A Healthy Church Member Is A Growing Disciple-Maker (Part6)
March 29, 2015 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos
This will be the last installment to our series of messages in connection with the 8th
mark of a healthy church member, which is a growing disciple-maker.
Based on Matthew 28:18-20 and Ephesians 4:11-16, this is Christ’s grand plan for his church:
Christ’s grand plan for His church is for every member to be a disciple-maker by speaking and living the gospel truth to one another in love to promote the unity and maturity of the body of Christ for the ultimate purpose of giving glory to God.
Last week, we looked at Eph 4:11-16 and learned that the main responsibility of pastors based on that passage is to equip the saints and that it is the saints who are to do the work of ministry.
- Pastors equip the “saints”
- The “saints” (i.e., members) do the work of ministry!
I also clarified what the work of ministry means:
- The work of ministry is not doing your spiritual disciplines nor simply being involved in any Church activity.
- The work of ministry involves several aspects:
- It requires training (Eph 4:11-12, shepherds and teachers … equip the saints for the work of ministry)
- It invovles “speaking the truth in love.” In general it is communicating God’s word to every area of our lives, but in particular it is the communicating gospel truth in love.
- It has as its goal the development of conviction/content, character, and competence in our disciples so that they can produce other disciples.
- It involves every member of the church.
Today, I want to introduce to you two ideas that will conclude our study on this 8th
mark of a healthy church member.
- The first idea is the fourth “C”
- The second idea is “stages of spiritual growth”
The fourth “C”
In our previous studies, I shared with you that our goal in discipleship training is the 3Cs. We want to see our disciples becoming mature in three areas of their lives: character, conviction (content),
. We saw this in our study in Ephesians 4 last week, but we saw this more clearly when we looked at Romans 15:14:
Romans 15:14 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness (character), filled with all knowledge (conviction or content), and able to instruct one another (competence).
As I was preparing this message, I remembered that one the new things that we learned from the Discipleship Course in the U.S. is about the 4th
C which is another important area that should be considered in the goal of discipleship. The fourth C is Community.
We did not learn this from Jay Wegter who was our main teacher but from Dr. Ernie Baker. Dr. Baker got the fourth “C” from Romans 15:14 but this is how he got it:
Romans 15:14 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness (character), filled with all knowledge (conviction or content), and able to instruct (competence) one another (community).
Or to put it differently:
- Character = Heart (Christlike Character)
- Conviction = Head (Christian Conviction)
- Competence = Hands (Ministry Competence)
- Community = Home (Church Community)
Someone said: “Community is the container for the other 3Cs.
Dr. Robert Kellemen in his book Equipping Counselors For Your Church, wrote “Christian community is the growth-enhancing context, the fertile soil, the healthy environment for equipping people in biblical content, counseling competence, and Christlike character.”
Community is biblical
Here are other Biblical passages that show community is the context where character, conviction ( or content) and competence grows.
Look again at Ephesians 4 where we see Christ’s grand plan for the church in Ephesians 4. Turn to vv. 15-16.
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly,
makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
How does the local church grow? Not when every member of the church matures separately, but when each part that is joined and held together by every joint is working properly.
Ideas from Robert Kellemen, Equipping Counselors for Your Church, pp. 241-242:
Consider the classic passage where Paul talks about God’s bringing glory in the church and in Christ Jesus and doing so immeasurably beyond anything that we could ask or imagine. Notice the container
in which that occurs.
Eph 3:17-19 – [I pray that] ...that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
How do we comprehend and know the love of Christ? How may we be filled with all the fullness of God? We do so together with all the saints.
Sitting in rows and being lectured at for the entire training process does not count as together with all the saints.
Consider the classic passage about putting off the old self and putting on our new nature in Christ (Col 3:1-17). How do we do that in the real world? By, vv. 12-16:
12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom,
Sanctification or growing in Christlikeness happens in the context of the community or local church.
Consider the classic passage that teaches how Christians experience victory over sin in Heb 3:12-13:
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
How do we escape evil unbelief that leads to falling away from God and how do we become sensitive to sin? By being accountable to and under the care of the Christian community.
This is why the author of Hebrews says in Heb 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
What all of those passages simply do is confirm this idea that a Christian cannot truly grow and be mature in character, conviction and competence without the context of the community.
Now let me go to the second idea to complete our study on the 8th
mark of a healthy church member which is a growing disciple-maker:
Stages of spiritual growth
If we are going to make disciples, we need to be intentional about it. We do not grow disciples by accident and here is one of those areas that I have to admit I need to learn some more.
If we are going to be intentional about our discipleship we need to find out the spiritual progress of our disciples, where they are spiritually, and equip them in a way that is appropriate to their level.
We get this idea of stages of spiritual growth from a passage like 1Jn 2:12-14:
12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake.
13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children, because you know the Father.
14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
You will observe from this passage that there are different levels of spiritual maturity in the lives of believers.
MacArthur Study Bible: 1 John 2:13–14 fathers... young men... children.
These very clear distinctions identify three stages of spiritual growth in God’s family. “Fathers,” the most mature, have a deep knowledge of the Eternal God. The pinnacle of spiritual maturity is to know God in his fullness (cf. Phil. 3:10). “Young men” are those who, while not yet having the mature experience of knowing God in the word and through life, do know sound doctrine. They are strong against sin and error because they have his word in them. Thus they overcome the wiles of the devil, who makes havoc of children (cf. Eph. 4:14). Since Satan’s efforts are in falsehood and deception, they have overcome him. “Children” are those who have only the basic awareness of God and need to grow. All are in God’s family and manifest Christ’s character at different levels
In the book, The Trellis and The Vine,
authors Colin Marshal and Tony Payne discuss these levels of spiritual growth by using a term they call “Stages of Gospel Growth.” Here is what they write:
Thinking broadly, there are four basic stages in the growth of the gospel in someone’s life. We might call them:
At the outreach
stage, people come into contact with the word of truth for the first time. It might initially be through a conversation about some issue in their lives or in the world. But somehow, in some context (large or small), someone explains the gospel to them. The seed takes root, and in God’s time and by His Spirit, it bears fruit.
Once people respond to the gospel message and put their faith in Christ, some sort of initial follow-up
is needed to establish them in the faith and teach them the basics. Depending on their background and circumstances, this initial stage of becoming firm in the faith can take a few months or several years; but however long it takes, it is vital that someone
is sticking with the new Christian to teach, care for, and pray for them.
Then follows the lifelong process of growth
as a Christian disciple—growing in the knowledge of God and the godly character that flows from that knowledge. This process of growth is not [easy]. It’s a straight and narrow path, like Christian’s in The Pilgrim’s Progress,
with plenty of hills, valleys, enemies and sidetrack along the way. At various points in their walk along this road, Christians will get into trouble and will need particular help, counsel and prayer. A great sickness or trial may overtake them; a particular sin may start to get the better of them; a season of spiritual weakness or dryness may come upon them. In all of these circumstances—in both good times and bad—the formula for growth is the same: the ministry of the Word and Spirit. As the Bible’s truth is prayerfully spoken and applied and heard, and as the Spirit works within, growth occurs.
The fourth stage—training—
is that stage of Christian growth in which people are equipped and mobilized and resourced and encouraged to do that work. It is that state in which their growth in conviction (beliefs), character (godliness) and competencies (skills/abilities) leads them to minister effectively to others.
Now it is vital to remember two things. Firstly,
while all Christians can and should be trained as vine-workers, not all will be gifted to minister in exactly the same way or to the same extent. Some will be very good at reaching out to non-Christians and answering their questions, others will focus on meeting one to one with new Christians and following them up, and still others will be fathers and mothers teaching their children. There are myriad of contexts and opportunities for vine work, and each Christian will have his or her God-given part to play.
training Christians to be vine-workers does not simply mean the impartation of certain skills and abilities. Christian discipleship is about sound doctrine and godly life, and so train or equip someone to minister to others. In order to follow up a new Christian, for example, a more mature believer needs not only to know how to run through a set of basic Bible studies; they also need to be able to model mature Christian faith and life.
One enormous benefit of thinking about Christian growth in stages like this is that it helps us to think about, pray for, and minister to people where they are at.
Here is a diagnostic too that will help us think about people. Jot down a list of seven people you know, both non-Christians and Christians in your church. Were is each of them up to in gospel growth? Let’s see if you can visualize it by mapping out the various ‘gospel growth’ stages.
You’ll notice that we’ve subdivided most of the stages to help our thinking.
Eddie for example, is not yet a Christian. He’s definitely in the outreach stage
, but in your discussions with him you haven’t really got around to actually sharing the gospel with him. So far, it’s been raising various issues that are connected with God, and faith and the Bible, but it’s early days.
Anna, on the other hand, has come to a guest service at church and has heard the gospel clearly explained. She still hasn’t become a Christian but she’s further along than Eddie.
Likewise, under the growth stage,
you’ll notice that Jun is in the ‘need help’ category whereas Boy is ‘solid.’ Both have been Christians for a number of years. Neither of them needs initial follow-up. But Jun is really having a really tough time: his wife died recently and he is battling to raise his teenage kids on his own. He has always been strong in faith, but in recent times has started to become bitter and angry with God, and been seen less often at church and Bible study group. Jun really needs help. He needs someone (or more than one person) to get alongside him, care for him, pray with him, encourage him from the Bible to keep going and so on.
Boy, on the other hand, is motoring along reasonably well. It’s not all that smooth sailing, or course, but at the moment he is making good, solid progress in the Lord.
Now, again, these are not simple, black-and-white, or strictly sequential categories. Nearly all Christians will move in and out of the ‘need help’ category at different points in their lives. Next year, it might be Boy’s turn to go through the storm. But for the sake of thinking through what each of them needs at the moment in order to grow in the gospel, it’s useful to make a distinction.
In the training stage,
there are also a couple of useful categories: general and specific. These refer to equipping or training that is applicable to just about every Christian, and that which related to specific ministries. Gigi, for example, is a solid mature Christian who is learning how to understand and share her faith with her non-Christian workmates. This is general training—it’s something that all Christians should be equipped to do.
Andy, on the other hand, is a very good teacher with a shepherd’s heart. He has real potential for explaining the Bible clearly. He is currently being trained to lead one of the men’s Bible study groups that meet on Thursday mornings.
The point of using this sort of tool is not to turn Christian ministry into a set of lists but to help us focus on people—
because ministry is about people, not programs. If we never think about people individually and work out where they are up to, and how and in what area they need to grow, how can we minister in anything other than a haphazard, scattergun way? It’s like a doctor thinking to himself, “Seeing all of my patients individually and diagnosing their illnesses is just too difficult and time consuming. Instead, I’m going to get all my patients assemble together each weak, and I’ll give them all the same medicine. I’ll vary the medicine a bit from week to week, and it will at lead do everybody some good. And it’s much more efficient and manageable that way.”
…. If growing the vine is about growing people,
we need to help each person grow, starting from where they are at this very moment. There needs to be inefficient, individual people ministry, as well as the more efficient ministries that take place in larger groups. This is the sort of individualized ministry that Paul envisages in 1Thessalonians 5:12-14:
12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
The leaders labor hard in their vital role, and are to be esteemed highly because of it. But there is an equally important role for the “brothers” to be involved in: ministering to all the various situations that individual Christians encounter in life.
This is another enormous benefit of using a diagnostic tool like the one above. It helps us see what people need next—which is always to help them move one step to the right.
What Need-Help-Jun needs net is to gain (or regain) his solidity and stability in Christian faith. What Solid-Boy needs next is some encouragement and training to start ministering to others, rather than just growing in his own happy world. What Raising-Issues-Eddie needs next is to get beyond discussing general issues of God or Christianity, and hear the gospel.