February 15, 2006

A Discipleship Approach to Ministry

capIT SHOULD BE OBVIOUS THAT THE NEEDS of an unchurched person who has only recently accepted Christ are quite different from the needs of a person who has been a church member for 25 or 30 years. The Adventist Church attracts people who were raised in a wide variety of religious backgrounds, and a discipleship approach seeks to address the issues that result from this diversity.

If your church wants to move from a ?one size fits all? approach to outreach to one that challenges new and older members to continue to grow at several levels of faith maturity, a number of excellent resources are available.

The ?one size fits all? approach tends to discourage spiritual growth, keeping church members perpetually at a relatively immature level of faith development. New generations of adults insist on authentic, substantial learning experiences that challenge them to grow in Christ through challenges appropriate to their individual personalities and gifts.

Discipleship empowers the believer for ministry. Discipleship encourages growing Christians to find their inspiration in service, to engage in faith-strengthening experiences as well as listen to faith-strengthening stories. This is the New Testament model. Ephesians 4 teaches that spiritual gifts are bestowed ?to prepare God?s people for works of service? so that they can ?become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ? (verses 12, 13). The learning experience in the church should lift believers above ?every wind of teaching? and enable each believer to ?grow up into . . . Christ? in a wholistic way, ?in all things? (verses 14, 15). And the learning is to take place within a relational context, and with a missional purpose: ?the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work? (verse 16).

One widely used outline for a discipleship approach and the available resource materials is shared here simply to suggest the possibilities. The resources listed here are all from Adventist publishers, for use in your local church.

Level 1--Becoming a Christian
Learning Objective: Developing a commitment to church membership and baptism.

Lifeline (not shown)--Two Bible study guides of 13 sessions each that cover the basic
doctrines of the Adventist Church.

1. A Window to Revelation
Twenty Bible study guides that use a relational approach to a verse-by-verse study of the
book of Revelation. (Order from Seminars Unlimited at 1-800-982-3344.)

Level 2--Growing in Christ
Learning Objective: Developing a commitment to a mature faith.

2. Coming Together
Four units of 7 to 13 sessions each on the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study,
contemplation, and spiritual mentoring.

Level 3--Learning to Serve
Learning Objective: Developing a commitment to ministry in Christ?s name.

3. Friend 2 Friend
Six units covering the basic skills that every believer needs to share Christ with relatives,
work associates, and acquaintances.
4. Connections
Eight sessions on spiritual gifts, personality styles, and how to get involved in the ministry
that best fits one?s interests and abilities.

Level 4--Dedication to Mission
Learning Objective: Understanding one?s life mission.

Resources need to be developed.

The listed items are available from AdventSource, the distribution center for leadership helps
for the North American Division. You can order online at www.adventsource.org or dial (800) 328-0525.

Monte Sahlin is vice-president for Creative Ministries in the Columbia Union Conference.