CREATING A CULTURE OF DISCIPLESHIP–CLAIMING THE DNA OF JESUS

A decade ago the congregation I was serving caught the vision to be an outward-focused church.  We had honestly examined ourselves and determined that if our church would suddenly disappeared or died, that we would not be missed. We felt we had no significant impact beyond the way we served ourselves.  And that was not enough.

The word missional was not yet in our vocabulary.  We had not examined the Word sufficiently to frame our thoughts in a scripturally significant way.  We had not yet begun using the language of discipleship.  We just wanted to change course and move towards Christ’s vision for his church.

Later we would discover that we would need to create a new culture—a culture we now refer to as a culture of discipleship.

At the beginning of that journey we made a decision to let the Holy Spirit be the leader of the church.  We understood that it was the Holy Spirit’s role to lead, teach, empower the church to carry out its mission from Jesus.  The Holy Spirit would lead us to be like Jesus and live for Jesus.

That meant that we needed to first look at Jesus—who he was and what he revealed about the nature of God and the Kingdom.  To borrow from Howard Snyder and Daniel Runyon,  we needed to take on “the DNA of Jesus.” We need to be obedient to let the Spirit shape us to be like Jesus before us if we were to be competent to do the continuing work of Jesus. To accomplish that, my elders undertook a scriptural examination of what we would later identify as the core values of a church being obedient to the Holy Spirit to take on an outward-focused mission.

As part of that process we identified 10 core values.  We knew to be the church united by the Spirit, those values would need to be shared values.  I remember distinctly, however, one of my elders observing, “These are the values we need to embody, but you do know, pastor, that only about 5 or 6 of them are true about us at this time.”  The result of that discussion was to begin the process of becoming a church of disciples by teaching those core values and working to help the persons in the Body appropriate those values for themselves.

Why is this so important – why is this critical for creating a culture of discipleship?

Largely because many congregations have operated for a very long time without a clear connection to biblical foundations.  They may have clear statements of faith and solid doctrinal teaching, but in practice they operate from a values foundation that has become altered by traditions, values of a churched culture rather than Crist, their personal family values, their personal experience of living in an increasingly secularized culture – and on and on.

Values drive behavior.  Behavior impacts lives.  The combination of values and the resulting behaviors produce the character and identity of a person.  Only the values of Jesus can be expected to produce fruitful and faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.  Creating a discipling culture requires first-attention to values that are embedded in the Body.

© 2012 by Stephen L. Dunn

For those of you who are interested in creating a culture of discipleship, especially those of you who are church planters, you want to check out this very important conference coming May 18-19, 2o12 at Winebrenner Theological Seminary in Findlay, Ohio.

To learn more go to the LINK

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A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY FOR THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION FOR CHURCH PLANTERS

The planting conversation today is generally one-sided. We read books and the author speaks to us, we watch webinars and see them teach, we go to conferences and hear them share, but what about our questions? How does what they say work in our context?
LAUNCH’’s goal is to break down those walls that cause the discussion to be one-sided. LAUNCH and the speakers are committed to providing you with time for questions in a smaller context. We want to offer opportunities to continue the dialogue outside the conference sessions and even past the conference itself, so that planters and pastors are strengthened in the mission that God has called them to.

What if you had the opportunity to spend 3 to 5 days with the conference speakers you thought could help you the most? We want to provide those opportunities for you. Our goal is to not be just a conference, but an environment of mentoring, teaching, conversation, push back, and growing from some of the greatest minds in the planting world.

LAUNCH is also partnering with Winebrenner Seminary to launch a new Seminary program that will partner with many of our speakers to provide, what we believe, will be the best church planting program in the U.S. Programs offered will be: Church Planting Diploma Graduate Certificate in Church Planting Master of Arts in Church Development M.Div with a planting emphasis Our Faculty includes: Dr. Reggie McNeal Dr. Linda Bergquist Dr. Phillip Nation Neil Cole Vince Antinoucci Lizzette Beard Glenn Smith Justin Meier

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT LAUNCH GO TO THE LINK

WHY TEENS, YOUNG ADULTS ARE LEAVING THE CHURCH

BY SHERYL YOUNG from Yahoo News Service

ANALYSIS | For the last decade, churches in America have felt the pinch of young people exiting faster than you can say “Welcome to Sunday Morning Service.” Why do our young people want out?

At a glance, it’s no puzzlement to the man on the street. As discussed in my recent article, “New Organization, Book Explores Reversing the Church’s Bad Reputation,” numerous controversial issues have been handled ungracefully while trying to tell the rest of the world about Jesus and His love.

But for Christians who wish to return America to a more Bible-friendly atmosphere, there are even deeper conflicts and symptoms to be recognized.

Starting from kids on up, a great variety of reasons for the exodus exists. The following are gathered and generalized from well-informed sources: “Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith …and How to Bring Them Back,” (Drew Dyck, Moody Publishing, Oct 2010), “Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it” (Ken Ham & Britt Beemer, Todd Hillard, New Leaf, Aug 2009); “The Last Christian Generation” (McDowell, Green Key, 2006); and Lifeway Christian Resource Surveys from 2007 and 2010.

* Churched kids and teens spend six of seven days each week hearing other people say how judgmental Christianity is, and that the Bible should be taboo.

* Churches use outdated methods of Sunday School, rotating the same Bible stories year-in and year-out without relating the morals to daily living. When kids want to know why someone like Gabrielle Giffords was shot, they don’t need another lesson on Noah’s Ark.

* Teens can only eat so much pizza at church social events before they see through this thinly veiled attempt at keeping them occupied and out of trouble.

* Those surveyed say there aren’t enough good reasons given for holding Bible beliefs other than “the preacher says so…” or “your parents say so.”

* Sometimes kids are routinely kept out of “grown-up church.” From infancy to four years old, they’re in nursery. Then they get “children’s church” with a short Bible lesson, crafts and refreshments. For teens, a separate youth service geared to “their” music. By eighteen, they’ve never been expected to sit through a whole Sunday service. It’s culture shock.

* Young people can see that the Church in general hasn’t yet been able to conquer racial reconciliation, domestic abuse and the rampant church divorce rate…sometimes in their own families.

* Older generations won’t blend a moderate amount of contemporary music with traditional hymns, to show young people that newer ideas are respected.

* Or, the Church feels pressured to impress their younger members with new technological avenues. So they discard all the old hymns that were written out of peoples’ struggles with life, pride and suffering. Thus, the newer generations don’t hear about how God can help them through hard times.

* Parents are expecting the church to teach what may fall within their own responsibility.

* But then, young parents raised in the last twenty years have themselves grown up under the new pop psychology of never receiving or deserving any discipline or criticism. They’ve seen church become irrelevant. Now, as parents, they’re hesitant to make (or even ask) their kids to go to church or develop a backbone in faith.

* Lastly, everyone’s too busy for church. There are too many other attractions in life.

Many church leaders may pick up these books and surveys only to find the suggested answers to the problems are things their church already tried. Others may not have the means or congregational support to implement changes.

And still more will find it such a daunting task that they just throw up their hands. Maybe it’s time to do just that — throw hands up and pray, rather than create more programs — and leave the rest up to God.

Sheryl Young has been freelance writing for newspapers, magazines, organizations and websites since 1997. Her specialty is American politics, education and society as they intersect with religion. Credits include Community Columnist for the Tampa Tribune Newspaper, Interview Columnist with Light & Life Magazine, and a National First Place “Roaring Lambs” Writing Award from the Amy Foundation.

RE-PRESENTING THE LIVING JESUS

The Church does not represent a philosophy, it re-presents a person. That person is Jesus Christ.  So when we live day in and day out as the church are people seeing Jesus? And what Jesus do they see?

Two compelling questions for the church in the 21st century.  We are just two decades shy of being 2000 years removed from when Jesus appeared in the flesh on Planet Earth. As Eugene Peterson describes it “When Jesus appeared and took up residence in the neighborhood.” Through us do people encounter a Risen Jesus or an ancient prophet from a distant time? Instead of the Living Christ too many churches present a well-preserved portrait from a bygone era.  Like Sallman’s head of Christ.  There is a quaint dignity to this portrait, but do you have to return to that time to relate to that Jesus? Would you actually expect to see him in the street.

Or they put forward a religious billboard reflecting an enduring institution but no life that transforms peoples’ lives.  People are not looking for another service organization, even one that serves in the name of Jesus. Rotary and Sertoma do that quite well, thank you and when they’re not being too politically correct even offer a prayer to Jesus.  People  are looking for a relationship with a living Jesus that gives them hope and purpose and power.  They don’t want to do more things. They want to be immeasurably more. Only by presenting them Jesus can they find what they’re seeking.