Not Losing Heart

Recently, our church has gone through some difficult circumstances. Since the beginning of the year we have walked with each other through chronic sickness, family emergencies, death, unemployment, and various run-of-the-mill life difficulties. These experiences have proved the maxim “when it rains, it pours.”

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay.”

Paul was no stranger to suffering. Aside from Jesus, no other New Testament witness experienced more suffering. But Paul did not allow his experiences to dictate his attitude or his obedience to the Mission Jesus had given him. In fact, he understood that the difficulties believers experience are meant to show that true power is in God, not in us. He said,

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)

If following Jesus was about demonstrating our own power; if planting a church was about our own strategic efforts; if ministry and witness was about how skilled and articulate we are; then we would be in a lot of trouble. As it is, we experience all kinds of suffering, but we are not overcome by any of them. We experience confusion and frustration, but we are not overcome by depression. We experience rejection and opposition, but we are not left alone by God.

“So we do not lose heart.”

While sharing in this suffering with my church family, I have watched God work his grace into our lives. I have witnessed a growing sense of life-on-life in our Missional Community. I have seen the first adult make a profession of faith. I have witnessed God answer prayers and lead us in sweet worship. I have seen God call a man into ministry. I have been challenged and encouraged by the men in my Discipleship Group.

Let us remind each other that our goal is to glorify God in our mission to make disciples by transforming lives, families, and communities with the Good News of Jesus. Whatever we suffer along the way is not worth comparing to the joy that is before us.

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Let us keep our eyes on Jesus. Let us work to increase the glory of God in our church and increase our joy in Him. We’re just a tool God uses to that end. And he will never leave us or forsake us. Don’t lose heart!

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Multiplying in 2015

How do you usually end the year? In the midst of all of the holiday activity do you take time to look back on the year and what you’ve accomplished? Do you think back to the goals and plans you made in January and whether or not you achieved them?

Most years I don’t think too much about looking back, but this year is different. Looking back on 2014 I can’t help wondering. Has our church plant been successful? Have we fulfilled our vision? Have we transformed our community? Unfortunately, all of those questions can never truly be answered in one year. Church planting is not a one-year effort. Like a foot race, church planting is a marathon, not a sprint.

While there is a time and place to consider those questions, maybe a better question for each of us to ask is, “Have I made disciples this year?” After all, that is our ultimate mission. Isn’t it? “Make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). Another way to think about it is, “What have I multiplied this year?” I saw this tweet from a friend today:

“Four things every church should #multiply: disciples, leaders, small groups, and congregations” (@LDukeAL).

As we look back on 2015, ask yourself this: Have I multiplied disciples this year? Have I multiplied leaders? Has The River Church multiplied small groups? Has The River Church multiplied congregations this year? Maybe you have. Maybe we have not. Well, what are we going to do about it next year?

Here are a few things that I want to lead The River Church to do next year. (1) I am going to encourage every Discipleship Group—you know, the informal groups of men and women, meeting at various times—to work through Life on Mission, a 5-6 week study of how to live like a missionary in your every day life, learning to share the Gospel with people who are far from God. In addition to Life on Mission, I am going to encourage our Discipleship Groups to use other evangelism resources, like Just Walk Across the Room, a book and study written by Bill Hybels. Honestly, friends, we need to learn to be better witnesses. If we cannot sow Gospel seeds, we will not grow as a healthy church on mission!

(2) Beginning January 7, I am going to teach “Preaching 101,” a 5-week class on Expositional Preaching. As a pastor and preacher, I take it my personal responsibility to train men in the task of preaching the Bible. The River Church should be full of men who are equipped to preach faithfully the Word of God. But training to preach is not the only thing our men need. We need to learn to be better Missional Community leaders, better at caring for members of our MCs, better at articulating the Gospel and sharing the Story of God, better at leading our MCs on mission. So I am going to continue to lead our men in our monthly Equipping Sessions, where we will grow and learn together as leaders in all these areas and more.

(3) I am going to encourage us to launch new Missional Communities with leaders trained in our Equipping Sessions. I am going to lead us to identify homes and neighborhoods in our city and our valley where we can put new MCs. When a healthy MC grows in a new neighborhood, it becomes the seed of a new congregation.

The mission of The River Church is to make disciples and plant churches by transforming lives, families, and communities with the Good News of Jesus. That’s what we are all about, friends. What is your part of that mission in 2015? At the end of 2015, will you be able to say I helped multiply disciples, leaders, Missional Communities, and churches?