discipleship in action
Last week we began with the idea that as we pray for one God may very well call us to show His love to the ones we are closest to first. Our spouse, our children, our Grandchildren, and friends. With that in mind, in order for us to show God’s love and to grow in our maturity as Christians discipleship plays a key part. Remember, the barometer of one’s maturity in faith is not, how long have you been a Christian. It’s, how long have you been discipled and how long have you discipled others? Throughout church history nothing was done apart from discipleship. To be disciples, believers and followers of Christ, who make disciples, converting the lost and helping them to grow in the LORD, who then go and make disciples, converting more lost to Christ and helping them to grow in Christian maturity. This is how the church grows! This is how we build the Kingdom of God. Building off of that we come to a few questions we need to answer: What is discipleship? How can we effectively disciple someone? How can we make disciples who make disciples who make disciples? These questions usually feel so daunting, we abandon the pursuit of the answers before we even start. We feel this sense of pressure: “Am I even qualified to this? What if I fail?” So we stop before we even start. The truth is, if you are a born again Christian, you are qualified and failure is relative. Can we simplify this, and if I can sound like a used car salesman, I can guarantee you will not fail in discipleship when you are: consistent, intentional, and Christ centered. This is exactly what our 3/3rds discipleship is all about. This is what our church is committing to. We are going to commit to discipleship not because it is something I am passionate about or the Elder’s think is a good idea. What makes the Christian church so unique is their desire to follow the footsteps of the first century church. Believe, repent, be baptized. Do not forsake the gathering together. All Scripture is God breathed. Be disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples.
Charles Spurgeon said, “All the flowers of the field, and many of the beasts of the plain, and now the very orbs of heaven, are turned into metaphors and symbols by which the glory of Jesus may be manifested to us. Where God takes such pains to teach, we ought to be at pains to learn.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”
Tim Keller said, “Discipleship is not an option. Jesus says that if anyone would come after me, he must follow me.”
Bo Chancey, author of Pray for One said, “Authentic disciples love God, love people, and [multiply] spiritually. These are the marks of Kingdom-minded men and women. They are consumed with love and purpose.”
Our church is committing to discipleship because the Church throughout history has been committed to discipleship. Because God’s Word commands us, the Apostles teach us, and we need it to mature in our faith. One day, I called Southeast Christian Church and asked to speak to their connections pastor and ask what they do. Just to get some ideas. I figured if they were able to get something moving in a church of thousands we should be able to make it happen in our church. I spoke to Josh Brown, who created 3/3rds discipleship. 3/3rds completely changed my mindset to discipleship and Bible study. I used to think hard nosed about this, if you are going to meet with people and get into God’s Word you need to put in the hard work and hours of study. Josh has found a way to create a gathering which puts low stress on the leader while creating a quality time together. In our 3/3rds group on Thursday mornings, we have not had a bad meeting. They are always edifying and thought provoking. Not because of me, but our group is consistent, intentional, and Christ centered. Ross has begun a 3/3rds group on Monday nights at 6pm.
I will only have 3 points in today’s sermon and these points will mirror what 3/3rds stands for. It is broken up into thirds, 1/3,1/3, and 1/3. Our group meets for and hour and a half which if broken into thirds is 30 minutes each. So, what is the first third?
The first 3rd is “Look back.” In this we invest into one another. We care for one another by first asking how their personal relationship with God has been this past week. Can I just say, when you are in a group you trust and who love you, answering this question honestly lifts a weight off your shoulders every single time you meet. Galatians 6:2 “2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” To have a group of people you know who will enter the fray with you and bear your burdens with you is a Gospel truth. Christ bore the burden of sin upon His shoulders on that cross. When we come alongside one another and bear each others burdens we are walking in Christ. We are taking what He has done and begun to model it in our own lives. Can anyone here say they have never had a need for another to bear their burden with them? Your mother is sick. Your husband got laid off. You feel so far from God right now. You will not bear anything alone when you are being disicpled. We also do a “check-up” which calls back to the previous week. When each 3/3rds group concludes we have a clear perspective in 3 specific areas” Obedience, Training, and Sharing. So we check-up on the previous week. How was your obedience this week? What did God call you to walk in last week? How did that go? Can I share with you where I am at? We read a passage out of John 14 and verse 15 hit me hard, John 14:15 “15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” The Holy Spirit both convicted me and called me to walk differently. I love God and I want to be obedient. But my obedience has been, Be obedient because you are supposed to be. I am a pastor of course I am supposed to be obedient. So just do it. You know something, that has failed! IN that time of prayer, which we will go through later on, it was as though God was saying, I want you to walk in obedience because of your love for me not to be obedient to prove your love for me. Do you know what this does? I cannot meditate on my love for God with out first basking His love for me. 1 John 4:19 “19 We love, because He first loved us.” Every single Christian came to faith because of God’s great love for us. He loved first and it is His love which changes the heart of stone to a heart of flesh. Every week we ask ourselves, “In light of this scripture, what is God calling to in obedience.” The next week, we follow up.
The next aspect in our check-up on is training. Who is God calling you to disciple? I will tell you, I am encouraged that those in our 3/3rds are called frequently to their spouse, their children, their grandchildren. Interesting isn’t it? “LORD give me one person to show your love to today.” God points to the ones we see so frequently. The one’s we all to often overlook, He calls us back. Who is God calling us in training this week? Who is God calling us to disciple? The last question we ask in our check-up is, “Share.” Have you shared your testimony or The Gospel with someone this week? There are times when we are in our final 3rds where we have someone specifically God is pressing upon our heart to reach out to. There are times when we do not have anyone specific so we, “Pray for one.” We pray for God to bring anyone. Our 3/3rds discipleship meets weekly. We are to be consistent, Hebrews 10:23-25 “23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” In that consistency we are active and involved in each others lives. 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 “9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” THEREFORE! Paul writes saying that because we are in Christ. because we are the Body of Christ. Because we are brothers and sisters in Christ. Because we were bought by the blood of the Lamb, encourage one another and build up one another. How on earth can we ever profess to love one another when we first, do not even trust one another to be open about our struggles, our hardships, and sin? Second, how can we profess to love one another and not bring accountability to our relationship? The body of Christ is not to skip leg day. We are to sharpen one another, Proverbs 27:17 “17 Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” We are to be intentional. Yes the sharpening of one another, in the same way in the sharpening of iron, takes friction. But you and I know that friction with a purpose is worth it. We are to sharpen one another. When you are being discipled you are being sharpened and as you are sharpened you are then sharpening another.
This brings us to the last part of the first third, Vision. What is the vision of 3/3rds? To be disciples who make disciples who make disciples and thus see God raise up a Disciple making movement that will bless the people of this city, this state, this nation, and to the ends of the earth. We cover this vision every single week. Why? Consistency. We need to be reminded that our purpose in this world goes beyond our career choice. Our purpose in this world is ever present even in the midst of our struggles. God’s Kingdom, His burden to seek and save the lost and His desire for His people to know Him more gives our lives a purpose that can never be touched by circumstance, whoever is president, an off day, NOTHING! Nothing can touch the purpose we are given in Christ Jesus and we need to be reminded of this. We need to be reminded that we are not disqualified from service in the kingdom of God because of your fight with sin. You are not ineligible because you are young in your faith and you are not inadequate, because God has saved you. He has bought you with his own blood and He has called you to serve His Kingdom which will reign forever more. God is calling you because He has gifted you to live out His call on your life. Like I tell my wife when I call her cell phone, I am not calling because I don’t want you to answer. God is calling you to be a part of His disciple making kingdom work. Isn't that just a little bit exciting!? When we first gather, the first 3rd is our look back.
As we move into our 2/3rds we go to the LORD in Prayer because we are about to get into His Word. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
We cannot disciple one another apart from His word. So when we come together we will read His Word and talk about it. There are passages the leader can select on their own or there are already prepared series that the leader can select. What I have found so interesting about this time in God’s Word, is that we will read about 14 verses before we discuss. There are times where you read a passage and first think, “What can we get out of this? It does not really say anything.” That is where we are wrong. God’s Word is dense and ALL SCRIPTURE is God breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. Here is why we have found, no matter what passage we read we find something to learn. When we first read the passage aloud we read it with a focus. We are to read the passage while asking ourselves two questions: What do you like about this passage and did you find anything difficult to understand. Here is why I like these questions. So often when God’s Word is read in a group before the group discusses it the leader will ask, “What does that verse mean to you?” What kind of post modern, shallow, garbage question is that? I know this will take be down a bunny trail but, this is not how we are to apply Scripture to our lives. It is God’s Word, not God’s Word as defined by our whims. This is the very reason false teachers have risen up in churches and are leading thousands away from Christ because they are teaching what the verses mean to them. But I digress. Asking ourselves what do we like about the text does not inject our own interpretation, rather, we are taking in God’s Word for what it says. Say you are reading a passage out of John 20 and you read John 20:3-4 “3 So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. 4 The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first;” I would say, I like how John records how he beat Peter in a foot race. Seems a bit nah nah nah nah nah to me. It does not reinterpret the text by asking ourselves, what do we like about the text. It engages the text right where it is. If you read a passage that is a bit confusing because of a lot of names or places you might bring that up. Who is this person? Where was this located? Why would Jesus tell the demons not to proclaim His being the Son of God? Good questions.
As our group reads a passage I always have a commentary open in front of me. Our 3/3rds who meet on Thursday is great about asking though provoking questions. There are times I do not know there answer but then there are times I do not know the answer, but the question was so good I have got to find it. So we might take a moment to find that answer. We do not want to take up too much time because we need to read the passage again aloud. Only this time we ask two new questions: what does this text teach about God and what does it teach about people? This is where we grow. To see a little clearer who God is brings us closer to Him. His Word reveals to us His Character and Nature and every single time we dive into His Word He will reveal a little more each time. Not because He is hiding, but because we struggle to understand Him. Its beautiful that though we struggle God still seeks us out through His Word that we would know Him just a little more. The second question we ask, as I have seen, more often leads to self reflection. Though there are passages which address our world and the nature of sin within it, I have seen more self-reflection. We learn a little more about ourselves in light of who God is.
In this time of opening the Word of God we engage it directly, ask questions, we see God a little clearer each time, and we either understand our world or ourselves more each time we meet. This is intentional and Christ centered. Colossians 1:28 “28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” Consistent, Intentional, Christ centered discipleship will sharpen, shape, and work to make us complete in Christ until He returns.
This brings us to the final 3rd, Look forward.
This final third is drenched in prayer. It is surrounded by prayer for a reason; this is our time to take action. In this time we are seeking the LORD in our obedience, training, and share for the week. As we seek the LORD we are to ask ourselves, how are we to be obedient to the Holy Spirit this week. I often times ask our 3/3rds to do this in light of the Scripture we just read. This does not mean God is limited to that. God may be convicting and calling you to obedience that is unrelated to the text we read. That’s GREAT! By bringing the text we just covered into this time of prayer brings with it a specificity some might need. During this time we are also to ask, has the Holy Spirit placed someone on your heart that you should train? Who is God calling us to disciple? I find this time of prayer to be so important because there are weeks where I have someone new come to mind. But then I have weeks where its the same. Why Is God calling me to my spouse this week again? Is there something I can add to our time together? Adjust something? Its always great to have this time of examination. Lastly we ask ourselves, Has the Holy Spirit placed someone on your heart with whom you should share your testimony or the Gospel with? Essentially together we are praying for one. We are asking God for that person we are to take the good news to.
I want to say this for the time we spend in prayer focusing on our share; there is no other time where I feel more in tune with God. I am not saying that I am walking perfectly with Him but that when He puts upon you this person to reach out to. He is telling you, “I am after this person in your life.” What is so amazing about this is, you have no clue who you are in this pursuit. Meaning you do not know if God is using you to till the soil in the person. if you are the person to caste the seed of Truth. You do not know if you are to come along and remove the weeds which inhibit growth, You do not know if you are there to water and maintain what God has already begun. You don’t if you are there to be a part of the harvest, when they come to faith and are buried with Christ through baptism? YOU DO NOT KNOW! Burt you know for certain God is working in this person for His Divine Will and how amazing is it that God is calling you to be a part of this process?
During this 3rd we seek the LORD in these 3 aspects and we tell it to the group. Why? This will be in our look back for the next week as we follow up, however, We are able to offer one another help. We are also able to help one another walk in our obedience. Is there a temptation we need to address? You would be surprised to find, when we bring to light our temptations how many other are either facing it or have overcome it in Christ. There is wisdom is that. We need to love one another enough to trust them in our weaknesses. We can help each other to walk in Christ. In this time, We are able to help with follow through in our training. God may be calling you to disciple your kids but where do you start? Its a great chance for us to help you in that. We can help with idea’s we have tried or idea’s which fell flat. Lastly, we are given the chance to maybe role-play. For example, if we know we are to go to someone who has been combative in the past to the Gospel, we can talk about those and help you prepare for possible resistance. After all we do not know who we are in what God is doing. There may not be resistance but repentance.
Discipleship is accomplished through being consistent, intentional, and Christ-centered. That is exactly what our 3/3rds is about. Paul discipled Timothy and He wrote to him discipling him as an Elder in the church of Ephesus. 2 Timothy 2:1-2 “1 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Can I close us out with this? It is difficult to find community as a pastor of a church. It seems silly, but so many times Pastor’s feel utterly alone as they lead. So many times Pastor’s find themselves trapped because who can they confide in? How will the Elder’s respond with the Pastor’s sin and temptation? How will the congregation react when the Pastor shows his chink in his armor? Will they shut him out? Will they open up? I have no idea. I have found a wonderful community in our 3/3rds. I have gotten to know Ross and Jerry more. Both leaders who have been open themselves in our gathering. Steve, a new addition to the church but, he and I get together after 3/3rds and it is always edifying. I have gotten to know Darla and now Gracie as she is attending. I tell you this because, if you are looking for community, if you are looking to mature in your faith, if you have been looking for someone to disciple you then get involved on our 3/3rds discipleship. Be a part of one and pray about leading one. It really is easy, we will help train you so when you lead you hit the ground running. We want to be a church who are disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples and 3/3rds is how we are going to accomplish it. So I want to leave you with this question: Who is discipling you and who are you discipling? We have opportunities for you.