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How Will You Be Remembered?

On September 20, my world was rocked with news that my mom had stage III-IV pancreatic cancer. While the doctor said her life could be extended through chemotherapy, her cancer was inoperable and likely terminal. Over the past three months, Mom has suffered through chemo with incredible grace. Even though the cancer and its treatment has taken so much from her, we are so grateful for getting to spend some quality time with Mom since her diagnosis. However, the end of her life on this earth is very much on our minds.
 
During one of my recent visits, Mom asked if I would be willing to have a role in her memorial service. Suddenly my mind began to race as I thought about what to say about the woman who gave me birth; who changed my diapers and bandaged my wounds; who counseled me and coached me; who taught me about Jesus and living life with purpose; who always stood behind me as I grew to be a husband, father, and pastor.

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Missionary Mandate

The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 has served as the church’s marching orders since the very day Jesus ascended to heaven: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.”
 
The church has long understood its purpose is to make new disciples and to strengthen the disciples we already have. Church leaders have long debated which is more important: making new disciples (mission) or strengthening the faith of disciples (maturity). Most pastors, if forced to choose, I believe fall on the side of maturity even though they believe mission (making new disciples) is also important.

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What Does a Church Look Like?

Have you ever asked yourself the question, “What does a church look like?” It might seem like a silly question at first, but how we answer reveals a lot about our view of the church. For some the church looks like a building with a steeple or bell tower that is dedicated to the worship of God.  For others the church looks like fully developed community organization with programs that meet specific needs.  Still for others the church looks like a modern theater with a coffee shop, an awesome worship band, an excellent communicator on stage and great programs for their kids.  What all these responses have in common is that they primarily are concerned with the form of a church.
 
But what if church wasn’t defined by its form but rather its function? This is the fourth article in a five-part series on increasing effectiveness in developing disciples by making small shifts in our behavior, based on Daniel Im’s book No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts That Will Transform Your Ministry.
 

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Walking Alongside

Is being a disciple of Jesus more about knowing the right information or living life in relationship with Jesus? I think we all know the answer to that question! Yet often times our classical approach to faith formation elevates the importance of learning information. What would happen if instead we elevated the role of guidance? This is the third article in a five-part series on increasing effectiveness in developing disciples by making small shifts in our behavior, based on Daniel Im’s book No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts That Will Transform Your Ministry.
 
The third shift Im highlights in his book is to move from sage to guide. Recent scholarship in the field of adult education has confirmed that adults learn very differently than children. Im points out that 70% of what adults learn comes through doing while 20% is gained through interaction. Just 10% of adult learning can be attributed to classical education methods such as reading and listening. And why should it be any different when it comes to following Jesus?
 

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Thinking Intentionally About Discipleship

What if the church started thinking and acting more intentionally about how we make disciples? This is the second article in a five-part series on increasing effectiveness in developing disciples by making small shifts in our behavior, based on Daniel Im’s book No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts That Will Transform Your Ministry.
 
The second shift Im highlights in his book is to move from focusing on the output goals to the input goals of discipleship. It should come as no surprise that we are typically driven by outputs and outcomes. We always want to win the championship, to make the honor roll, or to lose 20 pounds. Similarly, in the church we desire to see people come to faith in Jesus and grow and mature in their faith as disciples. That is a Kingdom win.

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Move in the Direction of Jesus

What if we could significantly increase our effectiveness at making disciples by making a few small shifts in our behavior? Over the next five months, I’d like to take the opportunity to unpack one at a time the five “micro shifts” that Daniel Im lifts up in his book No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts That Will Transform Your Ministry. I believe that we have much to learn from this book as we seek greater effectiveness as we make disciples not only among our members, but most importantly with those who’ve yet to believe in our communities.
 
The first shift is to move from focusing our spiritual maturation from destination to direction. Often times we think of spiritual maturity as a destination to be arrived at. We ask “What does a spiritually mature person look like?” Once we can check all the boxes then that means we are spiritually mature. Some large churches even organize their adult education courses around this idea of growing in faith to higher level classes. Others will measure spiritual maturity by counting how many progress from being worship attenders to small group participants to serving ministers to leaders. All of this points to thinking about discipleship as a destination.

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Do What Jesus Did

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to help lead one of our congregations in a retreat seeking to discern God’s vision for their future. We had a wonderful time as we pursued what God’s dream might be for the congregation.
 
We discovered together that vision is the picture of God’s preferred future and is critical for God’s people to discern. For the consequences of our inattention to vision is dire. In the King James Version, Proverbs 29:18 reads “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The Christian Standard Bible translates the same verse this way: “Without revelation, people run wild.” In other words, when we take our eyes off the picture of God’s preferred future, we replace God’s desires for our own… and we run wild… which ultimately leads to perishing.

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Lessons Learned About Church Planting

From the very foundation of the LCMC Texas District, we have felt compelled by the Great Commission to prioritize church planting. When congregations gathered together to form this association, we recognized our need to help and encourage one another in evangelism and discipleship. It was clear that if our congregations were going to make a kingdom impact here in Texas, we needed to get serious about church planting.
 
As we come upon our 10th Annual Gathering July 27-28th in New Braunfels, it is time to pause and reflect and renew our zeal for our intended purposes. As we pause and reflect, I thought I’d share a few lessons I’ve learned about church planting movements to help us advance the Kingdom of God through church planting:

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Ordinary People… Extraordinary God

There’s a story about a Sunday School student who couldn’t wait to tell his parents their lesson one Sunday after class: “So the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and then Moses used some really cool special effects to scare Pharaoh into letting them go: he made it look like there were swarms of bugs and frogs, and used food coloring to change the water this blood red color! So Pharaoh lets them go and the Israelites formed a convoy out of Egypt! And then Pharaoh changes his mind and sends the Egyptian army after them! And then the Egyptians chased the Israelite convoy in tanks! So Moses scrambled the Israeli Air Force to delay the tanks! And Moses also ordered the engineers to deploy a pontoon bridge across the Red Sea! And just as the Israelites made it safely across the bridge, the Egyptians started across the bridge in their tanks, but Moses gave the order and the Israeli Air Force bombed the bridge and sank the Egyptian Army!”
 
The boy’s mom asked her son, “Is that the way your Sunday School Teacher really taught it?!” The boy responded, “Nah – but if I had told you her version of the story, you’d have never believed it!”

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Fools for Christ

The number one reason why Christians do not share their faith is fear. More than any other reason that we give for not telling others about Jesus is fear of rejection, fear of messing up, fear of being asked questions we don’t know the answer to, etc. In short, we can say that we are afraid of making fools of ourselves!
 
This month we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on April Fools’ Day for the first time in 62 years! While much has been written and said about Jesus making a fool of sin, death, and the devil in his rising from the dead, I wanted to take a few moments and reflect on our foolishness instead.

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A New Mindset

Several folks across the Texas District recently began reading and discussing Greg Finke’s book, Joining Jesus on His Mission – How to Be an Everyday Missionary. At the end of chapter 1, Finke writes a short paragraph that caused me to pause and ponder: “Old mindset, old practices, old results. New mindset, new practices, new results.” As I reflected on this statement, I asked myself, is this true? And if so, what does it mean?
 
Is it true? Well as the old saying goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. And so it rings true that if we continue in the same old practices, we should expect the same old results. But what does it mean for the church today?

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Helping Others Answer the Call

It’s been said that the greatest days in your life are the day you were born and the day you figured out why. Indeed, one of the most significant discoveries you can make is discovering what God has created you for.
 
I was reminded of this recently as we studied the first reading for the second Sunday after Epiphany. In 1 Samuel 3 we read of how Samuel discovered his calling. Three times the boy Samuel heard the voice of God calling and three times the boy ran to his master Eli as he assumed it was Eli who was calling him. When it happened a third time, Eli realized the voice calling the boy must be God’s. So he instructed Samuel to go back and when he heard the voice call to him again, simply say “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

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