It’s been a hard week for many of us since the storming of the Capitol last week. And that’s on top of an already hard year leading up to it. Our country is a hot mess. Our social media feeds are a dumpster fire of fear, anxiety, misinformation, rumors, and panic. A lot of us are hurting and on edge as we try to take it in. Many of us aren’t even sure what to believe, or who’s telling the truth. Maybe we don’t want to believe what our eyes clearly see. Many of us are sad, anxious, and afraid, even upset with one another. All of us are overwhelmed in some way.
The reaction for many of us has been to up our media consumption. Whether we’re fixated on cable news, hate-reading our social media feeds, scouring the blogosphere, or getting into fights in the comments sections, we find ourselves being drawn ever deeper into the existential crisis of it all, retweeting our favorite hot takes, and arguing as though the end of the world is at hand.
But I’m convinced that what many of us (myself included) truly need in this moment is a gospel reset. This is an invitation to take a three-day fast from social media, news, blogs, posts, and whatever opinion pages are floating around, and instead devote ourselves to the Word of God and prayer. Whatever time you would be spending watching the news for scrolling through your feeds, spend it with the Lord instead. This Bible study, which I put together for our Stonebridge family, is designed to guide you through that time.
Here’s how it works:
1. Get a partner. Whether it’s your small group, a friend, or a spouse, find someone to commit to doing this with you. Not only does this provide accountability for the fasting component, but an opportunity to encourage one another, process what you’re learning, and support each other moving forward.
2. Get off social media and the news. Fasting from media is a critical part of this process. Not because we shouldn’t be informed; being informed is a good thing. But how are we filtering the information we’re taking in? Whose voices are dominating the way we think about things? What’s our grid for discerning what is true? How is it affecting our hearts, our words, our behaviors, and our blood pressure? What many of us need is a spiritual detox, cleansing the garbage that clogs and clutters our souls, that the Word of God might take priority once more, and that the kingdom of God might reclaim our proper allegiance. For some of us this might require deleting certain apps from our phone for a time. Whatever it takes to get off the apps, push away from the keyboard, turn off the news, and open our Bibles.
3. Get in the Word. The point of a fast is not just going without something; it’s replacing it with something better. A hunger for God and the nourishment of his Word. The following Bible study is designed to guide you in reading, reflecting on, and applying God’s Word to our lives in this moment, specifically 1 Peter 1-2. Day one focuses on God’s kingdom and the object of our hope. Day two looks at our character and what ought to flow from our hearts. Day three helps us consider our conduct and how we carry ourselves as followers of Christ.
Because some of us may have more time on our hands than others, depending on our typical media consumption, we’ve also provided a “Going Deeper” section for each day, which takes you through an additional passage of Scripture for study, prayer, and reflection.
So find a partner, pick your days, and let’s let gospel of Jesus reset our hearts, hope, and perspective.
Day One: Kingdom | 1 Peter 1:1-12
Going Deeper: Romans 8:18-39
Day Two: Character | 1 Peter 1:13–2:10
Going Deeper: Matthew 5:1-16
Day Three: Conduct | 1 Peter 2:11-25
Going Deeper: Romans 12:9-21
As we seek to mobilize multiplying disciplemakers in our regions and around the world, here is a simple roadmap to guide us. These three books chart a course that can help all churches and all Christ followers (re)orient our lives around the Great Commission.
The Master Plan of Evangelism (Coleman)
With exceptional focus and clarity Coleman describes the eight practices of Jesus by which He changed the world. Of course He did this by training 12 young men, calling them His disciples. But how – in just three years – did He prepare these simple working class guys to lead a cultural revolution?
“His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes but with men whom the multitudes would follow.” 27
2. Association – He stayed with them
“If Jesus, the Son of God, found it necessary to stay almost constantly with his few disciples for three years, and even one of them was lost, how can a church expect to do this job on an assembly line basis a few days out of the year?” 50
3. Consecration – He required obedience
“Jesus expected the men he was with to obey him. They were not required to be smart, but they had to be loyal… For the moment all they were asked to do was to follow Jesus.” 51
4. Impartation – He gave Himself away
“His was a life of giving – giving away what the Father had given him… Love is like that. It is always giving itself away. When it is self-contained, it is not love… And for the Son, in incarnating that love, it meant renouncing his own right of living and giving his life for the world.” 61-62
5. Demonstration – He showed them how to live
“Those of us who are seeking to train people must be prepared to have them follow us, even as we follow Christ. We are the exhibit. They will do those things which they hear and see in us.” 76
6. Delegation – He assigned them work
“Christian disciples are sent men and women – sent out in the same work of world evangelism to which the Lord was sent and for which he gave his life. Evangelism is not an optional accessory to our life. It is the heartbeat of all that we are called to be and do. It is the commission of the church which gives meaning to all else that is undertaken in the name of Christ.” 88
7. Supervision – He kept check on them
“The goal is world conquest. We dare not let a lesser concern capture our strategy of the moment… Success is lost on the eve of victory… When will be learn the lesson of Christ not to be satisfied merely with the firstfruits of those who are sent out to witness? Disciples must be brought to maturity. There can be no substitute for total victory, and our field is the world. We have not been called to hold the fort, but to storm the heights.” 95
8. Reproduction – He expected them to reproduce
“Jesus intended for the disciples to produce his likeness in and through the church being gathered out of the world. Thus his ministry in the Spirit would be duplicated manyfold by his ministry in the lives of his disciples. Through them and others like them it would continue to expand in an ever-enlarging circumference until the multitudes might know in a similar way the opportunity which they had known with the Master. By this strategy the conquest of the world was only a matter of time and their faithfulness to his plan.” 97
God Space (Pollock)
Long time Cru missionary, Pollock helps us adapt our evangelism to the new millennium. The old confrontational methods of the ’70s and ’80s rarely work, and the attractional “come and see” invitation of the ’90s and early 2000s will not reach most people today. We must learn (again) how to connect with the unchurched and dechurched.
“God space” is an invitation to move from “my space” – my agenda, my plans, my desires – into the realm where God can work. Are we willing to adjust our schedules to connect with the people around us? Often the best conversations happen when we least expect (and least desire) them. This is God inviting us into His realm. Are we ready to go?
Pollock gently but deliberately walks us through a process of learning how to become better listeners, truly caring for the people in our lives. He helps us balance “God’s teeter totter” of listening and wondering. If we only listen, people will never hear the good news that can change their lives. But if we only preach, they will not sense that we truly care about them. Finding the proper balance is key! Using the phrase, “I wonder” is a disarming way to introduce brief “spiritual appetizers” into our conversations – little God stories that gently but clearly illustrate the love, grace, power and purpose of God.
Other helpful resources to shift an inward-focused church to a more outward focus:
Training for Trainers (Kai)
Coleman and Pollock and others will help believers and churches become more evangelistic. T4T can turn that personal evangelism into a movement.
T4T is not just a 6 session curriculum to lead people to Jesus and train them to share the gospel. It does that better than almost any other curriculum. But it is a comprehensive resource to mobilize and train trainers.
Ying and Grace Kai suggest replacing the terms “believers” and “disciples” with the more clear term “trainer.” Followers of Jesus are not just called to believe and learn, we have been commissioned to make disciples, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19). Every Christian is not just an evangelist, but a trainer.
This is how the early church exploded through the region, following Jesus’ “master plan” – the apostles multiplied. Click here to read more about T4T and how to create a culture of obedience based discipleship and multiplication.
The repurposed Ministerial Association was relaunched as the EFCA Network two years ago, shifting from a membership based group for pastors to a relational network uniting all leaders in our one EFCA. We no longer ask for annual dues, but gladly accept donations. You are a vital part of our Network and we give thanks for your character, calling and commitment to our shared mission to glorify God by multiplying transformational churches among all peoples!
We hope you are planning to participate in the upcoming virtual Theology Conference, Feb. 3-4. Many pastors and other leaders plan to gather in regional clusters to watch the sessions together, providing opportunities to safely pray, connect and process the content.
The annual report and meeting of the Network will take place right after the Theology Conference concludes, at 4 p.m. central time on Thursday, February 4. Simply click here to join the open zoom discussion at that time. (Meeting ID: 778 134 4557; Passcode: 455027). Hear from your eight representative board members on what the Network means to us. We will share our financial report and present our budget for 2021. Credentialed EFCA leaders who join the zoom will serve as our voting members to discuss and approve the budget.
As EFCA leaders, many of us were shaped by an education at TEDS. The COVID crisis has been a devastating challenge for all universities this year, and Trinity is no exception. As in the past, it is time for the churches and other EFCA leaders to stand with our school and help them continue to prepare godly leaders for our future!
Join Trinity as we seek to raise $46,798 to cover two full-tuition Presidential scholarships for students in need at TEDS and Trinity College.
In addition, we are looking for 100 alumni & friends that have never given to Trinity, to start by giving $5!
What’s more… every gift by December 31st will be matched, up to $250,000, by Trinity’s Board of Regents. Double your impact now!
Will you join us in supporting the next generation of leaders?
“Getting a girl to like you is easy! Just find out what she likes and do a lot of it.” That’s what my Super Teen counselor, Karl Jackson, taught me as a sophomore in high school. The principle of a happy marriage is easy. It’s the discipline of “doing a lot of it” that becomes difficult.
In the video we tried to creatively present the three essential layers of a healthy marriage. It starts with emotional intimacy, the base layer – “find out what she likes.” Two habits to stay in touch with each other are to talk for twenty minutes every day and to maintain a date night at least once or twice each month. Without this communication and connection, the relationship will start to falter.
Built on the emotional intimacy of knowing one another, the central layer of marriage is service. It’s not enough to just find out what she likes, you have to do a lot of it! This came naturally in the dating / courtship phase because you were trying to impress each other. But over the years, we fall into ruts of being served instead of serving.
This is where the love and respect cycle is so important and where the five love languages come in. Emerson Eggerichs (Love & Respect) showed how important love and affection is for a woman and how equally vital it is for men to feel respected. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages is another helpful tool to remind us that while one might prefer time and gifts, the other might feel more loved through touch and words. It’s about knowing each other well enough to serve each other well.
And of course, the key to continually loving, respecting and serving each other (sinners that we are) is the grace and love of Christ. Spiritual intimacy is the “strawberry jelly” that binds a couple together. Without Jesus, we will grow apart and increasingly insist on our own way. But with Jesus in the center, and His love flowing through us, we can sacrifice and serve in ways that mean the most to the other.
The top layer of the marriage cake is enjoyment. This is the result we worked so hard for in courtship: “getting a girl to like you.” It is easy in principle to “find out what she likes and do a lot of it.” Built on intimacy and service, the result of a healthy marriage is mutual enjoyment. You have fun together. You appreciate each other. The differences are not irritations, they are blessings.
This three layer cake view of marriage also puts physical intimacy in its proper place – as the icing on the cake. It’s easy for those newer to marriage (especially men) to focus on the frosting. But the better place to focus is on the cake itself. Invest the time to get to know each other (again). Be sure to “talk 20” and prioritize date night. Keep Jesus in the center by consistently praying for each other and praying with each other. Ask Him to help you give up your rights and preferences to sacrificially serve your spouse as Jesus has served you.
If we consistently do these things the joy will come back to our marriages, and yes, the icing will come with it. Then marriage really is “a piece of cake!”
Many of my mission/training trips have been to Africa: Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Liberia. I train national leaders to read, understand and preach the Bible.
According to the Bible, my/our efforts will be in vain unless we pray, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:5-7 ESV.
As I contemplate what I do, without your prayer support, it will be nothing in God’s eyes. Conrad Mbewe writes about this need for prayer for Africa,
Bob Burris is a member of the EFCA Network team and works for Training Leadership International.
Feast here on God’s character and how He works for us.
Brett’s clarity is refreshing. Read and think. Think some more. And maybe change your viewing habits. We are astounded at how Cuties could be defended; however, do we do intellectual gymnastics to watch what we watch?
This is long. May change you for the good. James K.A. Smith speaks at Wheaton College.
Admittedly, a tough title; and this review may not lead you to buy the book, but it should give you pause as you contemplate the community of the local church. Warning: it is a little difficult to digest but well worth it.