Here’s the fourth of ten propositions about church life and ministry (taken from the forthcoming Matthias Media title, The Trellis and the Vine). Remember, the others have been:
- Our goal is to make disciples not church members.
- Churches tend towards institutionalism as sparks fly upward.
- The heart of disciple-making is prayerful speaking of God’s word.
- All ministry has the goal of nurturing disciples, not just one-to-one discipling or mentoring:
4. All ministry has the goal of nurturing disciples, not just one-to-one discipling or mentoring.
There is no one pure context or structure for discipling. In some places, the ‘discipling movement’ has hijacked the language of disciple-making to imply that only one-to-one mentoring constitutes true disciple-making, and that church meetings, small groups and other corporate gatherings do not. The goal of all Christian ministry, in all its forms, is disciple-making. The sermon on Sunday should aim to make disciples, as should the small group that meets on Tuesday night, the men’s breakfast that happens once a month, and the informal gathering of Christian friends that happens on Saturday afternoons.
The pendulum seems to swing in these matters. As we write this, in most of the churches we know and visit, the problem is that there is not nearly enough one-to-one personal work happening. Structured activities and large group events have taken over, and the pastoral team spend their time organizing and managing, rather than chasing and discipling and training people. They themselves spend very little time working with and training individuals, and those individuals in turn spend very little time meeting with and training other individuals. The focus has shifted away from individuals and their growth as disciples, to activities and events and their growth in numbers.