discipleship

Pastoral Care as Discipleship through Life's Challenges

  • 24 August 2017
  • MinistryLift blogger

As I sat in church, I saw her: burden showing on her face with tears gently flowing over her cheeks. I moved quietly from where I was to sit at her side and said, "Can I help?" This woman was not new to the congregation—not a seeker, but a longtime member. The sadness in her eyes matched her sorrowful words as she said, "I don’t think I can tell anyone in church what is really going on in my life." 

A heaviness came over me and lingered with me as I reflected on the depth of what she was saying. This woman feared sharing her burden with believers. How could that be? In the times of life's great challenges, we need to be drawn not just to the house of the Lord, but to the community of believers. Pastoral care—the demonstration of Christ’s compassion—should be found within the community of faith.

Charles Gerkin wrote of the need to rediscover the congregation as the primary agents of care for the members, saying that "in a sense, we who have from generation to generation made up the Christian community have always known that the primary source of Christian nurture and care lies in the gathering together of God's people" [1]. Gerkin asserts that while knowing this, we as a community of believers have given the dominant emphasis of this ministry to the ordained. It is important therefore for each of us as believers to remember that the term pastoral as used in our Judeo-Christian tradition has a communal connotation denoting the care of the community for its members. Ronald Sunderland states, "It derives from the figurative language of Jewish scriptures and, supremely, from the Lord's care of Israel (Psalm 23, 80)" [2]. 

As I sat with the woman who was burdened by life, could I enter her story, hear it for what it was, and demonstrate God as not only present, but active in her life? Could I enter in without the platitudes or the rush for her to claim victory? Could I just be with her in her challenge until she could see her burden in Christ's hands?

How to Incorporate Accountability into Your Discipleship Approach

  • 9 August 2017
  • Randy Wollf

two women talking and listeningReggie McNeal has said, "Genuine spirituality lives and flourishes only in cultures and relationships of accountability" [1]. If this is true, and I believe it is, then accountability must be an essential element of our disciple-making strategies.

According to Dr. Dave Currie, accountability is "the volunteer surrender of your life to the regular and frequent scrutiny and encouragement of another person for the purpose of ongoing life transformation that brings glory to God" [2]. 

Currie believes that this kind of accountability helps people get perspective on current problems. It paves the way for support in tough times. It provides a consistent challenge to grow. It helps keep us focused on the future and to take necessary next steps in our personal growth. In the words of Bob Proctor, "Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to the result." 

Now, it's important to realize that the most effective forms of accountability combine loving graciousness with tenacious and consistent support. Accountability should not be legalistic or brutal. It's meant to provide just enough pressure to initiate and sustain growth at an optimal pace.

So, what does accountability look like? It's simply discussing what's going on in your life. What are your current struggles? What are the possibilities that excite you? It's talking about the emotions that you experience, particularly those that are recurring emotions. Accountability provides an opportunity to explore our primary relationships. It's a place to ask hard questions.

In his book entitled Cultivating a Life for God, Neil Cole shares a number of accountability questions that people can ask each other in what he calls "Life Transformation Groups"—groups of two or three Christians that meet weekly to help each other grow in their relationship with God. Cole includes the following questions from James Bryan Smith and Richard Foster: 

Developing a Missional Mindset in Your Church

  • 10 May 2017
  • Keith Reed

What does it mean to be on mission for God? In a previous blog, I explored Six Marks of a Missional Church from Acts 2:42-47. In this article, I want to explore this theme further and unpack ways we can develop a missional mindset in our churches. 

A Missional Church is Incarnational

A missional church recognizes that most people will not come to a building to hear the gospel. People in a missional church are actively bringing Christ to those who desperately need him. Just as "the Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood," so too, those on a mission incarnate and share the gospel with those around them [1]. 

For the past 18 years, my family has lived in a nine-unit townhouse complex. Even though we’ve contemplated buying a detached house many times, one of the main reasons we choose to stay is because it’s easier to do life with people when you live close to them. It’s definitely harder to avoid your neighbours when they’re standing ten feet away (although we do manage to do this sometimes). Over the years, we’ve been able to share the gospel with several of our townhouse friends. At least two of them have accepted Christ.

We took this living-in-close-proximity-thing one step further last year when we moved into an apartment building with refugees for seven months (you can read about our adventure in the Do Something blog). We did life with these newcomers to Canada and had many opportunities to share Christ. In fact, it was sometimes ridiculously easy to talk about our faith.

Of course, not everyone lives in an apartment or a townhouse. The point is that we need to find ways to move into people’s lives—to build relationships, to be a blessing, and to share the gospel as the Holy Spirit opens up people’s hearts to hear it (see Six Ways Anyone Can Share Their Faith for more ideas).

A Missional Church Equips and Empowers Individuals to be Active in their Harvest Fields

It’s one thing to talk about being a missional church, but how do we mobilize the masses to live missionally? Let me suggest five ways: 

1. Sermons need to remind people of the importance of the gospel for both them and the unsaved. This gives people a vision for gospel-living. 

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