mission

How to Develop a Strategic Approach to Discipleship

  • 31 October 2017
  • Randy Wollf

In my experience as a pastor and in my interactions with other church leaders, I know that churches sometimes struggle with how to make disciples most effectively. Approaches that worked well in the past may not be as effective today. 

In this blog, we will look at a holistic process for making disciples that involves churches growing in 11 key areas. This strategic pathway of discipleship attempts to integrate a biblical understanding of discipleship with an understanding of contemporary culture. Obviously, some elements may be more important in a particular context while other elements not included in this list may need to be considered.

1. Prayer Saturation 

Prayer permeates disciple-making churches. How can we grow a culture of prayer—a culture in which God delights to work deeply in peoples' lives? Here are nine suggestions I have for how churches can grow in prayer

2. Loving Christ-Centred Community 

Discipleship occurs best in deep communities where people lovingly practice life-on-life discipleship. What can leaders do to develop this kind of intimacy? I believe leaders need to create opportunities for people to develop and grow disciple-making relationships and then model how this is done. Here are 8 characteristics the flow from a Christ-centred community.  

3. Growth Orientation 

When everything in the church is geared toward helping people take next steps, growth becomes normative and expected. Discipleship can flourish in this kind of growth-oriented environment (click here to read how leaders can foster a growth mindset).  

Choosing to Quit: When Ministry Impedes Ministry

  • 19 October 2017
  • Keith Reed

PruneI was raised to never give up. A drawing was fixed to my family's refrigerator door that I still remember. A heron is being choked by a mostly-swallowed frog that's gripping its predator’s neck in a desperate act of survival. The caption? Never give up.

We love inspiring images like this. Every story worth telling involves a degree of adversity and the best stories tell us how a hero overcomes extreme odds to achieve something extraordinary. Terry Fox. Captain Sully. The Hickory Hoosiers. 

We feel inspired by these stories and the slogans that fuel them. An entire brand was launched on the premise of these axioms (No Fear). The most beloved team of my childhood was defined by a three-word rallying cry that still gives me goosebumps: refuse to lose.  

Vince Lombardi once said that winners never quit and quitters never win. An inspiring quote fit for any locker room, but in most other settings it's a statement that's misleading and inaccurate. You see, the best winners know exactly when to quit.

To be fair, we must understand how to correctly define winning and losing. The best coaches and players understand the importance of "making adjustments". This is the positive way of saying they recognize what isn't working and choose to do something different. Stated differently, they choose to quit so they can win.

But what coach would actually say that? Quitting is associated with such negativity that it's typically equated to the willful acceptance of failure—a behaviour quickly linked to shame and embarrassment. Little consideration is given to the positive results of surrendering harmful practices or to the healthy consequences of giving something up after careful consideration.

In his book called Necessary Endings, Dr. Henry Cloud uses the word "ending" to describe the calculated decision to give up something up for the sake of a new direction. He uses a pruning metaphor to illustrate the positive effects of proactive termination. A skilled gardener intentionally removes branches that fall into any of three categories because this will produce the desired results: 

Discipleship on Mission for Mission

  • 10 October 2017
  • MinistryLift blogger

Josh* just graduated high school, is part of minority people-group, and lives in a not-so-desirable neighbourhood in a mid-size city. He comes from a broken and blended family with not much financial wiggle-room. His claim-to-fame is playing second-string on a two-time defending championship football team. His church is not overtly "cool" and he only started participating in middle school because his parents forced him. How do you disciple Josh?

Josh was invited by his youth leader to join her on a short-term MB Mission team. He was willing, but the obstacles were not insignificant: few guys were going, he didn’t have not enough money, he was the only racial minority participant, and he’d never even been on an airplane before. It was a miracle he even participated.

The money unexpectedly came in the week after he gave up trying and had quietly committed his needs to God in prayer. With the door now open he stepped through. He struggled through team training as the only guy, thought he was going crazy when his ears plugged on the airplane, and endured weeks of reaching out to children in a strange culture which was his least wanted ministry option.  

I met Josh while his team was debriefing its survival of four weeks "over there." He was a little shell-shocked, but as he unpacked the experience and considered where he had met Jesus, he began to see his own context differently. A new man began to emerge. He still referred to his football heroics, but he was no longer reflecting on just the game, but on the needs of his peers—young men like him. He was already beginning to think of guys he could invite next year. Listening to the Holy Spirit, dwelling in the Scriptures, and being attentive to the voices of a disciple-making community were producing a noticeable transformation. Josh was not just learning about Jesus; he was becoming more and more like Him.  

A celebration night capped off his team's debriefing days. Josh nervously paced at the back of the room dreading his turn to address the crowd. When his name was called, however, the gentle giant spoke with confidence, described the transforming power of the love of his team, and the kids he "hated" working with. And he gave voice to a heart responsive to whatever call God had on his life. Which, as was abundantly clear, would lead to a much greater life story than being a two-time defending football champion.

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