A specific method to fulfill the Great Commission …

The goal of the course is to provide a specific method to fulfill both the Great Commission and ¶126 of the 2012 Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church: “Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional.” The course is designed so that lay servants can take the material back to their churches and teach it to others with the help of their pastor.

COMMENTS

In the 8 years I spent as a student in the Doctor of Ministry program at Fuller Theological Seminary, 2000-2008, I read over 12,000 assigned pages of material on evangelism, effective ministry, spiritual formation and disciple making and many thousands more as I researched my project, the “dissertation” each student prepares.

What was conspicuously absent from all this material on discipleship was the concept that a Christian person should make disciples. Normally the responsibility of evangelism or making disciples was simply ignored while other parts of being a disciple were emphasized. When it was mentioned, it was often assumed that the Great Commission was a command given to the church as a whole to obey and fulfill, rather than individual Christians. Obedience to the commands of Jesus had been delegated to the institutional church, which let the believer off the hook. At other times the task of evangelism was something to be done by those who were “spiritually gifted” – they were the ones who would obey the Great Commission for all of us. I knew this was wrong.

Outside of obscure references, only one widely known book insisted that making disciples was a task for every Christian:  The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren of Saddleback Church. All the others, in some way or other, suggested that the task be given to the machinery of the institutional church to fulfill.

After finishing the dissertation in the late fall of 2007, I was sincerely blessed to open the new 2008 Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church to read these words in ¶126: “Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional.” Few people understand the significance of these words – this is only the second work in widespread circulation to make this statement. I have yet to hear them quoted by pastors and denominational leaders, outside of conversations I stimulate. I am hearing the concept more often in books and articles about evangelism; we are starting to realize the truth. It is time, past time, for us to take literally the words of Jesus in the Great Commission and obey them:

Mat 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

It is disciples that are to make disciples; it is not the task of the institutional church, just as it is not the task of the institutional church to obey Christ so that laity are free to be disobedient. It is not the institution that is called to follow and be faithful – we are.

It is obedience to verse 20 that teaches us how to make new disciples and how to teach them to be disciple makers. The most effective method of disciple making is no more and absolutely no less than obeying all of the commands that Jesus gave them as he taught his disciples how to fish for people.

Let’s begin!

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

*Reflection Question 1.05: What methods of “fishing for people” do you see taking place in your own church? In other churches? As you observe them in use, are they effective or ineffective in your opinion?

*Reflection Question 1.06: If you are a layperson, who in your church is personally teaching you how to observe all the commands of Jesus, as is required by the Great Commission in Matthew 28:20?

*Reflection Question 1.07: How well do you understand all of these commands of Jesus? What else seems to be of a higher priority in your church than teaching these commands of Jesus?

 

*Reflection Question 1.08: If you are a United Methodist Layperson, how is this passage being implemented or ignored within your local church? Is it known and quoted in your congregation? What else seems to be of a higher priority in your church than teaching these commands of Jesus?

*Reflection Question 1.09: If teaching you to know and obey all the commands of Jesus was the highest priority in your church, consider all the other activities that now seem to have a higher priority – which ones would be ignored? Which ones would still be fulfilled?

 

The photo “Disciple Making 101” is by David Kueker.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

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The innovation that is needed in churches today …

This seminar on making disciples for Jesus Christ is in service of this calling. There are a variety of methods of fishing for people, and some are more effective than others. The church growth movement began when Donald McGavran, a missionary supervisor in India, “lamented that so much activity was taking place in the name of evangelism but that very few disciples were being made.” He began to study what was working. At that time there were few examples of success to study as the vast majority of his missionaries were ineffective at fishing for souls. Most of our efforts today are similarly ineffective. As missionaries repented of methods which did not work and humbled themselves to adopt methods that did work, the lost began coming to the table in greater numbers. The church of today needs to similarly and humbly repent. So do we as individual Christians. It’s time to return to the most basic principles to learn how to fish for people.

What is the simplest system one can use to make disciples and mature them spiritually to the point where they can make their own disciples?

A flood of new ideas and methods in evangelism has made us skeptical. The innovation that is needed in churches today is far more elementary yet entirely sufficient:

Jesus is Lord.

What would happen if we obeyed every command of Jesus as he taught his disciples how to fish for people?

How can we overcome resistance to this innovation?

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

*Reflection Question 1.02: Do you believe that “Jesus is Lord” is entirely sufficient as a means of making disciples? Why or why not?

*Reflection Question 1.03: How would your life be different if “Jesus is Lord” was your central purpose?

*Reflection Question 1.04: How would your church and the lives of other Christians around you be different if “Jesus is Lord” guided all their decisions and actions?

SOURCES:

The photo “Disciple Making 101” is by David Kueker.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

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DISCIPLE MAKING 101 – Introduction

DISCIPLE MAKING 101 – Introduction

Welcome to the adventure!

We’re glad you accepted the invitation, as many have before us. The first invitation was extended by Jesus himself in Matthew 4:17-22:

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

There is a point in our journey toward spiritual maturity that we become concerned about what Jesus wants, and it becomes our desire to please him with our behavior. This flows out of a basic concept of the church: Jesus is Lord. We have a desire to repent, to turn toward Jesus Christ and away from all other directions, and then move toward him. As we focus on him in our desire to do what pleases him, we hear his calling: Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. We who once spread nets for fish will now be taught to spread nets for human beings. That is the call. The same call is extended to James and John, who are mending the nets; that mending is also a part of fishing.

This is the basic call upon all Christians: follow Jesus and learn how to fish for people.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

*Reflection Question 1.01: What do you believe would be your reaction if you were on the beach that day to receive the invitation from Jesus to follow him?

What problems would that solve for you?

What problems would arise?

SOURCES:

The photo “Disciple Making 101” is by David Kueker.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

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Martin Boehm … and the Methodists.

1-2-989-25-ExplorePAHistory-a0h9u0-a_349The life and ministry of Martin Boehm is entwined with that of the early Methodists. Here is an excellent resource:

BOEHM, MARTIN (1725-1812), American U.B. bishop, was born Nov. 30, 1725 in Lancaster Co., Pa., to Mennonite parents who had come from Germany. He married Eve Steiner in 1753 and they became parents of eight children. Youngest of these was Henry who attained much prominence as a Methodist preacher and traveling companion of Bishop FRANCIS ASBURY.

In 1756, Martin Boehm was chosen by lot to be one of the preachers of the German-speaking Mennonite Society to which he belonged. Since formalism characterized the Mennonite Church, his preaching task proved difficult. Although he attempted to preach as required, he felt unqualified to teach others the way of salvation. His own salvation seemed questionable to him. One day, probably in 1758, while plowing, he became so wrought with his lost state that he cried out to God for help. A stream of joy poured over him as he received God’s assurance. From then on he became a truly evangelical speaker. The next year he was advanced to full pastoral standing among the Mennonites with the designation of bishop…1549802_orig

A formal break between Martin Boehm and the Mennonites took place around 1777 when Boehm was censured for his doctrine, manner of preaching, and associating.with men of other denominations. Turning his farm over to his son JACOB, Martin Boehm gave himself entirely to traveling and preaching… 

Methodists formed a class at Martin Boehm’s home about 1775, and his wife was one of the first to join. In 1791, a chapel was built on land which had belonged to the Boehms. In 1802 Martin Boehm joined the M. E. Church at BOEHM’S CHAPEL, although this did not interfere with his relationship to the United Brethren. The fellowship between English-speaking Methodists and German-speaking United Brethren was very cordial and they frequently shared in one another’s services.

After fifty-five years of preaching, Martin Boehm died at his home March 23, 1812. A few days following the burial in the cemetery at Boehm’s Chapel his son Henry and Bishop Francis Asbury arrived at the home. A fitting sermon was preached the following Sunday by Asbury in tribute of his deceased friend who was “greatly beloved in life, and deeply lamented in death.” (Cyclopædia of Methodism. Embracing Sketches of its Rise, Progress, and Present Condition with Biographical Notices, Matthew Simpson, Editor, 1878, pp. 290-291.) 3659591_orig2

BOEHM’S CHAPEL still stands today and is watched over by the Boehm’s Chapel Society. During the 1970’s, a committee was created to work toward the reconstruction and maintenance of Boehm’s Chapel as an important landmark of the faith. This committee became the Boehm’s Chapel Society, which was incorporated in 1982. Archeological investigation and written accounts yielded sufficient information to reconstruct the chapel to its 1791 appearance. This work was completed in time for the Bicentennial Celebration held in 1991.

In 1984, the Chapel was designated a heritage landmark by the United Methodist Church as well as a Pennsylvania historical site by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and a State Historical Marker was placed and dedicated later that year. In 1991, the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County presented a plaque and commendation to the Boehm’s Chapel Society for the exemplary reconstruction of the Chapel.

SOURCES

The first quote in italics above is from  http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~boehm/data/biographies/1725_Beam_Martin_bio.html  The top photo is found here.

Tourism website for Boehm’s Chapel: http://explorepahistory.com/hmarker.php?markerId=1-A-28B

The second quote in italics above is from the Boehm’s Chapel Society website: http://www.boehmschapel.org/ The bottom two photographs are also found here.

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Martin Boehm … following the horses…

Farmer_plowing_in_Fahrenwalde,_Mecklenburg-Vorpommern,_GermanyMartin Boehm had been chosen the preacher by lot, but this was not an easy task for him.

Boehm lacked confidence in his preaching skills. Indeed, it was written that he would “stammer out a few words and then be obligated to sit down in shame and remorse.”

He agonized over this for months, and after much prayer, came to the realization that he wasn’t even, truly, a Christian. One day as he plowed his fields, he knelt at the end of each row to pray, and the word “Lost, lost” continually hovered over him. Finally, halfway through the row, he broke. Falling to his knees, he cried out, “Lord save, I am lost!” The verse immediately came to him, “I am come to seek and to save that which is lost.”

Boehm wrote, “In a moment, a stream of joy was poured over me. I praised the Lord and left the field.” And from that day, preaching became a joy—a passion—and he zealously spread the message of salvation to which he had been oblivious for so long. He wrote, “This caused considerable commotion in our church, as well as among the people generally. It was all new.” Lives were transformed. The Great Awakening had come to the Mennonites.

When we who are given responsibility for the flock of God find it a struggle, and feel that the requirements are beyond us, perhaps we could benefit from stopping to pray after each row we plow. Perhaps we will likewise find the renewal we seek.

Luke 9:62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Sometimes when we plow for the Lord we need to stop and pray. This is not “looking back” but looking up, and looking forward to what is needed for God’s work to be done well. Often, a key element which frees the Holy Spirit to act in a situation is for the pastor to open up spiritually and become a better, more spiritual person. Often, the pastor must go first.

And the view of the world behind the horses is not always the best. In this work we are often very familiar with the rear end of God’s people.

SOURCES

First quote in italics is from “The Story of Boehm and Otterbein” from  http://ub.org/about/boehm-otterbein/

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Martin Boehm … part 1

It’s good for us to know our history and our ancestors:

Martin Boehm was born in 1725 just south of Lancaster, Pa. He was the son of a Dutchman, and the grandson of a Swiss who had become a Mennonite while working in Germany (did you get all of that?). He married a Swiss immigrant, Eve. Four of their children died as children. The only surviving child, Henry, spent 64 years as a Methodist minister, part of it as a traveling companion of famed Methodist bishop Francis Asbury, and died six months after turning 100.

Martin Boehm became a minister in 1756 at the MMartin Boehmennonite church in Byerland, Pa. But it wasn’t the usual path to the ministry. In those days, when a church needed a new pastor, persons from the congregation were nominated for the position, and each nominee selected one of the Bibles standing before them. Only one Bible contained a slip of paper with Proverbs 16:33 written on it: “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.” Boehm chose that Bible, and presto!, he was a pastor…

 

Five years later, when the Mennonite bishop died, Boehm was chosen—again, by lot—as the new bishop. At age 36. In that role, he participated in Great Meetings, as they were called—three-day events attended by several hundred people, sometimes held in barns, in orchards, or outside. Whole communities would find the Holy Spirit descending in power and changing everything.

The Great Meeting we know most about occurred on May 10, 1767, at Long’s Barn in Lancaster, Pa. Bishop Boehm spoke in the barn while some of his Mennonite pastors preached in the orchard outside. Boehm told of his plow-side conversion. As the sermon ended, a Reformed minister named William Otterbein rose from his seat, hugged Boehm, and declared, “We are brethren.” Our denomination’s name is based on Otterbein’s impromptu words.

SOURCES:

The information above in italics is from “The Story of Boehm and Otterbein” from  http://ub.org/about/boehm-otterbein/

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A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON PRUNING

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I’m not good with green and growing things. I’m not a gardener by nature. But I understand pruning. And I think that we need to understand it as well, because I keep hearing misinterpretations of what pruning must be like.

The scripture is here:
John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.

Some very clear points:
First, God is interested in fruit. God prunes so that we can bear fruit; it is not God’s desire to harm us but to benefit us.
Second, what is pruned away is what does not bear fruit. It is burned.
Third, what is pruned is not what we want to keep. It’s what we don’t need. It holds us back. It prevents us from achieving what we hope and dream and work to achieve.

As I began to think about it, I realized that pruning in my life would be like going to sleep and waking up the next day less 100 pounds of fat.
My doctor might like me to lose more, but there it is. If I do it the human way, that means months of years of dieting and months or years of exercise.
But if God prunes it from me, then it’s not by works but by grace. God does the heavy lifting, and I can let go and surrender to God.

What isn’t fruitful isn’t going to last anyway. It’s wasted. It’s going to be gathered up as dried up, withered branches and be burned.
We might as well let God have it, let God prune it, let God take it away from us. Why would we want to hang on to it?
Let go of what needs to be pruned and surrender to God’s cleansing.

1 John 1:8 has a grim warning: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
We all need some pruning!

1 John 1:9 has a beautiful promise: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
I’m sure that you have prayed for forgiveness. But have you prayed for cleansing? Have you prayed for pruning?
Have you prayed that God would simply wash from you mind, from your emotions, from your behavior, from your habits, from your finances, from your relationships, anything that is unrighteous – anything that is not right?
HE is faithful and just … and he can do what we cannot in our own lives and with our own strength.

So when you are troubled and feel overwhelmed, that life is out of control and your energy is draining away … pray for cleansing. Pray for pruning. Let God work, so that you can be more fruitful.

SOURCES:  The photo “Pruning” is by Peter Prehn via the Flickr.com Creative Commons License.

 

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Bookshelf:

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For stronger faith, pray stronger prayers…

Lent, 2016

As we move through Lent toward Easter and beyond to Pentecost, I’m hoping and praying for a significant, positive, meaningful change in the spiritual climate of our churches. We are spiritual … but Methodists are not about staying the same or maintaining the status quo. We are about growing spiritually and “going on toward perfection” – we are about making progress as we follow Jesus. And so I’m hoping for a “rise to walk in newness of life” experience for each of us as we go through Easter. Resurrection is not just an event in Christ’s history, it’s an event in our history, as Paul says, through our baptism: Rom 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

The old slave spiritual says it well:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? …
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree? …
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb? …
Were you there when God raised him from the dead? …

The passage in Romans answers with a gigantic YES – you were there.
And because you were there, you have the opportunity to experience your own resurrection, your own new beginning, your own new birth: so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

How do we come to feel this newness of life? How do we cause it to happen? Why is it seem more rare than commonplace and everyday?

I think the place for us to begin to grow in this is that third line of the spiritual:
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
If we can open up our hearts and let us feel some of what it felt to the early disciples to see Jesus on the cross, to lay him in the tomb, and to be surprised on Easter morning, I think we would also tremble, tremble, tremble.

So how do we open our hearts and get to trembling with the authentic emotions of a disciple facing the cross and the tomb and the joy of Easter?

One first step: let’s cause our prayers to be more powerful. I’m a very practical guy, and so my prayers are often very focused: Thank you, Lord, for this food. More is not necessary; more is not helpful. Help me, Lord, during this hospital visit. Bless this sermon, Lord, so that it will bless your people. Short and sweet is my habit in prayer. I am focused on the task ahead.

But Thank you, Lord, for this food is not a very powerful prayer. It’s not going to change my life or yours. What would happen if that – a life changing faith – was the focus of my focused prayer? Answer: God would answer that prayer! What could happen if we began to pray as regularly and we give thanks for our food – three times a day – that God would bless us as followers of Jesus to “rise up and walk in newness of life?” God would answer that prayer!

This is the heart of having a personal daily “Quiet Time” – it begins with this sort of prayer that rededicates our life to Christ. This is the key in the lock that opens up the narrow gate to new life. My wife and I have a custom in Lent … we keep a copy of three prayers of high commitment on our dining room table, and pray one at breakfast, one at lunch, and the third at supper. As we do, we can feel a stirring in our hearts … and I think you would, too. See you in worship this Sunday!

Pastor David Kueker

QUIET TIME PRAYERS

CENTERING PRAYER
The Centering Prayer: Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help. I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life. Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not. Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature. Help me to serve you as I am gifted. Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood. I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

WESLEY COVENANT PRAYER
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

PRAYER OF ST FRANCIS
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.

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Footwashing Services – John 13:12-17

In John 13, Jesus tells us to follow his example – by washing feet.

John 13:12 When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

In their culture, footwashing was a great comfort, and routinely done for an honored guest by the lowest servant in the house. The only surprise was that it was Jesus, the Lord, who washed their feet.

To follow Jesus’ example by literally washing feet, however, is perceived differently in our culture and crosses boundaries normal to our culture – most folks don’t like others touching their bodies, including their feet. Many would consider it an invasion of privacy and an unwanted intimacy.

So how do we wash feet today?

The only way I’ve been able to do it is symbolically. I’ve conducted “remember your baptism” services where an individual dips their hands into waters of the baptismal font, makes a washing motion, and then their hands are dried by the person waiting in front of them with a large towel. Then they take the towel to dry the hands of the person behind them. I am the first person to hold the towel and the last person to be helped to dry their hands.

Drying wet hands is a long distance from washing feet, but it’s as close as the blue collar culture I serve can tolerate.

I’ve sometimes done this at Easter Sunrise, where people come forward to the communion table down front, and in sequence…
– touch the cross, remembering the crucifixion.
– touch a large stone, remembering the resurrection.
– wash their hands in the water, remembering their baptism.
– rise up to walk in newness of life (dry hands), a resurrection metaphor (Rom 6)
– rise further to take the towel and be of service, following Jesus’ example.
– make room for others to also serve.

How do you celebrate this command of Jesus? How do you wash feet in a service of worship?

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