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When Discipleship Fails

Last month I had the opportunity to attend a leadership seminar at our church. This seminar was designed specifically for Community Group leaders and focused on the topic of how discipleship takes place in and out of the church.

The discussion leader developed this seminar around a central principle that discipleship begins not only with our desire to build disciples within the church, but with those we meet outside of the church. What? How do you disciple someone who isn't a follower of Christ?

The speaker reminded all of us about the "marching orders" Christ gave to believers at the end of Matthew 28. Often given the paragraph title of "The Great Commission," Jesus commands us to make disciples first by “going” and then by “baptizing” and finally by teaching them to “observe the commands” of Christ.

One of the repeating phrases I heard during the discussion was that we need to remember that God is inviting people into Jesus’ story. As important as we might think we are, we only serve as the go-between. We are called/commanded to go out and live on mission. As we live as missionaries in the world, we find those people that God is inviting and then we connect them to His story.

I remember the first time I heard this passage of Matthew explained the same way. Suddenly it was not a passage about evangelism anymore. It quickly became a passage about discipleship.

I have been noodling this around in my head for the past month or so and I have been thinking through my life in the church. The typical model I've seen is to get people to buy into the grace God extends through Jesus (evangelism) and then tell them everything they must do as believers (discipleship)! What a crappy model! Not only is it wrong, but it sets people up for a life of bondage to religious behavior.

The more I thought through the ramifications of Matthew 28 as a verse on discipleship, I also thought through some other methods we often choose to use. Along the way, I see three ways we try to reach people for God and fall absolutely flat.

Connecting People to Our Story

This is an easy one for any of us to do. I did it for years. We love to talk about ourselves, so telling people our own story is almost the default approach we will take. It's fun to share how we came to put our faith in Jesus. I’m not saying that we do it deliberately. Not at all. When we tell people about our faith in Christ, it just becomes easy to make the story center on us and what God has done in our lives.

I've written and spoken about that often on theMangoTimes, it is what I like to call:  Lifestyle Evangelism. Instead of telling others about Jesus, we tell them about what we do. It’s natural to tell others "how we do family” and “how we do school” or “how we do church.” There are so many people looking for practical answers, so telling them “how we do life or how we do culture” is an easy response for us. But often we don’t share Jesus, we share a lifestyle. 

One other way I think we do this is when we put the emphasis on OUR personal testimony. There is nothing wrong with sharing our story, but ultimately we are not trying to connect people to OUR story and we fail to connect people to Jesus' story.


Connecting People to the Disciple’s Story

Do not miss what I am saying here. Peter’s story. Paul’s story. They are great stories. What the apostles said was really good and it is important to share what they have said. The epistles of Paul and the letters of the other apostles is the Word of God. We must share their words, especially when they preach and teach about the gospel and the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is the story!

However, if we are not careful, we CAN forget to share Jesus.  Like my first example above when we focus on our story (lifestyle evangelism), we can stop short here too. We can find ourselves focusing only on theology with other people. I guess what I really am describing here is a type of Theology Evangelism.

There are many Christians who do a great job teaching theology. There are many others that attach theology to evangelism and discipleship (aka apologetics). I TOTALLY AGREE that it is important to know God and know what He has to say about Himself and the world we live in. I'm not talking about teaching theology or the use of apologetics. I'm referring to people who teach others everything they know “about God” but they fail to simply introduce people to Jesus. Theology is wonderful, but on it’s own it will not save one soul. 


Connecting People to the Church’s Story

The third way we can fail in discipleship is when we focus our discipleship on the Church’s story. It doesn’t matter which era of church history appeals to you the most. Whether you focus on the history of the Orthodox church, the Roman Catholic church, the Reformed Church, the Anglican Church, or any splinter of the church that followed throughout the centuries, if you are emphasizing the church’s story in your discipleship of others, you missed it again.

The history of the church and what the church believes and how the church practices the faith is important. Like theology , doctrine helps to protect the church from error and keeps people from straying into cults or worshiping a form of Christ. Keeping with my theme, Doctrine Evangelism will do nothing to convert sinners to salvation. Like Theology Evangelism, Doctrine Evangelism falls short.

Consider this: Doctrine and theology will often lead us to focus on telling others what they must avoid or accomplish, but often fails to mention what has already been done for us as believers.


Connecting People to Christ’s Story

Here is a good test: If you feel like your church has fed you a steady diet of 'being told what to do," then chances are you have not been discipled into Christ’s Story. If you are carefully walking a tight rope and trying not to fall off due to right/wrong behavior, you are probably not living in Christ’s Story. As a believer, if you are constantly worried that failure negates you're acceptance by God, you are not living in Christ's story.

If you are living in a church or family or belief system that tells you over and over how to behave better, let me encourage you to dig a little deeper into Christ’s story. See if you will agree that your very best behavior is rejected by God. Discover how God's answer for you was the perfect life of Christ lived out on your behalf.

I bet you will find that you may need to stop focusing on behaving better and give a lot more credit to believing better.

Quietly making noise,
Fletch

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Fletch

Andy "Fletch" Fletcher has been married for the past 22 years. He and his wife Kendra are the proud parents of five sons and three daughters, all of whom keep them laughing and on their toes. During the day he can be found fixing people's teeth, but in his spare time you can find Fletch stretching out a pair of flip-flops, creating a new pizza recipe, playing the drums, or rescuing a piece of his tie-dye wardrobe from his wife's donation pile. You can find him online where he writes on his personal blog: theMangoTimes and cohosts with his wife on the HomeschoolingIRL.com podcast.

Knights Ferry Hike

The three littlest Mangokids and Betty The Surf Dog joined me on a hike around the trails at Knight's Ferry. It was President's Day. While the rest of the country appeared to be freezing, we were enjoying the mid 70's. Gorgeous day.

Quietly making noise,
Fletch

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Fletch

Andy "Fletch" Fletcher has been married for the past 22 years. He and his wife Kendra are the proud parents of five sons and three daughters, all of whom keep them laughing and on their toes. During the day he can be found fixing people's teeth, but in his spare time you can find Fletch stretching out a pair of flip-flops, creating a new pizza recipe, playing the drums, or rescuing a piece of his tie-dye wardrobe from his wife's donation pile. You can find him online where he writes on his personal blog: theMangoTimes and cohosts with his wife on the HomeschoolingIRL.com podcast.

Halloween 2014

Let the kids plan their own costumes and this is what they create. Click on the photo to see the full version.

Quietly making noise,
Fletch

Comment

Fletch

Andy "Fletch" Fletcher has been married for the past 22 years. He and his wife Kendra are the proud parents of five sons and three daughters, all of whom keep them laughing and on their toes. During the day he can be found fixing people's teeth, but in his spare time you can find Fletch stretching out a pair of flip-flops, creating a new pizza recipe, playing the drums, or rescuing a piece of his tie-dye wardrobe from his wife's donation pile. You can find him online where he writes on his personal blog: theMangoTimes and cohosts with his wife on the HomeschoolingIRL.com podcast.

SkyMall, Part Two

If you are a long-time reader of The MangoTimes, you know I like to occasionally offer commentary on a few of the odd corners I have found in our society. In one of those corners (and every airline seat pocket) you will find a copy of the SkyMall catalog. I've mentioned this catalog of non-necessities in a previous post. You need to go read it right now! I'll wait.

Okay. Kendra and I have been traveling back and forth across the country this month and I have had several opportunities to flip through the pages of this mail-order masterpiece again. As I scan the endless collection of crap and I wonder who is taking the time to actually order this stuff, I can't help but remember that my own dad is the perfect mark for SkyMall's advertising team. 

This leads me to this 2nd installment in my commentary on SkyMall merchandise. Here are a few more beauties I found during my short flight from Chicago to Philadelphia. As always, if you read through this list and see something you own or something you have purchased, I am sorry. No really, I am very sorry for you.

(*I apologize for the image quality. iPhone + turbulence = shaky images.)


TORTILLA BABY SWADDLE BLANKET - $47.99

The description on this one refers to "their delectable little toes" and "good enough to eat." Let's get something very clear: Unless you are a witch who lives in a candy house in the middle of a dark German forest, eating children or even the thought of eating children is not normal. Also, after 8 kids I'm still a little freaked out by diaper blow outs. I don't want to unwrap this tortilla and have any future confusion about refried beans!


MADEMOISELLE HAUTE COUTURE LAMP - $549

After you purchase the Leg Lamp from Christmas Story and it it just is not cheesy enough for you and your family, SkyMall swoops in for the rescue! Look at this beauty and you can get it/her for the low low price of only $549 dollars.  Do you want to know the best part? SkyMall promises Curbside Delivery! Which is perfect, because then all your neighbors will also know just how weird you really are!


RELEAF NECK REST - $19.99

First question I have is this: What's wrong with using the actual spelling for "relief?" How does the alternate spelling help sell this product or cause me to want to have it?

Second question is this: Who are these giraffe-necked people using this pillow? Unlike a U-shaped pillow that allows you to remain alive, the Releaf Pillow apparently works by slowly choking you to death. Think of it as an ergonomically designed noose with moisture wicking potential. Also, take a look at the list of everyday situations that improve with a straight neck. Sleeping upright? If sleeping upright is a problem you need solved in your life, I think your biggest need is not a plush neck ring. Instead, I would be focusing on saving my money for an actual bed and maybe a pillow (followed by an actual life). 


DELIGHTFUL DANCING DUCKS WELCOME SIGN - $24.95

I'm pretty sure that if I visit your house for the first time and see these three ducks out front, I am going to make some initial conclusions about you and none of them are going to be, "Hey, I'm visiting the house of a normal person!"


PIEROGI ORNAMENT - $9.95

This is being advertised as the "perfect gift for the Pierogi lover." I have to disagree. I think the perfect gift for the Pierogi lover would be an actual Pierogi. Right? Yes. That is right! One other thing to note: if you read the advertisement you will notice that this ornament is being provided from a third party called What On Earth. Now there is a company who chose a perfect name for itself. 


HIGH HEEL BOTTLE HOLDER - $25.99

So. SkyMall has some fascination with mixing alcohol and shoes worn by hookers.

I have this scenario in my mind where a female SkyMall employee has had way too much wine to drink and she can no longer walk in high heels. While trying desperately to balance a bottle of wine and her wine glass, gravity kicks in and she ends up on the floor.  It's in moments like these that inspiration has hit many of us, right? With her fuzzy drunk mind she gets a brilliant idea: Why not prop the bottle inside one of her high heels? Brilliant, right? Actually no, she's just drunk.

NFL WINE SHOE HOLDER - $36.99 The SkyMall marketing team are the winners here. They know that if people are dumb enough to put wine into a high heel, they can  charge them $11 more and these same idiots will probably be willing to put their wine bottles into their favorite NFL high heels! If only Napa Valley had an NFL team, the world would be perfect!

NFL WINE SHOE HOLDER - $36.99
The SkyMall marketing team are the winners here. They know that if people are dumb enough to put wine into a high heel, they can  charge them $11 more and these same idiots will probably be willing to put their wine bottles into their favorite NFL high heels! If only Napa Valley had an NFL team, the world would be perfect!

TEAM SHOE OPENER - $17.99 But what about baseball fans and beer drinkers? Have you ever been at a baseball game and forgotten your bottle opener. Have you ever wished your wife/girlfriend was there with her bottle opener in the bottom of her hooker heels? Yeah, neither has anyone else. Ever. However, SkyMall is an equal opportunity distributor of stupid suggestions.

TEAM SHOE OPENER - $17.99
But what about baseball fans and beer drinkers? Have you ever been at a baseball game and forgotten your bottle opener. Have you ever wished your wife/girlfriend was there with her bottle opener in the bottom of her hooker heels? Yeah, neither has anyone else. Ever. However, SkyMall is an equal opportunity distributor of stupid suggestions.

THE SHOETER - $20.99 Lastly, nothing says, "I have no sense of class or culture" than a woman who starts stripping off her shoes and offers you a shot of your favorite grain alcohol directly from her high heels. You can put this one into the category of Items With Great Names too! Whoever named this gift The Shoeter, is well on their way to executive status at SkyMall!

THE SHOETER - $20.99
Lastly, nothing says, "I have no sense of class or culture" than a woman who starts stripping off her shoes and offers you a shot of your favorite grain alcohol directly from her high heels.

You can put this one into the category of Items With Great Names too! Whoever named this gift The Shoeter, is well on their way to executive status at SkyMall!


DOORBELL BROKEN YELL DING DONG DOORMAT - $19.95

If you show up at a house with this doormat out front, my first recommendation would be to avoid the house and the people inside. However, I would be just as willing to follow the advice written on the mat, because I guarantee if you yell "Ding Dong" really loud, that is exactly what you will find living in this house. Notice, this is not available for gift wrap. Do you know why? No one would ever think to give this as a gift to anyone else.


THE OFFICIAL 24 JACK BAUER DUAL TIME ZONE/COMPASS WATCH

Like shoes and alcohol, SkyMall has a fascination with watches and time. In this specific ad, they give you two options to "watch" your money disappear! While we are talking about watches and time, if you are inclined to buy this product you may need to recognize that it's "time" to admit 24 is finally over.


iDREAM EYE AND HEAD MASSAGER - $329.99

Look at this treasure. For the low low price of $329, you can guarantee you will remain a virgin forever. This product name was developed from this idea: "iDream what it would be like to ever get married to a real human being."


TIKKER - $79.99

"A wristwatch that counts down your life."  Are you kidding me? This watch calculates your life expectancy. Sounds like a perfect gift for a grandparent. "Hey Grandpa! It's 5:00 and time for dinner. Don't forget to get your will written."


MOUNTED SQUIRREL HEAD - $24.95

Add a touch of outdoor whimsy? It's more like add a touch of creepy. By choosing to purchase and mount this in your home, you are telling friends and family that you have stopped trying. You save 10% when you order 2 or more. Who would buy 2 of these? Who would buy 1 of these?


PUSH PUSHI RAINCOAT - Price Range: $ 39-49.95

When did rain become an issue for dogs? Did I miss a decision somewhere in the animal kingdom when we all agreed that rain was THE issue for dogs? What the hell is wrong with us? Do you know why the leash is not included? So the dog can run to a house with real owners that won't make it wear this dumbass raincoat.


HOLIDAY STRIPE COTTON PAJAMAS - RANGE $12-25.99

Finally, some Christmas junk. There are only three brief things to note here:

First, these pajamas are imported. Which leads me to ask, which country exports this and why are we continuing to practice trade with them?

Second, notice they come in Mens, Womens, Boys, Girls, Toddlers, Infants, Dogs, and Cats. Interestingly the Cats is labeled as "Not Shown" Do you know why? Because the cat in this family is not crazy like the rest of these idiots. Personally, I am very disappointed in the dog, but if you notice in the picture even the dog is wondering what the hell is going on.

Third, this is the family who will answer the door when you stand on their mat and yell, "DING DONG!"


BIGFOOT, THE HOLIDAY YETI ORNAMENT, $9.95

Just in time for the Advent season, everyone's favorite mythical creature: Santa Bigfoot! Logically, I think the Abominable Snowman is way more "Christmasey" than plain old Bigfoot, but I guess at SkyMall nothing says Christmas like Baby Jesus and the Holiday Yeti. The only redeeming value? You are wasting less than $10.



CHILD'S JUMPING BALL - $14.99

I have absolutely no issue with this item. This is actually the one thing I think is normal and I would consider buying from SkyMall for either Christian or Joe. Not only that, at under 15$, the price is reasonable. Again, no issues.

ADULT PLUSH BALL - $79.99

However, I have multiple issues with this item.

If you are an adult and you want to wear a cowboy costume and jump on a horse or a unicorn, you should probably redirect the use of your free time to figuring out some of the issues from your childhood.

I'm not a therapist (clearly), but my best guess is that your parents never allowed you to jump on the CHILD'S JUMPING BALL shown above.

My second guess is that they made you jump on this Large Weiner shown below. A childhood of weiner jumping only leads to one place, people, and that's dressing like a cowboy and paying almost $80 to jump on a horse or unicorn! 

Happy Shopping!

Quietly making noise,
Fletch

2 Comments

Fletch

Andy "Fletch" Fletcher has been married for the past 22 years. He and his wife Kendra are the proud parents of five sons and three daughters, all of whom keep them laughing and on their toes. During the day he can be found fixing people's teeth, but in his spare time you can find Fletch stretching out a pair of flip-flops, creating a new pizza recipe, playing the drums, or rescuing a piece of his tie-dye wardrobe from his wife's donation pile. You can find him online where he writes on his personal blog: theMangoTimes and cohosts with his wife on the HomeschoolingIRL.com podcast.

Dropping Nate At College

I wrote a blog post over at Homeschooling In Real Life today. I shared a little of my experience dropping Nate off at college and the advice I gave to him as we parted ways. Are you wondering what we talked about?

Let me give you a hint. It's Fletch, all my conversations boil down to the same thing: The Gospel.

Click on the picture to read: What I Said To My Son When I Dropped Him Off At College.

Quietly making noise,
Fletch

Comment

Fletch

Andy "Fletch" Fletcher has been married for the past 22 years. He and his wife Kendra are the proud parents of five sons and three daughters, all of whom keep them laughing and on their toes. During the day he can be found fixing people's teeth, but in his spare time you can find Fletch stretching out a pair of flip-flops, creating a new pizza recipe, playing the drums, or rescuing a piece of his tie-dye wardrobe from his wife's donation pile. You can find him online where he writes on his personal blog: theMangoTimes and cohosts with his wife on the HomeschoolingIRL.com podcast.