Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Great Commission--Part III

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age."

Jesus begins with a statement about authority. It is his. He can do with it whatever he wants.

Then, the first command isn't to "Come," but to "Go."

The specific task is this--"Go make disciples!" It's not optional. It's like the 10 Commandments. The call isn't to go build churches or to baptize. The call is to make disciples.

"Making Disciples" is the direct object of The Great Commission...meaning that everything in The Great Commission is about disciple-making. We "Go" to make disciples. We baptize to make disciples. We teach to make disciples.

So here are the big questions:
-What is a disciple?
-Where do we make them?
-How do we make them?
-What inhibits discipleship?

Our staff sat in a living room a few months ago for a planning session. I wrote these questions on the top of a white board and then we went after it. Everyone was firing answers and I was writing them down.
Here's what is intersting--there were very few comments/answers that had anything to do with events that take place at the church building. It was all relational. Sure there are aspects of discipleship that take place in worship services and bible classes, but so much of it pointed to the streets, highways and byways. Now, notice where/when/how Jesus taught his disciples. Rarely was it in the synagogue or Temple. It was almost always outside "religious" space. What does this mean for the church?

A disciple was more than a student.
A disciple wasn't just interested in knowing what their rabbi knew.
A disciple was someone who wanted to live like their rabbi lived.
This was a commitment to a way of life.

Here is something that inhibits discipleship and disciple-making: conversion-driven methods of sharing the gospel VS. disciple-making methods of sharing the gospel.

Think about it:
Did you know that there are some professors in Colleges of Business who watch Billy Graham sermons to teach their students how to make a sell? He's a master at it. Graham will be preaching in huge arenas or stadiums with thousands of people and he'll give a 15-20 minute long altar call. He'll say things like:
"Those of you sitting up there, I measured it off and it will take you 11 minutes to make it down front so you need to start moving."
"Those of you in this section right over here, there are people clinging to the chair in front of you. You need to let go and come on down."
We've seen this in Gospel Meetings and Revivals, right?

Quite honestly, here's been our interpretation of the Great Commission, "Go into the world and baptize people, and if disciples come from it...great. If not, then at least we've done what we could do to secure their eternal salvation."
That's not what Jesus had in mind.

Our baptisms are supposed to mean something. They're supposed to usher us into a new life.

I have people tell me all the time that they weren't baptized because they wanted to, but because they were scared to death not too. Sound familiar?

There has got to be a place for this question, "Why do you not want to be baptized?" The Bible is very clear about the promises and gifts of baptism.

But I think we need to begin asking this question more, "Are you sure you want to be baptized? Do you know what you're signing on to? This is more than status change. This is more than a belief system. This is more than a ticket to get into heaven. This is a commitment to live differently."

To take The Great Commission seriously means that we need to be just as interested in people after their baptism as we are before their baptism.

Discipleship is a lifelong journey of transformation. We never arrive. We never make it. But it is the call of Jesus--"Become one of my followers and reproduce this way of life."

Let's live in a way that people notice a difference in us and say, "Look, there is something different about you. Something is inside of you and I want in on it."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Great Commission--Part II

Can you imagine being Ryan Minor?
He was a two-sport star at the University of Oklahoma and was drafted in the second round of the 1996 NBA draft by the 76ers, but he chose to pursue a career in baseball. He was selected in the 33rd round of the MLB Amateur Draft. Minor would go on to play in 142 games in his short 5 year career. His career achievements were nothing to brag about: .177 career batting avg, 5 career homeruns, 27 rbi's, and he struck out 97 times out of 342 career at bats. But, Ryan Minor will always be remembered by Baltimore Oriole fans. In 1998, he was the backup 3rd baseman. Cal Ripken Jr. had already made his move from shortstop to 3rd base, which meant Minor would be one of those "10-run-players"--you only play if you're up by 10 or down by 10. On September 20, 1998, after starting in every game for 16 years, Ripken decided it was time for a day off. I wish I could have sat in on the conversation as the manager walked over to Ryan Minor and said, "Hey Stud, you got the start today. Go get'em Tiger."
If I'm Minor, I'm thinking to myself, "Who am I to replace a legend in the starting line-up? All these fans have been coming to the park for 16 years to watch Ripken field balls, toss double plays, and step into the box 4-5 times a game."

Now, imagine the disciples in Matthew 28. Who are they to carry on the mission of Jesus? All authority "in heaven AND on earth" was given to Jesus. It is his. Which means he can do with it whatever he wants to do. And here's what Jesus chose to do, "I'm going to entrust MY STORY to a bunch of non-professionals." It would never work, right?

After Jesus' words about authority, he gives a command, "GO!"

This is where we confuse the essence of The Great Commission.
Last Saturday night Kayci and I were driving to the Foreman's house to watch the Memphis Tigers and to play a little Rock Band. On the way there, I couldn't help but notice church after church that had something like this on their church sign:
"Come join us"
"Come be a part of our family"
"Come worship with us"

Jesus' words were to "Go into the world." He didn't say, "Build yourself some nice, attractional buildings and invite people inside." His words were to "March after the people of the world with purpose and intentionality."

We were driving through Waco back in December and we passed a church on I-35. A huge banner hung from the church and it read, "30 Minute Worship Services".
Interesting. That is how they were marketing themselves--"Come join us and we'll have you in and out in 30 minutes. If the sermon goes long, we'll bag up your communion and you can have it on your way home."

A church can have a building that is attractional and still get this command of The Great Commission. It doesn't have to be complete abandonment of property, but there does need to be a clear understanding that we (the church) are always functioning at our best when our backs are to the church building. We are marching from the places where we gather in order to live as tangible representatives of Jesus.

What would happen if we put the following message on our church signs:
"We are coming to you"
"Don't come to our church because we're rarely at the building. We hope to connect with you during the week"

Would it work?

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Great Commission--Part I

How cool is it that the last words of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew have been given a nickname, The Great Commission. I don't know if the church of the first few centuries used the phrase, but at some point, these words were so valuable that they were given their own name.

Most of the time when we quote The Great Commission we begin with, "Go into the world..." but those aren't the first words from Jesus. He begins with this, "All authority in heaven AND on earth has been given to me." Jesus wants to make heaven great for us, but he also wants to make earth great. He's not just building palaces and mansions in the sky-by-and-by. He's at work to redeem the world.

If you're like me, the process of fulfilling The Great Commission has sometimes consisted of teaching people about a belief system and then baptizing them. It's been about knowledge and information. I think Jesus had more in mind.

How cool is it that after receiving authority over heaven and earth, Jesus would choose to empower disciples to carry his message throughout the world? He could have chosen to assemble a committee, but he would have had to stay on earth another 4 years because we all know how committees work. He could have gone house to house on his own...showing his scars and convincing people of his existence. But he chose a different route. He chose to hand this message to us.

We are called to live in a way that we honor the responsibility given to us by Jesus. Over the next few posts, I want to talk more about these final words of Jesus.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Get Yourself a "Haver"

A famous line of rabbinic tradition from before the times of Jesus was this: "Acquire for yourself a rabbi, and get yourself a haver.

This was essential for disciples. Following a rabbi wasn't the only thing that made you a disciple. Just as important was who you were following a rabbi with.

A haver (pronounced "hah-vair") literally means a friend. This wasn't just any kind of friend. A haver was a friend who would help you master the text. These were co-disciples who would help each other grapple with Scripture and interpret it in light of the surrounding culture.

This is hard to grasp for westerners, because we have been taught the practice of solitude, silence, personal relationship with God...and seeking Jesus is something that takes place in quiet rooms; not in small groups. Personal prayer and Bible study has been taught as the primary methods to develop spiritually. We attend Bible classes and small group studies, but it is still very individualistic...and you know what, God has still worked.

But Jesus seems to teach, just like other rabbis of his day, that God's presence resides in the presence of small groups determined to seek Jesus just as much as he resides in the personal closets of intimate prayer and study.

Years ago, I was told by an elder of a church that there was no need for accountability because we are only accountable to Scripture. Interesting. I couldn't disagree more.

We need people who can ask the big questions with us. We need fellow Christ-followers can help us as we interpret Scripture in the 21st century. I need people who will kick me in my tail when I'm mistreating the gospel and hold up my hands when I'm passionately pursuing the things of God.

There was a time in my faith walk where everything was very private and personal. I didn't see the need for community, but the more I read Scripture, the more I saw another way...a better way.

Now, I can't imagine myself without havers.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bye-Bye Cowboys

Where do the Cowboys go from here?
Jerry Jones isn't going anywhere. The dude has money, power, and the 8th wonder of the world.
Wade looked defeated long before the game was over.
Romo was the Romo of December. He was running for his life like McCoy when he was running from the Huskers. (I just had to throw that one in there)
The defense didn't play that bad. The offense put them in some awful situations.
Do they fire Wade and go after Cowher?
Do they give Jason Garrett a shot?
Do they keep Wade and give it another year?

Props to Favre. I think he retired during the 1st quarter and decided to come back 7 minutes later. The dude is 40 but he can still play.

I did think it was classless that the Vikings would go for it two times on fourth down when the game was already out of hand. If I were Brooking, I would have taken a 15-yard penalty and a possible fine and I would have put my helmet in Favre's chest before he made it to the sideline. The "D" still has to stop a team even if it is bad sportsmanship, but they have felt it.

Too many questions at this point. But, I'm a fan and I'll remain faithful.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Megan Cope--A Great Teacher

This is a must see from my dear friend and mentor, Mike Cope. You'll be touched!

Marriage Counseling--"Don't Do It"

Randy Harris is known for his great preaching and his unique sense of humor. Randy can tell a story and have the place crying because they're laughing so hard. As a preacher, I've sat there before thinking, "I can tell that story and make it work too." Then, I tried it and received the cricket-response. I'm not the only preacher guilty of failing miserably when it comes to reproducing a Randy story.

On a more serious note, Randy has the gift of celibacy and he laughs at the fact that people come to him for premarital counseling. He jokes that his premarital counseling consists of one meeting and one word, "Don't!!!" Randy jokes about his one-word counseling sessions, but there are others who are promoting this message, especially when it comes to celebrities and high-profiled athletes like Derek Jeter. I'll get to that in a minute.

Kayci was on a flight to see one of her best friends in California a few years ago. She was sitting next to a guy and he noticed the ring on her finger.
He said, "Are you married?"
She said, "Yes, I am."
"How old are you?"
" this is your starter marriage."
"Uh...starter marriage?"
"Ya. In California there is a starter marriage that's only supposed to last a few years. Then, after you've gained a little bit of experience, you enter into a longer marriage."
Kayci said, "Actually, I'm in this one for the long haul."

And the conversation was basically over after that.

Check out this column by Robert Lusetich who writes for Fox Sports regarding Derek Jeter's engagement to Minka Kelly.

Is Derek Jeter really ready to settle down?

The New York Post is reporting that the Yankees captain is prepared to walk down the aisle with girlfriend Minka Kelly come November. I’m not saying he shouldn’t — at 35, maybe it’s time to tie the knot and start a family. What I am saying is that marriage will require what we’ll call a "change of lifestyle."

Jeter spent a lot of time over the past couple of years with Tiger Woods, and I’m guessing they shared mutual interests. Rachel Uchitel, the attention-seeker whose loose collagen-enhanced lips helped ruin Woods’ life, claims that she was one of those mutual interests.

The only reason Jeter has been spared the Inquisition that devastated the Tiger Woods brand was simply that, unlike Tiger, Derek was single — and therefore held to a different standard. So what if he was using the Victoria’s Secret catalogue as his little black book? Indeed, there’s many a man who’d give him a standing ovation.

But be sure, Derek, that if there’s a wedding ring on your finger, your every move will be watched. Don’t think for a second that the predatory New York tabloids won’t be keeping a very keen eye on your nocturnal habits.

If there’s one record in sports Jeter doesn’t want to break it’s the one recently set by Tiger: 20 straight days on the front page of the Post.

OK. Part of the article had a place where you could vote and answer the following question, "Should Derek Jeter get married?"
The three choices were:
A) Yes, he's played the field long enough.
B) No, he should wait 5 to 10 years
C) Never burn that black book...never

Over 52,000 voted and the results were:
A) 48%
B) 16%
C) 36%

A quick side note, I admire Jeter's baseball skills. The dude is the epitome of an all-star shortstop. Though I hate the Yanks with a passion, I have a ton of respect for this guy. And Minka Kelly has become a favorite of ours because of her role as Lyla Garrity on Friday Night Lights.

Back to the topic of discussion. Needless to say, the expectations of marriage aren't very high anymore. The greatest threat to marriage in our world is not same-sex marriage. The greatest threat to marriages in our world are poor expecations, the inablility and unwillingness to enter into a covenant, cheap thrills of gratification through porn or inappropriate relationships. Too many people who live under microscopes like athletes, actors, and even ministers, too often begin to believe that they are above standards and the norm. They begin to think that they are worth the money they're paid and the praise they receive. Such power seems to always lead to destruction...the Bible bears witness to that.

So, I could go on complaining about articles like this, or I could go home and commit to loving my wife in a way that our marriage becomes an example worth modeling.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


I've written a few times recently on the importance of Sabbath; not as a box to be checked but as a discipline that keeps us oriented with God and invested in relationships.
Simplicity is going to be a word that drives me and my family this year. Kayci and I had a good conversation about this recently concerning what it might look like for our family.
I'm passionate about a simpler way of living because life becomes too complicated because we often make decisions that lead to chaos...not peace and joy. This is true for:
-Individuals (we over-commit and use poor methods to establish priorities)
-Families (allow the kids to sign-up for too many things and watch too much tv instead of sitting down at tables)
-Churches (think that adding more programs and ministries is what it means to be involved)

Kayci and I have decided that we want to have more fun in 2010. Sounds simple because it is.

I'm going to assemble a community of friends who help me make decisions concerning my schedule. I need this accountability because I can easily allow my schedule to get out of control.

Personally, I am not going to allow my closet to get any bigger. If I get a new shirt, new pants, or new shoes, that means that a piece of clothing has to go. Last week, I turned every hanger in my closet around. Whatever hanger has not been moved by the end of April will have to go. If I'm not wearing it, someone else should.

As a family, we're going to begin a discipline in an attempt to become better stewards. Every piece of clothing we by for the 4 of us or any item we purchase for our house (not including food), we will match whatever we spend, penny-for-penny, and that money will go to a greater cause such as Touch-A-Life, IJM, or other acts of service.

The "simple life" sounds good, but it sure can make life complicated. :)

Check this out by Donald Miller.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Man Named SUHHHHHH!!!!

Here's a tribute to the most dominant defensive player I've seen on the college level in my lifetime.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sabbath Day

I'm trying to stay away from email and the internet on my Sabbath Day, but I'm breaking my rule for the next few minutes.
We had a great time in Texas, but we're glad to be home. We put way too many miles on our CRV. I am incredibly grateful for DVD's. Truitt watches them. I hear them. We both can sing along with them.
Tomorrow, I'm going to write on "simplicity." Kayci and I have had some very productive conversations on how we plan to simplify our lives.
Props to my Huskers and Cowboys. Both are playing incredible defense. I'm a happy football fan.