10 Leadership Skills Inherent in Missional Leadership

Leadership essentials…discipleship essentials. What’s the relationship?

You can lead and never actually make disciples.  But, you can never make disciples and not lead.

“Why didn’t we learn this stuff you are teaching us in our church when we were kids?”

Youth Week 2016-Camp Okoboji

The question was so honest, so raw. A teenager, learning to listen, to build conversations, to be curious…all in an effort to be an everyday missionary every day. His excitement over what he was learning quickly turned to a regret. Why didn’t someone teach him this earlier?

With all the focus on leadership in the church we have not been gaining Kingdom ground.  We don’t have a leadership void in the church today, we have a discipleship void.  The issues facing the church in America will not be settled by more advanced leadership training, or better run organizations, but by a dynamic movement of the Spirit as more and more people follow Jesus.  How will we get there?

By focusing on discipleship…leadership skills are “in there.”

As an emerging leader you can receive advanced leadership training in the church and not actually make disciples.  But, you can’t make disciples and not be growing in your advanced leadership skills.

You can lead and never actually make disciples.  But, you can never make disciples and not lead.

I think we may have missed the point.  Jesus never called us to leadership.  He called us to follow Him. The promise?  “I will make you fishers of men.”  Mark 1:17  And, as you fish for men, others will follow.  That’s leadership.

We don’t strive to learn leadership skills and build our leadership acumen so that we can run a “tighter ship” or more efficient organization.  We grow as leaders so that we can make disciples.  We invest time and energy into our craft as leaders so that we might join in the movement of God and see more and more people move from darkness to light to the glory of God and the benefit of the world.

When we focus on discipleship as first priority, leadership skills are caught.  Leadership essentials are discovered and lived out as we follow Jesus and join Him in making disciples. Leadership development and missional leadership are not at odds with each other.  Missional leadership demands the artful application of basic leadership skills.  Here’s a quick list of 10 basic leadership skills that have emerged in my own ministry over the years. And, by the way, am still learning them today as I follow Jesus:

10 Basic Leadership Skills Inherent in Missional Leadership

The Art of Following

How do you follow Jesus in this changing climate, and what are you learning from Him?

The Art of Obeying

Are you following through on what God is asking of you and allowing someone to hold you accountable?

The Art of Invitation

Who are you inviting to follow you as you follow Jesus?

The Art of Imitation

With whom are you “dwelling” so that they can see how you follow Jesus?

The Art of Fractal

Have you boiled down what you want replicated to the simplest, most basic form?

The Art of Replication

Do you have apprentices at every level of participation in your ministry?

The Art of Release

Are you controlling or freely sending others?

The Art of Focused-Support

Are you giving mandates and directive measures to those you lead, or are you helping them discover and own their own calling?

The Art of Vision Clarity

Can you answer with clarity the 5 core questions of visionary leadership for your missional context?

What are we doing?

 

Why are we doing it?

 

How are we doing it?

 

When are we successful?

 

Where is God leading us?

The Art of Execution

What are you doing every day to integrate those answers into the fabric of your ministry?

What missional leadership essentials would you add to the list?

> Read more from Jeff.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff Meyer

Jeff Meyer

I am Jeff Meyer, and I start fires. Ever since that basketball game in college when I came off the bench and lit a spark for my team, I have carried the nickname "Fire Meyer." (Until that point in my career my jersey #22 never saw the floor in an actual game. Perhaps the #22 was a symbol of my life calling: 2 Timothy 2:2?) I live to see sparks ignited and connections made. I long to see the church wake up and live. I long to see Jesus-followers display passionate commitment to Jesus. Jesus' invitation to follow Him was an adventure of epic proportions. Can we recapture that today? I long to see communities transformed into healthy places of wholeness. I believe that communities are transformed when Jesus-followers are stoked and respond. Perhaps you've heard it said that the church is the hope of the world. I believe that a responsive Jesus-follower is the hope of the world. "Igniting connections" is my way of setting off some inspirational sparks; sparks that ignite a passionate response to the call of Jesus.

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COMMENTS

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Kim William Coutts — 11/15/16 10:12 am

Many thanks Jeff. The American church must rediscover her roots in relational discipleship driven by her leaders. I intend to use your set of questions with our supported missionaries challenging each of them to go deeper and wider as disciples who make disciples. I appreciate you stoking my fire.

Recent Comments
Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 
After 47 years of ministry experience, I found this easy to agree with, and very hard to live by. All sorts of pressure applied. Eric Gieger's "Simple Church" was a big help!
 
— Jon Breshears
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

3 Reasons Groups MUST Be a Big Deal

While one person can make a significant impact on each of us, we tend to be much more influenced by groups of people. Here is a fascinating example: The Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona has often faced a crisis as people can steal petrified wood at an alarming rate. Some researchers tested what message would motivate people to respect the forest and not steal wood. Three different tests were conducted:

  • Test 1: No sign posted.
  • Test 2: A posted sign with a picture of one personpicking up petrified wood with encouragement not to take wood.
  • Test 3: A posted sign with a picture of three people picking up petrified wood with encouragement not to take wood.

So what were the results?

When there was no sign posted, people stole 2.9% of the wood. When there was a sign showing only one person taking the wood, 1.9% of the wood was taken. When there was a sign showing several people taking wood, 7.9% of the wood was taken. Clearly people were much more willing to follow the lead of a crowd than a single person. * A group can impact people much more than one person can.

The people in your church will be much more influenced by a group of people than they will be by one person, by even one pastor. While a pastor can make a significant impact on a person’s life, the impact of a group is much more sustainable and reproducible.

Here are three reasons groups must be a big deal at your church this fall. (I am using the term groups, but the same applies to Sunday School classes, Bible fellowships, etc.)

1. A group provides encouragement that no one person will ever be able to provide.

We are all limited in the number of relationships we can have. Thus, a church that does not value groups acts as if they foolishly believe that a pastor/leader can deeply relate to a lot of people. Without groups, ministry leaders can run feverishly in futile attempts to relate deeply to lots of people.

2. A group illustrates the faith in multiple ways.

One person can provide an incredible example of faith and godliness, but it is one example. A group of people provides multiple expressions and illustrations of how the Christian faith is expressed in different spheres of life.

3. A group of believers provides a counter culture.

People in your church are going to be impacted by some group of people. The wisdom writer wrote, “The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20). The groups of people we surround ourselves with either help or harm us. By offering and emphasizing groups, churches offer an opportunity to walk with the wise. If people don’t walk with the wise, they will be a companion of fools and suffer harm.

Here is my observation: A church that does not emphasize groups tends to put way too much burden on a weekend worship service and too little trust in the power of Christian community.

* The research is cited in the book “Social Psychology and Evaluation,” page 277.

> Read more from Eric.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 
After 47 years of ministry experience, I found this easy to agree with, and very hard to live by. All sorts of pressure applied. Eric Gieger's "Simple Church" was a big help!
 
— Jon Breshears
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Creating Opportunities for Discipleship

Church leaders have been complaining lately that their church is declining, or that Church in general is shrinking. However, at Church Community Builder we work with some churches who are thriving and asking for our help in growing well. So, what’s the difference? Are some churches just lucky?

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” – Seneca

I believe the key difference between churches who are struggling and those who are thriving is community. When you think about the people who walk in your door, how connected are they to your vision and to each other? People attend church for many reasons, and they stick around because they find community and connections with the people and the work that they are doing. We all long for community, but how do we create it? In all the coaching I have done, I think there are two big ideas for building community in church – clarity and opportunities.

Be Clear

Church is daunting and can be scary for the beginner. So, as a church leaders, you need to be extra clear in your language and your process. Here are three important things to look out for:

    • Internal Language. “We are meeting in the old high school room.” I heard this while attending a church recently and I wondered where that was. I walked down the hallway and never noticed a room with that name. There was however, a room labeled “High School” and the occupants quickly told me I was in the wrong place. How often do your staff members use words or labels that only make sense to those on the inside?
    • Churchy Language. “We will now participate in a faith offering” or “Let me describe our Assimilation process.” Well, I don’t think I need to offer my faith up just yet, and those Borg people from Star Trek is all the Assimilation I can imagine. I would invite you to filter all your outgoing communication through a non-church goer’s perspective. Would it make sense outside your church? If not, try to find better words.

If you continue to say, “In other words…” then use other words. – Unknown

    • Confusing Processes. Knowing what to do next is extremely comforting in a new environment. If I am a visitor (for the first, second, or third time) what should I do next? Does the building direct me to the next step? Does the connection card outline what I could do? What about the announcements before the sermon? I recently attended a church who renamed their “Connection Corner” to “Start Here” and the number of people who stopped by doubled overnight. As the new guy, I don’t know whether I want to stop at the “Connection Corner”, but I do know how to “Start Here.”

People already engaged in community can often lose sight of the idioms and catch phrases that confuse the newcomers. However, rarely does communicating clearly to the outsider confuse the inside crowd.

Create Opportunities

Church Community Builder (both the company and the software) was created largely because of a volunteering problem. Church leaders were having a hard time recruiting volunteers for various reasons, and staff members were struggling to cover it all (You have never experienced that, right?). The initial thought was to improve the recruiting process, until they interviewed folks who were not serving. Many of those people indicated that they could not find a way to volunteer. They wanted to help but didn’t know how. Enter the “Needs” function of the software. In short, it is a tool to define and post services you need, and then allow people to take that need. Maybe it’s potato salad for the barbecue, or taking care of greeting at the next service. Since that time, we have also included volunteer positions and scheduling tools, and the need still exists to create very clear next steps and on-ramps for people to get on the highway of community.

Consider whether or not your church makes it easy to take the next step in discipleship through the following:

    • Attending. If I want to see these people again, how do I do that? Is there a calendar of events on the website for me to view? Is there a list of groups I might explore such as a bible study, or the weekend volleyball group? Are all the locations and service times posted on the website and in the bulletin? Make it exceedingly easy to know what’s happening and how to attend events. 
    • Serving. I am a pretty useful guy, and I would like to be useful here. How can I help? Is there a list of volunteering positions or needs the church recognizes, beyond guilting people into the children’s ministry? Are those roles described with the skills or temperament required to be successful? What about the time and expectations? People love to serve when they feel useful and they know how to meet the expectations required for the role; so make it clear and easy!
    • Giving. Everyone knows churches take donations. However, many visitors have no idea how you prefer to receive their gift, or even why this is a thing. Money can be a very approachable subject. People in modern society use money all the time, there is no need for mystery. Is giving a discussable subject in your church? Be clear and frank about where the money goes, from paying the light bill to helping starving children across the globe. Once the purpose of giving is communicated, then make it easy to give. Today, that means quick and easy online giving solutions. Church Community Builder just announced a partnership with Pushpay, and they offer one of the fastest and easiest giving experiences on the web – check it out.

Your Next Move

Take some time and review all your communication – in your program, on your website, and from your stage. Confirm whether or not you are using words that are accurate, meaningful, and accessible for people who are new to your church, or new to Church altogether. As part of that communication review, ensure that you have great “Next Step” opportunities for people who want to attend, serve, or give more. People are more often immobilized by the confusion of the process than by their own unwillingness to take up an opportunity. Your job is to create the opportunity.

> Read more from Dave.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dave Bair

Dave brings a unique talent for system and process implementation to the Leadership Team at Church Community Builder and also leads our team of coaches. His history of consulting with major corporations to implement change has enabled him to build an impressive coaching framework to guide church leaders towards operational effectiveness. Dave and his wife of many years have a daughter, studying chemistry in college, and a son in high school who's passions include saxophone and drums. In addition for finding Dave at DaveBair.co you may occasionally spot him piloting his hot air ballon in the western sky.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 
After 47 years of ministry experience, I found this easy to agree with, and very hard to live by. All sorts of pressure applied. Eric Gieger's "Simple Church" was a big help!
 
— Jon Breshears
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Sacred Calling of the Secular Workplace

In Acts 11, we read that because of persecution in Jerusalem following the stoning of Stephen, Christians were dispersed into various parts of the world. In their new homes, they continued to live as they had in Jerusalem, practicing and preaching their faith to both Jews and Greeks.

As a result, the Lord saved “a large number,” and the church in Antioch was birthed. The people who had been scattered into Antioch were regular people, dads and moms, who needed work to support their families. They lived among the Gentiles according to their faith, proclaiming the gospel. Many saw and heard and believed.

There is something particularly interesting I would like you to see here: it was not the Apostles who planned a church plant in Antioch, gathered the funds and core groups, and moved into these neighborhoods. The church in Antioch began with believers whom God had sent there, not by their choice, but by way of dispersion.

They had families and jobs and regular lives, and they used those things as a way to represent Christ among their unbelieving neighbors and co-workers. In short, they were on mission in their workplaces and homes, and the Church grew as a result. Do you see it?

Regular people grew the church.

Christ at the Workplace
Most of the people who read this blog are pastors or church leaders, but the people we lead are accountants, teachers, doctors, and electricians.

Church leaders, we need to understand that we are meant to equip all of our people for participation in God’s mission. I am convinced that participation in the mission necessitates bringing everything under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, including our jobs.

There is an incredibly helpful and encouraging conversation happening in churches right now around faith and work and how the gospel impacts everything we do. The reality is that a lot of Christians are unhappy in their jobs. One of the reasons, I believe, is because just about every devout believer at some time asks the question, “Am I called to full-time ministry?”

As a result, confusion often abounds in regards to vocation and how we can joyfully thrive in our work. Everything we do is shaped by who we are in Christ, including the manner in which we approach our workplaces. At the end of this blog post I am including a helpful video my friend Skye Jethani did on “Recapturing a Theology of Vocation for Gospel Witness.” It is a very helpful piece.

All the way back in the beginning, kingdom work was rooted in God’s command to Adam to cultivate and steward the garden. The principle is more fully revealed in the work of the second Adam, Jesus. Adam was commanded to glean the harvest in Eden, but the second Adam brings a better and more complete harvest of the nations.

That harvest involves us in His mission at work and in our daily lives. The work is not set aside for ‘more spiritual’ or ‘professional’ Christians. God has called all believers to engage well in His mission. “Do your work heartily,” Paul says in Colossians 3:23, “as unto the Lord and not as unto men.”

If we are going to really see Christians satisfied in their work and joyfully engaging in the mission through it, we must equip them to do so. If we want to see the kind of multiplication of disciples seen in Acts 11, every follower of Christ must understand his or her role in God’s mission.

Just as God was sovereign over the dispersion of His people into Antioch, He is sovereign over where we have been placed in our neighborhoods and workplaces. That definitively means that we are in those places for the glory of God and the sake of the gospel among the nations.

In my next post, I will talk about how we can prepare this coming generation to see their vocations as a call from God and help them fully embrace it.

> Read more from Ed.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the Executive Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than one million individuals each week. Stetzer is also Executive Editor of Facts & Trends Magazine, a Christian leadership magazine with a circulation of more than 70,000 readers. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 
After 47 years of ministry experience, I found this easy to agree with, and very hard to live by. All sorts of pressure applied. Eric Gieger's "Simple Church" was a big help!
 
— Jon Breshears
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

7 Truths About Authentic Discipleship

One of the ways you know you’re making progress is that you stop having the same discussion over and over again.

If you’re discussing the same issues on your team or at home year after year, you’re probably stuck.

When it comes to much of the discussion around discipleship, I believe we’re getting it wrong in the church.

We’re stuck.

What if the popular understanding of discipleship is producing some of the ill health and even stagnation and decline we see all around us in the church?

And what if you could do something about it by rethinking what you mean by discipleship?

From my earliest days in ministry, I’ve had a conversation about discipleship that repeats itself again and again.

It goes like something like this:

Me: People need to reach out more and focus more of their time, energy and resources on evangelism.

Other person(s): That’s a great idea but what we really need to focus on is discipleship. There’s such an immaturity in Christians today that we need to focus on growing the ones we have first. And besides, evangelical churches are known for producing shallow, immature Christians.

Pretty compelling logic.

Unless, of course, it’s wrong.

I agree that often Christians in the West are immature. I agree our walk doesn’t always match our talk.

But I also think the average North American Christian is about 3000 bible verses overweight.

The way many leaders approach maturity is to assume that knowledge produces maturity. Since when?

It’s wonderful that people understand what they believe, but knowledge in and of itself is not a hallmark of Christian maturity. As Paul says, knowledge puffs up. Love, by contrast, builds up. And some of the most biblically literate people in Jesus day got by-passed as disciples.

The goal is not to know, but to do something with what you know.  I wrote more on why our definition of Christian maturity needs to change here.

Here are seven things I believe are true about biblical discipleship church leaders today should reclaim:

1.  Jesus commanded us to make disciples, not be disciples.

The way many Christian talk, you’d think Jesus told us to be disciples. He commanded us to make disciples. The great commission is, at it’s heart, an outward movement.

Could it be that in the act of making disciples, we actually become more of who Christ designed us to be? It was in the act of sharing faith that thousands of early Christians were transformed into new creations.

I know personally I grow most and learn most when I am helping others. It gives me a place to apply what I’m learning and to take the focus off myself and place it on Christ and others, where it belongs.

2. Discipleship is simply linked to evangelism.

The thrust of all first century discipleship was to share Christ with the world he loves and died for (yes, Jesus really does love the world).

You can’t be a disciple without being an evangelist.

And for sure, the opposite is true. You can’t be an an evangelist without being a disciple. But somehow many many people would rather be disciples without being evangelists.

3. A mark of an authentic disciple includes getting it wrong.

A common criticism of churches that draw in large numbers of outsiders and newer believers is that these new followers of Christ get it wrong as often as they get it right. They might not realize that reincarnation isn’t biblical or struggle to understand the faith they’re stepping into.

What if that’s a sign that their discipleship is authentic?

After all, Peter didn’t get it right most of the time when he was around Jesus. Many leaders in the early church needed correction. And even Paul would later confront Peter about his unwillingness to eat with Gentiles.  And yet Christ chose to build the early church on Peter and Paul. Imagine that.

4. A morally messy church is…inevitable

One stinging criticism of churches that are reaching people is that many of their attenders don’t bear much resemblance to Jesus.

These new, immature Christians can be

  • swayed by powerful personalities
  • still be sexually active outside of marriage
  • have questionable business practices
  • end up in broken families
  • be too swayed by the culture
  • not know how to conduct themselves in worship
  • doubt core doctrines like the resurrection

If these issues remind you of why you so dislike growing churches or megachurches, just realize that I pulled every one of those problems out of 1 Corinthians. The church in Corinth struggled with every problem listed above and (I think) every problem growing churches today struggle with.

And last time I checked the church in Corinth was an authentic church Christ loved.

The fact that you have these problems may actually be a sign you’re making progress with the unchurched. You don’t want to leave them there, but when people really start engaging with Christ, tidy categories are hard to come by.

In fact the most morally ‘pure’ people of the first century (the Pharisees) were the very ones Jesus most often condemned. Go figure.

 5. Maturity takes time and is not linear

It would be great if there was instant maturity in faith and in life. But it never works that way.

You can’t expect a 3 year old to have the maturity of a 13 year old, or expect a 23 year old to have the maturity of a 43 year old. When you place expectations on people that they are just not able to bear, you crush or confuse them.

And yet we do that in the church all the time. People grow and mature over time. And our progress isn’t always as linear as a 101, 201, 301 progression would make it. In fact, I know some 23 year olds who are more mature than some 43 year olds.

Expose new Christians to the love of God and community, to great teaching, great relationships, and solid accountability and over time, many will grow into very different people than they were when they first came to Christ. They may grow at different rates and in different measures, but I believe Jesus talked about that. Just don’t judge them after a few months or even a few years.

6. Christian maturity was never about you anyway.

Christian maturity has never been about you anyway. It is certainly not about how awesome you are compared to others, how smart you are, how righteous you are, or how holy you are.

It is about Jesus. And it is about others.

It was never about you anyway.

7.  Love compels us

If you love the world, how can you ignore it? Jesus said the authentic mark of his followers is love. He defined the primary relationship between God and humanity as one of love. The truth he ushered in is inseparable from love.

The primary motivation for evangelism and discipleship is the same; it is love. That should characterize both the discussion about evangelism and discipleship and also the way we go about both.

This isn’t an exhaustive treatment of discipleship and evangelism, but in the time it takes to sip a coffee I hope it helps some way advance the conversation about evangelism and discipleship in your church.

And if we advanced our understanding of discipleship in the church, maybe the church and our culture would be transformed.

> Read more from Carey.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

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COMMENTS

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John — 10/15/16 10:54 am

Gospel according to Luke that the harvest is ripe but laborers are few. I think we tend to be Peter. Some (hopefully most) of us "get it" in time. (Ref. Baptism of Cornelius).

Ted Shoemaker — 10/26/15 6:40 pm

I'm not clear as to whether Carey Nieuwhof is pitting evangelism vs maturity, big church vs deep church. There is no need to do so. Each one supports the other. Perhaps Nieuwhof is gifted (or motivated) in terms of one; and I may be gifted/motivated in terms of the other. We each need the other. Xaris, Ted Shoemaker

Curt Kekuna — 10/26/15 11:47 am

Very insightful and comforting to know others question what's popular or current! You helped me understand the stirring in my soul concerning the focus of discipleship. Thank you.

david bartosik — 10/18/15 11:49 pm

I love your #2 "Discipleship is simply linked to evangelism." Shouldn't that lead us to deepen in our thinking? John Piper said, "Thinking serves feeling. God gave us the ability to learn and reason, so that we might admire and treasure him above anything else. Right thinking is for deep feeling." Shouldn't we want to help people think deeply about God so it naturally flows out of their life? And if its not flowing out of their life the conclusion should be it hasn't changed them as much as they think or as we would hope? It seems to me that it will return us to more thinking not more empty actions right?

Recent Comments
Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 
After 47 years of ministry experience, I found this easy to agree with, and very hard to live by. All sorts of pressure applied. Eric Gieger's "Simple Church" was a big help!
 
— Jon Breshears
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Six Keys for Whole-Church Discipleship

I grew up attending church a lot. I was in a church classroom a lot. When I was a kid, my family attended Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night preaching and prayer services, plus Sunday school, plus missions education programs and Vacation Bible Schools. But… I didn’t grow spiritually, didn’t really experience spiritual depth, and didn’t really learn what following Jesus looked like outside the walls of the church.

When I hit adulthood, I started to grow spiritually, but I would say it was still rather slow going. I started attending church with my wife and soaking up biblical knowledge like a sponge. I entered ministry and attended Bible college and developed the spiritual disciplines. But something was still missing.

Finally, several things happened that prompted a complete perspective change in me and kickstarted my journey toward being more like Jesus. In particular…

  • I walked through pain – depression, specifically.
  • I began to repent of pride, self-centeredness, and other sins.
  • My wife and I began to have tough conversations.
  • I went on staff at a church with a strong culture of discipleship.
  • We joined a small group of people who cared a lot about doing life together.

After a year in that atmosphere, God led us to Northwest Arkansas to plant a church and gave us a passion for creating a place where people could truly grow. We started planting Grace Hills with some particular convictions about the role of the local church in discipleship, such as…

  • The local church, as a community of believers, was always integral to Jesus’ plan for discipleship.
  • The local church should balance the five purposes of worship, evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, and ministry.
  • The local church should also be balanced in ministering to the community, the crowd, the congregation, the committed, and the core.
  • If the local church is going to facilitate discipleship, it has to be more than a classroom. It has to be a community of people who are coming to know Jesus together and serving one another for God’s glory.

In the last few years, we haven’t gotten everything right. In fact, I think it would be easier to write about our mistakes than our success. But I’ve watched our staff and volunteer team make disciples well, and I can point to at least six specific ways we’ve been setting the table for discipleship to happen.

1. From the pulpit, a vision is cast and an example is shared about the role of spiritual disciplines.

It’s not just about conveying information in a “deep” sermon format. It’s about creating a hunger and getting practical in terms of how each message should be lived out, and how every person can go deeper beyond Sunday. I spent 15 years doing deep, expositional preaching, but failed to call people to really develop their own faith at home. One of my newer goals is to help people, through my preaching, to become self-feeders by talking about the value of the disciplines as well as the how of them.

2. Lay counseling and counseling-as-discipleship is utilized to disciple people through crises.

We must develop a culture and a system for involving people in the messes of other people. The broken-and-healing need to be pouring into the broken-in-need-of-healing. And the most effective counseling we can do is essential discipleship. Some of the best marriage counseling we can do is having a man disciple a husband and a woman disciple a wife. I’ve learned to lean heavily on my wife, Angie Cox, an LCSW and a master at empowering lay people for counseling.

3. The importance of micro-groups or groups-within-groups is talked about.

It’s usually when a group gets smaller that real discussion happens. This happens when men and women divide during group time. It also happens when two or three from a group grab coffee to get more personal. So we encourage group leaders to encourage group members to get together beyond the weekly meeting to dive deeper into specific struggles.

4. Everybody is challenged to join a ministry team.

A ministry team is like a cohort of people who are in proximity to each other as they serve. This creates an atmosphere for on-the-job discipleship. People sharpen one another in the trenches together, so we let ministry teams function a little bit like small groups. It’s been thrilling to watch people sharing their stories and challenging one another while serving together.

5. Schedules are simplified and families are encouraged to do discipleship at home.

Some of the most important discipleship work that a church can do is by empowering fathers, mothers, and guardians to make disciples of their kids, as well as their neighbors’ kids. We fight against busyness so that families have time away from church together.

6. Pastoral ministry becomes personal ministry carried out within small groups.

Groups are challenged to provide care for one another. People pray over fellow group members before or during crises, deliver meals, and keep tabs on one another. No promises are ever made that the church staff will be doing “pastoral ministry,” even though we often do.

We don’t do any of these perfectly, but where we see them happen, we see them working. And we hope to do more of each of them. Jesus never intended us to try to carry out the work of disciple-making while ignoring his primary engine for the task – the local church.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

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Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 
After 47 years of ministry experience, I found this easy to agree with, and very hard to live by. All sorts of pressure applied. Eric Gieger's "Simple Church" was a big help!
 
— Jon Breshears
 

Clarity Process

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Jesus Builds His Church Through His Disciples

When John Piper was pastor, Bethlehem hosted a church-planting conference with Global Church Advancement. I was on deck to speak next as Piper talked about church planting on video.

He said church planters shouldn’t listen to experts on how to plant the church. He said (and I am quoting from the second day I blogged), “You don’t know how to grow the Kingdom of God. Beware of books, beware of conferences, and beware of seminars that tell you how to plant the church.”

At that time, that was an awkward moment for me because, well, I write books and do seminars! I write books on church planting, and I’m speaking at this conference as an “expert.”

But the context of Piper’s quote was key. (Be sure to read the full quote and context here.) Piper was focusing on five words of Jesus in Matthew 16, “I will build my church.” (And, the context was that he had invited us to do this seminar at his church!)

But, his point was that the risen Christ plants churches. He builds them by changing hearts. And He has been working in your city long before you got there, so it’s His church. We can try to do it all in our own strength, but only God can build a church through His Son, Jesus.

In Matthew 16, Peter had just confessed Jesus as the Christ. That confession and statement of faith are the foundational “rock” upon which Jesus builds His church. The gates and forces of Hades will not overpower it (Matthew 16:18). This is the work of Jesus. He builds his church.

So why keep reading? Why pick up one of my books on church planting? Why attend a church planting conference with John Piper, Ed Stetzer, or anyone else?

More Perspective

Jesus doesn’t build His church despite His disciples, but through His disciples as they are led by His commands and empowered by His Spirit. Matthew doesn’t end with chapter 16. Matthew ends with these words, The Great Commission, in Matthew 28.

Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20, HCSB).

Here’s what we learn from Jesus’ commission to His disciples. Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. He essentially reverses the claim that Satan made in Matthew 4 that the kingdoms of the world are his to give Jesus if the Son of God would worship Satan.

Only a crucified and risen Savior is the King of the kingdoms. With this authority, He calls His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations among all people groups, by baptizing them and teaching them what He has commanded.

Jesus goes with His disciples as they go. He builds His church by His authority and through His presence with His disciples who make disciples.

Now watch what happens when we put these two passages together. Jesus in Matthew 16, “I will build my church.” Jesus in Matthew 28, “Go and make disciples.” Both are true.

When Jesus builds His church, He does the building by using disciples just like you. He has the authority to send you, and He goes with you. Through very imperfect people God works to create His perfect and beautiful Bride, the Church.

Pray that God’s will be done, and that He would build His church. Then stand on your feet, roll up your sleeves and by the power of the Holy Spirit, go and make disciples.

> Read more from Ed.


Want to know more about building your church through discipleship? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the Executive Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than one million individuals each week. Stetzer is also Executive Editor of Facts & Trends Magazine, a Christian leadership magazine with a circulation of more than 70,000 readers. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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Recent Comments
Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 
After 47 years of ministry experience, I found this easy to agree with, and very hard to live by. All sorts of pressure applied. Eric Gieger's "Simple Church" was a big help!
 
— Jon Breshears
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Critical Importance of Leadership Development in Discipleship

“Your church is designed to lead, designed to disciple leaders who are, by God’s grace, commanded to disciple people in all spheres of life.”

That sentence is near the beginning of Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck’s excellent new book on leadership development in the local church. This is the kind of book that pastors and church leaders will use and discuss for many years because it provides an important framework for considering these issues: Convictions, Culture, and Constructs.  I wanted to introduce this book to you by reiterating the importance of keeping discipleship and leadership together.


3 REASONS WE MUST NEVER DIVORCE LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT FROM DISCIPLESHIP

by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck

Consumption is focused on the masses and for the short-term payoff. Discipleship is focused on the person for the long run, for fruit that will last.

Churches will drift without a consistent and constant conviction for discipleship, to disciple people and develop leaders. We must not settle for consumption. Though much more challenging and difficult, we must insist on discipleship. And we must view leadership development as part of discipleship, not as distinct or divorced from it. Here is why:

1. Discipleship is the only means.

God has designed the end and the means. The end is people from every tribe, tongue, and nation gathered around the throne worshipping Him because they were purchased with the blood of Christ (Rev. 5:9-10). Regardless of what happens this week, what unfolds in the news, the ending has already been made clear: God is redeeming for Himself a people from all peoples.

The end was made clear in the beginning. God preached the gospel to Abraham saying, “All the nations will be blessed through you” (Gal. 3:8). God told Abraham that people from every nation would have God’s righteousness credited to them. At the beginning of the Bible, we find that God is going to pursue all peoples through His chosen people, Israel. At the end of the Bible, we find that God has gathered worshippers from every people group.

In the middle of the Bible is the means, the command Jesus gave us: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). We live in the middle. The means to the glorious end is not leadership development apart from Jesus. The means is not leadership development divorced from discipleship. The means is discipleship. He has commanded us to make disciples of all nations, disciples who will obey everything He commanded.

2. Discipleship impacts all of life.

As Christ is more fully formed in people, the totality of their lives is impacted. Those who are overwhelmed with how Christ has served them will serve others. Those in awe of God’s generosity will be generous. Those who are captivated by God’s mission to rescue and redeem join Him in pursuing people who are far from God. Their serving, generosity, and sense of mission impacts their relationships, their approach to their careers, and their view of life. Their growth as a disciple shapes how they lead at home, in their profession, and through all of life.

Discipleship is the only way to produce leaders that serve and bless the world. If leaders are created apart from Jesus-focused discipleship, they are created without grace-motivated service, generosity, and mission.

To view discipleship as distinct from leadership development is to propose that discipleship does not impact all of one’s life. If a church approaches leadership development as distinct from discipleship, the church unintentionally communicates a false dichotomy—that one’s leadership can be divorced form one’s faith. Being a Christian leader must not be positioned as disconnected from living a godly life in Christ Jesus.

3. Leadership development apart from discipleship becomes overly skill-based.

If leaders are developed apart from Jesus, the emphasis is inevitably on skills and not the heart transformed through Christ. Divorcing leadership development from discipleship can leave people more skilled and less sanctified. And when competency and skill outpace character, leaders are set up for a fall. We don’t serve people well if we teach them how to lead without teaching them how to follow Him. We don’t serve leaders well if we develop their skills without shepherding their character.

It is difficult to say this humbly, but maturing Christ-followers make better leaders. Even authors not writing from a distinctly Christian worldview articulate this truth without realizing it. For example, in his popular books Emotional Intelligence and Primal Leadership, researcher and author Daniel Goleman builds the case that the most effective leaders are emotionally intelligent. More than a high IQ (intelligence quotient), great leaders have a high EQ (emotional quotient), and are able to create environments and cultures that are highly effective. Effective leaders, Goleman contends, have the ability to manage their emotions, genuinely connect with people, offer kindness and empathy, lead with joy and inspiration, and display the master skill of patience. Sounds a lot like the fruit of the Spirit in the life of a believer (Gal. 5:22-23).

Yet all pushes for integrity and all the instructions on character development from leadership gurus won’t transform a leader’s heart. Inevitably after these authors reveal their findings that “character matters,” their challenges and their writings quickly degenerate into futile attempts to change our own hearts. We can’t change our own hearts. We can’t pep-talk ourselves into transformation. Only Jesus can transform our character. We must develop leaders who are consistently led and fed by Him before they attempt to lead and feed others.

Leadership development apart from being a disciple of Jesus always results in skills apart from character, in performance apart from transformation.

For more information, check out Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck’s Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trevin Wax

Trevin Wax

My name is Trevin Wax. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My wife is Corina, and we have two children: Timothy (7) and Julia (3). Currently, I serve the church by working at LifeWay Christian Resources as managing editor of The Gospel Project, a gospel-centered small group curriculum for all ages that focuses on the grand narrative of Scripture. I have been blogging regularly at Kingdom People since October 2006. I frequently contribute articles to other publications, such as Christianity Today. I also enjoy traveling and speaking at different churches and conferences. My first book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals, was published by Crossway Books in January 2010. (Click here for excerpts and more information.) My second book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope(Moody Publishers) was released in April 2011.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 
After 47 years of ministry experience, I found this easy to agree with, and very hard to live by. All sorts of pressure applied. Eric Gieger's "Simple Church" was a big help!
 
— Jon Breshears
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Importance of Movement in Your Ministry

Movement is the sequential steps in the process that cause people to move to greater areas of commitment. Movement is about flow. It is about assimilation.

Movement is what causes a person to go to the next step.

Movement is the most difficult simple church element to understand; therefore, an illustration is in order.

In a relay race the most important part of the race are the handoffs. Four runners are on the same team, and each runner’s speed is crucial but not nearly as crucial as the handoffs. Relay races are won or lost at the handoffs.

Sometimes the teams with the best runners lose, and teams with the best handoffs win. You have seen it. A team is out in the lead, and then someone drops the baton during a handoff. And the team loses.

The handoffs are that important.

Movement is about the handoffs. Movement is what happens in between the programs. Movement is how someone is handed off from one level of commitment to a greater level of commitment. How a church moves someone from a worship service to a small group is movement. How a church is designed to move a person from being an observer to being a contributor is movement.

Sadly, most churches are like poor relay teams. Instead of caring about the handoffs, they are preoccupied with the programs. They pay little attention to how people are moved to greater levels of commitment. They ignore what happens between the programs.

Simple churches pay attention to the handoffs. They have grasped the truth that assimilation effectiveness is more important than programmatic effectiveness. They know that as the flow of a process increases, so does the potential that people will progress through it. Simple church leaders design a ministry process where the programs are placed as tools along the process.

Vibrant churches have a simple process that produces movement, a process that facilitates the handoffs. The programs in these churches are tools used to promote movement. The leaders focus on what happens in between the programs as much as they do the programs.

Research confirms that movement is an essential design element in a simple church. According to the data, vibrant and growing churches have already recognized the importance of movement.

Winning teams excel in the handoffs, and so do simple churches. They are experts in designing a simple process that produces movement.

To implement the movement element, church leaders must take a fresh look at the weekly church calendar and the regularly scheduled programs. All programs must be placed in sequential order along the ministry process. This is what creates movement in a ministry process.

Read more from Eric here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 
After 47 years of ministry experience, I found this easy to agree with, and very hard to live by. All sorts of pressure applied. Eric Gieger's "Simple Church" was a big help!
 
— Jon Breshears
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

6 Ways Your Team’s Commitment to Discipleship Impacts Programming

Discipleship is the process of becoming more and more like Jesus. As we behold the glory of Christ, He transforms us into His image with ever-increasing glory. Of this, the apostle Paul wrote:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

In this passage, Paul is reminding us of Moses who climbed Mount Sinai to meet with God (Exodus 34). Moses was so impacted by the encounter with God that his face was changed and shone with the presence of God. Each time God and Moses met, Moses put a veil over his face—and the veil covered the fact that the glory of God was fading (2 Corinthians 3:13). We are different than Moses. We have unveiled faces, and the glory does not decrease but rather increases. The glory does not decrease because the Lord lives within us and is continually forming us into His image. Unlike Moses, we never leave the mountain; we never leave the presence of the Lord.

How should a theology of discipleship impact a church’s programming?

Some leaders don’t like mixing the two conversations. There is discipleship and then there are church programs, and the two don’t intersect. But if that is the case, the church wastes a lot of time offering and inviting people to attend programs. A team’s commitment to discipleship should impact programming conversations. Here are six thoughts on discipleship and programming.

1. View programs as tools.

When Moses was transformed by the Lord’s presence, the Lord did all the transforming. All Moses did, by walking up the mountain, was put himself in the position to be transformed. At their best, programs are environments that help put people in a place for transformation. For example, the Lord will use a worship service that is rooted in Scripture and points people to Jesus to change hearts. He will use a small group where people shepherd one another and the Scripture is applied to the people’s hearts.

While we must be careful not to equate assimilation with transformation, a wise church leader wants to utilize the church’s programs as tools the Lord will use in the transformation of His people. A church’s programs must be viewed as tools for the people, not the people as tools to run programs.

2. Program based on your discipleship process.

If you have articulated an overarching discipleship process or strategy, line up your programs with your process. Because you don’t want to create a Christian bubble cluttered with a plethora of programs, consider offering one regular program/environment for each phase of your discipleship process. If you over-program early in your discipleship process, people will not have the time to move to other steps in your process.

3. As people move through your process, ask for greater commitment.

Because discipleship should result in transformation with “ever-increasing glory,” as people progress through a church’s discipleship process, the level of commitment should increase. In other words, when someone moves from being in community to leading others in the church, there should be higher expectations and training/challenges that accompany the greater commitment.

4. Clarify and communicate the goal(s) of each program.

In light of a church’s overarching discipleship process, the goal of each program should be clarified and communicated. Leaders should be recruited and trained with those goals in mind. If a program does not help make disciples in light of the church’s discipleship strategy, the program merely wears people out and robs resources from that which is most important. A.W. Tozer wrote of church programs “justifying themselves” in light of a church’s mission to make disciples:

In an effort to get the work of the Lord done, we often lose contact with the Lord of the work and quite literally wear our people out as well. I have heard more than one pastor boast that his church was a “live” one, pointing to the printed calendar as proof—something on every night and several meetings during the day… A great many of these time-consuming activities are useless and others plain ridiculous. “But,” say the eager beavers, “they provide fellowship and hold our people together.” If the many activities engaged in by the average church led to the salvation of sinners and the perfecting of believers, they would justify themselves easily and triumphantly, but they do not.

5. Design the hand-offs between the programs.

In a relay race, the most critical part of the race is the hand-off. Teams work extremely hard to ensure the baton is seamlessly handed from one person to another. The people who attend our churches should be treated with more care and passion than a baton. If your church’s process is to move someone from a weekend worship gathering to a small group, consider how effective your hand-off process is. The most effective hand-offs are obvious, easy, and relational (credit goes to Andy Stanley for 2/3 of that statement). In terms of moving people to groups, here is a broad example of a hand-off that is obvious, easy, and relational.

  • Obvious: Consistent invitations to get plugged into a small group with a list of open groups in the bulletin. This is obvious, but the hand-off is not yet easy or relational. 
  • Obvious & Easy:Consistent invitations, a list of groups, and time in the worship service for people to sign up for a group and “drop the paper in the offering plate.” 
  • Obvious, Easy, & Relational: Consistent invitations, a list of groups, and time to meet leaders after the service where leaders can personally invite people to their groups.

6. Evaluate movement between the programs.

Program managers merely run great programs. Leaders who think in terms of a discipleship process look for movement. Leaders who think strategically about discipleship and programs do not view church programs in isolation. They think about progression through their discipleship process.

When Thom Rainer and I conducted the research behind Simple Church, we noticed that leaders who thought in terms of their discipleship process “measured horizontally” instead of vertically. Measuring vertically is measuring through the lens of a program, while measuring horizontally is through the lens of your process.

For example: Imagine Harbor Church offers both worship services and small groups, and part of their articulated discipleship process includes moving people from worship to groups. Viewing their attendance vertically is viewing each program in isolation. Viewing them horizontally is evaluating the progression between the two. If the weekend service grows 10 percent in one year but the number of people in groups remains the same, then the leaders of Harbor are able to spot congestion in their process.

Again, assimilation does not equate with transformation. Moving people to programs does not ensure people’s hearts are being changed. At the same time, it is foolish to offer programs without intentionality and without a desire to provide environments where transformation can take place.

Your mission of making disciples should drive your programs.


Would you like to learn more about programming and your church’s commitment to discipleship? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 
After 47 years of ministry experience, I found this easy to agree with, and very hard to live by. All sorts of pressure applied. Eric Gieger's "Simple Church" was a big help!
 
— Jon Breshears
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.