Fruitful Discipleship - by Cole Daum
In the beginning of April, New Life Church started our Discipleship Training Classes. We had hoped more people would take advantage of these training classes, but were pleased with the number that did attend. The first lesson that we looked at together was the lesson on Discipleship. We learned that the church should be focused on individual discipleship which helps each person mature so they can be equiped to make other disciples.
The church is the body of Christ, who is the head (Eph. 4:15-16). The body grows and is built up “when each part is working properly” (Eph. 4:16b). It seems that focusing on “each part” is the biblical way for arriving at a healthy church. The challenge is, how then, does the church focus on “each part”? In their book “Discipleshift - Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples”, Putman and Harrington explain:
“Jesus not only told us to make disciples but also gave us a model to follow in doing so. I believe that most Christians have divorced the teachings of Jesus from the methods of Jesus, and yet they expect the results of Jesus. I believe his methods are just as divine as his teachings. He showed us that the fundamental methodology in making disciples is relationships grounded in truth and love. Jesus is the greatest disciple maker in history, and his way works. Discipleship is the emphasis. Relationships are the method. Jesus invited people into relationship with himself; he loved them and in the process showed them how to follow God. His primary method was life-on-life.”
The emphasis and culture we are trying to create at New Life Church is life-on-life discipleship so that “each part” is maturing and contributing to the overall health of the church. Focusing on the “micro” takes care of the “macro.”
The question then is, how can any pastor, including Pastor Gareth focus on each individual? The scripture tells us in Ephesians 4:11, that the role of the pastor is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry.” It’s not just the pastor who is responsible to make disciples; it’s every member of the church. The saints do the work of ministry that the leadership has equipped them to do! Putman and Harrington describe the role of pastors when they say, “It involves releasing the ministry and gifts of all believers. It’s about creating a place where everybody learns to be a minister by growing, serving, and making disciples themselves.” Klyne Snodgrass in the NIV Application Commentary on Ephesians, agrees, “Ministry is the only profession that retains nothing to itself, gives away all its knowledge free, and invites those served to do the same work.” Using the metaphor of a sports team, the pastor should be less like the star athlete and more like the empowering coach.
The role of the saints is then to receive training and put that training to use in the ministry. Ephesians 4:11-16 includes several words or phrases which communicate a process: “equip”, “building up”, “until we all attain” and “no longer be children” are all describing a progression. This is the process of discipleship which everyone in the church should be involved in so that “each part” is advancing toward a mature disciple who will make other disciples. The saints are to engage in the training which prepares them for ministry and then actually engage in ministry. There is no designation in the church for spectators or those who are in a perpetual state of learning deeper things when there has been no application of the first things learned.
As the leadership of New Life Church, we do not want to be guilty of creating an environment in which a person can be comfortable in a dormant state where increased learning does not result in increased service. Jesus told us the best way to glorify His Father, is by bearing fruit and so prove to be His disciples (John 15:8). Our hope and prayer is that every member of New Life Church would not only agree, but commit themselves to making disciples based on relationships grounded in truth and love, following the example Jesus set before us, for His glory and our spiritual health and joy.
 Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013), 33.
 Ibid., 114.
 Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 224.