Archives For discipleship

Tithing

Today churches will collect the Mission Illinois Offering. From Cairo to Chicago, East St. Louis to Westville, the mission work of IBSA is made possible by gifts from partner churches. Discipling kids at camp, training next-gen church leaders, reaching people who don’t know Jesus — it’s all because you give.

Pray that Illinois Baptists who support our shared mission work may give generously today.

Thank you for supporting and praying for state missions in Illinois. Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering at MissionIllinois.org.

By Michael Kramer

Michael-Kramer

Michael Kramer

Three years ago, my job title was changed from adult education pastor to discipleship pastor. I was happy. Discipleship is a trendy term, but no one quite knows how to define discipleship. I realized this a couple months ago at an education conference put on by LifeWay. The presenter made the off-hand comment that discipleship seems to be the fad in evangelicalism. He had my attention.

The presenter explained that there have been several church growth models over the last 50 years, and he thinks discipleship is the current trend. Yet, he lamented, everyone has a different take on discipleship. He then produced a two-page handout offering his own definition. This made me chuckle. Why is discipleship such a tricky term?

I once watched a ministry leader draw a pie chart depicting Sunday school. He then put discipleship as one-sixth of the pie alongside community, shepherding, evangelism, teaching, and service. Discipleship had been relegated to a narrow slice. If I were discipleship, I think I would be offended.

We wrestle with discipleship because it is a relatively new term that is, at best, tenable and, at worst, divisive. First coined over 150 years ago by a well-meaning church educator, the term has come to distinguish the “two wings of the plane” which give flight to evangelicalism. These two wings are evangelism and discipleship. Sadly, this has created a division within disciple making, and we have yet to recover from the schism.

It’s not about ‘me’
Fast forward a century or so, and attempts at wordsmithing are causing confusion. You may wonder if discipleship is a biblical term. Nope, it is not. Jesus made disciples and called us to make disciples in Matthew 28:19-20, but “discipleship” is nowhere to be found in the New Testament. That’s just a little problematic when we seek to define discipleship in a consistent or biblical fashion.

Most church members will say they are involved in discipleship. After all, they participate in youth group, Bible study, women’s ministry, life group, or Sunday school. But this definition of discipleship is about personal growth or finding a niche within community. Reduced even simpler, discipleship is all about the participant. Discipleship at this level is designed to help “me” follow Jesus.

If a pastor refers to discipleship, most likely he has the spiritual maturity of church members in mind, relying generally on programs to foster maturity. Most pastors would say that the sermon, serving in the church, and going on mission trips are vital parts of the process. In some church cultures, discipleship may focus on spiritual disciplines coupled with some degree of intentional accountability. Again, the focus is on “me.”

My job title says it’s what I do, but do I?

At the leadership level, discipleship and disciple making are often used interchangeably, but the terms have dramatically different focuses or applications. While discipleship focuses on the participant, disciple making focuses on reproducing others. As leaders, we need to decide if we are calling people to invest in themselves or replicate others.

Words matter, especially when used by leaders.

So, is discipleship an evil term? No, not really, but it is unfortunate, because the term tends to not move beyond “me” and my walk with Jesus.

Discipleship places emphasis on the Great Commandment, me loving God and others, but misses the intentionality of the Great Commission, me making disciples. Ultimately discipleship is an unfortunate term because it fails to call people clearly to reproduce themselves in the lives of others.

While I doubt my title will change any time soon, as a leader who wants to communicate clearly, I have decided to call people to disciple making, which I believe carries a lot more weight. Disciple making begs the question, “Who or what am I reproducing?” I, for one, want to reproduce disciple makers.

While discipleship will continue to be a moving target, the term disciple making is biblical, offers a clearer vision, and is measured by reproducibility. Maybe we would save ourselves a lot of trouble if we focused less on the wings of the plane and more on the engine that makes the plane soar, disciple making.

Michael Kramer is discipleship pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Benton. He recently completed a Ph.D. in leadership at Southern Seminary.

Why evangelism is needed now

ib2newseditor —  September 11, 2017

The ‘blue map’ tells our story

The blue mapThis map is becoming familiar around the Illinois Baptist State Association. We call it ‘the blue map.’ With just a few brush strokes, it clearly illustrates the need for evangelism in Illinois.

The map shows the percentage of people in each county who self-identify as Southern Baptist.

Our strength as a denomination is in the southern half of the state, where in most counties at least 5% of the population is SBC. In some places, the percentage is higher than that, but with so little of this map shaded dark blue, it’s easy to understand why Southern Baptists—and evangelicals overall—are in the minority in Illinois.

The farther north we travel, the less ‘Baptist’ the state is, even as the population explodes. The gray circles show our most populous places. And in stark contrast, the white and lightest blue-shaded counties show places where there are few or no SBC churches.

The need is great all across Illinois, but especially in the cities and Northwest Illinois.

“In many parts of Illinois, Baptists are outnumbered by Muslims, Mormons, eastern religions, and people with no faith at all,” Nate Adams, executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association said. “In fact, at least 8-million of our 13-million neighbors in Illinois do not know Jesus Christ.”

That’s why at IBSA, we often say, “Evangelism is the point of the plow.” As a ministry-support and missions-sending organization, IBSA’s missionaries and staff are engaged in many activities that assist local Baptist churches in Illinois.

The partnership we share with almost 1,000 churches, mission congregations, and church plants is vital to strengthening Baptist work in Illinois. But whatever the ministry activity, the reason behind it is equipping IBSA churches, leaders, and members to share the gospel with people who do not yet know Jesus as their personal savior.

The missionaries whose photos appear in this prayer guide each have different specialties. Church planting, age-graded discipleship, and missions mobilization are just a few. But their work has the same chief purpose: advancing the gospel.

For example, when Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief teams are cutting trees felled by storms and digging out mud-packed houses after floods, somewhere nearby a trained DR chaplain is sharing Jesus with a suffering homeowner. And many times, they find Christ in their crisis.

Who trained the chaplains? Who organized the volunteers?

You did.

By giving through the Mission Illinois Offering, you enable state missionaries to do their work in Illinois. You provide supplies for VBS training and children’s camps. You send expertise to churches in need of stronger leadership. You recruit and equip church planters to start congregations where they are desperately need. And the list goes on and on.

Your gifts through the Mission Illinois Offering stay here in Illinois: teaching students, equipping leaders, planting churches, and, at all times, advancing the gospel.

Won’t you give through the Mission Illinois Offering? Your partnership in advancing the gospel in Illinois is needed now, more than ever.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering.

Feeding the family

ib2newseditor —  June 29, 2017

‘Generational discipleship’ sets the table for a new approach to family ministry.

Pizza

The fraction 1/168 is a tiny number. It’s hard to grasp what 1/168 of a pie or a pizza even looks like. The pizza would be a super-skinny slice with a smidgeon of sauce and a partial pepperoni. Certainly not enough to satisfy.

“The denominator in the fraction stands for the number of hours in a week,” said Ron Hunter, author of The DNA of D6: Building Blocks of Generational Discipleship. There are 168 hours in a week. “The scary part is what the numerator represents: the average number a student spends engaged in church-related discipleship each week.” In other words, one hour.

Hunter shared this example during the D6 Connect Tour held at First Baptist Church Bethalto on May 24, one of five stops made on the tour.

The 1/168 figure comes from thirty minutes of small group time combined with thirty minutes of a sermon-type message from a pastor or youth pastor. D6—a movement intentional about empowering parents, homes, marriages, leaders and churches to live out the story of Deuteronomy 6—uses this fraction to make the point that time spent in church is not enough time to truly make disciples as Jesus instructed.

A new way to slice it: Families have their kids 168 hours a week. The church has them only one, maybe two. How can churches help parents disciple their own children, rather than outsourcing it to the youth pastor or Sunday school teacher? This movement returns responsibility to the home, with a new kind of help from the church.

Small group ministries are the primary means of discipleship among most churches. This Scripture shows that God’s design for the family is the original small group. Discipleship begins and is sustained at home.

“Generational discipleship means pastors and church leaders are doing less ministry, and are pouring their time and effort into helping others do more ministry… particularly in their own homes,” Hunter said.

That means youth pastors and children’s pastors need to be spending a third of their time or more mentoring the parents of these young people and not just the young people themselves. The church can equip parents to best launch their kids into adulthood as Christ followers.

“Ministers need to de-emphasize themselves as the spiritual leader and be intentional about how they can set mom and dad up for wins,” Hunter said. “The question we ask is ‘What would it look like if our church went home?’”

A better plan
The family unit is God’s intended launching pad for new adults. That means painful conversations and hard lessons will occur during childhood and especially during the adolescent years. Hunter said giving parents tools and guiding them away from delegating these conversations is crucial.

“Deuteronomy’s generation discipleship is not just about the next generation, it’s about every generation working together,” he said.

That means taking a critical look at how church is conducted on a weekly basis. Is the church equipping the saints with the right end game in mind?

“I’ve had the chance to sit down in a number of church staff meetings and 95% of the time is spent talking about church services and how the next Sunday will go,” Hunter said. “Discipleship is not an event to plan or a small group strategy: it’s a way of life.”

“Listen, Israel: The Lord our God,
the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God
with all your heart, with all your soul,
and with all your strength.
These words that I am giving you
today are to be in your heart. Repeat them
to your children. Talk about them when you
sit in your house and when you
walk along the road, when you lie down
and when you get up.”
– Deuteronomy 6:4-7 (CSB)

Generations and gaps
For decades, the church has lost the majority of its children who have grown up in Christian homes. Teenagers get their driver’s licenses and basically drive away from the church.

As the church recognizes that home is the vehicle for imparting faith to the next generation, leaders of the D6 ministry contend parents must begin to own the fact that they are the primary disciplers of their own children.

“Our goal is to revamp the way we do curriculum and create connection points for conversation,” said Brandon Roysden, D6 conference coordinator. “We want to take the philosophy of Deuteronomy 6 and provide a practical way for parents and churches to implement it.”

But how does the church come alongside the child who doesn’t have a support system at home? Brian Housman, executive director of 360 Family Conference and author of several parenting books including Tech Savvy Parenting, said the church should not negate the importance of family-centered discipleship because of the brokenness of sin.

“The church must fill the gap and find a way to partner with that single mom or that grandparent who is raising their grandkids,” he said. “We’ve done a great job of dividing ourselves into different age-appropriate ministries and its time to open the doors and invite each other in. Instead of children’s events and youth events, have family events and family service projects where everyone participates. Let’s all come together and do this thing together.”

No one is meant to be lone rangers when it comes to the support and encouragement of their families, he concluded.

“We are supposed to love and encourage others and others are supposed to love and encourage us. It’s supposed to be a big circle,” said Leneita Fix, author, speaker and missions/training coordinator for BowDown Church and Urban Youth Impact in West Palm Beach, Florida. “We have a young man on our track team and his father was diagnosed with stage four cancer. We asked what we can do to help and the best way we’ve found is to literally run alongside him this summer as he continues his training. It’s volunteering our unique gifts and talents that make the church the church. It’s not programmatic, it’s helping your congregation notice the people around them and love them well.”

For more information on D6 conferences, visit d6family.com.

Kayla Rinker is a freelance writer living in Park Hills, Mo. where she serves alongside her husband, Josh, who is youth pastor at First Baptist Church Desloge. Kayla is also a stay-at-home mom to their four sons, keeping her life full of craziness and joy.

Exterior of a building with Education engraved in stone

I hadn’t intended college to be a particularly eye-opening experience. I was excited about my newfound freedom and interesting classes and those deep friendships everyone always talked about, but I was going someplace where I thought all those things would happen in the context of familiarity. My Southern Baptist college had felt like home during my first on-campus visit—that was what drew me there in the first place.

But at the start of my second semester, I sat with my Bible on the roof of the gymnasium (where the serious scholars went to study all night), wondering whether the loneliness and uncertainty I felt meant I had made the wrong decision in coming to a place six hours from home. Those good college things—the classes and the friends and the football games and the freedom—had all happened. But instead of feeling fulfilled, I was left with a bigger question, one that I now know most people that age, particularly younger Christians, probably face at one time or another: Who am I going to be?

I met people my own age who pushed me to a deeper investigation of what it means to be a Christian, no matter what job I would eventually choose.

A few years later when I graduated, I was glad I had been at that small college six hours from home as I tried to answer that big question. Because it was there that I found people with the knowledge, experience, and empathy to help young people navigate that tricky territory between the familiar and the future. Here are three things I still value about my Christian college experience:

1. A deeper faith identity. Raised in a minister’s home, I thought I had Christianity figured out (and, at 18, probably most everything else too). That’s why it was surprising, then convicting, to find other people my age who knew much more and felt much more about the call of Jesus on their lives than I did. And these weren’t just the kids that had committed to career ministry or missions—these were everyday students studying to be dentists, attorneys, and counselors. But they seemed to understand that the responsibility of a Christian to be, well, a Christian, extended far beyond one’s future vocation. They lived their faith in a way I wanted to, and their example pushed me to a deeper investigation of what it meant to be actually be a believer in Christ, no matter what job I would eventually choose.

2. Challenging, trustworthy professors. My first class on my first day of college was Old Testament Survey, taught by a young professor who would present four or five different theories about a difficult text and then say something like: “That’s what some people think. Here’s what I think.” Usually, his opinion was similar to one that he had presented. But by giving us the breadth of knowledge on a particular topic, he showed us young Bible scholars that it’s OK to wrestle with Scripture. At the same time, his daily, trustworthy counsel through the Bible gave us an anchor to come back to amid the multiple interpretations offered by the outside world.

3. Unrequired opportunities. Like many high school youth group kids, I started going to church because my parents drove me there, and I kept going because I had always gone. But in college, I didn’t have to be anywhere. Tuesday night Bible study wasn’t a necessity; neither was a Saturday mission project in our neighboring city. Learning to commit to things that weren’t required drove me to deeper discipline about how I spent my energy and time. The ministry activities that are most valuable, I learned in college, are the ones that root themselves in your mind and heart so that you are compelled to take part, even if no one would miss you if you weren’t there.

After I graduated, I moved to the Midwest to attend graduate school at a large state university. It was certainly different than where I had been. And that’s one more reason I’m grateful for my college experience: The foundation that God, through wise professors and leaders, had begun to lay for me carried me through the challenges of a truly unfamiliar place. And has continued to do so, all these years later.

– Meredith Flynn

Growing leaders

ib2newseditor —  February 7, 2017

The church’s ministry potential depends on it

2-6-17-growth-potential

While serving as associate pastor of Pawleys Island Baptist Church in South Carolina, Mac Lake said he could feel the church’s ministry efforts crumbling down around him.

“At one point I had 88 people reporting to me,” said Lake, who is now senior director of church planting development for the North American Mission Board’s SEND network. He was this year’s keynote speaker at the Illinois Leadership Summit.

“Of course I was exhausted so I went on vacation and worked on a plan to start developing leaders. The best way to make ministry successful is to make your team successful. Shifting my mindset saved my life, saved my ministry, and probably saved my marriage.”

More than 230 pastors, staff, and leaders from churches across Illinois heard practical strategies as Lake spoke on the importance of leading self, leading others, leading leaders, and leading an organization during the two-day event held January 24-25.

“This opened my eyes to the difference being intentional in your leadership strategy will make,” said Garry Hostetler, pastor of First Baptist Church Bogota in Newton. “I enjoyed getting together with other pastors and leaders and getting real help that I can put into practice right away.”

“In my ministry, I discovered if we were going to grow a congregation, I had to grow as a leader. It is important for leaders to realize their leadership lid and to grow past it.”

“When we’re spiritually disciplined we’re often more vocationally effective,” Sarah Bond urged those attending one of 28 breakout sessions. The professor at SIU-Carbondale challenged church leaders to “become the change-maker God intends you to be.”

She—and the other trainers and equippers—found a ready audience.

“When I was pastoring it was alarming to discover that my leadership was one of the obstacles to the growth of the church,” said Mark Emerson, IBSA’s associate executive director of the Church Resources Team. Emerson’s pastoral experience helped him in planning the Summit. “In my ministry, I discovered if we were going to grow a congregation, I had to grow as a leader. It is important for leaders to realize their leadership lid and to grow past it.”

For attenders at the Summit, much of the experience was about discoveries about themselves.

“When we do this kind of leadership development, pastors begin to get excited about their own growth and the growth of leaders in their church,” Emerson said. “I believe every pastor believes leadership development is important, yet it tends to get lost amid the plethora of other ministry tasks.”

Doers vs. developers

2-6-17-mac-lake

Mac Lake

Lake opened the conference with a story about the small town where he grew up, and the small church where he grew as a leader. Handley, West Virginia, peaked at 633 residents in 1980.

“I don’t think we ever broke 70 (attenders) at Handley Baptist Church,” he said, calling his home church not small, but “normative.” It was the same size as most Southern Baptist churches. Yet, it was in this environment that Lake discovered he could be a leader. “That church taught me how to love like Jesus and how to live like Jesus…. The opportunity the normative-size church gave me to serve like Jesus and develop my leadership skills started there as a kid.”

Lake said leadership development is vital for all disciples of Christ no matter where they are in their Christian walk. He shared the story of his three “conversions” in his personal growth. Lake said:

(1) He went from “lost to found” when he was saved at 9 years old at that small church in West Virginia, then
(2) he went from “being a ministry doer to a ministry leader” when he was in seminary at 27, and finally
(3) a few years later as an associate pastor, he went from “leader to developer of leaders.”

“One of the biggest challenges for leaders who move to this level of leadership is continuing to act like a leader rather than a leader of leaders,” Lake said, offering a comparison between disciples and disciple-leaders. At first glance, discipleship training and leadership development might seem similar. While they go hand in hand, there are important distinctions. For example:

• Discipleship focuses on intimacy with God while leadership development focuses on influence with others.
• Discipleship is learning to live like Jesus while leadership development is learning to lead like Jesus.
• In discipleship, a person is learning to lead himself, while leadership development teaches how to lead others.
• Finally, discipleship works on the character of the person while leadership development works on his or her competency.

“While some people make the jump from disciple to leader in our churches, many aren’t prepared to do it,” Lake said. “Nobody taught them before they got thrown in. So you have all these people in the swimming pool of leadership and they are splashing and hollering—nearly drowning—because they don’t know how to swim. Their leadership, the church’s ministries, and even their personal relationship with God will grow to a whole new level once they are developing as leaders.”

“It’s like asking a lost person to reach someone for the Lord. They’ve never had that conversion so they don’t have the knowledge and realization they need.”

Without a consistent and intentional leadership development plan, many of the great “doers” of the church or ministry will struggle in leadership positions. “It’s like asking a lost person to reach someone for the Lord,” Lake said. “They’ve never had that conversion so they don’t have the knowledge and realization they need.”

Leaders often find themselves focusing more on the work than on the workers, and that has a limiting effect on the growth of ministry. “One of your primary responsibilities as a leader is stewarding the gifts and strengths of those in your charge,” Lake advised. Most churches structure for ministry function, rather than for leader development, he warned.

2-6-17-ils-attenders

A glimpse of the future
Developing the next generation of leaders presents many challenges in this culture of never-ending distractions and instant gratification, but Lake is optimistic about the future of the church.

“Millennials in general place an extremely high value on relationships and authentic faith-sharing,” he said. “A pastor willing to mentor this group must be vulnerable. They need to see we’re all co-learners because, in reality, we are. A 50-year-old pastor is no longer in the world he knew. He’s living in their world.”

He said all leaders must understand the dangers of social media and the challenge to stay focused and turn off distractions. At the same time, leaders must see how social networking can be beneficial for the work of God and utilize its potential for kingdom growth. “With technology and all that it entails, mentors have to embrace this world and ask for help navigating this new culture to stay relevant,” Lake said.

“With technology and all that it entails, mentors have to embrace this world and ask for help navigating this new culture to stay relevant.”

Though Lake has taught leadership to pastors and church planters across the country, this was one of the few statewide conferences he’s been invited to where the main purpose was to teach leaders how to lead with excellence.

“Illinois Baptists see the need to build a culture of leadership development,” Lake said. “Too many visions die because the leader never trained others to do what he did. The Great Commission is a vision big enough for others to give their lives to. We have to think in terms of ‘generations.’”

We used to tell leaders to “replace themselves” by training others to come after you. “Don’t replace yourself, reproduce yourself” with leaders to work alongside you, he concluded.

Lake said he prays that together leaders will create the culture in their churches that will produce the best harvest. “I applaud the Illinois Baptists for feeding their pastors and helping with the challenge of leadership issues,” he said. “This is important and these are things you don’t necessarily learn in seminary.”

– Reported by Kayla Rinker, Lisa Sergent, Meredith Flynn, and Eric Reed

Illinois Leadership Summit January 24, 2017

Nate Adams, IBSA Executive Director, talks with a pastor at the Illinois Leadership Summit January 24, 2017 in Springfield.

“Personal development requires surrender and sacrifice,” shared leadership expert Mac Lake.

“If I want to grow myself there’s a price I have to pay…Discipline is often the cost we’re not willing to pay.”

More than 250 leaders gathered in Springfield for the Jan. 24-25 Illinois Leadership Summit. Mac Lake, the architect of The Launch Network, a church planting network, served as the summit’s keynote speaker and was joined by 18 break out session leaders. Together, they taught the men and women in attendance practical ways to became better leaders and how to use what they’ve learned to develop leaders in their own churches.

Visit our Facebook page to watch video from Tuesday evening’s session, and learn from Lake:

– Why people don’t do what you want them to do
– About the strengthen conversation
– How to do one minute goal setting

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter hear from some of the breakout session leaders, and read the Feb. 6 Illinois Baptist newspaper for complete coverage of the Illinois Leadership Summit.