Exposed by the Mission

Yes, we can pretend to have it all together while sitting in a pew on Sunday or while impressing one another with our knowledge of Scripture. But mission exposes our inadequacies and need for grace.

If you are in a small Bible study group, one of the best things you could do is move the study out into the neighborhood. When you read a command in Scripture, ask, “How are we going to obey this command together on mission?” In other words, ask yourselves what this passage says you should do together (life in community) and how you might do it in the middle of a mission held together (life on mission).

Doing this will bring up all sorts of opportunities for discipleship: excuses will be expressed, fears acknowledged, lack of confidence or courage realized, and inadequacies verbalized. Then you’ll be getting somewhere in terms of people’s discipleship.

In this process, you will discover the truth about everyone’s present state. When you actually get out of the comfort of your Christian community and onto the streets of mission (in your neighborhood, at a café, in the park, or at a local high school), you will discover together where everyone still needs to be discipled. The junk will come out, and then you will be able to disciple one another in the everyday stuff of life.

I was surprised by this on my first mission trip, but after a few of them, I knew it was coming. Soon, a part of me began to hate taking mission trips because I knew things would get bad—we would fall apart and we would be seen as needy.

Yet that was why I continued to lead them. Such brokenness has to happen if real discipleship is going to take place.

Sometimes I wonder if this exposure is why Christians avoid getting on the mission of making disciples together in the stuff of everyday life. We know we will be exposed. We will be seen for the needy, desperate people we really are. Our junk will come to the surface. Yes, we can hide and pretend to have it all together while sitting in a large gathering on Sunday or while impressing one another with our knowledge of Scripture in a weekly Bible study. But out on mission, the need for grace and power from God will never be more clearly manifested.

That’s exactly what we need. We need to see and know our need for Jesus. We need to see and know others’ need for Jesus. Then we need to give one another the truths of Jesus to change us, empower us, and allow His Spirit to work through us effectively. We also need to experience God using weak, tired, and broken people to do amazing work.

This happened in the early church as well. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He told His disciples to wait for power from God—the Spirit of God was going to come upon them and empower them for the work (Acts 1:8). The disciples were sent out with God’s power and presence with and by His Spirit. They faced persecution. Many died for their faith. They lost possessions and family members. Many messed up and grew in the grace of Jesus as a result. And they grew in their love for one another, their devotion to obey God’s Word, their prayerful dependence on God, and the powerful proclamation of the gospel. They all grew while on mission (Acts 2:42–47).

The mission revealed their need and required God’s help!

I’m amazed at how often Christians want to experience the presence and power of God apart from the mission of God. I’m also surprised at how many people believe they can grow people up toward maturity in Christ apart from getting them involved in the mission of making disciples.

This stuff can’t happen in a classroom. It does not happen in one-on-one meetings. And it does not happen if we just hang out together as Christians all the time. We have to get out on mission to fulfill the mission of being disciples who make disciples.

I used to think we should take people out on mission trips once or twice a year. Now I’m convinced we need to help people see they are on mission all the time.

Unfortunately, many disciples of Jesus don’t get beyond seeing church as just attending an event on Sunday or Wednesday or doing a Bible study together. They are not experiencing what it means to be on mission together in the everyday stuff of life. So they live with the facade that everything is OK. On the surface, they look as if they are all in for Jesus. But brokenness, pride, insecurity, and selfishness are all there under the surface.

(Taken from Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life by Jeff Vanderstelt, ©2015, Crossway.)

Comment

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

We Are Missionaries

What God has done to us, He wants to do through us.

We have the Spirit of God in us so that we might be empowered, just as Jesus was. We are His missionaries, filled and anointed by His Spirit. If you have the Spirit of God, you are a missionary sent by Jesus to tell the world who He is and what He has done.

Charles Spurgeon said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.” Everywhere you go, whatever you do, you are a missionary sent by Jesus to love like Jesus, overcome sin like Jesus, proclaim the gospel like Jesus, and see people’s lives changed by the power of the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.

You are always on mission. Every part of your life, every activity and event, is part of Jesus’s mission to make disciples.

Remember, you are not alone on this mission. Jesus goes with you everywhere because His Spirit is in you to empower you to be His representative in the world. He wants to saturate your world in word and deed by His presence at work in and through you by His Spirit.

Our baptism is a reminder of our new identity in Christ. We have been saturated with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We have a new name because we are new creations who can do new works by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. This is why Jesus places baptism first in the sequence of events of making disciples. He wants us to know who we are and what power we now have to do what He wants. His command for us to “[teach] them to observe all that I have commanded you” comes after we establish people in their new identity (Matt. 28:19–20).

Since you do who you are, you need to know who you are in Christ.

Knowing and believing who you are in Christ leads you to obey Jesus’s commands.

The people in your church don’t need a new to-do list. They needed to be reminded of their new identity in Christ. The same is true for you.

  • We are the Father’s family; therefore, we love others like He loved us.
  • We are servants of Christ; therefore, we serve the least of these as He served us.
  • We are missionaries filled and empowered by the same Spirit that was in Jesus; therefore, we are always on mission to proclaim the good news of Jesus.

Whatever He has done to us, He now wants to do through us to others.

(Taken from Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life by Jeff Vanderstelt, ©2015, Crossway.)

Missional Communities—Biblical or Cultural?

Are missional communities just a passing fad?

Recently, one of the leaders in the Soma Family of Churches asked me if I thought missional communities would be a passing trend. He wasn’t questioning the validity of them, but he did wonder if this was a time-based, culturally applicable approach to making disciples that may not be necessary sometime in the future. Is the concept of church as a missional community (or as we often ask, “Is missional community the primary structure for making disciples?”) just a pragmatic solution to a cultural situation?

My answer to my colleague and my answer to many others is a resounding “no.”

Why? Because I am convinced that missional communities are not a new program or methodology for the church, but an ancient way of being God’s people set apart for God’s mission in the world. “Sure,” I told my friend, “the name ‘missional community’ might be trendy, but the concept is really nothing new at all.” The concept is deeply biblical and culturally transferable from one time and culture to another.

WHAT A MISSIONAL COMMUNITY IS

To make my case, I first of all need to define what a missional community is. A missional community is a family of servant missionaries sent as disciples who make disciples. They are:

  • children of God who love one another like family
  • servants of God who show what the Kingdom of God looks like in tangible form
  • missionaries sent by God to show and tell the truth of what God is like and what God has done

The goal of this family of servant missionaries is to lead others to become the people of God on the mission of God in the world.

GOD’S ANCIENT WAY

From the beginning of time God has called a people to be His family—His image-bearers—chosen by Him to belong to Him and lovingly show God’s love by how they love one another like family. It began with Adam and Eve who turned to a different father—the father of lies—and as a result the family they led looked more like the devil and less like the heavenly Father. God then chose Abraham to be the father of a new nation: a family set apart as both beneficiaries of God’s love as well as benevolent givers of His love. This family was also called to be a display people, showing the world what God as King was like through the visible display of his kingdom. His people were called to be His servants who serve others just as God had served them. One example of this is in how God called His people to be hospitable toward strangers in light of how God had treated them while they were strangers in Egypt. Lastly, God’s people were sent from place-to-place with the intent of living amongst the nations declaring what their God was like in light of what He had done for them. Israel was a family of servant missionaries, loving, serving, and proclaiming the good news of God.

But they failed. They fell short.

So Jesus came as the true and better Son who laid down His life for us so we could become children of God. He is the true and better servant who showed us what the Kingdom of God is like by how He served and gave up His life. He is the true and better missionary sent by the Spirit to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom. He didn’t do this in isolation. He did it in community—a community on mission together—a missional community. Jesus and His followers were a missional community. When He first called them He said, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus formed a community on mission that loved one another like family, served others as a way of serving their Messiah King, and eventually were sent out as missionaries to proclaim the gospel in the power of the Spirit.

After He died on the cross and rose again, He sent His disciples out to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and establishing every disciple in their new identity as family, servants, and missionaries. What Jesus did with them first, He sent them out to do with others. Their baptism wasn’t just words. It was a statement of their new identity that informed their new way of living: loving, serving, and proclaiming together.

That’s exactly what they did. The early church loved, served, and proclaimed because this is who they believed they were in Christ.

Later, when Peter intends to encourage the church scattered throughout Asia Minor, he reminds them first of who God is and what God has done most specifically in and through the person of Jesus Christ. Following that, he reminds them of who they are in 1 Peter 2:9: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Note the key identity statements he uses: chosen race (family of God), royal priesthood (missionaries anointed by the Spirit), and holy nation (servants of King Jesus). This is who God’s people were called to be prior to Jesus. It is who our baptism says we are because of Jesus. And it informs what we do as God’s people—the church—as we make disciples of Jesus.

This is who we are; therefore it’s what we do.

So is missional community a new idea? No. Is it going away? Not as long as Jesus continues to build His church and not until He returns and the mission is accomplished.

However, the way we work it out is always changing. In the early church they met from house to house. Some today meet from beach to beach, office center to office center, school to school. Some meet from house to school to office center. How we work out what it means to love like family may continue to take on different shapes and forms depending upon the culture and time we find ourselves in. Being servants of King Jesus in Tokyo might look very different than being servants of Jesus in Topeka. Proclaiming the gospel in secular New York might look very different than church-saturated Dallas. Our identity is the same, but how it gets expressed is always changing. The mission will not change, but the means likely will. The gospel will not change, but how we proclaim it must.

Yet no matter the place, the culture, or the time, the church is called to be a family of servant missionaries sent as disciples who make disciples.

We are a missional community, a gospel community on mission. Call it what you want. The name might change, but we will not.

This is who we are. This is what we do.

Comment

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

What is a "Missional Community"?

All-of-life discipleship—learning to follow, trust, and obey Jesus in the everyday stuff of life and training others to do the same—requires submitting to and obeying God’s Word in three key environments: life on life, life in community, and life on mission.

LIFE ON LIFE

God’s means of restoration in your life is others in your life who are committed to bringing your brokenness out into the open and bringing the gospel of Jesus to bear on it. The layers with which we’ve covered ourselves have to be pulled back, and we can’t do that kind of work alone. We have to get close. We have to be seen and known. This is what we call life-on-life discipleship—life that is lived up close so that we are visible and accessible to one another, so that others can gently peel back the layers and join us in our restoration. Jesus lived life with his disciples. He was close enough to really know them. He observed what they believed by watching how they lived. He became closely acquainted with their brokenness so that he could see their wrong thinking, wrong believing, and wrong acting. They were exposed. And as they were exposed, Jesus helped them to be restored.

LIFE IN COMMUNITY

If you look at the life and ministry of Jesus, and subsequently the ministry of the apostle Paul, you certainly would not come to the conclusion that one-on-one discipleship is best. Jesus discipled his followers while they experienced life together in community. We know they “got it” because the story of how they continued to live tells us they were devoted to one another in the day-to-day stuff of everyday life. Jesus’s way of discipleship cannot happen in one-on-one meetings alone. The church is Jesus’s body. It has many parts, but it is one body, so it takes many of us committed to each other’s development to help us each become more like Jesus … We all need many people who love Jesus around us to do this. Every person in Christ’s body is meant to work this way. You are meant to play a part in equipping and encouraging others. God intends for all of us to actively engage in disciplemaking in light of our unique design so that we both do the work and equip others to do it.

LIFE ON MISSION

Jesus didn’t say, “Show up to class and I will train you.” Nor did he say, “Attend synagogue and that will be sufficient.” No, he called the disciples to join him on the mission (“Follow me”), and while they were on the mission with him, he trained them to be disciplemakers (“I will make you fishers of men”). In other words, Jesus taught them the basics of making disciples while they were on the mission of making disciples. They could observe everything Jesus said and did. They could see how he rebuked the religious leaders who tried to make it harder for people to come to God. They were able to watch his compassion and care of people being ruined by sin. They couldn’t overlook his willingness to heal and help the broken. And the power he exerted over demons was clearly on display. They listened, watched, and learned in the everyday stuff of life. After a while, he invited them to share in some of the work he was doing. Sure, they messed up, a lot, but he was there to help, to correct, to clean up—to train them—while they were on his mission. They were in a disciplemaking residency with Jesus. After the disciples had spent time watching, learning, and practicing under Jesus’s watchful eye, he sent them out to begin to practice what he had taught them. He did not send them out alone; they went together. Then they returned and reported to Jesus what they had experienced. All did not go perfectly. So he trained them in the areas of their weaknesses and failures. He did this kind of ongoing training with them for more than three years. As a result, when he finally ascended to heaven, they had been prepared to fulfill the mission. The best training for mission happens while on mission.

MISSIONAL COMMUNITIES

The necessity of these three environments is the basis for what are commonly called “missional communities”: the Christian life—and the gospel identities and rhythms—cannot be lived alone, nor can it be carried out as one person among several dozen or a few thousand, which is the context of many American church gatherings. Instead, the best venue for living as disciples of Jesus happens in the context of a few other disciples, mutually committed to growing each other’s lives and faith, pursuing God’s mission together. Missional communities are not programs of a church; missional communities are the Church. In other words, the way God intends his people to live and thrive as disciples of Jesus is in the context of a community, growing in the gospel and on mission together. It’s in this type of community that life on life, life in community, and life on mission discipleship most easily happen.

(Excerpted from the Saturate Field Guide by permission.)

Comment

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

A Life of Discipleship

Part of our own discipleship is “paying it forward”: seeing God not only work in us, for our own discipleship, but also seeing him work through us, for others’ discipleship

The person and work of Jesus cannot remain as a mere mental construct, separate from the rest of life. The gospel changes us. It gives us new identities, goals, and pursuits. Jesus’s past, present, and future work redefine how we think, live, work, and act. Because of the gospel, we are disciples of Jesus. By the power of God, the life of a Christian is a life of learning from Jesus, following him, and “growing up in every way into him” (Eph 4:15). In other words, the life of a follower of Jesus is a life of obeying Jesus.

A NEW PERSPECTIVE

When he called the first of his disciples, he said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). They had been fishermen, but Jesus was calling them to fish for people. They responded by leaving everything—their families, their careers, their futures—to follow Jesus. It started in a boat and went out to the world. Those first disciples radically recentered everything in their lives around Jesus, his teaching, and his mission. Their lives became all about Jesus! He was that important to them.

Then, after he had trained them for more than three years, suffered and died for their sins, and rose from the grave, Jesus told them to meet him on a mountain before he ascended to heaven. On that mountain, he was going to give his final commission to them to make disciples of all people groups. Just as Jesus had called them to follow him, be changed by him, and obey him, he sent them out to call others to follow him as well. He was going to send them to the ends of the earth so that Jesus saturation might happen.

So they met Jesus on the mountain and worshiped him there, but some still doubted (Matt. 28:16-17). They were in, but not all in. Slow down and don’t miss this: Jesus’s disciples had seen everything they needed to see. Jesus had taught them all he needed to teach them. And they had experienced all they needed to experience with Jesus! And yet, some were still doubting. This is good news for me! Though I’ve walked with Jesus for more than twenty-four years, I still struggle with doubts. Maybe you do as well.

We’re not alone! The disciples were still in process—a process that would last their lifetimes. And the same is true of us. That is what discipleship is all about. It is the ongoing process of submitting all of life to Jesus, and seeing him saturate your entire life and world with his presence and power. It’s a process of daily growing in your awareness of your need for him in the everyday stuff of life. It is walking with Jesus, being filled with Jesus, and being led by Jesus in every place and in every way. Read the previous paragraph again—may this be a helpful definition of discipleship!

PAYING IT FORWARD

Once we start to realize that discipleship is an everyday, all-of-life process for our own lives, we’re halfway to understanding God’s call. The other half of that call is seen most clearly in the great commission, where God calls his people— all his people—to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). Part of our own discipleship is “paying it forward”: seeing God not only work in us, for our own discipleship, but also seeing him work through us, for others’ discipleship. In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us that a primary way we grow into maturity in Christ is through “speaking the truth in love” to and with each other (Eph 4:16). God didn’t design discipleship to primarily happen alone.

(Excerpted from the Saturate Field Guide by permission.)

Comment

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

Undoing Wrong Thinking

Getting believers to obey God together in the midst of non-Christians is one of the most powerful witnesses to the gospel we have.

I recently sat down with Brian Daniel from LifeWay‘s Groups Ministry blog to talk about helping churches and leaders transition their people toward an all-of-life discipleship environment. I shared with Brian some of what I’ve learned about helping leaders move their small groups toward life-on-life, life-in-community, and life-on-mission disciple-making communities. He asked some great questions.


BrianIn Saturate you refer to All-of-Life discipleship. Let’s begin with a short description of how you define “All-of-Life” discipleship.

JV: In Ephesians 4:15, the apostle Paul states, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” This passage is in the context of Paul describing how the church is called to equip every believer to grow up into maturity and that maturity looks like Jesus. Notice that Paul states we are to grow up in every way. This refers to every aspect of our lives. In other places Paul shows that our eating, drinking, working, resting, and relating are all meant to be done for the glory of God. So, first of all, when I say “All-of-Life” discipleship I am referring to developing each other toward Christ-likeness in every aspect of life. Discipleship is not a program we attend or a curriculum we get through, though both assist in discipleship.

Discipleship happens in the everyday stuff of life with followers of Jesus being committed to life-on-life, life-in-community, and life-on-mission together throughout the week. Life-on-life means we are committed to our lives being visible and accessible. We commit to help each other grow up in every aspect of life by having every aspect of life visible and accessible to each other. Life-in-community means we are being discipled by many people, men and women, expressing a variety of gifts, not just by one person. Life-on-mission means we disciple people best when we are making disciples together, with both Jesus followers and those not yet following Jesus.

Brian: How do you approach topics that may be best explored in gender-specific sub-groups? Is breaking into gender-specific groups fairly regular or more of an exception?

JV: First of all, one of the things I often have to clarify is that a missional community is not an event but a people who love one another like family on-mission together throughout the week. I say this because often people try to fit all of their discipleship work into a weekly event for an hour or two. It’s just not possible to make disciples in that amount of time. Second, to answer your question, most of our groups have another time during the week where they meet in gender-specific groups. We call these DNA Groups. (Discover Jesus together in Scripture. Nurture the truths of Jesus in each other’s hearts. Act in response to repentance and belief.) Our missional community gathers weekly for a family meal on Wednesday nights, the women connect on Monday nights, and our men connect on Tuesday mornings. And we all gather together on Sunday mornings with the rest of the church.

Brian: How are each of these environments resourced? That is, what do group members “do” in each of the environments? Even though life-on-mission would seem to be self-explanatory, I’d love to know how missional “events” are planned and scheduled.

JV: These environments are resourced by people who have been and are being trained to “BE” disciples first. So, first of all, we believe we need to equip the church to see they ARE disciples on mission all of the time. That is one of the reasons I wrote Saturate and Ben and I created the Saturate Field Guide. I find the reason most Christians are not “on mission” is because they don’t believe God has made them His missionary people. When, and if, they believe they truly are missionaries to their neighbors, co-workers, and friends, often they already know what to do.

With that said, some of the work we have to do is to “undo” wrong thinking. For instance, thinking mission is an event is one example. Mission is not an event—it is a lifestyle. We don’t teach people to run events—we teach people to invite unbelievers into their lives and the activities they are already engaged in or join unbelievers in the activities they are involved in. We are not calling people to add more events to their already busy lives. We train them to engage in what they already do with gospel intentionality. It’s not necessarily additional, but intentional. Ideally, getting a few Christians to join together in the activities of everyday life with gospel intentionality is the goal—activities such as eating, playing, and working. I interact with parents all the time who tell me they don’t have time for Jesus’ mission because they are too busy with their children’s activities. What they often fail to see is that the mission is in the middle of those activities. They can disciple their children and the other parents and coaches during their sports events. They can see their children’s school activities as the ministry and engage as disciple-making disciples there.

The biggest thing we need to learn is how to walk in the Spirit, be saturated with the gospel, and ask God to work through our lives to both attract people to Jesus through our visible witness and call people to Jesus through our verbal one.

Brian: I’ve interviewed Jonathan Dodson and Steve Gladen on life-on-life and life-in-community in prior posts. What tips would you have for a group leader who wants to move his or her group more toward a life-on-mission environment?

JV: First of all, if they are already studying the Bible together, move from “personal application only” to communal and missional application. For instance, don’t only ask the question “How will you apply this?” Ask, “If we believe this, how will we apply it together in our community and how will we apply it together on mission?” Start obeying God’s word in community.

Most of the Bible was not written to individuals and therefore was not meant primarily for personal application. It was written to God’s people (plural) and intended for communal application. And God wants his people obeying him together in the middle of a dark and broken world, not inside our Christian cul-de-sacs. Getting believers to obey God together in the midst of non-Christians is one of the most powerful witnesses to the gospel we have. Jesus said the world would know we are his disciples by our love for one another. So let’s start loving God and one another in the midst of a world that needs to see God’s love on display.

Next, the group leader needs make sure everyone knows, believes, and can communicate the gospel in culturally relevant ways—showing that the gospel speaks to every aspect of life. The gospel isn’t just a bridge over the gap of sin so we can avoid hell when we die. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believe, and it impacts every single aspect of our lives today and forever. Group leaders need to immerse their group in the gospel so the group becomes a gospel-fluent people.

And then the group leader needs to regularly remind the group why they exist. They exist to glorify God by displaying what He is like and declaring what He has done. They were rescued and saved by Jesus for a purpose—to make disciples who make disciples for the glory of God and the good of their city. Each group should identify people or even a people group they believe God is sending them to that don’t yet believe in and know Jesus. Then, they should regularly pray for them and ask God how they might intentionally engage in life together with them.

This isn’t about inviting people to attend a church event. This is about a group learning to be God’s people (the church) on mission in the everyday stuff of life with others. For instance, my missional community is presently asking God for how we should engage in our children’s sporting events and school activities to show and share Jesus with the families there. Others are asking how they might together show and share Jesus to their co-workers while at work and through after-work parties they attend together. I know of another missional community that is making their nightlife activity their mission by going to the same restaurants or clubs with gospel intentionality together.

The key in all of this is relationships. You will never get a group on mission by just studying about mission and remaining distant from mission. You need to engage actively together in relationships, while at the same time relating together to God in prayer prior to and during these activities.

Brian: Taking into account life-on-life, life-in-community, and life-on-mission, is there a natural way for these environments to evolve out of a church’s values, or is the expectation that these environments must be very intentionally and meticulously developed? What are the first steps to adopting this approach to discipleship?

I believe the church’s job is to make this normative. It must be embraced by the church leadership, filtered through all its teaching and training, shaped by how it spends its time and resources, and shown in the lives of its leaders. If the leaders are not engaged in this kind of discipleship, then they should never expect the church to get there. Churches also need to make more space for their people to live this kind of life. Too many churches fill their schedules with activities at their buildings, thus filling people’s schedules with Christian activities that pull them out of the mission field. We have made it a point not to create events that prevent people from being on mission throughout the week. In fact, at this point in the church I lead, Sunday is the only day we have scheduled events. Even those events exist to equip or support our people on the mission of making disciples.

The most important thing is getting church leaders and programs to shift toward equipping and supporting the people to be disciple-makers, instead of looking to leaders and programs to make the disciples for the church.

Once that happens, the leadership of the church needs to ask if everything they do serves to equip God’s people. I call this a disciple-making audit. I believe every staff member or leader in a church needs to ask how they can better focus their energies and gifts to equip the people for ministry. Instead of doing the ministry for the people, start equipping the people for the ministry.

Comment

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

5 Ways To Equip Disciples as Gospel Ministers

Church leader? Your job is not to do the ministry for the church, but to equip the church to be gospel ministers.

Habakkuk 2:14 speaks of a day when “The knowledge of the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” That is a saturation point–a time in which everywhere you go, the knowledge of the glory of the Lord will saturate everyone and everything. You will not be able to avoid to truths of God.

The Apostle Paul says in Colossians 1:27 that Christ in us is the hope of glory and in Ephesians 1:23 that the church is Christ’s body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. The church is God’s plan for saturation. Christ in us and Christ through us, every day and everywhere, so that through us Christ might be preeminent in everything (Col. 1:18). I call this gospel saturation, in which every man, woman and child has a daily encounter with Jesus in word and deed through his people, the church.

This is why we have been saved. This is why we exist. 

But this won’t happen if we continue to see church as a building or a weekly event we attend. Buildings don’t saturate a place. They take up space. They also can’t move and fill other places. Events won’t saturate the world with God’s glory either. They may be led by or participated in by glory-bearing, Jesus-filled people, but the event cannot travel and fill space. People do.

Church is not a building. Church is not an event. The church is the people of God set apart for the mission of God – filled with his power and presence so that his purposes are accomplished every day everywhere – in the workplace, at school, in cafes and pubs, around dinner takes and on the soccer field.

Do you believe that? Do you believe you are the church? Do you believe the church is actively on mission every day in the stuff of life for the glory of God? We must commit to equipping everyday people for the everyday mission of gospel saturation.

If you are a leader in the church, do you see your job is not to do the ministry for the church, but to equip the church for ministry in the everyday stuff of life (Eph. 4:11-12)?

This is where it begins.

First, leaders need to reconsider their calling. Shift from being a minister of the gospel to being an equipper of gospel ministers. This doesn’t mean you cease from gospel ministry, but it does mean equipping others is a significant part of your ministry.

Second, help people see they are designed uniquely by God and put in the place they live on purpose by God. Too often we create programmatic boxes for people to fit into instead of helping them engage uniquely in ministry where God has already placed them. In doing so, we often pull people out of the mission field and unnaturally try to squeeze them into our ministry molds. I recently spoke with a woman who thanked me for affirming the truth of her unique design and calling. Her passion and skills are in the fashion industry, and her place in life is with a unique class of people who likely will never enter a church building. She started a fashion business as a ministry that has a natural open door for mission.

Third, publicly affirm and commission people in your gatherings for mission outside of the building or weekly event. I was speaking to a local businessman about his work in our city. “It’s clear the church doesn’t affirm business as mission because the only people it publicly commissions are full-time pastors,” he replied. He shared how he had observed seminary graduates publicly affirmed and commissioned for ministry, but never business people. At the church I lead now, we are commissioning all people for ministry. During our Sunday gatherings, we’ve begun to highlight and pray over a group of people on mission in everyday life. In addition, when we baptize people at our church, we state that their baptism is also their commission to the mission Jesus gave us.

Fourth, consider how your language affirms your convictions. When I visit other churches or meet with other pastors, I regularly hear their language affirm that people “go to church.” I regularly remind our people that they don’t “go to church” but they “are the church.” I communicate publicly that it is my job, and the job of our staff, to equip them to go “be the church” on Jesus’ mission wherever he is sending them. So often we send people mixed messages by saying things like, “It’s good to be in the house of the Lord” or “I’m so glad you decided to come to church today.” But the Scriptures teach that God’s people are the house of the Lord. We are his temple. Are you affirming this truth with your language?

And finally, make sure you regularly reaffirm God’s people as the priesthood. I still see a strong clergy/laity distinction in so many churches. We call people to the mission and yet prevent them from doing the ministry. For example, Jesus said to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and then teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded–which includes making disciples and baptizing them. However, I still see churches affirm that only the pastor can baptize. We call people to make disciples, which according to Jesus includes baptizing, but, we don’t let people baptize. I have watched many people get into the water with their friends or relatives in obedience to Jesus’ command. One woman told me she had never baptized anyone, although she had led people to faith in Jesus before. This was the first time in her life she was free to obey Jesus’ command in this way.

Ask yourself, what ministry are you taking away from the people you lead? What have you prevented them from participating in? I have policy that I try to work by: Don’t continue to do for people what they could do themselves if they were equipped and trained. Baptism is one example, but there are many others.

Remember, the church is not a building or an event. The church is God’s people saved by God’s power who are filled with God’s presence for God’s purposes in the world.

Gospel saturation doesn’t happen in a building.

It won’t get accomplished through an event.

Gospel saturation happens in you and then gospel saturation happens through you…until all the earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.

Motivation for Mission

God declares something to be so and it is.

We live differently if we realize who we are! God commands us to make disciples and baptize them in the name the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In baptism we are established in our new identity. And, now what God has done to you, he intends to do through you.

Want real-time training on what it looks like to make disciples in the everyday stuff of life? Attend Saturate EveryDay get a vision for what it might look like to saturate your own community with the gospel so that every man, woman, and child has a daily encounter with Jesus.

During this two-day training we guarantee you will gain effective tools and practices to develop a clear plan of action for gospel saturation in your community.

Comment /Source

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

Mercenary or Missionary?

What are you more familiar with? 

Community without mission is co-dependency. Mission without community creates mercenaries. Community on mission loves, proclaims the good news of Jesus, and displays power of the gospel to change lives.

Want real-time training on what it looks like to make disciples in the midst of a community on mission? Attend Saturate EveryDay and get a vision for what it might look like to saturate your own community with the gospel so that every man, woman, and child has a daily encounter with Jesus.

During this two-day training we guarantee you will gain effective tools and practices to develop a clear plan of action for gospel saturation in your community.