Monday, 1 July 2013

Discipleship Challenge

Reflections from Transforming Discipleship by Greg Ogden

Transforming Discipleship by Greg Ogden provides some challenging reading.  He focuses on the failure of churches (particularly in the West) to disciple people, and poses the question if we had three years left in our ministerial post, what could we do to ensure that discipleship continues once we depart?  He looks at the example of Jesus, and also Paul.  Jesus spent three years teaching and training his disciples for the task of ministry.  Greg argues that most of our discipleship programs are ineffective, and that we expect people to be discipled by listening to sermons, or attending meetings.  He argues that our understanding of ministry is that the vicar/minister is there to provide pastoral care to the church, and to disciple the congregation, but it limits the effectiveness of the church.  Greg argues that the most effective form of discipleship is in groups of three people, over a period of a year or two, where close relationships can be formed, and where people can hold one another accountable.  He believes this is the primary ministerial calling and responsibility of the clergy, to be discipling a couple of people at a time, who then in turn will disciple others.  

Greg gives this challenge in his book: 
Here is a challenge to all pastors and Christian leaders.  Where are the men and women in whom we are multiplying ourselves so that ministry carries on long after we have gone?  How would your minister be different if you placed the highest priority on selecting, motivating and training lay leaders that could carry on as much as possible the mission of the parish after you were gone?  Take a moment to evaluate how your ministry would be different if you made a few the priority, as Jesus did.  What if you adopted Jesus' model of training a few... to the point where their ministry was not reliant upon you?  How would the way you spend your time change?  How would this affect your weekly schedule?  What would you have to give up doing in order to train people?  What skills would you have to acquire that are not currently part of your repertoire?  
Jesus employed an empowerment model of servant leadership and training.  Whereas pastors and ministry leaders today tend to be satisfied in having people become dependent upon their teaching and care, Jesus wanted self-initiating, reproducing, fully devoted followers.  Today's pastor often looks at the church as the context in which he or she can minister while gathering a congregation as the audience.  Jesus, by contrast, through that multiplication of ministry in a chosen few was the measurement of success.  I'm sorry to say that what Coleman prophetically wrote in 1963 is still largely true: 'Jesus' plan has not been disavowed; it has been ignored.' (Coleman, Master Plan of Evangelism, page 112).  If we want to see self initiating, reproducing, fully devoted followers be the mark of our ministry, we must adopt Jesus' method of investing in a few as the foundation upon which to build our ministry. (Transforming Discipleship, pages 97-98)
I find Greg Ogden's book very challenging, and it is making me reflect on my priorities as a minister, it's worth getting and reading for yourself.  My question is what do others think about what Greg writes?  Have you invested on trying to disciple just a few people, in the hope that they will then go onto disciple others?  Please do comment.