Developing a Discipleship Culture

Last year at Catalyst Conference, I attended a breakout with 3DM, a ministry which helps pastors and churches think about the importance and future of discipleship. I had participated in a pilot coaching program Catalyst was conducting and this breakout talked about some of that experience.

The one thing which impacted me most was a slide that was shown. I don’t have a copy of it. I captured one with my phone, but it’s quality is not good enough to share here and I can’t seem to find another, so I recreated the concept in the picture here. (I know what you’re thinking…I’m an artist…right? :) ) Anyway, this one paradigm shaper has impacted my teaching and church leadership as much as anything in recent years.

You can see the diagram, but in case it isn’t clear, here are some explanations:

Invitation - This refers to the atmosphere and degree of welcoming a church or an individual message provides. Do people enjoy being there? Do they want to come back? Is it inviting? Is a message fun to listen to? Is it encouraging and helpful?

Challenge - This refers to the degree others are encouraged to grow in their walk with Christ. Are they challenged? Are they held accountable? Are personal disciplines encouraged? Are sins exposed? Are expectations strong?

The theory is that churches tend to fall into one of these four quadrants:

  • Low Invitation / High Challenge – Produces a discouraged/burnout culture.
  • Low Invitation / Low Challenge – Produces a bored culture.
  • High Invitation / Low Challenge – Produces a cozy/chaplaincy culture.
  • High Invitation / High Challenge – Produces a discipling culture.

I wouldn’t attempt to put churches in one of these categories, but I could. I know some of each of these. Chances are you do too.

If you put Jesus, the master disciple-maker in this diagram, we find He was both high invitation…people loved to be around Him…they were attracted to Him…yet He continually challenged them. He confronted them where their life needed to change.

That’s the kind of church I want to be. Those are the kind of messages I want to deliver each time I speak. To be a discipling church, we must find ways to be high invitation and high challenge.

Have you seen each of these type churches?

In my NEXT POST, I’ll share one way this has altered my Sunday teaching and the way I evaluate a message.

One Secret to Me Accomplishing Much

People ask all the time…How do you do everything you do?

Well, honestly, I don’t feel I’m doing everything I should be doing, but, one secret is that I maintain a healthy exercise program.

  • It fuels my creative thoughts…
  • It keeps me feeling at my best…
  • It builds my confidence…
  • It helps me sleep better at night…

There are other things I do…I believe in attempting to maintain total health…physical, spiritual, mental, relational…but this one is a key for me to being healthy in other areas of my life.

Be honest, do you need to exercise more regularly?

What secrets do you have to accomplishing much?

Two Messages from the Book of Mark

For whatever reason, apparently some of my readers like to listen to my Sunday messages. My hope is that listening online to anyone’s message is not an excuse for failing to connect with a local church. I believe that’s where the best discipleship occurs. If you are having trouble connecting somewhere, read THIS POST. If you want to supplement your church experience, you have to miss for other reasons, or you just want to hear my teaching, welcome!

We have a teaching team, so I don’t preach every week, but share the messages here when I do. Currently our podcast host is experiencing some problems with the embed feature, but if you are interested, we are walking through the book of Mark this summer. Here are a couple messages I’ve not yet posted. I’ll post the messages as a video here when that feature is repaired.

Week 1 - Mark 8:1-13

To hear this message, click HERE. To view this message click HERE.

Here are the questions for reflection on this message:

  • Do you believe God is able to do whatever you need Him to do?
  • Do you believe God will do what you need Him to do?
  • Do you have people in your life who you rust more now than you did when you first met them?
  • Do you have people you trust less now that you know them?
  • How do you think you could develop more trust in God?

Week 2 - Mark 10:17-31

A key to developing a sincere, growing faith in Jesus is to discover what holds our heart more than Christ. Join Ron Edmondson as he looks at a familiar passage illustrating that point.

To hear this message, click HERE. To view this message click HERE.

Here are the questions for reflection on this message:

  • Did you grow up in church?
  • Would you consider yourself a good person?
  • Do you think you are better than average?
  • What would be the hardest thing for you to give up if God asked you to?
  • Do you sometimes think you have already given so much…and wonder when you’ll get your reward?
  • Does the concept of grace, God’s forgiveness and mercy, freely given, ever blow your mind if you think about it, especially considering how well you know yourself?

I love hearing from you if you are listening to these messages.

3 Things I Love About New Orleans

I have had a distant love and attraction to the city of New Orleans since hurricane Katrina and the aftermath devastated that city in 2005. Before Grace Community Church officially launched, we wrote our first check to relief efforts in that city. I was in New Orleans for the first time earlier this week. I spent a couple days visiting our student ministry team who were there on a mission trip. It was a very quick trip, but in addition to seeing the great work our team was doing, I was able to visit with a few great pastors doing good work in the city.

I had been to Louisiana a couple times, but had never made it into the city of New Orleans. It was hot and humid, but I left with some good memories and was glad to see some ways God is impacting that city.

On a short bus ride from the car rental hub to the airport terminal, the bus driver asked what I liked most about the city. It was an easy answer:

Food – Sorry to put that first, but it was that memorable. I never had a bad meal. I asked at the hotel where I should eat and, while she did give me a recommendation, she also said, “You won’t find a bad meal around here.” She was right by my experience.

People – Everywhere I went, regardless of the class of people I met or the side of town I was on, they were friendly and helpful. I’m sure there are a few scrooges in New Orleans, but those may be the tourists and I didn’t encounter them. From the police to the restaurant workers to the clerks in a store, the locals seemed exceptionally nice.

Resolve – New Orleans is coming back after Katrina. That period remains very much on the minds of the people. It was obviously a defining moment in their history. Progress appears slower than some want it to be and there are still frustrations with the government, but from an outside perspective I saw a people determined to love their city back to health.

Yes, there are still problems. I wish those who choose to litter wouldn’t. There are some places good Christians shouldn’t go. :) The roads could use some attention. :) They could lower the humidity a bit for my comfort. :) I suspect they could find some of those issues in my city as well. Overall, I was impressed with the city of New Orleans.

Have you been to New Orleans either before or after Katrina? What were your impressions?

How Do I Find a Mentor?

This week we’ve talked about mentoring. Please take a few minutes and complete my mentoring survey if you haven’t already. You’ll find it HERE. I’ll be sharing results of that survey soon.

In this series, I’ve written about:

The 5 Types of Mentors

5 Questions to Help You Know What to do with a Mentor

Why I (You) Need a Mentor

Now the dilemma becomes, “Where do I find this mentor?”

I’ll agree. Finding a mentor can be tough. So if you’re ready to hear the complicated process…proceed with caution.

Here’s how you find a mentor:

Step One: Look for one

Step Two: Ask them

Can you remember that? Perhaps you need to write it down…just in case! :)

Okay, I realize that’s not a fair statement to someone who really desires a mentor and can’t seem to find one, but I still think it’s true.  The best intentional or seasonal mentors (refer to previous post for my definition of these two terms) are recruited.

Recognizing that many are still left wondering where to find a mentor, here are a few random thoughts about my “Look for…and…ask” recommendation that may help widen your search for potential mentors:

  • You will have to be intentional to find a mentor. You must desire one enough to do what’s necessary to find one.
  • Don’t be disheartened when you ask someone to mentor you if they initially say no. You may need to ask several people until you find one willing to commit the time to you.
  • Be sensitive to God’s activity in your life. If you are praying for a mentor, and your motives are pure in your request, my suspicion is that God will honor that prayer. You may have mentors around you that you have yet to see.
  • In your pursuit of a mentor, don’t look for people exactly like you. There will be a little stretching involved here, but look for someone with the character, qualities and expertise you desire to have or improve upon, but not necessarily wired exactly like you. That may even mean they are not in ministry.  My current mentor is not; he’s in business. He has the heart of a minister though and, with his age and experience, more church experience than I have, but certainly more life and leadership experience.
  • One problem I see young pastors make is that they want a Rick Warren or Andy Stanley level leader to mentor them, but I’m confident both those guys would tell you not to follow them, but to follow Christ. I’m not advising you to lower your standards in a mentor, but I am encouraging you to better define your objectives. Again, look for character, not position in a mentor. That usually opens the playing field in finding one.
  • The best person to mentor you may be the one who didn’t make it where you want to go…but still wishes he had. My dad was seldom there for me when I was growing up. He made many mistakes, but before he died he said some of the most profound things. I’ve got lots of good business advice to give a small business owner, but most of it is not from my success in business, but from my failure.
  • Give the person you ask to mentor you ample time to process your request. It’s a big one. You’ll want to make sure they are committed to the process and not just trying to be nice.
  • Be prepared to inconvenience yourself to accommodate the schedule of the one willing to mentor you.

Let me make this point clear: One reason you may not have a mentor is because you haven’t asked someone to mentor you. Ask! (BTW, this is not an invitation for you to ask me…not that you were thinking that! :) )

Those are a few suggestions.

If you have had or been mentors, help this post and my readers out by sharing where you found your mentor.

Do you have a mentor? Where did you find him or her? 

5 Types of Mentors

(This is an updated post. I left out the 5th type of mentor in the original post. I have my explanation HERE.)

Recently I started the conversation about mentoring here on my blog. I’m still soliciting feedback through a mentoring survey. (You can help out with that HERE.)

Mentoring appears to be a need in many people’s minds these days. You will see that clearly when I share the results of the survey, which should be later this week. I know it’s on my mind a great deal more than usual. At 47, as a parent of now grown children and at the mid point in my career, I realize more than ever how much I need a mentor in my life. I’ve always been a wisdom-seeker and have had regular mentors for over 20 years.

I’ve observed that there are different types of mentors. I think many times we recognize the need for a mentor, but fail to realize the mentors all around us, perhaps because we don’t know there is more than one kind. There are probably more than I’m listing here, but these are the four types of mentors I’ve had in my life:

Intentional - This is a mentor that is usually recruited. The time is structured, with regular meetings and a set agenda or purpose. I have had about half a dozen intentional mentors in my life. Currently my intentional mentor is 73 years old, a grandfather, an avid risk-taker still and one of the humblest men I know. I asked him if he would walk through this season of my life with me. He’s experienced already what I’m now starting to experience…grown children, empty-nest, and children getting married. Plus, I recognize the need to protect my heart from foolish pride. We don’t meet together often, usually once a month, but I’m free to ask him anything and he always has wise words to share.

Unintentional – This is a mentoring relationship that forms over time, but no one asked for it to happen. Because it’s not a formal relationship, we often fail to realize it’s value at the time. I have had numerous unintentional mentors in my life. My latest example of this was on a mission trip to Costa Rica earlier this year with a man on the trip with me. (I wrote about it in THIS POST.) I have continued to observe and learn from him since that trip in informal settings, mostly email exchanges and observing him at church, as he interacts with me and others. He has taught me some practical things about life, how to be a man, and gave me confidence in who I am as a man. Unintentional mentors almost appear to be random connections, but they serve a huge purpose. It often appears as if, though they are unintentional for us, that somehow God planned them. Imagine that! It is important to recognize the people God places in our path and the wisdom He intends for us to glean from them.

For a season - These mentors walk with us for a defined period and usually for a defined purpose. I had a seasonal mentor when I was a new young manager at the age of 20. My mentor was in his 60’s, already retired once as a business owner, and he actually worked for me at the time. Through gentleness and patience he helped me learn how to lead others and kept me from making foolish mistakes as a young leader. I’ve had other mentors for a season. Some of these mentors were recruited and some were simply placed in my life at the time, but they always had a more defined role.

For a moment - This is a mentor who says the right word at the right time. (I wrote about a couple of mine HERE and HERE.) Most of the time they don’t know it’s a needed word, but it seems perfectly timed for your specific circumstances. Sometimes they see something in you and purposefully speak truth into your life. (I love when this happens and try to repeat it myself for others.) I’ve had many momentary mentors in my life. There was the pastor who told me I was a giant killer, and that instead of killing giants for my own glory I should do it for the glory of God. There was the teacher who told me I was hanging out with the wrong crowd. There was the friend who challenged me to surrender to vocational ministry, when I had resisted for so long. The key with unintentional mentors is that a person has to be open to hearing a word when it is spoken. Because it happens so quickly, we often don’t realize the value in this type mentoring until time has past after the momentary investment in our life is made.

Relational – This is the mentor you live with…and personally…I think this is the best kind. The Biblical model of mentoring and discipleship, especially in the Old Testament, is one where the grandfather, father, and son all do life together. I’m writing in the masculine sense, but the same is true for girls. The key here is to learn from the one whose blood you share.

The key for me in finding a mentor is that I must be looking for that type investment in my life. I must be open to words of wisdom spoken by others. Mentors are all around, but being mentored is up to me.

Did I miss one?

Have you had each of these type mentors? Which one is most needed in your life today?

Share your current thoughts about mentoring. I’ll be sharing more this week.

Have You Been Where You Are At For Too Long?

The LORD our God said to us at Horeb, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Deuteronomy 1:6 NIV

Moses had led the people out of Egypt. Along the way, they were scared, ready to turn around and go back into slavery. God had parted the Red Sea, led the people through on dry ground, drowned the Egyptians, and landed them safely at Horeb, the mountain of God. They didn’t want to leave. It seemed comfortable. God had a bigger plan for them than this place, however, so He told them they had been there too long.

Sometimes God has to move us to mold us into whom we need to be or to get us to do what we need to do. That could be a move physically, emotionally, vocationally or spiritually.

Where are you at today? Have you been there too long?

  • Have you been in your state of worry too long?
  • Have you hovered in fear too long?
  • Have you rested in the safety of your comfort zone for too long?

Would God say to you today: “You have been there too long!”?

Sometimes God even requires us to get off a mountain (our place of comfort) and move back into the valley, where we have no choice but to trust Him again. Whether it’s a time of rest or a time of unrest in our life, we can become habitual, even comfortable in our current situation to where we resist moving to better places God may have for us.

When Jesus took Peter, James and John to the mountain of transfiguration (Matthew 17), Peter was ready to build three tents; one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. I don’t know where he planned to sleep, but he was ready to camp out for a while. Jesus took Peter back into the valley and into more ministry opportunities. At the time, Peter could only see what he could see.

  • Is God ready to take you some place outside of your realm of comfort?
  • Is He looking for you to move into a deeper commitment to Him?
  • Is He preparing you for a better place, perhaps an even greater work?
  • Have you been in the state you are in, the place you are in for far too long?

Why don’t you ask Him today?