There once was a gardener named Sam. She loved the idea of a garden.  She imagined walking out to the backyard to pick fresh lettuce, beans and tomatoes for dinner.  The picture of serving crisp, flavorful vegetables to her family inspired her. She planned, prepared and planted...

July 23, 2013 0 2 comments

What can we learn from gardening about small group discipleship leadership? Gardeners study their environment. They plant in season. What is your churches growing cycle? When does it start? How long is the season? How many seasons do you have? 

July 16, 2013 0 0 comments

Preparing includes all of the leadership tasks between Planning and Planting. Sounds obvious! What tasks need to happen to be ready to plant or begin discipleship ministries?

July 9, 2013 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic

I would like to hear the thoughts of those who are a part of small group ministry on what they think about multiplication.  There seems to be this tension between staying in a group and multiplying them.  I hear some say that they won't break up their group because they have grown a strong and...

June 26, 2013 0 3 comments

The Bible League of Kenya developed a partnership with Coffee Break to share the materials and method in order to encourage small group Bible discovery. Most often, ‘Bible Study’ in Africa means teaching.  People learn about the Bible through teaching in sermons, Sunday School and small groups. 

June 17, 2013 0 0 comments

Planning for ministry is much more complex than planning for a garden and often causes frustration for leaders and participants. Just like in gardening, there is not a one-size-fits-all plan.

May 21, 2013 0 0 comments

If you were going to plant a garden, what would you do? I have asked this question many times at small group discipleship training.  The first answers usually are: dig, plant, water.  What else: weed, fertilize, pick.  What else? Buy seeds.  What kind of seeds will you buy? Oh, we have to decide what we are going to grow!

May 14, 2013 0 0 comments

Growing a discipleship ministry is an ongoing process, much like growing a garden. Good gardeners are aware that they need to cultivate particular practices in order to develop a healthy, vibrant garden. If they faithfully plant, water, fertilize, etc., they will yield a good crop. Maybe.

May 8, 2013 0 1 comments

In my small group role for Home Missions, this is the most frequent question: “Our church wants to start small groups in order to grow community and disciples, what is the best method?”  I can’t answer that question; however I have discovered the process of leading a discipleship ministry that continually adapts to the local environment is more important than finding the right strategy. 

April 30, 2013 0 0 comments

Just before Jesus’ death he prayed, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21)  Jesus knew that the gospel was going be spread through relationships. He also knew that it had to start with a loving community ...

April 2, 2013 0 3 comments
Discussion Topic

I'm curious to know if your small group (or someone's you know about) has used the Radical Small Group Study that goes along with Platt's Radical and Radical Together books?

April 2, 2013 0 0 comments

On April 15-17, thousands from the CRC will be gathering to pray for our denomination at the 2013 Prayer Summit and in homes and churches across North America and around the world. Your small group can participate in this growing movement by hosting a “Watch and Pray” event in the comfort of your home or join by using the daily Prayer Guide.

March 4, 2013 0 0 comments

To follow Jesus and become a fisher of men, we need to do what Jesus did. He spent time with those who were lost and needed a Savior. We cannot catch any fish by casting our fishing poles on the ground and we cannot win the lost from our comfortable church pew.

February 5, 2013 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Worship, study, fellowship and prayer are all vital parts of Small Groups. Read Acts 2:42-47. Another important part is service. We need to be open to serving our fellow small group members as well as those who are hurting outside of the church. Currently our Small Groups are studying Under the...

February 4, 2013 0 0 comments

The small group leader was overwhelmed and exhausted. She did not see what she had expected: she was tired and discouraged. She had to do more but she didn’t have a clue what that should be. She cried out to God in prayer.

January 22, 2013 0 0 comments

Some months ago, I gave you a glimpse of the “whys” and “whats” of Discipleship Triads and how they operate at CenterPointe Church, a young church plant in Plainfield, IL. Writing the final report for the Sustaining Congregational Excellence Grant which supported this project for our church gave me the opportunity to reflect on the effectiveness of Discipleship Triads and celebrate how God has worked in and through them in our setting.

December 12, 2012 0 1 comments

So, we are way behind the eight ball in giving our small groups ministry some overdue attention.  While we have had a pretty vibrant number of small groups meeting together for years to study a wide range of topics, it has been sort of running without any coordinated effort or inter-action ...

November 20, 2012 0 6 comments

I am often asked the question, “Why are believers not declaring the gospel?” My firm belief, pastoral experience and observation is that “believers do not declare the gospel if they do not delight in God.” As we all know, people will talk about what they find most interesting or exciting. If you really like sports, cooking, children, etc… you will talk to others about those things or about the relationships that matter the most to you.

November 19, 2012 0 18 comments

If you follow this blog, you know that I often compare a small group discipleship ministry to a garden. A small group creates an environment for spiritual growth. In the small group, we can we spur one another on in growing together in knowing and following God. Hebrews 1:24-25 is a great overview of the purpose of a discipleship small group:

November 13, 2012 0 0 comments

It is easy to get in a rut. Here are a couple of small group prayer ideas. Experiment with them in your group. Share your experiences and other prayer ideas. “Let us spur one another on...”

October 23, 2012 0 1 comments

A quality Koosh ball is my favorite tool to illustrate small group the communication opportunities and challenges.Buy a Koosh ball. Take the ball to your group and throw it around.

October 16, 2012 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

The Bible Study group/small group that I am part of has decided to study the book "the Harbinger" by Jonathan Cahn. I have mixed feelings about this book being an appropriate one for use as a Bible Study. In my opinion the passage of Isaiah 9:10-11 is only loosely connected with the book. I am...

October 6, 2012 0 1 comments

Small Group leaders dream of lively discussions with lots of interaction. Here are a few tips for leaders to use in leading small group conversations.

September 25, 2012 0 2 comments

“A couple years ago we built a discipleship and leadership development system for our whole congregation. But when we implemented our new discipleship system, it flopped. Creating and implementing a workable discipleship system for the whole congregation is very difficult.”

September 11, 2012 0 2 comments

We are still in the early stages of this small group experiment, but so far the results have been great. As pastors, we feel the congregation is more involved and interacting with the weekend messages. The format means that we don’t have to create something new – it flows out of what we are already doing. 

September 4, 2012 0 0 comments



While Berkhof’s proposal that “the heart is the seat of religion” may be too theologically sterile for today’s Church, it speaks the same truth that Piper has proposed: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” The question will always be, “What satisfies us?” or, “What do we love?” It is a testament to our sinful nature that we must continually reevaluate religion in the dimension of what we love – and to what degree. These are all restatements of Jesus’ words, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” “whoever has been forgiven little loves little” and “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” And, they all convict us about why we do – or do not – evangelize. Why do we not “delight” in Jesus and therefore ‘good news-ify’ others? It may simply be that our heart’s love is not satisfied with the good news. If true, that is a very scary place for the Church to be.

Check out  put out by Christianity Today. Lots of articles on line as well as materials to download.


I wonder.   Yes if we delight in God, then we will be compelled to share the gospel.  But maybe the real thing is simply to experience God in our lives.  It may be delight;  it might be a sorrowful experience;  it might simply be inspiring.   But perhpas it cannot be merely theoretical delight.   It needs to be as real as cutting your finger or spraining your knee or eating your desert.  It needs to be real.  And we have to make ourselves vulnerable.  Pride, vanity, self-consciousness, fear must all disappear or be overcome.   Your trust in God to provide must be real, if you lose your job, or if you lose chance of advancement or if you lose acceptance by peers.  Remember Christ's suffering for us.  (compared to that, our risks are very small). 

These are great helps Sam!  One thing that has worked well in our small group, is to separate the men and the women for prayer.  We find that when we are in different rooms, the prayers in both groups come more freely.  I'm sure its the smallness of the group that encourages participation, but also the single gender in each group allows for some freedom in prayer.

In another Bible study group that I host, we also will divide into small groups of 3 or 4, for a short prayer time, which encourages each person to pray, while developing closer relationships.  Our journey to God, is something that should be practiced in deep community with each other.  Smaller groups for prayer encourages these deeper relationships.

I recommend the study of this book, but I would first recommend that you obtain a copy of the Isaiah 9:10 Judgment DVDs (a set of two DVDs) so you may view what precisely what the Harbinger covers.  Read the book.  Judge for yourselves about its message, then watch the DVDs, or go to Youtube at the following URL:  and this URL:  both of these showcase the DVD documentary based upon Jonathan Cahn's book, The Harbinger.

The Harbinger is a warning to Christians in America to repent, to return to God, to seek His ways, and to pray for the nation and be a light unto the people, and to renew our nation with leaders who will honor the Lord and serve His purposes.  There is already a stir in the halls of official Washington D.C. as I write this, and several elected representatives and senators have reacted to its message; a timely message that we must heed if we are to survive as a people and as a nation before the coming of Christ.

If Nineveh did it, and it was not a covenant nation with God, but God warned it through the prophet Jonah, we can do it to, why?  Because as Christians we are God's people, and as Christians we have a responsibility to pray for our nation, for our leaders, and elect public servants who represent our values and our ideals; ideals and values that made our republic the envy of the world.

We have lost it all in one generation, and if we continue the trajectory that we have been the past fifty-two years, we will not endure as the shining city on a hill that President Reagan spoke so eloquently about and America's pilgrim fathers once envisioned which was culled from the words of Our Lord in Matthew 5:14.  Yes, I would highly recommend you read The Harbinger, paying close attention to its underlying theme and its plea to US and to prayerfully develop a Bible Study around it.  If you are interested in more information about a study of The Harbinger, you may contact Hope of the World Miistries at their website at the following URL:




(3) Jonathan Cahn with Sid Roth - Harbinger the Warning
Part 1 (28:31):
Part 2 (28:31):


(1) "Tom Daschle Speech, 12 September 2001"; (4:24 video)
(watch starting at 3:11 -- By the way, In Revelation 3:11, Jesus tells us "Behold,I am coming quickly!")

(2) "John Kerry Speech After 9/11"; 12 September 2001 (Text)

(3) "Giuliani The Night of 9-11-01 'We will rebuild'", 11 September 2001 (0:23 video)

(4) "OBAMA'S 9 11 SPEECH - PSALM 46, What is he really trying to tell us?", 11 September 2011 (1:50 video)


Book: "THE HARBINGER: THE ANCIENT MYSTERY THAT HOLDS THE SECRET OF AMERICA'S FUTURE" by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn (paperback, Kindle edition, or audio CDs) available at or the World Net Daily website at

DVD: "THE ISAIAH 9:10 JUDGMENT: IS THERE AN ANCIENT MYSTERY THAT FORTELLS AMERICA'S FUTURE?" -- a "documentary treatment of "The Harbinger" book -- available at or the World Net Daily website at

good tips!  Here's one more:  Whenever I have led a Bible study or small group discussion and I ask a question, I count to "7" in my head.  I don't answer the question; I don't rephrase the question, until I have fully counted to 7.  You'll be surprised; 99% of the time, someone will offer an answer in the silence of 7 seconds!  Too often leaders feel like they have to jump in  so fast.  7 seconds may feel long when it's silent & you think people are staring at their Bibles mindlessly or staring at you, the floor or the others in the group, but it's not really that long!

I just wanted to add some additional tips about open -ended questions that were shared with me by a communications pro. The best open-ended questions start with the key question words: Who, What, When, Where, Why & How; and cannot be answered with a yes or no. (My favorites start with "Why" or "How.")

Great tips here!

The paragraph has been updated.

That should be "" rather than "" I hope my mistake did not create confusion.

Thanks Drew.  We are going to get this kind of small group started at our church as well.


We have a sermon-based Small Group ministry we call "Table Fellowship."  Here's a brief video I did for our classis about Table Fellowship:

We have been doing something similar to this on Sunday mornings while the kids are in sunday school, we call it sermon reflection . I think it is very helpfull in concentrating on the sermon and the scripture passage, and also I would think it would be helpfull for new believers to be able to mix with more mature believers and discuss things that might not be clear to them.  I would like to hear more ideas on this as it seems the interest at our church is waning. 

We are thinking about beginning this at our church, so I am looking forward to forthcoming blog posts!

keep the updates coming.  I'm watching this with interest.

I'm eager to hear more about this idea. Thank you!

Thanks Drew.

I'm very interested in following your posts.   

We have used Ascending Leaders' materials in our church in a variety of ways - formal discipleship courses, informal triads and small groups, individual study and supplement for preaching series. The flexibility of the material and the rich content make for a wonderful resource to help people grow in their character, something that is really lacking in our churches today. I have grown in my faith using AL's materials as well. I highly recommend "Christ Habits", "Spirit's Fruit" and the other AL resources for spiritual formation in your church.

Did  you know that "scarecrows" occur in Jeremiah's description of false idols (at least in the NIV and NRSV - Jer. 10:5; KJV has "palm trees")? I remember doing a sermon on "Scarecrows in a mellon patch" once -- partly because both the sound and imagery of that phrase seemed irresistable. In that context it becomes a picture of something that is not very effective. Since Satan is not easily detered, the metaphor of armor in Eph. 6 (of "fortress" often in the Psalms) makes a stronger image. But any recognition of the need to defend against the attacks of Satan is worthwhile. Thanks for the reminder!

posted in: Scarecrows

Nate - thanks for your blog and being willing to field questions.

Thank you for your response Daniel.  The answr to your question is "yes" and "no." 

Yes: I agree with the "process" concept of discipleship,  that one never finishes and that Scripture provides a framework of various roles which we would think would match up with the process of one's maturing as a disciple. I first read Bill Hull's Disciple Making Pastor 25 year ago and agreed wholeheartedly. 

No: Between roughly 1987 and 2001 I wrestled with how to practically do this in congregational ministry. I found it easier to agree with, than to implement. Our material is meant to be quality content to help people practically move forward well on the discipleship journey. While you would find our that our materials assume a process perspective on discipleship as taught by the NT, they do not teach such directly. We try to use more Jesus model of sending people into growth. Thus the process and materials simply gets people going in quality growth.

I hope that adequately answers your question. 10,000 people is tremendous!!! May God use you to teach 10,000 more. Over the last 7 years, roughly 6,000 have used something of our material. A growing disciple is a good and beautiful sight to behold!

Michael,  I have been a "disciple-making pastor" for 25 years.  It has been the most explosive part of my ministry.  Over 10,000 people have been directly, and indirectly affected by this "organic" multiplying ministry.  Pastors and "apostolic leaders have been raised up."   Disciplemaking is often engaged as an effort to make better disciples, more committed, intense, dedicated followers---Far less often has it been taught about Disciple-making--as a method of growing through teaching,  My materical focuses on the Apostlic methods of Paul, John and Peter.  IThes 2:7-13; II Tim 2:1-2; I Jn 2:7-10; and II Peter 1:3-8;    The apostles knew about stages of a disciples growth toward maturity----baby, child, brother, parent, elder, pastor, apostle.  

Just wondering if your material focuses on this reproductive aspect of disciplemaking?


Thank you gamaoli for your gracious words of affirmation. We desire to provide CRCs and other churches with a tool that works well to grow people of character and impact (growing, active disciples). It sounds as if we were successful in your case. We are grateful.

Ascending Leaders is GREAT and what growth potential there is for each of us with this course of study.

My first serious introduction to spiritual disciplines was through "Christ Habits", a study produced through Ascending Leaders. Actually, I've gone through it twice with two different groups. I refer back to the materials often as I continue to be "in training" as one of Jesus' disciples, rather than just hoping to be one. The more I practice spiritual disiplines, the more I change and grow. This study was also my first introduction to triads. I have not found a better way to go deeper into the Word and each other's lives.

Thanks for this article, Sam. I'll be co-directing for the second year this year at AACRC and find reviewing the five missional themes of Coffee Break helpful. Five of our seasoned Coffee Break leaders have stepped down in the last couple of years and we've been thinking about how we could recruit new leadership from the women from our church who have been attending Coffee Break for a number of years. After reading Marian's comment below I am wondering if their workshop is open to women of other churches and what city in Ontario they are located and also what resources are available from the Coffee Break ministry staff?

Good to see you!


Thanks Sam,

This is a great summary of the discussion, and of the main themes of Coffee Break.  I've been thinking a lot about the Leadership Development piece, and about how we might continue to grow the Leadership of women, in our churches.  In Ontario, we're planning a Women's Leadership Retreat for the end of September, for any woman who wants to grow in her leadership, and in whatever she believes God is calling her to.  If you're interested in this retreat, please send me an email

Also, it might be helpful Sam, to post this conversation on the Coffee Break forum as well!  Are you able to do that?  Or I could do it, with your permission.



I love that Ogden uses the term "hot-houses" for these optimum environments for growth. That term certainly applies to the triads and quads at CenterPointe.

Yep! I learned the power of triads by going through Ascending Leaders Christ Habits study. It was a great introduction not only to triads, but to spiritual disciplines. I recommend it!

I cut my small group leadership teeth on coffee break and men's life.  Yes, believe it or not, coffee break for a man.  I was 20 and assigned to lead a Bible Study for people far from God in a national park.  I asked my mother in law, a long time coffee break leader, what she recommended and she gave me a coffee break book. Then I began using Men's Life materials while an intern shortly after they came out in the late 80s and again had the joy of having people far from God in my groups. Coffee Break had within it the seeds that sprouted, more fully developed in other ideas later. For instance, while coffee break and later men's life introduced the ideas of confidentiality and bonding, those ideas have grown up and it is TRIADS/QUADS that create the optimum environment for that to happen.

Thank you Ruth, for this gentle and insightful piece. Yes, comfort and confidentiality are high on the list. We learned so much of  this in Coffee Break and God was the inspiration for all of that. Blessings in your work...stay in touch.

Right on Ruth. You know I have been a believer in triads/quads for years and can tell many stories as evidence of their power. I was in a quad this past Tuesday night with a 30 year old converted Muslim, a 60something man and a 50something man. There is where we get down to the heart of it all. I could tell you some cool stuff from it, except what is said in our quad stays in our quad so I am sworn to confidentiality.

Very interested in looking into this strategy for discipleship.  Looking forward to next week's article.


Sounds like a great plan for your discipleship garden. I noticed that you started with the blessing of your council and that your leaders participated in the first group. I'm wondering if this is a key principle to the success of any discipleship strategy that a church develops. When the elders, deacons and key leaders own the strategy it will more likely take root! Next week's guest blog from Dave Huizenga will have more about this idea.

Thanks for your input in the conversation! 

Hi Sam (and Allen), in a few weeks, we will be completing one year of foundational gardening... hoping that a process of intentional discipleship/disciplemaking can take root in our suburban racially diverse garden/congregation. This process slowly took off with the full blessings and knowledge of the pastors and Council. (I replaced my previous contributor's photo/portrait with that of our first discipling group, aka DG-1.) Except for two, the group is composed of elders and deacons. To get started, we used Greg Ogden's Discipleship Essentials workbook. We slightly amended and wrote our own "My Discipleship Covenant" to which DG-1 members responded with increasing faithfulness, commitment and passion to help disciple others. Through the 8 months when we met Wednesday evenings, group members were convinced Biblical discipleship was not simply acquiring knowledge as important as it is BUT to more so obey and live out the essence of Matthew 28:18-20. In February, DG-1 members "graduated". To date, we have a second group of senior high schoolers plus two new adult members. DG-1 members were willing to help others in the discipleship process but only a few stepped up. With the few, we're trying to be faithful and diligent with what we need to do.

After almost a year of foundational work for our chruch's discipleship garden, I and my DG-1 friends had learned a lot. Most of these lessons are nothing fancy nor new. We simply returned to the elemental ways how Jesus made disciples. When we met as a small group or in our triads, we said we were at the feet of the Lord listening with intent and purpose. For my friends and myself, the 8-month process (which we firmly believe could have only been led and blessed by the Holy Spirit) brought us into a host of life and character changes, notably the passion to help others become disciples.

Having been myself discipled through the Navigators ministry in the Philippines, a heart and vision for intentional discipleship and disciplemaking had taken root, and had not been lost. For years, this was not the main thing for me. These days, may this be for me and for the others in our church. May the Master Dsiciplemaker be honored as we labor together!!

Sam, I'm looking forward to more in this forum. Thanks for your and Allen's work.

Thanks Sam,

I look forward to reading more and hope to hear more about how other churches are making disciples.



Thanks Allen for taking us along for the ride.

Tim Brown... wow!  lots of interesting  controversies about grace, gospel, faith leading to sanctification, assurance, etc., etc..  in the links you provided   but the bottom line for me is simple.   Saved by grace through faith.   and then, "shall we sin more, so that grace may abound?"   Christ talked more about obedience, than He did about grace.   Although He exhibited grace in his life and actions.  And in his death and resurrection.  

Lately, I've heard the quote, "judge not, that you be not judged", used as a way of muting the commands of obedience.   It is a way of neutering the authority of elders and pastors.   It is often used as a way of reducing the commands of Christ in our daily lives.  

We can debate the theological precepts forever, but the bottom line is that our desire to follow Christ is always fighting with our sinful nature.   We are sinful saints.   When we stop fighting against that sinful nature, then sin wins.   Pray for the Spirit to fill us, to win the victory over the daily sin in our lives.  Scripture says that no one who follows Christ continues to sin.   Don't make excuses for it, and don't try to justify yourself in your sin.    Believe it and do it right.   

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

For what it's worth, "Sonship" teaching has been somewhat controversial within Presbyterian circles, not because of its name but because of its theology.  Number 19 in this paper by John Frame gives some of the background:  An account of a conference on "Sonship and Sanctification," which included presntations "for" and "against" is:

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

Thanks for a good review Diane! The ten months my wife and I spent going through the Sonship material with Drew Angus was one of the most profound experiences in our spiritual growth. As a pastor of 15 years and student of discipleship and leader development, I highly recommend this course. The material is solid, reformed in its approach, and carries out its goal of personal transformation. I wish more CRC folks were aware of this rich resource. As Drew pointed out, WHM's more recent "Gospel Centered Life" is also an excellent course and more user-friendly for small groups and newer Christians.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I have tried to send this as a pesonal email through the network site, but it won't go through, so I'm posting it here. . .

Hi Allen,
Read your last post and wanted to take it "off-line", so that the back and forth between us doesn't get circular :)
I understand your final post and appreciate that you have a responsibility to moderate that thread. I also agree that the issue will not be "resolved" in any text-based, on-line dialogue. However, your previous post (at 3:02) gave me the impression that my comments were not welcome, that they "distracted" from the "real" conversation we should be having, and that I should take them somewhere else.
Your further post clarified in a more effective way, for me. They were less personal (i.e. not directed specifically at me) and I understood that you heard my comments, not just that you wanted them to stop.
The conversations did not seem circular to me, as they were responses from different people, with different emphases.
It's difficult to have a real conversation online. I bless you in your role. I trust, in general, it's more 'fun' than 'friction'. :)

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I get that and I think your point was clearly made early on.  And I have no problem with dissenting dialogue, but that issue won't get resolved here but has been highlighted. Points were made and stated and it looked as if it may continue becoming circular or ad hominem in nature.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I believe that the conversation about language and how we tell the story should be part of every thread, so that we think carefully about how we use language and how we engage with those who may not know the story, or may feel that the story doesn't apply to them.

I commented on this thread because of both the language/wording of the title of the material and because of the content of the recommended study.

But, you have made your point and I will agree to disagree. However, if we can't have a dialogue with dissenting voices, it's not much of a conversation.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I think we should be shouting that God loves people.  I'm afraid that the focus of egalitarianism is side-tracking any discussion regarding the quality and content of the curriculum that others -- as have been vocal here -- have appreciated, both male and female.  To dismiss a curriculum strictly on the title being perhaps "outdated" would be a grave misfortune and perhaps suggesting one's own passionate agenda is more important than the value in the progam and the main point; discipling others into a closer walk with Christ and thus reaching others for the kingdom.

While I agree words are important and how we use language, the nature of this thread is in regard to the content of the curriculum and not "words" per se.  I believe the discussion on the use of language in our denomination belongs somewhere else on the Network but not this particular thread.  It is becoming clear that that discussion is not going to be resolved here.  And as the current guide I do not want the thread to stray from its intent.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I agree that we can argue about words until the cows come home. We are not talking about the word 'man', we are talking about the word son.

And quoting a list of scriptures does not prove your point.

The english word 'son' is exclusive and does not reflect the witness of the whole story of scripture or of the life and witness of Jesus.

If we agree that God loves the female that he made and there is no distinction in his love between male and female, then we should shout that story from the rooftops. We (those who have the responsibility of telling this great story) should not make those who don't know the story work so hard that they have to twist their language to fit in. They should not have to learn a secret code about what we "really" mean by the word son. . .wink wink. . .in order to get the point.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

We can argue about words till the cows come home.   Fact of the matter is that "man" is often used to mean mankind,  which includes boys, and girls, and women, and men.   When the term is used, it implies an equality in significance of all of the human race, genders, ages, colors, languages, ethnicities.   Trying to remove that meaning, is simply highlighting the differences rather than the similarities (which is the exact opposite of your intent).  

It is quite obvious that "sons" refers to both males and females.  See below. 

Matthew 5:9
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

Romans 8:14
because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Romans 8:19
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.

Romans 9:26
and, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

Galatians 3:26
[ Sons of God ] You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,

Galatians 4:6
Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

Hebrews 2:10
In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.
   Hebrews 12:1
[ God Disciplines His Sons ] Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

Are you advocating that we take whatever words we find in the modern english translations of our bible and make them mean whatever we like? Son means male. Sonship means relationships between parent and males. Adoption is more inclusive and applies to both male and female.

Sonship is exclusive, not inclusive. And regardless of whether you would like it to be inclusive, or not, it speaks to inequality, not its opposite.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

An interesting concept, Greg.  More bible based than "self-based".   That both men and women can be "sons of God" seems to be much more egalitarian than our present day concepts of gender equality.  It leaves no room for distinguishing any kind of difference between sons of God and daughters of God, in terms of God's love and salvation for us.    Thanks for your words. 

posted in: What is "Sonship"?


Really?  The concept of adoption including the full rights of sons for male and female is offensive?  For Paul, the awesome news of the gospel was that all of us, male and female, could share the full rights of sons (Romans 8:14, 19 etc).  This means we get the full inheritance!  It is a concept that needs to be explained, but not forgotten in a struggle over language.  Sonship describes and defines the incredible love given to us in adoption.

This  discipleship course is about understanding God's love and grace in Christ so as to apply it to every area of life.  In other words, it has nothing to do with "lording it over others."   It emphasizes humility brought about by repentance and faith.  I struggle to see how such biblical concepts are out of date.  

I can positively affirm that the Sonship material has been an incredibly powerful tool of transformation in my life, in the life of my wife, and within my congregation.  It has opened the hearts and minds of many to see the radical, life-transforming power of the gospel.  It has changed the language of our church to be focused on repentance, faith, forgiveness, reconciliation, and gospel-inspired evangelism.  In other words, this discipleship program has brought authentic revival and renewal to a congregation that desperately needed it.  

So what does it teach?

1.) Cheer up, you are a lot worse than you think.  The first third of the course deals with our need for the gospel.  This message is not merely the key to heaven, but the key to authentic Christian living.  Theologically speaking, the first third of the course deals with the topic of total depravity so as to pastorally affirm our current need for the gospel.  It points to repentance and faith as the true marks of faith.  It focuses on how we do so many things to change the subject so we do not have to deal with our need.

2.) Cheer up, God loves you more than you think.  The second third of the course deals with the good news of the gospel.  It pastorally applies the concept of justification by faith to every area of life.  This section continues to probe deep within our hearts to illuminate how the Love of God allows us to give up the idols of control, addiction, anger, and lust which are nothing but cheap substitutes for God's grace and love in Christ.

3.) Cheer up, God can use you more than you can imagine.  The last third of the course deals with application of the gospel.  The material includes the topics of forgiveness, how to engage in constructive gospel-centered conflict, and gospel-centered evangelism.  

All of these topics are firmly within the Reformed faith, but so often we forget them.  This discipleship course is a reminder of what adoption is all about.  

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

Thank you for the background - I did understand the biblical reference and the emphasis on adoption and the freedom that comes from being united with Christ. I'm not surprised that a study on this topic, with the intensive, mentored approach that you mention would be effective.

Yes, there were many books published before and during the years when gender equity issues were nascent and beginning to be better understood. That is no reason to continue to use this kind of language. Books and print materials of all genres are regularly re-issued with new and/or edited material, with new covers and imagery and with different titles and by-lines. This is a common and effective method of updating material that has become out of date.

If the publisher wants to continue to promote this material, they should change the title. And we should not purchase or promote material that is insensitive to this issue. We should, instead, be telling the publisher that, no matter how good their material, we won't buy it with that title.

While it may be only one instance of demeaning language, it points to the still deeply imbeded use of words that hurt and disenfranchise. We could strive to do better. We should take every step possible to lift up the radical insistence of the gospel - we are all one in Christ, and none should lord it over the others.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

Some responses have confirmed my fear that individuals would reject the material based on the title. Words matter, and I should have be more sensitive with my explanation.  It is also true that actions speak louder than words. I can only speak to my experience, but as a woman I have found that those who have been discipled by and who live out the principles of this material have not been demeaning toward me. In fact, they have encouraged me to use the gifts that God has given me.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?