Guest Post by Adam Dooley
I sat in disbelief. The darkest moment of my ministry left me bewildered, depressed, and discouraged so deeply that it seemed irreparable to me. My son was in the middle of a long three-year battle with leukemia and many members of my congregation (certainly not all) seemed only to care how it was affecting them. Many told lies, others started rumors, and some even plotted my removal from the church. I nearly buckled under the pressure. The hateful rhetoric, calloused selfishness, and obvious absence of any spiritual fruit left me asking hard questions about my future in the pastorate.
Is this what I am reproducing?
How could real followers of Jesus act this way?
Is there more to ministry than this?
Am I willing to continue devoting my life to the charade that passes for Christianity in so many churches?
Great difficulties certainly tear us down, but they also produce moments of clarity where we can see things as they are rather than how we would like for them to be. This happened for me and resulted in the most significant paradigm shift not only in my ministry, but also in my personal walk with Jesus. Though my mistakes were numerous, the common denominator was my entrusting sacred things to those who could not handle them. You cannot advance a spiritual agenda with people who are immature in their faith (or even worse, unbelievers). It is not enough to declare what people ought to do; we must diligently show them how they ought to do things. In my pride, I failed to see that I was part of the problem. For me, making disciples was a priority in word only.
Previously, I had often boasted that I made disciples from the pulpit. Because of a convictional commitment to expository preaching, I reasoned that if people would just listen and apply as I instructed, life change would follow. That sounds good in theory, but unfortunately preaching lacks the one critical ingredient that is necessary for discipleship: accountability. I watched week after week as people nodded in agreement yet remained unchanged. They remained in the same selfishness. The same bad attitudes. The same carnality.
Determined that my whole approach needed to change, I chose to utilize the strategies taught in Growing Up to begin making real disciples in the church. When God opened a door for my family to relocate to a new place of ministry, I knew immediately that my agenda would no longer be program-driven. By prioritizing people through intentional disciple making, my new strategy was to lead from the bottom up rather than the top down. In my view, the agendas and programs would take care of themselves if the people were truly walking with God as He intended.
This is proving to be true far more true than I initially imagined.
In just our second year of following Jesus’ pattern of making disciples, we already have over 200 people meeting weekly in groups of five or less. Our goal is to quadruple that number by this time next year. The enthusiasm and momentum is breathtaking. Excitement fills our worship services and saturates our activities, meaningful relationships are forming within our body, real accountability is growing within our membership, and the joy of authentic fellowship with Jesus is spreading.
When church members understand their role in the body, read their Bible daily, talk to God consistently in prayer, share their faith with others, and take ownership of being accountable, petty concerns and selfish agendas start to disappear. Real disciples want more than church as usual. And that’s a good thing.
If you are anxious to invest in the lives of others in order to make disciples, I want to encourage you to start a D-group using the principles outlined in Growing Up. If your walk with God lacks passion or purpose, ask a few faithful believers that you respect to start sharing their lives with you on a weekly basis. And to every pastor who might be frustrated with the lack of spiritual commitment or maturity in the congregation you lead, seek out a few men, pour your life into theirs, and show them that discipleship is not something that happens in a classroom.
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