What changes can you make to be more effective at making and releasing disciples?
Are we making disciples surrendered to Christ and His Lordship? Though very few concrete statistics on our overall effectiveness currently exist, it’s difficult to argue in the affirmative.
What then can we do to get better at the Great Commission? Based on his considerable experience with starting churches from disciple-making small groups, Real Life Ministries founder Jim Putman has identified five paradigm shifts church leaders can make to become better at accomplishing the mission of the church. We asked him and Dave Ferguson, who also leads the church-planting network NewThing, and Community Christian Church in Chicago, to help unpack each shift and its potential impact.
How to counsel married couples through bedroom problems.
Terry and Tami seemed like the perfect married couple. They were in their 30s, attractive and successful. They’d known Pastor Phil for several years and one day came to him for counseling. As soon as they all were seated behind closed doors, Tami blurted out: “Pastor—Terry and I aren’t having sex!” Pastor Phil’s mind reeled: Not this couple. No way, he thought.
His mind instantly raced back to his Bible-school training. He could not recall any lessons he might have had on “The Sexless Marriage.” In fact, he couldn’t remember ever counseling a couple who didn’t want sex. In the end, all he could say was: “Terry, Tami—you should fast and pray.”
The article you’re reading would have come in handy for Pastor Phil. Couples like Terry and Tami avoid sex for definite reasons. After counseling for almost 20 years, I know. Let’s look at some of these obstacles.
How to leave your denomination ... for all the right reasons.
A few years ago, my wife and I felt God calling us out of our denomination into another network of churches. Being in connected relationships with like-minded pastors and churches was important enough for us to navigate the choppy watters of change.
Some said, “Stay and be salt.” Yet, I sensed no call to take my “salt” there. (I know of a Spirit-filled priest whose calling in life is “to save as many as he can before they kick him out.”) Albeit humorous, note how he is certain of his call. I could not say the same. My “salt” had been trampled on, and others who stayed to be a prophetic voice discovered that they were ignored as well.
It ought to haunt us that no county in the country has grown one percentage point in the last 35 years with regard to the number of Christians. The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization released a report in 2005 forecasting that by 2050, in the Western world, the number of Christians will drop far below the population increase.
Being in healing ministry, I have witnessed the miraculous regularly and seen thousands touched by God each year.
I remember two times when the Lord spoke something to me out of His Word, and it gave me an insight that brought an increase for healing. The first instance happened about two years ago, and the second about a year ago.
The first came out of 2 Corinthians 4:13, where Paul said, “It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ Since we have that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak” (NIV).
I’d seen this Scripture many times, but when God quickened it to me, all of a sudden it took on life. All of a sudden I made this connection: Faith needs to be spoken. You can say you believe something, but if you don’t have enough faith to declare it, to speak it, there’s something that’s not released.
God created and gave us times of respite for a specific purpose that’s worth taking seriously
Scripture tells us that work is one of the things God created man to do. Effort and productivity are expected in every area of our lives. Parents strain to bring children into the world, and then for the next 20-plus years must midwife their proper acclimation into society. Businesspeople must produce materials and services that serve the public while making a profit. Pastors ... well, they seem to have no end to their job description! Whatever the responsibility, work seems to incessantly demand our attention. Yet, if regular moments of respite are not prioritized, both quality and quantity of life can diminish.
Craig Sawchuk, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine, debunks the idea that more work necessarily means a more productive life. After thousands of hours of research, He concluded that, “If you establish a more balanced lifestyle, enjoying your leisure can in fact improve the quality and quantity of your work.”
Sawchuk rediscovered the value of a balanced work/rest lifestyle. Though his discovery is noteworthy, he certainly is not the first to present it. God invented the idea of a balanced life. Genesis 2:2-3 says, “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (NASB).
Note that one of God’s distinguishing attributes is that He doesn’t need to rest. Still, He thought enough of the concept He created and mandated to exemplify it by taking an entire day off so that man might understand its importance to his own well-being.
God’s emphasis on rest cannot be overstated. He created us as creatures of rhythm. Our workdays generally start and end at predictable times. After a good day’s labor, our circadian rhythms (the 24-hour cycle found in the biochemical, physiological or behavioral processes of living entities) mandate that we regularly get between five to eight hours of sleep. And we are wired to eat at semi-regular intervals.
Most of us accept and enjoy the fact that daily life is constructed so that balance can be maintained. Yet in our busy lifestyles and efforts to accomplish our to-do lists, the rhythmic priority of biblical rest too often gets overlooked.
Instead, our capableness, competency and strength often deceive us, making us believe we can routinely ignore cyclic respites. And while we may experience no immediate consequences, it’s unwise to assume that the absence of immediate discomfort means we have escaped discomfort altogether.
Even though the unfortunate effects of continually violating God’s prescription for rejuvenation and recuperation may not be quickly noticed, those results can (and will) slowly affect us. Unfortunately, most of us don’t realize this until an army of considerable strength—led by stress, heart disease, depression, high blood pressure and the like—wages war against our body, mind and soul.
The success of the assault is determined by how much time we’ll need to recover and rest. The sad thing is that in many instances, we could have avoided this assault. Even more sad is that the rest we should have regularly practiced in prior years would have been much more enjoyable than the forced recuperation required by mental and physical breakdowns.
God knew we would need routine life intermissions. He knew that each period of pause was pregnant with the well-being we would need in later years. Rest is a blessing He intended us to enjoy. We rob ourselves, and those we love, when we don’t take regular intervals to refresh and recharge.
Since most of us have the work-ethic thing down pretty good, let’s figure out how to live the rest of our lives. Live right, live well.
As senior pastor of Grace Covenant Church in Chantilly, Va., Brett Fuller also oversees another church planted from his congregation in downtown Washington, D.C. He currently serves as chaplain of the Washington Redskins, chaplain of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) and chairman of the Board for Every Nation Churches in America.
I once heard a sermon titled, "The Devil Is in the Details." Recently, I learned that saying is actually derived from an exact opposite quote, "God is in the details."
This more positive statement is attributed most often to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a German-born architect. But the quotation didn't originate with him; it goes back more than a thousand years.
I believe it's especially significant that the phrase comes from the architectural community. This group understands that their ability to receive divine assistance with their work is enhanced by the more strategic, focused and committed they are. The level of creativity and craftsmanship invested in their work often makes the finished product breathtaking. Think about the beauty of the Sistine Chapel. It's easy to understand the full meaning of this great architectural proverb.
It's gratifying to know that God wants to be with me in the details of my ministry as well. Sometimes it seems like "the devil" has been in my inbox for years. No matter how many times I rebuke and send him away, the next week he shows up again.