by Eva Gallardo (January / February 2002 • Volume 18 • Number 1)
In this urban setting, discipleship is an ongoing process of continually training others to be disciple-makers themselves
I believe that discipleship is the only way to go for the Christian church of all times and all places.
Before his ascension to heaven, our Lord Jesus commissioned his disciples "to go and make disciples of all nations". What a better place to reach all nations than in the cities of our country.
According to the Scriptures in Matthew 28:18-20, to make disciples is to preach the gospel of salvation, baptize in his name (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) to those who believe, and teach them to obey every thing that Christ has commanded us.
This commission is not for a few, but for all those who believe in Jesus Christ.
The disciple doesn't have to be a specialized teacher, but only one who is ready to share with others his or her faith and life.
The work of the church of the 21st century will be characterized as team work. It will include a visionary pastor with a team of missionaries, evangelists, teachers, pastors, deacons, and others. This team will share the same vision and willingness to submit to each other in love for the sake of the gospel and the advancement of the kingdom of God (John 17: 21,23). There will be no rivalry, jealousy, or competing spirit. But is this a realistic vision?
I hope you don't think this is wishful thinking. But after the terrible events of Sept 11, 2001, I hope we do seek our God for whom nothing is impossible! (Luke 1:37)
How can this support team or staff come into existence? By being discipled by their pastor. These disciples will become the future pastors, evangelists, missionaries, teachers, and other workers. It is a multiplication process. Each one taught then goes on to teach others.
Some will be called to open new missions outside the parish, others to stay and be part of a support team of the local church. The more the church gives out, the more God will continue calling to ministry people from within the local church.
Nineteen years ago near the beginning of my journey of faith, God placed in my heart the need to start a school of discipleship. All that I wanted was to pass on what I had been learning through my faith journey.
From the beginning, I believe that God has directed me to find the kind of resources that would help the group to grow in faith. I had to translate many of these resources into Spanish. But God always directed me to the right kind of spiritual food I should use.
I encountered opposition and misunderstanding from the people in our congregation who wanted to be leaders but would not pay the price of being discipled. I also encounter opposition from some men who didn't want women to disciple them or who didn't want their wives to be discipled so they could find their own spiritual gifts and calling.
I also encounter jealousy among some of the growing disciples. I had to give all my attention to one small group among the rest so that these disciples could grow more quickly and then begin to disciple others themselves. This required getting together once a week to pray, study the Bible, and share fellowship. At the same time, I was meeting for discipleship classes on Monday nights with the whole group.
In spite of some opposition and misunderstanding, our ministry of discipleship has created new leadership for the church. The ministry has produced five pastors and three associates in ministry.
We also have three congregations led by three mission developers and two associates in ministry in Hialeah, Westchester, and Miami. There is also one pastor-evangelist for the entire area and two approved candidates for pastor and associate in ministry in the candidacy system.
Our congregation has also helped produce one mission developer who is working with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in the Washington, D.C. and Maryland District.
During this summer, 13 new disciples have emerged as teachers, conducting Bible classes in 13 homes throughout the city with an attendance of 84 students. Many of them include unchurched people, friends, neighbors, and relatives of our members.
Ministry Teams Created
For our 2001-2002 course, our student-disciples have been separated, according to their gifts and calling, into seven different teams, each with a teacher-coordinator. These teams include Evangelism and Follow-up, Missions, Hospital and Pastoral Care, Ministry to the Needy, Intercessory Prayer, Teaching, Ministry to the Elderly, and Parenting School.
Under my supervision, each coordinator must find resources, develop strategies, and do mission together with a team assigned to them in cooperation with the other teams.
The coordinators are mature leaders that have been discipled and trained, and have ministered for several years within our congregation.
Never before have we been so sure of the path to follow. Through these years, God has prepared us for the harvest, and it is now harvest time!
Eva Gallardo is an associate in ministry at Principe de Paz Lutheran Church, Miami, Florida, working in the area of discipleship.
- Gene Mines summarizes well the biblical principles for evangelism and ministry based on the Great Commission in his book Kingdom Principles for Church Growth (Convention Press: Nashville, TN, 1995). He sees the Great Commission as the driving force behind ministry and names five essential functions to fulfill: evangelism, discipleship, ministry, fellowship, and worship. As a result, the church will see numerical and spiritual growth, ministry expansion, and missionary advance. I highly recommend his book.
- I also recommend Catching the Next Wave: Leadership Strategies for Turn-Around Congregations, by Steve J. Goodwin (Augsburg Press: Minneapolis, MN, 1990).
- For insights into discipleship training, I recommend: Disciple Making: Training Leaders to Make Disciples (Institute of Evangelism, Billy Graham Center: Wheaton, IL, 1994), and excellent materials provided by Augsburg Fortress Press on the subject, such as Living Faith 1 and 2 (1998-1999, ISBN #6-0000-9989-4, and 1999-2000, ISBN #6-0001-0856-7, respectively), from the Division for Congregational Ministries Education packets, which assist the congregation and its leaders in preparing the congregation to understand and commit to the call to discipleship.
- Also I urge you to contact NavPress.com and LifeWay.com via the internet.