This is Part 2 of a three-part series on the core business of growing the vine. Read Part 1 here.
In Part 1 of this series, we explored the ‘why’ of disciple-making, and saw that the two great commandments—to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves—provide the mandate and impetus for living a disciple-making life. It’s a life of showing people God’s glory—the glory most powerfully revealed in the gospel of Jesus, the Christ. And showing it to all people—Christians and non-Christians.
So how do we show them that glory? How is the gospel of Jesus Christ revealed to them?
The answer is profoundly obvious: God has chosen to reveal it to us in his word, the Scriptures, and so the way we reveal it to others is by engaging them with those Scriptures.
In other words, at the core of my life of disciple-making—and the disciple-making ministry of my church—is prayerfully fostering opportunities to engage people with the message of the Bible. Ideally that will mean opening up a Bible and reading it with them week by week, maybe one-to-one, maybe with a few at a time in a small group, or perhaps in sermons delivered to many. But it might also mean something seemingly less significant; it might, for example, mean sharing a simple biblical word of encouragement with a friend via a text message, or answering a child’s question in the car trip home from school, or passing on a Christian book to someone.
In fact, the ways in which we can engage other people with God’s word—either directly or mediated through our own words—is really only limited by our imagination and creativity.
Wouldn’t it be terrific if our churches were full of spiritual entrepreneurs, innovating hundreds of effective new forms and methods of engagement with God’s word for all sorts of different types of people?
But this decentralised model of church ministry is not really in vogue in many churches. Our seminaries and Bible colleges do a pretty good job of preparing men to be expository preachers on a Sunday. And that’s good. More than good, it’s essential. But most seminaries don’t train pastors in how to spread expository word ministry through all aspects of church life, even down to the post-church conversations church members engage in. Like the oboist, the preacher sounds the true gospel note for us all to tune to; but it can sometimes seem like most of the orchestra aren’t playing, they’re just listening.
The decentralised view of church ministry is also a bit confronting for the average pastor and his elders. It can feel a bit out of control, chaotic and ‘unauthorised’. And that’s because it is. But the solution is not to discourage it; the solution is to encourage it and equip people to do it well. So leaders not only need to model expository Bible ministry, they need to urge and train every Christian to do it in whatever ways God has given them the gifts and opportunities to do.
So how is the word ministry entrepreneurial culture at your church? What opportunities are you personally creating to engage people with God’s word so that they might better understand the gospel and build their lives on it? And how are you inspiring and equipping others to do the same?
Those are the questions, it seems to me, that we need to address if we want to see more and more disciples of the Lord Jesus made and grown.
But there is another question worth asking. And in the next in this series (Part 3), we’ll explore a vital issue relating to the effectiveness of the disciple-making work in our churches.