Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Case for Discipleship

Today's generation of young adults have slackened in their passion and faith, having strayed from God's calling as true disciples. Discipleship, as well as mentoring, have been negatively impacted by the distractive influence of a materialistic culture fueled by media and peer pressure.

Passion has been replaced by passivity. Students, teenagers, and young adults alike have forgotten what a hunger for God looks like, and why it's essential to the Spirit-filled life. Young adults are spiritually starving but have lost the sense to recognize the urgency for Jesus. And ultimately, even in the case for most Christians, the idea of an active, passionate, and vertical relationship with the Lord has been abandoned - forgetting a love relationship with Christ is the only aspect of life where one can both be filled and hungry simultaneously.

Christians are struggling to define and live out hunger - an unbinding, unshakable desire to experience and connect with God. Hunger is an element of passion, which itself is evidence of an alive relationship with God. The hunger to draw near to the Lord maintains passion consistently and persistently.

Passivity is the absence of passion, hunger, faith, trust, discernment, and perseverance, just to name a view. It is one of the main silent killers of youth today, as it creates an arena for spiritual laziness, hindering life in the Spirit. Why? Because passivity pollutes passion and limits the pursuit to see the glory of God.

Because passion is lacking among young adults, most of the world is failing to see evidence of what Christians truly believe, often seeing facades and false portrayals of God's love. One must ask the question of what can be done to fix this plaguing problem? How do young adults commit to the Lord, and better yet, keep on track for the long haul?

At the core of the epidemic is a lack of understanding of God's love. Youth around the world haven't tasted an intimacy with God and therefore, have failed to develop a mindset of consistent closeness. Such failure has closed off passion and hunger via narrowing a knowledge of God and numbing our witness and desire to experience God's splendor.

Youth must learn to cultivate a worshiper's heart, must like the one David exhibited in the Old Testament. Churches and youth programs must find a means to draw young people to God by teaching on what genuine worship looks like, then doing so (action followed by words). Experience is critical in worship. Before radical worship can happen, however, any church must be completely focused on having leaders who are sold for evangelism and bringing people to Christ. Then upon gaining new converts, the church must take on the task of leading the person through discipleship training with a vision for apostolic ministry. To make disciples of Christ, in the way Jesus shaped and molded His disciples.

An approach to awakening a worshiper's heart must stay true to God's Word as well. A passion and drive for Christ needs to be rooted in the Word of God and in worship. One cannot be filled with the Spirit and live according to God's calling without a discipline to be faithful in these two tasks. God deserves our all, and through worship and meditation of the Word, we have two primary outlets to express love in a vertical manner.

The church and believers need to place passionate Christians in places where passion is lacking. Hunger needs to radiate and consume the many who are starving and looking for a spiritual ignition from God. We cannot safeguard and strive to maintain security and comfort. The indirect pursuit of comfort is one of several factors paralyzing the church today. Fear of failure and the anxiety of falling short in terms of being effective witnesses keeps many Christians locked in their faith behind closed doors. And mission mindsets are suffering dramatically due to partial leadership and a dwindling of passionate authority. Respect for authority has also taken a large blow, which parallels the bigger picture of Christians not living in total obedience to God's authority.

Mature believers should maintain a hunger to develop and disciple new Christians, in addition to witnessing in the dark places of the world concerning those who may have never heard the name of Jesus Christ. Ultimately the blind must see a zeal-filled group of Christians willing to abandon comfort zones.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Keys to Effective Leadership

Effective leadership calls for a collection of certain active qualities, either developing or fixed, that are rooted in the Word. Whether in an entry, training or mature ministry stage, successful leadership must have a face with select features. In analyzing its facets, leadership can be boiled down to four main principles and characteristics: 1) An understanding and knowledge of authority and submissiveness illustrated by the walk and life of Jesus 2) Consistency in complete obedience 3) Faithfulness and devoted drive in light of challenging circumstances 4) Daily repentance as a lifestyle.

The following is not merely a set of instructions on how a leader should act and behave; it is a God-centered outline in keeping a vertical relationship with the Lord alive and animate.

Whether by dominant leading or influence by example (following), a leader must live out an understanding of biblical authority. In ministry, Jesus modeled authority by humility, submission and integrity, weaved together by a passion to fulfill His calling from God as confirmed in the Old Testament. Jesus fully grasped His calling and never wavered from His anointed path. He commonly reminded the Jews and His disciples of His identity as the Son of God (occasionally Son of Man), and faithfully associated His uniqueness to the Father in times of questioning and teaching.

When Jesus washed His disciples’ feet in John 13, He told Peter and the other disciples how He sought to set an example when evangelizing the gospel. In verse 16, Jesus captured submissiveness: “No servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” Not only was Jesus setting an example for the purpose of following, but also demonstrating genuine humility via performing a selfless act of love that his disciples considered unworthy of receiving. Jesus never lost sight of His position on the authority ladder and illustrated a thankful heart in every season – an aspect of leadership that is often easier said than done.

Secondly, a leader must refrain from partial obedience, and, instead, have a contagious fervor in making obedience complete in every situation. Obedience links diligence to faithfulness; we cannot expect God to meet our needs if we do not fully align to His. Leadership, in relation to Christianity, was never meant to be viewed through an academic lens, with the idea that majority obedience is sufficient. A leader must be aware of the truth that God requires our all as an adequate and pleasing sacrifice. As a leader, possessing a consistent attitude that submits on call is essential.

Embedded in obedience is faithfulness, an authentic representation of God’s perfect love. David captures this brand of devotion many times in Psalms, especially Psalm 89: “My mouth will make your faithfulness known through all generations….Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.” One cannot have faithfulness without a drive to fully obey. Faithfulness is committed consistency. Consistency without commitment is worthless, and commitment without consistency caps effectiveness, trust and integrity, while also allowing Satan to earn a foothold in areas of spiritual discrepancy.

Finally, repentance must be engrained in the heart of the leader, not as an occasional act on Sundays, but rather an ever-active lifestyle that knits our values and desire to God’s. Repentance could be argued as the ultimate act of humility, as one not only confesses iniquity, but pledges to turn away from sin with hopeful expectancy to change wholeheartedly. Practicing repentance daily should not simply be encouraged; it should be an integral part of prayer.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Making of Mentorship

I can't imagine life without mentorship.

Not only is it foundational in terms of discipleship, but it bears unique power to shape, mold, influence, and counsel. Many of us are who we are due to appointed people who guided and crafted our minds and hearts when we were younger.

To counsel, at its core, is to extend God's authority to others, strengthened by the ability to relate and associate.

And tonight, as I craft Sunday's lesson plan, I'm reminded how essential it is to integrate reality with personal application, whether story telling or outside interaction. A wise man recently told me that to be "real" is the highest compliment a leader can receive, largely in part it provides weight and lift to being a genuinely imitable disciple of Christ. Our ability to model the Gospel is heavily handicapped if one lacks the aptitude and drive to be real to others.

This past week, I've continued to ride the waves of last week's trip to California, an excursion that opened up the vents within to receive fresh vision.

And perhaps the greatest reminder granted during my stay, in addition to what I mentioned above, was the idea of young people wanting people to be like as compared to being like them.

Again, the "real" principle has to be applied here. Many young people crave a role model figure who can develop a strong connection with them. For a large percentage of preteens, high-schoolers, and young adults, finding footholds in a community setting is generally high on the internal priority ladder.

Since time is pressing against me, I'll go ahead and "speed-run" my leftover ramblings.

First, a leader who seeks to be real must learn the art of living above reproach, a concept driven home in I Timothy 3. In a world dominated by subjectivity, one must be on guard how others perceive a behavior, action, and/or habit. In the case for a spiritual guide, one must be attuned concerning outside conception and opinion, without being hindered by anxiety and paranoia. In other words, don't live to please man, but keep in mind most people are equipped with some keen form of observation. Live as Christ, because in essence, to live is Christ.

Secondly, it is interesting to note how a leader, when placed in a mentoring position, almost instantly becomes more acute and aware of personal behavior as well as other's actions. I can't help but feel we, as believers, should not wait to reach "leader" status before aspiring to live out a certain spiritual sensitivity.

Finally, love to lead and whom you are leading. To be real isn't enough if passion and agape love seep through the cracks. The Bible is clear when it says without love we are nothing. We can possess a particular propensity to partner and unite with others, we might even have a gift in launching certain programs and ministries. But without taking the time to honor and love on God's people and strive to make a difference in other's lives, we are wasting our time. Love must be the glue, it must be the blueprint - our foundation, and it must never escape the fabric of our beings in any setting.

Such aims are ones I earnestly seek to incorporate into my current and future mentorship. After years of being blessed and built by spiritual mentors, I am thrilled at the opportunity to extend the same to those in need.

~ CF