The Christian community and local church are responsible for spreading the gospel to unbelievers. Once a new convert comes to Christ, the church is responsible to teach and train them in their walk. An analysis and discussion of the Christian community and local church will reveal the roles and importance of the pastor, local church, saints, and spiritual gifts in God’s plan for being and making disciples of Jesus Christ.
How Are Disciples Made in the Local Church and Christian Community?
According to Putman et al., “The true role of the church is to create biblical disciples in relational environments. Following Jesus and the apostles, we seek environments in which disciples are made not just through public gatherings but especially from house to house.” When someone comes to Christ and joins the church, then he or she needs to be mentored in God’s Word. Christian mentors intentionally invest their lives into new converts through relationships. According to Putman et al., before one can be discipled, three things must change in a person’s life, which are the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the People of God.
Putman et al. wrote, “Church leaders must also create systems in which biblical relationships are available to everyone in the church. It’s the job of a church leader to both administrate biblical relationship and regularly communicate the need for biblical relational environments.” Pastors must also train their congregation to see the need and have the desire for discipleship. The discipleship makers are to make a commitment as well as the one who is being discipled.
Role and Importance of the Local Church
As mentioned previously, pastors must teach their congregants the need and importance of discipleship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer made it very clear as to the importance of the church, which is the body of Christ. Bonhoeffer wrote, “The body of Jesus Christ is the ground of our faith and the source of its certainty; the body of Jesus Christ is the one and perfect gift through which we receive our salvation; the body of Jesus Christ is our new life. It is in the body of Jesus Christ that we are accepted by God from eternity.” The importance of the body of Christ must be taught to the congregants for them to understand the reason why we must make disciples. Bonhoeffer also wrote, “Christ’s body is the spiritual temple built from living stones (1 Pet. 2:5). Christ is the sole foundation and cornerstone of his temple (Eph. 2:20; 1 Cor. 3:11); at the same time, he himself is the temple (Eph. 2:21) in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, filling and sanctifying the hearts of believers (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19). The temple of God is the holy church-community in Jesus Christ. The body of Christ is the living temple of God and of the new humanity.” The key concept is that the church is the body of Christ. It is the responsibility of the body to share their faith and make disciples. According to Rod Dempsey, “The church must be in the absolute middle of God’s global plan of making disciples…. Jesus first mentions the concept of ‘church’ in Matt. 16:18 when He says, ‘And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.’” Jesus said that the church must take the gospel to others as mentioned in Acts 9:31, not only in spreading the gospel but teaching scripture so that disciples can be made. This is done by the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Role and Importance of the Pastor
Every member of the body of Christ has a gift. According to Dempsey, Pastors are to teach, train, and equip their congregation in how to share their faith as well as teach God’s commandments and way of life. They are to do this in love. J. Robert Clinton wrote, “Godly leaders display love for truth. They study the written Word to feed their own soul as well as others.” As pastors teach believers, they will grow spiritually and develop their own spiritual gifts. Dempsey further expands on this by stating, “Spiritual growth involves the disciple discovering and developing his or her gift (see 1 Pet. 4:10-11), within the body (community of believers), to its full potential, for Christ and His kingdom. As the individual believer grows and matures, the body becomes healthier. The more parts of the body that are working ‘properly’ (as He intended), the healthier the body becomes. The health of the body of Christ should be a very important consideration for the leaders of a church.”
For the pastor to help the disciple, he must invest time into teaching so that the disciple will develop his or her spiritual gifts, then internalize the teachings into their lives, which in turn will help continually transform their hearts for Christ and the gospel.
Role and Importance of Saints
The role and importance of the saints are to “do the ministry.” The saints are the members of the body of Christ which is the church of Jesus Christ. Bonhoeffer states it very well when he wrote, “Since Pentecost, Jesus Christ lives here on earth in the form of his body, the church-community. …To be in Christ means to be in the church-community. But if we are in the church-community, then we are also truly and bodily in Jesus Christ. This insight reveals the full richness of meaning contained in the concept of the body of Christ.” Therefore, the saints are charged with training and investing in others to make disciples. The body of Christ is commanded by Jesus who is head of the church, to take the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the utmost parts of the earth. For a member of the body of Christ to do this, they must be in training by learning and studying God’s Word. Then they can teach others to do the same. We must do this with intentionality so that we can reach others, one person at a time.
One method for saints making disciples is explained by Putman et al, “Many of the churches in the Relational Discipleship Network use this simple blueprint, based on four words. They are Share, Connect, Minister, and Disciple.” To expound on this a little more, Putman et al. wrote, “Jesus shared who he was through words and deeds. When people accepted his message, he invited them to connect with him in relationship. During that time of sharing life together, he taught them the truth about himself. As these disciples grew, Jesus trained them to minister to the lost and to his other followers. Finally, after Jesus rose from the dead, he deployed his followers to disciple others.”
The saints must emulate Christ in their words and actions, share, and invite people to come to Christ. Once people have come to Christ, then we are to associate or connect with new Christians and help them consecrate themselves to God. The next step is to demonstrate service to others as well as delegate disciples to minister to others. The last step is to release the disciple maker to reproduce other disciples. Thus, make disciples who make disciples.
Spiritual Gifts in God’s Plan for Being and Making Disciples
God gives all of us spiritual gifts to perform the ministry in which Jesus has called us to do. According to Aubrey Malphurs, “A Christian, then, could have both a spiritual and a natural gift of leadership or a spiritual gift of leadership plus a natural teaching gift or some other combination.” These gifts surround the believer’s temperament and passion. Malphurs states,
A spiritual gift is a unique, God-given ability for service. Every believer and thus every leader will have one or more of the spiritual gifts, but all leaders will not have necessarily the same gifts nor exercise a gift in the same ministry context. Scripture is clear that all three members of the Godhead are the source of these gifts (Rom. 12:3; 1 Cor. 12:11; Eph. 4:7-11). Finally, the purpose of these gifts is to enable leaders to serve God more effectively, not sit on the sidelines and watch the game (1 Pet. 4:10). The different kinds of spiritual gifts are listed in Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:1-31; Eph. 4:7-16; and 1 Pet. 4:9-11.
God knew what he was doing by giving us spiritual gifts that will help advance the gospel and to make disciples. Although there are many spiritual gifts, which all work towards the glory of God, I will mention three gifts which relate to discipling. They are teaching, leading, and encouragement as stated in Rom.12:3-8. These gifts are necessary in encouraging other Christians and leading them by the teaching of the Word of God. God uses our gifts to assist us in working through our specific ministry in which we were called to do. These gifts will assist us in training other disciples so that they will also discover their own gifts. Without these gifts, we would be on our own struggling in a counterfeit faith. In other words, one cannot have these spiritual gifts unless they were a follower of Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit. If every believer used their spiritual gift, then the body is edified, people will come to the Lord, the gospel will be spread, and disciples will be made.
In conclusion, it takes the Christian community, the local church, the pastor, the saints, the Holy Spirit, and using our spiritual gifts to make disciples. This involves taking the gospel into our communities, sharing our faith, connecting with new believers, and ministering and teaching them. This will ultimately lead to making disciples, who will in turn, make disciples. This is not done alone as the body of Christ has many parts and the spiritual gifts bring those parts together, and together disciples are made. Making disciples takes the efforts of all members of the local church. The pastor must teach the Word and lead believers in how to disciple. The believers in the church use their gifts to disciple others. We must become engaged in this process or the church will not reproduce itself. Reproduction is done through intentional relationships. Being a spiritual leader and mentor can help change the lives of the ones we are teaching to be disciples. Earley and Wheeler could not have said it best when they wrote, “When we lead people to Christ, we must stay with them to help them get established in their faith. They can also be carriers of the good news, and the message of the gospel will multiply through their consistent witness.”
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4. Minneapolis, MN: First Fortress Press, 2003.
Clinton, J Robert. The Making of a Leader: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development . 2nd. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2012.
Earley, Dave, and David Wheeler. Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010.
Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is… How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2013.
Malphurs, Aubrey. Being Leaders: The Nature of Authentic Christian Leadership. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2003.
Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E Coleman. Disciple Shift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.
Sproul, R C. The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version. Edited by R C Sproul. Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2015.
 Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013), 149.
 Putman, DiscipleShift, 149.
 Putman, DiscipleShift, 150.
 Putman, DiscipleShift, 150.
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4 (Minneapolis: First Fortress Press, 2003), 213.
 Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, 224.
 Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), 39.
 Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 41.
 J. Robert Clinton, The Making of a Leader 2nd ed.: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2012), 57.
 Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 41.
 Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 41
 Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, 218.
 Putman, DiscipleShift, 153.
 Putman, DiscipleShift, 153.
 Putman, DiscipleShift, 155-164.
 Aubrey Malphurs, Being Leaders: The Nature of Authentic Christian Leadership (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2003), 76.
 Malphurs, Being Leaders, 77.
 Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 134.
Submitted to Dr. Morris Baker in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of DSMN500-D03, Discipleship Ministries; Liberty University School of Divinity, April 22, 2018.This paper may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission. Copyright © April 22, 2018, Joseph T. Lee, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights reserved.