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.

Planning the MC Mtg with Children in Mind

In the next several posts my wife Jayne and I are going to address the question: How do you do Missional Community with Kids? During this post Jayne is addressing the question: How do you address caring for kids during your weekly MC Gathering?

Keep in mind, when we think about children and our missional community we ask: How can our children join us in the overall mission? How do we disciple them all week long? How do we make sure the mission is accessible for them? How do we insure they can participate? And, how do we help them reach their peers as well?

When we think about our gathering on Tuesday nights, we don't feel like we have to address all of these in our 2-3 hour time together. We address these through the whole week approach.

Our gathering on Tuesday nights:

In our experience with kids, we have had to be very strategic. We currently have kids from under age 2 up to age 10. We have done different things, but what works well in my humble opinion is to have people rotate and share the responsibility each week. This adult or older child is NOT responsible for the whole night, but just for the discussion time. Also, it is important to really crack down and having a start and finish time of discussion that is clearly discussed and agreed on between all of the adults.  This is very important for the kids AND the adult who are serving the kids. An hour and a half is about all we can manage without major melt-downs…from both kids and adults.  Let the adult know that they are free to turn the kids loose at the ending time.

So, as an MC host, you would have a room set aside and ready with some snacks, puzzles, coloring stuff, toys, books etc. for the adult to take them in and watch them while you were having your discussion (some of our groups use a neighboring house).

Another option is to have this room ready for the kids to stay in and have an "on call" adult nearby peeking in on them, while partially engaging in the night. That has worked well for us too at times...although some nights an adult may need to be present or it will and has been known to turn into a “Lord of the Flies” situation.

You could have theme nights each week like..."Next week is popcorn and a movie night," or "Art night" and have crafting supplies ready for them to do a project. Obviously, the littler ones can probably only handle a story or two, but the older ones can work on some scripture memory or something like that. Reading to them from the Jesus Storybook Bible each week is a good option. Free play is also very important so the kids can socially engage and interact with each other. When the weather is nice outside (not much in the Northwest), we encourage the kids to play together outside.

Remember that all of our groups are always changing and adapting so our methods and practice need to change with them.

As the host of the home I have always tried to keep my eye on things and made an effort to help the mom's with young ones, stepping in to rescue them if they looked exhausted.  I think there needs to be leadership exercised as the host in serving, and sometimes that means that we sacrifice things in order to teach others how to sacrificially host and serve. We are always teaching by our actions…knowing that when others lead out of THEIR home someday, they will have seen that modeled and been taught that is how we develop servant leaders.

Remember that you are not being “Stuck” back with the kids…that your discussions are NOT superior and more important than your interactions with these young ones.  You can’t look at these kids as a hindrance or interruption. They need to be taught and guided and sometimes, depending on their age, this needs to be done in a separate area of the house so they can best learn and engage. It is an honor and privilege to pray for, prepare lessons for, and to hang out with them.

Most of the obstacles in our own group have been not logistics, but a heart issue. I have totally struggled with this in the past, that’s why I feel I can speak into it. My heart in the past has looked down on this task and looked at it as overwhelming and “not fair” that I am always “stuck” with figuring it out. I am ashamed of that...but, thank you Jesus for interrupting my thoughts and forgiving this sin, revealing to me that this is a situation to embrace, not “solve.” Hopefully, by the grace of God, after a little teaching to your adults, you will have people arguing about who gets to be with the kids next…I will pray you will see that happen…

What is a Missional Community?

I posted the video for Gospel Fluency to provide the beginning to answering the question: "How do we develop a Gospel Fluent Culture?" I am going to post the second part to that series once it is edited. Now, before I start answering some of the other questions that have been posted, I want to clarify what a Missional Community is. The next post will describe how it works at Soma Communities. After that I will begin with "How do you do this with young children/as a family?" (one of the more popular questions).

So, What is a Missional Community?

A Missional Community is a Family of Missionary Servants who make Disciples who make Disciples.

Family – First of all a missional community is a group of believers who live and experience life together like a family. They see God as their Father because of their faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ and the new regeneration brought about by the Holy Spirit. This means they have and know of a divine love that leads them to love one another as brothers and sisters. They treat one another as children of God deeply loved by the Father in everything – sharing their money, time, resources, needs, hurts, successes, etc… They know each other well. This knowledge includes knowing each other’s stories and having familiarity with one another’s strength and struggles in regards to belief in the gospel and it’s application to all of life. They speak the gospel truth to one another, regularly building each other up in love. They also love the people around them as if they were part of the family, showing them what the love of the Father looks like and in so doing inviting them to experience life in the family of God (John 1:11-13; Rom. 12:10-16; Eph 5:1-2)

Missionaries – God’s family is also sent like the Son by the Spirit to proclaim the good news of the kingdom – the gospel – and fulfill the commission of Jesus. A missional community is more than a bible study or a small group that cares for other believers. A missional community is made up of Spirit-led and filled people who radically reorient their lives together for the mission of making disciples of a particular people and place where there is a gospel gap (no consistent gospel witness). This means people’s schedule, resources and decisions are now collectively built around reaching people together. (Matt. 3:16-4:1; Jn. 20:21; Acts 1:8; Acts 13:2)

Servants – Jesus is Lord and we are his Servants. A missional community serves those around them as though there are serving Jesus. In doing so, they give a foretaste of what life will be like under the rule and reign of Jesus Christ. Living as servants to the King who serve others as he served, presents a tangible witness to Jesus’ kingdom and the power of the gospel to change lives. A missional community serves in such a way that it demands a Gospel explanation – lives that cannot be explained in any other way than by the Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus. (Matt. 20:25-28; Jn. 13:1-17; Phil. 2:5-11; 1 Pet. 2:16)

Disciples – We are all learners of Jesus our rabbi who has given us his Spirit to teach us all that is true about Jesus and enable us to live it out his commands. Jesus commanded us to make disciples who believe the gospel, are established in a new identity and are able to obey all of his commands (Matt. 28:19-20). The missional community is the best context in which this can happen. Disciples are made and developed: 1) through life on life, where there is visibility and accessibility 2) in community, where they can practice the one anothers, and 3) on mission where they learn how to proclaim the gospel and make disciples.