How much do you currently rely on outside organizations to make disciples? Do you use them to supplement discipleship, or are you delegating discipleship to them? The church needs outside organizations for specialized training—that is not what I am talking about.
I am simply talking about your desire, ability, and practice to help someone move from not believing to believing and then from immature to mature. Someone should be able to come to faith, grow in the faith, and walk in Christian maturity solely from being formed by a local church.
That is the basic sequence of the gospel. We are orphans who have been adopted into Christ’s family. Then, as adopted infants we learn how to grow into mature members of the household—all of which can happen in and through the local church.
Here is an interesting case study that I will ask myself from time to time. Let’s say that right now there is a non-believer named Jake at the local coffee shop that is close to your church. What would it take for your church to meet Jake, a non-believer, and provide opportunities and training for Jake to eventually become the next lead pastor in 20 years?
First, you would need to have a culture and practice of evangelism so that Jake would have the opportunity to hear the gospel, repent of his sins, be regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit, and be welcomed into the church family.
Then, you would need to have community-based discipleship environments that train and equip him in the basics of the faith. Perhaps classes on how to read the Bible, the basics of the faith, spiritual disciplines, etc. These opportunities would need to be sequenced in such a way as to have introductory environments and advanced environments. In other words, you would need to think about both accessibility and growing in maturity.
Do you think your church could disciple its next lead pastor?
How about a young woman named Jill who comes to services occasionally, but is not a believer? Could you develop her into your next women’s director or Bible study teacher? Do you have an established pathway for her to hear and respond to the gospel and get the right kind of training to grow into a mature Christian?
Would you have to delegate a lot of it to outside organizations, or would you just use them as supplementary to what is already going on in your church?
This is an exercise I think about regularly in my own ministry context. What if the next lead pastor of our church, or our next women’s director, is not a Christian yet, and am I providing opportunities for them to hear the gospel, respond to the gospel, be formed by the gospel, and learn to communicate the gospel—all in the context of the local church.
Of course, I might want him to get specialized training outside the church as well, but would I be able to build a foundation for him, or would he be almost entirely reliant on outside organizations for his growth and development? Put simply, can you form a pagan into a pastor?
This example does not just apply to trying to develop pastors or ministry leaders. This is equally applicable to anyone, in any vocation, in any age group. Is your church equipping business leaders to be faithful in their context?
Are you helping moms and dads faithfully embody the gospel in their homes as they seek to disciple their children? Are you providing opportunities for your church to learn how to share their faith in their spheres of influence?
JT ENGLISH (jt_english) is the lead pastor at Storyline Fellowship in the Denver, Colorado, area. This article is excerpted from Deep Discipleship: How the Church Can Make Whole Disciples of Jesus with permission from B&H Publishing.