How to HIT Your Spiritual Disciplines

When it comes to the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, prayer, corporate worship, etc., we should approach them (H.I.T.) them with the following three characteristics: humility, intentionality, and teachability. I’ll use the discipline of corporate worship as an example.

Humility

Too often, we approach corporate worship as an American consumer rather than a follower of Jesus. One time, when someone was looking (shopping?) for a church, she visited two or three times, then sent me an email listing off seven things she was looking for in a church. None of them had to do with the preaching of the Word, but the rest of them had to do with style of music, dress of the congregants, whether we preached from their preferred translation of the Bible, among other matters.

This fosters pride: “I want this church to meet all my preferences, then I’ll consider joining you.” Why not say, dear Christian, “Lord, I will see what you have in mind for a church. What does the Bible say? The preaching of the Word, the observing of ordinances, discipling each other, sharing Jesus with the lost. Very well, Lord! I will pursue these things.” What? No coffee bar? “What’s wrong with coffee bars?” When coffee bars and bells and whistles become ends in and of themselves, rather than conduits to help connect people to Christ and His church, we have drifted missionally. Submit to what Christ asks of His church without negotiation. When other items are negotiable, ask, “Is this helping us be, make, multiply, and send disciples of Jesus?”

Intentionality

Do we engage in our Bible reading plan simply to get through our assigned reading? Do we come to church out of habit in order to check that off our list of things to do, so we can move on? Do we pray, peeking at our watch to see when our time is up in 3… 2… 1? When we read, pray, and worship with intentionality, we do so by being “trained for war,” equipped to fight the fight of faith. How important is it for us to engage in a 40-Day New Testament Challenge? Very! But are we prayerfully engaged, or are we multi-tasking (say, reading while the TV is on, or listening to it while washing dishes or writing something else)? Come to the Scriptures, prayer, worship with an intentionality of knowing more of who God is, what He has done, and what He aims to do through you.

Teachability

I’ve been a Christian since the age of 10 (I’ll be 47 in a few weeks). Having been raised in church, graduated from both a Christian college and seminary, the temptation is for us to be experts because we already know everything about the arc of Scripture. We lose our teachability. We love to teach and (again) be the expert in the room. But have you noticed that when God gives you a teachable heart, He shows you new things about Himself and yourself, even though His Word and work have not changed? Do you come to Christ in worship, prayer, and Scripture ready to learn, or just to affirm where you already ‘are’ in your walk?

Let the Word break over your heart and mind again and again

Let the Word break over your heart and mind again and again as the years go by, and imperceptibly there will come great changes in your attitude and outlook and conduct. You will probably be the last to recognize these. Often you will feel very, very small, because increasingly the God of the Bible will become to you wonderfully great. So go on reading it until you can read no longer, and then you will not need the Bible any more, because when your eyes close for the last time in death, and never again read the Word of God in Scripture you will open them to the Word of God in the flesh, that same Jesus of the Bible whom you have known for so long, standing before you to take you for ever to His eternal home.

— Geoffrey Thomas, Reading the Bible (Edinburgh, Scotland: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1980), 22.

Twelve Discipleship Reminders

Some things to keep in mind in regards to #BeMakeXSend:

Let’s keep in mind a number of matters as we move forward in this series and as a church and to make as matters of prayer!

  1. ARBC nor any church is intended to sell a product and make a profit. ARBC and every church is about sharing a Person (Jesus) and making disciples.
  2. Churches can make profits and self-medicate themselves into non-existence, but churches can struggle financially and still make a great difference for the Kingdom (read 2 Corinthians 8:1-8).
  3. If we are faithful in doing what God says, He will provide all we need to do what He commands (Philippians 4:10-19).
  4. If we are concerned about attendance, yet are not inviting and investing others to get under the gospel, then we believe that making disciples is someone else’s responsibility (Luke 9:57-52—“You come follow me!”).
  5. God never called us to open a door, stand at the door, and hope people come in. He called us to “[as you] go, and make disciples” as we live outside the four walls Monday through Saturday.
  6. Satan will do all he can to distract us and divert us from making disciples, not necessarily with bad things, but with things that may seem rather good.
  7. Discipleship is not a piling up of programs, events, and administrative meetings alone; discipleship is a process in which we seek to glorify God in all we do, say, and think (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:23).
  8. Discipleship is not bringing people into agreement with us in regards to political and cultural issues. People have gone to hell who have paid their taxes, stayed faithful to their spouse, are pro-life, are Republicans (or Democrats) and have gone to church their entire life. We could be saying, “Change your behavior and your alliances, and God will love you.” This is a false gospel, and we know what Paul said about that (Galatians 1:8-9).
  9. Our primary citizenship as Christians is in heaven (Philippians 3:20-21), not as Americans. Yet, with the freedoms God provides as Americans allow us to invite others to church openly, unlike other countries. Persecuted countries are often stronger in their faith than those in free countries due to a full reliance on the Spirit. May we learn from them!
  10. Jesus does not call for our respect or admiration (the point of Matthew 7:21-23), but calls for our surrender to Him. We are broken in need of rescue, not simply sick and in need to get well (Ephesians 2:1-10).
  11. God has placed us here. In Denver. In 2018. The culture has changed values and fashions and fads over the years. But what hasn’t changed is Christ (Hebrews 13:8) and the gospel (John 3:16). Our hope is not to recapture a preferred time and place, but to capture the glory of God with hope and joy!
  12. The community does not exist for the church but the church to connect with the community. The church not meant to hide from the community and culture, but to engage it with the salt and light of Christ (Matthew 5:13-16).

Discipleship: Correcting Our Definition

For the last four weeks, we have spent time in the Scriptures and, hopefully, in personal prayer about the ramifications what it means to be a disciple. The word disciple is an extraordinary word. We usually say that it’s someone who is a student of a master, and that’s correct. The word is also found in other places. Once such place is Matthew 13:52, “And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven … .” That phrase, “who has been trained,” is from the same word as the word ‘disciple.’ That enlightens much.

George McClellan was a Union general during the Civil War. I just elaborate, McClellan ended up being the Commander of what was called the Army of the Potomac during the first part of the war. He commanded over 100,000 soldiers, gave them instructions on how to fight, had them ready to fight. The problem? At the slightest notion that Lee (the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia) was in the area and ready to pounce, McClellan did nothing. He so frustrated Lincoln (you know, the Commander-in-Chief) that he said, “George, if you’re not going to use that army, I’d like to borrow it for a little while.” McClellan loved his men and his men loved him–and the thought of losing any of those men was just not worth the cost.

Again, we’ve been told, and to a degree rightly so, that a disciple is one who sits at the feet of the master to learn. Actually, that makes the Christian life a bit sedentary, as if the extent of discipleship is to learn information. Show up to a sermon and hear information. Come to a Bible study and learn more information. We know what to do, we know how to do it, we know some basics on what the Scriptures say. But is this discipleship? No! Discipleship is being trained for war. Against whom?

Verse 18 says, “And Jesus says to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’” We as Baptists value missions, not just learning about missions and giving to missions but being sent on-mission. That’s our DNA. Yet the struggle to be a disciple who is being trained to make, multiply, and send disciples is an act of war. And what the enemy will do is distract us in a myriad of ways to keep us away from chasing hard after Jesus and running hard away from sin. But Satan wants us to do the opposite, but even if we do not run hard after sin and stay good moral Christians with good Christian values, he will settle for that as long as we do not run hard after Jesus. Albert Mohler once said, “Hell will be filled with people who were avidly committed to Christian values.” Values do not save us. A rescue from brokenness by Jesus from sin and into his design is what saves us.

“We’ve Taught Them Wrong”–Why Some Struggle with a Discipleship Paradigm

Today, I met with Mark Clifton, who is the head of the Replant arm of the North American Mission Board (NAMB). I finished up classes here at Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City, and he was gracious enough to meet me at an adjacent Wendy’s.

Mark has an unbelievable schedule, a schedule that takes him to churches and associations that have an issue–each are concerned about their church or churches in their association closing. The stories are usually the same: a church that once was busy and exploding with growth 20-30 years ago (or more) are now struggling to continue. These churches had events and programs and people, and more than this reflected the community in which they were located.

But something changed.

Was it the people inside the building who changed? Was it the community and culture outside the building? I’d say a little of both.

As churches try to move toward a more discipleship-centric model which invests in people inside and outside the church, many long-time church members struggle to understand the paradigm shift. Why? Clifton put it succinctly:

“We’ve taught them wrong!”

This needed no translation.

Churches have long tried to attract people with things to do and events to attend and numbers to count. Health meant move activities, more programs, and more people. More does not equate to health (it can, mind you, but not always).

As pastors, what do we expect from our people when they hear a sermon? A polite and affirming nod–or change? And how is this assessed?

As small group leaders, what do we expect from our people? To show up and have a great time of fellowship? Or something more? And how is this assessed?

As deacons, what do we expect from our ministry? Keeping the administrative work going, or something more? And how is this assessed?

Every thing we do needs a ‘why,’ an objective to that end. Every sermon, every worship gathering, every small group, every ministry–what is the objective behind this? And how do we assess the success of it based on this objective?

Gone are the days of doing things just to do things–and that’s not a bad thing!

We must ask, “How does this help us be, make, multiply, and send disciples of Jesus who help others believe Jesus is enough, because we ourselves believe Jesus is enough as well?

We’ve taught them wrong! Let’s work to make it right!