A Guide for Churches That Seek to Make Disciples
f you would like to see your local church become a congregation focused on making disciples, then here is a quick, practical guide to get started.
It is a new book entitled Traveling Together: A Guide for Disciple-forming Congregations by Jeffrey D. Jones, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Plymouth, Massachusetts (where the Pilgrims landed). He is one of a growing number of Protestant pastors who have come to believe that the main focus of the Christian church must be “making disciples” (Matt. 28:19).
In order to be effective at making disciples, the author states that a church must have eight characteristics: spiritual vitality, transforming worship, focus on God’s mission, spiritual gifts as the basis for service, ministry shared by clergy and laity, commitment to equipping, wholistic small groups, and a lean, permission-giving structure.
A short, practical bibliography for each of the eight characteristics (pages 183, 184) may be the most valuable thing in this book. There are also assessment tools for individuals and congregations. In other words, this small volume is really a tool kit to begin to dialog with your church board and move toward the goal of a disciple-making congregation.
You can get this book from the publisher (Alban Institute at www.alban.org) or ask your Adventist Book Center to order it for you.
A Study Guide for Young Parents
One of the most important discipleship tasks for many believers is raising their children to become disciples of Jesus. It is important for local churches to focus on helping parents because one of the main reasons that unchurched young families start looking for a church is to find support in their parenting role.
The First Seven Years by Kay Kuzma is a step-by-step guide to raising your children in Christ, from the person who is probably the best-known expert on parenting in the Adventist Church today. Kuzma has a Ph.D. in child development, and her Family Matters ministry has become well-established as a source of information, books, seminars, and broadcasts.
The guide contains 52 chapters covering 155 principles, with specific examples and small worksheets for each principle. The interactive teaching tools to help parents actually apply the principles that are taught in this book are very practical and useful. The introduction suggests that it can be used in parent groups. But I did not find any of the kind of discussion questions that would make it immediately helpful for small group activities. I think it is best designed for use as a teaching guide either in a seminar setting or, even more useful, in a mentoring situation.
Here is something every local church should do: When a young mother first starts attending church or the first child is coming along, connect her with an experienced, spiritually more mature mother as an informal coach. Give them both copies of this book as a guide for their weekly conversations. That kind of family mentoring seems to have greater impact than seminars and groups and is more personal. Here is the perfect material to make it a reality in your church.
Monte Sahlin is vice president for creative ministries at the Columbia Union Conference and chairman of a team at the Center for Creative Ministry that is currently implementing a discipleship curriculum resource project for the North American Division. You can give him ideas and comments at [email protected] or (800) 438-9600.