What ministry is about 9

We’re on the home stretch with our ten propositions about Christian ministry. The first eight were as follows:

  1. Our goal is to make disciples not church members.
  2. Churches tend towards institutionalism as sparks fly upward.
  3. The heart of disciple-making is prayerful speaking of God’s word.
  4. All ministry has the goal of nurturing disciples, not just one-to-one discipling or mentoring.
  5. To be a disciple is to be a disciple-maker.
  6. Disciple-makers need to be trained and equipped in conviction, character and competence.
  7. There is only one class of disciples, regardless of different roles or responsibilities.
  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.

The ninth is another counterintuitive thought: if you want to train people, don’t run a training event.

9. Training almost always starts small, and grows by multiplying workers.

The temptation with training is always to start a new program—to run a multitude of training courses and whack as many of the congregation through them as possible. We bring our structural, event-based, managerial mindset to the task of training, and try to work out how to do it in bulk and how to do it efficiently. But you can’t really train people this way any more than you can parent this way. Training is personal and relational, and it takes time. It means sharing not just skills, but knowledge and character. It involves imitation and modelling. Training courses and other resources are very useful tools to help us with this task. They can save enormous amounts of time (in not having to devise and refine training content ourselves), and they provide excellent frameworks within which the personal, relational work of training can take place. But it must start with people, and focus on people—not programs.

In other words, if we want to start training disciples to be disciple-makers, we need to build a network of personal ministry, in which people train people. And this can only begin if we choose a bunch of likely candidates and begin to train them as coworkers. This group will work alongside you, and in time, will themselves become trainers of other coworkers. Some of your coworkers will fulfill their potential and become fruitful fellow labourers and disciple-makers. Others will not. But there is no avoiding this. Building a ministry based on people rather than programs is inevitably time-consuming and messy.

10 thoughts on “What ministry is about 9

  1. The ministry apprentices at Wahroonga have commented on how much they have learned simply by being with those training them.  They watch us deal with someone in distress, someone who needs to hear the gospel, someone who is being ungodly, and so on. 

    It can also be very helpful to explain why we acted in a particular way or why we said something, so that those we train not only get to watch us in action, they also get to understand the thinking behind our actions.

  2. I know I’m a post behind, but I wonder whether we have confused the two aspects of disciple making – baptising & teaching – into one.  That leads to a confusion of what we are trying to do in our corporate gatherings.

  3. Hi David,

    Tony’s on hols this week and next so I will attempt to stand in his shoes (probably a big mistake). I am presuming that you are referring to point 8 above? Do you want to expand your thoughts a little?

    Paul G.

  4. As a church we have been committed in the past to providing a congregation that reflects the diversity of the last day gathering of the church.  That impetus is flying in the face of the current Subway Christianity (just the way YOU like it). 

    I understand that church plants are effective in the short term in reaching different groups but surely true discipleship means embracing those who are not like you in age, race, socio-economic status, musical tastes, personaliy etc.

    The move to make Sundays the main RECRUITING activity of the church has in my humble opinion been a disaster.

  5. <i>I understand that church plants are effective in the short term in reaching different groups but surely true discipleship means embracing those who are not like you in age, race, socio-economic status, musical tastes, personaliy etc.</i>

    David, am I right that you are criticising the homogeneous unit principle? I’m not sure I see the exact relevance to the post?

  6. I’m completely with you David.

    It’d be good to get some clarification especially on the first paragraph of point 8 – is the church’s role to disciple non-believers too?

    Another question I think worth discussing is ‘(how much) should we base our Sunday gatherings on the Great Commission?’


  7. Hi Dave and Matt,

    I think I would agree that Sunday ought not to be the main recruiting ground for the congregation. And I presume that by “recruiting ground” you mean evangelism?

    But I think that that was Tony’s point in #8. I think he’s saying, let’s think about how we meet together around the word of God and grow in Christ together as God’s people in a way that doesn’t cut people off completely from their broader set of relationships and community.

    That’s what he’s saying about clearing out some of the events to help people make the most of their relationships. But, if we clear out the church calendar a bit, then we need to think very carefully about what we do when we meet. I don’t think that Tony is arguing for Sunday as being the primary recruiting ground at all.

    Although, he would certainly say on the basis of 1Cor 14 that the word of God ought to be intelligible in such a way that the outsider might fall down and declare that God is among us.

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