OUR DIVISION BETWEEN DISCIPLESHIP & EVANGELISM

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OUR DIVISION BETWEEN DISCIPLESHIP & EVANGELISM

Recently, I was asked to work with a congregation to improve their discipleship and evangelism processes. Almost instantly, I discovered a phenomenon that is present in many mainline congregations throughout the country: a division between discipleship and evangelism. The advice of the pastor was “I pray your good success.” What he was actually saying was “good luck.” I thought, “With this kind of division, it is impossible for them to make a kingdom impact among their membership and the community.

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Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age  (Mt 28:19-20 CEB).

We know Matthew 28:19-20 as the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. For many, this passage is the compelling argument for establishing and growing the church since the day of Pentecost. Yet, over the course of time, American churches have somehow compartmentalized and divided the Great Commission into two separate ministries; discipleship and evangelism; but this is not what Jesus taught. By separating these two processes, a false sense of “reaching out” and “building up” has emerged. As a result, acute tension and competition between discipleship and evangelism is occurring in our churches. They should be considered two sides of the same coin or two elements of a single process. Said differently, if we are to make disciples of Jesus Christ, both processes must work together as a single unit or disciple making.

Two Commands

Going, baptizing, and teaching, is what Jesus commanded us to do with the end goal of making disciples. It seems our interpretation of Matthew 28:19-20 is not a single command but two separate commands. Churches see discipleship as teaching and evangelism as sharing the Good News toward making converts. The result is that a lot of teaching and witnessing takes place in our churches, but we are not making a lot of disciples. Jesus taught us how to make disciples with the calling of the Twelve and the subsequent three years of teaching before sending them out. Upon His ascension, he reiterated the command to make disciples until his second coming.   

Linking Discipleship & Evangelism

So, what is the solution to this systemic problem? One method of resolving this age-old conflict is to link discipleship and evangelism together as Jesus taught and modeled. Evangelism should result in attracting converts, and converts should be trained to become disciples. Then, disciples should evangelize to reach more converts who are trained to become disciples. Therefore, evangelism leads to disciples and disciples evangelize until the Gospel is spread throughout the world. This is disciple making based on the Great Commission.

When possible, discipleship should follow evangelism. The end game of evangelism is the transformation of converts into becoming spiritually reborn. Once reborn, converts need to be taught by seasoned disciples in order to grow to maturity.

Thank you for taking the time to read.

-Donnell Moore

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SELF-EXPRESSION?

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SELF-EXPRESSION?

Warren Bennis wrote in On Becoming a Leader that "full, free self-expression is the essence of leadership." I found the comment a bit obnoxious when I first read it, thinking that it invited leaders to be self-absorbed, but upon reflection I think he's on to something. This post will briefly define terms, getting at the 'why' of each point. 

What Bennis means by 'self-expression'

1.  Know who you are

Much has been written on the need for a leader to be self-aware. In ministry it's pretty obvious that, if you haven't taken the time to take your own gifts and passions seriously the odds of ending up in the wrong role are high. Having the wrong people in the wrong roles is damaging to the mission of the local church.

2. Know your strengths and weaknesses

A leader must not only know their own strengths and weaknesses but must also have the ability to assess the strengths and weaknesses of others in order to create an environment of maximum effectiveness.

3. Know how to use strengths and mitigate weaknesses

One of the quickest paths to ineffectiveness is to attempt to shore up your weaknesses. Focus on doing what only you can do and manage around your weaknesses. As a leader, be aware that if you continually attempt to place others in situations that don't fit their gifts or passions, calling on them to pull up their bootstraps and 'just get the work done,' you are driving them to frustration and burnout.

4. Know what you want

Too often we are vague with what we want or we're too willing to let others tell us what we want. The more specific we can get with what we want the better. 'I want to see people get saved' vs. 'I want to see youth get saved' vs. 'I want to see a team of passionate adults trained to reach youth. 'The more vague we remain the more likely we are to flounder.

5. Know why you want it

Knowing why you want what you want will help shape how you go about achieving your goal. A youth pastor who simply loves spending time with kids will operate differently than a youth pastor motivated by seeing whole families. They both want to see kids know Jesus. In other words, what they want is the same. But the differing motivations will shape how they go about seeing kids come to Christ. One might spend time mentoring kids in a one-on-one setting while another might work on developing teams of adult volunteers to help parents engage in the life of their teens. You have to operate out of your motivations to be effective.

6. Know how to communicate

It's not rocket science to figure out that you've got to be able to communicate well if you're to have any chance of getting a team together to accomplish a vision.

7. Know how to achieve your goals

This is where wisdom kicks in. Wisdom is often defined as 'right living' because it demands that we be able to take 'good thinking' and turn it into 'good action.' This extends beyond moral issues and into best leadership practices.

Why self-expression is important

1. Your life matters

When scripture talks about the 'fear of Yahweh' it's telling you to take seriously the fact that God will bring everything into judgment, good or bad (see Ecc 12:12-14). It seems that God cares what you do. A leader has a profound awareness that what we do matters.

2. God has called you to something

I don't mean God gives every person a burning bush experience, but he has gifted you with strengths, gifts, and passions. Steward them.

3. Self expression means using your gifts

Peter said, "Everyone should use whatever gifts he's been given to serve others, faithfully dishing out God's grace in its various forms." (1 Peter 4:10) Using the gifts you've been given is part of self-expression.

4. Expressing yourself allows you to let go of proving yourself

The desire to prove yourself is inherently a follower skill that involves living up to and exceeding the expectations of others, whether real or perceived. Those seeking to prove themselves are being driven, not leading.

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3 Things That Make The Pillar Seminary Unique

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3 Things That Make The Pillar Seminary Unique

I often get asked what makes The Pillar Seminary different from other seminaries so I figured I would put it into a blogpost...

1. Designed for People in Ministry

The Pillar Seminary was built for people in ministry. Everything we offer is focused on meeting their needs. We flipped the classroom because it's a more efficient use of your time. We surround you with others in the trenches because you breathe life into one another. And we create space in the classroom to sharpen one another, rather than wasting time together listening to lectures. 

Yes, we have a few students who are not in vocational ministry. But those are our outliers, and every single one of them had pastors asking us to train them because of their significant volunteer roles in their churches.

2. Seminary without Debt

I made the mistake of putting my family under a tremendous debt load to get through seminary. Then when I got my dream ministry gig the $39K what I was making didn't cover the bills. This created tremendous back pressure -- making me constantly wonder if I should get out of ministry so I could better care for my family. This isn't good for the kingdom. My experience gave birth to the vision of meeting 100% of a student's demonstrated financial need. When a student registers they are asked if they'd like to apply for financial aid. They then fill out a form that allows us to assess what they can afford through a combination of their own and their church's contributions to their education. The difference between what they can contribute and the cost is made up via scholarship, not loans. We couldn't do it without the extreme generosity of our donor base.

3. Bible and Leadership

Typically seminary curriculum is designed to introduce the student to a wide range of issues a pastor might face without making them particularly good at anything. It's a generalist curriculum appropriate for those seeking to get into ministry. Since our students are already in ministry we can focus our curriculum on Bible and Leadership. We do those two things better than anybody. Not because we're better or other programs are weak. It's simply because of the focus. If you need a general introduction to various aspects of vocational ministry, I'm happy to help you find the right seminary for you. But if you want to get awesome at Bible and tangibly grow in your leadership then we might be right for you. Thank you for taking the time to read today. - Eric Smith

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Passover

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Passover

In Exodus Chapter 12, we come to the Passover. The Passover is still a major Jewish holiday. In fact, you may observe it or know someone who observes Passover every spring. If you’re not Jewish, my guess is that you might not know much about the Passover, except that around Easter, grocery stores advertise specials on matzo and lamb.

Passover is surprisingly relevant to our understanding of Jesus. Jesus’s death and resurrection took place during Passover and early Christians used Passover as the central metaphor for understanding his life, teaching, death and resurrection. Familiarizing ourselves with the Passover story in Exodus offers another chance for us to add dimension to our understanding of Jesus.

Setting the Scene for the First Passover

Moses delivers God’s command to Pharaoh to “Let my people go.” Pharaoh responds by doubling down on the oppression. The first nine plagues sent by God fail to change Pharaoh’s mind. Then God says to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely.” (Exodus 11:1) This sets up the crucial moment when God liberates his people from Egypt.

So Moses said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.” (Exodus 11:4-7)

Next, the Lord gives Moses a set of instructions for the Israelites to prepare them for a quick exit from Egypt. These preparations mainly have to do with the last meal the Israelites will eat before they leave the land of their enslavement. It seems a little strange that God would put so much emphasis on the preparation and eating of the Israelite’s final supper in Egypt, but it makes sense when you consider that God is setting up the meal as a ritual to be recreated yearly by later generations of Israelites. (Exodus 12:17) More importantly, God is putting in place a symbolic event that would foreshadow the work of Jesus.

The Lamb

The Lord’s instructions put special emphasis on two parts of the meal: the lamb and the bread. In preparation for the Exodus, the Lord tells Moses that on the tenth day of the month, every Hebrew household is to take a one-year-old male lamb without any blemish and keep it until twilight of the fourteenth day of the month, at which time they are to kill it. If there aren’t enough people in the house to eat a whole lamb, they are to share the lamb with another household. It is important for them not to have meat left over after the Passover meal.

It goes without saying that the first Passover was a radical event. In the midst of issuing a warning about his judgment on the Egyptians, the Lord gives his people instructions on how to survive the night in Egypt. The lamb isn’t just to provide a quick bite of dinner on the way out the door; it provides the Israelites with a protective mark, a sign to show they are the people of God. In Exodus 12:7, God instructs the Israelites to take the lamb’s blood and smear it on their door frames to mark them as distinct from the Egyptians.

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Does it seem odd that you would gather with your family every year to celebrate the killing of a lamb and the smearing of its blood in order to have the wrath of God pass over you? Actually, it shouldn’t be too hard to imagine. We call it Easter. In fact, early Christians commonly connected the death of Jesus, who was called the Lamb of God, with the Passover.

The Bread

The second key element of the Israelite’s last supper in Egypt is the bread. The Passover is the first day of a longer celebration that God is instituting called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Notice again that while God is giving the Israelites instructions on their preparation to leave Egypt, he is also giving directions on how to remember and re-create the Passover meal for future generations. Each element in the celebration serves a symbolic purpose. Exodus 12:15 lays out the requirements for baking and eating the bread:

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For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel.

For emphasis, the rules for preparing and eating bread during are repeated in verses 17-20.

“Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I   brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And anyone, whether foreigner or native-born, who eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel. Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.” (Exodus 12:17-20)

In between these two lists of regulations about the bread, God issued another command that no work be done during the festival. (Exodus 12:16). I don’t know about you, but a seven-day rest period sounds really good. God also mandated a special time of worship on the first and last days of the festival for all the people. The only work permitted was the preparation of food.

Why all this talk about the unleavened bread? It was to facilitate the Israelites’ quick exit from Egypt. If you’ve ever wondered why some churches today serve flavorless crackers or cardboard-like wafers that melt on your tongue, it goes back to Exodus and this passages describing how the Israelites needed to be ready to hit the road. They couldn’t take the time to let their bread rise.

For Now and Later

So this section of Exodus is about now and later. The Israelites are to follow the Instructions that Moses has laid out while they are in Egypt as the angel of death literally passes over their homes, and later as they remember the Exodus.

“Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshiped. The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron. (Exodus 12:24-29)

God is setting up this holiday because he knows that getting the people out of slavery in Egypt is going to be a core memory that has to be rehearsed in order for ancient Israel to have an identity.  In the years, decades and even centuries to come you continually see this reminder from the Lord: “I am the Lord who brought you out of Egypt. Even when future generations of Israelites who never lived in Egypt are thinking, “That was like 500 years ago. I was born right over there,” it doesn’t matter. God is going to continue to say, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Egypt because there’s a community identity, and the identity of the Nation of Israel is we were delivered from the hands of the Egyptians, and it was our God who delivered us from slavery.

Identity and Purpose

And God knows that they have to continue to rehearse that memory year after year for over a thousand years, because if the Nation of Israel loses sight of that identity they lose their purpose. If you read further in the Old Testament you see that’s exactly what happens. They lose their purpose. They lose their way because they forget.

I’ve been walking with the Lord long enough now that I’ve watched believers drop like flies. When circumstances of life come at you, it is so easy to forget. When you’re a mom and you can’t even get a moment to breathe, because your life is being poured into your children who demand constant attention, how do you take a slice out of life to even be able to pause and remember just for a few minutes? It becomes incredibly difficult and everything in our lives is screaming at us to distract us, to keep us remembering who we are in Christ and what God has done in our lives.

We need the rehearsal of those stories, we need those moments in our lives where we pause just to remember that God has done amazing things for us. That’s a necessary part of the Christian life. For all of us there will come times, whether is a dark time or more often it’s a distracted time, when we begin to lose sight of what God is doing in our lives. We have to build in rhythms that allow us to remember. God knows this and this is why he institutes the Passover for his people.

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The Third Place: Is The Church Missing Something?

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The Third Place: Is The Church Missing Something?

In his book, The Great Good PlaceRay Oldenburg argues that we need a "third" place. Oldenburg's thesis is that the home is where we live and constitutes who we live with; our workplace/school is probably where we spend the most time but is very “task” oriented in nature. We need a “third” place to provide a mooring for community life and wider, more fluid, creative interaction. -Churchandculture.org

The term third place is not new, yet it continues to make a radical difference in people’s quest and desire for socialization and a sense of belonging. It is said that Starbucks coffeehouse became an instant success because it positioned itself as a third place. People from all walks of life gather at Starbucks for a host of reason; kingdom impact should be one of them. While attracting people of like minds, Starbucks provides a seductive product that makes social dialogue easy. Not long after the Starbucks craze exploded in the marketplace, other businesses entered the third place market. The driving factor for most businesses was the profitability and instant success Starbucks was maintaining.

Entering the Third Place Market

While the church has attempted to enter the third place market as a basis for kingdom impact and kingdom building; malls, pubs, restaurants, community coffeehouses, ballparks, cyberspace, female/male styling salons and outdoor recreational venues are somehow doing a better job of attracting people, especially on a day and time that was exclusively reserved for the church (Sunday from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm). Is the church missing something? Declining memberships says: yes.

Not as Easy as it Seems

Although churches have established café’s, fellowship lounges, and gaming centers for children and youth, it seems that overall, churchgoers and the unchurched find greater appeal in non-church venues identified as the third place. Researchers suggest that there are a few reasons the church struggles in this area: tradition, theology, practicality, and missional purpose. I will speak more to these reasons and why they reduce kingdom impact in another blog.

What is the Church Missing?

How often have we realized that more people are at the ballpark, beach, or recreational facility enjoying life as we leave the church of our choice? How often have devoted church members taken sabbaticals while their children are participating in events held at school or sporting events during traditional worship times?

Alternatives to Church-Based Third Places

Oldenburg argues, “we need” a third place. If the church is to compete with third places of the world, it must begin meeting the relevant needs of its members and the people of the community. If the church is not able to make the adjustment to becoming a third place, it can always find a few places in the area and begin frequenting them for meetings, fellowship and basic socialization. You might be surprised at who will become attracted to your church when they see members engage in “holy conferencing” in non-religious venues on a regular and consistent basis. Don't let your church miss out on potential opportunities to make a kingdom impact. Identify venues as your church’s third place or retrofit your facility if possible, to attract people in non-traditional ways.  

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