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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"Making disciples?

Making Disciples?

The purpose of these articles is self-examination. Self-examination is a painful process, but a necessary one. The Apostle Paul recommended self examination. Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV An important part of being in the faith is making disciples.

It seems to me when Jesus gave the command to go and make disciple, Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15,16 he meant that as a matter of first importance. First and foremost it was the job of the Apostles to make disciples. To seek out the lost and lead them to salvation in Jesus. That is job one for us today. But, sometimes our energies are focused so much on policing one another that we forget to go and make disciples. I think many of our young people wonder where things went wrong.

Church doctrine and discipline are acutely important and should never be ignored. But sometimes I wonder if we over step our bounds and make it our business to police the brotherhood. There are those in the church that appear to work full-time at this. Sometimes we get so inwardly focused we forget that there are still those that are lost out there in the world. I think many of our young people wonder, what happened to our call to make disciples for Christ?

Is it perhaps time we got busy on soul seeking missions, rather than fault finding missions? Congregations of the Lord's church have ceased to exist because of arguing and the lack of evangelism. When we think on such things it becomes obvious that something needs to change.

Imagine what its like to be new to the church or to grow up in the church and see constant criticism of members of the Lord's body. This one is wrong, or that one is wrong while teaching new converts and those that grow up in the church that they are experiencing the true church. What must they think?

Is it possible that we as older disciples are displaying “behaviors” that drive our young people away?

© 2014 Leo J. Woodman

Saturday, January 25, 2014

"Jesus modeled in the church"

Jesus modeled in the church

I think people are searching for the real church, the one they read about in the Bible. They want to see the sincere love and faithfulness that they find in the scriptures. They want to have true fellowship with God and his children. They want to see examples of true discipleship. They want to see true unity in the body. They want to be involved in the cause of Christ. They want to be on mission for God. They want to see Jesus modeled in the church.

We are called to be disciples of Jesus, not Peter or Paul, not Stone or Campbell but disciples of the Son of God. We must learn from Jesus. We must emulate him in our lives. Young people coming up in the body of Christ want and need to see Jesus in his body. If they see hypocrisy and in-fighting they see something other than Jesus. Jesus didn't practice such things. If he had, he would not have qualified as our savior. The only people Jesus pointed a finger at was the Pharisees and that was for their hypocrisy. The Pharisees were very devout religious leaders, yet were totally wrong in their approach to teaching and modeling righteousness. They were self-righteous. Jesus is the good teacher, let's adopt his teaching methods. We as members of Christ body are only righteous because he has made us righteous.

Imagine if we as the church, began to teach just what Jesus and his Apostles taught without attacking other groups and pointing out their mistakes. If we would just teach the truth of the scriptures and not point to the errors of other congregations. What good does it do when we have our noses in others business?

We may have great biblical knowledge and yet we may not be using it wisely. Having knowledge alone is not sufficient. As the Apostle Paul said; This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. (1 Cor. 8:1b-3 ESV) Does our method of teaching show our love for God, or our love of knowledge and being right? What motivates us to teach and how we teach?

Self examination is crucial to healthy relationships. When we see so many young people leaving, we cannot just blame it on them. It certainly is not the Lord's fault. We as the older generation and leaders must look carefully at ourselves and ask some hard questions.

© 2014 Leo J. Woodman

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"The I'm-perfect church"

The I'm-perfect church

We must consider seriously how we come across to the young people growing up in the church. What do they think we feel toward or about them? Also, how are we perceived by them? There is obviously a disconnect. We believe we are teaching and modeling everything they need to know about being a Christian, yet as many of them get older they leave behind everything they know.

They have heard many sermons on the fact that none of us is perfect and that we all need a savior. Yet, so often we come across as hypocritical when we speak about having our doctrine correct and all others are incorrect in their teachings. That attitude sends the message that while we talk about being imperfect followers of Christ, we come across as followers of the I'm-perfect church.

Romans 12:16 says this; “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.” (ESV) I think this verse applies to the subject at hand. So often we do appear to be haughty and wise in our own sight in how we speak about other God-fearing people. Our attitude toward others in the church and other God-fearing people isn't always as it should be. We can be very harsh and arrogant in our defense of the Word. In so doing we give the idea to our young people that we are so full of ourselves and our rightness that it turns them away.

When we do come to a knowledge of the truth we must learn to share it and defend it in love. If we don't we are failing to be Christ like. We fail as disciples. We must never forget we do not have the authority that Jesus did, nor as much as the Apostles did. We are called to be disciples and disciple makers. We have no authority to police other congregations of believers or to judge them. We are not their masters. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Is it possible for us to teach what Jesus taught without judging others and pointing out their short comings? I think so.

Let's learn to teach by example and let's let our example be a Christ like one. Just as people were attracted to Jesus, they will be attracted to his church and its teachings.

 © 2014 Leo J. Woodman

Thursday, January 16, 2014

"Keep Awake"

                                                       photo  ©2010  Garry Knight, Flickr

So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.
1 Thessalonians 5:6 ESV

Dysfunction in the body. Whether it be our physical body or the body of Christ, when every part isn’t functioning as it should there is dysfunction. The human body and the church are made up of a system of systems. When the individual systems within the system begin to fail, total system failure will occur.

When it comes to our physical bodies we must be cognizant of what’s happening to our bodies. When we ignore symptoms, our bodies become sicker and sicker. So it is within the body of Christ. We must be cognizant of what is happening within the body of Christ, we must be awake and sober minded and be aware of the symptoms of dysfunction before they cause irreparable damage.

Just like the brain is charged with health of the physical body, the leadership of the body of Christ is charged with its health. The leadership of every congregation must be aware of what is happening within the body. One serious issue within the body today is that fact that it is losing members. Think of that in the context of our bodies. If we started losing parts of our bodies we would try desperately to repair whatever disease or affliction that was causing theses parts to fall off or fail. When disease and affliction strike we seek a diagnosis and cure as quick as possible. We want to know what can be done to prevent further damage or possibly death.

When young people leave the church there is a reason. The problem must be diagnosed before irreparable damage is done to the individual member and the body. There is a reason for the exodus of young people from the church. We can sit back and say that it is the influences of the world that they are chasing after and leave it that, or we can take a closer look at the situation and act on it rather than reacting after the loss is already felt.
In 1st Corinthians 9:22b  Paul said “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.”  We tend to look at this statement simply as Paul doing this as an evangelism tool. I think perhaps it’s time apply this philosophy within the church as well.

Paul strove to be all things to all people so he could understand where they were coming from and find common ground to begin a conversation that would lead to their salvation. We must strive to do the same for those in our number that are feeling that they can’t relate to us and we can’t relate to them. Relationships only grow and flourish when the parties involved in the relationship work to understand and meet the needs of the other. This is at the core of the Jesus teachings and the teachings of his Apostles.
So let’s wake up to the problem and address it. Let’s begin with listening to what the young people of the church are saying. When we listen we will learn what it is that is affecting them in such a way that they want to leave. Let’s become all things to all people, that by all means we might save some.”

© 2014 Leo J. Woodman


Monday, January 13, 2014

"Why do young people leave the church?"

Dysfunction, would be my answer to the question of “Why do young people leave the church?”. In so many respects the local body of Christ is dysfunctional. Young people want to get away from something they see as dysfunctional. Think about it, many young people distance themselves from their families to distance themselves from the dysfunction. They go elsewhere to seek a new way of looking at life and to start fresh.

It is not the Lord’s plan for the body to be dysfunctional, to the contrary the body is to be unified and solid. The body of Christ is to be a place of nurturance. That is how the body of Christ (the church) is set up. The problem we run in to is that the body is filled with imperfect people that sometimes come across as “im-perfect” people. At least that is the perception of many young people. They see the body as exclusionary. “Unless you’re just like me, you’re wrong”.

I think many are searching for the real church, the church based on being a disciple of Christ. They don’t want to be a part of just another institutionalized group based on man’s interpretation of God’s intentions. I think they want to see Jesus modeled in the leadership and their teachings, like the first century church saw in the Apostles.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matt. 28:18-20 ESV Jesus sent out his Apostles to make disciples for him, those that would be baptized and follow in Jesus teachings as they had been passed down by the Apostles. They weren’t to make disciples of a church, but disciples of Jesus the Christ.

They were to be a called out body of believers (the church), a people that were to be Christlike. They were to be called out of sin, religious and worldly influence and come under the influence of Jesus and all that he taught. We must ask ourselves as a body of believers if we are truly following the teaching of Jesus and his apostles. Or are we spending more time arguing and fault finding?

If we want the young people to stay we must look to Jesus as our example of what it means to be in good relationships with both God and people and pursue that. When the body functions as it should it is healthy and viable. Jesus and his approach to his Father and to others attracted people. “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Romans 14:19 ESV

© 2014 Leo J. Woodman

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

"Train up a child"

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6 ESV

This verse has been on my mind alot lately. It is so important as parents, to take this verse seriously. Our children will go in the way we train them to go. Whatever priorities we have as our children grow up will affect what their priorities will be as adults. If teaching them that God, his word and the importance of worship is our priority , it will be more likely to be their priority as they mature. Conversely if we teach them that God, his word and worship are optional or a low priority they will be more likely to think that way as they mature.

We must realize the way we live our lives as parents will certainly affect the way our children will live their lives as adults. Granted they will have many other influences in their  lives as they mature, but we must take responsibility for the influence we are in their growing up years.

If we choose to teach our children that sports, education and other activities are more important than their relationship with God and his church that is what will keep them away from the most important influences in their lives.

So today, let’s get our priorities straight. Let’s live in the way our children should go.  Let’s train up the next generation in the way they should go, so they will not depart from what is truly important for a good and long life. Let’s make God, his word and worship of him first in our hearts, minds and actions. Give them something to follow.

© 2013 Leo J. Woodman