A Brief Review Before Going On

IMG_0157Dear Friends: This week, we are taking time for a brief review of the first part of our study before beginning to look at the second part. The first part of the study was previewed this spring with two small groups. The second part is new. It is about what kind of person we must be to be a disciple, the importance of a small group that is a part of the family of God and reflects the character of the Kingdom of God, and how we can lead others in a life changing discipling relationship. Blessings to all!

Before we move forward, we need to stop and take a brief look backward. IMG_5869This summer, I had an opportunity to walk the Camino De Santiago in Spain. Every morning, my colleague and I got up with a goal in mind. We even had a map and some instructions. Yet, every day we needed to review where we were and how far we had come. At least a few times we had managed to stray from the path and needed to remind ourselves of the way to our destination. This is just such a pause.

Sometimes it helps to know both where you are headed and where you have come from to make real progress. T4T uses a wonderful graphic called, “The Four Fields Graphic” to outline the entire T4T idea. [1]

images-1There are for fields shown, and we have now covered two of them in some detail: Who is Your Mission Field? and What Do You Share? The second part of this study concentrates on the last two questions, “How do you Disciple” and bringing new disciples into an existing church (Group) and developing them as disciples in community. Finally, we need to both be leaders (disciple who can train disciples) and be aware of developing the leadership ability of those around us (How).

Our Mission Field (Who)

Each disciple of Jesus is called to disciple people somewhere, and that somewhere is wherever we are! However, it is not enough to know our geographic location. We have to know whom it is we know and are called to disciple. Some people have used a Greek term, “Oikos” (which means household”) to describe the social sources of people we might disciple. NetworkOthers call it our “social network.” In any case, all of us live within a network of human relationships in which we meet people who are open to God. Here is one way to graphically represent this aspect of discipleship:

We all have connections to a lot of people, some more important and
more fruitful than others. Therefore, within our social networks, we are especially looking for People of Peace.POP2 People of Peace are those people we think are open to the Gospel for one reason or another. One thing we need to remember: We may not know if a person is a Person of Peace. The Apostle Paul was a Person of Peace, but he was also a persecutor of the church. When I was reached by a lady at a law firm in Houston, I was not looking for God, and did not display many of the obvious characteristics of a Person of Peace. Therefore, we share wisely and loving with those we can leaving it up to God who responds.

The Gospel We Share

Once we have an awareness of whom we should share the Gospel with, we need to have in our minds two very important things:

  1. A simple statement of the Gospel; and
  2. Our own personal Statement of Faith (our Testimony).

We also need to know as many Bible stories as we can remember, just in case we are able to share a story in the course of a conversation. We also need to be mindful of times in ordinary conversations when people we know may be signaling openness to the Gospel. This is the “What.” The “What” is an understanding of the Gospel, a personal Testimony, and a little understanding of the Bible and the story of God’s Love it tells.

Many people do not think that they are competent to share the Gospel, but they are. We have learned and shared on particular way of sharing the Gospel that is used all over the world. It is embodied in a very simple graphic.

This graphic illustrates in a very easy way the human condition, the bridge that God has provided in Christ so that we may return to close intimate fellowship with God, and the goal of our faith, which is to be untied with God in Christ. We are all separated to one degree or another from God, from our true self, and from others. God, in his wisdom and love, filled with mercy and a desire to repair our relationship provided such a way in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Jesus we see the wisdom and love of God in human form and by faith we can be filled with the Spirit of Love and Wisdom in a life changing relationship with God through Christ.

How To Disciple People

What happens once we share the Gospel with another person and they are brought near to God in Christ? Bibllical discipleshipmaking is concerned with making Great Commission disciples not just getting people to verbally accept Christ. Remember: Jesus said go make disciples (i.e. active followers of Christ, not just believers or admirers of Jesus). This means our job is not done when we have given your testimony, explained a bit about the Christian faith, and helped another person to receive Christ. In fact, in some ways, it has just begun!

When I (Chris) was a new Christian, I belonged to a small group of Christians about my age that met on Friday evenings. We had the very creative name, “The Friday Night Bible Study.” We met about 7:00 on Friday nights. It began with a time of singing and worship. Then we prayed and shared a bit. After a few minutes we broke up into small groups and discussed a Bible lesson. After a bit longer, we came together for prayer requests and a brief closing song. It was in that little group that I first learned what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus. A part of the importance of the group was the Bible study. Yet, a bigger part of the experience was watching more experienced Christians and learning something of how they lived.

If new Christians are to grow, they need a church—a worship congregation—to attend worship with weekly. However, more importantly they need a small group of people to share their Christian life with and with whom to grow in Christ. Therefore, the very first and most important things to do once a person has come to faith in Christ is to bring them into the church and connect them with a small group of disciples with whom they can share the Christian walk.

Expanding the Kingdom of God

The founding pastor of our congregation constantly remarked that the Christian faith was always only one generation from extinction. This was a reminder to our congregation that we cannot just sit on our laurels. The kingdom of God is something that should be constantly expanding. If this is to happen, Christians cannot just sit and be satisfied with our own salvation. We must be constantly expanding the Kingdom of God by bringing others into God’s kingdom of love. This means that we must continue to train others to share the gospel just as we have been trained to share the gospel.

For this to happen, we must be on the lookout for disciplers—people who are able to share their faith with others and who can form and lead discipling groups. American churches, and especially mainline churches have been slow to understand the necessity for going into the world, sharing the Good News, bringing others to faith, and then discipling them to Christian maturity. This means that we must have a way of continually sending those we have empowered into the world as Christ commanded. This requires leadership.

We live in challenging times for Christians. Our culture is not helpful in empowering us to share the Gospel in Word and Deed. Nevertheless, we are called to be faithful in our time. It may not be easy, but it is the most life transforming, life enhancing thing we experience possible–not just for ourselves but for other people as well. God bless you this coming week!!!

 Copyright 2015, Chris and Kathy Scruggs, All Rights Reserved

[1] This graphic is from www.CoopersOnAMission.com (downloaded April 8, 2015).

Lesson 5: A Disciple has a Gospel to Share


IMG_0133Here is the latest installment of the lessons on evangelism and discipleship. Please comment. I am printing in an order, but in the lesson plan we are developing, this lesson may be before the lesson for last week. Kathy and I thank you for all your help”

Copyright, 2015, Chris and Kathy Scruggs, All Rights Reserved

Many, perhaps even most Christians are shy about sharing their faith. This can be especially true of average Christians in older denominations. We are worried that we will say the wrong thing, annoy people, face rejection, and be unable to answer questions and the like. We don’t want to come off as a religious fanatic. These fears are completely understandable. However, we do need to think about how we will actually approach people and what we will say. In a way, we are already prepared; however, it might be a good idea if we could review what we’ve already learned. In the last chapter, we talked about telling people our personal story of faith. Telling our own story of faith is very important. People love to hear stories about how another person’s life was changed for the better.

Many Christians have difficulty sharing their own story. Even more people are not sure that they could tell another person what it means to be a Christian. This is nothing new. Christians have always struggled to tell others of the love of God we see in Jesus Christ. However, to be completely equipped as disciples to share God’s love with others we need to have two things in our minds

  1. A testimony of what God has done in our own lives.
  2. We have a simple understanding of how to explain the Gospel to another person. Here it is again

This chapter is designed to be sure you are prepared to share the gospel with others in a short way, so that they will understand what it means to be a Christians.

The New Testament is literally littered with examples of the Gospel. Peter, Paul, and the other disciples shared the Good News. Naturally, when they wrote letters or gave advice, their testimony concerning the Gospel was implicit is all they said. Sometimes, they were very clear about the content of their Gospel. In First Corinthians, Paul describes his gospel as follows:

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born (I Corinthians 15:1-8)

In this paragraph, written relatively early in the career of the Apostle, he tells the Corinthians the essence of the Gospel. Jesus Christ died for our sins. God vindicated him in by raising him from the dead. Finally, this was no private affair, but a matter of public record.

In letter after letter, Paul shares this gospel in many forms, some longer, some shorter. Near the end of his life, Paul shared another form of his gospel with Timothy:

So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News (2 Timothy 1:8-10, NLT).

A little later on, Paul goes tells Timothy to remember his Gospel, the gospel of Jesus Christ who was of the house of David, and therefore qualified to be the Messiah, died, and was raised from the dead (2 Timothy 2:8). In these verses, Paul speaks of the power of God shown in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

These various testimonies, and a number of others in the New Testament, give us an idea about what a good explanation of the Gospel needs to say. First, any short gospel presentation needs to center on Jesus: on his life, his death, his resurrection, and his continuing work in the people of God who believe he is the true revelation of the mercy of God. Second, a good testimony includes some notion of the human need for God—the fact that we are mortal, doomed to physical death, and often sinful, doing things we know to be wrong and to deserve punishment. Third, to be good news, a presentation of the Gospel needs to assure hearers that a wise and loving God has provided us a way to fellowship with him, forgiveness of sins, and a kind of life we can only imagine.

If I were to write out a short gospel presentation, it would go something like this:

Everyone I know, including myself, often feels alienated from God. We have done things that we know are wrong. The people I know who have tried to overcome their sinful nature by hard work have failed. Some gave up entirely, and some became hypocrites trying to appear better than they were. What we need is inner transformation. images-2God  loved us enough to send his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to show us what a truly wholesome life would be like, to teach us God’s ways, and to die for our sins, showing us the extent of God’s amazing grace. God raised this Jesus from the dead, and then he promised to send his Holy Spirit to us when we believe, forgiving us and changing us from the inside out.

This testimony says who Jesus is, who we are, and what God has done for us in Christ. It centers expresses our need to accept Christ by faith.

For many years, Christians have used a graphic to describe the work of Christ. This little graphic is set out below. Some sophisticated Christians make fun of this graphic, but I think that it meets a need. Here is the graphic:imgres

There are other ways of thinking about what we would say to another person who is far from God and needs to become closer. This lesson helps us overcome our fears by thinking again about what we might say to a person who needs to become closer to Christ. Here are the elements of the Gospel that this lesson accentuates:

Everyone is a sinner. In the Old Testament, the word for sin connotes an arrow that has missed the mark. We can all relate to this: however good or bad we have been, all of us have fallen short of being the person we were meant to be and treating others as God wanted them treated. In this sense, we are all sinners.

Sin has a Price. Just as we are all sinners, we all know sin has a price. Our relationship with God, others, and God’s creation is broken by our sin. As a result, we suffer a kind of death. Not only are we not the people we should be, we are also incapable of becoming the people we might have been. The penalty of sin is death—death in this world and death in the world to come. Spiritually, we are all dead because of our sin and far from being the people we might have been.

God is Holy and Perfect. God, on the other hand, is not a sinner nor does God experience sin. In my mind the most beautiful statement of God’s perfection comes in James where the author says, Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created” (James 1:16-18). God is perfect, without sin, and our sin can’t be blamed on God.

There is a Chasm Between Us and God. Because we are sinners and God is perfect, there is a chasm between God and the human race—a chasm we cannot cross because the chasm represents a fundamental difference between us: we are sinners and God is perfect and therefore fundamentally separated from the darkness within us. The chasm between God and the human race is our alienation from the very source of our being, alienation described in Genesis as a hiding from God and others because of human shame.

God has Provided a Way of Reconciliation. The Good New is that in Christ God has provided a way to bring sinful people into a relationship with a sinless God. By becoming one of us in the person of Jesus Christ, God adopted our human limitations, yet lived a sinless life. By taking on our sins on the cross, God paid the eternal price for our sins and a way for us to recover our broken relationship with him. This is the Good News.

Some years ago, I was in my office on a Friday. I got a call from the front desk because a disturbed individual was there asking for help. I went up and brought the person to my office. Without going into detail, this person was in a sinful lifestyle, taking mind-altering drugs, and in a relationship of abuse. She was not highly intelligent and she had been drinking. I knew that whatever I said to her had to be simple. The only thing I knew to do was share the gospel in a short form. I took out a piece of paper, drew the little diagram above, and shared the basic elements of the gospel. My guest had been raised in a poor, minority church. She knew the basics of the story. As I shared the Gospel with her, her eyes lit up. She prayed for forgiveness. We spoke of other, more urgent things, and our congregation helped her with a physical need. In the end, this short sharing of the Gospel was exactly what this person needed.

The Power of Prayer

Many years ago, in my first church, I created a little card that described the process of leading a person to Christ. It all begins with prayer. It would be nice if it were easy to determine who is a person of peace and who is not. It would be great if it were possible to tell who will receive the Gospel with joy and who will not. Fortunately, God does know. Therefore, the best place to start with discipling people is exactly where we should start every day anyway—by praying.

One important thing about prayer is that it leads us to unlikely people. Think of the Apostle Paul. On the surface, he did not seem to be a person of peace. Here is how he describes his own conversion:

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus (Galatians 1:13-17).

Paul was not interested in being a Christian. He was interested in being a Pharisee. He was not overtly open to the gospel. He was a persecutor. However, God warmed his heart. In Acts, we are told that the early church did not easily accept Paul. They feared him with good reason. Yet, Paul was a person of peace—a person God had prepared to respond to the Gospel. Paul’s story reminds us to keep an open heart and open mind and to look beneath the surface. His story also urges us to be patient.

Be Open To God and To Circumstances

One of the most important things we can be is open to God and to circumstances. If every interruption in our daily routine or plan for the week is seen as negative, we will miss a lot of chances to share Christ with others. Many of our best opportunities to share the Gospel with others will come when we planned to do something else! Therefore, we have to remain open to the work of God in unforeseen and sometimes bothersome circumstances.

Overcome Fears

The single most difficult thing for most people to overcome is fear. When I was in seminary, some well-intentioned professor warned us never to pray for people without asking. He was afraid that we would offend people. After more than twenty years of ministry, that event has never come up. The fact is, people are not as easily offended as we think. People in trouble almost always appreciate a prayer, even non-Christians.

This does not mean that we do not need to be sensitive to others. We do. However, most of the time our normal human sensitivity to others will be sufficient to protect us from making terrible mistakes. What is needed in offering prayer and in offering our testimony and the Gospel is good sense and discernment. If we are other-centered, trying to understand and help another person, our ordinary common sense is likely to lead us in the correct path.

Speak Plainly

Many of us think we cannot share with others because we are not eloquent. This is simply not a problem. Most of those we meet will accept, understand, and enjoy our testimony precisely because it is not eloquent, practiced, professional and the like. Plain words, plainly spoken are better than practiced speeches. This is why it is important to put your testimony and gospel presentation in your own words.

On the other end of the spectrum are people who are eloquent and even a bit learned who say too much and speak in an overly-theological language. The moment of conversion is not the time to use words like “Predestined” or “Total Depravity.” These are theological words with complex meanings. It is enough to know God is at work when we come to Him and we need God because we all do things we know we ought not be done. One very important rule is to never use a word you cannot explain to someone who knows little or nothing about the Christian faith. Finally, of course, it goes without saying that one should never use a word the speaker does not understand.

Don’t Worry About Results

Much of the time, we want people to respond immediately. Some people do and will. However, others will not. Some people like to ponder what they have heard and only react after a time of thinking. We are part of a Presbyterian weekend retreat held four times a year. At this point, we’ve seen hundreds of people go through an extremely intense weekend of spiritual growth. Some people react immediately and emotionally. Some people do not. What we’ve noticed over the years is that some of those who react immediately and emotionally return to their normal lives unchanged in just a few days. Some of those who barely reacted at all during the weekend after a few weeks are changed forever. The Holy Spirit works according to God’s timetable not ours.

Keep Praying

As we work with people, it is important to continue to remind ourselves that God is in charge. We cannot bring people close to God; only God by the power of the Holy Spirit can bring people into a life-changing relationship with the Living God. We can, however, keep praying for people. Both of us have people we have been praying for a long, long time. It is discouraging to pray for a person for years without a response, but sometimes it happens. On result of believing in the Sovereignty of God is that we believe that God is in charge of who and when comes near to God. We are servants. Our job is to pray, share, and love others. We do not know what God may be doing in the life of another human being. Therefore, we must continue to pray.

A Short Method of Helping a Person Receive Christ

There is not single formula for becoming a Christian. Nevertheless, people are called upon to assist others in making a decision to become a disciple of Jesus. Here are six questions that you might ask yourself or another person if the circumstances were appropriate:

  1. Do you believe in a personal God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who created and sustains all things?
  2. Do you believe that human beings in general, and yourself in particular, are spiritually and morally flawed?
  3. Do you believe that God has acted to undo the effects of sin (spiritual and moral flaws) in your life by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus?
  4. Do you accept Jesus Christ as your savior (the one you will lean upon as having delivered you from sin) and Lord (the one you will try to follow and emulate in your daily life)?
  5. Do you commit yourself to a life of discipleship as part of a local body of believers (a church) who are trying to live on the basis of God’s love shown in Jesus Christ?
  6. Do you hope for eternal life in fellowship with God and believe in God’s ultimate victory over sin and death?

There are other ways to lead a person to Christ, but this is one way to help people feel certain that they are a Christian.

What Do I Do Next?

The next steps you take with a new Christian are very important. If a person has made a commitment to Christ, he or she is initially only a Baby Christian. New Christians need a community of believers in which they can mature and grow. In other words, a new believer needs a church and to become a member of a small Bible study or discipleship group. Therefore, there are two things that you must do immediately after a person decides to become a Christian:

  1. Bring them to church and see that they get baptized or that they confirm their baptism if they were baptized as a child.
  2. Help them become a part of the church, the body of Christ, a local fellowship of Christians.
  3. Help them become involved in a discipleship group, preferably one you lead. [1]

Remember the great Commission? Jesus said:

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).

This tells us exactly what we must do: Be sure new believers are baptized and taught the essential basics of the Christian life. In Presbyterian Churches, only the teaching elders (or ministers of word and sacrament as they are sometimes called) can administer baptism. Therefore, make an appointment to see your pastor and be sure that the person is able to be baptized or make a public statement of their new faith as soon as possible. This is important for them and for the church.

Second, it is of vital importance that they become involved in a small group (a discipleship group), preferably one you lead! If that is not possible, you need to get them into a Sunday School Class, Bible Study, or other small group. But, to reaffirm: it is best if you become their coach as they grow in Christ.

Imagine a parent who gave birth to a child, but never fed, trained, parented, or otherwise helped the child become a mature adult. We would not think that person was a very good parent. When you lead another person to faith in Christ or are instrumental in their decision to become a follower of Jesus, you become their spiritual parent. It is important, therefore, that you continue to meet with them and study the Bible and pray with them as they mature in Christ.

The Order Does Not Matter

Right here we come to a place where differing groups have different ideas about leading people to Christ. The last thing I mentioned is to bring people to a small group in which they can grow in Christ. Much of the time, this may be the first thing to do. People should be invited into our Bible Studies and fellowship groups just as soon as we think they will respond. It is a big mistake. Invite people to your home, to a Sunday School class, to a Bible study, to worship. Many, if not most people need to enter the church and begin to feel comfortable in church even before they are Christians.

[1] This is the primary reason that we have created a training guide for Presbyterians. In our way of doing church, a Teaching Elder or Minister of the Word or Sacrament or other elder authorized to baptize new believers should baptize people in a local congregation.

Lesson 4: Looking for People of Peace

Mom and Dad in BelizeThis is Lesson Four of a training manual Kathy and I are writing. We would very much enjoy any comments for improvements and corrections anyone has. We will be teaching this training program for 26 weeks this next year. Please help us by subscribing to this blog, commenting on each post, and telling your friends about it so they can join in too.

Copyright 2015, Chris and Kathy Scruggs, All Rights Reserved

Looking for People of Peace

Once we know what to say,  we are ready to sow some seeds. Perhaps you have already been sharing God’s love by sharing the Good News and your personal testimony with other people. Maybe they have not responded as you wish they would. Perhaps you feel like you are just not the kind of person who can or should share their testimony with others.

Some people become discouraged when sharing their testimony. Please do not. Remember the basic principles that we shared right at the beginning:

  1. Go and tell people. Do not wait for them to come to you.
  2. Share with everyone, not just some.
  3. Concentrate on making disciples in long-term relationships, not just new members for a church.

Nevertheless, there are some sharing’s that are more likely to bear fruit than others. Jesus, as he was beginning his ministry and his training of his disciples told the following story:

images-6Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” (Mark 4:3-9).

In this parable, Jesus describes the human heart as like different kinds of soil with differing interest and capacity to absorb the Gospel and grow.

When Jesus and his disciples were alone, they asked Jesus to explain the parable, which he did saying:

The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.” (Mark 4:14-20).

As we go out into the world, we are going to meet four basic kinds of people:

  1. People whose hearts are as hard as rock and who simply will not hear the story.
  2. People who are spiritually shallow who will follow Jesus for a while but when times are tough the will fall away.
  3. People who could be really powerful disciples but who are so immersed in the things of this word, their day-to-day activities that their faith never matures.
  4. People who have a deep spiritual capacity and who grow in Christ and become disciples who make other disciples and bear fruit for God.

Our problem is that we do not know which is which until we sow the word. Sometimes people who we think have no interest in God and in Christ at all turn out to be the best disciples. Conversely, people who we thought would be the greatest disciples turn out to be big disappointments. This is why the first principle of D4D is to “Share the good news with everyone, not just some.” When we share liberally, we do not leave anyone out.

Looking for Good, Deep Soil

Farmers are always on the lookout for good soil. For a time, we lived in a farming community. Good farmers are always on the lookout for good land to farm. This same thing is true for us. Sure we share with people who are hard-hearted, shallow, or self-involved. Nevertheless we are looking for those who will receive the Gospel with joy and share that Gospel with others enthusiastically. We are looking for deep soil that will bear a produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown” (Mark 4:20).

The Bible has a term for people like this. It calls them “People of Peace.” When Jesus sent out his disciples on a training mission, he told them to look out for persons of peace. Here is the story as Luke tells it:

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you” (Luke 10:1-6).

POP2Who is a “Person of Peace? Luke gives us a few clues.

  1. A Person of Peace is a person we meet as we go into the world as we have been asked to do by Christ.
  2. A Person of Peace welcomes us and in welcoming us welcomes the Gospel and Christ into their lives.
  3. A person of Peace is someone who welcomes the Gospel so that the peace of Christ enters the life and relationships of that person.

David and Paul Watson describe Persons of Peace as follows in their book Contageous Disciple Making: “Persons of peace have three primary characteristics. They are open to a relationship with you. They hunger for spiritual answers to their deepest questions. And they will share whatever they lean with others.” [1] Open to you. Open to God. Open to share. These are three important things to look for in a Person of Peace.

We don’t use the phrase “Person of Peace” often in our daily lives, and we all think of peace as the absence of conflict. So we might think that a Person of Peace is simply someone who doesn’t react negatively to the Gospel. This is true, but there is a deeper characteristic of a Person of Peace. The Hebrew word for “Peace” is “Shalom.” Shalom is more than the absence of conflict. Shalom is a situation in which everything is as it should be. It is a situation of harmony and blessing. Jesus says that he brings a peace unlike the world brings (John 14:27). This is a peace created by the Spirit of God. It is a peace that transcends our physical, emotional, or mental wellbeing. A Person of Peace is a person upon whom the Spirit of God rests and in whom God has found a home. Such a person is bound to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God.

Take a few moments and think about who are the People of Peace in your life. These would be people who are not yet close to Christ, but who you think might be searching for his Shalom and ready to receive it.



[1] David L. Watson & Paul D. Watson, Contageous Disciple Making: Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2014.

Copyright, 2015, Chris and Kathy Scruggs, All Rights Reserved

Lesson 3: A Discipler has a Story To Tell

IMG_0089Once again, I am a bit late because of the Special 4th of July post. This is Lesson Three of the training manual Kathy and I are writing. We would very much enjoy any comments for improvements and corrections. We will be teaching this training program for 26 weeks this next year. Please help us by subscribing to this blog, reading each entry, and getting your friends to do so as well. All Blogs deal with the subject of how to live wisely a life of love for others.

Copyright 2015, Chris and Kathy Scruggs, All Rights Reserved

Jesus came bearing witness to his relationship with the Father. Jesus’ disciples went into the world bearing witness to their experience of the crucified and risen Christ. The four Gospels are essentially remembrances of the story of the disciples personal relationship with Jesus. One reason we must read our Bibles, and particularly the Gospels, is that we need to remember and be able to tell the stories of Jesus. One reason that Disciplers are asked to memorize Bible stories is so that we can tell them to others. However, there is more to disciple making than telling stories from the Bible. We must be able to tell our own story of what God has meant to us.

The Apostle Paul was able to tell his story to people in order to bring them to Christ. His testimony is recorded in Acts and again in Galatians. In Acts, Paul tells his story at length to his fellow Jews. Here is the story as Paul tells it:

I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.
About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, “Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” I asked. “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.  “What shall I do, Lord?” I asked. “Get up,” the Lord said, “and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.” My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me. A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. He stood beside me and said, “Brother Saul, receive your sight!” And at that very moment I was able to see him. Then he said: “The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking to me. “Quick!” he said. “Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me.” “Lord,” I replied, “these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.” Then the Lord said to me, “Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles”
(Acts 22:1-21).

This famous testimony of Paul’s has three features that any good testimony has:

  1. It tells us what kind of a person Paul was before he became a Christian.
  2. It tells us how Paul became a Christian.
  3. It tells us what happened as a result of Paul becoming a Christian.

Before Paul became a Christian, Paul was a persecutor of Christians. He hated Christ and the Christian faith. He met Christ on the Road to Damascus on his way to persecute the Christians in that city. As a result of his conversion, Paul became a missionary to the Gentiles. All good testimonies have these three characteristics:

  1. Who I was before I came to Christ
  2. How I came to Christ
  3. What a difference it has made in my life.

IMG_0400Take a moment and write out your testimony in these three categories:

  1. Who I was before I came to Christ.
  1. How I came to Christ
  1. What a difference it has made in my life.

Dramatic and Nurtured Testimonies

Some Christians are hesitant to share their story with others because they feel it is not good enough, powerful enough, dramatic enough, or whatever. This is a big mistake. In our marriage, Chris has a dramatic testimony of how God came into his life. Kathy, on the other hand, has been a Christian almost all of her life. It is very important, therefore to remember that there are as many different testimonies as there are persons and there is more than one type of testimony.

People sometimes talk about the difference between dramatic conversions and nurtured conversions. A dramatic conversion usually occurs when someone has been far from God and is brought close to God in a single dramatic event or series of events. A nurtured conversion usually involves a parent, grandparent, or some other significant person who gradually nurtured the believer as a Christian. Once again, In Chris’ case, he was far from God, not really looking for God, when he suffered a series of failures and losses. At an important moment, a young co-worker reached out and invited him to a Bible study. Over several months the members of this Bible study nurtured him until he came to believe in Christ in a dramatic moment of commitment. Kathy grew up in a Christian family, was nurtured as a Christian by her parents, accepted Christ at an early age. She can, however, remember a time at a Christian camp when she drew near to God.

Think about your Christian walk. Then answer the following questions:

  1. What elements of nurture do you see?
  1. What elements of dramatic commitment do you see?
  1. How can you put these two elements together?

God’s Continuing Work in Your Life

People love to hear the story of who someone came to Christ. These stories are very important. However, our conversion story is not our only testimony. Since the time we came to believe in God and came close to Christ, other things have happened to us. Everyone has faced times of challenge, times of doubt, times of social pressure and the like. One of the most powerful testimonies any Christian can give to another person is to tell a story of a struggle in your life that is similar to a struggle they are having in their life. Once again, people like to hear stories of what God has been doing in the life of people they know are Christians. Once again, these stories do not have to be dramatic. In fact, sometimes they are more powerful if they are not dramatic.

For example, suppose that you were let go from a job and it took a long time to find a new one. Suppose you prayed, reached out to other Christians, and went to a Christian ministry that helps people find new jobs. Then, after several months of looking, you found a new job! That testimony would mean a lot to a person who was just laid off. Suppose you have had a struggle in your marriage or in parenting where you prayed and sensed God’s presence in solving the problem. That testimony would be powerful to someone who is struggling in his or her marriage or with a child.

We might call these kind of testimonies “Continuing Testimonies.” God continues to work in our lives day by day after we are Christians forming us into the people he wants us to be. This forming process, both pleasant and unpleasant is part of our testimony. It is also an important witness to what God can do in the life of ordinary people like us.

Think about times in your Christian walk when you felt God at work. Jot down some notes below about how you might describe it to another person:

Putting It All Together

We ask every person to prepare a three or minute testimony. If you wrote it out, that would be about one typed page, double-spaced in length. Your testimony needs to be unique to you. It needs to be your story. Of course, it needs to be factually correct. It also needs to be constructed so as to have all the elements of a good testimony:

  1. Who I was before I came to Christ
  2. How I came to Christ
  3. What a difference it has made in my life.

If it is a vignette from your past, some moment when God acted in your life in a special way, then the three elements might look like this:

  1. The problem I faced in my Christian walk.
  2. How God entered my life in my circumstances
  3. What a difference it has made in my life.

Take time now to write out   your testimony.






Honoring Dad: A Special 4th of July Post

IMG_0137Friday, we were in Fredericksburg, Texas to dedicate a plaque to my Dad and Granddad on the wall of the Nimitz/Pacific War Museum. Set out below is approximately what I said.

“I am a pastor, and so I get to teach Psalms periodically at our church. People who have never studied Psalms are often amazed at how many Psalms are simple retellings of the history of Israel. (See for example, Psalm 78). The Jewish people knew from bitter experience the importance of remembering the past.

In Psalm 77 the psalmist says the following:

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds” (Psalm 77:11-12).

One of the frequent teachings of Scripture is this: The people of God are inclined to forget the mighty acts of God and his merciful provision and thereby bring judgment upon themselves and their societies. This is a principle with secular as well as spiritual application. When a people forget what has been done for them by prior generations a curious pride and foolishness—a taking for granted of blessings—develops. The result is misery. We live in a time when rediscovering the importance of honoring the past and what has been done for us is an important priority.

There are a lot of men and women honored on these walls. FullSizeRenderWe have come to honor two of them, who happen to be Tim’s and my father and grandfather. According to family lore, Dad joined up first being about eighteen years old. My grandfather, who was too young for World War I and forty years old when the war broke out, followed later. Apparently, he did not want to stay home while his eldest son fought.

My grandfather died before Tim and I were born. We know that he served in four campaigns in the Pacific and earned a Purple Heart. He died at about 49 with shrapnel still in his body. My father did not like to talk about the war. I have only a few memories of things that he said. After the war my father met my mother and served as an FBI agent until retirement. After he retired he was a city councilman and mayor of Springfield, Missouri. He spent all his adult life serving his country and community. He did not like violence, although he had two occupations, soldier and FBI agent, where there were always the danger of violence. In the midst of this, he was a peaceful guy.

Picture1I believe my grandfather was a hero and probably knew it. My father on the other hand never thought of himself as a hero. Not long ago, on The Military History Channel there was a program concerning Iwo Jima. They returned a number of survivors to the island. When the commentator described them as hero’s to a man they declined the honor. One ex-marine put it this way, “I am not a hero. The heroes never left this island.” I think my father felt this way about his own service.

In dedicating this plaque, we honor two members of the greatest generation who in a moment of danger to our nation and its freedoms gave up the comforts of home, went to war to protect our freedoms from a threat, and then returned home to build the nation they loved. Millions of young men and women did the same thing during World War Two. They are all heroes, and they should be remembered and honored for what they accomplished.

Today, our family remembers Dad and Granddad. I hope our children and grandchildren will remember them and their sacrifice. As the psalmists knew long ago, those who forget their family or national story are doomed to lose it. Those who remember the faith and deeds of their ancestors have a better shot at maintaining the legacy of their faith and faithful deeds. Our parents and grandparents were not perfect; but we owe them a lot and should honor them.

Let us pray.”