Men on Fire Retreat Level 3: Spirit Empowered Disciples

So that . . .

Slide 1

This is the fifth and final presentation of the Men on Fire: Spirit Empowered Disciples Retreat. Men on Fire Retreats is a response to Bishop Thomas Olmsted’s call to Catholic men to “step into the breach.” In December of 2013, Bishop Olmsted drew our attention to the Aparecida document and the four necessary elements of a healthy Church community. They are:

  1. A Culture of Encounter
  2. A Vibrant Christian Community
  3. Ongoing, Holy Spirit Empowered Discipleship and
  4. Active Mission

This is the Level 3 Retreat. Level 4 is in development. Levels I, 2 and 3 are available at the website. Our intention is to make them exportable. The Power Points and talk notes are all available for free. Nothing is copyrighted. All the material can be adapted to the needs of the users.

Slide 2 So that . . . the world may be saved

All of us have asked the cynical question, “So what?” By now you have sat through four presentations: The Foundations of Discipleship, Virtue, Spiritual Gifts and Influence. Why these topics? What does it add up to? So what?

It is not so what . . . it’s so that. Jesus became a man, suffered, died, rose from the dead, returned to His Father and sent us the Holy Spirit. Why? So that we can have life to the fulness. So that we can know the Father. So that we can become holy. So that we can help Jesus save the world. How are we doing? It’s fair to say that we have room for improvement.

Slide 3 God and Cain Have a Conversation

Genesis 4:3-6 - In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So, Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

Sin is crouching at your door. Its desire is for you. But you can rule over it. This is the understanding. Sin, here, is concupiscence, the evil inclination that we are all born with. Another way to say it is “passion”. In Cain’s case, it is unbridled passion. Passion is morally neutral. It’s what we do with passion that is at issue. I’ve counseled many young men, teens and young adults who are trying to figure out what they’re supposed to do with their lives.

What are you passionate about? Follow your passion. There is a presumption here – that the passion is somehow noble. “I’m really passionate about sex. I want to have lots of sex.” Wrong answer.

God tells Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, passion is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” This is the issue of discipleship: will we master our passions or will they master us. “If you want to be my disciple, you must take up your cross and follow me.”

Empowered by the Holy Spirit and with a cohort of like-minded men around us, we can master our passions.

Slide 4 The Cave of Adullam

David was at a very low point. He had killed the giant. But his fame earned him the jealousy of King Saul who was out to kill him. So, on the run from the king’s army, David hid out in a cave where he composed this psalm:

Psalm 142 - Of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer.

  1. I cry aloud to Yahweh; I lift up my voice to Yahweh for mercy.
  2. I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble.
  3. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way. In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me.
  4. Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.
  5. I cry to you, Yahweh; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”
  6. Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.
  7. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.

From the pit of despair, he cries out to the Lord. He praises God and affirms His goodness, “You are my refuge,” and he prophesies that righteous men will gather about him because of the Lord’s goodness towards David.

Slide 5 David’s Mighty Men

1 Samuel 22:1-2 - David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.

This is such a powerful picture of evangelization and discipleship. The anointing was upon David to attract and train men in the service of the Lord and His purposes. Thirty-seven men are named in the Scripture, along with their mighty deeds. David wasn’t the only one to slay a giant. Goliath had brothers.

I love the three “D” words. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him. Any of you distressed, in debt or discontented. You’re in the right place.

Slide 6 Fortunately, I Am Mighty

This is just for fun.

Slide 7 Don’t Think Either/Or. Think Both/And

In the spiritual walk we have many of these contradictions. Is Jesus God, or is He man. He is both God and Man. Are we natural man or spiritual man. We are both natural man and spiritual man.

Is discipleship the interior work of the soul or is it the exterior work of evangelization. It is both / and. It is both the interior work of being a disciple and the exterior work of making disciples.

Slide 8 Personal Holiness and Disciple-making Out of Balance

My personal experience and the overwhelming experience in our community has been overemphasizing personal holiness and under-emphasizing disciple-making. I was startled once when listening to a missionary speak. His experience was the opposite. His group put so much energy into the mission and not nearly enough on developing the character of Jesus. He was concerned that the missionaries weren’t a good enough representation of Jesus. He used the word picture of a man with one leg shorter than the other. On further consideration, however, within the Catholic world, much of our missionary effort as a Church has been dominated by the social justice movement and not the holiness movement. In this group, I submit to you that our shorter leg is the disciple-making leg, the mission. We are out of balance.

Slide 9 Two Sides of the Same Coin

Cardinal Timothy Dolan said recently, “He is always with us. Jesus promised this when he gave his disciples the same mission he gives to each of us. As followers of Christ, we know that our identity and our mission are two sides of the same coin; like the apostles, we are called to be missionary disciples. We are not only invited to follow and take refuge in God, our stronghold, but we are also commissioned to reach out to one another. Building a culture isn’t something we just do once a year or with one event or initiative – it’s essential to who we are. It happens through our daily actions, how we treat one another and how we live our lives.”

You can use the picture of two sides of the same coin. I prefer this one: the come and the go of the Gospel.

Slide 10 The Come and the Go of the Gospel

The Come of the Gospel is the invitation to enter into a relationship with Jesus and with the community of believers, to come and see what it’s all about.

The Go of the Gospel is the command from Jesus to go and tell the world what you saw.

Slide 11 Come to Me

Matthew 11:28-29 - Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.

This invitation is to the weary. Firstly, it’s to the world-weary. “Come. Step out of the rat-race. Let me teach you how to truly live.” Secondly, it’s to the weary believers to come deeper. “Come. Let me heal you, bind up your wounds and prepare you to go back out again.” “Learn from me” is the call to discipleship.

Slide 12 Come and See

Psalm 66:5 - Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind!

This come and see is an invitation to lift our eyes, to see how amazing our God is and to live in His delight.

Slide 13 Come and See

John 1:45-51 - Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

This come and see is the invitation from a disciple to a prospective disciple. The disciple says’ I have found the one.” His friend responds, “How can this be?” The disciple replies, “Come and see. I’ll show you.”

We must be mindful that this conversation is attended to by the Holy Spirit. It is supernatural. Always, when we bring a friend to Jesus, Jesus will direct the encounter. We might undersell Jesus. But He always over delivers. “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Slide 14 The Great Commission

Matthew 28:16-20 - Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Slide 15 Francis Chan (video)

We need to do what Jesus says to do – go and make disciples.

Slide 16 Discussion Starters

  • David’s Mighty Men - All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him. Do you have what it takes to be a mighty man for Jesus? Discuss how stress-free, wealthy and contented might be obstacles to discipleship.
  • Both / And – Is your discipleship out of balance? Which do you need to increase emphasis on, the interior or exterior aspect of discipleship?

Slide 17 We Need to Go!

The following slides have excerpt from men who know a lot about the Great Commission.

Slide 18 Robert Lewis, Early Church Historian

Apologetics and intellection cannot save Christianity. Only culture can. By culture, I don’t mean high culture: Bach’s b Minor Mass, Caravaggio’s Calling of Saint Matthew. I mean the total harvest of thinking and feeling, to use TS Eliot’s phrase, the pattern of inherited meaning and sensibilities, encoded in rituals, law, language, practices and stories that can order and inspire the behavior, thoughts and affections of a Christian people.

The most important thing in this moment of the life of the Church historically is for the Church to remind our self of what the Church is and what we are supposed to do. Nothing is more needful today than for the survival of Christian culture because in recent generations, this culture has become dangerously thin. We have to start telling our selves our story, and holding on to it, inculcating the practices that teach the story to ourselves and our children. This is not going to happen without a rebirth of moral and spiritual discipline and a resolute effort on the part of Christians to comprehend and defend the remnants of Christian culture.” It is not enough to combat bad ideas with good ideas. We must first convert our hearts which will change our practices, our hearts and our minds. That will create new habits, new structures and new institutions, cultural liturgies.

God creates culture on the inside of us and then He pulls it out of us. This is the work of virtue building, of growing in holiness, which then leads to becoming influential in the world.

Slide 19 David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission, Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1991, 389–390.

During the past half century or so there has been a subtle but nevertheless decisive shift toward understanding mission as God’s mission. During preceding centuries mission was understood in a variety of ways. Sometimes it was interpreted primarily as saving individuals from eternal damnation. Or it was understood as introducing people from the East and the South to the blessings and privileges of the Christian West. Often it was perceived as the expansion of the church. Sometimes it was defined as the process by which the world would be transformed into the kingdom of God. All these instances, so important for the early church, were gradually displaced by the doctrine of grace.

Mission was understood as being derived from the very nature of God. It was thus put in the context of the doctrine of the Trinity, not the doctrine of the Church or salvation. The classical doctrine on the Missio Dei (Mission of God) as God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit was expanded to include yet another “movement”: The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit sending the Church into the world. As far as missionary thinking was concerned, this linking with the doctrine of the Trinity constituted an important innovation.

Our mission has not life of its own: only in the hands of the sending God can it truly be called mission. Not least since the missionary initiative comes from God alone.

Mission is thereby seen as a movement from God to the world; the church is viewed as an instrument for that mission. There is church because there is mission, not vice versa. To participate in mission is to participate in the movement of God’s love toward people, since God is a fountain of sending love.

Slide 20 Darrell L. Guder (editor), Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1998, 4-5.

We have come to see that mission is not merely an activity of the church. Rather, mission is the result of God’s initiative, rooted in God’s purposes to restore and heal creation. ‘Mission’ means ‘sending,’ and it is the central biblical theme describing the purpose of God’s action in human history.... We have begun to learn that the biblical message is more radical, more inclusive, more transforming than we have allowed it to be. In particular, we have begun to see that the church of Jesus Christ is not the purpose or goal of the gospel, but rather its instrument and witness.... God’s mission is calling and sending us, the church of Jesus Christ, to be a missionary church in our own societies, in the cultures in which we find ourselves.

The point here, that you don’t want to miss is this: The Church is not the point. The mission to save the world for Jesus is the point. If the establishment of the Church was the primary reason for the Cross of Christ, then we’re done – mission accomplished. The Church is established. Everyone who hasn’t joined with us yet can go to hell, literally. But it is the heart of our Father that no one should be lost. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit send us, the Church, to give the Father His heart’s desire, that all men would be saved.

The Church still will gather the sheep, but they will not seek to get them healthy and happy simply as an end in itself, but as preparation for them being sent out to change the world. We have work to do.

Slide 21 Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option

Saint Benedict said, “Families are domestic monasteries and schools for conversion that require fidelity to an order, keeping out things that interfere with the good order of community.”

Rod Dreher – If we don’t maintain a clear, countercultural sense of who we are and how we differ, as Christ’s people, from those around us, we are going to be assimilated by the culture. It’s like this, you cannot walk out into a gale with a lit candle and expect that candle to serve as a light for ourselves and for everybody else. You have to put some type of shield around the candle.

Steady, simple fidelity. We don’t set out to “save” anything. We set out to pray and live faithfully in community, to bear witness to the Lord to a world consumed by darkness. We live among the people, but also separately, in terms of our practices.

A shallow reading of The Benedict Option and Rod Dreher would seem to say that we all withdraw from society, that we build a compound in the woods, build high walls and do everything we can to keep the world’s culture at bay. This is what his critics claim. A better understanding is this: the world culture is overwhelming. We do have to build communities that can insulate us from the gale force winds of the modern culture, because we cannot withstand it on our own. City of the Lord is a community that does provide us a level of protection. We attempt to create and sustain a Christian culture to be formed in and to be enveloped in, in order to protect our way of life and to give our families, our children and our most vulnerable members a bubble of peace and sanity, where love and truth reign.

Simultaneously, we must extend our reach and influence. We must push out into our neighborhoods and cities, our churches and marketplaces and do all we can to effect positive change and to extend our values and virtues. We must make disciples.

Slide 22 Rod Dreher

We are not going to be left alone to practice our faith.

Slide 23 On Forming Missionary Disciples

Bishop Thomas Olmsted - Ships are made in the harbor, but they were not made to stay there. The Church is missionary by her nature. Jesus was sent by the Father into the world in the power of the Holy Spirit. He, in turn, sends out His disciples to teach all nations (Mt 28:18ff). (We) cannot exist for (ourselves). After (we) have encountered the risen Christ, and been formed into communities of faith and freedom, the Gospel demands (we) be sent into the world as ambassadors of the truth and love of Christ.

Here, Bishop Olmsted clearly states the “demands” of the Gospel to be disciples and to make disciples. Here is a competing viewpoint: The truth about discipleship is that it’s never hip and it’s never in style – it’s the call to come and die; a long obedience in the same direction. The Gospel makes a demand on us that our flesh resists.

Many believe that they just can’t evangelize and disciple people. It’s too hard. It’s impossible. But some of those same people believe it’s possible to become holy by their own efforts. The come and go of the Gospel are both impossible on our own. Apart from grace, we can’t do it. But we have grace. And with grace comes the will to cooperate with the Spirit. And with cooperation comes joy.

Slide 24 The Joy of the Faith

Pope Francis - Spread the mission with the joy of the faith! Do not fall into the temptation of structuralism. The Catholic passion, the Church’s passion is to live the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.

Slide 25 Discussion Starter

  • There is a command to go and there is a necessity to build a Christian culture and to protect our vulnerable ones. How do we balance these? Share your ideas.
  • Have you experienced joy, enthusiasm and excitement when you have cooperated with the Holy Spirit to share your faith? Share your experience.

Slide 26 Neil Cole - Shifting the Priorities of Church Leaders

Ultimately each church will be evaluated by only one thing, its disciples. Your church is only as good as its disciples. It does not matter how good your praise, preaching, programs or property are. If your disciples are passive, needy, consumerist and not moving in the direction of radical obedience, your church is not good.

If we’re not making disciples, are we really disciples? What is our plan for making disciples of Jesus? Is our plan working?

Slide 27 How We Make Disciples – Head, Heart & Hands

It is not enough to teach facts and gain knowledge. Disciples must be formed in ways that change their motivation and give them active gospel experiences.

Jesus commanded us to make disciples who make disciples. We can make disciples formally, through a church or community program, and informally, by just you sharing Jesus. In formal discipleship you need to consider all that you want people to:

Know — key doctrines all people should know

Believe — truths that motivate and transform your identity and behavior

Do — the activities that the gospel leads us to practice

Informal discipleship, in conjunction with formal discipleship is crucial in making followers of Jesus who both hear and obey. Here are 5 ways to make disciples informally:

Slide 28 5 Ways to Make Disciples Informally

  • Encourage a disciple-making culture. Can all our life together be a platform for disciple training? Consider these. Are only a few people doing ministry for many? Do we spend significant time developing, training and equipping leaders? Do we have an expectation for every member to be available to respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit all of the time? Do new members get an assignment right away? Do we celebrate members who are called to new works? Do leaders encourage members to innovate and be open to new possibilities?
  • Make your life visible and accessible to others. Many of us are naturally introverted, even shy. “I’m a private person.” The command to make disciples doesn’t allow for any excuses. We must live our lives out loud. Invite people in. Open your doors and windows. If you don’t have a gift for words, let the example of how you live speak for you. But, use your words, too.
  • Live in community. Jesus’ second commandment is to love one another. If we aren’t developing people to love one another, we are not making disciples. And we will not make disciples who love one another if they’re not in consistent community where others are building them up. It is a team effort.
  • Live as servants together. The fivefold ministry is given to equip the saints for ministry unto the maturity of the body. We will not grow up if we are not all ministering. We grow up as we build up the body and serve together.
  • Make sure your leaders live on Mission. Living life on mission requires getting in the game. Is your missional living more of a chalk-talk, seminars and teaching, or an actual game? Is it just a scrimmage among other Christians or are we actually engaging the lost? If we are not in the game of mission, we will not become disciples, but rather just a spiritual formation group.

Slide 29 Discipleship Is the Process of Becoming Like Jesus

Discipleship is the process of becoming like Jesus in our affections, our thoughts and our behaviors, in that order. The stress, struggles, and sinfulness of life gets in the way to remind us that we are not much like Christ at all. We find ourselves discouraged if we keep looking at these snapshots of our lives that involve fear, guilt, and shame. It can leave us wondering if we will ever “get there” as a disciple.

If we see discipleship as a process with many iterations, we would find more peace, joy, and hope in the struggle of everyday life. Each day then allows us to experience more of God, realize more of our need to be conformed and trust that God’s word is true, that He will conform us to Jesus. So, be patient.

Through this process of discipleship, our affection turns more and more towards Jesus. Gradually our desires come into alignment with His heart. Simultaneously, we progressively take on the mind of Christ. We think, “What would Jesus do?” We believe in Jesus. But it takes a long time and much intentionality before we believe like Jesus. As our heart and mind change, so does our behavior. It’s an inside out process. If our affections don’t change first, no behavioral change will be lasting. But if our affections do change first, our behavior will change accordingly because that will be what we want.

Slide 30 Hospitality

Hospitality is proof of discipleship. If we are going to establish healthy disciple making, we need to recapture the art and the heart of hospitality. Informal disciple-making is best done as a home centered ministry. This became apparent to me early in my marriage. I knew very gifted men of God who were out saving the world for Jesus. Meanwhile, their wives were languishing back home and their children were being discipled by the world. With all my heart, I wanted an evangelistic ministry I could do with my wife and kids. The main characteristic of intentional disciple-making is hospitality – opening up your home, your family and your whole life to the work of the Kingdom of God.

It’s all about food and drink. Invite friends, neighbors and co-workers to your table. Be genuinely interested in their lives. Love them. This really isn’t all that hard.

Slide 31 Jesus in my home

Consecrate your home to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Dedicate your home to the purposes of our Lord in this earth. Make it available for Kingdom building and discipleship-making. Prayer circles, rosary groups, bible studies, neighborhood watches…all these are organic, doable and attractive to people you know. And people you know, know people you don’t know, people who don’t know Jesus, yet. We can do this.

You’re not alone in this work. You have a supernatural friend and partner in the Person of the Holy Spirit. In Acts chapter 2, the brand-new Church of Jesus Christ grew from 120 to over 3000 in one day. The Holy Spirit goes before you and prepares ears to hear the Good News and hearts to receive Jesus. O, “the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.”