One of the things that troubles me most about ministry talk in the church is how often we elevate monetary and physical resources above human ones and how this juxtaposition of values can undermine our ultimate mission. It seems to me that Church history would indicate that some of our healthiest seasons have been when saving grace, Christian character, and the sustenance and guidance of the Holy Spirit were the only commodities we could count on.
This seems to also be the case in our current situation where some of the most sustained growth is happening in places where resources are at a bare minimum. Conversely, the health of the Church in the West is slowly diminishing in spite of the fact that we hold the vast majority of the world’s resources.
All this begs the question: What are the Church’s most important resources? Here are some of my thoughts about the importance of discipleship in the church over against our dominant “resource paradigm”.
- The Church forms its identity around Jesus Christ. Through Christ we have been saved from the present reality of evil, sin and death and welcomed to participate in and experience first hand God’s new reality of restoration. The Church is Christ’s partner in this mission of restoring all of creation and bringing it back to a renewed relationship with God the Father. We are sustained and led in this mission by the Holy Spirit.
- In living out this mission, the Church’s most important resources are local communities of believers who are committed to living out God’s grace in ministry to one another and to the people around them.
- The local congregation’s most important resources are individual believers who are committed to growing continually toward spiritual maturity, effectiveness in ministry, and unity in the local and global body of Christ.
- Redeemed human communities are God’s most effective resource for accomplishing His will on earth. All other resources (material, structures, knowledge, etc.) a church can receive and manage must be viewed as useful and important only insofar as they support the development of this human reality.
- The development of local believers (discipleship) is a process that lasts as long as the life of the believer. This constant effort of development is the chief tool the local church holds for accomplishing God’s will in their community.
- Discipleship takes many different forms and these may vary between communities and cultures.
- Despite the fact that discipleship is the Church’s most important strategic investment, it frequently receives the fewest secondary resources and attention (compared to other local church concerns) because it is a long-term process whose results may often be un-quantifiable for several generations.
- If the Church does not learn to effectively disciple its believers, it will cease to be effective on the scale it has been called to be effective: complete evangelism and discipleship of all the earth.
Discipleship is worth the investment!