Be Doers, Not Merely Hearers of It  

Posted by Mike Sharrow

I think we need some cases. We need to take the lofty ideas and theology and make it meet the dusty pavement of life. The very language behind the Great Commission has a unique angle on the word "go" which really boils down to an "as you are going" or "while you are going" meaning. So, "while we are going" about our lives we're supposed to be "teaching, baptizing, making disciples." It's just "what followers of Jesus" do as they live - it's nearly automatic, like Andrew rushing to Simon to tell him Who he had just met.

So...Let's put some meat on the bones of what we've talking about. We've all been in relationships and group settings where discipleship was at least a hopeful aim - some as leaders, some as receivers, some good, some really not so good.

Describe a group setting where you experienced effective discipleship happening. What made it effective in discipleship versus just being a good fellowship/social time?

Describe direction relationships that have been effective at discipleship. Tell us what it looked like.

If you're really brave - and willing to be "authentic" - share how you've tried and failed. Be willing to be "loved for who you're not" as much as "who you are" and we'll all benefit from the realness!

Simple Snapshot  

Posted by Mike Sharrow

In a culture awash with 1 million books on every topic it seems, I'm always stunned at how there seems to be more books authored on various subjects than actual corresponding words in the Bible on that same subject. Point in case being things like leadership and discipleship - which appear as words only a few dozen times throughout all of Scripture, but for which you could easily buy 2000 Christian books about.

In much of the New Testament Gospels we see stories about how Jesus interacted with His disciples, and this interaction gives us some glimpses into what "discipleship" is about. Yet, even in those it only goes so far it would seem - since He was discipling them directly to Himself, whereas we should be discipling others to Him (not ourselves).

Then there's the simple story of how Simon Peter was actually "brought into the fold" of the rag tag followers of this Galileean Rabbi, Jesus. In John 1:40-42, we see that Andrew was actually first to follow Jesus, and very quickly into his journey with this crazy new Rabbi, he somehow cuts out to go back home and get Simon, saying, "We have found the Messiah!" and then bringing Simon along the way.

It's simple. It's one of the most basic snapshots of discipleship - discovering the hope and life of a true "Messiah," sharing the story of what that possibly means and then inviting someone to come alongside as you follow in the footsteps of your new Rabbi (Jesus).

The first thing Jesus then does is re-write the identity of Simon. "You were this, but no longer - now I will call you..." Interesting.

More Fear - Less Suffering?  

Posted by archie

I feel a bit like Moses who declined leadership because he was slow of speech. Previous heartfelt intellectual postings tend to make me really shy to post this question. But, I figure there are other leaders who like myself communicate on a much simpler plain. Not less insightful, just simpler.

Admittedly, this blog is for leadership discussion. So maybe you can patiently consider a simple question. I've been speed reading the Bible and have made it to 2 Samuel. It occurs to me that God seems to be really pleased when leaders of the old testament fear him. It also seems to follow that when leaders fear God, they tend to not suffer as much.

So the question is: If we as new testament believers / leaders feared God more, would we likely suffer less? Obviously, if the answer is yes the next question follows: "What does it mean to fear God?" As a leader, this question deserves some "CLARITY".

Simple minded in Omaha

A New Clarity  

Posted by Mike Sharrow

In an earlier post I offered up the need for this concept of Clarity. The dialogue that followed was great! Some pretty powerful stuff was unpacked. One of the things uncovered in the back-and-forth was what I see as unclarity about clarity itself - because "clarity" has become associated with legalistic, fundamentalist, over-defined, rigid, narrow-minded, hyper-structured definition. As some of the bloggers graciously offered up, there's something about purity (free of contaminates as John said) and authenticity at the heart of it all.

Interestingly enough, I was out of town for a few days last week at a prep meeting for this years Leadership Summit. 4 different speakers each introduced their topic by saying they felt their was a deficit of "clarity" on the mission by leaders! It was a crazy convergence week for me as "clarity" was popping up everywhere as both a diagnosis for problems and prescription for release.

But how do you reconcile "clarity" with "life in the margins" as Arnie so nicely stated?

We have to know what it's all about. Hint: it's not the hokey pokey after all. It's about loving God, loving people - and as leaders, it's bringing other people to a life that has those consuming characteristics. It's about figuring faith and life out "on the margins" with grace and love that keeps moving forward towards God.

How do you practice clarity in a world of gray?

Why "gray" you ask? Because we have to push our relationships to bring faith and reality into contact, and lead people in the process of becoming followers of Christ who are so alive on the vine that fruit cannot help but spring forth in their lives. Check out this quote about music and artistic instruction and look for parallels to a life of discipleship:

In musical compositions, so long as we hear merely single tones, we do not hear music. Hearing music depends upon the reception of the in-between of the tones, of their placing and of their spacing.

In writing, knowledge of spelling has nothing to do with an understanding of poetry.

Equally, a factual identification of colors within a given painting has nothing to do with a sensitive seeing nor with an understanding of the color action within the painting...

Our concern is the interaction of color; that is, seeing what happens between colors...

Colors present themselves in continuous flux, constantly related to changing neighbors and changing conditions.

- Josef Albers' "Interaction of Color" (as quoted in Organic Community by Joseph Myers)

There's a need to show how to become, versus how to simulate; how to walk versus arrive; how to sift through the muck of a situation with discernment and love versus predefine 1,001 rules; to see "what happens between the colors."

We, as leaders still need to strive for clarity. Clarity, of course, only can truly come from personal clarity of purpose and mission, of faith in Jesus with authentic messiness - but then we must share the clarity in how we seek to relate to people.

Just some Monday morning thoughts that had been percolating in my heart...

For all of you "anonymous" folks - maybe sign your comments with initials or a pseudonym so we can at least pretend to dialogue specifically with a person? If you're really could even risk being "known!" :o)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Philemon 1:3)!

Who's Dust is on Your Face?  

Posted by Mike Sharrow

Thomas Ivey recommended this clip to me, and I found it moving. Check out this promotional clip called "Dust" that hits at contextual discipleship as understood in the time of Jesus:

Clarity: the orphan of our culture, the crown jewel of effective leadership  

Posted by Mike Sharrow

I was at a networking dinner a few months ago with business leaders at my alma mater where successful people were asked to share their "top 5" points of advice for young business graduates. A senior officer in one of the worlds largest pharmaceutical companies (not Walgreens!) said, "If you want to really stand out as an individual, seek to have clarity. Nobody seems to have clarity anymore. Clarity on who you are, what you believe, what you are good at, what you're not, what you're wanting to achieve/experience, and what you mean by what you say. When I see a candidate who has a handle on clarity, I instantly take note and try to find a place for them on my team."

His commentary struck me. Obviously, he was contextually speaking just from a corporate success vantage point, but the statement has much broader application. We have lost clarity in so many areas of life. What does it mean to be a "Christian" today, for instance? What qualifies that label? The world is dying in darkness and despair, as clarity has been lost in all areas. Lack of clarity has even infiltrated the church and our leadership culture to where words become awkward bundles of ideas, intimidatingly vague.

As leaders, we need to be torch-bearers of clarity and hope! So let's start with each other. I think there is some fog among us about what is really meant by certain words. Things like discipleship, community, mentoring, leading, serving and following Jesus certainly have relation to one another and many times overlap in how they are lived out - but they are separate and need clarity.

So, let's start. I know there are about 45-55 people who check this blog regularly, so I'm expecting at least 20 of you to weigh in on these questions:

1. What does it mean to "disciple" someone?
2. What does it mean to "mentor" someone?
3. What does it mean to "lead" someone?
4. In answering 1 or all 3 of those questions, please try to clarify the differences and similarities.

If I just hit your fog in the heart - describing the very confusion that has hampered your own leadership capacity, please weigh in sharing just where your fog has centered. Perhaps you've felt paralyzed that in each relationship you had to somehow do all 3, when you weren't sure how to do any 1 of those really well. Maybe one of those words has just haunted you out of fear and insecurity. Share! We need to know our challenges, know each other and be known as leaders. It's imperative.

Links to Recent Films  

Posted by Mike Sharrow

For those of you who really enjoyed (or missed but want to see what the hype was about) the clip played during Jeff's sermon this past week on "First Things First," click the link below:

Also, a recap video was put together from our Advance 08 Retreat which can be viewed at:

Creating Margin  

Posted by John Walters

In yesterday's message, we saw a great video clip, God's pies, about stewardship of our lives, money and talents. We all struggle in today's culture with time, money and spiritual management.
I am intrigued by the reality shows where the professionals come in and show the person a whole different way of living, dressing or disciplining their children. They usually throw out the unnecessary stuff. There is always this resistance at first but in the end you can see the freedom and excitement about a new way of living.
How would you feel if an expert came in and helped you give away all the extra stuff in your house you don't need? Would you be willing to have a professional come in and open your eyes to see what you needed to remove or change in your life? In your wallet? In your time management? In your spiritual life?

As a believer, Jesus demands that we transform, that we change the way we live and sometimes it takes someone from outside to show us that there is a better way, to show us a new perspective. That is what Jesus was trying to tell the Jews of his day. They were enslaved by their own culture and they didn't even know it.

I remember a time when I was attending a conference in San Diego. We had some time to go to the beach so I rented a boogie board and headed out to catch a wave. I was out past the first wave for about 15 minutes when the life guard came swimming out to me. He shouted, “do you know what you are doing?” I didn’t know what to say. I grew up in California and I thought I knew what I was doing. I was just floating waiting for a wave. He said I was in a rip tide and he was there to help me get back in. So, I grabbed on and he pulled me to safety. I didn’t even know I was in trouble. That is so true with a lot of us concerning our life styles. We just float along with the world and if you let it , it will take you to a very dangerous place without you even realizing it. We end up in severe debt, or marital problems, or spiritual bankruptcy. If we are not willing to allow an outsider to come in and tell us if we are in trouble and make the changes they recommend, then we may end up in serious trouble.

Marco! (Polo?) Okay, how do I really get faith?  

Posted by Mike Sharrow

I was in Mexico last month relaxing after wrapping up some intense months with my former company. While there, my wife and I had the opportunity to share the Gospel with a sales manager for the resort, Marco. Marco was well-educated, had read the Bible multiple times and was a self-declared "seeker." He wrestled with apologetic issues like how we know Jesus really did raise from the grave, is the Bible really reliable, is God really active in our lives and such. He was passionate, hyper (talked super fast), pointed (no easy questions), but sincerely looking. He said numerous times, "I want to have this faith...I just don't. I have questions that I can't ignore. I wish it were easy to just close my eyes and be like you - show me how to do this without ignoring my head! Please, help me understand how to have faith like you!"

Frankly, we were stunned. You don't expect such open discussions. We certainly weren't seeking them on the beach! He wrestled with some addictions and "bad things" as he said. He had tried the "pretending to be good" route, but confessed, "You can only act like you don't really want the bad stuff for so long before you fall back into it - drinking, women, and all that other stuff." He had tried to mimic "fruit" with the hope it would make him into a healthy "tree" spiritually.

Over the course of the week we spent hours having great discussion. Hard talks. He knew as many passages as I did - but they were a burden to him whereas they were a light and hope to me. He saw that and wanted to cross over into the life I had.

As I tried to help him tackle his intellectual issues, I quickly saw that this was not a battle of the mind as much as the heart. "Marco, these are fair questions and I'll stick with you nailing them down - but, you cannot avoid the step of faith. You're going to have to eventually make a heart decision to step out in faith while you iron out the wrinkles."

Long story short, here's what I'd like your input on. Hours later Marco decided to take that leap. We prayed together, hugged, shared passages and began his journey in Christ. On our last day he comes to me with a pad of paper and a pen, "Mike, I need a plan. What are the things I should do to get this faith working and really grow? Write me the steps and I'll do them!"

What would you say to Marco? What would you give as ABCs for discipleship...particularly for someone who is long distance.

Disciple - What's that?  

Posted by archie

I read your purpose statement once again just to make sure this posting was appropriate.

"Share your ideas, ask questions, pray for wisdom from God who is the Author of all truth, and let's partner on this journey in faith together."

What does it mean to disciple a life group? How does it differ from discipling a single person? No, forget the first two questions.

Answer this one: What is a disciple? As a leader in the Christ body known as Grace Point, does that automatically qualify me as a disciple? No, forget these two questions also.

Answer this one instead: As one who disciples, what are my real world responsibilities to God, the church, my life group, my family and myself?

Yeah. That's the question......

Puzzled in Seattle

Unlikely Leadership  

Posted by archie

God is amazing! All throughout the Bible, God uses the unlikely to lead. Moses seemed to object more than most, but then God was sending Him on a seemingly impossible mission. How long has it been since God sent the leadership of Grace Point on an impossible mission? Did we have as many objections as Moses?

  • Moses objected, "They won't trust me. They won't listen to a word I say. They're going to say, 'God? Appear to him? Hardly!'"

  • "Master, please, I don't talk well. I've never been good with words, neither before nor after you spoke to me. I stutter and stammer."

  • He said, "Oh, Master, please! Send somebody else!"

I hope one day to develop the faith and obedience required to hear God and run at Goliath "objection free" and take on the "impossible mission" without regrets or fear. I think I just saw Moses smile.

Some Good Books for Leaders/Disciplers  

Posted by Mike Sharrow

Spirit of the Disicplines by Dallas Willard
Celebration of the Disciplines by Richard Foster
So, You Want to be Like Christ? By Charles Swindol
Metamorpha by Kyle Strobel
Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis

If you're read something really impactful lately, please comment and share! Leaders read and learn, which is why we are able to then draw others to read and learn likewise.

Discipleship 101: it's about asking and sharing the process of journey  

Posted by Mike Sharrow

Discipleship is more about asking and sharing than teaching. Discipleship is not about you downloading 20 years of information in 3 eloquent sessions. It’s not about you instructing someone in everything they should do and becoming the source of all knowledge and truth. It’s about sharing the yoke of transformation and helping them see how truly “easy and light” the “yoke and burden” of Christ is when lived out Biblically.

It’s asking questions, like: why, where does that feeling come from, how’s your walk going, what is God showing you, what are you struggling with, what are you excited about, what are you reading? The most powerful thing you have to offer is insights at your own process with Jesus. David, Paul and so many great pillars of faith were so open about their struggles – but they shared both the raw feeling and how they surrendered it to Christ for His reshaping. Even Jesus in the garden prayed for release if possible but strength if release was not possible. Are you sharing your struggles, and – more importantly – your process for offering your struggles to God? Share how your devotional life is impacting you and how you’ve approached it to establish a healthy routine. Share what your prayer life is like – and invite them to join you. That’s really the heart of effective discipleship.

Discipleship 101: it must be intentional  

Posted by Mike Sharrow

3. Life is too short and our mission is too critical to not be intentional. Relationships can be “fuzzy” for so many of us. Just what depth are we at with a friend, who’s loyal to who, how committed is someone, where are we going in our relationship? These are sketchy attributes that we so often just guess at. Again, to look at the model of Jesus we see something very striking: His consistent calling or invitation to discipleship (“come, and follow Me, I’m going to make you fishers of men”).

Every couple can recall the first DTR (Define The Relationship) where one of you asked something like, “so where are we going? What do you say we are when friends ask?” It’s a pivotal point at which casual romance begins to advance into significance, when dating becomes courtship or even marriage. Many of you have somebody you’ve formed relationship with but you’re just not sure where it’s going. You could see the person as someone you pour life into and really invest in…but are not sure if they are ready yet. Here’s a big key: ask. It may seem awkward, but asking outright, “Hey, what is your intention with this relationship? I see God working in your life and would like to really come alongside you as we seek Jesus together as disciples, but wasn’t sure if you’re looking for that level of relationship.”

The outcome options are only positive – either they say “whoa, I’m not ready for that kind of stuff” leaving you to move on or have a heart-to-heart about what surrendering to Christ is really about, or you just sparked the beginning of a very purposeful advance in that relationship. There’s such power in intentional relationship and purposeful words! Think how invigorating it would be for someone to tell you that they want to pour into your life and come alongside you on this road of faith and hope.

Our message is too “sticky” and the need too great for us to not pursue the Kingdom as a community with intentionality.

Discipleship 101: you can't lead where you're not going  

Posted by Mike Sharrow

2. You cannot lead where you are not going. If you want to truly be effective leading others to Jesus in a transformational way – you have to be running towards Him yourself. It is only from the overflow of His presence and active power in your life that you can spill over onto the people around you. Self-leadership is critical here: what are you doing to draw yourself closer to the heart of God?

The ability for our community of believers at Grace Point to expand is directly tied to the spiritual health of individual leaders. The “spiritual disciplines” have to be such a part of life, a part of who we are and how we approach life. Dallas Willard wrote a great book on the “why do spiritual disciplines” in which he highlighted the misdirection in holding ourselves up to “what would Jesus do” without first going “how did Jesus live?” Jesus modeled a life dependent upon prayer, solitude, meditation and study of Scriptures, fasting and so much more. We cannot expect to somehow experience and reflect Jesus out of self, we must follow His example in these practices that serve to bring about a “not I who lives, but Christ” reality.

Discipleship 101 - thoughts after the Advance 08 Retreat  

Posted by Mike Sharrow

At the Advance 08 retreat we all were left with a charge to “go, make disciples” with intentionality of those people around us. We all know that at the heart of this “way of Jesus” life we all share, our overarching calling is to make discipling, evangelizing and teaching a part of daily living. We also know that many of us have not experienced intentional discipleship ourselves, so it can seem a bit ambiguous and daunting to “go make disciples!”

Like many things, if we wait until we are completely “ready” it will never happen. You wouldn’t be serving in the leadership capacities you presently are if someone did not believe you to be far enough into the Kingdom to start bringing others along with you.

At the retreat and throughout our vocabulary of “360 relationships” you also hear the concept of mentoring, or “being a Barnabas” to others. There’s another daunting word! Let me share some thoughts and insights on these subjects to help bring better clarity, inspiration and some practical guide points.

Discipleship 101

1. It’s about Jesus not you. At its very essence discipleship is about making followers to seek after a great teacher. Take a breath and relax knowing that you are not that “great teacher,” Jesus is! The purpose is not to go about making mini you look-alikes, but to catalytically lead others to follow Jesus passionately in their life. The body is diverse and beautiful in its non-uniformity, and as leaders we have to seek to bring those people very different than us to a closer walk with Jesus without requiring them to conform to our gifting, personality or expression profile.

Purpose of this Blog  

Posted by Mike Sharrow in , , ,

"Upon this rock I will build my church." - Jesus

Two thousand years ago the great triune God of the Hebrews took on flesh, pouring out Himself to become a suffering Servant that He might redeem the world unto Himself. He brought the "Kingdom of God" into direct contact and conflict with the earthly power structures and offered abundant life under his "easy yoke" of transformational love. Delighting in the victorious underdog par excellence, the Son of Man implemented one last daring gesture after conquering death and sin - He chose to manifest Himself through the ages through the lowliest of people, to build His Church upon the "rock" of common, fragile, broken people. In our weakness, He is strong - His work is done by grace, not be works, and none of us can boast otherwise!

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we at Grace Point have the privilege of having front row seats on some incredible Kingdom advancements for our region. Radically transformed life stories are written nearly daily around us, and we are witnesses to exchanged lives to the glory of God. It is certainly not our strength or wit that has facilitated this, but the active Word and Spirit of God working through, around and often times despite us. As leaders in this great gathering of Christ-followers, we have a profound responsibility to be diligent in our application of our gifts, our stewardship of Kingdom resources and the ongoing need for discipleship, spiritual formation and people being clearly directed to follow Jesus.

The Great Commission is overly referred to and under-applied to its full extent. Dallas Willard aptly noted that it has unintentionally fallen victim to the "Great Ommision" in that the Church often forgets to embrace the entire charge. Making disciples doesn't stop at baptism - but begins! Teaching or leading disciples in the Way of Jesus is the real imperative. So how does discipleship start, what forms does it take, what are Biblical principles or values we must hold on to, how do we lead effectively in something so critical as spiritual growth? These are real questions that require real dialogue. The values and principles of Scripture are steadfast, yet the forms and expressions have great diversity. We need healthy dialogue that wrestles with needs, ideas, barriers, truth, experiences and concepts - in "love which binds them all together in perfect unity" as Paul said to the believers in Colosse.

This is a forum of "grace." We as leaders must put as a chief aim our individual love and devotion to Jesus Christ, and from such aim open ourselves up to honest dialogue, correction, encouragement and growth. Ideas will be shared - good, radical, ancient, tried, dangerous, unformed, amazing, insightful and everything in-between - in a context of trust as we seek to burn away the chaffe and get down to the real heart of Discipleship for our present context. As iron sharpening iron, so we will seek to sharpen each other as co-laborers in the cause of leadership.

Share your ideas, ask questions, pray for wisdom from God who is the Author of all truth, and let's partner on this journey in faith together.

Come and follow, as we seek to be more fully made into fishers of men by the great Teacher...