“We desperately need more leaders working in our church today,” the minister of education complained at the Monday morning staff meeting at First Baptist Everywhere Church. “You are right on target; we’re burning out the 20% that are doing 80% of the church’s work,” chimed in the youth pastor. “My heart is burdened over the fact that so many of our members just don’t have a passion for the Lord anymore. What can we do to train and equip them for service and spiritual growth?” the pastor added. The senior adult minister quickly responded, “I remember the good old days pastor when everyone attended Church on Sunday nights at 6:00 p.m. sharp. We had what we called “BTU” and then we called it, “Church Training Union” and then we started calling it “Discipleship Training.” Why don’t we just go back to the good old days?”
Have you ever heard folks make any similar statements? Whatever happened to the discipleship hour in the local church? For that matter whatever happened to discipleship? Well, we can’t go back to how it was “in the good ole days” but we can still do discipleship with excellence and equip our people for service and ministry. How? By jump starting it with a renewed commitment and focus to make discipleship a priority in our churches. Many pastors/staff and church leaders today are asking the hard question, “Is discipleship still possible with the fast paced life-style of our church members.” After all the new paradigm is T-I-M-E.” Today our folks are so over-committed and busy, will they even show up?
I served as discipleship pastor at First Baptist Norfolk several years ago and we decided to answer that question with an enthusiastic “yes.” We decided to once again make discipleship a priority in the church’s schedule, budget, and our commitment as a staff. Numbers do not equate with success however they are important. We experienced an average attendance increase from 172 to 596 over a two and a half year period in adult discipleship! Granted that was a mega church but every church regardless of size or location can revision and reengineer how they do discipleship. With prayer, planning, and focus you could go from 10 to 20 or 50 to 100 in your discipleship process.
Discipleship is paramount in the life of a church for at least three obvious reasons.
1. JESUS SAID SO! There is a clear biblical mandate to accomplish disciple making in the local church contained in Matthew 28:16-20. No part of the Bible has impacted Christians more with a vision of reaching and discipling the world for Christ than this passage we commonly call “The Great Commission.” At the core of discipleship is obedience to the Master. Jesus said, “make disciples” so we must if we are going to obey Him. We need no further reason than just because Jesus said so. Period! Because Jesus said so every Christian and church should be on this quest for experiencing authentic discipleship. Discipleship is inherent in the life of every Christian and those that are brought into the Kingdom will in turn become disciples seeking to make other disciples who will make other disciples. Discipleship is all about multiplication not addition.
Dr. Gaines S. Dobbins was asked, “But is not conversion the end of salvation?” He replied, “yes, but which end?” Evangelism is the first step in life long discipleship but the journey never ends.
The hard question for today’s church is not are we “making converts” but are we “making (producing) disciples?
2. IT WORKS! The second reason is the direct link between producing disciples and fulfilling the leadership needs of the church. Most churches are facing a major, acute leadership crisis. The crisis is…we can’t find them! Why is this happening? There are multiple factors contributing to this problem but one that is usually overlooked is the “discipleship factor.” An intentional, thought out, discipleship strategy plan, can help build spiritual leaders for your church. More spiritual leaders in your church will directly impact your church’s growth numerically (more ministries to reach new people) and spiritually (more people maturing in their faith).
3. STOPS FALL OUT! The third reason is simply “preventive maintenance.” Consistent discipleship that has the “end” result in mind (spiritual maturity) helps guide and nurture people to stay on track in their faith commitment to Christ over the long haul. How many people do you know who use to be committed to Jesus but now they are no where to be found? Involving people in ongoing discipleship keeps people off the spiritual casualty list of those who have left their first love. It keeps their passion for Christ white hot, alive, and dynamic.
These are three pretty simple reasons to jump-start the discipleship ministry in your church.
Where and how to begin this Discipleship Quest? We will look at this on my next blog but I must ask, “Is Discipleship emphasized in your church? Do you have an intentional process? If not, why not?”
Remember…Jesus said so!