The Culture of Kings Point Series: The Culture of Discipleship

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“The Culture of Kings Point Series: The Culture of Discipleship”

Pastor Randy Ballard

1/24/16

Text Matthew 28:19,20

Introduction: Last week we introduced the 2016 theme: “By My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.”

For the next few weeks, I want to build on that by defining what is the Culture of Kings Point. For years our vision values here have been to disciple, serve, and send. Our mission statement going all the way back to the early part of the 2002 has been “Winning Souls, and Making Disciples.” We try to remind you of that from time to time, but more importantly we try to integrate these important values in everything we do. Almost all of our ministries here fall in one of these three areas: Serve, Disciple, or Send.

Today, I want us to talk about the culture of discipleship. If I were to ask you today, are you a Christian or a Disciple, what would you say? If you would have asked me growing up in the church that question, I would have said emphatically “I am Christian.” My thinking at that time was that a Christian was someone that believed in God and a Disciple was someone who was really committed, like on the inner circle of the Christians or someone in the ministry, perhaps.

Over the years, as I have studied the Bible it became clear that my idea of a Christian was not actually based on a Biblical definition, but more of what I had been told or heard from others. Surprised? Go ahead and ask yourself how many times you think the Bible mentions Christians. What is your guess? 100, 500, even 1,000?

Three times in the entire Bible are the people who follow Jesus called Christians. They are much more commonly called Disciples (294 times in the Bible). So when did the Disciples first start getting called Christians?

The first occurrence of His Disciples being called Christians was at Antioch. See in the book of Acts:  Acts 11:25-26:

25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

Christian was the name given by the Greeks or Romans, probably in reproach or rebuke, to the followers of Jesus. The names by which the disciples were known among themselves were “brethren,” “the faithful,” “elect,” “saints,” “believers.” But as distinguishing them from the unsaved multitudes who were regular Jews or Gentiles of people who were, the name “Christian” came into use, and was universally accepted.

In the Greek, the word CHRISTIAN literally meant “Little Christ” as in “there is that Christian, look at the little Christ over there.” (someone trying to imitate Jesus). This was basically a derogatory term or a put down and it came over 3 years after Jesus’ death on the cross.

Hmmm, that is interesting isn’t it? So let’s think about that for a minute. If a Disciple (or follower of Jesus) is really the only person that would be called a “little Christ” or Christian, is that something that I (or you) would be in danger of being called based on that definition?

People were called Christians because they were following Jesus and living like Christ, not just going to Church or saying they believed in God. Would the way that you live your life outside of church demonstrate the opportunity for others to say “Look at that little Christ?”

To me this was and still is very convicting. Many times we are reminded of John 3:16 where we hear how God gave his only Son and if we believe in Him we will inherit eternal life. Much less have I heard the scripture in the same gospel of John 8:31-32 that says “IF you hold to my teachings THEN you are really my Disciples, then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (my emphasis).

So why does the world today use the word Christian instead of Disciple? Why was and is it so “Universally accepted” by the secular world as we read in the Christian definition?

I believe it is a less intimidating word that people are more comfortable with. Disciple denotes things like dedication, commitment, and evangelism.

I hear disciple and I think “that guy is really living out the scriptures”. Christian in the world’s definition today is more that of a believer. Even the Dictionary definition of a Disciple says “One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another,” or “one of the original followers of Jesus including his 12 apostles.”

Sometimes, I will ask people if they are a Christian, they say “Yes, of course, I believe in God and go to church.” But when asked if they are a disciple of Jesus, they are taken off guard and will say “Well I wouldn’t say that, I am more like, just a Christian.” Is this your response? (PAUSE)

But really, as we have already seen in the Bible, people call a disciple a Christian because they see someone who learns from Christ to live like him — someone who, because of God’s awakening grace, conforms his or her words and ways to the words and ways of Jesus. Their “disciplined or discipled” life in Christ. influences the way they live, talk, act, dress, the decisions that they make, the way they spend their money, how they handle their material possessions, etc…that’s the fruit of discipleship and that’s why they should call you a “little Christ” or “Jesus” or a “Jesus Freak” or a “Christian.”

SO REALLY, A true Disciple is a Christian and a true Christian is a Disciple.

The four Gospels give us the definitive portrait of Jesus in his life on earth, and if we really want to know what it means to be his disciple, the Gospels are likely where we start.

So does our church possess a culture of discipleship? Are we in the authority of Christ making disciples?

Well, my answer is we are trying to AND WE CAN ALWAYS DO BETTER!

This is the sole purpose of:

  • Sunday School
  • Grow (Small) Groups
  • Relarional Discipleship Series classes
  • Youth Ministry
  • Children’s Ministries
  • Men’s Ministries
  • Women’s Ministries
  • Prayer Ministries
  • Preaching/Teaching Ministries…

WE ARE TRYING TO CREATE A CULTURE WHERE PEOPLE LOOK LIKE “little Christ’s” … who learn from Christ, to live like him — who conforms his or her words and ways to the words and ways of Jesus.

CONCLUSION:

CREATING AND SUSTAINING A DISCLESHIP CULTURE  IN THE CHURCH IS CRUCIAL BECAUSE OF THREE REASONS:

  1. It’s where faith is nurtured and developed…where else does that happen?
  2. It can change the course of a life
  3. It produces eternal fruitfulness

Six Ways To Motivate Your Church for Serious Discipleship

Most resources on making disciples assume you have believers who are ready and waiting for discipling. If only this were true, it would make our task much easier. Leaders must consider the crucial — but often missing — factor of motivation. Without it, the best methods and materials have little value.

My appreciation of the need for strong, sustained motivation escalated when I discovered four powerful enemies of discipleship: inherent difficulties; urgent concerns, such as family responsibilities and work pressures; culture seductions, including career success, possessions, and entertainment; and cultural misbeliefs that regularly assault our minds and weaken our resolve to fully follow Jesus.

Duty or Desire

How can we motivate believers for discipleship despite these challenges? Early in my ministry I tried guilt. I quickly found this only has limited, short-term effectiveness. I have emphasized, duty but this also falls short. What delight does God take in the attitude, “I’m obeying You because it is my duty as a believer”?

The only adequate motivation for following Jesus is desire. In the parable of the treasure hidden in the field, the man joyfully sells all he has to buy the field because its value far exceeds the cost (Matthew 13:44). How can leaders provide and sustain such motivation for discipleship? Through the years I have discovered six sources.

Biblical Vision of God and Reality

A strong biblical vision of God serves as the primary motivator. Believers need to see God’s holiness and greatness, and appreciate His goodness, faithfulness, and forgiveness. Foundational is the reality of a loving God who is for us, not against us. Richard Foster wisely observes, “The Christian life comes not by gritting our teeth but by falling in love.”1

Disciple makers must also convey that living for God produces growing joy, wholeness, hope, and a fruitful life in fulfilling God’s purposes. Ultimately we gain eternal life with the God who loves us. We must sincerely believe: “While difficult, serving God overwhelmingly beats any alternative — so it’s hardly a choice at all.”

Appreciation of God’s Law and Revulsion Toward Sin

For sustained obedience, believers must be convinced of the desirability of God’s standards. As a pastor, I regularly reminded my congregation that God’s laws are descriptions of reality.He gave them for our good (Deuteronomy 10:12,13), so we can live the best life possible — that which accords with reality and offers eternal significance. To ignore His laws means to ignore reality, and results in diminished and distorted living, and eventually destruction.

A right perception of sin complements a correct view of God’s laws. Sin attracts us because it seems to offer satisfaction. While it may partially and temporarily do so, it cannot yield lasting or complete fulfillment. Instead, it damages our lives.

Recognition of Incompleteness

Those who realize their poverty and incompleteness will seek more of God and His reign in their lives (Matthew 5:3). Spiritual lukewarmness characterizes those who lack this awareness (Revelation 3:15–18). Often it takes a crisis to force us to deep and honest examination of our lives. In doing so, we recognize the inability of any earthly circumstances or relationships to satisfy our deepest need. We also may discover inner wounds and broken places that need God’s healing.

Joyful Experiences of God

The Book of Acts contains numerous accounts of believers who experienced the reality of God. Consequently, they felt highly motivated to serve Him despite persecution. We can experience God in various ways: genuine worship, answered prayer, His working in our lives, and the infilling of His Spirit. These experiences of God inspire and motivate us to grow in relationship with Him.

Lives, Testimony, and Encouragement of Others

The quality of other believers’ lives and their testimonies of God at work in and through them also motivate us. These put flesh and blood on spiritual principles and demonstrate their effectiveness. Hearing fresh stories from others, we vicariously experience what they experienced, stimulating our growth. Also, the encouragement of others enables us to push through difficult and dry times in our spiritual journey toward maturity.

The Joy of Growing

Although our bodies quit growing and decline, emotional, intellectual, relational, and spiritual growth can proceed unabated. God wants us to grow to the “whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). Growing in any area brings satisfaction that motivates me to desire even more growth. When I fail to grow, my life becomes routine and I experience the boredom of stagnation. When I grow, however, I experience a freshness and aliveness in my life.

Conclusion

Without strong, sustained motivation on the part of Christians, growth in discipleship will be anemic. With the empowering of God’s Spirit, we can use six sources to generate and maintain desire for spiritual maturity.

Stephen Lim, Springfield, Missouri

Endnote

1. Richard Foster, Streams of Living Water (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1998), 51.

Six Leadership Obstacles to Team Success: 6 Obstacles to Courageous Accountability

By Lee Ellis

pilot-plane

The plane had drifted off course by 200 miles, but the pilot didn’t know how it got there! He started out with the proper heading and course, and began the journey confident that he was ready to fly. Now he’s thinking, “If only I had a co-pilot or voice guidance system alerting me along the way, I would’ve saved a lot of time and fuel (money).”

For many leaders, this scenario makes perfect sense, yet the need for an accountability culture at work is not always accepted. We want the positive elements of success—achievement, notoriety, money, and excellence for clients and customers. But we’re unwilling to do the right things to get there.

Fearing the Accountability Solution

Our society seems to be somewhat schizophrenic about accountability. We hear passionate complaints about the lack of accountability across the spectrum—from the government, politics, education, and business to finance, religion, and the media. At the same time, when it comes to being on the receiving end, accountability seems to have earned a bad image. It seems so negative and often equated with frustration and injustice, even punishment.

So in one way we want accountability, generally. But in another way we fear and reject it, personally.

The Positive Accountability Strategy

So even though almost everyone would agree that accountability is not only a good thing—but an obvious necessity in most areas of life—it’s also seen as difficult and dreaded. Before looking at the many positive benefits of courageous accountability, let’s examine this paradox a bit further. I think we can reconcile the underlying psychology and philosophies that bring these strong opposing feelings about this powerful word—accountability.

6 Obstacles to Courageous Accountability

Reflect on these 6 obstacles to accountability, and see if you can identify your weak spots –

Pride – This is the kind of unhealthy pride, also known as “hubris” that allows us to inappropriately elevate ourselves above others. Because of an inflated ego, we may think that we’re “special” and the rules don’t apply to us.
Fear – There are a multitude of doubts and fears that can cause “normal” people to want to avoid accountability. Fear of failure—I may not be able to come through. Fear of making a mistake, fear of not measuring up, fear it will be too hard, or too risky. There is also fear of losing control.
Laziness – We all have to overcome our natural tendency toward laziness. Scientists now know that our brains are wired to choose the easy way out—it’s called habit. The downside to habits and mindsets is that wisdom is not always included.
Lack of Experience, Knowledge, and Planning – Some people just don’t know how to step out and follow through and are hesitant to be accountable or hold others accountable. Perhaps they’ve not seen a good role model for accountability.
Busyness – Related to laziness and inertia, busyness usually consumes us when we’re not living by priorities. We have busy schedules and it’s easy to procrastinate.
Negativity – If this is your challenge, you are paying a high cost. Emotions are highly contagious and negative ones zap energy and undermine teamwork. Begin by reflecting on your attitude to discern the energy that is driving your negativity.

The Truth Cannot Be Ignored

A wise person once said that people will continue to follow their old ways until they decide there’s a greater payoff by changing to a different behavior. Certainly there is a lot of truth in that statement.

Just like the pilot who unintentionally got off-course, honorable leaders realize that courageously embracing accountability is the best long-term strategy for getting results and developing healthy relationships that can serve as the watchdogs in your life. I like this quote from, The Oz Principle, a great book by Connors, Smith, and Hickman[i]. In their third principle of accountability, they tell it straight. Listen to what these experts say –

“When the people you count on fail to follow through and deliver on expectations, there’s only one thing to do—apply the third and final principle, the Accountability Truth. True accountability begins by looking at yourself, by holding yourself accountable. The truth is, when things go wrong, there is usually something wrong with what “I” am doing. When you embrace this principle, you harness future outcomes and strengthen your ability to hold others accountable.”

How We Forgot the Holiness of God

He may not be cruel and capricious. But don’t pretend he isn’t dangerous.How We Forgot the Holiness of God

A couple years ago, I visited Israel with a group of Christian journalists. We bobbed in the Dead Sea, ate “Peter fish” in Galilee, and ascended the desert fortress of Masada. We toured the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, prayed at the Western Wall, and sat amid Gethsemane’s twisted olive trees. But for me the highlight of the trip wasn’t a place. It was a person—our guide, Amir.

Amir was in his late 50s, stocky, with skin that looked like leather from leading trips through the Holy Land for three decades. At each site, Amir would seek out an isolated spot, gather us in a semicircle, and expound upon the historical and theological significance of the site. Sometimes he seemed more like a preacher than a tour guide.

I remember one talk in particular. With the Mount of Olives shimmering in the background, Amir described what he saw as the basic problem of the universe. “God longs to come down to earth to redeem the righteous and judge the wicked,” he said. “But there’s a problem.”

He leaned toward us and stretched out his arms like a scarecrow.

“His presence is like plutonium. Nothing can live when God comes near. If God came to earth, both the righteous and unrighteous would perish. We would all die!”

Initially Amir’s metaphor struck me as strange. I’d heard God described as father, master, king, warrior, judge . . . but plutonium? Yet as I recounted God’s interactions with the ancient Israelites, I wondered if Amir was onto something.

A Consuming Fire

We evangelicals love talking about God’s love. Just drop in on one of our church services and listen. You’ll hear worship choruses dripping with lyrics that border on romantic. The sermon will gush with assurances of God’s affection. While such affirmations are good—we need reminders of God’s love—rarely do we speak of God’s majesty, let alone whisper a word about his wrath. Among young Christians, this one-sided view of God is especially striking. Jesus is a homeboy or boyfriend. God is the big guy upstairs. Talk of divine holiness is dismissed as legalistic or judgmental.

The Bible, however, describes God in sobering terms. Among the myriad titles given, he is called “a consuming fire,” “Judge of all the earth,” and the “Lord of hosts”—a title that portrays God poised for battle, at the head of a heavenly army. In addition, the Bible stresses God’s discontinuity with humankind. “God is not human that he should . . .” is almost a refrain in Scripture. We might imagine that God is a sort of Superman, just like you or me but with additional powers. But that kind of thinking betrays a dangerous illusion. God is radically different from us, in degree and kind. He is ontologically dissimilar, wholly other, dangerous, alien, holy, wild.

When God shows up in Scripture, people cower and tremble. They go mute. The ones who manage speech fall into despair. Fainters abound. Take the prophet Daniel. He could stare down lions, but when the heavens opened, he swooned. Ezekiel, too, was overwhelmed by his vision of God. After witnessing Yahweh’s throne chariot lift into the air with the sound of a jet engine, he fell face-first to the ground. When Solomon dedicated the temple, the glory of the Lord was so overpowering, “the priests could not perform their service” (1 Kings 8:11).

New Testament types fared no better. John’s revelations left him lying on the ground “as though dead” (Rev. 1:17). The disciples dropped when they saw Jesus transfigured. Even the intrepid Saul marching to Damascus collapsed before the blazing brilliance of the resurrected Christ.

I understand why such accounts are jarring for us. They stand in stark contrast from popular depictions. In movies, angels are like teddy bears with wings. God is Morgan Freeman or some other avuncular figure. In Scripture, however, divine encounters are terrifying, leaving even the most stout and spiritual vibrating with fear—or lying face-down, unconscious.

Perhaps the story that best illustrates God’s formidable holiness is found in Isaiah 6. In most Bibles the passage is titled “Isaiah’s Commission.” This is a classic example of burying the lead. Yes, these verses record Isaiah’s prophetic calling, but first we see one of the most harrowing images of God in all of literature.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;

the whole earth is full of his glory.”

The seraphim alone would make most mortals tremble. Their name, seraphim, literally means “fiery, burning ones.” Their cries shake the temple. Isaiah shakes too.

“Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty. (v. 5)”

The seraphim do little to assuage Isaiah’s fears. It is not safe for him, a sinful mortal, to behold the unmediated glory of God. Death or cleansing—these are the only answers for Isaiah’s predicament. Fortunately for Isaiah, the seraphim chose the latter.

Around the time I was meditating on Isaiah’s vision, I attended a worship service where the pastor invited congregants to call out God’s attributes by finishing this sentence: “Lord, you are . . .”

The responses came in rapid succession: “Loving!” said someone. “Merciful,” added another. “Gracious.” . . . “Kind.” . . . “Compassionate.” . . .

All true. Yet what I found interesting was what wasn’t said. There wasn’t a word about God’s holiness, justice, or glory. Had Isaiah been in attendance, perhaps he would have added, “Terrifying.”

Of course it’s natural to ask, if portrayals of God holiness are unpopular why celebrate them? It isn’t likely that the “terrifying holiness of God” tops the list of felt needs for our unbelieving neighbors. So why bother? Why not be content to focus exclusively on God’s love?

While sidelining holiness may seem innocent, nothing could be further from the truth. A healthy appreciation for divine holiness has a tremendous impact on how we live and how we relate to God.

Holey Holiness

After Isaiah’s vision, the prophet realizes he has a problem. There’s a dangerous gulf between God and him. It’s not merely about God’s power and grandeur. Isaiah fears he’s doomed because he has “unclean lips” (v. 5). It seems that a revelation of God is accompanied by an overpowering sense of God’s purity and a corresponding awareness of human sinfulness.

While this concern for personal holiness is clear in Scripture, it has become murky in the church. Pastor Kevin DeYoung argues that we have a “hole in our holiness.” He’s not just talking about immorality per se; rather, “the hole in our holiness is that we don’t really care about it.”

One nationwide study from Barna Group found that “the concept of holiness baffles most Americans.” When asked to describe what it means to be holy, the most common reply was “I don’t know.” Of those identified as “born again,” only 46 percent believed “God has called them to holiness.” The study concluded, “The results portray a body of Christians who attend church and read the Bible, but do not understand the concept or significance of holiness, do not personally desire to be holy, and therefore do little, if anything to pursue it.”

Younger Christians in particular seem to view holiness as optional at best. Twenty-something writer Tyler Braun had this to say about his generation:

As the next generation of young Christians (including myself) continues to root themselves well within culture, we’ve lost the marks that allow Christ to be seen by a world that denies Him. We’ve lost holiness. Young believers have pursued life experience at the expense of innocence as we’ve given up on caring about the sin in our own lives.

Why is there such a lack of discernible holiness? Why this confusion on a basic Christian teaching? For Braun, the problem traces back to a lopsided understanding of God. “We picture God only as a God who provides mercy, not judgment. So of course we can get away with our sin, because God forgives.”

I believe he’s right. And not just about the younger generation. This thinking pervades the church—and we shouldn’t be surprised. We lack a practice of personal holiness because we’ve lost a theology of divine holiness. When we neglect a part of God’s nature, we shouldn’t be surprised when that same attribute goes missing in our lives.

The Bible repeatedly makes the connection between God’s holiness and ours. “Be holy,” God says, “because I am holy” (Lev. 19:2). “Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1 Pet. 1:15). We will never be perfect. Not on this side of eternity. But when we gain a fuller vision of God, our lives will begin to reflect his holiness.

Awesome Again

We go to great lengths to create atmospheres conducive to meaningful worship. Each year we publish reams of books on worship, hold worship conferences, and spend millions of dollars on instruments and décor we hope will lead people into the presence of God. None of this is wrong. Atmosphere is important. But no matter how much we invest, without an appreciation of God’s holiness, our worship is fated to be superficial and, at best, momentarily moving.

But when we glimpse God’s holiness, we begin approaching God with “reverence and awe” because we see him as “a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28). “Ultimately transcendence is what makes a worship service meaningful,” writes pastor Bill Giovannetti. When God shows up, worship doesn’t have to be manufactured or drummed up. Worship is the natural reflex of mortals to the presence of a holy God. As Matt Redman puts it, “Worship thrives on wonder. For worship to be worship, it must contain something of the otherness of God.” A vision of God’s holiness rescues our worship from superficiality and makes it passionate and profound.

Note how Isaiah responds to his vision of God. At first he is distraught. But the passage doesn’t end in despair. After the majestic appearance, the Lord asks, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (v. 8). At this point Isaiah’s dismay becomes determination. “Here am I,” he says. “Send me!” (v. 8).

Other stories of divine visitations follow a similar pattern. Initially the visited person is terrified, but fear gives way to obedience.

Today, it’s no different. When I think of services in which I have sensed God’s presence, it wasn’t because the music was particularly good or the sermon especially profound. It was because there was a collective sense of God’s holiness. I recall standing in a room with 300 people singing “How Great Is Our God” and feeling like we were blending into heaven. Only an intense appreciation for God’s holiness produces such moments. Only when we marvel at his majesty will we achieve the deep intimacy that grows out of a true appreciation for who God is.

The cruel irony of choosing God’s love over his holiness is that we end up losing both. The affection of a familiar, buddy deity isn’t worth much. Only the love of the Lord of heaven and earth, who dwells in unapproachable light, is truly awe-inspiring. When we lose sight of God’s greatness, his love loses meaning. Perhaps this is why we write more saccharine love songs about God’s affection or make bizarre speculations that Jesus would have died “just for me.” Are we trying to convince ourselves, through repetition and superlatives, that his love still has meaning?

Only when we rediscover the holiness of God will we be overwhelmed by his love. Only then will we realize how truly good the news of the gospel is—that this holy God turns out to be a lover, that the temple curtain designed to protect us is now torn to let us in. But let’s never forget that he is the God of Isaiah 6. His throne is still exalted. The seraphim still cry holy. And so must we.

Drew Dyck is the managing editor of Leadership Journal and author of Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying (Nelson Books, 2014), from which this article has been adapted.

DISCIPLESHIP IS NOT a DIRTY WORD

-J. Lee Grady

Reclaiming the process of discipleship will require a total overhaul of how we do church.

I get funny looks from some charismatic Christians when I tell them I believe God is calling us back to radical discipleship. Those in the
over-50 crowd-people who lived through the charismatic movement of the 1970s-are likely to have a bad taste in their mouths when it comes to the dreaded “D word.”

That´s because the so-called Discipleship Movement (also known as the Shepherding Movement) turned a vital biblical principle into a weapon and abused people with it. Churches that embraced the warped doctrines of shepherding required believers to get permission from their pastors before they bought cars, got pregnant or moved to a new city. Immature leaders became dictators, church members became their loyal minions, and the Holy Spirit´s fire was snuffed out because of a pervasive spirit of control.

I don´t ever want to live through that again. I know countless people who are still licking their wounds from the spiritual abuse they suffered while attending hyper-controlling churches in the 1970s and `80s. Some of them still cannot trust a pastor today; others walked away from God because leaders misused their authority- all in the name of “discipleship.”

Yet I´m still convinced that relational discipleship-a strategy Jesus and the apostle Paul modeled for us-is as vital as ever.
If anything the pendulum has now swung dangerously in the opposite direction. In today´s free-wheeling, come-as-you-are, pick-what-you-want, whatever-floats-your-boat Christianity, we make no demands and enforce no standards. We´re just happy to get warm rumps in seats. As long as people file in and out of the pews and we do the Sunday drill, we think we´ve accomplished something.

But Jesus did not command us to go therefore and attract crowds.
He called us to make disciples (see Matt. 28:19), and that cannot be done exclusively in once-a-week meetings, no matter how many times the preacher can get the people to shout or wave handkerchiefs. If we don´t take immature Christians through a discipleship process (which is best done in small groups or one- on-one gatherings), people will end up in a perpetual state of immaturity.

David Kinnaman, author of the excellent book unChristian, articulated the problem this way: “Most people in America, when they are exposed to the Christian faith, are not being transformed. They take one step into the door, and the journey ends. They are not being allowed, encouraged, or equipped to love or to think like Christ.
Yet in many ways a focus on spiritual formation fits what a new generation is really seeking. Transformation is a process, a journey, not a one-time decision.”

Reclaiming this process of discipleship is going to require a total overhaul of how we do church. Do we really want to produce mature disciples who have the character of Jesus and are able to do His works? Or are we content with shallow believers and shallow faith?

A friend of mine had to face this question while he was pastoring in Florida. As a young father, he had a habit of putting his infant son in a car seat and driving him around his neighborhood at night in order to lull him to sleep. Once during this ritual the Holy Spirit spoke to this pastor rather bluntly. He said: “This is what you are doing in your church. You are just driving babies around.”

My friend came under conviction. He realized he had fallen into the trap of entertaining his congregation with events and programs, even though the people were not growing spiritually. He was actually content to keep them in infancy. As long as they filled their seats each Sunday, and paid their tithes, he was happy. Yet no one was growing, and they certainly were not producing fruit by reaching others for Christ.

How can we make this paradigm shift in to discipleship? How can we add “the D word” back into our vocabulary?

-Churches must stop exclusively focusing on big events and get people involved in small groups, where personal ministry can take place.
-We must stop treating people like numbers and get back to valuing relationships.
-Leaders must reject the celebrity preacher model and start investing their lives in individuals.

When we stand before Christ and He evaluates our ministries, He will not be asking us how many people sat in our pews, watched our TV programs, gave in our telethons or filled out response cards.
He is not going to evaluate us based on how many people fell under the power of God or how many healings we counted in each service.
He will ask how many faithful disciples we made. I pray we will make this our priority

You May Be A Disciple If…You Follow These Instructions

The article below was taken out of Lesson two of the Matthew Discipleship Plan, Part Two, which has not been published yet. However, you may purchase Part One of the Matthew Discipleship Plan (click on discipleship tools) and use it to disciple others in your small group or one-on-one.

5 “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. (Matthew 10:5-8, NASB)
Even today, Jesus sends out His disciples with the same instructions He gave His first disciples. As I read the above passages, I notice that He gave them a specific mission, a precise message, and a detailed mandate.
1. He gave them a specific mission (Matthew 10:5b-6)
Jesus sent the disciples to their own. He gave them an exact target group to reach. He even told them who not to go to. Most importantly, Jesus told them “to go.”
Do you believe that Jesus has a specific mission for you? Do you know what that is?
Jesus sent the disciples to their fellow Hebrew brethren because of their commonalities. Obviously, they had a better chance of reaching the lost sheep of Israel than people who didn’t speak their language or share in their cultural practices. You too, have a specific target group that you can evangelize. It might be friends at your work or at school. It might be family members, or neighbors, or friends who share the same interests as you. You might be the kind of person that can make conversation with anyone.
The Lord will give you a specific mission, but we are to go. Don’t wait for the details of the mission. Jesus said, “And as you go…,” He will fill in the details and give you the specifics. But go!
2. He gave them a precise message (Matthew 10:7)
Jesus said, “And as you go…,” preach the kingdom of heaven. The word kingdom can mean a “king’s dominion.” The kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God is the dominion of King Jesus. It is His domain where He is Lord throughout the entire universe.
This was the message that Jesus preached, so the disciples were familiar with the message points. They not only heard it preached, but watched as it was lived out before their very eyes. The Apostle John wrote, “We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life.” (1 John 1:1, NLT)
We too, are to preach the kingdom message. We may live in this world, but we are the people of the kingdom of Christ. We see everything through Christ’s perspective. We hear the voice of King Jesus through His Spirit. We taste His goodness. We touch others as He touches our lips like He did Jeremiah’s (Jeremiah 1:9). As we sacrificially give of ourselves and our possessions to preach this gospel, we are a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, that is well-pleasing to God (Philippians 4:18).
3. He gave them a detailed mandate (Matthew 10:8)
Jesus explicitly commanded His disciples to a four-fold ministry: preach the kingdom of heaven (preaching/teaching), heal the sick and cleanse the lepers (healings), raise the dead (miracles), and cast out deliverance (deliverance). They were sent forth to do good, to be a blessing to the world. This was to be the spirit of the gospel message that they were to preach. They were sent to meet not only the spiritual needs, but the physical needs as well.
How important is it that as we go and share Jesus, we try to meet the physical needs of the people we hope to share the gospel with?
Remember the old saying, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Jesus commanded them as well as us today to freely give to men as we freely receive from God. The disciples were to totally depend upon God’s provision. Jesus taught them to live each day at a time without worrying about what they would eat, drink, or wear (Matthew 6:25).
“Do not take a bag of things for the trip. Do not take two coats or shoes or a walking stick. A workman should receive his food and what he needs.” (Matthew 10:10)
In 2 Corinthians 5:7, we are told “…to live by faith and not by sight.” Someone once said, “The will of God will never call you where the grace of God cannot keep you.” There is no enterprise that we venture into that God cannot supply. Philippians 4:19 states “And this same God that takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)

Lessons Learned in Creating a Culture of Discipleship in the Church

When I first began my pastoral ministry as a church planter, it was exciting to preach and see people come to Christ. There was and still is nothing greater to see sinners come to an altar and repent of their sins. But immediately in those days a sense of great responsibility would begin to overwhelm me when people were saved. Questions would haunt my mind like “What do I do with them (the new believers) now? How can I make sure they are growing and being nurtured properly? What resources do I use? What if I fail and they don’t grow in the faith?”

Honestly, early in my pastoral years, I knew very little about how to disciple anyone. Instead, I would call and visit new believers often encouraging them to come to church faithfully. I would pray for them too, but more than anything I constantly worried about them “staying saved.”

A few years later while pastoring a church in Terre Haute, Indiana, Pastor Terry Harris who pastored in Indianapolis passed on a discipleship program to me from a church located a few miles from his church. According to Pastor Harris, his church was using it and it was proving to be very effective in growing believers in his church.

The program consisted of a notebook divided into four nine-week quarters containing weekly lessons that covered the basics of the Christian faith. At the end of each lesson was an accountability log sheet. On the accountability log sheet, students were required to daily read assigned scriptures writing out applications, memorize the lesson text verse, and to pray with a prayer partner during that week. At the beginning of the course, students were asked to sign a commitment form agreeing to be faithful to the weekly meetings and to do the assignments throughout the week.

After looking through it for a few weeks, I finally rallied up enough courage to start a discipleship group in our church. Our first group was comprised of about four or five of us. As the pastor, I chose to lead and go through it too, doing all the assignments like everyone else. We held the class during the Sunday School hour. After nine weeks, we paused for a week or two and then continued through the second quarter and so on until we finished the entire 36 weeks (four quarters) of discipleship training.

IMG_0132By the time we finished the course, I was delighted at what I was seeing happen in me and in the others. A definite change was taking place in each of us seemingly on a week-by-week basis. After we graduated the group in front of the entire church during Sunday morning worship, a few of the graduates began discipleship classes of their own. In the years that followed, new believers along with many veteran believers in the church began and completed discipleship training. Later, we added quarters five through eight encouraging new believers to spend their first two years as a believer in discipleship training. The end result for our church was a “Culture of Discipleship.”

The journey of experiencing the formation of a discipleship culture in our church left me with some lessons that transformed my pastoral ministry forever. Now after taking hundreds of believers through discipleship training over a period of nearly thirty years, I am still amazed at how these truths learned still apply to believers today independent of church personality or generational differences. Here’s are the five ministry-altering lessons that I learned:

  1. True believers want to learn and grow in God’s word. Whether they are new coverts or veteran believers, the Holy Spirit implants inside us an appetite for the word of God and fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ. Is everyone in your church hungry for the word and willing to participate in a discipleship group? Unfortunately not, but God will give you a few to start with. From there patiently let the Holy Spirit birth and develop a culture of discipleship in your church.
  2. Spiritual growth and fruitfulness comes from internalizing the word of God. I am constantly blessed as I see believers mature in the faith and begin to learn, read, memorize, and apply the word of God into their lives. As a pastor, there is nothing that brings more joy and fulfillment than watching people grow and become fruitful in their faith. You see this best in small discipleship groups that serve as little greenhouses where believers’ faith is nourished, monitored, encouraged, and challenged on a weekly and even daily basis. Personally, I have never seen a believer fully participate in a discipleship group and not have their life transformed by the word of God.
  3. Accountability is crucial! We as believers need to make ourselves accountable one to another. Accountability is a powerful motivator. When we have to answer to someone especially for expectations that we have placed on ourselves – great results usually follow and disciples are made.
  4. Memorizing God’s word sharpens young and old minds. I wish I had a dime (really a $20 bill) for every time I have heard a senior adult tell me “I can’t memorize scripture or even remember where my car keys are.” But honestly, after the first six weeks of memorizing scripture, seniors usually memorize bible passages better than thirty somethings or even teens. It’s astonishing to watch the minds of seventy or even eighty somethings become sharpened as they memorize the word of God.
  5. The final lesson that I have learned is once God’s people get the word of God inside them while maturing in the faith they want to go to work for God. When we internalize God’s word, it naturally oozes out of us. Many of them will go on to become teachers and disciplers of others. Discipleship groups are incubators preparing and producing Sunday School teachers, small group leaders, outreach ministers, and eventually pastors, pastor’s wives, church staff ministers, missionaries, etc. Faithfulness truly leads to fruitfulness!

– Randy L Ballard

“Nondiscipleship” – the Elephant in the Church

“Stunningly few churches have a church of disciples,” concluded George Barna, even while he recognizes that most churches have programs for this purpose. While most pastors fail to see the need, this could be the greatest problem in the church, negatively impacting everything it does.
Most pastors assume that their flock is being discipled. After all, our members attend worship services and Bible classes throughout the week. They listen to bible teachers and Christian music on radio, TV, as well as download it on their iPads and iPods. They tithe and give to missions. With all of this spiritual nurture and good works, we assume that that everyone in the church is growing spiritually. We often assume that they are mature because of their outside works without considering whether an ongoing transformation is really taking place.
Nonetheless, we tend to produce members who support the church, instead of disciples who impact their world. We seem to be content with church members who are compliant and zealous. If members regularly attend church worship services, serve in some kind of ministry, agree with church doctrine, without creating waves, we are satisfied. Yet, the most faithful church members as well as church leaders can do all of these and still live self-centeredly. They can be miserable in their marriage, display un-Christlike behavior, and irritate their neighbors and coworkers — while making little difference for the kingdom of God. It is a common occurrence in most of our churches.
Presently, 45 percent of Americans claim to be born again, even though 80% call themselves Christians. Gallop found that only 13 percent evidenced behavioral and attitudinal differences compared with the general population. Barna found that only 5 percent of adults — and less than 10 percent of churched youth — possess a biblical worldview. Dallas Willard bluntly states, “Nondiscipleship is the elephant in the church.”

Exchanging our Glamour for His Glory
First, we have to deconstruct and discard certain philosophies and practices of ministry in the church before we can replace them with biblical ones. Having served as a pastor now for nearly 35 years, I have often been guilty of substituting quick and often trendy ministry practices that offer visible impressions of success. Because these ideas have deeply rooted themselves in church culture. It takes courage, wisdom, and even tenacity to replace them with biblical paradigms that reflect the ministry of Jesus.

Outward Success over Inward Transformation
For over the first two decades of my pastoral ministry, I considered Sunday morning attendance as the measure of success. Why not? Pastors like everyone else like to see visible signs of accomplishments. Growing attendance, tithes, offerings, and missions giving; building size, these are all measurements we have used in the church culture to mark our success. However, in this age of residential mobility and consumer Christianity, 80 percent of church growth results from believers changing churches. Churches have become skilled at collecting crowds by offering desirable ministries. Through this means — especially in large or growing population areas — new churches can reach an attendance of hundreds and even thousands within a few years. While outstanding exceptions exist, Carl George concludes that megachurches generally sustain growth by being receptor churches for believers from smaller feeder churches.
One of the outcomes is a rampant easy believism that has come to mark cultural Christianity, especially in the West. True repentance and life transformation seems to have taken a backseat to these outward signs of success. Jesus said that His followers should be salt and light in a world that because of sin is respectively bland and dark (Matthew 5:13–16). Willard suggests, “Instead of counting Christians, we should weigh them … by focusing on the most important kind of growth — love, joy, peace … — fruit in keeping with the gospel and the Kingdom.

Sin Management Instead of Lordship
Another detrimental practice in the church today according to Stephen Lim, academic dean and professor for the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, is what he calls “sin management.” He believes and states “that serious evangelists and disciple makers need to emphasize the lordship of Jesus. Otherwise, we continue the scandal of millions professing faith without living it.”

In his book, Mere Discipleship, Lee Camp bluntly asks, “Could it be that ‘Jesus is Lord’ has become one of the most widespread Christian lies? Have Christians claimed the lordship of Jesus, but systematically set aside the call to obedience to this Lord?”

Over the past thirteen years, the church where I pastor has conducted encounter retreat weekends with an emphasis on seeing people be set free of sinful habits, addictions, bondages, and strongholds in their lives. Most of the hundreds of Christians that have been wonderfully delivered and set free at these encounters are weekly church attenders and even serve as leaders in their local churches. Many admit to having become paralyzed over the years by sin and as Lim says have learned to manager their sin rather than giving Christ lordship in every area of their lives.

Activities Instead of Mission
Another common philosophy and practice is the idea that we have “to be all things to all people” or we have to keep the church calendar filled with activity. Unfortunately, secondary activities divert our focus, crowding out time, energy, and resources for the Great Commission. Thom Ranier’s research finds that simple churches that eliminate these activities are more effective in evangelism and discipleship than activity-filled churches.
I have come to see that all sizes of churches like all kinds of individuals possess uniquely designed strengths and giftings. Some churches maybe great community churches while others are powerful missional churches. Some may be praying and worship churches while others may offer excellent children or youth ministries. Some churches may do well at discipling and equipping people while others are faithful at feeding the poor and caring for the needy. Others are anointed preaching and evangelistic churches while others are equally anointed teaching churches.
One size does not fit all. What’s vital is that the mission drives the ministries of the church. Unless activity contributes effectively to evangelism or discipleship, leaders need to consider eliminating it. We do not need to create and manage more programs in our churches but instead concentrate on the mission of the church. More is not necessarily better. Peter Drucker urges organizations to assume a policy of abandoning yesterday to release resources for strategies that work today.

Ways to Create Cultures of Discipleship

Discipleship is Intentional
As a pastor, it’s easy to be confident that growth will naturally occur through participation in church services and activities. It’s easy to believe that in a highly spiritual environment strong biblical values will naturally transfer. This is rarely the case in today’s church. Most believers spend hardly more than a couple hours a week in church or with other believers where biblical values can be passed on. If we are to be truthful, most Christian church attenders in America obtain their values through different forms of the media because that’s where most of their time and interests are.
Church leaders must be intentional about creating lifestyle discipleship cultures where believers can grow and become like Christ outside as well as inside the four walls of the church. Discipleship can and should happen not only in the church, but in the home, as well as in social relationships, personal preferences of media, and even in their educational choices. Sooner or later in the growth process, there has to be a hunger for Christ in the life of a believer to where they choose to feed on spiritual things and make choices and plans to do so. The New Testament church modeled spiritual worship, prayer, study of God’s Word, and the practice of spiritual gifts as they met collectively. From there, individual families lived it out from the home to the marketplace to the community, eventually reaching the nations and the world.

Discipleship is ongoing
Many churches call their new believers class a discipleship class. Typically these run for several months, assuming that this amount of time suffices to transform a convert into a disciple. Since discipleship is a lifelong process, however, churches need to develop a means for ongoing growth.
Jesus’ discipleship program lasted approximately two and half years. After His resurrection, He sent them to the upper room where they were empowered by the Holy Ghost to go and make disciples. Believers are to be discipled and to make disciples. It never stops, it’s ongoing.

Discipleship is transformational through relationships
Most churches assume that if individuals complete the recommended classes and absorb the necessary information, they will be discipled. This conveniently avoids the difficult work of engaging people in the confusion and messiness of their lives. Generally, Christians have far more spiritual knowledge than they apply. While needed, we must recognize that curriculum alone cannot effect transformation. Mike Yaconelli regretfully observed, “Spiritual growth has become an industry, a system, a set of principles, formulas, training programs, curricula, books, and tapes that, if followed, promise to produce maturity and depth.” Jesus demonstrated that discipleship happens in an environment of ongoing nurture through relationships of trust, vulnerability, modeling, and accountability.
So how can classroom discipleship groups also include the relationship aspect? One suggestion might be providing a guide, a coach, a mentor or mentoring couple to each student/disciple. The mentor could pray with the student, be available to council and to listen. Possibly the mentor could do some ministry with the student providing real life opportunities for them to use the things they are learning in the lessons outside the classroom. Even after the completion of the course these relationships and the process of discipleship would continue.
As Professor Lim accurately states, “Churches deal with issues not simply by giving biblically correct answers, but by prayerful, ongoing support throughout the difficult process of obeying Jesus and by modeling a better way.”

SUMMARY
Many churches today seem to be waking up to the importance of quality over quantity, of church health over numbers, big programs and big buildings. Challenging your church culture as leaders, looking for ways to replace unfruitful, weak approaches with biblical ones can pose some difficulties. Even changing a church culture to reflect biblical attitudes and standards must be small especially at first accumulating into small victories. In time as you are consistent in acting out of a prayerful and loving spirit, these victories will create momentum toward greater changes. Then one day, instead of a church of supporters, you will have a church that regularly produces growing disciples impacting the world for the glory of God.

Discipleship is Not Just For New Believers

As I speak with pastors about discipleship, there seems to be this notion that discipleship training is for new believers only. And yes, there definitely needs to be some kind of system in every church where new believers begin discipleship training immediately after salvation. But don’t stop there! There are many other uses and purposes for discipleship training in your church.

Youth need Discipleship Training

Some think youth are too busy with their school work and social life to go through discipleship training. That is simply not true. We have many of youth going through Relational DIscipleship training. They love it. They love to learn, memorize scripture, be held accountable for their daily time with God. They enjoy the classroom stimulation. I found that youth want and need to be  challenged. Not only that, discipleship training produces a very important need in every young student’s life – discretion. Discipleship training teaches discretion that helps youth determine the right path from the wrong path, between good and evil. Philippians 1:9-10 says that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to
desern what is best and maybe pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Proverbs 16:22 says discretion is a life-giving fountain to those who possess it.

Discipleship Training is a Incubator for Future Volunteers and Leaders

Better than teacher training courses or even leadership training, discipleship training is the best place to start when training future volunteers and leaders in the church. Through four decades now, I have required teachers, volunteers, and even staff to go through discipleship training. I have found that DT gives church members a love for God’s Word and therefore an innate desire to pass it on to others. Many one-year discipleship graduates become Sunday School teachers, small group leaders, pastors, and outreach and evangelism ministers. God’s Word stirs up God-given giftings inside a discipleship student. Most believers become active, fruitful, and supportive members of the body of Christ as they receive discipleship training.

Discipleship Training Raises the Spiritual Maturity Level of the Church

Just because a church is a large congregation does not mean it’s a spiritually growing or mature congregation. Or just because a congregation is made of older people does not make it spiritually mature. The Church at Ephesus was supposedly a large church with many members but had “lost their first love” – their spiritual growth had become stunted. The same is true with many of our evangelical churches today. Many church worshippers have not grown beyond salvation and are still on “the milk.” Pastors can’t preach or teach the deeper things of God because the congregation isn’t ready to receive them. Churches that have a system of discipleship will eventually raise the level of maturity of the entire congregation. The outcome of that will be a church that loves not
just to hear the Word of God but to be doers as well.

Discipleship Training Brings Unity to the Church

When the entire church is active in intentional discipleship training it levels the playing field in the church. Everyone is growing together, even the disciplers, and the pastoral staff grows alongside those that they are disicpling. Spiritual pride can bring division in a church, eventually destroying it. When everyone of all ages are learning and growing together and being accountable to each other, unity in the body happens. A church growing and laboring together is like a green, vibrant looking garden filled with plants of all kinds producing fruits. But it all starts with the seeds of God’s truth being planted in the hearts of God’s people.

I want to encourage you no matter the size of your church to develop a system of discipleship. If you need some help, call on us here. We will be glad to sit down with you and help you come with a discipleship plan that fits your church. You can see great fruit in the house where you serve. But it starts with making disciples of everyone in your church.

Pastor Randy

Do You Know What You Believe?

Do you know what you believe? What do you believe about the deity of Christ? About the atonement? What if someone ask you why you believe the Holy Spirit is a person rather than merely an influence? What do you believe about the deity of God? How did we get our Bible? Where did it come from? Which is Bible translation should you use? What about Satan? Demons? Angels? What about the rapture? The second coming? DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU BELIEVE?

Most of us – even if you took a course in theology tend to be a little rusty on our theology – the study of God. We all could stand a refresher course. That is especially true of today’s generation where most people have been taught that there are no absolute truths. That all truth is relative. That truth is merely subjective – how you see it or what it means to you.

The amount of loose thinking today is staggering in our culture. Most people don’t think, they simply quote or adhere to the few who do. Often our thinking is done for us by the media (television, music, internet, radio, books, social media), educational institutions, politicians, etc. People in general today pay less and less to religion – and as Christians, we pay less and less attention to the Bible – and the result of that is ‘THE FAITH ONCE FOR ALL DELIVERED TO THE SAINTS” HAS BECOME IMPERILED BY THE IGNORANCE OF THOSE RESPONSIBLE TO DEFEND AND PERPETUATE IT – YOU AND I, THE CHURCH!

The Devastating Decline of Sunday School

It used to be, people attended Sunday School. Sunday School was the teaching arm and in many churches even the evangelistic arm of the church. Believe it or not, Sunday School was so popular up until the late 70’s and early 80’s that church members would attend Sunday School and go home afterwards – skipping the worship service. Beginning sometime in the 70’s to the early 80’s that changed, Sunday School attendance was in decline in part because many churches shut down their bus ministries. Churches started building their budgets and staff to highlight the worship service itself. Entertainment became a key part of the worship experience. Soon, the Sunday morning service or services became the only real evangelism outreach of the church. New churches that were planted focused more on worship choosing to start small groups rather than Sunday School.

The consequences of the deterioration of Sunday School was shattering:

  • Adults stopped being trained and equipped to teach the Word of God – the best way to learn anything is read and study as if you are going to teach it.
  • Secondly, and probably the greatest crime of the two – most of our children and youth stopped hearing the teaching of God’s Word in a small group setting. To offset that move away from Sunday School, many churches begin seeing a need to have some kind of personal teaching ministry…and in the 90’s small group ministry took off. But even in the best small group churches…different studies showed that only 40% of Sunday morning worshippers were involved in small groups. And recently, research has shown that in many small group ministries in America people are not getting any kind of discipleship training. Instead, small groups have become more for fellowship, common interest type groups, or care groups in many churches.

Why You Must Believe the Truth (God’s Word)?

Let me give you a few illustrative metaphors.

  1. Jesus’ parable of the house built on the sand and the rock (Matthew 7) illustrates that what you believe makes up the foundation for your life. The bible says that the doctrine of the Apostles was the foundation that the church was built upon. Our families, relationships, businesses, ministries, and marriages are all built upon our foundation of truth.
  1. What you believe serves as your anchors in life. These anchors will keep you from drifting…from being swayed by every kind of wind of doctrine and belief that comes along.
  1. Your belief determines the condition of the soil of your heart. What do I mean by that? Unbelief and sin (Hebrews 3:12-13) hardens the heart, but the word of God as it is heard or read and obeyed softens the heart.
  1. Lastly, studies show what your belief determines the quality of your life. People who tend to have some kind of balanced conviction in life (they have some non-negotiables) are considered to be happier, more at peace, and live more fulfilling lives. The Bible bears this out as well in Psalm 1:1-3. As we meditate on God’s Word day and night, we will be like a tree planted by the river that prospers and is fruitful (paraphrase).

So What Do You Believe?

If you believe anything less than the Word of God. If you are building your life upon anything less than the Word of God. It’s not too late to change your belief system – know matter your age. However, only belief in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord can supernaturally change your mind. Saul on the road to Damascus found out that it is never too late or you can never be too bad. Jesus Christ changes lives! He can change yours too, if he hasn’t already. It’s at that point, your road to discipleship begins.

Randy L Ballard