As a former pastor-teacher, one of my greatest joys in serving my church was in seeing my fellow brothers and sisters fall more deeply in love with Jesus with each passing year. Actually, observing the spiritual growth and transformation of those in our local church helped me persevere through the more difficult moments as a pastor.
What was even more amazing is seeing how those people affected the lives of others around them. When followers of Jesus become more mature in the faith, not only do the local bodies they are members of benefit from their growth, but other individuals in their spheres of influence get to see firsthand what following Jesus is all about. And hopefully they too will also want to become His disciples and grow in Him. This multiplication process is what strengthens the local body and widens the Kingdom of God.
As Aaron and I make preparations to plant a new church, we want people to know that our hope is not merely to plant a church. I’m guessing that most anyone could plant a church so long as they had enough leaders, money, and people to support it. Much more than starting a new Sovereign Grace church, we desire to see people become followers of Jesus who are then equipped to help the people in their lives become followers of Jesus.
As an aside, one of the reasons I consider it to be an amazing privilege to plant a church with Sovereign Grace Churches is because of how well they model disciple-making. Michelle (my bride) and I have experienced firsthand what a disciple-making church looks like since becoming a member of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. In just a few short months as members, we have seen Ephesians 4:11-16 lived out by our fellow members and pastors in ways I hope to carry directly into our own church planting endeavors. As I think about my own experience, following are some ways the local church grows through discipleship, as seen through Paul’s pen:
A disciple-making church will multiply.
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” (v 11-12)
Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 4 that God has gifted the church with various forms of leadership with a specific purpose in mind: to prepare the church for ministry so that the body itself is built up. Notice that God gave the church faithful leaders, not only so they could spiritually feed the people (which they certainly do), but so that they would equip the people to go and make disciples, thereby building up the body.
As Aaron and I endeavor to plant a church, we are praying for these kinds of “gifts,” fellow leaders sent to us by God that will help us lead the church into a right understanding of discipleship. Our hope as pastor-teachers is to meet together often with our local body, always with God’s Word in our midst, teaching, studying, and learning together about what it means to be faithful ministry workers. We will then go out into our communities equipped to share the gospel with our neighbors and friends, leading them into a right understanding of who God is.
How will this look practically? Well, we don’t know yet. But our hope is to build a church based upon the “missional community” model. I encourage you to watch this video to learn more about missional communities:
A disciple-making church is firmly planted on truth.
“13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (v 13-14).
The goal of discipleship, then, is a mature Christian, one who is ever growing in the truth of who Jesus is, all the while showing Him to others by their life and ministry. God gave the church gifted leadership with the intended purpose of transforming His children into the image of Christ. But again, notice one of the defining characteristics of a Christ-like Christian: they are sure of what they believe and are not easily swayed or deceived.
As we look toward our first meeting, Aaron and I are convinced of our primary purpose: to help our fellow brothers and sisters know Christ (v 13). We know that only a consistent diet of God’s truth will provide for their continued sanctification (John 17:17). It is for this reason that we are investing so much time in preparing theologically and pastorally for this plant through the Pastor’s College. We believe that as we prepare ourselves to preach and stand on the truth that our fellow future church members will also be provided a solid foundation on which to build their lives. And how important is it that the Church be filled with strong believers in a day when “every wind of doctrine” is being propagated through our Christ-less culture?
A disciple-making church is one that edifies one another.
“15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (v 15-16).
Finally, a growing church is one that has adopted a culture of edification. The more the local body is nourished through God’s Word, particularly as it focuses on the person and work of Jesus, the more its various members will be encouraged and strengthened in their faith. Practically, this church will be one filled with members who regularly speak the truth of Christ (Ephesians 4:21) to one another, especially as some in the body go through periods of suffering and spiritual struggle.
Aaron and I desire to plant just such a church – one filled with members who are doers of the Word, not merely hearers. By grace, this will result in a local church that is not only composed of Christ-like people, but is one that effectively reaches into the lives of its neighbors who do not know Jesus, helping them to become His followers as well.
If you’ve read to this point, I make a personal plea to you: please pray for us. All of the above is easy to type out and place in this post, but is far more difficult to bring about in human strength. We deeply need the grace of God to fill us with faith in Jesus – the Head of the Church, to build up His Body on the earth. It is incredibly humbling to think that He may use us to help bring this about, and we long for His Spirit’s power to put our hands to the task. Thank you for your prayers, and your partnership!