Theology: Discipleship and a Healthy Church | Free Essay Example

Theology: Discipleship and a Healthy Church

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Introduction

Being a believer requires a great deal of sacrifice and dedication but it is mainly synonymous with disciple-making. The church is expected to play a significant role in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. Consequently, the task of making disciples is a core element of the church and it is not an extra service that individuals are expected to carry out. The Great Commission of Matthew 28 ‘orders’ followers of Christ to make disciples from all nations and creeds 1. In this plan, I am laying out a disciple-making plan that can be implemented within my area of influence. The main purpose of the plan is to improve my organization’s efficiency in the task of making disciples. The plan will incorporate a detailed analysis of my organization’s vision, views, values, verifiers, and vehicles. After this plan is laid out, it is expected to boost evangelistic efforts within my area of operation.

Vision

In the book of Proverbs 29:18, the main element of a vision is noted as people. Therefore, any vision that lacks the input of the people is set to wither and die. My capacity as a disciple of Christ is important in ensuring that the vision of the church is realized. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the process of becoming a disciple has been slow and deliberate. I have gone through various stages of discipleship, and at each stage, I have grown from strength to strength. I harbor the same aspirations in the course of disciple-making. I believe that this endeavor should follow a dedicated path2. On the other hand, this path should be outlined by a specific plan of action that depends on a mission and relationship-oriented discipleship plan that is guided by the gospel of Christ. I have been through a journey of discipleship that has led me to various stages of growth. I believe that my journey is not over yet, and the same case applies to my mission. My vision for the ministry is that God will continue molding the church according to His specifications. However, this process is only possible through my input and that of other disciples in the church.

When it comes to the target of my disciple-making plan, my mind goes back to what Jesus told his disciples: “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few”3. The gospel is for everyone and it does not discriminate because even those who have already become disciples continue to rely on it for survival. Nevertheless, as an individual, I cannot reach all people at the same time and it is only prudent for me to focus on specific areas4. My innate calling is to those who find it hard to become disciples because they suffer from rejection as a result of some form of societal stigma. On the other hand, other disciple-makers might be hesitant to make genuine contacts with this demographic. Jesus was the champion of taking the gospel to the individuals that the society had cast aside.

In John 4:23, the woman whom Jesus ministers to is contented with being an outcast and she is surprised that Jesus is talking to her. However, the conversation at the well reveals that even though she is alienated, the woman is a party to the way of the truth. This situation is replicated in various parts of my locality where disenfranchised individuals are hungry for the truth but they cannot get it. My vision of discipleship is inspired by Jesus’ efforts in trying to reach and disciple to the disenfranchised. Most of these groups are found in random places but not in prayer meetings or other such places. The internet remains to be the major playing ground for the disenfranchised and I hope to utilize this medium in the course of my efforts to reach and disciple.

Values

My ministry is dependent on various values but the main ones are cultivating fellowship among believers, the proclamation of the gospel, discipleship duties, living testimony, and worship. Fellowship of believers is an important aspect of discipleship because it is the fire that keeps the gospel burning. In Hebrews 10:24, the apostle advises the church to “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up on meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another”5. This passage gives an outline of how disciples are incubated in preparation for multiplication. This plan seeks to rely on these core values to guarantee longevity and efficiency in the spread of the gospel.

In the book of Second Timothy, Paul outlines a core value of discipleship as the ability to remain calm in all situations while enduring hardships and carrying out the duties of the ministry6. Discipleship is challenging for anyone and it requires a great deal of sacrifice from those involved. Another core value of this plan is the proclamation as it is laid out in Matthew 28:19-20. The fulfillment of the Great Commission is the core value in this plan because it establishes a central purpose. The commission is also the basis for the church’s relationship with the rest of the world. There is a sense of continuity through the value of the Great Commission because all disciples become disciple-makers thereby creating an unending chain. Furthermore, the church and the community feed off the energy of each other in a symbiotic relationship7.

Another important passage in this plan is found in Acts 1:8: “but you will receive the power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”8. The Holy Spirit is the motivation for all my actions including that of coming up with this plan. Witnessing the goodness of Christ constantly motivates me to induct others into His umbrella so that they can also enjoy the peace of mind that comes with it. The only people who can profess about the power of the Holy Spirit are the ones who have witnessed its command. Continuous worshipping is also expected to be a core value in the discipleship plan. According to John 4:24: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth”9. After all, is said and done, disciple-makers are primarily worshippers and they have to do so in a manner that upholds the core values of the gospel of Christ.

Views

Our ministry is dependent on various perspectives for it to be successful but some of these are more relevant than others are. The church is the main element of this disciple-making plan because all the activities that are outlined here are an extension of the church’s activities. The current stature of the church can be traced back to the mid-1900s when the outfit became a viewpoint of personal faith. The church “is the body of Christ and it is made of many different parts composed of the redeemed in Christ as Paul reminds the church”10. Currently, I use my church affiliation as the central reference in my expression of faith. On the other hand, my parent-church has various unique elements that define it. For instance, the church has people from different demographics and they all assume various roles as workers in the body of Christ. The most accurate view of the church is as an organization of workers who come together to accomplish the Great Commission.

The body of Christ is constituted of several parts and components, which are all necessary for the accomplishment of the Great Commission. The three main components of my ministry are leadership, pastors, and saints. All of these parts depend on the leadership of Christ in the course of discipleship duties. The senior pastor is the figurehead of the church and he is “called specifically to lead the local church, supernaturally empowered to equip the saints, and has a servant’s heart cast vision for the church”11. Naturally, the pastor should be in a position to articulate the church’s vision and provide a sense of direction to the disciple-makers. Servant leadership is a key element of the pastor’s office.

The saints are the “members of the body who have been spiritually gifted by the Holy Spirit to carry out the work of the church”12. The saints are also workers in the body of Christ and their various spiritual gifts are required in the course of disciple-making. It is usually the role of the pastor to recognize the gifts of the saints. Besides, the leader facilitates the growth of these gifts because this is a vital element of a healthy church. Eventually, saints take up the leadership of the church, and then it becomes their turn to nurture others. Any successful disciple-making process requires special attention to be paid to the growth of saints. Scholars recognize that even Jesus gave priority to His disciples over the crowds that gathered to listen to Him. Consequently, on various occasions, Jesus would disperse the crowds so that he could have one-on-one sessions with the disciple’s13. Saints are another core element in this plan and they have to be prioritized for disciple-making to be successful14.

The church’s mission is deeply rooted in discipleship whereby this is the only method of sharing and spreading the gospel of Christ. Discipleship is the central premise in this plan because when it is successful, the church’s development is uniform. Evangelism occurs within the premise of discipleship when the saints venture into all corners of the universe making disciples from all nations and creeds. Therefore, “evangelism is the telling of the good news of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ…having received his continuing privilege and obligation to tell”15. Discipleship provides a means of learning and exercising the will of God at the same time. On the other hand, successful discipleship gives rise to evangelism as disciples bear witness to the goodness of Christ.

Vehicles

Discipleship is a long journey and it requires vehicles that can help us reach our destinations faster. My ministry is well endowed with various vehicles in the journey of making disciples. The key vehicle is our church’s existing organizational structure, which currently includes pastors, trustees, and other existing executives. The church does not operate under the constructs of the human organization but within the guidelines of the bible. Therefore, the organization element of this plan is solely guided by the ministry of Christ. The church does not necessarily depend on financial strength to execute this plan. However, the plan is to put God first in all matters and while utilizing prayers as a guiding force. There will be an organizational chart that will be based on the structure of the church and the body of Christ. The metaphor of the body “expresses an ontological entity of the variety of members with different functions but of the same nature”16. The plan is to have Jesus in the driver’s seat and have everyone else assume his/her respective position. Therefore, the deacons, ushers, leaders, and trustees will all be in the same church-vehicle.

There is already a well-established small group ministry within our organization and it will come in handy in this plan. First, the midweek Bible studies will be instrumental in creating a basis for the disciple-making process. Small group ministries are known to foster a causal relationship when it comes to the growth of bigger groups17. Within these groups, there is an unmatched element of prayer life and functional relationships, all of which contribute to the strength of any ministry.

The plan’s calendar and events will be prepared one year before the plan is put into practice. This tactic will be useful in facilitating planning and ensuring excellence in execution. The calendar will accommodate some flexibility because leadership changes can occur within any given time before the year is over. Planning is a vital element of any mission and it determines whether an endeavor is successful or not. Nevertheless, spiritual guidance is the overall guide because “while it is us as human beings who make plans, it is God who directs our steps”18. We hope that the calendars and events that we make are ordained by the Lord.

The disciple-making plan will include an event form that will be filled out by the leaders who will be in charge of the organization. Various leaders will rely on the event forms to approve some specific aspects of disciple-making. Prayers will be the first step when we are seeking success in any event. The second step will be approving the event, after which it is incorporated in the church calendar. The third step will be to organize the budget for the event while carrying out any additional plans. Nevertheless, some events will require some form of fundraising where provisional budgets are not enough.

The budgeting process will be carried out by the relevant personnel. In normal circumstances, budgets for various ministries are given out once a year. The final budget is not up to me but it is up to the budget personnel to make the final assessment on how many resources go towards a certain undertaking. ‘Reaching’ is the central premise in the plan and it is expected that the budget will account for it. Also, the budget needs to account for the church’s efforts to communicate its vision and plans through a periodic publication. The publication will contain seasonal assessments and reports on the progress that has been made in the organization’s efforts to carry out the Great Commission.

Verifiers

It is thus written: “and whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”19. Therefore, it is up to the church to maintain high levels of performance in all its undertakings. Performance evaluation is part of the excellence that should be upheld by the modern church. The plan will evaluate the ministry’s operations with the view of finding out what is promoting disciple-making efforts and what is derailing them. The mission of the plan has been outlined in detail. Consequently, the only accurate method of measuring progress is by using the plan’s mission as a point of reference. If the church has “seen growth appropriate to the goal of moving from spectator to replicator it will be shown through attendance in worship and growth of the small groups”20. The main issue is to use verifiers that are goal-oriented assessments of the plan. For instance, we hope that the attendance of our worship meetings will go up considerably because of our efforts. The key concept is moving participants in small groups from spectators to participators.

On the simple measure of success is the quality of leadership that results from the disciple-making plans. For instance, “quality leadership, firmly rooted in prayer, self-sacrifice, praise, and gratitude, will have a lasting impact for present and future generations”21. A pastor cannot disciple a whole church but he requires the assistance of members. In this plan, the goal is for leadership to create leaders. These leaders are bound to come from any corner including small group meetings, educational classes, and other church activities. The plan is to utilize these new leaders by making them pillars of the church within the community.

The church will rely on conferences that can increase the number of disciple-makers within the congregation. The first step when catching fish is investing in fishing nets. Consequently, “it is important for the church to be equipped to make disciples so that we can make healthy disciples”22. Small groups within the church are vital verifiers because these men, women, and youth groups are important in the disciple-making process. I anticipate that a successful plan will lead to people being saved, baptized, transformed, and attending more church services.

This plan does not only account for spiritual growth but also increase in numbers. All human beings were the sheep of one fold and the concept of disciple-making is to return as many sheep as possible to the goodness of Christ23. The interaction between Jesus and the woman in the well is a testament that all lost sheep can be found if the right strategies are used. However, before numbers are achieved other aspects of measurement are necessary. For instance, the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis is a good method of verifying this disciple-making plan. All these four aspects apply to the organizational model of my church and it would be prudent to analyze the expected success rate of the venture. The main goal of this plan is to reach and minister the disenfranchised community. Consequently, members who come from other churches to ours are not necessarily part of the plan.

Bibliography

Arnold, Jeffrey. The Big Book on Small Groups. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

Atkinson, Harley, and Joel Comiskey. “Lessons From The Early House Church For Today’s Cell Groups.” Christian Education Journal 11, no. 1 (2014): 75-87.

Beagles, Kathleen. “Growing Disciples in Community.” Christian Education Journal 9, no. 1 (2012): 148.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works Vol 4. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2003.

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013.

Erikson, Millard. Introducing Christian Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992.

Falwell, Jerry. Building Dynamic Faith. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007.

Putman, Jim, Bobby William Harrington, and Robert Coleman. DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. London, UK: Zondervan, 2013.

The Holy Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.

Whitney, Donald. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2014.

Footnotes

  1. Matthew 28:19 (NIV).
  2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works Vol 4 (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2003), 205.
  3. Matthew 9:37 (NIV).
  4. Jeffrey Arnold, The Big Book on Small Groups (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 56.
  5. Hebrews 10:24 (NIV).
  6. 2 Timothy 4:5 (NIV).
  7. Jim Putman, Bobby William Harrington, and Robert Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (London, UK: Zondervan, 2013), 140.
  8. Acts 1:8 (NIV).
  9. John 4:24 (NIV).
  10. 1 Corinthians 12:14-20 (NIV).
  11. Harley Atkinson and Joel Comiskey, “Lessons From The Early House Church For Today’s Cell Groups,” Christian Education Journal 11, no. 1 (2014): 77.
  12. Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is–: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), 1054.
  13. Jerry Falwell, Building Dynamic Faith (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 28.
  14. Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2014), 18.
  15. Kathleen Beagles, “Growing Disciples in Community,” Christian Education Journal 9, no. 1 (2012): 148.
  16. Donald S Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2014), 18.
  17. Jeffrey Arnold, The Big Book on Small Groups (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 78.
  18. Proverbs 16:9 (NIV).
  19. Colossians 3:17 (NIV).
  20. Millard Erikson, Introducing Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992), 29.
  21. Harley Atkinson and Joel Comiskey, “Lessons From The Early House Church For Today’s Cell Groups,” Christian Education Journal 11, no. 1 (2014): 79.
  22. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works Vol 4 (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2003), 210.
  23. Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is–: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), 754.