Friday, January 22, 2010

Guest Blogger: Jess Bousa "The Discipleship Dare"


My friend Jess Bousa (he and I were in Teen Challenge together, and were room mates at Valley Forge Christian College) has written a book called the Discipleship Dare. Like Jess, I am convinced that discipleship––genuine discipleship, is perhaps the greatest need in the Church today. Many thousands of college students, in American and around the world leave the Christian faith every year, not because the arguments against Christianity are better than those for it, but because Christianity has never really become their faith. We hope to one day use this book as a resource in Zambia for youth discipleship. Check out the link for the The Discipleship Dare below, and consider if this might be helpful to you, your church, or someone you know. God bless you as you follow Christ.
Jerry
By Jess Bousa (Guest Blogger), author of The Discipleship Dare: Living Dangerously for God

The American Church is in the middle of a discipleship crisis. In Dallas Willard’s book, The Great Omission, he concludes that the Church is full of undiscipled disciples. Instead of making disciples, we have made converts and instead of baptizing them into the Trinitarian community, we have baptized them into church membership. When the discipleship process is reduced down to converts and church membership, it often takes the real challenge out of following Jesus through our everyday lives. Without the challenge to be pushed to the Biblical standard of discipleship, the world will be full of unChristian Christians, which is the general consensus of outsiders to the Christian faith the Barna Group discovered in their extensive research project reported in the book,UnChristian.

Marines are challenged to thrive not only survive at all times no matter the costs. Every year approximately 38,000 Marines receive their basic training, which is far more challenging than any other branch of the military. Most Marines testify that going through the twelve weeks of boot camp to gain entrance into the Marines is the most challenging thing they ever had to do in their lives. There is no such thing as an unMarine Marine. If the Marines were filled with such a person, they would not be known as being the most elite armed forces in the Military. Their reputation is the result of their training process. Without a training process that challenges every area of life, they would not perform the tasks necessary.

The process determines the product. What if the process of training disciples in the local church has been sidetracked as a result of mass producing discipleship for the crowds? What if discipleship starts and ends with the personal development of a few? Without a tool that builds a bridge from the preaching and teaching in the local church to the real life of a disciple through the week, “real disciples” will continue to be sidelined.

To combat the discipleship crisis in the American Church, I created an experience called: The Discipleship Dare. It is a journey that lasts for 40 days. It can be used alone or in the context of a group. I designed it to jumpstart the lifestyle of a new disciple or revive the lifestyle of a veteran disciple. It can be used as a companion guide for a sermons series, small groups or Sunday School classes. What if the biggest risk in life is not taking any risks for discipleship? I dare you to experience the 40 day Discipleship Dare challenge and dare others to do the same!

For Free Resources & To Purchase, The Discipleship Dare,

Please Visit @ www.TheDiscipleshipDare.com/ 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Friends


Friendship without self-interest is one of the rare and beautiful things of life.
            —James F. Byrnes

Finding truly good friends can be like trying to find hope at a pessimists convention. Good friends are a true rarity. They are the diamonds of human relationships. They are usually forged under pressure, and often emerge from what was at one time as plain and common as coal.    

So what is it about true, genuine friends that make them matter to us so much? The short answer is––they care. They care enough to listen, cry, mourn, and rejoice, even amidst their own crying, mourning and rejoicing. True friends have a way of setting themselves aside, putting their agendas on hold, in order to be with us. And it’s really that, the ability to be with us, that is the mark of true friends.

Pseudo-friends and wanna-be friends can be around us, near to us, in our vicinity, but they are almost never really with us. They tend to come to us with the desire to show us something of themselves. They want us to notice their learnedness, their eloquence, their strength. Genuine friends, though, come to us and bring only a desire to hear us, love us, and show us something of ourselves. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote:

The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him.

True friends show us that we matter as people, that we have value inherent in ourselves. And, this is most often accomplished not in displays of strength, but in displays of weakness.

Our best friends, often emerge from our shared experiences. Recently we were in South Africa at retreat for missionaries, and I couldn’t help but feel an almost tangible––something, between all of us. Some of these other missionaries were close friends. Others, I had never met before. And, yet when we gathered for worship, or simply for a meal, there was a unity among us, a bond that was uncontainable in either our persons, or in the spaces in which we gathered. It was a bond that transcended us, and refreshed us.

And it wasn’t just that we were in the company of one another. It was that we were in the company of one another, and simultaneously in the company of Christ. Because only by encountering Someone—namely Christ, who can genuinely help us to become what we were created to be, can we truly find joy in being ourselves.

In his book “A Reasonable Faith: A Case for Christianity in a Secular World,” Tony Campolo argues that secularized man longs for humanness, for a sense of self-actualization. Campolo describes how as a sociology teacher at University of Pennsylvania he was constantly confronted with a single question by his students (sometimes in various forms). The question was, “What does it mean to be human and how can humanness be achieved?”

Campolo asked a student what he meant by being human, to which the student responded, “It means to be loving, infinitely loving; sensitive, infinitely sensitive; aware, totally aware; empathetic, completely empathetic; forgiving, graciously forgiving. I could go on but I would only be elaborating on the obvious.” Campolo then asked the student how it is that he came to have a knowledge of these traits even in a limited fashion. “Were you born with them? Were they part of your biological makeup?” The student grew agitated at the questioning, knowing that Campolo knew full well where the traits came from.


“You know that whatever qualities of humanness I possess are obtained by the process of socialization. If I am forgiving, it is because I associated with forgiving people and took on their traits and likeness.” The student argued that Campolo, as a professor of sociology knew all of this. So why the line of questioning? What Campolo was trying to do was to remind the student that “Socialization is the process whereby a homo sapiens becomes human.” He reminded the student that his entire being was the product of interaction with other people. Had he been separated at birth from all people and raised by wolves he would have none of the qualities that he possesses that mark him as human. Ultimately the conversation led to the student despairing that if his humanness, his achieving his full potential depended upon his ongoing interaction with someone who possessed in superior measures all the forms of humanness (love, compassion, emphathy, awareness of others) then he was doomed, because no such person exists. With this, Campolo directed the students attention to Christ, as FULLY human, fully present, and desiring just such a relationship. The student was converted to Christianity.

This, I believe, is what missions is all about. We go to places like Africa, with the message of God’s friendship (John 15:13-15), we go to share in the struggles of our brothers and sisters around the world, because in sharing the same experiences in the presence and company of Christ, we all are “born again.”

Apart from Christ, friendships can only help us to become like the person we are friends with, and help them to become like us. But in Christ, our friendships shape us all into the image of the One we serve. The imagio dei, the image of God, imprinted upon mankind from the very beginning, is revealed in our love for one another, and in our simultaneous love for God. It is revealed when we sacrifice for one another and give of ourselves because of the inherent value of one created in God’s image.

As Paul writes, “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body” (2 Cor. 4:10-11).

If we truly understand that we have friendship with God, through Christ, then we can begin to comprehend the immeasurable importance of being a friend ourselves. This is not only what humankind most desperately wants, it is what humankind most desperately needs. And Christians, ought to be the world’s largest supplier.