character (10)

“Follow God’s example . . . and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us. . . . Now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:1–2a, 8b–10 NIV).

  With our Bibles open to 1 Corinthians 13, we began our 12-step meditation about God’s top priority for every disciple with this statement: “The most fulfilling journey in life is the path of a person who has an intimate relationship with God, and who faithfully follows Him. Is it the easiest path to walk? No. Is it the inside track to popularity? No. But is it the inside track to joy? Yes, for eternal reasons.”

  As we now conclude our contemplation, let’s recap several highlight9570813895?profile=originals and then relate them to eternity:

  1. Our life on earth is mostly about relationships. And our life in eternity is all about one key relationship: our relationship with God.
  2. Any disciple who focuses only on growing in knowledge and skill will fail sooner or later. Why? Because “Knowledge + Skill – Character => Collapse.”
  3. A true follower of God is known for reflecting His love. The evidence of His love in that disciple will be Christlike character:                                           “Knowledge + Skill + Character => Worship!”
  4. Our walk with God is our greatest witness to the work of God—and our worship of God.

 

  Looking forward, we learn that our lifestyle values and choices on earth today impact rewards that God wants to give us in heaven tomorrow. For example, He virtually underlines His priority on Christlike character as He identifies various “crowns” that He will graciously grant to us:

  • 1 Corinthians 9:25 speaks of an everlasting crown for running our race with self-discipline.
  • James 1:12 describes a crown for enduring in our walk of love even under great duress.
  • 2 Timothy 4:8 tells of the crown of righteousness for finishing our race with trustworthy integrity, not compromising our faith.
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:19 reveals the crown of joy for diligent ministry through which souls are won and faithful walks matured.
  • In 1 Peter 5:2–4 we learn of the crown of glory God has for disciples who set examples of kindness as they selflessly care about and help others.

 

  “So . . . what is the bottom line?” you ask. Here’s what matters most to God: His will for you and me is that we make worship a lifestyle; that is, we honor God acceptably with our heart, mind, and strength. That is how we will “walk in love.” His Spirit in us will enable us. Alleluia!

 

Shall we?

© 2018 John C Garmo

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The Secret to Billy Graham's Humility

Billy Graham once told a humorous story revealing how he could stay so humble, even while accomplishing so much. He was an evangelical superstar, to say the least. Yet when one of his long-time friends reflecting on Graham’s ministry, he said, “Billy always saw himself as just a farm boy from Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. He was amazed that God could use him like He did.”

Before I share Graham’s quite revealing story, it’s important to note the contrast between him and many of the other televangelists of his era. There were numerous other superstars back then, but many of them eventually flamed out because of scandals – their reputation and ministry destroyed because of money, sex, and power.

Like Graham, the others had charisma. But the thing that truly set Graham apart was his character. Above all, his humility stands out as the key ingredient for how he handled his great success.

Who Deserves the Applause?

Billy Graham told a fanciful story that can help us understand his humility.

Graham reminded people about the Bible’s account of a young donkey that carried Jesus down the Mount of Olives during His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:28-40). Adding a bit to the story, Graham described how the colt was talking to one of his fellow donkeys later that day:

“You’ll never guess what happened to me today.”

“What?” his friend inquired.

“As I was coming into town, everyone bowed down and laid palm branches and garments in the road to greet me!” the donkey exclaimed. “They all shouted, ‘Hosanna. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

“That’s incredible,” marveled his friend. “I’ve been down that road numerous times, and no one ever gave me that kind of reception. How did you ever merit such treatment?”

“Well, I always knew I would be famous someday,” the young donkey explained. “It’s about time I got the respect I deserve!”

While some Christian leaders make the same mistake as the donkey that carried Jesus, Billy Graham always recognized that the crowd’s adulation was for Jesus, not for him.

You see, when Jesus is “riding us,” there may indeed be applause from the crowd at times. But we must never forget that the hosannas are not for us, but for the One who accompanies us. True humility knows who the applause is for, and that’s why the humble will ultimately cast all their crowns and accomplishments at His feet:

The twenty‑four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:10‑11).

Many people have speculated on what it was like when Billy Graham arrived in heaven. I’m sure it was a joyous occasion, but one thing we know for sure: Declaring the worthiness of the Lord to receive all glory and honor, Graham cast all his crowns and earthly achievements at the feet of Jesus.

Another Insightful Story

I once heard another helpful story. I’m not sure the source of the story, but perhaps it came from Billy Graham as well.

An elephant and a mouse were walking together and came to a rickety old wooden bridge. As they set foot on the bridge, it rumbled and shook at the impact, making quite a disturbance.

Once they had safely reached the other side, the mouse proudly remarked, “We really shook that bridge, didn’t we!”

I love that story.

When we walk with the Lord, we can expect to see some “bridges” shake at times. However, if we aren’t careful, we’ll make the same mistake as the mouse – thinking we ourselves can take some credit for the impact. What a tragic deception.

Throughout his ministry, Billy Graham both built bridges and felt them shake. But he always kept in mind that he was just the mouse. As he humbly walked with God Almighty, the ground sometimes shook under his feet, but Graham knew he couldn’t take the credit.

Billy and Paul

Some people have said that Billy Graham was the greatest evangelist since the apostle Paul. That’s quite a statement. To me, the men had very different ministries, yet one thing they had in common was an understanding of where their power came from.

Paul described himself and other believers as merely being earthen vessels – jars of clay – to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV).

And a profound test of any ministry is found in Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 4:5 (NASB): “We do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.”

This test isn’t as easy as it sounds. When people look at our publications, fundraising letters, television programs, and video promos, and other communications, do they conclude that we are exalting Christ, or merely promoting ourselves?

Although Paul was a mighty apostle, he never lost sight of the fact that he was the Lord’s bond-servant, a sinner who had received God’s amazing grace. That’s the same posture Billy Graham took, and hopefully we are taking as well.

So, let the hosannas come. Let the bridges shake. But may we never forget where the power comes from and who the applause if for.

P.S. This blog post is adapted from a chapter in my highly acclaimed leadership book, Walking the Leadership Highway – Without Becoming Roadkill! In all humility, I can say it’s one of the best Christian leadership books ever written…

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9570809685?profile=originalPart 1 in this series about what matters most to God in a disciple began: “The most fulfilling journey in life is the path of a person who has an intimate relationship with God, and who faithfully follows Him.” Does this seem to you a reasonable description of a true “disciple”?

 

That description implies a commitment to learning, which includes growing in our knowledge of God (2 Peter 3:18 et al.).  “Learning” also includes developing our skill as a disciple, such as our ability to study the Bible, or teach God’s Word correctly and effectively to others (2 Timothy 2:15 et al.).

 

But the disciple who focuses only on growing in knowledge and skill will collapse—fail—sooner or later: “Knowledge + Skill – Character => Collapse.

 

Worse yet, God warns in 1 Corinthians 13 that such a person will lose God’s approval for focusing on secondary matters instead of on what matters most to Him.

 

So, what does matter most to God in a disciple? 1 Corinthians 13 answers that crucial question: A true follower of God reflects His love in their life. The evidence of His love in that disciple will be Christlike character: “Knowledge + Skill + Character => Worship!

Do you know of a 19th-century scientist and evangelist named Henry Drummond? He was a young man in Scotland who became a good friend of D. L. Moody and assisted Moody in his evangelistic meetings. He was also a thoughtful author. It brought him wide recognition, and he apparently touched millions of lives through his pen.

One of his most significant writings was a booklet titled, The Greatest Thing in the World. It is the result of his study in 1 Corinthians 13 about love. Insightfully, he compares a light beam, a prism, and an array of colors with God’s light, a person’s heart, and agape love. The first is the spectrum of light; the second, the spectrum of love.

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God’s love, beaming into the prism-heart of a disciple, reflects outward to others in various “colors” that comprise the “Spectrum of Love.” Those colors are qualities of Christlike character. What a wonder-filled word picture!

Christ-follower, dare we get personal for a few moments? If so, please ponder and answer these questions personally:

  • Where does agape love rank among the top five priorities of your church?
  • Where does it rank among the top five priorities of your church’s discipleship ministry?
  • Where does agape love rank among the top five priorities of your life?

 

In Part 3 of this series we will begin to explore specific characteristics of agape love that God includes in 1 Corinthians 13. Welcome to this journey into what matters most to God about a disciple!

 

© 2018 John C Garmo

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Applied Agape

I arrived in the Middle East last weekend to spend 35 class hours serving a group of tomorrow's ministry leaders in this region. It is a periodic privilege and responsibility I've enjoyed for most of the past 20 years. Several past students are present colleagues in ministry. How special is that!

At church, some men asked what this group from six countries will focus on. I replied, "The course is called 'Christlike Character in Leadership & Family.' We'll explore the implications and applications of cultivating lifestyles of Christlikeness as we lead and live. But it is at heart a discipling course focused on 'applied agape.'"

That two-word term seemed to catch their attention.

That term captures my attention, too. Why take this special teaching opportunity and dedicate it to "applied agape"? Here's why: God's Word clearly and repeatedly points to the #1 outcome that He desires in and through our lives, churches, and other ministries: agape love. Ponder such passages as 1 Corinthians 13, Galatians 5, Ephesians 4 & 5, and Revelation 2: "The fruit of the Spirit is love" . . . "If I . . . have not love, I am only a noisy gong" . . . "Walk in a manner worthy of your calling" . . . "Walk in love" . . . "Remember . . . repent . . . and return to your first love."

Prequels to these words permeate the Old Testament. Check out, for example, Deuteronomy 6:5-6.

In stark contrast, if data gathered for the Barna/Navigators study of "The State of Discipleship" are reliable, Christians in general are confused about both the meaning and the bottom line--the output--of "discipleship." They often focus so much on processes--which are manifold--that they lose sight of the outcome God desires: a lifestyle of agape love. How God must grieve at our lack of focus.

I appreciate the many discipling processes that various people and ministries have developed. A variety of flexible, practical discipling process can be useful. But does the program/process that you use make applied agape love the clear and prominent outcome?

Life is short. As we grow personally and help others do likewise, we honor Him most when our focus is less transactional and more transformational. We dare not fall in love with our diligently developed processes instead of God's most-desired outcome. Let's adjust each of those to their appropriately proportionate share of our emphases as appliers of agape who influence others to do likewise.

"The main thing is that the main thing remain the main thing!"

Simple.

But not easy.

Your thoughts on this?

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Cleanliness is next to Godliness?

“Cleanliness is not next to godliness nowadays, for cleanliness is made an essential and godliness is regarded as an offence.” (G. K. Chesterton)

 

To worship the holy God acceptably, we must prepare our inner being by washing with the holy water of His Word. Meticulous hand washing is meaningless ritual without inside purification. Dirt-free hands are good hygiene, but a pure heart is heaven’s prerequisite for holiness.

 

We are not what we think we are; but what we think, we are. Thought-life is the fountainhead of character, so we should exercise caution in what occupies our mind. We have little control over passing thoughts tinged with evil, but we can refuse to dwell on perversity. Focusing on lust flirts with adultery; lingering on greed’s doorstep produces thieves; concentrating on flaws fuels slander; trying to impress others rationalizes deceit.

 

Gazing prayerfully into the Truth Mirror, we see ourselves as we really are. We can improve our appearance by bringing our life into line with Christ’s perfect image.

 

Cleanliness is not godliness, but it is next to godliness. When Jesus returns in purity, we will finally be like Him. Until then, the wise course of action is to stay as near Him as we can—to the extent we do, we will brightly reflect the beauty of His mirror image.

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“The bronze washbasin and its bronze pedestal were cast from bronze mirrors donated by the women who served at the entrance of the Tabernacle.”  [Exodus 38:8 NLT]

 

Johnny R. Almond

Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity

[This devotion based on Day 58 of Gentle Whispers]

Interim Pastor, Nomini Baptist Church; Montross, Virginia

Blog & book info http://GentleWhispersFromEternity-ScripturePersonalized.com/

               

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For Writers… mostly…

As some of you might know, I’ve spent the last 10 months working on a mega character curriculum for pre-K through adult, and all based on living out of our identity in Christ. As I’ve told any number of people, I don’t know who else could have been the guy for this. And I don’t say that as an ego thing (well, maybe a little, but…)—rather as a “you could count on one hand the people that God has taken down this particularly circuitous route” thing. The pastoral AND curricular backgrounds, the immersion in gospel-centered materials in the three years after said curriculum department got toasted, the background with startups (from businesses to applications to churches to my own writing), the uncanny ability to get an inordinate amount of work done in a stupid-short period of time…. Heck, throw in the fact that I got hired in response to a job posting for the wrong job (but with the right job description)… and you can see God’s hand (and His sense of humor) in it all.

Anyway, over the course of reviewing and editing 700+ assignments (so far — ’bout 200 more to go) of 3,000 words apiece (give or take), needless to say there’s been a lot of coaching going on. (As a handful of those writers also subscribe to this blog, they might substitute “haranguing,” “harassing,” “lecturing,” “browbeating,” or “nitpicking.” I’m gonna stick with “coaching.” :)) Much of that has been product-specific, obviously, but there’s also been a goodly amount of philosophizing and quality-pushing that, really, I think could be useful to anyone who wants to reach and reassure others for Christ in a way that they might actually hear it.

So while we wait to talk about other stuff here, I thought I’d share some of the more global advice here, edited below as needed. (And hey, since half of the remaining writers are here maybe I’ll be able to save myself another round of “coaching” by putting it here, too. :)). Enjoy, or at least chew on it and see what you think, and I’ll see you soon….

• Remember your audience. Some may have an extensive knowledge of the Bible; many won’t. Likewise, avoid theological/”churchy” terms. Not that you can’t/shouldn’t discuss deeper stuff—just make sure you use words that anyone could understand as you do it.

• There’s a lot of crazy, and very visible, stuff that takes place in the Bible. What’s it like to be in the middle of that? We get wrapped up in bigger-than-life news events all the time; what’s going on in these passages is often far bigger than that. Leverage it.

• Obviously we want to stay true to what the Bible says, but the goal here isn’t to unearth biblical facts; our goal is to explore the tension in the biblical narrative and apply it to the tension in which we’re living. We can have all our “theological points” right, and still miss God’s point for our lives. Write out of your life—don’t just reflect God’s Word but also how He who is the Word has been dwelling and living through you. If you do the latter, you’ll nail the former.

• Don’t just write questions that need answering—write questions that spark discussion, and maybe even inspire some “iron sharpens iron” sessions among your teachers and students. If you wouldn’t ask your question to a person sitting across from you, don’t ask it here. Think: How would you ask this question to someone else—or maybe even to yourself? That’s how you want to ask it here. Don’t just write it—live it. And watch what God gives you when you do.

• Be sure to emphasize God’s mercy and grace over and above “your sin,” or “Jesus saved me—now I have to….” Remember, character isn’t about behavior modification; it’s what we hold deep inside. It’s not about how God’s gonna drop the hammer on us if we [INSERT SIN HERE]—it’s about “God’s power to do the right thing.” Show them the Jesus they’d (and that we already do) want to follow, rather than one who’s ready to lay down the hammer and/or make a ton of demands of you at every step (see also Matt. 11:29-30).

• Dig into the struggle. Don’t go for “Bible answers”; God certainly didn’t with the Bible. Show us how He’s with us in the struggle, just as He did with those He first gave these words to. The original protagonists of the Bible needed a Living Word—and so do we.

• Self-application starts with ourselves. Introduce people to Jesus—not to how much better we (and our circumstances) are as Christians, and how we can make everyone else know that too. Because again, we know that’s not how God dealt—and continues to deal—with us. And that “continues” is everything. Again, it’s about all of us growing in the struggles God takes us through, not about having all the answers. Jesus has all the answers (and is the answer); we don’t (and aren’t).

• Finally, consider Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” If this is true, then you have plenty to write about.  So, “stay true,” keep your “focus,” and “do the right thing.” :)

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What Kind of Missionary Are YOU?!

All of us who profess to be followers of Christ are missionaries, whether we realize it or not. We may be good missionaries or bad ones, but the Lord has left each of us on this earth as part of His mission to spread the gospel and fill the whole world with His glory (Habakkuk 2:14).

In the mid-1970s I was just completing law school, and was given my first client in the school’s legal clinic program. It was a traffic violation, and my client, Geneva Clark, had been charged with rear-ending another vehicle. Not only that, but her driver’s license had been suspended and was invalid at the time of the accident. And, to make matters worse, Geneva was drunk at the time of the accident.

When the police officers arrived at the accident scene, they reported that Geneva was “strutting boisterously and unclad” in the center of Broad Street, one of the main roads in town. When they charged her with disorderly conduct, she resisted arrest—so they charged her with that too.

Here I was, an intern with the legal clinic, wanting to do well in my first case. Approaching Geneva before we went before the judge, I told her my pessimistic assessment of her case. “Well, Mrs. Clark, I have reviewed your file, and as far as I can see, you have no defense at all.”

Geneva listened politely, and then with a twinkle in her eye started rummaging around in her oversized purse. “Don’t worry, young man,” she assured me calmly. “I have something to show the judge that will help.” She finally found what she was looking for, a rather crumpled-looking card of some kind.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Oh, this is my missionary card,” she replied seriously. “We’ll show this to the judge and he will understand that I’m a missionary...doing God’s work!”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. There may be some areas of the world where a missionary can be effective by “strutting boisterously and unclad,” but Broad Street in Columbus, Ohio, was definitely not such a place. All I could reply to Geneva was, “Somehow I don’t think that will help your case.”

This admittedly is a rather extreme example, but it shows how the world often looks at those who name the name of Christ. Instead of allowing Him to transform our character and manifest His sweet aroma, we end up living like the devil and then trying to use the name of Jesus to cover up for ourselves.

There will never be an impactful revival of Biblical outreach unless it is accompanied by a revival of Biblical character. Before Isaiah was ready to say, “Here am I! Send me,” his sins were purged by burning coals from the altar of God (see Isaiah 6:1-8). Before we can spread the holy fire, it first must be allowed to do its work in our own lives.

So, what kind of missionary are you? When people look at your life, do they truly see Jesus or just a repulsive religious caricature?

In order to influence people for Christ, they must want what we have. I pray you are living that kind of life today, full of the Holy Spirit and radiating His fruit in every situation (Galatians 5:22-23).

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Andrae Crouch & Me: To God Be the Glory

No Christian musician ever influenced me as much as Andrae Crouch did. In fact, I modeled my own “music ministry” after his.

Of course, I stunk as a singer and musician, and my attempt to become a contemporary Christian artist ended the day a friend told me, “Jim, your singing is hoarse and out of key, but at least you sing with feeling.” 

Oh well. It was painful, but I got the message.

Although I quit singing much in public after that, in my private devotions I always aspired to be more like Andrae Crouch. He sang with feeling too, and I could relate.

I was privileged to see Andrae in concert on numerous occasions. The first time was at an outdoor concert, where I chatted briefly with him as he walked through the crowd and listened to the other groups on the stage before him. Although his group, Andrae Crouch and the Disciples, was the headliner of the day, he was just an approachable, humble brother in the Lord behind the scenes.

But I was the most impacted by a concert in Dayton, Ohio. Andrae’s group was the final act, and I remember sitting through some incredibly boring Southern Gospel groups who came on first.

When the moment finally came for Andrae to take the stage, he was introduced by a rather obnoxious local DJ. For what seemed like an eternity, the DJ went on and on about how great Andrae was, citing all the awards he had already won and all the #1 songs he had written.

The DJ’s introduction was over-the-top, nauseating HYPE, pure and simple. He seemed to be preparing the crowd for Andrae Crouch to suddenly descend from heaven in a cloud of smoke or walk on water as he took the stage. I couldn’t help wondering how Andrae was going to begin his concert after such an uproarious introduction.

The DJ eventually ran out of accolades and declared loudly, “HERE HE IS, GRAMMY AND DOVE AWARD-WINNER, ANDRAE CROUCH!!!”

Despite the hype that preceded him, Andrae took the stage without saying a word. He didn’t greet the audience or even look our way. Nor did he start his concert with a rousing song to match the hype of the DJ’s introduction.

Instead, Andrae quietly sat down on his piano bench, looked toward heaven, and began singing one of my favorite songs: “Thank You, Lord. I just want to thank You, I just want to thank You…for all you’ve done for me.”

The scene still brings tears to my eyes today. Many of us would have fallen into the trap of believing the hype and accepting the accolades for ourselves. But not Andrae Crouch.

Even at the height of his popularity and acclaim, Andrae was careful to lay down his crowns and trophies at the feet of Jesus. You see, that’s what we’ll all do in eternity, but Andrae was wise and humble enough to get a head start on glorifying God while he was still alive.

Today Andrae Crouch is no doubt singing in a much more anointed group than he ever experienced on earth. Casting down their crowns before the Lord’s throne, I’m sure they are singing passionately:

You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created (Revelation 4:11)

 Thank You, Lord, for Andrae Crouch. To You be the glory for a life so well spent.

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My Apology to a Would-Be Mentor

Rediscovering a Key to Being an Effective Disciple-Maker

Even though I haven’t seen him in over 35 years, I’ve found myself thinking about Bill Green lately. After hearing my story about Bill, see if you think I owe him an apology.

Bill Green can best be described as a Bible geek. With thick glasses, unkempt hair, and woefully out-of-style clothes, you might picture him as resembling George McFly in the “Back to the Future” movies.

But Bill really knew the Bible, and I’ve never to this day met anyone as committed to one-on-one discipleship.

I had given my heart to Christ as a senior in high school, and I met Bill just a year or two later. He offered to come to my college dorm and disciple me, and at first I happily agreed. I was hungry to know more of God’s Word, and he was eager to teach anyone who would listen.

Sadly, it turned out that Bill and I only got together for our Bible studies three different times. I remember these distinctly, and I can still recite the three specific teachings. In many ways, they became a valuable part of my spiritual foundation, and I also was deeply impacted by Bill’s incredible passion for teaching the Bible to new believers like me.

So why didn’t Bill and I continue to get together? If I gained so much in only three sessions, just think what a Bible genius I could have been if I had hung in there for several years.

However, I soon decided I was “too busy” to continue being discipled by Bill Green.  

Although I’m sure I could have learned more great information from Bill, that’s not the full story. You see, discipleship is not just a matter of passing along Bible facts from one person to another. Jesus puts it in nutshell in Luke 6:40 when He says that every disciple will become like his teacher.

The bottom line was that, even though I admired Bill Green’s knowledge of the Bible, I didn’t want to become like him in his personality, demeanor, and attitudes.

I admit that some of this was simply being turned off by his geekiness and his George McFly grooming style and wardrobe. (Can you imagine how your friends would react if George McFly came to visit you regularly at your college dorm?)

But my brief experience in discipleship with Bill Green also served as a warning that Bible knowledge is only one component of the discipleship process. As the apostle Paul warned, “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). Although I was attracted by Bill’s Bible knowledge, I was very turned off by his life.

So if you’re frustrated today in your attempts to win lost people to Christ or lead believers into a deeper relationship with Him, remember this one indispensable key: People must want what you have. If they don’t want to be like you, you’re wasting your time in trying to get them to respond to your message. 

I still feel bad that I wasn’t able to overlook Bill’s social awkwardness and dorky appearance. I could have learned a lot from him.

Yet there’s a hidden leadership principle tucked away in God’s instruction about those who would serve as priests in Old Testament days (Leviticus 21:18). Those who had a mutilated or disfigured face couldn’t serve as leaders. Translating this over to the New Testament, the issue isn’t about outward appearance at all. Rather, it’s about accurately reflecting the image of Christ, which requires much more than just communicating Bible factoids.

If you pride yourself on astute communication of Bible knowledge to your would-be followers, remember this leadership key from Paul:   (1 Thessalonians 2:8 MSG). People have to be attracted as much by your LIFE as they’re attracted to your message.

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Discipleship -- and Lifestyle Worship

Phil Miglioratti recently stirred my reflective juices by asking for my perspective on how discipleship, prayer, and evangelism are related.

    It's a worthy question, especially for people who are so involved in any particular aspect of ministry that it becomes their primary, almost exclusive, frame of reference. Step by subtle step, all other forms of ministry become compartmentalized into separate (and perhaps secondary) roles. That's the "silo effect."

     Should discipleship, prayer, and evangelism be separate ministry silos? If so, what are the implications? If not, how would you describe their connection?

Here is my 3-paragraph perspective:

  • Context. Discipleship, evangelism, and prayer are parts of a larger context: our relationship with God. True life revolves around Him -- not us. Human beings were created and designed to worship God; that is, to “honor Him in ways that He accepts.” We are most fulfilled and He is most honored when we live and function as designed—as true, vibrant worshipers of God.
  • Lifestyle. We "worship" God -- i.e., we honor Him in ways that He accepts --  by loving Him, abiding in Him, and serving Him. Imagine those as 3 concentric circles with loving at the core, abiding next, and serving as the external circle. In general, the 3 circles represent a Christ-follower's heart, head, and hands. ~~~ A core process in producing this lifestyle is our constant cultivation and practice of Christlike character. ~~~ Examples of this concept in the Scriptures include 1 Cor 13, Jn 15, Rom 12, and the entire book of Ephesians. ~~~ Our lifestyle worship is the way we meet Christ’s challenge in Matthew 5:14-16.
  • Connection. Discipleship includes much of what we mean by “abiding in” (or "walking with" in Ephesians) Him, such as our spiritual disciplines, Bible study, and obedience. Prayer is another way we “abide in” Him. Evangelism—with and without speaking evangelistic words—is part of our “serving.”

Your thoughts?

 

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