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My 2019 Reading List…

I recently heard someone say, “Humans largely remain the same except for the people they meet and the books they read.” As a Christian I believe there’s more to it than that, namely the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life, but the point is reading books leaves a big impression on one’s life.

In the past I have shot from the hip with most of my reading, jumping into books that I’m interested in or that seem beneficial to my life and ministry. But I have begun to realize the lack of balance and shortsightedness this can bring to the content entering my mind and heart.

So this year I have taken the time to create a comprehensive reading list for 2019. I’ve done so by researching new books, looking at “best of” lists, soliciting recommendations from others, looking at classics from the past, etc. And in doing so I have sought to bring a balance of themes and content to my reading list.

Below is an inventory of the books I plan to read in 2019. My goal is to read 60+ books, but the exact books could change to some degree depending on circumstances throughout the year. I will do so by reading many of these books on Kindle, some hard copy, and a few on Audible. But because I find that there is minimal help in cyberspace for Christian reading lists with balance and depth I wanted to share my plan for 2019…

 

1. Administration 1: “Death by Meeting” by Patrick Lencioni

 

2. Administration 2: “Church Business” by Nathan Freeland

 

3. Administration 3: “The Effective Executive” by Peter Drucker

 

4. Apologetics: “Apologetics at the Cross” by Joshua Chatraw & Mark Allen

 

5. Christian classic 1: “The Confessions” by Augustine

 

6. Christian classic 2: “Orthodoxy” by G.K. Chesterton

 

7. Christian classic 3: “The Mortification of Sin” by John Owen

 

8. Christian history: “Christianity at the Crossroads: How the Second Century Shaped the Future of the Church” by Michael Kruger

 

9. Christian living: “The Pursuit of God” by A.W. Tozer

 

10. Church 1: “When Narcissism Comes to Church: Loving God and others in the culture of a personality disorder” by David Orrison

 

11. Church 2: “An Unstoppable Force: Daring to Become the Church God Had in Mind” by Erwin McManus

 

12. Church history: “Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity” by Mark Noll

 

13. Counseling: ”Biblical Counseling Basics: Roots, Beliefs, and Future” by Jeremy Lelek

 

14. Culture 1: “Gay Girl, Good God” by Jackie Hill Perry

 

15. Culture 2: “The Coddling of the American Mind” by Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt

 

16. Culture 3: “How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age” by Jonathan Leeman

 

17. Discipleship: “Eschatological Discipleship: Leading Christians to Understand Their Historical and Cultural Context” by Trevin Wax

 

18. Finance 1: “The Church Money Manual: Best Practices for Finance and Stewardship” by J. Clif Christopher

 

19. Finance 2: “Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate: A New Vision for Financial Stewardship” by J Clif Christopher

 

20. Eschatology: “Middleism Eschatology: An Answer to the Preterism Heresy” by Stephen Whitsett

 

21. Ethics: “Ethics for Christian Ministry: Moral Formation for Twenty-First Century Leaders” by Joe Trull & Robert Creech

 

22. Evangelism: “Evangelism in a Skeptical World” by Sam Chan

 

23. Gospel: “A Gospel Primer: Learning to See the Glories of God’s Love” by Milton Vincent

 

24. Heaven & Hell: “Unseen Realities: Heaven, Hell, Angels and Demons” by R.C. Sproul

 

25. Holiness 1: “The Holiness of God” by R.C. Sproul

 

26. Holiness 2: “The Knowledge of the Holy” by A.W. Tozer

 

27. Holy Spirit: “The Holy Spirit” by Sinclair Ferguson

 

28. Human Resources: “HR Matters: What you don’t know can hurt your ministry” by Cindy Powell

 

29. Humility: “The Blessing of Humility” by Jerry Bridges

 

30. Leadership 1: “Replenish: Leading from a Healthy Soul” by Lance Witt & John Ortberg

 

31. Leadership 2: “The Preacher’s Portrait” by John Stott

 

32. Leadership 3: “Good to Great” by Jim Collins

 

33. Leadership 4: “The Pastor: A Memoir” by Eugene Peterson

 

34. Marriage & family 1: “Give Them Grace” by Elyse Fitzpatrick & Jessica Thompson

 

35. Marriage & family 2: “The Disciple-Making Parent” by Chap Bettis

 

36. Marriage & family 3: “The Marriage Builder” by Larry Crabb

 

37. Marriage & family 4: “Hero: Being the strong father your children need” by Meg Meekers

 

38. Missions: “A Light to the Nations” by Michael Goheen

 

39. Morality: “Disciplines of a Godly Man” by R. Kent Hughes

 

40. Old Testament 1: “Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God” by Paul Copan

 

41. Old Testament 2: “A Tale of Three Kings” by Gene Edwards

 

42. Origins: “Six Days” by Ken Ham

 

43. Personal Growth: “You Are What You Love” by James K.A. Smith

 

44. Prayer: “Praying the Bible” by Donald Whitney

 

45. Preaching 1: “Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism” by Timothy Keller

 

46. Preaching 2: “Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers” by T. David Gordon

 

47. Productivity: “Do More Better” by Tim Challies

 

48. Sexuality: “Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality” by Nancy Pearcey

 

49. Shepherding: “Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense” by Paul David Tripp

 

50. Soteriology: “The Extent of the Atonement” by David Allen

 

51. Spiritual gifts: “Spiritual Gifts: What They Are and Why They Matter” by Thomas Schreiner

 

52. Spiritual growth 1: “Spiritual Growth” by Arthur Pink

 

53. Spiritual growth 2: “All that’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment” by Hannah Anderson

 

54. Spiritual growth 3: “Identity Theft: Reclaiming the Truth of our Identity in Christ” by Melissa Kruger & Jen Wilkin

 

55. Stewardship: “Smart Money Smart Kids” by Dave Ramsey

 

56. Theology 1: “The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments” (on-going read throughout the year)

 

57. Trinity: “Delighting in the Trinity” by Michael Reeves

 

58. Through the Bible 1: Chronological

 

59. Through the Bible 2: “Foundations for Kids: A 260 Day Reading Plan for Kids” by Robby Gallaty (Family Worship Time)

 

60. Worship: “Worship: The Ultimate Priority” by John MacArthur

 

ON THE RESERVE SHELF…

“The Matheny Manifesto” by Mike Matheny

 

“Killing England” by Bill O’Reilly

 

“Bringing Up Boys” by James Dobson

 

“Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Ted Tripp

 

“Fools Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion” by Os Guinness

 

“Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand

 

“Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters” by Meg Meekers

 

“The Kings Cross” by Timothy Keller

 

“The Gospel” by Ray Ortlund

 

 

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My 2018 Book Recommendations

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As I’ve discovered, quality books lists and recommendations for pastors are lacking in cyberspace. While I certainly am not the authority in Christian literature I wanted to take the time to categorize the books I have read in 2018. I have categorized them into four degrees of recommendation. For a detailed review of these books you will have to look elsewhere, but perhaps this will be helpful as you think about your future reading.

 

MUST-READS

“Through the Bible in 90 Days” Bible Reading Plan (Reading the Bible in large chunks over a short period of time will give you a better understanding of our great God, His work, and His will)

“12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You” by Tony Reinke

“A Praying Life” by Paul Miller

“Surprised by Hope” by N.T. Wright

“The Storm Tossed Family” by Russell Moore

“Through the Bible in 90 Days” Bible Reading Plan

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

“Didn’t See It Coming” by Carey Nieuwhof

“From Weakness to Strength” by Scott Sauls

“God, Marriage and Family” by Andreas Kostenberger

“High Impact Teams” by Lance Witt

“Lies Pastors Believe” by Dayton Hartman

“Parenting” by Paul David Tripp

“Pastoral Helmsmenship” by Harrison, Klick, Morris

“Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas

“The Potter’s Promise” by Leighton Flowers

“The Tech Wise Family” by Andy Crouch

“The Trellis and the Vine” by Colin Marshall & Tony Payne
MODERATELY RECOMMENDED

“Amplified Leadership” by Dan Reiland

“Can These Bones Live?” By Bill Henard

“Christ’s Call to Reform the Church” by John MacArthur

“Confessions of a Church Felon” by Harrison, Klick, Miller

“Holy Discontent” by Bill Hybels

“How Not to be a Broke Pastor” by S.L. Potts

“Letters to the Church” by Francis Chan

“Minding His Business” by Don Corder

“Money Matters in the Church” by Aubrey Malphurs

“Portraits of a Pastor” compiled by Jason K. Allen

“Smart Church Management” by Patricia Lotich

“Supervising and Supporting Ministry Staff” by Kevin Lawson & Mick Boe

“Sustainable Youth Ministry” by Mark DeVries

“The Last Adam” by Brandon Crowe

“The Prodigal God” by Timothy Keller

“The Root of Sin Exposed” by Steve Gallagher

“The Story” edited by Max Lucado

“Unspoken: What Men Won’t Talk About and Why” by Johnny Hunt

“You Can’t Make Me” by Cynthia Tobias

 

TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT

“Church Growth Flywheel” by Rich Birch

“Irresistible” by Andy Stanley (Read only if you are interested in knowing the context for Andy Stanley’s “unhitch from the Old Testament” comment)

“Just Do Something” by Kevin DeYoung

“Prepare to Build” by Stephen Anderson

“Supernatural Power for Everyday People” by Jared Wilson

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Simple.

Simple

It had almost become like a game, a competition of sorts. First the Sadducees, then the Pharisees…back and forth they went, attempting to make Jesus stumble with His words. If only they could get Him to say something, anything, that undermined or conflicted with the Law of Moses it would disprove Jesus’ claim on Messiahship.

 

On the heels of many unsuccessful attempts, immediately after another failure by the Sadducees, the Pharisees stepped back up to the plate: “And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “Love the Lord God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” (Matthew 22:34—40) 

 

The question, “which command in the law is the greatest?” is like asking, “Jesus, what is the greatest, most important thing we can spend our lives doing—which, of all 613 commands, should we be most focused on fulfilling?” With the Jews hoping He might defy Moses, Jesus does exactly the opposite by quoting part of the Shema as recorded in Deuteronomy 6:5: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Then, without missing a beat, Jesus gives this expert in the law more than He asked for by quoting part of Leviticus 19:18: “love your neighbor as yourself.” Finally, so that no misunderstanding could be felt, Jesus puts the stamp of divine authority on His answer by stating that every part of the Law of Moses is summarized by these two, virtually inseparable commands. In fact, in 1 John 4:20—21 we read: If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen. And we have this command from Him: The one who loves God must also love his brother.

 

These two commands are Christianity simplified. Because God has reacted to sinful humanity by accomplishing salvation through Jesus for all who will receive it, so too has He given those who trust in Jesus for salvation simplified purpose for this lifetime: to love God and love others. So simple are these commands that if one were to fully live them out there would be need need for the 613 commands in the Law of Moses; they would already be perfectly fulfilled!

 

And there are no strings attached. Love for God is unselfish, loyal, and kind intention and commitment to God. It is a covenant love; an unbreakable love that never ceases to exist. To love God with heart, soul, and mind means generally to love God with everything you are, in every possible way, and to prefer nothing or no person over Him. Love for people indicates a concrete responsibility; the act of being useful and beneficial to all others. It is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person in which one gives oneself to another to bring the relationship to God’s intended purposes—to help them live as God has designed life to be lived. Love for God and others is not overly complicated, but it does require great humility, selflessness, intentionality, and perseverance.

 

So rather than than failing to fully relate to God, or make him the center of our lives, or guard ourselves against the Enemy’s attacks; or becoming bitter, jealous, resentful, divisive, judgmental, or hateful, we are to love God and love others. How? If you have trusted in Jesus for salvation, being reconciled to God and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, you are to simply put forth every ounce of effort to fulfill these two commands as an act of worship to God and expression of thankfulness to Jesus for salvation.

 

So how about it? Rather than pursuing meaningless endeavors and pursuits during this lifetime, how about we pursue our God-given purposes? Though such a pursuit, both individually and corporately as the church, may God be glorified and the church be unified and lost souls be brought to trust in Jesus Christ for salvation.

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Why I love the Church

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In Matthew 16 Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” The disciples responded by sharing what folks around Jerusalem were saying. Not satisfied, Jesus asked, “But what about you…who do you say I am?” Never-slow-to-speak Peter responded with his strongest declaration recorded in Scripture: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” About this declaration Jesus went on to say, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18)

 

Indeed, the gates of Hades have yet to overcome the church of Jesus Christ! The church, instituted by Jesus, launched with the great commission, and sustained by the Holy Spirit has been attacked (from without and within), harassed, spoken ill of, subjected to never-ending criticism, and misunderstood for over 2000 years, yet she stands as strong as ever on the rock of Jesus Christ and His mission and purposes.

 

Despite the reality that many in our modern world think ill of the church, including many Christians, I love God’s church for the following reasons:

 

  1. The Church belongs to God, not man. The church, universal and local, exists because of God, for God, and empowered by God. Though the church is made of people, the church does not belong to people. While I often say things like, “this is MY church,” the reality is that the church belongs to God alone. And if the church belongs to God, in His timing and according to His will He will defend and extend the church until the day that Christ returns.

 

  1. The Church is made of people. The church would be a boring place if I were the only person present in it. Thankfully, the church is a gathering place for those who have trusted in Jesus for salvation. As such, the church is a diverse body. A body in which people from different places, backgrounds, and seasons of life, with different preferences and gifts and abilities can converge together in Holy Spirit initiated unity for the sake of glorifying God, growing up into mature followers of Jesus, and fulfilling God’s great commission. The church is the place in which I, with fellow Christ-followers, can engage in the worship and purposes of God.

 

  1. The Church is NEVER-changing and EVER-changing. The church is NEVER-changing in that the rock on which the church is built and the mission for which it exists has and will never change. That Jesus is the rock, and that God’s purposes as revealed by Jesus in the great commandment and great commission (evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, & worship) are without expiration, guarantee that the church’s reason for existence is NEVER-changing. But the methods through which the church accomplishes its reason for existence are EVER-changing. While Jesus is the rock, and He established the purposes on which the church is built, the methods through which the church functions have not been specifically prescribed. The core components of musical (AND lifestyle) worship, preaching & teaching of the Word, fellowship, and missions & ministry are commanded but not spelled out in detail. Why? As Paul described in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, the context and world in which we live will always be changing. And as changes occur, the methods through which we accomplish our God-given purposes can (and should) change too. As a result, style changes, but the truth of God’s Word and command to worship does not. Facilities shrink and grow larger, but the charge to go and make disciples does not. Programs start strong and fizzle out, but the ministry or mission that they accomplish does not. The rock on which the church is built and the mission and purposes for which it exists is NEVER-changing, but the methods through which they are accomplished is ever-changing.

 

While there are many reason why I love God’s church, these are a few that top my list. What are additional reasons for why you love God’s church?

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The Stuff that Drives Me Crazy

One of the things I enjoy about streaming music on Spotify is that on the radio setting it causes me to listen to all kinds of songs and artists. Such was the case this morning, when during my workout, Francesca Battistelli’s song “This is the stuff” came on (my Audio Adrenaline station might I add). The first two lines of the chorus go, “This is the stuff that drives me crazy, This is the stuff that’s getting to me lately.” Those lines sung over and over throughout the song caused me to begin thinking about the stuff that drives me crazy.

Since I was at the gym it only seemed appropriate to begin there: it drives me crazy when someone swipes the weights I am using. It drives me crazy when the restroom has no paper towels in the dispenser. It drives me crazy when the house music is so loud that I can hear it over the John MacArthur sermon coming through my ear buds. Then I extended my lamenting: bad drivers drive me crazy. Period. Cardinal losses drive me crazy. Botched coffee orders drive me crazy. The fact that my house does not remain pristinely clean drives me crazy. The fact that I’m a time oriented individual and my five year old doesn’t always operate according to my schedule drives me crazy. The lawn requiring a cut every week drives me crazy. The bees that invaded my backyard drive me crazy. Still, I went deeper. Casual Christianity drives me crazy. A false teacher leading folk’s astray drives me crazy. Majoring on the minor and minoring on the major in church life drives me crazy. Criticism, backbiting, and negativity among Christians drive me crazy. Pouring into students in hopes of being used of God to transform them into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ only to see them walk away from the Lord drives me crazy. Seeing some neglect the truths of God for the sake of personal preference and self-satisfaction drives me crazy. Wow! What a list, and it kept mounting up. This is the stuff that drives me crazy, this is the stuff that’s been getting to me lately…

Then, through the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit, God called my attention to Matthew 16:24: “Then Jesus told his disciples, If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself, pick up his cross, and follow me continuously.” Perhaps you are different, but I have a tendency to “settle into” my Christianity from time to time. That is, I experience incredible stretches of growth, but then become comfortable with where I am. And every time I become comfortable, things start to drive me crazy. During my “drive me crazy” lamenting and focus on Matthew 16:24 I began to realize for the first time that the reason life begins to drive me crazy is because when I grow comfortable in my faith I have most likely ceased carrying out the daily assignment of Matthew 16:24: deny myself, pick up my cross (die to self), and follow Jesus continuously (daily).

Salvation in Jesus Christ is much more than what most of modern Christianity says it is. Salvation IS God’s initiative towards humans, it IS forgiveness of sins through Christ alone, it IS a newly restored relationship with the God of the universe, and it IS the promise of dwelling eternally with God in heaven after this earthly life passes away. But it is more. It is also enlistment into a process, a process called sanctification, which takes place between the moment one trusts in Jesus for salvation and the moment their earthly body ceases to draw breath. It’s a process of God, through the Holy Spirit, putting the broken pieces of a sinful human’s life back together. It’s a process because it is not instantaneous, nor is it automatic. It’s a process in which God does all of the work within the context of the individual’s willingness and availability. What willingness and availability? That of Matthew 16:24: that I deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus continuously. When continuously stops, when I stop denying and dying to self, when I stop following Jesus…life begins to drive me crazy because at that point I’m living outside of the purpose for which I have been created and saved for.

I desperately needed this God-ordained lesson today. In one respect I want to always be driven crazy by the things that matter in the scope of eternity (such as the last several things I mentioned in my lamenting above). But on the other hand I want to live above and beyond the little things that drive me crazy. I want to live in the realm of denying myself, taking up my cross, and following Jesus continuously all the while putting others above myself. The reason this lesson is so important for me is because sanctification is a never-ending process on this side of heaven. And unless I want to be driven crazy by every little quirk of life, I must keep my eyes on Jesus, denying myself, taking up my cross, and following Him daily.

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Designed Cooperation: Level 3-Families and Churches working together to direct students to SERVE God with their lives

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The third level of Designed Cooperation between families and churches in making fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ of their students is directing them to SERVE God with their lives. SERVING God includes two components: ministry and missions. Generally in the church we use these two components to mean the same thing, but functionally and in the Bible they describe two different tasks. Ministry takes place within the body of Christ (the church; to Christians), missions happens outside the walls of the church (to unbelievers). For example, if a group of students goes to the home of a shut-in church member and performs various tasks such as home repair and yard cleanup-that’s ministry. If however, the next weekend the group of students performs the same tasks but at the home of a non-believer, and while working shares with that person who they represent (Christ and the church) and how that person can be saved-that’s missions. Both ministry and missions are required components of SERVING God. Our students need to find out what their spiritual gifts are and find their place of service within the life of their church. They also need to be on mission with God, telling the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ as they go about their daily lives. But how do we raise students up to SERVE God in these ways? By families and churches partnering together…

 

First, the church has a huge obligation to call, equip, and release students to SERVE God. Student ministries and the church at large must begin by calling students to SERVE God. Salvation does not begin and end with a free ticket into heaven. And it goes further than growing as disciples. It extends to the point of actively living as servants of God. The church must courageously set this expectation (from God) right in front of students’ noses! As Samuel instructed Israel we too must “Obey the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart.” (1 Samuel 12:24) Next, the church must equip students to SERVE God. Equipping comes through Bible centered teaching and preaching, testimonies given from experience, opportunities for students to discover and understand spiritual gifts, and “laboratory-type” opportunities through which students can try and even error and SERVING God through ministry AND missions. Finally, the church must release students to SERVE God. Simply put, students are placed into both formal and informal roles of ministry provided the opportunity to be on-mission locally, regionally, and world-wide (see Acts 1:8). Note: missions is both corporate (accomplished through teams) AND individual (everyone is a missionary to the immediate context they live and exist in). 

 

Second, families have a huge obligation to raise up servants of Jesus Christ. The church is not the sole proprietor of making servants of God; SERVING must be expected, modeled, and intentionally accomplished within individual families. Has your family ever provided an act of service or ministry together? Gone on a mission trip together? Shared the gospel with the next door neighbor together? Before the church corporately gathers students together as ministers and missionaries, releasing them for service, families must first be calling, equipping, and releasing their students to SERVE to the best of their ability. There is no template for SERVING God that all must adapt to; simply get out there and meet a need with the love of Christ for a fellow believer (ministry) and convey the gospel message of salvation to the lost (missions).

 

Quite frankly, this level of SERVING God is the most avoided by families, individual Christians, and even churches. Why? Because it requires pro-activity, courage, time, passion and compassion for people, and consistency. But just as CONNECTING and FOLLOWING are purposes of God, so too is SERVING. As you serve, both as families and churches, understand the difference between ministry and missions while knowing that God calls you and I to both.

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Designed Cooperation: Level 2-Families and Churches working together to direct students to FOLLOW God as disciples

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The second level of Designed Cooperation between families and churches in making fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ of their students is directing them to FOLLOW God as disciples. Christians (those who have trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation) become partakers of the nature of Jesus Christ through the Word, which is what discipleship is all about. Through the power of the Word (God’s Word, the Bible) and the Holy Spirit we escape the corruption that is in the world because of sin and are changed more and more into who God wants us to be during this lifetime as a result of FOLLOWING Him. But what exactly is discipleship, or FOLLOWING God? 2 Peter 1:4-8 lays out the process of discipleship:

 

  1. Repentance & Faith: New life in Jesus Christ begins by trusting in Him alone for salvation.
  2. Enlightenment & Guidance: Once salvation takes place, the disciple-FOLLOWER begins learning how to “put on Jesus Christ.”
  3. Growth in Christ: The disciple-FOLLOWER grows more and more into the fullness that God has for him or her in Jesus Christ.
  4. Ministry Development: The inward transformation of God’s Word begins to become an outward reality of righteousness that results in ministry to others.
  5. Testing: Ministry will always involved “fiery trials” (1 Peter 4:12) that build endurance and work to reveal the power and glory of God in one’s life.
  6. Ministry in the Power of Christ: The disciple-FOLLOWER ministers with a greater awareness of the power of the Holy Spirit, whether as a leader or a worker. The ministry is of and through Christ, not the disciple’s natural abilities.
  7. Fruit through the Fullness of Jesus Christ: The Word of God continues to manifest the fullness of Jesus Christ, resulting in greater love for those around him or her, and a heart for the needs of the world. Other disciple-FOLLOWERS are birthed and the Word continues to profit as God pleases.

 

In light of this process of discipleship the first question to ask (of yourself) is, “Am I growing as a disciple?” It is vital that those who have the most direct spiritual influence into a student’s life in regard to building disciple-FOLLOWERS of Christ must first be growing as disciples themselves. If this is not the case, do not expect your student to become a mature disciple because they will largely model what they see the spiritual influencers in their life (whether parent/guardian or pastor) living out.

 

The second question that must be asked is, “How do families and churches partner together in this process?” The overarching answer is this: by being ministers of the Word both in the home and in the church. Why? Because we seek not to make clones of any human being; we seek for God to build disciple-FOLLOWERS of Himself. That will only take place through the direction and command of God’s Word combined with the power of the Holy Spirit working in each student’s life.

 

Families must be ministers of the Word by knowing (for themselves and then teaching to their students) and doing God’s Word. James makes clear in his letter that faith (knowing) and works (doing) go hand in hand; you cannot have one without the other. Therefore, the adult leaders of families must personally be students of God’s Word (daily Bible study and prayer) and convey their understanding and knowledge to their students. Additionally, adult families of leaders must live out the truths of God’s Word in every aspect of their lives, first of all for the glory of God, and secondly for modeling obedience in front of their students. Practically this requires personal and family Bible study and discussion, honesty and transparency about the right way to live, and accountability for all members of the family to live God’s truth with resulting consequences for failing to do so.

 

Churches must be ministers of the Word in two ways. First, the church must teach and preach the Word of God. This seems like it could be assumed, but a large number of churches are failing to correctly handle the Word of truth. Scripture must be taught through, explained, and avenues for putting its truth into action must be offered. God has not ordained the church to offer an endless menu of man’s opinion on relevant topics; He has ordained the church to correctly handle the Word of truth by starting with the text of Scripture, interpreting what it says, and proposing how to live its truth. Secondly, the church must offer a variety of opportunities through which the Word of God is taught and preached that hit various levels of spiritual maturity. New Christians need the basics. Growing Christians need challenged. Seasoned Christians need accountability. All of these levels are addressed through God’s Word and the church must consistently be a minister of the Word on each of those levels.

 

At First Baptist O’Fallon we offer students several weekly “steps” through which they can continually grow through the church’s ministry of the Word. LIFE Groups (Sunday school) lead students to CONNECT with God through establishing a core understanding of God and His Word. Jr. & Sr. High worship seek to lead students further into the story and details of God’s Word with the goal of challenging deeper followship. Midweek Bible study aims to challenge students through God’s Word to be active in ministry and on mission with God. Regardless of what it looks like in regard to programming, the church must teach and preach and offer a variety of opportunities for families and students to engage God’s Word.

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