Below is a more in-depth explanation of our church’s Values: Worshipping Together, Growing Together, Serving Together.
The Process of Making Disciples
In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus gave his disciples their marching orders. He told them to go and make disciples of all nations. They were to reproduce on a massive scale who they were as followers of Jesus. That alone is a sobering thought. This self-reproduction was to be done first through baptizing new believers and then subsequently by teaching them to observe (obey) whatever Jesus commanded. This has been called the Great Commission down through the years because Jesus promised he would be with them (in them) to help them carry out this co-mission. And he lives in those of us today who seek to faithfully and obediently continue making disciples.
When people hear the gospel through our witness God’s Spirit convicts them of the truth of the message and replaces their heart of stone with a heart of flesh to respond in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is all of God’s grace. It is his supernatural work whereby he calls his own to himself through the proclamation of the gospel message. And he gets all the credit. God makes the new creation. He makes the new disciple. He then partners with existing church members to work with them in the process of developing those newborn spiritual babies into fully-developed obedient, growing disciples. That’s what it means to “make” a disciple. It is our co-mission.
The church as a whole is responsible to make disciples of one another. And each member has an important part to play. Indeed, if members do not make the effort to participate in this process they end up stunting not only their own spiritual growth but also the growth of other disciples who depend on them.
The very first step the church takes in making disciples is to baptize new believers by immersion in water publicly as a sign of their decision to follow Christ. This is the New Testament model. Water baptism, as an outward sign of an inward faith, helps identify WHO is part of the local church. The entire congregation and its leaders have heard the testimony of the candidate and had a chance to verify his/her testimony as far as they can tell by watching their lives. The church then gladly gives him or her their seal of approval through baptism and the right hand of fellowship through covenant membership. Conferring baptism on them says, in effect, “We believe this is a genuine brother or sister in Christ who believes the same gospel we believe and was saved by the same savior.” They are on the same team and each of them now identifies with one another as a local church. High-accountability membership in a local church is a biblical concept. It serves to identify who is in (and consequently who is not in). And, practiced biblically, meaningful local church membership adorns the gospel with great beauty.
But once in the front door, so to speak, the real work begins. Disciples of Jesus Christ are, by definition, followers of Jesus Christ. A local church is a called-out, gathered-together assembly of Jesus’ followers who covenant together for the purpose of encouraging one another to follow Jesus every day by observing his commands and fulfilling their part in the Great Commission. Personal involvement in the local church is vital to growing individually and corporately in our obedience and holiness. This glorifies God and fulfills the Great Commission.
There are no shortcuts here. Making disciples is an on-going, never-ending, life-long, often messy process. It requires patience and careful instruction on the part of godly leaders and mutual submission and love on the part of each member. Each member of the local congregation must be willing to be held accountable to one another to help one another mature in the process. Making disciples requires members to be actively involved both in their attendance and in serving the body with their unique gifts. It also requires that members deal with sin in a healthy biblical way in order to honor God and keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The context of a gathered local church is where we fulfill all the “one-another” commands of the New Testament. This happens in the corporate worship service on Sunday mornings, in smaller bible studies, in the mid-week prayer meeting, over meals and coffee, at the church office, across town at a restaurant, in each others’ homes, etc.
To be healthy and functioning as a local church requires a commitment to one another and it requires us to move forward as one body with a common goal and vision to honor and glorify Christ in all we say and do. Below is a very broad and simple vision for the process of making disciples. Allow this to guide you as you think about your own role in the disciple-making process.
Three Phases: Proclamation – Interaction – Action
Each local church member should be committed to be involved in some way in EACH of the following phases simultaneously. This is the natural progression of making disciples = WORSHIP, GROW, SERVE. Healthy growing disciples naturally make more healthy growing disciples. The pastor simply cannot do it all, nor is he called by God to do it all. The congregation is responsible for doing the work of the ministry, as they are equipped, empowered and led by their pastors/elders (Eph. 4:11-16). Failure to understand and be committed to a broad biblical vision for every-member-disciple-making and failure to be intentionally involved in each phase (Proclamation, Interaction, Action) will cause the process to stutter, or worse yet, stop altogether. All three of these phases in the process of disciple-making are discussed in more detail below.
Phase 1 – Proclamation (WORSHIPPING TOGETHER)
Proclamation is the first phase of the process where the majority of members will most gladly be involved. This is the Sunday morning corporate worship service where we gather as the entire congregation for 1) the Proclamation of God’s praises and 2) the Proclamation of God’s word. We worship God for who he is and what he has done in the gospel. We sing about the cross and the blood of Jesus that was shed to forgive us and give us new life and hope. We pray to God and give our tithes and offerings as a way of expressing our thanksgiving. We also humbly listen to God’s word being proclaimed, inviting him to challenge and transform us into the obedient, holy followers he would have us be.
Because the proclamation of God’s praises and God’s word are so vital to the health of a church, each member should seek to make this corporate worship time a high priority. Everything in this service time should done in purity of heart and with the highest quality to honor Christ. If someone is invited to a church worship service by one of its members or just comes to visit by themselves he or she should be able to recognize clearly what that church is all about. What the church proclaims should be very clear and understandable. And each member needs this time desperately each week because each member needs to be reminded of the gospel as not only the thing that saved them, but also the thing that keeps them and gives them hope. Gathering together as the church for this two-pronged proclamation should take priority in each member’s life.
— Moving to the next phase is the most critical part of the process of making disciples —
Phase 2 – Interaction (GROWING TOGETHER)
While the Sunday morning worship service is a great place to begin, there must be movement from this time into the second phase of interacting with one another in smaller groups. If disciples are to be taught to observe all the things that Jesus commanded there has to be some way to measure whether or not they are actually observing those commands. Without carefully observing what Jesus commanded members cannot grow to their full potential in obedience and holiness. And so, members intentionally seek opportunities when they can participate in the worship service as well as prayerfully interact with others and with God’s word.
Skipping this phase in the process is the biggest potential mistake made by church members, but, unfortunately, it happens most often. If this is not a personal priority for each member, they will miss out on the opportunity to grow deeper in their own holiness and obedience. They will also deprive others of the help they could be giving. In other words, a lack of commitment to the Interaction phase causes the whole church to suffer in multiple ways.
Each member, from the pastors/elders to the deacons, to the members in the pew, desperately needs the accountability this interaction provides. Church members need the intercessory prayer of others and need to be exposed to God’s word and get their questions answered in a way that encourages them to grow in grace and knowledge. We should want to pour into and encourage each other personally. We need to go deeper with one another. This happens intentionally in small group bible studies (both on Sunday mornings and at other times and places), in prayer meetings, over meals and coffee as well as in other practically unlimited ways as members intentionally gather. Some of these times will be scheduled and organized by the leadership of the church. Others might occur very organically as friendships develop one-on-one or in small gatherings outside of the normally scheduled times. Whatever form this interaction takes, it’s important that it happens! The desire to interact with one another for the purpose of mutual accountability and growth should be natural and it should be a priority in the life of each and every member. Covenanting together as members of a local church means that we purposely choose this kind of accountability. And it is important that we each hunger for this interaction, as that hunger is a sign of spiritual vitality and health. If we don’t, something is wrong.
When all church members are actively involved in the corporate proclamation of their praises and hearing the proclamation of God’s word AND they are regularly interacting with other members in bible study, prayer and loving fellowship, they will be more likely to serve the body with their spiritual gifts. The third and final phase is where members actively contribute the unique gifts they each bring to the table, keeping the disciple-making process moving.
Phase 3 – Action (SERVING TOGETHER)
People who are being ministered to personally through regular prayerful interaction with other disciples and God’s word are more likely to use their God-given spiritual gifts to serve the body of Christ. Each member has specific spiritual gifts that are needed by the rest of the church body. Indeed, God has arranged us just the way he wanted. But these spiritual gifts do not belong to the individual member him or herself. They belong to the people sitting next to them in the pew. ALL members have an obligation to serve others in the unique ways God has gifted them to serve. Members will not be encouraged to serve to their full potential unless they are growing as they ought. Why serve if we’re not worshipping or growing?! Service without personal spiritual growth can quickly become drudgery. A member who is not growing to their potential will soon lack true joy and can easily become burned out in their service. In contrast, when members are growing deep as followers of Jesus Christ through Proclamation and Interaction, their Action will be filled with purpose and joy. This is how Jesus means for us to grow in the context of the local church.
Each member is responsible to be actively involved in ALL THREE OF THESE PHASES SIMULTANEOUSLY on a regular on-going basis. Members are also each responsible to ensure that the other members around them they are responsible for are also involved in all three phases. When someone becomes a member of a church it should be clearly communicated that they are choosing this kind of accountability. Membership should have meaning and significance. If not, we should not expect anyone to contribute anything. This requires that members care enough about each other to consciously and continuously spur one another on toward love and good deeds. A pastor cannot ensure the accountability and growth of every single member of the church by himself. And as more people decide to covenant together with the church by joining as members, they too must be encouraged towards and held accountable for their own movement through and simultaneous involvement in each phase.
In closing, here are a few simple questions to ask yourself.
- Is this process as it has been described above biblical and healthy?
- Is it simple enough to remember and repeat?
- Do you see the necessity of making sure all members move from phase 1 to phase 2 and then to phase 3 and then stay involved in all three phases simultaneously?
- Do you see how this simple process, if fleshed out, can grow all members deeper spiritually and minister to a variety of different needs?
- How would you gauge your own personal commitment to and involvement in each of these phases currently? What might you need to change?