November 30, 2009
How to play Santa and make disciples this Christmas season
Playing Santa is fun. It's also very Christ-like. But please don't confuse—I'm not putting Jesus and Santa on a level playing field. By "playing Santa" I mean giving to and caring for those who are struggling financially, relationally, and/or emotionally.
One of the people groups most unnoticed and overlooked by the church are singles—especially single moms. Many of them are struggling. Churches tend to be built for, governed by, and have created environments for husbands and wives with children. Because of this, we often fail to spot the needs of single parents.
This Christmas, your small group can reach out to this wonderful group of dedicated parents, and in so doing your group members will grow spiritually, I promise. You need a plan? I've got one you might consider. It's what I call "The Three Threes."
The First Three: Make your small group aware of the need
- Engage your group in a Bible study focused on charity.
- At the end of the study, secure a commitment from the group to adopt a single mom and her kids during the Christmas season.
- Share with the group that you would like to do this together, and what will be expected of the group (see below).
The Second Three: Organize for Accomplishment
- Ask someone in the group with the gift of administration to spearhead this endeavor.
- Ask someone in the group with the gift of mercy to locate a single mom with kids. Ask her/him to communicate with the single mom and get that individual to agree to allow the group to help. They should also get the name and address of that single mom to the person organizing this project.
- Ask these two leaders to bring back a date or dates this ministry will take place, and what the group will do for the single mom and her children. A few ideas:
—Close to Christmas, line up a massage for the mom. While she's gone, babysit the kids, decorate the house for Christmas, and bring gifts for mom and kids to go under the Christmas tree.
—Part of the group takes the kids to a Christmas movie while mom has a night out. Purchase and deliver gifts the week of Christmas for mom and kids to open on Christmas day.
—Deliver gifts and food for Christmas day to the household on Christmas Eve.
The Third Three: Be Jesus Even When It's Not Christmas
- Ask the individual in your group who lined up this relationship (the group member with the gift of mercy) to continue to connect with the single mom.
- At various times throughout the year, group members can babysit the kids so mom can have some time to herself, go grocery shopping, or go on a date.
- When the single mom needs her oil changed, has a plumbing problem, and so on, see if someone in the group can help her out.
Acts of kindness often lead to conversations about the Jesus of Christmas. Wouldn't it be fantastic if, in time, this individual chose to be a follower of Christ, become part of the group, and connect with your church? She would never feel completely alone again.
But please remember that these individuals are not your projects—they are your new friends. A friend of mine, Discipleship Pastor Randy Miller from Northwood Church in Keller, Texas, reminded attendees at a conference last month that we should help people simply because it is the right thing to do. His very missional church says to people they are assisting, "We don't help you so that you will be converted. We help you because we are converted."
November 25, 2009
Here's a very tough decision!
We'll keep things light for this edition of Question of the Week:
If you could only choose one side dish to accompany your turkey tomorrow, what would it be? Mashed potatoes? Cranberry sauce? Creamed-corn casserole? Some kind of green bean mixture?
For me, it's a pretty tough choice between corn-bread stuffing and crescent rolls, but I think I would have to go with the stuffing.
November 24, 2009
Chapter four has some very interesting things to say about discipleship.
Welcome to our fourth week of "LiveBooking" through Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg. I've been enjoying chapter four through different portions of my morning, and I'm bursting with things to share.
First, another cool 1st Century cultural nugget.
The authors make it clear that the life of a rabbi in Jesus' day was expected to be rough and tumble. In fact, a rabbi saying from that time period went something like this: "This is the path of Torah: a morsel with salt shall you eat, and you shall drink water by measure, and sleep upon the ground, and live a life of painfulness, and in Torah shall you labor. If thou do this, happy shall you be and it shall be well with you."
That gives some added perspective on the way that Jesus was sometimes stand-offish toward those that wanted to follow him. "Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head" (see Matthew 8).
Apprenticing and Discipleship
What I thought was most fascinating from this chapter was the author's connection between apprentices and disciples in Jesus' day. Apprenticeship was the main method of education in that day, of course. It was also the main avenue of transformation. When a young boy became apprenticed to a carpenter or fisherman, he did more than learn the skills involved in those trades. He lived with his master. He worked to become like his master in all areas of life so that he could excel in his master's trade.
The same was true of rabbis and there disciples. There wasn't much difference between trade apprentices and disciples, really. The disciple travelled with his rabbi, served his rabbi, and tried to model is rabbi in every way. He wanted to become his rabbi.
Now, with all of that in mind, check out what the authors wrote here:
Why should we spend time talking about ancient discipling methods? Because we, too, are followers of a rabbi. Like Jesus' first talmidim, we are to become his faithful disciples. And like them we are called by our Master to "go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19).
Remember what happened when Jesus' first followers carried out his great command? Within a few centuries the early church exploded with growth, as believers spread across the Roman Empire to transform the face of ancient history. Beginning with an army of only twelve, God took on the world.
Later on the same page, the authors make a suggestion that really got me thinking: "Perhaps we can recapture some of the original passion and effectiveness of Jesus' first followers by exploring how discipleship worked in the ancient Jewish world."
But here is the $64,000 question: Can the ancient method of apprenticeship/discipleship work in the modern world? Can it work in America?
If we set about the task of "making disciples," whether in small groups or not, is it possible to develop the kind of life-to-life relationship that a rabbi and disciple enjoyed? If we want to become a disciple of someone we deeply respect—someone we feel has a desirable connection with God—are we able to drop everything and begin a true mentoring relationship with that person?
What do you think?