I believe that we are at a place in the history of the church where we need to have a vision for what we are seeking to produce in people through the ministries of the church. It can be increasingly difficult to maintain a simple focus on our main purpose to “make disciples” in light of the diverse needs of any church body and, therefore, it is easy to get caught up in the “monster of ministry” activity. I believe that we need to think more strategically in terms of what we are seeking to produce in a person and make this a focus for the church. Our biblical mandate is to present every person complete in Christ. What would this look like? Where should our sights be set? What should the life of disciple look like?
CHARACTERISTICS OF A DISCIPLE
As disciples, we are always to be growing. We will not be complete until the Lord Jesus returns, but how are we to be growing? Are there certain characteristics to which we should pay attention? I think that the Bible does provide us some categories to intentionally develop. Each of these characteristics are to be increasing. So, for each characteristic, it is necessary to use the “growing” in the description. A disciple of Jesus is one who will be…
Growing in worship
A disciple will be growing into a more worshipful person, evidencing a heart, actions, and words that exalt and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and will be encouraging such worship in others—individually, in the home, in friendships, and corporately.
Growing in repentance
A disciple will be growing in repentance because of an increasing love for God and the continual teaching of God’s word and an understanding of his/her own heart as evidenced by his/her words, thoughts, and actions.
Colossians 3; Titus 2:11-15; Galatians 5
Growing in dependency
A disciple will be growing in dependency, evidenced by intentional times of daily prayer, with spontaneous prayers being offered continually, in order to keep his/her heart oriented to the Lord, recognizing the need to walk in/be led by/empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Growing in eternal-mindedness
A disciple will be growing in eternal-mindedness, living in light of God’s greater story and seeking to live each moment in light of this greater story.
Growing in community
A disciple will be growing in being connected to others in the local body of Christ in meaningful, intentional, and regular ways, producing a mutual growth in Christ.
Growing in knowledge (of God’s word)
A disciple will be growing in an understanding of God’s word, which is evidenced by growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and in wisdom on a daily basis.
Growing in service (to the body of Christ)
A disciple will be growing in service to the body of Christ, using his/her gifts in a manner that builds up the body, beginning with his/her home and continuing into every contact with believers as well as the ministries of the church.
Growing in evangelism
A disciple will be growing in the proclamation of Christ to those who are not “in Christ” with a burden that the whole world receives this good news.
Growing in productivity/flourishing/vocational effectiveness/abundant living
A disciple will be growing in productively and meaningfully serving the world throughout all stages of life and in any vocation.
Growing in compassion
A disciple will be growing in providing assistance to the poor, defending the widow and the fatherless, and assisting people with their physical needs.
Growing in suffering
A disciple will be growing in the recognition that every moment of every day, whether cause for rejoicing or suffering, and every contact, whether an enjoyable encounter or one that is troublesome and frustrating, is an opportunity to grow personally and to be used by God in service to those around him/her.
Growing in giving
A disciple will be growing in the understanding that all his/her resources are given by God to be used to advance God’s greater purposes in this world.
This means that we should be constantly thinking in terms “How will _____________ help me grow as a disciple of Christ?” “How is _________________ advancing the characteristics of being a disciple?”
I hope that our hearts will resonate with the items in this list. However, I believe that a more active, prayerful, and focused approach to the body of believers at any church will create a growing, sustainable, and substantive God-glorifying community, where marriages/relationships are mutually edifying, parenting points children to Christ, repentance is the norm, etc. This needs to be the focus of our pastoring, which means that we need to find a way to conduct the “business” of the church without being dominated by it.