Building relational equity in order to create discipleship opportunities.
Discipleship for every believer is like a two edged sword. One edge is the process by which the believer ceases to be conformed to the influences of the world, but rather is transformed by the renewing of their mind (Romans 12:2). The second edge is where the believer, by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), answers the call to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19, NIV). “God calls us to exercise reason that acknowledges the organic connection between our pursuit of God and our pursuit of those he loves, those who are most vulnerable. To miss this in thought and action is to miss God.” Therefore, if believers are to be true to their faith, then God’s mission will be their passion. This is the very heart of discipleship and the very essence of what it means to be a Christian.
However, over the last 20 years I have observed the Church mistakenly having the impression that it’s objective was to get the unchurched in its buildings, have them experience emotionally moving worship, and show them the love of Christ. Although those are great accomplishments for any church, where do we see those mandated by God? Isn’t the job of every believer to worship as a way of life and thus demonstrate the love of Christ by what we say and do? I am not by any means advocating that we close the doors of our churches. I’m simply stirring our thought process about the role of the church – to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ (the church) may be built up…attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13), and the responsibility of every believer “to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19).
We the church must realize that our mission is not just “that I (we) may know Him (Christ) and the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:10, parenthesis mine), but that we also must make him known to everyone, everywhere through the process of multiplication that is accomplished in discipleship.
As the Associate Connection Pastor, my job is to help narrow the focus of our primary church object, which is to connect people to God and connect people to others. We narrow this focus by promoting and recruiting adults to participate in our Connection Point which will then encourage them to take the right next step through either volunteering, local missions or small groups (or a combination of the three).
The primary purpose for those processes is however, to build relational equity in order to provide discipleship opportunities. Although our target audience and demographic is broad (adults of all ages, stages, race, and socio-economic status), there are some differentiating vehicles that will be discussed later.
The vision then for our ministry is best articulated by the words of Paul, “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). Our vision is to accept and include the people that God allows us the opportunity to influence and help them come to a place of spiritual maturity. This process as described by Paul can then be broken into two parts: admonish, and teach.
Paul was describing his own ministry to the churches (in particular here, Colossae) when he penned this verse. His use of the word “proclaim” was describing his public speaking and preaching. His first descriptive word is “admonishing,” which means to give a warning or “to advise someone concerning the dangerous consequences of some happening or action.” Jamieson, Fausset and Brown indicate that this warning “is connected with repentance, refers to one’s conduct, and is addressed primarily to the heart.” Discipleship at times requires us to confront an individual to reveal blind spots or even blatant and willful sin in order to altar ones attitudes and actions. Melick describes it as the “calling to mind a correct course of action. It encourages people to get on with what they know to do.” What father wouldn’t warn his child about putting their hand too close to an open flame? Realize that Paul was a spiritual father to the churches that he planted and his challenge to us is that we should feel that same inclination toward those whom God entrusts to our care.
The second term he uses is “teaching.” As the former warning is directed to the heart, so now the teaching is directed to the mind or intellect. This teaching is the instructing or educating in the truths and principles of the Word of God. This coincides with “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20) as Jesus stated in the Great Commission. Obedience is a by-product of the heart and the head working in tandem to fulfill an obligation. As Melick points out, “Teaching is the orderly presentation of Christian truth for converts so that they may know how to grow.” If we are not teaching them to obey then we are failing as a church and as disciple-makers. “Therefore, we cannot say that we are fulfilling the Great Commission until we are teaching our disciples to “observe everything Jesus commanded.”
With this vision in mind, “to present everyone fully mature in Christ,” we structure our systems away from activities and events. We focus on relationships and invest our time and resources in people rather than programs. It’s for this very reason that we can maintain a growing congregation of over eight thousand with a pastoral staff of only ten and a support staff of forty.
Read the next in this series of articles called Discipleship Values.
 Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New International Version (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing, 1984).
 Kelly M. Kapic, A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012), 88.
 Louw Johannes, and Eugene Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, vol 1 (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 436.
 Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 2 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 375.
 Richard Melick, The New American Commentary: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, vol. 32, (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 242.
 Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, 375.
 Melick, 242.
 Rod Dempsey and David Earley, Disciple Making Is (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2013), ch 5.