1. Making little “Jesuses”
Christian discipleship is basically a growing adherence to Jesus (v1-6; 13-16). As a disciple of Christ, a person strives to become more like him, to become a "little Jesus." During his earthly life, Jesus himself worked to embed his life and gospel within the lives of his disciples, and if he had not accomplished this task, there would be no Christianity today.
Clearly, discipleship is crucial to the survival and transmission of the faith. As Christians seek to embody Jesus’ teachings, we will also seek to transmit those teachings into the lives of others. Jesus’ followers all should strive to be like him, for this is what it means to be his disciple.
No disciples, no mission. Some disciples, some mission; but lots of disciples create a real basis on which local churches can both generate and develop.
As followers of Jesus, we have to recover the lost art of disciple making — not so that we can reproduce ourselves or forward our agendas, but so that we can become like the One we love and follow.
If we fail in being and making "little Jesuses," we will fail elsewhere.
2. Growing into Christian maturity
We live in a culture that is profoundly good at discipling people in the predominant religion of our day — consumerism.
Because we come to church as experienced consumers, appealing to people as consumers (as is so common today in many church practices) actually works against Christian conversion and discipleship.
Discipleship is about clinging to Christ. And it will therefore also mean removing all other competing claims to our loyalty and allegiance. Consumerism as a search for meaning, identity, purpose, and belonging is idolatry, and it is killing us (from within).
The Kingdom extends not through some sort of Disneyland appeal, but face to face, one person at a time, through appeal to Christ. Any other appeal will have disastrous results.
3. How do we co-operate with the Spirit to achieve this?
Discipleship lays the right foundation for leadership in the church. In fact, it ought to be the only basis for leadership in the Way of Jesus. Leadership is directly proportional to discipleship: if we have bad leadership in the church, it is most likely because we don’t take seriously the foundational Christlikeness required in all those who follow the Lord.
We have yet to escape the ecclesiological imperialism that was birthed and nurtured in the Constantinian idea of church. We must liberate the church from its current captivity to an overly institutional imagination. What we have are inflexible, backward looking, basically fearful and defensive forms of church.
What we need are missionally responsive, culturally adaptive, organisationally agile leadership. Such leadership mobilise the whole people of God to be reproducing and reproducible, to be structurally networked (and thus avoid centralisation of power and function). We need five fold ministry.
a) Leadership mobilises the whole people of God. (v12)
The real revolution comes when all the people of God get to embrace their God-given destiny as active agents of the King. Surely one of the most potent doctrines in the New Testament is the priesthood of all believers, yet we have seldom lived it out.
We “clergy” can be control freaks. We need to recognise that Jesus is well able to lead his people and that he does . Much more is tied in with this dispensability of church professionals than we realise. The statement of an underground Chinese movement, "every believer a church planter, every church a church planting church," sums it. Hirsch calls this the Apostolic Genius (the life-force of Jesus movements). It proves that the possibility of spontaneous expansion is written into the very genetic coding of the church itself.
b) Churches require leadership, but they do not require the presence of a professional or elite ministry class.
"Professional" clergy class slow things down by disempowering the people from their own priestly and God-given functions. Somewhere in the seventies, evangelical churches started recognising the centrality of the gifts of the Holy Spirit as God’s way of empowering local congregations. Everyone has been given a gift by God. The body of Christ works through all the gifts not just a few (1 Cor 12). It is essential therefore for the functioning of “the body” that the gifts be empowered and not centralised in a clergy staff.
1 Cor 12:7-11: Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 1 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
Somewhere in the 80’s, this process began to funnel people’s participation in church to Sunday morning or other programs at the local church building. If you had the gift of service, serve in the children’s ministries, the gift of faith, then counsel people after church in the counselling ministry, you’ve got the gift of singing, be on the worship team, etc etc. It turned 1 Corinthians 12 into a new form of church volunteerism to staff massive church programs.
There are three dangers:
a) Seeking one’s own self-interest always undermines Christ’s work in us.
b) People see church as what happens on Sunday morning or around the building during the week.
c) The gifts were shaped away from an organic everyday living out of one’s gifting in a local body to a programmed time for service.
I’m for sticking wrench into all this machinery and grinding it to a halt. Let’s stop organising the gifts around the Sunday morning and other church programmes.
I am convinced the gift matrixes of the NT are about the functioning of the gifts in the local community. Every community needs to locate its apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, pastors as a first step to unleashing all the gifts. But it begins by locating the apostles (first the apostles 1 Cor 12 )
Here are three suggestions toward this end:
a) Our gatherings are the place to model leadership and gifting so that it can flourish within the whole body’s gifts and activities in their whole lives.
b) Demonstrate how all these gifts work to minister the extension of Christ’s presence in the community.
c) Seek first to locate the apostles in each neighbourhood and mobilise them.
To become missional, church leadership must be at least fivefold in form: apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral, and theological (Eph. 4:7ff).
The root word missio is the Latin equivalent for the Greek word apostello. We find it hard even to put the word on our lips because we have delegitimised the apostolic, prophetic, and evangelistic ministries and are left with only a two-fold form.
For far too long our orders of ministry have been limited to those of pastor and theologian. But these are maintenance forms of ministry and are ill suited to mission.
We must broaden our understanding of ministry and leadership to include at least a fivefold form.
We must feel this sentness (going out) at the very heart of what it means to be God’s people. But we must also allow the way that God engages the world to inform our imaginations and practice. We must allow our imaginations to be shaped by the Incarnation.