Found this…


I had to think about this quote
March 31, 2009, 9:37 pm
Filed under: Some food for today | Tags:

In his book The Calvary Road Roy Hession quotes this on page 35

“If I want my own way rather than God’s, it is quite obvious that I shall want my own way rather than the other man’s. A man does not assert his independence of God to surrender it to a fellow man, if he can help it.”

So if we reject God that means we aren’t looking out for our fellow neighbour. We aren’t being other person centred. I thought about that for a while today. I also had to look up who this Roy Hession was as I didn’t have a clue it turns out he was quite a remarkable Godly man.

He accepted Jesus into his life in 1926 mainly through the witness of this cousin. He worked in a Merchant bank for 10 years and then became a full time preacher and became one of the most effective Christian evangelists in post World War 2 especially among young people. He ministered to many churches around the world, doing conferences in Europe, Brazil, Indonesia, North America and Africa.

He died in 1992 but he is remembered for his infectious enthusiasm and his humour, but above all for his unwavering stand on the principles of repentance and grace that had become so precious to him.

When I die I want to be someone known and remembered for their love for God. Their reliance on grace and their generousity in all things that God has blessed me with. A hard task but a worthy response.



Knowledge is great!
March 31, 2009, 4:17 pm
Filed under: Some food for today | Tags: ,

I seem to be reading more and more Piper and this is a little snippet of why we should be reading and wanting more of God through the Bible.

If you want to know God better, it will be costly, and it will be worth it.

For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow. (Ecclesiastes 1:18)

That is true. It’s true because the more we know…

  • …the more we know that we don’t know.
  • …the more we know that suffering abounds.
  • …the more we are accountable to live up to.
  • …the more dementia will take away.

But it is worth it.

There is gold and abundance of costly stones; but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel. (Proverbs 20:15)

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)



No such thing as bad luck
March 31, 2009, 4:08 pm
Filed under: Some food for today | Tags: , ,

On Friday the 13th John Piper posted this on his site.

In case this or any other superstition frightens you or, worse, controls you, take the sword of the Spirit and kill it.

Here’s a few sword thrusts that I use.

There is no enchantment against Jacob,
no divination against Israel;
now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel,
“What has God wrought!” (Numbers 23:23)

Does this apply to us Christians? Yes. Because “It is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7). That’s us. We are Jacob. We are Israel.

And because we are, “all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

So in Christ we cannot be cursed. There is no jinx or hex that can stick against those who are in Christ Jesus.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. (Galatians 3:13)

Christ took on himself every curse that is against me. God is for me and no one can successfully be against me.

He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1John 4:4)



18 ways to remember more
March 31, 2009, 4:05 pm
Filed under: Some food for today | Tags: ,

Remember more  of your Bible!

Can’t remember where you put your keys? Do you keep forgetting people’s names?

This isn’t a sign that you’re getting old.

Zaldy S. Tan, MD, director of the Memory Disorders Clinic at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, says it’s a sign of how busy we are.

“When we’re not paying good attention, the memories we form aren’t very robust, and we have a problem retrieving the information later.”

If you struggle with the simple things of life, then memorizing John 3:16 probably seems intimidating. And putting away Romans 8 sounds down right impossible.

In truth, it’s not as hard as you think. Yes, it takes effort and time. But there are some simple strategies to help you.

Why Even Memorise Scripture?

But one of the most compelling reasons for memorizing Scripture I found in John Piper’s sermon If My Words Abide in You: memorizing Scripture shapes the way I view the world by conforming to God’s viewpoint.

So, whether you want to memorize one verse or an entire book, try these strategies to help you remember more.

1. Read it repeatedly. Did you know you can memorize Scripture during your morning devotion? Instead of zipping through your reading for the day, pause and camp on one verse for a long time. You won’t regret it.

2. Pay attention. Sounds obvious, but often ignored. Simply forcing yourself to be aware of what you are reading can help you internalise the words. Repetition will make the mind wander. What you have to do is bring it back.

3. Visualise what you are reading. Take Psalm 1:1 for example. “Blessed is the man who does not walk with the wicked nor stand in the way of the sinner nor sit in the seat of the mocker.” Your first tasks is to see the three actions here: walking, standing and sitting. If you can see the three main actions, then you can start to memorize the surrounding words.

4. Create anchor words. In the above example, your anchor words are “walking,” “standing” and “seating.” In Colossians 1:15, my anchor words are image, invisible and firstborn. Whenever I get lost while reciting a passage I look for my anchor words to orient myself.

5. Recognise patterns. In Psalm 1:1, after the first line, the next three sentences follow this pattern: a verb, a noun and a modifier. Think of each of these as a bucket you drop the appropriate word into.

6. Start with the easy. Now, some passages are easier to remember than others. Psalm 1, easy. A page from Romans, hard. On your first effort at memorising large chunks of Scriptures, don’t tackle Romans. Build some confidence first by memorizing Psalm 1 or the Sermon on the Mount.

7. Stagger. Sorry, not like you were drunk. What I mean is memorise an easy passage then a hard passage then an easy. Give your brain a break. This way you’ll avoid burnout.

8. Build memorable associations. If you want to remember difficult section of scripture like Romans 1:18-20, it helps to imagine God hovering like a brooding mountain over the world to represent all three verses.  This is a robust picture hard to forget.

9. Anchor memorable associations in chapters. These rich word pictures can also help you when you’re trying to memorize entire chapters of the Bible. They orient you on a larger scale.

10. Cheat a little. Once you’ve absorbed a hunk of Scripture, don’t be afraid to keep a sheet of paper nearby with keywords or section headings to help you out when you need a reminder.

11. Narrate. Sometimes it helps to describe in your own words what you are trying to memorise. This will also help you build memorable associations, spot keywords and develop anchor words.

12. Stick to a ritual. I find it easier to memorize Scripture in my car–I have a long commute–and before I sleep. Especially early on in the process of memorizing, I can’t remember my passage as easily anywhere else except these places. So, until I gain more confidence, I stick to this ritual.

13. Sing it. Try opera. Or a musical. The point is to be dramatic. As if you were in a play. [This is my favorite trick, by the way.]

14. Try mnemonic devices. Many of us learned ROY G BIV to remember the colors of the rainbow. Make up your own device to memorize anchor words or more. In Psalm 1:1, your device would be WSS, or walk, stand and sit.

15. Enlist your body. If mnemonic devices aren’t your cup of tea, use body parts. Classic example of this is Ephesians 6:10-18, the armor of God. Waist, chest, feet, forearm and head complete the armor and can help you navigate through this lengthy passage.

16. Repeat the alphabet. Say you just can’t remember that big word in 1 John 2:2. Run through your ABCs. When you get to P, it should trigger the word escaping you: propitiation.

17. Type it. One way to memorize something like John 1:1-3 is to type it into your computer. Not once. Not twice. But ten times. Maybe more. Your call.

18. Hear it. After you’ve typed it, next, read it aloud and record it. Then listen to the recording several times.



Temptation vs test
March 31, 2009, 3:53 pm
Filed under: Some food for today | Tags:

Does God “Lead Us Into Temptation”?
March 30, 2009 | By: John Piper

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:13).

James 1:13 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13).

That’s true. But the Bible also says, “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1).

So God does not do the tempting—he does not put evil desires in our hearts (for he can have no evil desires in his heart)—but he does bring us into the presence of many tests and temptations. “A man’s steps are from the Lord” (Proverbs 20:24).

In fact, every step we take is a step into the presence of temptation. There is no moment of your life that is not a moment of temptation—a moment when unbelief and disobedience is not a possibility.

The Lord’s prayer does not teach us to pray against that kind of sovereign guidance.

What it teaches us to pray is that the temptation does not take us in. Don’t lead me into temptation. Deliver me from this evil that is set before me.

Today I will stand before innumerable temptations. That’s what life is: endless choices between belief and unbelief, obedience and disobedience. But, O mighty God, forbid that I would yield. Hold me back from stepping inside the temptation.



Christian example
March 30, 2009, 2:34 pm
Filed under: Some food for today

Another cool article from the breifing this time on who we should look to as Christian examples

Factotum #10: Christian modelling

Colin Marshall / Briefing #179 / May 1996 / ShareThis

One of the graduates of MTS was a male model before training for the ministry. As far as I know, this experience has not contributed greatly to his training. But modelling is an important feature of Christian ministry in the New Testament.

In the last edition of ‘Factotum’, we raised the subject of ministry apprentices, and glanced at some of the contemporary concepts of mentoring and training. In this article, we continue our look at a biblical understanding of apprenticing, this time focusing on the theme of modelling or being an example.

Who are our models?

Who should Christians be looking to as models or examples of the Christian way of life? The following section provides a Bible search on the subject of modelling and imitation. You might like to work through it in a study group.

1. God

God himself—especially in the love and forgiveness shown to us through his Son—is the model for our relationships. We are told directly to be imitators of God:

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph 5:1-2)

2. Christ:

As Jesus announced the Kingdom of God, he called disciples to follow him. Jesus’ call is fundamentally an unattractive one, since he demands a denial of oneself to take up the cross of suffering. Even the closest of family loyalties must not precede the loyalty to Christ (Matt 10:37-39); possessions can be a threat to following Christ, and therefore a threat to one’s very soul (Matt 16:24-28).

Christ’s disciples follow his word as a sheep responds to the voice of the shepherd (In 10:27). The disciple also follows the example of the Master, especially in service of each other:

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. (John 13:14-15)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)

Jesus expressed to his disciples something of his philosophy of teaching. He recognised that the teacher’s role includes the training of another to be like the teacher. This role is inescapable; it is to some degree inevitable that where the teacher goes, the student will follow:

He also told them this parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Luke 6:39-40

The parable highlights the fact that a teacher is not just an informer, but a life-shaper, leading the student into success or failure, even life or death.

Christ provided the ultimate example of this sort of leadership. Peter finally came to understand the importance of Christ’s example to the church (see 1 Peter 2:21)

The verses which follow spell out the details of Christ’s example: sinless, without deceit, not returning insults, making no threats, entrusting himself to God, dying in our place, wounded for our healing. Not only is the Cross an atonement for sins, it is also our supreme motivation for faith and endurance in the face of oppressive powers.

In summary, Christ is our example of suffering and service.

3. Paul

Jesus anticipated that others would follow the disciples as they followed him and learned to fish for men (Matt 4: 19). It is not surprising, therefore, that Paul called upon the churches to follow him as he followed the example of Christ. Christ is the ultimate example of forfeiting one’s own good for the salvation of others—an example which Paul put into practice:

For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Cor 10:33-11:1)

The chain of imitation continued through Paul’s ‘apprentices’. The implication of the following passages is that Timothy was so like Paul that, in having Timothy present, the Corinthians were reminded of Paul’s approach to Christian living:

Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. (1 Cor 4:16-17)

You [Timothy], however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings-what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. (2 Tim 3:10-11)

Indeed, Paul’s life and teaching were transparent, he could urge his example upon the Thessalonians (see 2 Thess 3:6-10) and the Philippians (see Phil 3: 17; 4:9).

4. Leaders

Paul’s ‘apprentices’ are commanded to be models of what they teach. Timothy is instructed to

Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech; in life, in love, in faith and in purity…

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely… (1 Tim 4:11-16)

Similarly, for Titus, his teaching is to be shown by example in order to confound opponents:

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned. (Titus 2:7-8)

Here is a marvellous profile of the Christian leader. The leader demonstrates by persevering in the faith the proper response to the word he speaks. Christian leaders demonstrate faith in action (see Heb 13:7).

5. All Christians

It is not only leaders but all believers who are to be examples to others. The Thessalonians demonstrated the ‘chain of modelling’ which is to occur among Christians:

You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. (1 Thess 1:6-7; see also 2:14)

Those who are in danger of falling away are called to imitate the faith and patience of others (Heb 6: 12).

Discussion questions

  1. Relate some specific incidents where you have grown as a Christian through both the teaching and life of a leader.
  2. What implications of this article do you need to think through for training leaders in your church?
  3. Can you ask others to imitate your way of life? Why or why not?
  4. Do your teachers call upon you to follow their way of life? Why or why not?
  5. Should you offer yourself as an apprentice to your leaders?
  6. Should you invite someone to be your ministry apprentice for their training?

Conclusions for gospel ministry

1. As ministers of the gospel, it is right to call others to follow our example

At first, we cringe at this idea—either from a pious humility or a realistic assessment of the poverty of our example. Paul felt no such embarrassment for himself or his co-workers. He appealed to the churches to imitate their way of life.

2. Our example has to be worth following

We are always an example to our followers—either a godly one or an ungodly one. We cannot stop being an example. One of the key tasks of Christian servants is to ensure their lives demonstrate a godly pattern for others. We will never arrive at a state of sinlessness in this life, but those we are serving must see our progress and faithfulness in following the way of the cross.

3. The goal of ministry is to create disciples of Christ, not of ourselves

This is the counter-balance to our first conclusion. We are to call upon others to imitate us inasmuch as we imitate Christ. The result must not be division but unity—not loyalties owed to men, but to Christ (see 1 Cor 3:3-4).

4. Teaching is by Word and life

The Christian teacher calls for the learner to adopt his way of life, which should embody what he teaches. He must, then, watch his life and doctrine closely. The integrity of the teacher is thus at stake; he cannot teach what he does not live.

At this point, Christian leadership is radically countercultural. Our community promotes a separation of the public and private lives of our leaders. We are told that the morality of our leaders is irrelevant to their job performance. This attitude is unthinkable in Christian leadership.

5. The teacher models the way of the cross

The consistent theme in the passages above is a modelling of faith and perseverance in the face of trials. The disciple shares in the sufferings and service of the Master. And, like Christ, he exhibits love, patience and holiness.

Implications for training gospel workers

1. The trainer is more important than the curriculum.

Theological information, even if true, does not train ministers of the gospel. The trainer must do two things: impart the true knowledge of God and demonstrate, in his own life, how to apply it. Anything less than this is not Christian training. The loss of integrity in a faithless teacher is fatal to Christian training.

2. Create contexts for integrating Word and life

There is truth in the old chestnut that ‘ministry is caught not taught’. Both Jesus and Paul drew around them a handful of disciples into close association. In this context, they imparted the content of the message and the way to live it.

This is at the heart of the apprenticing model. The fledgling minister learns by instruction, but also by association and example.

To illustrate, a lecture on divorce and remarriage might give a young minister some counselling procedures and accurate biblical teaching, and even reveal something of the subtlety of this pastoral issue. But involving the apprentice in a real pastoral situation, including interviews and prayer, will unveil the heart of the pastor. The apprentice will witness his compassion, his faithfulness to the word of God, the agony involved in saving others and the pain of rejection.

3. Avoid the guru syndrome

No minister of the gospel should be the ‘creation’ of one person. Paul was not the only model for his delegates and churches; there were many apostles and teachers, and the churches were to imitate each other.

A collegiate approach avoids the excesses of dependancy, manipulation, oppression and legalism which develops in some ‘discipling’ ministries. The minister-in-training needs to learn from many ‘mentors’ while drawing close enough to a few who can impart both Word and life.



One on One prayer and Bible reading
March 30, 2009, 2:24 pm
Filed under: Some food for today | Tags: ,

I think praying with fellow Christians and reading the Bible is at the core of what we believe. It creates a great foundation for your walk with God and it just works. This is a great article I found in the briefing.

The following is a true story. Last Friday, two friends met to read the Bible, pray and drink coffee, like they do every week for about an hour. They go to the same church, and decided they needed some accountability in their lives as Christians. Last week, they were up to Philippians chapter 2 in their reading programme. They read the chapter out loud, then talked about its implications for their thinking and prayers. They are doing detailed Bible study in small groups, so the focus of their time was on application and encouragement. From Philippians 2, they talked for a while about Jesus’ priority of service over status and their struggles to help others when there is no recognition involved. They confessed their tendency to complain and argue, and the conversation moved to wider issues of status seeking in the church. This gave them plenty to pray about, and they concluded their prayers by remembering two missionary families. Next week they will read chapter 3.

So what?

This doesn’t exactly grab you as one of the great stand-out events of last Friday. Even within the Christian world, on a scale of 1 to 100, it doesn’t rank more than a 0.01 in importance.

But think about the long-term effects of meeting like this. The two friends will know the Bible better, pray regularly and deepen their friendship. They will encourage each other to deal with God and his word with integrity. As they open their lives to each other before God’s word, they will “spur one another on towards love and good deeds” (Heb 10:24-25). They will strengthen each other to resist sin and remain faithful to Christ.

Why do it?

At the core of all Christian ministry is Bible reading and prayer. We are united with Christ by hearing his word and responding in faith, and that is how we remain in Christ. We can never progress beyond these basics—teaching each other the word of God; calling upon each other to believe and repent; bringing our lives, our churches and the world before God in prayer.

But we can do all this in three broad contexts: large groups, small groups and one-to-one. We choose different contexts on totally pragmatic grounds. There is a certain efficiency of gathering people together, and there are various educational advantages in each context. However, all ministry is ultimately to individuals, even when we are dealing with groups. Our concern is for the salvation and growth of each one.

So what are the benefits of reading the Bible and praying one-to-one? It is:

  • convenient: arranging to meet one Christian for one hour weekly is realistic, even in the busiest lives. It’s easy to get started, with minimal organization required.
  • personal: the discussion and prayers can address particular individual concerns. In groups, it is impossible to deal with everyone’s issues and questions.
  • accountable: meeting one-to-one is an ideal way of holding each other accountable to read and obey the Bible. It is hard to meet each week and pretend to be serious about submitting to Christ while playing around with secret sin. In our perversity, this is not impossible, but it’s hard to sustain the performance.
  • strategic: this is a basic ministry to master, and will be useful in many contexts. Wherever we go in church life, we can find a Christian with whom we can read and pray. Sometimes at work we will find a Christian who would love to meet with us. In some ministry contexts, such as the military and educational institutions, it is almost impossible to gather Christians into groups, and personal ministry is the only option. For some Christians, the only opportunity for fellowship is with individuals due to family restrictions and persecution.

Why we don’t

If I had to hazard a guess as to how many Christians engage in one-to-one Bible reading and prayer, I would say less than 1%. I have no data on this; it’s just a hunch. This seems strange if it is such a simple and convenient way of spurring each other on in the faith. Why don’t we do it?

We are too busy in Christian service

The old cliché is true: “the good is the enemy of the best”. One reason we don’t read and pray with each other is our devotion to other Christian activities.

There are limitless opportunities to serve Christ and his people, and Christ has given a diversity of gifts to edify his church. However, certain ministries, such as prophecy, have priority over others because they are more useful for edifying the church. Whatever else Paul means by prophecy, fundamentally it is speaking the word of God, and we are to “excel in gifts that build up the church” (1 Cor 14:12). Speaking the word of God to each other is the way we are strengthened, encouraged and comforted, and the way the church is built. One-to-one Bible reading and prayer is, therefore, a very high ministry priority.

Most of us have little discretionary time where we are free to choose how we use it. We have fixed priorities that absorb most of the 168 hours in the week. Sleeping, eating, travelling, working, family responsibilities, chores and ‘personal things’ take around 140 hours, if you have anything like a ‘normal’ life. The 28 hours remaining is your discretionary time—time that you can divide between leisure, study, socializing, hobbies, and so on. Christians will devote some of these 28 hours to specifically Christian activity. This will include private Bible reading, prayer and study of Christian literature, as well as service to others. When we look at it realistically, there are only around 5-10 hours per week available for Christian activity with others, and most of this time is taken up with church meetings, a Bible study group or committees. And, as the years roll on, there is even less time at our discretion, with increased family and work responsibilities.

Maybe we need to rethink our ministry responsibilities and withdraw from some tasks in church life in order to read and pray with others.

We put structures before people

If we are asked about the ministries of our church, we usually answer in terms of structures and programmes: men’s fellowship, Sunday School, Youth Club, women’s Bible study, and so on. If our pastors ask us to be involved in ministry, they usually mean taking on a particular task to keep the programme running. These kinds of programmes are often good—some may be essential—but our thinking is back to front. The reason we run ministry activities is for people—their salvation and maturity in Christ. After a while, the programme attains a validity in itself; the means becomes the end. For example, ee run a drop-in centre because we have always run a drop-in centre.

If, instead, we start with people and ask how we can win them for Christ and establish them in the faith, we might end up spending our ministry time differently. We might cancel some programmes, and start meeting with individuals for Bible reading and prayer. Or we might build this one-to-one ministry into our existing programmes.

We seek recognition for our ministry

There is no kudos or notoriety in private meetings with individuals reading the Bible and praying. There is a type of career path in churches—from pew sitter to welcomer to assistant Bible study leader to Bible study leader to board of elders to chair of the board. Just adjust the titles for your particular church. One-to-one ministry doesn’t advance our career at all.

We don’t feel qualified

This is one of the advantages of one-to-one Bible reading and prayer: it is simple; everyone can do it. We are not taking over the minister’s job to teach the Bible, and we don’t have to have all the answers. Together, we can wrestle with understanding God’s word and changing our lives. We are not setting ourselves up as the fount of all knowledge and virtue. All we need is the heart to know God better and to encourage one another.

We never thought of it

Now you have!

How to do it

Here are some tips to get you started. You will develop your own patterns along the way.

  • Decide to meet for a specified period of time—say, six months—so it is easy to stop if you need to.
  • Give priority to reading the Bible rather than Christian books.
  • Try a variety of methods for Bible reading:
    • Verse by Verse: read the text verse by verse, and work out what it is saying. Using a Bible with marginal notes and cross references will deepen the discussion.
    • QUIT: look for QUestions that need to be resolved, Implications for life and major Themes in the passage.
    • Interactive Bible Studies: prepared studies, such as those published by Matthias Media. You can do some preparation before meeting, or just work through the material together.
  • Leave plenty of time for prayer. Pray about the implications of your Bible reading and the current concerns in your lives. But also pray beyond your own horizons for unbelievers, your church and gospel ministries around the world. If you can’t work out who to pray for, ask your pastor or get some newsletters from evangelists and church planters in Australia and overseas.

Who to meet with

The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

  • Christian friends for mutual encouragement at church, work, school, college, university or in the neighbourhood—anyone who is ‘spiritually hungry’.
  • Young Christians to build foundations in the faith.
  • Potential leaders who need nurturing and training in Bible reading and prayer.
  • Christians who want to do some deeper Bible study.
  • Your pastor who would love to read and pray with someone.
  • A friend going through a crisis.
  • Christians who are struggling with faith.
  • Non-Christians who want to work out systematically what the Bible is saying.
  • Christians who are restricted in some way from attending church or groups.

Some warnings

The priority of God’s word, not our problems

Have you ever noticed how people with problems absorb your time and energy? You feel the energy drain out of you as they enter the room. In groups, they dominate the discussion. We all have problems, but some people become problem-centred because of the severity of their needs. One mistake in personal ministry is to be dominated by such people. They are so needy that, in our compassion, we feel guilty if we don’t give them all the energy they demand. We end up visiting them again and again, or meeting them regularly at the expense of others.

It sounds harsh at first, but there is a better way. Firstly, if you do meet with such a person, set a different agenda. Instead of starting with his or her problems, start with Bible reading and prayer. He or she will then start to see how God views their life and problems, and thus they will make some progress in dealing with life under God’s word. Secondly, give priority to training others in ministry. Meet with a spiritually hungry, ‘problem-free’ person who will mature and begin to serve others. Then you can give better care to those with problems because there will be more carers. Investing time in training others in service multiplies the workforce in the church.

The spiritual guru syndrome

We don’t want to become spiritual guides for people and make them dependent on us, rather than God. Meeting regularly with someone and drawing them into close relationship can be highly manipulative. Some have never had such close attention from anyone, and they will agree to anything to protect the relationship. You can reduce such dependency by deciding to meet for a specified time period and by ensuring they relate to other Christians in church and small groups.

The cults have deliberately exploited the power of personal discipleship to control their members and movements. We need to ensure our personal ministries are characterized by freedom and flexibility. Some people should never be invited to regular personal meetings because of their insecurities.

Gender issues

One-to-one ministry tends to suit women better than men. Women enjoy the intimacy and are more articulate, which is a boon to conversation.

In general, men find it difficult to start these one-to-one meetings. They are more comfortable doing something together, like sport, fixing things or watching TV. Men don’t just sit down and bare their souls to each other. Some men will find it easier to meet in threes or fours to reduce the intensity and so they feel less threatened and exposed. Meeting in a familiar context, like a club or McDonald’s, may work better. For many men, they will learn more by having a healthy argument over the Scriptures, and they will let down their guard once they get drawn into the fight! You may not like these cultural stereotypes, but men do need to work out their way of meeting one-to-one.

Pepper the earth

If you meet with a Christian for Bible reading and prayer for the next 12 months, what will happen? You don’t know exactly, but you can have certain hopes and prayers. Both of you will grow in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Perhaps you will encourage others to start meeting one-to-one. Perhaps you will both continue to meet with different Christians for the next 40 years. Just imagine what could happen if it was commonplace for Christians to meet for one-to-one Bible reading and prayer! What would happen if our society was peppered with thousands of such meetings? What growth in godliness might we see?

Questions

Use these questions as starters for group discussion or personal reflection:

  1. What are the unique advantages of one-to-one ministry?
  2. Is there anything which makes you hesitant about doing it?
  3. What changes might you have to make to your Christian programme to do one-to-one Bible reading and prayer?