Mission, Discipleship and Fellowship: Life Reproducing Life

Last Friday was a holiday here in the United States, and Marianne and I opened our home, yard and pool for a day of family, friends and fellowship.

plantingFortunately, following my heart operation and extended hospital stay two weeks ago, several brothers in a couple of fellowships we relate to stepped forward and organized things – including a great cookout.

Afterwards, Marianne and I both said that this was one of the nicest days we’ve had in years – not because the past few years have been bad (they’ve been challenging due to some of my health issues, but not “bad”!), but because we’re seeing solid maturity arise among those we’ve been pouring our lives into.

Although we’ve always loved them deeply, now it’s actually fun to spend time with them!

In addition, we now have the profound pleasure of watching them reproduce their life in Christ among others.

As they step forward and do the work of mission, discipleship and strengthening our various fellowships, it seems more and more that God’s role for Marianne and me is to step back and serve through simple hospitality, unassuming encouragement and quiet mentoring.

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Leadership Shift

“For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers.”
1 Cor. 4:15

These days, we are inundated with aspirational books and blogs by articulate but unproven advocates for this and that movement, pet doctrine or agenda …

Become_a_Mentor… while there are too few spiritual moms and dads, quietly laboring without name or fame in committed local fellowships to build strong believers.

Fortunately, God is changing this dynamic.

While some want to instruct and inspire the masses with lofty ideas that have not yet been proven or matured in their own lives …

… effective leaders are content to reproduce in just a few what God has truly taught them.

We all would do well to listen to the latter, and be cautious of the former.

~ Jim Wright

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Intentional Ministry

Last night was the second week in a semester-long class Marianne and I are teaching, through Nathan’s Voice and our fellowships, on pastoral counseling. We had a full house (literally!).

counseling-picture

The Art of Pastoral Counseling

We previously taught this two years ago, and many are now ministering grace and healing in our county to those trapped in the bondage of addictions, past abuse, and controlling emotional wounds.

About half of the class comes from our fellowships, and the rest from other churches in the area.

But this morning, I’m tired…

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Barbeque for Jesus

This picture has great significance for me. It is from one of our fellowships – this one meets in my home on Sundays.

Yesterday, as we gathered together, we prayed and give prophetic words of encouragement over Oscar, a close friend who is moving forward with his road-side pit barbeque business by signing a contract to have a mobile food service trailer built for him (Oscar’s Barbeque). He has worked faithfully towards this moment – as unto the Lord – for two years.

I’ve watched and walked with Oscar as he’s progressed over time, step by step, in growing, proving and succeeding in his business model as part of God’s call on his life.

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Going and Owning – And Knowing the Difference

One of my strongest beliefs is that God calls us for a purpose – and gives us individual grace and gifts to match.

As Christ in us is expressed through us, we expand His Kingdom for the blessing of all – wherever He calls us.

Different Grace, Different Gifts, Different Callings

Where He bids us go, and what He bids us do, is different for each – and I have also learned that it often changes with the seasons of our lives.

For some, at this time in their life, it is to go and raise Godly families. For others, it is in the business realm as they create resources and opportunities. For some, it is going out to the fringes of their communities and ministering to those in need.

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Sufficient Grace, Part III

Several have asked how things are going with my health, so I though I’d post a quick update to my prior posts (Sufficient Grace and Sufficient Grace, Part II).

Peace in the Storm

Two weeks ago I was accepted into a NIH Phase II clinical trial which is evaluating two drugs for treating pulmonary fibrosis in scleroderma patients.

That I was accepted is a miracle because my lung function was just below their minimum. It’s a double blind study, so I don’t know which of the two drugs I’m taking (either cytoxan or cellcept), but they are both really strong, serious medications that typically have significant side effects.

My close community of brothers and sisters here in Virginia, and others, have been lifting me up in wonderful prayer. It has been mature prayer, not desperate prayer, rooted in making our requests known but also being at peace in God’s ultimate grace and sovereignty.

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Mentoring Entrepreneurs

Here’s a TV program that’s been airing in our area about one of the ministries in which I’m involved. I, and others, have been mentoring and working with folks who are gifted with entrepreneurial aptitude. Our focus is helping them start and grow new businesses, based on solid, real-world experience and sound Biblical principles. Often, we work with “alumni” of the local jail.

The host, Liz Charity, starts out interviewing me, then does an on-site interview with one of my protegé’s, Oscar Weeks, who started a road-side pit BBQ business.

Helping or Enabling?

It’s hard cut lose a man you’ve been ministering to and let him ultimately bear the full consequences of the mess he’s made of his life – not to hurt him, but to let him finally hit bottom.

I am friends with and minister to men and women who most people, and many churches, shun (except for arms-length “programs”, if even that). Pick a vice – any vice – and I’ve likely come beside and embraced those in bondage to it: former drug addicts, narc dealers, sex offenders, embezzlers, thieves, gender benders, Satanic ritual abusers and even murderers.

Because I’ve been willing to see past the sin and accept the common humanity we all share – not as one who is perfect but as a someone willing to walk with them as we sort out our individual imperfections together under God’s mercy and grace – some of these folk are now following the Lord.

I love such people, because daily I see how God creates beauty out of their ashes.

I am blessed, because I serve a God who, above all, creates. He takes destruction – what has become void and without form, in the words of Genesis 1 – and brings wonder and life and order. . .

. . . and He delights most of all, I’ve found, in redeeming lives that many think are beyond hope.

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The Church in D Pod

This Sunday, like most Sundays, I will be fellowshipping with the “Church in D Pod” at the local jail.

D Pod is a unit housing around a hundred men, and God has been pouring out his new wine in an exciting way among those inmates.

A couple of months ago, I started shifting my focus from “conducting” church services “for” the men. God was challenging me to start mentoring and training them instead to “be” the church by learning to minister one to another.

At the same time, God sovereignly arranged for two brothers from Africa — where Christians generally are way ahead of their American brothers and sisters on these issues — to be jailed in that unit. They, too, understood the concept of ministering one to another and started fostering authentic fellowship among the men.

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Them Dry Bones

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning here in Virginia, but I’m stuck with a lingering cold and sore throat. That gives me a good excuse to skip church and my ministry commitments later this afternoon in the local jail.

So what to do? I just let my ADD dog out and he’s happily occupied digging a new hole in my otherwise nice green yard, there’s some good coffee brewing (I’m partial to Gold Coast from Starbucks – two level scoops per 14 oz.), the light of a crisp blue March sky is streaming through my sun room windows, my favorite worship music is playing in the background on my iPod, and I’m relaxing in my over-sized Lazy Boy recliner thinking on the things of God.

I guess that makes this as good a time as any to bang out some thoughts on effective New Testament leadership.

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