Planning Your Next Semester: Winter/Spring 2018

plan

Praise God, our groups are winding down a memorable Fall 2017 Semester. This post, which is revised and updated each year, aids leaders in planning for our next semester.

How NOT to Start Your Next Semester

Let’s begin with how NOT to start your next semester.

A typical question leaders are asking is: “What curriculum should I kickoff the Winter/Spring semester with?” My preferred answer would be… NONE!

NONE, Why is that!? This goes back to why our groups exist. Are they Bible studies alone? No, definitely not. But, experience teaches that if a group launches a new term immediately with the new Bible study or curriculum on the first week, then that group will become forever locked into the “study” mold and mentality, as if that is all you exist to do, no matter what you try to do later.

The Solution: Start your semester with some of the other vital small group elements which often get crowded out. Ideas include:

  • Start with a meal or fun night. You are a spiritual family, after all. Set the tone to enjoy each other!

communion_t

  • Start with a worship, prayer, and/or communion night, seeking God’s guidance and setting a worshipful pattern for your year.
  • Start with a service/outreach project, or series of them, declaring: “We are going to be the hands and feet of Jesus!”
  • Start with sharing a few personal salvation testimonies, to celebrate God’s grace in our lives and get to know each other well.group-worship
  • Start with having the kids involved in worship, so they see Jesus Christ as the center for your group’s existence.
  • Then, start your curriculum, having become close friends and spiritual siblings; soul mates and teammates. We have 16-20 weeks in the Winter/Spring Semester. No need to rush into a curriculum, there is plenty of time to do it all!

Calendar and Small Group Agreement Pages

Pull out that Winter/Spring Calendar, found in the first couple pages of the Leader and Member Toolkits, with your group to plan out the entire semester together – host locations, fun days, weeks off, trips together, meal plans… whatever you can plan.

And, don’t neglect to review the Small Group Agreement page, to get everyone’s expectations aligned. Among the most important axioms I have learned in church leadership over the years is that “Expectations are everything.” They truly are. Clear and aligned expectations will directly impact your members’ attendance and engagement all year long.

NOW, Choose the Right Curriculum

currSince our foundation is God’s Word, a good curriculum or Bible study plan is a vital tool. Come browse our many curriculums in the training sessions or in my office anytime, where you can access our materials to preview or check out.

And, don’t forget that you can help us keep building up our curriculum library, with “The Lake City Offer”, which is:

If you are interested in using a curriculum we do not currently have, I will buy the leader book and DVD (if there is one) for you if you will return it when finished, to add to our library. Your group members will just buy their own participant guides, if there is one. This offer helps future groups and eliminates any hesitation based on the cost of a study!
NOTE: A list of our available and recommended curriculums can be found in the back of the Leader Toolkit.

Important Dates

Here are a few important dates for your calendars:

    • * **Leader Training: As always, there is one required January training session for all leaders, offered twice, for your scheduling convenience:
      • Option 1 – Sunday, January , 11:30am – 1:15pm, with lunch.
      • Option 2 – For those who cannot attend the January 7 session, come to the makeup session on Sunday, January 14, 11:30am – 12:40pm, without lunch (snacks only).

*This year’s training will focus on personal spiritual growth and leader development, strategically according to where you in this season of your life. Also included are fellowship with other leaders, coaches, and then key elements of the church’s vision and winter/spring  dates.

**This year’s training involves videos to watch beforehand. A link to five videos will be sent to all leaders who then choose two of the five to watch, based on where you are currently in your personal leadership life-season.

  • Signups: Signups will officially be open to new members starting on Dec. 30/31, with the list of open groups passed down the aisles in church the following two weeks.
  • Kickoff: Winter/Spring Semester officially kicks off the week of January 14. Leaders of open groups, be prepared to proactively welcome new people right away!  

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Our mission and vision remain the same:

Small Group Mission Banner 8 logo1

All our small group training sessions are always open to everyone. Families and discipleship groups are welcome to attend together.

The Winter/Spring Semester runs through the end of May, so it’s a bit longer than the Fall Semester, leaving you room to do more things and have more fun and transformative experiences.

May God be glorified in our ministry,

Pastor Reg

Planning Your Next Semester: Winter/Spring 2017

plan

Praise God, our groups are winding down a memorable Fall 2016 Semester. This post is to help leaders pray & plan for next semester.

How NOT to Start Your Next Semester

So, let’s start with how NOT to start your next semester.

A typical question leaders are asking is: “What curriculum should I kickoff the Winter/Spring semester with?” My preferred answer would be… NONE!

This goes back to why our groups exist. Are these groups Bible studies alone? No, definitely not. But, experience teaches that if a group launches their term immediately with the new Bible study curriculum on the first week, then that group will become forever locked into the “study” mold and mentality, as if that is all you exist to do, no matter what you try to do later.

The Solution: Start your semester with some of the other vital small group elements which often get crowded out:

  • Start with a meal or fun night. You are a spiritual family, after all. Set the tone to enjoy each other!

communion_t

  • Start with a worship, prayer, and/or communion night, seeking God’s guidance and setting a worshipful pattern for your year.
  • Start with a service/outreach project, or series of them, declaring: “We are going to be the hands and feet of Jesus!”
  • Start with sharing a few personal salvation testimonies, to celebrate God’s grace in our lives and get to know each other well.group-worship
  • Start with having the kids involved in worship, so they see Jesus Christ as the center for your group’s existence.
  • Then, start your curriculum, having become close friends and spiritual siblings; soul mates and teammates. We have 16-20 weeks in the Winter/Spring Semester. No need to rush into a curriculum, there is plenty of time to do it all!

Provided Calendar: Be ready to pull out that Winter/Spring Calendar with your group to plan out the entire semester together – host locations, fun days, weeks off, trips together, meal plans… whatever you can plan. It is found in the first couple pages of the Leader and Member Toolkits.

NOW, Choose the Right Curriculum

currSince our foundation is God’s Word, a good curriculum or Bible study plan is a vital tool. Come browse our many curriculums in the church library, where you can access and check out materials.

And, don’t forget that you can help us keep building up our curriculum library, with…

“The Lake City Offer”

If you are interested in using a curriculum we do not currently have, I will buy the leader book and DVD (if there is one) for you if you will return it when finished, to add to our library. Your group members will just buy their own participant guides, if there is one. This offer helps future groups and eliminates any hesitation based on the cost of a study!
NOTE: A list of our available and recommended curriculums can be found in the 2016-17 Leader Toolkit, page 29.

Important Dates

Here are a few important dates for your calendars:

  • *Leader Training: As always, there is one required January training session for all leaders, offered twice, for your scheduling convenience:
    • Option 1 – Sunday, January 8, 10:00-11:15AM.
    • Option 2 – For those who cannot attend the January 8 session, come to the makeup session on Saturday, January 21, during one of the 50-minute workshops of the Church Family Summit. Attend just this workshop, or better the entire half-day seminar.

*This year’s training will focus on “The Why?”, local and global small group missions, conflict resolution, key winter/spring dates, and more.

  • Signups: Signups will officially be open to new members starting on Dec. 31/Jan. 1.
  • Kickoff: Winter/Spring Semester officially kicks off the week of January 15. Be prepared to welcome new people, if possible.  

FINAL THOUGHTS:

All Summit workshops and small group training sessions are always open to everyone. Families and discipleship groups are welcome to attend together.

The Winter/Spring Semester runs through early June, so it’s a bit longer than the Fall Semester, leaving you room to do more things and have more fun and transformative experiences.

Our mission and vision remain the same:

Small Group Mission Banner 8 logo1

May God be glorified in our ministry,

Pastor Reg

Small Groups and Global Missions

Image

by Tung Le, Small Group Coach
This past weekend, guest preacher Jeff Butler spoke about the persecuted church. It was a good reminder of the work being done throughout the world by missionaries; and a good reminder to be in prayer constantly for our missionaries. A few years ago, LC3 began the practice of asking small groups to adopt a missionary. It was one of many ways for us to connect them with members of the body.
1. If your group has already adopted a missionary, I would encourage you to find time at one of your next get-togethers to pray for that missionary: for their spiritual protection, for their physical protection, for their financial support, and for fruitfulness in their ministry.
2. Some groups send encouraging emails, cards, or care packages to their adopted missionary. Again, ending the year with such an act of service is a great way to show Christ-like love.
3. If your group has not yet adopted a missionary, prayerfully consider doing so now or planning to do so in the fall. Contact us and we can let you know what missionaries still need an adopting small group.
4. More information about the persecuted church can be found at https://www.persecution.com
Let us pray the prayer the Apostle Paul asked the church of Ephesus to pray:  “To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints . . . that words may be given [to me] in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I gam an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” — Ephesians 6:18-20

My 10 Weeks as Interim Senior Pastor

My 10 Weeks as Interim Senior Pastor

Spring Children’s Pageant, March 23, 2014

“Has it been 10 weeks already?” “He is on the road back to Lakewood right now?” I asked these questions just a couple weeks ago, as Pastor Jim and his family returned to LC3. He was probably asking the same questions, of course.

We are glad to have Pastor Jim, Jaci, Bethlehem and Tarike back from enjoying a well-earned sabbatical after Jim’s 14th year of ministry at LC3. It was a joy for me to serve as LC3’s Interim Senior Pastor for the 10 weeks they were away.

Now on this side of that 10 week commission, I want to share an inside look from the eyes of a “senior pastor.”

First, a little background. Since 2001, when I moved to Washington State to enter seminary, I have completed numerous pastoral classes; read many pastors books; had several pastoral mentors speak into my life. I have worked closely with Pastor Jim for over a decade. I was even a pastor’s kid my entire childhood!

But, as happens with most things, experience taught me much that cannot be discovered in books and classes. Experiencing is different than knowing.

Here are a few major lessons learned from the teacher of experience.

A senior pastor must constantly work to stay in front of communication

He must proactively schedule astute and thorough communication on every front; contemplating incessantly if there is ANY more communication needed or that would be beneficial.

This includes every type of communication: Vision casting communication, relationship building communication, expectations and planning communication, motivating communication, conflict resolution and reduction communication; any other type of communication he can think of. Constantly. Tirelessly. Regularly asking God to graciously give him the right messages to tell the right people, at the right time. Because if something is missed, someone is let down or uninformed; opportunities are lost; irritation replaces unity.

“Senior pastor” is a unique position of service

The role of senior pastor differs notably from those of associate pastor or ministry leader. As an associate pastor, which I have been for almost nine years, I spend a great deal of time in the trenches of building relationships and equipping leaders, teams, and groups for ministry and mission. As an associate pastor I have more intimate awareness of details, needs, and opportunities, and more time to address them.

The role of senior pastor, however, (at any church larger than 150) requires a broader form of leading, teaching, “visioneering,” and administrating. Though the senior pastor must spend at least some time in relationship building, equipping, counseling, visiting, etc. in order to remain an effective and informed overseer, the majority of his time and energy must be spent on matters of larger perspective. A helpful analogy of this role is moving from the shepherd of a flock to a rancher who directs many shepherds and a much larger flock.

Again, I knew this, but, after these 10 weeks, I have experienced it. Experiencing is different than knowing.

It is different. As an associate pastor, I shepherd more, relationally. In fact, as a small groups/community/discipleship pastor, I have given my life to the relational aspects of the Christian life.

Senior pastors know the necessity of relationships among the Body, but contribute to them by setting vision, modelling relationships with their leadership teams, and then equipping and unleashing these leaders to carry out that work through the church.

I have known this, but experiencing is different than knowing.

Senior pastors carry bigger loads

Senior pastors carry bigger loads of responsibility, pressure, demands, attention, exposure, and of attack from the enemy. Accordingly, the role requires bigger loads of prayer, bigger shoulders, more discipline, more accountability, more humility; more teamwork.

I have known this, too, but experiencing is different than knowing.

It meant a lot when Pastor Jim told me he believed without a doubt that I was ready for this experience. And, by God’s gracious work in my life, I felt ready. But, the load is big, which is clearly why Pastor Jim continually asks the LC3 Family for our prayers, which are for his benefit and ours. This is why Paul instructs the church on behalf of its leaders: “Brothers, pray for us” (1 Thes. 5:25).

Back to Normal…For a Few More Days

Jim’s return means getting my life’s normal craziness back. It is enjoyable to recognize how these experiences are already translating back to my involvement with small groups and adult ministries. Good communication, humble servant-leadership, healthy relationships with my teams, dependence on God; capacity for bigger loads – I am grateful to have grown in these areas…by experience.

And, now? Now it is time for my family’s sabbatical. We leave this Thursday, and will be back at the end of May. I will likely write something about that experience as well, except with many more (and cuter) pictures. Please pray for us as Sarah and I attend a Church Planting conference, as I work on my Doctor of Ministry Dissertation, and as we spend some quality time with our family and longtime friends. I look forward to returning to His service with you all, refreshed and energized.

For His glory and our joy,

Pastor Reg

LCCC’s 2020 Vision: Foundations for Team Success

Last weekend we kicked off our  “2020 Vision” sermon series, by giving “Foundations for Team Success” for any local church, Lake City Community Church in particular.

Everyone in attendance received a copy of the “LCCC’s Vision Foundations Playbook.” Everyone should have a copy of this, and you can download a PDF of it right here – 061613 Vision Playbook – Final with answers.

Here’s how it was described in the sermon:

Pastor Jim and his team diligently created this playbook of unifying common language, definitions, mission, vision and goals, for LCCC.

A church is a team. A team needs a common language, definitions, vision, and goals. These are the foundations for team success, and the playbook is a collection of them.

Why is common language so important for a church? This sermon illustration answers:

What if we were playing football, and we got into a huddle, and the coaches called a play, but none of the players were defining the play the same way?  What chance would we have of winning when we get to the line of scrimmage and hike the ball with different plays in our minds? It doesn’t matter how talented we are if none of us has the same play.

So, the LCCC Playbook just sets out the common language for our team’s success.

Please do download the LCCC’s Vision Foundation Playbook above, read it, and keep it handy. It may be helpful also to listen to the sermon here – or read the entire manuscript by clicking here – Sermon – 2020 Vision – Foundations for Team Success, 061613 – MANUSCRIPT.

The Next Two Weeks:2020 Vision

Over the next two weeks, Pastor Jim, our primary vision caster, with Pastor David’s help, will cover the specific details of LCCC’s vision path that guides our church for the next seven years (until the year 2020). You don’t want to miss either week!

God created us, saved us, and placed us on the LCCC Team to “play” our parts, together (Ephesians 2:8-10; 19; 4:11-13).

Let’s do it, for His glory and our greatest joy!

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

How to Make Bible Reading a Priority This Year – 2013

Hi Friends,

HAPPY AND BLESSED NEW YEAR!

What is going to mark your life in 2013? Here is one important idea.

Both God and experience declare that reading and applying the Bible will impact your life’s success more than anything else. So, let’s make sure we all have a plan to make Bible reading a priority this year.

First, some encouragement. If we spend some time and energy on the Bible, we can master it! Don’t let it get crowded out of your life this year. Love God and His Word. Be excited about these Words of Life! Be committed to them. Never assume they are irrelevant or not understandable. Make this your top priority this year!

Now the question, How? 

Here are two keys to success in making Bible reading a priority this year:

1. Christian Friendship

Christian friendships are one of God’s greatest provisions for our lives. Good Christian friends can help us understand the Bible and keep us on track living it out more than anyone or anything else can.

Are your Christian friendships doing this with each other?

IronSharpensIron

If so, you are in great shape for prioritizing God’s Word in your life. I just preached an entire sermon on this subject which lays out the “hows” and “whys” in Christian friendships. You can listen to it here, or read it here: Sermon – Christian Friendship, 123012 – MANUSCRIPT.

2. Bible Reading Plans

Bible reading plans work. There are many. Here are the best for our church to consider:

youversion2

  • Even better is the fantastic collection of creative Bible reading plans offered by “YouVersion” – a free “ap” on your smartphone, or a free website, at www.youversion.com/reading-plans.  I have never seen a better collection of Bible reading plans. And, their daily reminder options are actually very helpful. Here are the types of categories of plans that you can try. There are dozens of plans within these categories:

Topical
Whole Bible
Partial Bible
Devotional
Related to the works of many of your favorite authors or artists
Seasonal and Holiday themes
Family
Youth
And more! Don’t hesitate to sign up for a free account with this website. It’s one of the best web tools out there.

  • Pastor Jim’s favorite website to recommend for reading plans and other various helps for exploring and understanding the Bible is www.biblestudytools.com. Be sure to save that one to your “favorites” as well.
  • Perhaps the best place to start, however, is with the exciting plan from the appendixes of our recent HEROES study book, the “100 Essential Passages Reading Plan.” My wife, Sarah, and I started reading this together about a month ago, and it has been a fantastic, quick-moving journey through the Bible. Sarah said that it has completely revived her passion for reading God’s Word. It will take 17-20 weeks for us to finish, and then we plan to hop on the YouVersion list to choose another plan together that excites us both.

Download this plan here – 100 Essential Passages Bible Reading Plan

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

You have been encouraged and equipped for a transforming year of experiencing God’s will in your life. The rest is up to you! Enjoy the journey.

Blessings on 2013,

Pastor Reg

P.S. Here is what’s in store for the upcoming Semester, kicking off on January 20! 

Winter/Spring Semester, 2013

Here are a few important dates to put on your calendar right now:

1.  The 2nd annual Lake City Family Summit happens Saturday, January 12, 9:00AM-1:00PM. NFL quaterback Jon Kitna and his wife Jen will be our primary speakers, along with several breakout sessions.  As usual, the small group leaders training will be contained in one of those 50 minute workshops.

2.  If you miss the Summit, a small group leader training make-up session happens Sunday, January 20, during 2nd service (10:50AM-12:10PM), in the Gym.

3.  The Official Kickoff Week of Winter/Spring Semester is the week of January 20. Of course, groups have autonomy to start earlier or later, based on their semester plan.

4.  Pastor Jim resumes the Luke Sermon Series on Feb. 2/3, a good option for any group who would like to study Luke’s gospel along with the weekend sermons. We will have resources.

How Can I fit “Intentional Relational Discipleship” into My Schedule?

The days are subsiding, at LCCC, of running programs and events, just hoping that some relationship and discipleship will somehow happen. Committed to Jesus’ mission to make disciples, we realize the need for much more intentional relational discipleship. Mediate on those three words for a moment. It doesn’t take a lot of explaining to figure out what they mean. We just realize that this is Jesus’ given method, and we are committed to intentionally building discipleship relationships into the fabric of everything this church family is and does.

It’s the personal matter of time that I want to address today.

How do we make the time for relational discipleship?

1.  The first answer: It’s not as hard as it seems. If we catch Jesus’ vision that being in relational discipleship is the most important thing we do, then we’ll be motivated to figure it out. And if we catch Jesus’ method of doing it during many of the things we are already doing, we’ll realize we can intentionally disciple with very few changes to our schedule. Running errands? Watching the game? Going to visit someone? Doing ministry? Hanging out with your children? Do it like Jesus did. Be intentional about inviting someone to come with you (Mark 3:14); be mindful how you spend the time (Deut. 6:7; Titus 2) and what your goal is (Eph. 4:13, Matt. 4:19; 2 Tim. 2:2).  [It would be good to read all these linked Scriptures.]

Jesus showed us how to do it with a small group of 12 and a closer group of three (Peter, James and John). Surely we can do it with one, two, or maybe a few!

It’s great to hear people like our group leader/coach Tony Oury, who’s already been doing this as often as he can. Great things are happening out there in the common moments of our lives!

2.  The second answer: To intentionally disciple well will take some extra, purposefully planned meeting time. Disciplers must intentionally meet with disciplees. Pastors/Elders must intentionally meet with Coaches/Deacons/Ministry Leaders, etc. Coaches must intentionally meet with their Small Group Leaders. Small Group Leaders must intentionally meet with their Apprentices. Parents must intentionally meet with their children.

But how often? And, what does that meeting time look like? Here’s the best meeting guide I have found. If you find this method useful, please share it with everyone you know who’s in the discipleship game!

  1. Select your person, or group of no more than about six, to meet with regularly.
  2. Commit to meet for a two-hour, every two week meeting, extending for a determined time (like 3, 6, 9 or 12 months). 
  3. Follow this excellent two-hour meeting schedule (adapted from Marshall and Payne’s The Trellis and the Vine):

A Relational Discipleship / Coaching Meeting Schedule:

    • Bible Study – 30 minutes: God’s Word is the most important element for spiritual growth (Heb. 4:11-12; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). You could use this time to train people how to lead Bible discussions, by modeling it yourself, and then giving everyone a chance.
    • Prayer for You- 10 minutes: Without praying, we are doing this in our own power and for our own agendas. Not good. Pray in response to Scripture, and for different aspects of life and ministry.
    • People Work – 20 minutes: Talk about the needs and situations of the people’s lives to whom we are ministering; and how we can best help them grow. Confidentiality principles need to be agreed on and respected. 
    • Prayer for Your People – 15 minutes: Pray again, this time for particular people by name.
    • Review Ministry Activity – 15 minutes: Talk about different meetings and ministry related things that you’ve been doing or involved with. Did they work? Why/who not? What could be improved, and how? This not only leads to improvements, but also trains how to think about ministry. 
    • Training Input – 30 minutes: Specific training in conviction (a belief topic like baptism, eternal security, etc.); character (like how we are most tempted and prone to give Satan a stronghold in our lives); and competence (like how to lead a small group, or a family, or workplace relationships better).

This is what I’m going to use this year with my group of Small Group Coaches (some of which pictured here). I can’t wait for these bi-weekly times together, and I believe the ripple effects of this intentionality will carry out deeply into the entire Body of LCCC. Are you in the game?

We had a GREAT first HEROES training last Sunday. You’ll see these guys up front again in this weekend’s worship services, and then even more at the MINISTRY SUMMIT. 🙂

Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ,

Pastor Reg

4 Stages of the Bible’s Discipleship Process

I was astounded how much feedback I received from “Part 2” of my recent church-vision series sermon, which described how to use the Bible’s four spiritual life stages in our discipleship with anyone, at any level, any stage, and any time.

Below is the sermon manuscript excerpt of that “Part 2.”

(Thanks to Jim Putman’s great book, Church is a Team Sport, for inspiring many great thoughts throughout the entire sermon series.)

Church is a Team Sport: A Championship Strategy for Doing Ministry Together

Excerpt from: “Opening the Team Playbook,” 6/17/12

Team Playbook, Part 2: How Do We Make Disciples? – The Discipleship Process

       How do we – all of us here – help people make Jesus Lord of their lives; get plugged into relationships with other Christians; and be committed to the mission?  Let’s look at the discipleship process we find in the Bible.

       The Bible speaks of the development of our spiritual lives in the same language as we use for the natural stages of human life. We are born. We are babies. (Raise your hand if you have babies here tonight.) We become children (All the children here tonight raise your hand); then young adults (all the young adults raise your hand); and then, finally, parents. There are others, but those are the basic life stages.

       The Bible uses these same word pictures to describe our four spiritual life stages. Each stage is a necessary part of the process. You cannot get to the fourth stage without going through the other three.

       The first thing we need to do in the discipleship process is be able to assess where we and others are in the process, and know what we and others need, and need to be doing, in order to move to the next stage. And we want everyone to understand the process because we want it to be reproducible and taking place all throughout the entire church family.

       So, now, let’s consider ourselves and the people in our lives as we look at each stage of the process.

1.  Spiritually Dead/Unborn –  Among the many places in the Bible this life stage is taught, Ephesians 2:1-5 describes it well: (Read Eph. 2:1-5)

       People in this stage have not yet accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. They may completely reject God; or they may be seeking God. They may even claim to be a Christian, when in reality have not repented and placed their trust in Jesus. What people in this stage need is for us to share the gospel and our faith in Jesus with them.

       Friends, if any of you here today haven’t trusted and obeyed Jesus, we would like to share our faith in Jesus as Savior from sin with you, and share with you the opportunity of being discipled in our church.

       And when we trust Jesus as Savior, God forgives our sins and seals our eternity in heaven, but our Christian life on earth has just begun. And, naturally, we begin as infants…

2.  Infant/Child – 1 Peter 2:2-3 identifies this stage, saying, (Read 1 Pt. 2:2-3)

       People in the infant stage have accepted Christ, but haven’t moved much past that point. They may be brand new believers or might be stagnant, long-time believers. Life is generally still all about them and their needs. There is nothing surprising with this self-concern at the infant stage.

       Soon, as these newer believers begin growing in their relationships with God and others they move into the child part of this stage. Paul addresses the Thessalonians as in the child stage when he writes: (Read 1 Thess. 2:11-12)

       What people need in this stage is to connect with a mentor and/or group that will teach and model for them what it means to love God and others. In the meantime, they should participate in other opportunities in church life to grow their understanding of what it means to be a Christian.

       The bigger shift comes now with the third stage.

3.  Young Adult – People in this stage are making a big shift from being self-centered to more others-centered; becoming givers, rather than a takers; putting others first; realizing that life really is all about God and His will; not our own. Paul describes this stage in Philippians 2:3-4 (read Phil. 2:3-4).

       People growing in this stage are becoming more and more committed to the mission of Christ. When they walk into a room, rather than thinking, “Who is going to notice me,” they are beginning to wonder, “Who needs help; who looks lonely; how can I serve them?” They are are moving into the ministry phase of the discipleship process and need more ministry opportunities.

       And, finally, disciples will move into the Parent stage of the discipleship process.

4.  Parent – The spiritual parent has a solid understanding of God’s Word and is focused on reproducing mature disciples of Jesus by mentoring them in the Christian life.

       Paul recognized that his young disciple Timothy had entered this stage of the discipleship process, and he wrote to Timothy these well known words: (Read 2 Tim. 2:1-2)

       These disciples are entering the leadership stage. They are not only ministering, but making disciples of others around them; ready to train others to do the same.

APPLICATION: Did what I said about any one or more of these stages connect with where you are today? Did everyone identify which stages we’re in; what we need; what we need to be doing?  What I hope we will see here is all 700 people in the LCCC family working intentionally together to grow each other in discipleship. This is making disciples. This is a big part of the answer to HOW we make disciples. And here’s the thing: it all takes place outside of this room that we’re in right now.

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Next post will relate to the “Relational Environments” discussion from the same sermon. Find the entire sermon manuscript on www.lc3.com/#/sermons.

Blessings on your path through the discipleship process,

Pastor Reg