Developing disciples for Jesus Christ within a ministry context is known as discipleship. Such process is constant and requires much self-assertion while being completely free from self-seeking motives. A church leader should understand that leading others begins with strict self-discipline, which implies constant learning and observation. Current paper is aimed at enhancing the awareness about the proper ways of soul-winning by covering such variables as the vision, values and views on ministry, the methods of church maintenance and expansion, and the verifiers of the discipleship productivity.
Vision for Ministry
The vision for ministry is the essential aspect that every pastor should consider above all, as it sets the tone of the discipleship. The vision is expected to be clearly communicated to all participants of the process. In particular, it is relevant to refer to the vision during personal contact with group-members, as well as while developing the leaders for the future groups.
Without doubt, it is understandable that every church is aimed at serving God in achieving the purpose of advancing the spirituality of the humanity and, in this way, make the planet a better place. Nevertheless, many church leaders fail to communicate the proper vision to their community. Such negative peculiarity often becomes the reason for the attendants to fail in their desire to voluntary become a part of God’s plan.
To avoid the failure in preaching, a church leader should consider that the right vision should appeal to people and be in compliance with the life realities. It should not contain a veiled condemnation of the new-comers’ way of life; otherwise, such people will be lost for the church. Besides, being presented to the attendants in a form of slogan, the vision must not imply the drastic changes because it may scare away people, since most individuals prefer the safe and verified lifestyle. The church leader is responsible for forming a strict vision of ministry, thereafter, he/she should create the proper slogan that will be easy to memorize and that will attract people.
Considering the above-mentioned speculations, my vision of ministry will be articulated with the next slogan: ‘Inducing spiritual evolvement of everyone in order to reach the inner and outer harmony’. The slogan resonates with the Bible’s guidance regarding how the Christians should live until Jesus coming: “turn thou to thy God: keep kindness and justice, and wait for thy God continually”. Besides, it is believed that “you are only going to grow only as big as your dream”. Thus, the right vision of ministry is to provide the unlimited and indefinite possibilities for one’s development.
In this regard, an important aspect that should be well thought out is the targeted audience. Evaluating the audience, it is possible to conclude that there are no limitations, except one. Consider the case, Aubrey Malphurs, the scholar who studies the effective ways of evangelism cautions about the threat that possess the deviant individuals. In particular, he states “I don’t believe that I would deny membership in my church to brothers or sisters in Christ who differ over the nonessentials unless their belief was disruptive”. In other words, such matters as gender, race, and education are irrelevant while choosing whom to target. The only significant aspect is the character of the attendant, which should not be harmful and destructive for the church community and its goals.
Furthermore, distinguishing the audience, one should remember that evangelism can be spread faster and more effectively if the members of diverse small groups are converted to the church. The immense role of small groups will be discussed in details below. In current section, it is appropriate to clarify that the purpose of a church leader is to serve God by ‘fishing’ as many souls for Him as possible. Therefore, to increase the parish, a pastor must remember that the gospel should be ‘contagious’ and the best way to ‘fish’ people is to infect at least one member of each social group. It is the right way to let the gospel move from soul to soul. Therefore, while evaluating the audience, it is necessary to consider that, preferably, the members of different communities should be targeted.
In addition, it is critically important to win the souls of parents because, firstly, people with children often become kinder and more sensitive to the spiritual matters. At the same time, if parents are successfully converted to church, it means that they will spread the gospel in their communities, such as kindergartens, schools, and other places. Besides, they will raise children as future disciples, or at least, their offspring will be perceptive for discipleship. Consequently, targeting parents is a good way to expand the parish in a long-run perspective.
Thus, comprehending the role of religious education for the young, a scholar, John Westerhoff, developed “a Religious Socialization model”. Specifically, he believes that the development of social behavioural patterns in children “focuses on the interactive experiences and environments, within which persons act to acquire, sustain, change, and transmit their understandings and ways”. As a result, encouraging parents to provide religious education is a slow, but correct way to raise the next generation of disciples. Moreover, the process presumes strict maintenance of values and core principles that should comply with the vision and serve to reinforce its power.
Values, Principles, Fundamentals of Ministry
The core value of ministry is the productivity discipleship. Therefore, ensuring the great amount of parish and high level of its involvement is the main purpose of ministry. Considering the number of parish, one should understand that great amounts do not necessarily presume many individuals. On the contrary, it is identified that cell structure (many small groups that are connected with the same vision, values and goals) is more effective in spearing the Word of God. Such segment will cover the major fundamentals, spheres, and stages of the discipleship linking such variables to the set values.
To begin with, it is necessary to state that discipleship is based on sociological, biblical, and theological foundations. Sociological principle encourages using small groups as the most effective way of reaching humans through preaching the gospel. There are the following arguments that prove the effectiveness of such approach. Firstly, in small groups emotional disclosure is more probable, which is highly favourable for reaching the inner world of an individual. Secondly, belonging to a stronger entity (group) is a powerful mechanism of ego-defence, therefore, from the psychological perspective people like and tend to be grouped. Consequently, sociological foundation is critically important for successful attraction to church the new individuals.
The second aspect is the theological foundation that refers to the number of Jesus’s disciples. For instance, the survey of the work of contemporary US churches displays that the approach to divide the church community into two when its number exceeds 12 members is rather effective. Consider the example, “Jesus modeled His ministry on small groups. He chose twelve men to follow Him, with the sole intention of “making them fishers of men”. The third, biblical approach, is based on the fact that early churches were small because initially there were no church buildings, and the word ‘church’ rather referred to a small group of people who were assembled under the same denominator (Christian idea). Moreover, since people used to gather for preaching at home, it presumed that the group was small. Such fundamental suggests that, today, it is important to transit the gospel to the families, which would help keeping religious at a family level.
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Such principles of the small group effectiveness are connected with a “‘communal gene,’ an inborn, intentional, inescapable part of what it means to be human”. The scholars, Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, emphasize that God instilled the need for communication in His children in order to assure their multiplication, and, in this terms, the faith was supposed to multiply simultaneously. The Bible teaches that “Christians should help other Christians grow”. In other words, the conversion to church occurs through interaction and, thus, a church leader should consider the importance of high-quality communication.
Apart from that the ministry is based on the principles of different levels and spheres of discipleship. Endeavouring to help a parish grow spiritually, pastor should lead people through the five phases of discipleship. Such levels of spiritual evolvement resonate with the periods of human’s physical development. The first level is spiritual death, the second is an infant, the third is a child, the fourth is an adult, and the fifth is a parent. It is necessary to mention that a parent stage is the time when a person becomes a disciple, or, in other words, it is the phase of the new church leader. As for the spheres of discipleship, they embody the main aspects of an individual’s existence. They are “sphere 1: a relationship with God; sphere 2: relationships within the family of God, the Church; sphere 3: relationships at home; and sphere 4: relationships with the world”. Such divisions are rather favourable because they help pastor and believers set realistic purposes indicating the appropriate time frames for the short, medium and long-term goals. Therefore, to align existing results with the prospected ones, a church leader should have a strict outlook on all aspects and levels of the discipleship.
Views on Ministry
Keeping in mind the stated vision: ‘Inducing spiritual evolvement of everyone in order to reach the inner and outer harmony’, it is appropriate to accentuate how it correlates with ministry perspectives. First and foremost, the proper vista of ministry should welcome diplomacy above forced persuasion. Such idea is thoroughly described by Gregory Kouklin in his Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing your Christian Convictions. In particular, the author educates that preaching requires “friendly curiosity — a kind of relaxed diplomacy — than on confrontation”. The diplomacy can be used to convert to church a particular individual, as well as a random or planned audience. In other words, in the process of spreading the Word of God, a pastor should involve as many people as possible. Consider the example, another researcher of religious studies, David Yonggi Cho, claims that “a pastor should never try to fish with a single rod but should organize believers into the ‘nets’ of a cell system”. It is another important perspective that, while being combined with the diplomacy, is expected to give good results.
Besides, developing an adequate outlook on ministry, a church leader must comprehend the meaning of the key variables with the help of which he/she is supposed to help people evolve spiritually bringing them closer to God. To begin with, it is necessary to clarify that, in practice, making people closer to the Lord coincides with converting them to church. It is important to remember that the notion of church does not refer to the building itself, but rather defines the spiritual unity between a group of people that are assembled by similar visions, values, and goals. Such definition of church is crucial for the understanding of the major perspective: involving the new individuals and the existing parish is not supposed to be limited by gathering people under one dome. Instead, they should be assembled under similar ideas that are subordinated to the pastor’s vision of his ministry.
In such conditions, a pastor should understand that he/she is the servant of God who is free from self-seeking motives while leading people on their way to Christian life. Such process is maintained though evangelism, which is the preacher of the Word of God. It is necessary to mention that the gospel is the spiritual food; the Bible teaches “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God”. Literary, it is translated as the announcement of good news (that one can save his/her soul and become immortal). Therefore, the gospel is one of the main tools through which the disciples are formed. The word disciple means ‘leaner’ and refers to strict discipline during the corresponding process. The aim of discipleship is to upgrade people spiritually making them ready to accept the Lord, but also to create more new harvesters of the souls. Consider the example, Jesus told to his disciples “follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”. In other words, the disciples are subordinated to the goal of “becoming a complete and competent follower of Jesus Christ.” Undoubtedly, to succeed with such goal they need a leader. It is a person who has already come through the path of discipleship reaching the highest level of a parent. Thus, he/she can become the mentor for those willing to be transformed into the new leaders. The corresponding process is known as leadership, and presumes the transforming from non-believers to believers, or saints. The above-discussed variables and the ways in which they are linked with one another are supposed to be organized by a leader into a well-elaborated pattern subordinated to the stated vision. The next section is dedicated to the observation of practical application of the set visions, values, perspectives, and variables that are vital for the process of discipleship.
Vehicles of Ministry
As was mentioned above, cell structure is known to be the most effective approach towards fishing the souls. The structure presumes the division into small groups in accordance with the theological, biblical, and sociological fundamentals, which all point to the fact that emotional disclosure is more probably in groups that consists of 12-15 members. In such case, the spread of church occurs through the division into smaller groups when the number of participants exceeds a dozen of people. It is a low-budget approach towards attracting new people because every group member is trained to become the leader. It means that all participants are encouraged to preach the gospel in their habitats by mastering their leadership skills and forming their own parish.
Naturally, the choice of methods coincides with the structure, as was described in the previous paragraph; however, it does not mean that making a parent disciple is the only method that can be implemented in home cell groups. Such segment will propose a hybrid version of practical methods. For example, the communication plans of a pastor may include another low-budget method of evangelism: door-to-door preaching, which is not very effective but free and simple to arrange. Moreover, cell structure can be easily combined with the lifestyle of evangelism, and servant evangelism. The first approach presumes inducing spiritual development of others by giving a personal example of the proper Christian life. It is characterized by the long-term results, but considering that disciples are supposed to maintain such lifestyle anyways, it is a free additional measure of promotion. The second one is about helping others in difficult times for free. Such method is easy to arrange, and it can be rather effective especially if the disciples manage to accentuate the merit of gospel, instead of promoting free servitude. In addition, a church may benefit from the crisis care-giving program included to its curriculum. Like serving for free, effective crisis management enhances people’s involvement. It occurs because in such situations the level of one’s emotions is increased, and, as it is known, the matters that influence emotional response are better memorised.
In addition, a more pricy method of event evangelism should be taken into consideration while making church curriculum. It is a nice opportunity to attract new people and enhance the interaction between the existing members. Besides, it is connected with the social life of attendants, as well as with the notion of family; therefore, appealing to dear and familiar matters, it is easier to infect individuals with the Word of God.
Moreover, a church leader should remember the catchy slogans may be of a great use because they become a home-take message that is easy to comprehend, memorized, and appreciate. Thus, it should be used to attract the new attendants. For example, a good slogan that can accompany the above-discussed methods of evangelism is the Bible guidance: “be of good cheer; it is easy; be not afraid”. While being combined with other approaches, good slogan serves to unite the disciples, and adds value and comprehension to their deeds.
Observing the process of church maintenance, one should comprehend that apart of preaching the gospel and leading believers through the path of discipleship, a pastor is responsible for financial matters. In this regard, a church leader must display financial transparency that can be achieved through the strict accountability to the board of parish. At the beginning, to save money, a church leader can use the service of an accountant on a part-time basis or find a volunteer from parish who agrees to maintain the financial matters.
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Verifiers of the Productivity of Ministry
To verify the effectiveness of the chosen structure, methods and approaches, a pastor should consider both empirical and non-empirical data. For instance, it is necessary to track the number of the first-time attendants during each month period, as well as the number of the new believers, and the amount of donations. Such information is the empirical data that should be compared with the performance of the other churches in the neighbourhood. As for non-empirical data, it includes the observation of the believers’ excellence in their growth from spiritually dead to a parent level disciple. There is also self-assessment, which is an important indicator of ministry success. The Bible teaches “According to your faith be it unto you”, which presumes believing in own powers. In such terms, a pastor should honestly observe inner responses to success in winning the souls, or vice versa, the lack of result. Combined together, such data should accentuate the productive methods and approaches and point out the non-productive ones. The results of such multi-levelled monitoring should help in improving the quality of ministry.
In summary, current paper reflects my vision, values, and views on ministry. In particular, it connects the notions subordinating them to the main goal of evangelism –winning the souls. To succeed with such task, it is necessary to consider the cell structure (small group structure) as the proper way of organizing the parish. The structure presumes raising the new soul-winners from the church attendants in order to expand the gospel. Nevertheless, there are also other, conjunctive methods, which are door-to-door preaching, serving evangelism, preaching during crisis management, event evangelism, the example of the Christian lifestyle, and sharing slogans. The methods of soul-fishing should be considered in accordance with their effectively, expenses, required time and energy. The verifiers of ministry’s productivity include the empirical and non-empirical data combined with the self-evaluation of a pastor. While being united, such information may help conduct significant improvements of the discipleship.
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