Mark Dever the pastor of the Capital Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C. said, “We believe the local church is the focal point of God’s plan for displaying His glory to the nations. Our vision is simple’; Churches that reflect the character of God.” (The Nature and Purpose of the Church: 9 Marks of the Church) The world is in desperate need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not another NGO, social justice movement or government funding, but a church that solely a Christo-centric in their endeavor to help know, love and follow Jesus alone.
Jesus gave us, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19) It was even his original design from creation in the garden to, “multiply” the image-bears amongst the whole earth! God’s design for us here on earth is to accomplish his mission for the local church through the means of discipleship. He has commanded us to make disciples of all nations, disciples who will obey everything He commanded.
As Thom Rainer said it well, “Thriving churches have the Great Commission as the centerpiece of their vision, while dying churches have forgotten the clear command of Christ.” Discipleship has been cast aside. So when the church becomes an end in itself, it all ends.
Here are three marks to be considered as you begin to create a disciple-making culture in your local context.
1. Discipleship is the only means
We live in a society where we were taught that the pastors and elders (deacons) of the church do all the ministry instead of equipping the saints for the work of ministry. (Eph. 4:13) Part of the reason is because many of our pastors have never been discipled. Don’t stop at “making disciples.” We should equip the saints to make disciples who make “disciple-makers.”
It’s time for us to stop making excuses and start making disciples, because this is not an optional command. Discipleship is not complete until the Mentee becomes a Mentor or the Disciple becomes Disciple-maker.
Effective ministry not gauged just by how much ministry we execute ourselves, but how well we equip others to partake in ministry. It is not even ours to begin, it is our task to give away the ministry.
I guarantee you, God is not going to be impressed how big our churches are, he’s not going to be impressed how wide our ministry grow, he’s not going to be impressed with how much money we made. But I do believe one question that he will ask will be, how well did we obey Jesus final words? In essence, have we made his final words, “Go make disciples of all nations” Great Commission our first work and hopefully we can say, “Yes, we did!”
2. Discipleship is Modeled through Christ
We have implement “have-it-now” disciple-making model of an “easy-quick-fix” that can be finished in 4 weeks. We have set the church up for unrealistic expectations as Jesus himself wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this! We cannot microwave a disciples. Discipleship is a crock pot recipe. It takes time and effort for growth for each disciple for spiritual maturity.
In Jesus model, we don’t see him constantly inviting people to the synagogues to hear the Rabbi preach or teach that weekend; we see Him being the guide to a group of disciples on a daily basis and living life with them.
Sadly, we have taught people how to share their faith and diminished the beauty of Jesus model. Discipleship has been diminished because modern evangelism strategies have taught people how to share their faith instead of sharing their lives. Evangelism is about living life with others.
Many of us are good at articulating and sharing the gospel, but we’re not good at sharing our lives. So we learn information but if we never pass that on we merely become gospel consumer and not a gospel coworker.
3. Discipleship conversation in the local church
Discipleship is a community project, not just a personal pursuit. As we already understand, that community must be the local church, because Jesus has given her unique authority to preach the gospel, baptize believers into faith and church membership, and teach obedience to Christ.
However, change is extremely difficult, especially in an established churches. When momentum is strong and energy is high, the last thing most churches are thinking about is changing a culture. Leaders must face the brutal facts in life. How? Ask the right questions: K.I.S.S (Keep it, Increase it, Stop it, Start it)
Conversation changes culture. It brings to their awareness. Mark Dever said it well, “To practice discipleship (membership) well, we must teach it clearly. And to teach it clearly, we must understand it well.” (Baptist Foundation: in an age of Anti-institutional age)
You don’t announce the revolution publicly. Begin to converse with one another within the circle around you. Begin to define what a disciple looks like and then develop a strategy for equipping people.
The Centrality & Beauty of The Local Church Mission
The reason Discipleship works in the Church is because it empowers the Church to be the Church and not just come to church.
Discipleship changes the “come and see” mentality to a “go and tell” one. True discipleship teaches you to live out your faith. For truly as Mike Stachura said it well, “The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity!”
The truth of the reality is that the gospel came to you because it was heading to someone else. God never intended for your salvation to be an end, but a beginning. God saved you to be a donut through whom His glorious, life changing gospel would flow through whom His glorious, life changing gospel would flow to others! Stop waiting in prayer for a Word from God that he’s already answered in his Word. Should I make disciples? YES! If we the church don’t do it, nobody else is going to do it.
One of the lessons we can learn from the evangelical movement is that its central weakness was not epistemological. Its central weakness was not its commitment to the core doctrines of the Christian faith. It’s central weakness was ecclesiological – an undervaluing of the local church in particular. – Albert Mohler
Either you are making disciples or making excuses. Which one are you?