Posts Tagged Christlikeness

Questions on Our Journey toward Christlikeness

By Paul Wilkinson, Adult Minister–Groups Associate

If a disciple is one who naturally exhibits the words and deeds of Jesus where they live, work, and play, and if we understand disciple making to be a process, then what are some of the major “road signs” to move us along our way? Today I want to introduce you to four key questions that we as group leaders must be answering for our group members or, in the very least, putting our group members in a position to answer these questions for themselves.

    • Identity – Who am I? A major question that every believer must answer is the identity question. As we move from old life to new life by justification and then progress towards glorification through our sanctification, we must remain vigilant to self-critique. One of the major attacks of the spirit of the age is to attempt to define our identities for us. We, as group leaders, must be faithful to the Word to demonstrate people’s identity in Christ: you are an adopted child (Ephesians 1:5), you are co-heir of the kingdom (Romans 8:17), you are salt and light (5:14-16) . . . . Through your teaching, shepherding, and living of the Christian life before your group, you will be affirming and confirming their identity for them.
    • Purpose – Why am I here? We must also demonstrate to our groups their purpose in this world. I think that the first response to the Westminster Shorter Catechism sums it well: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. How do we do that? First, we glorify God in our worship; and, we understand worship as a lifestyle. We never want to devalue corporate worship on certain days of the week, but we must mature to the point where our lifestyles themselves during the other 167 hours of the week are celebratory worship. As Paul wrote, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) And we glorify God by thanking Him and delighting in Him as we enjoy His good gifts. The other dynamic of the Westminster response is to love God forever. That, to me, implies evangelism. Are we expanding the kingdom such that we will have more adopted children and co-heirs to live with God eternally? So, we glorify God through perpetual worship and evangelism.
    • Location and Destination – Where am I? If we are regenerate and we do seek to glorify God in all that we do, then how are we going about doing it? Where am I currently on my sanctification (spiritual maturity) process? Am I radically dependent on a weekly group leader to feed me the Word and answer all of my questions, whether theological, biblical, or ethical? Am I like Peter during the night of Jesus’ persecution or am I like Peter at Pentecost? Our obligation as group leaders is two-fold: help our members understand where they are in their maturity and then to paint the picture for who Christ intends them to be. A general spectrum could go something like this: totally inward focused as they are coming to terms with their faith; a shift toward an outward focus where they are doing service projects, charity, and general evangelism; a further shift toward leading others in such projects, Bible study, and group worship; and an even further shift toward making disciples who can then go reproduce themselves as disciples who make disciples. God has called us to be their spiritual guide on that journey!
    • Significance – What are my next steps? If my destination is to be a reproducing disciple and I know that I am currently not such a disciple, then how do I become that? We must provide on-ramps for our group members to begin understanding themselves as disciples and then as disciplers of others. We need to apprentice someone. We need to be investing in a sub-group of 3-4 people who can then start their own sub-groups of 3-4 people. We need to be challenging them to love God, which means that they are keeping God’s commandments. (1 John 5:3) This part, group leaders, is the hard work. Here is where we must labor, life-on-life, just as Jesus did with Peter, James, and John, to produce transformed people. And while this work takes much effort; please know that this work is delightful!

We Are Called to Shepherd

By Paul Wilkinson

A subset of last week’s post about modeling Christlikeness has been convicting me this week. My Pastoral Ministry professor from seminary made the statement in class that he feared that we would love books more than people. At the time, I couldn’t imagine such a reality. How could I ever come to love a book or philosophy more than the people I engaged with the truths derived therefrom? Yet, it happened. I was able to rationalize that by loving the books and philosophy, I was loving people. By preparing myself to the maximum level, I could love them best. While some of that thinking is surely noble, I repeatedly neglected being a shepherd to those I was teaching.
The New Testament calls us to a different reality. Consider these verses about Jesus:
So as He stepped ashore, He saw a huge crowd and had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then He began to teach them many things (Mark 6.34) and Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” (John 11.35-6).
Paul echoed Jesus’ sentiment saying My children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you (Galatians 4.19) and For you can have 10,000 instructors in Christ, but you can’t have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel (1 Corinthians 4.15). And John echoed them both, calling his people My little children (1 John 2.1) and Dear friends (1 John 4.7).
The New Testament promoted the idea that those called to shepherd others are spiritual fathers (and mothers). And the love we have for our biological children (2 dogs in my case) is the same love that we ought to have for those whom God called us to shepherd. In my zeal for knowledge, I forgot that I was appointed to be spiritual father over many. On numerous days, I was perhaps the only Jesus they saw and I was not a very good one. And if I was their model for Christlikeness, then were they capable of being Jesus to those they met who were in need?
I did not long with birth pains for my people and I did not have compassion for my people. I pray that we remain sensitive to our role as shepherd. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them (Jeremiah 23.4). Remember in the midst of your study and preparation, that you are the spiritual father or spiritual mother to those given to you. Such a role is of exceeding importance and I thank God that you have been called to it because God has given you the heart for it.
We may not greet each other with a holy kiss any more (Romans 16.16; 2 Corinthians 13.12), but be sure to express to your people how much you love them and how much you long to see Jesus Christ formed in them. And never forget that we love you and long to see Jesus Christ fully formed in you.