I had the pleasure if interviewing John Kraemer of The Lego Church Project. We discuss the project, his ministry, faith, and disability awareness. Check out his Facebook page at facebook.com/legochurchproject.
Aubrey Malphurs says “Disciple making does not end with a person’s conversion, however. It’s an ongoing process that encourages the believer to follow Christ and become more like Him.” With this taken into account we need to ask ourselves a question. What is the most effective way to make disciples? Do we get as many people in one room, and immerse them in biblical knowledge and theological thought? This has its place, but new believers run the risk of getting lost in the shuffle in this environment. Dr. Dempsey, states “Christianity is more caught than taught, and to make progress in the disciple-making process, we need good examples good example of people who the Apostle Paul’s paradigm.” Coincidently the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”
To effectively do this in our churches we need to change the way we are doing things. The Sunday sermon is very important, but it is not the way in which disciples are built. There are some ministries in our churches that have turned into social clubs instead of ministry. It is time to rethink what we are doing, and align everything to the commandment of making disciples. According to Dr. Dempsey “The best context for cultivating this kind of environment is a small group within a local church. With the exception of the first three hundred years of the church, we have not done a good job of creating that structure.”
The small group allows for an intimate setting where the scriptures are taught. The people of the group grow together, encourage each other, and learn from each other. They hold each other accountable and check up on those members that they have not seen in a while. It is a different dynamic from the traditional way that the church has operated. From an evangelization standpoint it is less intimidating for the non-believer who may attend the group.
Dr. Putnam, states “Making disciples is the main reason why the church exists, so everything in a corporate body needs to be funnel people toward a relational small group in which discipleship can best happen.” It has been said many times, and it bears repeating. A small group is the primary means of making disciples who make disciples. There are three components to a successful small group and they are the following: Shepherding, teaching, and authenticity and accountability.
Throughout the scriptures we read of the Lord being a shepherd, and His followers as sheep. In a small group the leader attempts to create an environment where members are helping each other. We are people who deal with many stressors in our lives. In our small groups a member may be overwhelmed with something, or everything, that is going on in their lives. The leader will offer group prayer for this hurting member, and someone in the group may share an experience to help the member through. The member of the group is treated like a family member, and listening is key. In regard to this David Horton states, “Strong groups are led by those who build a strong sense of synergy, community, and solidarity.” Without this sense of community the shepherding process will not be effective. People will not share their experiences, or what is going on in their lives. At that point the whole disciple making process halts.
The second aspect of a small group it that of teaching. This is an environment where real teaching takes place. People are just not given a sermon and sent home. Teaching in the small group is also relational. The members are encouraged to ask questions, and the Bible is central for teaching. In short it is not just another Bible study. There is plenty of Bible study happening, but it goes deeper than that. When people think of a Bible study they think of one person doing most of the talking while everyone else sits back and listens.
In a small group the teacher is more of a facilitator. The leader helps the group participate in biblical discussions, ask questions, and share their own experiences. This is key for the leader to understand if the text is being understood. If it is not being understood then the goal of making disciples took a step backward. Always point back to Bible to show them where the answers are.
Lastly other keys to a small group are authenticity and accountability. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, states “Two are better than one because they have good return on their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls where there is not another to lift him up.” The KJV Biblical Commentary says about these verses, “A man alone who is about to be overcome by any onslaught may be kept from ruin through the helpful hand of his friend. Such companionship is of inestimable value and is certainly a profit to all those who possess it.” There are no free agents in Christianity. We are unable to go through this journey of faith alone. When we do the enemy sees us as lost sheep, and since we do not have the protection of the group, we will be easy prey for him. It is important for the leader to espouse empathy to the group, and let the group know that listening is best. It is human nature to want to fix another’s problems, but it is important to listen and share.
When struggles are brought up there is most likely someone in the group who has had a similar struggle. Leaders need to foster an environment of authentic sharing where hearts are being transformed. It is also an environment where accountability is fostered. How will the group help a member who is struggling with a particular sin? We cannot create disciples if there is a lingering sin that a person is dealing with. We need to help our members get over those.
In conclusion the small group is vital to the believer and the church. It is an environment where relationships are forged, lives are changed, disciples are made, and disciples are sent out. They are sent out to change the world with the Gospel of Christ. What else is there? The world around us is hurting, and morals are in decay. The small group exists to create disciples to be light to the world.
1 Corinthians 11:1 (New American Standard Version).
Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is…How to live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&h Publishing Group, 2013.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (New American Standard Bible).
Horton, David. The Portable Seminary. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2006.
King James Version Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 2005.
Malphurs, Aubrey. Strategic Disciple Making. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2009.
Putnam, Jim, and Bobby Harrington with Robert Coleman. Discipleshift. Grand Rapids, MICHIGAN: Zondervan, 2013.
 Aubrey Malphurs, Strategic Disciple Making (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2009), 34.
 Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…How to live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&h Publishing Group, 2013), 276.
 1 Corinthians 11:1 (New American Standard Bible).
 Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…How to live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&h Publishing Group, 2013), 59.
 Jim Putnam and Bobby Harrington with Robert Coleman, Discipleshift (Grand Rapids, MICHIGAN: Zondervan, 2013), 184.
 David Horton, The Portable Seminary (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2006), 597.
 Jim Putnam and Bobby Harrington with Robert Coleman, Discipleshift (Grand Rapids, MICHIGAN: Zondervan, 2013), 190.
 Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (New American Standard Bible).
 King James Version Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 2005), 742.
Check out my new book on Amazon.
[Note: I received this book from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review.]
For this review I take a break from academic, purely theological, and church history works to focus on a children’s book. I have four young children, and my youngest two are three years old. The book is small enough for their small hands to hold, and the pages are nice and thick which is great for durability.
As the title suggests, the book contains short form stories about Jesus that are easy for children to understand. The illustrations in this book are also excellent. They are colorful, vibrant, and assistant the young reader in understanding the stories. The colorful pages also help keep the attention of the youngest among us.
Many children’s Bibles are quite large in comparison to their target demographic, but this one is an exception. It is small enough to be carried anywhere and will not take up much room. I recommend this book for young toddlers. It is a great way to introduce them to the ministry of Christ.
The book can be purchased at http://www.zondervan.com/the-beginner-s-bible-stories-about-jesus-2
It is my goal with this article to explain why discipleship is a vital factor for the church and ministry. To do this discipleship must first be explained, and then put into the context of ministry and the church.
Instead of a definition a few examples may better explain. A disciple is a person who is becoming spiritually mature, a person who cares for the lost, does life with others and builds relationships, knows what righteousness is, worships God with resources and energy, and is a witness for Christ in every way . In other words, a disciple is someone who is committed to Christ and is committed to a deeper walk, and teaching others what it means to be a Christian. This is precisely what the Great Commission is all about. Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-20 states, “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age .”
I have attended many churches across this great country and the ones that are struggling seem to have something is common. They are great at getting commitments for Christ, but they are not following up with discipleship. Eventually, these new believers hit roadblocks in their faith and since they have never been taught the faith they assume it wasn’t the real deal. Getting commitments is fantastic and is something we need to do, but if we build disciples we will mentor believers into soul winners. They will know the faith, be on fire for it, have a strong relationship with Jesus, not be afraid to take someone under their wing, and our churches will thrive. This is the true essence of ministry! As David Platt writes, “All Jesus wanted was a few good men who would think as he did, love as he did, see as he did, and serve as he did. All he needed was to revolutionize the hearts of a few, and they would impact the world .” How are our ministries having this impact? Discipleship allows Jesus to transform our ministries and help the Gospel spread like wildfire.
I spent the last couple paragraphs discussing how discipleship is a vital part of ministry. I will now describe how it is also a vital part of the local church, and in truth I touched on it a little already. To be blunt, discipleship is the key to church growth. Our pastors are awesome, but they are only one person and can only do so much. Burnout is a real threat and kills ministry careers on a daily basis. Discipleship empowers believers to not only share the Gospel, but to give others the tools to live the faith. This has the effect of getting the gospel on the street and therefore, more in attendance. It is a cycle that keeps giving our church new members and more disciples. Where there is a good discipleship program that is where a healthy church is going to be. We must keep the words of Christ in mind from John 15:1-2 which states, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit .” This fruit that Jesus speaks of can only grow from a life of discipleship, and that life starts in the local church. It is a slow process, but it is a process that we are called to do. The local church has a responsibility to the believer and in the end the local church will be repaid with the talents of the fruitful disciple. In regards to discipleship, I will leave you with the words of the early 20th-century theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In regards to discipleship he wrote, “Discipleship is a commitment to Christ. Because Christ exists, he must be followed…. Discipleship without Jesus Christ is choosing one’s own path. It could be an ideal path or a martyr’s path, but it is without promise. Jesus will reject it .” Discipleship is the key to a successful ministry and to a successful local church. Let us do a little self-reflection. Have we been treating discipleship as the priority it needs to be?
God bless you friends.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Discipleship. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003.
John 15:1-2 (Revised Standard Version).
Matthew 28:18-20 (Revised Standard Version).
Platt, David. Radical. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2010.
Putnam, Jim, and Bobby Harrington With Robert Coleman. Discipleshift. Grand Rapids, MICHIGAN: Zondervan, 2013.
The book Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically by John MacArthur is a collection of essays from the staff at Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, CA. It draws on the rich knowledge of, not only Dr. MacArthur, but his staff who have all been pastors before teaching at the seminary level. The book is written to not only challenge future pastors, but those who are already leading a church. It shows that biblical ministry includes prayer, holiness, worship, discipleship, being a servant, and compassion for those you are leading (MacArthur, 2005, backcover). Overall the book is divided into four main sections which include biblical perspectives, preparatory perspectives, personal perspectives, and pastoral perspectives.
The first section looks to scripture to tell the reader how important the office pastor is from a biblical perspective. One of the primary biblical texts discussed is 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which not only enforced the sufficiency and authority of scripture, but its need in developing priorities and pans in ministry (MacArthur, 2005, p. 11). Humility is also discussed at length in the chapter and for very good reason. Though it is not a popular worldly trait, humility is a must in a pastor. In regards to this Dr. MacArthur writes, “The true man of God, however, seeks the approval of the Lord rather than the adulation of the crowd. Humility is thus the benchmark of any useful servant of God (MacArthur, 2005, p. 16).”
This section of the book delves into the man who is called into ministry. As the section describes it is about preparation. Has the individual properly discerned his calling? Are his qualifications in line with 1 Timothy chapter 3 and Titus chapter 1? In regards to these Dr. MacArthur writes, “It is God’s demand that his steward live in such a holy manner that his preaching will never be a contradiction to his lifestyle (MacArthur, 2005, p. 68).”
A great deal of the section is also spent on the issue of sexual immorality. One must be in control of himself, and be faithful to his wife. This is a Godly example that Dr. MacArthur praises. Overall there must not be a single flaw in the person’s character, and secondly the call of ministry must be recognized by others. This can only be done by involving oneself with public ministry and being the willing recipient of feedback from the congregation.
This section details the home and personal life of the pastor. Ministry is hard on the family and the team reiterates this point. Again 1 Timothy chapter 3 is looks at as the gold standard of a pastor’s personal life. If his home life is in shambles then his ministry will greatly suffer (MacArthur, 2005, p. 123). The pastor also must have a healthy spiritual life steeped in prayer and devotion. This reiterated in chapter 10 when Dr, Rosscup writes, “God has given His Word as the pastor’s main tool. God’s Word makes clear that a proper blending of the Word and prayer is the most strategic approach to ministry (MacArthur, 2005, p. 131).”
The final section of the work is dedicated to the seven duties of a pastor. The pastor has many different duties within the local church. The team of writers lays out the following functions: Worshiping, preaching, modeling, leading, outreaching, discipling, watching and warning, and observing ordinances (MacArthur, 2005, p. 187). These roles make up everything that the pastor is responsible for at his church. Though some may be delegated the responsibility lies on his shoulders.
Dr. MacArthur and his staff at Master’s Seminary presented a work designed to give the current, or aspiring pastor a blueprint on what to expect and to give perspective on what expect and conduct oneself. It is truly a great resource for everyone in ministry to have, but it does have its issues.
There is much that is agreed upon in the work, but the section on training stands out. This area falls under the personal perspective section that was discussed earlier. The emphasis put on personal prayer and study is one that really hit home. It is so easy to get complacent, and that is what the enemy wants. The whole section is one that makes the minster be on guard against the things seeking to take his ministry down. The pastor is to be an example of what it means to be Christ like. If he is not doing these things then how is he supposed to teach his congregation to do so? If his home life is in disarray how is he supposed to lead the flock? These are all issues that were brilliantly dealt with in the work.
Disagreements were hard to come by in the book, but one big one jumped off the page on page 69. Dr. MacArthur state that men must have impeccable reputations. In regards to this Dr. MacArthur writes, “The pastor must have a reputation of being sexually pure (MacArthur, 2005, p. 69).” To an extent this statement is agreeable, but are people to be held to these standards if it was something done before they came to Christ? Disqualifying a Christian man because of something in his past would be wrong in this author’s opinion. If the individual has repented, accepted Christ, and shown the fruit of the Christian life then this should override any past sin. The intentions of Dr. MacArthur are fully understood, and by no means meant to be malicious. If the qualifications for being a pastor were based on lifestyle before salvation then there may not be any good candidates.
This book is not one that was written with the average layman in mind. This is not to say that the average churchgoer will not benefit, but it is aimed at those who are in ministry or considering it. The book is also very practical and is steeped in the ministerial wisdom and experience of the staff at Master’s Seminary. The work delves into what scripture states a minister is to be. This is echoed by Dr. MacArthur who writes, “Nothing could be more honorable or have greater eternal significance than serving our Christ and His church. This privilege is also the most serious responsibility a person can undertake (MacArthur, 2005, Introduction).” The writing team were honest about the hazards of ministry, particularly with the family. They gave an honest portrayal of ministry and did a great job of preparing those seeking to undertake it.
MacArthur, John, and The Master’s Seminary faculty. Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson, 2005
No matter what aspect of ministry you are involved in chances are you have heard of Charles Spurgeon. He pastored a church that had attendance of over 10,000 people on a weekly basis, wrote many books, and over 1,900 sermons are attributed to him (Spurgeon, 1954, backcover). Spurgeon regularly shared insights to ministerial students at Spurgeon College in an effort to adequately prepare them to be ministers of the Gospel. Lectures to My Students is the documented exchange of lectured that Spurgeon gave to his students. Ministers new and old with find a vast treasury of knowledge and insight that is helpful at any stage of a minster’s career.
Charles Spurgeon’s book Lectures to My Students is an in depth ministry manual for ministerial students and Pastors that are currently serving. In the work Spurgeon reiterates the importance of a relationship with Christ, a genuine call to serve, the necessity of prayer, and a hunger to reach the lost.
In speaking to his students about the Christian life Spurgeon states, “For a herald of the Gospel to be spiritually out of order in his own proper person is, both to himself and to his work, a most serious calamity (Spurgeon, 1954, p. 8).” Ministers are to ever vigilant in prayer, faithful in private devotion, and must have the understanding that his soul must be taken care of before he can even think about pastoral ministry to someone else.
Spurgeon goes into great detail as to why the call of the minister must be authentic and from God. A minister must have the desire to serve, be gentle under difficult circumstances, and good judgment. Spurgeon provides unfortunate examples of those who have gone into ministry without an authentic call. In regards to this calamity Spurgeon states, “That hundreds have lost their way and stumbled against a pulpit is sorrowfully evident from the fruitless ministries and decaying churches which surround us (Spurgeon, 1954, p. 25)”. Part of the call is understanding that God opens doors for those who are faithful.
The call to ministry is also a call to holiness and a godly character. If one strives to be a minister he must be someone the people can look up to. He is to be an example of what it means to be a Christian. One must be pious and have a high moral standard consistent with biblical principles. Spurgeon eloquently states in regard to godly living, “We do not trust those persons who have two faces, nor will men believe in those whose verbal and practical testimonies are contradictory (Spurgeon, 1954, p. 17).” This godly character is one that resonates from faith in Christ. In his teaching about sermons Spurgeon gives great advice to his students. He tells them to preach Christ always (Spurgeon, 1954, p. 79).
If there were ever a training manual for minsters then Lectures to My Students may qualify for it. It gives practical lessons to prepare minsters for what they will encounter, and ways to keep them on the straight and narrow. One of the great strengths of the book is the practical application that is presented.
The practical application can be seen in Spurgeon presenting what must be done with a minister’s life, both public and private. This can also be seen in the chapter discussing sermons. Spurgeon insists that sermons have teaching that can be applied to everyday life. He also insists that the truth not be held back no matter how unpopular it is (Spurgeon, 1954, p. 75). There is also a reminder of humility that the minister must always remember. The minister is called by the creator of the Universe and that must never be forgotten. It is a practical application of our place in the scheme of God, and we are to keep reverence to God as priority.
A weakness of the book, at least to the 21st century reader, is one of time. Spurgeon served in England in the 1800’s, and many things have changed since then. One such thing is language, and it has changed much in the last 200 years. There was also some doctrinal turmoil among various Baptist groups in England during Spurgeon’s time. This may have caused Spurgeon to be more forceful with some of his lectures. The things he is forceful about such as justification by faith and the deity of Christ are things we should still feel the same about today. As long as one understands these variables one will have no real issue with the work and will find it a great addition to their library.
In the larger academic context Lectures to My Students is remarkable and has stood the test of time. In in remarkable in its focus on a minster’s relationship with Christ, recognition of authentic calling, and the necessity of fulfilling the Great Commission. It is a reminder that things such as times of solitude, quiet time, prayer, and fasting are still beneficial and needed for the minister to properly prepare for his work. Sometimes those things are not popular, but they are certainly beneficial. Spurgeon, though a successful preacher, was a truly humble servant of God (Spurgeon, 1954, p. 51). He was truly an example for every one aspires to be in ministry, and for those who are currently in ministry.
Spurgeon, Charles. Lectures to My Students. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1954.
“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.”- 1 Corinthians 7:17
I have often wondered what my calling in life is. There have been times when I thought I had it figured out, but did not agree with it. I consequently was disobedient and went my own way. We all have a calling in life, and we are not meant to go about our lives without purpose.
What is your calling in life? It may be teaching, public service, taking care of children, or ministry. We all come from different backgrounds and have something to offer to each other. My challenge to you today, and over the next few weeks is to figure out what your calling is. Spent some time in prayer, in quiet time, and read the scriptures. Ask the Lord what his will for your life is. It may lead you down a path in which you are uncomfortable, but have faith. His ways are much better than our ways. Don’t be like I was in my youth. Be obedient to your call! It took me a while to do so and I have lost precious time.