God Directed Deviations

Christianity, Discipleship, Making Disciples, Ministry

Accountability and Discipleship. What is ‘Accountability’ Anyway?

‘The great Christian apologist C. S. Lewis wrote that the word he detested most was “interference.”‘ Interference occurs when someone sticks his nose in your business. However, that’s precisely what discipleship is all about. If you want to grow in a meaningful way, you not only must tolerate another person’s intimate knowledge of you, you must also willingly invite that person into your life. Even more startling, you’ll grow to love and depend on the “interference.” *

If you’re like me, this quote will tweak you just a bit.  Partly because genuine privacy is becoming sparse, and partly because, lets face it, we don’t like to be told what to do.  Accountability is touted as the key to effective discipleship, but I have to wonder if the common understanding of it is even biblical, let alone helpful.  

Ever heard this?

 “I teach, you watch.  I teach, you help.  You do, I help.  You do, I watch.”  

It’s the last part that, I think, speaks most to accountability as known by the Church.  While there is, in my opinion, a sliding scale of accountability in the progression above, one segment depends on the right execution of the preceding step.  At what point do we move from watching to to permitted interference?   

Jesus said to “teach them to obey all things I have commanded you,”

(Matthew 28:20)  

He didn’t say “and stick around to make sure they do them.”  or Did He?

 

Let me share my experiences of accountability.  When I’ve had an “accountability partner,” it has usually been a like minded person who, for the most part, has a genuine desire to see me grow in the Lord.  We would get together over a meal or coffee, exchange platitudes, and get to the purpose of our meeting, the confession of our sins and struggles to one another.  The assumption is that this brief time of transparency and openness will motivate us to “do better” next week.  We would pray, read scripture, and encourage one another.  The next week however, and the weeks after, I began to notice that the same struggles and the same sins were being confessed over and over again.  My accountability partner had become my discipleship handicapper.  While he didn’t outrightly condone my sins and struggles, he rarely called me out on them either.  We were like folks who go to confessional, get our sins absolved, and continue on the same track as before.  Instead of accountability, we were creating an environment of excusability. 

Have you experienced this?

Some dear friends of mine and well respected ministry colleagues have developed a system called Life Transformation Groups.”  The activities of these very small groups focus on  scripture reading/discussion, prayer, and accountability.  At each gathering, A set of very probing questions is asked by others so that a mutual assessment can be taken on how well we are following Christ.  I have seen these groups used in such a way to impact entire communities.

Accountability can also take on a more institutional form where entire churches or communities monitor the behavior of others and “enforce” compliance.  While this may appear outwardly effective, I think this tends towards creating religious adherents and not disciples of Jesus.  What do you think?

Overall, I think the idea of accountability is captured well by the author of Hebrews when he says; “

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24–25). If only accountability were more like this instead of some religious performance to assuage our consciences.  Being considerate, spurring others on toward love and good deeds, ‘meeting together,’ encouraging one another, and seeing together what lies ahead. The Body of Christ is interconnected, and we have a duty to each other to build each other up.

Of course, James also implies accountability when he says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

What other biblical texts speak to you about accountability? 

 I have seen the concept of accountability or “accountability partners” function well, and I have seen it be a detriment to discipleship.  I have some ideas as to why sometimes accountability is fruitful and why sometimes it is not, but I wanted to ask you, the reader, a few questions:

  • What, in your opinion, is a biblical definition of accountability?  Which biblical references would you use to support it?
  • Why do think accountability works in some cases and not in others?
  • Are we, biblically speaking, to be accountable to one another?  

*Bill Hull. The Complete Book of Discipleship: On Being and Making Followers of Christ (Kindle Locations 182-185). Kindle Edition

 

APEST, Culture, God's Kingdom, Gospel, Missiology, Mission, Missional, Missions, Pastors, Scripture, Teachers, The Gospel

Of Ordinary and Extraordinary Missions and Missionaries.

34420ed004c7b8c4b3662d12ed7fa881-300x225John Gill, (23 November 1697 – 14 October 1771) was an English Baptist pastor, biblical scholar, and theologian.  Born in Kettering, Northamptonshire, he attended Kettering Grammar School where he mastered the Latin classics and learned Greek by age 11. He continued self-study in everything from logic to Hebrew, his love for the latter remaining throughout his life.

He wrote a 9 volume “Exposition of the entire bible” which is still widely used.  As part of his commentary on Romans 10:15

“And how shall they preach, except they be sent,”

He says that; “There is no proper, rightful, or regular preaching of the word without a mission, which is either extraordinary, or ordinary.  He goes on to clarify the distinction by saying; “extraordinary mission was such as the apostles themselves had; who, as they were called to extraordinary service, had extraordinary qualifications, and were sent forth in an extraordinary manner, with a power of doing miracles, and immediately by Christ himself.”

So far, so good… maybe.

He then goes on to say that;

“Ordinary mission is of men to be pastors and teachers, which includes qualifications for the ministerial work; for whom Christ sends forth into such service, he bestows gifts on them, fitting them for it, some more, some less, but all have some; and it also includes a call unto it, which is either internal, and by the Spirit of God, and lies partly in the the equipping he gives, and the inclination of the heart to this good work which he forms; and which arises not from a vanity of mind, and a desire of popular applause, and worldly views, and sinister ends; but from a real concern for the good of souls, and the glory of Christ, being willing to deny themselves, and forsake all for Christ, to bear up reproach for his name’s sake, and to forego all worldly interest, and secular views: or is external, which is given by the churches of Christ, after due trial and examination of gifts, and a serious consideration of the matter, and that in the most solemn manner; and this is what may be properly called a preacher’s mission, and none but such who are in this way sent out ought to preach the Gospel.”

There’s a lot of good here:

1.  That Christ is the one who sends, equips, and give gifts in differing degrees.

2.  That there is a “call” of the Spirit that accompanies both mission and missionary.

3.  That the missionary’s heart is inclined by God to fulfill His purposes.

4.  That the missionary’s mission and call does not originate in his or her own mind.

5.  That missionaries care for souls, that they seek for the glory of Christ, that they do not seek the applause or approval of men, that they will forsake all for Christ, deny themselves, bear up reproach for Christ’s name sake, and forego worldly interests.

That all sounds pretty extraordinary to me.

Of particular interest, and the reason for this post, is the distinction he makes between ordinary and extraordinary both for the missionary and the mission.  Now for the bad:

1.  He limits ‘ordinary’ mission to Pastors and Teachers and thereby reasserts the unbiblical idea of clergy and laity.

2.  He leaves the ideas of being ‘qualified,’ ‘tried,’ ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary,’ and ‘examined’ for mission in a  highly subjective state.

3.  His definition of mission is constrained within an ecclesiastical framework instead of vice versa.

4.  His view of ‘preaching’ is held captive behind pulpits and positions.

5.  The very distinction between between ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary’ might be unhealthily introspective.

Just one question;

Is there biblical warrant for making a distinction between ordinary and extraordinary missions and missionaries? 

 

Christianity, Church, Culture, Discipleship, God's Kingdom, Gospel, Incarnational, Making Disciples, Missiology, Mission, Missional, Missions, Scripture, Short-Term Missions, The Church, The Gospel

Does the Church still need Missionaries?

1723641_10153105164775087_6580661794693300410_nWith the diversity of ethnicities represented in our own local communities, with the advancement of social technologies, with ‘churches’ springing up virtually everywhere, with the ever rising dangers of a world in conflict, and with the sheer availability of the gospel even in the remotest of places, why does the Church still need missionaries? Isn’t the day of foreign missions finished? Better yet, why does the world still need missionaries?

I just spent a few days with a group of 40 future missionaries, and by ‘missionaries,’ and for the purposes of this post, I mean those that would like to serve full-time cross-culturally. Their passion to exert themselves to the ‘ends of the earth’ with the good news (Gospel) of Jesus inspires me. They struggle, stretch, and search for ways to actualize the call that God has placed on their lives. The missionary life is certainly not easy, and is certainly not easily attained. In developing countries, those that usually receive missionaries, the difficulty of the missionary task increases exponentially. it’s a lot harder to ‘send’ than to receive. The traditional support models don’t find wide acceptance amongst indigenous peoples, especially in impoverished areas, because being a missionary is thought of as an option for the privileged.

In Latin countries, people often reject the idea of sending missionaries to other countries because ‘those people’ are ‘ just looking for a free ride.’ From my experience, this might be true in some cases, but not typically. These 40 have demonstrated that they will do ‘whatever it takes’ to comply with God’s call to make disciples of ALL NATIONS. (Matthew 28:19,20) They believe that the Church still needs missionaries. They believe that their individual calls come directly from God. They believe that the ‘need’ expressed by others across the globe is genuine.

How about you? Do you, assuming that you’re a believer, believe that the Church still needs missionaries? If not, why?

Before you answer those questions, consider the following;

  • Jesus’ command to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth has never been withdrawn — nor will it be until He comes again. (Mark 16:15)
  • There are BILLIONS of people who have no knowledge of the life changing message of Jesus.
  • There are BILLIONS of people who have not seen divine reconciliation in action or the love of neighbors exemplified.
  • There are, whether you like to think about it or not, still ‘lost’ people (Ezekiel 34:16), and forces that perpetuate lostness. (1 Peter 5:8)
  • It’s the duty of every believer to “pray to send out workers into Jesus’ harvest field.” (Matthew 9:38)

If we’re to petition the Lord for more workers in whatever field needs them, then why entertain the thought that missionaries are no longer needed. In fact, I can’t think of a single scenario, other than “a new heaven and a new earth,” (Revelation 21:1) which would end the need for missionaries.

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone heralding the gospel to them? And how can anyone herald the gospel unless they are sent?”

I’d like to encourage those who think that ‘being missionaries in our own contexts,’ or ‘being content in our station,’ or even ‘remaining in the situation which we are called’ (1 Corinthians 7:20), is the end of the missionary line. Yes, we can be missionaries in our own contexts, we can ‘incarnate’ Christ in our natural settings or wherever we find ourselves, but likewise others can, and should be, missionaries whatever contexts God calls them to.

In review, a few questions;

1. Does the Church still need missionaries?

2. What are the ‘signs’ that someone has been ‘called’ to be a missionary in ‘another’ context?

3. Is it prudent, mission-arily speaking, to say that ‘everyone is a missionary?’

 

Part of the work here in the Cloud Forest Region of Ecuador is to ‘develop’ missionaries to serve locally and wherever God may call them.  If you would like to support that work, check out our “Optimize Mission 2015″ opportunity.

Blogging, Christianity, Culture, Discipleship, Missiology, Mission, Missions, Morality and Ethics, Short-Term Missions

24 Things World Christians Wish North American Short-Term Missionaries Would Keep Doing…

come-here1One June 1st 2014, my blog post titled;

24 Things World Christians Wish North American Short-Term Missionaries Would Quit Doing…

caused quite the ruckus on the internet and was followed by a barrage of comments on this blog and many others. In fact, of the 800+ articles I’ve written, it remains the most popular ever. To date, it has been read by nearly 13 thousand unique visitors and still has a lively comment section. It’s a very short article, and you can read it quickly before continuing on with this list.

It was, admittedly, a critical and somewhat negative look at short-term missions and was born out of the frustrations experienced by representatives from many of the diverse cultures here in the Cloud Forest Region of Ecuador AND some common angsts expressed by other full-time missionaries across the globe that receive short-term missions.  It has been too long since my promise to write a positive and edifying commentary on short-term missions as a follow-up to the original article. I apologize for that.

Here is the other list: ’24 Things World Christians Wish North American Short-Term Missionaries Would Keep Doing…’

1.  Listening to us and ‘hearing’ us.

2.  Being resourceful, and sharing God’s provisions, time, and talents with us. Being Generous.

3.  Understanding our Godly contentment.

4.  Learning our stories and our songs.

5.  Accepting our way of managing our time.

6.  Learning from us on how not to waste.

7.  Helping us look past today.

8.  Coming back to complete the work that God purposed for you among us.

9.  Learning our names and pronouncing them the right way.

10.  Being an example for us in those areas where we are weak.

11.  Pushing beyond our initial resistance to the Gospel… with humility.

12.  Making us the most important thing while you’re here.

13.  Showing us the possibility of becoming missionaries ourselves.

14.  Helping us to build bridges, remove obstacles, and be peacemaker’s in our own contexts.

15.  Demonstrating non-competitiveness among yourselves while with us.

16.  Sharing the spiritual blessings of your obedience with us.

17.  Teaching us how to attract attention to God’s glory and not our own and showing us what it means to ‘point to’ Christ.

18.  Helping us to understand a Christian view of Long-Term commitments.

19.  Equipping us fully to carry out the same mission goals as you had while with us.

20.  Showing us that you truly are comfortable with diversity and yet united in Christ.

21.  Being truthful about your shortcomings.

22.  Weeping with us.

23.  Making every effort to keep communicating with us after you leave.

24.  Loving us like yourselves.

Again, this is a list of what North American short-term missionaries ARE DOING and what those who receive them wish they would keep doing.  I know THIS LIST will not be nearly as popular as the first, and will garner far less attention than the other one, but It comes from my heart and from listening to the desires of the would be leaders of our local mission here in Ecuador and other missionaries serving in other continents.

What would you add to this list?

 

 

Blogging, Christianity, Culture, Discipleship, Evangelism, Evangelists, God's Kingdom, Gospel, Making Disciples, Morality and Ethics, Preaching, Salvation, Scripture, The Gospel

The ‘Duress’ or ‘Dark Version’ of the Gospel?

Prosecution.-Force-threat-or-duressRecently, the Huffington Post Religion section made a big deal about the ‘dark version’ of the gospel that has been preached by the ‘establishment’ for the past 1800 years.  It ‘s a quick read, and you can see that article in its entirety here.  The author also states that

Many Christians confuse the idea of free will with duress… A ticket to heaven if you receive the message of the gospel, but if you refuse you’ll be thrown in the eternal torture chamber, but it’s your choice. Is such an offer free will? No. That’s duress. It’s not only illegal within the world’s court system, it is…  nothing short of crazy.”

Robert E. Coleman, (Master Plan of Evangelism) says that;

“Freedom is a constituent part of human nature. The will of man is corrupted by sin and inclined toward evil, but his willful choice is free. By God’s all-sufficient grace everyone can freely choose the way of life or death (Deut. 30:15). Rightfully used, freedom to choose enables man to respond to God’s will and receive all his blessings. There could be no character development without it.”*

If Coleman is correct, then it’s going to take a lot more than a little ‘duress’ to override someone’s ‘free will.’  I do not believe that a bad or ‘dark version’ of the gospel can eliminate or even suspend entirely, a human’s will.  I do believe that many times, the gospel is presented in such a fashion that it appears to be two bad cops beating a signed confession out of a perpetrator in an interrogation room.  And, I think that is what the author of the Huff Post article was lamenting over.

One of my former seminary profs, Dr. Henry Krabbendam said;

“Any evangelist whose expressed objective is to “get his audience to heaven” or who holds out the prospect of proverbial “pot of gold at the end of a Gospel rainbow,” in whatever terminology it is couched, must immediately be viewed with deep suspicion. Regrettably all too many evangelists have fallen victim to an approach that is openly or subtly man-centered.”

and

“When an ‘evangelist’ gives the audience the choice between the horror of hell or the bliss of heaven, and between a life of abundance and wealth or an existence of trouble and at best survival by show of hands or otherwise, it invariably and unanimously will opt for heaven and abundance. Such is the natural inclination of man.”

A human’s natural inclination, will, or choice is not eradicated by a forceful gospel or even the idea that there are eternal consequences for rejecting God and his gospel.  But, I get it.  I’ve often said that the way you ‘win’ a soul is the way you will have to maintain it.  If fear and force are your tools to win people to your way of thinking, then those will become the tools of your religious trade as well.

As a missionary on the field, I’ve seen countless people come and go with the intention of ‘getting the gospel to those that need it.’  I’ve seen the worst of pressuring gospel presentations along with worst of accompanying attitudes.  I’ve also been blown away by the depths of love shown toward complete strangers and the message of hope that accompanied it.  I’ve seen people ‘receive’ the gospel under the most conducive of environments and others receive it for politeness sake, or to just get the ones preaching it ‘out of their hair.’  I’ve seen lives changed in an instant and others edged ever so slightly closer to Jesus.  I’ve rarely, if ever, seen someone make a choice ‘under duress,’ and then continue to live under that duress (with respect to the gospel), for any length of time.  I’ve seen far too many converts made that flounder along in their religion than disciples of Jesus made through the preaching of the gospel who in turn follow Him faithfully through many difficulties and hard choices. (Acts 14:21-22)  Human free will always kicks back in, the ability to choose is there, and choices are made.  A few questions;

1.  Have you personally ever felt that you made a religious decision while ‘under duress?’ Would you describe the situation?

2.  When Jesus told His hearers, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell,” (Matthew 10:28) Or, “I said to you that you shall die in your sins, for unless you shall believe that I AM THE LIVING GOD, you shall die in your sins.” (John 8:24) Aramaic Bible in Plain English, was he putting His audience ‘under duress’ and suspending or taking away their ‘free-will/free-choice?’

3.  Assuming that the gospel is preached correctly and completely, isn’t there a bit of natural ‘duress’ built into it?

 

*Coleman, Robert E. (2011-05-01). Heart of the Gospel, The: The Theology behind the Master Plan of Evangelism (p. 240). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.