preacherI love sitting in the front row. It’s been my vantage point at church for about 30 years now. Whether turning around to view everyone, going out and ministering to the people, standing to preach or watching our congregation do a processional for offerings or communion, I love seeing the people God has entrusted to our care. I remember how my heart would swell with love and pride for each person who would come to the front and pass by for those processionals.

As a pastor, you love your flock. You want the best for them. You desire and pray for each member that God has placed in your care to be strong in the faith, walk with Christ, hear His voice, understand and apply God’s Word to their lives, know their unique calling and gifting, and effectively minister to others—especially by helping new believers grow and by reaching out to this lost and dying world.

Unfortunately, once your congregation is larger than, say, a dozen people, it’s difficult to personally disciple every person. You hope that through great teaching they will catch all they need. But is that the best way? Wouldn’t you love to look out on a Sunday morning as you’re preaching and be confident that every person God called to your congregation is experiencing what I mentioned above? Wouldn’t you be comforted knowing that each person has someone with whom they can talk, ask questions, pray and walk through life together?

Without this confidence, we as church leaders can come under the burden of what can be called the tyranny of the “shoulds.” We scan the congregation at a church service and start thinking, I should call him, should pray for her, should have so-and-so over, should encourage that person, etc. It’s a never-ending list! I believe it contributes to the staggering number of burned-out pastors in the church today.

The divine plan that Jesus implemented while He was on the earth serves as an excellent model for us in the church. His goal was to effectively reach the world with the Good News of the gospel, and His plan was strategically designed to achieve this objective. The plan that was conceived in the heart and mind of the Creator of our exquisite and complex universe was simple: Find 12 men or women, be with them, model life and ministry to them, empower them and send them out to do the same with others (see Mark 3:14-15).

Should we as church leaders make things more complicated than that?

We need to beware of compartmentalizing discipleship or making it a program with a delegated discipleship pastor. Healthy, thriving discipleship in and among your church starts with you, the leader. To accomplish these goals of every church member being a healthy follower of Christ and an active disciple-maker, let’s ask ourselves some questions and evaluate how our responses indicate the state of our church’s discipleship process:

  •   Who would fulfill my responsibilities if I suddenly were unable to do so?
  •   Who are the leaders and potential leaders God has entrusted to my spiritual stewardship?
  •   How do I want these leaders to minister to others?
  •   What are the practical tools I want them to use to disciple others?

Once you have answered these questions and have prayed about the core people God has put in your life, then the hard work begins. Spend time with them relationally and frequently, both one-on-one and in small-group settings. Be intentional about training them, and deliberate about what you focus on. Ask them who they’re ministering to, and make sure they understand how to make “disciple-making disciples.” Watch them minister and give them feedback. Entrust them with more responsibility. Make sure they intentionally lay biblical foundations in people’s lives through one-on-one and small-group ministry, and that these people will in turn do the same for others.

Carol Fidler founded Every Nation Church Seattle in 2001 with her husband, Bruce. She serves on the Every Nation Ministries Board.

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