The Trellis and the Vine has just gone to printers in Singapore, and will be available (God-willing) in mid-October. In the meantime, our last three propositions start to zero in on some implications of this view of ministry. The first seven were:
- 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.
- To be a disciple is to be a disciple-maker.
- Disciple-makers need to be trained and equipped in conviction, character and competence.
- There is only one class of disciples, regardless of different roles or responsibilities.
How does this agenda relate to our regular church activities?
8. The disciple-making imperative of the Great Commission needs to drive fresh thinking about our Sunday meetings, and the place of training in congregational life.
What stands in the way of Christ’s disciple-making vision in Christian congregations? In most cases, it’s not a lack of people to train, or non-Christians to reach out to, but stifling traditions or different priorities in church life. These obstacles may be denominational and longstanding, or they may be the result of jumping on board the latest church growth bandwagon. They may be in the mind of the pastor, or of the people, or most likely both.
If the goal of all our ministry is disciple-making, then many churches (and their pastors) will need to do some rethinking about what they are seeking to achieve in their regular Sunday gatherings, and how that relates to other ministry activities in the rest of the week. This may mean starting new things, but very often it will mean closing down structures or programs that no longer effectively serve the goal of disciple-making. It may mean clearing out some of the regular activities and events so that congregation members actually have time to do some disciple-making—to meet with non-Christian friends, to get together one-to-one with newcomers at church, and so on. It may mean a revolution in the way the church staff see their ministry—not as service providers or event managers, but as trainers.