How Jesus Made Disciples

Making disciples is why the church exists. At the very heart of the Great Commission is to "make disciples." Yet there has been a growing realization that many churches are failing to train and release disciples. All the wonderful programing we have innovated from Sunday School to Small Groups, there seems to be a lack of disciple making. Many churches are brimming with activity but usually fail to see the rapid reproducing of the early church. Part of the reason is the Spirit came in great power in that first century church. However, I think part of the reason we have not seen the multiplication cause by true discipleship is because we have failed to follow the biblical methodology of Jesus for disciple making. I think Jesus' method of disciple making can be boiled down to three basic elements–intellectual, relational, and missional.

Intellectual

A huge part of Jesus' ministry was teaching. He would constantly stand before the crowd and teach for long hours into the day. The crowd ate it up and loved hearing this man who preached with authority, unlike the scribes and pharisees. (Mt 7:28-29) Jesus taught in a way the masses could understand, but he also taught some deep things that were difficult for his own disciples to grasp. As he spoke in parables, the disciples would fail to get the point of the nice story. Jesus was the patient teacher pulling his twelve disciples together for a small group discussion, explaining the meaning behind his teachings.

A key part to their discipleship was being trained by the Rabi, Jesus. He taught about the kingdom, about money, about prayer, and the list continues. Jesus' taught his disciples everything they would need to know to lead and shepherd the early church.

As we look at churches today, some churches are strong in this area or weak. Some churches teach robust biblical doctrine in their classes and have a pastor who carefully preaches the word through expository preaching. This is a great gift and blessing. Knowing theology and learning the Scriptures is vital to any growing and reproducing disciple. Although education and the intellect  is important, without the other two elements you will have just a church full of pharisees.

Relational

Jesus built relationships with his disciples. He poured his life into theirs for three years. When Jesus called his first disciples he gave them a simple command "follow me". We are told that Simon and Andrew dropped their fishing nets and immediately started following Jesus (Mt 4:19-20). The disciples hung out with Jesus 24/7. Every day for three years these men enjoyed nightly long dinner conversations with the messiah. They spent their days following the dusty road behind the saviors shadow. They lived life with him. Everything Jesus did, they did. Everywhere Jesus went, they went.

This relational component is one that is largely lacking in our modern discipleship methods. Discipleship is more than just meeting once a week for an hour, whether it be at a small group or a church service. Part of discipling someone is to invite them into the rhythm of your life. The disciples learned a lot from Jesus' teaching, but they learned just as much from watching his life. They watched Jesus as he was hungry, criticized, tired, and sad. They saw how a Christian was supposed to live by watching the life of Jesus. Relational discipleship is often messy, takes time, and can be inconvenient. We are often private individuals and do not want someone up in our business. Yet, Jesus opened his entire life for his disciples to watch and imitate. We must do the same in our discipleship.

Missional

If we are missing the relational component in our modern discipleship methods than the missional component is not even on our radars. Jesus discipled with a purpose. He called out to Simon and Andrew and commanded them, "Follow Me". Why are they to follow Jesus? For what purpose is Jesus beginning this discipleship with them? Well Jesus tells us, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Mt 4:19) You see the reason we disciple is to train and release people to make more disciples.

Even in their three year discipleship, Jesus gave his twelve hands on ministry experience. In Matthew 10 we see Jesus send out the twelve under his authority to do ministry. He sent them out by twos on junior local mission trips preparing them for the Great Commission in which they were to go into all the world.

Churches often bring new Christians into the church for great teaching and maybe even some relational disciple making. Bringing them into the Christian subculture is easy. Releasing them into the culture as missionaries is much more difficult. In our discipleship methods, we are far to content producing well behaving Christian people than life giving soldiers marching to the orders of their king. A key component to our discipleship needs to be pushing disciples to participate in the Great Commission. We must encourage them to share the Gospel with their neighbors or the coach on their kids soccer team. We make disciples who are reproducing, going on to disciple others.

Making Disciples Like Jesus

If we can fire our discipleship process on all three cylinders, I can only imagine what God will do through our churches. We must train people intellectually in the Christian faith, teaching them the Scriptures. We must mentor and pour our lives into people in our relationships. We must challenge every Christian to be a missionary and reach their community and world for Christ. If we start making disciples as Jesus made disciples, perhaps we will recover the organic wild fire that was the early church.

5 Lessons I Learned on my 3-Week Break from Social Media

I am coming off of a three-week break from social media and blogging. It was a good break and a needed disconnect from the incessant buzz of Facebook and Twitter. Taking a three-week break forced me to really examine my social media usage and learn some new lessons. I thought it might be a good idea to share some of the lessons I've learned from my three-week break.

1. Social Media is a Powerful Tool

The internet and social media are just that – a tool. It can be used for good or it can be used for great evil. It all depends on the intention of the person as to whether social media becomes a productive and edifying tool or a destructive, piercing weapon. It can be extremely powerful either way you wield it. Our sin can quite easily cause us to use social media to hurt others, gossip, or criticize. Yet, I long to seek new ways to use social media to connect with other, encourage people in their faith, and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

2. Social Media can become an Addiction

Social Media is like heroin. It can become quickly addicting. I often found myself overly dependent on checking the social network for likes, comments, messages, etc. Like an addict looking for his next high, I would scroll through my iPhone looking for another dosage. Over the past three weeks I deleted all the social media network from my iPhone so I would not even be tempted to open them up. It was good to take a break and be free from the addiction, but to also rest my mind from generating content to build up the body of Christ.

3. Social Media Connects the World

Through my blog and social media this past year, I have had the opportunity to meet and pray for believers all across the world. It has been amazing to see the ministry opportunities the Lord has given me through stewarding the tool of social media for his glory. I still have a long ways to go in using it properly, but by God's grace I'll get there.

4. Social Media Usage Often Has Sinful Motivations

As I examined my own heart these past three weeks, I learned just how wretched of a sinner I am. I like keeping up with how many views this blog gets or how many likes a post gets on Facebook or how many retweets. It is so easy to begin to post, write, and encourage others not for the glory of God but for the vain praise of men. By God's grace, he has taught me the difficult lesson of fearing him before others and finding my identity not in what people think about me.

5. Social Media is a Ministry

I am more convinced than ever that this blog and my Facebook and Twitter accounts are another form of the ministry God has given me. Keeping content coming through the pipeline is often a lot of work. Writing these blog posts regularly takes great energy. All of this is a ministry for me. It is a joyous labor to serve the church universal through writing and tweeting. By God's grace may he use my efforts and labors for the spread of His name and for His glory.

If you are interested you can befriend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

What Should I Tell My Kids About Santa?

This is a question I have gotten a few times this Christmas season. I though it best to write up a post with my answer. As Christians wanting to honor and prioritize the birth of Jesus Christ, I’m glad many wrestle with this question. Now that I am a daddy, this question has been on my mind a lot recently too. I want to firm my convictions on this issue before my son Jude is at the age where he understands. I, like many kids, believed in Santa Claus. It made Christmas a magical time as a young child to believe in a jolly fat man in a red suite who comes and gives presents to good little boys and girls. Looking back on my own experience as a child, it was a lot of fun. I don’t remember how I figured out it was all a lie, but I don’t remember it causing me any serious detrimental harm or anger at my parents. However, despite my own experience as a child, I have decided that we will be honest with our children and tell them that Santa is just make-believe. I’ll start off by saying that I do not believe that if your kids believe in Santa that you are somehow a bad parent or that you are in grievous sin. You can have your own opinion on this and that is fine. However, let me share with you five reasons why we are making this decision with the Deeter children.

1. I Want to Model Truth Telling to My Kids

This is probably the biggest hang up for me. I want to always model truth telling for my children. I don’t want to do anything to intentionally deceive them, even if its in the name of fun. Part of practicing santa (or even the elf on the shelf for that matter), means tricking your children to believe in something that is a lie. And like all lies, you have to keep lying about it to continue that lie. Kids get inquisitive and pretty soon they start probing the elaborate santa conspiracy. “How does he get to all the children?” or “How does he get into houses with no chimneys?” or “How can Reindeer fly?” Pretty soon the little lie of santa stretches into an elaborate web of deception. With my children I want to speak truth at all times, so that when I tell them the must important things that may seem unbelievable, they would believe they are true because Daddy speaks truth. This leads me to my second reason.

2. I Want my Children to Believe the Truly Supernatural

The supernatural is becoming an increasingly hard pill to swallow in our society today. Many deny that the supernatural is even possible. My children will be growing up in such a world in which everything will attempt to be explained by the particulars, science and reason. Yet, the supernatural does happen and God does interact with his world. The lie of santa is a supernatural one, in which one man is omniscient (he knows all the little boys and girls and how good they are) and omnipotent (he can travel the world in one night). If my children see that I may lie about the truthfulness of santa, will they doubt the incarnation of God or the resurrection of Jesus Christ? I don’t know, but I don’t want to risk it. I want my children to believe in the true supernatural events recorded in the Scriptures, not myths and legends that have no hint of truth.

3. I Want to Put an Ax to Moralism

The whole Santa myth has evolved into monstrous moralism. We teach children that in order to get good gifts and to not get coal, you must be good. So children spend all their efforts all year being good to get good rewards. If anything is antithetical to Christmas, it is moralism. The wonderful good news of Christmas is that God gives us the gift of his son not by our own merits but by his own grace. We receive the gift of salvation through Jesus even though we all deserve a tractor trailer full of coal. I don’t want to encourage moralism in my children any more than their sinful hearts will be naturally prone too.

4. I Want to Keep the Focus on Christ

The whole Santa thing can be a great distraction. I remember that materialistic lust that ravaged me as a child at Christmas time. I wanted stuff, toys, and video games. Looking back, I can see how the lust for gifts far exceeded my love for Christ as a child. My wife Kaitlyn even remembers vocalizing as a young child how Santa Clause was better than Jesus because of the presents. Having children caught up in believing the lie of Santa can greatly distract their hearts from the true treasure of Christmas, the word become flesh.

5. I Want to Have A lot of Fun at Christmas Time

I want to have a lot of fun at Christmas time. I have nothing against Santa being a part of Christmas. We will watch all those wonderful claymation Christmas movies featuring santa. We will put up stockings and put presents under the Christmas tree. I’ll buy them little red santa hats to wear and take them out to see Christmas lights. It will be a blast and a ton of fun, but my children will know from the get go that Santa is make-believe. He is a fun character and a great story, but at the end of the day it is just a myth. We will have a blast celebrating Christmas as a family all the while doing the best we can to keep the focus on Jesus Christ, the wonderful and precious gift of God to us all.

Meaning in the Mundane

Life can get a little mundane can't it? In our lives we can quickly get into the monotony of routine. Wake up, get the kids ready for school, go off to work, eat dinner, go to soccer practice, go to bed. Rinse and repeat. As ambassadors for Christ how do we thrive in the seemingly mundane routine we find ourselves every day? The answer is what must look to every area of our lives with Gospel intentionality. You see the Gospel provides meaning to the mundane and purpose to the trivial. Through a Christ-centered lens our ordinary days become powerfully meaningful and eternally significant. Let me give you two examples.

Raising Children with Gospel Intentionality

When we begin to live with Gospel intentionality, the way we raise our children is different. We are not just raising them to get a good job, get a good education, and make a bunch of money. We are raising them unto Christ. We are raising them to fulfill the great Commission. We are raising them for Christ and to evangelize them, disciple them, and release them as fellow partners in advancing the Gospel. This makes changing diapers and late-night feedings incredibly meaningful. Everyday mundane things filled with Gospel purpose.

Going to Work with Gospel Intentionality

The way we go to work is different, when we begin to go with Gospel intentionality. Many people absolutely hate their jobs. Their sole purpose for going to work is just to make a paycheck. However the Gospel fills our work with purpose. In Christ, not only are we going to work to provide for our families, we go living for Christ to be a light in a dark place. We build relationships with co-workers to be able to live out and speak Christ. As we go into our jobs we do not go as corporate drones but joyous ambassadors for Christ. Therefore no matter what our profession from garbage man to CEO all of it is incredibly meaningful.

The Gospel gives purpose to the mundane and meaning to the trivial. In Christ, our ordinary days become extraordinary. So if you are struggling to get out of the morning and finding your routine boring, begin to see yourself as an ambassador for Christ. When you do you will find just how meaningful the mundane can become.

The Constant Hum of the Internet

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The internet is an amazing tool. It is also an amazing distraction. Now, in days when we have the internet in our pockets on our smartphones, the constant hum of the internet rests deeply on our minds. We have become obsessed with checking for likes or comments and reading updates of people whom we really know very little about. The danger is that in many ways we are addicted to the internet.

As a youth pastor, I see this often in the lives of many teenagers. Many walk around like cyborgs with their smartphones replacing their left hand. Many adults do the exact same thing. When you go into a restaurant it is not uncommon to see a family eating dinner together, but all on their phones. The hum of social media and the internet rings loudly in our ears, except so often we don't realize how loud its gotten because we are around it 24/7. This hum is getting deafening and greatly affecting our personal relationships. We do not know how to carry a conversation. We are uncomfortable looking someone in the eye and talking, but far more comfortable with a dimly lit screen and a keyboard.

I am a firm believer that social media can be a great tool and can be used for the glory of God and for the spread of the Gospel. In blogging, Facebook, and twitter my goal is to maximize the name of Jesus Christ in a hum of vanity and narcissism. In our use of technology and the internet, we must always keep our motives in check. As a Christian, we have a mission, to tell the world that Jesus is the savior. The spread of the Gospel is our first priority, and the internet can be a great tool to do that. However, we must not let the tool distract us from our primary purpose. We must not let the internet supersede the reason why we use it. For many, including myself, the hum of the internet has become so idolatrous, it needs to be repented of. For some of us the best thing we can do is to detox for a week. May God help us learn to use the internet as a great tool for the kingdom, and not as a slave master whose constant hums drowns effects our relationships with friends and family.

How do you protect yourself from the constant hum of the internet? Share with us in the comments!