Discipleship and a Healthy Church

Introduction

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.[1]

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.[2]

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.[3] 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.”[4] 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.”[5]

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.”[6]

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.[7] 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.”[8] 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.”[9] 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.”[10] Through prayer and love is how the body of Christ will be strengthened and develop into a healthy organism.

Conclusion

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.

 

Bibliography
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.

Notes:

[1] 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.

[2] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 218.

[3] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 195-196.

[4] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 198.

[5] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 203.

[6] 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.

[7] Putman et al., DiscipleShift, 107-109.

[8] Dave Earley, Prayer: The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders (Chattanooga: Living Ink Books, 2008), 12.

[9] Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is: How to Shae Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 86.

[10] 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.

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What are the top five tasks of a pastor and why?

What are the top five tasks of a pastor and why? The answer to this question will vary from student to student because there are more than five tasks of a pastor. Certainly, John MacArthur made mention of seventeen primary activities taken from First and Second Thessalonians. They are praying, evangelizing, equipping, defending, loving, laboring, modeling, leading, feeding, watching, warning, teaching, exhorting, encouraging, correcting, confronting, and rescuing (MacArthur, 11-12). To determine which of these activities are most important is dependent on the pastor and what are their priorities and ministry? An activity may be considered a task, but this student wants to examine tasks as possibly ministries of a pastor.

According to MacArthur, there are seven ministries that can be boiled down from these activities. These ministries have three basic purposes of the church. They are exaltation, evangelism, and edification (MacArthur, 59). Therefore, to boil these tasks or activities down a little more, these activities lead a pastor into these seven ministries: The Ministry of the Word, The Ministry of Fellowship, The Ministry of the Lord’s Supper, The Ministry of Prayer, The Ministry of Outreach, The Ministry of Missions, and The Ministry of Interchurch Fellowship (MacArthur, 61-62). MacArthur wrote, “The role of pastoral leadership, composed of a select group of men from the church of redeemed believers, is to provide guidance, care, and oversight for the church so that it fulfills its Christ-ordained mandate of evangelizing the entire world, growing into the likeness of Christ, and existing for the exaltation and worship of God” (MacArthur, 58). Out of these seven ministries, this student will select his top five based on what he thinks are the priorities, but all are of equal importance.

The first and probably the most important ministry task of a pastor is the Ministry of the Word. Pastors are responsible for teaching the Word of God. This is done through a combination of opportunities such as preaching, teaching Sunday school, and small group Bible studies. Romans 10:17 states that faith comes by hearing the Word of God. MacArthur wrote, “What is important, however, is that the Word of God be taught. If the Word of God is taught, the church will grow in faith and love (Rom. 10:17)” (MacArthur, 59).

The second ministry task of a pastor is the Ministry of Prayer. According to MacArthur, “Prayer moves God; prayer changes things” (MacArthur, 61). A church that prays will see God’s miracles and His work. Praying is the way Christians communicate with God. MacArthur wrote, “A praying church will be a victorious, growing, maturing community. The wonder of today’s church is that so much goes on with so little praying. The answer to many of the church’s problems is not more seminars, programs, and promotional gimmicks but more intercession on the part of God’s people, both as a group and in a closet” (MacArthur, 61). This quote is so very true. This student has seen miracles come through prayer, from his own healing to church organizations receiving the funds needed to carry on. Through diligent prayer, through that communion with God, it will bring the church community closer in their faith walk with Him. Then that is when one will start to see lives changing for the cause of Christ.

The third ministry task is the Ministry of Outreach. The pastoral leader is to lead his flock into evangelism. Christ gave every one of His followers a command. This is found in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The church is to take the Gospel throughout the world. Pastors must teach his congregants how to lead others to Christ. He must himself, practice personal soul winning. MacArthur stated that many in the church feel that it is the pastor’s sole responsibility to evangelize, but they are mistaken. It is every believer’s responsibility to evangelize. But it is the pastor’s responsibility to teach his congregants in how to share their faith.  MacArthur wrote, “A Church that does not know how to reproduce and does not reproduce is in reality an immature congregation, regardless of its intellectual comprehension of Scripture or the sophistication of its corporate programs” (MacArthur, 62). Therefore, it is the pastor’s responsibility to teach his church members how to share their faith. If not, unfortunately, the membership will dwindle.

The fourth ministry task of a pastor is the Ministry of the Lord’s Supper. The early church participated in “breaking bread” as a remembrance of Jesus Christ and the last supper with His disciples. MacArthur wrote, “The Lord’s Supper, like the ordinance of baptism, is no trivial practice, but one that lies at the heart of the Christian message (1 Cor. 11:23-26). The symbolism, solemnity with celebration, and the sanctity required by all participants make it one of the most inspirational and worshipful services of the Christian community” (MacArthur, 60). MacArthur also wrote that great spiritual benefit comes from participation in the Lord’s Supper (MacArthur, 61). Pastors must teach his congregants that by celebrating the Lord’s Supper will help bring meaning and will edify each person’s soul. It is the worship of Christ and what He did for us, by laying down His life for all who would believe.

The fifth ministry task of a pastor is the Ministry of Missions. This goes almost hand in hand with the Ministry of Outreach. The pastor must lead his congregants in establishing and maintaining a missions program. Christ gave His followers the commandment to take the Gospel to all of Jerusalem, Samaria, and the utmost parts of the world. By following Jesus Christ’s commandment, this results in attempting to fulfill the Great Commission. The church must also participate in sending or supporting missionaries who are willing to go throughout the world proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the responsibility of the pastor to teach his congregants that this is a requirement and not an option.

In conclusion, this student interpreted the top five tasks of a pastor as ministries. Certainly, the first seventeen activities are all important, but these were boiled down to actual ministries which the pastoral leadership must accomplish to lead his church congregants in the way that Christ would have led them. The result of these five ministries will help to accomplish the three basic purposes of the church which are exaltation, evangelism, and edification.

 

Bibliography

MacArthur, John. Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2005.

Joseph T. Lee © November 2, 2017 The Lantern & Shield Times LLC