It’s been a little while since my last post on “kingly” administration, but I thought I’d pick things back up again (after the prodding of several friends). The big picture of these systems has been along the lines of what I call the “commission continuum”. This is the “metaprocess” in the life of a “great commission” church as summarized in the following four sub-systems: assimilation, membership, discipleship, and leadership development. I know there are other aspects besides these, but I’m limiting the commission continuum to these four to avoid being to complex (as is often the case when talking about administration). For review:
While I will occasionally throw up kingly stuff in a general sense (such as the hub and spoke paradigm), I want to turn my attention to disciple-making. If you are a fan of the book, The Trellis and the Vine, you know that the focus is the vine, not the trellis. However, a “fruitful” ministry needs good trellis. Because it is inevitable, we should make sure it is profitable.
From an administrative or “kingly” standpoint then, it is important to examine the trellis–the disciple-making structures. Here are some questions I have been thinking about in particular:
- Have you taken the time to evaluate the structured times of gathering in light of the Great Commission?
- Are structures duplicating or emphasizing only the strengths of your church?
- Are the structures encouraging engagement/participation or perpetuating passivity?
- Do the current structures, services, or programs facilitate movement and reproduction?
- Is there alignment in the structures to leverage gathered times for the greater purpose of making disciples?
A Great Commission church is a disciple-making church. If there is one thing we must do well, it is making disciples. While some churches are more structured than others, all churches are structured to some degree. What we should consider is how these structures support or detract from the disciple-making process and evaluate them regularly to determine whether they can support the weight of a reproducing church.
Most churches today utilize Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night (or another week night) for the majority trellis. The way we have worked it out in our church is:
- Sunday morning (attractional emphasis) –> church gathered
- Sunday night (missional emphasis) –> church scattered
- Wednesday night (training emphasis) –> leadership development
In church gathered, disciples are primarily made through the faithful biblical preaching. Through preaching, you have the opportunity to “disciple” people en masse through faithful biblical exposition. Preaching equips disciples in showing them the functional centrality of the gospel and how to access all they have in Christ through pointed application springing from faithful exposition. The way you counsel people with the gospel from the pulpit not only addresses their need but also serves as a model how to counsel others with the gospel on a personal level. When disciple-making is emphasized in preaching, it is liberating on a number of fronts, including the number of hours that would otherwise be spent in personal counseling meetings. When people avail themselves to the normal means of grace (preaching of the Word), it frees up the pastor’s schedule to continue training others throughout the week.
I would add also that Scripture reading and pastoral prayers are also ways in which you could model to your people how to read Scripture and pray. This can often be overlooked, but even these aspects of our liturgy can play a significant role in disciple-making.
Thirdly, church gathered can serve as an opportunity to train people in ministering to others. For instance, I have three single guys that I’ve been discipling who are my “A-Team” (administrative team) who oversee all ministry teams (greeters, ushers, welcome center, hospitality, media, etc.) and learn the systems of guest reception/follow-up, assimilation, and membership. Even now, I am setting up a rotation to include these men in doing our welcome/announcements, Scripture reading, and benediction. Having them leading in this way also shows the church that ministry is not about “professionals” but everyone in our church. Not only do these guys have a great ministry to our congregation now, but they could also play a critical role in future church ministries or plants as an “executive” or in the “kingly” role of facilitating gathered worship from a “behind-the-scenes” perspective.
In church scattered, disciples are primarily made through gospel communities on mission. While I plan to elaborate on this further on small-group structures, I will simply say that church scattered serves as a great venue for caring for members (pastoral care), engaging unbelievers in a natural context (evangelism), and raising up new disciples (apprentices). It is also in church scattered where members are empowered to exercise their spiritual gifts and express their shared commitment to the edification of the church as a holy priesthood. When disciples are made on an individual level, that will manifest itself in the need to start new gospel communities on mission. When gospel communities are vine-saturated trellis, they in turn become prospective church plants and kingdom outposts.
In leadership development, disciples are primarily made through intentional training and theological education. There ought to be some form of trellis for specific training and investment in maturing disciples within the church. For us, this has been Wednesday nights (though not exclusively). Recently, I have facilitated training of eight men in our church through Keller and Clowney’s Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World where we focused on biblical exegesis, hermeneutics, and homiletics. At the conclusion of this training is a scheduled opportunity for each of these men to preach on a Wednesday night and receive feedback from the elders on how they can improve their craft.
Currently, I am working on creating coaching teams for our small group leaders where we train them in shepherding our people, including gospel application, biblical counseling, and member care. Incorporated in this training, we plan at the start of 2011 to include missional training provided by the Porterbrook Network–a two-year grassroots theological education accessible to all men in our church.
The bottom line with all systems and structures is that they should exist only if they serve the mission of the church, and the heart of the church’s mission is to make disciples.