A Healthy Church Member Is A Growing Disciple-Maker (Part4)

February 8, 2015 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos

 

Review

  We are looking at the 8th mark of a healthy church member, which is a growing disciple-maker.   Here is one of the most important things we have learned so far in connection with this topic. We’ve learned from Matthew 28 and Ephesians 4 aboutGod’s grand vision for the church.   God’s vision for the church is to be acommunity of disciple-makers (Mt 28:19), where church leaders equip the saints to do the work of ministry so that everybody speaksthe truth in lovethat results in the unity, maturity, and immunity of the church for the glory of God (Eph 4:11-16).   The leaders of the church equip the saints so that, by God’s grace, they come to a point where they have Christlike character, biblical conviction, and ministry competence. This is suggested by the phrase “speaking the truth in love.”  
  • Competence – “speaking”
  • Conviction – “the truth”
  • Character – “in love”
  This is confirmed in Romans 15:14: I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.  
  • Character – “full of goodness”
  • Conviction – “filled with all knowledge”
  • Competence – “able to instruct one another”
  When the members of the church are growing and balanced in character, conviction, and competence then the church grows in unity, maturity, and immunity for the glory of God (Eph 4:12b-16).   12 … for building up the body of Christ, 13 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, 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. 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.     Please take note that the objective of having balanced character, conviction and competence is not just individual maturity. The ultimate goal is the unity, immunity and maturity of the church that will bring glory to God.   There are those who think that they are already mature because theyalready know so much about the bible and a lot of doctrine. They know how to interpret Scripture, even without the guidance of teachers. They can define the distinctions between this and that theological view.   But they are proud;they are not willing to associate with imperfect Christians who are struggling to overcome their sins. They are not patient in instructing those who are not as astute in doctrine. They are not willing to get out of their comfort zones to help others grow spiritually. They are not using their gifts for the edification of the body of Christ, and they are not involved in the lives of others.   They are satisfied in having a reputation of being knowledgeable in doctrine and theology. They could argue, debate, and correct others in fine details of doctrine, and they see themselves as defenders of the faith, but they are a burden to church leaders because they always criticize,and complain about everything that is not in line with their views or practice.   They do not encourage others to join and support the ministry of the church. In fact, they even discourage others from joining.   They do not even pray for their local church or give financially to support its projects and programs.   They are silent when there is some good thing that is happening in the church but they are very noisy when they disagree with the leadership and find something not to their liking.   They have a very poor commitment to their local church. For example, if they find out that there is a good speaker in another church, they are quick to be there.   They are also quick to express their discontentment to others. When people ask them, “If your church has all of those problems, then why are still in that church? Why don’t you leave?” The reason they don’t is because of habit or tradition, or because most of their friends and business clients are there.   I repeat, brethren, people may know a lot of doctrine, and may view themselves as spiritual, but if they have no love for the local church, they spiritually immature, or worse, they are spiritually dead.   The kind of disciples that the Lord wants to produce is Christlike disciples who have godly character, biblical convictions, and competency to serve others by speaking gospel truth in love that will bring unity, maturity, and immunity for the whole church. That isGod’s vision for the church.    

Today’s Study

  Today, I want to talk about that word “equip” in that phrase in Ephesians 4:12, “to equip the saints.” The word equip brings the idea of training in the local church.   For many people going to church simply means attending Sunday service, joining in the singing, saying ‘amen’ after the prayer or benediction, listening to the preaching, having a small talk with the attendees, and then going home. But they have never considered “training” to be happening in the local church.   For them, training is something that happens at the gym or theological college or seminary but not in the local church. They say that the local church is for “worship” and “fellowship.” But usually they are spectators during Sunday and have the “consumer attitude,”i.e., they attend church only for what they can get out of it. Even if there was training offered in the church, they will take it for personal growth but not with the intention of being used by God in order to serve others in love.   If we are going to have a healthy church of growing disciple-makers, we should have a culture of training in our church. Remember again what Paul said in Eph 4:11-12. Christ gave leaders in the church in order to “equip” or “to train” the saints.   Today, I want us to focus on the nature of training.This study will show us the nature of the training that will bring people from spiritual infancy to maturity.   (Many of the ideas that I will share with you today come from chapter 6 of the book, The Trellis and the Vine, by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, entitled, “The Heart of Training.”)   One of the difficulties in discussing the subject of ‘training’ is that it has connotations in English that don’tmatch with how the word is used in the Bible.   In modern English, ‘training’ normally relates to learning how to do something well. A person who is well-trained becomes good in playing an instrument, in shooting basketballs, in doing some art work, or aspect of one’s profession. Training is usually task-oriented. It emphasizes uniform and predictable responses that are learned and reinforced by practice.   Ministry training can be like this as well. It provides knowledge and skills so that Christians can learn how to do certain things. Along this line, many churches run ‘training courses’ to help people more proficient in reading their Bibles, or sharing their faith with others, or welcoming newcomers, or leading small groups, and so on.   This is good and useful, but it is not the essence of ‘training’—at least not in the way the Bible thinks about it. In the NT, training is much more about Christian thinking and living than about particular skills and competencies.   Let us look at what the Pastoral Epistles say about “training.”  
  1. Training is about imparting doctrine.
 
  • 1Ti 4:6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, beingtrained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. (“Words of the faith” is a general reference to Scripture, God’s revealed truth. “Good doctrine” indicates the theology Scripture teaches.)
  • 2Ti 3:14-15 - But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
  • 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.
  • Tit 2:3-4 ... Older women … are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children
  • 2Ti 2:2 - and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
  “Sound doctrine is vital. The heart of training is not to impart a skill, but to impart sound doctrine. Paul uses the language of ‘training’ to refer to a lifelong process whereby Timothy and his congregation are taught by Scripture to reject false religion, and to conform their hearts and their lives to sound doctrine. Good biblical training results in a godly life based on sound, health-giving teaching.”   Instruction could be public but it can also be personal and domestic. Acts 20:20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house.   That is why we have public teachings on Sunday and Wednesday. We have Biblical Counseling Training. We have Martha Peace seminars. We have The Expositor’s Academy teaching us how to interpret Scriptures and other doctrines. This is why we have discipleship groups that explain the Gospel that Saves.   This is also why we have divided groupings, counseling with the gospel to address the issues of life, encouraging and admonishing one another when the opportunity arises.   Of course when we are talking about imparting or teaching doctrine, we are not doing it as if we were just giving out a lecture. We rely upon the Holy Spirit to minister through us.  
  • 1Th 1:5 - because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. …
  • 2Th 3:1 - Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you
  • Col 4:3-4 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak
   
  1. Training is about imparting character and a way of life.
 
  • 2Ti 3:10-11 - You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me …
  • 1Ti 4:12 - Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
  It was not only the good deposit of the gospel that Paul passed on to Timothy, but a way of life. This method of modeling, example, and imitation was basic to Paul’s whole ministry.  
  • Phil 3:17 - Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
  • 1Co 4:15-16 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
  • 1Co 11:1 - Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ
  The chain of imitation flows from the Lord Jesus Himself. And then Paul copies the Lord. Then, Timothy imitates Paul and the reminds others of Paul’s ways. Then the believers imitate them who imitate the Lord.   We are always an example to those whom we are teaching and training, whether we like it or not. We cannot stop being an example. It’s not as if we are to model perfection—that would be impossible. But, as Paul says to Timothy, ‘Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.’(1Ti 4:14).   We could summarize Paul’s model of training by saying that it looks a lot like parenting.  
  • It begins as someone is instrumental in bringing someone else to new birth.(1Co 4:15 … I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.)
  • It is long term and loving.(1Th 2:7 - But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.)
  • It includes passing on knowledge, wisdom and practical instruction. (1Th 2:10-12 - You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.)
  • It involves modeling and imitation.(Phil 3:17 - Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.)
  • It forms not only beliefs and abilities, but also character and lifestyle.(2Ti 3:10 - You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness,
  This is a very useful metaphor to keep in our minds as we think about training. Training is parenting. The important point here is that training is relational. It cannot be done in a classroom via the supposedly neutral transferal of information.   The relational nature of training means that the best training will often occur byosmosis rather than formal instruction. It will be caught as much as it is taught. Trainees will end up resembling their trainers, much as children turn out like their parents.   In relational training, the hearts of both trainer and trainee are exposed. As we train the ministers of Christ’s word, we don’t measure progress simply by the performance of tasks, but by the integrity of heart. Does the trainee genuinely love God and his neighbor? Does he truly submit to Christ’s word? Unguarded, spontaneous words and actions expose the heart of the trainee—the good, the bad and the ugly. In the midst of life and ministry the relationship is deepened, and the trainer gets insights into the character of the trainee.   Trainees likewise need to see the heart of the trainers—the sins and confessions, the fears and faith, the visions and realities, the successes and failures. The life and ministry of the trainer is a model for the trainee—not of perfection but of godly desires in an earthen vessel. This requires an honest, open sharing of our lives.   Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the home. In the home, the trainer is no longer the “public Christian,” the ministry leader. He becomes—indeed he is—the husband laughing with his wife, the father dealing with his daughter not eating her food, the cook enjoying his creative side, the homemaker fixing the tap, the exhausted man glazing blankly at the TV. He is living out life in the Spirit in the hardest context. And in the same way, when a wise trainer is in the home of the trainee he is also observing how the trainee listens respectfully to his wife, or ignore the children, or expects to be waited upon, or can’t relax. All this is relevant for later reflection and discussion.    
  1. Training involves imparting skills and competencies.
  With the biblical emphasis firmly in the right place—on the training of mind and heart and character by the word of God—we are now ready to talk about skills of competencies in training.   The bible does talk about abilities. All Christians, for example, should always be“prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1Pe 3:15). There are also those who have to be good at teaching—for example, the overseers or elders in 1Ti 3:2 and Tit 1:9, or the “faithful men” in 2Ti 2:2. We are also told that leaders need to be competent in managing both their households and the local churches they oversee. (1Ti 3:4-5 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church.)   Skills and competencies are not irrelevant. In fact, they are necessary for communicating the gospel message, shepherding God’s people and leading the church. However, skills must never be separated from gospel—from the truth of sound doctrine, and the godly character that accords with it. It’s very easy to focus on skills and competencies, and to think that if only we get the skills and techniques right then everything will fall into place, and growth will be assured.   However, if we keep the gospel first and central, then learning to do particular activities more effectively can simply be a godly part of our service of Christ and other people. We can desire to become a better Bible teacher, not out of self-glorification, or a misplaced trust in our own importance, but simply because we want to communicate the life changing message of the bible more clearly and compellingly to our hearers. And the same, of course, is true of our plans to train others in particular skills.   In closing, the nature of training can be summarized by the three Cs. Discipleship training includes the following:  
  1. The impartation of conviction—knowledge of God and understanding of the Bible
  2. The impartation of character—the godly character and life that accords with sound doctrine.
  3. The impartation of competency—the ability to prayerfully speak God’s word to others in a variety of ways.
 

The Challenge

The goal is clear. We want to produce Christlike disciples who are balanced and growing in godly character, biblical convictions, and ministry competencies. The question now is how do we grow people from one level of maturity to higher levels? The answer is by training that imparts doctrine, a godly way of life, and skills and competencies.   The challenge is how do we do this in practical terms?   To make real progress in helping in our congregation grow in the 3Cs, they need more than aseries of lectures for a few days or weeks.   They need the example of seeing it done; and they need personal relationship, prayer, teaching, modeling, mentoring, and practical instruction that addresses the spiritual issues at the heart of becoming a disciple of Christ. This takes time and personal attention—before, during, and after the formal training.   Please pray that God will help us leaders to lead by example. Pray that the Lord will help us Elders not only to be teachers of God’s word but also equippers of the saints to do the work of ministry. Pray that God will give us wisdom and ability to do this.   Please pray also that our people will be open to these truths that we are learning and that they will not only be hearers of the word but also doers of it.  

To Consider and Discuss

  1. In your own words, what is God’s grand vision for the church? (Mt 28:19; Eph 4:11-16)
  2. How do you see yourself: Do you come to church only to be blessed or do you also come to be trained to bless others?
  3. What training in church are you involved in to grow in character, conviction and competence?