Sunday, July 12, 2020

Disciplemaking with the Next Generations...

If video doesn't appear, go here.

Aberdeen, South Dakota, here I come!

It's what I've done with the next generations since I was 15-years-old, like this, this, this, and this.

I'll be speaking to students on Wednesday, August 19, 2020 and training youth leaders and key students to make disciples on Thursday, August 20, 2020. Details and contact information in the video above.

Join us!

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Jesus as a Way of Life?

What does Jesus as a way of life look like?

At the tail end of his earthly ministry, the resurrected Jesus appeared to eleven of his disciples and commanded them to continue to make disciples.

"All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20

Now consider this question:
How would Jesus' disciples—some of his closest friends—have understood Jesus' command to make disciples?

If you'll graciously allow me more than a little poetic license here, I'd like to take a shot at answering that question. When Jesus commanded his disciples to make disciples, I suggest that these friends of Jesus would have heard something like this:

"You know the friendship I've shared with you for the last three-and-a-half years? Repeat that in the exact same way over and over again. Starting right now, go and do exactly what I did with you... with other friends... and help them do it with their friends without ever stopping. When you tell others in your life about me, some will believe and follow me. Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Be sure to pull them close—like I did with you—and show them how to love God, love people, and make disciples... until every community in the world has disciplemaking friends who are making more disciplemaking friends. As you life my disciplemaking way of life, you can have full assurance of my presence, power, and provision—for I am always with you."

Want to explore this more? Then this is for you. And if you like that, then you might really like this. (It's especially for Cup O' Joe with Bill readers and those who read to the end.)

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Why YOU should start praying for your pastor(s)...

As we move toward reopening church services, I would like to suggest you pray often for your pastor(s) and elders. Why? It seems that everyone has an idea about what to do and when—and that their particular idea is the right one. This is going to get very interesting. More here on praying for your pastor and why your pastor needs it now more than ever.

More here if you are so inclined...
Was the "church" ever really "shut down"?
* Is there a "new normal" for the post pandemic church?
* How do we reopen church services?
* Are we seizing the moment?

You, Me, and Coffee Monday...
Let me encourage you and make you think ONE time a week (usually Monday morning) with a virtual Cup O' Joe with Bill in your email inbox. Two Simple Steps...
2. Check your email to confirm.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

7 Reasons Why Church Online Can't—and Shouldn't—Become the New Normal...

In the church world these days, there is much talk about the "new normal." We can thank the pandemic for this.

If I've learned anything from the "new normal" of interacting with others on Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, and watching church services with my family from my home on Sunday mornings, it's this: This "new normal" can't—and shouldn't—become the new normal.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not against using the latest technology. I usually embrace it early. Because our ministry is connected to lots of wonderful people all over the USA and the world,  I was Zooming way before it was cool.

So I'm not against the latest technology that keeps us connected at some level. It's a useful addition. However, the latest technology can't be a replacement for the incarnational ministry we see in the Bible—and especially the disciplemaking way of life we see in Jesus.

It's precisely this spirit we see in the book of 2 John. In John's day there was this hot, new, cool technology called paper and ink. It was all the rage. You could actually send a message to someone without being present. Mind blown. What does John do? He uses it. But he doesn't want letters to replace face-to-face ministry. In other words, John doesn't jump to the conclusion that letter writing is now the "new normal." Instead, John writes, "I have much more to say to you, but I don't want to do it with paper and ink. For I hope to visit you soon and talk with you face to face. Then our joy will be complete" (2 John 12—and see 3 John 13).

Did you catch that? "Then our joy will be complete" (italics mine). John implies the new technology of paper and ink alone is incomplete. Paper and ink is a good addition to our disciplemaking friendships, but the new technology will never be able to replace actually being together.

In the spirit of 2 John 12, I offer the following...

7 Reasons Why Church Online Can't—and Shouldn't—Become the New Normal...

1. Because church isn't only about theology—it's about weology.

2. Because church isn't just about a lot of talk—it's about living as disciples who make disciples—who make more disciples.

3. Because church isn't just about you studying the Bible by yourself—it's about encouraging and equipping you to follow Jesus with others.

4. Because church isn't just about you passively attending a service—it's about robust one-anothering.

5. Because church isn't just a service to be consumed by consumers—it's the opportunity for you to move from consumer to participator.

6. Because church isn't just about getting biblical information—it's about living a Jesus-like way of life together.

7. Because church isn't defined only by what happens on a stage—it's about being the body of Christ together.

There. I said it.

What else would you add to this list?

You, Me, and Coffee Monday...
Let me encourage you and make you think ONE time a week (usually Monday morning) with a virtual Cup O' Joe with Bill in your email inbox. Two Simple Steps...
2. Check your email to confirm.

Monday, June 01, 2020

The True Stories of How Jesus' Disciplemaking Movement Can't Be Stopped by a Pandemic!

Click any image to enlarge for viewing, reading and praying.
Or go here.
In this crazy world, we find great comfort in Jesus—and friends like you who pray for us and partner with us financially. Some our friends have not been able to continue their financial support because of the Coronavirus Pandemic. As you can see from our ministry update letter above, we've not stopped aspiring to make disciplemakers. I want to be clear: We need your prayers and $ partnership during this challenging time. Can you helps us? If yes, go here. No gift is too small—and any gift would be deeply appreciated. We thank God for you.
Can you help us multiply disciplemakers?
Here's how...
1. Join our email prayer team ("prayer team" in subject line)

Sunday, May 24, 2020

True Story: How do we pull people close for disciplemaking friendships that multiply during a pandemic?

"Church wasn't closed. Church services were. Friendships weren't. Disciplemaking wasn't. So please don't say, 'Churches are reopening.' Say, 'Church services are reopening for larger groups.' Jesus said, 'Where two or three gather in my name, there I am in the midst of them.'" —Dave Garda
I pray The Disciplemaker's Prayer on a regular basis. (Click image above for viewing and praying. I recommend it. But you'd better buckle your seatbelt. You're about to go on a disciplemaking adventure that could ruin you for an ordinary life.) You'll note that one line of the prayer is asking God to show us WHO He wants us to "pull close" for disciplemaking friendships. That raises the question: What does it look like to pull others close for disciplemaking friendships in a pandemicHere's a fun, true and short story.

I recently shared our FREE Disciplemaking Manifesto on a Facebook page for a group of churches in Streator, IL—where I grew up. I noticed this response from an acquaintance to my post: "I live in the same town as you and I am interested in disciplemaking." That's right. We're both born and raised in Streator and we both now live in Chillicothe. The conversation quickly moved from social media to texting. The next big hurdle for us was this: How do we get time with each other for disciplemaking friendship in a pandemic?

Since our family is in the habit of walking the neighborhood every night after supper, we thought that this might be the best way to get time with our friends—all the while social distancing (see pic above). So about once a week, we walk about 2 miles together—getting to know each other better, sharing our stories, and exploring disciplemaking like Jesus as a way of life together. We laugh a lot too. And sometimes we spontaneously pick up more walkers along the way.

Now that we're getting some time together (and a little exercise too), we're in the middle of exploring The Disciplemaking Genius of Jesus book together one chapter at a time. It's been fun and the conversation has been all over the map.

Recently, my new friend shared The Disciplemaking Genius of Jesus book with about 15 of his friends. Note: The way we give disciplemaking to others is the way they will pass it on to others. We're not kidding when we say, "Disciplemaking Friendships that Multiply."

While I don't know what disciplemaking looks like for you and yours during this pandemic, this story is just one of the ways we're aspiring to make disciplemakers like Jesus. We're doing it very imperfectly and we all have a lot to learn. But anything worth doing is worth doing poorly—at first. Nevertheless, we're still moving forward by...

1. Asking God who to pull close.
2. Engaging friends the best we can.
3. Having fun following Jesus together.
4. Helping our friends—to help their friends—to follow Jesus. Why? Because we haven't made disciples like Jesus until those we disciple make more disciplemakers.

So where should YOU start? For me, it all starts with the simplest and most profound—and yet most often ignored—step: Daring to actually take one stinking minute to pray The Disciplemaker's Prayer.

Will you join me in praying 
The Disciplemaker's Prayer?

You, Me, and Coffee Monday... 
Let me encourage you and make you think ONE time a week (usually Monday morning) with a virtual Cup O' Joe with Bill in your email inbox. Two Simple Steps...
2. Check your email to confirm.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Disciplemaking Pastors...

It's difficult to fully explain how we encourage pastors around the country, but this picture might help!
Below is an email I recently received from another pastor...

Hey Bill,
Starting in January I launched a disciplemaking group with a few men that God had been nudging me to pull close. The experience has been a thrill. I've been very encouraged by the mutual encouragement that our disciplemaking group has experienced as we work through Cadre's Disciplemaker's Living Guide together. Each week we gather for disciplemaking friendship and sharpening.

Recently we started rotating who would facilitate our time together. Last week we were working through #4 "Disciplemaking Friendships." The person facilitating the time gave us all a takeaway challenge. The challenge was to write someone and thank them for the disciplemaking friendship impact that they have had on their lives.

I felt compelled to send you a brief thank you. Back in Peoria you set a stage for me to see and experience pastors and ministry leaders really pressing into the challenge of being disciplemakers together. The primary thing Jesus told us to do (make disciples...who make disciples) can sometimes be the hardest or last thing we do during our ministry week. While I was still in the area, those Thursday gatherings and the lunch gatherings were incredibly beneficial as I saw pastors in different ministry roles wrestling what it looks like to be a disciplemaker like Jesus in their homes, neighborhoods, and churches.

Now that I am a lead pastor in Wisconsin, one of my key goals for this first year was that I would be able to name at least 3-5 people that I have intentionally brought together for Jesus-like disciplemaking friendship.

By the grace and power of God (plus a little intentionality on my part) this has been accomplished. I'm not sure where God will lead us next but I believe God has a plan beyond our cadre group. These men are excited not just to huddle together but to also see a culture of relational discipleship spread to others; not through a discipleship program but through people who live out discipleship in their everyday lives.

Again, just want to say thanks for being a disciplemaking friend. Keep on spreading Jesus-like disciplemaking as a way of life with friends. It's contagious :)

Pastor Austin Branson
Grace Church, Walworth, WI
Pastor Austin Branson

* The true story of a disciplemaking pastor #5 

You, Me, and Coffee Monday... 
Let me encourage you and make you think ONE time a week (usually Monday morning) with a virtual Cup O' Joe with Bill in your email inbox. Two Simple Steps...
1. Go here and submit your email.
2. Check your email to confirm.