Test Yourself

2 Corinthians 13:5 – “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”

Several years ago, while conducting workshops at a national pastor’s conference, I encountered a twenty-something woman who looked troubled. I struck up a conversation with her and eventually transitioned the conversation to what might be troubling her. Her answer cut me to the core. She said, “the church” was troubling her. I encouraged her to explain what she meant, so she explained, “It does not take true Christians to put on a Christian show, I want something more real”.

Performance Christianity, where church and the Christian life is portrayed as a ninety-minute production, cannot meet the deep spiritual hunger of those who are starving for the things of Christ. While a well-produced church service may get people to show up on Sundays, what matters is what happens next…discipleship. What, you might ask, do I mean by discipleship? It is a valid question. What I mean by discipleship is: “We are to address with each person, the specific spiritual growth obstacles that are hindering their faith development”. This goal cannot be accomplished within Sunday morning church services. In that one service, we may have a broad range of people: Some who do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, some who are highly devoted to Christ and the expansion of His Kingdom and of course every flavor of disciple in between. Something more is needed.

So, what is that “more”? Is it our small groups or life-stage programs? Is it our church’s sense of community or our church’s social justice presence in our community? While all these programs have value, and can contribute to a person’s spiritual development, none of these programs are intentionally and systematically designed to do so. The Apostle Paul recognized various phases of spiritual development, and he tailored his discipleship efforts accordingly. Paul tells the Corinthian Christians: “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready” – 1 Corinthians 3:2. And likewise, the author of Hebrews 5:13 makes a similar point: “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” You and I, who are ministry leaders, know these passages well. As such, it is easy for us to dismiss these passages as though they apply solely to a specific group of people within a specific historic context. But before we dismiss Paul’s point so quickly, have we ever truly considered whether Paul’s rebuke may also apply to the people within our churches?

So how do we know which people within our church need milk, and which need meat? Paul’s response may be found in 2 Corinthians 13:5. Here he tells every individual to “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” The life of Jesus Christ within us is made evident by the life-change that is taking place by the work of the Holy Spirit. Milk-based discipleship helps people know what Christ has done for us. Meat-based discipleship addresses what we must allow the Holy Spirit to do through us, that we may live our lives in ever-increasing righteousness and service to our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. I wish discipleship was so cut-and-dry as milk verses meat. If we extend Paul’s metaphor, we come to understand that there are many developmental phases between infancy and adulthood. This makes discipleship a dynamic multiphase process occurring within each true Christian. How can we then pinpoint what kind of discipleship each person needs at any given point in time?

This has been the conundrum that has troubled me for my entire ministry career. One day the thought occurred to me, what if we take Paul’s command in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to “test yourself” literally? Could an assessment tool be created that could continually examine each person’s spiritual progress, stagnation, or even decline? Such a tool would need to gauge faith in action being lived-out, and not merely head knowledge. Then also, could such a tool pin-point the specific discipleship issues that an individual may need to address at their present phase of spiritual maturation? And finally, could this tool also be used to assist in the spiritual equipping of every individual? For the past fourteen years, I have worked with many different churches exploring these questions, and creating for them custom discipleship assessment tools to use with their church members. The past fourteen years of research has taught me many important lessons. These lessons I have now integrated into an online discipleship program called NextSteps. Paul told us to “test ourselves”. NextSteps helps implement that command in a manner that is affirming and supportive of every person’s spiritual development. Go to https://www.assessme.org/test-drive/.

Your People are an Army!

Your people, those who attend your church, represent and incredible Kingdom army. Sadly, however, most of the army remains in basic training and are never released to fight in the battle. They want to serve, but church soldiers often do not understand how they are to serve.

2 Corinthians 10:4 states: “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” One of the strongholds that often keep people immobilized, is a lack of clarity regarding God’s purpose for their life. In fact, the #1 question on the heart and mind of every person is, “Why am I here…why did God make me like this?” My staff and I live to help people discover the answer to that vital question. God doesn’t want to keep us in the dark about our life purpose? In fact, I believe that our unique design is an intentional creation of God, perfectly suited for the “good works God has prepared for us” (Ephesians 2:10). So if we want to know what kind of good works we are to accomplish, a significant first-step to discovering this answer is found in the talents, skills, and abilities that come naturally to us. God will never ask us to serve him in a way that is contrary to his design for your life.

I learned that lesson the hard way many years ago when God called me to plant my first church. From previous experiences, I discovered that the Lord designed me to be a driven visionary with strong strategic planning abilities. As such, I can cast a noble vision for people, and help them plug-in. The new church was going great. We were rapidly growing in size. We also were blessed to have many adults come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. However, all of our momentum was stalled in one day due to the destructive behavior one person. Unknowingly, this person had previously destroyed three churches in Arizona. She now set her sights on targeting our church. The church survived the attempts of this person to destroy it, but we were scared and hurt. My district superintendent counseled me to lay off the church planting process, and just shepherd my people for a year or more to allow them to heal. I tried my best, but full-time shepherding is not a gift typically found in most visionary entrepreneurial pastors. My stress-level was off the charts. Night after night I would plead with God, “Lord, please make me a kinder and gentler pastor so I can care for your hurting people”. One evening God finally responded. It wasn’t in an audible voice, but in an overwhelming impression: “If I wanted you to be a kinder and gentler pastor, don’t you think I would have made you that way?” I realized at that moment that my superintendent was asking me to do something God never designed me to do. If indeed this church now needed a shepherding pastor, then I needed to step aside and allow the church to search for a pastor with the temperament and gifts they now required.

Understanding our design, helps us know how to say “yes” to service opportunities that fit who we are, while also giving us permission to say “no” to service opportunities that are not in line with God’s design for our lives. Understanding one’s “Ministry Temperament”, that is your God-given design for ministry service, is the first crucial step pastoral leaders need to address if they ever want to move their army out of basic training and into the battle.

NextSteps Spiritual Formation is Now Live!

The long awaited NextSteps Spiritual formation assessment program is now available. This program is a real game-changer for your church. Now you will be able to ASSESS, TRACK, and EQUIP every person in your church for intentional spiritual development! Sign-up for a test drive today and see how good this program really is. I promise, […]

AssessME.org Launches A New Program for Spiritual Formation

The New NextSteps Spiritual Formation Assessment Program

We have exciting news! In the 3rd quarter of 2016, AssessME.org plans to release a new optional assessment program for Spiritual Formation. It will be called: NextSteps by AssessME.org. David A Posthuma has been working on various beta-versions of assessments with churches for the past twelve years. The result is NextSteps. The program will enable your leadership to regularly assess, track, and even equip your people for spiritual maturity. Oh, did I tell you? Your leaders will even be able to edit the question pools and reports so that your version of the assessment will appropriately reflect your ministry’s discipleship culture!

More than an Assessment

However, NextSteps is not simply an assessment tool. NextSteps will be a cultural game-changer for your church. It will allow you to track the spiritual development of every person in the church. NextSteps will generate formation-phase specific reports so you know what discipleship stage for each person in your church. Beyond formation-phase, NextSteps will also assess each person’s “Felt-Need”. A felt-need is an emotional dynamic that affects s person’s spiritual development, either positively or negatively. So for example, an individual who is undergoing a divorce may assess as a “Wounded Warrior”, which describes distinct emotional and spiritual needs that if not addressed, will likely impede spiritual development. NextSteps will also generate global reports to enable your leadership to track formation-phase graduations, as people graduate from one discipleship phase to the next, and report areas of discipleship-making weaknesses inherent in your church’s ministry programming.

It Includes An Equipping Center

The NextSteps Spiritual Formation Program also incorporates nine phases of spiritual formation built around three broad movements: DISCOVER, DEVELOP, DEPLOY. Within each one of these three broad formation phases, the assessment utilizes three sub-phases to enable people to grow within each broad phase. Each of the nine formation-phases will contain a “Strategy Page” where your church’s leadership can:

  1. Assign phase-appropriate books
  2. Assign phase-appropriate movies
  3. Assign phase-appropriate audio teachings
  4. Take sign-ups for phase-appropriate small groups
  5. Take sign-ups for phase-appropriate classes
  6. Take upssign- for phase-appropriate programs
  7. And more!

In this manner, NextSteps will help your church create the necessary support structures for spiritual formation at every phase of the discipleship process!

It Integrates With the AssessME.org Mobilization Data

If your church currently uses our long-proven assessments for mobilizing people into Kingdom service (ePersonality, Leadership Style, GraceGifts, and Skills Tracking), you will be pleased to know that your mobilization data will integrate fully with the NextSteps Spiritual Formation Program…now your leadership will know how a ministry candidate has matured in his/her faith-walk, and decide whether their formation-phase is appropriate to the available service opportunity.

Conclusion

Our current Ministry Mobilizations Assessments come standard as “Assessment Packs”. An online Assessment Pack contains all the assessments designed to support ministry mobilization, plus skills tracking. Churches purchase Assessment Packs for the quantity of people they wish to assess. Also, our mobilization assessments are designed to be taken once (although any user account can be reset so the user can retake the assessments), because they are based upon personality dynamics that do not change. If someone wishes to retake the assessments, it costs the church an additional Assessment Pack from their Pack Bank Account.

NextSteps is different. Unlike personality dynamics that are rather static and do not change, Spiritual Formation (Disciple-making), is an extremely fluid and dynamic process. As a result, the NextSteps is designed to be taken repeatedly, once every six, twelve (the default), or eighteen months. As a result, the NextSteps program will require your church to register a monthly subscription. However, the benefits our mobilization assessments, plus the new spiritual formation program offers your church, are truly priceless. As always, we are confident that your church’s investment into AssessME.org will easily pay for itself as your church members mature in Christ, and begin serving Christ effectively, they will become more and more faithful givers in support of Kingdom ministry..