Excerpt #5. Discipleship as The “Portal” Priority
NOTE: In conjunction with the release of our new book about men’s discipleship ministry, No Man Left Behind, we are publishing 12 excerpts to give you a taste of the book. This one is from Chapter 5 “Discipleship as The ‘Portal’ Priority.”
In the previous chapters we have defined what a disciple looks like and how a man becomes a disciple. But how is discipleship related to the other priorities of your church?
Jesus said, “Go and make disciples.” That’s interesting, because he could have said anything. He didn’t say, “Go and make worshipers.” He didn’t say, “Go and make workers.” He didn’t say, “Go and make tithers.” Is Jesus interested in worshipers, workers, and tithers? Of course. But he knew we wouldn’t get worshippers by making worshipers, and so forth. We get worshipers, workers, and tithers by making disciples.
Suppose a family has attended your church for three months. What will they think is the first priority—the organizing idea—of your church? One week they heard a sermon about the priority of worship. The next week they heard that they need to be cheerful givers. The following week they heard in Sunday school that committed believers go on mission trips. The week after that they were asked during the service to attend evangelism training. The next week in the small group they joined, they learned about compelling needs at the crisis pregnancy center. A weekend seminar greatly emphasized the importance of private study and devotions. If you were a new family, what would you think? It might look like an undifferentiated blob of disjointed activities:
Looking at this collection of concepts, it is helpful to organize them into two sets: methods and outcomes. The middle items – godly Families, service/missions, worship, fellowship, discipleship, evangelism, stewardship, social justice and vocation – represent the outcomes most churches are trying to achieve. Your church may have a few more or less items in the list, but this is a good sampling of what most churches want their members to understand and live out in a biblical and godly way.
Yet, this is too many areas to focus on. There must be an organizing principle through which to help people understand, believe and live out these objectives. That principle is discipleship.
Discipleship is the portal priority through which all the other priorities of a church can be achieved. Only by moving through the discipleship gateway can people truly affect their church and their church can affect them.
For instance, how can a man worship a God he doesn’t know? Why would a man want to share his faith if he didn’t understand the Great Commission? How could a man be a good steward if he didn’t understand and believe that everything he has is a gift from God – his time, talent and his treasures? As we disciple men’s hearts, they start to live out of the overflow of their relationship with Christ. Therefore, we can organize these efforts by putting discipleship in the center and drawing arrows out to each of our other priorities like this:
How can a church implement discipleship as the portal priority? The items around the outside of the figure represent the activities, or methods, a church engages in to help build disciples.
Remember these activities are not ends in themselves, but rather focus on helping people learn or live out what it means to be a disciple. The figure illustrates this: All activities on the outside lead to discipleship in the middle. Now we have a clear picture of discipleship as the portal priority by which every other goal of the church can be accomplished. For example, we don’t preach to make worshipers but rather preach to help a man see God so that he can’t help but worship.
For the glory of Christ and no other reason,
Pat Morley, Ph.D.