If discipleship is so important how does this impact ministers and how might it affect how we exercise ministry? How can we ensure we develop disciple making communities?
1. Live out your values. If whole life discipleship is important it should permeate your ministry. First, because all of us are disciples and ministers need to live out Christian discipleship themselves. Second, because what you value will find expression in your conversations, preaching, leadership choices etc.
2. Keep a kingdom focus in church life. It is too easy to make doing stuff in church the important thing; so we appeal for people to serve in church life with the implicit (and sometimes explicit) message that doing stuff in-house is more holy than work, family or community involvement. Attending worship gatherings, being part of a small group, giving and serving the church all matter but they are not God is in the global reconciliation business not the ‘best church’ competition.
3. Make pastoral interactions about discipleship rather than therapy, transformation rather than presence.
4. Leadership style. Ministry is not about controlling but enabling; not about being above / separate to others but in it together with them; called to engage in God’s mission together rather than calling people to engage in our agenda. We need to release and encourage people into the work of God.
5. If people’s primary struggles are about applying faith to life and understanding how to witness about faith in a culture where atheism appears to dominate we will target support in these areas. Not by providing all the answers but helping people make connections between Scripture and the big issues of life (poverty, justice, disasters), their identity in Christ and their personal ethics (money, sex, power) and their walk with God and sharing Jesus.
Now all I need to do is work out what this means in practice: easier said than done.
Thanks for your thoughts here, many of which I want to echo loudly. There is much I would want to say but fear that too easily it all sounds trite. But I do feel that the discipleship question becomes focussed once we establish that our primary identity of all who surrender to the claims of the Lordship of Jesus are de facto disciples, and as such we are following Jesus in his world, where the mission is the same as has ever been – to bear witness to the brilliant possibilities of resurrection in the midst of death and dying.
Once we see ourselves as missional people and that this is our primary vocation, then the discipleship issues become focussed – what do we need to grow into in terms of rhythm of life or the art of following Jesus as we continue to live. And because we can only really grow and change in mutually loving relationships, the community of the church family becomes the supportive environment for us to grow in.
So missional living provides the need for discipleship which provokes the need for a community context. This seems to be the reverse that many of us encounter normally: The community is primary, the life of intentional discipleship becomes oprtional, and missional living is aspirational.
What do you think? Does this make sense? Does it ring true?