Exponential is the largest church-planters conference in the world and it is certainly worth it. Most of my readers know that I am not a church planter, although I consider myself to be a “church re-planter” and we need many of those…but that is a future article. There are some church planters who are using Simple Discipleship to inject healthy disciple-making DNA into their church at the beginning. The key is the Simple Discipleship missional process and using one-on-one personal discipleship to build sustainable discipleship/evangelism. Most church plants experience the “dip” – a time of decline within two years of beginning that is often due to a high conversion rate and a low disciple-making rate. Again, the key to sustainable evangelism is a healthy disciple-making process.
The theme to Exponential 2012 was “Sifted” and based on the book by the same title authored by Wayne Cordeiro, Francis Chan, and Larry Osborne. These men are well known Christian leaders who know something about being sifted. The theme of the book and conference was Luke 22:31-32:
31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” Lk 22:31-32 NKJV
YOU ARE NOT READY!
If you read the complete passage you will see that Simon Peter thought he was ready to really serve the Lord Jesus as a leader of the other disciples but events at the end of Matthew 22 indicate that he was not ready. If you think you are ready, it is likely that you are not. For Peter it was pride and arrogance and the Lord had to tear it down and rebuild him before Peter would be ready. Let’s connect the dots.
- In Matthew 16:16-19 Peter expressed his belief that Jesus is the Christ.
- Jesus promised Peter the “keys of the Kingdom.”
- In Luke 22:31 Jesus told Peter “Satan has demanded to sift you.”
- In the next verse Jesus told Peter that he would pray for him…that his faith would not fail.
- In verse 33, Peter swears that he will not falter and will not deny Christ.
- In Luke 22:54-62 Peter denied Christ three times, he was sifted.
- In John 21 Jesus restored Peter who was then a stronger and more humble man.
- In Acts 2:14 it was Peter who stood to unlock the door of the church, as it were, on the Day of Pentecost when over 3,000 people received Christ.
Peter was not ready until he was sifted and while he was being sifted, the Lord Jesus Christ prayed for him. Note that Jesus did not remove the sifting but allowed it to take its due course in order to complete its full work in Peter.
ARE YOU BEING SIFTED?
If you are not being sifted, you may not be a disciple of Jesus Christ. My book Simple Discipleship outlines the stages of spiritual growth along with two stages that reflect a lack of growth- a Casual Christian and a Carnal Christian. I will concede that a disciple at either of these stages may not experience sifting since they have little impact for God and they are no threat to Satan. However, if you are making a spiritual impact on others for Christ, you will be sifted because you are a disciple-maker. Church planters, disciple-makers, pastors and many others who are in the will of God will experience sifting.
10 TIMES AND BENEFITS OF BEING SIFTED
Here are ten times or kinds of sifting coupled with the purpose and result of the sifiting.
1. Sifting may come when you are on top- the purpose may be to humble you.
2. Sifting may come when you least expect it- the purpose is to train you to be prepared in season and out of season.
3. Sifting is painful- the purpose is to connect us to Christ.
4. Sifting purifies us- the purpose is to lead us to greater repentance.
5. Sifting may take a long time- to lead us to Fully Rely On God.
6. Sifting removes that which is unusable- to make us useful to God.
7. Sifting can increase our faith- to make us ready to lead others. (Luke 22:32b,c,d)
8. Sifting can help us to reach our full potential- to help us make an impact on others.
9. Sifting can help us to be joyful and contented- to lead us to know what’s really important.
10. Sifting leads us to grow- to model genuine discipleship.
Are there more? I m certain you may add some in the comments section but please be sure to balance your additions with a) the nature of the sifting with b) the purpose or result of the sifting.
Remember, Satan’s desire is to torture you as you are sifted through the sieve so that on the other side of the sifting you have no faith in Jesus Christ. …but Jesus said,
I am praying for you!
- Describe an experience when you were spiritually sifted.
- What was the outcome of your sifting?
- Can you say you are a growing disciple of Jesus because you are being sifted?
- What can you do to get ready for and endure sifting?
Dr. Tom Cocklereece is CEO of RENOVA Coaching and Consulting, LLC. He is a pastor, author, professional coach, leadership specialist, and is a member Coach/Teacher/Speaker for the John Maxwell Team
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