Being in vocational ministry has afforded me many opportunities to talk with pastors and church leaders all over the world. Almost always the heart cry of the church leader is the same: they want to see the body of Christ renewed. They want to see people live into the fullness of life with Christ that was so apparent in the book of Acts, such as these examples from Acts 2:
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:4).
You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence’ (Acts 2:28).
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles (Acts 2:41-43).
We all want fullness of life. Getting to that outcome is always the hard part.
Our Christian Identity Crisis
We all want it so badly and so quickly that we are willing to try almost anything to achieve the revival we all pray for. Yet, the simplicity of the solution is evident as we look at how Jesus made disciples—it’s relational. It’s personal life transformation. It is an obedience to the Holy Spirit that takes us down different roads to different places for outcomes we can’t conceive on our own.
And here is the tough part for every church leader: we aren’t going to program our way to making disciples. Disciplemaking isn’t a program of the church. Rather it is an identity of the Christian. Yet many Christians, especially those of us in North America, seem to struggle with an identity crisis. Who are we meant to be in Christ?
This identity crisis might be the biggest tension of them all. We need to educate Christians on their identity without relieving them of their ownership of the disciplemaking process.
This is where a good discipleship pathway comes into play.
Justin Gravitt, my Navigator friend and fellow disciplemaker, works with pastors and church members to help them establish disciplemaking cultures. He explains “discipleship pathway” this way:
A discipleship pathway is a sequenced plan to move disciples from one stage of growth to the next. It is broad enough to include everyone, but specific enough to meet each spiritual generation where they are. The end goal is growth that will result in mature, relationally connected disciples.
The purpose of a discipleship pathway in the local body of the church isn’t to make disciples, but rather to remind Christians that they are called to be disciplemakers.
Imagine what would happen if we shifted the focus of our Wednesday night Bible studies. Can we move from a place where someone goes to get personally fed to a place where someone could go to learn to feed others?
Justin further notes:
Churches without an effective discipleship pathway can expect to have pools of stagnant disciples who don’t know how to grow or even that they should….A discipleship pathway makes it clear that disciples must be growing towards maturity and fruitfulness.
A discipleship pathway cannot replace intentional one-on-one disciplemaking. That’s not the point of a pathway. What it could do, however, is engage the average pew sitter in wrestling toward clarity in his or her identity in Christ as a disciplemaker.
We must each understand our unique gift in the Body of Christ. We each can impact the implementation of the Body following Jesus. I want to invite you to wrestle with the questions:
- What is our identity as a church?
- How are we rooting our identity in disciplemaking?
- What does it mean to equip and not just consume?
How we answer these questions might just change everything!