real sense they are like the blind men of Hindustan – only their blindness is not physical but spiritual.

Herein lies the need for discipleship relationships. God is far bigger than an elephant and has facets that the Scriptures gradually unfolds as people learn of Him. Discipleship is not simply building relationships rather it is about building relationships with the expressed intent of teaching people the Scriptures so that they too may have a complete understanding of God.

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16

God wants to lead the spiritually blind into ways they know nothing of, unfamiliar paths they are not accustomed to. He wants to turn their darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.

And who will He use to reach and guide them? You and me, we must never tire of making disciples and bringing the blind into the light of God.

See Also: Prayer and Runner's High

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Discipleship and Lions

(2nd Post on Zoo Thread)

No zoo can rightfully be called one if it does not have lions, after all they are the “king the jungle”. Lions can be scary creatures, just watch these 2 videos: Just Missed and Man vs. Lion and you will know what I mean.

Early on in Genesis the Bible speaks of the lion. It was the picture that the Holy Spirit used to describe the tribe of Judah from where King David and Jesus Christ Himself were to emerge from.

You are a lion’s cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness — who dares to rouse him? Genesis 49:9

Eventually the resurrected Christ was to be called the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Revelation 5:5

A lion is also a picture of the boldness and fearlessness that a righteous person enjoys.

The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion. Proverbs 28:1

Proverbs 30:30 says a lion, mighty among beasts, who retreats before nothing;

These are the characteristics of those who have learned to walk in discipleship relationship with their God. You and I are lions raised by the creator of all things. Be bold be strong… go and make disciples.

See Also: Prayer and Weight Lifting

Monday, August 13, 2007

Discipleship and the Zoo

I just ended a thread on discipleship and things found at Walmart. In my next posts I am starting an all new thread on discipleship and the zoo.

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.
Isaiah 11:6

The verses above talk about animals living together. They seem to describe a picture of a zoo. Picture a lamb, leopard, goat, baby cow and a lion living together. Better yet with a child leading them.

The only way that picture will work is in a zoo where animals are caged. Such a picture is simply not possible in real life, the lamb, goat and yearling will immediately be devoured by the leopard and the lion. The child will cease to exist.

Yet this was the picture that the prophet Isaiah saw. As the verses continue Isaiah adds the cow, bear, cobra and others. Yet he closes with the verse that says they will not harm or destroy each other.

The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.

They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. Isaiah 11:7-9

The vision that Isaiah saw was a prophetic picture of the church. Imagine people of differing economic and social backgrounds, political affiliations and temperaments living together in harmony without bars and fences to separate them.

This is only possible as people are transformed into the image of the Lord Jesus. This happens when people learn to live in discipleship relationships. Relationships where Jesus Christ is center of all of life. What it takes to make discipls of men and women to be full of the knowledge of the Lord just as the waters cover the sea.

See also: Prayer and Aerobics

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Discipleship and Dole Pineapple

This is my last post on things you find at Walmart. Next week I start on an all new thread, Discipleship and the Zoo.

Dole Pineapple traces its roots in the year 1901 in Hawaii. It didn’t take long for Dole to capture the taste buds of the mainland, eventually the world. The secret lay in determining whether a pineapple was best suited to be canned as fruit or made into juice. Ripe fruit was canned and unripe fruit was made into juice.

The trick was to be able to tell which was ripe and unripe so that they can be canned as fruit or made into juice immediately after harvest. By putting the fruit in a vat of water they discovered which was which, ripe fruit float and unripe fruit don’t.

This is true of discipleship relationships. Too many Christians write people off just because they are not ready to receive the Lord at the time of their encounter. What they don’t realize is someday like a pineapple they too will ripen. The key is to stay connected in a relationship.

In time like ripened pineapples those who are ready to receive the Lord will float and become obvious. Instead of trying to convert people we need to simply keep the relationships and trust the Holy Spirit to show us who are ripe fruit and are ready to receive the Lord.

Fact is almost everyone will ripen someday and even if they don't you can enjoy the uniquness of each indivdual relationship God allows to cross your path. Keep sowing, be patient and harvest those relationships that have become ripe. In the meantime enjoy the juice of their friendship.

He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain-first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come." Mark 4:26-29

See also: Prayer and New Balance Shoes

Friday, August 3, 2007

Discipleship and Coca-Cola

This is my second to the last post on things found at WalMart. I will be starting a new thread in 2 weeks.

We have all heard the phrase “people don’t care how much you know until they see how much you care.” In building relationships with people one of the best and sure fire ways is to serve them. People are attracted with people who serve them.

All too often Christians start off by wanting to convert people to their beliefs and religious practices rather than finding ways to serve them. Serving people is still one of the fastest and best ways to establish relationships.

One story that brings home this point is about Coca-Cola and its long running relationship with its customers all over the world.

In the 1940’s Coke was just an Atlanta based American company with a few international beachheads. When World War II broke out its president Robert Woodruff commissioned its executives to devise a plan to provide the American soldier with a bottle of Coke right on the battlefield. His desire was the help the soldier overcome loneliness and being homesick. They made sure that Coke was delivered right down to the foxholes.

Mr. Woodruff was so committed to the plan that he had Coke executives traveling to the war theatres to supervise the establishment of portable bottling plants. By the time the war ended Coke had set-up bottling facilities in 63 countries and territories.

Grateful the American soldiers became the premier supporters and word of mouth advertisers of Coke in these territories. It wasn’t long before the word spread and Coke became popular in these countries. Overnight Coke found itself with people wanting to represent them in these nations with factories ready to repoduce the product.

Their simple act of serving the American soldier turned out to be one of their best advertising and distribution strategies.

This incident can help us learn something about discipleship from Coke. Don’t try to convert people, serve the ones who believe in you. This will translate in them a desire to serve others the way you served them.

When we serve people they see the power of this act and they in turn serve others. The more selfless our service is the more real and effective they become.

The greatest among you will be your servant. Matthew 23:11

See also: Prayer and Exercise

Friday, July 27, 2007

Discipleship and Spam

Spam has in the past been referred to as “the wonder meat that won the War”, World War II that is.

During the war soldiers would go for days with very little food if any. The army needed something they could air drop that would not need refrigeration or cooking. The answer came in the form of a meatloaf known as spiced ham. These 2 words combined form to make the word Spam.

Spam was air dropped to the allies giving them much needed food to survive and gain strength and energy. After the war Spam became a staple in many of the countries and territories where it was originally dropped. Which is why today Spam remains a staple in places like Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines and even Russia.

Here is where Discipleship and Spam interface.

Sometimes we think that our outreach is not as ideal as we would have wanted them to be. It felt more like “spamming” people. Often we tend to compare ourselves to professional ministers which makes us feel like we’re offering Spam versus gourmet food.

While that may be true feeding people with Spam is much better than leaving people to die of hunger because gourmet food is not accessible for the moment. Keep in mind the great war was won with Spam – keep outreaching and feeding people where they are with what you've got!

The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. John 21:17

See also my other post:
Prayer & Melatonin

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Discipleship and Aspirin

Still on Walmart stuff.

In 1899 German company Bayer invented Aspirin. The new medication was dubbed a wonder drug as it brought relief to those who suffered from certain types of physical pain.

By 1915 Bayer introduced the first Aspirin tablets. Stored in glass bottles they were more convenient to take, ship and handle. It was an instant success.

However when they were shipped the tablets tended to break as they shook inside the bottles. To solve this problem Bayer placed cotton balls inside the bottles so that the tablets would not move and break.

As Aspirin grew in popularity many companies followed the practice of putting cotton balls inside their bottles without really knowing the reason why Bayer did it.

Later on however, Bayer developed a coating that prevented the tablets from breaking. In time Bayer removed the cotton balls and shipped the bottles just as efficiently.

To this day you will find products that contain cotton balls in their bottles. When asked why manufacturers have them, their response is usually vague. Fact is they never really knew why they had it there in the first place.

Here is where discipleship interfaces with Aspirin. It is true that discipleship is about relationships and modeling the Christian life for others to see. However, we need to teach people to read and obey the Bible. This is the only way for them to know why we behave and live life the way we do. Without it all we're doing is producing mimics who imitate but don't know the reason why they are do what they do.

Discipleship is more than just transferring our programs, models and religious practices to others. It involves teaching others to know why they should live a certain way.

This we accomplish by teaching people to read, study, love and obey the Bible.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2Timothy 3:16-17

See Also: Prayer and Calcium

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Discipleship and Marlboro Cigarettes

Still on stuff found at Walmart.

For over 20 years I have been involved with making disciples through relationships. In that time I have encountered men who were ardent smokers.

Three men come to mind as I write this post. The first was an old friend whom I grew up with. The second was a business associate and the third was a man whom I met in church when he received the Lord. Each one was a smoker.

As I spent time with these men I would see them smoke their favorite brand (Marlboro) with no inhibitions. I made sure that while we shared about the things of God I did not focus on their smoking habit.

Whenever they asked me if there was anything wrong with smoking, my usual response was – the Bible does not say anything about it. What the Bible does say is that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and as such we should be good stewards of our bodies.

In other words if you know for certain that smoking was going to be harmful to your body you would do well to stay away from them. That means overeating unhealthy food is just as sinful as smoking.

While I presented this truth I never made a big deal about it. The reason why is simple: I was not after their external behavior. I was concerned with their hearts being drawn to God. I was convinced that if they loved God with all their hearts and obeyed His word they will one day get a revelation about their bodies being temples of the Holy Spirit.

Discipleship is never about external behavior but is achieved by first having a relationship with others and then introducing them into a personal, active, vibrant and daily relationship with God and with other believers. As they grow in those relationships they will willingly drop their sinful habits.

Today all 3 of these men are serving God and have hearts that are drawn to Him. My friend is now a lay pastor in the city of Cebu and is deeply involved in rescue and relief missions. My business associate has since become a full time pastor and is on his way to become a cross cultural missionary. And the man at church is a successful businessman who loves God and is a disciple maker himself. Non of them smoke cigarettes anymore.

Often I wonder what could have happened if I focused on getting these men to stop smoking rather teaching them to love God with all their hearts and love their neighbors as themselves?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Discipleship and Scotch Tape

More on stuff from Walmart.

Almost every household stashes a spool of Scotch Tape at home. Invented in 1930's by the 3M Company, this utilitarian adhesive tape has become indispensable. From gift-wrapping to school projects, sealing envelopes to attaching notes (this was before Post Its), binding things together to restoring torn paper – the applications are endless.

The secret of the Scotch Tape is two fold: First, it uses a transparent cellophane material and secondly a specially blended adhesive is applied to the cellophane to give it its adhesion.

It is from these two characteristics where we can learn discipleship relationship principles from Scotch Tape.

Relationships need transparency in order to last. I have dealt with the same point on transparency in an earlier post: Discipleship and Listerine, which is why I will focus on adhesion on this one.

One reason why discipleship relationships don’t last is because people have not learned the value and importance of sticking together no matter what adversities, differences, offenses, situations and setbacks occur.

The reality is relationships will have its challenges whether it is an existing one or a new one. This includes our relationship with God which will always be tested. By sticking with our relationships we overcome a present adversity and can move on the next level of relating with one another.

Like Scotch Tape we have been designed to stick with God and one another. You will notice that every time you remove a piece of tape it loses some of its ability to stick. This is true of our relationships.

So the next time you are tempted to peel off from God or a godly relationship think again, you just might be losing a good relationship and some of your ability to stick in the future.

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

See Also: Prayer and Vitamin A

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Discipleship and Gillette

One more time for things you find at Walmart.

Gillette is the world’s undisputed leader in men’s shaving and there is a good reason why – focus. When you mention the name Gillette there is no mistaking what you are talking about, from the people who work at the company to its suppliers, distributors and customers Gillette means one thing - shaving.

This clarity has allowed the company to develop the best products for shaving for over 100 years. Focusing on the reason for its existence has allowed Gillette to develop, evolve and in some ways “perfect” its product.

And it is this same focus that has made Gillette the most trusted name in safety razors.
What people don’t realize is that it has taken over a hundred years to perfect the kind of metal Gillette’s blades are made of. Not to mention the product’s ever evolving design, plastic casing, packaging, the lubricant strip on its tip and it’s manufacturing processes.

Here is where discipleship and Gillette interface:

1. Like Gillette, churches need to know what their real business is and focus on it. By doing so every member of the church knows what their job is - make disciples.

2. Like Gillette we need to evolve our discipleship practices, materials and strategies. Some churches are still doing what was being done 100 years ago. No wonder they don't work and nobody is impressed.

Discipleship is the reason why churches exist – we need to master the craft of making disciples. Like Gillette what it will take is to focus and move with the times by "perfecting" our methods and materials without deviating from the real business which is making disciples.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:12-14

Read Also: Prayer and Vitamin D

Friday, June 22, 2007

Discipleship and Tylenol

Still on stuff you find at Walmart:

In the autumn of 1982 McNeil Healthcare owners of Tylenol experienced a crisis. Seven people in the Chicago area were found dead after taking Extra Strength Tylenol. The reason was because the tablets were laced with cyanide poison.

While the perpetrators were never caught, Johnson and Johnson the parent company of McNeil responded decisively that averted a disaster. When senior officers of the company were told of the situation their immediate response was to voluntarily recall all its products at a cost in excess of one hundred million dollars.

What precipitated that decision was simple, Johnson and Johnson had formed its values long before the tragic crisis – they believed that their primary responsibility was to provide the best healthcare for their customers.

What we can learn from the Tylenol incident:

Our values determine our course of action. Values set us up for future behavior. It is here that Tylenol and discipleship connect. Is discipleship a key value with you personally and with your church?

Is it the priority that takes up the time and resources of the church? Or is it just another program that is mentioned but can be overridden by another activity?

Is it central to what you are doing? Or is it buried under numerous religious activities that keep people busy without hitting the target?

If discipleship is to happen it must be valued and repeatedly communicated to everyone that it is, regardless of the cost.

"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:31-33

Read also: Prayer and Vitamin C

Friday, June 15, 2007

Discipleship and Scotch-Brite

Still on items found at Walmart.

Growing up my parents taught me how to help with housework. The most common chore was doing the dishes.

In those days washing dishes meant using “steel wool” and a sponge. Steel wool was made of strands of steel that were matted together into a ball and was used as an abrasive. The sponge was used to apply the detergent and absorb excess water as the dishes were rinsed.

I never liked steel wool. It felt strange and when it grated on ceramic or porcelain it had a feel and sound that resembled the scratching of a blackboard with ones fingernails. Not good.

Then one day the 3M Company came up with Scotch-Brite. It was unique because it had one side that was abrasive and the other side was a sponge.

Discipleship is like Scotch-Brite on several counts:

1. People are like sponges. They can only take a certain amount. When sponges have absorbed water nothing else can be absorbed. So it is with teaching others about life and the scriptures. People can only take so much. Too much means saying a lot but not being absorbed. Fact is mentoring and training takes days, weeks, months and even years. Slow is fast.

2. As disciple makers we need to be like sponges that absorb and give to others. We need a soft side that help people willingly open up so their hearts may be cleansed.

3. Like Scotch-Brite life requires an abrasive side. The side that confronts and deals with deep hard to remove dirt. When people realize that our motives are simply to see the best of life for them they will allow us to be the other side that feels like “steel wool” in their lives. Get a hint the soft spongee side is much thicker than the abrassive side. Conversely, life is not just all about soft sponges.

4. Unlike steel wool that scratches and scrapes and sometimes grates on surfaces, Scotch-Brite was designed to deal with dirt and grime without harming surfaces. Confronting others is designed to deal with life’s real issues, but not at the expense of harming others but with the intent of bringing them to the next level of life.

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God. 1 Corinthians 4:5

When God deals with issues in our life his intent is not simply to expose us. Rather to reveal the motives of our hearts so we can deal with them to allow us to move on to the next level of life. As we do, His goal is to praise us as we fulfill the destiny that He has for our lives.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Discipleship and Campbell's Soup

Campbell’s Soup is one of the most recognizable brands of Americana. To many Campbell’s represents comfort food. Now more than 100 years later Campbell’s Soup remains a staple product used in millions of homes worldwide.

The success of Campbell’s rests on one simple idea, eliminating the water in the soup. This allowed the product to have a longer shelf life which can be packed, shipped and stored at a very nominal cost.

More significantly it allowed people to enjoy farm produce that may not be in season to be enjoyed any time of the year right in the convenience of their homes wherever that may be.

We can learn some discipleship lessons from Campbell’s Soup. It is true that discipleship is relationship. As such there is no one pattern or formula which we can use to reach out and disciple others. After all every person and situation is unique.

While that is true there are ingredients in discipleship that can be canned so it can be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere, anytime. This is the reason why I highly recommend the use of Bible teaching materials that have been designed to be used and reused. These materials enable us to provide the necessary ingredients that have been prepared by someone else so we can offer it to those we are trying to reach out to.

Like Campbell’s Soup we can carry these materials and open them up when the situation requires it. Like canned soup we can add the amount of water that best suits those whom we are feeding.

Also, like Campbell’s Soup these materials allow us to duplicate the discipleship process over and over again with the same quality and nutritional value anytime, anywhere to anyone.

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you-guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. 2 Timothy 1:13-14

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. 2Thessalonians 2:15

See also: Prayer and Boracay

Monday, June 4, 2007

Discipleship and Listerine

While I’m on a Walmart thread I think I’ll do a few posts on stuff you can find in their stores.

Listerine is the by far the world’s largest selling mouthwash. Named after 19th century English doctor Joseph Lister, the original formula of Listerine was famous for its effective germ killing ability and its terrible taste. Despite its bad taste Listerine dominated the market because of its efficacy and reliability.

In time the consumer products giant Procter and Gamble came up with a competing brand called Scope. Its claim to fame was simply the “good tasting’ mouthwash. Overnight the market took note of the difference between the 2 products.

Listerine could do nothing if only because their product did taste horrible. Instead of skirting the issue Listerine faced it head on. They responded to the threat with an advertising campaign that said: “The taste you hate twice a day.”

Not only did they admit the product’s weakness in taste, they admitted people hated it. The result was it set them up to say that’s why the product kills more germs. Instead of migrating to Scope people stayed loyal to Listerine.

Like Listerine disciple makers are not perfect. Fact is there is no such thing as a perfect product (or person). When we are confronted by our weaknesses and failures our response should not be to be defensive. Rather to openly admit that we do have weaknesses in our lives, but that’s precisely why we need the grace that God provides.

Today Listerine has several different flavors that all taste much better than it used to. By admitting its bad taste it allowed them to keep their relationships with their customers and gave them time to make the changes.

This is similar to our discipleship relationships. By admitting our weaknesses and failures we become trustworthy and real and this allows us to keep our relationships. In time we will transform into the person God intended us to be.

See also my other post:
Prayer & Turning 50

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Discipleship and Walmart

Walmart was the first company to be ranked number 1 on both the Fortune 500 and the Fortune Most Admired lists. This was in 2003. A year later it was Fortune’s top Most Admired List and was listed as number 1 on the Fortune 500 list for 2004 with US$ 256 billion in revenues.

I know I will probably get some flak for even thinking of using Walmart as an example to relate with discipleship. What with all the criticism that the company is getting for closing down the smaller mom and pop stores once it enters a city or town. The logical conclusion is that like Walmart – Mega-churches are shutting down smaller ones.

But I have decided to blog about it, because there is a lot we can glean from this company that can help us when we undertake discipleship. There are many traits that can be discussed in this post that make this great company what it is today. But I am zeroing in on just 2:

Walmart’s culture demands excellence and attention to details. It is forever in search of better ways to serve their customers. Many of the retail industry’s standard practices today were invented by Walmart. From inventory monitoring, delivery and warehousing systems, IT and others. It is this kind of relentless pursuit that has made this company what it is today.

Sometimes it is so easy to find fault and blame companies like Walmart, but in hind-sight, Walmart was just another Mom and Pop store that just worked a little harder and was more consistent than others.

Secondly, Walmart did not shift businesses. When it grew to become the largest retailer, some of its officers and suppliers tried to lure it into going into manufacturing. It only makes sense that if you sell the most number of t-shirts why not manufacture it yourself? Wrong. Walmart did not fall into the temptation of di-focusing (having 2 focuses). Their resounding declaration is “our business in retailing and not manufacturing”.

And focus on it they did. By staying on track they avoided the trap of doing what you were not created to do. Churches should focus on what they were called to do – “Go and make disciples”. Don’t reinvent the business.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I'm Back!

I am back.....I have been away from this blogsite for over a month. My last post was April 23 while I was traveling in the United States. You can expect a regular flow of posts on this site again.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Discipleship and Major League Baseball

The first time I ever watched major league baseball live was when I visited Phoenix, Arizona some years back. My friends Mike Gowans and Todd McIntyre took me to watch the Diamondbacks play.

Growing up in the Philippines I played softball in grade school and watched some local NCAA baseball but nowhere near the way Americans are enthralled by it.

The average price of tickets to the game we watched was about thirty dollars, the peanuts, hotdogs and beverages were overpriced and the yet the whole stadium was packed. Reminded me of the words: “To pay any price and do anything…..”

Even more interesting was with baseball you’ll never really know how long it will take, yet the people watched patiently. I watched as thousands of people sweat it out under the blazing Arizona sun. Talk about long suffering.

I really couldn’t understand why it was such a big deal. A bunch of men trying to hit a ball is a slow game that honestly was boring to me, but not to them. It was not till the 7th Inning Stretch that I had my epiphany. Thousands of people around me began to stand, stretch, buy more snacks and then sing in chorus “Take Me Out To The Ball Game”. I was amazed.

Then it hit me. What makes thousands of people spend good money to watch a game? What makes them pay for overpriced snacks and stay under the heat of the sun and suffer discomfort? Why were they willing to do all this and I wasn’t as thrilled as they were? The answer was, it was part of their culture. Why did I not enjoy and understand it they way they did?, it wasn’t part of mine.

Culture is formed over years of practice. Many times we don’t even know why we do what we do. The 7th Inning Stretch has become part of American culture but no one knows exactly how that started (they have several guesses). That’s how culture works, it becomes the norm, “the practice”, the way things are done.

Here is where discipleship connects. As church leaders it is our task to make discipleship a part of our church's culture.

But there is a dangerous side to culture. It is when people do things only because it is the norm and no longer for the right reasons. That’s when culture warps into “cults”. It was kinda’ like my experience that day at Chase Field – I stood up and stretched with everyone else without really knowing why. I am sure there were a hundred others too.

It demonstrated to me the power of culture and the danger that lurks with it. Like the 7th Inning Stretch, discipleship should be naturally and organically woven into our churches’ culture. But unlike it we need to be very clear why we make disciples. It is not so people can behave a certain way but to ensure 3 things:

First, that they have a thriving, growing and fruitful relationship with their God. Secondly, that they learn to walk in life long relationships with other members of the body of Christ. And thirdly that they reach out to others to have a relationship with their God.

In time because of the people who brought me there I was singing like everyone else. I didn’t know why I was doing it….but it was a start that eventually made me want to find out why. It was also not the last time I watched major league baseball.

See also my other post:
Prayer and the Elevator

Friday, April 20, 2007

Discipleship and Hockey

Blogging is a challenge when you're traveling. And since I'm on this 9 city trip of the US it has been quite a stretch specially with changing planes, hotels, homes etc. I have resolved to overcome, so here is my second post since this trip started.

As I write this post I am sitting in Mike Gowans’ (my pastor friend) home in Chandler, Arizona. Last night Mike’s brother Mark and I went to the movies – Amazing Grace, the movie about the Christian statesman William Wiberforce. On the way to and fro Mark told me his life story.

Mark played professional hockey for the Detroit Red Wings. He has had over 20 surgeries because of injuries from playing the sport. What he described reminded me of Lee Majors (bet none of you remember him), the bionic man. A goalie’s life is tough. And this guy is one tough cookie.

Mark grew up a Catholic. While he was thankful for his background he sensed there was something much more to life than just religion. At the age of 10 he had an encounter with the Lord, a relationship that never left Him. Unfortunately Mark never experienced what he called mentoring. What I would call a discipleship relationship.

All throughout his growing years and well into his professional career while he kept his faith in Jesus, he longed for a discipleship relationship which somehow eluded him. During our drive he expressed how things could have been better if he had a sounding board or someone whom he could counsel with before making life decisions.

Today Mark lives in Arizona, where he has since become a businessman. He is also part of Gateway Life Christian Church where his younger brother Mike is the senior pastor. His long desire for a discipleship relationship has been answered. This church is committed to making disciples and not just having Sunday services.

In the meantime Mark continues his passion for hockey coaching and training young players. His own son Daniel (now 14) is an avid hockey player. His vision is to provide these budding athletes what he did not have during his growing up years, a discipleship relationship. Mark has learned that there are hurts worse than hockey injuries that people face. Hurts that life brings but can be avoided through discipleship relationships.

See other post:

Prayer and Advertising

Friday, April 13, 2007

Discipleship and the NBA

In my last post I wrote about the NCAA, basketball’s premier amateur league. I thought it was a good idea to follow it up with a something on the NBA.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is by far the world’s premier professional basketball league. It is viewed by millions of fans worldwide. Its statistics and basketball action is unmatched by any league anywhere.

What makes the NBA such is because it has a monopoly on the best ball players, coaches and trainers in the world. These individuals have chosen to play the game as career professionals. To wake up, breathe, train, practice and play in a team day in, day out. Just like an accountant would go to office everyday.

Like the NBA discipleship can become one’s career. That’s what happened to me. I was a businessman for about 3 decades of my life until my wife and I decided it was time for a change.

For years I made disciples as an amateur just like in the NCAA, all heart, no pay. Then I became what people call a "full time" minister. Basically what happened was I did not want to do anything anymore except make disciples who made disciples. Fortunately with a little training and practice I got good at it. Still all heart, this time with some pay.

I noticed that like any career one can lose his balance between occupation and vocation. And while this may seem like I am splitting hairs, I am not.

An occupation is one’s profession, job, work or trade, career. A vocation on the other hand is above and beyond just an occupation. An occupation is by its very word all about occupying oneself with something to do.

A vocation on the other hand can be all of the above and a whole lot more. It is a calling (usually for life). It is accompanied by a strong sense of destiny that says: “this is what I was created to do.” It usually involves what seems to be a sacrifice to others but not to the one called. In fact those who are cannot see themselves doing anything else.

Ask Michael Jordan and he will tell you basketball is not mere occupation but his vocation. It is also what sets him apart from all the other players. He gives every practice, training session and every game all his heart.

And it is here that (professional) discipleship as a vocation is similar to the NBA. It is when one’s vocation becomes just another occupation.

There’s nothing wrong with being a professional, as long as you don’t lose heart. Usually one loses heart when it becomes just about money - “I’ll stay in this profession as long as it pays the bills”, even though one doesn’t feel called or enjoy what they are doing.

One way I have kept the heart of discipleship was to continue to make disciples even though the people I met would never come to church (and give an offering).

Very near the city where I work is housed the enlisted men on the Philippine Army. 90% of these men and women will be deployed in various provinces and will never come to our church. To this day we continue to outreach them and make disciples out of them regardless.

As I write I am sitting at Narita airport in Tokyo. I engaged the young man from Chicago who sat with me from Manila and will engage the next passenger I sit with on my way to LA, whether or not they ever come to the church I pastor.

Needless to say there are days when I want to watch a movie or read a book specially when the person I am sitting with is uninterested.

See also my other post:

Prayer and Floodlights

Monday, April 9, 2007

Discipleship and the NCAA

In my last post I wrote about discipleship and Wimbledon and while I am on the sports side of things I might as well do another one, this time on basketball. In particular the NCAA.

Pronounced NC double A, it is the premier collegiate sports association. Although the association includes just about every major sports competition, the NCAA is primarily known for basketball.

Unlike professional basketball (NBA) the NCAA has a different brand of play. And while it has its fair share of stars, it does not have the Bill Rusells, Magic Johnsons, Michael Jordans or Lebron James’. The reason why is because all its players are amateurs. And that’s what makes the league different.

An amateur is someone who engages in a pursuit be it in sports or any other endeavor without remuneration. Which is why NCAA action is different. It is full of heart. Players diving for balls and fans shouting and cheering in unison are trademarks of NCAA games.

It is not unlikely to see players and fans cry after a lost game. That’s because of the passion that has caused them to exert everything they have in them. In other words they give it their all simply for the love of the game.

This is where discipleship and the NCAA meet. Like the NCAA discipleship is not only for professionals – pastors, evangelists, apostles and teachers, but for those who have passion to see the kingdom of God established. It is the giving of oneself fully to the desires of God because you love Him.

The word amateur comes from the Latin word "amator" (lover) which is derived from the root word "amare" or love. In other words amateurs are lovers. Sure they are not professionals, true they fumble and make lots of mistakes, but all of that is negated and nullified because of the passion and the heart whenever they do something.

Fact is the Russells, Johnsons, Jordans and James’ were all at one time NCAA players before they became professionals. Discipleship like the NCAA is all about heart. That’s the part we should never lose.

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. Psalms 147:10-11

See also my other posts:

Prayer and the Snails

Who Danced on National TV and Embarrassed Herself

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Discipleship and Wimbledon

Can discipleship take place in Wimbledon? Absolutely, it can take place anywhere!

Three days ago Steve Murrell introduced me to man named Bob Kraft. Over lunch I got to know more about him.

Born the same year I was (1957), Bob is a world-class professional tennis coach and trainer. Bob has lived and traveled to just about every country where professional tennis is played. But as passionate as he is about tennis it was clear that he was more passionate about Jesus and his faith in Him.

At one point Bob trained as a missionary with YWAM (Youth With A Mission). From there he sensed a call to reach professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, Nascar and even major league baseball, eventually he focused on tennis players since that was also his career.

Today he travels all over the world as a tennis coach/trainer and attends the leading competitions including the Wimbledon, US Open and others.

His heart is to reach athletes who cannot be reached because of their travel schedules. Most high-level professional athletes live in multiple cities because of the competitions.

I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. Philippians 2:20

I enjoyed our lunch with Bob. Many of the things he talked about confirmed some of the concepts and beliefs I have on discipleship. Here are some of them:

It takes between 2- 3 years to win the trust of these athletes (Trust is the foundation of all relationships and that takes time). The key is to win them slowly, a little chat here, a little conversation there (Slow is fast).

You have to learn how to listen to what they want to talk about, many times people only want things from these athletes and are not really concerned about them. He says he finds many of them enjoy talking about their families (Discipleship and Ping-pong).

There were other commonalities but I will save them for your reading more about Bob in Steve Murrell’s blog about him - The Reluctant Leader with a Tennis Racket

One final note, two days after our lunch I caught up with Bob in our offices in Manila and he handed me a calling card of one of the employees from his hotel. He told that he had witnessed to her and found out that she had some friends from our church Victory Christian Fellowship and was interested in coming one day.

While Bob has decided to go after tennis players clearly he is not just about athletes but everyone else in between. He also knew he needed other partners in minstry and can't do things alone, he needs to connect (Discipleship and Lego). That’s how discipleship (which is relationship) works!

See other post:

Prayer and Superman

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Disicpleship and Strangers

A member of our church posed a question to me today in one of my sites: “how does one approach strangers in public places, with a view to discipleship?” My response to him: I do not usually approach strangers. It is only when an opportunity presents itself that I do.

Examples of these are during a flight (since you are stuck together and usually have no choice but to talk), at a children's PTA meeting, waiting in line at an embassy to get a visa, chance meetings with a friend of a friend, meeting a Filipino overseas and the like. Even then I take it very slowly.

The common denominator to all of these is there is something shared no matter how small. You are in the same plane, same school association, have the same intention to get a visa, same friends or same nationality. Approaching people from the cold is not easy and is very risky because you could be misunderstood as it is not a normal thing people do.

However, there are unique opportunities when meeting strangers. Fact is people don’t like it when people have an agenda or “have something to sell”. You and I definitely have one albeit a good one that will benefit them for eternity that has no direct benefit to us. It doesn’t change the fact that people become suspicious when approached from “the cold”.

The key to reaching strangers is to build on existing relationships. The deeper these relationships go the wider your potential ability to reach others get. People whom you think you know are actually still strangers in one way or another. Deepening those relationships is the key to more relationships. Don’t forget that the foundation of all relationships is trust. Trust then builds more trust and extends to others.

As I look back, it was the people who trusted me who introduced me to many of the people I have been in discipleship. Whether that was a student, a businessman, athlete or a senator trust gained from one relationship is what brings more relationships.

Take a lesson from God. How quickly did you turn to Him? Didn't He use people you had a relationship with to draw you to Him? Relationships take time. As I have said before: "Discipleship is relationship" as such “slow is fast!”

remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:12-13

See other Post:

Prayer and Cheddar Cheese

Monday, March 26, 2007

Discipleship and Harrods of London

In my earlier blog I wrote about preaching at an English Pub while I was in London. On my last day since it was so cold and I had limited time I decided to spend the afternoon with a young man whom I have had the privilege of being in discipleship with some years back.

The ideal place to go to was Harrods of London, it was only 2 stops away from where we were by subway and we would be indoors. To a Filipino Harrods is a tourist attraction. This is the store where stars, sheiks, super-models and stock moguls went to buy their groceries. Who knows who you might just bump into?

But there was a more focused reason why I wanted to go to Harrods which is the first point of this post: I wanted to spend some time that afternoon with my friend in the hopes of a discipleship moment. Here’s a tip, use your free time and make it a discipleship moment. It could be during a coffee break, over lunch or at the gym. Since you're going to do something you might as well do it with someone instead of doing it alone.

So there we were, eventually we found ourselves in the watch and jewelry section. Many of the watch brands were unfamiliar to us. With prices ranging from 1000 pounds (US$ 2000) to as much as 30,000 pounds (US$ 60,000). It was then that my friend said something like this: “I don’t get it. I feel this is a waste given that so many are starving.” He was right about his feeling he was however wrong to judge these people for their reality. Thank God I have been in his place before – See Prayer and Harrods of London.

Many of the people who shop at Harrods were born shopping there. And that’s not their fault. That’s their reality. In the same way it is wrong to judge the poor who were born to theirs.

I remember the first time I went to Harrods. I was still a businessman then. I was amazed at the number of cars and chauffeurs waiting outside the store. The cars ranged from Bentleys, Rolls Royces, Aston Martins, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and the sort. It was surreal. Which brings me to my second point. If we are intimidated by what people wear, own or where they live and how they act, how can we reach them? These people are no different from people in other mission fields who dress, speak, act and live differently from the way we do.

The problems rich people have are no different from ours. From emptiness, depression, failed marriages, broken ties with loved ones, illnesses, fears, insecurity (they can be some of the most pitiful) and others. Which is my third point: the rich have the same problems. It is “fleshly” thinking when we think that just because people have money they have no problems. That is tantamount to saying: ‘if I just have all the money in the world I wouldn’t have any problems.” Wrong!

Fact is they too need a Savior and need discipleship. We need to find ways to reach out to them. One way of doing that is to show them we care, that we are not intimidated by who they are and what they represent. More importantly we need to win their trust that we have no other agenda than to lead them into a personal relationship with our Lord and make them His disciple. That takes time and wisdom. In the meantime our eyes feasted on the world’s best while I got my discipleship moment.

Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all. Proverbs 22:2

See other Posts:

Prayer and Harrods of London

Why I was In London (1) (2) (3)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Discipleship and the English Pub

This evening Wolfi Eckleben pastor of the Every Nation church in London asked me if I could share some thoughts about discipleship to the key leaders of their church. The venue he chose was the Edward’s Pub in Hammersmith. An authentic Pub built sometime in the late 1800’s.

Today Pubs are more like watering holes or bars dedicated to alcoholic beverages and food. But that’s not how it originally was. English Pubs date back to the arrival of the Romans. With the establishment of the Roman road network, Pubs began to appear.

The term Pub is short for the words Public Houses. It was meant to be a place where people could congregate, rest from travel or get food and refreshment. A few thoughts about discipleship crossed my mind while I was at Edward’s Pub:

1. Christians need to engage the public. This means we should be willing to go wherever, whenever. It is when Christians fail to engage the public that public places turn into watering holes.

2. Engaging the public requires that we act normal. This means talking normally and not having every sentence end with alleluia, amen or glory to God. This will not engage the public but turn them off. Even worse is having a “holier than thou” attitude that disdains those who smoke or drink. Discipleship does not concern itself with external behaviors. Rather it is concerned with a heart that desires to have a relationship with God. If the relationship is genuine in time people will grow and as they do their behavior will change.

3. Part of acting normal is boldly praying for somebody in public. I have spent time with people in hotel lobbies and coffee shops just to befriend them. When it is time to leave I simply ask them, “is it alright if we pray before we go?” My batting average: I get a positive response 99% of the time.

4. When praying in public I don’t lay my hands or do things that may embarrass the person I am with or make them think Christianity is weird. Normally with eyes opened I pray simple prayers that introduce people to the simplicity of having a relationship with God. I most definitely do not pray in tongues in that setting.

Discipleship is about engaging the public. It gives people the reality that God is not limited to the confines of church walls but is actively concerned and desiring to the engage them wherever they may be in their lives.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. Matthew 9:10

Check out the audio download my message on Edward's Pub here.

See also my other post:

Prayer and Buckingham Palace

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Discipleship and The Cheesecake Factory

Last year, I was visiting with a pastor friend in a major city in the United States. My friend brought my son and I out for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Over dinner he asked: “Where in all your discipleship program does one manifest his/her spiritual gifts?”

To this I responded: “In the discipleship groups.” To help me understand the question my friend said, “No, I mean what about the gifts of people where do they get to manifest them?” To which I answered “when they make disciples.”

We were not on the same page. As he tried to explain himself I realized that what he was saying was people are expecting that the church should provide a venue for them to manifest their spiritual gifts publicly. Almost like churches owed its members a place to express their talents and gifts.

I explained to my friend that the church’s job is to go make and disciples. People’s gifts and talents should be manifested in the process of doing so. Then he said “What about someone who sings?” The obvious answer is in the worship team if there is a need for someone.

But I responded this way: “You don’t build churches to accommodate a person’s gift. Fact is if one has a true gift he/she have nothing to worry about”:

A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great. Proverbs 18:16

While our gifts are irrevocable, that does not mean they need to be accommodated by the church. To explain my point I called for our waitress, a smart looking lady. I proceeded to ask her. “Do you like to sing?” To which she said yes. I then asked her, “Are you a good singer?” Again she said yes. I then thanked her.

After she left I told my friend how ridiculous it would be for the Cheesecake Factory to make her sing just because she was gifted or felt she was. Their business was to run a restaurant, he saw my point. Besides what do you do when half your staff, feel they are gifted singers too?

The business of the church is to make disciples. Whether or not our gifts manifest on stage or elsewhere is irrelevant. This kind of attitude is man centered. Our job is to focus on reaching the lost and turning them into disciples for Jesus and not about what our gift is and how we can best manifest them. Rather we need to use our gifts as we go about making disciples.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-2

See also my other post:
Prayer and the Telescope

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Discipleship and Google Maps

A few years ago I was visiting Scottsdale, Arizona and I was asked by my pastor friend to share with the church leaders about discipleship. During the question and answer portion I was asked what I have heard so often, “where do you find the time to make disciples –people are busy?”

I went on to explain that discipleship is not a hat we put on or off. It is something we wear all time wherever we go. In other words you minister when you can where you can. And when God opens the door continue to build a relationship. That way when the person comes to his/her point of need for God he knows whom to call and where to call.

The next day one of the campus staff members was walking with his wife and their dog. As they neared their home, a car stopped beside them and a man asked for assistance. He said he was lost and handed them the address of the place he was looking for.

While the campus staff tried to figure things out, his wife went inside the house with their dog. Unable to figure out where the place was he handed the paper back to the man. It was then that he remembered what I said just the day before. He then asked for the paper again and tried to make conversation. But the man was in a hurry.

As the man was driving off, his wife came out with the printed map of the location from internet. He then chased the car to give the man the map. After a brief chase he caught up with him. He handed him the paper and the man was shocked.

He said, “I have been in the United States for 4 months, I am an Iranian Muslim and no one has done anything like this to me, why are you doing this?” The campus staff was caught off guard and did not know what to say. Eventually he responded and said, “I am a Christian and God loves you.” The man handed him his business card and told him that he wanted to stay in touch.

From that initial meeting a dinner has taken place where the campus minister and his wife have met not only the man and his wife but their 2 daughters who went to the University where the campus staff worked. They also introduced them to another Iranian couple.

All too often we are looking for ways to reach people --- when they are right there everyday. Discipleship is not a program that we undertake it is the reality of being secure in who we are as the children of God and the desire to share our Father’s love to those who are ready to receive it.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” Luke 19:5-7