Exponential 13 Notes: Larry Osborne – Discipleship in the Real World

The following are my notes from a breakout session at the Exponential 2013 Conference in Orlando. I will post other session notes as well. I thought I’d share them as I’m currently thinking them through.  


Discipleship in the Real World

Larry Osborne

Exponential 2013: Thursday Morning






If we are not recruiting disciples, we are not making disciples.


8 Inconvenient truths about discipleship in the real world


Truth 1: The ultimate measure of a disciple is, “Are we obedient to what we know?”


The Great Comission calls us to teach others to obey.

1 John tells us that we know him if we keep his commandments.

John 14:15, if you love me, you will keep my commandments.


If I want to know if somebody knows God, I look at obedience.

If I want to know if somebody loves God, I look at obedience.

Yes we will struggle with sin.

We do not freak out if somebody is battling against sin, even if they are failing at times.

If you set up camp in sin, we need to consider church discipline.


If we go beyond simple obedience to Scripture, we become modern day Pharisees.

Think of old school legalism.

The command was not to work on the Sabbath.

But when we over-define rest and work, we are legalists.


A generation ago, legalism was seen by how you react to what was in my refrigerator.

Today, ,legalism can be seen by how you respond to what is in my driveway


Make sure that you do not define discipleship based on things not in Scripture, but your extension of Scripture.

Define obedience based on the actual words of Scripture.


Some dangerous examples

The Bible tells us to be generous.

Do not define generous as, “You should have a simple lifestyle in which you give up what I gave up in order to help the poor.”

Mercy is a concern for the causes I care about.


If you want real disciples in the real world, you cannot make disciples of yourself.

Sometimes two people will understand obedience to the Bible in two different ways.

See Romans 14 for this.


Truth 2: Spiritual growth is seldom a linear process.


In most cases, a conveyer belt approach will not work.

The ABCD approach is easier to measure and to reproduce, but very few of us grew like this.


Larry says that it was not until his wife was suffering with cancer that he really wanted to take the courses on the sovereignty of God.

It was what he was going through that made this click.


We have a need to know and a need to grow moment.

Prior to that, it is only information.


We need a more meandering path with opportunities that they can grab when they need them.


Check out the North Hills church web site.

San Diego


Week to week at his church, not much happens.

Small group studies often stink.

But as the people live together and do life together, they have need to know and need to grow moments.


If this is how we have often grown, why do we develop methods that do not match our own real lives.


Why get stressed about slowness in the growth of others when your growth came in spurts with slowness built in?


If people are not isolated, they will work together on their need to know and need to grow moments.


Truth 3: No two personal relationships are ever exactly alike. This is the same with us and Jesus.


We always tell people we do not have a one-size-fits-all religion, we have a relationship.

Yet we do not model for people anything but a one-size-fits-all relationship with Jesus.

We say that your discipleship should look like mine.

But the truth is, your relationship with Jesus will not look like mine.


Think of how two different siblings will relate to their father.

You do not tell a child who is not into sports, “If you want to have a good relationship with dad, you have to go out for basketball.”

You relate to your dad based on who you are.

A good dad will relate to his kids differently based on who they are.


Sadly, when we teach spiritual disciplines, we do not tell people to do what works for them in their relationship, we tell them to apply exactly what our list says.

We tell men who do not like to read and share like women that they should read and journal and share.

If your spirituality depends on a person reading and journaling every day, you will have a church that is full of women.


Everybody is not just like me.


Think about this: Until the printing press came along, most people did not have a Bible to use to have quiet time daily.


Truth 4: Whenever spiritual tools become spiritual rules, they produce pride rather than disciples.


Tools are a means to the end that is obedience.

Tools are not the obedience.


If I think I am better than you because I get up early and you don’t I have a poison.


Truth 5: Knowledge, self-discipline, and personal sacrifice do not equal godliness.


Not all of us are supposed to be Navy Seals.

Not all of us are type A.

Not all of us will share our faith at the same rate or in the same way.



1 Cor 13, knowledge without love is nothing. Thus, knowledge is not love.

Personal sacrifice without love is not love


We do not measure discipleship by love.


Love is a soft measure.

We cannot quantify it.


Revelation 2:1-7

The church at Ephesus was the kind of church you would have gotten on a bus to go and visit.

Great doctrine

Great passion

But they lost their love.


Osborne thinks the church lost their love for each other and their love for the lost as they battled for their church.

They lost their first agape


Truth 6: When we use the Bible as a mirror, we become more like Jesus. When we use it like binoculars, we become more like Pharisees.


If you are using the Bible to look at others so you can judge them because they do not know it, you are a Pharisee.

The Bible should show you who you are.

If you want a building full of weak clones, teach them to look at others with the Bible.

If you want disciples, teach them to look at themselves with the Bible.


1 Kings 3

Solomon asks for wisdom and pleases God.


Remember, the story was introduced by Solomon having married Pharaoh’s daughter.

This was wrong.

Second, Solomon did not stop the people from worshipping at the high places.

Third, Solomon did not stop himself worshipping at high places.

Fourth, Solomon went to a high place and made a sacrifice.

Then Solomon asks God for wisdom.


Solomon did good in the eyes of the Lord, but he did not get rid of the high places.

Solomon did many good things, but he had terrible blind spots.


If your discipleship pattern in your church does not have room for people with blind spots to work those out with grace, you will not make disciples.

Your people will start telling others who struggle that they are trash and they should get out.


Truth 7: We are called to fulfill our calling, not our potential.


We need people to figure out what God has called them to do, not everything they could be.

Be all that you can be is not good spirituality.

He has called you to be all that he has called you to be.


1 Corinthians 7.

If you want the maximum ministry, stay single.

But if you are going to burn, get married.

Marriage puts a lid on your potential, as it divides your focus.

That is not a sin.

We are called to be what God calls us to be.


Having children ratchets us back in our potential.

But having children is good.


If we do not understand the difference between potential and calling, we will burden people with our drives, our desires, and our guilt trips.

I can easily preach sermons that make stay-at-home moms who are just trying to survive feel like garbage.

I can make dads who don’t have the money or time to go on a mission trip feel useless.


If your church is full of young marrieds, the calling for your church is different than a church of singles.

You need to give the over-worked more rest.


Jesus said to come to him if you are burdened  and he will give you rest.


Is it impossible to lighten the load and make disciples?

If you think so you are arguing with Jesus.


Truth 8: If my definition of spirituality is out of reach for the regular guy, it is out of line with Jesus.


Have you ever noticed that all the books on the inner life are written by introverts?

Your model has to be accessible for the average guy.

If the average guy who does not like to read and sing cannot handle your model, you are not making disciples in the real world.


Q and A.


What is working with men in your church?

Not stuff that requires a lot of reading.

Sermon-based discipleship groups

But not something that requires a bunch of homework


He suggests reading Sticky Church to see what they are doing with men.

Start learning to say, “This works for me. I encourage you to try it. If it does not work for you, let’s find something else.”


Ask guys who are different from you, “What works for you?” Learn things you can keep and suggest for others.


Offer people a series of tools from a shelf so they can find something that works for them.


Extraverted guys:

Love to serve and work side-by-side.


Not every group goes deep every week.

But when life happens, when hard things happen, they will go deep, because they need to .

They get a need to know leading to a need to grow.