Churches and the Missionary Task: Discipleship

The aim

Missiologists often say, “God’s church doesn’t have a mission. Rather, God’s mission has a church.”  The aim of the Great Commission is to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:16-20).  This Great Commission aim is the reason every church exists.  Discipleship is third in the missionary task (entry, evangelism, discipleship, healthy church formation, leadership development, and exit).  While entry and evangelism are essential components of the missionary mandate, the goal is not simply to be present or even to share Jesus only.  The objective is to help believers mature in the faith. 

“A disciple is more than a person who has mastered a set of information, or practices a set of spiritual disciplines and shares the gospel.  Discipleship involves the intentional transformation of heart, mind, affections, will, relationships, and purpose. . . .  The essential tools for discipleship are the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the people of God” (IMB Foundations). 

IMB Photo

The plan

Churches who make long-term commitments to partner with missionaries in the missionary task can play a vital role in the process of disciple-making through these essential tools.   But like anything in life, a goal without a plan to achieve it results in an unrealized goal.  IMB mobilizer D. Ray Davis shares the importance of a healthy plan for these essential tools of discipleship (“The Missionary Task: Making Disciples Who Make Disciples”). 

When it comes to the Word of God, IMB has found that new believers need to grasp three aspects of the Bible—the big picture of the Bible (creation, fall, redemption, consummation); effective Bible study (method); and major themes (e.g., nature of God, sin, holiness, judgment, salvation, etc.). 

As for the Spirit of God, new believers need to know that God’s Spirit alone brings transformation in the believer’s life through the Word of God. Walking in the Spirit is a life-long endeavor for all believers.  “Discipleship must be done in conscious dependence on the power and work of the Holy Spirit” (IMB Foundations). 

Lastly, God uses the people of God collectively through the church to help mature believers.  “Scripture makes it clear that discipleship ordinarily happens in the context of the local church” (IMB Foundations). 

As Davis explains,

“All missionary teams—and church partners—should have a robust, healthy discipleship plan for new believers that includes elements such as baptism, local church membership, and basic spiritual disciplines like prayer, Bible study, worship, fasting, and sharing the gospel. Furthermore, new believers need ongoing training in areas like biblical marriage, parenting, family life, a biblical understanding of work, the church, suffering and persecution, integrity, and a new identity in Christ that supersedes any earthly identity” (Davis, “Making Disciples”).

The end

Every church and every church member is to be engaged in this global disciple-making plan.  While not every member will carry out this plan in the same way, every member has a part to play through means such as praying, going, encouraging, giving, and sending.  Churches working intentionally with long-term missionaries by following their strategy for disciple-making provide great encouragement and movement in fulfilling the Great Commission.  In doing so, the church will be marked not simply by mission activity, but mission identity—disciples who make disciples.

How is your church making disciples both locally and globally so that missions is not an activity of your church but its identity?  I am more than happy to help you in this cause. You can reach me at [email protected]

Introducing Kentucky’s 2020 Missionary of the Year

Kentucky Mission Service Corps Missionary Nelle Thomas has been investing in the lives of children in her community since 2007 when she and a handful of volunteers directed Kid’s Café, a weekly Bible study and meals for children on Wednesday evenings at their local church.  As this outreach began to grow God laid on Nelle’s heart to expand the ministry, which in turn became Mission Hope for Kids.

Mission Hope for Kids, a 501c3 non-profit, now ministers to 200 pre-K to 12th grade at-risk students offering holistic support by meeting physical needs, after-school tutoring, college and career services, ministering to the spiritual needs of the children and families, and so much more. In addition to their main Elizabethtown campus, they have satellite campuses in Radcliff and Leitchfield.

Mission Hope for Kids is indeed changing lives and the future of an entire generation of children and youth in their community.  Since 2016 Nelle has reported that a total of 112 persons have prayed to receive Christ. 

On a visit to Mission Hope for Kids several months ago a couple of cardboard testimonies caught my eye.  The first one read, “Before Mission Hope for Kids…Depressed, Worthlessness, no Friends, Thoughts of Suicide!”  The second one, “After Mission Hope for Kids…Depression Gone, I am Worthy, Have Friends, I want to Live! Thank You Jesus.” 

These are just a few of the reasons why Nelle has been chosen as the 2020 Kentucky Missionary of the Year.  This award is given annually to the missionary that demonstrates:

  • Commitment to and effectiveness in evangelism, church planting, or ministry.
  • Demonstration of “going the second mile”.
  • Outstanding performance in achieving assigned tasks.
  • Tenure.
  • Unusual commitment to our Lord’s service.
  • Positive representation of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
  • True reflection of being an “On Mission Christian”.

Nelle is one of 110 self-funded Kentucky Mission Service Corps missionaries called to various ministries in Kentucky, all involved in meeting physical and spiritual needs of those they serve.  In 2019 these missionaries collectively reported 2095 professions of faith as a result of their ministries. 

On behalf of these missionaries we say thanks for your prayers and for giving through the Eliza Broadus Offering for state missions.  Although self-funded, these missionaries benefit from EBO through grants, an annual missionary retreat, missionary orientation, and various trainings.  You are a part of their ministries as your pray and give through EBO. 

To learn more about Mission Hope for Kids click on www.missionhopeforkids.org.  Click on www.kybaptist.org/interseed to pray for Kentucky missionaries and church planters on their birthdays, or go to www.kybaptist.org/missionaries to pray for all of the missionaries on a regular basis.  To “adopt” a Kentucky missionary go to www.kybaptist.org/adoptmissionary or email [email protected] to get connected.