Evangelism and Friendship

A few months ago, a visitor asked me about Patterson Park’s evangelism program. I wasn’t prepared to answer his question, at least not the way he asked it, because we don’t have an “evangelism program.”

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We have excellent outreach opportunities in our Friday night Steps recovery ministry and our jail ministry (both ministries overseen by our Outreach Director Bob Wheeler). But we don’t have the sorts of programs the visitor was looking for: classic evangelism training or door-to-door canvassing or street evangelism programs.  

What we do have is neighbors and co-workers, people we are around every day who need to know about Jesus. That’s the “mission field” we live in.

In today’s Discipleship Weekly, we want to feature a RightNow Media segment called “Evangelism and Friendship.” It’s a brief training segment that features two videos and some self-assessment questions. The first video is the story of Sandy, a man who came to realize that his day job, air traffic controller, was also his mission field. Sandy tells the story of how a co-worker who began with ferocious opposition to the gospel, eventually came to put his faith in Christ and became a sold-out Christ follower. But don’t look for a story of instantaneous conversion. That story took more than a decade to unfold.

The second video features a pastor of a church in Florida whose outreach is built on neighborhood hospitality. That’s where we want to PPC focus its outreach efforts: in our neighborhoods, with the people we live with.

We have previously featured Rosaria Butterfield’s excellent book The Gospel Comes with a House Key, where Butterfield expands on what outreach by one family in one neighborhood can have a profound impact.

Bob is always looking for volunteers to help with his outreach opportunities. If you would be willing to serve as a mentor in his recovery ministry or if you want to look into participating in the jail ministry, contact Bob at bwheeler@pattersonpark.org.

Go to the RightNow Media link “Evangelism and Friendship” to see Sandy’s story and hear how one Florida church is empowering its people to reach their neighbors.

Our dream is the we would begin to cultivate the kind of long-term relationships with our neighbors that can bear the weight of spiritual conversations, that over time we can see our neighbors move toward faith in Christ.

Nanette and I are praying about how we can reach our own neighbors. Begin your own neighborhood outreach by praying for your neighbors, by name if you know them. Ask God to open doors of opportunity for you simply to get to know them. Then pray that as your neighbors get to know you, they will want to know Christ.

Persevere.
Paul  

The Art of the Question

When I was a classroom teacher, I liked to create and maintain a kind of weekly rhythm in my lesson plans.

· I liked to give tests on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

· We would usually pray for our pastors and our churches on Mondays.

· Wednesdays we would talk about the verses that would appear on the Friday verse quiz.

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· Thursdays were for HotSeat, when we would get a student up on a stool in front of the class and ask “getting-to-know-you” questions.

·  I would always conclude HotSeat sessions with my own two questions for the student:

o   What do you think you want to do when you leave high school?

o   How can we pray for you now?

In my discipling relationships with eight men in four triads (micro-groups of three), I like to follow a rhythm as well. I have three questions I like to ask the guys each week:

·         What are you hearing from God? As you read Scripture, and reflect on it, what is God telling you? I ask this question not only to encourage my guys to be in the Word, but also to encourage them to think deeply about what they read.

·         What are you trusting God for? What are the things that you are praying about? What are the obstacle or burdens that you are struggling with? How can we support and encourage you in these matters?

·         How is God using you in the lives of others? Most of my guys are married, so that’s an obvious place to start. But I want my guys also to be thinking about how God might use them in the lives of their pre-Christian friends, neighbors, and relatives.

Jim Putman has written about four key diagnostic questions he likes to use at the beginning of a discipling relationship, “Four Enlightening Questions To Ask The People You Are Discipling.” These questions not only give provide insight for the one doing the discipling, they also give the disciple some understanding of what to expect in their time together.

Questions are a powerful device in the disciple-maker’s toolkit. As you pray about investing your life into the life of another, think about your own set of questions that you can use.

 

Living Out My Faith at Work

Have you ever wondered how to connect Sunday morning to Monday morning? We gather on Sundays (weather permitting) and study God’s Word and worship and pray together; we gather in groups and classes to encourage one another and learn together. But how does all that translate to our workaday world, where we mix with people who don’t share our faith and worldview?

Matt Williams has wondered the same thing.

Matt is attending seminary, hoping one day to be in vocational ministry. But right now he works as a manager in a medical office. So he’s had to think through how God can use him now, where he is.

Matt’s article, “Eight Principles That Help Me Live Out My Faith at Work,” explores what it means to integrate his faith and his ministry into his workplace environment.

You might expect that he would spend a lot of time talking about how to provoke and conduct spiritual conversations with co-workers. That is one of his eight principles (#3), where he struggles with the question of how to do evangelism without antagonizing either his co-workers or his boss.

His other seven principles, though, cast a broader vision for seeing the workplace as an arena for faithful service beyond the realm of evangelism.

Some surprises:

#1: I don’t pray for a good day.

#7: I’m grateful for the church.

Read “Eight Principles That Help Me Live Out My Faith at Work.” How can you integrate your faith in your daily workplace experience?

Reveal Survey

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Patterson Park Church is in the middle of a two-week survey on spiritual vitality in our congregation. This survey was first used by a well-known mega-church to help them assess how well they were doing in fulfilling Christ’s mandate to make disciples. It has since been used by hundreds of churches and a million congregants throughout the US.

Ministry leaders will use the results of our survey to shape our vision and strategy for making disciples here at Patterson Park Church. We know that the survey results will be a mixed bag: we’ll get some encouraging news and we see some blind spots revealed. But this is what we need to do if we want to serve and lead our people intelligently and well.

Our plan was to launch the survey Sunday with an announcement at the morning service. When we had to cancel services, we wondered if we would need to reschedule the survey to ensure that we could get enough responses to be statistically viable.

We posted a video on our Facebook page Tuesday morning to remind everyone about the survey, and by Wednesday morning more than 70 people had taken it. By Thursday, we had almost a hundred responses, well on our way to our goal of a minimum of 250 responses!

Thanks to all of you who have already taken the survey. Spread the word to your friends from PPC: the higher our response rate, the clearer the picture we’ll get of how we are doing in fulfilling Jesus’ last command.

To take the survey, click here and follow the instructions. It will take about 15-20 minutes.

When you answer the questions, please be candid. Don’t answer according to your aspirations (what you hope someday to do) but according to your actual present habits and practices. And don’t give the answers you think the leaders want to see. Your answers will be totally anonymous; all the leaders will see will be aggregated totals, not individual responses.

Thanks for your help in giving our leaders a clearer picture of what we can do better to make disciples at Patterson Park Church.

Six Habits of an Effective Disciple-maker

“Discipleship” is such a broad and elastic term that we cannot really use it without first ensuring that our hearers and readers understand what we mean by it. Certainly, there are connotations that come to mind – spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Scripture memorization, Bible reading, Bible study, etc. – and they are part of the meaning of the word “discipleship.” We know we are like farmers; we cannot make ourselves grow spiritually any more than the farmer can make the crops grow. Just so, our spiritual progress is something only God’s Spirit can bring about in our lives.

But also like the farmer, who plows and plants and tends, what we can do, we must do. I am the one who must cultivate the habits that God can use to bring about life-change.  

But if all we mean by “discipleship” is what we do to grow spiritually, if all our attention and efforts in discipleship are limited to the spiritual disciplines, we are missing the main point of Jesus’ mandate: to make disciples. Not just to grow ourselves, but to help others move toward spiritual maturity. A man or woman who is committed to “discipleship” as Jesus meant the term must give careful attention to how he or she can invest in the lives of others.

Jim Putman is one of the leading voices in the contemporary disciple-making movement. His recent blog post, Six Habits of an Effective Disciple-maker, describes the behavior patterns of the man or woman who has made disciple-making a way of life.

As you read through his list, you will probably find, as I did, some things you are doing now and other things you need to begin doing. Don’t let this (or any other such list) be a source of discouragement or dismay. As I have often said, when you find something in your life you realize you need to change – some habit you need to break, some new habit you need to form, some heart-change you know God wants to see – “pray from where you are.” Begin that process by asking God, “who gives to all men generously,” to give you what you need to bring about that change in your life: first, a warming and growing burden in your heart, then the wisdom and courage to go forward with that the changes He has brought about.

For my part, I am asking God to help me be more intentional about establishing relationships with people who are outside the faith (#2). My wife and I are praying for our neighbors and praying about ways to make connections with them.

I am involved now with several men whom I want to “equip toward spiritual maturity” (#5) and someday “release for ministry” (#6) to make disciples on their own.

As you survey the possibilities for the new year, think about someone you could come alongside to help him or her grow toward knowing Christ in a deeper way.

How Can Scripture Be Personal?

I’ve been thrift-shopping for decades. I usually walk out of the store empty-handed. But I enjoy the serendipity of finding some treasure I didn’t know I was looking for, like that three-volume New Testament dictionary set I found at Goodwill or that nearly-new sweater with the tags still on it (Salvation Army). You never know what you’re going to find when you’re thrift-shopping.

Over the year I’ve noticed some patterns in thrift store merchandise. For instance, do you know what is the time of year you’re most likely to find gently-used exercise equipment at a thrift store? February or March, of course. Those expensive pieces of equipment first showed up under the Christmas tree, and they were used diligently for a few weeks into the new year. But after a while, along about the time you realize you realize you’re using your exercise equipment more for a clothes rack than for actual exercise, you admit to yourself that it’s time to cut your losses. That massive machine is taking up space. And even though you spent hundreds of dollars on it, you come to the conclusion that your visions of exercising yourself into prime physical condition were just that: visions. You never really made exercise a part of your habits, your routines. And now that the novelty has worn off, it’s time to clear out the space and hang your clothes somewhere else.

The same thing can happen with our spiritual disciplines, especially with our intentions to read the Bible every day. This is especially the case if reading the Bible seems boring, a chore, a dry and meaningless task that seems impersonal and pointless.

How can I make my Bible reading personal and relevant, so that it isn’t just a box that I check?

David Powlison talks about bringing the “near horizon” into focus so that our Bible reading is personal, not just academic but powerful and personal. The “far horizon” deals with how the Scripture impacted the lives of far-away those people who lived thousands of years ago and far away. The “near horizon” deals with the burdens and needs I have right now. If I am going to see the Scriptures transform my life and not just inform my mind, I must see them in the “near horizon.”

I want to encourage you to set aside the time and the place in  your schedule for you to encounter God in His Word. And let Him speak to your “near horizon,” the needs and burdens you are struggling with now.

Stick with it; commit yourself to listening for God’s voice as you read His Word.

Persevere.

Pastor Paul

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Ten Suggestions for Your Personal Devotions in 2019

So let’s get one thing straight at the outset: Setting aside time to be with God every day (“daily quiet time”) is not a biblical mandate. There is no chapter-and-verse command to pray and read your Bible every day. So let’s not let this be a matter of guilt-induced compliance with a phantom command from God.

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On the other hand, if you want to deepen your relationship with God, you will want to invest some time and effort into that.

Think of it this way: The farmer cannot make the crops grow. A healthy crop is ultimately a gift from God, and the farmer is helpless to make that happen. What the farmer can do, though, and what he must do if he wants a good crop, is invest in creating conditions conducive to crop growth. He must till and plant. God gives the increase, but the farmer must invest in the process.

Just so, it is the grace of God that not only brings us to repentance in the first place but also deepens and strengthens our spiritual lives. All of the spiritual disciplines (prayer, engaging with Scripture, meditation, cultivating relationships with non-believers, worshiping together with other believers, etc.) are the investment we make in making our hearts ready to receive what He wants to give us.

So is it necessary that I set aside time daily to be with God? No, there is no such command. But, yes, if I want to grow spiritually, this is something I must give attention to.

Tim Challies suggests ten different Bible reading plans for those who want to start fresh in the new year. Some are ambitious (reading the Bible through in a year), while others are more slowly paced. But when it comes to engaging with  God’s Word, the point is never quantity (how much you read or memorize) but quality (how deeply it affects your life).

Aim for life-change, not box-checking.

But one more thing: you may have noticed the caveats: “If you want to deep your relationship with God…” and “if I want to grow spiritually.” What if you’re not really interested? None of this advice matters if there is no desire to know God more intimately. What should I do if the problem is not my behavior but my heart?

I have a standing piece of advice in such cases: “Pray from where you are.” I would say “start from where you are,” but if your heart is not right, behavior-change is pointless.

If you find yourself in a spiritual slump, start there. Talk to God about that. Ask Him to change and warm your heart, as I so often find myself doing.

May God make 2019 a year that we send our roots down deep and “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

Discipleship in December

We call them “the holidays,” but it’s really a stretch of weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in between. And it all can be exhausting.

Everything shifts during the holidays: more stress, more social events, more calories (“Tis the season to be pudgy”), more responsibilities (to shop, wrap, decorate). It’s enough to tempt us to put our spiritual lives on hold.

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Which is ironic, isn’t it? That the season set aside to remember and celebrate the birth of Christ becomes the reason we don’t have time to think about him.

How can we make time to be quiet with Jesus and be with one another during “the holidays”?

Sue Tell’s article “Discipleship in December” explores this question. She suggests four key strategies:

1.       The practice of being, not doing.

2.       The practice of listening, not reading.

3.       The practice of engaging in conversation.

4.       The practice of cultivating friendship.

If there ever was a time to set aside precious moments for solitude, silence, listening, and cultivating friendship, the frantic season of the holidays is that time. Don’t let the demands of the season rob you and your friends of the beauties of time alone with God and with one another.

 

Routine Bible Reading Can Change Your Life

I had a friend once who challenged me to spend an entire day alone with God, a sort of daily quiet time on steroids. Nothing but me and my Bible and maybe a journal and a devotional book or hymnbook. You get the picture, very low-key, very unplugged. I took a day off work and went to a local reserve where I could walk and pray and sit at the picnic table and read and pray and spend the entire day alone with God.

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That day changed my life.

But not in the way I expected.

I’m not sure what dramatic changes I expected. After all, would spending hours alone with God revolutionize your life? Surely it would!

What I discovered at the end of that day was that I was pretty much the same man I was at the beginning of the day. I carried the same burdens, I struggled with the same sins and anxieties. Whatever dramatic spiritual revolution I was expecting didn’t come about.

But I said that day changed my life, and it did. I realized that day that spiritual highs can’t be scheduled and manufactured; that day didn’t live up to my expectations. Yet I knew that over the years God had wrought changes in my life. There were (and still are) ways in which I am not the same man I was before. God is changing me, but slowly, over time.

That’s the day I realized that the way God changes us isn’t usually through dramatic experiences but through daily holy habits, things we do every day, the routines. I gained a new appreciation for the vital role that daily rhythms and routines have always played in my spiritual formation. Prayer and Bible reading every day, worshiping with the body of Christ every week. I gained a new appreciation for the ordinary.

We’re coming up on a new year, when many people like to start ambitious Bible-reading plans. But if you’re like me, you regard those ambitions with a mixture of guilt and misgiving; you know how you usually fade, usually before spring. And you always feel somehow that you’ve let God down.

Trevin Wax’s article “Routine Bible Reading Can Change Your Life” looks at just this difficulty. He urges us not to mount unreasonable expectations on ourselves but to commit ourselves to the daily habit of reading our Bibles. Not because the thunderbolt will strike every day, but to feed ourselves, to eat.

Why should I read the Bible even if “I don’t get anything out of it”? Why should I sit in church and listen to a sermon if “I don’t get anything out of it”? After all, how many sermons or Bible-readings have been truly memorable and life-changing?

Really, that question reduces our spiritual growth to a consumer experience; if it doesn’t thrill, it’s not worth the effort.

But that’s like asking why I should I continue to eat when so few meals have changed my life, so few dinners were truly memorable. I continue to shower and wash my hands and shampoo my hair even though these are not dramatic experiences. If I have established healthy daily rhythms that support my physical well-being, it certainly makes sense that I would commit myself to daily routines that will support my spiritual well-being.

No, committing myself to spiritual routines is not usually dramatic or memorable, but it is essential.

If you haven’t established a daily routine of setting aside a few minutes to talk to God, start now. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or complicated; this is your Father we’re talking about, and He’s glad to spend time with you. Read His Word and speak to Him about what’s on your mind. Start there.

If you’ve started that habit, don’t give up, even if you feel you’re going through a dry spell. After all, it’s not about you and your experiences. The time you set aside to be with God is an act of worship, of sacrifice. It’s for Him.

And if you’ve come to the place where you look forward to your time with God, think about sharing your delight and your method with someone else. Show someone else what you do when you spend time with God.


Persevere,
Paul Pyle

Discipling by Mark Denver

If you’ve been reading our Discipleship Weekly installments, you’ve been seeing our unfolding vision for making disciples at Patterson Park Church.

·         We want to emphasize not just information transfer but life transformation.

·         We want to use our homes as places where we can cultivate friendships with people who are outside Christ.

·         We want to encourage mentoring and discipling relationships throughout the congregation, especially across the generations.

 

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Now I want to recommend a book that very nearly expresses our vision for making disciples. Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, has written a book simply titled Discipling.

 

Jesus left his church with these instructions: As you go, make disciples, baptizing and teaching them to obey what I have commanded you. Dever argues, correctly, that the local church is where Christ intended his mandate to be carried out, and he describes what fulfilling Jesus’s mandate looks like in a thriving, disciple-making fellowship.

 

For those of you who are curious about what “discipleship” is going to look like at Patterson Park Church, this book paints at least part of the picture.

 

Book-lovers like me know that when you’re thinking about investing the time and money in a book, you want to be fully informed. For those who are curious, here’s the Amazon link where you can read the Introduction. And  here is the Table of Contents:

 

PART 1: WHAT IS DISCIPLING?  

1 The Inevitability of Influence  

2 Oriented toward Others  

3 The Work of Discipling  

4 Objections to Discipling

 

PART 2: WHERE SHOULD WE DISCIPLE?  

5 The Local Church  

6 Pastors and Members

 

PART 3: HOW SHOULD WE DISCIPLE?  

7 Choose Someone  

8 Have Clear Aims  

9 Pay the Cost

10 Raising Up Leaders

 

Copies of Discipling are available at the Disciple Resources bookshelves outside the Family Life Center.


Reading this or any other good book on making disciples isn’t the goal; the information we gain from reading and study is a means to the goal: obeying Jesus’s command to make disciples.

 

May God make Patterson Park Church a powerful disciple-making fellowship.

 

Persevere,

 

paul

The Question Know One Asks Aloud

Why Should I Tell Others About Christ When My Life Sucks?

I know, the question is jarring, even offensive. It is offensive partly because of the language. But the question is jarring and offensive for another reason: It strikes at a secret shame we’d all like to keep hidden, especially around our church friends. We’re just not as put together as we’d like to think; we’re certainly not as put together as we’d like our friends to think.

When we think like this, we betray a profound misunderstanding of the Gospel, the Good News about Jesus. When we say that Jesus came to save us from our sins, we’re not saying that trusting Jesus means that everything about us is made right in an instant. Sure, there are stories of wicked people being dramatically changed and released from their addictions, instantly and finally, the moment they trust in Christ. But those stories are exceptional, not typical. It is more typical for us, after we begin to follow Jesus, to struggle to see sin subside and godly virtue grow in our lives.

So if the Gospel doesn’t mean that trusting Jesus means everything changes in an instant, what does it mean? The Gospel means 1) that we don’t have to hide our sin but can confess to God and to one another and find grace instead of condemnation. 2) The Gospel also means that when we put our trust in Christ, God’s Spirit begins that long, slow, painstaking task of re-forming our hearts, remaking our lives to look more like Jesus. When we are afraid for people to know about our brokenness, we confuse our present state (messy but moving toward wholeness) with the finished product of our sanctification (gloriously and finally made whole).

Which brings us to the question that started all this: Why should our non-Christian friends want to follow Jesus when our lives are so broken? C. Michael Patton, a pastor and writer, has his own issues, which he recounts in remarkable candor at the beginning of the post. He goes on to tell us two reasons to go ahead and tell our non-Christian friends about Jesus, even out of our brokenness. His answer, in a nutshell, the Gospel is for broken people, and who better to speak of its glories and grace but a broken person?

Like me.

Like you.

Paul Pyle

Pastor of Discipleship

Patterson Park Church

ppyle@pattersonpark.org

(937) 427-0130