Roots: Looking Back and Reaching Forward

 

This coming weekend at Eastbrook Church we begin a new preaching series entitled “Roots: Looking Back and Reaching Forward.” This series is the second of a three-part series related to our 40th anniversary as a church, following on our series, “Power in Prayer.” This is a series celebrating our legacy as a church, and also recalibrating as we head into the future together. We will look back at what God has done in our midst at Eastbrook, while also looking forward to what God is calling us into as a church.

September 7/8 – “Activated by the Holy Spirit”

September 14/15 – “Truly Community”

September 21/22 – “Growing Disciples”

September 28/29 – “Sacrificial Generosity”

October 4/5 – “Worship in the Beauty of Holiness”

Becoming a Multiplying Church

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If we are going to move toward Revelation 7:9-10 as the church of Jesus Christ, then we must pursue growth as disciples – both through developing new disciples and going deeper in life as existing disciples.

If we are going to become a Revelation 7 type of church, then we must reach out as a church and as individuals through evangelism (word), community outreach (deed), and more.

But if we are going to do grow disciples and if we are going to reach out, then we have to also intentionally pursue multiplication as a church. Some may say, ‘but what’s biblical about all that?’ It sounds very programmatic and organizational.

Let me say this about “intentionality.”  We are either intending to become something or we are sliding toward something. I would rather intend to become God’s best for us as a church than unintentionally slide toward something else.

Multiplying in ministry is actually one of the most biblical things we can do, so let’s turn back to the Bible to see how this concept plays out through the entire Scripture. Let me share some notes on multiplication from the lives of Moses, Jesus, and Paul.

Moses on Multiplication (Exodus 18)

  • The man of God redeemed from his wrongs
    • Birth (Exodus 2:1-14)
    • Early errors and murder (Exodus 2:11-15)
    • Purification in the desert (Exodus 2:16-25)
    • Calling at the burning bush (Exodus 3-4)
  • The work of God in the Exodus
    • The challenge to God’s people (Exodus 5)
    • The conflict with Pharaoh (Exodus 6-13)
    • The deliverance (Exodus 13:17f)
    • The Red Sea showdown (Exodus 14:5-31)
    • Provision of Manna (Exodus 16)
    • Defeat of Amalekites (Exodus 17)
    • The Sinai revelation (Exodus 19)
  • Advice from Jethro (Exodus 18)
    • Moses is exhausted (18:1-12)
    • Jethro’s advice (18:13-23)
    • Moses’ change of approach (18:24-27)
      • Capable men (18:25)
      • Leaders of groupings (18:25)
      • Task of leadership/shepherding (18:26)
      • Moses’ change of role (18:26)

Jesus on Multiplication (Luke 5:1-11, 27-32; 6:12-16; 9:1-6; 10:1-20)

  • Luke 5:1-11, 27-32 – Jesus calls the first disciples
  • Luke 6:12-16 – Jesus chooses the 12 apostles
  • Luke 9:1-6 – Jesus sends out the 12 apostles to do what he did
  • Luke 10:1-20 – Jesus sends out 72 to do what the 12 did

Paul on Multiplication (Acts 20:4-5)

“He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas.” (Acts 20:4-5)

Paul’s apprentices:

  • Some we know nothing about: Pyrrhus; Secundus; Gaius; Trophimus
  • Aristarchus (Col 4:10; Philemon 24)
  • Tychicus (Col 4:7-9; Eph 6:21-22; Titus 3:12)
  • Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25-30)
  • Demas (Philemon 24)
  • Titus (letter)
  • Timothy (1 & 2 letter)
    • Acts 16:1-5 – beginnings with Paul
    • Acts 17:13-15 – teaching the faith
    • Timothy writing with Paul (2 Cor 1:1; Phil 1:1; Col 1:1; 1 & 2 Thess 1:1; Philemon)
    • Timothy described by Paul (Philemon 2:19-24)

Paul talks about this in a specific way in his words to the young pastor, Timothy. Timothy was one of Paul’s young leaders who had accompanied him on much of his mission work and he is now a young pastor in the city of Ephesus.

Paul writes:

“The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).

The Multiplication Principle (2 Timothy 2:2) 

Why we must multiply:

  • If we are healthy disciples, we multiply disciples
  • If we are healthy in our service, we multiply servants
  • If we are healthy in our ministry, we multiply ministers
  • Why?…our need (Moses)
  • Why?…development of the other (Paul)
  • Why?…the missions of the Master (Jesus)

When we must multiply:

  • Right away!
  • Share whatever God is teaching us with someone today

Who we must look for (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

  • Desire
  • Character
  • Capable
  • Mature
  • Available

So may we be a disciple-making church that is also a multiplying church. May we live toward the Revelation 7 vision of the church, which is also God’s dream for the church, where people from every tribe, tongue and nation are gathered around the throne of God.

Learning to Pray with Jesus [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_BannerOne day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)

In order to become a person of prayer, we must want to learn. Like Jesus’ disciples in Luke 11, we must not only want to learn to pray, but we must also ask the Master Teacher to show us the way. There were many things the disciples noticed about Jesus, but one of them was His life of prayer. We read in the Gospels that Jesus drew away by Himself to pray (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12-13). The disciples undoubtedly noticed not only the actions of Jesus, but the character that resulted from this life of prayer. As they noticed it, they also desired it.

Because of what they saw, the disciples reached out to Jesus, requesting that He teach them to pray. In a few days, we will examine Jesus’ teaching on prayer, known as the Lord’s Prayer, but it is enough for us now to notice that the disciples’ request is met with Jesus’ willingness to teach. As Andrew Murray points out:

Jesus never taught His disciples how to preach, only how to pray. He did not speak much of what was needed to preach well, but much of praying well. To know how to speak to God is more than knowing how to speak to man. [1]

Do we desire to pray like Jesus? Are we ready to learn from Him? Let this be the moment in which we stop all the rushing thoughts about what will come next in our day so that we might humbly approach Jesus in prayer. Let this be the moment in which we also say, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Lord, teach me to pray
 as You taught Your original disciples to pray.
Ignorant and humble as I am,
  bring the riches of wisdom about prayer to me.
Although I will always be a beginner,
  let me start today
as a student of prayer
  with You.


[1] Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer (Chicago: M. A. Donohue & Co., 1885), 15-16.

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

Three Disciples

We are in the midst of a three-week series here at Eastbrook Church called “Three Disciples.” It brings focus to those three apostles who were closest to Jesus: Peter, John and James. The goal of the series is to take a biographical look at these disciples in order to see what it looks like for regular people like you and me to be disciples of Jesus today.

The series outline is:

May 19/20 – “Peter” – Dr. Bill Conner

May 26/27 – “John” – Jay Rhodes

June 2/3 – “James” – Dr. David Musa

Moving Out!

This week at Eastbrook Church, we launched into our new series “Moving Out!”, the fifth and final part of our series on the Gospel of John through the month of May. After Jesus rose alive in victory over sin and death, He appeared to some of His followers. When He met them, He called them out of their old life and into a new kind of life – a resurrection life. We see this in four distinct encounters Jesus had with:

  • Mary Magdalene distressed by the empty tomb
  • The disciples fearfully hiding in the upper room
  • Thomas who finds Jesus in His doubts
  • Peter after his failure who is now fishing again

How do we respond to the risen Jesus in our everyday lives? In what ways do we need to move out of our old life and into the resurrection life of Christ?

The Real Face of Community

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[About four years ago, I wrote this article for Relevant Magazine‘s online edition. Since the article is no longer available through their web-site, I thought I’d re-post it here.]

Community … community … community. Everywhere you turn, inside and outside of the church, people are obsessed with talking about community.

This is a good thing insofar as it combats the individualistic tendencies of our society. When we stop thinking about the world as millions of autonomous selves and more as related parts, we are headed in the right direction.

However, the manner in which people discuss community consistently disappoints me. It is commonly left at a superficial level. You know, the sort of community that lasts the few hours of a weeknight gathering, endures for a weekend-long retreat or exists within online communities where people know little about one another’s everyday lives. The word community is used, but the reality being discussed lacks true depth.

More pointedly, I am coming to terms with the fact that community is not about people like me. It’s easy to be in community, or at least on congenial terms, with people who are similar to me: similar musical tastes, similar clothing tastes, similar discussion interests, similar stages of life, similar political leanings, similar biting critiques of other people.

This sort of community of sameness reminds me of Jesus’ powerful statement: “You will be greatly blessed when you love those comfortably like you.” Hmm. I think I may have just misquoted the Gospels. What Jesus really says is this: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

Look around the room when Jesus said this. There is Simon Peter, that abrasive and over-talkative attention-getter. And James and John, the glorious “Sons of Thunder” who constantly seemed concerned with getting the places close to Jesus. Good old Thomas, whose skepticism and “glass is half full” view of life could bring such a sour tone to things. And Simon the Zealot, who, after these many months together, still talked about Jesus starting a fiery political revolution. Not to mention everyone else, some of whom seem to skulk behind the scenes with little to say about anything. It’s a miracle that these 12 guys didn’t argue all of the time about everything … oh, that’s right, they did.

It’s interesting that they apparently changed the topic once Jesus emphasized this loving one another idea again. “You’ve said that before, and we already know about it,” they may have said. “Move on, Jesus. Give us some words about more exciting matters, like the end of the world.”

It’s sort of like us.

Look around the room next time you’re gathered with other followers of Jesus. See the different faces: some attractive, some homely, some happy, some depressed, some attentive, some distracted, some awake, some sleeping. Think about the person you just bumped into at the door whom you’ve never met beyond an awkward initial conversation.

Think about the person across the room you would rather not have to talk to, let alone see. Think about the people you’re glad you haven’t seen this time. Did I hear a sigh of relief?

If only Jesus had formed a community out of something other than ordinary, irritating, disagreeable, quirky people. Life would certainly have been easier for all of us. But also less true.

Community does not exist without quirkiness, disagreement, awkwardness and difference. We—all of us so different and distinct—are made one in Christ Jesus. Just as He held that rag-tag group of disciples together, He holds us together.

The ugly side of community is that we are repulsed by community in this more authentic way. More often than not, we sell out for a paltry and superficial community that is easy and romantic, not letting our dreaminess be interrupted by the reality of you and me being made one through the tough love of Christ.

His love is tough because it cost Him everything to make us one, and twice tough because it costs us everything to really love one another as a community.