The mandate of the Body of Christ to make disciples has been established. The Church needs to embody in physical structuring and deeds what is necessary to make this happen. It is obvious we need to do whatever it takes to make that a reality.
Therefore, we must put together a plan – a disciple making plan that embraces that vision with biblical truths that show the values from which give direction for that vision to follow. The structural and existing means to how this is to be done, also known as the vehicles that enable this to get accomplished must be examined. The different player’s views that steer the work as they sense the work of the Holy Spirit need to be defined and understood. And finally, there must be tangible means of measurement to evaluate the effectiveness the work.
God spoke to His people through the prophet Jeremiah. It was during a time where the children of Israel were in exile. God was showing His faithfulness to His people during this time of being without. God shared His heart and how it all relates to having a plan. Jeremiah 29:11 (KJV) says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
God’s plan shows us He has a vision for us, His people. This is a plan for our benefit, future, and to give us hope. The same kind of plan should be what is put together within the church for His people. Scott M. Gibson and Warren Wiersbe write about the importance in what is preached and its relationship to the plan. They underscore the value of God’s Word and the need for us to develop a love for it. For the Word of God is to be the foundation as well as our life-long source that brings believers from infancy to maturity as we present it with love and grace. Each message builds upon the basis of which the plan is established.1 Vision
The senior pastor has written the following as “The Vision Statement” for our church: “That the presence of God be around us, in us, and working through us to win the lost through the love of Jesus Christ. We believe all people matter to God. We want to see people saved, healed, set free, equipped, empowered and serving as disciples, fully becoming devoted followers of Jesus Christ to impact the nations. We believe in the Father, we believe in the resurrection of God’s son and we believe in the Holy Spirit indwelling everyone, making all things new.”
The senior pastor has been in this position for less than one year. My attendance and being a part of the leadership team is barely two months. Since that time, there has been only one formal meeting of the leaders of the church. However, personal conversations and public attitudes by the senior pastor have been expressed which will be how I will be able to answer the questions for this paper.
This church has not had an attendance over twenty-five people in the two months I have been attending. The senior pastor gave each of the four leaders, or what he refers to as Pastors, a list of names of persons (and their phone numbers) that have at one time or another have come to the church and indicated this would be their church home with the assignment to reach out and call these individuals to invite them (back) to being involved with the church and its activities. These individuals are located throughout the greater Tampa area. This encompasses technically two counties and a considerably large amount of area. The senior pastor himself lives over one hour in driving time to the church facility. Another one of the pastors lives at least 30 minutes away. It is unknown about the socio-economic differences of the other pastors.
The neighborhood of which the church is located is classic Central Florida with what appears to be higher middle class at one address and immediately next door, what would appear to be someone under more economic oppressive circumstances. The senior pastor has said he wants the neighborhood to be involved in the church. The church leadership embraces ethnic and social diversity and I believe the senior pastor wants the church population to also reflect this. The Central Florida population has a wide assortment of Cuban, White, Black, Pacific Asian and Asian Indian peoples. There is not a specific area of town that focuses on any one of these cultural groups.
Thus, the integration of all these people is desired for the church’s population. We already have ages in this body ranging from very young children with little to no Christian influences to a widowed wife of a former pastor. There are teenaged young people that have come from time to time. The majority of who has been in regular attendance has been mid-thirties to young fifties. The senior pastor has expressed his desire for these age groups be increased. World missions has been brought up as a desired form of outreach but specifics as to where and how has not been shown or provided for. My own personal work with various countries has been of the attention of the senior pastor but he has not asked about getting involved with this.
Habakkuk 2:2 (KJV) says, “And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” The formal and clear vision for our church has not been provided to me. It is possible it just is something I am not aware of it because of my being with the church for only a short time period. It is hoped that is the case.
Mel Lawrenz writes about the church that may have fragmented from transition of leaders, the plans or lack thereof, and or the philosophies within a church. Two important components for the church’s success are having cohesion and momentum.2 Thus far from what I can observe, this church is working hard to enhance and uphold these factors. I look forward to seeing the plan and its full execution. Values
The church has been alerted to the heart of the pastor to be a church in unity. He knows with the ethnic diversity and having the different pastors and those in leadership roles can seem to portray a wide variety of approaches and ideas in fulfilling the call to make disciples. Nevertheless, he is calling for unity to be not only the heartbeat with the church but also be demonstrated so that those that come once will experience this deeper than just what may be perceived. Psalms 133:1 (KJV) says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Our pastor wants the differences in us each to be the means to which gives us individual and collective access to those that join us in study, in fellowship, and ultimately in worship.
Of course, this is all possible by remembering the importance of God’s peace to heal and overcome any and all preconceived world based issues that could arise. Having such ethnic diversity and living in a culture such as Central Florida, the need to establish a true and lasting bond of peace is critical with our congregation. Paul said it best in Ephesians 4:3 (KJV), “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
The growing together in faith and knowledge of our Lord Jesus in unity is what our church wants, not just for itself, but more importantly for the overall well-being of the membership. Ephesians 4:13 (KJV) says, “Eph 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:”. Walter Kasper writes about the call the church has to be the church of unity. He points out that this is not a result of mere chance or happenstance but by the divine work of God’s Holy Spirit to the lives of the believers and into the life of the church as a whole.3 Views
In the writing of Aubrey Malphurs, the church in first years of the new millennium is not the same church many of us grew up in the mid to late 1900’s. The church is not considered the central point of reference for faith and the expression of that faith.4 Our church is not any different than this assessment. The members all come from different socio-economic backgrounds which results in different interpretations of the people and their respective roles as a part of the work and workers within this specific Body of Christ. The church is seen in probably the narrowest of views in that it is seen to only include those that are under the roof at the current facility. That would extend to literally the people that are there at any given time as well. The senior pastor is clear to point to the other three he has designated as Pastors. He is looking to their contributions in nurturing, teaching, and shepherding the members as a whole and a separate list that he wants each pastor to be associated with.
There is one problem – the people do not know they have been put on these lists. The beginnings of groups is taking place but the groups have not been formalized that people can relate to. The addressing the church body as God’s Saints is met either with casual acceptance and understanding or it is considered too “Christense” which results in losing its effectualness. The Gospel does not have a consistent strand in meaning. The understanding and education as it relates to the first four books of the Bible being the Gospels and the fact we are referring to The Good News is not universally embraced by the congregation as a whole. This makes the work of Evangelism, the sharing of the Gospel both in word and lifestyle witness difficult to unite in as both a purposefully designed poster we are to uphold but also have the church communicate as one voice.
There is not a deliberate discipling program or effort within the church. Although individual responsibility to walk out a life in the manner for which God has made available for us all, the church does not have the groups or education tools for making disciples. Leadership is a widely used and common designation within our church. This is partly due to the fact we have a small population. There is an encouragement to pursue leader responsibilities. Unless you are known to be either not a Christian or a not as mature of one that is preferred for such a role, the opportunities to lead and take charge of things is easier than in larger congregations. This church is committed to one another. They are looking for the manifestation of the goodness of His work in this place. 2 Thessalonians 2:1 & 2 says, “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.” This is very applicable to this body of believers.
Gary L. McIntosh writes about the steps taken to get a church to its next level. In a conversation he has with a colleague, it is pointed out that the church may be in good health but it not in good enough shape to show the true endurance necessary of a church that is going to go the full distance. There is a fine distinction between a church that is growing numerically and a church that is maximizing its potential in discipleship.5 My church is transitioning itself from a mainline denomination church to a fellowship of believers. Exactly what denomination the church is becoming has not been made clear. The senior pastor holds ministry papers with two different organizations. One of the other pastors has his credentials by an unknown to me association. There is one pastor and myself that has ordination with the same board. Recently, there was a state meeting or conference of one of the two ministerial boards that the senior pastor is connected with.
It was announced after the fact that there was an expectation of the membership to participate in this function. Because of members that are related to the senior pastor, they were in attendance and this satisfied his request. He is scheduled to be absent from a soon coming Sunday morning service to be involved in this group’s convention or some type of gathering. So far, there has not been any kind of ritual or conduct that is practiced or expected. We seem to be worshipping as one. Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
There are no small groups – yet. Nothing has been formally announced but I could see how the senior pastor has laid groundwork in and through the appointing of three others to positions that could be small group leaders. The leaders live in geographically different areas which will benefit the area of influence we have. Unfortunately, the church does not come together for study in God’s Word other than Sunday morning service. Sunday School and Thursday night Bible Study is not bringing everyone in as desired. It was just announced some events that the senior pastor wants church wide participation in. These announcements have been made orally, not in print. The events are being coordinated by one of the other pastor’s wife. She has announced she will get members to contribute in these meetings.
A “Fall Festival” was held last year (so I am told) as an evangelistic outreach. The senior pastor has announced that that will not be repeated but instead a Summer “Vacation Bible School” will be conducted just prior to the beginning of the public school year. The curriculum has not been disclosed. Workers have not been selected and it is not known what kind of preparations will be necessary for those that are involved with this.
The use of social media, specifically Facebook has been said to be a means of communicating both to the current members of the church but also to encourage those seeking a place for worship. The church’s website does not seem to have updates or is kept current on the affairs of the church.
Daniel Collison and Rochelle Nielsen Barsuhn give warnings of how the church of today has left the model of self-denial and looks to self-gratification instead. The value of the relationships Jesus formed and has called us to copy has potentially become minimized or even eliminated from the church’s structure. We need to never forget the importance in the following through of building with one another and the faith that is found in this.6 Verifiers
There has not been any indication that there will be any specific tools to measure the growth or effectiveness of an outreach or program. The senior pastor has not made any reference to any means other than visual perception as to if the church has increased or decreased in membership and its grasp on Christian doctrine. A database has been created but who and what information it contains is not known.
For measuring the church’s growth both numerically and in various areas of concern (i.e., Christian education, spiritual gifts in operation and various forms of involvement in service to the church and in evangelism), I would start with identifying the people that showed strengths and or willingness to learn in such areas. It would be important to understand what previous experience they may have. Attendance in classes and their participation in the various forms of outreach would be able to be monitored. Their performance would be evaluated to see what their giftings are in. Jesus said in Matthew 7:20, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
Thus far, we have not had visitors or new converts. The existing church body does not respond to calls to commitment. Currently, there is not a church wide program that incorporates members in evangelistic outreach. There are individual efforts but not under the direction of the senior pastor.
There are sources found on the Internet such as www.leadershiptransformations.org that work with churches and the strengths they already have to grow into stronger and better churches. As pointed out in our text book “Disciple Making is…”, concentrating on leading individuals to the Lord and assisting the maturing in their life with God is what we are to be all about. Then, we can deploy them to replicate this process.7 There needs to be a deliberate effort by the church members to bring people into the church in order to hear the Gospel and ultimately receive salvation.
If each member were asked to bring one person with them once a month, the church population would double. In order to keep these new members, classes would need to be formed to educate in ways of Christianity. Additional classes would need to be formed to further the disciple making process. From these classes, it would be hoped that ten percent of those attending would carry on the disciple making process. From those people, various forms of leaders and Christian workers (missionaries, teachers, pastors and etc.) would be set apart for such works.
This church has been primarily an extended family but has begun to evolve into a multi-ethnic congregation and diverse socio-economic backgrounds due in part to the merging of two of the associate pastors. The senior pastor has been encouraging members to reach out to church dinners and a church wide rummage sale. With the expected growth in people attending and becoming part of the Body of Christ, we need to put in place the disciple making process for both the current membership and those that will be coming.
Act 14:22, “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”
Collison, Daniel, and Rochelle Nielsen Barsuhn. Church in Translation: Vibrant Christianity in Your Time and Place. N.p.: Abingdon Press, 2010. Accessed March 1, 2015. .com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/lib/liberty/reader.action?docID=10432028&ppg=82.
Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is… How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2013.
Gibson, Scott M., and Warren Wiersbe. Preaching with a Plan: Sermon Strategies for Growing Mature Believers. N.p.: Baker Books, 2012. Accessed March 1, 2015. .liberty.edu:2048/lib/liberty/reader.action?docID=10722483&ppg=116.
Kasper, Walter. That They May All Be One: The Call to Unity. N.p.: London : Burns & Oates., 2004. Accessed March 1, 2015.
/ebookviewer/ebook/bmxlYmtfXzI0Mjk2NV9fQU41?sid=fb0c38e1-4143-479f-874c- [email protected]&vid=2&format=EB&ppid=pp_170.
Lawrenz, Mel. Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to Engagement. N.p.: Jossey-Bass, 2009. Accessed March 1, 2015.?
Malphurs, Aubrey New Kind of Church: Understanding Models of Ministry for the 21st Century. N.p.: Baker Books, 2007. Accessed March 1, 2015.
McIntosh, Gary L., Taking Your Church to the Next Level: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There (n.p.: Baker Books, 2009), 196-97, accessed March 1, 2015, liberty.edu:2048/lib/liberty/reader.action?docID=10745538&ppg=88.