Written Assignment 4 –DSM – D13 Discipleship Ministries @ Liberty University by Joyce Gerald, November 21, 2014

 Introduction

The author will present the importance of a healthy church, and how one can determine if a church is healthy. The author will also address the three areas to be addressed to create a healthier body of Christ.  Finally, steps to improve the unhealthy church will be presented as the final argument of the paper.   A spiritually healthy church does not happen by itself it is fostered by a spiritually healthy leader.

A Healthy Church: The Goal for Discipleship

The spiritual health of a congregation defines the success with which discipleship is implemented.  The book of Acts proffers five demonstrative facets of a healthy church.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had a need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47).[1]

 Paul stated that the healthy church becomes one through fellowship, exponentially through discipleship, spiritually stronger through worship, expanded through ministry, and dimensionally larger through evangelism.  The healthy church of Paul’s time operated as “one body” the “very body” of Christ; therefore they are “synonymous”.[2]  Therefore what are the signs of a healthy church and how do these signs impact discipleship?

According to Earley and Dempsey, “Paul points out that the body of Christ is to be built up and that it grows strong by “the proper working of each individual part.”[3]  The authors define “each individual part” working properly as essential the health of the church; “It is an organic system where all the parts work together.” [4]  The authors also stressed the importance of “spiritual gifts” and “each individual part” of the congregation knowing what their gifts are and how they are being used.[5]  The authors expressed that the defining sign of a spiritually healthy church is the extent to which effective discipleship is occurring by the membership.[6]

Scazzero and Bird proposed that a healthy church practiced self, congregational, and leadership reflection to ensure that its emotional and spiritual health is lining up with the will of God for the congregation.[7] Scazzero and Bird declared, “I have seen young
people training to be leaders respond brilliantly and experience significant changes in their lives when exposed to a discipleship model that integrates emotional and spiritual maturity.” [8]  Webber described the methodology of discipleship that occurred within a healthy church,

. . . . we must emphasize the cost of discipleship, the absolute dam of God over our entire lives, and the necessity of a faith that issues forth in obedience. It’s a problem of balance and emphasis. The need is to return to the biblical message and its demands. [9]

He continued by describing how an unhealthy church launches discipleship,

One reason why modern evangelism may be divorced from obedience is due to the purpose of evangelists. Evangelists seek to elicit a response, to get someone to make a decision, to make a commitment to Christ.[10]

 

In order to prevent the previous poor example of unhealthy discipleship from occurring, churches must adhere to what Jim Putman, Harrington, and  Coleman proposed. The healthy church leader must implement “a fundamental shift in [their] thinking — from informing people to equipping them . . . . to [lead lives that are] . . . . transform [ed].”[11] Transformation is the final goal of discipleship (Romans 12:1-2).

The healthy church is succinctly described in a lecture presentation by Rod Dempsey.  Dempsey declared the following evaluative statements,

A healthy leader knows who he or she is and they know their role in the body.  The spiritual leader knows his/her role in the body and helps other people to grow in their relationship with Christ. [A healthy church is led by a] spiritual leader who is a person of influence.  He or she follows God’s will for their lives and influences others to follow God’s plan for their lives as well. [12]   

Finally, a spiritually healthy church is led by spiritual leaders who are healthy and has believers who are healthy, and are actively engaged in discipleship. [13]   A healthy church is immersed in Christ, obedient to him, and carries out The Great Commission.

The Top Three Areas to be Addressed to Create a Healthier Body of Christ

The top three areas of concern in the writer’s congregation are (1) lack of leadership in discipleship, (2) lack of a specific discipleship plan and a (3) lack of relational groups that are functional and healthy. Area one: the pastor of the congregation has an organizational structure that is family and friends based.  New persons entering the congregation are not encouraged to utilize the gifts that God has given them for the betterment of the body.  Discipleship must be demonstrative and fueled by the healthy pastor.  The pastor of this congregation offered a discipleship class to the congregation and announced that only eight people signed up for the class. That was the end of the discussion with reference to discipleship.

Area two: lack of a specific discipleship plan. This church does not have a specific plan for discipleship.  If someone has an idea of something that they want to do the pastor simply tells them to go forward with it. The main community outreach activities are the Easter egg hunt and the fall festival.  There are numerous fundraisers for the rehabilitation program and the outreach to Honduras.  However, there are no small groups or training for small group leaders.  There is no training program for mentorship of leaders who will develop a discipleship program.

Area three: lack of relational groups that are functional and healthy.  The only groups that exist in this congregation are Sunday school classes; there is also a women’s circle of the friends group.  The Sunday school classes are lead by personal friends of the pastor and or the youth leader.  The only functional relational group within the congregation is the youth group.  They are disciplining members of the group and are “multiplying” it.

An announcement was made to the congregation, by the pastor, that visitors to the church have complained that the church was not welcoming.  The pastor told the congregation to go out during the meet and greet time to show the visitors that they are indeed welcoming.   As a new member of this church, this writer has not yet received a visit from the pastor.  When a member is in need of prayer, they must – as directed by the church secretary who is pastor’s wife’s sister – make an appointment to see the pastor at the church.  One day the pastor called out into the congregation to determine if someone, whom the church knew was ill, had been contacted by anyone. That is an indication that he is not taking care of the “sick and infirmed” (Jas. 5:13, 1 Pet 5:20, and 2 Thess. 3:2).

Steps to Improve Spiritual Health

            The initial step that must be taken to improve the health of the church is to improve the health of its leader.  The pastor is the blood flow of the discipleship process of the church.  This leader needs to know his role in the body and return to the work of developing leaders who plant a church as he did in the past.[14]  The church celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary with the current pastor and four men testified of how he trained them to become church planters.   The pastor must become “a spiritual leader of influence” which develops and or trains other persons of influence who understand the importance of discipleship.[15]  The church organization must develop a plan that involves “intentional disciple-making [process] that [focuses on] relationship [s] and a clear-cut strategy to eventually birth a new group [s]. “ [16]  The leader must also develop a process, “where new believers are intentionally and individually nurtured and developed.” [17] Thus, producing a church that becomes a place where the process of “multiplication” is a reality and not a theoretical construct.[18]

Conclusion           

            Healthy churches demonstrate the spiritual disciplines as a living organism.  They do not develop these disciplines by themselves. They require leaders who are spiritually healthy and who invest in leaders who are also spiritually healthy; thus, providing a body that is healthy and prepared to carry out The Great Commission.

Notes

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New

International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998).

[2] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is–: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), Location 3271, Kindle.

[3] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, Loc. 3271, Kindle.

[4] Ibid., Loc. 3302-3

[5] Ibid., Loc. 3271.

[6] Ibid., Loc. 3315.

[7] Peter Scazzero and Warren Bird, The Emotionally Healthy Church: A Strategy for Discipleship That Actually Changes Lives (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 77.

[8] Peter Scazzero and Warren Bird, The Emotionally Healthy Church, 77

[9] Robert Webber, Common Roots The Original Call to an Ancient-Future Faith. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009.), 157.

[10] Robert Webber, Common Roots, 157-158.

[11] Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 98.

[12] Rod Dempsey, “The Connection between Disciple and Leader” (video of  lecture, DSMN 500-D13 LUO, week 6, Liberty University, Fall 2014), accessed November 21, 2014.

[13] Allen England, “Creating a Healthy Church” (reading, DSMN 500-D13 LUO-week 6, Liberty University, fall 2014), accessed November 21, 2014.

[14] Rod Dempsey, “The Connection between Disciple and Leader”.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, Loc. 2570-2571 and 3617, Kindle.

[17] Ibid., Loc. 3673 and 3990.

[18] Ibid., Loc. 3990.

Bibliography

Dempsey, Rod. “The Connection between Disciple and Leader.” Lecture, Video of Lecture, DSMN 500-D13 LUO, Week 6, Liberty University, fall 2014, Accessed November 21, 2014.

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is . . . How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013. Kindle.

England, Allen. “Creating a Healthy Church.”( Reading, DSMN 500-D13 LUO-week 6, Liberty University), Accessed November 21, 2014.

Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman. DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

Scazzero, Peter, and Warren Bird. The Emotionally Healthy Church: A Strategy for Discipleship That Actually Changes Lives. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010.

Webber, Robert. Common Roots The Original Call to an Ancient-Future Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009.

 

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Written Assignment 3 Disciple Making in the Local Church

DSM – D13 Discipleship Ministries @ Liberty University by Joyce Gerald October 21, 2014 

The Role and Importance of the Local Church [Spiritual Gifts]

The process of discipleship is not one that is left to the sole proprietorship of the pastor.  It is the responsibility of the entire body or community of believers. Bonhoeffer presented a convicting explanation of what the community of believers represents.  He begins by explaining that, “Jesus Christ lives here on earth in the form of his body, the church-community.”[1]  Christians are well aware that Jesus told the disciples to follow Him and they would become fishers of men (Matthew 4:19 NIV).[2]  Bonhoeffer continued the discourse, “To be in Christ means to be in the church-community. . . . For Christ truly is and eternally remains the incarnate one and the new humanity truly is his body [of]. . . . . Christian believers filled with [the incarnate] Christ.”[3]  In explaining Ephesians 4: 11– 14, Earley and Dempsey concurred with Bonhoeffer; they declared, “This passage is saying that the church is the same thing as the body of Christ. They are synonymous. In addition, Paul points out that the body of Christ is to be built up [by] “the proper working of each individual part.”[4]

Putman, Harrington and Coleman proposed that the local church has a specific role to play; it involves a methodology that includes sharing, connecting, ministering and disciplining.[5]  The authors purported that when the church works with unsaved people it does so at the “share” level; it knows that they need salvation. . . .they need biblical evidence of the incarnation of Christ, and an invitation to accept Him (John 3:16). [6] In this phase, believers also need an understanding of what it means to be a Christian; they also learn what obedience to Christ means and demonstrates it in daily living.[7]

Connect is the second methodology presented by Putman, Harrington, and Coleman, “Churches can reach out corporately through small groups, community groups, church services, and various ministries.”[8]  The local church reaches out in this manner by obedience to the Lord’s admonishment to congregate, and to carry out The Great Commission.  As the church connects with congregants, it teaches them how to establish relationships with fellow believers (Galatians 5:13). As believers connect with each other, they learn obedience to the commandment to, “Love one another” (John 13:34).  Connection leads to, “Consecration. . . .consecration means that, like Jesus, we help people to obey God’s teachings.”[9]  Coleman extended the concept of consecration by explaining what obedience meant,

Supreme obedience was interpreted to be the expression of love. Jesus said: “If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments. . . . This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I have told you.[10]

The local congregation teaches new disciples how to demonstrate agape love.  The teaching of obedience can come from the pastor, through Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, or discipleship mentors.[11] Obedience to the teachings of the Lord comes only from the knowledge of said teachings (2 Timothy 2:2).

According to Putman, Harrington, and Coleman, the third methodology is “train to minister”.[12]  “Train to minister” is a three-pronged process that begins with demonstrative teaching.  Jesus’ entire ministry, while He was on earth, was a demonstrative one.  He used parables to teach (Mt 13:1-44). The second part of this process involves delegation. The authors stated, “Delegation means we not only encourage people to do ministry in Jesus’ name but also supply opportunities and places for them to do ministry. . . disciple makers need to give people a time and place when and where they can participate in doing something, or they will soon get bored and walk away.”[13]  Jesus delegated “missions’ to his disciples too (Mark 6: 7-13). Paul used delegation too (2 Timothy 2:2).  The authors detailed an accountability process that they referred to as “coaching.”[14] Jesus used the “coaching” process with his disciples (Matthew 17:20; Matthew 16:13-20).

The final stage of disciple-making is “release to be a disciple maker” in other words the disciple is now expected to go out and bear spiritual fruit by discipling others; “Every disciple has the capability and the responsibility to minister to others in God’s name Earley and Dempsey called this stage, “Produce Reproducers.”[15] The disciple who has learned how to share, connect, and train to minister, is now ready to begin the process of carrying out The Great Commission. This statement of the authors clarified the final stage, “The best indicator that someone is mature is not that they are making disciples but that they are making disciples who have gone on to be disciple-makers themselves.”[16]

Part of the process of becoming a disciple and making disciples is recognizing an individual’s spiritual gifts.  Discipleship, within the body of Christ, is a symbiotic process when each member is intentionally utilizing the gifts that God has given them for the equipping of the saints (Ephesians 4:11–13).  Stephen Hong declared, “The mission of the church on earth is not just to preach the gospel but to be the living expression of the gospel.”[17] That example is borne out each week as the local church meets as a body of spirit filled individuals who are obedient to the will of God and produce fruit (Hebrews 10:24-25).[18]  The pastor plays a pivotal role in the vision and mission of a church that is bearing fruit, utilizing the acquired spiritual gifts and growing disciples for the Kingdom of God.

Role of the Pastor

What is the role of the pastor in the local congregation and the discipleship process? Earley and Dempsey described the pastor’s role,

Pastors are to “train” or “equip” the saints, and the saints are to do the “work of ministry.” Barnes’ Notes on the Bible explains that this “training” (katartismon) properly refers to “the restoring of anything to its place.’” This arranging has to do with helping the saints “grow up in every way into Him,” becoming “mature” believers. This involves properly connecting the individual inside the body, just as Christ desires.[19]

Paul tells the Ephesians that Christ gave the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, to prepare His people for ministry so that the body of Christ may become mature in every respect as the mature body of him who is the head. (Ephesians 4:11-16).   The pastor’s job is to share the gospel, teach, train, equip, connect, and prepare the congregation for the process of reproducing disciples.[20]  He delegates to elders, deacons, and other leaders in the congregation.  He operates on an individual basis; he is responsible for the growth and development of each member in the congregation; he must ensure that they are growing, understand what spiritual gifts are, and are maturing in the faith.[21] However in the final analysis, “Christian leadership is the process of influencing individuals to follow God’s plan for their lives and become all they can be for Christ and His mission.”[22] After the pastor, “planted the seed, [Elders and others] water it, but God . . . . makes it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6).

Conclusion

              In concluding, the Joyce Gerald wrote this paper to look at the role of the church in the discipleship process.   The paper also explored the importance of the local church and the use of spiritual gifts.  The research in this paper discussed that local congregations, share, connect, minister and disciple.  The discipleship process ends with disciples producing other disciples.  Secondly, Joyce also addressed the role of the pastor in the discipleship process.  Research indicated that pastors, congregations, and leaders within the body of Christ must demonstrate the deity and incarnation of Christ.  When the demonstration of the incarnate nature of Christ is evident in a believer’s life it leads to obedience to The Law of Love for God, and man as well as equipping the saints for The Great Commission. The limitations of space within this paper could not explore the intensity of this process.  However, a detailed explanation of the process was presented to readers.

Notes

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4, (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 218 and 220.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New

International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998).

[3] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, 216.

[4] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is–: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), Locations 3270-3272, Kindle.

[5] Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert Emerson Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 2013), 153.

[6] Putman, Harrington, and Coleman, DiscipleShift, 155-156

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., 159.

[10] Robert Emerson Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism (Grand Rapids, MI: F.H. Revell, 1993), 55-56. Kindle.

[11] Putman, Harrington, and Coleman, DiscipleShift, 159.

[12] Ibid., 159.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., 160

[15] Ibid., 163 and Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is–: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), Loc. 2114. Kindle.

[16] Putman, Harrington, and Coleman, DiscipleShift, 164.

[17] Stephen A. Hong, “Reversing a Downward Spiral: Strengthening the Church’s Community, Holiness and Unity through Intentional Discipleship.,” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies, no. 1 (January 1, 2012): 125, accessed November 7, 2014, ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

[18] Putman, Harrington, and Coleman, DiscipleShift, 163-165.

[19] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is–: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), Locations 754-760, Kindle.

[20] Ibid., Loc. 3537-3538.

[21] Ibid., Loc. 3377.

[22] Ibid., Loc. 3463.

Bibliography

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003.

Coleman, Robert Emerson. The Master Plan of Evangelism. Grand Rapids, MI: F.H. Revell, 1993. Kindle.

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is–: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville: TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013. Kindle.

Hong, Stephen A. “Reversing a Downward Spiral: Strengthening the Church’s Community, Holiness and Unity through Intentional Discipleship.” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies, no. 1 (January 1, 2012): 89-125. Accessed November 7, 2014. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert Emerson Coleman. DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 2013.

 

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