Great Questions to Ask Your Mentoree/Disciple

[Bobb Biehl is a personal and organizational leadership expert – below are some great questions to go over = personally; with your staff, team, mentoree, small group, disicple/s, etc.]

(Adapted from Bobb Biehl, Mentoring, pp. 201-202)

 DREAMING…about the Future in a Practical Way

  1. God: What three changes in me would most please our Eternal God in His Holy Heaven?
  1. Dream/Purpose: What can I do to make the most significant difference for God in my lifetime? Why am I on the earth? What is the very best organizational context for my dream?
  1. Primary Result: What is the single best measurable indicator that I am making progress with my dream?
  1. Life Priorities: If I could accomplish only three measurable priorities before I die, what would I accomplish?
  1. Ten-Year Focus: If I could accomplish only three measurable priorities in the next ten years what would make a 50% difference in my life-long contribution, what would I accomplish?
  1. Annual Focus:
    • Focus – What single word best captures the focus of my next year?
    • Opportunity – Where was my greatest unexpected success last year? Why? What three steps could I take now to take full advantage of this “Window of Opportunity” this coming year?
    • Land Mines – What three land mines or roadblocks need my immediate attention? What have I been praying most about in the past 30 days? What three changes could reduce my “risk” by 50%?
    • 30/10/50% – If I could only accomplish three measurable priorities in the next twelve months that would make a 50% difference in my contribution in the next ten years, which 3 things would I most want to accomplish?
  1. Quarterly Focus: What three measurable priorities could I accomplish in the next ninety days to make a 50% difference in the results I see by the end of the year?
  1. Organization: What three categories could I make to see a 50% difference in our morale as a family or team?
  1. Cash: If I had to cut my budget 21%, what would be the first three things to go? If I got a surprise gift of 21% of my budget, what three things would I do immediately?
  1. Quality: What three changes could improve the quality of my work by 50% in the next twelve months?

Bobb Biehl is an executive mentor. He graduated from Michigan State University (psychology major) in 1964 and received a Master’s degree (counseling) from Michigan State in 1966.

In 1976, Bobb founded Masterplanning Group International. As its president, he has consulted personally with over 400 clients. In that time, he has met one-on-one with over 3,500 executives (board members, senior executives, and staff members) and invested an estimated 40,000 hours in private sessions with some of the finest leaders of our generation. His clients are primarily large or fast-growing churches, nonprofit organizations, for profit corporations, and government agencies.

Based on these thousands of hours of practical “rubber-meets-the-runway” experience, Bobb has originated 35 resources (books, tapes, notebooks) in the area of personal and organizational development. These resources include published books entitled Boardroom Confidence, Dreaming, Leading with Confidence, Masterplanning, Mentoring, Stop Setting Goals, and Why You Do What You Do. His latest book, Dreaming Big, is co-authored with Dr. Paul Swets.

Bobb is a founding member of the board of directors of Focus on the Family. He is also a member of the board of directors of Liquid Metal (publicly traded). Prior to starting Masterplanning Group, Bobb was on the executive staff of World Vision International. While at World Vision he designed and developed the Love Loaf program, which has raised millions of dollars worldwide.

Bobb and his wife, Cheryl, have been married since 1964.

Good Acronym for Life Applications from the Bible by Rick Warren

The “S.P.A.C.E.  P.E.T.S” Acronym

 WHEN STUDYING THE BIBLE ASK THE FOLLOWING 9 QUESTIONS: “Is There Any?”

Sin to confess? Do I need to make restitution with anyone?

Promise to claim? Is it a universal promise? Have I met the conditions of the promise?

Attitude to change? Am I willing to work on changing my attitude to a Christ-like one?

Command to obey? Am I willing to do it no matter how I feel?

Example to follow? Is there a positive example to copy or a negative one to avoid?

Prayer to pray? Is there anything I need to pray back to God?

Error to avoid? Is there any problem that I should be aware of, or alert to?

Truth to believe? What can I learn about the character or nature of God?

Something to praise God for? What can I be thankful or grateful for?

How To Build a Church “Of” Rather Than Just “With” Small Groups

BUILDING A CHURCH OF SMALL GROUPS – Willow Creek Community Church: A Case Study

(These are notes I [DPC]  took from the excellent book pictured above – Building A Church of Small Groups co-authored by Bill Donahue & Russ Robinson. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005)

A PLACE WHERE NOBODY STANDS ALONE – By Bill Donahue & Russ Robinson

Willow Creek CC story –  “The people that we had worked with so hard to win to Christ were having an increasingly difficult time making the church a part of their life and making themselves a part of the church’s life. In many cases people couldn’t connect meaningfully to the church, but only about 10-15% of our congregation could get connected into one of those smaller settings (p. 11).”

Community – “It means first, that a Christian needs others because of Jesus Christ. It means second, that a Christian comes to others only through Jesus Christ. It means, third, that in Jesus Christ we have been chosen from eternity, accepted in time, and united for eternity.” ([Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Life Together, p.21] quoted on pp. 11-12)

New Vision for WCCC: “We began moving from a church where small groups were optional to a church where small groups defined the core organizational strategy (p. 12).”

Elder’s Comment: “We loved the movement of the HS, the changed lives, the catalytic energy, the sense of awe as we saw God at work; but we hated the disorderly organizational dynamics, burned-out staff and lay leadership, displaced people, and undisciplined masses (p. 13).”

The End Result:  “WCCC since 1992 (as of 2001) has gone from a church with small groups—that is, small groups being one of our programs—to being a church of small groups. Instead of 10-15% of the congregation connected into a small group, we have become a place where over 18,000 individuals are connected in 2,700 small groups (p. 14).”

 Part 1: Making the Case for Community

C1 – In the Beginning God: The Theological Evidence

  • “The Theological case for community depends on three basic ideas: First, God exists in community; He has forever existed as and will into eternity remain three persons in One. Second, God was incarnate in Jesus, whose transformational relationships offer a model you cannot ignore. Third, Jesus dreams of oneness for all Christians, which is why you must move your church toward His vision (P. 21).”
  • God is a plurality of oneness – “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…(Gen. 1:26).” And … “The LORD our God, the LORD is one (Deut. 6:4).”
  • The Small Group is a generic form of human community that is transcultural, trans-generational and even transcendent. The call to human gathering in groups is a God-created (ontological) and God-directed (theological) ministry, birthed out of the very nature and purpose of God’s being. God as Being exists in community. The natural and simple demonstration of God’s communal image for humanity is the gathering of the small group (p. 22 quoting Garth Icenogle, from Biblical Foundations for Small Group Ministry, p. 13)
  • True community is both horizontal and vertical – like the bars on the cross…they meet in the center, when we experience God and all of His fullness and His people in all their fullness.
  • The Importance of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20-21, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they all may be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in You, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
  • “This concern for the survival of the church down through the ages provides the explanation for the anguished tones of Jesus’ prayer. He knew that if the church should fail to demonstrate community to the world. It would fail to accomplish its mission, because the world would have reason to disbelieve the gospel (vv. 21, 23). According to that prayer, the most convincing proof of the truth of the gospel is the perceptible oneness of his followers (Quoting from Gilbert Bilezekian’s, Community 101, p. 37 [p. 32])

C2 – Created for Community: The Sociological Evidence

1)   SG’s provide strength for life’s storms – Many of the heroes of the faith (e.g. David @ Jonathan) survived adversity through faith and community.

  • Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, “Two are better than one…if one falls down, his friend can pick him up.” ; John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble;” Romans 12:15, “Weep with those who weep;” Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ;” Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

2)    SG’s provide wisdom when we face important decisions.

  • Proverbs 15:22, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.”

3)   SG’s provide accountability and offer us acceptance while we change.

  • Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”

4)   SG’s provides acceptance that help heal our wounds.

  • Interesting point: “When you talk to people about their families, you’ll discover a startling truth few want to admit. Many people experience more pain than love and acceptance in their families (p. 42).”
  • John 15:12-13, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

C3 – What the Church Needs to Grow: The Organizational Evidence

  • Two Principles: 1) Your church will best meet each member’s needs by honoring each leaders “span of care” (i.e. this principle insures that everyone is cared for, but no one cares for too many people); 2) the church cannot function as God intends unless people see themselves as members of one body.
  • “Reorganizing your congregation into a church of small groups is hard work. You need to present the organizational case to every segment of your church, including your ministries to children and adults, couples and singles, men and women, jocks and computer geeks, the mature and the emotionally unstable, the leaders and the newly converted. But span of care  (Exodus 18) can help your church achieve reorganization.
  • “Coach” is the term that WCCC uses for their leaders of small groups…
  • “We at WC had no way to achieve this level of care until we put span of care to work by organizing everyone into small groups. We designated leaders to care for groups of children, women, men, couples, and families. Coaches care for leaders, and coaches receive care from staff leaders (p.49).”
  •  “As everyone works together, God transforms individual lives, creating the kind of oneness experienced in the Trinity, the kind of community Christ dreams for us (p. 49).” Two key passages: 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 & Ephesians 4:3-7, 11-16
  • “I can tell you this: sizzling services, extra ministry programs, or new curricula will not transform yours into a church where people really do build each other up in love, ‘as each part does its work.’ The churches that come closest to this ideal share a common vision and practice. Their leaders—senior pastor, staff, elders, key volunteers—our bold enough to imagine the seemingly impossible. They believe the church can experience oneness by transforming people through community. And these leaders have recognized that small groups are the key, the common practice, for realizing the vision. They have taken action (p. 51).”

Part 2: Pursuing Community in Small Groups

C4 – Small Groups Are Built on Authentic Relationships

  • “Small groups are microcosms of God’s creation community. Wherever two or more persons come together, they become an actual reflection of the image and likeness of God. Small groups are the basic arena for either imaging the redeeming presence of God or projecting destructive human systems. Every small or large gathering of humanity exists in this tension of manifesting an inhuman structure or embodying divinely redemptive relationships.” – Gareth Icenogle, Biblical Foundations of SG Ministry
  • Key elements of authenticity: Growing in community; Self-disclosure; Care-giving; humility; truth-telling; & affirmation

C5 – Small Groups Are Places Where Truth Meets Life

  • Truth-Focused Groups = Know the right answers to the right questions; Focus on information—“What does it mean? Reward members for being right; Community is built on the principle of agreement; the goal is a well-informed student.
  • Life-Focused Groups = Know the right answers to personal problems; focus on introspection—“How do I feel?” Reward members for being real; Community is built on the principle of acceptance; The goal is a well-understood self
  • Transformation-Focused Groups = Know the truth about God and me; Focus on transformation—How am I becoming like Christ? Reward members for being on honest with God and others; Community is built on the principle of authenticity; The goal is a well-ordered heart.

C6 – Small Groups Experience Healthy Conflict

  • Setting Boundaries for Managing Group Conflict:

1)   If it happens in the Group, Process it in the group.

2)   The Leader is responsible for Process, Not Outcomes

3)   Validate the conflict

4)   The conflict does not need to be resolved at this meeting

5)   Conflict Must be processed with trust and confidentiality

  • Confronting an individual:

1)   Start as soon as possible

2)   Meet face to face

3)   Affirm the relationship

4)   Make observations, not accusations

5)   Get the facts

6)   Promote resolution

  • The “A” Guidelines for Confession:

1)   Address everyone involved (Ps. 32:5; Luke 19:8; James 5:16)

2)   Avoid using “if,” “but,” and “maybe.” What excuses or blaming do you need to avoid?

3)   Admit specifically what was done or said (Ezra 9:5-15)

4)   Apologize: How might others feel as a result of your sin?

5)   Accept the consequences (Luke 15:9; 19:8)

6)   After your behavior. What changes do you intend to make, with God’s help, in the way you think, speak, and behave in the future? (Matt. 3:8; Acts 26:20)

7)   Ask for forgiveness and allow time. What might make the person whom you have wronged reluctant to forgive you?

C7 – Small Groups Provide Well-Balanced Shepherding

  • Bill Hybels, “Of all the things Jesus could have said concerning Peter’s ministry (referring to John 21:15-19), he said, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He told Peter to get some people and train them up in the school of life, to nurture them, and to guide them. Jesus made time in his life to tend a little flock. And if he were here today, above all else, he would make the time to tend a little flock. So, if you are a small group leader, or a leader of leaders, and you are making time to tend a little flock, you are doing Jesus’ work. Any time you wonder whether you are having any impact on the kingdom, remember that tending a flock reflects the very heart of God and his plan of redemption for the world (p. 109).”

Part 3: Developing Leaders of Small Groups

C8 – Enlisting Small Group Leaders

  • Look at who they ARE: Affections; Reputation; & Expectations
  • Affections: People suited to leadership love God, people, truth, and the church. The greatest gifts a leader can give to a small group are a relationship with Christ and the passion to be more like Him.
  • Reputation: A person’s reputation offers clues to that person’s preparation for leadership. Make it a point to meet people close to the potential leader. Inquire what they think of the person’s character, trustworthiness, and way of relating to others. Ask people to assess a candidate’s leadership potential. Do they believe the person could grow toward leadership? Why or why not? Have they served others or the church in ways that produce effective fruits of ministry?
  • Expectations: Make sure candidates understand and support expectations for service. As you discuss what senior staff, elders, or other key lay leaders expect form a small group leader, look especially for people who commit themselves to participating in membership, respect spiritual authority, and pursue life-long learning.
  • Where do you look for leaders? This is a trick question. Rather than look for leaders, we encourage churches to look for people. There’s always a greater supply of people than of obvious leaders. Some of these people will eventually emerge as leaders.

C9 – Training Small Group Leaders

During Meetings:           Between Meetings:

Gather – invite current or potential members into community Build intimacy, transparency, and authentic relationships in the group Build friends with existing group members and seek to invite new ones
Develop – Take each person the next step in spiritual growth or leadership Create a place where truth meets life Shepherd members and develop apprentice leaders
Serve – Complete ministry tasks together Plan and prepare for strategic serving opportunities Serve personally outside the group or serve together as a group

C10 – Coaching and Supporting Leaders

The Role of the Coach

 

Huddle

Visiting the Group

One-on-One

Leadership Development:

  • Vision casting
  • Skills
  • Apprentices

Lead

Affirm

Care

Pastoral Care:

  • Spiritual
  • Relational
  • Personal

and

and

and

Ministry Support & Expansion:

  • Prayer
  • Affirmation
  • Resources

Model

Observe

Develop

C11 – Make Decisions

5 Questions that Must Be Asked in order to Become a Church of Small Groups:

1)   Will we become a church of small groups?

2)   Who will be the point leader?

3)   What will be our long-term structure?

4)   How will we develop enough leaders?

5)   From where are we starting?

Regardless of your design, you will find that you need a number of leaders equal to 25-30% of the number of people connected in groups. That high percentage includes those who are apprentices or rising apprentices, people who are intentionally being developed as emerging leaders. Thus, a group of 10 will have a leader, an apprentice, and maybe one or two others the leader hopes to develop as future leaders.

  • A church built on SG’s will need a lot of volunteers.
  • You need to invest in many volunteer leaders.
  • You will give away ministry to an increasing corps of lay ministers.
  • There is good news: the ownership of the congregation’s life will expand.

What Are Our Core Values?

  • Building relationships: How much do parishioners naturally care for each other?
  • Loving lost people: Are people inclined toward outsiders?
  • Truth telling: Does your congregation acknowledge and deal with conflict?
  • Mutual ministry: What is the current lay ministry quotient?
  • Accountability: Is there enough vulnerability and submission to grow?
  • Commitment: Do people own the church’s mission and act like it? 

Five Major Types of Small Groups:

Disciple-Making Groups Community Groups Service Groups Seeker Groups Support Groups
Members Believers in a structured discipleship process Believers & non-believers Believers & non-believers Predominantly nonbelievers Believers & non-believers
Curriculum A set curriculum Leaders work with Coaches to choose curriculum Leaders work with Coaches to choose curriculum Determined by questions from the group Determined by the ministry leaders
Open Chair Used at breaks in curriculum Used regularly to add members Used regularly to add members Always has an open chair Used primarily to form new groups
Emphasis Develop spiritual disciplines, memorize Scripture, disciple others Build community, invite new members Complete the task, invite new members Lead people to Christ, disciple new converts To support members as they work through personal difficulties
Multiplication Apprentice leads new disciple-making group Groups grow and birth after 24 to 36 months Groups grow and birth at variable rates depending on the task Apprentice leads new seeker group or new believers group Apprentices are trained to form new groups
Duration 18 to 24 months Continue to grow and birth Continue to grow and birth Average length is about one year Varies depending on personal needs and the purpose of the group
  • “In SG ministry, your strategy must account for span of care. Open groups will aid your journey. Varied entry points will give everyone ways to connect in an aligned ministry. A self-perpetuating leadership corps will grow into shepherding the whole flock effectively, especially as you intentionally cultivate spiritual growth and contextualize your growth model (p. 193).” 

C12 – Choose a Strategy

Stephen Bartman, Hyperculture, “When we come home at the end of the day, it may not be just work we bring with us, but also our high-speed frustrations and electronic expectations. In short, we may come to expect the imperfect human beings in our lives to operate as efficiently as our equipment, quickly losing patience with those we might otherwise love because they do not answer as swiftly, or respond as rapidly, or obey as readily as the machines we know.

Four Lessons for Ministry Alignment (p. 186):

First, communication is critical. “We failed to communicate adequately with leaders of the “church with” version of small groups. We didn’t explain often enough or deeply enough about how they would fit within the new infrastructure. Instead of building on our strong foundation, we alienated a key audience—then we had to win them back.”

Second, stay flexible. “Whatever strategy you choose needs a ‘loose-tight balance.’ You need a uniform set of standards and definite understanding of what constitutes group life and what does not. Yet, the ministry-by-ministry expression of groups must permit increased variety in meeting every person’s need and readiness for community.”

Third, balance patience with restlessness. “It took us seven years to organize every part of the church on a full small groups foundation. Sometimes we made partial gains, backed off until change was accepted, then returned to chip away again. As one minister observed: ‘We are in year twelve of a twenty-year vision, and we are going to have to extend it beyond that.’ Alignment takes time.”

Fourth, Confrontation is essential. Speak the truth in love.

C13 – Phasing in the Small Group Ministry 

The Model Phase: The best way to embed community values into a small group ministry is to model them yourself. If your church is just beginning small groups, start with a few model groups, led (ideally) by the senior pastor and/or other key church leaders.

Turbo Groups: ratchet up the model group concept. Turbo groups are SG’s filled with apprentice leaders. In other words, everyone in the group is expected to someday lead his or her own group. Thus a turbo group functions as both a real small group and a training group. 

The following will help your turbo groups succeed:

  • Turbo groups must build authentic community. This is not simply a training group. These people must understand and practice community or they will never reproduce it in their own groups.
  • Turbo groups must experience all components of a regular group. They need to practice the open chair, identify apprentice leaders, create places where truth meets life, build authentic relationships, and appropriately handle conflict—so that the same things will take place in the next set of groups.
  • Turbo groups must seize teachable moments. In these groups, leadership lessons are often caught, not taught. It is appropriate in the context of a turbo group to pause and say, “Let’s talk about what just happened—and why—in the last ten minutes.” Or, leaders might ask, “Why did I do this? What did you see me doing that was good or needs improving?”
  • Turbo groups take time. Turbo groups probably need at least 9-12 months to appropriately train new leaders. It can happen more quickly if the group meets weekly or if leaders have prior small group experience. However, brand new leaders may need as long as eighteen to twenty-four months of preparation.

The Pilot Phase: After firmly establishing your core values and clarifying your small group development model, you are ready for the pilot group phase. This is a learning phase for a limited number of groups. New to the nature and meaning of small group community, many people will be wary of long-term commitments. During this phase, you start a limited number of small groups that last just 9-12 months. The time limit is a safety net; it gives everyone a chance to pause, evaluate, and redesign.

The Start-Up Group Phase: Your leaders have modeled appropriate values during the model/turbo group phase. You’ve run new groups through a pilot phase to discover difficulties. Now you can give the “green light” to starting small groups throughout the church. The start-up group phase is the final phase before going public. You are now giving permission for interested people to develop groups and explore leadership.

  • During the start-up phase, you will need a training strategy so emerging groups and leaders can learn more skills. You will need regular leadership gatherings and an annual retreat. But this is still not the time to go public. It’s too soon for weekly pulpit exhortations about joining small groups, because your structure isn’t ready for the potential response.

Going Public:

  • Don’t go public until you have enough leaders and infrastructure in place to handle the response.
  • For the traditional groups transition from big groups to more communal and relationally oriented groups.

Have You Developed an Intentional Life Plan?

[The very helpful resource below is similar to the Vertical Life Plan that I have developed to help people live more intentionally with Christ at the center of all of life for the ultimate glory of God. I highly recommend that you get a Bible, a journal, and slip away to a quiet place to work through this Life Plan. Ideally, if you can get away for a day or two in a quiet place where you will have minimal disturbances or distractions you will find that God can really meet you in a powerful way and release you on a rejuvenating and reinvigorating journey with Him and for Him. I would also highly recommend that you go through this inventory with a trusted friend, pastor, life-coach, or mentor for some honest accountability and encouragement to give your life focus, direction, and faithfulness to God’s calling on your life – DPC]

 

 “LIFE PLAN” by Dr. Martin Sanders

It’s been called “MIDLIFE crisis,” “midlife reevaluation,” “midcourse adjustment,” “crunch-time” and many other things. When you reach a place in your life where it becomes clear either to you or to the people around you that it’s time for you to do an assessment, where do you start?

This tool is designed for self-evaluation and reflection. You may want to have others [like a professional life coach, pastor, or trusted friend] assist you in the process. Realize that not every section will be the most pertinent for you, but seek to go through each of them in a thoughtful and reflecting manner. This process may take you a few hours or, for some, a few days. It may cause you to reflect, find hope or maybe even shed some tears. It is designed to assist you in more effectively evaluating the best of who you are and how to reach your life dream in life.

Whether it’s time for a change in lifestyle or career or simply a time for you to reevaluate how to do what you do more effectively and more efficiently, this life plan is designed to help you move from your original dream through the developmental stages of assessment to finally arrive as a future dream.

Original Dream

Describing your original dream takes you to a place of ultimate impact and fulfillment. It’s a place where your life has maximum meaning. Almost everyone has a dream, but the fear of failure and concern about finances are often limitations. The purpose of this exercise is to help you figure our what it is that really captures your imagination, how you can be used the most and then how you can take steps to fulfill that original dream.

(1)  God back to a time in your life—high school, college or some other time—when you were dreaming your original dream. Begin to define or describe that dream.

(2)  What really excites you about your dream?

(3)  Do you possess the necessary resources—education, experience, discipline, courage, confidence, finances, etc., –to fulfill your dream? If not, can you secure them?

(4)  Do you think in terms of success n life or personal significance and influence? Do you think in terms of financial success or personal or spiritual impact?

(5)  How clear is your sense of dream? Is it very undefined? Is there a general sense to it? Are there general steps for it to be accomplished?

(6)  What are two or three steps you could take to get you started on defining, discovering and fulfilling your original dream?

Your Gifts And Calling

Gifts/Passions. When you assess your areas of gifting, it’s not just about reflecting on what you’ve done. It’s also important to look at areas that you’ve not yet developed. Look past successes and failures. Look at issues of confidence, or lack thereof, to see if they are holding you back. Also, look not only at your experiences, but also at your passion and your dreams. Then look at issues of your temperament, the time availability you have and your personal and spiritual maturity. This will help you figure out what your gifting and passion are and how you can best invest your life.

(1)  What do you like to do?

(2)  What have you been successful at?

(3)  What is the primary passion of your life? What do you dream about when you give yourself time and permission to dream?

(4)  Of the experiences you have had in the last five years, which ones have captured your imagination most?

(5)  If you were guaranteed that success and money were not an issue, what would you do with your life?

(6)  Do you feel trapped, or is there fulfillment in what you do? Can you see yourself there for the long-term or even the rest of your life?

(7)  When you look at how you are investing or have invested your time, energy and gifting, is this the best use of who you are? Is this as good as it gets for you?

Kingdom Investment of Your Life

It is important that, once you have discovered the particular gifts and abilities that God has given you, you examine whether you only use them to enjoy them or if you use them in ways that bring glory to Him.

(1)  Have you figured out how to take the best of who you are and invest it in God’s kingdom in such a way that it reproduces dividends that last for eternity?

(2)  Do you intentionally look for ways to take those gifts and abilities and use them in a way that other people can benefit from them?

(3)  Are you confident in taking the best of what God has given you and using it as widely as possible, or do you simply use it in formats that are comfortable for you?

(4)  Do you see ways that God would like to use you that you don’t feel confident doing now?

(5)  Are there times when you know that you’re supposed to do something but don’t have the courage or want to take the time to do it?

(6)  If you could be given one or two things that would help you take the best of who you are and invest it more completely, what would it be? Do you need courage, confidence, education, financial resources, empowerment, or someone to walk you through the process? Do you need a mentor, friend, spiritual director, or life coach? Do you need someone to pray with you and listen to you?

(7)  Think through any limitations that hold you back from investing the best of who you are. Begin to address those.

(8)  Interview several other people. Ask them ways they have seen God use you. Why did he use you in this way? Did it happen just once, or is there a pattern? Don’t overlook old friends, members of churches you have been a part of, family members and ministers you have known. They can help you with this.

Calling, Clarification, Leading, Direction

 There are three different types of calling:

The first type is the general calling to be holy as God is holy and to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. It’s a general sense of leaving what you have to follow Christ completely.

The second kind of call comes to specific people, such as the disciples of Jesus, who were called to leave their locations and their livelihoods to follow Him completely with their time and receive financial support for their sustenance.

The third kind of call is a very specific one of which there are plenty of examples in the Bible: See the stories of Moses, Samson, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Jesus and Saul of Tarsus. These individuals were singled out. They were often told that they had a purpose from before their birth. Their whole lives’ purpose was to fulfill a particular destiny or calling that God had for them. Be careful about assuming that this third type of call is normative. It does still happen today, but if we only have a dozen or so examples recorded in the Bible, then we know that their occurrence is somewhat limited.

The key aspect of calling is clarification. Am I being called by God to follow Him with the totality of my life? Or is it also with the totality of my time, whereby I leave my current vocation and take on a ministerial vocation where I am paid by kingdom finances and resources?

A second aspect of calling is leading. One can have multiple leadings over his or her lifetime, all of which will fit under some kind of vocational ministry. For example, I know a man who has been a pastor, a missionary a supervisor of a thousand missionaries, a denominational executive, a college professor, dean and president and ultimately, president of a denomination.

A final aspect is direction. Direction is, “Where do I live this out? What are some concrete ways to live out my sense of calling and leading? For example, if I am called to follow God completely and I am led to be a teacher, is God going to lead me in the direction of working with children, youth or adults? Is my work going to be spiritual development or also educational and academic development? Is it going to be at a college level or a graduate level? Is it going to be here in the United States or is it going to be overseas? Is it going to be in the urban core or is it going to be in suburbia or someplace in the heartland? As you look at your life, it is significant to clarify issues of calling, leading and direction.

(1)  Do you have a clear sense that God is leading you to resign from your career in order to use the full extent of your time and energies in serving Him?

(2)  If everyone is called to follow God completely, do you have a sense that He is asking you to follow Him with the totality of your life? Are you convinced that you would do that best by giving Him the totality of your time as well?

(3)  Do you have a sense that God wants you to stay in your career or location to serve Him? Or are you to leave behind that career or location and receive financial support from kingdom monies in order to follow Him completely with your time as well as your life?

Your Career

There are a number of assessments that are helpful in determining a job or career. A popular book written to help in this area is What Color Is Your Parachute? By Nelson Bolles. A detailed career assessment tool called IDAK is also extremely useful in helping you discover for what career or job you are most suited. (An IDAK assessment will take you approximately eight to ten hours.) Ask yourself the following questions:

(1)  What do I fantasize about?

(2)  What is my dream job?

(3)  What will bring me the most fulfillment?

(4)  How do I invest my life in a way that counts the most?

(5)  What are the outcomes of my life that I want to celebrate?

(6)  When I’m old and sitting on a porch in a rocking chair, looking back over my life, what do I want to have the greatest memories about?

(7)  When I near the end of my life, what will I wish I would have explored and gone for that I hesitated about and didn’t pursue?

(8)  What can I do in life that brings me the greatest sense of accomplishment, fulfillment, satisfaction and peace that also makes a difference in the kingdom?

Getting There

Intentionality. Looking at your life purpose and intentionality with which you approach your life will really be the key to the fulfillment of your life plan. Begin to think in terms of how intentional and purposeful you are with your life, your giftedness and how you invest the best of yourself, your time and your resources each day. Look at your current situation and do some honest evaluation of where you are currently and how you arrived there.

(1)  How much of your life currently is a response to an intentional design or pattern of decision-making?

(2)  Do you feel particularly directed by God to this situation?

(3)  Have you been systematically discipled?

(4)  Has your spiritual development been, or is it now, an intentional direction?

(5)  How intentional have you been with spending time with God? With key friends in your life? With developing relationships with family?

(6)  In your spiritual life, have you sought to replicate your giftedness, reproducing it in other people so they can benefit from it?

(7)  Is your current life purpose and vocation something that has grown out of thoughtfulness and intentional development, or have you just happened to stumble into what you’re currently doing?

(8)  Do you thoughtfully dream and think about what your life is and could become or do you simply do what is required of you each day to get through it?

Other Key Questions to ask:

(1)  Have you participated in the intentional development of other people in your life?

(2)  Why did they choose you?

(3)  What did they see in you that they saw as either necessary or useful?

(4)  How did they impact you?

(5)  What’s been their ongoing influence in your life?

(6)  How has the influence changed your life?

(7)  How have you or can you pass that on to other people?

Proper Motives. Some people do the right things for the wrong reasons. To discover why you do what you do, it is important to regularly check your motives. The following are some key questions to as. Often nothing will show up. It is essential, however, that you do not try to answer these solely in your own mind, but that you have someone probe a bit into other aspects of why you do what you do. This should preferably be done with a mentor or an older, trusted friend with some wisdom who will ask you questions to clarify your purposes. A therapist’s help may even be beneficial. It’s important to note your idiosyncrasies here [a pastor or life coach can also be extremely helpful here].

(1)  Why are you the way you are? What are the life experiences and decisions that have formed you as the person you are becoming?

(2)  Why do you do what you do? Why is it important to you? What are the key motivational factors for you?

(3)  What criteria have you used to make decisions?

(4)  Do you do what you do for the right reasons?

(5)  Who benefits the most from what you do?

(6)  Are there any improper motives that need to be checked?

(7)  Is there any way that you are trying to fulfill your life plan in such a way that it will ultimately hurt, harm, limit or even destroy you or someone else?

(8)  What are your temptations to do things that will make you look better in the public eye? Do you take too much responsibility for how well you did? Do you give credit where credit is due?

(9)  Do you have any ‘dark-side’ temptations? Sexuality, addiction or addictive traits? (Again, to have a mentor, an older, wise friend or even a therapist [pastor or life coach] help you with these regularly is helpful).

(10) Who asks you tough questions about your motives? Who speaks truth to you? Who is someone in your life who can tell you that you have made a wrong decision and to whom you will listen?

(11) Do you have any patterns or tendencies to discredit people who do not agree with you? Do you discredit them or your opponents or do you take their advice and attempt to understand its implications for you?

Assessments help you create a personal profile of why you are the way you are and why you do the things you do. They will help you understand and see more objectively your preferences, the kind of person you are and God’s work in your life and help you figure out how to develop from there. In choosing assessments, it is crucial to look at personality, temperament, preference, vocational contexts and leadership management styles. Here is a short list of recommended assessments and the areas they assessment:

  • 16PF: Personality Profile
  • Uniquely You: DISC profile, temperament analysis, spiritual gift assessment and summary profile
  • IDAK: career assessment
  • LEAD: leadership style
  • Management Style Diagnostic Inventory: managerial style
  • Networking: complete spiritual gift analysis and spiritual gift profile

Focus. There is an old adage: “Very few people in life plan to fail; they just fail to plan.” This is a time to take a good look at your life and figure out what is holding you back and keeping you from fulfilling your life purpose. Ask yourself the following questions. You may also find it useful to pursue people in your life who will answer these questions for you.

(1)  How do you get a focus to your life?

(2)  What distractions in your life need to be addressed?

(3)  Are you a dabbler? Do you enjoy many things without focusing on one?

(4)  Do you have tendencies to over commit and do more things than you can do well?

(5)  Are you aware of the things you do best? Are you confident in them? Do they bring you a sense of satisfaction?

(6)  What are clutter issues in your life? Timing? Relationships? Emotional or spiritual deprivation needs?

(7)  If you were to ask the person closest to you, “What is the thing that keeps me from being successful or impacting others?” what would he or she highlight as the clutter that keeps you from experiencing success in your life?

(8)  What would that same person say was “good” in your life but was keeping you from doing your best?

(9)  How would the person who works closest with you but dislikes you answer the previous questions?

(10) If you take stock in your life today, assuming that the current pattern will continue for the rest of your life, will you be happy with the outcome?

(11) Is this the time for you to get a clearer focus and rid your life of some “stuff”?

Areas to Develop. Don’t forget that sometimes your greatest successes can become limitations. Sometimes you celebrate them too much and forget to keep a clear focus on priorities. Consider the three to five things in your life that you want to do most successfully and the values that drive you. Focus for a moment on any potential or perceived limitations to achieving your goal.

(1)  Do you take stock of your life in your emerging life plan?

(2)  What are the areas of your life that still need to be developed in order for you to fulfill this life dream, calling and life mission?

(3)  What areas need to be addressed with clear intentionality?

(4)  What areas of depth of wisdom, insight, relationship, spiritual understanding and understanding motivations that need to be developed?

(5)  Is there anything holding you back?

(6)  Have you let a minor setback keep you from experimenting or trying something else?

(7)  Have you focused too much on one strength without pursuing additional strengths to accompany it?

(8)  Have you simply become accustomed to what you do? Although you are comfortable in your current situation, is it possible that it’s not the best use of the totality of your strengths?

(9)  How do you maintain your passion?

(10)  How do you stay on the right road? How do you keep a clear focus and ensure that this isn’t another tangent or another “to do” in your life, but really the purpose, direction and focus of your life?

After you have done this assessment for yourself, find some other people to help you. Utilize friends, family members, counselors, pastors, life coaches, mentors and spiritual directors to ask questions like:

(1)  What are some areas in my life that are yet to be developed?

(2)  What are the developmental steps needed for me to develop them?

(3)  How do I move from where I am to actually fulfilling my life plan?

Future Dreams

As you look at future dreams, ask yourself the following questions. All of these come together to create a life plan for you. The goal is to invest the life you have been given in such a way that it creates the greatest impact on the kingdom of God and in eternity.

(1)  What else it there for me?

(2)  Is there one more big challenge? I there a mission or task that I need to undertake that I have nor yet done?

(3)  Is there something that no one else is doing that I can do?

(4)  What maturity and development do I need in order to be able to do it?

(5)  Do I have a unique perspective, calling or purpose in life that could be used in ways I have not thought of? In ways that perhaps others have not thought of, either?

(6)  What will be the lasting impact of my life? How can I begin to plan for it now?

(7)  What resources do I need in order to fulfill my missions(s)? People resources? Financial resources? Experiential resources?

A lot has gone into making you the person you are now. Some things you have just assumed, a few you have regretted. But they have all gone into making you the person you are today. Attempt to see your life with the greatest outcomes in view, and attempt to see your life from God’s perspective. He does have a dream for your life. He is on your side. He is working with you to accomplish it. May your life fulfill both your dream and His for you.

About the Author: Dr. Martin Sanders is a professor at Alliance Theological Seminary in Nyack, New York. He also serves as president of Global Leadership, Inc. through which he develops leaders, national pastors and missionaries in over 30 countries. Dr. Sanders is married and has four adult children. He is the author of the highly recommended book The Power of Mentoring: Shaping People Who Will Shape the World. Christian Publications, Inc., Camp Hill, PA, 2004 from which the article above is adapted – Appendix 1 (pp. 173-187). He is has also written a very good book on the family entitled: How to Get the Family You’ve Always Wanted.

Book Review: The Wisdom of God by Nancy Guthrie

Jesus Only Wise – Jesus in the Wisdom Literature

One of the most exciting things about living in the times in which we are living is the anticipation of the return of Christ and the ushering in of His kingdom. Along with this prophetic reality is the intensification of our study of God’s Word to look for Christ from Genesis to Revelation. According to the author this study is “uniquely designed to help you look into the wonder of the wisdom literature of the Old Testament (covering 10 weeks of studies in Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon) and see how it prepares us for and points us toward Christ.

This book will help you:

(1) Learn how to study the Bible inductively (each chapter contains questions for personal Bible study);

(2) Understand the Bible and how the different books of the Bible fit together as a whole (each lesson contains a teaching chapter on the core truths of the Biblical Book being studied);

(3) Interact with the central truths of each Wisdom Literature Book and how they relate to the whole Bible (each chapter has a discussion starter and a dozen or so questions of exposition based on the passage of study;

(4) Apply the relevant applications from each passage in your life (each chapter has one or more questions to put the passage into action in one’s life);

(5) Love and worship Jesus Christ (each lesson is loaded with cross references, charts, discussion, and a “Looking Forward” section highlighting Jesus as the central figure, hero, and theme of each passage of study and of the entire Scriptures).

I don’t know of a small group study out there today that has more depth, more of Jesus, is more fun to study and discuss than this new series by Nancy Guthrie. It is simply outstanding in its depth of Biblical exposition, helpful in its applications, and highlights the fact that Jesus is what the Bible and life is all about. It’s about time that someone has put together a series of books designed for serious lay people about, by, and for Christ at the center of all of the Scriptures. If you are looking for a phenomenal Bible study that is theologically deep, practically relevant, and will help you to worship and love Jesus more than ever then this is the Bible study for you!

Note: I was provided with a free copy of this book from the publisher for review and was not required to write a positive review.

About the Author: Life can knock the wind out of you, taking with it your confidence in God. Or at least who you thought he was. Perhaps this explains why those who survive heart-breaking tragedy with their hope intact, and their faith expanded, have the power to inspire us. We want to hear from those people, we want to learn what they’ve learned. This may be why so many people love hearing from Nancy Guthrie. In burying two of her three children, Nancy has endured the kind of loss most of us hope we never have to face. Yet her hope has not dimmed, and her easy laugh has not disappeared.

Those who have watched Nancy and David Guthrie walk through the loss of two infant children, and the millions who have read their story worldwide inTIME Magazine and USA Today, have wondered at their ability to emerge from such sorrow with joy for life and passion for God. In reality, this deep place of pain caused Nancy to dig into the scriptures like she never had before, looking for answers to her questions and a deeper relationship to God. She offered many of the lessons she learned from this sorrowful experience in her 2002 book, Holding On to Hope: A Pathway of Suffering to the Heart of God (Tyndale House Publishers) which has helped thousands of people pursue God in the midst of their suffering. She regularly hears from readers book from all around the world who have been touched by the as the book as it has been translated into numerous languages including German, Danish, Norwegian, Korean and Chinese.

Her second book, The One Year Book of Hope (also Tyndale), a daily devotional for people who are hurting or grieving, released in 2005. The Guthries have seen God continue to use their loss to minister to other people going through loss in a variety of ways, including serving as co-hosts for a new production of the GriefShare video series. GriefShare is a 13-week video curriculum series that is used to facilitate weekly grief groups in more than 4,000 churches nationwide.

Today, Nancy’s energies and passions are focused on her growing Bible teaching ministry, Her newest book comes out of the study of Hebrews she taught for the women at her church in the fall of 2005. Hoping for Something Better: Refusing to Settle for Life as Usual (July 2007, Tyndale House Publishers), provides readers and small groups with a 10-week journey through the book of Hebrews and includes study questions for a weekly discussion.

Nancy’s previous books have received significant media coverage includingUSA Today, Christianity Today, Beliefnet, and stories syndicated nationally by Religion News Service and Associated Press. Nancy has been a guest on radio and television programs such as “FamilyLife Today,” “The Bible Answerman,” “Back to the Bible,” Moody Radio, “Life Today with James Robison,” “The 700 Club,” and many more. Her books have been promoted by international ministries including Focus on the Family, New Life Ministries, Insight for Living, the Christian Research Institute, and Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox.

In addition to teaching a weekly Bible class at her church, Nancy speaks regularly at women’s retreats and evangelistic events nationally and internationally including recent events at The Brooklyn Tabernacle, Second Baptist Church of Houston, a Ravi Zacharias International Ministries Conference, and a women’s conference in Scotland. Nancy has worked in the Christian publishing industry for over twenty years as a publicist and special project editor. She currently handles media relations for CBA: The Association for Christian Retail, and the ministry of Anne Graham Lotz.

Nancy and her husband, David, and son, Matt, make their home in Nashville, Tennessee, where they attend Christ Presbyterian Church (Presbyterian Church in America).

7 Principles of Accountability by David C. Bentall

(The Company You Keep, by David C. Bentall, published by Augsburg Press, 2004):

 “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17

(1) To affirm one another

(2) To be available to one another

(3) To pray with and for one another

(4) To be open with one another

(5) To be honest with one another

(6) To treat one another sensitively

(7) To keep our discussions confidential

*In the Book The Company You Keep David C. Bentall explores the experience of three men who have supported each other in friendship for more that twelve years. He chronicles how friendships can inspire, challenge and have the potential to transform lives. He provides suggestions for initiating long-term nurturing friendships. Most importantly, Bentall describes the tremendous benefits such friendships have on all the person’s life, including family relationships, physical fitness, self-esteem, and spirituality.

26 Excellent Self Evaluation Questions By Gordon MacDonald

Accountability Questions For You and Your Mentoree/Disciple

 (Adapted from *Gordon MacDonald, Restoring Joy to Your Inner World, Inspiration Press, p. 573)

“Chances are that you have a physical once a year or every two years. I recommend that you also have a “spiritual” once a year as well. Your soul care is just as important as your body care! This is an excellent list of questions to help care for your soul.” – Dr. David P. Craig

(1) Where are you right now in your relationship with God?

(2) What have you read in the Bible in the last week?

(3) What has God been saying to you in this?

(4) Where do you find yourself resisting God these days?

(5) What specific things do you find yourself praying for regarding others?

(6) What specific things do you find yourself praying for yourself?

(7) What specific tasks are facing you that you consider incomplete?

(8) What habits are intimidating you at present?

(9) What have you read in the secular press this week?

(10) What general reading have you been doing?

(11) What have you done to play this week?

(12) How are you doing with your spouse/kids?

(13) If I were to ask your spouse about your state of mind, spirit, etc., what would he/she say?

(14) Are you sensing any spiritual attacks from the enemy this week? Today?

(15) If Satan were to try to invalidate you as a servant of God, where or how would he attack you?

(16) What is the state of your sexual life (temptation, fantasy, etc)?

(17) Where are you at financially (Do you have control, debts, etc)?

(18) Are there any unresolved conflicts (ailing relatives, stress, disputes) in your circle of relationships right now (family, friends those among whom we’re supposed to feel safe)?

(19) When was the last time you spent time with a friend of the same gender?

(20) What kind of time have you spent with a non-Christian this past week?

(21) What challenges do you expect to face in the coming month?

(22) What are your fears at the present time (letting family down, bodies letting us down, etc)?

(23) Are you sleeping well?

(24) What three things are you most thankful for?

(25) Do you like yourself at this point of your pilgrimage?

(26) What are you greatest confusions about your relationship with God?

 

*Gordon MacDonald has been a pastor and author for over forty years. For many years he pastored Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts and continues to serve as Pastor Emeritus. He has also provided leadership to influential ministries such as Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, which he served as President for three years, and World Relief, which he currently serves as Chairman. Gordon’s best-selling books include Ordering Your Private World, Mid-Course Correction and, most recently, A Resilient Life. He also writes and serves as Editor-at-Large for Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal. When not writing, leading or speaking at conferences, Gordon and his wife Gail can be found hiking the trails of New England.