Discipleship – an urgent concern
by Peter Biggs
12 MONTHS – 12 MINISTRIES
Each month will focus on one of these 12 areas of church ministry:
•DISCIPLESHIP •WORSHIP •PREACHING •OUTREACH •SERVING the community •SERVING the poor •HEALING & DELIVERANCE
•CHILDRENS Ministry •YOUTH MINISTRY •SENIORS Ministry •MENS & WOMENS Ministries • CHURCH ADMINISTRATION
We will draw on pastors & leaders recognized as gifted for that ministry and find examples within local churches that will encourage and inform. We will also introduce you to solid Christian resources that can re-educate and retool churches and leaders and individuals.
Our first focus is foundational – DISCIPLESHIP. When people become Christians they do not merely agree to certain beliefs with little or no change in their exsisting life, they turn (repent) to God, receive reconcilation with God through Christ, receive the Holy Spirit and THEN become disciples. Disciples who, through their own unique personality and gifting, go and in turn make disciples.
“…go and make disciples… teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20
1. DISCIPLESHIP… an urgent concern
For the last seven months The Light has studied different municipalities – ‘Snapshots of faith’. We describe the unique geography, demographics, churches and ministries.
In talking with dozens of senior Christian leaders, common trends and concerns are expressed. One such area of concern is around
‘DISCIPLESHIP’. Expressed slightly differently by different pastors, this quote by Mike Breen – author of Building a Discipleship Culture (3DM) summarizes their concerns.
“The people sitting in our pews are rarely becoming like the people we read about in Scripture. They may come to a worship service, join a small group or even tithe, but their lives just don’t seem to look like Jesus’ life.
The truth of the matter is that we don’t have a missional problem or leadership problem in the Western church. We have a discipleship problem. If we make disciples like Jesus made them, we’ll never have a problem finding leaders or seeing new people coming to faith.
The central issue is that we have no idea how to make disciples who can do the things that Jesus did for the reasons Jesus did them.”
John Hall heads Missions Fest Vancouver. He expressed it, “We are experiencing a discipleship crisis in churches that have their roots in Europe or North America, recent reports from George Barna (US) and The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada are cause for major concern.
Our next main emphasis for 2019s Missions Fest will be ‘Mission: DISCIPLESHIP’.”
Sid VanderWoud is Senior Pastor at Hope Community Church in Surrey. He states, “Most Pastors wrestle with what a good process of discipleship looks like. Many of our people’s Christianity can be summed up with ‘I go to church (mostly), kids attend Sunday School, I might read a bit of Bible now and again and pray when I feel the need.”
Pastors prioritizing it…
Cloverdale, BC (one of Surrey’s six townships) saw a remarkable twenty four church leaders (most pastors) representing 15 churches in their area enrol together for an intensive nine month discipleship training program called SURGE.
Dave Groen, Associate Pastor at Hope Community Church, describes what happened when he shared something about it at their monthly local Ministerial breakfast. “I’d heard of it from my father in law Mike Goheen who taught it at Seminary in Phoenix, Arizona,” he says. Over 1,000 pastors (mainly from Arizona) have completed SURGE.
The response was enough to hold a follow-up luncheon for those who may be interested. “There was an overall feeling that we don’t know how to do ‘discipleship’, coupled with the fact that most Seminaries are not teaching it.” In September 2016 twenty-four joined SURGE.
Since completing SURGE, Groen and VanderWoud are two of many in Cloverdale who are doing the SURGE program in their church. They have nine church members each. “We chose those in whom we saw potential for leadership or influence,” Groen said.
“Early results have been amazing, especially as we lead participation in small group sharing. One person told me, ‘I never even knew the Bible was a story!’ For some these times act like an ‘engine light’ coming on – signalling a lack they’d never before seen in their lives. ‘Wow, I never realized that I never share coffee or a meal with anyone!’”
the ‘mega churches’… quantity vs quality?
In recent years we have seen a development of note with the phenomenal growth of large churches (thousands per week) in the Lower Mainland. These include The Village, Northview, Westside Church, Coastal Church and others.
These churches have a clear appeal to young adults and deliver a high level of excellence in worship, teaching and overall presentation. Leaders are not slick or formulaic and are often vulnerable and authentic. They are always strong speakers. Many who had stopped going to church have found a home, numbers are also being baptized.
It is natural that any church leadership can be content with exterior metrics: healthy numbers of attendees, positive financials and overall positive morale. However a church can we wide and shallow.
The question many leaders are asking though is ‘are people simply going to these churches for the excellence of their services?’
Ken Dyck is Pastor of Discipleship at Village Church says “In this role, discipleship is something I think about a lot.”
Dyck differentiates between “I’m a Christ follower” as opposed to saying “I’m a Christian”. He states, “there is a difference between ‘followers of Jesus’ and ‘disciples of Jesus’. If Jesus simply produced followers, the movement would have only lasted one generation!” He defines a ‘disciple’ as “someone consistently practicing a set of transferable skills or disciplines…who is actively sharing & reproducing them in the life of another.
If Jesus simply produced followers, the movement would have only lasted one generation!
“We are currently experiencing the consequences of 20 years of ‘add Jesus to your lives’ preaching. I don’t see that message in Scripture. So part of our discipleship must also include a more honest message – that the call to become a Christian has to include becoming a disciple and discipling others.”
He feels that ‘Discipleship’ has been wrongly redefined as imparting ‘information’. He is also keen to emphasize that healing of the heart has to be foundational. (‘Freedom Session’ is an active component of discipleship at the Village).
‘Our discipleship model was a failure’…
Rock Pointe Church in Calgary is a vibrant church of around 1500 each week with three campuses. Pastor Geoff Heth describes his journey into discipleship.
“I have a guy who I led to Christ 8 years ago. I had discipled him and he was solid. His brother was struggling with addiction issues. ‘What I need to do is bring him to church and introduce him to you so you can lead him to Christ Geoff’ he told me. My heart sank. I realized that even after 8 years he was incapable of ‘making disciples’ that is leading another person to Christ. Our discipleship model was a failure. We’ve now come to define a disciple as ‘someone who hears the voice of God, obeys and teaches others to do the same.’
Heth has found 3D Movements a significant influence. They provide a comprehensive two year experiential track that involves vision casting & training, weekly coaching and 4 day retreats. Heth simply asks “are people being like Jesus and are they doing the things Jesus does?”
All is revealed…
At Peace Portal Alliance in South Surrey during a leadership meeting five years ago, someone asked the question. “Are we making disciples and what defines a ‘disciple’?” This started the church on a journey.
They employed a congregational assessment tool ‘REVEAL for church’ (developed out of the US mega-church Willowcreek), This multiple choice questionnaire seeks to measure ‘spiritual health & growth.
“When it comes to spiritual growth, we need to be able to measure the unseen. We need a glimpse of people’s attitudes, thoughts and feelings. We need words that reveal the heart of each person. We want to know what moves them at the deepest levels.” (From the book REVEAL: Where Are You?)
The results at Peace Portal showed a marked difference between people’s confession of being a ‘follower of Jesus’ and such things as how often they might read the bible or pray.
The Leadership embarked on an intensive study of ‘Discipleship’.
They settled on implementing a 10 week small group based program called Rooted and embarked on a big push with the hope that every member of the church would complete it.
To date over 1000 out of the 1300 or so who attend weekly have completed Rooted. They also find it a helpful stepping stone from The Alpha Course onto Christian ministry & service.
Pastors & Leaders are ‘raising the bar’, encouraging people to de-compartmentalise thier lives. That is not to simply see Jesus Christ as an addition, but the core, their ‘first love’ – expectant that He will teach/lead them as disciples.