By Ray H. Hughes, Jr.
How would you like to build your church into a mighty host of flag-waving, Bible-thumping, eager beaver believers and get it growing, into a healthy and flourishing bunch of far right conservatives? You could have people begging to come to Christ in your services and send attendance out the roof! How would you like for your church to be known as “the church where it’s happening”? Just think of it—you could grow an army of Goliath-slaying Davids in only six weeks. It’s all here for you! What you need is a vigorous, Satan-bashing, teeth-gnashing, gut-wrenching discipleship program. If members are not beating down doors and heaping hell fire and condemnation on their neighbors heads they are not being properly discipled!
Oh really? Do we have a problem here? Is that how it works? I don’t think so! Many have a distorted view of what discipleship really is and how it works in the church. Here are my thoughts.
Is your church considered to be growing, healthy, and flourishing? Are people coming to Christ in your services? Is attendance on the increase? Are new converts being added to the church regularly? If this is the case, God is obviously blessing in wonderful ways. This scenario represents an ideal for which we should all be striving.
In order for a church to experience real growth it is certainly necessary to win new converts, but that is only the first step. Few churches, if any, are able to sustain growth without a vigorous discipleship program. The opposite is also true. If members are not being properly discipled they are not out winning new converts. Thus making disciples of every convert is the key to success for any church. But who will do this and how?
To disciple new converts in a growing church you need a host of spiritually qualified workers among the men and women of the congregation. Otherwise many people will not get the needed help in the initial stages of Christian growth. If we aren’t vigilant, sudden bursts of growth soon decline as new converts drift away due to lack of structure to take them to the next level. To put it simply, without proper guidance they most likely will never become strong, mature Christians and disciples of Christ.
Now we have an enormous problem. The pastor is the spiritual leader; shouldn’t it be his sole responsibility to nurture these new Christians? But we quickly learn that the pastor is already approaching overload on what he is able to accomplish. He simply cannot add something else to an already vigorous agenda. Again, who will do the discipling and how?
To accomplish this we must raise up a host of qualified men and women who can mentor new converts and help establish them in the faith. We must know what we believe, why we believe it, and be able to teach it to others. The goal is to make disciples who can then repeat the process in the life of another convert thus creating mature Christians.
We do this by following Christ’s example. Clearly He came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). He came that men might believe in Him (John 20:31). What was His plan to reach a lost, sinful, and dying world? Most of His ministry was invested in a few men. He trained them daily as He encouraged, corrected, and worked His ministry before them. Regardless of what He did, they were His main focus. He invested in making disciples so that when He left they would be able to carry on the work without Him. Christ’s entire ministry strategy depended on how well these men were taught and grounded in the truth.
Before Jesus left this earth He commanded His followers, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18). By this command we readily understand His priority. He spent three intensive years doing discipleship, pouring Himself into these 12 men. Christ has set the example. As we become strong in the faith, we are to care for others so that they in turn can become disciples.
The Church of God has answered Christ’s command by producing a dynamic discipleship program designed specifically for the local church. The program comes in two parts titled Jesus Walk and Faith Walk. The first deals directly with new converts and the latter with the doctrine of the Church of God. Due to the emphasis of this article we are only highlighting Jesus Walk. Both programs will be presented in detail at the upcoming Lay Consultation in August (see accompanying ad). Upon completion of Jesus Walk believers will . . .
- understand the meaning of salvation and the responsibility that goes with following Christ.
- learn that being a disciple is a call to serve in order to fulfil the Great Commission.
- gain a greater appreciation for the Bible, God’s Holy Word.
- see how prayer, worship, and stewardship go hand in hand in becoming mature Christians.
- understand how our relationships and lifestyle impact our worldview as Christians.
- learn about the necessity of the Holy Spirit in living the empowered life.
- embrace the need for the church and fellowshipping with those of like faith.
If we are to follow Christ’s example we must make disciples of all believers. Only through discipleship of believers can a vision for living the Christian faith be properly communicated, thus showing each believer how they can have an eternal impact on the lives of others.
- 80% of Americans are unchurched. The growth being experienced is primarily transfer growth.
- 195 million Americans say, “I do not have a born-again experience.” We have become the third largest mission field in the world.
- No county in the USA has a higher church population now than it did 10 years ago.
- There is no statistical difference any researcher (Gallup, Barna, etc.) can find in those who claim to be Christian and those who do not as far as divorce, death, etc., is concerned.
- The USA is the 13th largest receiver of missionaries.