If Apple makes iPads…and Cadbury’s make chocolate… what does the church of Jesus Christ make? The answer according to Jesus is disciples. The grand goal set by Jesus was not to meet the world’s physical needs. Neither was the mission for the church to pamper itself with copious amounts of cosy fellowship.
These things, for sure, should be part and parcel of a church’s culture. But the mission of the church is the making of disciples. Examine under the microscope the DNA of a thriving church and you will find words like “go”, “make”, “baptise” and “teach.”
Churches which lose sight of these verbs soon wither and die. The failure to make disciples is eventually terminal. All this explains why we are committed to making disciples at Greenview. We endeavour through our services, programs and relationships to see people following Jesus.
The challenge is not to work harder. The challenge, perhaps, is to work smarter. How, then, can we improve our disciple-making efforts? Here are five suggestions:
1. Get Clearer About Discipling
There’s little use talking about “discipling” if we don’t know what discipling is. Let’s clear a few wrong notions out of the way. First, we should realise that discipling isn’t simply nurturing new Christians. That may be an example of discipling, but it is not the extent of it. An equally wrong-headed view is when we always associate discipling with ‘courses.’ Discipling may take place through a course; it also may not.
Stripped back to basics, discipling is one person helping another follow Jesus. It is helping others either start following or stay following. Those we help may fall into several categories:
- Non Christian – someone who hasn’t set out on the narrow road.
- New Christian – taking their first shaky steps.
- Mature Christian – steadier on their feet, but still needing encouragement.
2. Understand The How
God in his mercy chooses people like you and me to make disciples. This is a stunning privilege: we are instruments in the redeemer’s hands! Yet it can also be a daunting responsibility. With rightful concern we will naturally ask the question, how do we do this? How do we help other people follow the Lord Jesus?
The how can be broken down into four steps: knowing, loving, speaking and doing.¹ Knowing means we spend time with people. We truly get to know others: their story, their personality and their struggles. Since this involves much time and energy it presupposes our loving them. In the context of such loving relationship we will naturally then want to be speak God’s truth into their life. People cannot grow as Christ’s followers without the input of his word! Finally, we disciple people through doing. We seek to model the Christian life to others in a way that while imperfect, they can imitate.
3. See The Many ‘Levels’ Of Discipling
Discipling can happen on at least four levels:
- First, the preacher disciples. Though we might not think of the preacher as a discipler, that’s exactly what he is! He is someone who knows and loves the congregation… who speak God’s truth into their lives… and who models (as best he can) that truth in his life. Preaching is the mass-discipling of a larger group of people.
- Second, the small group disciples. The Community Groups in Greenview will be designed to help us disciple each other in small subgroups of the church. In the Community Groups we will have the opportunity to know, love, speak and do in the context of 12-15 people.
- Third, another Christian disciples. One to one discipleship is where another believer meets with me with the intention of helping me grow spiritually. It may involve Bible study, reading a Christian author, having a spiritual conversation, prayer, etc.
- Finally, the individual disciples (himself/herself). There is a sense in which I disciple myself. Good habits of prayer and Bible reading assist me in my spiritual growth.
A growing Christian will tend to be plugged in to more than a couple of these levels. A particular weakness for many believers is the absence of the second and third tiers. For most of us, these are areas we need to engage with more.
4. Invest In Community
Jesus didn’t disciple people at a distance. He demonstrated that discipleship happens in community. Community demands proximity. It is impossible to foster community if we never let people get close to us. It is also impossible to disciple others if we do not spend any time with them.
Are we making enough space for other Christians in our schedules? If not, consider how you can improve your proximity to other Christians. Rather than limiting yourself to one Sunday service a week, consider adding at least one more level of community (e.g. join a community group; start a 121).
5. Embrace The Attitude Of A Learner
Probably the biggest barrier to discipleship is proud complacency. It is easy to fall into this trap. We think that we already know a lot about the Christian faith and Christian living. We feel like we are doing OK without other peopl’s input.
But what we think and feel is misguided. The healthiest Christians are always the ones who never think they have arrived. Mature believers know there are still sins to be battled, still lessons to be learnt. Decades in they still have the attitude: ‘I need to be discipled.’ Every Christian has more to learn – and every Christian has something to teach. Discipling is a two way street.
Our Mission – Our Culture?
I started out by saying that the mission of the church is to make disciples. But wouldn’t it be great if discipling was more than our mission? How good would it be if discipling was part of our culture? That is what we want: for discipling to be the warp and woof…the air we breathe… the DNA of Greenview Church. Greenview isn’t about programs, and it isn’t even simply about relationships. It is about discipling in every program and every relationship.
God wants us to go and make disciples. He also wants us to grow as disciples. If you’re not already, why not come on board and join the project?
¹ These categories are taken from the book Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands.