Why Don’t We All Understand the Bible Alike?

How can everyone read the same Bible and come to different conclusions about what it means? If we’re all reading the same book, why don’t we all believe and practice the same things? Here are some thoughts about why we don’t all understand the Bible alike.



Not the Reason

First of all, you need to give people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t assume they are lazy, ignorant, or rebellious. There are honest, sincere, God-fearing people from every religious tradition. That doesn’t mean, of course, that everyone is equally right or no one is wrong. It just means, typically the problem is NOT people’s motives or work ethic.

Statements like this, “Well, if people would just read their Bibles, they would see it clearly says…” are rarely helpful. After all, the people who disagree with you are probably thinking the same thing. They are thinking you just need to start reading your Bible and you would see they are clearly right.

An Illustration

Imagine there are seven children in a family. Each of the children is a different age and has different things going on in his or her life: one is hungry, one has baseball practice that evening, one is having trouble with a boyfriend, and one just failed his history test.

All seven of the children walk into the kitchen to discover their father is on the phone with their mother, who is out of town for the week. Without interrupting the phone conversation, they decide they will try to glean the information they need by listening to everything their father says to their mother.

They listen as their father asks and answers several questions and they try to piece together an idea of what kind of mood their father is in, what they are going to have for supper, and what the plans are for that evening. It’s easy to see how some of the children will inevitably walk away with differing impressions and understandings.

One reason the children will not understand the conversation alike is that none of them can hear both sides of the conversation. They can only hear what their father is saying, but not their mother’s end of the conversation. Another reason is, they are each asking different questions. They are listening from their unique perspective and trying to understand something about which the other children do not care.

Understanding the Bible Alike

Reading the New Testament is like listening to one side of a telephone conversation. The apostle or evangelist who wrote each book was having a conversation with the original audience, answering their particular questions and addressing their particular problems. This is true for the Gospel accounts, the book of Acts, the epistles, and the book of Revelation. It is even true of the Old Testament.

One reason we struggle to understand the Bible alike is that we are coming to the Bible asking the wrong questions. We are trying to force the Bible to answer our questions, rather than asking, “What issues is the Bible actually addressing and how is it addressing those issues?” The only way to come to similar understandings of the Bible is to start with the same question.

Primary Issues

The primary issues of the Bible are the issues the Bible specifically addresses. These must be our primary concern. Paul wrote:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

The Bible specifically addresses questions about who Jesus is, what His death means, what His resurrection means, and how to become a redeemed citizen of His kingdom.

The things Scripture specifically addresses must be our primary concern. We must strive to understand what the biblical authors were saying to their original audience. Only then will we be able to understand how that message applies to us today.

Secondary Issues

Listening to one side of a phone conversation, the seven children can understand, “Dad told mom he would pick her up at the airport tomorrow evening at 3:00.” The issue of picking mom up at the airport was directly addressed in the conversation, therefore it is a primary issue.

However, the issue of Sarah’s recital that is supposed to take place on the same evening at 4:30 was not directly addressed. How can the children know whether or not their parents will make it to the recital? Though that issue wasn’t specifically addressed, it may be possible to piece together an answer to that question, based on other things that were said.

There are many issues the Bible does not address directly, but we can piece together a proper understanding by taking the whole of Scripture into consideration. We must be very careful with this of course, because it is possible to allow our own bias to cloud our judgement.

Many of these secondary issues revolve around things the biblical authors and audiences took for granted. They didn’t address some issues, because the answers would have been obvious to them based on everything they knew about God and His will.


There are other issues and questions we might call, “non-issues.” These are things Scripture simply doesn’t address either directly or indirectly. Like the children listening to their parents’ conversation, one of them might ask, “What did they say about eating candy?” The honest answer might be, “They didn’t say anything about it.”

How should we approach these non-issues in Scripture? How do we handle issues like whether or not a Christian can – or should – vote in an election, when voting is something never addressed directly or indirectly in Scripture?

We handle these issues with sobriety, humility, reverence for God, grace for our Christian brothers and sisters, love, and a desire to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (see Romans 14 and Ephesians 4).

Bottom Line

We need to start with the question, “What issues is the Bible actually addressing and how is it addressing those issues?” We need to be willing to accept the full implications of what we discover. And we need to be willing to say, when appropriate, “The Bible doesn’t address that issue.”

We will always have differences of opinions, but it is possible to be on the same page about matters of first importance, have a solid understanding of secondary issues, and not let “non-issues” come between us.

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams  April 19, 2017



Be A World Changer in One Minute


So often I look at the dreadful status of the world around me and sigh and wish that I could change things in a significant way. This moves me to join with organizations that are making a difference either through participation or through contribution. That is not a brag… I’m far away from being able to brag about myself in this matter.



I wonder how often we fail to make a difference in the world because we’re always looking at some IMMENSE problem that demands a GIANT solution? What if we could change the world in one minute or less in a simple way?

I don’t know if she knew this was going to happen but Ashley C. Ford (Twitter @iSmashFizzle) did just that back in December. One area that touched her heart was the unpaid lunch debts at the schools around her. So she just made a suggestion in a tweet:

A cool thing you can do today is try to find out which of your local schools have kids with overdue lunch accounts and pay them off. (LINK)

Depending on your experience with Twitter, you may know that thousands of tweets float by in the universe every hour and you won’t see the vast majority of them. But sometimes they catch your eye.

At the time Ashley had  66,000 followers.  Enough of them saw and retweeted so that this simple suggestion began to grow wings.  By now that tweet has been retweeted more than 13,000 times.  Every time it is catching someone’s eyes.

Lindsey Bell noted that Kristina Arwood, a resident from Evansville, Indiana, helped raise $20,000 to pay off lunch debts in her area. She told CBS News, “It really hit home for me. . . . I grew up on free and reduced-price lunches, but even that 40 cents was hard to get together with four kids. There were times I wouldn’t eat because I didn’t have money and didn’t want to be labeled as the poor kid.” (LINK)

The Today Show ran with the story and you can read some of the amazing results of this tweet HERE.

What touches your heart? What is it that catches your breath when you hear about it?

I’ve been blessed to know a number of these influencers. One person I’ve never met in real life but who has had a great influence in my world is Mike Ellis. He’s one of those who doesn’t let anything keep him from reaching out and helping others. Another world changer is Aaron Reddin who was inspired to love the homeless people of Little Rock. His world changing idea was to buy a van and stock it with stuff the homeless need and take it to them. This has grown as others have gotten on board. Or Mike Baumgartner who refurbished an RV and turned it into a kitchen and goes where disaster strikes to make food for victims and helpers…and this has also evolved.  Quincy Gardner has gathered around him an army of helpers who come to the aid of people truly in need.


Stack of Cards from Love in the Mail Group!

I once had an idea that if I could get 100 people to agree to send 1 card with 1 dollar to 1 person per week that we could change the lives of 52 people per year. So I started a group on Facebook called Love in the Mail. We’ve sent cards and dollars to over 100 people now. We still don’t have 100 participants, hovering around 70. But to me that’s a simple plan, a simple idea, that makes a big difference. Let me know if you want to join in!

The one thing all of these people have in common in the beginning is that they had an idea of a way to help someone and they just put it out there. There is, in most people, a heart of compassion that needs an outlet.

So what idea have you had that might change the world in one minute? Why not just tweet it out or share it on Facebook or call a friend and ask if they want to join in? I have a little project right now that I’m about to ask some friends to join in and help. Maybe I can help change someone’s world in one minute.

I’ll be watching for your world-changing idea!

You should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you – Jesus, Matthew 7:12

Thanks for reading. JD


Does the Big Bang need a Creator?

Believer ponders faith and science.


Marcus Robertson | What we’re reading

The heavens under which we sit are full of wonder, mystery and motivation. We attempt to understand through science — the systematic study through observation and experimentation, with the goal of eliminating ignorance and misunderstanding.
Science is based on fact, but too often we treat our theory as fact. Theory is the analysis of a set of facts in relation to one another. Unfortunately, we sometimes use theories in an attempt to explain away our faith. This is false — and wrong.

One of the most famous theories is, of course, the Big Bang theory — an attempt to explain the origins of the universe itself. Though it is a theory that can’t be proved or disproved, many scientists treat it as fact — and have even moved on to determining what happened before the Big Bang. People of faith who accept this theory voice the belief that such a massive, universe-creating event required a divine hand.


Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. The Grand Design. (Reprint edition) New York: Bantam, 2012. 208 pages

One of our greatest scientific minds, Stephen Hawking, disagrees. In “The Grand Design,” he and Leonard Mlodinow argue that God isn’t necessary to explain the origins of the universe, that the Big Bang could be the consequence of physics alone. This, however, only is true if the laws of physics that exist today also existed before the Big Bang.

When scientists use the classical laws of physics to explore the Big Bang, they encounter a singularity — a place where the laws of physics break down, Hawking writes. We do not understand what happened before the universe reached this point. To me, this indicates that a transcendent God is needed to start the universe. Physics alone is not enough.

“What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?” Hawking and many other scientists have asked that question. My response comes from Isaiah 55:8-9: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”

Marcus Robertson was baptized at age 13 at the Bayside Church of Christ in Virginia Beach, Va. He studied at Virginia State University and finished his bachelor’s in communications at Temple University in Philadelphia. He now lives in Durham, N.C., where he worships with the Southside Church of Christ.

WHAT ARE YOU READING? Email submissions to erik@christianchronicle.org.

Marcus Robertson | For The Christian Chronicle

June 2017

A Great Bundle of Troubles — The Untainted Gospel blog

(John Newton) Sometimes I compare the troubles we have to undergo in the course of a year, to a great bundle of sticks far too large for us to lift. But God does not require us to carry the whole at once. He mercifully unties the bundle, and gives us first one stick, which we […]

via A Great Bundle of Troubles — The Untainted Gospel blog

The Shack: A Story On Suffering and Hope — Kingdom Seeking

Last Friday evening I watched the film The Shack directed by Stuart Hazeldine. This film is based on the 2007 novel of the same title by William P. Young. Having read the book, I wanted to see the film too. Like most film adaptations of a book, the movie loses some of the dialogue. Nevertheless, it’s […]

via The Shack: A Story On Suffering and Hope — Kingdom Seeking

K. REX BUTTS Blog Post

Excellent Read!

Fatherhood: The precious, complex decisions that make a great person


I consider it a blessing that our nation marks one Sunday a year to honor fathers.

Bailey McBride | The Christian Chronicle

June 12, 2017

I knew my father was a good man, but I had to be a father myself before I valued all he was to me.

He was very quiet. He never made small talk. He tried to teach me to throw a baseball and a football, but my coordination made those impossible tasks. We had better luck with fishing and golfing, but his greatest contribution to my life was encouraging me to study and get as much schooling as possible. He only finished the eighth grade and always felt the handicap of not having education to advance his career.

My dad was a hard worker. He helped me get through college. He was 75 before he was a believer. I really only got to know the heart of my father after he retired and had traveled for two decades. He lived in a retirement center near me, and we had meals together and talked about life.

The births of my three children were among the happiest events of my life. They all gave me endless joy throughout their childhoods. All three look as if they were stamped out of the same mold, but the differences in their personalities were an education for me. All three were strong enough to challenge my patience and my judgment. They helped me grow socially as I saw them face life and change. They enlarged my world by introducing me to new books, new people and new spiritual depths.


Although I have always considered myself a person of faith, having children expanded and enlarged my faith. All three children were born by caesarian sections, which forced me to trust in God’s guidance for the doctors caring for my wife. In those days, fathers did not touch their babies until they were going home from the hospital.

For seven days with each child I watched, admired and wept over their new life, depending on God to guide doctors and nurses.

My children helped me learn how to have fun and enjoy the simple things. Then they became adolescents. Learning when to direct, when to advise and when to step back taught me how complex each human being is and how precious decisions are in making a great person.

Although I have always considered myself a person of faith, having children expanded and enlarged my faith.

The stage of dating and marriage was the stage where I learned the most. The friends my children brought into my life caused culture shock. I found it hard to remain neutral. Some of them I wanted to keep as friends even after my child moved on. Some confused me. I am thankful my children were wise and understood what they needed and wanted. My sons-in-law (Phil Roe and Patrick Brown) and daughter-in-law (Karen) are amazing, godly people that I love almost as much as the children born to us.

The best part of being a father is that it leads to being a grandfather. That is the greatest truth about family. My eight grandchildren range in age from 13 to 32, and they are the most precious lives I can imagine. Some of the most joyous times of my life have been spent with them. The memories from baseball games, soccer matches, high school graduations, college graduations and international trips are treasures that enlighten my life every day.
Many of you were earning a living for the family while your wife worked at home and devoted most of her time to the children.

Even more of you shared parenting duties while you wife worked and improved the financial strength of the family.

Many fathers devote most of their time to rearing and training children. Fathers have great opportunities and responsibility to help their children become faithful, loving, serving people. Being a father encourages dependence on God. The complexities of guiding physical, social and spiritual growth are too much for mere men. We need God and his guidance every day.

Contact: bailey.mcbride@christianchronicle.org


Fighting the Stigma of PTSD


Col. Rickie Hagan speaks to a group at the Youngsport Church of Christ

‘It’s gonna be raw,’ promises a church member, a veteran, as he discusses coping and Christ.

“God won’t quit on you.”

It’s a lesson that keeps Col. Rickie Hagan going after multiple tours of duty in Iraq — and the trauma that comes with combat, even years after the experience.

Hagan, a member of the Willette Church of Christ in the small Tennessee town of Red Boiling Springs, hopes he can take the lessons he’s learned and use them to help others — military or not — find divine solace for the terror they’ve experienced.


Col. Rickie N. Hagan

“People want you to come back home and leave the wars behind you. Well, it does not work that way,” said Hagan, who served 37 years combined in the U.S. Army Reserve, National Guard and on active duty.

Although he never got in trouble with the law after he returned from the Middle East, Hagan became a prisoner in his own mind.

“I was a mess,” he said. “I had a routine. I would sit by the pool, drink four or five Coronas, take a couple shots of tequila, and the demons would leave me alone.”

Then he hit rock bottom.

Sometime around 2008, after coming home and finding that his dog had, once again, destroyed his water hose, Hagan grabbed his gun and fired. Finally, he realized he needed help. He reached out to get counseling and to learn about healthier ways to deal with the memories that plagued him.

Nine years later, Hagan traveled to Killeen, Texas, to speak about the gritty realities of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury at an event hosted by the Youngsport Church of Christ.

On a flyer for the event, he promised, “It’s gonna be raw!”

Bryan Hodge, left, interviews Col. Rickie Hagan during a discussion of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, hosted by the Youngsport Church of Christ.

The church worships on the front lines of the struggle against PTSD — 15 miles from Fort Hood, home to more than 33,000 active-duty military personnel. Almost everyone in Killeen has firsthand experience with the disorder or knows someone who has, church members told The Christian Chronicle, and most of the church’s 100 members have ties to the military.

“Hardly a week goes by that there is not some news report about the suicide rate, drug abuse or domestic violence that plagues our veterans,” said Bryan Hodge, minister for the Youngsport congregation. “The church should be there to help.

“I believe that Jesus tried to reach out to people by looking at where they’re at, what they’re needs are. We want to show God’s Word provides answers.”
The church invited members of its military community to attend the four-day event, and members plan to host follow-up events, encouraging attendees to come back and learn more about God.

Having an Army colonel as a guest speaker is a rarity, Hodge said. Few high-ranking officers seem willing to talk about PTSD.

Agreeing with this sentiment was Chuck, a church member and retired serviceman who requested that the Chronicle not publish his last name.

“Most people would consider it in a negative term,” Chuck said. “It is my belief every human being who has lived on earth has gone through some type of trauma. How do you deal with it? How do you sustain yourself?”

Awareness is of key importance for Christians who want to help the suffering, Chuck said, but believers also must avoid stigmatizing those impacted by the struggle.

Col. Rickie Hagan speaks to a crowd during a recent event at the Youngsport Church of Christ.Those recovering from trauma often need counseling and support — and hope, he said. “And that’s what Christianity does. It provides hope.”

That hope, Hagan said, got him through his darkest days. Now he wants to pass it on to others.

“God didn’t put us here to merely exist,” he said. “Everyone, from the beginning of time, Adam and Eve, had problems. There’s nothing we can do to hide from the world.”

Chellie Ison | The Christian Chronicle

April 25, 2017

The church is people, and people matter

Carl and Carrie Royster

Carl Royster discusses the challenges of compiling an accurate count of ‘Churches of Christ in the United States’

Almost every church has a “deacon of the count” — someone who pokes his head into Bible classes and tallies the number of attendees.

Carl Royster does that for the whole country.

As part of Nashville, Tenn.-based 21st Century Christian, he serves as system administrator and data compiler for “Churches of Christ in the United States,” a directory produced every three years by the publishing company.

He has deep roots in the fellowship. Ancestors on his father’s side launched the Knob Creek Church of Christ in Graves County, Ky., in 1834 — believed to be the oldest extant congregation in the Jackson Purchase area. His father and grandfather were preachers, serving Churches of Christ in Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Royster found a different way to serve the church, graduating from Lipscomb University in Nashville with a degree in computer information systems in 1989 — the same year he started working with 21st Century Christian. He worked alongside Lipscomb professor Mac Lynn as Lynn compiled the 1997 edition of the directory. Lynn turned the work over to 21st Century Christian after the 2003 edition. The newly released 2015 edition is Royster’s fourth as data compiler.

“To what degree should statistics matter in the church?” Royster asks in the book’s introduction. “The church is people, and people matter.”

Royster is a member of the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies and has previously served on its board of directors. The association produces the Religious Congregations and Membership Study, or RCMS, every 10 years. It’s the only county-level religious census produced since the U.S. Census Bureau stopped collecting such data about 1940. The data Royster compiles for “Churches of Christ in the United States” is recorded in the RCMS.

Royster’s wife Carrie, is project coordinator for 21st Century Christian. They worship with the Pegram Church of Christ in Tennessee, where Carl Royster assists in youth ministry. They have two daughters, ages 22 and 19.

“First and foremost, I am but a sinner,” he says when describing himself. “However, I am also loved by God, and I am saved by his grace through the blood of his Son. All praise and glory go to him.”

How are you able to collect so much information for thousands of congregations?
The key to it all is the kind cooperation received from thousands of Christian brothers and sisters all over the country. Without their thoughtful consideration and the time that they volunteer, it would be impossible to conduct such a project.

Of course, Dr. Mac Lynn laid the groundwork — basically starting from scratch in the early 1970s. He traveled extensively, visited congregations, spoke with church members, obtained directories, made numerous telephone calls and wrote many letters. It is one of the reasons that I say that “Churches of Christ in the United States” will forever be his work.

Mailing out data update forms to congregations continues to provide much of the information. The Internet provides extensive amounts of valuable resources and communication avenues. Periodicals occasionally provide information, while other times it may come from a church ordering materials from 21st Century Christian’s bookstore. Basically, I am happy to get it any way I can.

What criteria do you use to identify what is a “Church of Christ?”

In any historical, statistical project such as this one it is vitally important that one adhere as much as possible to the project’s defined scope.

Dr. Lynn’s purpose, defined in the early 1970s, was for a current “united” national directory and statistical record of the a cappella Churches of Christ — as none existed at the time.

That purpose remains the same today. The scope that defines the collected data, as stated in the directory, is simply this: “A continuing effort to provide a compilation of current information relative to those congregations aligned with the ‘Restoration Movement’ or ‘Stone-Campbell Movement,’ which have been historically known for their a cappella worship.”

Despite what some think and others even request, the presence or exclusion of a congregation has never been based on any doctrinal views.
How do you verify the accuracy of church size information? 

Sometimes that is easy. Sometimes it is not. After processing tens of thousands of updates for many years, one develops a kind of “feel” for what is going on. Some churches are blessed with members who are very thorough and frequent with their information. Some are more apt to give round, yet fairly accurate figures, while others simply refuse to provide any numerical statistics for one reason or another.

Reported figures are not simply taken at face value. If something does not “feel right,” then some investigation is done to validate (or disprove) what was reported.

For the most part, however, I am relying significantly upon what someone from a congregation reports.

What insights into Churches of Christ have you gained from this project? 

Definitely too many to discuss here, but one thing I think that we all need to realize is that declining attendance and membership is a problem much greater than so many of the issues that have been debated for so long.

The thing that concerns me the most is the ever-increasing number of people who believe in God, identify themselves as Christians, but choose to have no affiliation to any church of any kind.

The younger generations increasingly are buying in to the worldly idea of “it’s just you and Jesus,” “you don’t need a church family,” “have it your way,” “whatever works for you,” “there’s an app for that!”
What other information have you considered including? 

My goal, always, is to make the next edition better than the one before. I receive several requests and suggestions from readers.

As churches incorporate new technology, communication methods or particular characteristics (such as the multi-campus churches introduced in the 2015 edition), I make note of what I observe. These are all evaluated and discussed with other staff here at 21st Century Christian and/or Dr. Lynn.

Anything deemed to be in keeping with the spirit of the project — and a useful improvement to the content — is selected, including statistical data, communication tools, congregationally described characteristics or historical information.

Lynn McMillon and Erik Tryggestad | Christian Chronicle

April 2015

What makes a church work? Five traits to consider.

Minister Steve Cloer surveyed leaders of 25 ‘Churches That Work,’ looking for trends to help Christians live missionally.


Steve Cloer | For The Christian Chronicle

May 2015


What does an elder need to be doing to help his church be outwardly focused? What about the minister? How should elders and ministers work together to help their congregation be on mission?

Views | Steve Cloer

In the past three years, I have researched these questions, with assistance from The Christian Chronicle’s “Churches That Work.”

Since 2005, the Chronicle has highlighted Churches of Christ that — while not perfect — are examples of “evangelistic, biblical, united and visible” congregations.

I surveyed the elders and ministers of 25 of these congregations, asking them about their personal background, individual leadership practices, what the elders and ministers did together at their congregation and how they understood their roles. I also asked them to rate their congregation on certain missional behaviors such as hospitality, risk-taking, service and evangelism. More than 100 elders and ministers responded.

I then ranked the congregations based on how the leaders responded and visited the four congregations with the highest rank. I sat down with the preacher, the elders and the other ministers on staff. I observed their worship assembly and, when possible, their elders’ meetings.

I gathered my notes from my visits and analyzed the survey to see if there were any common themes that emerged. Were there certain patterns that the elders and ministers exhibit that foster a missional focus in their congregations?

I found five.

1. The elders functioned as nurturing pastors. Elders focused their attention on people. Rather than dwelling on budgets, buildings and programs, they spent the majority of their time with people. They prayed often for people. They encouraged people. They were available.

The net effect was a nurturing, stable environment where the church felt empowered — instead of controlled — to step out in faith as disciples of Christ.

2. The ministers functioned as missional catalysts. The elders’ focus on pastoring creates space for the minister to gently push the congregation to live God’s missional vision. This happens in a variety of ways.

One minister consistently described to the congregation what God is doing among them and their neighborhood in hopes of inviting the congregation to participate.

Another concentrated on mentoring, teaching and equipping members to be missionaries where God places them.

There are other avenues, but all the ministers consistently kept the idea in front of the church that God calls them to something bigger than just taking care of themselves.

3. The ministers and elders functioned as a team. They developed a high level of trust and respect for one another. They understood one another’s roles and giftedness. They were not envious or power-hungry. Rather, they relied on each other.

This teamwork develops through longevity. The ministers at the four churches I visited had been at their congregations for at least 20 years.

Also, they spent plenty of informal time together — in recreation or fellowship. In fact, one minister described his elders as if they were his family. This teamwork produced a harmony as the elders pastored and the ministers led toward God’s missional vision.

4. Leaders walked through the wilderness. Maybe the most surprising result was that all four churches that I visited had moments of wilderness, or spiritual difficulty. They shared with me about church splits, elder resignations, staff moral failures and theological controversies that created difficult moments in the past.

But what set these churches apart was how they handled the wilderness. They did not react by making surface-level changes or knee-jerk decisions. Rather, they continued to trust God’s leadership. They looked to God to see what he was teaching them. As a result, the wilderness actually became preparatory and formative for the future doors that God opened for their congregation.

5. The church cultivated a missional identity. In many ways, this is the result of the other four trends. Because of the pastoring, missional leadership, teamwork and time in the wilderness, the four congregations found unique ways to engage their local context.

One congregation created a missional culture through short-term mission experiences and participation in local mission efforts.

Another congregation focused on equipping enlisted men and women from a nearby military base for ministry. As a result, this church sent out 500 disciples in 10 years.

One church had an “inside-out” strategy. They worked hard to be a sign and foretaste to the reign of God. So, when new people walked in, they would say, “God is present here!”

These five patterns are not ground-breaking or earth-shattering. But they do illuminate a path.

What should leaders be doing to help their church engage the mission of God in their neighborhood?

• If you are an elder, love the people of your church. Be a good pastor by creating an environment where the congregation feels free — not restricted — to follow God’s call and live as a missional disciple.

• If you are a minister, 
recognize your role as a witness of the Gospel. Spend time in the neighborhood and community to see what God is doing. Begin to cast God’s vision of redemption, and challenge the congregation to participate.

As both sets of leaders work together as a team following God’s lead — even through the wilderness — God’s spirit will form congregations into a missionary people.

Steve Cloer is preaching minister for the Southside Church of Christ in Fort Worth, Texas — featured in this month’s “Churches That Work.” He is completing his Doctor of Ministry in Congregational Mission and Leadership from Luther Seminary. He and his wife, Lindsay, have three children. Email him.



As we seek to make disciples, do we need to be discipled?

Melissa Anderson | The Christian Chronicle

February 2017

Melissa Anderson | What We’re Reading

I’m in the middle of two books: “Multiply” by Frances Chan and “Radical” by David Platt. Both focus on how Jesus called Christians to make disciples among the people.

Francis Chan. Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples. Colorado Springs, Colo: David C. Cook Publishing, 2012. 336 pages.

As I study, I’m somewhat convicted that there are more things I could — and should — be doing. But mostly, if I’m being honest, I feel pretty good about the work I’m doing. I spend time helping others. I set a good example. I’m vocal about my beliefs. My faith is strong. My prayer life is strong. I’m studying a good deal.

Really, I’m in a good place.

As I think about ways I can disciple others, it starts to hit me. All of these things I feel good about doing also are things that other people do for me. Others share their faith with me. They pray for me. They study with me. Are they discipling me? Do I need to be discipled? Yes, in fact, I do.

David Platt. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. Colorado Springs, Colo: Multnomah, 2010. 240 pages.

It’s extremely humbling, but all of us need someone to show us how to become even more like Christ. We will never reach a point where we don’t need to learn more about him and his ways.

My problem with this is my pride. I don’t want to be discipled. I don’t like the idea of people doing things for me out of a sense of obligation. I don’t like the idea that someone would look at me and see a sin or a flaw that needs work. I don’t like the idea of being someone’s project.

The truth is that I need those who are wiser in their faith than I am to guide me. I need someone to point out my sin when I can’t see it for myself. It’s tough to acknowledge that we are flawed, that we need each other. It’s tough to let others take care of us. It’s tough to be discipled.

As I read these books, my focus isn’t only on how I can apply them toward making disciples of others, but also how I can be more open to allowing others to make a stronger disciple out of me. It isn’t about me anyway. It’s about God and bringing him glory.

MELISSA ANDERSON is a military spouse of 18 years. She and her husband, Joshua, have three children and worship with the Gateway Church of Christ in Pensacola, Fla. She has a Master of Business Administration degree and is pursuing a master’s in marriage and family therapy.

WHAT ARE YOU READING? Share your thoughts on the books, music and films that inform, influence or impact your faith. Send your suggestions to erik@christianchronicle.org