I enjoy the writing of Gordon Macdonald - his book “A Resilient Life” is worth anybody’s time but that’s a different blog. So awhile back when I discovered that he was writing about Leadership Development/ Discipleship I was interested.
The book in question is “Going Deep.” It is a fictional account of a church that sets out to address the shortage of “deep people” in their midst. It’s an ok read but the most helpful part of the book are the questions that get asked while putting together this discipleship/deep people process. These questions are worth working through as individuals and churches who are interested in disciple making (which we should all be). So allow me to summarize and editorialize for us all. Call it “reading books so you don’t have to.”
Some important questions:
1) What is the goal? Why are we entering into this process and what do we hope the outcome is? Do we simply want people who show up more at church? Or people who nod in agreement to a set of beliefs? Do we want disciple makers who will live their lives ordered around Jesus and see themselves as commissioned to go and make disciples? You may be able to tell where my bias lies – but regardless of where you land, this is an important first question.
2) What does our “goal” look like lived out? In the book, they had to define what a “deep person” is. This may be more question (1a) instead of question (2) but it is important. It’s easy to say we want to make disciples but ten different people will have ten different ideas as to what that is exactly.
3) How do we get there? What will our process look like? This does break down into several sub-questions including: What material/curriculum will be used? How does the curriculum need to be adapted? Who will we work with or disciple? What will our format be? Will we work in triads or groups or some other configuration? Will we meet weekly? For how long? Will this be a formal or informal process? How will we need to balance study and action? How might any or this or all of this impact our current life, church life and pastor’s job description?
4) How long will the process go before it ends or we need to adjust it? If we are purposely forming disciple makers, at some point they will have to go and make disciples. When will that be and what will things look like after they are released/ commissioned?
These very good questions from Macdonald are ones that all of us and our churches need to think and pray through. Hopefully these questions are helpful to you as you go and make disciples. And if you are interested in some great resources, click here to check out the FMCIC resources available here on this very website.
In the February edition of Upwords (a publication of First FMC in Moose Jaw, SK) I read an article about the history of Alberta’s Ellice FMC. The article ended with this, “The church is surrounded by farm land, 13 kilometers from Bashaw, the nearest town. The aging and dwindling congregation and decrease of the rural population in general led to a decision to close the church. The final service was held Dec. 29, 2013. We trust that as members join other churches they will continue to have a ministry in the wider kingdom of God.”
I felt sad learning of Ellice closing its doors just as our group of Jesus followers is getting serious about officially planting a church. It made me again consider the weight of this whole church planting gig and its unknown outcome.
Of course then I heard Director of Church Planting Jared Seibert’s voice echoing in my head from a recent yet to be released church planting video I shot a couple of months ago, “The simple answer is that all denominations engage in church planting at some time or another. All churches had to have started somewhere. And the real challenge is that churches don’t last forever. Very few of the churches that Paul started in his ministry exist today and by very few I mean none whatsoever. So denominations have to start new churches in order to continue to place the gospel within the reach of the people they are called out to reach.”
And it was that last bit, “In order to continue to place the gospel within the reach of the people they are called out to reach” that got me. That is exactly why we are planting a church.
But back to Ellice FMC, I had a great chat with now retired Pastor David Panton about his thirty-one years of ministry at Ellice FMC. He can’t recall any highs or lows just the everyday flow of prairie life but when I asked about the closing of the church he said, “The bottom line was we were not bringing people to Christ.”
And that put this whole church planting thing into perspective for me. We want to place the gospel in front of our neighbors in a relevant meaningful way that connects with them. And whether we last two years or twenty – the bottom line is clear – we are called to share the good news.
And speaking of good news, I’m starting another series of stories entitled just that, “The Good News!” These will be stories of individuals who have met Jesus through the ministry of one of our churches.
Ok, done with scattered random thoughts for the moment. Carry on.
Click here to read the Ellice FMC article written by David Panton and Joyce and Carl Delamarter. in February’s issue of First Methodist’s Upwords.