Letters to believers
By Shannon Bishop
I heard a sermon the other day about using your passions to establish peace with God and others. The pastor was encouraging believers to live out their passions with a gospel focus. Sounds all good, doesn't it?
Or does it?
The more he spoke the more I started to feel uneasy. The more I felt like he was saying to all of the comfortable Christians in the room to just fit God into your passions and you'll find your joy. The sermon series was called "True Joy" after all.
Are we really called to fit God into our plans and passions?
Is that what the disciples did? From what I read in the New Testament Jesus said, "Follow Me" and they dropped their plans and passions to pursue Him.
In order to follow Christ there has to be radical change in your heart.
We should be willing to lay aside all of our dreams and passions to pursue Him, so that our entire focus and heart is set on Him, not our own agenda. Then as we pursue Him, surrender ourselves to His will and let Him circumcise our hearts (cut out what doesn't belong), He will show us His dreams and passions for us.
Sometimes your passion and His passion for you will align. Praise Jesus! Sometimes they won't. Praise Jesus still.
My passion my whole growing up years was singing and acting. I wanted to be in musicals on Broadway. But that's not what the Lord had planned for me. Why? Because I have one main purpose on this Earth (as do all believers) and that is to glorify the Lord, and He must've known that I wouldn't do a very good job of that on Broadway. For whatever reason that was not the place where I would be able to be a strong reflection of Him. So in order to follow Jesus, I had to give up that dream. Even after giving it up however, I still tried to morph my dream into a new one that glorified Him: leading worship! I tried to learn guitar, only to get stuck after 3 chords. Then I also realized that no one wants to hear worship being belted out show-tune style. Poor me. My dreams had to go.
But God is not one to take without giving back ten-fold when you choose to obey.
He is a good Father. His dreams are way better for us than we could ever dream or imagine. He made dreams come true for me that I never even knew I had! But it wasn't until I let go of mine.
So I did. About 4 years ago I let go of all of it. I surrendered everything to Him and said "Thy will be done!"
Since then I have fallen deeper in love and gratitude with my Savior. I have fallen deeper in love and gratitude with my husband as well. I have learned way more than I ever could've while being distracted trying to fit God into MY passions.
Since then God has ignited a passion in me to find beauty in all of His creation through the lens of my camera. He has driven my hand to write messages of encouragement, correction, and testimony so that others can hear the love and grace He has for them. AND He even turned my story of His glory into a BOOK! It's a book for wives called, Brokenness Undone: A Story for Every Wife. (available on Amazon) ;)
God has placed a strong desire in my heart for the hurting, desperate housewife, because I know what it felt like to be one. He also restored my marriage and united my husband and I in THIS ministry that focuses on believers being the church, being in His Word, and discipling others.
I think of the dreams I had for myself and they were all about ME. The dreams HE has for me are all about glorifying HIM.
God doesn't want us to be self-centered, fake versions of what He designed us to be. He wants us to live our greatest potential in Him and to have true joy that only comes from Him. He wants us to lead others to Him by the light He magnifies in our lives. You cannot magnify His love if you are focused on yourself and your passions. It's impossible.
Matthew 16:24 says, Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me." (NLT)
I hope this message speaks to you today. Look at your life, are you trying to fit God into what you want for yourself? Or are you willing to give all of that up in order to live His plans and passions for you?
Originally posted on www.letterstoabeliever.blogspot.com
Discipleship. The Barna Group has reported that two out of ten believers are actively going and making disciples. What does discipleship look like in your church or the churches around you? Are you lacking volunteers, praying about your next outreach effort and looking forward to your church reaching your community for Jesus? The First Century Church Project exists to encourage discipleship amongst the body of Christ. Before you put this letter down let us express that we are not asking for money. This program is at no cost to you or your church. Our time and resources are dedicated to God and His church. We are merely sending out this letter in obedience to what God has called us to do and hope that we can serve you and your church.
The First Century Church Project is a way of life. The world we live in today has taught us that church is a place. The Bible says the church is the body of Christ. FCCP is a para church effort in which we serve/equip the body of Christ through discipleship training. We are simply followers of Jesus that desire to live out the Great Commission, which is to tell the world about Jesus and to make disciples.
Churches today can be so focused on being seeker-friendly that they forget that a new believer needs serious discipleship. In fact, most believers today have never been discipled more than a sermon every Sunday! FCCP is taking the description of the church from Acts 2:42-47 and Ephesians 4: 1-16 and trying to implement it into small groups today.
To break down what FCCP looks like is this:
Small Groups are called Launch. Launch is a group of people dedicated to reading through the Bible together and writing down their "ah-ha" moments to be discussed each week. The facilitator can rotate every week in order to encourage people to use their gifting and walk in obedience. Sometimes a person doesn't realize they have a gift in teaching or exhortation until they are are given the opportunity to do so. We encourage people to read 1-4 chapters of God's Word per day. We also encourage Launch groups to stay together for 1 year. This helps protect the church from clique's or believers becoming apathetic to accountability. Everyone in the group is given an opportunity to invite their friends that don’t know the Lord yet so that they may have an opportunity to listen to how the Word is changing people’s lives. This provides everyone in the group an opportunity to actively share their faith and to be a witness.
Go-Connect activities/lifestyle. We call Go-connect a lifestyle because it’s all about being active and intentional about seeing the God-moments that He shows us every day. Every day we come across non-believers. As believers we need to follow the Great Commission which tells us to go and make disciples. Go-Connect groups intentionally pray for their friends/family that don’t know the Lord and they make time to build relationships/serve them. How do you make disciples? By connecting with the lost, sharing your salvation story and taking hold of a new believer’s hand. Once a person is saved, their discipleship begins in Launch.
Send. After the year of Launch is up and a person has been deep in the Word, they will know what the Lord wants them to do. This is when we send them out. Maybe they will feel called to start a new Launch group from their home, maybe they will feel called to serve at church, or maybe they will be called out to serve overseas. Only God knows.
As you can see, our heart is to see more churches actively discipling each other throughout the week so that it can become a healthy functioning body of Christ.
More and more people are leaving the church because they don't see the love and authenticity that Acts 2 and Ephesians 4 describe. They want to see Jesus! And we know that as a Pastor, you want your church to love Jesus and follow His command to go make disciples. Too much pressure is put on the pastor and it's time the body starts acting as it should. We all have gifts and fruit that need to be used and given out.
Will you consider implementing the First Century Church Project into your church?
We hope you prayerfully consider allowing us to help be a part of life change amongst your believers and community.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you may have. If you would like to set up a time to meet to discuss anything you see in this letter or packet we would love to hear from you!
God Bless, Jason and Shannon Bishop
Jason and Shannon Bishop
Just as Paul wrote letters in the New Testament to different churches and bodies of believers, we feel called to write letters to Believers in today's world. Everything you read here is Spirit led, coming from a place of love and desire to challenge the modern day believer to live with a first century love for Christ.