In case you didn’t read yesterday’s blog post you’re not aware that I’m in the middle of a three-day interview with Roy and Margaret Fitzwater, Co-Directors of the Church Discipleship Ministry of The Navigators
Roy and Margaret oversee a team of Navigators who are planted around the country whose sole responsibility is to aid churches in the making of disciples. What you’re about read is some of the most important information I’ve seen concerning the church and making disciples.
Check this out…
Rick: Roy and Margaret, one of the things I see as I work with churches is that many of them have their own perspective concerning how to make disciples. What are some basic biblical principles that every church needs to make part of the disciple-making process?
Margaret and Roy: First off, THE GREAT COMMISSION (Matthew 28:19) is not THE GREAT SUGGESTION. Making disciples is a biblical mandate. There is no spiritual gift of disciplemaking. Every follower of Christ is given the mandate and authority to make disciples. Secondly, it is NOT a classroom experience. It has to be life-to-life just like Jesus did and modeled. We see Paul modeling the same thing very clearly when he said, “we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8). Life-to-life discipleship is the perfect marriage of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Living life-to-life comes out of an overflow of our personal relationship with the Lord and into the lives of others. Thirdly, it must be intentionally generational from the very beginning or it won’t be sustainable (2 Timothy 2:2) Many churches settle on short-term fixes or programs that give them fast results but can’t be sustained over time. True culture change (to a culture of discipleship) usually takes 2-5 years to begin to really manifest itself.
Rick: What are you and your team finding out are the main obstacles to becoming a disciple making church?
Margaret and Roy: The main obstacle is perspective. It’s really about churches lacking the biblical conviction of what the church has really been commissioned to do – to be intentional about making disciples. It’s not an overnight process or a quick fix. Jesus spent three years with the Disciples equipping them. The second obstacle is the intentionality. Jesus said you make disciples, I will build my church. (Matthew 28:19 and 16:18) We often get that backwards. We focus on building the church, and hope that Jesus will make disciples. Most churches aren't even making converts let alone disciples, nor do they have a definition of what a disciple is. Without a target it’s hard to identify goals and hit them. Without a pathway or a track to run on, where does a disciplemaker lead their disciple? When we work with churches, much of our time is spent developing this pathway. A third major obstacle is our focus on information vs. transformation. So much value is put on head knowledge. More head knowledge doesn’t significantly change lives. Someone once said, “God doesn’t need smarter sinners.” This informational/classroom paradigm has to change!
Rick: What steps might a church take to overcome those obstacles?
Margaret and Roy: Churches need to create a definition of a disciple and then evaluate every activity in the church through the lens of whether or not is it helping us to make disciples. They have to have a serious commitment to making disciples. It must be the core of the church, and that means mission, vision, values, etc. They need to understand the priority of multiplication over addition. It’s not about today’s convert but individual journeys leading to tomorrow’s deep disciples, with the end result being disciples who make disciples. This has much greater impact in the long run both numerically and from a life-change perspective.
Rick: What is the role of the senior leadership when it comes to working through these steps?
Margaret and Roy: The senior leadership team has to be continuously making disciples themselves. (More is caught than taught.) It must define who they are, be a priority and become their normative behavior. They aren't adding something new, but are being more intentional in their current relationships with the leaders with whom they work. And as we said before, this isn't done to check the box or as a duty, but out of an overflow of our personal relationship with God. Then they must share stories of times with their disciples from the pulpit and in other venues. Making disciples is so fulfilling that the life and passion that comes from this, including leading people to Christ initially, spills over into everything they do, and people can’t help but notice. It is life-giving in itself because God is the source – we just get to be there as a conduit of His love.