Fruitful and Faithful #1

We all have moments of simple, but profound clarity.  In these moments we see the obvious, but it connects in a unique way in our lives at that moment in time.  I had one of those moments.  Because of my personality, I am continually looking to deconstruct and reduce complexity to understand it from afar.  This week, that resulted in this simple prayer.  “Father, let me be fruitful and faithful.”  For me, those two words sum up the majority of the pastoral/kingdom calling.  I have many other words to pray and specific prayers I’ve prayed over the last few days, but the clarity of my desire to be faithful and fruitful as a summation of my calling has been a simple blessing.

How would you sum up your prayer of success for your calling?

I will unpack these two words in future posts, as they embody much meaning for me.  They help me see when life is confusing, when others voices are yelling for attention, when I feel the temptations of my flesh, and when I must choose between many “good” choices.  It doesn’t have to be two words, but we all need clarity on success will be for us, otherwise someone else will define it and we may wake up one day realizing we spent much of our life living for something less than God’s best.

Youth Ministry Essentials: Five Characteristics Of Healthy Discipleship Re-Post

Youth Ministry Essentials: Five Characteristics Of Healthy Discipleship
by: andy@ym360 on Feb, 28 2013
The word “discipleship” means different things to different people. When I say “discipleship” in the context of this post, I’m simply talking about the process of growing to be more like Christ. Now, the process itself will differ based on your ministry context.

But, I think there are some common characteristics of healthy discipleship no matter what context you’re in.

As you read these, ask yourself to what degree you see them in your youth ministry.

1. Gospel Focused
No matter how you teach the Bible, or what you’re teaching⎯Old Testament, New Testament, topical studies, character studies, etc.⎯it must be taught through the lens of the Gospel. When we make our Bible teaching too much about application, or cultural relevance, or entertainment, we fail students. The good news of God’s rescue plan for humanity, as fulfilled in Christ, must be the foundation of your teaching efforts.

Too often we make our Bible teaching about doing. Do this. Don’t do that. Right actions won’t make disciples. But consistently bringing our students face-to-face with the Gospel will.

2. Relationally Centered
Relationally centered as opposed to program, or event centered. Think about the relationships Jesus formed with His disciples. Life was shared. It wasn’t some dry educational experience. It wasn’t Jesus merely dumping information on His followers. There was real relationship. Jesus and His disciples shared life together. It was reciprocal, too. Jesus allowed His disciples choice moments to see His frustration, His concerns . . . the human side of “fully God, fully man.”

We have to embrace the relationships we have with students, not as a means to an ends. We must truly share our lives with them, just as we ask them to share their lives with us.

3. Community Oriented
Healthy discipleship is relationally centered (focus on the individual) but fully embraces the gift of community (focus on individuals). I think this is one area where youth ministers are very effective. We have some built-in advantages working with teenagers, to be sure. But, it’s still a vital component of healthy discipleship.

If you’re looking for an awesome discipleship structure/framework to really maximize your youth group’s collective missional potential, I would suggest looking at the work Mike Breen and 3DM are doing. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Mike and his team are some of my favorite discipleship voices around.

4. Outward Reaching
You probably already create opportunities for your youth group to serve. Maybe you do mission trips, or volunteer at a retirement home. That’s awesome. Keep doing it. But, I would encourage you to break free from the “youth group wide,” program-centered approach, and to intentionally empower smaller groups of individual students to seek opportunities to impact their immediate world.

Leave it up to them to decide how it looks. But create the expectation that this type of outreach should be happening.

5. Multiplication Empowering
Plain and simple, if you’re doing discipleship the right way, your students will begin to desire to draw other people in. Some of these students might be fringe members of your youth group. Others will be their peers who do not have a saving relationship with Christ. Your role is to help guide and encourage your students to bring these outlying students into your community.

The “front door” of faith for this generation of young people is probably not an invitation to church. Instead, it’s an invitation to belong to a community. To coin a phrase that is going around the Internet, it’s “belonging before believing.” The logic behind this is pretty simple . . .

While a non-believer may say “no” to church based on preconceived notions or bad prior experiences, it’s much harder to say “no” to being truly accepted as a part of a community of peers who are daily living out the Christ-life. How much more authentic (and comfortable) is it for this individual to then be welcomed at your youth group when he or she already has a relationship with a group of students? It’s a paradigm shift, for sure, but one that I personally think is both true to the biblical example and where we find ourselves culturally.

Discipleship Matrix


*image content is from Verge 2013 talk by Mike Breen*

To flourish as a  mission focused community, we must find the sweet spot of high invitation and high calling.  Here are two simple questions:

1. Are you constantly inviting others onto the journey of following Jesus?

2. Are you constantly calling others to follow with complete trust and surrender?