3 of 6 Proofs of a Healthy Church
Like any young boy, I wanted to be like my Dad. He never spit, chewed tobacco, or used fowl language. He never drove fast cars, disrespected women, or forgot my basketball games. It was easy sailing for me. Unless you count his hardheaded, single minded, do it my way mentality. I was a true disciple of my Father. If he was hard headed I was going to be worse. If he was single-minded I was going to be laser focused.
I am so glad that’s not all I picked up. My Father loved the Lord with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength. I learned about grace, peace, hope, and love. I learned how to care for my family as well as others. I learned that being a disciple of my Father was really being a disciple of Christ.
Previously we discussed, vision casting, one proof of healthy church. This week we will discuss the importance of discipleship in our pursuit of becoming a healthy church.
Discipleship (Matthew 28:18-20)
God wants all people to become disciples, followers of Christ. The only work of the Church is to make disciples and equip those disciples to make new disciples. Discipleship is the process by which people grow in their understanding of God’s word, equipping of the Holy Spirit to overcome the pressures and trials of life, and to become more Christlike (Gotquestions.org).
How can your discipleship help your Church?
Below are some of the byproducts of any church focused on discipleship.
|A Growing Prayer Life||Training that Cultivates Discipleship|
|An Expanding Community of Mentors||Coaching that Fosters Discipleship|
|Teaching that Equips People to Serve||A Deep Desire for Stewardship|
|A Need to Ensure Disciples are Being Made||Other:|
I recently had the privilege of interviewing Dave Bruskas, the Pastor of North Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. North Church has a thriving ministry to the city and beyond. Discipleship is key to everything North does. Here are some of the fundamental concepts that Dave shares that have helped North gain momentum through discipleship.
Prayer is a vital expression of discipleship. True disciples of Jesus model him. Disciples are those who are becoming people who think, feel, speak and act like Jesus. Jesus prayed often. And so will those who follow him. Prayer is critical because it reveals the disciples’ utter dependence upon the Holy Spirit in all of life.
Becoming like Jesus is something that is both taught and caught. Modeling a life yielded to Jesus is essential to reproduction of disciples. Programs don’t make disciples. People make disciples. And it takes disciples to make disciples. This means practically that discipleship must move from the classroom and into every day life to be effective. Jesus best modeled this principle for us in inviting his followers to walk with him in all of life.
Mentoring is Jesus’ preferred method of making disciples. It is the way he did it. It is also the way in which his disciples made disciples as seen in the New Testament. The most effective discipleship models will have mentorship at all levels. Mature disciples mentor maturing disciples. Maturing disciples mentor the newest disciples. And the newest disciples are working to make disciples of those who don’t yet know Jesus.
Teaching is one of the key functions in making disciples along with “going” and “baptizing” according to Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20. But we cannot forget the function of teaching. According to this same passage, it is “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”. Said differently, the important point of teaching isn’t informational but transformational. Teaching culminates in doing and not just knowing.
Disciple making is a team sport. It must be done in community. Having clearly defined relational networks and roles is just as critical as having solid biblical teaching in furthering the mission of Jesus in making disciples. I think it is most helpful to think of discipleship in two dimensions: content and context. The content of discipleship is the biblical gospel. The Scriptural baseline of all that Jesus’ perfect life, substitutionary death and victorious resurrection has achieved for those of us who trust in Him must be reinforced in all realms of life. And the context of discipleship is committed, loving and accountable relationships.
I have found coaching most helpful for those who are responsible for leading leaders. While mentoring primarily works with a one on one structure, coaching improves the effectiveness of those leading small groups, ministries and churches. Everyone in leadership should receive help (coaching) from those who have the benefit of more experience in the same role.
Discipleship must be viewed through the paradigm of all of life. Money and work occupy huge portions of time, energy and thought for most people in our culture. So if we don’t address these categories for those who follow Jesus, we will fail to make fully devoted followers. I have found it most helpful to think through growth for disciples in four realms: the heart, the home, work and the world. Our objective is to have people who worship Jesus in everything they are, everything they do, and everywhere they go.
In order to evaluate the health of disciples and the mission critical function of making disciples, we have to first define the profile of a disciple. We have honed in on three distinct characteristics of a disciple in the realm of worship, community and mission. And we have established some quantitative metrics to evaluate in these areas. But much of discipleship is qualitative which means it is more difficult to measure. So one question we frequently ask is “are we growing together in loving one another?” According to Jesus, this is the calling card of those who follow him; “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, ESV).
“Making disciples is the priority of the church because it is first on Jesus’ agenda (Matthew 28:18-20). The simplest way for the church to make disciples is to intentionally disciple people through every ministry and event. Discipleship isn’t meant to be an appendage in the church body. Instead, discipleship is the lifeblood that flows through everything we are and everything we do. When discipleship is separated as a programmed ministry among other church programs, it is marginalized. Then, the mission of Jesus becomes peripheral.” – Dave Bruskas
North Church’s momentum is unique to their context. Gauge the health of your church by answering these questions. If you do not have a clear, confident answer for each of these questions your church discipleship is at risk of becoming ineffective.
- How does prayer shape discipleship?
- How does modeling discipleship help equip people to become disciple makers?
- What role does mentoring play in making disciples?
- How does teaching make disciples?
- What types of training environments help cultivate discipleship?
- How does coaching foster healthy discipleship?
- How is stewardship (the concepts of faith, work, and economics intersecting) encouraged as an act of discipleship?
- What types of observations and evaluations can be implemented to help stimulate healthy disciple making?