What does it take to lead a disciple-making movement in your local church?
“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. – 2 Timothy 2:1-2, NIV
Cartoon: Einstein’s Theory of Insanity – dailysignal.com
TREAT URGENCY AS A GIFT
We need to act now.
Jesus pointed to this step when he told his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Luke 10:2, NRSV). Jesus raised the awareness for urgency among his disciples so that they could start to do something about the concerns and challenges that a multitude of people face each day. As we learned great lessons from our successful church and community leaders, we need collaboration with organization and network leaders as well as leaders and members of communities to bring people together in responding to the needs, challenges, and opportunities for social change in their neighborhoods. Jesus sought the help and involvement of ordinary people to work with him in carrying the mission of God of welcoming and taking in all God’s children in the reign of God.
BUILD THE GUIDING TEAM
We need to build a team.
Jesus showed us how to do this step. In his encounter with Simon and his fellow fishermen, Jesus didn’t just find them; he empowered them to catch more than enough to fill their boats. Interestingly, Jesus invited ordinary people to follow him. He spent his entire career together with these ordinary folks. He spent a significant amount of time teaching, serving, praying, and living with his friends. Jesus empowered these ordinary people to make extraordinary things while participating in the Gospel work of Jesus. Our task as church leaders is to look for, invite, and empower our friends and allies to join and get involved in planting new churches. Like Jesus, we should go and find them, know them well, discover their passions, tie those passions to ministry opportunities, work with them, and love them.
GET THE VISION RIGHT
We need to get the vision right.
It is almost impossible to see God’s vision when we are busy and happy with the status quo. If we are comfortable with the way things are, we cannot receive God’s vision. One way to see the right vision from God is to get out of God’s way. Join God in what God is doing and wants to do in your church and community. This is one step in developing a new faith community and vitalizing the local church that requires adequate time and careful attention on the part of the church leaders and the church leadership team. Do not rush this step in the process. It is critical to align every aspect of your congregation with God’s vision for your faith community. Be intentional in setting aside time for conversations and prayers with your folks about the vision of the church.
COMMUNICATE FOR BUY-IN
We need to cast the vision.
Take time to plant and nurture the vision with trusted folks from your planting team. When you and your team feel good about it, start sharing your vision to your people until the whole church gets excited about it and owns it. Lack of good communication often leads to confusion and distrust. The most effective leaders know the value of a vision and guiding team. Jesus taught multitudes of people and kept three in his inner circle. Do not go on this journey alone. Whatever you do and wherever you go, don’t hit the road without your friends and allies.
We need to empower people to action.
The true sign that your church is serious about this mission of making new disciples is when it moves beyond theory to action. As Christians, it is not good enough for us to say, “Jesus, I love you.” Jesus expects more from his disciples— “feed my sheep.” This principle and practice of empowering people in the church to exercise leadership in every aspect of the life and ministry of the church is clearly demonstrated by the stories of the five church planters we included in this book. Each one of them clearly pointed out the fact that it is impossible to do what they did and what they are still doing in their church if they did not equip and empower the members of their leadership team and members of the church. It takes the whole church to make things happen. As their leader, you need to empower your people to act with their gifts, strengths, and love for God and for all God’s people.
CREATE SHORT-TERM WINS
We need to gain and sustain momentum.
Make your quick wins known to your people. Celebrate wins. Make sure that small triumphs are visible and speak to what people in your church deeply care about. Incorporate testimonials or give witness to how God moves in the lives of people and how your church’s ministries touch the lives of people in ways that make a huge impact in their lives. People need to know the activities of God through the acts of your church in bringing about the life-changing power of the Gospel. Generating positive momentum because of short-term wins makes people excited about what your church is doing, and such a hopeful and happy environment in the local church helps minimize, if not diffuse, cynicism. Every person wants to be a part of a winning team. They get excited when they see progress and that their involvement contributes in bringing real change to people and the community.
DON’T LET UP
We need to persevere.
Never allow urgency to sag. Apostle Paul captured the essence of following and joining in God’s mission when he wrote these words: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” I Corinthians 2:9. So for our eyes to see God’s vision, we must help one another to create wave after wave of change until the vision is a reality. To transform your church is not just a destination; it is a journey. To keep your church vital and healthy is not the finish line; it is the whole race. Remember vision leaks, so don’t let your momentum decline.
MAKE CHANGE STICK
We need to keep going and growing.
When your people become more open and helpful in doing God’s ministry through your church, ensure that they continue to act in new ways by deepening behavior in a transformative and multiplying congregational culture. As a community of faith, our work is not to save our church but to serve God by being the hands and feet of Jesus for everyone in the world. The challenge is to learn as you go and make the necessary changes along the way. In any transition or transformative process, such as starting a new ministry or growing a faith community, you will likely face course corrections. Changes or transitions are always hard work, but necessary to grow, mature, and reach new heights in ministry. Jesus got it and rendered his words of encouragement. He said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26, NRSV).
LEARN FROM EXPERIENCE
We need to keep learning.
The challenge is to learn as you go and make the necessary changes along the way. Someone said, “the only thing more painful than learning from experience is not learning from experience.” In any transition or transformative process such as starting a new ministry or strengthening your faith community, it is likely that you will face course corrections. Transitions are always hard work. Be open and welcome new ideas, and new ways, and discover fresh expressions of being a church in today’s world.
IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU
We need to keep God first.
Jesus lived trust and produced great things for God. As followers of Jesus, our joy is to trust God and expect great things to be accomplished through us. Keep God first. Let God bless you and your church as you walk hand-in-hand with God on your journey through transition and transformative work of making disciples through creating new places for new people. As it says in Scripture, “many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21 – It is not about you; it is about God!
We hope to hear your views and join others in sharing contextual discipleship practices from your unique ministry setting. Leave a reply at the bottom.
Global Discipleship: Discovering Contextual Discipleship Practices Around the World
Every context of ministry has its own narrative of challenges and successes. Rev. Andrew Lee and Rev. Lun Sophy will share their stories related to disciple-making, mission, and evangelism in their ministry context.
Consider joining us at this session and the next parts of the webinar series on “Global Discipleship: Discovering Contextual Discipleship Practices Around the World.”
For more information, contact Bener Agtarap, Executive Director, Path 1 at Discipleship Ministries at email@example.com
Equipping Church People in Engaging More People in Community with Jesus’ Love
Imagine thousands of laity starting new faith communities and leading in engaging the people in communities with Jesus’ love. Imagine the future church that can be any size, can meet in all kinds of places and is made up of all kinds of people. Imagine lay people participating in expanding the reign of God’s love on earth and partnering with clergy and disciples of Jesus to make it happen. Bener Agtarap and his colleagues, Doug Ruffle and Emily Reece, firmly affirm the leadership of the laity in starting, strengthening, and sustaining new and fresh expressions of being a Christian community.
Find out more about this resource and additional resources at https://store.umcdiscipleship.org/product/lay-planting-in-todays-world/