Creating a Learning Network for Kingdom Builders!
I have a good friend, Rick, who has not yet met Christ. He hates it when I say not yet met Christ since Rick currently considers himself an atheist, but seeing is believing. Jesus has a date planned for the two of them to meet. My hope is that is now instead of later.
I asked Rick what he thought about Jesus asking people to follow Him and the resulting multitudes that followed. Rick said it sounds like Jesus was a good communicator. He said that it would be hard for people to follow Jesus if they didn’t understand what He was communicating. Exactly, people need to understand. Jesus told people the Good News of the Kingdom. We need to understand what Jesus communicated about the Kingdom; it needs to be part of our communication.
When Johnny and I first became Christ-followers, we thought the message we should share with not yet Christ followers was mainly the Good News of salvation. Then, after folks made a positive decision to follow Jesus, we thought we should follow up with teaching people about the Kingdom. However, Jesus proclaimed the Good News of the Kingdom, right out loud, to those who weren’t even in the Kingdom. One day it hit me. We are called to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom to everyone, saint and sinner.
The Good News of the Kingdom is not a follow-up ‘add on’ for those who ‘accept Christ’. People seem to think there are two gospels, the gospel of salvation and the gospel of the Kingdom. That is not accurate. There is one gospel. Gospel means ‘Good News’. That gospel is the Good News of the Kingdom; of course, this Good News includes Good News of salvation.
Making disciples starts with sharing with saint and sinner what Jesus tells us about living life.We shouldn’t think of proclaiming Christ or discipleship as something different than passing on to people the things of the Kingdom.
When Johnny and I were learning the principles of business, I recognized that the principles that work are reflected in the principles of the Kingdom; these are reflected everywhere in the Word of God.
Many times Johnny and I have shared things we have learned about business. Often talking about the principles of the Kingdom has opened doors to talk more deeply about the King. This happened when Johnny and I were in China meeting with a couple Chinese business people who were not Christ-followers. They asked how it is that America has progressed so quickly. They compared America and what it has accomplished to the thousands of years of existence that China has had. They were amazed at how successful America has been with such a short history. We told them about the principles of the Kingdom and about the King, Jesus. They said something that simply amazed us. They told us that they suspected that America’s success might have something to do with the Bible because so many Americans are Christians. They had bought and read a Bible to try to learn the secret to America’s economic success. Wow.
God has used America to be a light set on a hill. Shining the light is living out the truth of all the scripture teaches and allowing people to see the results.
When people see the results of Kingdom living, when they hear about the Kingdom, they are being prepared to follow the King.
Nothing could be more simple. We need to live the Kingdom and be willing to say what we know. Recently we have heard some people saying to simply focus on loving people andnot to focus on talking to people about salvation. What!?! Just try telling that to someone who is hard wired as an evangelist. The evangelist will think people who say such things are nuts. Talking about salvation is their DNA and their passion.
Johnny is an evangelist. Early in our life as Christ followers, Johnny got locked out of his car. He had to call a locksmith. Being the evangelist, it wasn’t long until he was telling this man about Jesus. This man opened his wallet. He took out a worn tract. It had been given to him years ago and he had hung onto it. Johnny and the locksmith talked about God. A week or so later, Johnny stopped by the man’s office. The man pulled the tract out of his wallet. “See this,” he said. “I did it. I prayed the prayer.” Johnny then made many trips to the shop encouraging this man in his new-found relationship with Christ.
Johnny is ever reminding me and others, if we don’t complete the work of introducing people to Jesus as Savior and Lord, we haven’t done it all. That is the role of the evangelist. If someone is breathing, evangelists will endeavor to share salvation with the person. Johnny is very relational and very authentic in how he shares. Yet, sometimes it is true that some evangelists need to learn, in addition to preaching, they also need to share with people as part of the flow of genuine relationship. Jesus preached to the crowds, but with individuals He simply talked and shared.
Have you noticed? It appears that evangelism and preaching the good news of salvation has fallen out of popularity these days. How can that be?
Charles Spurgeon once said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor.” At the heart of evangelism is the heart of Jesus who came to seek and save the lost. God wants everyone to experience life fully by being restored to Him. This is only available through Jesus. Jesus was pretty particular about this, He let people know that He is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus told us to not be fooled; there is no other way to God. It’s all by His grace through our faith in His sacrifice. Jesus’ death payed the penalty for our wrongdoings in order that we could be restored to God and enter into His Kingdom.
We cannot see the wind, but we can see it’s impact. Similarly, we cannot see the Kingdom; however, its impact should be clearly visible, everywhere. The Kingdom is a real ‘thing’ that we live out among each other. It’s not just a concept. These things need to be visible as we live out the Kingdom: feeding the poor, helping the marginalized, looking after those who are hopeless because they are entangled in addictions and suffering from poor choices in life. It should be visible that people are being knit into our families as they become part of the family of God.
In the early days, Christ-followers turned the world upside down with the Good News. That’s the Kingdom coming. Lets pray and believe for our generation, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.’ And, lets see the world turned upside down with the Good News!
I remember being part of a group discussion regarding church visitors. One person suggested taking a pie to new visitors. The person said, “We can ask our people to take the pie to the front door, it’s not like they need to go into the house or visit or anything.” While people can boost church attendance without actually touching other’s lives, making disciples requires more than handing over a pie on the front steps.
Making disciples requires unconditional love, an extended amount of time and living in a way that we can say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
Society in America has become so incredibly non-relational. Do we really understand that Jesus, God himself, lived among men? Jesus shared the Good News of the Kingdom everywhere. He went to the parties; He went to where the unsavory sinners were drinking. He drank with them. He talked to prostitutes. He got his hands dirty. If you are anything like me, you were taught that there is a place for believers, in church and at church gatherings, and our place is to be nowhere near where the sinners hang out.
Recently I met a worship leader who was describing to me his life before he met Christ. He said he used to play and sing at bars, but now that he is a believer, he uses his gifts at Christian gatherings. I asked him, “Why don’t you play at bars and share the love of Christ with people?” He was floored. He had never considered going to where ‘they’ are. PLEASE! Jesus said, “Go into all the world.” Can you imagine an area that is outside of ‘all the world.” And, He said this to all of us to ‘Go’, not just those ‘specially called.’ The Kingdom of God is about loving others where they are. What right do we have to take his command to ‘Go’ and insert our own idea of mainly focusing on: “Become very good at bringing the sinner to church, a nice, clean, wholesome environment where people can encounter Christ.” If we ‘GO’, we will in turn, see them ‘coming’ to be part of our gatherings, too!
We want to be aware, making disciples starts at home. I am so impressed with families that make a sacrifice to allow mom to stay at home with the children during their formative years. I see such good fruit come from this. I think of my sister-in-law, Mary Berguson. I was talking to her about how proud she must be of her three grown children and how they all have hearts for God. I know it was at least in part a result of her commitment to stay home with them during their formative years. She told me what being a stay at home mom cost their family. It was a sacrifice. Yet, it was during this time at home with her children that Mary laid the bricks in the foundations of her children’s lives and faith in God. She was making disciples.
Society is such that often families don’t feel they have a choice; mom must work. That is the time when prayer, work, sacrifice and God’s provision can make the impossible happen. For too many, like me, I didn’t understand the options and the outcomes. Our children would have benefitted if I had committed some years to stay at home.
Let’s pause and focus~
Being the people who raise our own children is something we need to teach people.I know this needs to be passed on because, as a young mother, I was not taught. We need to impart to everyone that children need to be raised by parents, not by babysitters and public education.
Are we drifting from what it means to make disciples? No. Paul said, that we proclaim Christ, warning and teaching every person that we might present every person complete in Him. Note the audience… ‘every person’, including our children.
I listened to a sermon one time that had a profound effect on my thinking. Jesus was looking over the crowds and remarked that they were like sheep without a shepherd. It was then that He told us that the fields are white for harvest, but the labors are few. People without God are sheep without a shepherd. They need guidance and help for their questions and concerns. How do I make my marriage work? What do I do about my out of control kids? Do you think God is really there? How do I quit swimming in debt? How do I heal from an ugly divorce? What do I do about loneliness? How do I handle emotional problems, anger, fear, depression? How do I handle gender confusion and addictions such as drugs, alcohol and porn?
Helping people understand the answers to their questions and concerns is proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom.
The good news of the Kingdom is God’s total provision for man’s total need.
People are in darkness. Folks, we need to grab hold of the answers to our own concerns. Then let’s shine what we have learned to others so that they can have hope. Let’s be the light God intends us to be!
One winter Johnny and I spent some time at a campground run by Bill. He and his long time girlfriend, Linda, invited us to join them on many of their nightly dinner outings. They knew the area and had the ‘good spots’ down really well. Prime Rib night at the Legion; dollar tacos at Tom’s Bar, the weekly special at the Ale House, etc. We found ourselves joining them and enjoying their company. Bill was a self-proclaimed heathen. Linda had a respect for God.
For dinner one night, they invited us over to their home for a bar-b-que. After dinner, as we sat in the living room, Linda shared a medical challenge she had been having, a bout with cancer. She was in remission; she was getting ready to go back for a regular screening. She said she was scared. Johnny asked her if she’d like us to pray for her. Would she? Of course! We shared about several times where we had seen God intervene and heal people when Johnny prayed for them. Then, Johnny prayed for Linda.
Later in the winter, after we returned home, we heard by email that Linda’s screening had gone just fine. It was over a year until we were back to the campground. Bill and Linda invited us to the bar to watch sports. When we arrived, Bill introduced us to one of his good friends saying, “These are the people I was telling you about.” In a few minutes, Bill began sharing with us and his friend that he and Linda had begun watching Joel Osteen on TV and how much they were learning. They also mentioned another Christian program that they had started watching. You could have knocked us over. This was not the same Bill we had seen last time. He was becoming open to hearing about Christ. This little adventure with Bill and Linda underscored the power of living life with others and loving them where they are, as God gives us opportunities.
More and more we are being taught to give responsibility over to the experts. Let the schools raise our kids, let the organizations which we call “the church” make the disciples, etc. Is it our job to show up, listen and put money into the plate?
Jesus has a different plan. His plan is that we be the church. Jesus was talking to you and me when He said to go into all of the world to make disciplined followers, teaching them to observe everything he said. Most of us have not been taught how to make disciples. Few have understood it is our responsibility to teach others how to build their families and how to build their marriages. Many haven’t understood that we have to find and fulfill our special roles for serving others. These roles are our assignment from God. Most people don’t understand that if we don’t find and fulfill our assignment in these roles, the Kingdom will not advance.
Do I know my God-given assignment? Am I being fruitful in that assignment?
For most of us, we have never been taught how to be fruitful. And, we are not doing the work of the Kingdom. That is exactly what is wrong and a key reason the Kingdom is not advancing.
How then shall we live?
The way we do things today is not being fruitful. This book is about doing things differently. We are looking at the most difficult 5 letter word in the English language. C-H-A-N-G-E
“Change” is something that is nearly impossible. Recently, while reading a good book on change, I came across these stats. When given the choice of change or die, as in change eating habits or die from a heart attack, the sobering truth was that only 3% of people changed. 97% didn’t change.
Change or die. The church is losing influence in all sectors of American society. Europe is a post-Christian society and America is all but there, too. We are losing the younger generation. We need CHANGE like never before.
How can we do things differently?
We have done a ton of research on the principles that create effective change. You may have already guessed. These principles are embedded in scripture.
Lets do a quick run down of the most effective things needed for change.
When we do things, do we even examine our assumptions about why we are doing what we are doing? Do we make plans to serve others without checking to see if there is actually a link between things planned to serve people and the service they really need?
Though the gospel never changes, how we need to relate to people and their needs is always changing. Paul was a Jew to a Jew and to those without the law like those without the law. Of course, he kept his heart centered in following Christ. But, he related to each group in a way they could understand. Modern society is filled with cultures and sub-cultures. If we are going to reach them, we need to learn how. And, we need to correlate activity with fruit/results. God intends us to be fruitful. If we are not looking to see if we are fruitful, we may miss one of our key purposes here on earth.
If we are not assessing the correlation between activities and results, we are missing the role of learning. God calls us to be wise. We acquire wisdom as we gain knowledge and learn how to apply it to effectively build and extend the Kingdom of God. (verse – by wisdom a house is built)
I would like to affirm Mary Berguson. She is a faithful mom who reproduced her commitment to God and excellence in her children.
Affirmation is one of the most powerful tools that God has given to us! Let’s use it liberally and see the Kingdom impact that occurs.
This is encouraging & make me think we are on the right track!
I'm going to post an excerpt of this on FB to try to stir up more reviewers to comment. :)
Ginny Reid Radtke said:
What a thought provoking chapter! Interesting that change is only possible if there is hope; Yes I believe that. It was all I could do to slow down my reading so I could absorb what the message was telling me. Several emotions were experienced in the time that it took me to read the chapter, one being regret, and the other hope being the 2 most felt. Regret for all the time I have wasted, Hope for all the time I have left. Thank you