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Kids participating in Summer Service Projects

By Domenico Danesi

The Titus 2 Groups that meet Wednesday nights will be launching out into our Jerusalem (East Rochester) for the summer months (June, July, and August). We have such ample opportunity to impact our Jerusalem for the cause of Christ. Literally across the street and parking lot we have the Park, Senior Center, Firehouse, and Police Station. We desire to demonstrate the love of Christ not in word only, but in word and deed (I John, James).

Each of the three summer months we will be take 2-3 Wednesdays in each month and clean the park, wash fire engines, and help out at the police station. The Police Chief and the Fire Chief are former East Rochester Alumni (Steve Clancy and Mike Romach). Many of the men and women involved in these government agencies are “home grown”. As a former graduate of East Rochester High School (1993) I know that this community is in need of help. East Rochester’s landscape has dramatically changed over the last 20 years. There are drug issues, single-parent-homes, escalated crime, and a need for Jesus Christ like never before.

Perhaps you are not aware that this year we successfully started (by the grace of God) a Bible Club at the East Rochester elementary school. Dennis and Dorothy McGee, Susan Berardi, Collin Zweigle, and I have all helped to minister to a group of 7-10 children from 2:30pm to 3:30 pm on Tuesdays after school. If interested in helping out with the Bible Club beginning in October of the 2015-16 School year, please reach out to me. We would love to get you involved if God has called you.

Jesus said in the gospel of Matthew 18:5, “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me.” On Wednesday evenings in the summer we will be giving the children of Koinonia Fellowship opportunities to serve, and in turn the people they will be serving will be receiving a tangible presence of the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus Christ. The idea that a missions trip only means going to a 3rd world country is not accurate. Jesus commissioned His church to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the world (Acts 1:8) all SIMULTANEOUSLY! The Greek translators actually had great difficulty with the word “both” in Acts 1:8 (Missions Conference 2014). The word “both” actually means “at the same time” or “simultaneously”. This was a revelation to me and has changed the way I look at this verse and at missions. 

Titus 2 is launching out into our Jerusalem this summer. What about you? Where are you called? Across the street, across the state, across the country, or across the world? Wherever it is, Go!

 

Passionately Pro-Life

By Jim Harden, CEO CompassCare

“Dad, are dragons real?” My 6 year old son asked me this question in our back yard one evening by a campfire. I looked my son square in the eye and said, “Yes they are.” But before I could explain what I meant tears of fear welled up in his eyes as he ran inside exclaiming, “I’m telling mom!”

Later I was able to explain that while the flying, fire-breathing animal may not exist, these mythical creatures are metaphors for the embodiment of evil. And evil does exist. It seeks to steal, kill, and destroy the crown of creation- human beings. And we need to be careful and well-armed when it comes for us or those around us.

Abortion is one of society’s dragons and it has killed and harmed many. Yet some believe that abortion is a good, or at least a necessary evil. But I don’t believe that. In fact, I am what many would consider to be passionately ‘pro-life’ but not for the reasons you might think.

I am not passionately pro-life because of my personal background: Delivered into this world by a doctor who would become a notorious abortionist, Nevel Sender. In my father’s hospital, to a mother who was a Planned Parenthood volunteer, with an abortion-causing contraceptive device wrapped around my wrist. 

I’m not passionate because there are over 40 million abortions occurring worldwide every single year, over 1 million of those in the U.S., with more of them occurring in New York than anywhere else in the nation. The reason I am passionate is not because of corrupt politicians, or unconstitutional judicial legislation (i.e. Roe vs. Wade). And while I clearly see that abortion represents the exploitation of the coercive life circumstances of women facing unplanned pregnancy and that children are dying to line the pockets of abortionists, that’s not even the core of why I am passionate.

All of those reasons listed above can be dismissed as merely arbitrary opinion, no better or worse than the opinions of the abortionist’s (except that his are sanctioned by government).

I am passionately pro-life because of what I believe.

Lessons from Isaac Watts

By Pat Tharp

The debate over “modern” church songs and the “classic hymn” is nothing new. It seems with every generation in the church a new style or genre emerges. For some, new sounds, arrangements, and the artful poetic verbal imagery are welcomed as fresh and contemporary… for others there is a sense of loss for the “classics” which they are so familiar with. While the worship wars have for the most part ceased, we are still faced with music and lyrics that may be “different” than what we grew up with or are used to. This debate is nothing new; it goes all the way back to the late 1600’s.

Up until that time John Calvin had urged his followers to only sing “metrical psalms.” English Protestants followed the same advice. Each Psalm would have a certain number of syllables. This is how the church sang, only Psalms and only one way. 

Then in 1674, a little boy was born… Isaac Watts. His father was an imprisoned Pastor because of his sympathies with the Nonconformists, and was later freed. Isaac learned Latin by age 4, Greek at age 9, French that he used to converse with his neighbors at age 11, and Hebrew at age 13. With an opportunity on scholarships to go to Oxford or Cambridge which would have led him to the Church of England, he chose rather to study at a Nonconformist academy.

Isaac was not very impressed with the songs that were sung in church at his time. His father told him that if he didn’t like it, to write his own music…and he did. The first hymn he penned as a teen was “Behold the Glories of the Lamb!” Isaac wanted to see more passion and modern connectiveness with those who were singing. He once said, "Where the flights of his faith and love are sublime, I have often sunk the expressions within the reach of an ordinary Christian." He wanted all people to be able to sing, not just the pious and educated of his time.

 

East Rochester Community Resource Center

By Teresa Quinzi-Willette, Director

The East Rochester Community Resource Center is under the auspices of the East Rochester Association of Churches and the Village of East Rochester. Food and funding for our food pantry come from the individual churches, private donations and from Foodlink, Inc. We are so very grateful for the food and monetary donations made by churches and civic organizations and especially by Koinonia. God has blessed us with your support.

Our Food Pantry started in 1973 and occupied different locations, mostly within St Jerome's buildings. In 1993 fundraising began to purchase a building specifically to house all of our programs. Our permanent address is 333 E. Chestnut Street.  

Providing food is our most important and primary service. Each food pantry has its own rules for clients. There are general guidelines set out by Foodlink, Inc. that we all follow to the extent that fits our clientele and our circumstance. In general, we serve anyone who is in need, with slight priority given to families with children.

 

Compassion

By Lynn Metier

“ ‘…with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,’ says the LORD, your Redeemer.” (Isaiah 54:8b)

A dictionary definition of “compassion” is: “sorrow for the sufferings or trouble of another or others, accompanied by an urge to help; pity”. The Hebrew root word translated as “compassion” or “compassionate” is “racham” (#7355 in “The New Strong’s Concordance”, 1995), and it means, “to fondle; by implication, to love”, and is also translated as “love”, “mercy”, and “pity”. One (#4697) of at least three Greek words used in the New Testament to express the same concept also has the idea of feeling sympathy, experiencing inward affection, and having tender mercy toward another.  

When Moses asked to see the LORD’s glory, God responded, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” (Exodus 33:18,19) When He granted Moses’ request, He proclaimed, “ ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and faithfulness, showing mercy to thousands” (“of generations” is implied), “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin’ ” (Exodus 34:6-7). God’s compassion is inextricably linked to His goodness, mercy, and grace. Put another way, the very essence of God, His glory, is partially revealed through His compassion. If God were not compassionate, He might give us what we deserve. Instead, He has mercy on us. Also, He shows favor and bestows blessings because that is His intrinsic nature. Again and again the Scriptures reveal that God’s nature is compassionate, merciful, and gracious. Nehemiah 9:17,31; Psalms 86:15, 111:4b, 145:8,9; and Micah 7:18,19 are some Old Testament examples. Psalm 78:38, while specifically referring to God’s disposition toward rebellious Israel, also reveals His attitude toward us all: “But He, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them.” 

Thus, in the New Testament we find God’s ultimate expression of His compassion toward mankind unveiled in Jesus Christ. The very fact that He sent His Son to redeem us rather than annihilate us proves His mercy and love (John 3:16,17). The Scriptures record concerning Jesus: “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) “When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:14)  Again and again Jesus demonstrated God’s compassion upon those He met (Matthew 15:32-37, 20:29-34; Mark 1:40-42, 5:1-19; Luke 7:12-15). He also taught about God’s compassion (Luke 15:11-24), and He taught others to practice compassion (Luke 10:30-37; Matthew 18:23-33).

 

Spring's Song of Hope

By Lynn Metier

Song of Solomon 2:8: "Listen!  My Beloved!  Behold, He is coming!"  

Yes, the Bible tells us (most directly in John 14:2,3 and 1 Thess 4:15-17) that Jesus is one day coming back for His own.  This truth has both an individual certainty (“it is appointed for man to die once” – Hebrews 9:27) as well as a corporate, prophetic application (in the “harpazo” or “rapture” of the Church).  This knowledge believers have that one day we will face God is to profoundly influence the way we live.  “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we will be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.  And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.”  (1 John 3:2,3)  This “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13) belongs to every Christian, and indicates both a completed certainty and a continual process.  “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  (2 Corinthians 5 17)  From the eternal perspective of God, who “(declares) the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10), every born again believer is perfect and complete in Christ; but from our present, time-bound point of view, our spiritual growth and resulting change in lifestyle is an ongoing “walk”.  “For the grace of God has appeared … training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession” (Titus 2:11-14).

"My Beloved said to me, 'Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come away.’” (Song 2:10)  What a wonderful invitation!  It could also be viewed as a command, but the term of endearment and the favorable assessment reveal God’s heart.  Jesus calls us, even now in our present circumstances and surroundings, to "arise" – that is, to rise up, to stir up our spirit, to go beyond the physical, to overcome our flesh - "and come away".  Over and over again in the Scriptures believers are exhorted to be set apart from the world, for (and with) God.  God's deliverance of His people Israel from Egypt in the book of Exodus portrays His plan for all His children to "come out" of the world.  Whether by individual, physical death or through the corporate Rapture of the Church, each and every Christian will literally leave this world some day (as will all non-believers, but not through the Rapture), but “concerning that day and hour no one knows”. (Matthew 24:36)  However, there's also an immediate, spiritual consideration to this coming away.  We're not to follow the world's ways: "And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind". (Romans 12:2)  The world’s ways are superficial, meaning they can only meet physical needs but not deeper, spiritual needs; and they are only temporary, while God’s plan for us is eternal. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’” (Jeremiah 29:11)  

 “‘For behold, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.’”  (v.11)  

“Rock What You’ve Got”

This is my friend Lamar. He’s six years old and lives in Rochester. In December Junior and Senior-High students from Koinonia prepared gift boxes for the kids of Bethel Express to be given to them for Christmas. Bethel Express (or B.E.) is a mentorship program for kids from the inner city in Rochester, run by Michael and Julia Peace and a faithful band of volunteers who love these kids. 

 

Forgiven!

By Lynn Metier

“Bless the LORD, O my soul…who forgives all your iniquities… The LORD is merciful and gracious… He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. As far as the east is from the west, so far He has removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:2-3,8,10,12) 

It is not only true that God loved the world enough to give His only Son to redeem it, but He also loves mankind enough to forgive us so that we could be reconciled to Him. “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ ” (Luke 23:34) Yes, God is both gracious and merciful. He is magnanimous to the extreme in all that He gives us, and His greatness is equally manifested by what He does NOT give us, which is the wrath, punishment, and death we each deserve. Thus, the one side of the coin is grace, and the other side is mercy. But our righteous and holy God had to make a way to be able to extend His grace and mercy to fallen and fatally flawed humanity, and that way is through His Son Jesus.

In order to even begin to adequately appreciate God’s forgiveness, we must first have some understanding of how desperately we need it. Like David we must recognize the total incompatibility of God’s holiness and our sinfulness. “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You. The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. You shall destroy those who speak falsehood; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.” (Psalm 5:4-6) But God says that He forgives “wickedness, rebellion, and sin” (Exodus 34:7). This doesn’t mean that He forgives some people who are wicked, and some who are rebellious, and others who are sinful. No, each and every person is all three! Our natural bent is toward evil instead of good. The core of our being is morally wrong and depraved, not basically good, as many falsely believe. “To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him. We have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His teachings which He set before us through His servants the prophets.” (Daniel 9:9,10) Rebellion is our willful insistence on doing things our way instead of God’s way. God holds a very dim view of disobedience, but who has not gone there? Furthermore, we are born defective; we ‘miss the mark’ of God’s perfection. Because of the sin of Adam, the forefather of every human being, we are by our very nature sinners and condemned to death (Romans 5:12). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23); “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). But God is willing and, because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, He is able to forgive all our vices, insubordination, and imperfections. In Jesus “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) HALLELUJAH!!!

But what does it mean that God “forgives” us?

 

Living for Jesus in a Lost and Negative World

By Pastor Ben Hiwale

We live in a negative world. If you deal with things like sickness, the loss of a job, or marriage problems, you can see where, over time, the pressures of the world, if allowed, can steal the love and joy from your life. In Matthew 24:12, Jesus said this: “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” He said this would be a characteristic of the end times. Jesus was saying that the negative things going on around us—not necessarily in us—would cause the love of many to grow cold.

The word “wax” used in that scripture is really significant. It goes back to the way candles are made. A wick is dipped into hot wax and then taken out and allowed to cool for a few seconds, leaving a thin layer of wax. The process is repeated hundreds of times until the wick is buried deep within the wax. The same is true with the heart. If we take our eyes off Jesus and focus on the evil of this world and our circumstances, then, little by little, the layers of negativity harden around our hearts, and the love for God and others waxes cold.

So, how do we stay positive in a negative world? Joshua 1:9 is comforting: “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” Here, the Lord was speaking to Joshua, who was taking over for Moses—a hard act to follow. He told Joshua to be strong and of good courage and not to be afraid or dismayed. These are opposing forces. If you are afraid and dismayed, then you are not strong and of good courage. They counteract each other. So, you’ve got to do two things and resist two things.

The word dismay means “to fill with dread or apprehension; daunt”. Can you say you have fought apprehension about the future? Have the problems facing you or the nation seemed daunting, intimidating or discouraging? If so, you have been dismayed.

The Lord doesn’t automatically do these things for you; He flows through you. If you get discouraged or dismayed, you stop the process. It says in Ephesians 3:20, “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” The phrase “according to” means in proportion to or to the degree of the power that is working in you. God flows through people. If you become discouraged, you stop the flow of God’s power.

 

Singing While Suffering

By Pat Tharp

In February, I wrote an article called “Singing in Uncertainty.” How we can sing by faith even when we don’t “feel like it.” A bookend to that thought would be this thought… “Singing while Suffering.” I vividly remember walking into the hospital room of a man stricken by cancer, getting my guitar out, closing my eyes and just worshipping Jesus with him. As he raised his hands in the midst of great physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual duress, he would later tell me it was the most powerful time of worship he ever experienced. It was for me too. But the worship that was offered was not just to minister to the hurting, but it was meant as a testimony for those looking on. What we didn’t know was that many nurses had walked into the room as we worshipped. They saw hands being raised, praise being offered, and joy being expressed on our faces. There is the “evangelism of suffering” that Jesus will use to testify of His goodness, grace, and glory to those who are looking on.

David wrote in Psalm 40:3, “He has put a new song in my mouth—Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the LORD.” What will they see? They will have seen our “horrible pit and miry clay,” V3. When life is rolling along with little resistance, bills are paid, family is healthy, and life is good, we can look not much different than others around us who are not Christians and are experiencing the same life circumstances that we are currently experiencing. Jesus is not magnified in our blessing primarily; He is most magnified in our sufferings. “The Lord be magnified,” Psalm 40:16 

Will we sing in our suffering or will we sulk? Will we trust or will we turn away? Will we magnify Him or blame Him? We will evangelize by our response. A familiar section of Scripture in Acts 16 gives us a picture of this. Paul and Silas get into trouble for cutting into the profits of the local idol manufacturing union by setting a possessed girl free from her divination. Paul and Silas get a beat down and are thrown into the worst part of the prison. While being locked in torturous stocks, V25 says, “…at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” As prayers and praise ascended, “the prisoners were listening to them.” And through the intervention of God, an earthquake occurs and sets all the prisoners free. While the jailer was ready to kill himself for this, Paul intervenes and this man and his family come to trust in Christ. The evangelism of suffering and the song of the sufferers may lead to salvation. What if they complained and kept their mouths shut? The story may have ended differently.

Our greatest example is Jesus. After the last supper we read in Matthew 26:30 that they “sung a hymn” and went to pray at the Mount of Olives. Jesus sang before His suffering to save us from our suffering.

When we sing in and through our suffering, the worship we raise is first for our Lord. He may choose to use it to touch the heart of a person who is not a Christian. He may be using it so that you can minister to those who are also hurting. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says that Jesus, “…comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Pray and praise even when it seems you can’t go on. Don’t waste the suffering; let it be an opportunity to testify so that, “Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the LORD.”  His grace is sufficient for you and me. 

 

Singing In Uncertainty

You probably already know this, but maybe you don’t want to admit it, but there are times, seasons, and valleys in life when the last thing we may feel like doing is “singing unto the Lord.”   

Every person walks through the door of our Church bringing in the unseen  proverbial “baggage” of stuff called “life.” There are broken hearts, broken bodies, broken homes. There are broken relationships, broken finances, and broken families. 

You may feel like you’re just hanging by a thread and you put your best face on and hope that nobody asks you,” how are you doing?” This happens more often than we realize. As you slink into your chair, the warm and friendly worship leader greets you and the band begins to launch into their upbeat hand-clapping rendition of “Hosanna” and the last thing on your mind is “singing unto the Lord.”

If that’s you my brother or sister, may I put my arm around you and say, “That’s OK…Jesus knows what you are going through.” That is why He is called, “Emmanuel,” literally, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

Church is not a place for the perfect person; there is no one who is perfect. It is a hospital where the wounded, weak, and weary come to gather, sing, eat of spiritual food, celebrate, and worship a God who lived, died, and rose again for them and their sins. It is a hospital where Dr. Jesus as the great Physician has the perfect prescription for the ailments of our hearts.

If you had a rough week, month, or life…if you are battling fears within and without…if you are fighting the black dog of discouragement, depression, or doubt, may I propose one medicine, one mercy, that may be the remedy and break through that you need as we gather together.

I dare you and I declare to you that what you need to do is SING!

 

The Resurrection and The Life

By Pastor Ray Viola 

“Jesus said unto her, ‘I am the resurrection, and the life’”

This week Christendom celebrated the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The bodily resurrection of Jesus is the peg upon which the entire validity of Christianity rests. If there is no bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, there is no gospel. If there is no bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, there is no forgiveness of sin and mankind is without hope. Jesus Himself foretold of His resurrection. In the gospel of John 2:19-22, “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body.” He told His disciples in Matthew 20:18-19: “‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.

Jesus’ bold declarations of His bodily resurrection from the dead were an advance notice of His fulfillment of prophecy. Luke 24:45-47: “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’”

When the opponents of Jesus asked Him for a sign to prove the validity of His ministry, Jesus replied in Matthew 12:39,40 with this scathing rebuke and glorious prophecy: “‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.’” It is interesting that after Jesus was crucified and laid in His tomb, “…the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, “After three days I will rise.” Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, “He has risen from the dead,” and the last fraud will be worse than the first.’ Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.’ So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.” (Matthew 27:62-66)

After His resurrection from the dead, these same men had to do some fancy footwork to try to cover up the bodily resurrection of Jesus. In Matthew 28:11-15 we read, “While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, ‘Tell people, “His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.” And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.’ So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.” There is no way to cover up the empty tomb and bodily resurrection of The Lord Jesus Christ. The New Testament records a number of eyewitness accounts of people who saw the Risen Jesus. After spending 40 days with His disciples, in Acts 1:9-11, some of them saw Jesus ascend up into heaven, leaving them with the promise that He will return.

 

Discipleship

Have you ever built anything with your hands? Making things is intrinsically messy. Whether it’s your favorite meal in the kitchen or something you build in the garage,  you always end up with a mess on your hands that you have to clean up.  True discipleship is like making things—it’s making people for God—and it’s messy. When Jesus said, “Go and make disciples,” He definitely knew it was going to take time, and be messy. Jesus Himself had spent years investing into a small crew of guys—teaching them all He knew, and showing them the way to true life. It is a simple command that Jesus gave us, yet extremely difficult. True gospel-centered discipleship not only produces difficult personal transformation in the people we are discipling; it also produces difficult personal transformation in our own hearts. The primary purpose in life for every disciple of Jesus couldn’t be any clearer in the Bible—to disciple others.

We should all have people in our lives who are discipling us, and we should all embrace our chief purpose by eventually looking for other people we can disciple. This isn’t just a job for pastors. Lately there’s been a lot of talk about spiritual formation and discipleship, and rightfully so. I think we can all agree there’s a discipleship deficit in the Church. Perhaps the elephant in the room is that there isn’t a whole lot of discipling going on, even though that’s precisely what we, as Jesus’ followers, were commissioned to do.

What should we do? and How should we do it?  How can we best make disciples right where we are?  When we look to Scripture to find out what God says about discipleship, we can come up with these 4 broad principles: 

     Maturity is a goal for disciples.

     God wants you and your church on a clear path toward spiritual growth.

     God involves us in our own growth, as well as our church’s growth.

     God calls you and your church to be spiritual leaders.

We need to recognize that maturity is the goal of discipleship. Keeping people spiritually immature is never a stated goal, but we seem to be achieving it.  Part of the problem is in the way we sometimes see the maturing process. We should not treat depth and maturity as an enemy. Being deep in the faith is not about being full of obscure details. Being spiritually mature does not mean you have graduated out of the daily grind of faith, grace, and mercy in a fallen world.  True spiritual depth is about understanding the Word of God and living out its truths. That should be the goal for all of us.

I’m sure there are some who are afraid of maturing too much, to a point where there’s a chasm between them and the lost. We always want to communicate at a level that is accessible to those outside the church, but that doesn’t mean we should remain immature or shallow for the sake of connectivity.  If we have low expectations for discipleship, we will end up with churches that are an inch deep and a mile wide. Our task is to keep things simple without engaging in “relativism,” which is when we make something so simple it loses its essential value.

Hebrews 6:1 says, “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.” This isn’t about what we know about the Bible; it is about becoming complete disciples. So our challenge is to keep the communication simple while not passing on a watered down approach to the gospel. It is a balancing act for sure—but more than a balancing act. It is only through depth and maturity that we will truly find better methods for communicating the gospel. A truly deep experience will not move us away from the ones we are trying to reach. It will move us toward them.  We can’t be too deep in the faith, but we can be too shallow. God will not bless shallowness when a deeper walk is available. An elementary approach will not produce mature disciples.



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