Wednesday, December 11, 2019

What do you want for Christmas?

What do you want for Christmas?

We spend most of the Christmas season searching for that perfect gift, the best bargain, the right decorations, and a parking space at the mall.

This year when the family all gets together, everybody will bring only one wrapped gift. It will be placed on the table for all to inspect -still wrapped. After we have gorged ourselves with turkey, dressing, dumplings, green bean casserole, and pecan pie we will draw numbers to determine the gift selection order realizing that that gift we select may be stolen by the next person in line if they take a liking to it. We have seen grown men cry when their favorite gift is taken from them.

 We are so busy that we miss the season’s true meaning. It was the same at that first Christmas in Bethlehem. Almost everyone missed it. They were too busy looking for other things. The politicians missed the first Christmas. The business community missed the first Christmas. The innkeeper missed the first Christmas. In fact, even the religious establishment missed the first Christmas, because they were looking at other things. The only people who enjoyed that very first Christmas were the people who were looking for it. 

The Angel told the shepherds "You'll find the baby ... lying in a manger."

The Shepherds said: "Let's go and see!" They found Jesus because they were searching. They were seeking Him.

Later on another group, the wise men found Jesus because they were seeking Him.

Now let me ask you, what are you going to find this Christmas?

I'll tell you what you're going to find: You will find whatever you are looking for. In our society today there's a renewed emphasis on seeking spiritual truth. Sometime back Newsweek magazine had an article titled, "The Search for the Sacred." In it the writer commented;

"Maybe it's just a critical mass of Baby Boomers in the contemplative afternoon of life. Or maybe it's anxiety over the coming millennium, or maybe it's a general dissatisfaction with the materialism of the modern world. For these reasons and more, millions of Americans are' embarking on a search for the sacred in their lives."

The bottom line of this article is that people are asking, "Is there any meaning to my life? Does my life count? Is there a God? And if there is a God, can I get to know Him?"

That's what Christmas is all about, folks! The article continued,

" A lot has changed in the past century. We've stripped away what once our ancestors saw as essential, the importance of religion in the family, and people feel they want something they've lost; they just don't remember what it is they've lost."

The loss of a faith leaves a gaping hole and that, in essence, is a seeker's quest - to fill the hole with a new source of meaning. Why are we here? What is the purpose of our existence?

Now, if you're honest with yourself, at least sometime this past year, when you slowed down long enough, you probably asked yourself these same questions. 

"Why am I here? What am I here for? Why do I exist?”

Now, where do you think those questions coming from? It is God Who is putting those questions in your mind! He is creating in you a desire and thirst to know Him. God knows all about you; He wants you to know Him.

And there's no better time than Christmas to become a seeker like the wise men were. Wise men, women, and children still seek God.

Whatever it is you are Looking for, That Is What You will Find.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

So, you want to make disciples - Count the cost!

The Great Commission

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. [Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)]

Effectively fulfilling the Great Commission is no simple task as you have probably discovered if you have been in ministry for any length of time. Most of us - with good intentions - have been doing it wrong. The problem is in understanding what we are called to do.

Please forgive my suggested books which address the area of discipleship. They do provide help for your discipleship program if you are interested.


Step one of the Great Commission is, "To go." When we go out of the church and share God's love, God shows up and does wonderful things. St. Patrick was at home in England when a band of Irish marauders kidnapped him, took him to Ireland, and sold him into slavery. Six years later he escaped and fled on a boat back to England.  A few years later, young Patrick had a vision calling him back to Ireland. Talk about getting out of his comfort zone. 
Obeying God, he went back to the nation that had enslaved him. But this time he took the message of God's love. He baptized thousands of people including some wealthy women and the sons of kings. Every day he faced imprisonment and death.

"To go," means to leave your comfort zone, to get out of the church and interact with people who are not like you. It is a mission for the Lord. Leaving our comfort zone can be very scary, but that's where we will see God in action. 

Sharing the love of God with a stranger is not easy for most people. It is especially difficult when people are radically different from us. But Jesus calls us to GO. And as we go He can work through us. To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, "A small rudder can turn a big boat as long as the boat is moving. But when it is sitting still the rudder has no effect."

In the Gospel of John, Jesus was on His way from Jerusalem to Galilee. Tired and needing rest, He stopped at Jacob's well while His disciples went into Schecham to fetch food and drink. You know the story. A Samaritan woman comes along, Jesus asks her for a drink, and they dialogue for a while. Jesus knows her heart and shares the "Good News" with her in an interesting way. She believes and GOES into town to tell her story to everyone there. She left her comfort zone. The townspeople came out to meet this Jesus, and they also believe.

Make "Disciples"

Make disciples is a faulty translation of this passage. A better translation would be to "disciple all nations." So we do not make disciples, we disciple people. The word that is translated "disciple" is the Greek word "Mathetes." In ancient Greece, it was an individual that attached himself to master craftsman, teacher, or leader in order to be mentored by them. In our present world we might use the term "apprentice," the way in which electricians, plumbers, etc are accredited. 

Since becoming a disciple is a purely voluntary act it cannot be forced upon someone or made it a requirement. Postmoderns rebel at coercion. This could be the cause of the church losing its young people as soon as they get outside the influence of the church and home.

The implications of voluntary discipleship are far-reaching. First discipleship, is not programmatic, it is relational. The discipler, must have something significant that the potential disciple wants to become. 

The relationship between the discipler and disciple must be close. It must be so important that the disciple gives up other desires and reaches out to enter into the relationship.  On the other side, the discipler must be perceived as worthy of the relationship. We great resource for becoming the leader others want to follow

Second, if discipleship is voluntary, the discipler must present discipleship as important to the disciple. In other words, he must provide a solid justification and present the benefits of discipleship. 

Lastly, since discipleship is relational, it should be obvious that it is an interpersonal activity between the discipler and the disciple. The discipler has a responsibility to the relationship. If he is not willing to spend the time necessary to maintain the relationship, he will not be an effective discipler. 


Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

The Christian church has a variety of understandings and practices of baptism, but Baptism is the entry into the body of Christ. In Baptism you are baptized into the community of Jesus Christ. The church proclaims that you are loved and wanted and a child of God in baptism.

Water is a symbol of purification. It is used to mark the beginning of a new life. In water baptism we are transformed from death to life, rising as a new person, born anew. Satan no longer has a hold on us. The early church included an exorcism in their baptismal rite which is continued in Orthodox Christian churches today. 


When teaching a disciple, the discipler has the responsibility to help the disciple learn. As teachers we all have our own style of teaching. However, discipling is more relational than the transfer of knowledge. Therefore it is incumbent upon the discipler to understand that people do not all learn the same way. The discipler must make allowances for the disciples learning style.

Jesus' methods of Discipling.

The first thing we notice about Jesus' methods of discipling is that He spent time
with the twelve. Each time He demonstrated something it became a teaching moment. He would use their questions about what just happened to teach a principle.

  1. Demonstrate: With the twelve standing by, Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons, calmed the storms, raised the dead. Each miracle demonstrated His mission; to destroy the works of the enemy - Satan.
  2. Explain: After demonstrating His power, Jesus explained to His disciples why He was able to accomplish the task while they were not
  3. Instruct: Then He instructed them on how to go forth and minister to the needs around the country.
  4. Send: He sent them out two by two to heal the sick. He gave them an opportunity to minister without Him standing over their shoulders.
  5. Critique: When they returned He gave them a critique of how they did and cautioned them as to what was important.

Your Cost

If you choose to take on this vital role, you must count the cost in your time, your emotions, and your freedom. But there is nothing as rewarding as seeing your efforts come to fruition as new people step into leadership and expand the Kingdom of God.

  1. You can only disciple a few people at a time.
  2. You must invest time and resources into each one.
  3. Some will drop out and cause you much pain.
  4. Do you have the time?
  5. Do you have the Patience?
  6. If so, Go!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Are you happy with yourself?

Are you happy with yourself?

  • Do you wish that you were older or younger? 
  • Would you rather have been born in a different era? 
  • Do you wish you were born of a different sex? 
  • Do you wish that you had different parents? 
  • Do you wish that you had a different body?

As I pass the remarkable age (for me) of four and a quarter score, I wonder how I made it this far. In 1955 as a student at Georgia Tech, country singer Faron Young's hit song became a favorite of mine. 

"I want to live fast, love hard, die young,
and leave a beautiful memory.” 

That song became my battle cry! Thank God, the third item of my plan failed.

That leads me to an important personal insight. I have always been most happy to be the age that I was at the time. 
  • I guess in college, I was having so much fun - almost flunked out – that I was not looking forward to growing older. 
  • It was fun in my late twenties to be the Young Turk fighting to change the status quo in an institutionalized company that was dying. 
  • In a mid-life crisis, I was happy with a less stressful job and a supportive family. 
  • I am still happy at my present age even though my body is wearing out and I can’t do the things that earlier I thought I could not live without. Now there are exciting new things to do. 

Don't believe that you are too young or too old to do what you are called to do.
Just because I can no longer play golf it isn't the end of life.

Am I happy with myself?

No! I fall short of God’s target so often. A quick review of my past reveals any number of regrets, some as a direct result of the plan for my life - sung by Faron Young.

  • I wish that I had learned how to love at an earlier age. 
  • I wish that I had spent more time with my wife and children rather than chasing fame and fortune. 
  • I wish that I had learned to sing. 
  • I wish that I was better playing the guitar. 
But all in all, I am pretty content.

Getting back to the questions that started this issue, I am content with my age today with all of its pains and medical issues. 

My lifetime has seen tremendous progress:
  • from crystal sets to flat-screen TV’s - 
  • from Ford Tri-motors to supersonic intercontinental transports 
  • from 4th of July Roman Candles to ICBM's, landing men on the moon, and exploring the moons of Uranus 
  • from mechanical adding machines to microcomputers and the internet - 
  • advancements in medicine and medical devices which helped me live this long. 
Not only did I watch this progress but was actually able to participate in some.

What an era to be alive!

My parents were far from perfect, but I could not imagine having any others, they made me who I am today. 

While my body was never perfect, it has taken me where I needed to go, not as a professional athlete, but good enough to not embarrass myself on the golf course or bowling alley - that is until I got too old. I would never have made it as an underwear model, but my body has been good enough for what God has called me to be.

Are you happy with yourself?

Do you realize, that God created you the way you are?

  • He wanted you born in the era in which you were born. 
  • He created you as a male or female based on His plan for your life. 
  • He gave you the parents that you had. 
  • He gave you that body.

If you are unhappy with your present age, the era in which you were born, your sex, your parents, or your body, then your problem is with God. He created you for a purpose by putting you in this world in this place, with those parents, and gave you the body for a reason:

To fulfill His purpose in your life.

Do not rebel against  God’s plan for your life!

Friday, September 20, 2019

What is Love?

What is Love?

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. [1 John 4:7-8 (NKJV)]

What is Love? A simple four-letter word that confuses. Because of its misuse, it can result in conflict, heartbreak, and disaster when it should be ushering in peace and joy. The word love, itself, may be the most misunderstood word in the English language.  

What does it mean to you? 

It depends upon your experience. How do you explain a rainbow to a man blind from birth? The rainbow is more than a colorful arch in the sky. When you hear the word dog, what images come to mind? Some will imagine a cute puppy with
a wagging tail, while another might be stricken with fear as they imagine an angry vicious animal prepared to attack.

Words are merely symbols - elements of a language - that we use to communicate. Communications is a two-way street. One person - the sender - wishes to express an idea to another - the receiver. Each has a secret code ring. The sender encodes his idea or thought into words he feels express his thoughts accurately, but then the recipient must decode those words into his own thoughts. If the sender’s idea is to be interpreted accurately by the recipient, they must both be using the same code book. This seems like a simple process, but just look at the political climate in the world today.  Different people seldom use the same codebook. Codebooks are learned through experience and  personal history. A simple act of a gentleman opening the car door for a lady may become an utter disaster. While the gentleman believes that he is showing love by his actions, an emancipated woman may see it as an insulting stereotypical action of a male chauvinist.

So it is with the word love. We have attempted to define love in popular songs, motion pictures, and romantic fiction. But, if we are truly honest, most of us would define love in terms of getting our own needs met. Even generous acts of giving to others are often based upon an expectation of what we will receive in return. When someone offers us attention, significance, or pleasure, we eagerly give with the expectation that we will get what we so desperately need. But that is not love - that is selfish and manipulative. How can you understand love if you have never experienced it?

Early church monastic, St John Climacus, examines the means of ascending to the highest degree of religious perfection by a series of thirty steps, which recall the thirty years of the life of Christ, the most holy example of religious perfection. From step thirty we read;

"The angels know how to discuss love, but even they are only able to do this according to their level of understanding. God is love, so the one who desires to describe this, attempts with dim eyes to weigh the sand in the sea. Love, from its very essence, is the likeness of God. As much as it possible for humans, in its action it is intoxication of the soul, and through its unique characteristic it is a spring of faith, and abyss of long-suffering, an ocean of lowliness. Love is fundamentally the exile of all opposing thoughts, for love thinks nothing evil."[1]

In the Gospel of John,[2] Jesus reveals the Father's love as He encounters a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well. Jesus asks the woman for a drink. Jewish religious leaders were not permitted to ever speak to women - especially women who were immoral. This particular woman had had five husbands and was living with a man that was not her husband. She had failed utterly in her search for love.

Jesus initiates a relationship with her for the purpose of showing her real love. He describes His loving presence as "Living Water" that will satisfy and become her spring of love welling up to eternal life. As they talk, Jesus reveals that He knows her sin. But more importantly he knows her hunger for love. He points out her five failed marriages, and her current live-in boyfriend, but does not use her sin and brokenness against her. He sees her as a person with a true and deep hunger for a love that won’t fail her. Jesus knows the true desires of her heart. He seeks to satisfy her desire with a love that comes from heaven. That love from heaven is more real and relevant to her needs than any human could provide.

Jesus declares, "I am the bread of life, he who comes to me will never be hungry, and He who believes in me will never be thirsty.

The Apostle, Paul, wrote letters of instruction, encouragement, and correction to the churches to which he had oversight. To the church at Corinth he wrote on love;

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails[3]

If you dare to assess your ability to give and receive love insert your name in place of “Love” and read this passage.

 _______ suffers long and is kind; ______ does not envy; ______ does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. _______ never fails.

A good definition of love is "Giving to someone beyond what one is getting in return." Love involves giving beyond oneself. It means putting another's needs ahead of our own. Love is "the freedom to see beyond oneself in order to see another." not to see them as an object to meet my personal need. Love sees another as a person worthy of love.

Growing up in a family with stoic Northern European ancestry, there was little outward manifestations of love. Showing emotion or affection, while not discouraged, was not modeled. The word “Love” itself was reserved for things like chocolate cake and ice cream. Acceptance was given when you worked hard, obeyed, and stayed out of trouble. You worked hard to gain acceptance. I do not recall hearing the words, “I love you.” addressed to me, and I don’t recall speaking them to someone else.

The first time I said, “I love you” was to my future wife. Recently on the occasion of our anniversary, my wife asked me if I remembered when I first told her I loved her. It would have been an outstanding event because it was the first time I said those words and meant them. But, I still had no idea what love really meant. 

How can you understand love if you have never experienced it?

If our idea of "love" is restricted to an unhappy, dysfunctional or abusive relationship, then the fact that "God is love!" presents a false image of God. However, understanding true love presents a more realistic vision of God. 

Jesus, as God, presents us the reality and true definition of love!  

[excerpted from my forthcoming book, "Love Like Jesus."]

[1] The Ladder of Devine Ascent, St John Climacus
[2] John 4:1-26
[3] 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NKJV)

Monday, July 1, 2019

Overcoming Fear

Flying into Boston’s Logan Airport, I could tell we were too low. We had just cleared a garbage scow hauling the trash out to sea with hundreds of gulls feasting on the cargo and circling as they sought additional treats. If our engines ingested a bird, we were dead.  We could see a variety of boats heading for home as a blanket of fog was quickly covering the area. I could no longer see the runway lights from my seat at the window. The Delta DC 9-31 turned sharply to port onto final approach to runway 27. I was worried. We are too low. We may not make it!. Now, the plane was now only a few feet above the inky black surface.

The plane suddenly veered to starboard then back on course. “Did we swerve to avoid something or was it merely a wind correction?”  

The runway must be just ahead. It looks like we will make it. It was a weird sensation, this commercial jet was being flown like a fighter aircraft attacking an enemy outpost. Giving my seat belt an extra tug, I braced for the inevitable impact. Then we hit something. Like fingernails on a blackboard, the screams of bending metal shouted out. Loose items flew around the cabin, oxygen masks popped out from their storage places. Someone screamed. While we were still moving forward, the entire fuselage split open directly in front of me.

Then everything stopped. Dead silence! At a sporting event, people pause for a moment of silence in honor of people who have died. Then as suddenly as it began the silence was broken. Passengers screamed, sirens blaring and lights flashing announced the arrival of first responders.

I checked myself and found I was unhurt.  Releasing my seat belt, I got up and walked past rescuers as they burst through the gap in the fuselage. 

Outside, looking back at the wreckage, I thought, “I had better take the train home.”

It always happened this way.

It was a dream, but so real that I could almost smell the smoke. To this day that memory is still vivid. I had this identical dream four times in one year. It always involved a commercial airliner in which I was a passenger, but different planes and in different cities.

This time the dream had a had greater significance. One week after I dreamt about it, Delta Flight 723, to Boston, landed short of the runway in poor visibility, striking a sea wall about 165 feet to the right of the runway centerline and about 3000 feet short.  All six crew members and 83 passengers were killed. I had taken this same flight to Boston every month for the past year.

After that crash, I took the train from my home in Northern Virginia to almost every destination on the east coast and only flew when absolutely necessary. Near misses often bring on great fear, but the odds of another crash at the same place are astronomical. Fear causes us to rearrange our priorities and our activities. Fear limits our ability to accomplish what God calls us to do and will keep us from reaching our destiny.

We all fear many things. I am afraid of heights, bridges, rejection, and failure. Once, I climbed the 897 steps to the top of  Washington Monument and then could not look out the tiny windows to see the awesome expanse of the National Mall.

As a child, I waited before crossing a bridge until a large truck drove across. If the truck made it safely, then I would sprint to the other side. In school, I was afraid to run for a class office in fear that I would not be elected. Fear causes us to avoid doing things causing us to waste the gifts God has given us.

Below is a list of Americans top ten fears for 2018 Chapman University study

  1. Corrupt government officials - 73.6%
  2. Pollution of oceans, rivers, and lakes. - 61.6%
  3. Pollution of drinking water - 60.7%
  4. Not having money for the future - 57%
  5. People I love becoming seriously ill. - 56.5%
  6. People I love, dying - 56.4%
  7. Air Pollution - 55.1%
  8. Extinction of plant and animal species - 54.1%
  9. Global Warming and climate change - 53.2%
  10. High Medical bills - 52%
The root of most of our fears is the issue of control. We are afraid because we are not in control. When I was young I took flying lessons and flew the company’s Cessna 172 on business trips from Chicago to Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. I was never afraid of flying in a small plane. It was only flying commercial that caused me a problem because I was not in the pilot’s seat.  If we are in control, we are not often afraid. It is when we are not in control that we begin to fear.

Think about it, 
  1. “When was the last time you were afraid? 
  2. What were the circumstances?”  

The intensity of fear is indirectly proportional to the feeling of being in control. That is; the more you feel you are not in control of a situation, the more fear you feel.

Since the issue of control is the root of most of our fears, there is a simple sounding solution. 

We can overcome all our fears by accepting the fact that we are not in control, and trusting that the One in control really has our best interests at heart. 

 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, 
because fear involves torment.
But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18 (NKJV)

Fear is a result of not trusting God!

As we come to the Lord and make Him Lord of our life, we relinquish control of our life. This is simple to say but the actual working out is very difficult. 
  • We have to really trust God. 
  • When we really trust God with all of our heart, we become a superhero for Jesus, 
  • and can accomplish all that we were created for.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

What Motivates one to Become a Disciple

What motivates people to be disciples –  followers of God!

After many years of knowing about God, I began to read biographical books of Christians disciples in the workplace. Often these people faced with difficult problems in their secular jobs and asked God to help them. The testimonies were impressive. How could Jesus know about astrophysics or electronics?

Several years ago while doing research for a book, we conducted a survey to investigate what motivated people to follow Jesus. Here are the questions we asked:

·         When did you realize there was more to your faith than just attending church?
·         What were the circumstances that caused you to go deeper in your relationship with Jesus?
·         Was there another person who modeled maturity or challenged you to seek more from God?
·         How did that person help you grow?

Motivated by Need

The responses were interesting in that most respondents were motivated by need. Less than 20 % were swayed in a church service, a revival, or special events. Continuing support for a deeper walk with God resulted from the ongoing care of a small community such as a home group. In almost every case a mentor or faith community continually challenged each to continue to grow.

In the fifth chapter of Luke’s Gospel, we see an encounter between Simon Peter and Jesus in which Peter realizes that Jesus is more than an itinerant rabbi. Simon had followed Jesus around for several months as his ministry spread in Galilee. He watched as Jesus turned the water into wine at a wedding in Cana. He had seen Jesus heal people of all kinds of diseases and cast out several demons.

So when Jesus was teaching at the Sea of Galilee he didn’t mind letting Him use his boat as a platform from which to teach. Then, when Jesus finished and the crowds dispersed, He turned to Peter and offered him a gift.

“Simon, take your boat out into deep water and let down your nets.”

“Nobody fishes in broad daylight in the Sea of Galilee.thought Simon. “This Rabbi grew up in a carpenter’s shop. He may know theology and wood-working, but he sure doesn’t know fishing. But I’ll humor Him.”

In spite of Peter’s doubts, they caught so many fish that their nets were about to break. So Simon called James and John to come and help pull in the greatest catch of their lives.

Realizing now who Jesus was, Simon fell to his knees and begged Jesus, “Oh Lord, depart from me for I am a sinful man.”

Peter, a fisherman, had a need for fish to provide support for him and his family. Apparently, Jesus knew more about fishing than Peter realized! 

Jesus merely replied, “Come and follow me.  I will make you fishers of men.”

My Sea of Galilee experience came when asked to investigate a problem on one of the Navy's newest and most complex ships. As an electronics engineer, I understood the principles of electromagnetics and had worked on a variety of avionics equipment, but had never been aboard a ship larger than my cousin’s ski boat. My escort led me to the radar room - filled with electronics equipment lining all four walls and more racks down the center of the compartment. 

As we approached the malfunctioning navigational system I prayed out of desperation, “Lord, help! Now!”

 The technician explained what the equipment was supposed to do and what it wasn’t doing. Miraculously the issues became clear in my mind and I began to clearly understand the source of the problem.  After asking pertinent questions and getting good answers, the solution became obvious. It did not come to me as a result of superior intelligence or expertise in these matters.  It came to me from the creator of the universe who knows all things sees all things and rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

The total time that it took to come up with the solution was thirty minutes. However, it took three years of bureaucratic battles before total implementation was obtained. During that time others proposed alternative solutions that were subsequently tested and rejected because they did not work. Finally, the solution the Lord proposed was finally accepted.

It was at his time that I realized that following Jesus was the answer to all of my needs. 

Over the next decades as an executive in the aerospace and military electronics industry, the Lord never failed to guide me to the proper solutions.

If God can help fishermen make a major catch, engineers to solve serious naval ship problems, and transform human lives, He is relevant today despite what secular humanists say.

Making Disciples is not part-time work.

Discipleship programs often fail because the pastor or leader is unwilling to devote the time to work with individuals. Too often a program is set up to try to disciple many people at one time. Successful disciplers commit time to understand the needs of the person with whom they are working and commit to becoming a mentor.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Resolve the Conflict in DC

What is the problem?

I try not to watch the evening news anymore! That’s a strange feeling for someone that has been a news junkie all his life. But times have changed. The elephants and donkeys are at war, fiscal conservatives can’t get along with social conservatives, and progressives are fighting moderates. 

I understand that conflict is inevitable but reasonable heads need to deal with it properly. If an organization is going to move forward (or backward) there is bound to be some who object to the direction. Centuries ago Sir Isaak Newton developed basic physical laws of motion. To paraphrase Newton;

“Whenever there is a force on a body that puts it in motion there 
will be an equal and opposite force opposing that motion.”

Friction is the equal and opposite force that opposes moving bodies. Therefore, any individual, organization, business, or church is will encounter serious friction when they begin to move. Friction, in turn, will result in heat - the more movement, the greater the heat.

In any organization, poor leadership can lead to conflict. Over the past half-century, there has been a decided lack skilled leadership in the Whitehouse, Congress, and our political parties. Instead of leaders, we have had politically motivated individuals placed in the top positions.

Good leaders would have confronted conflicts before they reached the impossible stages. But issues have been stuffed and solutions postponed. When major issues are not handled properly and timely we end up with the problems we have today in Washington.

Let’s take a look at how minor conflicts can eventually destroy reasonable discourse. Without intervention, conflict can spin out of control in a downward spiral. At each stage, the conflict gets worse and becomes more difficult to resolve. Therefore conflict needs to be confronted early before it falls into the next stage.

Stage 1. The Remedy Stage. - “Fix the problem”

Characteristics of this stage:
  1. Recognition that there is a problem.
  2. But there is disagreement on how to solve the problem.
  3. Parties want the problem resolved and can make a commitment to solving it
  4. There remains a belief that the problem can be solved.
  5. There is still honest communication between parties involved.

If the problem is not solved conflict at this stage it will move to stage 2.

Washington has passed this milestone decades ago.

Stage 2.  The Re-Positioning Stage

Characteristics of this stage:
  1. The focus is beginning to shift from solving the problem to protecting one’s self.
  2. People are nervous.
  3. In discussions, they begin to speak in generalizations. “You always are like that.”
  4. The level of trust between parties has dropped to “Low.”
  5. Now communications is guarded and cautious.
If the problem is not solved in this stage conflict moves on to stage 3. Again, we are past this stage.

Stage 3 Rights Stage - People declare their rights.  -  “I’m right so you must be wrong.

Characteristics of this stage:
  1. Each side believes they are the good person that has the only possible answer to the problem.
  2. Each side of the conflict now seek others who agree with them and everyone has to pick which side they are on.
  3. People become labeled.  (Carnal Vs Godly) His side or Her side
  4.  The solution shifts from resolving the problem to winning.  “Whoever can recruit the biggest team will win.”
  5. Communication becomes exaggerated and distorted.

If the problem is not solved at this stage the conflict will move into the Removal stage. 

It looks to me we are way past this point.

Stage 4. The Removal Stage  - “Get rid of those people.”

Characteristics of this stage:
  1. People are no longer satisfied with getting their own way.  Now they have to get rid of the opposition.
  2. The Goal is divorce.
  3. Other people are now in respective camps.
  4. There is a clear leader in each camp.
  5. Trust is now gone.

If the problem is not solved in this stage it will move into the “Revenge” stage. 

Aha! We are getting close!

Stage 5. Revenge  Stage  - “Make someone pay.”

Characteristics of the “Revenge Stage.”
  1. People are not satisfied with resignation.
  2. People have now become fanatics.
  3. The conflict has become a personal God issue.
  4. They feel it is immoral to stop fighting.

The conflict has now gone way out of bounds.

It appears to me that the conflicts in our government today are somewhere between Stage 4 and Stage 5. There is still hope if cooler heads can bring the sides together.

Constructive Conflict Management

It is time for someone to step up and take charge and set the tone for resolving the current mess! Use good conflict resolution methods! 

  • Agree on a time and place to talk it out.
  • Assertively, honestly express your feelings
  • Depersonalize. Focus on the problem, not on the person
  • Select a neutral referee
  • Develop a positive mature attitude
  • When something goes wrong, search for a solution.
  • Focus on specifics and simplify the situation.
  • Be open and available
  • When problems arise, work them out.
  • Listen, wait and learn
  • Forgive and forget

Please forgive my shamful plug [see below] for my latest book, but the book was inspired by the present political climate in Washington. 

Check out my new book, "Conflict Resolution for Dummies."

Bill Johnson

Monday, April 29, 2019

Leadership of Small Groups

Small Group Leadership

The most critical aspect of a successful small group ministry is the identification, training, and releasing of leaders. The leadership team of each group will normally consist of a facilitator, host or hosts, and worship leader/s. The facilitator is the team leader and will preside over the meeting.

The best facilitator is able to bring out the best in others. Facilitating a small group requires the ability to listen and acceptance of others.


Listening does not come naturally. It is a skill that is developed through practice. Making eye contact and maintaining an alert posture is helpful in our ability to listen. Listening requires the capacity to hear through many wrappings--listening beyond the outer layer of spoken words; this involves risk and courage if you are to respond worthily.

Good listeners guard against the judgment of the speaker, against labeling the speaker, and listens with openness, honesty, acceptance, and interest. They listen with expectancy so as to evoke the fullest reality and capacity of the person speaking. They listen to be involved in what the person is relating.


Acceptance is like fertile soil that permits a tiny seed to develop into the lovely flower it is capable of becoming, Unacceptance too often closes people up.; makes them feel defensive, produces discomfort, makes them afraid to talk or to take a look at themselves. Of all the effects of acceptance, none is as important as the inner feeling of the individual that he is loved. To accept another "as he is" is truly an act of love. To feel accepted is to feel loved.

Prerequisites for the facilitator.

  • Character: The facilitator should have a track record of displaying the "Fruit of the Spirit," faithful to the ministry, and free from personal ambition
  • Commitment: The facilitator should be in agreement with the philosophy, values, goals, style, and priorities of the church.

    New facilitators would be selected from an existing small group.

    They must be willing and able to commit to the time requirements of leading the group - both training, and ministry.

    They must have demonstrated consistent giving of time, energy and financial support to the church.
  • Gifting: Filled with the Spirit and able to teach.
  • Maturity: One seeking God, worshiping God freely, Teachable - not defensive, Loyal to the pastor and the church and its leadership.
  • Call: Senses a call from God to facilitate the group, is approved by the pastor, and affirmed during an evaluation period.

Facilitator's job description

  • Maintain a personal walk with God
  • Be commitment by consistent attendance at church meetings, monthly leadership meetings, special seminars, and further training.
  • Develop the team - Host or hostess and worship leaders. Reproduce yourself by developing new facilitators every 6 to 12 months.
  • Lead meetings: Schedule the best time to meet for the group. Maintain general outline for the meetings. Schedule time for fellowship, worship, sharing, teaching, prayer ministry, outreach activities, and fun nights and invite new people.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Small groups 3 – What should happen in your small group?

What should happen in your small group? 

It depends.........What is your principle purpose for your small groups?
  •  Developing closer relationships between church members,
  • Assimilating new people,
  • Numerical Growth'
  • Spiritual growth,
  • Equipping opportunities,
  • Developing new leadership,
  • and/or Maintaining accountability.

The format and content of your small groups will be determined by your purpose and your church’s values and priorities.

Over the years we have initiated small group ministries in several different churches - often with different values and priorities - but most of the content was consistent and based upon Acts 2:42. 

After Pentecost, the followers of “The Way” gathered together on a regular basis.

Acts 2:42 (NIV)  They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

It is always important for the meetings to begin on time and to close on time. The fastest way to kill a small group is to start late and end late. Life today is jammed with important activities and people are hesitant to commit to a new activity unless they realize its value.
  • Open on time: Group leadership generally includes the leader, hosts, and worship leaders who need to arrive early so the meeting can begin at the prescribed time whether or not anyone else is there. 
  • Closing is a little trickier. Almost always there will be ministry to individuals that cannot be stopped at the closing time. It is important that those not directly involved in ministry be released to go to another room for snacks or go home.
  • We normally started the sessions with the singing of praise and worship songs to provide a transition from a hectic worldly schedule to a more relaxed, worshipful, and spiritual mood.  
    When groups are new and people do not know each other well we have found “Ice Breakers” useful to learn more about one another. You can find any number of “Ice Breakers” in youth ministry resources. They are great to get for adults loosened up!
    It is best to break the ice after all have arrived – after the worship time.
  • Then it is time for an opening prayer.
  • Sharing of scripture: This is not a time for a lecture, sermon, or even a homily. It is important that each person has an opportunity to interact with the scripture. 
    The leader is a facilitator, rather than a teacher. As such, he/she must have an overall direction as to where he/she will guide the discussion, through questions to which others will respond.
  • Sharing of needs: At this point, everyone is encouraged to share what is going on in their lives and to share prayer needs. Be careful here, because there will always be some who feel a need to dominate this time week after week with the same issues. Leaders must understand how to handle this with grace and firmness.
  • Individual Prayer ministry. 
  • Closing prayer and dismissal
  • Snack time and fellowship after the closing. [this was optional as some would have to get home.]

Please feel free to share your comments or suggestions below!