Practical Discipleship | Jay Fesperman (3/3)
The fifth and final step that flows forth as a result of DISCIPLESHIP has to do with the releasing of the student. This is the point at which the teacher says to the student, “I have no more to teach you at this time. I release you to go forth and do likewise – do for others what I have done for you.” Once again it is important to note that the student recognize and initiate the step of “release”. RELEASE is initiated by the teacher. You can see then, that RELEASE can be a fearful thing if we, as men of God, are not prepared. It must be obvious that the whole process of discipleship is designed to bring a man to maturity in such a way that he can go forth and DO as his teacher has taught him.
Whether we are talking about the university environment or a business situation or the Kingdom of God, the student is required by the teaching process to be willing to lay down his way of doing things or his thoughts or feelings about a particular subject. This process allows the teacher to impart information and experience that the student may not otherwise be able to receiver. Obviously, to deny oneself can be a humbling experience. Our Lord has shown us that, as we humble ourselves before God or His appointed authority, we are in a better position to hear and learn the Word of God through the man that He has given to us. Thus we can see that self-denial has the advantage of purging away preset thoughts and ideas, in order to make us more receptive. Then we can hear and open ourself to another. “The UN-descipled mind cannot hear the Word of God!” Discipline requires that we humble ourselves.
Last month our subject in this “Letter of Exhortation” was DISCIPLINE – establishing a new LIFE-PATTERN. This month we want to share on DISCIPLING. They’re not the same! As a matter of fact, in order to come into a new DISCIPLINE, we need to be DISCIPLED! And coming into the place of God in our Christian walk for almost all of us, a new LIFE-PATTERN.
Here’s a very practical word on the subject by one who has seen it work – in both directions. Only slightly edited, the following is by Bill Eubank, who oversees a fellowship in the state of North Carolina. . .
Finally, that fruit of the Spirit especially designed for “YOUNG CHRISTIANS” is PATIENCE! Recently, I gave this counsel to a young leader. . .this is excerpted from my letter to him: “You don’t know what God’s call is just yet. HE knows and only He knows. Let Him age you in the place He has hidden you. . .He will bring forth maturity. . . only God can give growth! Chew over each day, man, and get all the taste out of it! Don’t spit it out just because you don’t like its texture. You’re jumping around like a cat on a hot tin roof. Slow down, give God enough time to work into you what He’s calling you to get into.”
When I was in the army during the World War II, I was amazed to see during basic training that the same food eaten by fat civilians-becoming-soldiers AND by thin civilians-becoming-soldiers had an entirely different effect on them; the fat became thinner and the thin became firmer and stronger. The SAME food! Now, I see in a body of believers called the “church” how the Word of God – the SAME Word of God – meets the needs of all members, no matter where they are in their growth.
But more important than that, I see the summing up of ALL things in Christ. When the concepts of the Word of God are put under the pressure of God’s purpose in the earth or in a man, then TRUTH – REALITY – becomes manifest. Jesus said, “I am THE WAY (the principle, or concept), I am THE TRUTH (the Word), and I am THE LIFE (the out-working).” In other words, Jesus is the ALL IN ALL of our life, either as an individual or as members of His Body.
A few weeks ago while worshipping the Lord with a rather large group of pastors and elders, we were singing out of Lamentations, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; They are new every morning, new every morning. . .” And it struck me, “My, what a paradox! How can they be never ceasing, never coming to an end. . .and yet be new every morning?” And as I prayed in the Spirit for understanding, I sensed very strongly that God was trying to say something to me. This is what I heard:
If we gave as much time to hearing and reading the Scriptures as we do watching television, we would have a much easier time following the edict of King Jesus. Take this advice for example. . . “My son, keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them upon your heart FOREVER; fasten them around your neck. When you walk they will guide you; when you sleep they will watch over you; when you awake they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the CORRECTIONS OF DISCIPLINE are the way to LIFE.” (Proverbs 6:20).
One of the major weaknesses in the Church today is the business of compromise. And I am speaking of compromise on a singular or personal basis. In Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth he covers several of these:
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.”
“What fellowship can light have with darkness?”
“What do righteousness and wickedness have in common?”
“What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?”
“What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?”
You may think I am kidding with THAT title, but I am not. The big “I” in me wants to call the shots. I want to do what pleases “ME”. And that’s probably true for most of you who read this letter. I have a young friend who for the eight years that I have known him has insisted over and over again that he wants to walk with God and to be a man of God. But he hasn’t yet come to the place where he will let God set the pattern for his life. His big “I” still responds to the soul and flesh, and he has never come to the place where God is the Lord over his life.
Paul told both Titus and Timothy not to appoint leaders in the church whose house was not in order. A man who has established clear boundaries for himself will most likely make a good father. A man whose family is not living within the boundaries he has set is very likely to be a poor leader.
The writer of Proverbs says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old HE WILL NOT DEPART FROM IT.” Peer pressure among teens is powerful. If disciplinary patterns have not been set before children go out to school, they will find it virtually impossible to stand against this pressure. One teenager recently said in a letter, “The inescapable pressure exerted by peers are often too hard to handle. The only answer,” he continued, “is to have a source from which to draw strength. This strength can only come from the home. A weak home produces weak kids, unable to defend themselves.” Setting the boundaries AND supervising the results is what good training methods consist of – at home, in business, IN CHURCH.
As children of God we are given God-ordained boundaries. The Ten Commandments, the behavioral laws, the way to relate to others in the Body of Christ, or the way to relate to those “of the world” with whom we cross paths. If we didn’t get good training at home under clearly defined boundaries set by our parents, we’re likely to have some difficulty in getting established in the Church, and ultimately, in God’s Kingdom. Some of these difficulties show up in many ways. Let me share with you a few that I have observed.
David, a 16 year-old, sells sex to men and women on the streets of New York. He ran away from home at an early age. David tells kids, “Stay at home and be a child for as long as you can. Don’t grow up too quick.”. . .an article on the cover of a well-known women’s magazine: “The High Cost of Growing up TOO FAST.”
An expert in child-rearing, on staff at a famous medical center, says, “We have come to the realization that a parent’s role is to show youngsters discipline. At the point a child gets proactive, the parent should know that the child is looking for a LIMIT – a BOUNDARY. And the parent had better provide that limit. The child will be reassured for having limits set. They need limits clearly spelled out; it’s the only way to learn.”
The Lord told Solomon to ask for whatever his heart desired and He would grant it. Solomon asked for wisdom and God gave him great wisdom, but He also gave him all the wealth and riches for which he had not asked. God proved to be faithful to Solomon, and He proved to be faithful to me. Jesus said to His disciples, “Ask anything of the Father in My name, and He will grant it.” So, in the FAITH that is ours “in Christ”, we can ask the Lord God for anything “in the name of Jesus” and then we can expect the Lord to give it. But what is the KEY? It is the FAITH that we have, but we must be sure that we have it “IN CHRIST”. You see, as we have said, everybody has “faith”, because it is built into the system which makes us tick in every way. But to exercise that faith for the things of God, our FAITH must be “in Christ”.
But HEAR THIS! It’s very important. I heard a lot about Jesus Christ, and I read a lot about Jesus Christ before I came to know God. What was there within me that kept me from knowing God in those days when I was hearing so much about God and Jesus? My carnal mind – that is, the mind of my “nature” – was reading and hearing all this. It did not suit or please my “nature”, because my “nature” knew that a major change would take place and that the “natural man” would not have the last word. That element of faith within me was doing nothing but looking out for my safety in the natural, and it totally ignored the spiritual me. My “nature” was on the throne, and it didn’t need or want a God. My “nature” was god, and I was in subjection to it.
On many occasions I have been thrown together with a person whose language was completely foreign to me, and mine to him. Trying to convey a thought to another under these circumstances is most frustrating. The ability to understand one another demands a commonly understood language. My conversation sounds like so much gibberish to someone who only speaks and understands only German or French or the Lunda tongue of southern Africa. And theirs to me. It’s wild babbling!
We talk about hearing the Word of God. What language does God speak? Before you try to answer that, with what kind of mouth does God speak? Do His words have some kind of physical effect on my ear drums and I hear WORDS? Just what IS the Word of God?
Finally, Peter says (1 Peter 5:8-9), “Be SELF-CONTROLLED and ALERT. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. RESIST HIM, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
James asks a question (3:13): “Who is wise and understanding among you?” Then he says, “Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done IN THE HUMILITY that comes form WISDOM.” He goes on: “If you harbor BITTER ENVY and SELFISH AMBITION in your HEARTS, do not BOAST about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, UNSPIRITUAL, of the devil. For where you have ENVY and SELFISH AMBITION, there you find DISORDER and every evil practice.” (James 3:13-16). “AS A MAN THINKETH IN HIS HEART, SO IS HE!!”
Another aspect of this problem is that we are often more than willing to accept some seeming “blessing” as God’s signal that we are ready to go on to new and higher calls. Maybe you say, “Lord, if You provide $5,000, I’ll know we’re ready to move out. That’s just exactly how much it will take to move us.” So, eagerly you begin packing, overlooking the fact that there are some relationship problems that need to be dealt with before you go.
Many times, young Christians, eager to go on with God, will move from objective evaluation into subjective self-evaluation. Paul warns in Romans 12:3, “Do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with SOBER JUDGEMENT.” It is always wise to seek counsel from a more experienced man, someone who can give fatherly, authoritative evaluation, especially in the area of self-evaluation.
“All a man’s ways SEEM right to him, but the LORD weighs the HEART.” (Proverbs 21:2).
Sometimes our willingness to hear and DO the will of God can be hindered or retarded by our ATTITUDES about people or circumstances. For example, suppose that you know that God has prepared you for a particular assignment to a role in another country, another culture. Along the way, in the months and years of preparation, you had an encounter with another man, perhaps a teacher, who really pressed you in and held your feet to the fire for an entire year. Maybe he even held you back and made you repeat a full year’s study. Finally, however, after what seemed a wasted year, you got the message and came to realize real maturity in that particular field of study.
As we have already said, “Those who are led by the SPIRIT OF GOD are SONS OF GOD.” Acknowledging this to be the Word of God, we need to be very careful about saying “the Spirit told me” this or that. If the Holy Spirit speaks to us, He does so because we are a “son of God”. So, since sonship is obedience, then that which we hear from the Spirit must be acted upon in complete obedience!
Now, I have said all this to bring us to a very practical place of understanding our roles as SONS in our relationship to our Lord and to one another. You see, we are told (Romans 8:14-15) “Those who are lead by the SPIRIT OF GOD are SONS OF GOD. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the SPIRIT OF SONSHIP. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father!'” Then verse 16: “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are GOD’S CHILDREN.”
Recently, I was speaking to a group of about 200 young people. I asked the question, “How many of you LIKE discipline?” Only one meek hand was raised. Sure, that’s right! We don’t like discipline, because we don’t know it’s value. . .Then I asked, “How many of you like the BLESSINGS of God?” And you know the result. Everybody raised his hand – some both hands!
Then I said, “Listen carefully. I want to read you a verse out of the Bible. . .” And I read, “Blessed is the man You DISCIPLINE, O Lord. . .” (Psalm 94:12a). Very simple! To receive the blessings of the Lord, we have to be disciplined by the Lord! But, praise God, being DISCIPLINED isn’t just exactly what we usually think about when we hear that word.
For a long time now, the Lord has been showing us the modern-day parallel to this historical event. For two generations past the Church has gradually lost its leadership. So much so that today the time is being called the POST-CHRISTIAN era. We haven’t left our land, but “Babylonianism” has moved in with its many “gods”, and our people are being held captive under the powers of rebellion, materialism, witchcraft, occultism, self-worship, and physical comforts and pleasures. And, although we don’t usually bother to carve an idol out of wood or stone, we see that we have fallen for the same “gods” which the leaders, the priests and the prophets brought into Israel and Judah. And as we said in last month’s letter, God – OUR GOD – is in the process of raising up TWO GENERATIONS of people out of which He will produce new leadership for His people.
If you have been to Israel recently, or if you have done any reading of the history of that nation, you are well aware that, throughout her lifetime, she has gone through countless onslaughts of her enemies by which she was totally devastated. Often her people were driven out and dispersed throughout the world, or they were taken into captivity and enslaved as a people, exiled in a foreign land.
One of these tragic events is referred to as “the Babylonian Captivity.” Amazingly, this disaster was predicted in prophesy by Jeremiah before it occurred, and God told Jeremiah exactly how long they would remain in Babylon – 70 years!
3. From the DECLINE of AUTHORITY and from the HOMOGENIZATION of people, we see the third force to be – DEHUMANIZATION. Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (KJV). The NIV says, “Where there is no revelation the people cast off restraint“. To be dehumanized means that we have lost the art of innovation. There [is also] a loss of a sense of purpose. Few people have GOALS anymore. Our thoughts come by proxy from the media. Learning is a drudgery, a drag. There is no pattern to LIFE for most people today. Even the church has lost sight of its primary purpose. This kind of life in a society can only produce a fascistic state. The word “fascism” him means “a bundle“. With purposelessness pervading our nation, we can become “ripe for the plucking” of a dictatorship. We have “cast off restraint“.
Next, we need to be encouraged by coming to an understanding that God has put an important limitation to what we should pray for. He has made many, many promises to His people in the Bible. So we need to know His Word and what He has given as a promise. Just as FAITH is the SUBSTANCE of our desires, so His promises are the raw material of His desires, His hope for us. Get that! His PROMISES are His DESIRE for us! We can hove our faith electrified by repeating that phrase again and again: “His promises are his desire for us…”, and they are expressed in words, phrases, sentences in the Scriptures!
I heard recently, in a conversation with a great man of God, a very strong and shocking statement come out of his mouth: “The Church is in an awful condition.”
To many people, the church is nothing more than a series of meeting to attend. Nothing is expected, and usually nothing happens. How many people there are in the church who don’t even believe in Christianity, much less believe in the living Lord Jesus Christ! And they surely don’t see the validity of basing their life-style[s] on the demands of the Word of God.
Obedience is a learning process. We don’t have to be taught to be disobedient; we are born that way. We read in Psalms 51:5, “Surely I have been a sinner from birth“. Learning requires both a teacher and a follower. So since God said, “Be holy as I am holy“, He must be the teacher, and we the learners. So His Word gives us the pattern for our behavior. Jesus learned obedience BY THE THINGS that He suffered. And we must, by a determined act of our will, set our course to follow that pattern.
Finally, in Colossians 3:12-13, the Word of the Lord says, “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. BEAR WITH EACH OTHER. and FORGIVE whatever grievances you may have against one another….Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on LOVE, which binds them ALL together in perfect UNITY.”
This time, UNITY means “FINISHER” – the same word as in Hebrews where it says we should “fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and FINISHER of our faith.” That means He wrote it, and He completes it! In between, it’s up to us who make up His Body in the earth to get it together, because He has only one goal, one plan in mind. And He’s not going to change His plan just because we are not walking in unity. It means WE must change! We’re not a finished product yet. We must give up our independent spirit to become ONE in spirit.
This morning I began to pray in our usual time assigned for prayer. And in the ways of the Holy Spirit, that voice began to speak: “Your prayers are meant to bring about CHANGE in the lives of those for whom you pray! If your prayers come from the impulse of the Spirit of God, you should be sensing and even seeing change. You have been praying for weeks for ____________. Are you seeing change? Sure you are! He’s not the same! but do you take courage to know that, through your praying, God has seen fit to hear your own prayer and alter the life of another person? Isn’t that incredible! To think that your conversation with God has totally changed the course of another human life?”
Can this work in our society? I say it MUST work! But it is likely to demand a drastic change in lifestyle. AND it is likely to demand a drastic change in attitudes. To become ONE with a lot of other people will require a giving up of any spirit of INDEPENDENCE. When we see the joining of SELF with the SELF of others, we will see the WORK of the SPIRIT OF GOD working its way out of us. Jesus said a remarkable thing: “He who has faith in me will do greater things that I have done, because I am going to my Father“.
And now, Sally’s lesson. Let her do the sharing:
The Scripture Psalm 139:16 (“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.“) became clear to me as we stepped into the compound built for this “General Bush Conference.” This was Saturday afternoon (the conference would begin that night); several thousands of Africans had assembled for a few minutes of greetings for all of us on the team. A lovely welcome of singing and clapping came forth from them for these six Americans who had come so very far. [We each had] a chance. . .to say briefly, “We are the group that the Lord has sent, but we represent many thousands who could not come but who send you their love and are committed to pray for all of us while we are here together.”
The next two verses clearly speak out God’s words of displeasure with ALL forms of homosexuality, saying that men who do such things would receive “in their own persons the due penalty of their error. . . .” I read just this morning in a “newsletter” which I get from a “news magazine“, that we are about to experience the spread of another disease which is highly contagious among those who are sexually promiscuous. Now, back to Romans 1:28:
My dictionary defines “family” as “the body of persons who live in one house, under one head”…. It is important that we realize the significance of the family “living in one house”, as the dictionary [defines] it. A family is meant to bring people together in close fellowship in order to cause friction among its members. If we don’t learn how to face troubles at home, we will not learn how to cope with the pressures of ordinary living in the world. There is clear purpose in the closeness required of family members. But the nature of man wants to pull away and live unto its own self.
The second lesson that I learned out in the “BUSH” of Zambia is this: Cultural shock works two ways. Some of the things we do are as much a shock to the Africans as. . .some of the things they do in their lifestyle [are to us]. Back in the late 50’s we spent some time in a place that was operated for the purpose of rejuvenating those who have gone out into the “third-world” nations and had fallen flat on their faces because of their inability to adapt themselves to the lifestyle, the CULTURAL SHOCK of the host nation.
Recently I attended a beautiful service of worship in a lovely church. The worship culminated with several people dancing beautifully around the altar. They were mostly young people in the early 20’s – that age group with whom we minister so much. And I thought, “How great! Here are representatives of a generation which is so confused, and so accused; so criticized for their rebellion and protest. Isn’t it marvelous to see such a witness of their devotion to God“.
2. THE HOMOGENIZATION OF SOCIETY. To be homogenous, according to Webster, is to be “of the same kind, or nature“. There are forces that are seeking to bring legislation that says, “We are ALL ALIKE“. that just isn’t so. The laws of a land or of a society cannot make male and female alike! But with the philosophies of our world spreading this “false gospel” through every form of . . . media, we are coming to be so similar that the real human society is fast becoming an endangered species.
How about this one: CALM vs. ANGER IN THE HEART. Early in our youth, we learned what angry or “sassy” words would get us, so we learned to keep a reasonable calm veneer and hide the real reaction we felt. Now, our lifestyle is based on burying the anger so deeply [that] we don’t realize that it is producing DOUBLE-MINDEDNESS – false reactions and bad attitudes. Eventually it spills over into our emotions and we cannot hide it. But we don’t know what to do about it either. James says in [chapter] 3:13-14, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life. By deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfishness in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth”. Many people today are eaten up with anger buried deep within, but do not deal with it. So it causes us to act outwardly in a way that deprives us of clear, truthful expression of ourselves.
Here’s a good one! LAZINESS vs. PERSEVERANCE. Usually, we are so ashamed of our laziness that we try cover-up tactics. For instance, Dad tells you to bring in a load of wood for the fire. You know the wood pile is low, and it will require some axe-work; so you beg off. “I’ve got tons of homework to do, Dad”. Now that you have grown up (?), there’s no drive to “stick-to-it” in your lifestyle; yet you just cannot understand why your boss fired you from that good-paying job. That’s DOUBLE-MINDEDNESS! James says, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (1:12).
These may seem to be small things to deal with, in order to become a great man or woman of God, but Jesus Himself said, “You have been faithful with a little; now I will trust you with great things” (Matthew 25:21). Jesus is our discipler, and since He knows our hearts as well as our outward actions, He knows well enough that it is in these seemingly insignificant areas that the Spirit of OBEDIENCE must do its work.
From Jay Fesperman’s “Letters of Exhortation”, Number 37, March 1984.
It seems that the Lord wants us to share about something that we have been sharing [on] for several years. We have reached a stage where the Lord wants us to dig and probe deeper into this subject (as well as other subjects). This is so important a matter, in the face of what God is doing in the church throughout the world. Lately, within this contemporary renewal in the work of the Holy Spirit, great emphasis has been put on things we had forgotten or laid aside as not being all that important. The subject: HOW TO HANDLE AUTHORITY: YOURS AND OTHERS.
“Get plugged in!” Heard anyone say that recently? It’s applicable. As I sit here, I see a lamp which is not plugged into the wall socket nearby. I know there’s plenty of power in the wall, but it’s not helping one bit to light up the room! Getting filled with the Holy Spirit doesn’t necessarily make you a blessing to God or the church. You may throw off a few sparks, but you won’t produce much in the way of life for the body of Christ. So God is working a great coming together among the Spirit-filled people of this generation – a joining together where the works of the Holy Spirit can be fulfilled. Paul says in Ephesians 4:11-13 that we are “being prepared for WORKS OF SERVICE so that the BODY OF CHRIST may be built up until we all reach UNITY in the faith“.
There’s a very important principle we all need to recognize; “If you move from one relationship into another one without dealing with the present-day problems, you will take the same problems with you.” And it’s just adding problem upon problem, because any new relationship inevitably has it own adjustments to make; so it needs no help from the past – except from the lessons learned!
Another tack. . . . How do the young people today react when they get the news that the church approves of homosexual lifestyles? Or what answer do they get when they ask the church, “Where do you stand on abortion?” We know of a few churches that not only speak out forcibly against abortion, but whose members are taking into their homes young women who have decided against abortion. Then there is the matter of money. Jesus said, “the LOVE of money is the root of all evil”. What kind of vibes is the church sending off [in regard] to the use of money, or their need of money? Frankly, I am amazed at the enormity of the church’s cry for money and, at the same time, the almost total absence of any teaching or training of her young people about what God expects from them in the use of their money.
Go to a dead church, and someone will ask, “Where are all the young people?” Well, I can truthfully say that I find them by the thousands in newly formed churches, which are attempting to correct all the things that I have mentioned in this letter – plus a lot more! Even in Africa where we were ministering to people who were mostly contacted by folks from churches which had been booted out of a denomination – most of the people were less than 30 years old. And I just had a letter from that part of the world saying how dead the church is. Well, when the Bible comes alive to those young people who heard the word and saw the many miracles, the CHURCH which Jesus is building will start a fire on that dark continent! Africa is coming alive in the things of God, because a new generation of young Christian is being prepared.
We are being asked to help start a TRAINING situation in a group of new churches in Zambia. It will be based on training young African families in 1) Bible Study; 2) Personal Discipline; and 3) Learning a Trade. Leadership for the churches of that nation will come out of that kind of preparation. It will not come from bringing these young men to America to be put through the existing kind of seminary training.
Jesus said, “I have come that they might have LIFE – abundantly!” (emphasis mine). Not only did He bring life for the church, but He made it clear that His Life would be available only THROUGH the church. Paul told the church at Thessalonica that they were to be a model for other bodies in that part of the world. “You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit, and so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia, (and) your faith in God has become known EVERYWHERE!” (1 Thessalonians 1:7, emphasis mine).
May it be so in your church, wherever you are, or whatever your label.
From Jay Fesperman’s “Letters of Exhortation”, Volume 5, No.3, May 1985.
As we continue to work with young men and women out of today’s society, we are constantly made aware of the out-of-balance condition of so many young lives. “God put the solitary in families” for the maturing of each one into a well-balanced person who can stand and serve Him, however He may call us. And the Lord doesn’t make mistakes! His ORDER is that we mature in five main areas of growth: RELATIONAL, SPIRITUAL, EMOTIONAL, MENTAL, PHYSICAL. This is God’s PLAN!!
How does a young man or woman go about finding his or her right place in the church? Too often, the young person looking for his church home is confused by the variety of forms of faith and expressions of belief. Very often when he is searching, he finds deadness because of an unwillingness to face up to the need for change in the life of the church. What do you look for? How do you evaluate?
Many of us who were born in the teens of this century and grew up through the 20’s and 30’s have the perspective of seeing our nation and our society prior to a great change taking place in the lives and conduct of a people. In seeking to convey the damaging effects some of these changes have brought about, I have discovered that many people born since about 1945 often just aren’t aware of these changes. They have been gradual and sometimes subtle, but changes have occurred – changes which I believe have had a very strong adverse affect on our society.
Having just returned from deep in Africa and heard some of the awful violations of human life put on the natives by their witch doctors, and then coming home to hear this about our American culture, I must say that this “news” from the home-front is by far the grosser and more reprehensible of the two!
But how do we come to live in this HOLINESS? By an act of our will! By hearing the Word of God and determining to DO what it says. So there’s a great big “IF” following the Scripture from Colossians, which we quoted [previously]: “But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through DEATH to present you H-O-L-Y in His sight, without blemish and FREE FROM ACCUSATION IF you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” (emphasis mine)
Seven years ago I wrote a letter to a young brother-in-the-Lord. Let’s call him Hiram. Here are some excerpts from that letter:
Dear Hiram, I have a very important word for you! WAIT!!! SLOW DOWN!!! You’re trying to live out tomorrow today. You can’t do that! You’ve got to live today FOR tomorrow. Today is the preparation for tomorrow. You cannot get to tomorrow until you have lived through today. Today is the training ground for tomorrow. Usually, it is a combination of education… (home and family living), experientially learning how to deal with tomorrow’s problems while someone else is in charge), relationships (dating, courtship, friendships, and all that). BE PATIENT, man! You’re only 20! Live your life a day at a time as God gives it to you, and don’t try to move into tomorrow before it comes!
“As a young man, (I’m 22, living at home, but in my senior year at University) I am in a dilemma. Everywhere – at home, in school, on the job, or on the street – someone else is telling me how to live my life. At the same time I am required to fulfill a lot of responsibility. I don’t seem to have any authority at all. Tell me please, how do I fit this into God’s plan for maturity in my life? How do I learn to exercise authority without having the experience of being IN authority?”
Several years ago, I was joined in my seat on the plane by neat young man who began to inquire about my business. He was fascinated by my activity and putting together joint ventures between American and European firms, my working out of licensing arrangements between international companies, etc. Being an ambitious young man with an MBA from Harvard, he wanted to know, “How does one get into that kind of work?” My answer, very simply, was, “Thirty years at hard labor!”
This is the same Son of God of whom Isaiah spoke in his prophecy when he said, “On His shoulders would rest the GOVERNMENT of the universe.” Jesus said in Matthew, “ ALL authority in heaven and on earth has been given to ME”. Now, this is the same authority God gave to Adam when He made the first man, and said, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, and RULE over it” (emphasis mine). God had made man in His own image – male and female – and then He commanded Adam to fulfill “husbandship” ([see] Jeremiah 31:31). “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth.” Out of his husbandship, Adam was called into fatherhood. Then he was told to RULE – to establish order; to take authority.
The first thing to look at is the church’s leadership. Paul’s guidelines for the church’s leadership is found primarily in the letter to the Ephesians church. In the fourth chapter beginning with verse eleven, he outlines the major roles of leadership: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service.”
Most churches are absolutely afraid to talk about “apostles”, since, they say, “the apostolic age came to an end with the close of the New Testament era”. But from some of the things we see in the church today, it looks more like the “pastoral” age has come to an end. Very few denominations today prepare their ministers for real pastoral functions. Pastoring is a whole lot more difficult [of] a work than preaching. Pastoring requires personal involvement. Preaching doesn’t. Pastoring hours are 24 per day. Preaching hours, including some study time, is far less demanding. In many other cases, the church is so limited financially that the man dubbed “pastor” has to double over in several other areas of responsibility, reducing greatly his opportunity for pastoring.
Jesus said, “Go and make disciples“. A disciple is one who seeks to emulate his teacher in every way, so that the multiplying factor may be carried forward. But the church makes very little provision for discipling, either in the local scene or in the broader system of denominationalism. The Lord’s example was to select a small group of a dozen men and give a great part of His life to them. That’s how leaders are developed. You cannot take men into a classroom situation and make . . . disciples [of them]. The area of learning must be seen as out in the field where the action is.
One of the most serious things wrong with the church today is its almost total lack of anything to attract the youth of today. Here is where the leaders of tomorrow’s church must come from. Since the normal socio-family life of today is not conducive to the development of well-disciplined lifestyles, the church must find a way to train its future leaders for the spiritual warfare that lies just ahead for the victorious church. Having worked through a dozen years of our “Disciplined Life in Christ”[now Heroes Semester] training program at [CTCI], we are quite knowledgeable of today’s young adult segment of the church. We know how very much they appreciate disciplines and lifestyles that establish peace and order in their lives. And it is a well-proven fact that the training must be on a very practical basis. It must be based on daily living, in the family, with peers, in situations that call for immediate action.
Today’s young people, in the main, want to learn the things that most of their fathers are not showing them. They want to replace the intangibles of the educational systems with reality. They want to de-politicize the controlling factors of life as it is lived in our nation. They want to learn how to work. Simply speaking, “How do you hold down a job? How do you, by the sweat of your brow, earn a promotion? How do I fulfill the ambitions that are in my heart? I want to be able to establish myself, to . . . have personal satisfaction out of knowing that I can accomplish some things on my own. . .” These are all questions that need answers for today’s Christian youth. The church must equip herself to provide this kind of work day preparation for the disciples the Lord is calling for.
I could name several large, successful organizations that are training young folks in the disciplines of service and witness. And we can be thankful for them. But why doesn’t the church recognize this is the Lord’s call on her? And where else but in the church (or at home) [should] they learn how to pray? Or how to give help to others seeking a new life? Or dealing with all the false religious goings-on in the world today? And where else should they see signs and miracles as the work of the Holy Spirit, but in the church? And healings or casting out of demon spirits?
From Jay Fesperman’s “Letters of Exhortation”, Volume 5, No.3, May 1985.