Lance Ford recently put out an e-book called “With Me: Relational Essentials for a Discipleship Ethos”. The book is short. The book is free. The book is excellent. You can get this book from the Exponential site in pdf, Kindle, or e-pub all for free by clicking the above link. Lance breaks the move toward discipleship down into three chapters:
- What’s missing here?
- The Jesus’ Plan
- Discipleship Communities
What is missing here?
Mark makes the case that most churches struggle to even know how to make disciples. They struggle to know how because they haven’t ever seen it done or experienced it personally. If you ask someone “Who helped disciple you?” you will probably get met with blank looks in many churches. We do a better job of planning the corporate worship assembly than we do actually discipling people. By discipling people Lance means we need more mature Christians to invite young Christians to “follow with me”. Instead, he says we have focused on teaching our leaders and ministers to run a church rather than make disciples. The fix is relational rather than learning more administration. It is not that we don’t need systems. Lance says systems are important but often we got so bogged down in administering systems and “doing church” that we don’t connect relationally with the people around us.
Another thing that distracts us is an unhealthy desire for great leaders who don’t first know how to be great followers. The reason we miss that step is because leadership training is not usually done in the context of one person leading another in a mentoring fashion. Instead, leadership training is done by teaching people leadership principles that they don’t have the experience to really grow into as fast as they are being taught (that’s my point, not his).
Here is a quote that you need to store away somewhere,
“It is entirely possible to preach beyond your own character and Christlikeness, but it is an impossibility to disciple another person past the level of your own character. The pulpit and the lofty position it so often implies can be a safe haven for surly souls. Leaders can be whoever they want to be from the positions of hierarchy. But when we take the mantle of the servant and join the everyday people on the dusty trails of day-today life, our true selves can’t help but to come forward. The plea here is this: Be followable. Do everyone else a favor and don’t develop people like yourself if you are not like Christ—regardless of your leadership level.”
Wow. I think ever single minister and church leader needs to hear that and I must say that I am the first person who needs to hear that on a regular basis. I would love to hear what you all think about that quote.
The Jesus Plan
Lance’s main point here is that Jesus had a plan to disciple his young followers and that we would do well to imitate Christ in how we do the same. Here is another great quote that is worthy of meditating on and tucking away some place where you can find it later,
“Jesus’ plan was to actually let a handful of folks share His life. He didn’t live just the life of a preacher. He didn’t spend 20 to 30 hours a week crafting a sermon and sketching out a church service without leaving margin for others to share life with him. Our Lord spent the majority of His time with others, sharing his life with them. Jesus had a distinct plan to bring others into the actual living of His life. He gave access to a few people so that he could rub off on them. Jesus’ strategy was to invite followers to get their hands dirty with the actual doing of the stuff of serving others. This entailed fieldwork more than class work. Jesus pushed His disciples into situations that stretched them and exposed their weaknesses of faith, perseverance and character. Sure, He taught them in the classroom as well, but He trained them on the job.”
What would our ministry look like if we did that? What would change? I asked these and some similar questions in a post a few weeks ago. One book that goes into more detail on Jesus’ model for making disciples and reaching the world is Coleman’s classic work, The Master Plan of Evangelism. I just ordered 30 copies of that a few weeks ago and gave them out to some of our people who are reaching out to non-Christians. Coleman goes through the ministry of Jesus and talks about his methods of training his disciples to make more disciples [HT: Frank Viola on Coleman’s book]. He gives some criteria of what makes a good discipler and lays out what the discipling relationship should look like.
In the last chapter, Lance lays out what a discipleship community can look like. It is not one more program in the church. It is about intentionally fostering relationships that are mutual, accountable, and non-hierarchical. He talks about our need for intentional fellowship and spiritual development and how to meet that need in biblical and effective ways. I am not going to give you all the details here. For more specifics click here to download the book. If you read the book, feel free to use the comments to discuss it.
HT: Eric Brown for pointing this book out to me last week!