by Dudley Foord
Interact Magazine 1990
Volume 1 Number 4
1. A Discipling Ministry is Indispensable
One of the most frequently asked questions by pastors is: ‘How can I effectively motivate people in my church?’ The pastor looks at the people in the congregation on Sundays and observes that there are those with hearts crushed by sorrow, some buffeted by disappointment, whilst others struggle with the pressures of life. There appear to be as many needs as there are people in the congregation. how can he possibly minister to these people with their wide spectrum of needs?
Unless there is a growing number of spiritually mature Christians in his congregation, many people will not receive personal ministry and may not, as a consequence, develop into robust disciples of Christ. For a church to be spiritually healthy, there must be this mutual ministry between a growing number of mature Christians and other hurting or new Christians.
I once asked a pastor what brought him more joy than anything else. He replied: ‘Leading a person to turn to trust Christ as Lord.’ I suggested there was something greater than that. He seemed puzzled. ‘What could be greater than seeing a person come to Christ?’ I replied, ‘When the person you have led to Christ grows and develops into a mature, dedicated and fruitful disciple who goes on to lead others to Christ and disciples them in turn to re-produce other disciples.’ He agreed, but then lamented that this pattern was not found in most churches. Perhaps the chief reason for this is that we have relied on the ‘Church Program’ or a Bible Study Group as the only means of helping and caring for new Christians. There has been no vision or plan for a Discipling Ministry and the indispensable role of the pastor in it. He must ensure that this is a priority in his ministry schedule.
2. Discipling was Indispensable in Christ’s and Paul’s Ministry
Christ staked world evangelisation on 12 men. He spent 3 years in close association with them – training, developing and equipping them for ministry. The content and shape of this ministry was ‘caught’ by them as Christ modelled and taught it.
Paul’s pattern was similar. This he outlined to Timothy: ‘the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.’ (2 Tim.2:2). This model is demonstrated by the following diagram:
Four generations are envisaged. Timothy, Titus and Luke and others were developed by Paul. They each in turn were to go and disciple a group of ‘reliable men’ in the same way as they had been discipled by Paul. Hence the pool of trained, equipped and mature disciples expands and the workers are multiplied.
It is this vision of multiplication of disciples that is critical. Too many pastors are driven by the success syndrome and are not willing to ‘pay the price’ of the time, effort and tears needed to work quietly behind the scenes with a group of key disciples. But this pattern must operate right across the whole church – youth, men, ladies etc. if ultimately multiplication is to take place.
3. Discipling is to be Indispensable in Your Ministry
Paul, when writing to the Colossians, declared it was his aim to ‘present every man mature in Christ’ (1:28). This is the ultimate goal in making disciples.
Disciple-making is not an event; it is a process. the following diagram sets out the process:-
4. Where does the pastor begin?
There are for discernable stages.
Stage 1 – Building Friendship with Outsiders
Most Christians seem to have lost genuine contact with non-church people. It is critical to take time to build bridges with people from our webs of daily relationships. each Christian needs to ask God to lay on his heart one or two people / families, then give himself in friendship and prayer.
Stage 2 – Evangelising
Very frequently we observe that a person’s conversation appears to consist of a series of small encounters with Christians and Christian gatherings where the gospel is explained. This means we should be scheduling occasions when these ‘encounters’ can take place, eg Men’s Dinners, Ladies morning / evening coffees, Guest services.
Stage 3 – Establishing
As people come to that place of submission to Christ as Lord, then the long arduous task of building that new Christian begins. In helping a young Christian to grow, you must have step-by-step building and training objectives in mind. Strength an ddepth in the basics is essential.
Stage 4 – Equipping
From that pool of new Christians who are now progressing as disciples will emerge some who demonstrate a real heart for God and for people. These need new to be developed as key workers. Such leaders are not made on a production line. They are carefully developed under the loving and prayerful guidance of a wise trainer. It takes time. It requires prayer. It means effort coupled with joy and tears.
In this way there will be the continuous training of leaders without which no church can be healthy and growing in maturity and numbers.
Rev Dudley Foord is an Anglican minister engaged in a church planting and establishing ministry in South West Sydney and is also a parish consultant for the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, Department of Evangelism.
© Rev Dudley Foord (1 November 1990)