Where Are the Disciple-makers?
The church was commissioned to make disciples. But we seem to be seriously lacking in that department. Some may call it a discipleship deficit.
More than one concerned leader has asked regarding spiritual formation, “What should we do?” and “How should we do it?” They want to know the best ways to turn this discipleship deficit into the kind of robust discipleship that will matter along the way.
There are many good discipleship ideas out there. But what can we learn about discipleship from the Scriptures? In this series of articles, we are looking at four discipleship principles found in a brief passage in Philippians.
Maturity is a goal for disciples.
God wants you and your church on a clear path toward spiritual growth.
God involves us in our own growth, as well as our church’s growth.
God calls you and your church to be spiritual leaders.
Why are so many people not growing in their relationships with God?
Part of the answer may be found in Romans 10:14, which asks the questions, “How can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher?” (HCSB).
It isn’t enough for us to agree that God wants us to mature as believers. And our job isn’t complete when we define a clear path for spiritual growth. It isn’t enough for us to be involved in helping others develop into the people God wants them to be.
God calls you and your church to spiritual maturity.
The Bible tells us that we should be conscious of ourselves and of our teaching. Paul instructs Timothy, “Practice these things; be committed to them, so that your progress may be evident to all” (1 Timothy 4:15).
If you are a pastor or church leader, you have a responsibility before God and your people to be conscientious about your own spiritual development and your teaching. It matters how you are growing and how you’re leading your people to grow.
It may be that we would see more fruitful discipleship in our churches if we were to question our own spiritual formation before we question the development of others. Are we seeking God in prayer, spending time in His Word, and surrounding ourselves with people who will challenge us to grow in our spiritual lives?
In other words, to see a discipleship in our churches we need to see discipleship in the church's leaders.
Many pastors desire to be great leaders, but the greatest enhancement to their leadership abilities will come through the pursuit of godliness. It is not unusual for a new pastor to ask a mentor about recommended books on leadership, but when is the last time a pastor asked about a great book on personal spiritual transformation?
Being a great leader is wonderful, but being a godly person is so much better.
There are many great leaders who will never lead anyone into a deeper relationship with Christ, but godly people can’t help but lead others to Christ—and to greater maturity. Godly living beats great leadership every day of the week.
It's not a forced choice, but still we should remember: if forced to choose, always pick being godly over being great. And part of that comes from having a godly mentor.
People often wonder what helpful resource we should give to a new believer. Is it a book? Should we send them on a discipleship retreat? What about a coffee mug with a Bible verse on it?
I believe the best thing we can give to a new believer is an older, mature believer.
Not only should the pastor be an example of spiritual growth, but also the church should be filled with people who are going deeper with Christ.
Maturing Christians mark a healthy church.
We want to talk about church growth in terms of numbers and added ministries. And there is a place for that. But spiritual growth is a key component to church health and the expansion of God’s kingdom.
Your church can be known for a lot of good things like spectacular preaching, wonderful worship, great fellowship, etc. But what if your church were known as a place where people go deeper with Christ?
What would that say to the watching world?
A Harvest of Disciples
When we look at discipleship, we see some challenges in the church today, particularly in the Western world. But we do see some bright spots across the globe.
Throughout history, and around the world today, disciples are made by leaders who make a goal of spiritual maturity, provide a clear path of spiritual transformation for their people, and get involved in the lives of those whom they serve. Most importantly, they are aware of their own need to grow deeper in Christ.
Of the four discipleship principles in this series, what are we doing best in the West? What areas do we need to work on? What areas are basically non-existent?