I was saddened, as many Americans were, to hear of Andy Griffith’s death yesterday. The show after his name is still one of my favorite. I’ve seen every episode enough times to complete the lines.
I read where Andy was buried only 5 hours after his death, at the wishes of the family. What I liked most about what I read was this statement by his wife:
“Andy was a person of incredibly strong Christian faith and was prepared for the day he would be called Home to his Lord,” Griffith’s wife, Cindi, said in a statement on Tuesday. (Source)
Andy was prepared to die.
Recently I received my copy of “Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow” written by my friends Eric Geiger, Philip Nation and Michael Kelley. I was curious about their work, because I believe discipleship is a current weakness overall in the church. How can we do it better? I decided to interview the three Kingdom builders.
Here is my interview on Transformational Discipleship:
Why do you feel strongly about this particular discipleship message?
(Eric) First and foremost, because “making disciples” is the calling laid on the life of the Christian. It’s what we are all supposed to be about, both as a disciple and as one participating in the process of discipling others. Of all the things Jesus might have said when He ascended into heaven, His marching orders to the church involved making disciples. But many of us choose to settle for behavioral modification or the transfer of intellectual knowledge rather than seeking and trusting the Holy Spirit to change people at their core.
(Philip) The charge of making disciples isn’t a passive one. God has called us in the church to take an active role in both our own discipleship and in the discipleship of those around us. It’s a process that we’re all on – as Billie Hanks has said, “I’ve never met a mature Christian, only maturing Christians.” We want to help people move into that journey for their own sake and for the sake of those around them.
(Michael) This particular message about discipleship is helpful, I think, because we are attempting to articulate the balance between doing and believing. We want to embrace that ultimately only the Holy Spirit can transform an individual. It’s His work, and yet we are to play an active role in that work. While we don’t transform ourselves or anyone else, we can try and create an environment, in our lives and our churches, that is ready to embrace the work of the Spirit.
Let’s address the title of the book. Why is the book called Transformational Discipleship?
(Eric) Each of the words in the title is significant. Every person in the world is a disciple because everyone follows someone or something. That’s what a disciple is – a follower. But while every person is a disciple, not every person is transformed.
What we are really after as followers of Christ is transformation. That’s the process in which something actually becomes something else. So growing in Christ isn’t just putting on a new set of habits or behaving differently; it’s deeper than that.
Being a disciple is simply following Jesus to a greater and greater degree. And if we are following Him, then we are through our lives becoming something different. The Holy Spirit and He alone does this transforming work in the hearts of people. What our job is, as church leaders, isn’t to transform; it’s to set the conditions that are most conducive for real transformation to occur.
(Michael) In the book, we liken this kind of partnership to water skiing. The person behind the boat isn’t the one who lifts himself of the water or pulls him across the lake. The boat has all of the power. But the one with the skies on does play a part. He or she must place themselves in the right posture behind the boat, giving the one driving the boat a “thumbs up” sign, and prepare for the ride.
Spiritual transformation is the same. God is the one enabling His people to mature and grow while His people are invited to place themselves in the right posture.
The subtitle is How People Really Grow. So in a nutshell, how does that growth happen?
(Eric) We frame the process of spiritual growth in the book through three circles: Truth, Posture and Leaders. The place where those three circles converge is what we call the transformational sweet spot.
The sweet spot on a bat or a tennis racket is the place that has the most potential impact when you hit the ball. In the same way, when these three factors come together a church is set up to experience transformational discipleship.
Here’s how we articulate those three factors coming together: The transformational sweet spot is the intersection of truth given by healthy leaders when someone is in a vulnerable posture.
Unpack that definition a bit. Each of those words (truth, leaders, posture) are big terms. What specifically do you mean by them?
(Philip) In each of the three areas, we highlight specific ideas that aid transformation to occur. We call them lenses. So for truth, there are three specific lenses that contribute to transformation: the gospel, identity, and the spiritual disciplines.
It’s especially important for leaders to understand these lenses because they influence the way they present God’s truth to the people that have been entrusted to their care. For a leader, then, to present the truth, they focus on the gospel, understand that in the gospel a person’s identity is made new and different in Christ, and equip their people to participate in the spiritual disciplines.
You say that truth should be applied by healthy leaders to people in a vulnerable posture. What makes a person have a vulnerable posture?
(Michael) All kinds of things. It could be a significant life change or a period of loss. It could be a conscious choice on someone’s part to orient life around learning and obedience. In the book, we describe three characteristics of someone in this kind of vulnerable, or teachable, posture: Such a person is aware of their weakness, interdependent on others, and has an outward focus.
This section was really personal for each of us because we all looked back and knew that there were certain parts of our lives when we were most receptive to the truth of God. Most of those times coincided with some tough life event that pushed us into that posture. That’s one of the reasons why healthy leaders are so important; they are able to be a stabilizing influence in the lives of their people, helping them see how God’s truth meets them in their time of need.
Tell us a bit about the research that’s outlined in the book.
(Philip) In 2010, LifeWay Research embarked on an ambitious research project. We surveyed believers about their spiritual lives and level of maturity. We wanted to look into the major arenas of life where spiritual maturity takes place.
The research was done in three phases. First, we did a qualitative survey of experts in the field of discipleship. Members of our research team did interviews with recognized experts from multiple countries including pastors, professors, and church leaders from a variety of backgrounds.
From these experts in the field of discipleship, our research team gained a better understanding of what is taking place in the church both domestically and in other countries (specifically in the Hispanic context).
After the expert interview phase, the research team also conducted survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors in North America. The survey delved into the type of discipleship ministries being used in churches and the satisfaction level that they have with them. The survey revealed a great deal of paradoxes occurring between pastors’ hope that people are maturing and the level of satisfaction they have that believers truly are maturing.
Finally, the team at LifeWay Research did a survey of 4,000 Protestant Christians in North America. Of that number, approximately 1,100 were in Canada and the survey was done in three languages: English, Spanish, and French.
It was a really extensive project, and we’re excited to frame the results in this book.
Is this a research driven project?
(Eric) Yes and no. It’s certainly a project that’s supported by research, but we didn’t want it to read like a pure research book. We wanted it to be accessible for pastors and church leaders of all kinds. So while you’ll clearly see the research in the book, it’s driven more by biblical truth.
What role does the church play in transformational discipleship?
(Michael) If you look at the transformational sweet spot, you’ll see there are three major components: truth, posture, and leaders. Truth comes from God and is brought out in His word. The posture piece relates to the individual disciple. But the leader is the one who brings those two things together. Take out any of those three pieces and you get a deficiency in discipleship.
Transformational discipleship most effectively happens in the context of the local church. The church shouldn’t be an “add on” to someone growing in Christ, but instead the relationships between members of the church are the context in which this transformation happens.
(Philip) While it’s certainly not happening everywhere, the research that led to Transformational Discipleship gave us a lot of hope. Leaders in the church understand that their chief role is to involve themselves deeply in this process. The church can’t be a place where intellectual knowledge is transferred; neither can it be a place where behaviors are merely modified. Neither of those things is transformation. Real transformation is not just doing or knowing something different; it’s being something different. It’s an incredible privilege to be a church leader and be deeply involved in this work of the Holy Spirit.
You emphasize early on in the book that this statement of the transformational sweet spot isn’t a formula or a model but a framework. Why is that?
(Eric) When I co-authored Simple Church, it was meant to challenge leaders to have a process for discipleship, but it was never intended to be a model (the first paragraph of the book read, “this is not a model”). But for the last five years many church leaders treated the book as a “new model” for church ministry.
We love prescription. But you can’t “prescribe” the work of the Holy Spirit. You can describe His work, based on the biblical evidence and the stories we’ve heard, but you can’t simply put in a model and expect the Holy Spirit to just fall in line.
(Michael) We don’t want anyone to treat the transformational framework in the book as a new mission statement; we want it to help people understand to a greater degree how people mature in the church. When we start to see how leaders, truth, and posture intersect, it changes the way we teach, program, develop leaders, and even do pastoral care. But it doesn’t eliminate the need to listen to the voice of the Spirit to see how those things will change in one particular local church.
Again, that’s the divine/human partnership at work.
What are you hoping is accomplished through Transformational Discipleship?
(Philip) I’m praying that Transformational Discipleship will fill the church with hope. The good news is that the Holy Spirit is most definitely at work transforming the hearts of Christians. What we want to do in the book is reaffirm His work and try to give leaders some very helpful footholds – some ways of thinking that can inform and shape their ministries for the years to come.
(Michael) Discipleship is a big word to a lot of people. It’s intimidating, and while there is something mysterious about the way the Spirit works in the hearts of God’s people, discipleship isn’t reserved for some special class of Christians. So my hope is that through the book, the way people really grow in Christ might be de-mystified a bit. Not in the sense that we lessen the emphasis on the work of the Spirit, but in the sense that the way this happens becomes simplified in our minds.
(Eric) I want the church to enter into a day of playing offense rather than defense. The human heart isn’t something pure that needs to be protected; it’s something wicked that needs to be transformed. Jesus wants us to be on the move – to play offense. To take ground for the kingdom in confidence because of who He is. So my prayer is that the book helps us to see how we can be active partners with God to see people truly grow deep in Jesus.
What are your thoughts on discipleship in the church today? How are we doing?
- This week I tweeted, “Meeting with my personal prayer team. I’m confident I’ve underestimated their influence in my ministry. Every pastor should have one.”
I received numerous replies asking me questions about the specifics of who this group is, what they do, how often we meet, etc. I thought it as worthy of a post.
Years ago when I was a layperson, a group of my prayer partners formed our own pastoral prayer team. We would pray during the church services and make appointments with church staff members to pray for them. It was a great marker in my spiritual growth and it seemed to be valued by the ministers.
When I became a pastor myself, knowing the importance of prayer, I decided to be intentional in soliciting people to pray for the church and my ministry. I have done this various ways. I’ve emailed individuals and groups with specific prayer requests. I’ve had Sunday morning meetings before church and recruited a few people to pray during each service. I’ve had a few men that I met with in accountability/prayer groups.
In the past couple of years, I started something new. It’s become my preferred model, simply because it’s intentional, it’s highly functional with my schedule, and I’ve seen the results of prayer working in my ministry.
Here is my current prayer team approach:
I personally recruited 7 people in the church who meet with me regularly. (I wasn’t attempting to get to a Biblical number. It’s just the way it worked. My goal would be for this group to never be larger than 10 or so, simply so we can function well as a group when we meet. Much larger and we would lose the intimacy of the group we have now.)
We meet every 6 weeks to 2 months, as my schedule allows. My assistant sets these meetings up for me at my request.
My part of the meetings last less than 1 hour.
I come to the meetings with a list of things to pray for, and hand it out to them as a prayer list.
- Some to do with church
- Some with staff (I don’t share names or specifics, but generalities)
- Some personal (I don’t share highly intimate things. I have men in my life to share those things, but I do share requests personal to me and my family, that may or may not have anything to do with the church.)
- In regards to the church, some items are general and some specific, but I rarely, if ever, use names associated with the requests. This is not as much about individual prayer needs within the church. We have a separate prayer team for those needs. This group is my personal prayer support group, so items within the church are more centered towards things I personally lead, opportunities or initiatives I feel God is guiding us towards, or personal issues of concern I have within the church, my family or with me.
I talk through each item on the list and allow them to ask me questions about them.
I pray for them.
I leave and let them pray together as long as they want.
They take the list home and continue to pray until we have another meeting.
We begin each new meeting reviewing any carryover items on the list to update the group on prayer results.
Who is on this prayer team?
- People I have personally recruited. (In the church I’m moving to pastor, I’m in the process now of gathering those names. Since I don’t know the people, I’m relying on several other people I do know to help me with a group of names.)
- People I can trust to hold a confidence (This is of utmost importance to me and I’ve never had a “leak” from this process yet.)
- People I believe are fervent in prayer, and they would be doing so whether I asked them to or not
- People who are humble, not looking for any spotlight or attention
- People I would go to personally to request prayer aside from this group (You probably could name those people in your church now)
These people are often not on any other team or committee in the church. They aren’t necessarily eloquent of speech. They are simply people of prayer. This is not a committee or team where members rotate on or off after a term of service. These are prayer warriors. As long as they are willing to serve, and are functioning within the request of confidentiality, they remain in the group.
What’s the benefit?
Do you have to ask?
Seriously, just this week, I gave them a very personal prayer request of something I was asking God to do. Within 30 minutes of our meeting, I had an answer to the prayer request. I emailed them to let them know.
Months before God began stirring my heart towards a change in ministry assignment, I had asked this group to pray for our staff. I knew several were receiving requests to consider other positions. I asked them to pray for our staff to be wise and discerning of God’s direction in our lives. I didn’t know at the time that I would be the one God would deal with next. It was out of my realm of possibilities to take another church at this time, but this group was already praying for the possibility. I’m convinced their prayers have aided in making this transition process so incredibly smooth.
God still answers the prayers of His people.
You don’t have to do it my way, but if you’re a pastor, you need people you can trust praying for you in every area of your life. Yes, you need your entire church praying for you. I’m for more corporate prayer. I believe, however, that you need a smaller group around you to share more personal requests. When we look at the model of Jesus, He seemed to have that prayer support structure within the disciples, even calling a few of them frequently away from the 12 to meet with him in more private settings.
How do you organize people to pray for you?
I am frequently asked about my thoughts on church discipline. I’ve learned that most of the time, when someone asks, they have a personal agenda they are attempting to address, far more than they have a concern for Biblical accuracy.
They may know someone who committed a specific sin they feel warrants discipline. Sometimes they were injured by someone and want to make sure the person is properly disciplined. They may even want to be a part of the “prayer” process…and they want details…so they can pray (and gossip) appropriately.
If it sounds like I have an angst against church discipline…maybe I do. It’s not that I’m against it. I do believe there is a place for church discipline. How can I not? The Bible addresses it. It’s just that most of the time when I’ve seen it spoken of it seems more like retribution than something Biblical. I’m against that! I think punishment was nailed to a cross.
- Should we being doing more church discipline? Yes
- Should we do it better? Yes
My bigger question would be as to the purpose of church discipline.
I’m a simple minded guy though. I’m not deep. I need thoughts I can wrap my mind around. So, I’m not attempting to give a scholarly reply to the subject, but simply add some of my thoughts. For some of them I give a general reference and for others it’s simply a thought, though each of them is based on my interpretation of Scripture as a whole and my view of God and His plan for mankind. I have often thought in terms of my role as an earthly father attempting to parent my children when I think of how God must think in terms of parenting me. Obviously He’s the perfect parent, but even Jesus alluded to the role of an earthly father in relation to our Heavenly Father. (Luke 11:9-12)
Here are 7 simple thoughts on Church Discipline:
Grace is primary in healthy discipline, not secondary. Throughout Scripture, God approached people with grace and unconditional love. Discipline should never be done in anger, but always in a redemptive way. (Romans 5:20)
The best discipline you will never know about. (Read Matthew 18) If discipline is handled correctly, the person is approached by someone, usually someone close to them, they repent and you move forward. In most cases, no one else needs to know at this point.
Discipline is part of the process of discipleship, not a side product. Healthy discipline is a part of helping others be more like Christ. You know of areas of sin in a person’s life, so you confront them in love, helping them grow and improve. (Proverbs 1:1-3; 6:23)
Discipline is done in an effort to restore, not to punish. Jesus took the punishment for our sins. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Proverbs 10:17; Romans 5:8)
It’s not limited to select sins. If you are doing disciplines as a part of discipleship, then you address known sins…period. It could be gossip…may even be gluttony or greed. (Matthew 5:21-28)
The only people doing church discipline perfectly are the perfect churches. They do discipleship perfectly, also. In fact, they’re pretty much perfect. (Or think they are. 🙂 )
It rarely involves people having to leave the church. I honestly think that’s what some people feel is the key objective. I don’t see it that way. I see it more restorative than dismissive. (Philemon)
I realize scholars can pick this apart. I welcome your input and healthy correction. Just do it in love please. I think that’s Biblical too!
What are your thoughts on church discipline?
It’s official. My new assignment is Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. The church voted to call me as their senior pastor yesterday. Cheryl and I are excited.
Immanuel launched as a church on February 1, 1909 with 33 people. Today the church sits on a 22-acre campus located in the heart of Lexington, Kentucky and in close proximity to the University of Kentucky campus. It’s building has 217,000 square feet of usable space. The recreation center houses two full-size basketball courts, an indoor-walking track, aerobics room, cardiovascular workout room and a full- service café known as the Solid Rock Café. They have soccer and baseball fields.
Immanuel has a strong staff who seem eager for leadership and are already functioning as a healthy team. More than that, Immanuel’s people have a heart for missions and service and they truly want to reach Lexington for Christ. Immanuel has a great mix of seniors and youth, and I look forward to learning how to bridge the multi-generational gap for more effective ministry.
Although Immanuel is considerably smaller than my current church, I have never seen a church with more potential!
You may be wondering, what about my current church…and…have I abandoned church planting?
A couple weeks ago, I shared with the church I planted, Grace Community Church, that I was resigning. (You can watch that video HERE.) Leaving Grace is one of the hardest decisions Cheryl and I have ever made and it will always hold a piece of my heart. Grace started with 11 core families and a staff of 3 in our living room about 7 years ago. We’ve seen God do extraordinary things, now averaging over 2,500 in our worship experiences each week.
Grace is in good shape for the future. I don’t believe I would sense God releasing me otherwise. In the providence of God, I recruited a partner in this, my second, church plant. Chad Rowland is fully equipped to lead without me. The staff, who are some of our best friends in ministry, is strong and the team dynamics are extremely healthy. The best days are ahead for Grace.
As for church planting…yes…I love it and always will, but what about church revitalization? To me it’s the same heart. My heart is to see people come to know, love and be like Jesus. I love how that is happening in church plants around the world. As long as I’m breathing I’ll be encouraging church planters and assisting new church plants.
But, what about the older, established church? Who is going to help them thrive again? My heart breaks for church histories, church buildings, and bodies of believers who are mostly being underutilized in their Kingdom potential. I want to play a part in helping an older church see new life. I will begin knowing it will be harder work at times, but confident God is able to work His will in Immanuel through my leadership.
God has been at work at Immanuel for over 100 years. I feel unworthy, humbled and honored to join them in their history, look forward to their future, and celebrate with them what I believe could be their best years still to come.
Prayers appreciated. We will start officially at Immanuel in mid June, but first we want to finish well at Grace, sell a condo quickly and buy a place to live in Lexington. Will you say a prayer (or two) for us in this transition?
Do you have any examples to share of older, established churches that have been revitalized?
This is a guest post by Patrick Morley and his team at Man in the Mirror Ministry. I fully support the work they have done and are doing to reach men for Christ. The book by Patrick Morley had a profound impact on my life and I encourage you to consider this new opportunity.
Here are some thoughts from Patrick Morley from Man in the Mirror:
See if you agree with this…
• Can you see any way of ever getting society right unless we get the church right?
• If that’s true, can you see any way of ever getting the church right unless we get families right?
• If you’re still with me, can you see any way of ever getting families right unless we get marriages right?
• And, can you see any way of ever getting marriages right unless we get men right?
Sure, every now and then you hear about a woman who rips her family apart, but even then it’s usually after years of emotional neglect. It really is about the men.
How can we help get men right? To become a disciple of Jesus is the highest honor to which a man can aspire. To be born again and not become a disciple is like joining the Army and getting a rifle that you never learn how to clean and shoot.
The good news is that thousands of leaders and churches are learning how to disciple men so they can walk with God in our kooky culture. How do they do it?
For my PhD dissertation I studied the question, “Why do some churches succeed at men’s discipleship while others languish or fail?” I wanted to know from a management perspective, “What are the factors that lead to success or failure when implementing a men’s discipleship program?” And I wanted to discover, “What are successful pastors doing differently than the pastors of ineffective or failed ministries to men?”
To get at the answers, I employed multiple-case-study research to compare and contrast churches with effective men’s discipleship programs to churches with ineffective or failed programs.
The factors that differentiated the highly effective churches were….
1. A senior pastor with the vision to disciple every man in the church,
2. The determination to succeed no matter what, and
3. A sustainable strategy to make disciples.
I’m so tired of watching men go to events, get all amped up, charge out determined to do better, soar briefly, then glide (or crash) back to earth. In my experience these men are deeply frustrated that they can’t sustain the change. It doesn’t have to be that way. Thousands of churches have figured it out. But how do we get the word to those churches that are still in the dark?
At Man in the Mirror, the ministry I founded 25+ years ago, we’ve launched an initiative to hire 330 full-time Area Directors located throughout the United States to help churches more effectively disciple their men. Each Area Director will have a territory of 1,000 churches, which will put “boots on the ground” close to churches and men. We have a lot of early momentum, and the first 30 Area Directors have been appointed.
Now we need to surface scores of new candidates. We’re praying for men who are passionate about Christ, men’s discipleship, and who love the church. You can find out everything you need to know HERE. Join us in our fight to save our society and build the Kingdom.
Go HERE now to join this effort.
Editor’s Note: For 25 years Pat and his organization, Man in the Mirror, have focused on men’s discipleship. They’ve trained thousands of church leaders. In 2009 they reached the milestone of impacting 10,000,000 men for Christ. Their new goal is to see “10,000,000 new men leading powerful transformed lives in Christ by 2020.” Their new Area Director strategy is putting “boots on the ground” close to churches and men.
God is at work in ways you cannot imagine. God is doing things you can’t conceive. #TrustHim
God is at work. Are the circumstances of your life saying otherwise today. Perhaps you need to share your burdens with others. Let us pray for one another.
Do you need prayer?
Here’s how this works:
You comment and leave a prayer request.
My readers and I pray.
It’s that simple.
Do you need prayer?
I was talking with a pastor recently who has been betrayed by someone in his church. He told him a secret in confidence and soon learned the friend had shared it with another…who shared it with another…who shared it with another…and you know the rest of this story.
I was empathetic, but thought to myself, “Welcome to the world of Christian leadership”.
If you’ve been in leadership very long, you know what it feels like to be betrayed. It can come at the hand of one you barely know or someone you trusted.
I love that God provides us real life examples from the Bible of men and women who faced the same struggles we face today. Consider these thoughts from the life of David.
Consider Psalm 41:7, “All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me.”
David, the man after God’s own heart, had men who talked behind his back. They spread rumors about him. They maligned his reputation and character. He was the subject of gossip. People said things about him that weren’t true; probably some that were partially true, but stretched out of proportion to reality.
Have you ever been there?
Then consider what David says in verse 9, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.”
David had been betrayed by someone he trusted completely.
Most likely you have also. Chances are good, if we are honest, we have been the the betrayer and the betrayed. It might have been a misunderstanding or an intentional act of betrayal, but either way, it still hurt. You were tempted to get even, perhaps you held a grudge; maybe you quit speaking to the person.
How should you respond in betrayal?
Here are 4 reminders for times of betrayal:
Be confident in who you are, who you are not – You are not a super human. You are a man or woman. You have real feelings. You have emotions. You can be hurt. Don’t be surprised by your emotional response to betrayal. You will have to trust again, but you may be hurt again. That’s part of living among sinners like you.
Be confident who others are and who others are not – Don’t hold others to a standard they can’t live up to, but don’t allow them to control your reactions either. Others will let you down. If you open yourself to betrayal by trusting others, which you will often have to do in leadership, life and love, you will be hurt at times. Just at you are not perfect, others are not either. Part of relationships is the vulnerability, which allows betrayal. They only way to avoid it completely is to avoid relationships.
Be confident in who God is and who He isn’t – God is able to protect you. He doesn’t always protect you from betrayal. Sometimes He even allows those closest to you to be the betrayer. He will, however, always use it for an ultimate good. We shouldn’t expect God to do as He hasn’t promised to do. We can expect God to never leave us nor forsake us and to be our strength when we are weak and to lift us up in due time when we humble ourselves before Him.
Be confident in what God has called you to do and what He hasn’t – God has not called you to please everyone. He has called you to be obedient to your call; regardless of the sacrifice. Even in the midst of betrayal, we are called to love mercy, act justly, and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8) He has also called you to forgive. He has not called you to enable bad behavior.
You can’t control the world from betraying you, but you can control your reaction to betrayal. That begins by living out of the confidence God has given you through your relationship with Him.
Have you ever been betrayed? How did you handle it?