March 10, 2020 - What is our purpose as leaders?
What are we supposed to be doing? How are we to do it?
In answer to these questions, consider Jesus’ example. Jesus focused primarily on the development of His disciples, not His personal ministry as in His speaking engagements and healing people. Moreover, He instructed us to do the same. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus gave instructions to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” The word “disciple” in this context means “learner”. However, a disciple is more than just a learner. He is an adherent; that is, he is someone who seeks to live out what he learns. This is the reason disciples are often spoken of as imitators of their teachers. When Jesus told Peter, Andrew, James, and John to “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19), He meant more than just physically following Him. Jesus’ desire was for them to imitate Him. He wanted His disciples to be like Him.
During the three years of Jesus’ ministry, His disciples followed Him around Palestine, observing Him in both word and deed. The disciples were wholeheartedly dedicated, committed, and devoted followers of Jesus Christ. They learned how to emulate Him through instruction, example, and involvement. Jesus wants us to do the same as He did. He wants us to make disciples. He wants us to help others grow and develop.
Jesus’ method of making disciples involved a call to follow Him, teaching or instruction, modeling the expected behavior, sending them out to minister, and then coming back for reflection and further instruction. The principles behind this pattern for disciple-making by multiplication can be seen in the relationship between Paul and Timothy. Paul invited Timothy to accompany him (Acts 16:1-3). He modeled ministry to Timothy (Acts 16:5, II Timothy 3:10-11). He taught him (I Timothy 1:18; I & II Timothy). Paul and Timothy also shared together in ministry (Acts 16:4-5; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; I Thessalonians 1:1; II Corinthians 1:1). In other words, Paul was instrumental in equipping Timothy. Paul helped Timothy grow in maturity in the faith. In addition, Paul expected Timothy to equip others. He told Timothy, “What you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well” (II Timothy 2:2). Like Jesus, Paul’s method of disciple-making was one of multiplying his ministry by building the kingdom in others, not being merely content to add names to the list of those saved. Paul understood that it was imperative to reproduce himself in those who would follow after he had gone.
We are supposed to repeat the pattern. This is what we should be imitating. But instead of doing what Jesus and Paul did, we have focused on buildings, programs, and events. We are enamored of the crowd. And as a result, we are struggling at what we truly are called to do.
The apostle Paul sheds some light on what our purpose is. He states in Ephesians 4:11-12, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” “Equip the saints” in Ephesians 4:12 is closely related to “make disciples” in Matthew 28:19.
While on earth, Jesus personally guided and developed His disciples; after His ascension, He gave gifts for the development of others. These gifts were the fivefold ministry. The word “equip” or “perfect”, means to “mend, repair, make whole or perfect, to make something or someone completely adequate or sufficient for something,” which, in this case, is the work of ministry. According to the apostle Paul, the purpose of the fivefold ministry is to help prepare others for the work of ministry, to help get others ready for service. Paul makes claim in Ephesians 4 that every saint has been given a gift, and God has gifted men and women to help equip the saints so their gifts can begin to function. Thus, at its core, equipping others involves helping people change, grow, discover, and develop the gifts God has given them. It also involves empowering them to use their God-given gifts. The purpose of the fivefold ministry is to equip people. Note carefully the purpose of these gifts of Christ to his Church: “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (v 12).
It is also important to note that the purpose in equipping others is so they might do the “work” of ministry. The common practice in many churches is to let the leaders of the church do all the work. However, it is the responsibility of church leadership to equip others as workers. Many church leaders bemoan the lack of involvement and commitment of people but fail in developing, growing, empowering, and releasing people to do the work of ministry. God never intended for people to sit on church pews while watching church leaders perform. Church leaders who operate under that premise are adhering to an outdated church model based on the Old Testament in which the priest carried the load of ministry.
According to I Peter 2:9, we all are priests. Church leaders and saints alike are to participate in the work of ministry. Everyone is given a gift and each one is to utilize the gift God has given him or her. The purpose of the fivefold ministry is to help equip others for their work of ministry. In doing so, church leaders are participating in disciple-making. The lack of focus in the growing and developing of others has generated weak Christians—people who are generally nice and who give in the offering and attend church services but offer little else. Although being nice and attending church services are worthy traits, surely Jesus meant something more when talking about fruitfulness. The twelve disciples were fruitful; they were instrumental in turning their world upside down. Many of today’s disciples are doing nothing extraordinary. The reason they have not done so can be largely contributed to church leaders who have done little to equip them. Church leadership must realign with its God-given purpose. As leaders, we are to empower disciples to exercise their spiritual gifts; when these gifts are in operation, the natural by-product is disciple-making.
Points for discussion:
1) In a recent message at AFC, it was pointed out that Jesus commissioned the disciples to, among other things, cast out demons. However, they found themselves unable to cast out an unclean spirit from a man’s son. (Matthew 17:16 – 21).
Why would Jesus have sent them forth with instructions to perform something they were incapable of doing?
2) Jesus’ own method of making disciples consisted of five steps (referenced above). They are as follows: 1) Calling; 2) Teaching or instruction; 3) Modeling the expected behavior; 4) Sending out to minister; and 5) Returning for reflection and further instruction.
Are these steps useful in a modern context? How? If not – why not?
3) Of the five steps referenced in #2 above, which is the most neglected? Why?
Source: “Realign: God-Called Leaders and Their Purpose”, by Dr. Eugene Wilson. All rights reserved.
February 4, 2020 - Purpose Impacts Success
Most church leaders have defined success by the size of the congregation. We tend to gauge the effectiveness of the various ministries in our churches by looking at numbers. We even size each other up by determining who is successful and who is not based on the number of people we lead. If we were to use the same criteria, one that centers on numbers, in judging the earthly ministry of Jesus, we would deem it as unsuccessful. The crowd deserted Him, His disciples fled from Him, and Peter denied Him. But Jesus was not a failure; He was a success. In just three and a half short years of ministry, He founded a movement that quickly spread around the world. Although Jesus drew large crowds, His ministry was not centered on the multitude of people who followed Him. He spoke to crowds, ministered to crowds, fed the crowds, and had compassion on crowds; however, His focus of ministry was not on crowds. On the contrary, Jesus spent the majority of His time ministering to individuals. The crowd was a by-product of the miraculous that took place in the lives of individuals Jesus touched.
Lake-Model vs. River-Model
Our definition of success has resulted in a faulty model for doing church. We should be viewing the church from a river-model perspective, but we tend to view it from a lake-model perspective. A lake-model ministry focuses on how many people we can get in the lake. For example, if a prayer meeting is largely attended, it is deemed to be a success; if not, it is a failure. The point is, success is determined by the number of attendees, not by what happened to those who participated or attended. In contrast to a lake-model, a river-model focuses on helping people move from point A to point B. It is focused on helping people change. When you go swimming in a lake, you always get out where you got in. When you go swimming in a river, you always get out somewhere down the river. In a river-model—unlike the lake-model in which the success of a prayer meeting is centered on how many attend— the success of a prayer meeting centers on what happens to those who attend the prayer meeting. The river-model seeks to answer the questions: Was fervent prayer offered up, or did the participants simply go through the motions? Were lives altered for the better, or did people remain stagnant?
A lake-model for doing church focuses on events and programs that encourage people to get in the lake and stay in it. Unfortunately, this often takes people out of their homes and activities and isolates them in a religious ghetto, where they are kept safe until their delivery to heaven. In contrast, a river-model focuses on processes that help people change. In a river-model, church leadership is focused on equipping others for the work of ministry. Two different models: one focuses on the crowd while the other on the people in the crowd.
A Proper Definition of Success
Jesus’ success was not defined by the size of crowd He was able to draw. Neither should we define success based on the size of a crowd. Why are we so quick to judge whether or not a person is successful based on his ability to lead a large congregation? In Matthew 25, Jesus shared a parable in which a master gave one servant five talents, another two talents, and a third one talent. The one who received five talents went and traded with them and made five more talents. The one who had received two talents acquired two more.
But the one who received one talent did nothing. When the master returned, he examined the efforts of his servants. To the servant who started with five talents and had acquired five additional talents, he said, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.”17 To the servant who had received two talents and had acquired two additional talents, the master said the same thing. Both men were successful because of their faithfulness, not because of the number of talents they had. If the servant who had received one talent had been faithful with what he had been entrusted, he too would have been a success. However, because of his lack of faithfulness, he was a failure. Success had nothing to do with the number of talents; it had everything to do with faithfulness.
The servant who was given two talents ended up with four— one talent less than the five-talent servant was given. In view of our definition of success based on numbers, the servant with the five talents would be the most successful servant even if he had failed to acquire additional talents. While it seems obvious this perspective does not make sense, we often deem a leader’s success based on how many people he leads. We need to redefine success.
A successful ministry has little to do with numbers and everything to do with faithfulness. Not everyone will lead a large congregation or minister to large crowds. According to research, only six percent of churches have more than five hundred worshipers, and less than one-half of one percent of churches qualify as mega-churches (regular attendance of over two thousand). We have allowed the ministry experience of 6 percent of pastors to become the standard by which everything is judged. There is nothing wrong with using numbers, we must not allow them to become the standard by which we determine success. A bigger church is not always a better church.
A better church is based on the spiritual maturity of its leadership and members and what they are doing with their call, not on the size of the congregation. Numerical growth is not God’s measuring stick for success; it never has been, nor will it ever be. According to I Corinthians 3:6, one plants, another waters, but God gives the increase. God adds to the church, not us. Acts 2:47 says, “And the Lord added daily to the church such as should be saved.” We don’t save people; God does. We are not called to grow a church; we are called to help grow people. Jesus said He would build the church. We are called to make disciples. There is a difference.
Source: “Realign: God-Called Leaders and Their Purpose”, by Dr. Eugene Wilson. All rights reserved.