Three Ships

Three-KingsThere is a 17th century Christmas carol called, “I Saw Three Ships”. It has always been a favorite of mine. The lyrics are a bit confusing. The song refers to three ships that sailed into Bethlehem on Christmas day. However, the nearest body of water, the Dead Sea, is over 20 miles away. Some say the ships refer to the three Maggi who traveled by camel, or “ships of the desert”.  Equally confusing are the three ships that have recently set sail out of the church. Not boats, or camels, but something much more vital to the 21st century church. The church needs to navigate these three ships back to port, or the church will continue to see young people walk away from what she offers. So what are the three ships? There are three key areas that are lacking in the church today that have young people saying, “Thanks, but no thanks, I’m not interested”. The three ships essential for this generation to be engaged in church are: discipleship, relationship and partnership.

There is a lot of focus on making converts, but very little mentoring. There is a lot of teaching, but very little accountability. Real discipleship is not a program, it is relational and intentional. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It requires time and strategy. Discipleship is what Jesus offered His disciples before they ever received forgiveness, and young people today are no different. They need what the church once offered. They need to be taught, challenged and held accountable, and they need it in the same context that Jesus gave it, through relationships.

The world offers many opportunities for relationships. But the most satisfying of all relationships are spiritual relationships. Too many church activities focus around superficial relationships. The church needs to take advantage of this powerful, life changing component of church life, and develop environments where spiritual relationships can flourish. People need a level of transparency in order for the Holy Spirit minister effectively. Without real relationships don’t expect young people to choose the church, over the many relationship options the world offers.

That brings us to the third ship, partnership. This one may be a little trickier, because this generation says they want to have purpose, but they want it on their terms. Regardless, the old school style of ministry that compartmentalizes leadership to paid staff and church members as clients will need to change. Partnership gives greater purpose, while allowing the gifts of the Spirit to flourish throughout the community. In this era of knowledge young people feel more empowered than ever, and they feel like they have much to contribute. If the church doesn’t give them opportunity, the world surely will.

Is it too late to steer these three ships back into the church? It will require a change in direction. It will require leadership. It will require prayer and a work of the Spirit. The church will need to look for ways to restore real discipleship, accountability relationships, and ministry partnership opportunities. I pray these three ships come sailing back to the church, and restore what is lacking. Without them, the church will continue to see young people leaving out the back door as quickly as they enter the front door.


A Word About Mentoring


Kevin Spacey and Jack Lemmon

As a young actor Kevin Spacey had the unique opportunity to be mentored by legendary actor Jack Lemmon. The momentous opportunity helped launch Spacey’s award winning career. The following account  by author Chris Lucas explains Lemmon’s thoughts on mentoring.

“Shortly before Lemmon’s death in 2001, Spacey asked him why he was so kind to him, and to other actors who he mentored. Lemmon’s answer: “You have to send the elevator back down.” This was his quiet yet powerfully expressive way of saying that you have to give back, no matter what career you’re in.

Lemmon believed fervently that If you’ve had any measure of success at all in any business, then it would be in bad form not to reach out to those coming up and lend a hand, whether it’s by giving advice, offering opportunities or just telling your story and warning of any potential pitfalls. Make the road a bit smoother for the people that come after you and your rewards will have been well deserved. Jack Lemmon saw this as his duty and moral obligation. What a great philosophy to live by.”

Is there someone in your life that would benefit from your influence, skill set, wisdom, spiritual disciples, etc. What would it look like to “send the elevator back down” in your own life. Isn’t that what God did when he sent Jesus into the world to the twelve disciples? Then Jesus instructed those disciples to “send the elevator back down”, and to go and make other disciples. If you’ve been blessed by God, in any area of your life, I encourage you to “send the elevator back down”. Intentionally spend time with someone who would benefit from your experience. Be a blessing to someone else and mentor them. It can be challenging, but the rewards can have eternal consequences.

Thanks Mr. Lemmon for your example of mentoring, and your elevator metaphor. It’s no coincidence. The eight time Academy Award nominated actor, musician, Harvard University graduate and WW II veteran was born in an elevator at a hospital just outside Boston, Massachusetts.

Intentional Living

The real value of something can be determined by how it’s prioritized. I can say I value my marriage but if I don’t invest time and effort in my marriage, my actions show the real value I place on my marriage. The same is true in relationships, including our relationship with God, family, and friends.  I can say I value my health, but if I don’t invest effort in exercise, diet, emotional and mental well being, then the value I place on my health is probably less than I believe. There are things we say we value, things we say we love to do like fishing, reading, long drives in the country, listening to music, etc. But if we never make the time for them, they may not be as valuable as we say. In fact our actions may show that we  place a higher value on other things we never considered valuable at all.

I am in the middle of a couple of weeks vacation. This gives me some time to reflect and check my priorities against what I value. I’m asking myself questions like: In my work, am I investing enough time in people and relationships versus programs. In my free time, am I investing enough time in things I enjoy like music, travel, cooking and friendships, versus time on the couch. The real life impacting value of these things will be determined by action, rather than words. Sometimes our life’s values can be vague, lofty concepts. It is important to define our values, bring them down to earth. Identify what’s really important. Then we can begin to develop a strategy that will allow us to prioritize our life in better alignment with what we say is important.

This past year I have placed a lot of emphasis on living more intentional. No matter what you believe about Jesus, there is no denying that His life was extremely intentional. From choosing the woman that would give birth to Him, to choosing the place and means of His death, and everything in between. Jesus modeled intentional living so that we could do the same. Too much of our lives is done on auto pilot. Too often we poorly prioritize the things we say we value. This begs the question, do I really value it? I’m getting some extra time alone with God this week. I’m encouraged to be more intentional to invest my time, talents and treasure in the things the Father reveals to me as valuable. Be encouraged. Define what is of value to you. Make those things a priority. Develop your life strategy. Be intentional. Make a plan, follow it, and enjoy!

Two Parts of Effective Mobilization


  • Intensive – a periodic intensive mission experience
  1. Mission Trips
  2. Mission Conferences
  3. Youth Camp/VBS week with a missions focus
  • Extensive – missions is present everywhere in the church
  1. In the buildings
  2. In the prayers
  3. In the messages
  4. In the worship

Both are necessary

People who grow up in a mission church may understand missions, but it may take an intensive experience to move them to a life commitment

People who make a life commitment as the result of an intensive experience need the reinforcement of extensive mission to insure it is not short-lived.

Some Ideas for Getting the Mobilization Started

  • Create and train a mission team.
  • Create an ongoing weekly/monthly mission event to raise awareness.
  • Work locally in a cross cultural setting.
  • Engage in short term trips both near and far.
  • Seek out full time workers.



Seeing the Holy Spirit

HSA good portion of missionary work involves helping to lead the church towards the harvest, and bringing them tools to help bear fruit. One very effective tool is small group ministry. A small group can create an open door into an unreached community, while at the same time it can be a powerful disciple making ministry. It can provide two essential components of the Great Commission; “reach and teach”.  I have been involved in a number of small groups over the years. The formats have varied quite a bit. A couple of years ago I added two key components to our small group method; accountability relationships and intercessory prayer. These additions to our small groups have allowed our groups to move from being bible study groups, to being loving Christ-centered communities.

The accountability time can be done in a variety of ways. A key factor is being able to share what is really going on in your life with the group. Accountability time in small groups gives opportunity for testimony, giving thanks, sharing personal struggles, healing, asking for advice and any number of life on life issues. Equally essential for the group is listening and ministering as the Holy Spirit leads. It is interesting to observe how some people respond to this new aspect of the group format. It is not always an easy adjustment. Some listen and never comment or respond. Others listen and offer advice or encouragement. Some don’t even seem to be listening, but are just waiting for their turn to share with the group. More and more as I listen to others share during their accountability time, I am noticing and experiencing something almost supernatural. I can only describe it as like a window that opens up into the other person’s life. In that window you can see the Holy Spirit transforming, or edifying, or convicting, or challenging, etc. Many aspects of their life’s story begin to take on a spiritual component, and I gain spiritual understanding as I listen. It is difficult to describe, but in some ways it’s like seeing the trees blow and knowing it is the wind’s power that’s moving them. I can see the Holy Spirit more and more clearly in the struggles and victories of my friends. I see the Spirit giving direction and revelation as they open up and share. And as I listen, I see the Spirit convicting and transforming people. God has been allowing me to experience this incredibly beautiful vision of the Holy Spirit more frequently. As we listen intently to what God is doing in the lives of others, we have this window into the Holy Spirit’s unique ministry. Embrace this opportunity, allow it to be supernatural, allow God to transport you deeper into the spiritual dimension of life and relationships. Not just for the experience, but so that God can use it in you for His glory. I use 2 Cor. 4:6-7 as a regular part of our discipleship curriculum. “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” Perhaps in these relationship moments, God is opening my heart and allowing me to see His Spirit shining brightly in other earthen vessels. Look for God’s Spirit to reveal the supernatural in the relationships with your loved ones. It may take time and effort to develop. It means listening and understanding those God has placed in our lives, but the reward is seeing God’s Spirit right before your eyes. It can be a beautiful window into the supernatural.

Conferences, Seminars, Workshops and Retreats are NOT a Substitute for Discipleship

conferThere has been a shift in recent years in how the church makes disciples.  It seems to resemble the corporate method of teaching and training, more than the biblical model.  Want to learn about youth ministry?  Go to a youth leadership conference.  Want to learn about marriage?  Go to a marriage workshop.  Want to learn how to connect with God?  Go on a retreat.  Want to learn about worship, or evangelism, or even better worship as evangelism? Go to a worship as evangelism conference!  You get the idea.  I have gone to several of these conferences and have almost always benefitted in some way or another.  However, knowledge alone does not equal discipleship.  The missing key ingredient is obedience.

Jesus command in Matthew 28 to “make disciples” was modeled for us by Christ Himself.  His disciple making method is fleshed out in detail in Luke 10 for His followers.  Jesus had followers.  They were followers because they were obedient.  This is foundational in Christianity.  It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.  God asked His most precious creation that He made in the image of Himself to be obedient.  Yet how were Adam and Eve deceived?  The serpent told them that if you eat this fruit, you will be like God and have the “knowledge” of good and evil.  Their desire was to circumvent obedience to God with knowledge of God.  We live in a knowledge rich culture that makes it so easy for us to continue to consume knowledge with very little accountability for obedience to what we learn.  Real discipleship is relational.  It requires sharing what’s real in our lives with others and allowing others to speak truth into our lives.  It’s not always easy, and often messy, but there is NO SUBSTITUTION.

Before you book that next conference, seminar, workshop, etc., check to see that you are being obedient to the things God has already shown you.  Jesus said to “teach them all that I commanded”.  Here are few of His commands that I am still working on being obedient to: a life of prayer, generous giving, loving others, and making disciples.  See you at the next small group meeting  🙂


Disgruntled or Discipled?

Are-you-a-Perpetual-Happy-Face-or-a-Permanent-Frown-FaceAs a follower of Jesus Christ do you feel disgruntled?  The dictionary defines disgruntled as, “in a state of sulky dissatisfaction”.  In digging deeper into the words “sulky dissatisfaction”, I came up with an even better definition: upset by unmet expectations and refusing to discuss it.  The two key components of the word disgruntled are dissatisfaction, and a refusal to discuss it.  On the other hand Wikipedia defines disciple as, “a follower and student of a mentor, teacher, or other figure”.  This definition also includes two key components. A disciple both follows and studies, and you need both to be a disciple.  Are you a follower of Jesus Christ?  Are you a student of a mentor?  If not, you may find yourself feeling disgruntled.

So what is the unmet expectation in disgruntled Christians?  Eph 1:3 says God has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ”.  There is certainly nothing lacking on God’s part according to His word.  Therefore the fault lies with us.  I believe the unmet expectation is real discipleship.  Disciples need mentors.  The first disciples of Jesus needed one.  If you’re disgruntled in your Christian life consider submitting yourself to a real mentoring process. I have been blessed with several mentors over the years.  The first was a couple in NJ who mentored my wife and I together for over 1 year.  Next was a Pastor in Seattle who intentionally modeled prayer and servant hood.  At the same time I was blessed by a young musician friend who taught me much about personal integrity.  Later a friend in Wilmington showed me how to teach and lead others.  More recently I have been mentored by a fellow missionary and mobilizer who helped lead me to reach the nations.  I am extremely indebted to each of these, and several others not mentioned here.  Their investment was life transforming for me.  I would encourage everyone to look for ongoing mentoring in your life.  As followers of Jesus Christ, God has already “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph 1:3).  Allow His Spirit to use the body of Christ (the church) to teach, model and share those blessings up close and personal.  Be a disciple.  Disciples reflect God’s glory so much better than the disgruntled.

A few resources on mentoring