Think Through It – Worship


It’s that time of year when the attention of most people in this state begins to turn to college football.  I know many people who go to every Auburn or Alabama game, their closets are full of Orange and Blue, or Crimson and Houndstooth, and their houses have full rooms of team memorabilia.  You see all have a desire to be connected with something that is bigger than ourselves.
And while there is nothing wrong with having a favorite team, this desire will never rightly be fulfilled until we are connected to God in worship.

Do you have a church home where you are regularly joining with other Christians to worship the Lord?  Do you have an active prayer life where you are regularly seeking God’s will for your life?

Until you are connected with the Almighty God in consistent, humble, and sacrificial worship you will never truly be fulfilled, no matter who your favorite team may be.

I’m Jason Dees encouraging you to Think Through It.

Churchology 5 – Develop



2:2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.


This is God’s Word…


How great was that, church, to be a part of three baptisms – to see the hand of God at work and moving and calling people to himself? Baptism is such an amazing picture of God’s grace, redemption, new life.

Dead in sin, brought to life by the grace of God.

It is so great to be a part of a church like this that God is using and that he has used for almost 40 years now…


The other day I was reading through this book that the staff made me when I first came here to help me get to know them, and I read Jennifer Dolcelli’s little entry. She is on our staff now and a very valuable member.  In fact, every week Jennifer is not seen but sits in that booth and makes me and all of this look good – tireless, thankless work.

Jennifer came to a fall festival at Valleydale in October of 2000, and that was the first thing that God used in her life in introduce her to this church, and God has used this church to radically change her life – to bring about redemption and healing and holiness in her and her son Ray.

And that is just one little story.


A few weeks ago I was at the Southern Baptist Convention, and I ran into Al Jackson, who pastors Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn, a pastor that I very much love and respect, and he said, “I’m so glad you are at Valleydale, Jason.  “That church and Calvin Kelly, your predecessor, fought the battle for the Bible when so many Baptist churches and pastors wouldn’t.”


Also at the Southern Baptist Convention I went to breakfast with some pastors, and a pastor named Vance Pitman was there, who founded Hope Church in Las Vegas, which has been an amazing story. This church went from a plant in 2001 to reaching thousands in Las Vegas for Christ, and so I have heard of Vance Pitman.  He’s one of these guys that people know in the SBC, and so we went around the room introducing ourselves, and so I said, “I’m Jason Dees at Valleydale Church in Birmingham,” and he leaned over the table, and said, “You are at Valleydale?  I cannot tell you how huge your church was in getting us off the ground 12 years ago. I am so grateful for your people.”


So for nearly 40 years God has used this church to change countless lives for the sake of His glory, and so in September on our 40th anniversary, we are going to celebrate that.  Mark your calendars for September 22nd.  It is going to be a huge day for us to celebrate God’s grace.  We are going to be inviting a lot of people back, and it will be a good day to remember God’s provision and grace and kindness in the past as we look forward to the future.


As I said last week, we are looking forward, trying to understand who we have been as a church, who we are as a church, and who we need to be as a church.

Last week, we said that the mission of the church is pretty simple.  We are called to make Jesus known and make disciples.  That is really it, and anything outside of that is sideways energy.  Last week we talked about the values of a disciple.  We said that a disciple is someone who is a worshipper.  A disciple is someone who is connected with a body of believers in community, and a disciple is someone who uses his or her gifts, talents and passions to serve the world or, in other words, to move forward the Kingdom of Christ.

Corporately, in order to grow disciples, we have a process that we believe helps us to make Jesus known and to make disciples.  We want to create great environments for all of this, where we aren’t building any barriers.

We want to be clear and consistent with the Gospel truth, the truth of scripture and we want to multiply everything we do.


We said something really important:  Multiplication has always been Jesus’ plan for growing his church and moving his Kingdom forward.

So last week we began talking about our process for this, which is to recruit disciples, develop disciples, and send disciples.


This week we come to the second step of this process, which is to develop.


If you remember, last week I talked about the Discipleship Continuum, and it begins with people who are far off from God, who hopefully move to people being near to God and then, hopefully, to the good news of the Gospel – that there really is hope for them in Christ, that Jesus really has rescued them from their sin and from judgment and called them to new life. The picture of baptism that we just saw would be spiritually true in their life, and then salvation comes, and then the hope of Christ is that if you are following Jesus, if you are a Christian, that you would make that known through baptism. Then, of course, we believe that Christianity is never done in isolation, and so it is right to find a local body or local church that you can join with and walk out this faith with a body of believers, and then in that body, our hope is this process of discipleship would take place.  As 2 Corinthians 3:18 says,

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”

This process of sanctification, where by the power of the Spirit of God the Saints see and behold the glory of God and are transformed into the image of Christ from one degree to another.

And in that process, these disciples begin reading the Bible, and at first they don’t understand it.  You ever read the Bible and think to yourself, “What on earth is this saying?”

Yeah, I do, too, sometimes, and I used to a lot more than I do now. One of the great treasures that I have is this Bible. My parents gave it to me when I was in 5th grade, an NIV study Bible, and there are all these notes that say stuff like “June 6, 1993 – No idea… Go ask Dad.”

Through this process called “Progressive Sanctification,” I saw more and more and more of the glory of God, and I began to make progress and eventually understand God’s redemptive history and Biblical theology.

I went from being a new believer that was proud and impatient with insecurities, but God began to shape me and form me and develop me.

He gave me people like Jim Spann, whom you met a few weeks ago, and Kenny Ladner – my student pastor – and Jason Ellerby, who was just an older guy that I knew in college who was living out his faith, and then seminary professors like Russ Moore and other pastors like Bryant Wright, and then laymen in my church at First Baptist, like Wayne Morgan and Bob Rutland, who taught an inexperienced 26-year-old so much about leadership. Even in my short time here I’ve already met people in this church like Bob Waters and Scott Lenning and Jeff McGukin and others who are great models and teachers, and God has been teaching me and is continuing to teach me through His word and through other believers what it means to be a Christian man.  This is what it means to be a husband who models Christ to his wife; this is what it means to serve the world and live out the Great Commission.

Through all of this, this development process takes place to help a non-Christian become a disciple and then become a multiplying disciple – so not just followers of Jesus, but also followers of Jesus who are making other followers of Jesus.  

This whole process of moving through the discipleship continuum is what we call “Develop,” which is obviously always going on because this just gets deeper and deeper and deeper as you grow in Christ.


You know what is amazing to think about is that every one of you is a part of this big spiritual family tree that all begins with Jesus.


Jesus came and made disciples. For example, Jesus discipled John, who discipled a guy named Polycarp, who discipled a guy named Irenaus and so and so and so on, until one day, if you are a Christian, somebody came to you and said, “Hey, come and see Jesus, and let me show you how to be a follower of Christ.”


Last week when we talked about the first step of this multiplying process “Recruit,” we said it begins with a simple invitation to “come and see.”

This week, we want to talk about the next step, “Develop.” How do you do that?  How do you take that young kid, who has no idea how to read the Bible, and turn him into a pastor, turn him into a man of God?  How do you take the guy that grew up in a broken family, who went with his buddy to VBS and heard the Gospel for the first time, and even though he didn’t really understand everything, something was happening in his heart, and he believed that Jesus is real and that he needed Jesus?  How do you take that kid, whose parents aren’t believers, and turn him into a man who loves the Lord deeply?  How do you take a young man – who has been incredibly successful in business, who likes the church, but is really more interested in buying toys and building his career than he is in Jesus – how does that guy become one of the most passionate people for his church and one of the most generous people in his church?  How does that happen?


How do you take the woman who was abused as a child, and she ended up having a baby with a man that she didn’t know or ever see again, and because she was short on the rent, ended up prostituting herself for money to take care of her kid, but one night she met a Christian who was faithful to love her and tell her she needed Jesus, and she believed?  How do you take that woman and bring her to the point where she is actually leading ministry?


All of these stories that I just told you are true stories.  How on earth does any of this happen?  It happens through this very important step in the multiplication process called “Develop.”  We develop as disciples, as Christ followers.  And here is my vision for Valleydale that we would be so passionate about developing disciples that it would change the way we recruit.  

See, I like hanging out with well-behaved people. I like hanging out with people that are bearing fruit in their life, like the fruit of the Spirit: 



These are the kind of people I like.  I don’t know about you, but I like patient people.  I like joyful people – people with self-control.  I mean, these are my kind of folks, but if these developed folks are the only people that we as a church like to be with and like to invest in, then it will drastically limit whom we recruit.


Valleydale is the Church that goes to the hardest parts of the world missionally. We send mission teams to heavily Islamic regions and places that are against Christianity, where we are literally asking people to put their lives on the line because we love the Gospel and we believe that it is the hope of the world. But are we also the church that is willing to go to the hardest part of our city?  Are we also the church that is willing to go and find the hardest kind of people and say, “Come and see; come and follow me”?

Are we willing to go to the prostitute and say, “Be set free in Christ”?

Are we willing to go to the homosexual man and say, “Exchange that unhealthy relationship for an eternal relationship with Christ”?

Are we willing to go to the successful businessman who, in a worldly sense, is more successful than you, and who is spending his life on worldly things? Are we willing to go to him and say, “Don’t you wish you could live your life for something that lasts?”

See, how we understand development and the possibilities of this will largely determine whom we recruit, whom we evangelize.  If we truly believe that God can take someone who is far from him and make him a leader in the church, a multiplying disciple, then that will expand the scope of our ministry. How we develop and how committed we are to developing will have a big effect on whom we develop.  Again, I think our problem is that we like developing people that are already pretty much developed, but full discipleship is hard.


Let me just say this.  If you never get burned by someone you’re discipling, then your discipleship model is probably not full enough.

If people you are discipling don’t ever try to take advantage of you, well, then you probably don’t have a biblical model.  If you aren’t investing your life into some people that end up letting you down, then we probably aren’t doing this right.


I mean, I just look at Jesus, and I see over and over again through his ministry people leaving him.  I look at people like Peter, whom Jesus had invested himself in for three years, denying Jesus in his moment of greatest need.  You look at, of course, Judas.  Judas, whom Jesus had entrusted with the money, the treasurer, and he was the one that betrayed Jesus.  You see discipleship, full discipleship, is hard.


Our symbol this week is an anvil, which represents shaping and forming, or developing, and I think it is a good symbol.  Proverbs 27:17 says, As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

And shaping iron can be a tough process; it requires fire, and it requires beating, but when the work is done right, it can produce a glorious result.


In our text today, Paul is teaching Titus how the discipleship process and development process should work itself out in a church, and what he gives Titus is something that we desperately need to hear if this is going to be true at Valleydale.  There are three characteristics that are obvious in the text and necessary for a great development process here, and the first is


As we teach, as we develop, the character of Christ must be taking form in our lives.   That has to be true of me; that has to be true of our staff, of our deacons, of our teachers, of all mature believers in our church.  If you have been a Christian for more than a day, the character of Christ should be taking root in your life.


The text says in verse 2

2:2 “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine.”

And he goes on to say in verse 7:

7 “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”


If development is going to happen in our church, we need people who are willing to step up and be leaders and take on all of the criticism that will come your way in leadership. We need people who are willing to say, “Look, this is what a man or woman of Christ is and I am willing to live that out and call people to live that out with me.”

As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1,   “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”  That is a bold statement… And the church desperately needs men and women who are willing to say the same thing.  Paul isn’t claiming perfection.  He is saying, “I am serious about the Gospel; I am serious about following Jesus, and this is what the life of a follower is like.  Follow me as I follow him.’


In order for this Development process to be real and robust, we need men and women of great character who are willing to take on the accountability of leadership, who aren’t afraid to really live out their faith.  One of the great reasons churches aren’t serious about developing people is that we don’t have enough people willing to step up and be a model.  People need models, and this is true from the time we are little. When I was a little kid, I built Legos, and the key to building Legos is having a good set of instructions with some great pictures, where you can say, Oh that is what this is supposed to look like.”

When I started playing sports I would watch sports on TV to see great models. “Oh, that is what a great baseball player is like.”  A great teacher in school is a model.  In your work and parenting and everything else in your life, we need models.

Certainly that is true in Spirituality.  So, if you are a Christian, you need to be willing to be that model.  You need to be challenging people to read their Bibles, and you need to be reading your Bible.  You need to be challenging people to be a good spouse, and you need to be a good spouse.  You need to be challenging people to be generous, and you need to be generous.

And I don’t say this to discourage you; I say it to encourage you.

One of the greatest things that has ever happened to my personal spirituality is becoming a Christian leader.  The accountability of ministry is a wonderful thing.  I have often said that I don’t think God called me into ministry because I was so holy; I think it was because I was so unholy.  There is nothing like having 1000 people watching your life. That is good accountability.  That makes me want to pursue holiness.  There is nothing like having to preach every week; that will make you want to know the Bible.  There is nothing like having people criticize pretty much every decision that you make; that will do a lot for keeping you humble.


You see the accountability of leadership is a glorious thing for my own spirituality.  If you really want to grow, start investing into the growth of others; become a Christian leader. It may not be as a leader of a church.  Start by being a leader in your family or for some students in our student ministry or to three or four ladies in your Life Connection class.  When you become a Christian leader, you will grow; you will be conformed to the image of Christ.


So, character…


Secondly, we see in the text the importance of instruction.  Christianity is a belief system of teaching.  The great commandment of Christ tells us to love the Lord with all of our minds.  The Great Commission tells us to teach everything that we have been commanded, and, therefore, instruction is essential in our development as a church.

Look at the text.

Titus 2:3

“They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.”


As I explained last week, truth is central in our process.  We are not ashamed that we believe in absolute truths.  We are not embarrassed to ask people to think, and we need to know what we believe.


This week was a huge week in our country with the Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act.  What you have seen in America is a very fast evolution on the definition and idea of marriage.  So really in a 15-year period we have seen a total change. If you read Justice Kennedy’s opinion, he says at one point that the House concluded that DOMA expresses “both moral disapproval of homosexuality, and a moral conviction that heterosexuality better comports with traditional (especially Judeo-Christian) morality.”  The stated purpose of the law was to promote an “interest in protecting the traditional moral teachings reflected in heterosexual-only marriage laws.”  So his argument was because the law was made to align our country with Judeo-Christian morality, it, therefore, showed moral disapproval of homosexuality, and the law is, therefore, unconstitutional.

So I want us as a church to read between the lines on this decision.  Kennedy’s opinion basically says, go read it if you doubt me, that because DOMA makes a moral judgment, it infringes upon people’s liberty and, therefore, infringes upon the 5th Amendment rights of individual.  So, do you hear that?  We now have a Supreme Court decision that says it is wrong to have laws that make moral judgments that infringe on liberty.  Well, what does any law do?  Every law makes a moral judgment that limits some freedom.  I want to drive faster than 70 miles an hour on the road, but the government has told me that it is wrong to do so.  I don’t want to pay my taxes, but the government has told me that it is wrong not to do so.  When you have a Supreme Court declaring a law unconstitutional because it makes a moral judgment, at that point all of our laws are called into question. 


And while all of this certainly makes me sad as an American, as a Christian I see this as an incredible opportunity.  Our culture is quickly slipping off into a totally post-modern society that is afraid to say anything is true or untrue or right or wrong.  Let ours be the voice that said, “There is truth.”  There is a right way to live your life that is designed by God, and we are not ashamed of that.

In order for that to be true of us, we have to know that truth.  We have to know what we believe; we need to know doctrine and theology and biblical interpretation and church history.  We are a people of instruction and this must be central in our disciple-making process.

So what does that mean here?  Well, just a few things.  As we continue to develop our Life Connection Groups, we are developing a process and metrics where we can measure where our groups are in the their understanding of Biblical Theology, Systematic Theology, The Old and New Testament, and how all of that then applies to our lives.  We are also beginning a pastor’s class on Wednesday nights in the fall.  I will be teaching Systematic Theology in here for 10 weeks this fall.  I also had a meeting this week with members of our library team, and we are working on creating a more robust resource center for our adults and children, and there are many more plans and hopes.  Stay with us as we hopefully lead more faithfully in this area.  Instruction is essential in the development of disciples, and it must be something that we are intentional and robust about in our approach.


The last thing we see in the text is order.  God is a God of order in all areas of life, but in the area of discipleship he certainly is.  We see certain pictures of how discipleship is ordered throughout the scriptures.  So, one area we see this is in Group Size.  We see Jesus preaching to a large crowd where, literally, if you go to the Sea of Galilee, there is a huge natural amphitheater where you can imagine a crowd of up to 20,000 where certainly Jesus taught.  So, this is not 20,000; we have been averaging right under 1,000 where you come and, hopefully, take part in large-group discipleship.


We also see the more intimate group, what I like to call the Church Group. This is that upper room crowd of about 120.  Even though there may be 1000 people here at Valleydale, your church experience – the people that you really know and have some sort of relationship with – is probably about 120 people.  These are people that you know and that you are investing in to some level.


Then we see a Small Group. Jesus gave his life to 12 people, where there was great care and deep instruction, deep community.  This is why we push our Life Groups.  You need this; this is the model of Christ that there would be some group that you are doing life with, walking out your faith with.  Jesus, then, had a more intimate group– Peter, James, and John – with whom he was especially intentional and close.  This might be that accountability group that you are meeting with on a weekly basis. There are several of those here at Valleydale.  We need that kind of intimacy in our walk with the Lord.

Lastly, we see in the model of Christ “1-on-1.”  There were several times such as with Nicodemus, that Jesus had 1-on-1 discipleship with someone.  Does that ever take place in your life?


There is a lot more that could be said about all of this, but two things we need to address today flow through our text in Titus 2. 

Discipleship is typically done 1) man-to-man or woman-to-woman and

2) older-to-younger

We are not ashamed to say that there are God-given and beautiful differences between men and women.  In God’s good design, men need other men to be challenging them, shaping them, correcting them, and encouraging them. 

The same with women – you need other women to lead in the discipleship process. There is an understanding that is natural and good, and if you are a woman, I am your pastor, and I want you to learn from me, but I will never be able to disciple you fully.  I am called in a very direct way to lead my wife, Paige, spiritually and to wash her with the word, and I want to be faithful to do that, but she needs other women to do that, too, if she is really going to flourish as a disciple.

So men, do you have men in your life that you are in this kind of relationship with, that is an intentional pursuit of the Lord?

Women, do you have other women in your life with whom you are in this kind of relationship, pursuing the Lord together?


Secondly we see in the text “older-to-younger,” and again, this is a general rule. I believe this is meant to imply more mature in the faith to less mature, and in a healthy church, hopefully, the older men and women would be the more spiritually mature.  So if you are older than another person you need to be taking initiative in the disciple-making process. At First Baptist, we had a senior adult group, and they would always come to me and say, “How can we get more younger people to come where we are?” And I said in love, “That is not a biblical model; you don’t need to be asking how we can get the younger people to come to us.  You need to be asking, ‘How can we go to the younger people?’”

So if you are a 75-year-old woman, you have a lot of options. Go find a 50-year-old mother who is dealing with being an empty nester and invest your life into her. Bring the wisdom that God has taught you about parenting a college student to her, or better yet, go find a 26-year-old mother and help her.

If you are a 50-year-old man, go find a 30-year-old man and say, “Let me show you how to be a faithful father and how not to neglect your family.”

If you are 19-year-old college student, go find a 14-year-old and say, “Let me help you maneuver high school in a way that pleases the Lord.”

Man to man, woman to woman, typically Older to younger.


So if you are older, if this is going to work here, we need the older, more mature believers to pursue relationships with the younger, less mature believers.  So you might be thinking, “Well, I don’t know any young moms, or I don’t know any 14-year-olds.”  This is something I said at First and something I will say here, we need always to be thinking, “go to where the young people are.”

So if you are a 60-year-old woman and you want to get to know younger moms, go to the nursery and help out; you will find some young moms there that need you to help them change a diaper, and then they need you to teach them, pray for them, and love them.

If you are a 40-year-old guy looking for a 25-year-old guy to invest in, go to the Young Professionals Class or go to Dr. Blackburn’s class and just say, “Hey, can I help? Can I just come for a little while and serve this group in any way.”  Go to where the young people are, and this will begin to happen.


What would the church look like if we were really serious about developing disciples?


What if this were the church that had healthy marriages, and when marriages got into trouble, what if there were someone who was older and wiser to bring wisdom and care to that situation? 

What if this were the church that really raised up pastors and missionaries?  We need more.  One of my dreams is that 1/3 to ½ of the graduating classes would go into full-time ministry.

What if this were the church where lawmakers came and said, “You are doing something that works; can you help us?”


I came to Valleydale because I believed that God was going to use this church to bring about culture change in Birmingham, in Alabama, and across the whole world.  That can happen, and I believe it will happen when we get serious about multiplying ourselves – recruiting disciples, developing them, and then sending them to change the world.