5 REASONS WHY DISCIPLES NEED TOOLS MORE THAN SERMONS

The discipleship results of your ministry are not defined by content of your preaching alone.  One significant factor that impacts disciple-making is tool-making.  Unfortunately, you might not recall any seminary classes or conference breakouts on making ministry tools.

Why not? The simplest explanation is that we rely too much on teaching. As a result, we as pastors, do not become good at training and spend little time on toolmaking. In fact the average pastor rarely pursues improved competency as a trainer. But pastors go to great lengths— attending workshops, digesting sermons, and reading books— to become better preachers. 

Think about it for a minute: Is your church better characterized as a teaching center or a training center? Do you consider yourself more of a bible-communicator or a people-developer? When is the last time you thought about finding or making ministry tools?

I know what you want to say— "It's both Will, why would you separate it?" Of course your intent is both to communicate well and see a disciple form as a result.  But I want to separate the two so that you can double check your assumptions and expectations about how people change and grow. Does your teaching provide the pathway toward the modeling, practicing, and evaluating of new life skills? Are you really helping people develop new life competencies in the way of Jesus?  Or are you just preaching?

One proof that you are good at training is the presence of ministry tools. What tools have you given to people lately through one of your sermon series? When was the last time you brainstormed with your team about a new ministry tool to create? If you have small group leaders in the church, what ministry tools have you provided for them in the last year?

What's the bottom line? If you are not adding ministry tools to the lives of your people, you are not close to maximizing a disciple-making culture. You are probably not equipping people that much.

Before explaining why, let's define what we mean by a tool. One definition reads:

Tool: A handheld device that aids in accomplishing a task. The basic definition brings to mind a hammer or screwdriver that you hold in your hand. The definition may expand if a tool doesn't have to be literally handheld. Another definition reads: a device or implement used to carry out a particular function.

The term "device" broadens the range for disciple-making purposes. For example, the model prayer of Jesus was a device to train the disciples how to pray. Jesus used questions, metaphors and parables as devices or tools of disciple-making that weren't "handheld" per se. So what are examples of ministry tools? Here are five:

  • A church does a sermon on praying and provides a prayer journal (ministry tool) as people walk out the door.
  • A pastor preaches on missional living and creates a table tent (ministry tool- a triangle-shaped brochure that stands in the middle of the dinner table)  for family conversations designed to encourage the application of being better neighbors for the sake of the gospel.
  • A team codifies a definition (ministry tool) of what kind of disciple their church is designed to produce and then creates a self-assessment (ministry tool) to use in small groups.
  • A pastor uses a 4-question, gospel fluency matrix (ministry tool) –drawable on a napkin–to help the congregation apply the gospel to the daily fluctuations of sinful emotions and actions.
  • A bible study leader passes out a business card (ministry tool) with a daily bible reading schedule and three applications questions to ask for every passage of scripture.

This is a short list that begins to illustrate the endless possibilities of ministry tools. Keep in mind that I didn't even reference the internet or digital devices that really explode the possibilities ministry tool-making.

tools, ministryDoug Paulblog
Napkin Sketch Strategies

In the process of articulating disciple-making strategy with church teams,

I have grown to appreciate the power of a napkin sketch. In fact, I emphasized in my new book released this week: The Dream Big Workbook released in collaboration with Exponential. 

In the book, I ask teams to put together as napkin sketch strategy. I define strategy as a picture that shows how your church accomplishes its mission on the broadest level. It is your disciple-making pathway. I also think of it as:

  • The operational logic of your church
  • The pattern of participation of your people
  • The rhythm of the body of Christ on mission

Think of your napkin sketch as a map with simple, easy, and obvious next steps. It clarifies what you do "at church" and "in life" to keep church programming less complicated. It should be fun to share with others. Done right, a simple napkin sketch is a weapon to fight the prevailing and broken models of church. Church is not somewhere a person goes for one hour week, it's a community of people living on mission everyday. 

I will be uploading some videos of strategy napkin sketches on Thursday, March 16. 

Until then, read this great article on the power of a napkin sketch.

If you have not grabbed it yet, get a free copy of the Dream Big Workbook

tools, ministryDoug Paulblog
PERSONAL CALLING AND LIFE PLANNING FOR THE CHURCH

When is the last time a pastor asked you about your Life Plan?

Younique launches this week as a new training company that brings a simple and powerful Life Plan experience to believers everywhere. It's not just a brand new life planning process. It's the first personal calling and life visioning experience for the church, thru the church to release the church. 

After a decade-long journey and several beta arounds, the toolbox is ready to roll.  Why so long you wonder? The answer is simple–break-thru. I didn't want another workbook to clutter our desks. It didn't want to lead people to list so many goals that they would all be rendered useless. The simple fact is that most Life Plan products don't work. And none are gospel based from the ground up. That's why we say that Younique is:

  • Break-thru built
  • Gospel-grounded
  • and Vocationally targeted

What does "break-thru" really mean? It means that you discover patterns and potential that change the trajectory of your life. It means that you name what God put you on earth to do. It means creatively imagining where God is taking your life and prioritizing singular goals to get there. It' all about traction: deep reflection that leads to meaningful new action. 

You already know what break-thru doesn't mean. That's when you attend a class or read a book and get more information with no transformation. It's easy to find new ideas that tickle your mind but don't re-train your feet. I call it a Life Plop, not a Life Plan.

The classic problem is that most life plans don't take into account your life and are so complicated that it's impossible to actually follow. As a case in point, consider Michael Hyatt's book published this year entitled,  Living Forward. Because he is a platform building master, he sold lots of books. But did his readers experience lots of break-thru? I doubt it. While the book provides plenty of positive encouragement, the step-by-step guide leads you to an impossibly complex plan (at least for 98% of the population.) For example, Rachel's Life Plan in the appendix, overflows with over 50 content pieces including nine separate purposes, nine separate visions and umpteen commitment goals. How would you like to wake up the next day with 50 new gauges on your life's dashboard?

Have you heard the saying that it's simple to make things complex, but it's complex to make things simple? That's why Younique was 10 years in the making. I wasn't  creating a product, I was testing for break-thru. I didn't want anything less for you. That required solving several major challenges over the years...to be unpacked at a later time.

ministryDoug Paulblog
How to move into the Integration of my Life

Following Christ and raising a family can be difficult. It is the battle of good loves. So how does our relationship with Christ affect our most central relationships?

This battle of priorities is usually answered in one of two ways. Some people neglect their families in the name of Christ. Other people neglect the hard calls of Christ in the name of their families. As you look around the Christian world today, you see byproducts both of these divergent ways of seeing Christ and family.

In the generation before mine, family was too often treated as an obstacle to ladder climbing. Many fathers sacrificed their wives and kids not to spread the gospel but to further their careers. Some misused the gospel to cover over their own ambitions. It was ladder climbing with a Christian excuse.

I think my generation has made the opposite error. In the name of protecting our families, we have created a system that sounds right at first but ends up in a ditch on the other side of the road. Our generation’s error is putting our sense of calling after our sense of family. So we have preached family as our first calling. The mantra is to choose to cheat your call before you cheat your family.

The problem with this perspective is that it is hard to be honest and still align it to the lives of Jesus, Peter, Paul, and just about everyone in the New Testament. Jesus, Peter, Paul, and others had a different perspective.

In Mark 3, Jesus’ mother and brothers are outside a house where Jesus was teaching. Jesus heard that they are waiting for him outside. Most scholars think they had come to commit him to an insane asylum. When Jesus heard that they were there, he addressed the crowd: “‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked. Then he looked at those seated around the circle with him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’” (Mark 3:33-35)

In Matthew, Jesus says more shocking words:

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a  man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:34-37)

Paul encouraged the Corinthians in much the same tone:

What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs – how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world – how he can please his wife – and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world – how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:29-35)

What was Jesus saying? Was Jesus encouraging people to neglect their families? Was Paul against the family structure? Personally, I think both Jesus and Paul were advocating something entirely different. Family and mission are not supposed to be in dichotomy with each other. Choosing a priority between the two results from a fallen system of a broken world. Instead, we are called to imagine something different. I think this means developing a family on mission.

The family unit of the New Testament is united not by blood but by mission. If I am leading my family well, we should all be on mission together.

This definition of family, then, goes beyond bloodlines. As a father and husband, I should do everything in my power to instill this in my own family dynamic. Creating an extended family means inviting those close in mission into my home. Together we raise our kids, work out our callings, pay our bills, and enjoy the life God gives us. It is not communism, but it is communal. This creates an atmosphere where family and calling can live together.

 

I have seen this work out in my own life in a couple of ways. First, when I was dating, I dated intentionally and had this in mind. I knew that if my relationship with God didn’t determine my relationships, then my relationships would soon determine my relationship with God. I had seen too many people sacrifice calling in the name of love, and so I determined to find someone who would work out the call of Christ with me instead of holding this call against me.

Second, Kim and I make a concerted effort to not talk of my work as work. We use words like calling and mission in our family. So when I travel to speak, or when our sense of calling asks us to do hard things, it is not because of dad’s ambition to climb a ladder but because of God’s call on our family. We also encourage all of our family to be part of the mission. It is not my calling. It is our calling, and each of us has a role to play. Mission is the family business.

The extended family network was the dynamic that changed the world. It was a family on a mission. Some of this family was blood, and some of it was not. But this group of people acted as a family that was united by mission.

In case you are wondering, this is not just a way of life for those of us in professional ministry. It is a way of life for all of us. Our kids need to know that there is more to life than being a successful businessman or a famous actress. The pursuit of money cannot carry the weight of family. But mission can.

Sometimes our jobs are our mission. If you are a teacher or doctor or lawyer or maintenance man, it should be easy to see your job in this vein. Sometimes our jobs finance our mission.

Either way, our families should be on mission, not in tension with it. And when our family is on mission, it is the most powerful force in all the world.

discipleshipDoug Paulblog