Category Archives: Make Disciples

Is Jesus Vision really OUR vision?

logoIMG_8474Beginning at Advent, we are preaching through the Gospel of Luke this year at Christ Church. We are taking the first 3 weeks of the new year to explore the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry recorded in Luke, chapters 3-5. We’re asking the challenging question, “Is Jesus’ vision OUR vision?” Listen to the first sermon, If Jesus Came to Town, here. 

Our statement of vision goes like this:

Christ Church will be a diverse community that lives the
Good News of Jesus Christ for the flourishing of all people
throughout our region and around the world.

In this first teaching, we discover:
/ The vital ministry of John the Baptist as the “hinge” figure between the Old and New Testaments; pointing to Jesus through whom “ALL humanity will see the salvation of God!”

/ The importance and hope that comes from true repentance and asking the Lord, “What shall we do?”

/ Why discipleship is for everyday. “Faith at Work” matters to God! (One of our Mission Priorities is to become and make committed disciples of Christ who glorify God and embody our faith in every area of life.

/ How the baptism of Jesus reveals the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and foreshadows Christ’s death and resurrection.

/ How the genealogy in Luke proclaims Jesus as the New Adam!

Jesus has indeed “moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14) Does He find us turning to God? Eager to follow him as a true disciple? Living the Good News of Jesus’ reign? Working for the flourishing of ALL the people God loves?

Part 2 will come from Luke, ch. 4, “If Jesus Came to Church!”

Discipleship in Mark’s Gospel – 2 Great Resources


Have you ever read a book that captured your imagination in a new way…that makes you change the way you interact with life? What if you found a book that did just that AND it somehow helped you read and understand the Bible better? This past spring, I found two such books. This fall we will be working through two sermon series that will help us understand how to become better followers (disciples) of  Jesus…and as better disciples (followers), we can become a more engaged church. These two books can be chosen as small group material or can be read alone. The Mark book would be a great read for families as well. Below, I’ve given a review of each book.

Card - markMark: The Gospel of Passion (The Biblical Imagination Series) by Michael Card.

Because I’ve read this gospel multiple times, finding a new way to read it was very appealing. The Gospel of Mark (in the Bible) is a book of action and passion with events happening one after the other, describing the life of Jesus in vivid detail with a sense of urgency and immediacy. This gospel was written by Mark, a young man who was a friend and interpreter for the Apostle Peter. He gives first hand glimpses of what was going on during Jesus’ ministry. Even though this is the shortest gospel, it was written to give the early Christians encouragement in all their sufferings. Michael Card wrote this book, as well as the series, not as a devotional or as a commentary, but with both in mind. He uses the most current resources and historical materials to comment on each section, but does it with a sense of imagination. He calls this informed way of reading “biblical imagination.” What this means is that as you read each section, the characters and settings come to life. It is a must read if you want to renew your passion for Jesus and your love and awe of how He works in and through all of us (1st century or 21st century)!

Keller - KingJesus the King by Tim Keller.

Timothy Keller, New York Times bestselling author of The Reason for God and the man Newsweek called a “C. S. Lewis for the twenty-first century,” unlocks new insights into the life of Jesus Christ as he explores how Jesus came as a king, but a king who had to bear the greatest burden anyone ever has. Jesus the King is Keller’s revelatory look at the life of Christ as told in the Gospel of Mark. In it, Keller shows how the story of Jesus is at once cosmic, historical, and personal, calling each of us to look anew at our relationship with God. It is an unforgettable look at Jesus Christ, and one that will leave an indelible imprint on every reader. Jesus the King is an excellent book for personal growth in discipleship or small group use for moving forward toward ‘the full stature of Christlikeness.’

These books will be available at the Christ Church Welcome Center or you can order them from Amazon or Kindle.

Lessons from a Modern Disciple

WillardOn three consecutive Saturdays, the Christ Church community celebrated and mourned at the death of beloved fellow-believers. Just prior to these weeks, author and fellow disciple, Dallas Willard died of cancer. Willard was known for his wonderful work of deepening the Christian Church’s understanding of Spiritual Formation and Discipleship.

In light of our fall series, I am a Disciple! I want to share some quotations from conversations and writings of Dallas Willard worthy of our serious rumination.

Disciples of Jesus are those who are with him, learning to be like him. That is, they are learning to lead their life, their actual existence, as he would lead their life if he were they.    (Renovation of the Heart)

The mature disciple is one who effortlessly does what Jesus would do in his or her place.

Willard taught me that a disciple is a student who sits at the feet of Jesus day in and day out. A disciple is someone who is with Jesus, learning to be like him, so that when we encounter the world around us, we do exactly what Jesus would do if he were in our shoes.

We cannot be Christians without being disciples, and we cannot call ourselves Christians without applying this understanding of life in the Kingdom of God to every aspect of life on earth. (The Great Omission)

When asked, “What is death? “ Dallas responded:
Jesus made a special point of saying those who rely on him and have received the kind of life that flows in him and in God will never stop living.

Willard also challenged us to take the Sermon on the Mount more seriously, especially the parts about seeking first the Kingdom of God.  He called it “The cost of non-discipleship,” referencing Bonhoeffer’s famous “Cost of Discipleship.”  He put it this way:

“If you think it’s hard being a disciple of Christ, you should try living the other way. Living to make a name for yourself or secure your own future is way too expensive. Stop now before you ruin yourself utterly. Jesus was talking in these stories about the cost of non-discipleship, and it’s breathtakingly high.” 

“So then, whether we live or whether we die, we belong to the Lord!”  (Romans 14:8)


Baptism – A reminder from John Calvin

Sunday was our annual Labor Day weekend celebration of baptism. Twenty unique and varied testimonies with the common theme of Jesus, the one who redeems and restores! Recently I taught on Remember Your Baptism (download or listen here.) Here is a short description from John Calvin that is worth the time it takes to ponder his words well.

For inasmuch as [baptism] is given for the arousing, nourishing, and confirming of our faith, it is to be received as from the hand of the Author himself. We ought to deem it certain and proved that it is he who speaks to us through the sign; that it is he who purifies and washes away sins, and wipes out the remembrance of them; that it is he who make us sharers in his death, who deprives Satan of his rule, who weakens the power of our lust; indeed, that it is he who comes into a unity with us so that, having put on Christ, we may be acknowledged God’s children. These things, I say, he performs for our soul within as truly and surely as we see our body outwardly cleansed, submerged, and surrounded with water. For this analogy or similitude is the surest rule of the sacraments: that we should see spiritual things in physical, as if set before our very eyes. For the Lord was pleased to represent them by such figures—not because such graces are bound and enclosed in the sacrament so as to be conferred upon us by its power, but only because the Lord by this token attests his will toward us, namely, that he is pleased to lavish all these things upon us. And he does not feed our eyes with a mere appearance only, but leads us to the present reality and effectively performs what he symbolizes.
(Calvin, Institutes, IV.15.14)

What is Your Game Plan?

This is our major teaching series at Christ Church this winter and spring.  It’s about creating what Christians for centuries have called a “Rule of Life.”  Click here for the sermon downloads.  The first two are, I trust, helpful introductions. Read on to better understand how to  prayerfully work through a personal plan for more intentional discipleship. At the end are numerous linked resources to help you.


What is a RULE OF LIFE?
Serious Christ-followers have always sought to become “Spiritual Athletes” who, like the Apostle Paul, seek to ‘train themselves in godliness.”

We don’t want to confuse Rule with rules!  ‘Rule’ comes from the root word, Regula, which meant a measuring stick or signpost.  A rule of life lays out spiritual expectations which give structure and form to our spiritual lives, identifies our successes and failures, and provides us with goals to attain, not on our own but with God’s power and the support of the community.

Think of “rule” as a plan for discipline; a “rhythm of life;” a “Curriculum in Christlikeness” (Dallas Willard); or as John Ortberg calls it, a “Game Plan for Morphing” or being transformed!   Continue reading What is Your Game Plan?

Who is Scot McKnight (and why is he coming to Providence?)

We’ve talked for several years about trying to have Scot McKnight in Rhode Island.  Scot is not your celebrity type Christian rock star.  But he is making a very rock-solid  contribution to the Christian world. McKnight is New Testament prof at North Park University (connected to our Evangelical Covenant denom.) He is a prolific author of both scholarly and ‘popular’ books on NT studies and the Christian life.  His blog, Jesus Creed, is one of the best in the world at engaging important issues of faith and culture. It has a following of thoughtful and respectful commenters who work through books and questions guided by McKnight.  Scot is also a sought after speaker all over the world on subjects of Jesus, biblical interpretation, and the state of the church.  I believe he has been gifted for these times to be a uniter instead of a divider while not being afraid to challenge the evangelical status quo.

(My son, Stephen, got to know McKnight while at North Park and invited him to Providence for November 4th when learning that he was speaking at Gordon College the same week. The Lord, through the generosity of an anonymous donor, is making it happen!)

Scot’s latest book is called The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited.  In it, he challenges the church’s understanding of the Gospel and her all-too common method of sharing the faith.  Our Gospel is often a shrunken version that leads to settling for “decisions” instead of making disciples. There is a lot more!

So here are the details:
** Nov. 4th, Friday evening is The One Event.  (click here for the Facebook page) – a large gathering from churches in Providence and around the state led by Andrew Mook and Scott Axtmann with a team from Sanctuary, Renaissance Church, Christ Church and others.

**The location is Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, with parking in the Providence Place Mall. (Go to the north end mall parking garage nearest the State House and the entrance is directly across from the church.

**Scot McKnight will preach at this unified worship service  which begins at 7 pm.

**Scot has graciously agreed to meet from 4-5:30 pm with pastors and church leaders.  We have designed this session under the title: “The Original Gospel Revisited, Sharing the Good News in Today’s World” – A Discussion with Scot McKnight.  Stephen, Todd Murphy (Sacred Journey Church) and I are coordinating this event with the great help of Cassandra Chavez, staff at Gloria Dei.

**We have room for about 200 at 4 pm and 600-700 at the 7 pm service.  So come on time and be praying for the Holy Spirit to do a wonderful work of unifying and equipping us for greater Kingdom impact in our state and region!

Right Motivations for Ministry

If you serve Christ in any kind of ministry, let me urge you to print this text and post it where you will see it often. Or better yet – memorize it! (Listen here to the sermon on this text from 10-2-11)

For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed— God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentleamong you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children,12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

 13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you receivedthe word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.  (1 Thessalonians 2:3-13, ESV)

There are so many ways that we can dishonor God by insecure, false, or selfish motives.  We need to do Christ’s work in Christ-like ways.  It means starting with the authority of God’s Word, seeking only His glory, not serving ourselves or making up for deficits in our own lives.  It means having a ‘spiritual parent’ and being a spiritual parent for others in ways that honor God in everything.  It’s a high calling.  It’s the only way to truly ‘make disciples’ modeled for us in Scripture!