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The Rev. William Thomas: Five habits of highly effective disciples

In 1989, Stephen Covey wrote "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." It's still one of the top selling business and self-help books on the market. As we step into 2015, let's look at five habits of highly effective disciples:

1. They keep a daily time with God. No matter how full their plates are with busy schedules and the matters of life, highly effective disciples make it a habit to carve time out of their day for some "one-on-one" time with God. Jesus didn't come to Earth to introduce a new religion; He came to offer a relationship with God through Him. Building strong relationships requires investment and intentionality. It takes focused times of sharing and listening to get to know each other deeply, intimately and heart to heart. It's the same with God.

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2. They study the Bible. This is different from reading your Bible devotionally as part of your daily time with God. Highly effective disciples also have a habit of studying their Bible. They are students of the scriptures — looking up passages, doing word studies, tying in related passages, discovering the historical context. They know that a systematic study moves them beyond their favorite passages into the whole Bible, allowing them to know more about God — His thoughts, His character, His ways and His love. They understand that Bible study increases their knowledge of the Scriptures, fills them with godly wisdom, guides their lives and builds their faith.

3. They are committed to the church. Highly effective disciples are not "lone rangers" that just have their name on a membership roll or show up every now and then. They know the value of community, relationships and being a vital member of a local expression of the Body of Christ. They know that to live out the Word of God — they need to be committed and invested in the life and mission of their local church. They recognize the vital role their church plays in touching and transforming their communities and world for Christ. No one has to beg them to serve, to give, or to attend worship — they just do it — and do it wholeheartedly with joy.

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4. They dare to believe God. Highly effective disciples live by faith. They dream big dreams because God is "big." They dream of reaching their communities for Christ, eliminating hunger, homelessness, prejudice and injustice. And they put feet to their dreams. They take bold risks for God knowing that with God, nothing is impossible. They aren't the ones whining, "That's a great idea, but we don't have the resources." They believe that where God guides, God provides.

5. As a lifestyle, they share Christ with others. Highly effective disciples make new disciples by sharing God's love with people. They naturally communicate through word and deed the most precious Person in their lives — Jesus! By being Christ to others through loving acts of kindness and service — and with words of truth and love — they radiate God's message of hope and life attracting others to join with them in following Jesus as Savior and Lord.

The Rev. William Thomas is pastor at Hereford United Methodist Church. He can be reached at pastor@herefordumc.org.

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