Effective Discipleship Can Lead to Mission Sending
For many years it has been said that the local church is responsible for sending mission workers into the field. So why is it that so few are going out?
The secret lies in the question of discipleship — something that few churches do, and fewer still do well.
For most churches, discipleship means a short course between the decision of salvation and the moment of baptism. This course usually focuses on giving tithes, participating in church meetings, reading the Bible, and prayer. After one graduates with a diploma in hand, it is assumed that the person knows all they need to know to be an effective disciple of the Lord. They are on their own to discover how to serve in the local church, and little if any long-term coaching happens after that. Is it any wonder that so many come into the church and go out the back door? Would it be a surprise to see that many of these churches never send out a single missionary in their history?
For missionaries and those involved in new fields, discipleship is so very much more. It involves three phases – the salvation phase, the initial discipleship phase, and the subsequent discipleship or sanctification phase. At the beginning, the new disciple is taught the concept of immediate obedience to whatever God reveals in His Word. Disciples are taught to share their faith, to teach others what they have learned, and to use their spiritual gifts to edify others and grow the church. More than that, disciples are coached in life skills besides just how to memorize scripture and become victorious in their Christian walk. Disciplers accompany the lives of their disciples for life. As soon as possible, disciplers begin encouraging their disciples to take on their own disciples and begin coaching them.
A great example of discipleship and sending is that of the house church networks based in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Evangelism and discipleship takes place in the context of house church groups. Members study the Bible during meetings and with disciplers at other times. Through the consistent presentation of the Word of God and emphasis on immediate obedience, these house church groups recognized their responsibility to reach the world according to Acts 1.8 and a mission sending agency known as Impacto Mundial (World Impact) was born.
Effective discipleship means taking a person from where they are in their Christian walk, and nurturing them towards spiritual maturity through regular coaching and training. Each person is different and thus what they need may be different. All disciples need to be encouraged to pray, read and memorize Scripture, participate in church meetings, discover their spiritual gifting, evangelize, and become a discipler to disciples they will coach. The discipler / coach will also discover where their disciple is weak and encourage them to grow in those areas. For example, if a disciple has a problem dealing with fear, the discipler coach may encourage them to memorize Scriptures that touch upon that subject as well as help them step out into new areas of service with courage. A discipler / coach can also help the disciple learn how to behave properly in certain circumstances, learn to control their anger – any number of life skills that will help them become successful in Christian and daily living. A good discipler /coach will help challenge their disciple to increase their involvement in the Kingdom with respect to telling Bible stories, planting house churches and other missional activities.
It should be obvious to see that THIS kind of discipleship – not a program or short course with a diploma – naturally leads disciples to more and more Kingdom focused work that is focused on reaching the nations in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth!
What kind of church do you have? What kind of church do you want to have?