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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. 

Anger: A Feast Fit for a King

  • 23 June 2017
  • Keith Reed

feastThe last time I heard a preacher speak on the topic of anger may have been the last time I made a confession about being angry. I’m not claiming my life has been free of anger since then nor am I pointing my finger at the pastors I’ve been listening to. I’m simply saying it’s been a long time. Long enough to wonder what it means to be angry. Long enough to admit that I rarely consider if my actions are prompted by anger.   

I know what frustration feels like. I’ve experienced the dreariness of disappointment and the misguidance of envy. But what about anger? What does that look and feel like?  

Throughout the Bible, anger is often paired with fire. Anger burns within someone and at times against someone. It is often ignited when needs or desires are threatened or when a person feels they have been treated unjustly. Anger can be sparked in an instant and it carries the potential for collateral damage.  

Some people claim anger is the culprit for their destructive actions, but this is a scapegoat that does not lead to a lasting solution. Furthermore, anger can be a catalyst for helpful change if it is applied constructively and with self-control. Wishing for anger to go away is not only unlikely, it could be unhelpful.  

Instances of anger spill off the pages of the Bible, and it is God Himself who is often described as angry. This tells us that anger is not sin. Anger, like every emotion, is neutral—it is neither positive or negative. The key is how a person chooses to respond to their feelings. The distinction between feelings and actions is the interpretative key to understanding and applying Ephesians 4:26: “In your anger do not sin” (cf. Ps 4:4). Our response makes all the difference.   

I believe one way we can resist lashing out in anger is to recognize how anger works. We are invited to indulge ourselves with little regard for others. We are coaxed to react in the moment with little consideration for the context. We are tempted to take the fire that is within us and spread it all around.  

Years ago, I came across a compelling image for anger that has stuck with me ever since. Most preachers don’t disclose the satisfaction that sinful behaviour promises to deliver, but Frederick Buechner isn’t like most preachers. His stories capture the candid experiences of a man who may have failed to control himself more often than some would care to admit. He is true to his subject because he is true to himself. If we do the same, I believe we'll see that anger often works the same way in our lives.  

Ways to Serve New Immigrants in Your Community

  • 13 June 2017
  • Randy Wollf

Immigrant familyNot everyone can sponsor a refugee family. However, there are many ways that we can serve new immigrants who are living in our communities. My family had the amazing privilege of living in close community with new immigrants for seven months. New Hope Community Services had purchased an apartment building in Surrey, British Columbia for housing refugees and helping them settle into life in Canada. They were looking for host families to move in and do life with these newcomers (you can read about our experiences as a host family by reading a past blog called Do Something). 

As we interacted with new immigrants, I learned new ways to serve them. Here are some ideas for how you can serve new immigrants, even if you aren’t acting as their official sponsor: 

Develop Your Cultural Skill Set

The first way of serving immigrants is to develop your own cultural skill set so that you are in a better position to serve them. How do we do this?

  • Expect cultural differences – Some cultures are task-based while others are more relational. Some are individualistic while others are collectivistic (emphasizing the significance of groups). Some cultures tend to plan their time while others view time as flexible. The first step to developing your cultural skill set is to expect these kinds of cultural differences and to recognize that one cultural perspective is not necessarily better than another. 
  • Adapt to those around you – As you encounter cultural differences, discern which of your values at play in the situation are negotiable and which are non-negotiable. Be flexible with those that are negotiable. 
  • Dialogue about cultural differences – Be open with your immigrant friends about the differences you observe. Listen to the reasons why they do what they do. Carefully and sensitively communicate the reasons for your cultural preferences. As you do so, you will build mutual understanding and respect.

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