The Body of Christ, Part 3 Growing Disciples
Intro: Here’s a bit of trivia that you may have never thought about or wanted to
think about: people talk about how much rabbits reproduce, but do they really? According to a professor from the University of Miami “one female rabbit and her offspring can theoretically produce 50,653 rabbits in three years, 69 million in five years and 64 BILLION in seven years!”
How is that relevant to our subject today? It speaks to the issue of multiplication.
Think about this: if one Christian led another person to the Lord and discipled that person for one year, training him or her to walk with Christ, study the Bible, pray, serve, and witness. Then the next year each Christian won and discipled another person. And each year they continued that pattern. In 10 years those two disciples would have grown to over 1000 (1024). If you started with 12 believers and each one won and discipled another person in a year and you kept doubling every year, the number would be 12,288 in 10 years.
Today I want to continue thinking with you about the body of Christ and each of us realizing our part in that body.
The fact is that Jesus gave his body a mission and that mission is to make disciples. I want you to understand up front that I believe this isn’t just the job of the pastor, it is the job of the whole body of Christ. Every Christian needs to be a part of the process.
So what is discipleship? It is a process that begins after a person has put their faith in Christ as Lord then leads them to growth in their understanding of the Christian life and trains them to be effective servants of the Lord Jesus.
How does all that get done? Frankly, that is a matter for a different message.
Today, my focus is on what happens if we have an effective discipleship ministry.
In the text we have chosen for today, we are going to see that Paul taught the churches he served to have a discipleship ministry. This text shows us three results we can expect from an effective discipleship ministry.
Most us have seen and some of you have owned Bonsai trees. A Bonsai tree is a miniature tree. If it is grown properly it is a thing of beauty and wonderment.
People who are not educated about the Bonsai process are simply amazed that the tree is real.
Several things make the Bonsai what it is. One is the pot. The person growing the tree must select the right pot. One of the secrets of the Bonsai is the limited space the pot has for root growth. Keep it in a small pot and you will limit its growth.
Another thing that keeps the Bonsai small is pruning the roots. The Bonsai owner takes the tree out of the soil once or twice a year, combs the soil from the roots and prunes them back. By doing this the tree will continue to be healthy and stay small. (Ken Hemphill, The Bonsai Theory of Church Growth)
You can do certain things that will keep a tree from growing to its natural size. In the same way, you can do certain things to keep a church from growing too.
One of the things you can do to keep the church from growing is to limit the ministry of the church to one person. If the pastor is the only one doing ministry, the church will only grow to the size the pastor can serve. It won’t grow anymore than that.
Ephesians 4:ll-12 God has gifted certain people to do certain jobs. In this text, we see that the pastor is to be the number one teacher of the church. He is the one who teaches the whole church. What is the main function he is assigned in this passage? He is divinely called to train others to do the work of the ministry.
Folks, this multiplies the ministry of the church and makes it possible to be continually serving more and more people. This text assumes that we know two important truths:
- Every Christian is a part of Christ’s body.
Remember this is a functional relationship. If we are going to be healthy we need all of the parts of the body. Everyone is important.
- Every Christian is gifted for service.
Many of us have had the experience of working on our cars only to discover that we had nuts or bolts left over when we were done. At first it appears that the manufacturer put in some spare and useless parts. However, we probably discovered that without those parts the car didn’t run like it should. Manufacturers rarely give us spare parts.
There are no spare or useless parts in the body of Christ either.
An effective discipleship ministry will help people discover how God has gifted them and then trains them to serve God effectively.
Ephesians 4:13a Paul said that when the pastor/teacher equips people for ministry he will also be building unity in the body of Christ.
You have heard the glass is half-full and half-empty discussion. It is a discussion of perception. How do you see the glass, half-full or half-empty?
What do you and I focus our attention on in the church? Do we focus on the differences or the similarities?
There are plenty of differences to focus on: age, gender, race or ethnicity, religious backgrounds, jobs, education, musical tastes, end time doctrines, etc.
Folks, with all of those differences, there is one thing we all have in common: our faith in Christ.
If we look at the New Testament, we can see how important unity in the body is:
- Jesus prayed for our unity. John l7:20-23
- Jesus breaks down all barriers. Galatians 3:28
- Jesus is glorified when we are unified. Romans 15:5-6
An effective discipleship ministry should help us grow in our knowledge of God’s word and unify us in Christ and in our mission for Christ.
An effective discipleship ministry should help us multiply the ministry, have
Christ-honoring unity, and result in:
In The Last Days Newsletter, Leonard Ravenhill tells about a group of tourists visiting a picturesque village who walked by an old man sitting beside a fence. In a rather patronizing way, one tourist asked, “Were any great men born in this village?” The old man replied, “Nope, only babies.”
No one is born full grown. It takes a lot of feedings, exercise, etc. to get from infancy to an adult body. In the same way, no Christian is born full grown
All of us must work to become mature believers. That is one of the goals of Christian discipleship.
1. The Goal. Ephesians 4:13b
The goal of a good discipleship ministry is help the members of our
congregation become more like Jesus.
• God’s people should be growing to know his thoughts by knowing his word.
• We should be growing to know what is on the heart of God.
• We should be growing to have the character of Christ
2. The Results.
a. Dependability. Ephesians 4: 14
Did you know that most of the people who join cults in America have at one time or another been a part of a Christian church? How is that possible?
It is possible because the members of our churches are not spiritually mature enough to know when they are being recruited by a cult. They don’t know the difference between the real thing and a counterfeit.
Many people are drawn to gimmicks. In the White Mountains the communities were small enough and the pastors close enough that we could track members. A group would leave this church and go to the one down the street that had the hottest program going. Six months later you would find out that same group went to the next church that had a hot new program. And on it went.
Solid Christian discipleship would help to eliminate that.
b. Christian love. Ephesians 4:15
Too many Christians want the kind of love that the late J. Vernon McGee called “sloppy agape.” That kind of love allows people to do anything they want to because we “love” them.
The Bible says that we are to speak the truth in love. Our love is to be rooted in the truth.
A1l of these things come when the members of the body of Christ are involved in growing disciples.
Leroy Eims relates the following story;
One spring our family was driving from Fort Lauderdale to Tampa, Florida. As far as the eye could see, orange trees were loaded with fruit. When we stopped for breakfast, I ordered orange juice with my eggs. “I’m sorry,” the waitress said, “I can’t —bring you orange juice, Our machine is broken.” At first I was dumbfounded. We were surrounded by millions of oranges, and I knew they had oranges in the kitchen—orange slices garnished our plates. What was the problem? No juice? Hardly. We were surrounded by thousands of gallons of juice. The problem was they had become dependent on a machine to get it.
Christians are sometimes like that. They may be surrounded by Bibles
in their homes, but if something should happen to the Sunday morning preaching service, they would have no nourishment for their souls. The problem is not a lack of spiritual food—but that many Christians haven’t grown enough to know how to get it for themselves, (Leroy Eims, The Lost Art of Disciple Making.)
• Every Christian needs to know how to feed himself or herself.
• Every member of the Body of Christ has a part in helping to grow disciples.
• Are you growing as a disciple of Jesus?
• What part are you playing in helping others grow?
©Copyright Rik Danielsen 2017
For personal use only. If you want to use any or all of this material for group Bible Study or Sermons, please give credit where credit is due. No part of this material may be republished either in print or electronically without the written permission of Dr. Rik Danielsen. email@example.com.
The Body of Christ, Growing Disciples Part 3 in a series