Episode 073: Discipleship and Spiritual Formation

In this episode we sit down with Sarah and Jason Jackson to talk about discipleship and spiritual formation and what we can do in our churches to encourage it.

Spiritual formation language can be helpful because it helps direct our attention to the holistic aspect of discipleship…

In my mind, I see discipleship as the process which you avail yourself to that helps to you know God more fully and make him known… spiritual formation is the lifelong journey of surrendering to the love and will of God, which includes the practices that help us conform to the image of Christ… 

One of the things that hurts the cause is that we tend to see this [only] as a mechanical process… that if we just do the right things or tick the right boxes, we are producing real Christians…  

I think what I wish for in the church is a better integration of spiritual and emotional maturity, emotional health and physical health…

The paradox of all of this is that it feels like hard work… it would be easier to silo our lives… but to really be sold out to the love of God, that’s harder…  

I picked through the Emotionally Healthy Discipleship (EHD) material with a fine-toothed comb, and couldn’t find anything I’d want to remove… they really do a good job boiling down discipleship and spiritual formation… what I love about it is that it helps us with integration…  

The whole idea behind the EHD material is that we cannot be spiritually mature but emotionally immature… this is a revolutionary idea for many… this material helps us to attend to our emotions in an integrative way… this isn’t just information, it’s about practices, too…  

The big recognition for our people has been that there is a space in their personal lives where Jesus wants to come to meet with them and speak to them… when people have opened up those spaces to Jesus, something has happened…  

Find out more about EHD at https://www.emotionallyhealthy.org

 

Episode 072: Evangelism: What and How

In this episode Andrew, Glenn Packiam, and Jason Jackson sit down to talk about how to tilt the culture of our churches towards evangelism, and how they’ve seen the Spirit use the ministry of Alpha to help.

Barna did a study about evangelism and while there was agreement that Christians should be witnesses for Jesus and that it is good for people to come to know Jesus, there was more ambivalence on whether or not it was wrong to try to convince someone to become a Christian…  

It seems that many people would like folks to come to know Jesus, and they believe that it’s the best thing that could happen to a person, but at the same time they think it might be morally wrong to “impose” their beliefs on another person…

Part of this is that we’re trying to figure out what “tolerance” means… so, when I start talking about my beliefs with you, is that a form of intolerance? For many, especially millennials, it’s easy to get hung up on that…

There might be a righteous impulse here… underneath our fears, the righteous impulse is that we believe that evangelism works best when Jesus is presented in a way that creates maximum space for the Spirit to work…  

Evangelism is living in a way that embodies the reality of Jesus in the world so that it is something that the church does in their life together… 

Alpha is a great example of this… in the 70s or 80s a church on the west side of London called Holy Trinity Brompton created a new believers course… what they discovered was that it was a great way for nonbelievers to enter the conversation about Christianity in a safe way…

Its values became focused around hospitality… creating a space where people could ask questions and just be heard…  

What I love about it is that it checks all the boxes… there’s space for the Holy Spirit to do something through prayer and worship, there’s a talk that presents an idea in a winsome and compelling way, and then it makes space for wrestling and questions… somehow it all works… 

They recommend that all of this happens around a meal… meals are great equalizers… where I’m getting to know you and you’re getting to know me…  

Learn more about Alpha at https://alpha.org/

Episode 071: A Conversation with Tim Lucas and Warren Bird

In this episode we sit down with Tim Lucas and Warren Bird to talk about their new book Liquid Church and what they are seeing the Spirit do both on the east coast and across the country.

We call our church “bapticostal”… we are open to the Holy Spirit but we keep our seatbelt on and have guardrails built in… 

The east coast is very post-Christian… the church is viewed with a great deal of suspicion… the tip of our evangelism spear is the good deeds that we do in the community—which open the door for the gospel…

In the early days of Liquid Church, we didn’t just teach about the Holy Spirit, but created space to experience what we taught… it was scary…

The congregation cannot go somewhere the pastor hasn’t gone personally… for anyone wanting to explore the role of the Spirit in their congregation, they’ll have to take the first step…  

The premise both of the book and our church is based on Ezekiel’s vision of the river coming from the Temple… the farther Ezekiel goes away from the Temple, the deeper the water gets… we think that the farther you go outside the walls of the church, the deeper in the Spirit you’ll go…  

The people we’re trying to reach are spiritually thirsty people… they may not care about traditional church, but are open to the things of God…

One of the ministries that God is blessing right now is the ministry to people with special needs… it is a magnet to those in the community… one person said to us, “For my child, everyone who cares for him is paid to do so, except for this church; here their primary motive is simply to care for my son…”  

This segment is the fastest growing segment of our church’s population… we see the Holy Spirit moving in a unique way through special needs ministry…

Something else we’re seeing the Spirit breathe on is the development of lay talent… commissioning people to lead ministries… one-third of Liquid Church’s staff is volunteers… they’re not just doing ministry, they are leading ministry…

At our church, we even have volunteer associate pastors who give 15-20 hours a week doing things like weddings, funerals, marriage mentoring, etc…

Grab a copy of Liquid Church HERE.

Episode 070: A Conversation with Ray Johnston

In this episode we sit down with Pastor Ray Johnston of Bayside Church in Sacramento to talk about church health, growth, and the kind of leadership both require.

Health is more important than growth… I always wanted to pastor a church that the closer you got to the core, the healthier it would be…

People are attracted to health… we don’t have growth goals and have never set growth goals… if something is healthy and visionary, it will likely grow… 

Our secret is our team… team ministry is important to us… we spent years praying and talking about our leadership model and now each of our campuses has two senior pastors… because we believe that team ministry is healthier and more sustainable…  

I believe that the solution to everything is the right person… anything going well in our churches is going well because we have the right person there… you can have the right plans and right strategies but without the right person it will fail… 

You need to hire slow and fire fast… and if you hire slow enough, you usually won’t have to fire… we look for character, competence, and chemistry… the older I get, the more important chemistry is to me…

The most important thing I do personally as a leader is to make sure I stay encouraged… discouragement precedes destruction… it is the anesthetic the devil uses on a leader just before he destroys their ministry…  

Years ago some people encouraged me to become more public in my ministry… so we met with an agent… they developed a plan for building my “brand”… and I felt like God said to me, “If your goal is to build your brand, I’m out…”  

We’re here to build Jesus’s “brand” and not our own… I told my team that God doesn’t want me to build my brand… that we needed to go home and bury ourselves in our ministry, and that’s what we’ve done for the last 15 years… and we’re having a ball…

Episode 069: An Interview with Sean Morgan

In this episode we sit down with Sean Morgan to talk about some current trends among leaders in the North American church.

The number one thing I am encouraged by is the caliber of leaders I am meeting in the church today… I am very encouraged by their obedience of these leaders…  

The sad part about the “A-game” leader is that they can get used and abused very quickly when the church gets off mission…

A lot of churches have fancy mission statements, but the truth is that the mission is the Great Commission and the Great Commandment taken together…  

Top shelf leaders can prevent the whole church being about them by empowering others and building good systems… the larger church pastors are often the ones who have done a better job building a good team and really empowering them…  

One of the reasons we’re seeing more plural and co-leadership teams is that different people can bring their gifting and own a slice of the ministry even though they might be personally lacking in other areas…  

The church growth movement in the last forty years has left a lot of people feeling inadequate because of church size in some way, shape, or form… at the end of the day, you have to do all that you can do and trust God with the results…  

Sometimes the most mature people in the church are the most resistant to a movement to reach people if it is at the expense of their personal project or ministry…

A lot of pastors in their 50s are not ready to retire financially… which means that they become okay with leading stability which leads to their church becoming comfortable… which in turn can cost a church its life…

Elders often don’t have perspective outside their local church… in denominations, district superintendents can help churches with succession… one of the best ways to combat this is to have 3rd party outside influencers of some kind to help…

 

*Learn more about Sean and his work at ascentleader.org.