MB Seminary provides leadership development and ministry training through MinistryLift so leaders and churches can increase their capacity to love God more deeply and serve others more effectively. MinistryLift builds capacity through workshops, training videos, and a variety of ministry resources. Learn more about MinistryLift here

Reading with Discernment

  • 28 July 2017
  • Keith Reed

men reading with magnifying glassIn 2014, it was reported that 90% of the world’s data was created within the past two years [1]. The exponential rate in which information is being created not only floods us with options, it surrounds us with content that is extremely recent. Many of us read articles and blogs that are written by authors we’ve never heard of or published by organizations we know little about.  

This requires us to develop guidelines to determine what is truthful. As we encounter volumes of new content each day, it is important to develop criteria to assess what we are reading. New is not necessarily better. Not all opinions are equally valid. Choosing to consume information without a critical eye is a recipe for being deceived.  

Let’s remember that Jesus called himself "the truth" (John 14:6) and that he was sent into the world to "testify to the truth" (John 18:37). He also highlighted the importance of discernment by warning his followers of being deceived [2]. 

  • "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them." (Matt 7:15-16a) 
  • "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matt 10:16)  
  • "Watch out that no one deceives you." (Matt 24:4) 

How do the warnings of Jesus apply to our current context?

Let's remember that much of the content we read today is designed to create a following. Individuals with the largest followings are typically regarded as experts, even if their message is Biblically flawed or misleading. Expertise is attributed to those with an established platform, regardless of whether the subject matter has anything to do with that person's actual expertise. The more followers a person has, the more credibility they receive. This is the formula that empowers actors to sell their nutrition books and athletes to rally support for their political campaign. It's not always a bad thing, but it does carry the risk of having questionable content influence many people over a short amount of time.  

Every reader should also be quick to consider the source of what they're reading. Considering alternative perspectives can be a fruitful experience, so long as we're reading critically. The danger comes from digesting and adopting whatever we come across without comparing it to Biblical truth and time-tested doctrine. 

Here then are my suggestions for reading with discernment:  

1. Consider education – what have they studied? 

Screening Applicants for a Pastoral Position

  • 18 July 2017
  • Randy Wollf

Holding documentsYou’ve put the word out about your need for a pastor and now the resumes have started rolling in. Perhaps panic has begun to set in as you realize the daunting challenge of choosing the right one. How do you discern which candidates to seriously consider based on their resumes? Once you have a shortlist of preferred candidates, how do you decide which one to call to meet the rest of the church?

In my blog called Tips for Successful Pastoral Searches, I suggest several ways that search committees can set up a search process to succeed. In this blog, I will focus on one part of the process—the actual screening of candidates—and make recommendations around three levels of screening.

First Level – Résumés

For this level, I would encourage you to develop a list of key qualifications for the position based on the position description. Then, assign a value to each one (you may choose to weigh some qualifications more heavily than others). For example, you might assign a value of 5 points to having a seminary degree and 10 points to previous related pastoral experience.

As résumés come in, it is relatively easy to measure the candidate against what the group has already decided are the key metrics. Depending on the number of applications, each member of the search committee can assess each applicant (and then average the scores) or the committee chair can assign résumés to individual committee members (it’s helpful to have at least two people assess each applicant to minimize individual biases).

Sometimes, it’s easy for search committee members to get distracted by an outstanding or underwhelming part of a résumé. Using this approach helps committee members to objectively evaluate all the important pieces, producing a more holistic appraisal of a candidate’s suitability. 

Second Level – Assessments

Developing a Discipleship Approach in Your Church

  • 10 July 2017
  • Randy Wollf

Discipleship blueprintI often hear this question from church leaders: "How do we develop a discipleship strategy in our churches?" Here’s my attempt to answer that question.

First, let’s consider what discipleship is.

Discipleship is both relational and transformational. A disciple of Jesus is in a growing relationship with Jesus. Transformation occurs as the Holy Spirit renovates people’s hearts; godly character qualities grow (see Five Strategies for Growing Your Character blog); thoughts and actions become more God-honouring.

According to Dallas Willard, "Discipleship is the process of becoming who Jesus would be if he were you." This requires a close relationship (see John 15) that produces Christ-like fruit. 

Next, let's understand what disciple-making means. 

Disciple-making is helping people take next steps in their relationship with Jesus and obedience to Him.

In Real-life Discipleship, Jim Putnam suggests there are five spiritual stages: dead, infant, child, young adult, and parent. It is helpful to identify the stage in which someone is located so that we can come alongside them and help them move toward the next stage.

As we help people become more spiritually mature, it is helpful to think about doing so in six ways (these align with the Dimensions of Christian Leadership). We want to help people grow in their relationship with God, develop godly character qualities, understand and live out God's calling on their lives, develop strong relationships, learn how to serve well on a team, and maximize their gifts and abilities in living out their calling.

How then do churches position themselves for maximum discipleship?

In Developing a Strategic Pathway for Discipleship in Your Church, I suggest there are five layers of discipleship within the church: church culture, large group, small group, one-on-one, and individual. As we strengthen each layer, we will position our churches for more effective disciple-making.