Half-way Disciple-Making

April 23, 2015 Category :Blog 0

Steve Jobs led Apple to a remarkable rise in influence in our time. To create such an amazing corporation, Jobs had the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, technological brilliance, and sheer will unlike few others of his time. His uniqueness sets him apart as one of the rare geniuses in American history. Only the rarest of geniuses like Jobs can really make an impact, right?

Not so fast. His entrepreneurial spirit could be only half of the story.

Was his genius really that unique? Or were there other forces at work beyond him?

In his book Outliers Malcolm Gladwell argues that saying men like Jobs, Bill Gates, and Steve Ballmer did what they did simply because of their genius and technological savvy gives only half the story. For instance, if you were to name the who’s who of leaders in the computer and information age, you would come up with a list like this:

-Jobs (Apple)

-Gates (Microsoft)

-Paul Allen (founded Microsoft with Gates)

-Steve Ballmer (runs Microsoft day-to-day)

-Eric Schmidt (ran Novell in the Silicon Valley/later head of Google)

-Bill Joy (founded Sun Microsystems)

What is interesting about these men, as Gladwell notes, is their age. Their birthdates:

-Jobs: February 24, 1955

-Gates: October 28, 1955

-Allen: January 21, 1954

-Ballmer: March 24, 1956

-Schmidt: April 27, 1955

-Joy: November 8, 1954  

Okay, so they were all born within 15 months of one another. Why is that important? Because they became adults just at the time computers emerged. Add to this the fact that they also had opportunities to practice on the primitive computers in their day. Why 1975 is so important, a year they were all college aged? Gladwell writes:

If you talk to veterans of Silicon Valley, they’ll tell you that the most important date in the history of the personal computer revolution was January 1975. That was when the magazine Popular Electronics ran a cover story on an extraordinary machine called the Altair 8800. The Altair cost $397. It was a do-it-yourself contraption that you could assemble at home.’

These men were all just the right age to seize their moment. That’s the other half of the story.

Sometimes we get things right, but only half right. Like when we quote Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church,” right? Wrong. That’s half the verse. The rest: “and gave Himself for her.” THAT kind of love, not just any love.

Here’s a verse that doesn’t fit our American Christianity: Paul wrote, “For a wide door for effective work is before me.” We all want that. But that’s half of it: “and there are many adversaries.” Not exactly your Americanized prosperity gospel, right?

I’m afraid we too easily settle in our discipleship for half of what we need. Holiness is not only turning from evil; it’s running to Christ.  Salvation is not only rescue from hell and a home in heaven; it’s also revolutionary to every facet of this life as well. Spirituality does not only impact our church life; it touches all of it–what we eat, how we spend, how we manage our time, everything.

Jesus promised us life to the full, not halfway (John 10:10). Let’s live that way.

The Failure of “Time Management”

April 21, 2015 Category :Blog 0

Perfection is not when there is no more to add, but no more to take away. —ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPÉRY

Time management: forget about it.

Stop it.

Give it up.

Before you micromanage me, let me explain what I mean by getting rid of time management: you do not manage time. Time moves forward no matter what you or I do or want to do about it. We can no more manage time than we can crawl through a wormhole Interstellar-style.


What we typically mean about time management of course is not really about managing time. What we mostly mean is this: finding how to squeeze as much into your life – commitments, deadlines, productivity, relationships, etc — as possible, and remain sane. That’s how I viewed it for a long time, and became a pro at it.

I was a pro until I became so exhausted I did not want to manage anything. Then I read these words that I found liberating:

In the strictest sense, you shouldn’t be trying to do more in each day, trying to fill every second with a work fidget of some type. It took me a long time to figure this out. I used to be very fond of the results-by-volume approach. Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions. The options are almost limitless for creating “busyness. 

Then I read these words and the truth, it set me free:

Believe it or not, it is not only possible to accomplish more by doing less, it is mandatory. Enter the world of elimination.

I read these words in the book The Four-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. If you get it, be warned: his focus is on getting rich by using less time to do so. I’m not interested in getting rich, at least monetarily. I am very interested in a rich life in other senses of the word, and this enigmatic author helped to jumpstart my thinking.

He writes further:

Here are two truisms to keep in mind: Doing something unimportant well does not make it important. Requiring a lot of time does not make a task important. From this moment forward, remember this: What you do is infinitely more important than how you do it. Efficiency is still important, but it is useless unless applied to the right things.

Here is a simple consideration: what are you doing in your life that seems to be important but is actually accomplishing little except exhausting you?

Those of us in ministry who really love people and genuinely enjoy working hard can fill our lives with good things to the point we have little left for the main thing, our walk with God. How many pastors in an honest moment admitted the things that suffered most in their busy schedules were their walk with God and their family? One of the hardest things for a minister to do is to say no, yet we must do so to protect our families and our sanity.

Try this for a week: start the week with a to-do list of the normal things you do and other important tasks. Then make a stop-doing list of things you can eliminate that are not necessary. Each morning, make a list of each for that day. When you set out to do your work for a day, stay focused and get after it. I’ve found it’s amazing how much I can accomplish when really focused on the task at hand (not easy when you are ADHD like me!).

Stop trying to manage time, and stop trying to cram more things into your life. Spend some time eliminating nonessentials. State your priorities, live by them, and sleep well at night. I can tell you, it’s a better way to live.



Quotes taken from Ferriss, Timothy (2009-11-18). The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated: Expanded and Updated, With Over 100 New Pages of Cutting-Edge Content. Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Four P’s of Personal Witnessing

April 8, 2015 Category :Blog 0

I’ve had some great conversations this week with students about sharing their faith. I also enjoyed speaking about that for a bit with pastors at NAMB via video chat.

Few things intimidate believers like the thought of actually sharing Christ with someone. In our book Get Out: Student Ministry in the Real World, Josh and I talk about what I’ve called the “Four P’s of Personal Witnessing.” I am normally not a fan of alliteration, but here they are:

1) Prayer. Sharing Christ does not compare to a sales pitch. We share what God has done, the announcement of good news, not a bit of advice to help folks. It’s supernatural work. The early church knew that. In fact, the early church was birthed out of a prayer meeting.Notice: In Acts 1:14, the early believers prayed in unison for the ten days from the ascension of Jesus to the day of Pentecost as Jesus has told them. In 2:42 even as the church was born they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to prayers.

In Chapter 3 they were going to pray when they met a lame man. He was healed and began to praise God (wouldn’t you?), and he joined Peter and John as they entered the temple to pray. In fact, as you read through the story of gospel advance in the Acts, you will see that prayer laid the foundation of everything they did.

Take a minute to read Acts 4:23-31. In this passage they faced their first persecution, and we read their prayer. They did not ask God to make it easier in the face of persecution, they did this: 1) They “prayed” the gospel (23-28); they started with a sovereign God, then affirmed Him as Creator, then recognized the fallenness of man (“the heathen rage,” etc.). Then they acknowledged Jesus’ work for salvation was God’s plan all along. 2) They asked God to give them boldness to proclaim the gospel. 3) God answered! The place shook, they were all filled with the Spirit, and they all continued to share Christ with boldness.

Whatever you do to get out into the community and to get your students out sharing Christ, build your efforts on much prayer. I recently led a huge team of Southeastern students to do outreach in Baltimore for a week. One team leader came to me after the first couple of days frustrated at the reception they received.

We talked, and he led his team to fast and pray, seeking the Lord’s favor. The next day they led nine to Jesus. Prayer matters.

Try this 3-fold prayer I pray and challenge my students to pray: God give me 1) An opportunity to witness today 2) wisdom to see it 3) boldness to seize it.

2) Power. In Acts 1:8, Jesus called His followers to be witnesses. Our goal in witnessing is not to show how theologically brilliant or how clever we are, but to partner with the Holy Spirit.

Witnessing is less a presentation we dump on people and more a conversation we have with people. The more we know Jesus, the more we understand the wonder of the gospel, and the more we know how the Spirit works, the more we can converse with others about Jesus.

The Spirit fills the believer for service. He gives us boldness to witness. He provides divine appointments as we obey. The Spirit convicts unbelievers of sin (John 16). He leads them to witnesses (Cornelius in Acts 10, the Eunuch in Acts 8, etc.). He brings a lost person from death to life.

Few things will excite believers and help them to grow in Christ more than seeing the Spirit lead them in their daily lives. The Spirit teaches us through the Word, and He guides us to opportunities to witness.

3) Proclamation (Matthew 28:16-20). This is where we actually proclaim the good news. Living witnesses sharing Christ are God’s Plan A, and He has not given us a Plan B! Most of us know more than we do here, but if you want some good tools check out the Life Conversations Guide (3 Circles) or the Story.

4) Persuasion (II Corinthians 5:9-21). When we do share Christ, we need to ask people to respond to the gospel. Not manipulate, not coerce, but simply ask the question: would you like to trust Jesus alone and follow Him?

You can read more in the book, but these are essentials in my view for helping people understand not only that we should witness, but the power we have when we do.

Favorite Easter Songs

April 5, 2015 Category :Blog 0

I love music. I love that God has given us something to sing about and created us with a love of harmony, melody, and lyrical substance.

Today is Easter. It is true that for the believer everyday is Easter. But today we remember our Lord’s death and resurrection in a special way.

My two favorite Easter songs are old and new. The older one was written in a great revival by Charles Wesley. A lot of churches today do not sing this one so much, and that is unfortunate. You may think I will give “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” as my favorite Charles Wesley Easter song, but as he wrote many, the one I most love is his song “And Can It Be,” written soon after his conversion:

And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love Divine!
’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.
’Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness Divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

The more recent one you may know as well. I never sing it without being moved to think of our Savior’s sacrifice in a real, personal way. It’s called Man of Sorrows:

Man of sorrows Lamb of God
By His own betrayed
The sin of man and wrath of God
Has been on Jesus laid

Silent as He stood accused
Beaten mocked and scorned
Bowing to the Father’s will
He took a crown of thorns

Oh that rugged cross
My salvation
Where Your love poured out over me
Now my soul cries out
Praise and honour unto Thee

Sent of heaven God’s own Son
To purchase and redeem
And reconcile the very ones
Who nailed Him to that tree

Now my debt is paid
It is paid in full
By the precious blood
That my Jesus spilled

Now the curse of sin
Has no hold on me
Whom the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed

See the stone is rolled away
Behold the empty tomb
Hallelujah God be praised
He’s risen from the grave

I am sure you have your own favorites. Let’s rejoice today that He is risen, He is risen indeed!