Discipleship and The Fruit of Perseverance

By Shannon Youell

“If you make churches, you will rarely get disciples; but if you make disciples you will always get churches.”

We’ve written about this several times. And we’ll likely write about it again. Jesus commissioned His disciples to make disciples and those disciples would then commission their disciples to make disciples.   

But it is hard work! And it’s work one must be invested in for years. For life! In our cultural milieu of result-oriented goals favouring immediate returns and strategically minimizing risk, is it any wonder that discipleship has taken a firm back seat? Often the returns are years in the making and require persistent perseverance. Discipleship as modeled by Jesus is risky business that includes minimal returns, slow growth inclines, sudden declines and sellouts along the way.

jonathan-weiss-266716-unsplash.jpg

Yet, the fruit, oh, the fruit of perseverance!  The fruit of investing deeply and walking intimately with others as we learn and grow and lean in, is so worth the labour, the frustration and the wait. 

Dhati Lewis, Lead Pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta, writes about the “guardrails” the Apostle Paul offers to Timothy in regard to continuing on in making disciples.  He talks about these guardrails to remind us that the work is laborious and long, but is the work we are called to. The guardrails keep us from going off the road in our quest to grow and develop our churches faster and bigger.  When we lose sight of our commission of making disciples, we find we have church, but few disciples to engage in the work of the kingdom. 

Read Lewis’ article posted here.

Now ask the honest and the hard questions.  If what we are labouring in isn’t making disciples who make disciples, what indeed are we making?  How is that working for us as believers? For our neighbourhoods?  For the world God so loves and desires to draw back to His kingdom Shalom, where humans flourish in body, mind, and spirit? 

 

Advertisements

So who does the discipling?

By Shannon Youell

We’ve been talking about discipleship as the commissioning to which Jesus calls His believers.

When I have conversations about discipleship with leaders and pastors I often get the same look, which I read as, “I know this is important but how do I find the time to disciple everyone?”

In our current church culture, it seems that discipleship becomes another job descriptor for the pastor(s), along with evangelism, counselling, administration, sermon planning, writing and execution, visitation and the multiple other roles that seem to default to the paid staff. Sadly, it often becomes demoted to the bottom of the to-do list as louder voices demand our attention.

braden-collum-87874-unsplash

However, if the pastor is the one who is to do the discipling, then what do we do with the Scripture that designates all believers as the priesthood? As those who, together, do the work of the church? Peter’s first letter addresses not church leaders but “all of God’s elect,” to all those whom the sanctifying work of the Spirit is at work.

When Jesus commissioned His first disciples to go and make disciples, He was not saying that they were to be entirely responsible to do this work. In fact, in the book of Acts and beyond, we hardly see the disciples leave Jerusalem, yet the church spread throughout the empire. Why? Because disciples were being made who then went and made disciples (such as a Paul), who then leaves them to continue making disciples (such as Paul’s commissioning of Timothy).

Pastors are to train, equip and release. In other words, rather than the congregants being the pastor’s helpers in reaching the pastor’s vision, the pastor is the helper to the congregants to be equipped and trained in their role as the priesthood.

If this is not the norm in the place where you gather and worship, this requires a fairly significant culture shift. And not only for the pastors and leaders. This is a culture shift for the folk in the congregation as well. We have done a bang-up job of creating the cultures in our churches and change does not happen overnight. But we must start where we are to get to where we know we should be going.

The reality is that discipleship is not an option and being a discipler of others is the primary job description Jesus gave His disciples to engage in.

The question, then, for us, is are we willing to do the hard work of making the work of making disciples (who by definition can then also make disciples) our primary work in the places where we serve? Are we willing to have the courage to take the risk? To count the cost and head smack into the countercultural curve that ultimately trains, equips and increases the capacity of everyday people to live like Jesus and be salt and light in their world.

The shift must happen in us first. This is not a program that we implement and do “to” people. This is a journey that we enter into together–to be disciples ourselves and be disciplers of others.

Here are a couple of books to equip you for the journey.

If you’re interested in reviewing one of these books by June 2018–sharing on this blog how you believe the book may be helpful (or not) for movement forward in discipleship–be the first to leave a comment here, and we’ll send you the book for free.

 

Teaching and Training

By Shannon Youell

“You have to invest time, energy, and money into training [your people] as leaders so you are truly multiplying the life of Christ in your ministry… (this was) one of the biggest ministry shifts I had to make when I was learning to make disciples. I knew how to teach people, but I had to idea how to train people. They are very different skill sets.” Ben Sternke

As we continue in this series of posts to take a hard look at discipleship, we are being challenged to evaluate whether our method of making disciples is working for us (defined by disciples who are being transformed by the presence of Christ in their lives and living out the things Jesus taught in our world around us who can then reproduce themselves by making disciples who can then make disciples).

I am not suggesting we look with despair on how discipleship happens in our churches, but that we should honestly ask the hard questions: are we seeing disciple making that produces maturing believers on a transformational journey in the presence of Christ in their lives? Are these disciples increasingly living out all the things Jesus himself taught? Are they then able to reproduce themselves by making disciples?

neil-bates-177821-unsplash.jpg

Let’s look at what Ben Sternke has to say in the rest of his blog post that opened this post. Please don’t be distracted by the title; the article is not really about a celebrity trap–it’s more about understanding the posture of leadership in the disciple-making process. Oh, and note that this article is relevant to every person who is a follower of Jesus and who leads or is feeling tugged to lead. It is not specifically about church planters but in that category it is a great way to start a church!

Please dialogue with us on this disciple-making journey. Have you ever reached the point of releasing those you have been training? Do you agree in today’s world that “The kingdom of God is like a seed, not a building project?”

 

Summer Video Series 6: God’s Mission and the Places We Live, Work and Play

by Cailey Morgan

Shannon, Joell and I are thankful for so many resources that are available for us as we seek to evoke and resources CBWC churches and members towards our shared mission of making disciples who make disciples.

Today’s video is another from Forge America. Brad Brisco: God’s Mission and the Places We Live, Work and Play is the longest of the resources we’ve made available here, because it actually includes a story of a group of people who’ve been contextually living out the stuff we’ve been talking about here on the blog.

God's Mission & The Places We Live, Work, & Play – Brad Brisco from Forge America on Vimeo.

We saw one example of how to live and work missionally. But what are some other ways we can be a light in the places we live, work, play, in our Canadian context?

Summer Video Series 5: Incarnational Evangelism

by Cailey Morgan

Shannon, Joell and I are thankful for so many resources that are available for us as we seek to evoke and resources CBWC churches and members towards our shared mission of making disciples who make disciples.

Forge America’s resources include several videos available online, one of which is Hugh Halter in our video for today, Incarnational Evangelism.

Incarnational Evangelism – Hugh Halter from Forge America on Vimeo.

Have you ever been in an uncomfortable or unsafe situation but knew that it was the place God wanted you to be to share His good news? Share your thoughts here or by emailing me: cmorgan@cbwc.ca

Summer Video Series 4: What is a Missional Church?

by Cailey Morgan

At CBWC’s 2017 Gathering in Calgary, we were able to share several short videos we thought were particularly helpful for our context. Over the summer, we will be sharing those videos here on the blog in hopes of continuing the conversation, and hearing from you about these important topics.

In today’s video, Alan Hirsch: What is a Missional Church?, we consider the Sending God and His call for us as a Missionary People. What could missional look like in your context?

Summer Video Series 3: Living as Ekklesia

by Cailey Morgan

At CBWC’s 2017 Gathering in Calgary, we were able to share several short videos we thought were particularly helpful for our context. Over the summer, we will be sharing those videos here on the blog in hopes of continuing the conversation, and hearing from you about these important topics.

In today’s video, our very on Shannon Youell shares Living as Ekklesia, a call to consider the history of our language around the church and the ways in which we have exchanged Kingdom values for earthly values without even noticing.

Living as Ekklesia – Being the Church from Online Discipleship on Vimeo.

What do you have to add to the discussion on Ekklesia? In what ways do we as the church today need to change our perceptions and language?

Summer Video Series 2: Living With Intentionality

by Cailey Morgan

At CBWC’s 2017 Gathering in Calgary, we were able to share several short videos we thought were particularly helpful for our context. Over the summer, we will be sharing those videos here on the blog in hopes of continuing the conversation, and hearing from you about these important topics.

Today’s video, Jayne Vanderstelt: Living With Intentionality, speaks to the reality that mission is not something that we add on to what we are already doing in our compartmentalized lives. Rather, mission happens when we respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit, intentionally loving and serving those whom God puts in our path as we live lives that are visible and consistent.

Do you think the lifestyle Jayne presents is feasible? Why or why not?

Summer Video Series 1: The Church for Whom?

by Cailey Morgan

Shannon, Joell and I are thankful for so many resources that are available online for us as we seek to evoke and resources CBWC churches and members towards our shared mission of making disciples who make disciples.

At CBWC’s 2017 Gathering in Calgary, we were able to share several short videos we thought were particularly helpful for our context. Over the summer, we will be sharing those videos here on the blog in hopes of continuing the conversation, and hearing from you about these important topics.

Today’s video, Michael Frost: “The Church For Whom,” helps us consider who it is our churches are actually trying to reach. What sticks out to you? What do you need to do differently? What bugs you about Mike’s assessment of the church?

Incarnational Presence

By Cailey Morgan

In my previous article, “The Missionary Nature of God and His Church,” I mentioned that there are several paradigm shifts or renewed ways of thinking that we as the Church in Canada should consider if we want to reawaken ourselves to God’s call to mission.

One such shift in paradigm is to consider how Jesus’ words in Matthew 28: “go and make Disciples” may actually mean “stay and make disciples.” As much as international missionaries are sent to delve deeply into the culture and day-to-day life of the place they are called to, Jesus sends us out our front doors and invites us to delve deeply with the culture and day-to-day life of our neighbours, coworkers, and the other parents on the elementary school Advisory Council.

STAY sign CCSA Glenn G

Proximity and Presence
Most of my musings here are inspired from a workshop on Missional Essentials by Brad Brisco. He’s done his homework on these issues, and reminds us that Scripture is full of examples and exhortations for God’s “gathered and scattered” people to be sent into really ordinary, everyday places. Our primary example, of course, is Christ Himself.

In John 20:21, Jesus says, “just as the Father sent Me, I am sending you.” If we are sent just as Jesus was sent, we should look at how and to whom Jesus was sent in order to establish how we also are sent. His sending from the Father was to be among us. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Read the gospels to see how the ins-and-outs of daily life were Jesus’ platform for most of His ministry and teachings. This kind of presence, this kind of among-ness, exemplifies the humility and other-mindedness we are to have as we engage our neighbours (consider Christ’s nature of humble service as described in Philippians 2:5-8). He dwelt among, and emptied Himself for, those who needed to receive the hope He offers.

Darrell Guder puts it this way:

In the incarnation of Jesus, God revealed Himself as the one who is with and for His creation. Now, as the Risen Lord sends His Spirit to empower the church, we are called to become God’s people present in the world, with and for the world.

Our posture must change from doing ministry to, or even ministry for, to ministry with. With is a much closer, much more patient, even much more intimate way of gospelling. But to be with, we must address the barriers that are keeping us apart from our culture and our neighbours.

Advocate or Adversary?
For many reasons far beyond the socio-political understanding in my tiny mind, the Christian Church is often seen as the adversary in our culture. We say “no” a lot. We sometimes come across as judgmental. We like to put boxes around behaviour. And—as all humans naturally do—we tend to hang out with people who like us and are like us.

But what Jesus exemplified for us, what the Holy Spirit does daily for us, is not adversary but advocacy. The Holy Spirit is called the Advocate because He is for us and with us to offer His strength. And we have been called to follow in this posture of advocating for others rather than being about our own agendas.

An interesting example of this incarnational advocacy can be found in Jeremiah 29:4-7. God sends (Yes, sends. There it is again!) His people into Babylonian captivity. They hate Babylon and want to go home. It’s not comfortable, and besides, how can they worship God in such a heathen place? But what does God say? Settle down and make a garden! Embed yourself in the community. You’ll be here long enough to have kids and for your kids to have kids. Seek and pray for the prosperity of the place.

This 70-year exile was a slow but deliberate way for the Israelites to fulfill their original mandate from God to Abraham: be a blessing to all nations. And God is calling us to the same life today: to open our eyes to the people around us in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. To hitch our wagon to our neighbours. To seek the prosperity and peace of the places we live.

As Brad Brisco explains, “The way the Kingdom takes root in the lives of people, and ultimately changes a city, is by exiles living normal everyday lives as citizens of the King in every neighbourhood and public place that makes up a city.”

What does it practically look like in the whirlwind of 21st-century North American life to daily seek the prosperity and peace of our communities? How do we expand our imaginations and truly understand our dual citizenship as not only Canadians but children of the King? What if I don’t know my neighbours yet? These are the questions I’ll wrestle with in my next article.

If you’d rather hear from Brisco on these topics, check out Missional Essentials, a brilliant and down-to-earth 12-week curriculum to help your small groups or leadership team explore these and several other biblical directives.

This is the third article in a series. Read the other posts here:

  1. Why, Oh Why?
  2. The Missionary Nature of God and His Church

  3. Incarnational Presence
  4. Space to be Truly Present
  5. Missional Margin
  6. Missional Mindset in Everyday Spaces