A Chronicle of Renewal and Revival

Rev Dr Mark Setch adapted this article from his research for his Doctor of Ministry degree at Fuller Theological Seminary titled “Developing Disciple-Makers: Reclaiming our Call to be an Apostolic Disciple-Making Church.”

Before ascending into heaven the Risen Christ gave his disciples a commission.  They were to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).  Within the Acts of the Apostles, Luke records the results of the early church’s obedience to Jesus’ commission.  As people sent into the world by Jesus, they made disciples.  The early church grew because those disciples in turn made more disciples, who made more disciples.

At the beginning of the third millennium the mainline denominational church is in crisis.  Over the last twenty years membership has been in decline.  In recent years this decline has become more significant.  Declining numbers lead many commentators to conclude that our world in its twenty-first century is post-Christian; they allege the Christian church has outlived its usefulness and has no prominent place in a postmodern world.  There is, however, growing evidence to suggest that this conclusion is inaccurate.  Alongside the declining mainline church, there is an emerging twenty-first century church which is vital, dynamic, healthy, and growing.

Why are some churches growing while others are fading into oblivion?  It is my conviction that declining churches are those in which the Great Commission has lost its power.  Going into the world is no longer a priority.  Instead, the evangelistic focus (if one exists) is that of inviting people to come and be a part of the congregation.  The problem is that fewer people are accepting the invitation.  Mission is often framed by covert concerns which seek to protect the church from being infiltrated by the culture of our postmodern world.  Consequently, the culture of the church is usually set apart and distinct from the culture of the world in which people live, work, and recreate.

For many unchurched members of our population, there appears to be little reason or relevance to include the church as a central part of life.  Even though life includes pain and struggle, and a desperate search for hope and meaning, the established church is generally not perceived as providing answers to life’s questions.  Furthermore, disciple-making within these churches is not perceived as being the responsibility of everyday Christians.  It is perceived to be the responsibility of ordained clergy, leaders, and those who are more evangelistically inclined.  Disciples are no longer making disciples, who in turn make more disciples.

On the other hand, healthy and dynamic churches are those in which the Great Commission has reclaimed its power.  Evangelism is given a high priority.  Rather than being focused on trying to get people into the church, the vision of these congregations is to take their church into the world.  The mission of these congregations is driven by the challenge of incarnating the timeless gospel of Jesus Christ into the culture of our postmodern world.  In other words, they are functioning as apostolic (sent) churches.  Disciple-making is not the responsibility of a select few.  Every Christian is called to make disciples, who are disciple-makers; therefore disciples multiply.  These churches develop apostolic disciple-making congregations.

This paper articulates a call for the Church of Jesus Christ to reclaim the Great Commission and become an apostolic disciple-making church.  Such a church will enter the postmodern twenty-first century world and develop disciple-makers.  For many people this represents a new and different paradigm for understanding and experiencing both church and discipleship.  It involves a paradigm shift which is essential if local church congregations and denominations are to become a healthy and vibrant part of the emerging church of the twenty-first century.

In order to illustrate the facets of this paradigm shift, this paper will be divided into three sections.  Firstly, I will present a disciple-making theology of discipleship.  Secondly I will present a disciple-making theology of the church.  Finally I will describe some of the current research into growing vital churches, concluding that this research in fact supports an apostolic disciple-making paradigm of the church.

1.      A disciple-making theology of discipleship

The Great Commission encapsulates the primary call on the life of the Christian to make disciples, who in turn make more disciples.  When this is not happening, the church stagnates.  Similarly, congregations will not grow in vitality and numbers when their evangelism strategies are based on a passive philosophy of ‘come and join us’, rather than on an active one, ‘go into the world.’

The challenge which is therefore facing the church today is to reclaim the power of the Great Commission.  To do this involves two interrelated paradigms.  The Great Commission demands an apostolic paradigm of the church.  An apostle is one who is sent.  An apostolic church is therefore a church which is sent into the world.  This is the focus of the next section.  It also demands a disciple-making paradigm of discipleship, which emphasises multiplication of disciples as opposed to the mere addition of disciples.  This paradigm is the focus of the following discussion.

The Great Commission as the Christian’s Primary Call

Within the Gospel according to Matthew, it is recorded that before ascending into heaven, the risen Jesus gave his disciples a commission.  The commission was delivered in this way:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).

While only Matthew presents the commission as succinctly and as clearly as this, each of the other Gospel writers record the Risen Jesus as sending his disciples into the world to make more disciples.  Jesus sent his disciples into the world to bear witness to what he taught them in word and action.  He called them to continue his ministry of proclaiming the kingdom of God. He knew that the only way in which this ministry would continue throughout the ages is by his disciples making disciples, who in turn make more disciples.  Jesus promised that he would be present with them through the empowering of the Holy Spirit to fulfil this ministry of disciple-making.

The Great Commission therefore reflects the primary call on the life of the Christian to make disciples, who are disciple-makers.  In other words, true discipleship is about multiplying disciples.  What then is a disciple?  How does one ‘make disciples’?  To understand the power of Jesus’ command to go and make disciples, the dynamic inherent in the term ‘disciple’ needs to be understood.  Only then can we appreciate what it means to ‘make’ one, and therefore capture what Jesus is commissioning us to do.

Multiplying Disciples

Within the New Testament, four key Greek words and their cognates are connected with the word ‘disciple’:  akoloutheo, follow; mathetes, learner, pupil, disciple; mimeomai, imitate, follow; and opiso, behind, after.  A study of these words reveals that Jesus’ call to discipleship was decisive, inclusive, permanent, and active.[1] A disciple is someone who responds to Jesus’ all-inclusive and unconditional call to follow him.  Disciples follows Jesus by learning and applying his teachings so that the values, attitudes and actions of Jesus are reflected in the disciple’s own life.  Ogden provides a succinct definition of disciple which encapsulates these characteristics.  He states that “a disciple is one who responds in faith and obedience to the gracious call of Jesus Christ.  Being a disciple is a lifelong process of dying to self, while allowing Jesus Christ to come alive in us.”[2]

However, a disciple is also someone who goes and makes disciples, who makes more disciples.  In other words, the command to ‘make disciples’ is not fulfilled unless those who have become disciples are discipled in such a way that they themselves are eventually making more disciples.  Thus, according to the Great Commission, disciple-making is about multiplying disciples, not adding disciples.  More often than not, disciple-making within the church has been presented as a process of addition.  This paper argues that the words of the Great Commission commands Christians to make disciples, who in turn make more disciples, multiplying the number of those who are followers of Christ.

Levels of Disciple-Making

Within the Church today, there are at least three different levels of understanding of disciple-making: by clergy, by leaders, by disciples making disciples.

1. The first is where professional clergy are the disciple-makers, while the laity are the disciples. 

There is an understanding within many mainline churches that the clergy make disciples and the laity live and serve as disciples.  While not always stated as explicitly as this, it is certainly implicit.  Loren Mead contends that the clergy-laity dichotomy is leftover from the church in the Roman Empire, subsequent to the conversion of Constantine in 313AD.  During this era it was assumed that people were part of the Church by birth, rather than by choice.  Ministry became the responsibility of the professional clergy.[3]

This level of understanding is disciple-making by addition- and a very limited addition at that.  Any member of the clergy will affirm that pastoral care of a congregation is an all-consuming job.  The more pastoral care a clergyperson gives to members of a congregation, the more they expect it from the clergyperson.  Therefore, the opportunity to add new disciples – ‘add’ being the operative word – is severely limited by time and the energy of the one or few.  Consequently it is no surprise that most clergy admit that only a small minority of unchurched people, with whom they have contact, become regular worshipping members of the congregation.

Despite its gross ineffectiveness, disciple-making by limited addition is still practised in many mainline church congregations today.  Hence, these congregations are declining rapidly.  Many are extinct and many more will be extinct within a short time.  Disciple-making by limited addition is ineffective because it does not reflect the heart of the Great Commission, which is a call to all Christians to be disciple-makers who multiply rather than add disciples.

2. The second is where all Christian leaders are seen as being called and equipped to make disciples. 

Rather than being limited to professional clergy, every leader makes disciples.  However, they are not necessarily producing disciples who in turn make more disciples.

Ephesians 4:11-12 are pivotal verses in support of this understanding:  “The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up the body of Christ.”  When clergy are seen as the disciple-makers, the role of the laity is to assist the clergy in their ministry.  This scripture conveys the reverse as being true.  Leaders are called to equip all Christians for their particular ministry.  Christians will minister according to the particular spiritual gifts given to them.  Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 8 list some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are distributed to all believers as the Lord determines (1 Corinthians 12:6,11).

This understanding affirms the call of all Christians as ministers who exercise their particular spiritual gifts interdependently with others in the Church.  In this way the body of Christ is built up.  According to this understanding, disciple-making occurs when leaders empower disciples to exercise their spiritual gifts in ministry within the body.  Disciples are made as people discover and begin to exercise gifts of leadership, service, teaching, healing, music, hospitality, and so forth for the building up of the body.

While this understanding of disciple-making is significantly more effective than disciple-making by limited addition, it still falls short of the intent of the Great Commission.  According to this level of understanding, disciple-making is equated with helping Christians discover their spiritual gifts and releasing them into ministry.  People can be equipped for ministry, and use their spiritual gifts in the church, without intentionally making disciples themselves.  For example, through the ministry of equipping leaders, a Christian may discover he or she has the gift of teaching and a passion for ministry with children.  However, unless this person is intentionally seeking to make disciples by leading and nurturing more people into this ministry, then the church leadership is left to make more disciples.  Equipping leadership is vital for disciple-making, but by itself is insufficient.  It is still disciple-making by addition, which again falls short of the intent of the Great Commission.

3. The third level of understanding is where all Christians are called and equipped to make disciples, who make more disciples.  

At this level, leaders are called to equip people for ministry according to Ephesians 4:11-12.  Those who are released into ministry are given responsibility for making more disciples.  It is not only the responsibility of equipping leaders to make disciples, but the responsibility of all disciples to make disciples, who in turn make more disciples.  This is disciple-making by multiplication, and it reflects the full intent of the Great Commission.  This understanding incorporates the dynamic of reproduction as well as the dynamic of equipping.  Churches in which there is equipping leadership and disciples making disciples are vital, growing churches.

A Biblical Theology of Disciple-Making

1. The Disciple-Making Ministry of Jesus

Even a cursory reading of the Gospels, and particularly the synoptics, leads the reader to conclude that Jesus’ primary purpose was to proclaim and inaugurate the kingdom of God on earth.  He did this through teaching, through supernatural signs and through human acts which demonstrate the Kingdom qualities of righteousness and justice.  However, it is also clear from the synoptic Gospels that Jesus did not pursue the task of proclaiming the Kingdom of God in isolation.  Rather than miraculously impart knowledge and gifting to the multitudes that followed him, he chose to invest time into mentoring a small band of followers whom he personally selected to be his disciples.  Jesus’ strategy in doing this was obvious.  He intended his ministry to continue long after his ascension, therefore he devoted time to making disciples who would continue his ministry.  These disciples would in turn make more disciples and so on, in readiness for his return.

The Gospels also reveal the method that Jesus used in making disciples.  As stated previously, it began with a call – an invitation to follow him.  Jesus then taught them about the Kingdom of God and what it meant to be in relationship with God.  The disciples sat with him as he taught the crowds (Matthew 5:1 ff), and he spent time giving them specific teaching (e.g. Matthew 10:5 ff).  Jesus modelled the attitudes, behaviour, and actions that he wanted them to emulate.  He modelled a heart of compassion (Matthew 15:32-39; and Mark 6:34), and a ministry of healing, deliverance, and miracles (Matthew 8:14, 23-27, and 9:18-25).  Jesus taught them about prayer, including praying with a right attitude (Matthew 6:5-15), praying for the lost (Matthew 9:38), and persisting in prayer (Luke 1:1-13).  He modelled a life of prayer to them (Matthew 14:23; and Luke 6:12), and revealed his heart for the lost (Luke 15).  Jesus challenged wrong attitudes within them (Mark 9:33-37, and 10:35-45), and instructed them to be cleansed from sin (Matthew 15:1-20, and 23:1-36).

Included in this training, Jesus sent them out to do what they had observed him doing.  We read that Jesus “called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits . . . So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent.  They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them” (Mark 6:7,12,13; also Matthew 10:5-42; and Luke 9:1-6).  In a similar fashion, Luke records Jesus sending out seventy others in pairs, giving them a similar commission.  They also returned, rejoicing because the demons submitted to them (Luke 10:1-12, and 17-20).

As Jesus’ earthly ministry was drawing to a close, he began preparing his disciples to continue his ministry without his physical presence, but with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  Within his farewell discourses as recorded in John, chapters 13 to 17, Jesus assures his disciples that after he has gone, they will remain in full fellowship with him through the Holy spirit (14:15-17, and 15:26 f.).  People will know they are his disciples, as they continue to serve others in the way that he taught them (John 13:34,35).  The final phase in Jesus’ discipleship training is encapsulated in the Great Commission, as he sent them out to make disciples, as he had made disciples of them first (Matthew 28:18-20).

Jesus’ method of making disciples can be summarised as follows:  He called them to follow him; he taught, modelled, and ministered with them; he sent them out to minister to others and them come back and reflect with him; he prepared them to minister without him; and then sent them to go and make disciples of others, thus repeating the pattern that he modelled.  It was an approach of disciple-making by multiplication.

2. The Disciple-Making Ministry of the Early Church

The early church continued Jesus’ ministry of disciple-making by multiplication.  Following Pentecost, the apostles continued to minister in the way they had learned from Jesus.  They preached and confirming signs followed; consequently, the Lord added daily to their number those who were being saved (Acts 2:47).  However, the fact that the Christian Church still exists today bears witness to the fact that the disciples did more than only preach, teach, and heal.  The ministry of Jesus Christ continues today because the early disciples continued his ministry, and made disciples who continued Jesus ministry, as Jesus had commissioned them to do.  These disciples in turn made disciples, who in turn made more disciples.

It is not clear within the early chapters of the book of Acts which disciples are making disciples.  However we are told that the three thousand who heard Peter’s Pentecost sermon were baptised and began to devote themselves to “the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers” (Acts 2:42).  We can assume that many of these new disciples began to make more disciples (Acts 2:47).  Consequently, there was a need to expand and diversify the leadership base with the commission of the seven (Acts 6).  Consequently, the number of disciples increased greatly (Acts 6:7).

Within later chapters of the book of Acts, we read that it was a disciple named Ananias who laid hands on Saul after his conversion (Acts 9:10, 17).  Someone had obviously discipled Ananias, who in turn continued to make disciples.  Early in Saul’s ministry he had disciples (Acts 9:25).  Barnabas and Saul disciple John Mark (Acts 12:25).  We read that together they “made many disciples” and “strengthened the souls of the disciples” in Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, and appointed elders in each church (Acts 14:21-23).  Paul also discipled Timothy (Acts 16:1), Erastus (Acts 19:22) and Titus (Titus 1:5).

The disciple-making relationship between Paul and Timothy closely follows the principles that Jesus laid down.  Just as Jesus invited his disciples to follow him, so Paul invited Timothy to accompany him as a follower of Jesus (Acts 16:1-3).  Paul modelled ministry to Timothy (Acts 16:5, 2 Timothy 3:10-11), taught him (1 Timothy 1:18, and 1 & 2 Timothy), and they shared together in ministry (Acts 16:4-5; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; and 2 Corinthians 1:1).  During this time, Paul taught Timothy the things that were needed for him to grow in maturity in the faith.  He encouraged him to be a person of prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-4), to continually be cleansed of sin (2 Timothy 2:20-26) and to study the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Paul demonstrated to Timothy the same passion for the lost that Jesus demonstrated to his disciples (1 Timothy 1:12-16, and 2:1,4).  Just as Jesus sent his disciples out on their own when they were ready, so Paul did with Timothy (Acts 19:22; 1 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; and Philippians 2:19).

Most importantly, Paul sent Timothy to make disciples, who would in turn make more disciples.  Paul says to Timothy “what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well” (2 Timothy 2:2).  Like Jesus, Paul’s method of disciple-making was one of multiplying his ministry by building the kingdom in others, not being merely content to add names to the list of those saved.  Paul understood that it was imperative to reproduce himself in those who would follow after he had gone.

21st Century Disciples

In summary, a twenty-first century disciple of Jesus Christ will understand his or her primary call to be that of making disciples who are disciple-makers.  They will be men and women of prayer, who faithfully study the Scriptures, who grow in holiness through confessing and repenting of their sin.  They will have a heart for the lost, which will motivate them to bear witness to their faith in word and action, through which they will make disciples.  Twenty-first century disciples will learn from those who are discipling them how to share their faith with others.  They will work with their disciplers in discipling others, and under their guidance will be released to make disciples.

However, twenty-first century disciples cannot make disciples on their own.  They need to be part of a disciple-making church.  The post-Pentecost disciple-making occurred within the context of a growing Church, sent into the world.  It was an apostolic church.  Therefore, not only do disciples need to comprehend the full intent of the Great Commission, so does the Church.  The Church needs to understand the implication behind Jesus’ word ‘go’ (Matthew 28:18; and Mark 16:15)[4], and ‘send’ (John 20:21), and witness to the ends of the earth (Luke 24:48; and Acts 1:8).  This is the focus of the next section.

2.      A disciple-making theology of the church

The Great Commission as the Church’s Apostolic Calling

The phrase ‘make disciples’ is not the only important component within the words of the Great Commission as recorded in Matthew 28:18-20. The disciples are to ‘go’ and make disciples.  They were not commissioned to stay and make disciples, but to go.  They were ‘sent’ (John 20:21).  The disciples were only to wait long enough to receive the empowering of the Holy Spirit.  After being baptised with the Holy Spirit, they were to bear witness to Jesus to the ends of the earth (Luke 24:49; and Acts 1:5,8).

It is also important to emphasise that this commission was not given to the disciples individually, but collectively.  These eleven disciples were the founding nucleus of the world-wide disciple-making community, who would become known as the Church.  He purposefully established this ministry of disciple-making in the context of community.  The call is for the community of believers to both go forth and make disciples, as one community.  The vine and branches allegory of John 15 provides a conclusive reference to the coming community.  “The idea of many branches being knit together by being joined by one stem is a vivid illustration of corporateness.  Not only can no branch exist without being in living contact with the vine, but the branches have no relations to each other, except through the vine.”[5]

However, it is Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17 that provides the strongest evidence of his intention that his mission continue through his disciples as a unified community, not as individuals.  In his prayer to the Father, Jesus says:  “as you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).  Jesus’ prayer that the disciples be one (John 17:21-23) clearly emphasises the importance of community for the continuation of the mission of Jesus.

There is no doubt that the mission of Jesus to proclaim the kingdom of God in word, sign and action is to be continued by his disciples in the context of an interdependent community when we consider the evidence:  the commission to the twelve (Matthew 10:5-42; and Luke 9:1-6), the commission to the seventy (Luke 10:1-12), and the post-resurrection commission to the disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).

An Apostolic Church

This community of disciple-makers is therefore destined to be an apostolic community, which begins as an apostolic church – a ‘sent’ church.  The Greek word apostello means ‘to send’.  The word appears 131 times in the New Testament, 119 of which are found in the Gospels and Acts.[6]  It is the word used to describe Jesus ‘sending’ the twelve disciples on their mission to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal (Luke 9:2).  It is also used to describe the appointing of the seventy and ‘sending’ them off in pairs in mission (Luke 10:1,3).  The Greek word pempo which also means ‘send’ is used as a virtual synonym for appostello in John, Luke and Acts.[7]   The word apostolos is translated ‘apostle’.  Initially referring to the twelve apostles (Luke 6:13; and Matthew 10:2), it described being sent as an envoy or ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20).  Later Paul, Barnabas and others are referred to as apostles (for example, Acts 14:14; and Romans 16:7)[8].

The Church of Jesus Christ is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20).  In other words, those who are called to the office of apostle (Ephesians 4:11) are not the only ones whom Jesus has sent into the world with a message.  Rather, apostles are to give leadership to the building of a ‘sent’ Church.  Jesus made this clear in the words of the Great Commission.  He did not say to the eleven disciples (also referred to as apostles in Matthew 10:2) “go, therefore and proclaim my message”.  Rather, he commissioned them to “go therefore and make disciples”.  In other words, he commissioned them to be an apostolic people.  The reason that the early Church congregations went a long way towards fulfilling Jesus’ challenge to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), was because the apostles began to build and lead an church.  The apostles went into the world, growing and multiplying a community of believers – believers who were sent, and went back into the world.

Jesus established the church as a disciple-making church.  A disciple-making church is an apostolic church.  The Great Commission therefore demands a multiplication paradigm of disciple-making, and it demands an apostolic paradigm of the church.  Despite the fact that many congregations of most Christian denominations throughout the world confess that they believe in the ‘one holy Catholic and apostolic church’, the majority of congregations of mainline churches do not understand what it means to be an apostolic church.  The following section describes three different levels of understanding of the church which exist today.  Following this is an apostolic theology of the church and a profile of the twenty-first century church.

The Purpose of the Church

Three levels of understanding about the purpose of the church parallel the three levels of undertstanding of disciple making.

1. The Church as Caring for the People

This understanding of the role of the local church as caring for the people parallels the understanding of the clergy as disciple-makers[9].  Within the Christendom Paradigm, the primary role of the local church is to care for the people who are part of it.  A church in which the primary role is caring for the people is a highly institutionalised church.  The more people in the congregation, the more clergy are needed, when the primary role of the clergy is to care for the people.  The more clergy that exist, the more administration is needed to maintain an acceptable level of care.  Administration is also needed to ensure that mission happens overseas or in remote and less fortunate parts of the country.  Missionaries need to be trained and funds needs to be raised.  The responsibilities, however are taken out of the hands of ‘ordinary’ Christians.

A church in which the primary role is to care for the people is in direct disobedience to the Great Commission, as this understanding restricts disciple-making to the sole responsibility of the clergy.  However, the institutional church structures ensure that the primary focus of their time and energy is on those already in the church.  A church in which the primary role is caring for the people is an inward focused church, which is in direct contrast to the emphasis of the Great Commission.

2. The Church as Building Up the Body

Declining church attendance, combined with the influence of the charismatic movement, contributed to a different level of understanding of the church.  A key part of this change is re-exegeting (or rediscovering) Ephesians 4:11-12:  “The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”  Whereas the second level of understanding of disciple-making focused on the phrase “to equip the saints for the work of ministry”, this second level of understanding of the Church’s role focuses on the phrase “for building up the body of Christ.”

This represents a significant move from the first level of understanding.  It is the whole people of God, not the clergy who take responsibility for the building up of the body of Christ.  All Christians care for one another, and discover and exercise their spiritual gifts.  Paul’s analogy of the church as a body, as expounded in 1 Corinthians 12 and other places, plays a large part in the thinking behind this understanding.  In order to be a disciple-making and multiplying community of faith, the church must perceive itself as a body of believers, each with different gifts to be exercised together.

However, this second level of understanding is limited because it tends to see the building up of the body as an end in itself.  A congregation may encourage the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit by all members.  The fruits of this may be evidenced by creative and diverse worship experiences, and strong ministries for and with children, teenagers and young adults.  There may be a small groups ministry which caters for all ages, led by trained and gifted leaders.  However, these ministries are often developed with the implicit, or even explicit, assumption that this wonderful demonstration of the ‘building up of the body’ will automatically draw in potential disciples.

Churches which work at building up the body usually do experience seasons of numerical growth.  However, analysis of this growth usually reveals the majority of it as being Christians transferring from ‘less exciting’ churches to a church which ‘meets their needs’.  Such churches inadvertently send a message which says ‘come and join us’.  This message is contrary to the charge of the Great Commission to go into the world and make disciples.  Congregations in which the building up of the body is an end in itself fall short of the intent of the Great Commission.  Apart from the ‘end in itself’ perception, there are several other reasons why congregations, who embrace this level of understanding, fall short of the intent of the Great Commission.

Firstly, the understanding of the Church as body often exists in parallel with the clergy/laity paradigm.  That is, the clergy strongly encourage the discovery and exercise of spiritual gifts by all members of the congregation.  However, they are limited by denominational regulations, practices, and expectations of the people.

Secondly, there is often within this level of understanding a strong conviction that mission flows out of nurture.  Christian nurture, evidenced by teaching and pastoral care, is seen as primary.  Mission and evangelism is ineffective, unless the body is built up through solid teaching and care.  Biblical teaching and pastoral care are important and vital to the growth of the body.  However, if they are given priority over mission, then mission never happens.  For example, many Christians consider themselves to be ‘mature in faith’ (Ephesians 4:13) and do not see it as important to make disciples of others.

The more nurture and fellowship that people receive, the more they demand.  The more emphasis that is placed on nurture, whether by clergy or by small group leaders, the more people value having ‘their needs met’, and the less motivated they become to engage in mission.  Giving nurture priority over mission encourages an introversion which is at odds with the intent of the Great Commission, which commissions all believers to ‘go’ (Matthew 28:19; and Mark 16:15), to be ‘sent’ (John 20:21), and to be witnesses to the ends of the earth (Luke 24:48; and Acts 1:8).  The early church was obedient to this commission, giving mission first priority.  As they did this, they experienced nurture and fellowship like never before (Acts 2:41-18, 4:29-35).

3. The Church as Extending the Kingdom

The third level of understanding of the purpose of the church is to continue Jesus’ ministry of proclaiming the kingdom of God in word and action.  This is done in the spirit and pattern of the early church, of being sent into the world with the good news of the gospel.  The ethos of ‘building up the body’ is vital to this understanding of the church.  However, building up the body is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.  The end is to extend the kingdom of God by making disciples, who make disciples.

The kingdom of God is extended when the lost are found, and so searching for the lost is the primary focus of the church which is sent into the world.  Congregations which reflect this understanding are kingdom oriented, as opposed to church oriented.  Howard Snyder expresses it this way:

Church people think about how to get people into the church; Kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world.  Church people worry that the world might change the church; Kingdom people work to see the church change the world.[10]

A kingdom-oriented congregation is an apostolic congregation – a ‘sent’ congregation.  It reflects the full intent of the Great Commission – to go and make disciples.  The following section argues that the ministry of Jesus and the early church as recorded in the scriptures, articulates an apostolic theology of the church.  It is a theology of the church which affirms this level of understanding and purpose of the church.  It reflects the full intent of the Great Commission.

An Apostolic Theology of the Church

The ministry and teaching of Jesus lay the foundation for the apostolic ministry of the Church.  The book of Acts records the early church continuing this apostolic ministry of Jesus, in obedience to the Great Commission.  The apostle Paul, a key apostle and theologian of the early church, continues to develop this apostolic theology of the church, building on the teaching of Jesus.

1. The Apostolic Ministry of Jesus

By first sending out the twelve (Mark 6:7,12,13; Matthew 10:5-42; and Luke 9:1-6) and later the seventy (Luke 10:1-12, 17-20), Jesus not only demonstrates his equipping style of leadership, but role models an apostolic or ‘sending’ component to the ministry.   Just as the Father sent Jesus to the world for an apostolic mission, so Jesus sent his disciples to continue in that mission (John 17:18, 20:21).  In proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom, Jesus did not remain within Nazareth, but moved throughout Galilee and beyond, eventually to Jerusalem.  His mission was apostolic.  Two features of this apostolic mission are consistently noted:  the proclaiming of the good news of the kingdom, and the miraculous signs which followed.

When Jesus sent the twelve and then the seventy, this pattern continued.  He sent them to proclaim the good news and to heal the sick and cast out demons (Luke 9:1-2, 6; and 10:9,17).  He commissioned his disciples to be a community of believers who would continue this apostolic mission.  They were commissioned to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), to “go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” with signs following (Mark 16:15-18), and to be ‘witnesses’ (Luke 24:48) “in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Jesus’ apostolic ministry was reinforced with apostolic teaching.  This teaching is most clearly articulated in two parables concerning the sowing of seed (Mark 4:1-20, 26-29), and his statement about the harvest (Matthew 9:35-38; and Luke 10:2).  Matthew records the following:

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to sent out labourers into his harvest’ (cf Luke 10:2).

Again the pattern of Jesus’ apostolic ministry is noted:  proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom, with signs following.  However, Jesus is lamenting the fact that there is a harvest of souls for the kingdom, but a shortage of workers to bring in the harvest.  He gives a call to prayer to pray to God for workers, who will be sent into the harvest – first as Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and sent them on their mission (Matthew 10:1-42).

However, a harvest will not come unless seeds are planted.  Within Mark 4 Jesus tells a parable of a sower, who sows seed.  Some of the seed does not survive because it falls on the path, on rocky ground, and among thorns.  However that which fell on good soil brought forth grain, and grew up to yield thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.  (Mark 4:3-8).  The seed is the word of God (Mark 4:14).  Mark then records Jesus’ Parable of the Growing Seed:

The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.  The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.  But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come  (Mark 4:26-29).

What is the clear message for disciples who are disciple-makers in an apostolic church?  The disciples are responsible for the sowing, God does the growing, and the disciples then come and bring in the harvest.  It is not possible to harvest without first sowing.  It is of no use sowing, unless harvesting also takes place to bring in the fruits of the sowing.  It is not the sower or the harvester’s role to grow the plants, as this is up to God.  The harvester’s role is to take whatever measures can be taken to ensure that the environment is maximised to release its growth potential.

2. The Apostolic Ministry of the Early Church

The day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2 marked the beginning of the fulfilment of the Great Commission.  With the coming of the Holy Spirit to give power to witness as promised (Luke 24:49; and Acts 1:8), the disciples responded to Jesus’ call to go into the world.  Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, began to preach the good news of the Gospel of the kingdom, and three thousand people became disciples.  These disciples were baptised, and then “devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).

The book of Acts is the record of the apostles continuing Jesus’ ministry to proclaim the Kingdom in word (e.g. Acts 2:14-36; 3:1 ff; 4:8 ff; and 8:4 ff), in sign (e.g. 3:1-10; 5:12-16; and 8:4-8), and in action (e.g. 4:32-37; and 6:1-4).  Jesus’ commission to ‘go and make disciples’ is obeyed (e.g. Acts 2:37-47; 6:1-7; 8:9 ff; 10:1-44; and 13:1 ff).  Peter and the other apostles moved throughout the region, preaching the gospel with signs following.  They were fulfilling the apostolic commission that Jesus gave them.  They were apostles (apostolos), sent by Jesus to continue his ministry of extending the kingdom of God.

The early church was not only a church with apostles, it was an apostolic church.  The apostles, who were sent in obedience to the Great Commission, not only made disciples, but disciples who were disciple-makers.  The record of the early church supports this:

That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria . . .Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word.  (Acts 8:1, 4).

As it was with Jesus and the apostles, the disciples of the apostles were sent to continue Jesus’ ministry of proclaiming the kingdom, and signs followed.  The teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayer, worship and service, and care (Acts 2:37-47, 4:23-37) were not ends in themselves, but responses to the apostles being sent.  They continued the mission of Jesus, going into the world to make more disciples, who were equipped to make more disciples.

3. Paul’s Apostolic Theology of the Church

Upon his conversion, Saul, who later became known as Paul, became one of the most significant apostles of the early church.  In his apostolic ministry of teaching, he reinforced Jesus’ apostolic teaching, thus developing an apostolic theology of the church.

Building up the body

As previously stated, Paul affirmed that God gifts leaders for the role of equipping the whole people of God for the work of ministry.  Through this equipping, the body of Christ is built up  (Ephesians 4:11-12).  It is not the people who do the building, but Christ (see Matthew 16:18).  Paul states that the church receives its life and authority from Christ as the head of the Church (Ephesians 4:15-16).   The church is totally dependant on Christ for its direction and life.  This truth is affirmed by Jesus’ statement when he says that he is the true vine and we are the branches (John 15:1-11).  He says, “apart from me you can do nothing” (verse 5).

Also, the individual Christians, who are members of the church (the body), are interdependent, rather than dependent on each other.  In 1 Corinthians12:12-30, it is clear that each member of the body is assigned a particular gift (charis) to be exercised in mutual giving and receiving, for completing tasks within the fellowship, and in fulfilling its commission to proclaim the good news to the world.

Clearly then, Paul teaches that the individual members of the church, in and of themselves, do not constitute the whole.  Rather, the unity of the body, and the life of the body comes from Christ himself:  “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in the one Spirit we were all baptised into one body”  (1 Corinthians 12:12 f.).[11]

This understanding of the church, as a living, dynamic organism, holding in tension unity and diversity, illustrates the disciple-making call of the church.  Disciples cannot be effective disciple-makers on their own, because they do not possess all the gifts, as Christ did.  However, disciple-making happens in the church, as disciples together witness and service Christ in the world, and subsequently fruitful disciple-making develops.  This does not infer that individual disciples cannot lead others into a relationship with Jesus Christ.  However, the ongoing nurture and mentoring of a disciple, who becomes a disciple-maker, is made more effective when it is provided by more than one disciple.  It is within the context of the church–the body of Christ–that holistic disciple-making occurs.

Through the equipping of the saints for ministry, God releases the gifts of the Holy Spirit, through which Christ builds the body.  Paul gives illustration to this in his statement:  “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6).  In saying this, Paul reinforces Jesus teaching on the parable of the growing seed (Mark 4:21-25).

Extending the kingdom

Paul’s teaching on the Church in Ephesians also clearly emphasises that the building up of the body is not an end in itself.  He states that leaders are given to equip the saints for ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ “until all of us come to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).  The building up of the body is for the purposes of extending the kingdom of God.  This is why Paul tells that Corinthian Christians that the have been reconciled to Christ, and have been given a ministry of reconciliation.  They are to be ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).  This is why he told the Philippian Christians that it is through God at work within them, enabling them to will and work for his pleasure, that they will shine like stars in the world (Philippians 2:13,15).  This is why Paul, in his discipling of Timothy, urged him to pray for everyone, as God desires everyone to be saved (2 Timothy 2:4).

Within these words we hear Paul’s apostolic heart for the church.  This is further reinforced in his teaching in chapter one of the letter to the Ephesians.  We read that Jesus is not only head of the Church, but head of all things:  “And he has put all things under his (Christ’s) feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him which fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23).  God has “a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him (Christ), things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10).  God’s plan and desire is that everyone is saved (2 Timothy 2:4).  He does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  God’s plan is to be fulfilled through the church, which is to “fully reveal Christ’s headship over the whole created order.”[12]

In commenting on the significance of Ephesians 1:22-23, Frank Laubach makes this statement:  “When Christ was here on earth, he was limited to performing his ministry in one place and at one time . . . He healed whoever he touched, but his touch was necessarily limited by time and space . . . As the body of Christ, the Church is Christ’s multiplied hands, feet, voice and compassionate heart.”[13]  In other words, as the body of Christ, the Church multiplies disciples who multiply the Kingdom ministry of Jesus.  The Kingdom ministry of Jesus is extended when the church functions as an apostolic church–a body of interdependent disciple-makers sent into the world to make disciples, who in turn, make more disciples.

The Great Commission Revisited

It was concluded in the first section that the Great Commission demands the primary call of the Christian to be a disciple who is a disciple-maker.  This call requires a multiplication paradigm of disciple-making.  This second section now concludes that the Great Commission also demands an apostolic church – a church sent into the world, with leadership that equips people for an interdependent ministry of disciple-making.  Through this, the body is built up and the kingdom of God is extended, thus continuing the ministry of Jesus in the world.  This requires the church to adopt an apostolic paradigm.

The multiplication paradigm of disciple-making demands leaders who equip and multiply.  The Apostolic paradigm of the church demands apostolic leadership.  Leadership which is equipping, multiplying and apostolic is life-giving leadership.  It demands a disciple-making and sending approach.  When this occurs, the power of the Great Commission is restored and the spirit of Jesus and the early church is reflected in the life of the twenty-first century church.

3.                Current research into vital churches

Current research confirms that vital growing churches are those which have reclaimed an apostolic disciple-making vision.

Episcopal Priest and President of the Alban Institute, Loren Mead, published a book in 1991 called The Once and Future Church.[14]  Mead challenges the mainstream church as continuing to operate within a Christendom Paradigm dating back to Constantine, whereas we live, work, and witness within a Mission Paradigm.  In 1996 he published another book in which he identifies five challenges for the church if it is to effectively transition into a mission paradigm:  (1) to transfer the ownership of the Church from clergy to laity, (2) to find new structures to carry our faith, (3) to discover a passionate spirituality, (4) to feed the world’s need for community, and (5) to become an apostolic people.[15]

In 1993 United Methodist Minister and Director of 21st Century Strategies, William Easum, published a book titled, Dancing with Dinosaurs:  Ministry in a Hostile and Hurting World.[16]  As a Church Consultant who travels some 300 days of the year, Easum observes first hand many churches in the United States.  He concludes that churches effectively ministering into the twenty-first century are churches where:  (1) small groups replace programs, (2) pastors equip persons, rather than do ministry, (3) effective worship is culturally relevant, (4) buildings are not important, and (5) weekday ministries overshadow the importance of Sunday.  In addition to this, he lists three essential ingredients:  (1) biblical integrity, (2) evangelism, and (3) quality.

George Hunter III, who is a professor at Ausbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, surveyed nine churches within the United States whom he identified as being apostolic congregations.  Some of these churches were independent, while others were part of a mainstream denomination.  Hunter states that apostolic congregations are different from traditional congregations in fifty ways, but identifies ten distinctive features which account for about 80 percent of the difference, those being:  (1) grounding believers and seekers in Scripture, (2) disciplined, and earnest in prayer, with an expectation and experience God’s action in response, (3) understanding, affinity, and compassion for the lost, unchurched, unchurched people, (4) obedience to the Great Commission–more as warrant or privilege, than mere duty, (5) a motivationally sufficient vision for what people, as disciples, can become, (6) adaption to the language, music, and style of the target population’s culture, (7) willingness to work had to involve everyone, believers and seekers, in small groups, (8) advocation of the involvement of all Christians in lay ministries for which they are gifted, (9) regular pastoral care of members through regular spiritual conversation with someone who is gifted for shepherding ministry, and (10) engagement in multiple ministries to unchurched people.[17]

The consistent findings of this research is obvious.  However, there are two expressions of current research which have considerable impact throughout the church at present.  The first is undertaken by C. Peter Wagner[18], into what he calls the New Apostolic Reformation.  The second is undertaken by Christian Schwarz[19], into what he calls Natural Church Development.  Findings of this research are consistent with those above.  However, they clearly reveal a way of reclaiming the power of the Great Commission through recapturing the apostolic vision of the church and reinforcing a disciple-making by multiplication paradigm, respectively.

The New Apostolic Reformation

Wagner contends that the mainline church crisis exists because their institutional structures represent “old wineskins”[20].  Jesus said:  “Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise the skins burst, and the wine is spilled; and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved” (Matthew 9:17).  Since Christ began building his church 2000 years ago, it has changed many times in the way that it has grown.  With each change, a new wineskin was required.  The growing vital churches, which are independent churches, members of apostolic networks, and congregations within mainline denominations, are part of a new wineskin being formed.  Wagner calls this new wineskin the New Apostolic Reformation, and local churches whose ministries embrace this as new apostolic churches.

The expression “new reformation” is not new.  Greg Ogden[21] and Lyle Schaller[22] recently published books titled The New Reformation, and William Beckham authored The Second Reformation.[23]  The first reformation is the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century.  This reformation was largely theological, whereas the new reformation is not so much a reformation of faith, but of practice.  Wagner states that “this current reformation is not so much against corruption and apostasy as it is against irrelevance.[24]  The word ‘apostolic’ is used because churches which identify with this movement give a high priority to reaching out in effective ways to the unchurched.  Many churches, who identify with this movement, also recognise the New Testament office of apostle as alive and well in the church today.

In observing new apostolic churches, Wagner identifies nine common characteristics, as follows.[25]

New Name.  The name of new apostolic churches is more likely to reflect the vision of the church, or the region or community in which it is situated, rather than the denomination.

New Authority Structure.  An indispensable quality within new apostolic churches is strong, visionary leadership.  Pastors of these churches are perceived as the leaders of the church; whereas in most traditional denomination churches, the parish council or board of deacons lead, and the pastor is an employee.

New Leadership Training.  Within new apostolic churches, all members are encouraged to discover their spiritual gifts and use them for ministry, while leaders are mentored and trained through seminars or conferences, or in-house bible schools.

New Ministry Focus.  Many denominational churches are heritage driven, with their ministry philosophy being determined by their historical antecedents.  Conversely, new apostolic churches are vision driven, being more concerned about where God is leading in the future, than how we lead in the past.

New Worship Style.  Contemporary, culturally relevant worship is a key characteristic of new apostolic churches.

New Prayer Forms.  A fervent and uncompromising commitment to prayer is another essential dynamic within new apostolic churches.  Days of prayer and fasting, prayer walks, and prayer summits will be scheduled on a regular basis.

New Financing.  Whereas most mainline denominations are facing a serious funding crisis, new apostolic churches have relatively few financial problems.

New Outreach.  The primary focus of the new apostolic church is reaching out to the lost and hurting.  Focused, strategic evangelistic ministries, ministries of care and compassion, and new church plants all feature prominently on their agenda.

New Power Orientation.  Not all new apostolic churches consider themselves to be charismatic, nevertheless they display an openness to the Holy Spirit and affirm that all of the New Testament spiritual gifts are in operation today.  Unlike many mainline denominational churches, they encourage ministries of healing, deliverance, spiritual warfare, prophecy, and so forth.

There is an obvious correlation between Wagner’s characteristics and those identified by Mead, Easum and Hunter III.  Even more significant is the correlation between the characteristics of the New Testament apostolic churches, as described in this chapter:  strong apostolic leadership; people sent into the world to proclaim the Gospel, with signs following; devotion to the apostles teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers, and the raising up new leaders.  It appears as though the profile of a twenty-first century apostolic church includes the characteristics identified by Wagner and others.

Natural Church Development

From 1994-96 Christian A. Schwarz, head of the Institute for Church Development in Germany, undertook what he claims to be the most comprehensive study ever conducted on the causes of church growth.  He surveyed more than one thousand churches in thirty-two countries on five continents.  Schwarz says:

To my knowledge, our research provides the first world-wide scientifically verifiable answer to the question, “What church growth principles are true, regardless of culture and theological persuasion?”  We strove to find a valid answer to the question “What should each church and every Christian do to obey the Great Commission in today’s World?”[26]

Published in 1996, Schwarz’s research identifies eight ‘quality characteristics’ of growing churches:  (1) empowering leadership, (2) gift-oriented ministry, (3) passionate spirituality, (4) functional structures, (5) inspiring worship, (6) holistic small groups, (7) need-oriented evangelism, and (8) loving relationships.[27]

Schwarz states his conviction that many Christians are sceptical of church growth because to them it presents techniques which seek to achieve church growth using human abilities, rather than God’s means.  In contrast to this, Schwarz presents a different approach to church growth, which he calls ‘natural’ or ‘biotic’ church development.  “‘Biotic’ implies nothing less that a rediscovery of the laws of life (in Greek, bios).  The goal is to let God’s growth automatisms flourish, instead of wasting energy on human-made programs.”[28]

As discussed earlier in this chapter, Schwarz’s approach recaptures Jesus’ teaching in the Parable of the Growing Seed (Mark 4:26-29).  That is, disciples do the sowing and the reaping, but God does the growing.  Schwarz’s understanding of church growth affirms the Church as a living, dynamic organism, rather than an institution; thus, his understanding reflects Paul’s theology of the church, as described earlier in this chapter.  He sees growth and development resting in principles which promote the health of churches.  “Effective churches are healthy churches; healthy churches are growing churches–they make more and better disciples.”[29]

If, as Jesus and Paul emphasise, it is God that does the growing, what specifically can disciples do within the sowing that prepares for God’s growth to be released?  The real values of Schwarz’s research is that he addressees this very question.  He identifies ‘biotic’ principles which facilitate God’s growth.  Three of these principles are particularly relevant to the paradigm of disciple-making by multiplication.

Interdependence.  This principle affirms Paul’s teaching of the church as a body consisting of interdependent members.  Church structures and practices should encourage an interdependent relationship between each of the various ministries within the congregation.

Multiplication.  The principle of multiplication applies to all areas of church life:  “Just as the true fruit of an apple tree is not an apple, but another tree; the true fruit of a small group is not a new Christian, but another group; the true fruit of a church is not a new group, but a new church; the true fruit of a leader is not a follower, but a new leader.”[30]

Functionality.  This principle asks whether the ministry is bearing fruit, in terms of both quality and quantity.  This may appear to be obvious, however, numerous churches have ministries that go on ad infinitum without this type of periodic evaluation process.

When the eight quality characteristics are considered in light of these biotic principles, it is the adjectives rather than the nouns that are important.  For example, when the multiplication principles are applied to leadership, they empower the leadership.  When the principle of interdependence is applied to ministry, it becomes gift-oriented ministry.  When the principle of functionality is applied to a congregation’s organisational structure, it becomes a functional structure.  The application of these biotic principles therefore provide a healthy environment for an apostolic disciple-making church to develop and grow.[31]

Conclusion:  a profile of the twenty-first century church

While taking totally different approaches, Wagner’s New Apostolic Reformation and Schwarz’s Natural Church Development each affirm an apostolic paradigm of the church and an multiplication paradigm of disciple-making.  Each of these is required to restore the power of the Great Commission.  Neither Wagner’s nor Schwarz’s research reflects exclusive indicators of healthy, growing churches.  However, based on biblical and theological evidence, and the sustained growth of some contemporary churches, it appears as though Wagner’s and Schwarz’s research describe characteristics of apostolic disciple-making congregations..  Thus, apostolic disciple-making congregations reflect the church of the twenty-first century.  This is a church which embodies the full intent of the Great Commission.

A mission strategy for an apostolic disciple-making church will therefore reflect the presuppositions of the apostolic paradigm of the church.  It will emphasise a primary purpose of being sent into the community.  The life of the congregation will reflect an interdependent body of believers, equipped for the ministry of sowing and reaping the harvest which God will grow.  The disciple-making strategy will reflect the presuppositions of the multiplication paradigm of disciple-making.

It will emphasise the primary call of each member of the church to be disciple-makers at every level of church life.  The disciple-making strategy of Jesus and Paul will be implemented, ensuring growth in maturity of disciples, who make more disciples.  The lost will be found.  The sick will be healed.  The demonised set free.  The Kingdom will be extended.  And God will be glorified.


[1]Colin Brown ed., The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Exeter, United Kingdom:  Paternoster Press, 1986), 480-494.

[2] Greg Ogden, Discipleship Essentials (Downers Grove, Illinois:  Intervarsity Press, 1998), 24.

[3] Loren Mead.  The Once and Future Church (Washington DC:  Alban Institute.  1991).  13-22.

[4] The Greek for this word ‘go’ literally means ‘having gone.’

[5] ibid., 723.

[6] E. von Eicken and H. Lindner, “Apostello”, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology Volume 1, ed. Colin Brown (Exeter, United Kingdom:  Paternoster Press, 1986), 128.

[7] ibid.

[8] D. Muller, “Apostello”, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology Volume 1, ed. Colin Brown (Exeter, United Kingdom:  Paternoster Press, 1986), 130.

[9] The understanding of clergy as disciple-makers is described in Chapter One.

[10] Howard Snyder, Liberating the Church (Downers Grove, IL:  Intervarsity Press, 1983), 11.

[11] A detailed discussion of this is found in S. Wibbing’s article “Body” in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology Volume 1, ed. Colin Brown (Exeter United Kingdom:  Paternoster Press, 1986), 232-38.

[12] Synder, Liberating the Church, 59.

[13] Greg Ogden, The New Reformation (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Zondervan, 1990), 32.

[14] Mead, The Once and Future Church.

[15] Loren Mead., Five Challenges for the Once and Future Church (Washington DC:  Alban Institute, 1996).

[16] William Easum, Dancing with Dinosaur (Nashville Tennessee:  Abingdon Press, 1993).

[17] George Hunter III, Church for the Unchurched  (Nashville, Tennessee:  Abingdon, 1996), 29-32

[18] C. Peter Wagner, Churchquake  (Ventura, California:  Regal, 1999).

[19] Christian Schwarz, Natural Church Development (Carol Stream, Illinois:  Churchsmart, 1996).

[20] Wagner, Churchquake, 15-16.

[21] Ogden, The New Reformation.

[22] Lyle Schaller., The New Reformation (Nashville Tennessee:  Abingdon Press, 1995).

[23] William Beckham,  The Second Reformation (Houston TX:  Touch Publications, 1997).

[24] C. Peter Wagner, Churchquake 36-37.

[25] C. Peter Wagner, The New Apostolic Churches (Ventura California:  Regal, 1998), 18-25.

[26] Christian Schwarz, Natural Church Development, 27.

[27] ibid., 22-37.

[28] ibid., 7.

[29] Robert E. Logan, Beyond Church Growth (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Fleming H. Revell, 1989), 17.

[30] Schwarz, Natural Church Development, 68.

[31] For a more detailed discussion of the eight quality characteristics and the biotic principles, refer to Schwarz, Natural Church Development, 22-82.

©  Renewal Journal #18: Servant Leadership (2001, 2012)  www.renewaljournal.com
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included in the text.

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