Tag Archives: Discipleship

Kindred Spirits

Anyone familiar with Anne of Green Gables will immediately think of Anne’s search for true friendship when they hear the term “kindred spirits.” This poor orphan finally finding heart companions in such persons as Diana, Matthew, Marilla, and ultimately Gilbert is what makes the story so touching and tender. She viewed a kindred spirit as one who saw things and cared for life in the same manner that she did.

Interestingly, this term is found in the NASB version in Philippians 2:20. Paul says of Timothy, “For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.” This phrase is a translation of the Greek word ἰσόψυχοs, which combines the word equal (“iso” like in the word isoceles triangle) with the word for soul. So the term is defined to mean “like-minded, equal in soul, same hearted.” The increasingly popular ESV does not quite do justice to the word when it has Paul saying “I have no one like him.” The NKJV and KJV get closer when they use the more literal “I have no one like-minded.” Not to be sentimental, but a brief study would show, I believe, that Paul would have been happy with us thinking of him and […]

The Blessings of Ministry

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you–that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 
Romans 1:11-12

There are real costs to ministry. If you decide to give yourself in ministering to others (which seems more like a Biblical command than an option), it will cost your time, energy, money, sometimes even your reputation. Because it’s often fighting an uphill battle, ministry tends to wear us down, and we end up hearing statistics about pastors leaving the pastorate and how hard it is to get people involved in real, spiritual ministry to each other.

Maybe a little selfishness is in order. Maybe we’ve spoken too much about the costs of ministry but not the blessings.

Looking for Mentors

“What advice would you give to someone who is looking for older godly mentors but has none at home and few at college, if any?”

[This excellent question is another from our college retreat’s Stump the Pastors session.]

This question simultaneously excites and discourages me. Anytime a young Christian desires a spiritual mentor, something good is happening. That desire signals a humble willingness to learn, a realization of the need for growth in Christ, and an acceptance of God’s provision of such growth in the form of mentors. However, the question should also alert us that someone is having a hard time finding such a mentor–that despite the clear instructions in God’s Word, many in the church aren’t making themselves available for those younger in the faith. 

In Awe of the Aged

Have you ever met a mature Christian?  That question’s not meant to be snarky, no matter how many smirks it may inspire.  It’s meant to call attention to the truly special experience of interacting with people who sincerely (and sometimes unknowingly) exude from the core of their being what Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5).  Their demeanor is calm and calming.  Ordinary conversations with them feel holy, and when you leave, you feel understood, taken seriously, and loved.  These people scare the stuff out of me.     

Reject the Choice

…Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:14-16)

 

Should a church be focused on proclaiming God’s Word or organizing and promoting ministries of interpersonal mentoring and discipleship? The goal of this short post is simply to reject the false dilemma this question poses. 

Core Foundational Practices of Discipleship

Having laid forth several core foundational beliefs regarding discipleship, or in other words describing what disciples are and the intentionality required in making them, this corresponding post will now address how discipleship is to be practiced according to the Scriptures.

As stated in the previous post, the Great Commission of the risen Christ has been given to the church to fulfill; thus, the life of the church should be structured to obey this assignment. In calling his remaining eleven disciples to a mountain following his resurrection and reminding them of his complete authority both in heaven and on earth, the Lord Jesus commissioned the apostles in a special way. Then, following his ascension into heaven to take his seat at the Father’s right hand, the early church added a new apostle before Pentecost to replace Judas (Acts 1:12-26). These twelve men then stood in Jerusalem on that historic day of the giving of the Holy Spirit and proclaimed the gospel as the new Israel (II Pet. 2:9-10). They, with the other apostles and prophets appointed by Christ at that time, were the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20). The instructions of Christ, the head of the church, given to and through the apostles recorded […]

Core Foundational Beliefs of Discipleship

In stressing discipleship in my pastoral and professorial roles, there are core foundational beliefs that have been impressed upon me by my mentors and the study of Scripture. Here are the top five that guide me as I work with others.

The authoritative command of the risen Christ is for the church to be engaged in the work of making disciples. This truth is made most clear in the Great Commission that the Lord Jesus Christ gave his disciples on the mountain following his resurrection. “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). The church must seek to glorify God and the work his Son did in redeeming his people by actively working with people to shape them in becoming true disciples of the Lord.

The making of disciples must be seen as an intentional work, not an incidental one. Though the Great Commission is seemingly clear, commentators debate over the […]

Discipleship in Jesus’ Style

The following is a guest post from Ken Smith. Ken is a retired RPCNA minister, former missionary, and perhaps is best known as the pastor whom the Lord used to bring Rosaria Butterfield to faith. Ken was my pastor during my days as a seminary student at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and I witnessed and experienced him practicing the lessons below. Now that I am back at RPTS, he is still encouraging me in this area. 

Though a longer post, you will profit greatly from a key principle in discipleship as Ken shares about the “with Him” principle.

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I was slow in “catching on.”  I was a young pastor in a small denomination that had been shrinking in size for over fifty years when I was ordained.  Through the grace of God and in His timing I became exposed to how to help a new believer in Christ grow and mature… and reproduce!  As I learned later through my own research that this all takes place as a result of our union with Christ and our personally abiding in Him (cf. John 15), I became excited to see our congregation incorporate these things into their church life.

Now it was a traditional […]

The Value of a Mentor

In my role of teaching pastoral theology at a seminary, one lesson I continually harp on with young men preparing for the pastorate is their need for a mentor.

Many discipleship ministries such as The Navigators promote the II Timothy 2:2 Principle, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Yet we should be reminded that these words were first spoken by an older minister, Paul, to a younger minister, Timothy, in the context of the church (“in the presence of many witnesses”). This mentoring is exactly what Paul gave to Timothy in their travels together and in the epistles that bear his name.

No man can receive all that he will need for a lifetime of ministry at a seminary.  For success in ministry, it is essential that young ministers have an older, wiser man to provide ongoing guidance, teaching, and training. Too many young ministers wipe out with self-inflicted wounds that might have been avoided with more counseling and coaching. I am aware there are professional sites and ministries such as this one where a pastor can go and, in a sense, […]

We Could Be Heroes (and maybe that’s not good …)

We have such low standards for heroes.  And I don’t just mean comic book superheroes:  Green Lantern…Hawkeye….Robin (!?!)  No matter how much we equivocate the term, these guys don’t deserve the title “super.”  But that’s a subject for another blog.  In this one, I’d like to explore the tendency among Christians in our modern, Western culture to laud as heroic any non-fictional person who seems even vaguely virtuous.  In a time of moral famine, Christians seem far too eager to gobble up and praise what little signs we see of basic good behavior and to celebrate them as Christ-like.   To borrow and adapt C.S. Lewis’ expression:  When it comes to distinctly Christian heroism, we are far too easily pleased.