One of the most promising movements in the 21st century church is the disciple development movement.
Given the post-modern context in which we find ourselves, we are driven to clarify what this Christian movement, with its church, is all about.
Because we can’t be church the same way we were in 1985, we are driven to grow clearer on our primary purposes.
Developing each other and ourselves as disciples of Jesus Christ is one of the unique roles of God’s church.
Congregations who are joining this movement are doing so largely through the leadership of their pastors, priests and church staff.
When clergy and church staff are committed to disciple development, then the church begins to form itself around this priority.
There are many ways to raise awareness in the congregation about disciple development, yet clergy and church staff can proactively shape their ministries around this initiative.
Proactive disciple-developing clergy and church staff implement the following activities in their ministries:
1. Prioritizing the 75 percent of disciples rather than the squeaky wheels.
Most disciples in one’s congregation do not have a significant need to be addressed, nor are they concerned about an issue in the church.
Most disciples are moving along, living their lives and trying to be Christ-followers. As a result, this is the most neglected group of people in congregations.
Because they don’t have a specific care need and they are not “making trouble,” they do not come across the radar screen of church leaders. And these are the very people who may be poised to follow Christ more fully.
These are the very people who would respond with joy and enthusiasm when their pastor invites them for coffee and inquires about their spiritual journey.
These are the people ready to be developed as disciples, rather than be ignored.
Proactive disciple-developers make those who are ready to grow the priority, rather than the squeaky wheels prioritizing ministry.
2. Organizing their schedules for proactive ministry.
Management gurus in the corporate world train leaders to examine their daily schedules for responsive versus proactive time.
Every leader needs to make time for responding to needs and requests of his or her organization. Simultaneously, every leader needs to invest time in the major priorities and initiatives of his or her organization.
How much of your time is designated for proactive ministry, in which you are advancing the initiatives of your congregation? Leadership experts suggest 60 percent to 80 percent.
I expect this percentage is too high for clergy and church staff. At the same time, proactive disciple-developers schedule time for developing disciples, making it a priority.
3. Pushing the church to prioritize disciple development through self-direction.
When clergy and church staff prioritize disciple development, they do not have the time to do everything else they were doing (like spending too much time with the squeaky wheels).
This raises the need for constructive dialogue around church purposes and priorities.
When done well, this actually affects expectations for the pastor and church staff. When taken seriously, this results in job description revision.
Effective disciple-developing congregations give their blessing to their clergy and church staff for investing in disciples.
When they observe their leaders engaging disciples one on one and in groups for substantive spiritually laced dialogue, they are thrilled.
They recognize this as proactive ministry. They believe their leaders should invest in those who are ready to move ahead.
More congregational leaders need to claim the role of disciple-developer by enthusiastically investing in the lives of those who are ready to become who God is calling them to be.
Mark Tidsworth is president of Pinnacle Leadership Associates.