discipleship

We Are New City: Discipleship like Jesus'

New City is a little different. But different isn't our goal.
Discipleship is.
That's the task Jesus left his original disciples with; that's the task of the church - discipleship.
Just after the resurrection and just before his ascension, Jesus gave the disciples their orders, "18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28

A disciple of Jesus is someone who loves and follows Jesus. That should describe every true believer - we love Jesus and follow him. Following him means that as disciples we are growing in our own knowledge and walk with him, becoming more and more like him (Romans 8:29). Following him also means that we are "making disciples," sharing the good news of Jesus (baptizing them) and helping others grow as his disciples (teaching them to obey his commands).

So - the church is people who love and follow Jesus, disciples. And the mission of the church is to be disciples (growing in our own walk) who are making disciples, helping others come to love and follow Jesus (or, helping others live in light of the gospel). Really that's it.
Love and follow Jesus and help others love and follow Jesus.

While there are many ways for discipleship to take place in and through the local church, here's how New City approaches discipleship following the model we see in the life of Jesus:

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Jesus Discipled the Multitudes
There are many stories in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) of huge crowds gathering to hear Jesus teach. So he taught the multitudes who gathered. 
For us, that's our Sunday morning gatherings. Every Sunday our liturgy, songs, sermons and kid's classes declare the gospel to both believers and unbelievers with the goal of seeing people come to love and follow Jesus. This is discipleship but not all that effective for deep growth.

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Jesus Discipled the Twelve
Jesus didn't spend all of his time with the multitudes. In fact he often tried to escape the multitudes with his disciples. Jesus spent a great deal of time with the twelve. They ate together, ministered together, did mission together. They celebrated weddings together and mourned funerals together. They faced adversity together. In all of that, Jesus was teaching this small group and preparing them to continue as disciples and make other disciples even when he was away.
We do this through our Missional Communities. Missional Communities (MCs) are like small groups but with a heavy focus on discipleship - helping others love and follow Jesus. Our MCs seek to apply each week's sermon to the life of those in the MC, learning to follow Jesus. Each MC is also on mission together, reaching out in a variety of ways to see others come to love Jesus as well.  Here discipleship deepens and becomes much more practical than a Sunday morning sermon. Here we live the "One Anothers" of Scripture which includes, Colossians 3:16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. "

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Jesus Discipled a Few
Throughout the ministry of Jesus you find him spending extra time with three of his disciples - Peter, James and John. These three were closer to Jesus than any of the disciples. Jesus was investing more deeply in them and in their discipleship. These men would become primary leaders and evangelists in the first church. Jesus was preparing them to lead.
At New City we call these small groups DNA Groups. "A DNA Group usually consists of three people—men with men, women with women—within a particular (MC), who meet together regularly to be known and to bring the gospel to bear on each other’s lives so that they grow in and live out their gospel identity. DNA Groups are not about self improvement, but God’s unending grace to transform us through the gospel–Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection. (Galatians 1:102 Corinthians 5:21)"  (from www.saturatetheworld.com).  We'll be talking much more in the coming months about DNA Groups and getting more DNA groups started in our MCs.

Jesus made disciples who, by the power of the Spirit, changed the world.
We believe his method is worth repeating - reach the multitudes, disciple small groups, pour your life into a few who will also pour their lives into a few, disciples making disciples.  This is our focus. This is where we invest our time, talents and resources. This is how we make disciples who make disciples.

 

The Call to Lead

For the last couple of months, New City staff and elders have been reading the book Designed to Lead by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck. The book begins with the premise that the Church should be a locus, or center point, for leadership development. One reason for this is that “leadership, apart from the work of God, cannot produce true flourishing or eternal results.” (p. 2)

And we aren’t just talking about leadership within the Church, though that is certainly a need. The leaders that are developed within the Church can impact our culture on a much larger scale, as they become leaders in many areas of life. In other words, “If we believe, as William Temple stated, ‘The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members,’ then all of humanity benefits from the leaders created and formed in the church.” (p.3, emphasis added)

Why We Need Leaders

We are at an amazing place now at New City. We have grown so much, and God continues to bring new people through our doors just about every week! As attendance increases, the need for volunteers does as well. It’s a really great problem to have! We are so thankful.

As we have grown, we have also begun to feel the need for more leaders acutely and in every area. Sometimes the easiest thing for those leading is to just do everything themselves. However, by doing so, they wear themselves out, and, even worse, do a disservice to those they lead by failing to disciple and develop leadership skills.

The challenge in leadership development is that it takes WORK! It isn’t random. Leaders don’t just spring up out of nowhere. There has to be a plan, a strategy for development and training. It is an investment of time, energy and other resources. The cost can be great, but we believe the reward is even greater as we begin to see our culture changed and the gospel advanced.

What now?

For that reason, we have begun developing leadership “pipelines” in each of our ministry areas. A pipeline is a clear and concise plan. Leadership pipelines name the different levels of leadership and define the character qualities, skills and responsibilities corresponding with each level. Most simply, the pipeline shows the “goal” and how to get there.

Some of you may not see yourselves at leaders. You read all this about development and pipelines, and maybe you’ve already dismissed yourself as a candidate. DON’T DO THAT! We are all called to bring others around us to Jesus. We are all called to play a role in shaping our culture, at home, work, and play. That’s leadership! You are called whether you feel like a leader or not. And God is faithful to equip the ones He has called.

It will look different for everyone. Not everyone will move through the pipelines, and that’s ok. Our hope is to provide the framework and plan, to help others identify potential leaders in every area of ministry, and to help all of you develop the gifts God has given you.

The Goal

As with everything we do at New City, the ultimate goal is to see lives transformed as people begin living in light of the gospel. We don’t just want to develop leaders for the ministry’s sake, or to make our jobs easier. We don’t want to develop leaders just so we can say we did and check it off the list. It is so much bigger than that. There is a whole world of people who need to hear the good news of Jesus. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few (Matt. 8:37). The goal is to raise up leaders who will labor for the sake of the gospel. Won’t you join us?

In the coming weeks, you will be introduced to pipelines in our different ministry areas. If you have questions, please feel free to contact an elder or staff member, and we will be glad to answer!

Growing in the Gospel is a Journey

Tim Keller has said many times, "The gospel is not the A-B-C's of Christianity - it is the A to Z of Christianity." I find that I am learning this truth more and more, seeing how deep and wide the gospel's application is to my own life. No part of my life is left untouched by the gospel. 
But I have not always seen this. I haven't always understood it. In fact, even now I don't understand this fully and when I look back, even over the past year, I see that I am not now where I was then - I am growing (and some might say I have a long way yet to go!).

In the podcast below, Dave Harvey puts to words this process. Though he speaks as a pastor on preaching, I think that the process of becoming more gospel-centered is similar for all of us: 
* an awakening to the truth that the gospel is for believers as well as unbelievers
* a growing use of the word "gospel"
* moving toward describing the gospel rather than just saying the word "gospel"
* applying the gospel - how the gospel speaks to our fallen world and my life - past, present and future

I find this incredibly encouraging in my own walk with Jesus. I also find it helpful as I consider the truth that we are not all at the same place in our gospel journey, I am reminded that my process has been years long. I also find it helpful as tool for evaluating and coaching other pastors and church planters - how can I help them grow in their journey? Finally I am encouraged and challenged as a Christian and a preacher to listen and learn from others - my journey is not complete - I have a long way yet to go!

What about you... where are you in this gospel journey?

What You Need to Know to Be Who You Need to Be

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"Discipleship" seems to often take one of two directions, either the Bible study and knowledge path or the "practical life application" and How To list path.  In the Bible study and knowledge path we believe that spiritual maturity is the result of knowing more of the Bible and moving deeper into study.  This path often fills heads with more and more knowledge and leads those taking it to be less and less interested in anything that isn't new, deep, and exciting.  Those who take the Practical Life Application/How To approach often reduce the Bible's teachings to lists for self help and improvement. Along this path are signs that read, "7 Ways to a Happier You," 6 ways to Be a Better ______________ "(you fill in the blank: dad, mom, friend, boss, Christian...).

While we need both - Bible study and practical application for life neither of these is the end that we really need - in fact, even the combination is not the end that we really need. What we really need is to know Jesus.  Peter says it this way,

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (II Peter 1:3)

All that we need for life and all that we need for godliness has been given to us - NOT through more knowledge about the Bible and NOT through more practical life application of biblical principles - but through the knowledge of Jesus and specifically the knowledge of Jesus and the Good News of the Gospel.  The Gospel isn't just for unbelievers!  It isn't Good News only for those who don't know Jesus - it is really incredible news for believers as well!

How you ask?  How does the Gospel help me with being a better husband? That's a great question!  When we want to know how to be a better husband wee need look no further than the life, death and resurrection of Jesus (the gospel = the life, death, resurrection of Jesus).

  • Life: Take a look at Ephesians 5:25-33. Jesus shows us what real love for a spouse looks like. The life of Jesus is our example for good, godly, pure love. If I can love like Jesus I will be a great husband.  In I Corinthians 13:4-12 the Apostle Paul tells us what love looks like - patient and kind, does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way... If we read the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John we see in the life of Jesus those very qualities - even in the midst of suffering and persecution!
  • Death: In the Ephesians 5 passage we see that the ultimate love of Jesus was to sacrifice Himself for His bride - the church. Likewise the ultimate picture of a husbands love is to be in his sacrifice for his bride. Most likely that won't include death! But it is a daily call to sacrifice SELF for the good of her, to sacrifice your wants for her wants (all of course in keeping with God's wants!). John tells us in I John 3:16, By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us... John then calls on us to love in the same way. Another beautiful thing that His death reminds us of is forgiveness (Eph 1:7). Even when we fail to love like Jesus, His blood, through faith covers our sins!  We are forgiven. This moment is a new moment to try again. In fact, in that we see another glimpse of His great love for us - that He would be so kind, merciful and full of grace with us! That should remind us to do likewise with our spouse - be kind, merciful, and full of grace.
  • Resurrection: The resurrection is His victory over Satan, sin and death! It is also OUR Victory over Satan, sin and death. Just as God promised throughout the Scripture, starting in Genesis 3:15, the enemy would be defeated and he would redeem His people and restore all things as He intends. The resurrection not only reminds us that because we are in Christ, His victory is ours and we are no longer held captive by the enemy or by sin and death, it also reminds us that God will fulfill all of His promises to us.  Promises to protect us, to keep us, to watch over us, to strengthen us, to empower us, to transform us, to shape us into the image of Jesus, to work all things together for good, to lead us, to convict us, to redeem us, to save us... and on and on and on we could go.  Jesus is victorious!  And because he is, all of the promises of God find their YES in Him! (II Cor 1:20). It is the power of the Spirit of the  resurrection that now indwells me, shapes me, encourages me, strengthens me, enables me... to see Jesus and follow Jesus to love like He loves.

The Failure of Bible Study or Life Application/ How To lists comes because they are powerless to do what Jesus, through the Spirit can do - transform my very identity.  The Apostle Paul makes clear in II Corinthians 5:17 that when we believe and are found in Christ, we are made new creations - the old is passed away and ALL is made new.  I am now a Son of God. I am now sealed with His very Spirit. He has softened my Heart. He has opened my eyes. He has started a good work in me that He will complete (Phil 1:6) and I will be shaped into the very image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). This is good news! And I know that it is true because of the victory of Jesus in the Gospel. Knowing more about the Bible and creating "How to" lists at best produce self-saving, self-righteous Pharisees and at worst lead us to terrible despair because in our own strength we cannot be what we want to be - we cannot be sons and daughters. We cannot accomplish what we want to accomplish - being good, being loved, being somebody. But Jesus never fails! In Him we have all of that because He has made it so. All that we need for life and godliness we have - in Him.

One More for Good Measure For those who may still be doubting I offer one more passage, II Corinthians 3:18:

18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

The way of transformation may include learning more Scripture and studying the Bible - these are good things! It may also include making some simple lists to help us remember things - this too can be good, but ultimately if we are not looking at Jesus - beholding His glory in His life, death, and Resurrection, change will almost always fall short and there will be no real and lasting transformation.