This article will discuss discipleship and a healthy church. We will then discuss the initial steps that the organization should take to improve its spiritual health. An analysis of the ministry context and the identification of the areas of needed improvement, will help identify the top three areas of focus; which will lead to the improvement of the health of the ministry and of the body of Christ.
A Heathy Church
What is a healthy church? According to Rod Dempsey,
“A healthy church is Where the gospel is being proclaimed by word and deed.
Where new believers are baptized.
Where new believers are growing in their ability to surrender and sacrifice for the kingdom.
Where all new believers are intentionally nurtured and developed.
Where believers are willingly investing their financial resources in the kingdom of God.
Where the ‘whole counsel of God’ is being taught with a view toward application, even to the point of church discipline.
Where the leaders see their role as equipping and empowering the saints.
Where the saints are growing in maturity (connecting them to Jesus through disciplines).
Where the saints are growing in unity and love for one another.
Where the saints are encouraged to discover their spiritual gifts.
Where most the saints are using their gifts ‘properly’ (according to God’s design).
Where relational groups are intentionally developed and growing in their love for one another.
Where relational groups are lovingly sharing their lives and the gospel with unbelievers.
Where passionate prayer is continually being offered up for the lost and the laborers.
Where leaders for the Great Commission are intentionally being developed.
Where relational groups are multiplying new leaders and new groups.
Where worship occurs at the individual level and it is powerfully manifested when the body gathers together.
Where the poor and ‘least of these’ is intentionally being targeted for the gospel.
Where the mission of Christ is being accomplished locally, regionally, nationally, and globally by members from within the local body.
Where new churches are being planted as a result of effective discipleship and effective leadership development.
If the body of Christ is not engaged and following these key areas, then it is not a healthy church and is not following the commandments of Christ. Dempsey gave the analogy of a physical doctor examining a human being and determining their health. Dempsey suggests that “we” are the “doctors” of the body of Christ. We should be encouraging healthy habits and encouraging the body to function tin these key areas of service and ministry.
Personal Ministry Context
My ministry is a marketplace evangelism ministry where I share my faith and minister to people in the corporate world. We take the gospel into the corporate world, witness to business owners, and teach Christian business men and women how to share their faith. We attempt to duplicate ourselves through discipleship. We also purchase and take Bibles into the jails, send them overseas to third world countries, and distribute them to new converts of our ministry. The reason we do this on a corporate level is because many of the people that we minister to will never go to a formal church setting. God has opened doors for our ministry to go where the people are, who are searching for the truth, and where pastors may never be invited into their lives. Once people start to come to Christ, it is my job to disciple them and refer them to a Bible believing church to become a part of a local body in which they will be discipled and learn to make disciples.
Top Three Areas of Focus in My Ministry
There are three important areas of focus within my ministry context in which to improve on. The first area is to focus and improve in teaching the saints to grow in maturity and learn to use their spiritual gifts. The second area is the need to focus on relational groups so that we can multiply new leaders and new groups. The third area is the need to help the poor and the “least of these” by intentional interactions. To accomplish these areas of focus, I must train new leaders in how to disciple others. I must pray and ask God to lead me to someone who is willing to be discipled and someone who wants to help make disciples who make disciples, which will help build the momentum of the ministry.
Initial Steps to Improve Spiritual Health
It takes Christian leadership and prayer to improve organizational spiritual health. First, let us define what a leader is. According to Dempsey, a Christian leader has a solid character. He or she has a vision for the ministry. The leader will help develop and empower others in how to succeed utilizing their God given spiritual gifts and talents. Based on these three areas, Dempsey wrote, “A Christian leader is a person of influence. He or she follows God’s vision for his or her life, and influences others to follow God’s plan for their lives.” A good strong Christian leader is needed to lead the organization into the future with all the areas of focus. Dempsey reemphasizes, “Christian leadership is the process of influencing individuals to follow God’s plan for their lives and become all they can be for Christ and His mission.”
Secondly, leadership involves a process of developing everyone through the power of love. Jesus said that we are to love one another as mentioned in John 13:34-35 and in John 15:12, 17. Dempsey mentions thirty-six times in the Bible where Jesus has commanded that we are to love one another.
This brings us to the third area of focus of intentionally helping and loving the poor and the “least of these.” The “least of these” means people who are Christians in need, who are weak and vulnerable, who cannot support themselves due to their circumstance. Since we are to love one another, then we need to focus on helping meet the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are downtrodden. This is what Christ meant when He said to love one another. We are to take care of one another.
Since we are to love one another, then we are to invest our time, intentionally with each person whom we are discipling, so that we can ultimately multiply ourselves, so that others may come to know the risen Christ. This will help the disciple grow and mature in his or her walk with Christ. We can also help the disciple to develop their spiritual gifts, so that they will be able to carry out their task and talent for the body of Christ.
Putman, Harrington, and Coleman asserts that it is okay for the mentee to see that the pastor or disciple maker is human and that they make mistakes. Putman et al. suggests that the disciple maker should lead a small group of ten to minister to. He or she should be open with the group, so that they will see his or her short comings and will be able to pray and minister back to the disciple maker. Putman et al. wrote,
“Instead of seeking to hide their sin and project an image of perfection, church leaders need to show people they lead that they too are redeemed sinners growing in the ways of Christlikeness. The overall trajectory of our life is to live set apart for Christ. This comes with a humble recognition that we will never be perfect this side of heaven, yet we also recognize that the Holy Spirit is doing his work and increasing spiritual fruit in our lives. If we model this for the church, then people who struggle on the path of discipleship will have a new model for growing in godliness.”
As leaders, we must show our own failures so that we do not set up the disciple to feel that they can never succeed in their journey with Christ in becoming a disciple maker. For we have all sinned and fall short of God’s glory. That is why it is important to teach each new convert that they are to love one another.
Jesus’ model for relational discipleship involves four types of environments. According to Putman et al., the four environments are intimate discipling relationships, personal discipling relationships, social discipling relationships, and public discipling relationships. These relationships should be done intentionally and with love. The key points are for the disciple maker to set the tone for what spiritual maturity looks like in the organization. Leaders must practice Biblical love. The leader must be genuine and authentic with those he is trying to disciple.
As the disciple maker works with the mentee, he is encouraging the new disciple to develop their spiritual gift. One way is to pray for the disciple as mentioned in Ephesians 6:18. Teaching the disciple to pray for all things is biblical. Dave Earley wrote, “Spiritual leaders must pray to keep from being defeated by Satan’s persistent attacks on them and their churches. When it comes to spiritual warfare, to fail to pray is to fail altogether. Satan will not let you simply plunder his kingdom. He will fight you every inch of the way.” David Wheeler wrote, “We can renew the effectiveness in evangelism if we plow the fields of lost people’s hearts with our prayers. We focus too much of our prayers on the physical needs of the saved instead of the spiritual needs of the lost.” It is through this horizontal relationship with others that we can impact people. David Wheeler and Vernon Whaley wrote, “When discussing horizontal relationships, I am specifically talking about the application of upward worship in our daily life. Our horizontal relationships are a reflection of the depth, duration, and quality of our upward worship of God and God alone. Horizontal relationships are vitally important to our spiritual development.” Through prayer and love is how the body of Christ will be strengthened and develop into a healthy organism.
In conclusion, for the body of Christ to be healthy, we must be raising up leaders who love God and love people. We must intentionally invest time into others’ lives and be genuine and authentic in our own presentation to the world. We are to encourage followers of Jesus to embrace and develop their spiritual gift. We are to pray for not just physical needs, but for one another and engage in each other’s life. It is through our relationships with each other that we can influence and help those who are struggling with their walk. The body of Christ is made up of many parts. We are to act as physicians and recognize when a part of the body is not healthy. Once we recognize this, then we can work together towards a resolution in how to heal the body. This is done with prayer and with biblical counsel. This is what helps make a church or ministry healthy, which in turn strengthens the entire body of Christ.
Earley, Dave. Prayer: The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders. Chattanooga, TN: Living Ink Books, 2008.
Earley, Dave, and David Wheeler. Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010.
Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is… How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2013.
Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E Coleman. Disciple Shift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.
Wheeler, David, and Vernon M Whaley. The Great Commission to Worship: Biblical Principles for Worship-Based Evangelism. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2011.
 Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), 212-213.
 Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 218.
 Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 195-196.
 Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 198.
 Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 203.
 Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps that Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 104-105.
 Putman et al., DiscipleShift, 107-109.
 Dave Earley, Prayer: The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders (Chattanooga: Living Ink Books, 2008), 12.
 Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is: How to Shae Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 86.
 David Wheeler and Vernon M. Whaley, The Great Commission Worship: Biblical Principles for Worship-Based Evangelism (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2011), 106.
Joseph T. Lee, Copyright © May 8, 2018, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved.