Five Things Heroine Addicts Have Taught Me About The Church

The Dayton-Middletown-Cincinnati (Ohio) region is known as the epicenter for the Heroine epidemic that has swept America. Nearly six years ago, the church that I pastored (Kings Point Church of God in Maineville, Ohio) hosted a men’s encounter weekend for a faith-based Heroine and Alcohol Treatment Center in Hamilton, Ohio. Since then, myself along with a team of pastors and church leaders, have led many such encounter weekends for hundreds of men battling opioid addictions (mainly heroine) resulting in men testifying of God performing life-transformational works in most of the men who attend. Over these six years, these men have taught me a lot about the church. Here are five things that I have observed that has helped me be a better worshipper and church leader.

1. That the church should be a place where I can admit that I am weak instead of having to prove that I am strong.
2. That the church should be a place where God can demonstrate His worth to me rather than a place where I think I must prove my worth to Him and others.
3. That the church is to be a place where imperfect and broken people can meet and celebrate God’s generous mercy and perfect love rather than a place where we think we must look and act like we are perfect and have it together.
4. That the church should be a place that is open to acknowledging and wrestling with difficult questions instead of a place with canned and pat answers.
5. That the church is a place for hungry and desperate seekers rather than a place where we scrutinize and judge everything and everyone.

As you can see, I have chosen not to build a case for each of the above points. They speak for themselves. For me personally, when I worship with these men, I think of Psalm 73:27, “I am in the presence of the Lord – oh, how refreshing it is!” (The Message)

My prayer for the local church is that we might return to be a real place where people can be real with a real God. If this can happen, I believe true repentance followed by times of refreshing will fill our houses of worship once again. I want that so badly. I think you do too.

Respectfully,
Randy L Ballard

“Be A Infinite Player”

Discussion Questions:

As Christian leaders, which game are you playing? Finite or infinite?

Explain or give reasons why you believe you are playing by finite rules, infinite rules, or both.

Can you discuss the personal or corporate frustration in times when have played the finite game?

Sinek said, “The joy comes from advancement.” Discuss this statement as it relates in the context of our calling as Christian leaders.

Discuss Sinek’s thoughts in regard to Millennials (really people in general) being consumed with self instead of others. Are we guilty of these as Christian leaders?

Do we as Christian leaders/pastors look to the church to care for us? Or do we understand and practice our calling of caring for the church?

Combating Insults

I carry in my heart the insults of so many people. Psalm 89:50b, NLT

Consider, Lord, how your servants are disgraced! Psalm 89:50a, NLT

How can we not carry the insults from others in our heart? How can we hear them but not be moved or affected by them? Is it really possible?

As pastors and Christian leaders, we can identify with the words in Psalm 89. We can preach a great sermon and experience the powerful presence of God in a worship service, but allow one insult to ruin our Sunday and sometimes our week.

Here are four suggestions from God’s word in how to battle the enemy when he attempts to use the insults of people to discourage and even paralyze us.

First, CONSIDER THE SOURCE

With which Your enemies have reproached, O LORD, Psalm 89:51b, NKJV

Consider, that the insults from our enemies are God’s enemies first and foremost. Those who insult and disgrace us are the enemies of Almighty God. It will not end well for them if they choose not to repent. The battle is the Lord’s, not ours.

Jesus taught us, …love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you. Matthew 5:44

I have always found that when I love and pray for those that insult me, it makes the cut heal faster.

Secondly, RECALL THE LORD’S POWER AND STRENGTH

Psalm 89:13 reads, Powerful is your arm! Strong is your hand! Your right hand is lifted high in glorious strength.

Ps. 60:12 reads, With God’s help we will do mighty things, for HE will trample down our enemies.

In spite of what others say or do, we respond in the power and strength of our God – not by our own strength.

Refuse to let the insults and the attacks of others keep you from dreaming great dreams and doing mighty things.

…if God be for us, who can be against us, Romans 8:31.

Thirdly, REMEMBER GOD’S CHARACTER

Ask God to help you to consistently see yourself in the light of who He is, not what others say or think about you.

Read and meditate on the scripture passage below noting how the characteristics of who God is benefits you and I as worshippers.

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne.
Unfailing love and truth walk before you as attendants. Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, LORD. They rejoice all day long in your wonderful reputation. They exult in your righteousness. You are their glorious strength. It pleases you to make us strong. Yes, our protection comes from the LORD… Psalm 89: 14-18, NLT

Finally, REMIND YOURSELF OF GOD’S FAVOR

Psalm 30:6 says, his favor lasts a lifetime.

Your favor has made me as secure as a mountain, Psalm 30:7

Note the advantages of God’s favor throughout Psalm 30.

v. 1 you refused to let my enemies triumph over me
v. 2 I cried to you for help, and you restored my health
v. 3 you brought me out of the grave, O Lord, you kept me from falling into the pit of death
v. 11 you have turned my mourning into joyful dancing
v. 12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent

Oh Lord, my God, I will give you thanks forever!

My prayer for you and I today is from Psalm 90:17, May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us, establish the work of our hands for us, yes, establish the work of our hands. (NLT reads “make us successful)

Thanks for taking the time to read the blog. I hope it blessed you!

The Need For Discipleship

“Cultivating Discipleship”
Mark 4:13-20

Introduction: The need for discipleship.

Discipleship is the only method of retaining fruit.

  1.  The parable of the sower is a parable about discipleship.  Jesus’ teaching was on the timeline of an interested seeker, an excited believer, a distracted disciple, and a faithful multiplier.
  2. Discipleship develops “fruit that remains” (John 15).  Without discipleship, we will never achieve world evangelization.

Discipleship is the only method of multiplication.

  1. Programs produce converts and attenders; Networks produce disciples.  A network is the passing down of spiritual values from fruitful disciples to baby believers, turning them into strong disciples who disciple others.
  2. We must build “discipleship networks,” relationships that bear lasting, multiplying fruit.

Four levels of discipleship:

“Knowledge”

  1. Jesus said that the “sower sows the Word.”  Immediately, the devil is present to steal the seed that is lying on the hard soil.  The “soil” is the heart in all four cases.
  2. The seed must be pushed down deep into the heart:  “With the heart man believes” (Rom. 10).  ALL DISCIPLESHIP STARTS WITH A REVELATION OF THE WORD IN YOUR SPIRIT.
  3. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos. 6: 6).  Church attenders who barely “hear” preaching but have no revelation of it in their spirit will never be discipled.  That is why small groups and individual discipleship is necessary:  to be sure that an interested seeker has really received a revelation.
  4. “Knowledge” has to do with salvation, healing, blessing, family, the will of God, spiritual warfare, etc.  A new believer must learn verses that apply to each of these subjects and have a revelation of them or they will never develop fruit.  IT IS THE WORD THAT BEARS FRUIT.

“Obedience”

  1. The second level of discipleship is those who hear the Word, receive it, but only “endure for a while.”  If the Word is never acted upon, it is unfruitful.  A new believer must obey the Word:  tithing, dating only Christians, forgiving others, loving their wife, etc.  If there is no obedience, the seed of the Word is dead.

2. Once a believer makes a decision to act upon and do something in obedience to the Word, Satan makes every effort to stop them immediately with “tribulations and persecutions.

a) A “tribulum” was a piece of equipment rolled over wheat to separate the stalk from the grain.  It was very heavy and applied immense pressure.  “Pressure” is Satan’s method of opposition:  financial pressure, health problems, family pressure.
b) “Persecution” means to be “hunted.”  Satan used this method to discourage disciples where they became weary of being hunted continually by people like Saul of Tarsus!

3. We must walk with new believers through the certain tribulations and persecutions they will face as soon as they become serious about obeying the Word.

“Relationships”

1. The third area of discipleship Jesus spoke about is the deepening of our relationship to God.  As years go by (after 5 years it seems like) believers who have become disciples can become “distracted disciples.”

Three things will do this (cool down):

  • cares—Worries of the world, even about little small things to do with houses, cars, computers, fashion, and money.
  • wealth—The “deceitfulness of riches,” the ease with which Satan can remove money from you when you have chased it.
  • distractions – The “desires for other things” creep in.  Hobbies, habits,  “rings, things and blings” can all distract us from God.

2. A true fruitful disciple never loses his focus on drawing closer and closer to God (like Enoch).  If anything has stepped into our focus and is pulling us away from God we need to ruthlessly remove it as a weapon of the enemy to make us unfruitful.

“Fruitfulness”

1. Jesus said that some would bear “30-fold, 60-fold, and 100-fold” fruit.  This, of course, has to do with the measure of faith that God has given to each believer.
2. There are three ways to bear fruit in the New Testament:

a) harvest (Jn. 4:36):  “Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life”.
b) helps (Titus 3: 14):  “Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent needs, and not be unfruitful.”
c) generosity (Phil. 4: 17):  “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit”

Discipleship and the Armor of God: The Belt and the Breastplate

“Discipleship and the Armor of God: The Belt and the Breastplate”

By Pastor Randy L Ballard

Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. – Ephesians 6:14

I am presently preaching a series on the Whole Armor of God. We have just finished covering the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness and have discovered some astounding truths that speak to the importance of discipleship.

As you know the breastplate of righteousness covers your heart, which in the Bible is the center of consciousness. When we know and obey God’s truth (put on the belt of truth), our heart will beat in rhythm with the righteousness of God. The breastplate of righteousness does many things, but one is it keeps Satan from penetrating our hearts with his lies.

WHAT IS RIGHTEOUSNESS? It is the standard that God requires for people to be acceptable to Him. Truth is what God says about a matter. Righteousness is the application of truth in the believer.

When we possess unrighteousness in our heart, it is an invitation for demonic flow and blocks the move of God in our lives. Unrighteousness gives Satan a legal right to us. Unrighteousness doesn’t just include what we do but the motivation behind why we are doing it.

A good illustration is trash that is allowed to stay within our house too long. After a while, it can take on a certain scent that is unpleasant to the smelling sense. Eventually, it will draw bugs (gnats, maggots, flies, and even roaches). God too, has a unrighteous scent. He knows it’s there. Satan too, knows it’s there. He and his demons are drawn to sin and unrighteousness. That’s his nature.

But righteousness keeps demons away. I love Psalm 15:2, He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.

If we know, accept, and practice the truth…drive it down into the spirit level…into our hearts, God then opens up a release valve and releases righteousness from the heart throughout our entire being. That’s what happened when you got saved. You received the truth of the Gospel message. You confessed the truth out of your mouth – you believed the truth in your heart – your confession was made into salvation – your belief in your heart was made into righteousness, (Romans 10:9,10).

If we never look in a mirror, we don’t know what we look like. One of my favorite scenes in the original Planet of the Apes series is when the man and wife apes see themselves in the mirror for the first time. At first it frightened them, but after a short while they grew fond of seeing themselves as they straightened their hair and made adjustments to the way they saw themselves.

In order to see what we really look like in the inner man, we need a reflection. The word of God provides that for us. That’s why we need to put on the truth daily. Discipleship is you and I learning to feed ourselves daily the word of God in fellowship with Christ. That’s why Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us our daily bread.”  He just wasn’t talking about nutriment for our bodies. But more importantly, He was referring to nourishment for our spirit man – the word of God.

It’s vital for us as believers to get the truth down in us so that the righteousness of God is saving and changing us from the inside out. Religion can’t change the heart. It affects the outward man, but can’t touch the heart. The righteousness of God works in us releasing a brand new us. As the truth digs in, the heart pumps up righteousness…the new you…righteous thoughts, righteous deeds, righteous words, etc.

Proverbs 11:30 says “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life…”

Isaiah 32:16 and 17 says “…and righteousness rules in the fruitful field. And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.

Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

 As you may know, we have discipleship tools at Relational Discipleship Ministries that will help you hold you accountable to yourself and others to get the word down in your heart daily so that you can walk, live, and benefit from the righteousness of Christ in you. I pray that you are becoming a disciple and making disciples for Jesus Christ! May God bless you in Christ Jesus today!

 Pastor Randy

 

Has “Missional” Replaced “DiscipleMaking?

Author – Mike Breen

It’s time we start being brutally honest about the missional movement that has emerged in the last 10-15 years: Chances are better than not it’s going to fail.

That may seem cynical, but I’m being realistic. There is a reason so many movements in the Western church have failed in the past century:

They are a car without an engine.

A missional church or a missional community or a missional small group is the new car that everyone is talking about right now, but no matter how beautiful or shiny the vehicle, without an engine, it won’t go anywhere.

The Engine of the Church

So what is the engine of the church? Discipleship. I’ve said it many times: If you make disciples, you will always get the church. But if you try to build the church, you will rarely get disciples.

If you’re good at making disciples, you’ll get more leaders than you’ll know what to do with. If you make disciples like Jesus made them, you’ll see people come to faith who didn’t know Him. If you disciple people well, you will always get the missional thing.

Always.

We took 30 days and examined the Twitter conversations happening. We discovered there are between 100-150 times as many people talking about mission as there are discipleship (to be clear, that’s a 100:1). We are a group of people addicted to and obsessed with the work of the Kingdom, with little to no idea how to be with the King.

 “Many church leaders unknowingly replace the transcendent vitality of a life with God for the ego satisfaction they derive from a life for God.”

Look, I’m not criticizing the people who are passionate about missional – I am one of those people. I was one of the people pioneering Missional Communities in the 80’s and have been doing it ever since. This is my camp, my tribe, my people. But it has to be said: God did not design us to do Kingdom mission outside of the scope of intentional, biblical discipleship and if we don’t see that, we’re fooling ourselves.

Mission Is The Umbrella of Discipleship

Mission is under the umbrella of discipleship as it is one of the many things that Jesus taught his disciples to do well. But it wasn’t done in a vacuum outside of knowing God and being shaped by that relationship, where a constant refinement of their character was happening alongside of their continued skill development (which included mission).

The truth about discipleship is that it’s never hip and it’s never in style – it’s the call to come and die; a long obedience in the same direction. While the “missional” conversation is imbued with the energy and vitality that comes with kingdom work, it seems to be missing some of the hallmark reality that those of us who have lived it over time have come to expect:

Mission is messy.

It’s humbling. There’s often no glory in it. It’s for the long haul. And it’s completely unsustainable without discipleship.

This is the crux of it:

The reason the missional movement may fail is because most people/communities in the Western church are pretty bad at making disciples.

Without a plan for making disciples (and a plan that works), any missional thing you launch will be completely unsustainable.

Mission Is A War Zone

Think about it this way: Sending people out to do mission is to send them out to a war zone. Discipleship is not only the boot camp to train them for the front lines, but the hospital when they get wounded and the off-duty time they need to rest and recuperate.

When we don’t disciple people the way Jesus and the New Testament talked about, we are sending them out without armor, weapons or training. This is mass carnage waiting to happen. How can we be surprised that people burn out, quit and never want to return to the missional life (or the church)? How can we not expect people will feel used and abused?

There’s a story from World War II where The Red (Russian) Army sent wave after wave of untrained, practically weaponless soldiers into the thick of the German front. They were slaughtered in droves. Why did they do this? Because they knew that eventually the German soldiers would run out of ammunition, creating an opportunity for the Red Army to send in their best soldiers to finish them off. The first wave of untrained soldiers were the best way of exhausting ammunition, leaving their enemy vulnerable.

While this isn’t a perfect analogy, I sense this is a bit like the missional movement right now. We are sending bright-eyed civilians into the battle where the fighting is fiercest without the equipping they need, not just to survive, but to fight well and advance the Kingdom of their dad, the King.

Mission Devoid of Discipleship = Failure

The missional movement will fail because, by-and-large, we are having a discussion about mission devoid of discipleship. Unless we start having more discussion about discipleship and how we make missionaries out of disciples, this movement will stall and fade. Any discussion about mission must begin with discipleship.

If your church community is not yet competent at making disciples who can make disciples, please don’t send your members out on mission until you have a growing sense of confidence in your ability to train, equip and disciple them.

Here are some questions I have leaders I’m working with ask regularly:

  • Am I a disciple?
  • Do I know how to disciple people who can then disciple people who then disciple people, etc? (i.e. does my discipleship plan work?)
  • Does our discipleship plan naturally lead all disciples to become missionaries? (not just the elite, Delta-seal missional experts)

What Is Discipleship and How Is It Done?

Interview by John Piper
Well, to the inbox. Many questions have come in this month about discipleship. What is discipleship? What is the aim of discipleship? And how is it done typically? To orient us on discipleship, what would you want to say, Pastor John?
A couple of observations about the word. The word discipleship never occurs in the Bible. The term is ambiguous in English. It can mean my discipleship in the sense of my own pattern of following Jesus and trusting him and learning from him. That is my discipleship. It could mean that. Or it can mean my activity of helping others be disciples in that sense of learning from him, growing in him.
The second meaning — this helping others — does have a verb in New Testament Greek: mathetuo, to make disciples. It can mean preach the gospel so that people get converted to Christ and become Christians and, thus, disciples. For example, Acts 14:21 says, “When they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium.” So that “make disciples” is one Greek word there and it means “get them converted to Jesus.” That is what it means.
Or it can mean the whole process of conversion, baptism, and teaching the ways of Jesus as it is used in Matthew 28:19–20: “Go therefore and make disciples.” And here is what he means. “Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” That is a very long process. That is like a lifetime of process. So get them converted. Baptize them. And then spend a lifetime teaching them to obey all that Jesus said. That is what the verb “disciple” in the New Testament would include.
The word disciple in the New Testament does not mean a second-stage Christian. There are some ministries that are built around this distinction that is just so unbiblical, as if there were converts, then there are disciples who are little stage-two Christians who learn more, and then there are disciple makers.
Now all those groupings are linguistically foreign to the New Testament. A disciple in the New Testament is simply a Christian. Acts 11:26: “And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” Everybody that was converted to Jesus was a disciple. Everybody that was converted to Jesus was a Christian. Disciple was, in fact, not a favorite term for Christian as time went by, it seems. Paul never uses the noun or the verb “disciple.” In fact, neither the noun disciple or the verb make disciples occurs anywhere in the New Testament outside the Gospels and Acts. So I think what is important is not the terminology, but the reality. People need to become Christians and people need to be taught how to think and feel and act as a Christian. That is, a disciple, a follower of Jesus, one who embraces him as Lord and Savior and Treasure.
Now where and how should that happen? That is what I think all the talk about discipleship is, it’s a fresh concern about how to bring people to Christ and grow them up into being what they ought to be as Christians or as followers of Jesus or as disciples. There is a lot of different words that people are using these days to describe “Christian.”
So how does that happen?
Well, the conversion of people from unbelievers to believers, Christians, disciples, should be happening in any and every situation. Okay? So there is no single strategy. There is no limit to the ways a person can be told the good news of Jesus. And so, “discipling” in that sense is as varied as there are ways of saying the gospel or living the gospel in front of people to draw them in.
As far as training Christians how to think and feel and act as a Christian — that is, discipling in the sense of growing them into more and more maturity — that happens in so many ways in the New Testament. Here is just a grocery list of possibilities:
• Titus 2:4 — Older women are to train younger women.
• Second Timothy 2:2 — Paul trained Timothy to train others to train others.
• Ephesians 6:4 — Fathers are to train their children.
• Matthew 28:20 — Missionaries are to teach the nations everything Jesus commanded.
• Hebrews 3:13 — All Christians are to exhort each other every day to avoid sin and to stir each other up to love and good works (see also Hebrews 10:24–25).
• First Peter 4:10 — All Christians are to use their gifts to serve others.
• Acts 18:24–26 — Priscilla and Aquila, on the spur of the moment it seems, explained the way of God more accurately to Apollos.
And we could go on and on.
Every Christian should be helping unbelievers become believers by showing them Christ; that is, making a disciple.
And every Christian should be helping other believers grow to more and more maturity. That is making a disciple.
And every Christian should be seeking to get help for themselves from others to keep on growing. And that is also our discipleship. And every church should think through how all of these kinds of biblical disciple-making find expression in their corporate life.

Find other recent and popular Ask Pastor John episodes.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory.

What Christians Get Wrong About Discipleship

By Ann Swindell

To those of us who follow Jesus, discipleship should be a central aspect of our faith. This is because Jesus commanded His followers—in what is commonly referred to as “The Great Commission”—to “go 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 I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20).

It’s not a suggestion that Jesus makes here. It’s a command, a charge.
What is discipleship? Put simply, discipleship means intentionally partnering with another Christian in order to help that person obey Jesus and grow in relationship with Him—so that he or she can then help others do the same. Jesus taught His disciples to follow Him and obey His commands so that they could lead others to do the same after His death, resurrection and ascension. The Apostle Paul continues the pattern with Timothy and encourages him to keep the cycle going: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

Put simply, discipleship means intentionally partnering with another Christian in order to help that person obey Jesus and grow in relationship with Him.
But how do we live out this command and actually do what we’ve been called to do? It can help, I think, to look at what we might be getting wrong about discipleship in order to understand how to get it right.

Discipleship Isn’t Easy.
Salvation is free, but discipleship will cost us our lives. Jesus put it bluntly:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:23-25)
To be a disciple of Jesus means that we have given up our lives in order to follow Him wholeheartedly and unreservedly. It means that our lives are no longer our own—they are His.

Discipleship Isn’t “Just Me and Jesus.”
While discipleship is all about Jesus, it’s not a solitary endeavor. Discipleship is relational, and to fully respond to the Great Commission, we need to be disciples who are making disciples of Jesus. This means we need to spend consistent time with other believers.
Jesus and His disciples spent a lot of time together (Acts 1:21-22). They ate together, walked together, rode in boats together. They even fought together (Luke 9:46-48). The 12 disciples were in one another’s lives, constantly and intentionally.
While we are all called to become disciples of Jesus, we become disciples with one another, learning how to love God and each other as we go. We need to allow others to disciple us by letting them challenge us and encourage us in our walk with God. This is why church and honest relationships with other believers are so central to the Christian life—we need one another in this journey of becoming wholehearted disciples of Jesus.

Discipleship Isn’t Mentoring.
As we allow others into our lives and let them help us obey Jesus, we also need to reach out and disciple others. But that doesn’t mean we are mentoring others.
Mentoring has to do with what the mentor can offer to someone else through their own wisdom and experience; discipleship has to do with what Jesus can offer to someone else through His wisdom and presence.