State leaders talk missional discipleship
    March 1 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

    The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) recently partnered to sponsor a panel discussion about what it means to engage in missional discipleship.

    Panelists included: Andy Hughes, pastor, Journey Church of the Highlands; Sean Cordell, pastor, Treasuring Christ Church; Winfield Bevins, pastor, Church of the Outerbanks; Nathan Akin, student development liaison to churches, SEBTS; Alvin Reid, professor of evangelism and student ministry, SEBTS; Brian Upshaw, church ministry team leader, BSC; Mark Liederbach, vice president for student services, dean of students, SEBTS.

    The discussion began with each panelist speaking briefly on a topic related to discipleship, and then the panel fielded specific questions from the audience about discipleship. Here’s a look inside at some of the Q & A:  

    Q: How can churches turn existing ministries into discipleship opportunities?

    Liederbach: “Southern Baptists have primarily thought of discipleship in terms of ‘pulpiteering.’” When this happens, leaders are “stealing from our people the life-on-life relationships.”

    While Southern Baptists have been known for their programs, programs are not to blame for the lack of discipleship in churches. Pastors must be taught how to shepherd their people and must learn that discipleship does not happen just because the pastor preaches discipleship from the pulpit.

    Upshaw: “I’ve seen small groups in homes become programs.”

    Even ministries that start out as gospel-centered can very easily become programs that do not have transformed lives as the measure of success. Pastors and leaders can use existing ministries as platforms in which to build relationships, which in turn will encourage discipleship.

    Mark Liederbach, left, dean of students for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Nathan Akin, Southeastern’s student development liaison to churches, took part in a panel recently. Liederbach and Akin, along with several other seminary and state leaders, shared about specific discipleship topics and then took questions from the audience.

    Cordell: Don’t let Sunday School become another “preaching post.” Although teaching and preaching is certainly valuable and necessary, it cannot, on its own, produce disciples. Use Sunday School or small groups as an opportunity to let people “get into your life.”  

    Q: How can pastors and leaders involve their congregation in missions?

    This generation is one that wants to be involved in missions and mercy missions. Help them get their hands dirty.

    Akin: Give them areas of responsibility and let them have opportunities to lead. Cordell: People are drawn to something bigger than themselves. Show them Jesus Christ, who is superior to all things.

    Bevins: Give them ways to engage in missions other than just on Sunday mornings. “Go where they are — that’s what Jesus did. Maybe you need to schedule office hours outside the office.” Instead of blogging about being missional — go out and be missional.  

    Q: What do we do if we do not use specific curriculum?

    Bevins: Consider using small group or Sunday School time to go back and discuss material from that week’s sermon. Teach and train your leaders in how to facilitate discussion of a text.

    Upshaw: Make sure you equip your leaders theologically and not just pragmatically.  

    Q: How do we measure the purity of our members?

    Reid: You should be able to tell whether or not anyone would notice if your church no longer existed. Ask restaurant waiters and waitresses how your congregation is doing.

    Talk about holiness. We are not having a lot of discussions about holiness, especially among young people.

    “The reason we’re not holy is because we’re not around people who are hungry for it.” Believers must be intentional in engaging the culture, building relationships with lost people and then sharing the gospel with them. Belief in Jesus Christ comes first, and behavior change follows.

    Upshaw: “We don’t ask about holiness — that’s part of the problem.” We don’t have accountability. We need to confront sin and love the person.

    Cordell: We need to warn people about sin and its consequences, yet at the same time we need to speak about the beauty of redemption.  

    Q: Why are so many young adults leaving the church?

    Upshaw: “What they see isn’t real.” We are teaching moralism, but Christianity is not about being good enough. We need to model Christ to our children.

    Reid: “We are not raising them to think like missionaries.”

    We have to stop treating them like kids.

    The panel gave great attention to this topic, noting that the problem is with the family and the church — it’s not one or the other. Although parents are primarily responsible for the faith development of their children, that responsibility comes within the context of their church family.

    Parents cannot outsource their responsibility to the church, and the church cannot expect parents to fulfill their role without coming alongside and being willing to help. The church can help teach parents practical applications, such as how to have a family devotional time.

    Too often the church focuses on just giving youth events and entertainment without ever teaching them what it means to follow Christ or giving them opportunity to be involved in the church and in the community.

    The panel encouraged those in attendance to make sure they are involved in their children’s lives.

    Schedules should never become so busy that they lack time for family. Children and teenagers know what their parents care about; they should know their parents care about both family and ministry. 

    To learn more about what it means to engage in missional discipleship visit

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    3/1/2011 10:18:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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