Jesus Gave His Church a Job… Part 3

“God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20, The Message). 

In this series (read part 1 here and 2 here), we’ve been examining the crisis of non-discipleship that the Church is finding itself in.   

The emphasis on “making disciples” from Matthew 28 is not to make good church people – those who attend and serve within a church including participation in its internal programs. While there is much good that is within this part of our life as a community of followers of Jesus, it has developed us into churchgoers but not so much as disciples. 

Disciples Are Salty and Shiny 

Disciples, or those who believe and follow Jesus, are, to paraphrase Jesus’ words in his Big Sermon, salty and shiny. 

Jesus said when we are salty, we are light (Matthew 5:13-16). Being salty means that we are living and leaning into increasingly being Christ-like in our thoughts, our opinions, our responses, our reactions. The less salty we are, the less we tend to shine. We become just another dim (or hidden) light in a world of dim-light options. I have read theologians and commentarians who say that Jesus is saying “You are ALL the light of the world.” Those who live a Jesus-centered life are the light of the world because we reflect Jesus who is THE light of the world.  

So the question is, how salty are we?  How salty we are is a direct reflection of how shiny we will be. Which drops us right back into the conversation on discipleship. 

Eugene Peterson’s interpretation of Matthew 28:18-20 as quoted above poses at least three points here that are relevant and to which we should be asking questions of our own disciplemaking habits: 

Train everyone you meet…in this way of life…instruct them in the practice…” 

  1. Train Everyone 
  1. In this way of life 
  1. (and) instruct them in the practice 

Last blog left us with two things to think on. One was that discipleship doesn’t occur through osmosis. You may read that and roll your eyes and say, “well, duhh!” But the reality is osmosis is the most common way we tend to convey discipleship. We preach good sermons and hold good Bible studies and hope something rubs off. While learning by osmosis has its value, it also has limitations.  

Intentional, Relational Discipleship 

Discipling one another in the way of Jesus and His kingdom point of view doesn’t happen only because we follow Him from mountain to mountain to hear sermons. He was intentional in relationally discipling those that followed Him more closely, including those beyond the twelve whom He chose to train so as to train more disciples, or more specifically to train everyone they meet as they go through life – being salty and shiny! 

The other thought from our previous article was about unlearning what we already assume and think we know: being humbly prepared to let Jesus change our point of view about our religion, our practices of it and even the purpose(s) of it.   

How does our point of view about the world, religion, and even our own faith start to be transformed? Jesus infers it starts as we train one another (that’s the everyone) in this way of life. He takes His hearers back to what is most important for discipleship and the task or purpose of those who follow Him – His church.   

From my decades of scouring the Scriptures to understand this, I’ve found that our purpose as Christ’s witnesses (those who witness us see us as shiny; or not) is reflected in Jesus’ statements in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), The Greatest Commandment (Matt. 22:37/Luke 10:27), and the intent (which Jesus demonstrated frequently in his words and deeds) of the Great Requirement (Micah 6:8).  

You may think this is simplistic, but if we intentionally and relationally disciple one another, as lifelong learners, in the ways and intent of these, our worldview will be influenced. If, that is, we are humbly willing to lay down our assumptions and preconceptions from our own point of view to Jesus’ point of view (POV). As we increasingly adopt the view of God’s kingdom, already working right here, right now; if we practice justice-making, peace-making, mercy, hope, meaning, joy, grace and love towards our ‘neighbours’, we, who are also our neighbour, will increasingly “…grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- (so) that (we) may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:18-19).   

As we live our everyday-as we are going-along the way lives, seeing people and circumstances through a Jesus POV, we cannot help but then practice it. As children of God walking alongside one another in every aspect of life, pointing one another to Jesus’s point of view, we will experience transformation of our hearts, minds, soul and strength and increasingly find ourselves grace-filled with compassion, practicing the fruit of the Spirit  towards brokenness of our human experiences both in one another and in ourselves.  

We will develop saltiness in ourselves and our saltiness will be Christ’s witness to the world of God who so loved the world he died to redeem, reconcile and restore all our relationships: with God himself, with one another and with self. On the matter of salt, Jesus asks the question: “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? His answer: “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” Salty and shiny. 

Our shiny-ness is our evangelism. Like discipleship, it is a lifelong way of life, not a program.   

One final note for pondering. Our age of Enlightenment participated in transforming discipleship from apprenticeship relationships to knowledge-based programs. We became less salty thus less shiny, which affects how people see Christ in us (our shiny bits). So we created programs to help increase our evangelism. 

But neither discipleship nor evangelism, as posited from the beginning of this series, are programs. When we are salty, we are shiny. Evangelism is not the purpose of the church. Discipleship is, and evangelism happens because we are discipling one another to learn, teach, live and practice the beautiful way of Jesus. 

Jesus Gave His Church a Job…Part 2

For about twenty-five years I have been exploring, reading, writing and talking about the non-discipleship crisis. Most everyone recognizes the crisis when we talk about it. Often, someone will offer a great new discipleship program that is sweeping through various locales around the globe, sending me the links to the person/groups that developed it. Good, thoughtful, laborious work has gone into most of them. There is much to glean and I am so appreciative that others are tackling the crisis we find ourselves in.  

I’ve made my own attempt at producing a discipleship manual for leaders to use with their congregations. I think it was pretty good. However, a course or program on its own is not discipleship. Jesus didn’t run the 12, the 72, the 144 through a 20-week discipleship course complete with graphics, worksheets and activities, and we didn’t see the early Church do so either.  

There is value in those things of course, but the danger comes when we narrow the scope of discipleship to just a program to work our way through successfully. It’s dangerous because we can trick ourselves into thinking that completing a discipleship course means we now understand the Christian faith, while in reality we still have hearts and minds conformed to the world’s patterns, thinking and understanding rather than being shaped by the Holy Spirit’s transforming nature and Jesus’ Kingdom-of-God point of view.  

In other words, the church is “Christian” but we are not necessarily followers of Christ living out the Greatest Commandment, the Great Requirement and the Great Commission by becoming disciples who make disciples who make disciples. 

Refreshing materials and programs, courses and conferences will not change that, no matter how helpful these tools are. We need to ask ourselves the bold-faced questions about how our methodologies are transforming us, if they are transforming us, and to what we are being transformed into? 

The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ~Alvin Toffler

I have this quote on a sticky note on the wall in my office – I really should get it framed so it stops losing its stickiness and falling off the wall (I think there’s an apt metaphor in there somewhere). It’s there because Jesus said something similar when a curious pharisee came to him in the cover of night, acknowledging that Jesus was a teacher who had “come from God” (John 3).  

I imagine Nicodemus was gobsmacked by Jesus’ response to the acknowledgment: Jesus challenged him! Even though Nicodemus he was a learned member of the Jewish council, Jesus told him he wouldn’t be able to recognize God’s in-breaking kingdom unless he was “born again.” And what did He mean by born again? Here’s my paraphrase: “Nicodemus, you need to recognize that I am the Messiah to see what God is doing in the world.” 

Henry Ossawa Tanner – Nicodemus coming to Christ

Along the way, born again has become synonymous with a person confessing Jesus as Lord and Saviour. But remember that in Part 1 of this series, we recognized there is a difference between making church-goers and making disciples. Understanding Jesus’ remark as only an evangelistic impulse misses the fullness of what his challenge to Nicodemus was. 

Jesus was challenging Nicodemus on what he understood about God, God’s kingdom and the Messiah. Nicodemus needed to unlearn and relearn by allowing the Spirit to be birthed and active within him. Jesus used a common euphemism of the day when he said “born again.” It implied you need to unlearn what you think you already know and learn again

We’ve made born again about evangelism when it is really about discipleship–the transformation of hearts, minds, soul and strength to increasingly view the world through Jesus’ kingdom lens and live into that. 

And, if I can be so bold (and I will), the very evident lack of evangelistic impulse in our church culture is a direct result of the lack of a discipleship culture in our churches. You may find this hair-splitting, but as we move to Part 3 of this series, the distinction will become obvious. For now let me close Part 2 by saying two things to start the unlearning process: 

  1. Being “born again,” absent of unlearning whatever patterns and world views we’ve inherited from our world and people around us throughout our lives, may lead us to declare Jesus as Savior, but has left lots of permission for His Lordship in our lives to be an optional add-on.  
  1. Discipleship doesn’t happen by osmosis. If the Church is serious about facing our current crisis of non-discipleship, we will need to rethink and reimagine our theology of discipleship.  

We will need to put aside our egos and not allow offense to be our barrier to unlearning what we think we already know about it all. We hope you will join us as we take a deep breath and attempt to humbly come to terms with this continuous learning-unlearning-relearning process of discipleship.  

Jesus Gave His Church a Job…

…To “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything [he had taught and] commanded.” This was the Risen King revealing God’s mission to the world, through the gathered disciples. In many Bible translations we’ve aptly titled it the Great Commission, because of the clarity of vocation for the church, those gathered together under Christ. 

On this blog we’ve often written about discipleship in connection with church planting, defining church planting as the fruit of disciples who make disciples who can also make disciples. Disciple-making is the call of the Great Commission. In other words, the mission of the church isn’t evangelism, it’s discipleship.  

In an interpretive misunderstanding of the “go” in Jesus’ Commission, we’ve made the “going” the mission. The more literal translation in the Greek is not an imperative “go,” but rather a descriptor of how we make disciples: as the disciples are going (back home from the mount in Galilee), and as followers of Christ we each go about our lives (our witness), we make disciples of all the people we encounter, baptizing them when they recognize they have a need to travel a different road (repentance and salvation). Then, they begin the lifelong journey of intentional and accountable discipling of one another. 

Before we go further, I do want to say that I am thoroughly convinced that all humans are always being discipled by others, and therefore are witnesses of that discipleship. My Grandmother discipled me to view the mentally challenged adults she worked among with respect and honor. My Great Grandparents discipled me to care for the frail and elderly when I served tea and talked with those in their old age care home. Culture and societal values have certainly discipled me to a variety of worldviews and ideas, many of which I still find myself needing to submit to Christ. Everyone is being discipled, and by the way we speak, form opinions, act or don’t act (our witness), everyone is discipling others whether they realize it or not. 

With that in mind, every person we encounter and are in some form of relationship with, are being discipled by us before we even mention Jesus/church/God/salvation. What we are discipling them to, is another matter.    

Here, we are talking about the kind of discipleship that shapes us towards being image bearers of God’s character, by living lives increasingly reflective of Christ’s kingdom point of view. That’s a lifelong, relational journey, putting all our heart, mind, soul and strength increasingly under the Lordship of Christ. When we are on that kind of journey, evangelism is what naturally happens “as we go” as demonstrative witnesses of Christ where we live, work, play and pray. 

Somewhere along the way, discipling one another in intentional, relational communities has become something many leaders yearn for, but are wary to lead into, knowing many church-goers like going to church, but are not particularly interested in being in accountable discipleship relationships with the group of people they worship with on Sunday. We compartmentalize different aspects of our lives and justify and rationalize that because Jesus has saved the world and we’ve accepted that gift through baptism, God’s main requirement of us is that we “go” to church and possibly serve in the church’s programs and activities. 

Evangelism, then, has morphed into being a task/program of helping people make a decision for Christ by telling them a particular aspect of the gospel and encouraging them to come to church. Disciple making – on the level Jesus made disciples – became something optional as long as we could keep people attending our worship services.  Thus the creation of what is popularly known in the West as “consumer Christianity,” and our current non-discipleship crisis. 

As Dallas Willard is famously known for saying, “non-discipleship is the elephant in the church.” 

We’ve long known the elephant was there.  We thought that we could solve our current declines in church attendance with more evangelism, more “witnessing” while our own witness to the world in word and deed, both as individuals and as corporate entities, looked not a lot different from those who did not profess to be followers of Christ and tragically, worse. Conferences, books, lectures and missional and church planting networks rose up to help us with increasing our evangelistic impulses, whilst ignoring the elephant taking up the majority space in the room with the solution written across its body: discipleship. 

To be clear, if we do not refocus our time, our budgets, our energy, and our mission, toward making disciples who make disciples and so on, there will be little evangelism (witness). Evangelism happens because we are making disciples who are then making disciples who also make disciples.   

Matthew commentarian Rodney Reeves says it like this: “When these disciples make disciples of all peoples, then the reign of Christ is present. And when those disciples make other disciples, then the unstoppable kingdom of heaven will continue to extend all the way to the ends of the earth.”1 

You might think this is just hair splitting, but just looking around us, we can see that making people into church-goers has not been as effective as we would hope in changing the lens through which they see the world. We all have multiple, and often opposing, ideas on politics, culture, social issues, entertainment, the poor, the marginalized, the homeless. That’s normal, of course, we aren’t talking about uniformity where we all think, act, vote or even necessarily interpret scripture the same way. But we are talking about sanctification, where our worldview, with the guidance of the Spirit and one another, begins to be reshaped so that we look, speak, behave, and love more and more like Jesus, living life by the examples he taught and by obeying his commandments of loving God, self and neighbour with all we are and all we have as we participate in God’s kingdom of peace, joy, righteousness and love towards all humanity. 

In the following posts that look at the crisis of non-discipleship the church faces, we will examine some things we need to rethink and some things we need to lay down next time. In the meantime, ask for God to help us be open for all our hearts, minds, soul and strength to be shaped like Christ “as we are going”…


  1. Reeves, Rodney, Matthew: The Story of God Bible Commentary

Engaging Mission with Coaching and Cohort Opportunities

Wow! Fall is looming up before us already and most of us are making plans for how we can be salt and light, the Church, in our neighbourhoods in this next season, whatever it may hold for us in the ongoing changing landscape of life disrupted by a pandemic and other world events!

It also means deadlines for engaging in some of the amazing opportunities and pathways available to you and which you can read more details about HERE including the contacts for registration.

This past year (September through March) two of our CBWC churches participated in the Year One Course From the Centre for Leadership Development – “Forming and Reforming Communities of Christ in a Secular Age. One of those churches was where I attend. Five of our leadership team took part in reimagining engaging in mission right in our own area. This has benefited us greatly in understanding together how we can move deeper in shared practices within our church community and engage more relevantly and meaningfully by discovering where God is already at work bringing his presence, his shalom, into our neighbourhoods. The good work we did in that course and the consultation with Tim for our whole Leadership Team (board, elders, staff) is now being fleshed out with a larger group of our folk as we endeavor to discern together how God is forming and reshaping us to engage in his mission. Registration is open now for a mid-September start!

More than a decade ago when I was an Associate Pastor at another church, I brought some our leaders to an event brought to Victoria from The Forge Missional Network and facilitated by our own Cam Roxburgh (who I did not know back then). This opportunity was sponsored by our City-Wide Ministerial, and leaders from a wide range of churches and denominations in Victoria attended this workshop/course Friday and Saturday. It changed and began to reshape my understanding of evangelism, discipleship and mission, and gave words to what had been a growing passion in myself and the leaders who attended with me. Fast forward to today and we have The Discovery Project pathway to begin the conversation with your church and leaders. “Many leaders have gone through some missional training and are asking how they might help their people to “discover” some of the exciting opportunities presented to us as followers of Jesus in these difficult days.  The Discovery Project is one response to this question.”  Registration for this pathway is flexible as is church specific but don’t delay as space fills up!

For our churches who are already exploring what it means to be the Church in our day as missional engaged people, The Neighbourhood Project is here to help! This pathway brings together cohorts of groups to explore, equip and implement what the Spirit is leading them to. This pathway is filling up so fast, its now added a second and likely a third cohort and there is still some room so don’t delay!

Again, you can access more information and contacts for registration HERE

Don’t miss out on these great opportunities as we all desire to participate in the advancing of God’s kingdom here on earth!

Connection Embodies Content

By: Shannon Youell

Full disclosure:  I love content and information.  I thrive on it.  I’m a good researcher/writer and will spend inordinate amounts of time on a subject or concept looking at it from every angle available.  I say that just so you recognize, with me, that I can get lost in that.  As a person at the tail end of the baby boomers, I was taught in a system where content was king – it led to knowledge and I like to ‘know’ and be current and ‘informed’.  Memorize enough content and you can do anything!  Know enough ‘stuff’ and you will be successful at whatever you do in life.  You’ll be considered widely-read, knowledgeable, and everyone will want you for a Trivial Pursuit partner.   

Nothing wrong with that in principle.  I’m naturally a teacher and teachers teach, well, content.  Don’t they?  But I also chafe when the content has no application.  No ‘legs’ as I often phrase it.  Content without legs remains just content, information, storage.  Content without legs fills us with good (or bad) knowledge but not necessarily wisdom or even the tools we need to embody that knowledge. 

Jesus spent a lot of his time teaching his disciples how to embody that which they already knew about God and God’s mission in the world.  He doesn’t seem to ever lead a bible study to increase the amount of content people can retain, notwithstanding that he was mostly speaking to people who had been raised in the Jewish faith and had some understanding of the content.  For these he usually corrected how they embodied (or not) that content. 

What he did do frequently was help his disciples put legs to the content – to understand what it looks like to be salt and light in a harsh and resistant world, and to recognize the ways in which the knowledge of the content of the scriptures hindered people from entering God’s kingdom action in the world to redeem, reconcile and restore all creatures to God’s good creation as he created it.  And they lived it out as a community of people – most often as a community of 12.   

A strong sense of community is what draws people to the content.  Community is the ‘legs’ of it. This type of community comes by connection and relationships that are personal and transparent.

“CONTENT ALONE WON’T CUT IT. COMMUNITY AND CONNECTION WILL.” Carey Nieuwhof

One of the things many churches are learning in this season of online church is that regardless of how good our offerings are via the internet, most people are yearning not for more content but for more connection.  Our caution is to realize that this will not be entirely resolved when we can meet in person again – this isn’t a result of Covid-19 – however the circumstances have exposed what was already there in our churches and in our communities.  

 Jesus embodied the Good News of God’s kingdom – he put ‘legs’ to the scripture content in ways that transformed lives and communities.  In the dislocation that Covid has caused, the Spirit is reminding us of this with renewed yearnings for connection and relational discipleship – where followers not only know the story (content) but embody it in ways that draw people to experience God-With-Us in back yards, work places, parks and maybe even church buildings. 

Covid Opportunities

January 26th 2021 CBWC Supported Webinar

By: Shannon Youell

Hello 2021!  We have entered our eleventh month of living in a Covid-19 world.  Eleven months ago, we as church leaders and congregations were scrambling to figure out how we continue to be missionally faithful presences in our neighbourhoods, encouraging and discipling our churches.  As we’ve tackled the challenges that have slammed into us, I am hearing stories of churches both adapting to the challenges and struggling with the challenges and changes.  Many are hanging on waiting for when things can go back to in person meeting so the church can carry on their practices of worship, prayer, discipleship and joining God in his mission.  Others are catalyzing the opportunities within Covid to rethink, reimagine and reorient their ecclesiology and asking good, hard and revealing questions. 

Many have become aware of things Covid is exposing in our lives, our relationships, our work and our worship and how it is accelerating what was already happening. Often what we see is not surprising, we knew it was lurking around us all along and we managed to keep it from breaking the surface, but there are also things exposed that surprised us as well.  The challenge, I believe, is to be open to the Spirit of God to work in the things exposed as opportunities rather than curses that lead us to discern how we are church both amid Covid and beyond.  

One such church is New Life Church in Duncan, BC.  I spoke with Pastor Ken Nettleton a few months ago about the shift this congregation is making in reidentifying themselves as a people on mission with God in their local neighbourhoods and beyond.  As Covid descended last March, the strategy they adopted is a three-fold model of:  House Church, Village Church, Cathedral Church.  Each is dependent on the others with the shared purpose to “train and equip Jesus’ followers in the mission they are on”.  This, of course, sounds like the mission statement of most churches.  But the delivery is different.  (for a brief overview of how each element connects to the whole click HERE  

Full disclosure:  New Life had already been working to reshape themselves, especially in the area of small groups.  Their experience with small groups is likely your experience – add-ons to Sunday Services viewed by many congregants as optional and consumeristic.  Ken and his leaders also conceded that while attendance was increasing and baptisms were happening, “measuring church health by attendance, buildings and cash” is the wrong metric.  Rather, church health is measured by engaging relationally with each other and asking, “important questions of ‘how are you following Jesus this week inwardly and outwardly – how is that going?’ and being really intentional about that.”  Shifting the metric meant also acknowledging that intentional committed discipleship happens primarily between Sundays, not on Sundays.  “We needed to structure Sundays to resource our House Churches instead of expecting committed Sunday attendance but optional small group attendance.  We wanted our people to eventually see their small group (House Church) as their most important community gathering.”      

So, New Life focused on small groups, renaming them House Churches, and is working on shifting them in people’s lives from optional ‘add-ons’ to the most important gathering of the week.  And thanks to Covid these House Churches have become right now the only community – where a small group of Jesus followers gather and are pastored by the House Church leader – a volunteer identified as someone called and willing to be equipped by the pastors to shepherd 8-15 people.  These House Churches begin with the youth group who are organized and led in such clusters and carry on into adult ages.   

Ed Stetzer, planter, missiologist and host of the New Church Podcast describes the differences in Episode 63.  He says that home groups are ministries of the church whereas house churches are churches:  they baptize and administer the Lord’s supper; they teach and preach for the purpose of deep, intentional, accountable disciple making; they have a mission.  Ken agrees, and again points out that Covid has created exactly this opportunity to reorganize, learn and grow.    

Ken also notes that house churches must look ‘outside’ themselves.  “They have to go out into this valley as 35 churches that are New Life, each having a specific mission in this valley – and the mission isn’t the same.  We should be having an impact all over this valley, working with non-churched people who are also committed to addressing issues of justice and mercy, and bringing Jesus with us as we do.”  

Again, it’ is important to point out that New Life had already committed to shift in this direction prior to Covid, and see this pandemic as an opportunity to accelerate what God was already up to in our Canadian culture.  “As I prayed about things, God impressed upon me that many of us have been asking Him to renew and revive His Church for a long time, and that we shouldn’t be surprised that the answer to our prayer would look like this.  “What were you expecting my refining fire to look like?” were words that burned into my heart, and I had to admit that God’s activity almost always brings external pressure and change.”   

 As 2021 unfolds and we are all hopeful that we will begin to see restrictions relax, New Life is bringing imagination and good questions as to how best to gather in the ‘Cathedral’.  As Ken explains, not all things work as well in House Church in a similar way that not all things work well in Cathedral.  That is why all three aspects of House Church, Village Church, and Cathedral are integral and necessary.  The strategy is to continue using the opportunities Covid has gifted us with as we wrestle with asking good questions and reimagining, through prayer and discernment, how God is shaping his church for the future.    

What opportunities are you seeing in your church community?  In what ways has the Spirit been encouraging you to reimagine being church?  What good questions are you asking yourself?  

Come join CBWC January 26th for a CBWC supported event for Pastors and their teams in an interactive webinar with Ken Nettleton, Cam Roxburgh and Tim Dickau and myself.  We will hear stories both ours and yours and have time to ask good questions together.     

 Details and Registration HERE 

Discipleship Pathways for Missional Churches

By Shannon Youell

This week’s blog features a webinar from Derek Vreeland, pastor and author of many books. We featured his book By the Way (btw) Getting Serious About Following Jesus in our fall recommended reading and at Banff earlier this month. 

Vreeland is one among many voices and practitioners urging the church to recognize that the commissioned task of the church is discipleship. For far too long in our western context, discipleship has been practiced as an optional “ministry of the church.” However, Vreeland implores us to “think of discipleship, not as a program, but as everything the church is doing.”

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This may seem a subtle difference to how your church community functions, but the difference in the depth and width of the community is the metric that compels us to journey in our own church communities hard and deep towards practices we share as a congregation both within and beyond our Sunday gatherings. The purpose of discipleship is to form us more and more into the image of Jesus so that we join into the work of God right here, right now.  

This webinar is a mini-introduction to some of the thinking shifts we need to incorporate to find our way to these kind of intentional discipleship pathways. We highly recommend you explore both this webinar and Vreeland’s book, as well as the works of many others that have gone this path to delightfully discover renewed faith and passion in joining God’s mission here on earth. 

In This Together

By Shannon Youell

Can I tell you what I love most about my role working in CBWC? That we are in this together, “we being you and me and each and every one of the people who do life together in our vast family of churches across western Canada.

In my role as Director of Church Planting and as part of the CBWC executive team, everything I, the rest of our team, and support staff do is geared towards participating with you in the shared priorities our churches affirm as most important to being faithful in following Jesus in discipleship and mission as the church.

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These shared priorities are your shared priorities! CBWC staff facilitates them on your behalf, because we are also you. We gather and worship and minister and serve in our CBWC churches in our home communities. Let’s re-imagine together how we can engage in that more and more as a whole family.

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1) Cultivating Leadership – I think every church desires to grow deeper in discipleship together and help encourage, develop, mentor, support and resource new leaders, young and old! Jesus calls us, together, to make disciples who can make disciples of others. This is the mission he commanded every one of us to join him on and we all take this seriously. Let us re-imagine ways we can help one another in our family of CBWC churches to see this dream flourish. Let us re-imagine ways we resource and support one another through our CBWC staff and through our partnerships with other member churches. One suggestion made is to help a smaller church support a part-time youth worker to develop the youth they have. Are we willing to add that shared ministry to our budgets?

2) Engaging in Mission – I’m pretty sure our common response to witnessing the baptism of a new believer who has committed to entering into a journey of discipleship within accountable communities of disciples is deep joy. I have had the amazing privilege of experiencing baptisms while I’m visiting churches. My heart rejoices just as much as if I had been a part of that person’s journey and baptized them myself! These are family, people who long to grow deeper and closer to Christ, in community, in the midst of brokenness, bad habits, imperfections and deep internal struggles. What a trust in other believers they are committing themselves to!

We all, as a network of churches, are a part of that story, because we are family! Let us re-imagine participating in our shared work with new churches with financial support, prayer, and joining in some of their local mission work. Churches who partner in this way, even with new churches a thousand miles away, experience the work as part of their own congregation’s mission – of course, since we are called by Christ to a common mission – together!

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3) Investing in Relationship – None of the above happens outside of relationship with one another. Empathy and understanding are activated when we sit down with another and hear one another’s stories, when we invest our time, our talent, our treasure into the lives of others. In my life, I have found my heart shifted so many times just because I took the time to invest in someone’s life who I knew of but didn’t know. When we engage this way, we learn to more deeply pray for one another, encourage one another and support our shared work of being on God’s mission with one another. We have so many opportunities to engage in relationships with one another. If we want to know and understand one another, support one another and pray informed prayers for one another, then we need to be listening to one another and sharing life together.

These are big hopes and dreams expressed by our churches. We are on mission together so let’s dive in even deeper together re-imagining old and new ways of being faithfully present to God, to one another and to the world. In what ways will you engage with all of us?

 

The Gospel and Discipleship

As pastors, we want to lead people into a transformed life of discipleship and mission. But often people aren’t quite as interested or excited about discipleship and mission as we hope they would be.

As I’ve pastored churches as well as coached and consulted with all kinds of churches, I’ve noticed there is something built in to almost every church I’ve ever encountered that sabotages their best disciple-making intentions.

Fly, my pretties!

I remember wondering about this when I first got into all this stuff. My theology was being profoundly reshaped along missional lines. I saw a vision for Christian discipleship that was bigger than just people being nice until heaven.

I was so excited about it that I figured all I needed to do was tell people about it and they’d be excited, too!

All I had to do was announce the possibility of being on mission with God, and people would shout for joy and wholeheartedly dive into it. I thought that all people really needed was permission to live missionally, and it would become an unstoppable hurricane of love.

Well, that didn’t happen. Instead I found I had unleashed a profoundly stoppable puff of wishful thinking.

I was so eager to see all this wonderful stuff happen that I spent some time trying to convince people that it was indeed a good idea. I argued and cajoled and sermonized and encouraged and urrrrrrrged and inspired. All for naught.

Formation required

Something was missing. I began realizing that missional people don’t fall from trees. They are not called forth ex nihilo. They must be formed into the image of Christ before they’d be able to live on mission.

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But why hadn’t they been formed? These were people who attended church services regularly, led small groups, taught Sunday school… these people worked in the nursery, even! Why wasn’t all this activity and service resulting in spiritual formation in the likeness of Christ?

Enrolling in Jesus school

They hadn’t been formed because they had never fully intended to follow Jesus as his disciple, learning from him how to be like him. Faithful churchgoers can be some of the meanest people you’ll ever meet! Why?

Because events and practices (even good ones), in and of themselves, don’t magically make us like Jesus.

We must intend to become like Jesus, and engage in practices that form us in that direction in ways that form us in that direction.

So why don’t people want to become disciples of Jesus? Why don’t they intend to follow him in every area of their lives?

And here we are honing in on that one thing that seems to be built into most churches that sabotages our best intentions for discipleship and mission. This is the hidden reason many pastors can’t make disciples.

What’s in your good news?

That one stumped me for awhile, until I heard Dallas Willard ask this question:

“Does the gospel I preach naturally lead to people becoming disciples of Jesus?”

Putting it another way: Is becoming a disciple of Jesus the natural way to say ‘Yes’ to the gospel I preach?

The forgiveness gospel

Here’s a quick test: One popular version of the gospel states that your sins can be forgiven and you can go to heaven when you die.

How do we say Yes to this gospel? By signing the contract and believing the right things about Jesus. You certainly don’t need to become a disciple to say Yes to this gospel.

People who say Yes to this gospel hardly ever become disciples of Jesus because we can’t fathom why we would need Jesus for anything other than his blood. We are essentially “Vampire Christians” as Willard called them.

The do-good gospel

Let’s test another gospel: Another popular version of the good news goes like this: “We can do something about injustice.”

How do we say Yes to this gospel? We sign petitions and march in the demonstrations and volunteer at the food bank and advocate for the homeless.

Now, these are all great things to do. There’s nothing wrong with them (just like there’s nothing wrong with forgiveness). But we don’t need to become disciples of Jesus to do these things.

Again, discipleship feels like an “extra” thing. An add-on to the “main thing” for people who are into that kind of thing.

Under the logic of these kinds of gospels, why would anyone in their right mind become a disciple of Jesus? What use would it be? It certainly doesn’t help them say Yes to the good news they heard and believed.

Our only strategies are to “should” on people or just redefine discipleship to mean what people are already doing. Neither strategy helps us really understand why we can’t make disciples.

Recovering the gospel of the kingdom

So here it is. Here’s why we can’t make disciples. Here’s the factor built in to almost every church that sabotages discipleship before it even starts…

We aren’t preaching the gospel of the kingdom.

Instead we preach gospels that aren’t necessarily WRONG, but because they’re TRUNCATED they don’t naturally lead people to become disciples.

Here’s the truth to wrestle with: there is a DIRECT link between the gospel you preach and whether or not people become disciples of Jesus in your church.

What’s happening in so many of our churches is that because we preach a truncated gospel, we are inadvertently directing people AWAY from becoming disciples of Jesus.

So what kind of gospel results in discipleship? The gospel Jesus preached. The gospel the New Testament writers preached. The gospel the early church preached. The gospel of the kingdom of God.

Here’s how it sounds: “A new life in God’s kingdom is available to you right now. This very moment you can reach out and experience a with-God life, no matter your circumstances.”

This is the good news that INCLUDES forgiveness and justice, but so much more! It sounded audacious back then and it sounds audacious today.

Saying Yes by becoming a disciple

But if it’s true… if a new life in God’s kingdom is truly available, how do we say Yes to it?

This is more than signing a contract for afterlife insurance. This is an entirely new kind of life you need to learn how to live. It’s a life that will feel counterintuitive to everything you “know.”

To say Yes to that kind of gospel, you need to trust someone who knows how to live in God’s kingdom. In other words, you become a disciple of Jesus.

Living abundantly in God’s kingdom is what Jesus is “good at.” So listen to him, and trust him. Put his teaching into practice. As you do that, you’ll find that a new kind of life begins to work in you, and transformation begins…

Discipleship flows easily and naturally from the gospel of the kingdom, because the way we enter life in God’s kingdom now is by trusting Jesus.

Trusting him not just for forgiveness. Not just to let us into heaven when we die.

No, we trust him for everything: our daily needs, abiding joy and peace, and power to do the things he said were good and right and true and beautiful, to join with him in his activity in the world.

This leads to formation in character and competence in the likeness of Christ.

Which leads to everyday mission in the name of Christ.

Which leads to more disciples, because we participate in the mission of God by proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, which leads to… people becoming disciples!

 

Visit the original article to connect with the Gravity Leadership community.

What IS discipleship, really? Part 2

By Ben Hardman, gravityleadership.com

Last week, we covered that discipleship isn’t programs, and that discipleship starts and ends with people. In part 2 today, Ben unpacks 3 key ingredients for discipleship.

3 key ingredients for discipleship

We like Willard’s definition of a disciple: someone who is intentionally with Jesus to learn from Jesus how to be like Jesus in every aspect of his/her life.

But this never happens individualistically. It’s always in the context of community, and so our plan for discipleship must involve 3 key ingredients.

1. A person who invests

Jesus chose twelve people and poured into them for three years. He walked with them, journeyed with them and really knew them. It was a long process of investment into relationship. Up close, not from a distance.

When we over-identify discipleship with “programs,” it actually becomes a barrier to real relationships, because we think that “running the program” will do the job.

Great disciple-makers don’t simply lead a program or facilitate a curriculum, they participate in our lives. They teach us to live as Jesus lived in the context of what’s actually happening in our lives right now.

Discipleship requires that someone decides to invest their life into another.

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2. A participant who follows

The other side of this coin is that discipleship requires that someone decides to receive the investment. Someone decides to follow, to learn, to grow. To look toward a living example (not a perfect example) of what it looks like to live out faithfulness to Jesus.

This discipling relationship should never become coercive or controlling, because Jesus taught us that we are “not to be like that” (Matt 20:26). Instead, it becomes a relationship of mutuality and vulnerability.

Because we participate in one another’s lives, we see each other at our best and our worst. We become spiritual friends on a journey of discipleship together, but it starts when someone decides to follow.

3. A path that is discerned

The final ingredient needed is a path toward Christlikeness that is discerned (not pre-programmed ahead of time).

Rather than simply giving a list of goals to accomplish, hoping the result will be some kind of growth toward Christlikness, good disciple-makers help their disciples discern what God is doing in their lives. Then they can lead them in repenting and believing in those areas.

It’s not enough to just “read your Bible more, love your kids more, be a better spouse and try harder.” Discipleship has to involve actively discerning where God is working right now, and where he is leading so we can align our lives with his rule and reign.

People and programs

“Go and make disciples” was Jesus’ commission to his disciples at the end of Matthew’s Gospel. This means we must have a relentless focus on people and whether or not they actually are becoming disciples (which also means learning to do everything he commanded!).

Yes, programs are necessary to organize our discipleship efforts, but I recognize that if I’m not careful about where I put my focus, my heart will often go the easy way of simply creating programs, because they seem more manageable. I build policies, parameters, and outcomes, and I’m done!

Actual people are messier. They disappoint you. You disappoint them. They can hurt you and walk away from you. And you’ll hurt them. But discipleship demands that we work with actual people, investing in them along a pathway of discipleship that we discern together. Even if it feels risky. Even if we get hurt.

What about you?

  • Where does your mind go when you hear Willard’s questions about discipleship?
  • Have you overemphasized the “programmatic” element of discipleship?
  • What would it look like for you to begin this week investing in a person, participating in their life and discerning a path of discipleship with them?

This article by Ben Hardman was reposted with permission from Gravity Leadership’s blog: gravityleadership.com/blog