Posts tagged: discipleship process (4G)
How we Understand the Relationship of our Gospel-Centered Focus to our TRIM Values and our 4G Commitments
Figure 1 THE GOSPEL – THE INNER CORE
Figure 2 THE GOSPEL EMPOWERS BOTH TRIM AND 4G
Figure 3 THE GOSPEL – THE CORE OF OUR TRIM VALUES
Figure 4 OUR TRIM VALUES ARE REFLECTED IN EACH OF OUR 4G COMMITMENTS
Along with others on our leadership team, I currently find myself in a ministry context of planting a new church in an urban area that is racially, culturally, and socio-economically diverse. Add to this mixture a highly transient student and young, urban professional population and further challenges to long-term ministry become immediately evident. In this short piece I will set forth my philosophy of ministry in general (regardless of any temporal or geographical circumstances) and my philosophy of ministry in the immediate context of University City, Philadelphia.
The ultimate goal of my life is to serve and minister in a way that is radically Christ-centered, radically gospel-centered, and radically other-centered by the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father (Matt. 22:34-40; 28:18-20). It is the God-man Jesus Christ whose life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension gives meaning to the gospel and displays for me the precious value of each and every human life (John 3:16; 1 Cor. 15:1-8; 1 John 4:9-10). It is through the gospel that I am reconciled to this Jesus and empowered to love and serve others (Rom. 1:16; 5:5; 1 John 4:19). It is through indiscriminately loving others that I can live out this gospel and serve Christ by serving others (Matt. 25:31-46; 1 John 3:14-19).
The Grace Church of Philly family invites you to come to a “get together” on Sunday, October 25 at 4:00pm in the fellowship hall of St. Andrew and St. Monica Episcopal Church, 3600 Baring Street (the entrance to the building is on Pearl Street).
We will begin at 4:00pm, sharing a meal together. After this time of community and discussion, we will have a time of song and biblical instruction.
We will be meeting together in this format on the following Sundays at 4:00pm in the same location: November 1st, 15th, 29th, and December 6th and 20th.
May God richly bless you all,
The leadership team and families of Grace Church of Philly
A copy of this flyer can be viewed below.
Just as in any other relationship, our relationship with the Lord hinges on how much time we spend on and devote to it. If we neglect our earthly relationships, they deteriorate, wither, and, occasionally, die. If we neglect to spend time daily and weekly on our relationship with our heavenly Father, we will grow cold toward Him and run afoul of the danger of not being able to hear His voice and feel His leading in our lives.
This daily time spent on developing our relationship with our Lord is frequently called a “devotional” time. Some believers are led to think that if they “do their devotions” consistently, they will grow. I don’t believe this to be true. For many, devotional time quickly becomes a spiritual box to check off each day. Bible reading, like anything else, can be done in a perfunctory, superficial, and cursory manner, benefiting little. This is especially true in environments where the Christian is guilted into attempting to bite off more than he or she can spiritually chew. For instance, if one is consistently spending time around Christians who boast and brag about how many times they’ve personally read through the entire Bible, one can begin to feel quite inadequate and, as a result, endeavor to read through the entire Bible, front-to-back/Genesis-to-Revelation, in a short period of time. I’m betting that a fatal stall occurs somewhere around the middle of Leviticus.
The dream for Grace Church is to see God create in University City a Christian Church which clarifies what it means to be “Christian.” We know we live in a culture that has witnessed many misrepresentations of both the Christian life and Christian message and that, consequently, finds neither Christians nor the church very attractive.
The term “Christian” has come to mean just about anything in our time. Everyone who is even remotely connected to Jesus in any way calls themselves a Christian. From Mormons to Roman Catholics; from Liberals to Conservative Fundamentalists; from people involved in New Age belief systems to people who call themselves “born again.” The word “Christian” has become a meaningless term.
Our desire is to bring clarity and re-infuse this term with its proper, biblical meaning. Our desire is to get out of the way so that the Holy Spirit of God can minister to people through the faithful proclamation of His Word. The preaching of the Word will be accompanied by deeds of love and mercy in outreach to the community. Such deeds can only be empowered by the love of Christ that has been poured into our hearts at the new birth. Our prayer is that skeptical attitudes will be changed about the Christian faith, and that it will begin to look attractive to unbelievers who are alienated from God and have never had a saving conversion experience with Jesus Christ.
We believe that Christianity is the most joyful, beautiful, and attractive belief system and worldview that this world has ever seen. We need to stop making this beautiful, precious thing so utterly unappealing to so many.
We want to teach, embody, live, and faithfully represent Christianity before a world and culture that has totally rejected the Church and everything she stands for. We believe that a good amount of the hostility and skepticism that outsiders have toward Christianity is not so much a rejection of the pure, biblical faith of Jesus and His apostles, but is a rejection of the misrepresentations and distortions of the faith that many churches have gotten hung up on.
Many unbelievers think that the Church is filled with arrogant, prideful, materialistic, uncaring, legalistic, homophobic, bigoted people who are primarily focused on promoting a political agenda or party. And unfortunately, their observations are not without merit. We believe that when outsiders look at the Church, they should see love, mercy, and grace rather than hatred, hostility, and hypocrisy. Our desire is to fully embody and incarnate the love, mercy, and grace of God before others.
Acts 2:42-47 tells us that the early Christian community was so filled with people who had humility, confidence, understanding, courage, generosity, sincerity, and joy that they had “favor with all the people” of the surrounding community. There was a beauty resting upon the church (Keller & Thompson, p. 183). Our dream is for this type of Holy Spirit-empowered beauty to rest upon Grace Church of Philly.
Acts 2:47 states that the early Christians in Jerusalem had “favor with all the people.” We want to be a ministry that has “favor with all the people” in University City and in Philadelphia.
We want to be a church that has an “outward” stance toward the world rather than a church that is “inward” in its focus. An “inward” church is one that pours all, or nearly all, of its energies back into itself and the saints present in that ministry. Churches with that are inwardly-focused usually have a hostile stance toward unbelievers and the world. We desire to have an “outward” stance, dedicated to engaging our culture for Christ, faithfully and lovingly bringing the saving Gospel to unbelievers whom we love and who desperately need our Savior.
We have chosen the word ‘grace’ for our church as a starting point in clarifying and communicating the essence and simplicity of Christianity.
Grace is that undeserved, unearned blessing of God that meets us where we are and transforms us. Grace is what we want to show to others, indiscriminately serving them and loving them in the name of Jesus.
We ask you for the opportunity to share life together with you in an environment marked by grace. At the outset, we confess the imperfections of our grace and our need for more grace, but we desire to meet you as you are and to grow with you in understanding and living the magnificent grace of God.
Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
OUR DISCIPLESHIP COMMITMENTS – 4G
•We gather each Sunday to worship our great Lord and Savior in spirit and in truth.
•We grow through small group Bible study and fellowship to lead grace-filled lives of genuine significance for the glory of God with other believers.
•We give our resources and time to support the work of God and to love our community with acts of kindness.
•We go to intentionally make disciples both locally and globally in announcing the Good News of God’s grace to all peoples without regard to ethnicity, gender, or social standing.
Our discipleship commitments are our discipleship process. This is part of our overall “simple church” philosophy of ministry (following Rainer and Geiger). Our philosophy of ministry includes the following concepts: clarity, movement, alignment, and focus.
Clarity – Our commitments and process is simple to communicate and easy to remember. It is not overly complex or complicated. We believe that the discipleship process should never be left up to chance and should never be a mystery.
Movement – Our focus is going to be on moving people through this process, facilitating their building up and edification in the faith.
Alignment – All of our ministries, from the youth programs to small groups to mercy ministries, will be aligned around this simple 4G process.
Focus – We will not be a “program-heavy” church. Our philosophy is not “more programs,” but excellence for the glory of God in the programs that we will have.
OUR CORE VALUES – TRIM
Being transformational means that we are prayerfully depending upon the power of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit to transform any life. The grace of God means that there is no one alive who is beyond the hope of redemption and transformation in Christ Jesus.
Being relational means that we are joyfully offering love and grace to everyone, regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey. First, this means we will actively cultivate redemptive relationships with believers as well as non-Christians. Second, we will be conscious of and welcoming of non-Christians in our midst. Third, we will communicate not just what we believe but why, in a way that invites questions, engages people in dialogue and take a process approach (not a crisis approach) to communication. Tim Keller observes, “Many people simply have ‘process personalities’ – they will never come to faith if they are pushed. They need to come in stages.”
Being incarnational means that we will strive to live out and model the gospel of grace within the culture. We want to be deeply involved in our communities. Ed Stetzer remarks, “We don’t back away from godless people but instead embrace godless people because we understand the hearts of lost people conquered by the lordship of Jesus builds the Kingdom.”
Being missional means that we are intentionally committed to engage those who either do not know or misunderstand Jesus. We are intentional about and absolutely committed to adapting everything we do in worship, instruction, community, and service so as to be meaningfully engaged with the non-Christian society around us. Being missional, we understand that we are co-citizens with non-Christians and seek to build redemptive relationships in the culture instead of totally separating ourselves from the culture.
Each of the TRIM values undergirds and empowers every aspect of our 4G discipleship commitments. How we fulfill out 4G discipleship commitments should always reflect our TRIM values.
OF IMPORTANCE TO US
We believe that God calls every believer to wholehearted discipleship. A church full of Christians running hard after God, living with intent as His children and using their gifts to extend his kingdom, brings God great glory and is a powerful witness to the world. We are eager to help every Christian live as a learner, minister, evangelist, and steward.
We believe that the church is a ‘glocal’ mission outpost. By ‘glocal’ we mean being missional both locally and globally. As a mission outpost, the church actively seeks ways to penetrate the community, the nation, and the world with the Gospel. Bob Roberts, Jr. states, “When we start a church, we realize we are doing so not just for the community but for the world, based out of that community. Every church you start is a church for the world” (p. 124).
We believe that effective ministry must be biblically based as well as culturally relevant. We do not need to sacrifice either biblical truth or cultural relevance. All of our ministries will be in the ‘vernacular,’ speaking directly to the immediate culture and people without compromising Scripture or theology. Regarding speaking directly to the culture: Christians, frequently, are great at speaking to each other, but not so great at communicating with the wider culture. Our desire is to speak to the non-Christians of the culture in a powerful, compassionate, Scripturally-saturated manner.
AN INVITATION TO BECOME PART OF OUR GRACE COMMUNITY
We ask you to prayerfully consider becoming part of the GCP core group for the birth phase of the church for as long as the Lord leads you for the following:
1. To pray daily and persistently for the city of Philadelphia and for the launch and establishment of Grace Church of Philly in University City.
2. To be involved in the lives of the believers and unbelievers in that area; to build bridges with them that might serve to further the kingdom of God.
3. To maintain a consistent devotional life and consistent walk with Christ.
4. To open yourself to the Lord as to what types of ministry roles He may have for you at Grace Church.
5. To give to the work of this ministry as you are able to do so.
We want to encourage people to commit for as long as they believe that they are being ministered to, for as long as they believe that their gifts are being effectively used for kingdom purposes, and for as long as they believe that this is what the Lord wants them to be doing.
Grace and peace be with you.
Keller, Timothy J. and J. Allen Thompson. Church Planter Manual. New York: Redeemer Church Planting Center, 2002.
Rainer, Thom and Eric Geiger. Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples. Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2006.
Roberts, Bob Jr. The Multiplying Church: The New Math for Starting New Churches. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008.
An introduction to Grace Church of Philly in University City and an invitation to be a part of our core group for the birth phase of our ministry, or perhaps even longer. Presentation available on SlideShare and YouTube.
Satterlee defines a “norm” as “the limitation of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors, and the standards by which the appropriateness of behaviors, beliefs, perceptions, and feelings are measured” (2009, p. 153).
I believe that norms, both inside and outside of the church, can be either healthy or destructive. To the extent that norms assist in limiting destructive behavior or growth, they are good and well. To the extent that norms assist in limiting healthy behavior or growth, they are destructive and damaging. Often, norms within the church are formed with the best of intentions. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that all of these norms are healthy or to be desired.
In an effort to preserve the holiness of the church from the impurities of the world, many congregations and movements have focused on remaining “separate” from the world, and thus end up with what has been commonly called a “fortress” mentality regarding the Christian life. This mentality is assisted, reinforced, and affirmed in the social culture of the local church through the formal and informal enforcement of certain norms. When someone steps “outside of the box” with respect to the established norms, this person is, to varying degrees, disciplined. This discipline may take the form of social shunning by key members of the church, a private rebuke from a pastor, or a restriction of ministry involvement in that local church body.
In situations such as this, my concern is that such norms end up constructing an entire edifice and religion that cannot be supported by Scripture. (I find it especially ironic that many heirs of the Protestant Reformation, which was founded upon such teachings as Sola Scriptura, have ended up creating a their own religions and fiefdoms, replete with their own private “popes” who make all the decisions regarding even the personal and private norms of all within the local congregation based on scant biblical evidence or foundation.)
Many conservative Christians react and respond to the world around them with varying degrees of shock, horror, and disgust. When these Christians who, lest we forget, are still very prone to sin themselves, observe or encounter other sinful human beings sinning, their normal response can be to turn away and internalize their faith, attempting to stave off becoming tarnished in some way by the sin that is in their presence. This is a defensive reaction that many Christians are trained to perform almost without thinking. Instead of attempting to speak a word of grace into such a situation, which is what is desperately needed, many Christians simply turn away and immediately “separate” themselves in an attempt to preserve their “purity.”
By acting in such a fashion, these Christians betray the norms upon which they have been spiritually reared. Their normal stance is a defensive posture toward sin and toward the world. They have, for all practical purposes, given up on sinners and given up on the world. Sure, they may support evangelism and missionaries and the like, but they are not truly serious about unconditionally loving sinners into the kingdom as Christ has. The rigorous enforcement of their religious norms testifies to the fact that their love is most certainly conditional, and unchristian, at its core.
The norms that many of these Christians embrace regarding their reaction to the behavior of other sinners in their personal sphere of influence are all centered on personal holiness and individual communion with the Lord. While these are certainly not improper or wrong motives, I wonder just how many Christians have adopted this same attitude toward the world. It seems to me that many believers have a “close their eyes and hold on till the Lord returns or takes me home” approach to the world.
While the norm of personal holiness is commendable and even desirable, the Christian life does not end there. We need to be busying ourselves with reclaiming this world for Christ and His kingdom (Acts 1:6-8), pushing back the gates of Hell while waiting with confident expectation for the triumphant return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our stance is to be offensive, not defensive in nature. (Note: lest my language here lead someone astray regarding my personal eschatological convictions, I am premillennial, not postmillennial in my thought.)
When Christians are able to influence nonbelievers in a positive direction, we should do so. When we observe an unbeliever blashpeming the Lord in his or her speech, he or she is (unknowingly) giving us a report on their spiritual condition and ultimate need of Christ. When we observe an unbeliever acting in an unjust or unmerciful fashion, he or she is screaming out to us that they have never experienced the amazing joy of God’s mercy in Christ. We should not use these ministry and service opportunities as an excuse to run for the hills like we’re under attack. We shouldn’t use these instances to condemn others in our private conversations with ourselves or other believers (as is often the case). We should use these occasions to remind ourselves of our own need of God’s grace. We should use these occasions to convey this life-changing grace to the person who is proclaiming their need for it by their sinful actions. Instead of using such occasions to go on the defensive and retreat further into our religio-Christian cocoons, we should use them to go on the offensive against the kingdom of darkness that is holding such people captive.
Citing Matthew 16:18, Rainer and Geiger make the following statements regarding the Church’s tendency, or norm, of being too defensive regarding this world:
“[Gates] are always defensive…. Gates are never on offense. Only defense. Hell is always on defense. However, the movement of the church is never on defense. Only offense. The church always has the ball. There are no defenders on the squad…. The enemy never gets the ball. The kingdom of darkness is stuck on defense. And we are on perpetual offense” (2006, p. 85).
I believe that a common norm of many conservative evangelical ministries is that they, not the kingdom of darkness, are the ones “stuck on defense.” Such Christians are not impacting our society with the gospel of Christ because they are too busy defending their pet religious norms and standards and rules of behavior. These ministries are stuck in the “gathering” phase of the “gather-grow-give-go” discipleship process. They gather together, and while some spiritual growth may occur, there is not much “giving and going” out into the local communities in which they live and move and breathe. Therefore, the movement and spread of the gospel is hindered by the spiritual congestion caused by unhealthy norms.
The call is for the fearful and defensive-minded Church to remove the razor wire of artificial norms and boundaries and worldview that it has laid atop its walls, unnaturally separating itself from the rest of a world that is dying for want of the grace of God.
The religious scandal in Jesus’ day was His tremendous love for and interaction with sinners. The religious scandal in our time is the Church’s lack of love for and lack of interaction with sinners.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. (2006). Version 2.1. Accordance Bible Software, Version 8.2.3, 2009.
Rainer, T.S. & Geiger, E. (2006). Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples. Nashville: TN, B&H Publishing Group.
Satterlee, A. (2009). Organizational Management and Leadership: A Christian Perspective. Roanoke, VA: Synergistics.
1. “On this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”