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Prayer, intentional discipleship and growing a vision for effective mission


This last month I have had the privilege of attending a conference for our Brethren brothers and sisters from South East Asia in the Philippines. It was encouraging to mix with 175 Pilipino and 75 delegates from other countries as we gathered under the theme of being partners in the harvest (PITH). I also had the pleasure of being hosted by some national full time workers in the Philippines and seeing their ministry and hearing of their needs and vision for the future.

We are working together in the harvest and seeking to be effective in what we do, though our contexts are quite different. At the conference many were challenged by the messages and the call to partner together in prayer, discipleship and church planting as well as caring for the poor. On the last session Chris Leong (Chair of the International Committee for PITH) drew together some of the following themes as he shared a final challenge:

     - PITH is more than an event, it is to undergird the on-going renewal of a movement.
     - How can brethren regain its momentum to be a Jesus movement?
     - Prayer precedes mission.
     - Discipleship comes before leadership. Raise the bar of discipleship and leadership will develop.
     - View discipleship within a family ecosystem.

There was a decision to partner together in an international prayer week to focus on outcomes from the conference related to discipleship and church planting. GC3 will seek to provide details of this when they arrive. All those I spoke to want partnership from others in the region.

It was wonderful to be able to see what is being done by our mission partners and to really get a feel for the national work through the eyes of the national workers. Great foundations have been left by former missionaries and there is a desire to build on that. The national workers are expressing a desire for a new type of mission partnership with overseas expertise in terms of growing their theological and ministry training (on going pastoral refreshers and counselling were mentioned) and in catching and nurturing a sending vision in terms of mission to the unreached in other lands. How will we respond as their peers?

If we are seeking to be more effective in mission (GC3's vision is 'effective mission from every church'), then we were challenged about the priority of prayer and discipleship and church planting as part of that.

Neil Cole who was one of the plenary speakers raised our vision, helping us to grapple with the need to pursue church multiplication rather than division. His ideas on discipleship are helpful in terms of fleshing out our vision.

"Your church is only as good as her disciples. A hot band, dynamic preaching, state-of-the-art facilities and wonderful programs do not make a great church if the disciples are simply consumers and unengaged in the grand work of making disciples. But if the disciples in your church are empowered and engaged in mission, then your church is strong and healthy, even if you do not have laser lights or fog machines. We have done things backwards for too long. We must reverse the order. We think that the solution to having good disciples is to make better churches, when in fact the way to have good churches is to make better disciples.

Correctly applying the activity and behaviors of discipleship in the correct grouping can make significant impact on the overall life of the church as well as her impact on society as a whole. The absence of key groupings robs the church of a needed interaction and participation in significant spiritual behaviors."

Neil suggests that the Base Unit of Life is 2 to 3 People, growth starts low and steady and grows from 2-3, to 12-15, to 70, 120 and so on.

"Both the Old and New Testaments use the phrase 'two or three' repeatedly. At least ten times 'two or three' is suggested as an ideal size at which to conduct ministry. The Bible does not say 'two or more' or 'three or less' but regularly 'two or three.' The following are all strongest in groups of 2-3:

     • Community (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
     • Accountability (1 Timothy 5:19)
     • Confidentiality (Matthew 18:15-17)
     • Flexibility (Matthew 18:20)
     • Communication (1 Corinthians 14:26-33)
     • Direction (2 Corinthians 13:1)
     • Leadership (1 Corinthians 14:29)
     • Mission (Luke 10:1; Acts 13:2-4)

God has designed all of creation to reproduce at the level of two. If you cannot reproduce disciples at this level you are not likely to reproduce them at all. This grouping is the beginning of all life."

From this base of intentional discipleship we can grow and be sent and be sending trained disciples into the world. So, how do we go about this in amongst the busy schedule of our lives?

I want to suggest some practices that should be intentional and achievable. The first one is Know the Story. Okay, we all have a story. Is our story apart of God's story or are we believing a different story that's been told to us by maybe our parents, our boss, people growing up, the culture? Do we know God's story as a story? We need to. If we're going to be living as disciples who make disciples, we need to know God's story. We need to get to know each other's story deeply enough to apply the gospel...

That leads us to another practice of Listening. We're always listening to someone, but are we listening to God...We need to listen backwards through the Word of God—Who is God? How has He always been? We need to listen forward through the Holy Spirit. Like my prayer times are mostly filled up with me telling God what to do, and then I run off into my day. But to cultivate a rhythm of listening to God and in community is how you get to know peoples stories...

Another practice is to Celebrate. Life is living in a rhythm of celebration. Think about all the holidays that are just coming around, and birthdays (everybody you know has one), and anniversaries, and graduations, and new believers coming to faith. We need to join those celebrations and be the bringers of the better wine...Throw the best parties. Luke's gospel is full of the parties Jesus was involved in. As churches we should be the most celebratory people on the planet.

Then there is our practice of Eating. Talk about moving from additional to intentional. We already eat at least 21 times a week. What if I were to have three meals a week with people I'm trying to make disciples of?

Then there is this practice of Blessing...Ask the spirit to reveal to you three people that you could bless intentionally each week through words, action, or gift. Imagine a community of people in a neighbourhood, like ten or twelve, all blessing three people a week. You think that neighbourhood would notice? It'll transform a place.

This last practice is ReCreate. It's this idea of rest in Christ's completed work and then out of that we create beauty and we work and we create value. Resting in what Christ has done for us, not to earn, but then we work. It's the idea of Sabbath.

Let's catch a vision for intentional prayer and discipleship that is about reaching the world for Christ one person at a time. That way it's achievable and part of our daily lives. Our mission flows out of that as we join God where he is at work.

Russell Thorp, Missions Director, GC3

i. http://www.vergenetwork.org/2011/05/24/neil-cole-can-groups-be-missional-make-disciples/

ii. Adapted from a useful article by Caesar Kalinowski at http://www.vergenetwork.org/2013/04/25/what-makes-discipleship-intentional-caesar-kalinowski/



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