The Americanized Version of the Great Commission

“When the church becomes an end in itself, it ends. When Sunday school, as great as it is, becomes an end in itself, it ends. When small groups ministry becomes an end in itself, it ends. When the worship service becomes an end in itself, it ends. What we need is for discipleship to become the goal, and then the process never ends. The process is fluid. It is moving. It is active. It is a living thing. It must continue to go on. Every disciple must make disciples.”― Robby Gallaty

There is the Great Commission that we see clearly in Matthew 28:16-20 and demonstrated in the life of Jesus and his followers. Unfortunately, the American church has tried to modify the Great Commission so that it fits more comfortably into our every day life. Here are a few of the differences I see in the Great Commission in Jesus’s day and the way we try to live out the Great Commission today.

The Great Commission in Jesus’ Day

  • You know that the Great Commission is to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”
  • You know that deep relationships are critical to fulfilling the Great Commission.
  • You know that you must re-prioritize your life.
  • You are experiencing a sense of adventure because you are living on God’s mission.
  • You become deeply known and loved by others.
  • You are primarily thinking about meeting the needs of others.
  • You know that a disciple is someone who is making disciples.

“We reduce discipleship to a canned program, and so many in the church end up sidelined in a spectator mentality that delegates disciple making to pastors and professionals, ministers and missionaries.”― Francis Chan

The Great Commission Today

  • You believe that the Great Commission is to attend worship services.
  • You tend to limit spiritual growth to something that happens to you personally. You fail to realize that genuine spiritual growth will be demonstrated by getting out of your comfort zone and investing in the life of others.
  • You tend to have to have too much dependence on programs (over personal relationships).
  • You don’t experience deep relationships, which means you are not deeply known by others.
  • You do not know the joy that comes from living on God’s mission because other priorities have become too important.
  • You are primarily thinking about getting your needs met.

Simply feeling bad or guilty about not making disciples is not very helpful! HERE is an excellent article that will give you some ideas about how you can begin making disciples. HERE you will find some books that talk about the Great Commission. Another way to move into a life of meaningful discipleship is to talk with someone you know personally who is living it out. Maybe it is your pastor, maybe it is a friend in the church. Ask them if they will come alongside you to help you grow as a disciple who makes disciples.

From Spectators to Disciple Makers

I have mentioned before that I, and our Youth Pastor, are a part of an EFCA Transformational Cohort that is all about discipleship. You can learn more about it HERE. The Cohort meets 3 times in one year with a number of coaching calls along the way. The Discipleship Cohort is basically helping us to develop a strategic plan for how we are to go about making disciples here at New Life Church.

The last words of Jesus Christ make it clear what the mission of the church is, make disciples!

Over the past few weeks I was kicking around the idea of teaching a spiritual gifts class. But I had this nagging thought in the back of my head, “what is the connection between spiritual gifts and our mission which is to make disciples who make disciples”?

One of the challenges we all face in leadership is graciously teaching our people that church is much more than attending a worship service on a Sunday morning. As a follower of Jesus Christ we are called out of our comfort zone and given the task of making disciples. Discipleship is the process whereby we go from being a spectator to becoming a disciple maker. Spiritual gifts are given to the church so that we can build up the church and make disciples of Jesus Christ.

So, at this point I have decided to go ahead and teach a class on spiritual gifts but to show specifically how our spiritual gifts help the church to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28).

Because I have failed to find anything that makes the connection between spiritual gifts and the Great Commission in a meaningful way I am creating my own curriculum. Here is a rough draft. Some of you may be thinking that there will need to be a lot more than a class if you want to develop a flourishing culture of discipleship in the church. I agree! Chime in and share your thoughts!

From Spectators to Disciple Makers

Using Our Spiritual Gifts to Fulfill the Great Commission

“But making disciples is far more than a program. It is the mission of our lives. It defines us. A disciple is a disciple maker.”  -Francis Chan, Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples

Week 1-Jan 21

  • Are We Spectators or Disciple Makers?
    • The American church is in consumer mode
    • The remedy to consumerism in the church is the gospel (Matthew 10:37-39; Matthew 16:24-26)
    • What is the mission of New Life Church? (Matthew 28:16-20)
    • What is the connection between spiritual gifts and making disciples? (1 Corinthians 14:12/Ephesians 4:11-16)

Week 2-Jan 28

  • Exploring Spiritual Gifts
    • What are the spiritual gifts? (Romans 12/Ephesians 4/1 Corinthians 12)
    • What does the EFCA believe about “miraculous gifts”?
    • What is the best way to determine and develop your spiritual gifts?
    • Ten important truths about spiritual gifts

Week 3-Feb 4

  • Investing Your Spiritual Gifts and Steps to Take to Make Disciples
    • Being good stewards of the gifts God has given us (Matthew 25:14-30)
    • Different ways spiritual gifts can be used at New Life and in the world
    • Practical steps to take to begin making disciples
    • Pitfalls to be on guard against as we think about spiritual gifts

Becoming a Disciplemaker

Picture taken from Jrbriggs.com
Picture taken from Jrbriggs.com

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WHERE DO I BEGIN WHEN IT COMES TO BEING A DISCIPLE MAKER?

We have been talking quite a bit about being a disciple and making disciples here at New Life. Few of us would argue against the idea of making disciples because we know that Jesus commanded it in the Great Commission of Matthew 28. But you might have questions. You might wonder what it looks like to begin making disciples. Where do you begin? We can’t expect a train to run as it should unless the tracks have first been put in place. This brief paper is an attempt to put down a track on which discipleship travels throughout our church, the city of Watertown and around the world.

RECOGNIZE THAT THERE IS A DISCIPLESHIP PROBLEM

We have been busy doing church in America but in too many instances that does not mean that we have been good about making disciples.

“Why is it that we see so little disciple making taking place in the church today? Do we really believe that Jesus told His early followers to make disciples but wants the twenty-first-century church to do something different? None of us would claim to believe this, but somehow we have created a church culture where the paid ministers do the “ministry,” and the rest of us show up, put some money in the plate, and leave feeling inspired or “fed.” We have moved so far away from Jesus’s command that many Christians don’t have a frame of reference for what disciple making looks like.” –Francis Chan, “Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples”

RECOGNIZE THAT EACH ONE OF US HAS BEEN CALLED TO MAKE DISCIPLES

The phrase “make disciples” in Matthew 28 is in the imperative which means that Jesus is highlighting the importance of it. The short and sweet of it is this; every Christian is commanded by Jesus Christ to go and make disciples who make disciples. In fact, making disciples is a primary characteristic of someone who claims to know Christ.

BEGIN AT HOME

If you are a parent the place to begin making disciples is in your home. It is easy to think that if we get our kids in Children’s Ministry, Youth Group or a Christian School that we have done our job of developing our kids into disciples. The truth is that we, moms and dads, are the primary disciple makers of our kids.

Here is a great article that will encourage you when it comes to making disciples in your home: “Finding Christ in the Family Room” by Luna Simms.

IN THE CHURCH

The main mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. All of our programs, services, events need to function in such a way that people are becoming more like Christ. The American Evangelical church has become way too dependent on programs when it comes to making disciples. Discipleship (the way that Jesus did it) requires that relationships are developed. So if you don’t feel qualified to run a big ministry or lead a program, relax, you are still qualified to make disciples of Jesus Christ! Here is an excerpt from a wonderful book called “The Trellis and the Vine” that I hope challenges, encourages and inspires you when it comes to the Great Commission.

Imagine a reasonably solid Christian said to you after church one Sunday morning, “Look, I’d like to get more involved here and make a contribution, but I just feel like there’s nothing for me to do. I’m not on the ‘inside’; I don’t get asked to be on committees or lead Bible studies. What can I do?

What would you immediately think or say? Would you start thinking of some event or program about to start that they could help with? Some job that needed doing? Some ministry that they could join or support?

This is how we are accustomed to thinking about the involvement of church members in congregational life-in terms of jobs and roles: usher, Bible study leader, Sunday school teacher, treasurer, elder, musician, song leader, money counter, and so on. The implication of this way of thinking for congregation members is clear: if all the jobs and roles are taken, then there’s really nothing for me to do in this church. I’m reduced to being a passenger. I’ll just wait until I’m asked to ‘do something’. The implication for the pastoral staff is similar: getting people involved and active means finding a job for them to do. In fact, the church growth gurus say that giving someone a job to do within the first six months of their joining a church is vital for them to feel like they belong. However, if the real work of God is people work-the prayerful speaking of his word by one person to another-then the jobs are never all taken. The opportunities for Christians to minister personally to others are limitless.

So you could pause, and reply to your friend, “See that guy sitting over there on his own? That’s Julie’s husband. He’s on the fringe of things here; in fact, I’m not really sure whether he’s crossed the line yet and become a Christian. How about I introduce you to him, and you arrange to have breakfast with him once a fortnight and read the Bible together? Or see that couple over there? They are both fairly recently converted, and really in need of encouragement and mentoring. Why don’t you and your wife have them over, to get to know them, and read and pray together once a month? And if you still have time, and want to contribute some more, start praying for the people on your street, and then invite them all to a barbecue at your place. That’s the first step towards talking with them about the gospel, or inviting them along to something.

Of course, there’s every chance that the person will then say, “But I don’t know how to do those things! I’m not sure I’d know what to say or where to start.”

To which you reply, “Oh that’s okay. Let’s start meeting together and I can train you.”

DOES DISCIPLESHIP ALWAYS NEED TO BE SUPER FORMAL AND STRUCTURED?

Absolutely not. There will be times when God leads you to come alongside someone in the church and meet formally for an extended period of time to teach them the basics of the Christian faith. Yet we also need to see all of our interactions with people as a discipleship opportunity. If we remember that discipleship is helping someone to become more like Jesus Christ then we will recognize that there are discipling opportunities all around us in everyday life. Asking a Jr High student about school and how you can pray for them is discipleship. Encouraging a grieving friend about the loss of a loved one is discipleship. Inviting a new couple over to your house for a meal and getting to know them and their spiritual journey is discipleship. To think more about this read “Everyday Discipleship” by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis.

“The “show Business,” which is so incorporated into our Christian view of work today, has caused us to drift far from our Lord’s conception of discipleship. it is instilled in us to think we have to do exceptional things for God; we do not. We have to be exceptional in ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, surrounded by sordid sinners. That is not learned in 5 minutes.” -Oswald Chambers

ARE THERE SOME GOOD RESOURCES IF I WANT TO DISCIPLE SOMEONE FORMALLY?

  • Reading through a book of the Bible and praying is always a great place to help someone grow in their relationship with Christ. As you read Scripture together all kinds of practical questions will come up and give you the opportunity to share the truth of God’s Word in love.
  • Downlinebuilder.com. It is an online resource that allows you the freedom to pick and choose biblical topics to discuss. It also encourages you to do more than just study but to be intentional about building a solid relationship with the person you are discipling.

OUTSIDE THE CHURCH

When we look at the life of Jesus we recognize immediately that he did not start making disciples with people inside the church. In Matthew 4 Jesus calls his first disciples (Simon Peter and Andrew) as they were catching fish by the Sea of Galilee. These men were not Christians yet Jesus opened up his life and spent a great deal of time with them so that they could learn what it means to be his disciple. We need to be watching for those people that God strategically brings into our life so that we can love, encourage and build relationships with them.

The first step with a person we meet outside the church is not to ask them if they want to “do a Bible study.” The first step is to get to know them. Build a relationship with them. This person is not a project, they are the lost sons and daughters of God.

THE IMPORANCE OF LIFE GROUPS

Community is the greenhouse whereby discipleship flourishes. There are many important things we can do on our own when it comes to helping a person become a disciple of Jesus Christ. Yet, our discipleship of others will never be what God intended if we are not introducing them to the community of Jesus Christ. A Christian who is not in community is in fact an oxymoron (Ephesians 2:19). One of the things we must do is encourage those we are discipling is to get involved in a Life Group so that they can experience the full body of Jesus Christ.

IN CONCLUSON

If we want to see the gospel move beyond our church walls, into the city of Watertown and around the world each one of us must personally own the responsibility for the Great Commission. “The successful expansion of any movement is in direct proportion to its ability to mobilize and involve its total membership in constant propagation of its beliefs, its purposes, and its philosophy.” –R. Kenneth Strachan

ARE THERE OTHER RESOURCES THAT WILL HELP ME GROW AS A DISCIPLE?

The Bible

The Trellis and the Vine by Collin Marshall and Tony Payne

Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

Gospel Centered Discipleship Website (Jonathan Dodson)

Follow Me by David Platt

Real-Life Discipleship by Jim Putman

The Master Plan of Discipleship by Robert Coleman

Add Discipleship To Your New Year

I have written about how challenging it is to make disciples. I have written many other things about how important discipleship is; here, here and here.

make disciplesIn the midst of all the talk about New Year’s resolutions I want to encourage you to prayerfully consider investing your time and energy into the life of another person with the express purpose of helping them to become more like Jesus Christ.

So here is the question. Who has God strategically placed in your life (church, family, neighborhood, workplace) so that you can live out Matthew 28:16-20 and disciple them in the ways of Jesus?

The Discipleship Crisis (REPOST)

The Critical Question

One of the most important questions facing the church today is this; is every believer called by Jesus Christ to make disciples who make disciples?

The Biblical Answer

If there is one passage of Scripture that Christians are familiar with it is the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:16-20.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Just because we are familiar with a particular passage of Scripture does not mean that we fully understand it or obey it.

The phrase “make disciples” is in the imperative which means that Jesus is highlighting the importance of it. The short and sweet of it is this; every Christian is commanded by Jesus Christ to go and make disciples who make disciples. In fact, making disciples is a primary characteristic of someone who claims to know Christ.

Six Reasons We Don’t Make DisciplesChurch pews

“Why is it that we see so little disciple making taking place in the church today? Do we really believe that Jesus told His early followers to make disciples but wants the twenty-first-century church to do something different? None of us would claim to believe this, but somehow we have created a church culture where the paid ministers do the “ministry,” and the rest of us show up, put some money in the plate, and leave feeling inspired or “fed.” We have moved so far away from Jesus’s command that many Christians don’t have a frame of reference for what disciple making looks like.” –Francis Chan, “Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples” 

1-Christian leaders have not been discipled

In my 43 years of being in the church I have experienced the love and encouragement of many people, yet I have never had someone disciple me like we see Jesus doing with his followers. From the conversations I have had with many people I know that I am not alone.

2-Churches are not looking for pastors who make disciples

Churches are overly focused on the show, the performance on Sunday morning. I’ve seen quite a few job descriptions for pastors in my time. I can’t honestly ever remember seeing “we are looking for a Lead Pastor who makes disciples” at the top of the list. Think about that for a moment. Frightening. Why is it that the very thing Jesus commanded each one of us to do so that the gospel would spread throughout the world we fail to make a priority for our leaders?

3-We assumed that the “church” was responsible for making disciples and failed to own the responsibility ourselves

I think there are many people who would agree with the idea that Jesus commanded us to make disciples but they believe it is the “church’s” job and don’t understand that they personally bear the burden and the joy of discipleship themselves.

4-We mistakenly thought we could make disciples through programs and worship services

Many church leaders have been trained to put together worship services and programs. Sunday morning is important and there is a place for programs, but the truth of the matter is that disciples are made in messy, gospel centered relationships. We have attempted to make disciples like Ford makes automobiles; impersonal assembly lines and mass production. Jesus modeled a very different way to create disciples.

5-We have substituted discipleship for accountability partners

There is nothing wrong with having an accountability partner; the issue is that we are not reproducing disciples. Let’s not throw out the idea of accountability, instead let’s add to it the disciple making component.

6-We don’t feel spiritually mature enough to make disciples

One obstacle is that we do not feel qualified to disciple another person. Perhaps we are painfully aware of our own sinfulness or we have not been a Christian for very long. The truth is that we will probably never feel ready. Chances are good that the Holy Spirit is not going to lead you to disciple someone who is more spiritually mature than you are. But what about your colleague at work? The neighbor at your child’s bus stop? There are opportunities all around us if we will open up our spiritual eyes.

Do you see yourself in one of the above six reasons? What other reasons can you think of for why we are not making disciples?

What Does A Church That Makes Disciples Look Like?

What would happen if a church took discipleship seriously? Imagine being done once and for all with the clergy/laity divide which has led some of us to conclude that the “professionals” are the ones responsible for discipleship. Imagine followers of Jesus who take full responsibility for the discipleship of people in and outside the church. Consider the depth of relationships and community that would exist because there is not an unhealthy dependence on programs and worship services to generate discipleship. Imagine a church where each person is reorganizing the priorities of their life with the purpose of investing in others? Imagine the people in our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces that are being loved and led to Christ by ordinary disciples like you and me. Imagine the gospel spreading and people in our city becoming worshippers of Jesus Christ because of our relational investment. This is a glimpse of what would happen to a church that takes discipleship seriously.

The Way Forward

What are some first steps we can take when it comes to making disciples of Jesus Christ? How do we get started? First of all you must realize that the command to make disciples is not a spiritual gift for a few select Christians, it is a command for every Christian. Second, you must be willing to reorganize your life around disciple making relationships. If you are waiting for a time in your life when you are less busy you will find, unfortunately, life does not slow down on its own. We have to make space for things that are important. Third, pray about it. Ask God who he has placed in your life for you to love and invest in. Fourth, make sure you are very intentional about the fact that the end result of your time together is that each of you will go and make other disciples.

-Michael Wallenmeyer

Three Primary Characteristics of a Disciple of Jesus Christ

neighborhood 99

I have deleted the original article (Three Primary Characteristics) because I have spent quite a bit of time on THIS discipleship resource. Trust me, it is much improved! Hope you find it helpful when it comes to making disciples who make disciples!

Interview with Jayne Vanderstelt (Soma Church)

A few years ago my wife and I spent a week at Soma Church in Tacoma, Washington. We went out there to be a part of what they call “Soma School.” Soma School is an opportunity to learn about what it means to be immersed in both the gospel and community while on mission to the city of Tacoma. The week that we were out there had a profound impact on me and my view of ministry.

jaynevanderstelt (1)Jayne Vanderstelt is married to Jeff (Elder and Missional Community Leader at Soma). Jayne was kind enough to answer some of my questions so that I could learn from her and in turn share her responses with you. She has some incredibly insightful things to say in regards to life in a Missional Community, making disciples, and the importance of loving where we live.

Tell us a little about yourself.  I was born and raised in the Northwest, Seattle, and met Jeff when I was 19. He was working as a youth pastor, fresh out of college, a transplant from Michigan. We’ve been married for almost 20 years (March 13) and have 3 kids…Haylee (10), Caleb (8) and Maggie (6). I have a graphic design degree and worked a bit in that before having Haylee when I was 30. I have always loved art and am a visual artist on the side. Most of the work I do is for my kids’ school auction or projects for friends. I took a classical drawing class that I really loved, but mostly do art as a hobby. I haven’t worked outside our home since my oldest daughter was born. I currently volunteer at my kids’ school (mostly on the auction committee and in the classroom), I am a hospice volunteer, have played a very active role in our Soma Kids Ministry, and finally I am meeting with various women in our body in a mentorship role. We host MC at our place and I do DNA with 2 ladies. Our kids are in soccer and Swim team, so those things keep us busy as well. I also like to read, watch movies with Jeff, listen to music and eat and drink yummy food! Haha…oh and now that I am 40, I am learning to like exercise.

There are many people who do not feel deeply connected to the city, suburb, in which they live. Why is our attitude towards the place in which we live so important?  Being connected in a community is a very intentional act. It means I am meeting people and engaging in events that are happening in my city. I am going to the grocery stores and coffee shops, learning people’s names and trying to frequent places that will communicate that I am a faithful and consistent customer (you can easily do this in the city or a suburb). I strongly believe that you need to be loving the people you are living with…and if you struggle with this, to ask God to give you a heart for them. It’s very true that you can either love or despise a people group/culture quite easily. Growing up in Seattle, I was afraid of and even looked down on Tacoma. In fact, had you asked me in my 20’s to move here it would have been a straight up “NO WAY!” But as God called us here and I started to engage with the people, I realized what an amazing place this was. We had lived in Chicago for 6 years prior to moving to Tacoma and a close friend that I had developed there told me once that I was always comparing Seattle to Chicago and she was starting to take it personally. I didn’t realize that my homesickness for the Northwest was starting to affect my ability to really enjoy and engage in the people I was ministering to so I’m sure I was portraying a bit of an arrogant posture, not trying to, but communicating to them that what I was experiencing there wasn’t quite as good as what I had “back home.” How offensive is that??? Well, once I realized this, I started to become very careful with my comments and started focusing on the positives of my new home. I realized that I was encouraging the natives and ministering to them in a way they felt built up and loved. This in turn helped me to get my focus off myself and my selfish desires and put it on others. I then started to really love the people and the culture. This lesson has served me well in every subsequent experience of new surroundings. Bottom line…If God calls you somewhere, HE alone will put a love in your heart for the people.

Many Small Groups have primarily been focused on caring for one another, Bible study and prayer. All great things! Why is being on mission to your city so critical for Missional Community life?  Any time we completely focus on ourselves we miss so much of what God has to do in us and through us while we are living on this earth. God intended for us to not only receive grace, but to give it away. I have so enjoyed being part of other people’s lives in a way that leads me to pray for them and the people they are reaching. Being involved in mission in the city fuel’s our time together at the MC meeting. We all come together and are able to build each other up, bring the Gospel to each other’s situations and relationships, pray for each other and experience joy together when someone has a victory. I think it’s hard for people to understand that caring for each other within the body is only fully realized when it involves caring for people outside the body.

What are a couple things that you love most when it comes to being a part of a MC?  I love seeing people experience family in a new way. I love seeing needs being taken care of. I love it that I have a group of people who are checking in on me when Jeff is away. I love the spiritual dialogue and growth that happens in our lives. Just last week, Jeff was gone and I hosted our MC. I looked around the room and realized that most of the people we were on mission with have come to faith in our community…or are “coming” to faith presently. People’s lives are very precious and the journey God has us all on is very unique to each one of us. This is the beauty of an MC. We are all at different places, but God is at the center of it, uniting us all. Our MC is a community where we are all personally growing and being stretched as well as constantly talking about the people God has put in our lives and how we can pray, watch and join the Lord’s work in their lives.

What are some of the struggles, challenges you have when it comes to sharing life in a MC?  We have been a part of many MC’s over the years and I am learning to recognize a cycle that we go through. We start with a smaller group, learn to trust each other, get to know personalities, work through conflict, find sometimes that we are socially drawn to some more than others, and learn to love and grow…as a family…all the while some leave, new ones join, and others remain “consistently” “inconsistent.” (for lack of a better description:). I can recall one group in particular that I really struggled with at first and I remember praying and asking the LORD why He would put us with these people, I thought there might have been some mistake and entertained the thought that maybe we needed to reaccess this group and assign ourselves people we had better chemistry with. I knew this was wrong and that God had a purpose in choosing us to be together so I devoted myself to praying that God would give me a new heart for these people. Long story short…as I prayed and applied my heart to loving them, God gave me a deep love and understanding into their lives and the very different perspective they were coming from. My love muscle was exercised and grew during that time. I constantly look back on that experience and thank God for it because it taught me the power of God in my life…to change my heart towards another person. Functioning and “surviving” in the MC God has chosen for us will help us learn the discipline of applying ourselves to love…which will in turn, help us in the”real world” be the kind of selfless people that those in the world need to be in a relationship with. To learn how to interact with people in which we don’t see eye to eye on everything is of great value and a vital practice if you are going to reach the world for Jesus…and shouldn’t that start in our MC family!

How do you personally disciple ladies in your MC/church? In a nutshell…it’s not in meetings. I am devoted to prayer, reading God’s Word (where I am learning a ton on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus), living it out,  and I am sharing it with the people in my community. I have found that my life experiences are way more impactful than what I believe and teach. I am in a DNA that meets on Monday nights and I am starting two separate Mentorship groups of women who have contacted me to ask if I would meet with them. I am convinced that one on one mentorship is not nearly as effective as a group situation. But mainly, I am interacting with the ladies by asking them what they are learning and how are they working it out…and sharing with them what God is teaching me and how I’m working it out. If you want a practical example, here is a recent situation…I was helping at a function at my kids’ school and needed some extra hands so the first people I contacted to help, were a handful of the ladies I am mentoring. They were eager to help and it was an amazing testimony to the school who thanked me for providing my own helpers and were encouraged by people outside the school who are willing to give up a Friday night to serve them.

Lastly, I just want to add that prayer is a vital part of all of the above. I encourage intimacy with Jesus and a devotion to learning to listen to the Spirit in everything. Honesty with Jesus and those around you and a humble submission to His will, will open the door of clarity in the area of truly being missional in a way that pleases God. Life on mission is messy, changes frequently, unpredictable, etc… If you are not truly connected to Jesus through it all you will rapidly crash and burn because of your weak choice to burden yourself with a life that is not empowered by the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. As a beloved daughter of God I have functioned in both arenas and will say with great conviction and authority that the Spirit of God is mysterious and unpredictable but simultaneously grounding, comforting and clearly the only one who will leave you with the profoundly supernatural experience of peace, joy, and the undeserved fruit of your labor.

Interview With Seth McBee About Being On Mission, Community And Discipleship

Who is Seth McBee?

Seth McBee is the adopted son of God, husband of one wife and father of three. He’s a graduate of Seattle Pacific University with a finance degree. By trade Seth is an seth mcbeeInvestment Portfolio Manager, serving as president of McBee Advisors, Inc. Today, he’s a preaching elder with Soma Communities in Renton, WA and part of the Executive Team with the GCM Collective. In his down time he likes to CrossFit, cook BBQ, host pancake ebelskiver breakfasts at his home and many other neighborhood events in his hometown of Maple Valley, Washington

Question: What do you do (the strategy) to make sure that people in your church are being discipled do that they can go and disciple others?

My strategy to ensure people are making disciples is pretty simple.   We trust in the work of the Spirit as we live out the implications of the gospel in community as a family of missionary servants.  I am not sure any other way to “make sure” people are being discipled.  You can do trainings, classroom discussions and studies, etc. but that isn’t ensuring anything is actually happening.  You must get the people in community, living out the implications of the good news with the power of the Spirit for this to happen.  We see this is exactly how Jesus did it as well.  We can see him discipling his disciples on the mission field with the broken 80% of the time and the other 20% of the time was just with the disciples.  The interesting thing is that by doing this we get to see the real responses of the discipleship process, meaning, we even as readers 2000 years later, get to see where the disciples need the gospel.  We see Peter saying some pretty stupid things and the apostles failing to heal (Matt 17) and asking Jesus for explanation, (with many other examples) all these happening as real responses from being on the mission field.   So, by living out discipleship on the mission field, you will see where you, your missional community and those that are not yet believers actually need the good news of Jesus in their life.  When you are having a BBQ and a neighbor’s kid spills his fruit juice on your carpet and you yell at him and get angry at the cost of carpet cleaning, it reveals you need to understand who’s carpet it actually is and why you have your home.  You need the good news applied to both your anger and your possessions.  If you have the BBQ with your MC, and you see them as family, they can point these gospel needs to you with confidence you desire correction to make you more like Jesus and under his Lordship in every area of your life.

Not only this, but we encourage everyone to live as normal people with normal lives, but understanding they have an abnormal calling.  Everything we do needs to be transferable to each one of our people instead of discipleship only being able to be done by a select few.  If your discipleship can’t be transferred over to a single mom, a CEO or college student…you are probably not doing what Jesus was doing.  He lived in such a way that was transferable to a wide range of people.  Fisherman, tax collectors, zealots and even crazier…women. (crazy for that day…don’t get mad at me).

The last thing I’ll say about this is to realize that the second people meet someone, they are discipling them to who Jesus is.  Everything you say and do people perceive is what a follower of Jesus does.  When your people see this difference, it opens their eyes to understanding discipleship and how much they are discipling in the every day.  Much more to say on this topic, but we don’t want to belabor that here.

Quick summation: Holy Spirit empowered, Gospel saturated,  in community, on the mission field, transferable, in the every day.

Question: Do you make disciples in a group (Life Group or Missional Community) or do you do it one on one? Or is it a combination of the two? Please explain.

Both, but mostly, like 90%, in community.  There are times to meet up one on one, I get that.  But that cannot be the totality of our discipleship.  There is a reason that God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, God calling out Abram to start a new nation, God calling the people of God the church, a family, a body, a flock.  Because the point of all these are to point people to who God is and what he is like.  God is Trinitarian, therefore, by living and discipling in community, we show off who God is and the fact that he lives in community as Father, Son and Spirit.  If I merely disciple someone one on one, that person will start to look like me, instead of Jesus.  I can call them my disciple, instead of them being Jesus’ disciple.  It would be like going to the gym and merely working out your right bicep.  Sure, that bicep will be huge, but it will not help your whole body’s development.

Again, this doesn’t mean you negate one on one, but you must see the fallacy of that being the way to make a fully formed disciple of Jesus.  Even Jesus rarely met with the disciples one on one…what makes us think we should spend most of our disciple time doing that?  Unless one thinks they are greater than Jesus.

Question: How often should Life Group or Missional Community Leaders meet for training? What curriculum do you use?

How often? Not sure.  This will be different for every community.  We need to be careful from trying to set this up for all people for all time.  Some questions to ask to determine for one’s community would definitely be these:

  1. Where do we see our people needing to be trained in?
  2. How long do our people need to live out the training before we start a new topic to train them in?
  3. Can we gather for training that will not interrupt their normal discipleship lives in an unhealthy way?  If yes, the question then comes, how often should this be to make sure it is not a burden?
  4. Can we use our other gathering times for training? MC meetings, Sunday gatherings, etc.

We use many of the resources found on the GCM Collective.  I am about to embark on this with my MC as I am moving and expecting three MCs being born as I leave.   I will be going through these first: Empowered by the Spirit; Gospel Fluency; How to Create an Environment for Discipleship; The Power and Purpose of the Gospel.

Question: What should we do if there is a lack of Life Group or Missional Community apprentices? Steps to take?

They are there.  Usually people just have too high of expectations for apprentices.  Too high being the apostle Paul would struggle to pass your test.  I think the very first step is to ask the Spirit to reveal them to you.  Remember it is the Spirit’s mission and the Spirit’s power, so he’ll provide the workers.  We must rely on him and him alone for leaders to be not only born, but empowered.  Once he shows who this is, and he will, take extra time with them.  Make sure you are continually living life on life with them and tell them what you see in them.  Tell them you believe they’ll be leading some day and you believe in them because you believe in the power of the Spirit.  If we think every one of our kids are going to be “good enough” to one day lead their own families, we should look at our MC family the same.  Every one of them could lead, doesn’t mean all of them will.  But, just as you treat each of your children differently because of age, maturity,etc. do the same with those in your MC.  Some will be ready for leadership more quickly, so spend more time with them now readying them to multiply, and when they do, look for the next batch by asking the Spirit again.

This all goes back to the first question though.  You have to make sure that you are discipling in ways that are empowered by the Spirit, transferable and in the every day.  If you do this, more people will believe it’s easy to lead an MC.  I am about to leave for Arizona and my MC is freaked out some, but they know that they can do everything that I’ve done, because everything I’ve done is pointing them to the Spirit’s power, easily transferable and very much in the every day.  They’ll miss me because we are family and I have some distinctive gifts, but they won’t miss me because they don’t think they could do the exact same thing with me gone.

Question: What are a few books that you have read lately that have had a big impact on you?

I always get rocked by seeing the life of Jesus and how he lived with the power of the Spirit, in relationship with his Father and discipling in such simple ways.   I have been reading the Bible and focusing on the life of Jesus looking for these things.  Powerful.

Other books that have been killing me, in a good way, are Creating a Missional Culture by JR Woodward and also The Permanent Revolution by Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim.  Both focus on Ephesians 4 with the giftings given to the church: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds and Teachers.   Both these books are revolutionizing my thoughts on the church and I believe is the tip of the iceberg for the church at large.

Question: Is Caesar Kalinowski coming out with a book? If so, tell us why we should be excited about reading it.

The reason you should read it is because Caesar does a great job of showing everything I/we believe about discipleship in the everyday empowered by the Spirit.   Love that guy…he means a ton to me.  Great friend and even better brother.

The book will be coming out next year, stay tuned!

END INTERVIEW

If you want to learn more about Missional Community life go to GCM Collective. There is a GCM movement underway in South Jersey; if you are interested you can contact me (Michael Wallenmeyer).

The Discipleship Crises

The Critical Question

One of the most important questions facing the church today is this; is every believer called by Jesus Christ to make disciples who make disciples?

The Biblical Answer

If there is one passage of Scripture that Christians are familiar with it is the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:16-20.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Just because we are familiar with a particular passage of Scripture does not mean that we fully understand it or obey it.

The phrase “make disciples” is in the imperative which means that Jesus is highlighting the importance of it. The short and sweet of it is this; every Christian is commanded by Jesus Christ to go and make disciples who make disciples. In fact, making disciples is a primary characteristic of someone who claims to know Christ.

Six Reasons We Don’t Make DisciplesChurch pews

“Why is it that we see so little disciple making taking place in the church today? Do we really believe that Jesus told His early followers to make disciples but wants the twenty-first-century church to do something different? None of us would claim to believe this, but somehow we have created a church culture where the paid ministers do the “ministry,” and the rest of us show up, put some money in the plate, and leave feeling inspired or “fed.” We have moved so far away from Jesus’s command that many Christians don’t have a frame of reference for what disciple making looks like.” –Francis Chan, “Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples” 

1-Christian leaders have not been discipled

In my 43 years of being in the church I have experienced the love and encouragement of many people, yet I have never had someone disciple me like we see Jesus doing with his followers. From the conversations I have had with many people I know that I am not alone.

2-Churches are not looking for pastors who make disciples

Churches are overly focused on the show, the performance on Sunday morning. I’ve seen quite a few job descriptions for pastors in my time. I can’t honestly ever remember seeing “we are looking for a Lead Pastor who makes disciples” at the top of the list. Think about that for a moment. Frightening. Why is it that the very thing Jesus commanded each one of us to do so that the gospel would spread throughout the world we fail to make a priority for our leaders?

3-We assumed that the “church” was responsible for making disciples and failed to own the responsibility ourselves

I think there are many people who would agree with the idea that Jesus commanded us to make disciples but they believe it is the “church’s” job and don’t understand that they personally bear the burden and the joy of discipleship themselves.

4-We mistakenly thought we could make disciples through programs and worship services

Many church leaders have been trained to put together worship services and programs. Sunday morning is important and there is a place for programs, but the truth of the matter is that disciples are made in messy, gospel centered relationships. We have attempted to make disciples like Ford makes automobiles; impersonal assembly lines and mass production. Jesus modeled a very different way to create disciples.

5-We have substituted discipleship for accountability partners

There is nothing wrong with having an accountability partner; the issue is that we are not reproducing disciples. Let’s not throw out the idea of accountability, instead let’s add to it the disciple making component.

6-We don’t feel spiritually mature enough to make disciples

One obstacle is that we do not feel qualified to disciple another person. Perhaps we are painfully aware of our own sinfulness or we have not been a Christian for very long. The truth is that we will probably never feel ready. Chances are good that the Holy Spirit is not going to lead you to disciple someone who is more spiritually mature than you are. But what about your colleague at work? The neighbor at your child’s bus stop? There are opportunities all around us if we will open up our spiritual eyes.

Do you see yourself in one of the above six reasons? What other reasons can you think of for why we are not making disciples?

What Does A Church That Makes Disciples Look Like?

What would happen if a church took discipleship seriously? Imagine being done once and for all with the clergy/laity divide which has led some of us to conclude that the “professionals” are the ones responsible for discipleship. Imagine followers of Jesus who take full responsibility for the discipleship of people in and outside the church. Consider the depth of relationships and community that would exist because there is not an unhealthy dependence on programs and worship services to generate discipleship. Imagine a church where each person is reorganizing the priorities of their life with the purpose of investing in others? Imagine the people in our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces that are being loved and led to Christ by ordinary disciples like you and me. Imagine the gospel spreading and people in our city becoming worshippers of Jesus Christ because of our relational investment. This is a glimpse of what would happen to a church that takes discipleship seriously.

The Way Forward

What are some first steps we can take when it comes to making disciples of Jesus Christ? How do we get started? First of all you must realize that the command to make disciples is not a spiritual gift for a few select Christians, it is a command for every Christian. Second, you must be willing to reorganize your life around disciple making relationships. If you are waiting for a time in your life when you are less busy you will find, unfortunately, life does not slow down on its own. We have to make space for things that are important. Third, pray about it. Ask God who he has placed in your life for you to love and invest in. Fourth, make sure you are very intentional about the fact that the end result of your time together is that each of you will go and make other disciples.