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Friday, March 14, 2014

Larry Osborne: Thoughts on Discipleship


"Most of our discipleship programs are very linear. Unfortunately, most spiritual growth is not."--Larry Osborne

Dr. Larry Osborne has served as a Senior Pastor and Teaching Pastor at North Coast Church since 1980. He has helped oversee the growth of the church from a fledgling group of 128 meeting in a rented school, to a multi-site ministry that reaches over 9,000 in weekend attendance.

Larry is an author and a respected trainer of pastors. One of his books is titled books include Accidental Pharisees (Baker Book House). He has said, "We've lost our compassion for the struggling in the middle and the back of the faith line, much like the Pharisees did," and adds, "we come down hard on the one who struggles, the one who is weak, and therefore accidentally, we become like the Pharisees."

Osborne writes, "We become accidental Pharisees when we lay down boundary markers that are narrower than the ones laid down by Jesus and then treat people who line up on the wrong side of our markers as if they were spiritual imposters or enemies of the Lord. Our goal may be to protect the flock. But boundary markers that are narrower than the ones Jesus laid down don't protect the flock; they divide the flock. They so discord among brothers, something God says he's not too fond of. They also result in a rash of friendly fire" (pp.142-143).

He believes many Christians today misinterpret the meaning of discipleship in Scripture, confusing discipleship with leadership, and therefore casting a judgmental eye on those who struggle with their faith.

Osborne points out how Paul began his message to the troubled church at Corinth: "The first thing to notice about Paul's rebuke of the Corinthian church is the way he starts out. He begins with praise. Not contempt. Not critique. Not a scolding. Though there was plenty to rant about. He finds the good and praises it, sincerely and genuinely . . . most of our stinging rebukes have not a word of praise . . . We start with the bad and move on to the horrible. Our tone can be scornful as we ridicule, mock, and question the salvation of everyone who's at the back of the line . . . Paul wrote with a broken heart. He felt great distress. He shed many tears. He loved the Corinthians as if they were his own children. Yet many of the harsh critics that I hear and read today seem to have far more disgust than tears" (pp.132-133).

Paul recognized that people often need milk instead of meat. They need praise mixed with spiritual council. The conveyor belt approach to discipleship does not work. Each situation requires compassion and sensitivity to individual needs. Often people don't know they are hungry or confused until they hit a crisis. Larry Osborne says that it was when his wife was suffering with cancer that he wanted to take the courses on the sovereignty of God.

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