A Healthy Church Member Is A Growing Disciple-Maker (Part5)

March 22, 2015 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos

 

We are looking at the marks of a healthy church member and we are still in the 8th mark, which is a growing disciple-maker.

  Or to restate that differently, a healthy church member is a maturing disciple who is equipped to make other disciples.   What I want to do today is simply to highlight some of the things that we have been learning about this topic from our previous studies and also from the things I and our Elders have learned from the Discipleship Training seminar that we attended in the U.S. conducted by TMC professor Jay Wegter.     This idea that a healthy church member is a maturing disciple who is equipped to make other disciples is a perspective that radically changes the way we normally view the Christian ministry.   The common view of church life is this: People go to church where the pastor preaches the Word and the pastor is expected to do all the other works of ministry.   He evangelizes unbelievers, baptizes converts, conducts marriages and funerals, visits the sick in homes and hospitals, and counsels those struggling in sin.   I call this the “clergy mentality.” This perspective sees the pastor as a cleric who is no different from the priest of the Roman Catholic Church who does the entire ministry for the laity.   There are believers who have sensed that this clergy mentality falls short of God’s vision for the church.   After restudying passages like Ephesians 4:11-16, they have realized that the job description of pastors and church leaders is not to do all the ministry but to train the saints so that they are the ones who do ministry. Eph 4:11-12 tells us:   11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry…   This is a great step beyond the clergy view. In the clergy view, the pastors do all the ministry. In this more advanced view, pastors train the saints and the saints do the ministry.   This sounds very good until we evaluate what people mean by the phrase “work of ministry.”   “Well,” they say, “the work of ministry means that the members of the church should not be passive spectators who attend Sunday services as if they are an audience watching a concert by One Direction pop singers. They need to be involved.   Members should be involved in the singing, praying, visiting the sick, counseling, leading bible studies, doing strategic planning for the improvement of the ministry and its facilities, and all other sorts of ministry work. They should not just be passing on those responsibilities to the pastor.  

Clarifying the “work of ministry”

  So far so good, but I would like to say that if this is just what we mean by the phrase “work of ministry” then, still, all of those things fall short of Christ’s vision for the church. This may sound somewhat confusing to some of you but I hope you will be patient to listen carefully.   The “work of ministry” is not just being involved in some spiritual discipline for personal growth such as singing, praying, doing your Quiet Time, attending a regular Bible study, or having fellowship with others (which is mostly just socializing, eating or playing basketball with other believers.)   The “work of ministry” is also not just being involved in some Christian activity such as visiting the sick, or counseling or leading a bible study.     In our remaining time, I would like to highlight the proper view of the “work of ministry.” The work of ministry that saints should do must include these aspects according to Ephesians 4:11-16:  
  1. The work of ministry requires training.
  The work of ministry is not something that the saints do automatically or happens by accident. Look again at Ephesians 4:11-12:   11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry…   Jay Wegter says, “Training must be utterly intentional, personal and proactive, or it won’t take place. … Discipleship is deliberate. When we begin to be deliberate, our relationships will no longer be viewed as existing merely fro social reasons; but for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission.”   In Luke 6:40, the Lord Jesus Himself said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”   In Eph 4:11-12 the more mature persons who do the equipping in today’s context would be the evangelists and the shepherds and teachers.   But we should not think that the trainers are limited to church leaders. In 1Th 5:11-14 we notice that the pattern Paul presents is a lay ministry. He does not address pastors or church leaders here.   11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 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.  
  1. The work of ministry is “speaking the truth in love.”
 
  • Verse 12: to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.
  • Verse 15: Rather,speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ
  How does the body of Christ grow? According to Eph 4:12, it is when the saints do the work of ministry.According to Eph 4:15, the body of Christ grows when members speak the truth in love. Do you see the parallel?   I like the two diagnostic questions that Jay Wegter asks to find out if there is real discipleship happening in our churches: “Are our congregations training centers in which believers are being taught to minister God’s Word to others?” And, “Are our believers being taught and trained to be disciples of Christ who, in turn, seek to make other disciples.”   What does speaking the truth involve? Let me read from Robert Kellemen’s book, Equipping Counselors for Your Church, p. 38:   All biblical ministry should involve speaking the truth in love. That should be done from the pulpit to the crowd through an equipped person fully focused and prepared to relate God’s truth to people’s lives—the pulpit ministry of the Word.   Speaking the truth in love should also be done one-to-one and in small groups, both formally and informally, as members of the body of Christ changes lives with Christ’s changeless truth—the personal ministry of the Word.   If we want a church of biblical counseling where everything is saturated with the conviction that God’s Word is sufficient for all of life, then pulpit ministry and personal ministry must remain in harmony.   What is the truth was we are to speak in love? Generally it includes all of Scripture.  
  • 2Ti 3:16-17 - All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
  It also includes the words of Christ.  
  • Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.
  But more specifically, the truth that we are to speak in love is the gospel. Paul speaks about this in Col 1:5-6:   5 …Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth   Like the apostle Paul, are we so gospel-saturated that we find our security, joy, peace and significance in Christ alone and in His once and for all sacrifice and perfect righteousness imputed to us? Are we free to serve one another in love because of our liberty in Christ? Can we identify when a person is walking in error and correct that person because of our understanding of the gospel. A good illustration of this is when Paul rebuked Peter in Galatians 2:11-14:   But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews    
  1. The work of ministry has as its goal the development of the 3Cs of conviction, character and competency in our disciples so that they can produce other disciples.
  Through personal relationship, prayer, teaching, modeling and practical instruction, we want to see those we are discipling grow in the following major areas—conviction (or content), character, and competency—so that they can also make other disciples.     Eph 4:13-15  
  • Conviction – 13a until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God,(The word “knowledge” here is from the Greek “epignōsis,” which is a more intense word than gnosis, knowledge. Vine’s dictionary calls it a “full or thorough knowledge.” In the NT, it often refers to knowledge which very powerfully influences one’s moral and spiritual life, because of the more thorough participation on the acquiring of knowledge on the part of the learner.)
 
  • Character – 13b to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
 
  • Content –14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
 
  • Competency – 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love,
    Training means not just the giving of a lecture but influencing a person with our lives.   This training will involve the more mature person making time, developing a relationship, being accountable, and involving himself or herself in the life of another person for the purpose of imparting doctrinal content, Christlike character and way of life, and ministry skills.   Illustration: Read Jay Wegter’s list of essential areas of content for equipping disciples, pp. 76-77.   What are the Essential Areas of Content for Equipping Disciples?   Deliberate disciples has an aim: the maturity of the believer. (Col 1:28, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”)   But, biblical discipleship is designed to occur in the relational space of believer to believer… [It is] life on life ‘soul care’ taking place within the relational space dynamic—lovingly speaking God’s truth into one another’s lives.   The seven essentials:  
  1. Discipleship in the gospel.
  2. Bible Study method.
  3. Biblical worldview studies.
  4. The Spiritual disciplines.
  5. Survey of Bible doctrine.
  6. Pastoral ministry.
  7. Exposing the disciple to ministry opportunities.
  Disciples who have grown to the point of discipling others are always deepening their grasp of Christian truth. The above Seven Essential are foundations. The mentor who is working with more mature disciples will want to go beyond these essentials. He will study additional areas of focus such as apologetics, biblical languages, historical theology, biblical counseling, church history, homiletics, etc.    
  1. The work of ministry involves every member of the church.
  The work of ministry is not just for a few individuals in the church. Every member should catch the vision of Christ for the church. The plan of Christ is that every member of the church become a healthy church member who is able to make other disciples.   Eph 4:15b-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.   Let me read again verse 16 but from the NASB:   15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love   What this passage tells us is that Jesus causes the growth of the body but he does so by “by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part.”   Wegter says: The scriptural description of the function of the local church is glorious and desirable, but it requires that the members of the body embrace Christ’s pattern for the church with whole-hearted enthusiasm and obedience.   I’d like to connect again that pattern to Matthew 28:19-20. Jesus said to His disciples:   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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. …     In order for the body of Christ to grow every member needs to see that Christ wants all of his disciples to go and make disciples who will produce other disciples. This is not just for the first century believers but for all generations. We make disciples by speaking the truth in love.   And, Wegter continues, “In order to realize Christ’s pattern, each individual part of the body must come in close enough contact with other members that their gifts result in growth. Christ facilitates the effectiveness of the gifts in mutual ministry, but the gifts cannot work EXCEPT by close relationship of genuine spiritual ministry. (p. 17)     Again just to summarize:   This idea that a healthy church member is a maturing disciple who is equipped to make other disciples is a mind-shifting view. It is not the typical pastor doing all the ministry but the pastor training the saints so that they do the work of ministry. But we need to understand that the work of ministry is not the typical volunteer work that members usually commit to.   The work of ministry includes at least four aspects based on Ephesians 4:11-16:  
  1. The work of ministry requires training.
  2. The work of ministry is “speaking the truth in love.”
  3. The work of ministry has as its goal the development of conviction or content, character, and competency in our disciples.
  4. The work of ministry involves every member of the church.
 

Closing Words

  I told you that one of the main reasons why your Elders went to the U.S. is not just to attend the Shepherds’ Conference but also to attend the two-and-a-half day Discipleship Training Seminar at The Master’s College.   I praise God that many of the things we have been learning here about discipleship were reiterated in that seminar.   Many of the things that are discussed in the Discipleship Manual written by Prof. Wegter are taken from the book of Colin Marshal and Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine.       This is the very same book that I have based many of the ideas I have shared with you in my series on the 8th mark of a healthy church member.   The reason why I encouraged our Elders to attend that seminar is because the objective of the seminar was in order to help churches produce a culture of discipleship.   If we are to be a church that has a culture of discipleship the first thing that needs to happen is for all of us to catch a vision of Christ’s pattern for His church. Not only does Christ want us to become a church that produces disciples. He wants us to become a church that produces disciples who are capable of making disciples.   In his Discipleship Manual (Leader’s Guide), Wegter begins with this bold statement:   Christ’s pattern for His Church requires us to make disciples capable of making disciples: This is the great commission mandate.   Christ doesn't just want pastors equipping others to become disciples. He wants ordinary members of the church being equipped to make other disciple-makers.   I repeat. It is not enough for all of us to be involved in attending our Services regularly whether it is our Sunday services or prayer meetings. It is not enough to be involved in ministry or singing, helping prepare the food and the games of the kids in Sunday School or Awana clubs.   It is not even enough just to attend our small groups. I agree with what Prof. Wegter wrote,   Most small groups do not rise above social needs. In fact when small groups are committed to little more than long term care and share, you are not going to see the multiplication of disciples.   … The contribution of small groups to discipleship in only truly valuable to the Great Commission IF there is careful equipping in group and service training.   This means deliberately moving people toward maturity in Christ so that they are enabled to engage in spiritual parenting, shepherding, and teaching.     Wegter says,   “Pastors, elders, and disciplers should be ‘talent scouts.’ Spiritual leaders should be actively recruiting suitable people within their churches and challenging them to expend their lives for the work of the gospel.”   What we want to see are disciples of Christ who are growing in Christlike character, doctrinal content and convictions, and competence particularly in producing other disciple-makers by speaking the truth in love in the context of deep relationships.   Jay Wegter says that too often our ideas of discipleship are too limited to the classroom model of ministry (the lecture-student approach), as if studying a book together is enough to accomplish discipleship. We must shift our thinking to caring relationship in which there is mutual edification and mutual access to one another’s lives. It is important to grasp that discipleship is a two-way street. As the discipler shares his struggles and communicates God’s faithfulness amidst his trials, the disciple is encouraged to grant greater access to his life. This is reciprocity and not a matter of those ‘who have arrived’ instruct those ‘who have not arrived.’ Life on life soul care is impossible without interdependence and mutual vulnerability.   May we always have this grand vision of the grand plan of Christ for His church which is for every member to be a disciple-maker by speaking and living the gospel truth to one another in love. And let us pray to God that He will help us by His Spirit to keep on pursuing this “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”