DISCIPLING TOWARD TRANSFORMATION, NOT JUST INFORMATION

Like most pastors, I desperately want to see every person connected with our church being transformed into the likeness of Jesus. Unfortunately, I found that most of our approaches to discipleship led to being informed, but not transformed. Most of what I read, and most of the people that I listened to seemed to believe that information would lead to transformation. So everything we did when it came to training was about teaching people and hoping they would apply the lessons that we taught.

A few people would apply the truths that we shared, however most of our people remained spectators, and understood the life of Jesus, but failed to live it. We came to the conclusion that discipleship needed to be not just informational, but must also include healthy lifestyle rhythms that we would hold each other accountable to walk in.

One particular book that was helpful as we tried to process healthy rhythms for discipleship was Surprise the World by Michael Frost. Because it’s rarely a wise move to copy and paste rhythm‘s for discipleship from one context to another we thought through the contents of the book and then came up with some of our own rhythms that we knew would be helpful to our people. We use these rhythms in huddles of 2 to 4 people of the same sex and allow them to shape dialogue over coffee or lunch and hold each other accountable to living this way of life. Here’s what we came up with:

We use the acronym REACH.

REST – I am going to slow down and rest with God today through prayer and listening/meditation on truth. What is God saying to me? How is he calling me to live into His words?

EAT/ENGAGE – I will eat with and engage people relationally this week. Who am I eating/hanging out with? Does this include people from outside of the church? This could be a meal, cup of coffee, golfing, watching a sporting event, etc. anything that builds relationships.

ACT OF LOVE – I will bless others/be a blessing to others this week by doing something loving. Am I blessing people within my community? Am I blessing people outside of our community?

CONFESS – I will confess to someone this week some area in my life where I feel like I fell short, screwed up, or am frustrated with myself. Humility bonds us.

HOME – We will grow as a family this week (This could include your family, roommate, or close friends). Here are some ways to grow as a family: learn something together, bless someone together, have a family fun night, have a date night, ditch the technology, eat at the dinner table.

We have found that these types of meaningful conversations in smaller huddles of people creates an energy around living a dynamic sort of life that is entirely shaped around imitating the lifestyle of Jesus.

For the past four years we’ve hosted a training (Missional Action Group School) to help individuals and churches think strategically and intentionally about discipleship and mission. This is not just a training, but also an experience. We enjoy creating an atmosphere where we can dialogue around these topics, eat good food, and allow people to connect relationally.

MAG School is not only an opportunity for a one-time training, but an invitation to a longer journey as friends who are attempting to make disciples and reach people who don’t know Jesus. We provide coaching for anyone who is attempting to be more effective in their local mission field.

Mark Fesmire had this to say about our coaching, “Any paradigm shift requires intentional focus.  After hearing 3 different presentations on missional living and small groups I was very motivated to create a missional group. But I didn’t manage to create a group that was missional. When I asked to be coached, the steady conversations helped peal back the layers of my old paradigm allowing me to look at what I am doing now with fresh eyes. I keep learning in each conversation.  I would say from my experience that without consistent coaching it is impossible to break entrenched patterns. I firmly believe in the coaching process for anyone attempting to lead a missional small group or trying to help numerous small groups form.”

If you are interested in being a part of our MAG School this year on April 13-14 please contact me at michaeljarrell@me.com. The cost includes the training and most of your food, but we don’t want cost to be a reason you can’t make it, so let me know if that is prohibiting you from attending and we’ll see what we can work out!

Mike Jarrell was a youth director in the Philadelphia area for a few years and loves teens. He left youth ministry convinced that the best way to impact teens is to reach families. Mike then became the senior lead pastor at Cornerstone Christian Church in Duncannon PA. After about 5 years at Cornerstone, Mike and his family followed God to start a missional church in Enola, PA. The Narrow Road Church has been around for 3 years. NRC is a movement of missional communities that follow Jesus on mission and grow in community.

LOVE AND TRUST

Love cannot live where there is no trust.

Edith Hamilton

I never thought I had a problem with trust because I’ve been fairly trusting in my interactions with others throughout most of my life. However, a number of years ago I crashed into a situation with someone I deeply cared about and discovered that I had been lied to repeatedly. As I tried to process my frustration, anger and hurt, I discovered that my struggle with trust was not focused just at the individual who betrayed me, but also at God. 

I found myself asking, “Are you REALLY good? Can you REALLY be trusted? My head knew that the answer was “yes,” but my heart kept whispering “no.”

What I learned through that situation, and have continued to believe since then, is that because God is ALWAYS love, He can ALWAYS be trusted. Coming to grips with that reality has changed my entire outlook on life. Love and trust go together, and starts with a belief that God’s love is good and that He is always for us. Because He loves me, He will use every situation in my life to grow both my love and trust for Him.

Let me explain what I mean. There are many circumstances in life that are hard, in fact very hard, and they can cause us to question the love and goodness of God. We tend to question God’s existence and care in the hard times, while at the same time neglecting to thank Him during the good times. It’s interesting how easy it is to blame God, and how hard it is to thank Him for His love and care. Our actions stem from a wrong view of love and trust. Because we believe that God’s love is conditional our trust toward Him becomes conditional. Ultimately, that belief system taints our ability to love and trust others.

We need to remember that God can’t ‘fake love.’ His love is always real and genuine. He is absolutely committed to our good, our growth and His glory. The circumstances of our lives are always opportunities to grow in our love and trust of God which in turn, help us overcome mistrust in our relationships with others.

That situation that I mentioned earlier was really hard; it caused much dissonance in my life and built a wall in my relationship with that person. I was cautious in my interactions after that point with that particular individual and asked God to give me discernment in how to recognize truth. I wanted to be smart in how I trusted. 

But the bigger issue was that I was able to maintain an overall attitude and perspective of trust because my beliefs became even more deeply rooted in the truth that God is love and He can be trusted. 

When situations are hard and people betray you, will you run to God, your good and perfect Father to allow Him to renew your love and trust?

Deb Hinkel is the Director of Spiritual Formation and Family Ministry at Hershey Free Church. She joined the church’s staff in 2015 after spending fourteen years as an assistant professor in the Church and Ministry Leadership department at Lancaster Bible College.

Deb holds a Master of Arts degree in Ministry from Lancaster Bible College; and prior to her work there, she spent fifteen years in church ministry, developing programs in Christian education, children’s ministry, and women’s ministry.

Also by Deb:

LOVE AND FEAR

Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts. Love is the essential reality and our purpose on earth. To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life. Meaning does not lie in things. Meaning lies in us.

Marianne Williamson

When I was seven years old, my parents went away for the evening and left me in the care of my 16 year old brother. Most of the time we got along, and he generally treated me well. I thought it was awesome to have an older brother!

On this particular night, I walked out of the family room to go upstairs to bed. I confidently walked into my bedroom and before I could even turn on the light, my brother jumped out from a closet and yelled, “Surprise!” 

He thought it was funny; I was terrified! Even as I write this, I can still remember the overwhelming fear I felt at that moment. Ironically, he really didn’t intend to do anything hurtful. He was 16. I was seven. To him it was a harmless prank; to me it was a distressing experience that planted a seed of fear inside of me. 

Even though my brother apologized immediately after he saw my distress, it took years for me to feel safe in my room. My brother loved me, he didn’t intend to hurt me, but that experience had a deep effect on me.

For many of us, woundedness, even unintentionally, from a person we loved and trusted can have a devastating effect on our ability to love. We were created by God with a capacity to receive and give love, but our experiences can cause us to feel unsafe and vulnerable. We build self-protective walls so we won’t get hurt again. The result is that our interactions and relationships are tainted by fear and we live closed off from God and from those around us.

It took some time for me to feel safe with my brother again. Even as I struggled with my feelings toward him, I could sense my desire to trust him, but I was cautious and unsure. It took time and a conscious effort on my part to believe that my brother had my best interest at heart. Even as a child, I realized that my ability to trust my brother again was rooted in my choice to believe that God would be with me and that he would help me love even when I didn’t feel safe.

Obviously I’ve never forgotten that experience, but I’m so grateful for what God taught me through it. I don’t need to let fear get in the way of love. Perfect love casts out fear. God’s love for me tears down the walls that I build and helps me honestly and authentically love others. 

What experiences have caused you to build walls that keep you from receiving and giving love? How is God redeeming those experiences to help you exchange fear with love?

Deb Hinkel is the Director of Spiritual Formation and Family Ministry at Hershey Free Church. She joined the church’s staff in 2015 after spending fourteen years as an assistant professor in the Church and Ministry Leadership department at Lancaster Bible College.

Deb holds a Master of Arts degree in Ministry from Lancaster Bible College; and prior to her work there, she spent fifteen years in church ministry, developing programs in Christian education, children’s ministry, and women’s ministry.

Also by Deb: Identity Matters

MORE FAILURE PLEASE!

“I’m just tired of hearing all these success stories. For once I just want to hear somebody get up and say it’s not working.” A pastor friend of mine said that to me when we were talking on the phone one day.

I believe we live in the greatest country in the world, but let’s admit it, Americans love success. Sometimes all the success stories cause us to not take action because we fear failure. We don’t want to admit things aren’t working well when it seems they are working for other people. I really believe that we learn more from our failures than our successes.

That’s true in my life, is it true in yours? I am a huge football fan, anyone that knows me knows this. An offense will never be dynamic if it never takes risks. So many of us like to throw short screen passes and play it safe because we fear failure. We are afraid of something not working.

In coaching some of our Missional Action Group leaders, and some of the churches that I work with, I sometimes feel like people spin their wheels and don’t have any new and fresh stories. Part of this is that fear of failure paralyzes us from taking any sort of action. If we are to learn, progress forward, and really make a difference, we need to take action and fail a bunch.

I can’t emphasize enough, if you come back and say, “we tried 10 different things to engage people that didn’t know Jesus and none of them worked,” I would be thrilled! You seriously tried 10 different things to engage people who don’t know Jesus? That’s amazing! What did you learn? What is God teaching you? What would you do differently next time?

Stepping out and attempting things even if they don’t work is part of how God grows us. We must create a culture of action, experimentation, and freedom to fail. As followers of Jesus, we are all about grace, right?

I think the bigger thing we should fear isn’t failure, it’s not attempting great things for the kingdom of God because we sat back with a list of, “what if’s.” Step out of the boat and look at Jesus…. You’ll sink and you’ll learn. There’s grace for that.

Jesus built his church on people that failed and learned. Let’s create cultures where that’s the norm. Experiment, Grow, engage the lost, be creative, and be OK with things not working the first 10 times. Let’s re-embrace adventure together!

At Narrow Road Church we regularly talk about what isn’t working, and on Sunday mornings have celebrated stories of failure because people took leaps of faith and risks for the kingdom. Do you highlight people who take risks even when they don’t work? Do people feel intimidated because they think they have to get it right all the time? How might God be calling you to create a culture of faith, risk, and adventure knowing that we have the safety net of God’s grace?

 

Mike Jarrell was a youth director in the Philadelphia area for a few years and loves teens. He left youth ministry convinced that the best way to impact teens is to reach families. Mike then became the senior lead pastor at Cornerstone Christian Church in Duncannon PA. After about 5 years at Cornerstone, Mike and his family followed God to start a missional church in Enola, PA. The Narrow Road Church has been around for 3 years. NRC is a movement of missional communities that follow Jesus on mission and grow in community.

 

THREE THINGS WE MUST SEE IN 2018

USA Today recently released its list of 10 Must See Films of 2018. What came to mind for me when I scanned the list was how bad things must be here in the real world, because 7 of the 10 movies were fantasy or science fiction. There must be some belief that people need to escape reality.

With all the drama that has accompanied 2017, its understandable. But maybe what we need to do is to fix our eyes on something that is still real, but more hopeful than the daily news.

The apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus and reminded them of what they’ve received from the Lord. He told them he was praying for them that they might see all that they have received…

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 1:15-23

Believers have hope that is unshakable, riches that are immeasurable, and power that is uncontainable.

As ministers of the Gospel, let’s leave 2017 with the eyes of our hearts enlightened to all that is ours, in spite of our challenging circumstances. It’s easy and far too common to forget how blessed we are, but brothers and sisters, let’s go into 2018 not looking for an escape from reality, but with a more clear and comprehensive view of our reality because of the goodness and grace of God in our lives.

Happy New Years!

Blessings,