We here at GCM are excited to announce something new for 2020 – the ACTS Intensive! The Intensive is a weekend-long retreat held at ACTS that is built around the theme of discipleship. We want to share our passion for discipleship with other Christians, but we also see this as a great opportunity to give an interested young person a taste of what our larger programs (Essentials or Ascent) are like. Room, board, and everything else all for only $35. Space is limited so make your reservation today!
Great Commandments Ministries has just released a brand-new video. Enjoy and feel free to share with a friend!
As I mentioned a few months back, we’ve had some major changes, from pastoring a church in Bellingham to joining the staff of Great Commandments Ministries (or GCM) in Tieton (just west of Yakima). We are over-the-moon excited to be a part of this great ministry and can’t wait to get started this fall with the next sessions of the ACTS Essentials program (we still have a lot of open spots for this, so if you know of anyone who might be interested, please contact me). In the meantime, we are fully engaged in building up our support team. If you are interested in regularly praying for us and/or would like to support us financially, please let me know.
To give you an idea of what GCM is about, I’m including the following introductory video featuring the director – Jeff Sutton – as well as a few alumni. It’s a little dated – we are not currently running the Missions Intensive part of the program – but this will give you a good overview of the vision and work that we’re involved in.
Just finished reading The Compelling Community by Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop (a very helpful book, by the way), and in the final chapter the authors provide a number of questions meant to help assess the character of your church that I thought were well chosen:
- Is your congregation clear on the gospel? If you were to ask random members of your congregation what the good news of the cross is, how would they answer your question? There’s no reason eave a congregation of new believers couldn’t be able to do this well. But in many of our churches, we’re not there.
- Is your congregation telling others the gospel? Church planting is the natural result of evangelism, and it won’t work well without it.
- Do your church members teach God’s Word to each other? Is yours a church culture where it’s normal to encourage each other with Scripture?
- Does your congregation take their responsibility seriously to guard each other from sin? Are those conversations both honest and grace-exalting?
- Is most of the pastoring in your church done by the congregation? Is it unusual for a pastoral problem to come to your attention where ordinary members of the congregation are not already at work?
- Do you already see a breadth and depth of relationships that cannot be explained by natural bonds alone? Have these types of relationships come to characterize your congregation?
- Does your congregation trust its leadership? Or is it still typical that disunity erupts when leaders make a challenging decision?
The Church of England’s report on evangelism observes: “When Jesus said to his disciples ‘I will make you fishers of men’ the picture that he and they had in mind was that they would ‘launch out into the deep’ of the particularly treacherous lake of Galilee, dragging or casting a net over the side of the boat and then trying to bring the net ashore. It was a dangerous occupation in a dangerous milieu, but their livelihood depended on it. It was their full-time occupation. The commonest modern image of a fisherman in England (with apologies to deep sea trawler men) is of a man safely sitting alone under an umbrella on a river bank with a baited rod and line occasionally landing a small fish out of the river and into his bucket. He runs no risk and catches very little worth catching. His is a weekend pastime and not a daily occupation. His living does not depend on it. As long as we play at evangelism, with no risk to ourselves and no price to pay, we shall make little impact on our society. When we see evangelism, not as a gentle Sunday sport, but as the serious, costly business of everyday life, we may have to ride out many storms but there will be a fishing harvest for God’s glory.
– David Watson, Called & Committed, p. 147.
Paradoxically, the more deeply we commit ourselves to loving fellowship with others, the more we shall be hurt; as sinners we shall fail one another again and again. Yet as we accept, with love and understanding, the foibles and frailties of others, the irritating habits that try our patience, that sins that we have to forgive, we shall be fulfilling the law of Christ, the law of love. Jesus had to bear all this from his disciples; if we want to follow him we must do the same. That is why Paul urges the Christians at Philippi to have the mind of Christ. Just as Jesus humbled himself and became a servant for our sake, so we must humble ourselves and serve one another out of love for him. We are to be concerned not only about our own interests, but also about the interests of others. We are not to judge or criticize but to love and forgive. We are not to dominate or exploit others, nor use them for some selfish advantage, nor mold them into our own image; instead we are to see in others the image of God to be honored and respected.
– David Watson, Called & Committed, pp. 33-34.
Why is it often easier for us to acknowledge our sins before God than before another believer? God is holy and without sin, a just judge of evil, an an enemy of all disobedience. But another Christian is sinful, as we are, knowing from personal experience the night of secret sin. Should we not find it easier to go to one another than to the holy God? But if that is not the case, we must ask ourselves whether we often have not been deluding ourselves about our confession of sin to God–whether we have not instead been confessing our sins to ourselves and also forgiving ourselves. And is not the reason for our innumerable relapses and for the feebleness of our Christian obedience to be found precisely in the fact that we are living from self-forgiveness and not from real forgiveness of our sins? Self-forgiveness can never lead to the break with sin. This can only be accomplished by God’s own judging and pardoning Word.
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, cited in David Watson’s Called & Committed, pp. 32-33.
…our view of ourselves, as disciples who have been personally chosen by Jesus, should alter our whole attitude towards him and motivate us strongly for the work which he has given us to do. If an athlete is chosen to represent his country for the Olympics, his attitude to this event will be different from someone who has decided on his own to go as a spectator to the Olympics. With the competitor, there will be a total dedication to the task, largely because of the honor of being chosen. He will have a sense of responsibility to his team and country which even the most enthusiastic tourist will clearly not have. The Christian church today suffers because so many of its members feel that they have “made a decision for Christ,” or that they have chosen to join a certain church. Such man-centered notions spell spiritual weakness and imbalance. It is only when we see ourselves as chosen, called, and commissioned by Christ that we will want to present our bodies to him “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.”
– David Watson, Called and Committed: World-Changing Discipleship, p. 7.
In yesterday’s sermon out of John 8:31-32, I shared this quote from Luther (from his commentary on the same passage) with the congregation:
It is a disappointing price that Christ asks of those who were beginning to believe in Him and were saying: “We will remain loyal to You even at the risk of life and limb.” Christ looks askance at them and says: “Yes indeed, if your faith in Me were only genuine and sincere! But it seems to Me that you will not remain faithful to Me.” And now Christ begins to speak about the true and the false disciples of the divine Word: “Many hear the Gospel and remain with it for utilitarian reasons. They reap money, goods, and honor from it. My dear friends, who would not like that! For this reason I state: ‘If you continue in My Word and doctrine, you are truly My disciples.’ For I have two types of disciples. The one group believes in Me; they praise and hear the Gospel and say: ‘This is the real truth.’ I regard them as great and fine Christians. It is all a matter of continuing. Then there are others who hear it; but when the battle grows hot, they declare: ‘Upon my soul, should I forsake this or that for the sake of the Gospel?’ There are few who remain true to the Gospel in the face of cross and persecution. Where can one find those who are constant? Therefore I say that if you continue in My Word, you are truly My disciples. If My doctrine pleases you, you are well schooled and know everything. And if you persevere in the doctrine through cross and suffering, then you are My disciples. But My doctrine demands more than just an initial acceptance and much praise. I know that it is easy to believe in the beginning. But where are those who remain steadfast, who persevere, endure, and say: ‘Let come whatever God send me! If I am not to be well, then I am satisfied to be sick. If I am not to be rich, then I shall be content to remain poor. Whether I live or die, I shall remain with Christ’?”
People would gladly believe in Christ if this could make them lords or confer kingdoms on them. But if it involves suffering, they will have no part of it, and faith is finished. Therefore Christ declares: “I am sure that you will not adhere to My doctrine.” Fidelity to Christ’s doctrine is rare, especially when people encounter an evil wind. To be sure, many become Christians and hold firmly to the Gospel at first; but then they abandon it, like these fellows in our text. This is reflected by the parable in the Gospel about the seed that fell on a rock. When the sun beat down upon it, it withered away (Luke 8:6). But those who stick to the Gospel are the true disciples. The others are false Christians and false brethren.