Scripture Memory: Memoirs of a Successful Failure

-Guest post by Small Group Coach, Catlan Sardina

I once tried to memorize the Book of Romans. I learned a few things from that effort.

1) Scripture memory is hard.

2) Actually storing the Word of God in your heart is even harder.

But, I think what I learned in my journey could be helpful and encouraging to you. Let me paint the picture of how I got to where I am in pursuit of memorization, so I can help you memorize scripture more effectively.

Last year I led our group through Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, by Donald Whitney. This was the second time I went through the book in a Small Group setting, and I knew what I was in for. If you are not familiar, Whitney challenges Christians to practice ten disciplines (including memorization) for the purpose of godliness. I didn’t want the semester to be just another book study, so I really buckled down and prepared to make some lifestyle changes to be a more disciplined Christian (and leader) for the purpose of godliness.

In regards to the  discipline of Scripture memorization, I set the goal to memorize the entire book of Romans. At first it was without a prescribed due date. I did some research to find effective tools and techniques, then decided my tool of choice would be “Scripture Typer,” an iPhone app. The premise is that you plug verses into the app, and then memorize the verses through a three step process that increased in difficulty. You just type the first letter of each word, and boom! You’ve memorized Scripture.

The app is more useful than I just made it sound, and I was hooked. I’m a bit of a nerd, so I built a spreadsheet to accompany my memorization progress. I found that in the first 21 days I had memorized the entire first chapter of Romans, an average pace of 1.52 verses per day. (Please don’t judge my analytics too harshly.)

I knew that was an unsustainable pace, so I made the adjustment to memorize at .71 verses per day like this:

  • Monday – 1 new verse
  • Tuesday – 1 new verse
  • Wednesday – review new verses and eventually 1 whole chapter
  • Thursday – 1 new verse
  • Friday – 1 new verse
  • Saturday – 1 new verse
  • Sunday – Review every verse I’ve ever memorized

It all seemed really impressive, and I had convinced myself that I was crushing it. About four months in I was working on Romans 4:21, and couldn’t be any more proud of myself. (Warning, pride comes before a fall!)

Every once in a while I could convince my wife to listen to me recite my memory verses, God bless her, and for the most part I could recite Romans 1:1-4:21 with very few “helps”. Better yet, I had a really high score in the Scripture Typer app, and was en route to Christian greatness. Everything was gravy until the day the bubble popped (not the housing bubble).

One day I was talking to a friend at work about Romans’ claim that everyone really knows God exists. I knew that this truth was stored in Romans 1, right around verse 20. I got super excited and started wagging my tail because I was about to throw verses of Scripture right in his face!

I only had one little problem. In the fiery furnace of workplace (self-inflicted) persecution I couldn’t for the life of me remember a single word from my verses. Forget about the obvious problem of failure to perform my dream recital from way up high on my holier-than-though soap box. It occurred to me that I hadn’t written a single verse on my heart! It was time to spend some significant time in prayer, reconsider my motives and methods, and possibly reconsider my .71 verses per day.

I’d like to say that this is when I stumbled across some insightful C.S. Lewis or C.H. Spurgeon quote that kicked me into hyper-Spirit mode. But, alas, my flesh prevailed, and I gave up Scripture memorization outright. Months went by. My Scripture Typer app would occasionally look at me like a child depraved of attention. Sometimes I would even open it and see how many “stale” verses needed review… Then I’d close the app, pretend like I never opened it, and read some ESPN. I was officially defeated by my prideful flesh, the lies of the Enemy (“You are too dim and prideful to memorize God’s Word”) and the pressures of the world (“You have more important things to do, anyway!”)

But, praise God for His sovereign persistence in pursuing my heart. Praise God for the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Praise God for passages like Matthew 4:1-11, where Jesus conquered Satan, not by supernatural power and lightning bolts, but by speaking memorized Scripture at the stinky beast. Praise God for Paul declaring the Bible as our offensive weapon in Spiritual Warfare in Ephesians 6:17. And Praise God for Ephesians 6:1, because I have four kids and I love that verse.

So, what did I do that worked? I decided to start a humbler adventure, at a humbler pace, aware of my memorization limits, and just enjoy the ride. (So humble of an adventure that I am writing a blog post about it.) I read more about memorization techniques. I looked into stories of people memorizing Scripture successfully. I sought out different tools and methods.

I accepted failure in my new adventures, and continued because I wasn’t under the gun of my past failures. I found joy in memorizing in a way that works for me, and asking God to daily write the words on my heart. He receives the glory from my previous failure, because He showed me how incapable I am on my own.

Organization doesn’t write Scripture on your heart, neither does discipline, only Spirit empowerment with the right heart and mind will give you the joy of a scriptural sword that is ready for battle.

Here are a few successful tips I’ve picked up on this iteration of the journey.

1) I am still memorizing a large passage, but not just because I can. Romans 1 started with an introduction, and it is valuable because it is the Word of God. But is Paul’s introduction to a letter really a necessary place to start? No. So, this time I started working on the Sermon on the Mount. It starts with the Beatitudes, so even if I fail to get all of Matthew 5-7, I at least have those gems with me.

2) I’m memorizing verses that align with our Church’s focus in that season. I have no idea what my pastor was preaching on when I was memorizing Romans. But while I’m memorizing the Sermon on the Mount our Pastor is doing a series on the Sermon on the Mount. I feel more aligned in my personal discipline with my communal worship.

3) I am engaging as many senses as possible in my memorization techniques. The only resources I used consistently in my pursuit of Romans were my Scripture Typer app and my Bible. Now, I write my verses on note cards; I draw a picture to help me remember the verse (and the reference!!!!); I listen to verse-in-song (thank you Fighter Verses app!!), and I read them in my Bible. It is important to read them out of your Bible so that you can see in your brain’s eye exactly where that passage is in YOUR Bible. (Thanks small group sister Jennessa for that tip.)

For your enjoyment, here are some examples of my ridiculous drawings.

Matthew 5-5Matthew 5-6Matthew 5-8

4) I’m slowing down. 0.71 verses per day was so useless to my natural limitations. D.A. Carson can memorize whole chapters in multiple languages (supposedly), but I will happily crawl through an enjoyable season of Beatitudes before running too quickly and never writing a word on my heart.

5) Most important, I am worshipping God in my memorization. Every success is to His glory. Every verse comes with deeper meaning of the text or I do not consider myself ready to move on. For example, I don’t think I ever internalized or meditated on meekness properly until I memorized Matthew 5:5.

Friends, will you join me on the God glorifying, highly personalized, transforming, empowering, and equipping journey of memorizing God’s Word?

Catlan Sardina

Fall 2017 Testimonies and 2018 Dates

2017 testimonies main photo

It was a fall of mass shootings, National Anthem protests, increasing worldwide persecution of Christians, sexual misconduct scandals, and of course our own personal life challenges. Where is God in all of this? How can we know Him, have faith in Him, and share our faith in Him unashamedly with others?

God directed our church into an entire fall devoted to these tough questions; wrestling through them together in our sermons and small groups. After a successful Ministry Summit focused on training leaders in apologetics, we launched the all-church sermon and small group series, The God Questions. We saw God grow our faith and our church, and our witness in the world.

And, now, it is time to recount and celebrate some of those ways!

Fall 2017 Testimonies

It is that time of year again when I get to share just a glimpse of what God is doing in and through our church and each unique small group. Below you will find some of the testimonies, goals, and celebrations reported from our groups this fall.

(Following those are important upcoming 2018 dates.)

Now, take a moment to read, praise God, and enjoy!

Stories and Praises from our Groups

small-groups-logo-pro.jpgWe had a great time at the corn maze!”23031284_253318151862956_5672789143419651049_n.jpg

small-groups-logo-pro.jpgWe’ve had a few new ladies visit and join us who haven’t been involved in a small group. One said they feel like they’ve finally find a place they belong.”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpg “I am very thankful our exchange students have observed our small group (voluntarily).  It makes me much more conscious of our conversations and how an outsider might view us.  For that, I am thankful.”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpgPraise: “One couple got to spend extended time with a relative that has been on our prayer list for a long time. Although he still has not made a commitment to Jesus, he opened up about what was going on in his life, which is not his normal way.”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpg“We continue to be a helping and sharing group, coming to each other’s aid as needed. Examples have been: donating funds to help members in need, assisting with household tasks of others, helping find employment for family members, and provided transportation on short notice. We are a group of believers and friends who do not hesitate to ask for and offer support to others as needed. We mailed a care package of food and other items to a missionary family in mid-August.”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpg“Praise the Lord that we have new folks this semester.  We are blessed that everyone is quickly comfortable with participating and sharing.”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpg“We had one group member who at the start of the first discussion, said he had a hard time answering someone who said ‘If everything was created, who created God?’ By the end of the night he had an ‘ah ha’ moment as we reviewed the discussion and went back to page 12 in the God Questions book and concluded that only someone bigger than the universe [an infinite God] could have created the finite universe. The diagram was essential as all the pieces were falling into place. We also had a lively discussion about the truth of the Bible and marveled at the reality about how much more evidence there was for the New Testament [24,000] to be true than Homer’s Iliad [643].”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpg“We have had great attendance this fall. Everyone has participated and been very open in discussions. Considering that we are new group and still trying to get to know everyone, this is huge. Plus, two members got engaged this last Sunday!”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpgThe Grisham group completes their annual Habitat for Humanity group project!girsham.jpg

small-groups-logo-pro.jpg“We prayed for a member to quit tobacco at Small Group and he has quit for months.”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpg“Praise that as a group over the past year, the ladies have grown together as a family while most of the men were gone. We’ve studied Financial Peace University over the summer and some have gotten out of debt, and/or increased their giving and being better stewards overall of finances. Another praise that all the husbands are back and it feels like a new season/kickoff as a group because of that.”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpgA new member’s response to our prayer list: “Wow, amen to all of those beautiful prayers. I will be praying for you all, I hope that you all have a beautiful day/Halloween and stay safe! God bless each and every one of you. Very happy to have had the chance to become a part of such a awesome small group.”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpg“Our group raked five yards for our service project this fall. It was a blast for everyone, and the number of new conversations with neighbors that prompted was unlike anything I’ve seen in from one project.”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpg“One member came to the church due to the flyer that the church sent out and has felt welcomed. He is a recovering from some life circumstances and has many questions about Jesus.”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpgThe Snyder’s group Christmas Party 24796268_934040673418747_8111483452175010245_n.jpg

small-groups-logo-pro.jpgOverstreet Group Tree Farm Field Trip and Christmas Party christmas party

 

small-groups-logo-pro.jpgNobles/Kern Christmas Party24173525_10212360492702303_1757439126550020914_o (2).jpgsmall-groups-logo-pro.jpgPinneo Group Christmas Decorating24131204_10214153665097623_7620166677154561062_n (2).jpg

New Leader Goals

A national survey of thousands of church small group leaders revealed that fewer than 1/3 had ever set any kind of goal for their group. That demonstrates a concerning lack of intentional leadership. In response, Lake City Small Group leaders were asked to set 1-3 goals for their semester – things they believe God would like to see happen under their leadership.

Below are several examples of what our leaders identified as goals this fall, in addition to the standard duties of small group leading.

Do more outreach outside of the church family, and see members grow spiritually.

Develop new group activity outside of normal meeting time.

 

Inspire our group to share Jesus with others and not keep it bottled up in our small group.

Identify potential leaders, and give them at least one opportunity to lead the group.

Continue at least two outreach ministries that we can do outside of the group.

Distribute the work of leadership to a core team.

Transition leadership effectively.

Work a Habitat for Humanity project in Tillicum.

To assess where each member is in their walk with Christ and what each needs to reach the next stage.

To serve food at the Tacoma Rescue Mission, with celebration dinner at conclusion.

To develop a prayer plan during the second half of this semester that allows more time for group prayer.

For our members to reach out and use what they are learning to witness to those around them.

To equip members to take ownership of their own spiritual growth.

To see more individuals serving within the group.

Get at least one service project completed, and have at least 1 fun filled event. I.E. Game night, Movie night, bowling.

New Roles and Ways Group Members Have Gotten Involved

Our leaders are also devoted to training  their members towards serving God with their own unique gifts and abilities. As 1 Peter 4:10 instructs, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 

Following are several new roles our leaders excitedly reported their members taking this fall:

  • LoveOps (mission project) Leader
  • Worship Leader
  • Food Coordinator
  • Social Coordinator
  • Communication
  • Rotate host homes
  • Rotate Scripture readers
  • Men’s/Women’s Breakout leaders
  • Guitar player
  • Became Co-leader
  • Sharing discussion facilitating, new person leads each week
  • Leading a service project with Young Life
  • Everyone shared their testimonies
  • Everyone contributes food every week
  • New assistant leader
  • Prayer request coordinator
  • Coordinates correspondence with our missionaries

May God continue to grow us all in our desire and ability to make disciples who make disciples, in 2018 and far beyond.

Important Upcoming 2018 Dates

2018

As you can see, God blessed our church communities this fall. We are breaking for a greatly anticipated Christmas celebration, but people are wondering… what is coming ahead in the New Year?

Put these on your calendars right now!

  • Saturday/Sunday, December 30/31 – Small Group Signups begin (small group listings at foyer table, in worship services, and church website)
  • Sunday, January 7 – *Small Group Leader Training/Vision Session, 11:30AM – 1:15PM, Upper Gym, with lunch (NOTE: There is a makeup session the next week if you CANNOT attend this.)
  • January 14–20 – Official SG Kickoff Week!
  • Sunday, January 14 – *Small Group Leader Training Makeup Session, 11:30AM – 12:40PM, snacks but no lunch. 
  • Saturday, February 3 – LCCC Membership Class

*Our small group leader trainings are not exclusively for returning small group leaders. Anyone interested in any type of church leadership is welcome. 

Watch for more information regarding the January training sessions, and the preliminary work involved with them.

Praising God for the success He granted in 2017. Expecting great things in 2018,

Pastor Reg

5 Questions to Make Christ-centered Date Nights

Man Up - Kevin Bouren

We were given a great tool for making Christ-honoring date nights, this week.

Our church family was blessed on Saturday night of this Veterans Day Weekend by the message of Army Major (and LCCC small group leader, coach, and exemplary discipler) Kevin Bouren’s: “Man Up: Going ALL IN for Jesus.”

In the sermon, Kevin exhorted Christian men (and empowered Christian women) to honor Christ as His soldiers in five biblically fundamental realms of  your life: In Your Marriage; In Your Home; In Your Mission; In Your Friendships; In Your Vocation.

Listen to the entire excellent message here.

Following the service, I observed Kevin being asked several times for his list of questions for men to ask their wives on date nights. So, I decided to post them on this blog.

They are:

  1. “When is the last time I led you in such a way that you felt as adorned, pure, and radiantly beautiful as you did on our wedding day?”
  2. “Are you growing in holiness, purity, and maturity under my current leadership?”
  3. “What makes you feel that I value you?”
  4. “Sweetheart, I want to minister to you today, so can you tell me if anything is burdening your heart?”
  5. “What is God teaching you in your study of His Word?”

Kevin, intent on making his and Adra’s date nights more Christ-centered than “amusement” centered, keeps these five questions on a card in his wallet.

Date Night Questions

Print your own card, with this jpeg.

“Amusement,” Kevin observes, is a compound word, comprised of: a meaning “not/without”; and muse meaning “thinking.”  How many of our date nights are characterized by “not thinking?!”

Implementing these questions will undoubtedly make our date nights more Christ-honoring than many of our “amusing” options.

Brothers, we are called as soldiers of a Holy Army, commanded by the King of Kings to present our wives to God “in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27).

Let’s man up!

May your next date night be filled with good, Christ-honoring, life-giving conversation,

Pastor Reg

Why Catechisms Should Be Used By All Christians

 

Catechism [kat-i-kiz-uhm]

1. an elementary book containing a summary of the principles of the Christian religion, especially as maintained by a particular church, in the form of questions and answers.

 A flood of “random” influences recently compelled me and my wife to explore the value of using a catechism for family discipleship. Our basic knowledge of catechisms was like most evangelicals – general unfamiliarity except knowing they are used by Catholic, Lutheran, and covenant theology-holding churches. The vast majority of evangelicals seem to have discounted the use of catechisms altogether, and I was left wondering…“why?” (I’m not the first person to ask [Internet Monk]. Nor the first person to present this argument [Tim Keller].)

If catechisms are such a great discipleship tool, but usually bent towards differing doctrinal positions, could we not just re-craft any opposing questions according to our own doctrinal positions, and use this great tool as we continually seek to apply Deuteronomy 6:4-7 to our family discipleship? In fact, I was about ready to sit down and do this for my family!

But, thankfully, I did some research first, and was thrilled to discover that others have indeed already done it. Whew! That saves me some time. 

A Catechism for Lake City Community Church

While reading, along with the men in my small group, Voddie Baucham’s fantastic book on family discipleship, Family Driven Faith, I came across the following section which explains what a catechism is and why we should use one; and provides a link to the little book my family has been using, and which I encourage the Lake City family to purchase and use.

Read and enjoy this section from chapter six of Voddie’s comprehensive, straightforward and hard-hitting book on family discipleship.  

The Catechism Phase

In verse 4 of Ephesians 6 Paul puts the cookies on the bottom shelf. Here he states in no uncertain terms what the role and responsibility of the Christian parent is expected to be. After contextualizing his teaching on children in verse 1, he ties it to the commandments in verses 2 and 3. Then in verse 4 he gives us the bottom line. Parents, your job is to teach your children to behave like Christians and to believe like Christians.

Phase 1 in living by the Word in the rearing of children is training and discipline. Once we have that base covered, we can move on to phase 2 – catechism. I hesitate to even use the word catechism since, frankly, so many Christians today either don’t know what it means or think it has something to do with a particular branch of Christianity. In fact, until recently Bridget and I didn’t really understand catechism ourselves. We are good Southern Baptists who had never heard of such a thing. But catechism is merely basic instruction in Christian doctrine using questions and answers.

The goal of catechism is to impart biblical theology. Through a series of questions and answers the child slowly learns what to believe and, more importantly, why. Catechism is not a magic bean or a silver bullet. We still have to work at teaching our children. However, the catechism is an invaluable tool that facilitates the process. More importantly, the catechism lays the foundation for the discipleship that is to follow. Without the catechism our discipleship is reduced to a list of moralisms.

For instance, what if I tell my sons not to engage in premarital sex but do not give them the biblical and theological foundation upon which to build such a decision? Unfortunately, this is precisely the way I was taught. I was told that I should not have sex with girls because I was too young and I could get someone pregnant. Of course, what this also meant was that when I was older I could justify the practice if I took the proper precautions. Thus I was no longer too young, and no one was going to get pregnant.

Compare this to instruction based upon an understanding of the sanctity of marriage, the dignity of the opposite sex, my role as a protector of what Peter calls the “weaker” marriage partner (1 Peter 3:7), the biblical purposes for which sex was given, and a host of other theological principles, and the difference is astonishing. For instance, the Westminster Shorter Catechism addresses the issue of sexual purity from the perspective of the Seventh Commandment:

Q: What is the Seventh Commandment?

A: The Seventh Commandment is, “You shall not commit adultery.”

Q: What is required in the Seventh Commandment?

A: The Seventh Commandment requires the preservation of our own and our neighbor’s chastity of heart, speech, and behavior.

Q: What is forbidden in the Seventh Commandment?

A: The Seventh Commandment forbids all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions.

This is a far cry from “Don’t get anyone pregnant.” That is not to say that children armed with this information will never violate the principles they have been taught, but it will require thought-out rebellion as opposed to the logical assumption that the activity is justifiable.

Catechism is merely a track to run on. So many of our children have little idea what they believe or why they believe it. Couple this with the fact that they are fallen human beings whose natural bent is to sin and they live in a culture that glorifies, justifies, and promotes such sin, and it is not difficult to see their dilemma. Failing to catechize our children is tantamount to surrendering to the culture. Walking in holiness is difficult enough when we know what is right; let’s not make things tougher than they already are.

I had a conversation recently with a pastor who was at his wit’s end with his oldest son. The young man was clean-cut, pleasant, and very well mannered. However, there was an obvious tension between the boy and his father. When I sat down with the two of them, I realized that this pastor had not discipled his son. The young man was well versed in church language, but he did not have a grasp on biblical Christianity.

Some Useful Tools

A number of wonderful catechisms are available – Westminster, Heidelberg, Spurgeon’s, etc – and a simple Web search will provide you with more information than you ever thought possible. One thing we have found very useful is the Truth and Grace Memory Book material from Founders Press.

This is not really the place for discussing the pros and cons of each catechism. I simply want to implore you to find a good tool for teaching your children biblical theology. I just happen to think catechism is about the best way to do it. However, even if you choose not to use a formal catechism, you must catechize your children. In other words, if you do not find something that fits your theology, make one of your own.

Our children are developing a theology whether we are teaching them or not. As you saw in the worldview section, everyone has basic, underlying assumptions about the nature of God, man, truth, knowledge, and ethics. Failing to catechize your children only makes it that much easier for the Secular Humanism with which they are constantly bombarded in school, on television, and through friends, neighbors, and coaches to take root and become the guiding principle by which they live.

How to Get Started

Book 1          Book 2

I encourage every family to purchase one or both of the Truth and Grace Memory Books right away (Book 1 for ages 2 through 4th grade; and Book 2 for 5th grade through high school), which, in addition to an excellent catechism, contains age-appropriate memory verse systems, songs, poems, and more.

From here, I plan to continually encourage the Lake City Family to employ catechism as a component of our discipleship. I would love to ask the kids in the Sunday preschool class where I work with my wife a consistent 10 questions each week; to see their satisfaction as they remember the answers, and to be satisfied that important truths are sticking.

I would love to see our small groups providing these resources to parents, and to the babysitters to review during each group meeting time.

I would love to see our youth committing these biblical truths to memory, so that God’s truth never escapes them in the face of the temptations, worries and doubts inherent in their increasing independence.

Do you have ideas how we might use this great discipleship tool more at LCCC? Do you have a testimony of catechism helping you learn about God, His Word, theology and life? If so, please share these with me, as we seek continual growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessings on our homes,

Pastor Reg

A Fresh Look at the “Great Commandment’s” Contribution to Discipleship

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” (John 15:12-17)

This is the well known “Great Commandment” of Jesus, and a companion “love” text from Jesus’ Farewell Discourse in John. These “love” texts are foundational in almost every church’s mission and/or vision statement, along with Jesus’ “Great Commission” in Matthew 28:18-20 to “make disciples of all nations.” From the Great Commandment we build a theology of love. It is typically from the Great Commission that we inspire the resulting action — discipleship.

Vital Signs

A Fresh Look at the “Great Commandment’s” Contribution to Discipleship

But, not often talked about is the Great Commandment’s (to love, like Jesus) contribution to discipleship.

Our small group leaders are working through the excellent book Small Group Vital Signs, by Michael Mack, together over the next year.

In our opening monthly session this March, “A Healthy Group is a Discipleship Environment,” our leaders discussed two wonderfully insightful pages of Mack’s book regarding Jesus’ counter-cultural nature as a Teacher/Rabbi/Disciplemaker. However, not in relation to the Great Commission, as one might expect; but in relation to the Great Commandment’s “love” emphasis.

I would like to share these two pages here, for your edification.

In our session, the small group leaders discussed each bullet point below in relation to our ministry of leading a small group. It led to excellent personal discoveries of ministering out of love, just like Jesus did. You can do the same based on your ministry, whether it be parenting, mentoring, teaching, leading, serving – whatever it is, as you seek to follow the methods of our Lord, Jesus.

From Michael Mack’s Small Group Vital Signs, p. 139-140: 

A Disciple’s Definition of Discipleship

If you could ask Jesus’ original disciples to describe discipleship, they would talk about a rabbi. In their context, a disciple was someone who was totally committed to a particular rabbi. Usually, disciples literally lived with their rabbi and followed him everywhere he went. Communal living was absolutely necessary for living as a true disciple. Teaching happened more by example than by words as you lived with the person each day. The purpose was to become “like the teacher” (Luke 6:40).

Rabbis taught in yeshivas, groups of disciples who would have passionate discussions over some aspect of life and what the Hebrew Scriptures said about it. They would wrestle with the texts together in order to understand God’s view on how they should conduct their lives. Most Jewish boys had memorized large amounts of Scripture by the time they were thirteen in preparation for their Bar Mitzvahs, so they did not need to study what God’s Word said as much as how to apply it to life.

Rabbis used no written curriculum or agenda for their multi-year discipling experience. Their curriculum was life itself. The rabbi observed the daily life of his disciples and then asked probing questions to initiate discussion about observed behaviors. A disciple could also initiate conversations by raising an issue regarding his observation of the rabbi’s life or some life issue or question.

Jesus adopted the rabbinic style of discipling his followers, but he altered it quite a bit from how it was normally carried out. John 15:12-17 [read at top of page] illustrates seven ways Jesus was counter cultural as a rabbi. As you look through this list, consider how his pattern for discipling applies to your small group. 

  • Rabbis trained their disciples in the law. Jesus’ discipleship was based on grace: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (v. 12).
  • Rabbis required a short-term commitment. Jesus called his disciples to total surrender of their lives: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (v. 13).
  • Rabbis required their disciples to serve them in practical ways (think, “wax on, wax off…” from The Karate Kid). Jesus treated his disciples as friends: “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants” (vv. 14,15).
  • Rabbis did not call their disciples. A potential disciple would ask a rabbi if he could follow him. It was up to the rabbi to say yes or no. But Jesus called his disciples: “You did not choose me, but I chose you…” (v. 16).
  • Rabbis focused on head knowledge so that their disciples could eventually train others in the Jewish religion. Jesus called his disciples to actually do something: “I … appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last” (v. 16).
  • Rabbis taught their followers to be dependent on them. Jesus taught his disciples to be dependent on God:  “Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (v. 16).
  • Rabbis used a top-down approach to discipleship. While his methods were based on his authority, Jesus taught his disciples from a mutual-discipleship model:  “This is my command: Love each other” (v. 17).

Jesus’ rabbinic style of discipleship is not just attending a weekend church service and meeting in a once-a-week small group; it is 24-7 living. It happens in your quiet time, work time, family time, and play time…every day.

The greatest joy, and fruit, in making disciples occurs not in events or classes, but in actual discipleship relationships – walking with people, through Scripture, prayer and life, to become more like Jesus, together. May these relationships permeate our entire church family.

Vital Signs Session 2 – Coming Sunday, April 7

Session 2 – “A Healthy Group Ministers Together” – is coming up, on Sunday, April 7, during 2nd service (10:50-12:10PM), in the Gym. Everyone is welcome to come, and to bring anyone they are discipling. Plenty of snacks and materials will be available.

Blessings on our homes,

Pastor Reg

“The Christian Life is a Team Sport,” A Letter from Pastor Jim

 

Our Senior Pastor, Jim Kennington, wrote an excellent letter to our church in the March/April Vine (church newsletter).  It’s good to hear from the lead guy, and I think it will renew your enthusiasm for Christian community!

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Dear Church Family,

The Christian life is a team sport. I grew up playing sports–baseball, football, and basketball primarily! Too many people I know are living like it is an individual sport. It’s not, it’s a team sport!

I want to ask you a question. Are you in a small group? God’s Word makes it clear that this is his plan for us to grow as followers. I know there are times for all of us when it won’t work to commit to be in a small group. It is fine to step out of a small group for a short season. But when this becomes the pattern rather than the exception, I believe something could be very wrong.

Proverbs 18:1 tells us, ‘Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” In other words, it is selfish and foolish to avoid living in community as a follower of Christ. Without regular connection and accountability that happens in the context of a small group we don’t grow as God plans for us to grow. God’s call is for us to be disciples, to be fully devoted followers of Christ.

A discipleship environment must include authenticity and accountability. It must also include a safe place to share struggles without rejection.

Very few Christians truly have accountability in their relationships. It takes time to build such relationships, especially ones that allow others to know us well enough to speak truth to our hearts. We all struggle at times. The devil loves to get us alone and tell us we are worse than anyone else. So, we live alone in the dark where the devil loves to play. But we all need constant support. Ecclesiastes4:10reminds us, “Woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” Only in relationship, only in community, can we receive the advice, counsel, admonishment and support we need to grow to maturity in Christ.

The priority of small groups in addition to the larger worship gathering is the pattern that the followers of Christ established from the very beginning. Acts2:46comments on this, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.”

The Christian life is a team sport! Are you trying to play it alone? Will you prayerfully consider joining a small group or finding a spiritual mentor to help you grow in your relationship with the Lord? It is worth the effort to make sure you are really living out the Christian life that God has planned for you.

Please check out the small groups page of our church website or contact the church office.

I love you!

Pastor Jim

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Not in Christian community right now? Consider getting in it at LCCC, you are welcome here! People who are in it, and leading it, you are doing a great thing and are appreciated! 

Blessings on our homes,

Pastor Reg