Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How Can I Help My Church become Disciple-makers?

On November 17th I posted an article entitled, "Go and Make What?" My post was a devotional piece based on what we call the great commission, Matthew 28:19-20. My proposition, which was intended to prompt thoughtful consideration of the topic of discipleship, "mused" whether or not most churches mis-read the great commission. In my opinion many churches believe Christ said, "Go and make converts..." 

The result proceeding from this "mind-set" is highly motivated evangelistic churches that seem to make a number of converts. However, most, if not all of those converts are left to themselves in regards to follow up or any type of discipleship. I tried to describe some reasons and problems of how and why this problem exists. I had hoped to call attention to the fact that many churches, church leaders, and believers need to become aware of what our actual mission is - that is to make disciples.

Our good friend Larri at Seams Inspired left this comment and question:

Excellent post, Gregg! Now a question...How do those of us not in a Pastoral position
 help our churches with discipleship and follow-through with the true meaning of this verse?

I asked her if I could defer my answer to Wednesday, which is my normal day to post articles, news, views, etc. that relate to this specific topic of discipleship. She was gracious and permitted me to defer. Wednesday happened to be the day before Thanksgiving and I wanted to post a couple of Thanksgiving related posts for Wednesday, Thursday, and even Friday. Someone once said, "Better late than never," so, here I am late, but keeping my promise to answer this excellent question.

Many times we find ourselves attending or as members of churches that don't always have our "vision" or idea of ministry. We find ourselves at times on different pages hoping that our church would emphasize particular aspects of ministry while forgetting about other aspects. Of course, we know that there is no perfect church anywhere. As a matter of fact, if you ever find the perfect church, please do not join it - it would no longer be perfect as we are not yet perfected. Therefore, at times, we find ourselves needing to be the catalyst and means by which God chooses to introduce, implement, and/or instigate needed ministries. Discipleship and discipling is often one of those areas. The question is: how do we help our churches fulfill this commission and develop discipleship ministries within the church?

First - in order to see any change towards improvement or compliance with Scripture we must begin with fervent prayer. Prayer, at the expense of sounding cliche is the key to moving hearts toward biblical principles. Pray, long, fervent, and scriptural prayers. Do not go off half-cocked or in the energy of the flesh. Begin praying in your own closet and eventually enlist others to pray with you that both leadership and congregants will be convinced by the Holy Spirit and Scripture that discipleship must be implemented.

Second- be sure you fully understand what God actually requires of each believer. Be sure you know what is and what isn't being done in your church to be in obedience and in compliance with God's commands. Study the topic completely and in depth. Be sure you haven't missed what the church may be doing already or what it's commitment is.

Third - share, with a quiet, humble, and Christ-like spirit, with the current leadership your concerns, evaluations, and/or recommendations in regards to discipleship. It goes without saying that attitude is crucial. Condemnation, criticisms, and/or complaints are not only un-biblical but usually hardens your listeners hearts and shuts the door to meaningful discussion.

Fourth - give time for the Holy Spirit to work where He needs to work. Patience is sometimes the best means to achieve our goals or to see God work.

Fifth, do your part! Share the gospel at every opportunity that you can. When God uses you as the means to draw a precious soul to Himself accept your responsibility and role as a "parent" and guide this new infant through the stages of infancy, childhood, to parenthood. Even if the leadership is slow or reticent about their role in teaching, modeling, and facilitating discipleship, you as an individual believer are not absolved from your responsibility.

Sixth, if you have the means to do so, provide the leadership with good books on Discipleship. Start with LeRoy Eims, The Lost Art of Discipleship Making, or a new yet great book is Jim Putman's real-life discipleship, Richard Lonenecker's Patterns of Discipleship in the New Testament, or Walter A. Henrichsen's Disciples are Made Not Born, Robert E. Coleman's The Master's Plan for Discipleship, A. B. Bruce's The Training of the Twelve. (Please choose material well, stay away from books like Purpose Driven Life.) 

Naturally Larri, who asked this question, is going to share the gospel primarily with ladies. Since Scripture forbids women from teaching or assuming authority over men (I Timothy 2:12), women are not responsible to disciple any man that they may be used of God to lead to Christ. If you are so used you must find a male who has a proven track record (preferably the Elders) who will be able to disciple this individual to adulthood and parenthood.

As you either lead a woman to Christ or you see women in your fellowship who are infants and have been "orphaned" by someone who has "dropped" them, seek to disciple them. It may be possible that as you model the process of discipleship and the leadership within your church sees what God is doing in the lives of those whom you are "spiritually parenting" they may be compelled to assume their responsibility.

As you consider your role and obedience please keep the following things in mind:

Discipleship is a process where you are intimately and actively involved in a person's life. You must invest in this person's life by spending quality time with them. You must share and model biblical principles with a new convert. They will have hundreds of questions and "what if" scenarios that you will need to guide them through. Time is a necessary element in making a disciple. Being constantly together this believer will begin to imitate what you model just as your children imitate what you model before them.

Discipleship NavPress and others who are fully engaged in disciple making state that it takes about two (2) years to see a new convert go from the stages of being an infant desiring and being fed the milk of the word, through childhood where they continue to grow, develop, and mature to adulthood where they are mature, responsible believers who are now able to become parents of new converts.

Discipleship covers some thirty or so major topics or areas. Discipleship isn't giving someone a bible, book of bible promises, and telling them to go to church each Sunday. These topics are major areas in a believer's life that need to be mastered. These principles take time and practice. It will take failure and then repetition for many new converts to develop biblical habits, spiritual disciplines, and Christological principles. 

Discipleship is not effected by mass production. Christ chose and worked specifically with just twelve (12) men. He worked very intimately with three (3) of those twelve (12). You cannot disciple everyone at once. Choose those whom you are going to disciple well. Christ chose the twelve (12) after praying all night.  A desire to grow and compliance with the necessary components of discipleship is crucial. We can't help those who don't want help. Some will need to be left to the Lord. They are after all His (if they are true converts) and He will deal with them. 

Discipleship is "caught" more than "taught." You may be the only one who is compliant with Scripture. As long as you stay in-line with the Scripture, rest in the Holy Spirit, seek to image forth the glorious character of our God, and work for the good of God's people, God will use you. As much as I hate the philosophies of this present age, sometimes they are apropos. What am I saying? I am saying just do it! Hopefully as you are "successful" in "raising" spiritual children from infancy to parenthood others will desire to be used of God in the same manner.

So, in summary how do you help your church with the true meaning of this verse? First, pray fervently that the leadership would have open minds and a desire to be obedient to Scripture, second talk to the leadership, third, educate yourself thoroughly on this topic from a biblical basis, and fourth practice it. 

A good summary should also include some things not to do don't you think? First, do not attempt anything in the flesh from frustration or impatience; second, do criticize or condemn and harp on the topic which could result in a schism, division, or sin; third, do not attempt to do what is not your responsibility, fourth do not sit back and refuse to do what you know you are to do. 

What say ye?

Happy 79th Birthday to my father Glenn F. Metcalf of Modesto, CA! I love you Dad! :)



Happy Birthday to your dad Gregg and many more to come,

Loved the read,

Have a good day,

Larri said...

Very well 'spelled' out, Gregg. Thank you for making the mission of discipleship clearer.

It's easy to understand how being critical and criticizing can turn someone away. Even though Prayer should be at the forefront of any matter, it's most often overlooked, isn't it? I'm bookmarking this for future reference. Thanks for sharing! Happy Wednesday!

Happy Birthday to your Dad! :o)

Solid Rock or Sinking Sand said...

Very well written and laid out. Now all we need to do is follow your advice. I have been evangelizing for about ten years now and find that each year it seems harder to motivate folks to do the great commission that our Lord commanded. Our church is finally realizing that after a person comes to Christ there must be continued follow-up and discipleship in order for that person to grow in his faith.

Happy birthday to your dad and may our Lord continue to bless him. God bless, Lloyd

Cathy M. said...

I need to read this one through a few times, I think. I don't know how to implement anything like this in my church. There are issues that have caused me to be fairly ostracized there. I actually prefer the isolation to being used to the point of exhaustion on one inane program after another. The last line of your post is a difficult charge for me. I'll have to really pray about that.