Another Step toward Multiplying our Church: Training the church within the church

Teaching1This blog is an article that I wrote for my church newsletter that may be helpful for others to read who are looking to plant churches and send missionaries around the world. I hope it is a blessing to you:

One of many signs of health is reproduction, I have been thinking about this a lot recently, especially because I am officially “Uncle Walt” as of January 4, 2010! (shameless, I know). In the same way that reproduction is a sign of health in humans and animals, it is also a sign of the health in a church.

It is quickly becoming the passion of our church to multiply itself via church planting. The church is God’s chosen instrument to reach the world with the Gospel, so we are making God’s mission our mission by seeking to strategically place churches around the globe. Our long-term vision is to become somewhat of a church planting hub that is continually equipping and sending groups from our church to live their lives somewhere else for the sake of the Gospel.

With our passion for starting new churches comes unique yet fun challenges. One initial challenge that our staff is looking to tackle is the need for our church to continually raise up men and women who are equipped to carry the Gospel around the world. This goal should not seem unusual because it is calling of all believers to be able to multiply themselves in the lives of others (Matt. 28:19).

Preparing the church to take the Gospel around the world should be the norm in every church. It saddens me to think that the vast majority of church members and attendees in our country have been given the impression, either verbally or non-verbally, that a good Christian is one who comes to church, listens to a sermon, sings a few songs, tithes and goes home. Though these things are important to the Christian life, what I have just described is only a shadow of God’s desire for every believer. Though the expectation upon each Christian is greater when the church seeks to have everyone proactively advance the Gospel movement, the vibrancy of the Christian life is unparalleled when the believer is fulfilling the reason for their creation.

At the most basic level, the mission of the Church is to worship the Triune God, edify the bride of Christ (the Church), and evangelize the world. By the power of the Holy Spirit the church is self-perpetuating and nowhere does Scripture assume that a specialized para-church institution will raise up those who will fulfill the calling of the church on her behalf. This is why I stress that leaders should be trained within the church. With that said, para-church institutions are extremely profitable insofar as they seek to come alongside the church as they equip believers for God’s calling on their life together.

It is not my intention to diminish the ministry preparation that seminaries and other para-church ministries offer, rather it is to challenge our church to take ownership of making disciples who are able teachers, counselors, and evangelists around the globe. I am convinced that if every opportunity to instill a love for God and His mission is taken in the nursery, in children’s and adult Sunday school, in small groups, and as older believers disciple younger believers, the hunger to fulfill and be equipped for God’s mission will follow. Far too often the local church understands the nursery, children’s Sunday school, and youth group to be a babysitting service so the parents can enjoy a worship service without any distraction. This should not be! At every age, every opportunity should be taken to instill a love for God, His mission, and to deepen our knowledge of the depths of God’s Word.

As your church staff, we are continually looking for opportunities to streamline all that we do to make disciples that are up to the joyous task of moving their lives to another community and simply being the light of Christ at a new church, as you go to work, in your children’s schools, in your neighborhood, at the store, and for those of you who are really spiritual, even at the DMV:)

The endgame of this blog is to call everyone to act with a renewed purpose in all that we do in the church. This does not change what we do, but it changes why we do what we do. Because those who serve in the nursery, with our children, and with our youth are teaching and caring for the next generation of ambassadors for Christ: missionaries in the workplace, to their neighborhood or to other nations, as pastors, church planters etc. We must take every teachable moment captive for the purpose of equipping them for God’s purpose in their lives. In the same way, adult Sunday school classes are a training ground for our teachers to instruct in godliness, and to cultivate a love and knowledge of God and His Word and mission.

An aside to the Seminarian:

The last thing I would want the reader to take from this article is the devaluing of theological education that takes place in seminaries, Bible colleges and institutes. Years spent in these programs function as a time of accelerated learning in the life of the believer as he or she prepares for God’s calling on their life. During this time the seminarian is taking in vast quantities of intellectual knowledge about God. While retaining knowledge of God is essential for growth, it must not be confused for getting to know the person of God through a genuine growing relationship. It is a necessity in the Christian life to grow in knowledge of God, but when it is not accompanied by a deepening love of God it leads to a hardened heart. Some goals that a seminarian can keep in mind during their time of intense study is (1) not to forsake the meeting of God’s people, (2) maintain an active role within your local body of believers, and to (3) continue to cultivate personal spiritual disciplines so that the Bible does not become a textbook and the person of God is not reduced to an object of intellectual scrutiny. During my time in seminary I have kept these principles in mind and I have never had a season in my life where my head and my heart grew together in such harmony.