How important is it? Early on in Jesus' ministry He chose twelve men. They would become his disciples. He surely didn't choose them just to save them. His vision was that they would become fishermen of people. Jesus immediately realised that His role wasn't only to bring salvation to the world, but also to equip others to do the same things He did after He left.
What will happen to the ministry that God gave you if you were simply removed today? Is there someone that you trained who can take over the work? Or were you so busy, like most church leaders are, with the tasks of the church that you didn't have time to train other leaders? Jesus realised that if He didn't act as mentor for His twelve disciples, there would be no one to continue the work when He wasn't there anymore.
Many leaders see the training of new leaders as a threat to their position in the church. In whose kingdom do we work? If it is only ours, then we will lose it. Small thinking prevents progress.
We often complain that our congregations aren't growing and that members can't share the story of Jesus with others. How many people do you approach on a weekly basis to mentor and equip them? A single person can't equip a congregation with more than 200 members. Our excuse is often a lack of time. Where should we find the time to give special attention to five to ten people?
Jesus often shifted his focus away from the masses to focus on his twelve disciples. He sent them out to do what He had been doing all along. Jesus understood that twelve were better than one. Do we understand this? Or to we think we are the only ones who could do this work?
A good church leader isn't a 'Superman' who can do everything on his or her own – he or she is not a new version of Moses. This ministry is limited to the time, gifts and abilities of one person. Do you have an action plan to equip young leaders in your congregation?
Not only will this lighten the burden of current leaders, but these leaders will be in a better position to do what God expects from them and what He called them for.
Are you a Christian or a disciple?
What do you think of when you hear the word 'Christian'? The early followers of Christ didn't call themselves Christians. 'The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch' (Acts 11:26). Others called them Christians. It wasn't the name they chose for themselves. They were disciples. The word 'Christian' is only found three times in the Bible, but 'disciple' appears 281 times in the New Testament.
Today we describe ourselves as Christians rather than disciples. 'Disciple' explains what a follower of Jesus really is. The problem is that people who call themselves Christians aren't always disciples.
'Disciple' clearly outlines what you become when you believe in Jesus Christ.
1. Disciples leave everything behind to follow Him.
Matthew 4:22 reads: 'and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.' The boat represents their career and their father their most intimate relationship – the two most difficult things to leave behind. If you are a true disciple, Jesus will take preference over your career and your relationships. Not all of us will be faced with such a choice, but at some stage all of us have to decide what is most important in our lives.
To follow Jesus means that I put His sovereignty above everything else. It isn't easy, but that is the sign of a true disciple.
2. Disciples multiply
'This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.' (John 15:8) There is no such thing as a disciple who doesn't bear fruit. In Matthew 28:19–20 we find Jesus' Great Commission to his disciples. The basis of this commission is to 'make disciples of all nations'. The power of the verbs 'go', 'baptising' and 'teaching' is linked to 'make disciples of all nations'. Everything we do, stem from the call to make disciples. The biggest priority is that people should hear about Jesus. We are touched by people's suffering, but we know that the worst suffering is eternal suffering of people who die without accepting Jesus.
Jesus summarises his own ministry as follows: 'For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.' (Luke 19:10) If we are disciples, this should describe our lives as well.
Sleep and the brain
Much has been written about why people need sleep. The truth is that the brain does an astonishing amount of work when we sleep. The brain doesn't 'switch off' when we go to bed. The RAND Research Group recently published an analysis of how sleep affects us and what too little sleep can do to us and the economy.
Recent research has made the reason why we need sleep quite clear. It placed much emphasis on what the brain does while we sleep. Here are a few of those reasons:
1. Sleep improves our memory
Sleep consolidates our long-term memory. This happens when certain nerve connections are strengthened while unnecessary ones are pruned. The brain makes many connections during the day, but not all of them are worth keeping. Sleep is the time when the brain strengthens the connections it needs. Sleep therefore helps us to remember the things we learnt during the day. Unfortunately, sleep does exactly the same with negative memories. It possibly plays a role in depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome.
2. Toxins are removed during sleep
The brain gets rid of toxins faster when we sleep. The lymphatic system of the brain opens up at night and removes some of the toxins. The space between brain cells enlarge during sleep, making the removal of toxins easier. One of the substances that are removed is the β-amiloid protein that is a precursor to Alzheimer's. These proteins and other toxins accumulate during the day before being cleaned out during sleep.
3. Sleep is essential for knowledge
We all know that a lack of sleep influences our cognitive abilities. A lack of sleep can impair our observation, attention and decision-making. It influences our ability to multi-task – the most well-known activity during which we multi-task is driving a car.
4. Creativity requires sleep
If you don't sleep enough, some thoughts are affected more than others. Divergent thinking – thinking 'out of the box' – is one of the first things to disappear when you don't sleep enough. Convergent thinking – like finding the correct answer on a standard test – remains intact. Divergent thinking includes things like fluency, adaptability and originality. Sleep promotes creativity. It has been known for centuries that people come to creative insights while they sleep or just after they wake up.
5. Loss of sleep is intertwined with depression
People with depression often struggle to fall asleep (and sometimes they sleep too much). A lack of sleep probably can't cause depression, but it can surely make it worse. People who sleep less than six and more than eight hours per night are more susceptible to depression. Why? The part of the brain that controls the day-night rhythm is disturbed in people with depression.
Technically speaking, the body doesn't need as much sleep as the brain. Yet a number of physical problems are caused by a lack of sleep. This includes a rise in blood pressure, thyroid hormones and cortisol – the stress hormone.
Sleep is not a luxury – it is essential. The brain will protest if you don't sleep enough. We have to change our attitude towards sleep and give it more attention than it usually gets.
Impossible People – Os Guinness (2016)
Subtitle: Christian courage and the struggle for the soul of Civilization
The Western Church is crumbling before the challenges of our time. These challenges are subtle, but believers should say no to everything that contradicts God's calling. But the courage to say no should follow from a confident yes in favour of the Lord. What is involved here, is the attack on the Jewish and Christian religions and their replacement by progressive secularism.
By contrast, the gospel is exploding in the Southern Hemisphere. The Western church is threatened by aggressive secularism and radical Islam. Christians have to resist these negative cultural forces. What is needed, is for Christians to be willing to face the truth and then react with faith and trust. Os Guinness call these people impossible people.
The focus of this book is the most important challenges for the church in this advanced modern world. It often seems as if Christians are the underdog. But there is only one important voice for believers – the voice of God. We should be willing to follow Jesus and his authority. He believes Christians should learn how to lift their heads up again, despite all the challenges of life in a secular world. We have to stand up and investigate ourselves.
Os Guinness is a senior fellow at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. He is a well-known social critic. He is not a theologist, but rather a sociologist. He recently visited South Africa as a guest of e-church, where he gave lectures.
This book isn't light reading, but well worth the read. It gives us a good overview of the problems that the church faces in the world, as well as possible solutions to these problems.