On My Mind and Heart: Discipleship 101

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The past couple of weeks the terms “disciple” and “discipleship” keep showing up in my life – in conversations, sermons and my Bible reading.  And, one of the common themes of discussion is usually about “how to disciple” someone.  Over the years, that’s a question that I’ve learned is both hard and easy to answer.  It’s hard, not because the process is really that difficult, but because to “disciple” someone well means we have to sacrifice.  And, if we are honest, that can be hard for all of us sometimes.   But, since “making disciples” is THE COMMISSION given to us in scripture, I think we should all be more prepared to accomplish this Kingdom task.

So, here is an easy 3 step guide to Discipleship 101 to help get you started:

Discipleship takes time.

I said discipleship means that we have to sacrifice and there is often no thing more difficult for us to sacrifice than our time.  We are busy people with lots to do.  But, it is impossible to be a “teacher” to someone else (which is what discipling largely is) without spending time with them.  To disciple well you have to spend regular time with another person talking, studying, telling stories, and praying.  There is no substitute for being together.

Discipleship means knowing your limits.

Several years ago I was in a small group pastors’ training session with Pastor Andy Stanley when I learned something that’s continued to stick with me when I disciple someone.  Speaking of the limits of discipleship responsibility, Andy said, “It’s not your responsibility to fill someone else’s cup. But it is your responsibility to empty your cup into the person whom you are discipling.”  That makes so much sense!  I can never be everything that someone else needs to grow spiritually, as a leader, as a man or as a person.  And that burden is not mine to bear.  However, I can be open, honest and willing to empty myself, my experiences, my prayers and my heart to another so that he may grow from my experiences and encouragement.

Discipleship requires knowing the Truth.

It’s not enough to just spend time with someone and give them a bunch of advice.  True discipleship means helping to train someone in their spiritual growth as a Christian.  And that means knowing the Truth of the Gospel and speaking the Truth of the Gospel.  Jesus Christ is the guide and the model to whom we are aspiring (not the latest leadership or self-help guru or life coach).  That means reading and studying the Bible – together.  That means relying on the Word of God instead of your own “feelings” or “instinct” to guide thoughts, actions and decisions.  Discipling well requires that we use the Truth as our standard, nothing else and nothing less.

On My Mind and Heart: Why I’m Thankful for My Church

i_love_my_churchAdventure Christian Church is a wonderful place to pastor.  Today, on Thanksgiving Day, I want to share just a few things for which I am thankful about ACC.  The list is much, much longer than the space here allows, but these things are at the top:

I am thankful that you’ve stuck with me.

It sounds awkward writing it down, but it’s true — I’m thankful that you still allow me to be the pastor at Adventure.  Over the past decade you allowed me to grow as a pastor, leader and man.  I’ve made some mistakes – some bigger than others (we won’t recall them right now though :-).  And, in spite of those mistakes, you stuck with me.  You kept coming.  You loved me when I was not lovable.  You forgave me when I needed forgiveness.  You’ve allowed me to grow as a preacher, teacher and leader.  Thank you!

I am thankful for the people with whom I serve.

The staff and current elders at Adventure are wonderful and I absolutely love serving with them.  All of the staff is great, but Pastor Richard Mosqueda is a true ministry partner.  We joke about how our gifts are so different that God put us together because together we are one good pastor!  But all of the staff and elders are more than just people I go to the office with or make plans and decisions with.  We are Christian brothers and sisters.  We love one another.  We pray for one another.  We care about each other.  That makes coming to “work” each day a real blessing and something for which I am truly grateful.  Thank you!

I am thankful for a church that loves Jesus more than themselves.

So many people have been impacted by Adventure Church.  Nearly 200 people have been baptized since we first started!  That doesn’t happen unless the church members love Jesus more than themselves.  I am grateful that our church is willing to try new things to reach people for the Kingdom, to look past things that don’t really matter like how someone is dressed on Sunday or whether we use a hymnal, and to change our methods to reach people where they are, knowing that God won’t keep them there.  It is a true blessing to be in a church that understands that church is about God and others way more than it is about them.  Thank you!

Happy thanksgiving to all of you!  God bless you and thank you!

On My Mind and Heart: The Things We Worry About


I’m continually surprised at some of the things that we let upset us:

Little things.

Things from the past that we can’t change.

Things that other people say or do that have nothing to do with us.

Things we can’t control.

I’m no stranger when it comes to allowing some of the stuff listed above to distract my focus during the day (and keep me awake at night). And I know you’re no stranger to this worry either. But we shouldn’t be.  There are more important things on which to spend our time and energy. 

Rather than worry about who said what to whom about whomever, let’s spend our energy encouraging one another with a surprise card, post or text.

Rather than spinning our wheels trying to figure out what someone’s vague FB rant means and whether they are talking about us, how about we spend our time praying for them.

Let’s spend some time making lists of all the good things in our lives, our marriages, our cities, our schools and our churches rather than list everything that might be wrong.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we ignore real relationship issues, nor do I believe that there isn’t room for improvement in our relationships and institutions. But it seems to me our mindset is backwards.  Too often, we look for the bad before the good. Too quickly, we assume the worst instead of the best. Too many times, we focus on the little things of the past rather than the big things of the future.

At the top of this post is a picture of a button we hand out at our church. It says, “These Are My Church Clothes.” We hand them out to everybody. Anyone can wear them anytime. Why? Because we aren’t concerned about what people wear to church.  That’s a little thing. We care about whether they feel welcome at church.  That’s a big thing!

I suggest we stop worrying and start focusing.  I know if I choose to do that, my days will be a lot better. And my nights will be too!

On My Mind and Heart: Trunks, Treats, Families and More …

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I love this time of year.  I love it because it’s just cold enough that you have to wear a jacket (or hoodie) but not so cold that you have to shovel snow.  I love it because it’s football season.  I love it because it reminds me of when we started Adventure Church (11 years ago this weekend).  And, I love it when we host our annual Trunk or Treat Event at ACC.

The Adventure Trunk or Treat event is Wednesday, October 28.  It has routinely become one of our largest invitation events of the year.  Last year we had over 500 people attend.  It’s a great time to invite your family and friends and neighbors — especially those who may be a little skeptical about church.

Why is this such a good time to invite people?  Because there is no pressure on them!  This event is all about having fun.  Kids and adults both dress up in goofy costumes, candy is handed out by the bag full, and there are more hot dogs to eat than at a baseball game.  People can tour around the building, meet our pastors and staff, and get a feel for what it would be like to come and visit on a Sunday.  All without having to do anything, say anything, sing anything, read anything or believe anything!  No pressure.

So, who do you need to invite to our Trunk or Treat event?  Post this on your FB page.  Tweet it.  Email it.  Everyone – invite someone!

Peace —

Pastor Buddy

Everyone Invite Someone!

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Easter Sunday, April 20, is approaching soon. Did you know that more than 50% of people say that they would attend church on Easter Sunday if someone just invited them to come. Wow! A simple invite could lead someone to encounter Jesus! It sounds so simple.

I want to challenge EVERYONE TO INVITE SOMEONE to one or more of our Easter events and services. On Saturday, April 12 at 10 a.m., our annual Easter Egg Hunt & Pancake Breakfast is scheduled. (And, it’s going to be great weather!). On Friday, April 18 at 7 p.m., we have a special Good Friday Service planned. And, on Easter Sunday, April 20, there are two worship services from which to choose – one at 9:30 and another at 11 a.m.

Although inviting someone to church is as simple as saying “Hey, would you like to come to church on Easter?”, we’re offering you some tools to make it even easier:

We have two sets of cards you can pick up on Sunday announcing our Easter programming times and events. Both are easy to carry and easy to hand out. Take as many as you want. Hand them to people at work. Hand them to your friends at the ballpark. Leave them for your food server. Give them to your family. Take a walk and give them to your neighbors.

On the Adventure Facebook page you can find easy to copy pictures of our Easter Invitations. Place them on your FB page. Like them. Send them to your friends via email. Tweet them from your Twitter account. Add them to your Linked In page. One simple post and a note from you saying “Come and check out my great church this Easter!” may be all someone needs to decide to visit.

We are sprucing up the building, adding new directional signs, painting, cleaning, etc. so everyone feels comfortable and at ease when they visit. (There is still work to be done btw – our next scheduled work day is Tuesday, April 15 from 9 a.m. until it’s all finished so please plan to come and help paint, do some light carpentry, move furniture, and clean.)

Our website is new and updated. Go to adventureky.org and check it out. Make sure to create a profile and register to receive email updates.

Inviting someone to something at church is just about the easiest thing that we can do as Christians. It costs nothing. It takes very little time and effort. There is no downside. And, it could change someone’s life for eternity. So, who are you planning to invite?

Pastor Buddy <><

Time to Grow Up?

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I just finished an article in the Christian Research Journal by Thomas E. Bergler who asserts that churches need to put spiritual maturity high on their agenda, pointing what we say, what we model and how we lead toward helping Christians attain spiritual maturity.  This post’s content is inspired by Dr. Bergler’s article with much of the content coming from there.  This post contains some tough teaching.  Hang on and hang in there!  There is hope at the end so read it all!

So, So True

The observation by Dr. Bergler that many people in our churches are “juvenilized Christians” (i.e, self-centered, emotionally driven, and intellectually shallow) hit home for me.  I’ve experienced first hand this kind of thinking and feeling from many, many people.  And, I’m not talking about “young” or “new” Christians who just are beginning their spiritual journeys and are expected to be immature in their faith and walk with God; I’m talking about people who have had ample opportunity, ample time and ample experience at least to be maturing, if not yet mature, in their faith.  Maybe that’s you; maybe not.  It’s probably more of you than would care to admit it.  I suspect after you read the rest of this post, you’ll have a better idea of whether you are maturing or not.

Spiritual Maturity is Desirable and Expected

Hebrews 5:11-6:1 – “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.  In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.  You need milk, not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.  Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity ….”

Spiritual maturity is expected because it means becoming more and more like Christ.  That’s what being a Christian means: “little Christ.”  Over time, through the work of the Holy Spirit, we should be increasing our knowledge of the Lord as well as our “likeness” of Him.  We should be developing more fully the fruits of the spirit as outlined in Galatians 5:22-26.  We should become like our teacher, Jesus Christ (Luke 6:40).

Here are some of the areas/ways in which we should be attaining spiritual maturity:

Intellectually — A MATURE Christian knows the basics of the faith and is able to communicate them to another.  A MATURE Christian recognizes false teaching and is not swayed by such.  A MATURE Christian is routinely and regularly expanding their knowledge of who God is, what His Word says and what the Word means for all of us. An IMMATURE Christian doesn’t think it really matters what you believe as long as you earnestly believe it.  They don’t seek to dig deeper into the Word and are satisfied with what they think they already know.  They often say things like: “I don’t like to read” or “I don’t have time to study the Bible” or “I’m not comfortable in groups.”

Church commitment — A MATURE Christian recognizes the importance of the corporate church body as a place to connect with one another, and, more importantly, care for each other.  (Ephesians 4:7-16).  An IMMATURE Christian feels that a church home, and in particular regular corporate worship attendance, is an option if you need it or like it.  There is little value placed on commitment to a local church body beyond the individual feeling of whether it “does anything for me and my life.”  Their attitude is often “What has the church done for me lately” rather than “What have I done for the church lately.”

Serving and Kingdom growth — A MATURE Christian lives for others, serves others and joins others in serving others, all for the benefit of showing God’s love and introducing Him to other people.  They are “on mission” for God before themselves.  (Matthew 28:16-20).   They are sacrificial with their time and money.  However, IMMATURE Christians tend to see service as something that can be done to help the community at large, if and only if, they have the time, energy, money or interest to help a particular person or group of people.  They are happy to help someone as long as it fits in their schedule and makes them feel good.  They often point to one “community service project” event in the last year or a once-every-few-weeks service in the church as being “more than enough” to help the Kingdom.

Emotionally — A MATURE Christian is in control of their feelings rather than allowing their feelings to control them.  They do not feel sorry for themselves and they reject feelings of jealousy and anger towards others who are in different places economically, socially or physically.  They recognize that both suffering and comfort are regular parts of the Christian life.  (2 Corinthians 1:3-7; 4:7-18).  An IMMATURE Christian believes that negative emotions, experiences and circumstances are unfair, unique to them, and that they have a “right” not to have them.  They often believe that one of the benefits of being “on God’s side” should be that life should be care-free, struggle-free and happy-me.  They often “get mad at God” because He’s not doing what they think He should be doing in their life, or, at least He’s not doing it quickly enough.

This is just an exemplary list, but it should get us all thinking.  Even while writing this, I had to stop and really, really think about myself and my own spiritual journey.  It was scary.  I have a long way to go.  Too many of the “immature” descriptions described me.  I didn’t like that and I don’t want that for me, for my family or for my church!  So, I had to ask myself these questions:

Am I allowing God to mature me?

Am I satisfied with spiritual milk rather than seeking deeper things of God?

Will I do anything about where I am and where I need to be?

I hope that you ask yourselves these questions too.  And, that you answer them!

The Fate of Hypocrisy

"The Smallest Church in the World"

 

Sermon Notes from July 7, 2013.  You can catch the audio sermon on the Adventure Church website.  This message was based on scripture from Mark 11.

“Hypocrisy” – means to act or to pretend.  In short, it means to act like something that you are not.  The world is full of hypocrites, including the church.  But for Christians, it is especially important that we seek to be “real” and “authentic” all of the time.  Our witness is mostly who we are, not what we say.  As many as 72% of unchurched people say that the church is full of hypocrites.

“What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.” – Emerson

The Hypocrisy of False Appearances

Mark 11:13-14, 20-21 — Jesus sees a fig tree in the distance full of leaves.  It appears to be healthy, but he finds it to be fruitless and curses the tree.  The next day, the disciples find the tree completely withered.

We can too easily live in such as way as to appear that everything is “good” or “fine” when in fact, our real life is far from such things.  We are broken inside.  We hurt.  We sin.  (note: illustration – ‘Dust if you Must’ – when we clean our homes for company, we shove all of our clutter and dirt in the closet or under the bed.  Do we do the same with our spiritual and emotional clutter?)  When we live like this, it is destructive to ourselves and the people around us, especially our kids, who are watching us.

Such hypocrisy is detestable to God, is known by Him, and will be destroyed.  Just like the fig tree, God knows if our lives our bearing fruit.  He knows our real selves.  And, when we try to live a double life, it destroys us.

Also, see Luke 6:45 – “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man things out of the evil stored up in his heart ….” — What is on the outside comes from what is in our inside, our heart.  Fruitlessness shows that we have a heart problem.

The Hypocrisy of Wrong Focus

Mark 11:15-16 – Jesus enters the temple area and turns over the tables of the money changers and prevents them from transacting business.  He teaches the crowd by saying “Is it not written: My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

The temple was the centerpiece of the Jewish faith.  By his actions, Jesus showed that they had come to worship the acts of holiness, the rituals, instead of worshipping God, the only one who is worthy of our worship.

As individuals and churches, we can slip into the hypocrisy of wrong focus.  Instead of spending our lives worshipping God himself, and living for His purposes, we get caught up in our buildings, our attendance numbers, our great music.  We can even allow ourselves to fall into a place of “pious fellowship” whereby we spend time with one another and are “happy” to be with each other, as long as there is no sin mentioned or demonstrated.  We don’t want broken people or personal filth to interrupt our “holy fellowship” times in our small groups or pot-luck dinners.

This type of hypocrisy is opposed to God’s purposes and will be exposed by Him.  God will not allow us to continue to worship things that are not aligned with His purposes or that conflict with our worship of Him.  He exposes our inauthenticity – to us, to others, to the world.  And, just as Jesus upset the money changers’ tables, when our focus is wrong, and it is exposed, it upsets our lives in uncomfortable ways.  But, that’s how God gets our attention.

The Hypocrisy of Willful Ignorance

Mark 11:27-28 – Jesus engages in yet another verbal exchange with the religious leaders.  The leaders try to trap Jesus once again with a question, but Jesus poses a question back to them.  The leaders choose not to answer and in refusing to do so, expose their hypocrisy.  The refuse to listen to God’s Word, instead choosing to be worried about what other men will think of them.

This may be the most devastating of all of the hypocrisies.  Willful ignorance simply means that even though the Word is right in front of us, even though we can read the Bible, hear the Word preached, etc., we choose not to take it to heart.  We know what we should do, or what we should not, but we choose against those things in favor of what is most expedient or most comfortable for us.

This hypocrisy shows up in our lives as we fail to live as God directs in our marriages, our relationships, in how we forgive others, in what we do at work or at school or on the golf course.  The bottom line is that we purposely sin because we willfully ignore God’s Word.  What can be more hypocritical than that?

Such hypocrisy is repugnant to God and will be defeated.

The Bottom Line

1 Peter 2:-2 – “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.  Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation ….”

Note: illustration about deer getting addicted to junk food to the point of not being able to consume anything healthy.  It lead to their destruction.

We must crave pure spiritual milk from God.  We must get rid of our hypocrisy, for the sake of ourselves and the kingdom, by feasting on what is good, allowing God to transform our hearts so that we can bear good fruit.