By Chris Hefner
To replicate means “to make a copy of; to reproduce.” When used in the context of the Christian mission, replication carries with it the expectation of making disciples.
This is the fourth and final article in a series about the habits of spiritually healthy pastors. In the previous articles, I addressed the worship habits, learning habits, and serving habits of spiritually healthy pastors.
When we worship, learn, serve, and replicate, we embrace the mission of Christ to become his followers in action and attitude.
While worshiping, learning, and serving should be personal habits and community experiences, we must guard against them becoming merely church activities. We have plenty of church activities.
What we need more than activity is to make sure we’re replicating the life of Jesus into another person. The following three habits build discipleship into our daily decision-making.
Habit #1: Share the gospel personally.
No doubt, most of us share the gospel regularly in our preaching. We must do this. In fact, during these days of streaming church services, we may be communicating the gospel to more people than would ever visit our church.
But public preaching doesn’t take the place of personal witnessing. Paul instructed Timothy, “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5). Personal evangelism is work, but it’s a necessary habit for the pastor/church leader.
Opportunities and relationships are the keys to sharing the gospel regularly. As pastors, we need to create opportunities for witnessing by getting into our communities and around unbelievers.
Volunteering at local ministries and non-profits, coaching a kids’ sports team, and contacting visitors to your church will provide numerous opportunities for sharing the gospel.
When those opportunities arise, we must be willing to engage the work of building relationships and continuing gospel conversations.
A husband and wife who became followers of Jesus last year in our community did so after several years of relationship and numerous gospel conversations.
These days of social distancing provide obstacles to face-to-face witnessing, but also many opportunities.
In just the last three weeks, I’ve had several gospel conversations with those in and around my church who needed counseling, support, and ministry.
Simply put, we as pastors need to look to include the gospel in as many conversations as we can.
Habit #2: Involve others in your mission consistently.
In Acts 11:25-26, Barnabas sought out Saul (the Apostle Paul) and brought him to Antioch to help him teach the young church there. Barnabas realized the job in front of him was bigger than he could handle on his own.
We need to be big enough to admit we’re not big enough on our own. For us to fulfill the mandate of making disciples, we can’t go at it alone.
Whether we have a church staff or we’re the entire staff, we must engage in the regular habit of involving others in our ministries.
None of us are irreplaceable, and none of us are permanent.
By involving others in our mission and ministries, we can replicate the life of Jesus and the ministry of the church in the lives of others who’ll carry on making disciples even when we’re no longer around.
Practically, this means sharing responsibilities and inviting people to do ministry alongside you.
Habit #3: Equip others to succeed you significantly.
Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19-20 is to make disciples. He expected His followers to lead others to follow Him.
Jesus’ method of disciple-making wasn’t large events. It wasn’t come and see worship experiences. It wasn’t seminars and leadership conferences. It wasn’t even miracles.
Jesus’ method was the training of the apostles who’d preach and teach the gospel and disciple others.
Friends, we’re the product of Jesus’ method. Jesus spent only three years in personal ministry but has had an impact for 2,000 years through His disciples.
The beauty of Jesus’ method is that it’s reproducible. There’s coming a day when you won’t be the pastor, staff member, or disciple-maker at your church. Have you prepared for someone to succeed you?
Even if you don’t train your successor per se, when we equip and disciple others, we embrace Jesus’ method.
If you know of ways pastors and churches are embracing the challenges of social distancing and continuing to make disciples, I’d love to hear about them.
CHRIS HEFNER (@chrishefner) is husband to a beautiful wife and fantastic mommy, Jean Hefner, daddy of two little boys, William and Nathan, and senior pastor at Wilkesboro Baptist Church in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.
He’s also professor of Western Civilization and Apologetics at Fruitland Baptist Bible College and Ph.D. graduate from the Billy Graham School of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.