The Power of the Preposition: Are You a Church OF or a Church WITH Disciplemaking?

Is your church a church OF disciple-making or a church WITH disciple-making?

The question is not meant to offend or criticize, but rather to clarify. The question has been generated from numerous conversations with pastors and discipleship leaders on a daily and weekly basis.  From experience, I know that these conversations are generated from “pain points” of these leaders.  This blog post and the next several to follow will be centered on this subject or question.

I’ve borrowed a quote from a good friend of mine that begs consideration.  “When the pain of staying the same is the greater than the pain of change, we will consider change!”  One of the issues I hear from pastors on a consistent basis is dealing with spiritual immaturity in the church.  This begs the question, is the church today doing a better job of teaching people how to be good members or disciples?

The term “disciple” simply means, “learner.” A disciple is some one who learns principles from someone else, sees those principles lived out by the discipler’s practices.  Those principles and practices are then passed on to others.  If a church is to be a disciple-making church, making disciples that make disciples, she must first embrace the following ideas.

1.     Disciple-making is relational – “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.  If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  This is my command: Love each other.  (John 15:9-16)

Disciples are made as a disciple-maker befriends and mentors a disciple.

2.     Disciple-making is a stage-by-stage process – “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.  In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.  You need milk, not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14)

Notice I said stage-by-stage, not stage-to-stage.  The process is cyclical not linear.  Disciples experience the following stages of spiritual growth; spiritually dead, spiritual infant, spiritual child, spiritual young adult, and spiritual parent.  (Note: these stages of spiritual maturation are outlined in Real Life Discipleship)

3.     Disciple-making is generational – “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2)

Disciples are made, as one person who has been or is being discipled is discipling others.

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Barry Sneed

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I was on a committee that closed churches. It killed me that we could close a church one week and the next week it would open with a different name and different denomination and cars would be parked up and down the street. Why? Why? Why?
 
— Carolyn vines
 
Recently I visited a Church and I was #1 put off by the timing of the meet and greet. 10 minutes after the Pastor had begun speaking he stopped for the m & g, which totally throwed the focus off from the sermon. Which made me think "wow" could that not have been done at the beginning or end. And #2 at no time during the sermon was a biblical passage given to back up what the Pastor referred to in his comments. I didn't go back as I didn't feel God's presence guiding that church.
 
— Darla
 
Solid article. I was once handed a list of 6 things I had done wrong over the previous 45 days. While some of them had indeed been things that had been discussed (usually in a 30-second conversation- nothing to indicate that they were real "problems") the vast majority of them were trumped up nonsense. When I asked this person why he never walked down to my office, less than 20 feet away form his, to discuss them, he told that he was unable to manage me. Pathetic. He then handed it to me to sign. None of the elders had signed it, and when I asked about that, he had one of them who was present in the building sign it. Interestingly, he never even signed his own name in the space provided. I asked for a copy signed by ALL of the elders multiple times afterward, and never received it. I later from one of them that he had not sought approval prior to giving it to me, despite typing their names on the document as though he had.
 
— John Mulholland (@xjm716)
 

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