New Connections and a Bright Future for WDA Africa
Nairobi 2017 finished Friday with the commissioning of 5 new staff, including new country directors for Congo and Ethiopia. Yesterday, those who are still here drove through Nairobi National Park featuring giraffes, one flustered ostrich, and a big lion fresh off her kill.
The conference I think far exceeded everyone’s expectations. Our 13 African associates connected exceptionally well with each other and our 13 American staff and volunteers, promising to pray for each other and to work together whenever possible. I was thrilled to see them think more strategically about WDA and begin to see it as a truly continental movement.
A few fun highlights from the week!
I bought 13 kindle fires and uploaded ALL our WDA content (bible studies, books, articles, teaching outlines, workbooks, etc) plus a small library of kindle books for their training and personal reading. The response was very gratifying! And more than one of them stayed up til 2AM reading the rest of the week!*I bought 13 kindle fires and uploaded ALL our WDA content (bible studies, books, articles, teaching outlines, workbooks, etc) plus a small library of kindle books for their training and personal reading. The response was very gratifying! And more than one of them stayed up til 2AM reading the rest of the week!
We had a very honoring “roast” for Ken, who started the international ministry 20+ years ago. We shared funny Ken stories and had a time to pray for him as he begins to step back and I take on more leadership. He was also very affirming of me to the guys in my new role.
Having Dan Horne, the chairman of the board there was a godsend, especially as our teams broke into country groups and developed strategic plans for nationalizing their ministries. He brought a lot of good business sense as well as a deep pastoral heart for the men.
It was so fun to have my dad Paul Harkness with me getting to know the guys, sharing a short devotional Friday morning, and then traveling with our group to the safari on Saturday. Of course everyone loved him and it was gratifying to come back with him to Kenya, the first place in Africa I visited with him back when I was in high school!
Restoring Your Heart leader, Nancy Higgins put a fire in everyone’s belly for bringing emotional restoration to their countries. Tanzania, Congo, and Ethiopia are ready to roll as soon as possible! Kenya is planning go through the work books as a team immediately.
I heard literally dozens of testimonies about how God had changed the lives of our staff and the people they minister to through WDA and how this week represented a new page in the history of WDA for them. They are going back home with new materials, a fresh passion, and a clearer vision for how to develop disciple-making movements in their communities and nations.
There are SO many other fun and significant highlights. But the bottom line is this: We connected with God and with each other this week. That was my biggest goal and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome. Now its off to Zambia! More on that to come!
When I look at the different people around my church, and talk to them about what they know about God or listen to discussions during our Sunday School classes, I realize that many people have an incomplete understanding of even the the basics of the Christian faith. I think the our Christian education is like swiss cheese. There are holes in what we know, or in how we have applied what we know, or even more so we don’t know enough it seems or lack the training necessary to help others learn.
WDA has spent years considering how we need to help people grow to maturity. I would love to say that the process of discipling someone is a clean step by step process where we learn one thing and go on to the next. The difficulty is that we tend to leap around without a clear idea of what we need to know and what we need to teach. WDA has a progressive plan for helping people grow. We begin with the basics and using tools such as the R-CAPS grid, we make a plan that allow people to grow in phases.
The challenge for any disciple building process is that people don’t always begin with one person at the beginning stages of faith in Christ and continue with them to maturity. The disciples were with Jesus as he discipled them over a period of three years. Not only were they with him, they left their jobs and followed him for the majority of that time. This is not only impractical it’s seems impossible in our modern context.
My experience as a discipleship pastor has shown me that building disciples takes more time than I ever expected. Some contexts provide a more robust opportunity such as the college campus, however the week by week discipleship in the church means that we have to commit to stay with one another long enough to grow. Having a plan enables your ministry to know not only where you are going but you can build out that plan, considering the time and commitment necessary to see people grow to maturity in your context.
With WDA’s R-CAPS Grid you can learn to see that discipleship is more than content alone, but is structured around relationships, focuses on application, involves praying with and for one another and builds situations where people can learn with others and do ministry.
WDA is working in a variety of ministry settings, with our 28/20 project, our Restorative Ministries, our International Leadership Training and Next Generation Ministry. One thing that we have learned. Discipleship requires a plan and takes time.
Take some time to learn more about our philosophy of ministry by reading Disciple Building a Biblical Framework. Contact WDA to learn more about how you can develop a plan for your church and ministry which can help fill in the holes and develop leaders for years to come.
Jesus Christ was the ultimate Life Coach. In the Gospel of John, He offers this promise: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (NAS) The Great Commission given to His disciples in Matthew 28:18-20 is both a command and invitation to join Him on one of the greatest adventures in life: building disciples. Spiritual Life Coaching involves “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”(NAS) There are two implications to this command that often escape our notice.
Teaching should be comprehensive.
The first is that the teaching should be comprehensive. We are to teach everything, not just the familiar principles or the introductory concepts. Spiritual Life Coaches must ask the question: “Is my coaching part of a larger, comprehensive plan to teach the whole curriculum of Christ?”
“We should help the people we are teaching to actually obey the truth.”
The second implication is that we should help the people we are teaching to actually obey the truth. I like to call this doing truth versus just knowing truth. There is a clear biblical priority to evangelize the nations and plant churches, but we must not forget that the Great Commission includes helping Christ’s followers become “conformed to the likeness of His Son [Christ].” Our spiritual Life Coaching must be intensive and intentional enough to transform lives.
But any parent can tell you this is easier said than done. Teaching others to ‘do’ truth is a complex process that involves the changing of motives, values, and worldview. It also hopes to develop a walk of faith, teaching people how to trust God. This type of training cannot be accomplished in a classroom alone. It must be worked out in the context of real life experiences. Some of the concepts, such as how to develop and demonstrate mature love, are not simple. This is why spiritual Life Coaches are critical to the process. It’s only in the context of a close relationship (where there is encouragement, accountability, prayer, and teaching) that this type of transformation can effectively occur.
The importance of the example and teaching of a spiritual Life Coach cannot be overstated. Paul admonished Timothy to follow him as he followed Christ. In another place the instruction was for Timothy to follow the “pattern of sound teaching” that Paul had taught. Timothy learned these truths from Paul in the context of close relationships. II Timothy 2:2 states, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (NAS) Jesus, after washing His disciples feet as a model of Christian love and leadership, urged them, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (emphasis mine).
We who build disciples should be encouraged by the importance God places on the Life Coaching process. The Scriptures remind us that anyone who aspires to the office of overseer has an honorable, noble role in the Kingdom. But we should also be sobered by the responsible role God expects us to play. Paul warns the Corinthian church that “each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Paul goes on to explain that we can either build by using temporal materials or eternal materials, but there will be a Day when we must give an account for our work of building up others.
In order to be effective disciple builders, we must realize that God is the author and finisher of the process of sanctification. Paul states, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.” (NAS) In another place Paul asserts that “He who began a good work in you will perfect [complete] it until the Day of Christ Jesus.” (NAS) Spiritual Life Coaches can take heart that God will sovereignly oversee the process.
The role of spiritual Life Coaching is only one part of the disciple building process. For years there has been a debate in disciple building circles about what is the best forum for helping people grow spiritually. The advocates of small groups can list examples of people whose lives have been changed by the intimacy and accountability of this arrangement, while the proponents of one-to-one discipleship (Life Coaching) cite the advantages of this format. Others extol the merits of teaching and preaching, or the benefits of being well-read. Some point out the importance of putting disciples into ministry situations as the best way to facilitate growth and development. The spiritual disciplines such as fasting, solitude, or personal devotions are mentioned by many as being especially beneficial in spiritual formation.
All of these forms constitute healthy approaches to spiritual development. All should be included as part of a disciple building program. Each format has certain advantages and certain limitations. It is valuable to note that Jesus used all of these forms as part of His disciple building training. Because the local church has all of these structures (e.g. small groups, teaching, preaching, etc.), it is the best location for making and training disciples if the structures are utilized strategically. Within the church there is a unique role for a well-equipped Life Coach. This person is able to “meet people where they are, and help them take the next step®.”
If disciple building is the overall process in which more mature believers assist younger believers as they grow, then spiritual Life Coaching is the “one-to-one” part of the process. A Life Coach is able to help a disciple integrate and incorporate all the other growth processes into a unified whole. The Life Coach is responsible for tracking and overseeing the progress of the individual believers entrusted to his care. This individual encouragement and accountability is invaluable. As we will see later, this is best accomplished when the Life Coach works in concert with a team of others in a ministry context. One of the purposes of this manual is to offer assistance and coaching skills to help make the task of Life Coaching more manageable and successful.
Where have you seen a “one-on-one” or Life Coaching process have an impact on others? Have you ever considered learning how to be life coach?
WDA Life Coaching Manual will train leaders to coach others as Spiritual Life Coaches. If you are a Discipleship Professional or Leader, you can use the WDA Life Coaching Manual to train a team of Life Coaches for you church.
The phone call came late one night from a son in trouble. “Dad, I need some money!” After a brief discussion, I did what any Dad would do: I wire- transferred cash from my account to his. Later, he thanked me as we talked about the situation over a cup of coffee. We discussed how he got in the predicament (poor budgeting skills) and I helped him address those issues. He confessed that it was hard for him to admit that he needed help, but he was grateful nonetheless.
In a similar way it is hard for us to admit that we need God’s help. But we too have failed. We have all sinned, fallen short of God’s good, righteous requirements. What happened with my son and me illustrates in part what God has done for us. But instead of cash, He transfers righteousness to us. Then He comes alongside us in the Person of the Holy Spirit to help us continue to act righteously .
But what exactly is righteousness and how do we get it? Peter promised to follow Jesus to the death. Later he denied knowing Jesus and, when faced with the awful truth that he had abandoned Jesus in the time of testing, he wept bitterly. (Matthew 26: 31-35, 69-75)
It can be devastating to realize our weakness and inability to obey God. Words like “gratitude,” “righteousness” and “faithfulness” can seem like oppressive reminders of our sins. But despite our failures to love and obey God, we can relate confidently to God because he makes us righteous.
Like Peter, we also continue to struggle with sin even after we have committed ourselves to follow Christ. And just as Peter learned, it is vital we understand that God will never abandon us. God is committed to bringing about righteousness in our lives. He does this in several stages.
Initially, God Declares Us Righteous: Justification
Justification is a legal term that means we have been forgiven. In addition it means that we have been declared righteous—morally perfect. (Romans 4:6-8) It is a “once-for-all- time” act that God accomplishes on our behalf. This does not mean we are habitually righteous in every thing we do, but it describes our legal standing with God. You can think of it as being given a new citizenship in God’s Kingdom, a citizenship that cannot change no matter where you live. You may not have a passport to prove it, but God recognizes you as His and accepts you freely.
God is committed to bringing about righteousness in our lives.
Being justified means that Christ’s righteousness has been added to our “righteousness account” in the same way my money was transferred to my son’s account. The result is that God now sees us as righteous on the basis of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (II Corinthians 5:21) The Apostle Paul describes this as a “right standing” with God that “is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Philippians 3:9)
This legal status before God is really a completely new relationship with Him. We are no longer enemies of God; we are now at peace with Him. (Romans 5:1) In fact, we have immediate acceptance from God because sin is no longer a barrier between Him and His people. Romans 8:1 tells us “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” No matter what the circumstances, God will not abandon us nor revoke our status as being righteous.
Progressively, God Makes Us Righteous: Sanctification
But what about our sins? What about the times when we, like Peter, turn away from God? Before Peter was tested, Jesus prayed that when Peter turned back to God, he would encourage his fellow believers. It is interesting to note that Jesus knew Peter would fall away, but He also expected Peter to return to Him and grow in righteousness.
Likewise, God has a plan for our lives that allows for the ups and downs in our lives and also includes our becoming holy or Christlike. (II Corinthians 3:18) This process, called sanctification, begins when we are justified by God through faith in Christ and continues throughout our lives as we experience and grow in faith.
The Apostle Paul describes this sanctification process in his letter to the Philippian church:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
The process of sanctification involves pressing on, persevering in the heavenward path God has set us upon. Notice that sanctification is not only dependent on God, but on us as well. Paul also tells the Philippian believers they are to continue to “work out their salvation” even as God works in them. (Philippians 2:12-13) Practically speaking, our sanctification involves our active participation with God, a lifelong perseverance to grow in Christlikeness.
Does this mean that by trying hard we can justify ourselves? By no means! Remember we are justified (declared “not-guilty”) by trusting Christ. Paul explains: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast”. But he goes on to state, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
(Ephesians 2:8-10) God is the one who declares us righteous and He is the one who is at work in our lives to help us produce good works of righteousness. He has declared us righteous, legally .
Then He helps us be righteous, actually. What an amazing God we follow!
Finally, God Makes Us Perfectly Righteous: Glorification
God’s work in our lives makes us citizens of His Kingdom and prepares us to be eternal residents of that Kingdom. One day, we will enter His Kingdom fully as citizens of heaven. To this end, we await the return of Christ, “who will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:20-21)
When Jesus returns, we will experience the resurrection and be completely transformed to be like Him, (except, of course, for His deity). In that day, God will glorify us, which is the completion of the good work of salvation that He began with our justification and continued with our sanctification. (Philippians 1:6)
As you can see, the word “salvation” actually covers an amazing experience. Our salvation is rooted in a single, irreversible act of justification. It continues with our actively growing to become more what God wants us to be. One day this relationship will reach its full maturity when we are changed into morally perfect worshippers of God, forever.
Because of God’s salvation, sin is no longer a barrier between God and us. We should not be discouraged when our growth in holiness is slow, because God is at work in us and will never abandon this good work He has begun. In confidence and security, we can always come to Him.
We can relate confidently to God because He makes us righteous.
God brings about righteousness in the believer’s life in several stages.
God declares us righteous, giving us immediate acceptance (justification).
Sanctification is the process of becoming holy or Christlike.
We must cooperate with God and persevere in our sanctification.
Christ will return and complete what God has begun in us (glorification).
God is at work in us and will never abandon this good work He has begun!
List the things in your life that you feel create a barrier between you and God. Meditate on how this lesson addresses these barriers (Romans 8:1, 5:1)
How can the principles in this lesson be helpful when you are discouraged about your spiritual growth?
Based on this lesson, what are some of the reasons a Christian can have hope?
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