Archive for the ‘discipleship’ Category

“And let it begin with me”

April 19, 2010

“As a convention of churches, our missional vision is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.” – the missional vision under Component #1

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” – Matthew 28:19-20a.

Regardless of what transpires in Orlando this June, the ultimate test of the Great Commission Resurgence will be numerical…and financial…and chronological. It will be evident when we actually take time out off our schedules and money out of our budgets to use it for the Gospel and the Kingdom.

From these two standards, I see a easy way for measure our GCR progress:

GOING: How much money classified “missions”, and not sent to the Convention, at the local church level actually materializes into sent people? How much time in the church calendar is dedicated to “crossing the ocean” or “crossing the street”?

MAKE DISCIPLES: How much of our church budget or church schedule is dedicated to discipleship…and not spiritualized fellowship (NOTE: not that fellowship is bad, but it is not GCR)

BAPTIZING: In coordination with the above metric, how many of our baptizees remain a part of the fellowship after one year? How many of our life-long members are involved in the journey to the baptismal waters (evangelizing, discipling, etc.)

TEACHING: 2 Timothy 2:2 sums it up nicely…are we teaching information or “the latest ideas“…or are we preparing God’s people to reach the world and to grow in Christ-likeness

EVERY PERSON/ALL THE NATIONS: Are we thinking of ALL when we budget our time and money…both international AND domestic lost…both those who have never heard and those who need to hear again?

Ultimately, will state conventions survive this review? Not in their present form: some will have to jettison much of their activity and re-direct much of their funds. Others will simply have to dissolve and be re-formed to be GCR-reformed (NOTE: no soteriological statement intended here!) In thirty years, will we have a 200-year old institution or an accomplished commandment…we can have both, but only if we “let it begin with me”

After a gentle rebuke…

July 14, 2009

I have decided to divide my blog thoughts into two separate entries:

here (adubhigg) will be devoted to SBc life matter

there (2Tim22) will be focusing on developing an online discipleship community…we’re using some code words over there to get us past any censors in the hopes of letting the community go transoceanic

So, Blake and any others that want to read that one and not this one (because you’re not SBC and don’t care!), reset your blog reader to http://2tim22.wordpress.com/ and follow the other, less strident conversation!

FYI: Theology Musings (starting in the fall again) will still be posted here as they don’t really fit the foundational level I’m at over at the other site.

Something more wholesome and kind!

June 5, 2009

Having heard no pushback on any kind from my last post, I have gathered that:

1) we are all in agreement, or

2) no one is reading this…:(

Nonetheless, I am certain that someday, I will be searched for on the internet and this blog will be found and then skimmed with the proverbil finetooth comb for errors against whomever

Thus let me balance out my ire with saccharine kindness.

I planted three apple trees that I had raised from seeds (Some people keep dogs as pets…I keep germinating seedlings!) behind my mother’s house last August. One has done very well and is as tall as the (uncut) grass around it. The other two are hanging on…one of them barely (the ribbon I tied to it so I could find it again has actually bent it over!)

What moral/societal lesson can we derive from this? Life is more than “bloom where you’re planted” and “just hang it there!” Given the same circumstances, some will abundantly succeed, some will tread water, and some will live on the edge of oblivion. Which, I think, is one of the intended meanings of Matthew 13:8,23

8″And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.
23″And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” (NASV)

The perspective is not on how much you produce, but that you produce. Some will be blessed, like Isaac, a probable referent of Jesus (Genesis  26:12-14). And some will only return what they put in…while others barely return anything. The difference between the condemned slave in Matthew 25:24-30 and the builders of the holy temple in I Corinthians 3:12-15 is their effort. We misread these two passages sometimes….the testworthiness of the temple is based on the base materials (wood, hay, straw) as the decorations are only on the surface and often “burned up”. The wicked slave gives a really bad excuse: if he knows the master “harvests where he had not sown and gathers where he had not scattered seed”, why wasn’t he afraid enough to try to impress him?

Do not worry, my dear friends, if others harvest more than you…be of the mind to harvest still!

Do not tarry at your labor..sow much seed and be an aide…help the Kingdom as you will!

Do not think of others’ treasures when there’s souls and lives to save…work until the Master calls you!

For soon the working’s over and rest will come to you

And Christ in comfort keep you and celebrate the new!

Theology Ditty 2: “Where should a study of God begin?”

September 30, 2008

The study of God should first begin with the realization of the seeming futility of the task. The scope and depth of coverage one might pursue in terms of logic or revelation is stunning and overwhelming. Yet the awe that such an endeavor should engender should not dissuade from its pursuit, but instead shape its expectations. To begin the journey of discovery and understanding is a choice to follow its course, however difficult and winding it may seem, for the rest of one’s days.

The next step in the process of theology, in the purest sense of that word, is to find the dimensions of the problem. Biblical revelation is often most clear in terms of what God is, by nature and character, and what He is not. Excluding these alternatives and possibilities from one’s consideration thins the thicket of confusion and distraction. In fact, knowing this most basic of descriptions of God will illuminate the proper questions and areas of study to next pursue. Two modes of approach should be simultaneously taken: an understanding of the progressive and expansive revelation of God’s nature and character as He interacts with mankind through a sequential and thorough study of the entire Bible, as well as an organized and systematic organization of relevant passages from the various writers and ages of the revelation. By seeing both the stream of thought and comparing its individual components against one another, one can easily find how contradictions seem to fade and coherence arise from the mists of naive assumption.

Though there is no final step, the last one before returning to the process of reconsideration and awe is reflection of the description of mankind in the Bible in contraposition to this definition of God’s nature that has been developed. By seeing what we have retained and lost in terms of God’s image as a result of the corruption of sin, we can then more clearly see how God’s revelation of Himself to us both resonates with who we are and with who we want to be. Also, often depictions of our behavior and our character are antonymic to that we find in God and thus we learn about Him by observing ourselves.

The study of God is, as stated before, a progressive and endless pursuit. As with any relationship, we will never exhaust its fullness, but we must also see that not as a warning to not proceed, but a goal, a challenge which we nevertheless will seek to complete.

The denominational stool has gotten a little wobbly…part 1: discipleship

May 13, 2008

First of all, I am unabashedly a Southern Baptist and I have been since before I was born (I actually have a sermon outline completed by my mother one day before I was born!)

I love the way the SBC does missions and church autonomy, but there is a problem, my friends:

“The stool is a little wobbly”

This rather obtuse phrase is my shorthand for four problem areas in SBC life:

1) trustee accountability

2) evangelistic emphasis

3) cooperative giving

4) discipleship and baptismal retention

If you may pardon this analogy, we have cleaned the floor (biblical inerrancy and conservative hermeneutic) but have left the stool on which we sit in disrepair. The leg of trustee accountability has become loose and is of great concern as yet again it seems that the boards act from their own opinions and not the will of the Convention at large. The leg of evangelistic fervor has become hollow, a memory of numerical success gone by, but a continuing shame in recent years. The leg of cooperative giving has become thin, made weak by the resistance of the states to cast their lot together for the common good. The leg of discipleship and retention is full of holes, since we have dropped the ball on “teaching them all that [Jesus has] commanded” and many “members” fail to show up regularly or add to the Kingdom or the Body of Christ.

I will focus on these issues in reverse order as I approach the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention, which I will attend and be involved.

Each year, the Annual Church Profile (ACP) is published by LifeWay Research and every year, we wait with equal parts anticipation and despair…will we increase baptisms?…how many resident members are there this time?…will CP dollars increase?…and so on down the line. But in all of the analysis we normally wade through, we fail to see how many of each baptisms we add to our primary worship attendance (PWA)…and my friends, it is not many!

First, some history: I was curious to see how much of our baptismal fall-off was affecting our PWA growth for the past few years. So I collected the baptisms and primary worship attendance data from 2001-2007 and first divided total baptisms for each year by the change (growth) in PWA…and found that there were MORE BAPTISMS EACH YEAR THAN INCREASES IN PWA!!! On average, we baptize 373802 people each year, but our PWA increases by only 69648 on average! That is a 5 to 1 ratio!

Surely, I thought, this must be wrong…surely deaths of our membership or people switching denominations can account for this discrepancy…. So I looked up those figures. In 2004, Hoge and O’Connor published some data on a longitudinal study of denominational identity. After some mathematical magic, I reached an estimate of 97.85% retention each year and a net increase of 0.576% when considering the exchange of people between each denomination.

There is no estimate of the age structure of Southern Baptist church membership (LifeWay, sounds like a new project for next year!) so I used the average age of Southern Baptist pastors as a proxy. This, taken from a LifeWay study in 2007, gives us an average age of 51.5. Now this is an admittedly a potentially biased figure, but sadly one which errs on the young side, given anecdotal evidence from SBC messenger studies and the few churches I have been active in.

Next we go to the Social Security Administration’s life expectancy tables, for the annual death rate for the average 51-52 year old (we can use this data since it represents the average person, which is statistically equivalent to a much larger sample of the same average value). The death rate works out to be 0.636% loss each year.

So let’s compare: We gain 0.576% from denominational switching, but lose 0.636% to death…so the net change in population, excluding baptisms is -0.06038%, which works out to be 3631 people lost per year. One more comparison: we lost 3,631 to outside factors, gain 373,802 by baptism, but only actually gain 69,648 in PWA…does anyone else see a problem here?

If we factor the loss to outside factors into the change in PWA and then divide baptisms by that number, we will arrive at the rate of retention of baptisees each year…and it is horrible! It ranges from a maximum of 39.68% in 2004 to a low of 3.99% in 2007!!! The average for the six inter-years analyzed is 19.21% retention…we “convert” 1 in 5 people we baptize into worship attenders!

You want to lay the blame of our baptismal slump somewhere…lay it at the feet of the Sunday School teacher (I am one) and the active member (again, I am one)…we need to be discipling these new believers and not focus on getting people “in the door, down the aisle, and under the water”! If I remember correctly, two of the phrases in the Great Commission deal with discipleship and only one with baptism (they go hand-in-hand of course, but you see my point)…we need to get to work!

I welcome comments, confessions, and ideas…but I seek action…pray for me that I may stay strong to do my part to stem the flow (out the side door of the church)!