Session 6a: Important Discoveries by Brian Phipps

So disciple making into the future was what I’ve been asked to talk about. And as was said, there’s a disciple making operating system that’s been developed over the last 10 years.

Oh, wait, before I get all serious about disciple making, I got to share one thing with you. That’s my view right now. So, be jealous. But don’t be jealous of the bill that I’ve got to put out this week, because it’s a really, really, really big one. My daughter’s a photographer, and just loves the scenery. So if you look way down here, I don’t know if you can see my arrow or not, there’s a little T down here. The wedding is actually going to be there, with all those mountains in the background. 

So, we’re real excited. I am absolutely beside myself with joy. She’s marrying one of the coolest guys from one of the coolest families. The Fitz family could not be happier right now. And it’s a joy to be with you, because this wasn’t mentioned, but my wife is a Prime, and her mother’s name is [Heisinge]. They were part of the CRC forever, and forever and ever from up in Chicago. He was on the south side of Chicago, and she went to Calvin. So, we’ve got dots, our kids are 50% Dutch and 50% everything else. So, glad to be with you this morning.

Let’s talk about disciple making. This is a system that came to be after 15 years of ordained ministry. As is mentioned, I have been a pastor for 25 years now, 26. The first 15 years, I was working hard, but extraordinarily dissatisfied with the results of the maturity I sow in people. That broke my heart, and I didn’t know how to fix it. I worked harder, I worked as smart as I could.

And then 2010, so just about 11 years ago, I was at Westside Family Church in Kansas City, a big church, about 5000 people. We had just doubled our small groups ministry. I was a small group’s guide. There was about 120 groups when I got there. With this first initiative we did a year and, we had just doubled the groups to about 240. We had just added about a thousand people to groups.

I remember being on the way home from my first group experience, and Jesus kind of joined me in the car. His message to me, and I don’t have these super intense moments often, but this one was pretty super intense. He basically looked at me and he said, “Brian, you keep taking this multiplication symbol I give you and twisting it back into an addition symbol. And you’re happy about it.” And he’s like, “There’s so much more. There’s so much more. If you would just take your eye off of the game that you think you’re playing right now and shall that for me, and just obey me for a little while, that I’ll show you every step to take.”

It was my Exodus in a sense, out of this drudgery type of work. Of just working hard with brick and strong, and doing the absolute best that I could to this place where there was some real flourishing happening that I had never, ever, ever seen before. So, basically this is an invitation to tap into that journey. I’m getting ready to share, really it’s just the culmination of 10 years of efforts. So I hope it’s meaningful and helpful to you. If we want to lead like Jesus, here’s what I found out, we have to start using Jesus’ question when it comes to the making disciples.

 Now, typically our question is, “What are you studying?” When it comes to small groups, the number one question people want to know the answer to before joining your group is, “What do you study?” And you know the second question, it’s, “Do you have child care?” If we have a charge of young families, that’s what they want to know. And I don’t know if it’s the same with Sunday school systems, it’s been a long time since I’ve been a part of that. So if you have a Sunday school system, it might be more relational, a more relationship question or an age question or something like that. But primarily it’s what are you studying?

We need to start using Jesus’ question, “How will I be different? How will I be transformed? What’s going to be different about my life?” Peter was a fisherman, who probably was doing pretty well up in Capernaum. And Jesus said, “No, we’re going to go and we’re going to become fissures. How will my life be different?”

I want to introduce a concept here from John 8:32. You can see the verses there, you’ll know the truth, and the truth will set you free. The point there isn’t the truth. The point there is freedom. He wanted people to be free. And he realized that the truth, He the truth, and the written word that we find in Scriptures truths are the means to an end for you to be set free. 

Somebody type in there if he gets loud. I’ve got noise canceling headphones on. It seems as if they just started to run something, and if they have I will have to go outside. So, just text and let me know if for whatever reason the volume gets bad.

So, you’ll know the truth, and the truth will set you free. One of the things I love about reformed congregations and reformed theology, of which I’m a huge advocate… I went to reformed theological seminary myself, is the commitment to truth. But the problem is, there are times when we can make truth more of the end than the means to the end. We know the truth, we got the truth. 

But wisdom ultimately is something that builds us up. It changes us. Truth alone can just pop us up. That’s not what we want. We don’t want to be hot air balloons filled with truth, and even accurate truth. We want to be people that take advantage of what it has to say.

In John chapter 17 there’s another example of Jesus talking about this. He’s praying for the disciples and he says, “Your word is truth, and sanctify them by your truth.” The process or the goal there, the [inaudible] if you will was sanctification, not truth. Truth is absolutely essential to get to that sanctification, but the sanctification was the focus of Jesus’ prayer. And so, we have to weed out with Jesus’ question if we want to start making disciples.

How will I be different after this experience? Dave Ramsey tells us how people are going to be different when they take Financial Peace University. He’s going to say you’re going to have a budget that’s going to work, you’re going to have a month of savings already saved up by the end of this. He gives them measurable, and attainable goals that they’ll have in place by the end of the times, and I love that focus on that.

So, use Jesus’ question. We also have to use Jesus’ invitation. I’ll be quick on this. This is a question of tone. Jesus said these words in John 10:10, “The thief has only come to steal, kill, and destroy.” Let me ask you a question real quick. Have you seen the thief’s work of late? Have you seen what he’s accomplishing in the world? He’s doing a killer job, if his job was just to continually steal, kill, and destroy. I can’t stand it, but it’s true.

Jesus puts a big but on there. He says, “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing tons of people paying tons of money, medicine, and extra help, and I got a counseling degree, I’m not against any of those things, but people are searching for life and not finding [inaudible] Jesus is saying, “I have it, and I want to pass it on to you.” 

But when it comes to disciple making, we’re not leaving with that kind of posture, like, “This is gold.” We kind of have this posture like it’s behavior management, or a behavior modification system that wants to kind of suck life away from people, instead of spring life to people. It just seems to me that if Jesus himself had people knocking down the door to get to him, to where actually some people had to crawl in through the roof to get to Jesus, why is it that we don’t have flocks of people lining up to taste and to see that which our forefathers thought was really, really good to taste and see?

We got to start with the question, how will we be different? But to really start to make the question become relevant, we have to start leaving with Jesus’ invitation. It’s life to the full, it’s not behavior modification process. It’s a life. It’s an invitation to experience life to the full.

So, to deliver on the invitation, we have to focus on very specific outcomes. Very specific outcomes. I want to make sure that that’s not loud. I am sorry. I don’t see anybody typing anything, so I guess we’re okay. Please type if it does get loud, because I can’t tell otherwise. Whoops, sorry. 

All right, if we want to deliver on this invitation, we have to focus on some outcomes. I’m sure that all of you have heard about smart goals. Smart goals. They’re specific, they’re measurable, they’re attainable, they’re relevant, and they’re timely. Smart goals is a term used in business, because we actually want to know where we are and whether or not we’re making progress. It would be great for us to have some type of agreed-upon definition of what it means to be a disciple, and then to actually measure whether or not we’re making them, so that we can see how well we’re doing. So if we’re not doing well we can make adjustments in order to accomplish this thing called making disciples.

And so, what Jesus taught me back in 2010 when I just said, “Okay, I’ll shell everything I thought I knew about disciple making, and I’ll just listen,” the first thing he said to do was, “Hey, why don’t you just do a quick review of theology proper?” You’re familiar with theology proper, it’s a study of the God [inaudible]. I was like, “That’s an odd thing to study, knowing that I’m asking the disciple making question.” But he was firm on it. 

So I was like, “Okay, the father ordained our salvation, so he’s a part of this gauge. The Son accomplished our salvation, he’s definitely worthy of praise because of that. But, it’s the Spirit who [inaudible] that sanctification, that applies that salvation.” We call it sanctification. Or we call it discipleship, or disciple making, or becoming more like Christ, sharing in His identity. So, it’s the Spirit who does that, it’s not the Father or the Son. They played their role, but it’s the spirit is active in us to bring about that transformation that we’re talking about. 

How will I be different? Well, the Spirit tells us how we’ll be different And you can see it here just glaring on the screen, the fruit of the spirit. Right there is your measurables. You want to know how things are going with your spiritual formation? Let’s ask the questions, how loving am I? How joyful is my life? How peaceful, patient? Not when I’m at work around the people that I have to be a professional in front of, but in front of the spouse, or the kids, or the coworkers when things are really stressful. These are the measurables of the ways the spirit of God wants to transform us. 

And you can see this list in a couple different places, like in 2 Peter, “[inaudible] faith and this,” and particularly in the self-control and things like that. Our word for that is character. So you see that down at the bottom.

The other way that the spirit of God changes us isn’t fruit of the spirit, it’s gifts of the spirit. If character is who we’re becoming, the gift is what we’re doing. We teach, we lead, we show mercy, we heal, we show compassion. We teach, we administrate. Whatever those gifts are, God has given all of us a gift from this great variety of gifts, gives them well, and to serve one another.

And so, our definition of a disciple is seen down there at the bottom, it’s a person who’s growing in character and calling. And what will happen as they grow in character and calling, those are our two relentless focuses… if we grow in character and calling, those actually multiply each other, and have an impact on the inside of us, and then have an impact through us out into the world. This is the key to mobilizing people. This is the key to getting them off, out of the bleachers, down onto the field, to start playing the game with us.

And man, all of us are tired of 80/20, or the 90/10 rule, whatever it is in your church, and we’re tired of it. We started to see people see themselves as partners with us, instead of people that were just sheep, that were dependent upon us. I think that’s what we want more than anything else.

So, I mention smart post. These are some actual statistics of people who come in to one of our experiences. We’ve got a few experiences, followers made, leaders made, these are all high-impact, high bar kind of experiences that we’ve created. The average reporting of character and calling, you can see that the character is nothing but a listing of the fruit of the spirit. 

And they give the answer, six for loving, and five joyful. Ts where going down, patience usually grabs most people. And you can see that’s a 4.8 out of five. I’m sorry, 4.8 out of 10. Very subjective, very subjective. But we want to establish a baseline. Over here on calling, you can see that the scores are 1.6 out of 10, which is abysmal. And I think it’s because we haven’t done the training. Perhaps we haven’t even done much teaching when it comes to calling. I didn’t get equipped at seminary to do this, at reform seminary in Orlando. It was more about being biblically responsible, theologically responsible. This element was not a piece of it.

If you look at it, if your definition of a disciple is a person who’s developing character and calling in order to have an impact made in them by Jesus and then through them with Jesus into the world, you can see that 7.7 out of 100 stinks. I mean, put your hand up if you think that stinks. Let me see. Because I want to know that we’re all connecting here. I see one hand, three hands. All right. I can’t see. I have a small picture, I can’t see real well. 

But here’s what I believe, I believe people feel that gap. And I believe that every time they go here another sermon, or another Sunday school lesson, or another small group lesson, or another whatever it is, the gap between who they are and who they know they should be and could be and want to be just gets bigger. And I believe that gap actually stuns our capacity to actually really step in to do something. Because if we did, we would probably be exposed for the fake that we know that we are.

I know I’m kind of speaking quickly and strongly, but this is just what I’ve found to be true. Now, how do we start to make a difference here? How do we start to level these scores up? We’ve got to define that we’re going to be going after those outcomes, character and calling. [inaudible], character and calling. That’s it. Don’t do anything else. Just focus on those two things. 

Now it’s like, “Well, content isn’t going to be enough. I don’t even have content.” What do we have to add? We have to integrate the spiritual habits. These things aren’t a source to check our [inaudible] as a box. These are the calisthenics to get into the gym of spiritual formation and do the exercises that are required to actually accomplish these outcomes.

All of our experiences, like Brian said in his presentation before, get you immersed in Scripture, in community, bathed in prayer, and soaked with accountability. And we’re Bible reading, we have Bible reading plans and all of our stuff. But the goal isn’t just to read the Scripture. It’s to ask as you’re going through the Scripture, “Jesus, what are you teaching me today from this particular passage? And what do you want me to do about it?” 

In our app, you actually type out those two statements, and then the people in the group, particularly the triad members in your group, we kind of subdivide our groups into triads, they actually see what you type every day, as if it’s on its own little private Jesus centered Facebook page. That’s our app, that’s what it’s like. They see the I will statements that you’re making every day, that I believe and I will statements, and they’re supporting you. They’re rallying you on. They’re asking you how it went. And they’re praying with you as you pray for Jesus to show the way.

I’ll give you one quick example of this. It was a number of years ago, the daughter that is getting married on Tuesday, she was still 16 or so. She’s type A, and as you can tell I probably am too. We had escalated into a pretty significant fight. It was the ugliest one that we’d ever had. We both said things we regret, both went to bed really just distraught. I got up the next morning, I’m feeling faithful to my Bible reading and journaling, and I read my passage, a general answer turns away wrath. I hate me. And Jesus helped me figure that out.

I read that passage, but I don’t just read it. I read it to ask, what are you teaching me today? And that was obvious that what he’s teaching me is that I blew it last night. I knew that already. But the big key came when I asked, “What do you want me to do about it? It is what do you want me to do?” And his answer to me was, “I want you to apologize to Hannah, without reminding her of any of her complicit nature in the event.” That’s hard. I like fair, and that wouldn’t be fair. And Jesus said, “Was it fair with me?” I said, “No.” So, okay, got it.

“And the second thing I want you to do is to tell her that if you ever start to escalate like that again, she [inaudible] to you.” That was a very specific I will that I got. Because I know that there’s guys that are going to read it, I know that I’ve made that moment in prayer, I know that’s what he was teaching me. I type it out, and my daughter and I have never escalated since. We’re more loving. More joyful. You see it? These are the spiritual calisthenics to actually accomplish character.

And calling, you can see all of the habits you have to be a part of that are all woven into our stuff. You have to serve to get into one of our groups. You can’t talk about calling and ask about their gifts and whether that their gifts are not everyday’ not serving somewhere. We have consistent peer feedback on whether or not you have the gifts that you think you have, or where you have and identify the real gifts that you do have. 

Missionary rhythms, the blessed with arms if you’re familiar with that. Begin a prayer, listen, eat, serve, and share is a great way to be a neighbor. Leadership development, I’m going to kick on. I mentioned earlier as the beginning of this that content can’t be the point. Content has to support the transformation, which is the point, but it can’t become the focus. 

Most of our small groups and most of our Sunday schools are content focused. That’s why we ask the question, what are you studying? We need excellent content. And we have a plethora of content. We have a plethora of incredible content. But we’re choosing to make content cane, instead of content and the support of the transformation, which should be king. You can see a follower is made, we pick authors, other people… 

This one’s a book that I helped participate in the writing. The prodigal God, we use other people’s books, because we want to people to come through our experiences to curate their own libraries of the best thought leaders. For followers [inaudible] that’s around developing a Christ centered identity, and a Christ centered worldview, a gospel centered worldview. And leaders [inaudible], we want people to learn how to lead, and to become spiritual influencers of their own right, to get in the game with us and fight.

And so if you took all that, this is the operating system that was mentioned earlier. We call it the IDE, or the intentional disciple making environment. If you don’t write anything else down on this one, please write this one down. Because whether you ever used disciple made tools or not, you can use these ideas. 

We’re outcome focused. You know the outcomes. They’re character and calm. We’re relentless about developing those two things. Because we can make them smart goals. We can help people see whether or not they’re making progress. They’re have it fueled. It’s the habits that bring about the outcomes, like I shared in the illustration with Hannah. It’s not the content that gets the outcomes, it’s actually the content without the habits gets us to the point where we’re so outpaced by what we know that our character can’t catch up. And then, content flavored.

What I mean by content flavored is, the content should be determined by the spiritual formation need of the person at the time. I don’t need an alpha course right now. I need more theology. I need more… Help me understand Jesus more, and help me be more intimate with him. That’s probably what I need now. I don’t need something on the front end. But there are people on the front end. We need to be able to provide content that’s appropriate for their form of spiritual formation. 

You can add outcome focused, you can add habits incrementally into your small groups, into your Sunday schools, whatever it is. And the more your environments have the IDE flavor, the more you will actually seem not just people becoming more alive in Christ, experiencing that John 10:10. But you’ll see more people mobilize to want to join you in ministry. 

Here’s the scores. This is pretty fun. Followers made participants generally report a 60% increase in character and a 300% increase in calling, which is a 540% increase in the spiritual [inaudible]. Now, I’m not sure how big of a deal these numbers mean to you. They’re significant. I got to see the stories, and if I had time I could share the stories. 

I’ll tell you this. At Westside, I had 11 guys go through that very first 12 month experience with me. And after that 12 months, I got them up on the stage in front of our leadership community, and they told their stories, and we had a line of people waiting for a 12 month experience that read through the whole Bible in a year. Just huge, in fact. 

We never announced it from the platform. We never announced these things publicly. It was our commitment to simply raise up leaders, and then get the people that were demanding it, or the people that were volunteering in our ministries to accomplish it.

So, here’s some questions. I hope this has been helpful and meaningful for you. If there’s anything that we can do at Disciples Made to serve you, that’s what we want to do. Thanks for the privilege.

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