Showing posts with label disciple. Show all posts
Showing posts with label disciple. Show all posts

11 February 2013

Freedom in Christ

Freedom in Christ is a course to help believers grow in maturity and fruitfulness. A set of DVDs and a workbook cover a series of thirteen sessions. The material can take new believers on to a deeper life in Jesus, or it might be used as a spiritual health-check for the more mature.

For some weeks now, Roger and I have been meeting to work through the 'Freedom in Christ' (FIC) course together. This is the British version of the course originally developed in the USA by Neil Anderson. You can also view the US website or the international page.

Steve Goss
The course is not affiliated to a particular denomination in any way. It consists of a series of DVD presentations and a small book, the 'Participant's Guide'.

According to the back cover of the guide, the objective of the course is 'To help every Christian become a fruitful disciple*.'

Roger has been through the material several times already so he is leading and guiding the process. I'm a newbie. We're about half way through the material which is sound, helpful, and well produced. I'd recommend it to anyone. Although Roger and I are working as a twosome, FIC is often presented to a group, just like the sessions on the DVDs.

Here are the session headings together with brief content; each of the thirteen sessions is designed to take a week, perhaps an hour together and then whatever time you feel you need on your own.

If you want to get a feel for the style you can try the free sample material offered on the website.

The sessions - These fall into an introduction and four parts, listed below.

0 - Introduction - The reason for the course, content, reliability of the Bible, church growth.

Part A - Key truths
1 - Where did I come from? - Spiritual life and death, the fall, Jesus' mission, acceptance.
2 - Who am I now? - Saint or sinner, forgiven and new, already pleasing to the Lord.
3 - Choosing to believe the truth - Faith and belief, growing in faith, trouble, action.

Part B - The world, the flesh and the devil
4 - The world's view of truth - Understanding the world, worldviews, the Bible.
5 - Our daily choice - Flesh and sin not gone, natural, spiritual, fleshly, choosing.
6 - Demolishing strongholds - Nature and effect of strongholds, demolition.
7 - The battle for our minds - Satan and how he works, our resources, the light.

Part C - Breaking the hold of the past
8 - Handling emotions well - Feelings and belief, handling emotion, past trauma.
9 - Forgiving from the heart - Forgiving and freedom, from the heart, not forgetting.

Part D - Growing as disciples
10 - Walking in freedom every day - Keys to maturity, dealing with lies, good and evil.
11 - Relating to others - Grace, responsibility, awareness, discipline, authority.
12 - Where are you heading? - Feelings, responses, goals, difficulties, love.
13 - Staying on the right path - Live, believe, goals, time, fulfillment, serving.

Week by week - Each of the numbered sessions above comes with a DVD presentation and a chapter in the guidebook. The sessions are exploratory and explanatory and have pauses for thought that require action to restart the DVD each time. This means there's always enough time to deal with questions as necessary.

Feedback from the studio audience is helpful as are brief interviews with people saying what they found particularly useful.

Having completed Parts A and B so far, I think it's fair to say there's been nothing that is new to me, but several times an idea has been presented in a new way or seen in a new light. It does cover everything systematically so will fill any gaps in understanding that people might have.

Conclusions - Freedom in Christ is sound and likely to be useful to any follower of the Way of Jesus. It might be particularly helpful to newer believers (for example, those who have completed an Alpha Course, have faith in Christ and want to go further). But it will also be valuable as a check-up and reminder for those who, like me, have been on the journey a long time.

It is also worth considering for anyone who is not yet convinced about faith but is seriously interested. This is not its intended purpose, but thinking everything through systematically, as it does, could make all the difference for some.

(*Freedom in Christ uses the term 'disciple' in a different way than is normal on this blog. Rather than the sense of a person who follows Jesus into the harvest to make disciples, FIC uses the word to mean a person with maturity in Christ. The two are not incompatible, but they are not quite the same thing.)


  • Do you think a structured course like this could help you in your personal journey?
  • What advantages can you see to a structured and tested course like this?
  • Do you foresee any disadvantages or dangers here?
  • Do you have friends that might benefit from Freedom in Christ?

See also:

06 December 2012

Alan Hirsch at Newforms

Some fifty people came to the Newforms National Gathering where Alan Hirsch was speaking on movements. The sessions were good with plenty of time for questions, group discussion and feedback. Alan's long years of study and experience came through clearly as he spoke.

Newforms National Gathering 2012
Last weekend I drove to Nottingham to join about fifty other people for the 2012 Newforms National Gathering.

Alan Hirsch had kindly agreed to come as the main speaker, and the meetings were hosted by Peter and Marsha Farmer assisted by helpers from Nottingham and elsewhere.

People from all over Britain had booked places and travelled to join in. Some had come from Europe and even as far as Australia to be with us. We met at St Saviours and at the Riverway just opposite (both made us very welcome).

Hearing from Alan and Peter - The sessions were pretty intensive, but breaks for tea, coffee and lunch were frequent and long enough that our concentration didn't lapse. Alan Hirsch and Peter Farmer were so interesting and engaging that we might have managed with even fewer pauses. Many people already knew one another from previous meetings, at least slightly. Those who were new were soon joining in the conversations during the breaks and making new friends.

There were sessions on Friday evening, all day on Saturday, and Sunday morning and early afternoon.

Topics covered included apostolic movements, networks, mission, disciple making, viral spread, and reproduction. Alan drew on his years of study and experience on these subjects, covering the central place of Christ himself in detail and then looking at the five gifts in turn.

Alan spoke about discipleship and church planting movements, how they work, why they fail, the factors involved, and the fivefold ministry gifts (Ephesians 4:11) - apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers (APEST). We were encouraged to interrupt the main sessions with questions and Alan was willing to respond before continuing. This made the whole experience more interactive and useful. Peter spoke more briefly on some of the practical aspects and also gave us time for discussions at our tables, with feedback.

Here's the Ephesians passage in its proper context, Ephesians 4:11-16.

Taking it further - Alan Hirsch has published books on each of these aspects, they're listed and introduced on 'The Forgotten Ways' website. Perhaps I need to work my way through all of them.

Alan encouraged us to consider what our own gifts might be and explained that one of the best ways to discover is to pay attention to what others say about us. We are, after all, part of a body and the body as a whole recognises the value and function of each part.

We went home challenged and encouraged. The video on the right includes comment from some of the people present.

The National Gathering is an annual event. Check the Newforms Events and Training pages for details of next year's gathering and other meetings.


  • Have you thought about your own gifts in terms of APEST? (You might have more than one.)
  • What do those around you in church life think about your gifts? You may not need to ask - just listen.
  • Do you think you might come to the next National Gathering in November 2013?
  • Have you read any of Alan Hirsch's books?
  • How do you think you can apply these ideas in the place where you live and in the church there?

See also:

01 November 2012

Dunbar and 130 to 160

< Groups of sixty to eighty | Index | No later items >

The Dunbar Number represents the size limit for meaningful social interaction with others. We need to be careful that we don't have so many church friends that we have no remaining capacity for close social connections with neighbours and others.

Prof Robin DunbarThere is a value called the 'Dunbar Number' which is about 150. Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist and pschologist, proposed that this was a natural limit to human group size. He wrote that it is ...
... a cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships, that this limit is a direct function of relative neocortex size, and that this in turn limits group size ... the limit imposed by neocortical processing capacity is simply on the number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained.

In other words, groups much larger then 150 are too large for the members to know one another in a continuous and meaningful way. We simply cannot interact regularly with more people than this. We may know about other people and we may meet other people but we can't really get to know them adequately in a social sense. Knowing someone personally involves spending time with them more or less regularly and 150 is the approximate limit of our ability to do this.

In church life - So in a church context, although we might meet in larger numbers than this, we can expect to only properly know a subset of the people present. And if we regularly socialise with 150 church friends, we will not have much capacity remaining to socialise with neighbours, work colleagues, or the other people we meet day by day. And that is a problem.

Why is it a problem? Simply because we are supposed to be making disciples! We can only make disciples by spending time with the people around us in a social context. To do so our existing regular social group needs to be smaller than the Dunbar number of 150. If we maximise the number of friends we have in the church, we are automatically minimising the number we can maintain in the world. And we do not go into the church to make disciples, but into the world.

Practical suggestions - My advice is to expect church to involve smaller numbers, two or three, six to twenty, and for special purposes sixty to eighty. Meanwhile, focus some effort on having good social involvement with as many non-church people as possible. These will include your wider family, your neighbours and those you share an interest with or work alongside. These are the pools in which you may discover future disciples.

Recognise that good fellowship is possible with the twos and threes and with the sixes to twenties. Do you really need more than that? Weigh up the benefits and the costs of larger church groups than these. What will be gained and what will be lost if your entire capacity to socialise is spent within the church community?

  • If you meet regularly with others in a group this size, how many would you say are your friends?
  • How do you relate to the others, those who are not close friends?
  • Are there arrangements to meet in smaller groups at other times? Does this help?

See also:

< Groups of sixty to eighty | Index | No later items >

12 October 2012

Jesus is the pattern

What are the best methods for making disciples and planting churches? Are there techniques we can learn, best practices to follow? Becoming a beekeeper is a good analogy. What can go wrong and how do we get it right?

Learning beekeeping
Ross Rohde asks some good questions at the end of his most recent blog post. Ross describes three patterns guiding the way we work. He invites his readers to choose one of the questions and respond. I recommend Ross's article, refer to it for more detail. Also take a look at Felicity Dale's post 'Principles or techniques?'

Question and answer - I've chosen the question, 'Do you think we can do ministry Jesus style just by following the pattern ourselves or treating it as one more technique? Is the pattern itself enough?'

My answer is that doing what Jesus did is not enough. The gospels contain plenty of examples of what he does, and those examples form a clear and striking pattern. But underlying the pattern and the examples is a fundamental cause.

If we can identify the cause that drives and motivates Jesus and adopt that as our own we will be well on the way to doing what Jesus did. It's not just a matter of copying specific examples, it's a matter of understanding the underlying principles.

The beekeeper - An example may help. A beekeeper collects honey, stores it in jars, and sells the honey to make a living. Let's suppose we want to become a beekeeper. One strategy would be to watch a beekeeper at work, note down the pattern of behaviour we see, and then follow the pattern.

He has wooden boxes in his garden, painted white. He has bees inside the boxes. He wears white overalls, gloves, and a hat with netting over it. He opens the boxes and takes out honey. He puts the honey into jars and labels them. He sells his honey to the local shopkeeper. That all seems quite easy!

Right, let's get started! We buy some timber and nails, knock up a few boxes and paint them white. Then we head out into the garden with a net to catch some bees. After a few hours work we've collected quite a few bees and we manage to get most of them into one of the white boxes. How long should we wait for the bees to make some honey? Hmm, we'll give them a week...

Next week we open the box. There is no honey to be seen, but there are quite a few dead bees.

What went wrong? We didn't understand the principles of beekeeping. If we recognise our ignorance we have a chance to do so much better. How can we get the knowledge we need? Let's go and ask a beekeeper!

Apprenticeship - The beekeeper chuckles at our story but commends us for making the attempt. He offers to train us in beekeeping. Expecting a college course we are surprised when he tells us that instead we are to come and work with him. Over the next year we watch what he does, ask questions, listen to what he tells us, and get a chance to try all the necessary tasks while he watches us and corrects our mistakes. We are apprentices. Not only do we learn to look after bees and make jars of excellent honey, we also have a lot of fun together and become close friends of the beekeeper. We are apprentice beekeepers.

It's just the same with Jesus. It's not about copying a pattern, Jesus is the pattern! We must follow Jesus because he is the expert and we are apprentices (disciples). We would be seriously mistaken if we thought we could simply follow a method. A method is the same series of actions repeated every time. Here are the actions we must repeat again and again if we are following Jesus.

  • Watch and do
  • Listen and speak
Jesus says that he does only the things that he sees his Father do. He says only the things he hears the Father say. So watching, listening and obedience must be key to all we do (as with any apprenticeship).

So let's stop following mere patterns of behaviour, formulas and techniques. Instead let's begin by watching and listening. Then we can start doing and speaking what Jesus shows us and says to us. When I know him well in my heart and mind I will always be watching and listening, then I will be able to carry his life and love and purpose into the world.

If there is any pattern for us to follow it is Jesus himself.

From the archives - More articles on listening.

04 August 2011

THOUGHT: Planting churches

There is a notable lack of church planting in the West and an abundance of it in parts of Asia. Are we asleep?Are we in the West doing something wrong? Are we simply being disobedient? Are we asleep, or paralysed, or distracted?

Here's a communication I had recently from an Asian country...

Hi Brother, Greetings to you name of the Christ, Thanks a lot for your acceptation my request. I am K from ... I am House Church planter. I have a small registration Organization name is "..." We have 500 house Churches, Pray for us. My email id " ...@..." God bless you. K

K's photo shows his wife and child, but I'm not going to show you the photo, give you his name, or even tell you which country he's in. There are some parts of the world where it's best not to be identifiable. We're not used to persecution here in the UK, but there are places where following Jesus is dangerous - I don't want to prejudice the safety of K or his family.

But look at his message again, he mentions 500 house churches! Wow - we need an explosion in our level of expectation! I can think of only three groups that I have helped to start in the last ten years, all are small, none have planted others as far as I know. I'm aware of other meetings and have been able to help and encourage individuals in a variety of ways.

Will you join me in praying for K and the 500 house churches? Assuming an average size of eight to ten people, that represents perhaps 4000 to 5000 people following Jesus in this Asian, mainly Muslim, society. They are all risking their lives daily so pray for their safety and for Jesus to bless them, guide them and encourage them through his Spirit at work within them. May they be wise and bold in their lives and reveal the grace and joy and peace of Christ to their neighbours every day.

Will you also join me in praying for the church here in Britain? What a lot we can learn from K and his friends. Every person in the three meetings I have helped start was already a believer. In K's case almost everyone (perhaps all of them) were not yet followers of the King of Kings.

Why am I not out there making disciples and rejoicing as Yahshua builds them into new churches? Are you more obedient than me? Are you out there, making disciples? 'Go', said Yahshua, 'and make disciples of all nations.' (Matthew 28:18-20)

One of the problems is that we have been taught for many generations that the responsibility for making disciples and building churches lies with full time evangelists, missionaries and pastors while our role is to turn up once a week, listen and live better lives. We have been misled.

Making disciples is your job and my job, building the church is Jesus' job. We are called to obey him, encourage one another and love everyone he brings us into contact with - friends and enemies alike.

There is plenty of information online about making disciples and multiplying churches. And there's a good deal more about what the church is and what it is not. Here are some starting points...

There are further useful connections on my Links page, and also on the sites I've listed above. You'll also find plenty of good books and other resources just by browsing through some of these websites.

10 March 2011

RESPONSE - Seven signs in John

In his gospel, John records seven signs that Jesus gave. They were miraculous acts that made people stop, take notice, and respond. One of them (healing a person born blind) was regarded by the rabbis as a messianic miracle, something that only the Messiah would be able to do. Something they could not ignore.

Ben and CathBen Taylor visited me for an afternoon recently, he was in the area to visit and work with Chris Duffett and I was delighted that he could find time to drop in on his way back to Somerset.

Several times he mentioned the seven signs in John, the link leads to articles on Ben and Cath's blog where you'll find additional references to the seven signs and some examples of how they can be used to help people understand who Jesus is. I believe this is important and I encourage everyone to dig deeper for themselves.

Last year I also wrote about healing the man born blind. As a result of this (and other messianic miracles) the religious authorities were faced with a stark choice - accept Jesus as the Messiah, or reject the plain facts.

I'd like to go through the seven signs in John with others as and when there are opportunities. We're planning to do some Bible study in a local coffee shop and maybe this will provide some possibilities. We'll see.

Meanwhile, a very good place to begin would be to read the CMA Resources page on the seven signs. It explains everything clearly and concisely. Also, check back on Ben and Cath's site from time to time for more examples of how they are using these signs to spark meaningful conversations and simple Bible studies with people.

The Great Commission is to go out into the world and make disciples - and this is a great way to do just that. It's not the only way, of course, but if you're thinking, 'How do I begin?' this is a good idea to consider. Read about it, pray about it, and if the Spirit leads you to do it - go for it!

See also: Seven signs in John - a series

06 January 2011

RESPONSE - Community and mission?

Felicity Dale has just written a great post about community and mission. Do we need to become a community before we launch out in mission? What does it mean to be a 'missional community'? Is that the same thing as a communal mission?

Felicity Dale's BlogFelicity has set me thinking and I need to respond at greater length than a blog comment will allow. If you want the context you can read her article now, or you can read my reply and then return to Felicity's article. But whatever you do make sure you read her wise contribution at some point!

She was asked the question, 'What do you do about mission if there is very little sense of community in your group?' Her post was in response to that.

The essential thing here is to let go of any preconceptions we may have, I can guarantee that some of them will be misconceptions. Better to clear a space in which the Holy Spirit can direct us and guide us. His job is to lead us, show us the way, encourage us, comfort us, and act as an advocate. Our job is to go and do the things he tells us. He is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of Sonship, the Spirit of a sound mind.

Can I build Yahshua's church? No! He said he would build it himself. The best I can hope to do is play with the bricks so that he has to sort out my mess before he can begin building. Better to let him do it right from the start.

Mission - How did Jesus go about mission? He sent out his disciples in pairs and told them to go to the towns and villages. He told them to knock on the doors and, when they were made welcome, to go in, speak peace into the home, and eat with the people living there.

Community - A pair of disciples is the smallest unit that can be regarded as church. Greater numbers are not necessarily better. You, me and Jesus - that's enough! Church is not defined by size, structure, management methods, buildings, programmes, or mission statements. It is defined as two or more people on a journey together in community with Jesus.

The journey may be 'missional' at times - literally travelling from place to place to tell people the good news about Jesus. But much of the time it's more likely to be a journey of deepening understanding and growing depth of relationship with one another and with the Lord. If Jesus is leading us, reaching out will happen as part of that community life.

The source - What we most urgently need to know is that mission and community both have their roots in love. In his recent book Follow, Floyd McClung writes...

All followers and seekers of Jesus must wrestle with three simple yet profound truths. Worship. Mission. Community. They are simple, but they will affect every area of your life if you allow them to.

He lists and defines them again several times.

  • Worship: to love and obey Jesus as a lifestyle - with passion and purpose.
  • Mission: to love those who don't follow Jesus - with courage and decency.
  • Community: to love other followers of Jesus - with intentionality and transparency.

And later he writes...

'Worship - Love Jesus. Mission - Love the world. Community - Love one another.

Very simple. But building one's life on these three simple yet profound truths goes deeper than a first glance reveals. They might be simple, but they are not easy. They are approachable and touchable, but once you get close to them, they demand your whole life.

Love is the source of mission and of community as well as being the source of worship. If there is no love there can be no meaningful mission and no meaningful community.

But whose love? Mine? Well, yes and no. First and foremost it's the love of the Father poured out in and through the Son. And it's the love of the Son, Yahshua (Jesus) poured out sacrificially to redeem us and change us. And it's the love of the Spirit of Christ within us individually, and Christ in us communally - the hope of glory.

We love because we were first loved. The result of love in our hearts is threefold - worship, mission, and community.

It's not a question of mission and then community, or community and then mission. As we begin to love (and therefore worship) the One who first loved us, we will find ourselves in mission and in community too. Without love we will never get started with either of them.

Receive his love and you will inevitably begin to love him, then you will worship and everything else will follow as we are swept along with Jesus on his journey towards deeper community and mission.

There's a great example of this in practice on the Jesus Virus blog.


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