Missional discipleship essential to GC
    November 15 2010 by Melissa Lilley and Norman Jameson, BSC Communications/BR

    Dennis Pethers was drawn to faith by reading the copy of Mere Christianity his boss gave him. He was embarrassed to be reading a Christian book, but did it out of obligation to his boss.

    Pethers, now founder of Viz-a-Viz Ministries in the United Kingdom and International Director of More to Life, was one of six panelists in a question and answer session about “missional discipleship” Nov. 8 in conjunction with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) annual meeting. 

    “Missional discipleship is not a new way of recruiting people for church. Missional discipleship is living out the reality that the Son of God came to seek and to save the lost,” Pethers said.

    For someone who had never in his life thought about God in a country where only four to seven percent of people attend church, believing in God was not easy. Pethers eventually came to receive Jesus as Savior and better understands why so many people want nothing to do with God or the church.

    “We don’t present a credible Christ,” he said. “We often present the completely wrong message.”

    Too often Christianity and the gospel become a set of rules or a recruitment campaign.

    Alvin Reid, professor of evangelism and student ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, began the discussion by fleshing out the term “missional discipleship.”

    “Missional is an adjective,” he said. “It is taking the posture of a missionary and living the life of a missionary.”

    BR photo by Norman Jameson

    Winfield Bevins, left, pastor of Church of the Outer Banks, and Dennis Pethers, founder of Viz-a-Viz, served on a missional discipleship panel Nov. 8 in Greensboro before the start of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina annual meeting.

    Missional discipleship will not happen when believers see the church as a building they go to. Believers must get out into the world, investing in peoples’ lives and always being mindful of opportunities to share the gospel.

    Reid said disciples must “confront the idols of our time” among which he numbered consumerism and sexuality.

    Reid also said “there is a crisis of manliness in our culture.” The church has been “neutered” Reid said, and it values “virtues that are feminine” such as compassion, mercy, love and kindness. Not many are championing qualities more typically associated with maleness, such as risk, wisdom, boldness and discipline.

    The answer may not be explicitly spiritual, he said. Christians need to get a clue what’s happening in the culture and be able to theologically, spiritually and biblically confront those idols.

    Nate Akin, Southeastern’s student development liaison to the churches, put it this way: “Missionaries create disciples, they don’t create converts. The gospel creates disciples.” Akin said the church should be the primary means of accomplishing the Great Commission and thus of making disciples. “Discipleship takes place best in community,” he said.

    One reason missional discipleship is not part of the lifestyle of more believers is because families do not take responsibility. “Discipleship begins at home,” said Winfield Bevins, founding pastor of Church of the Outer Banks. “We have privatized Christianity in North America; we need to walk together.”

    Brian Upshaw, BSC church ministry team leader, can relate. He shared during the panel that although he grew up in a Christian home, he was raised in an “attractional, programmatic church” that viewed attendance as the platform for making disciples. Now, Upshaw is trying to do things differently. He is leading his family to reach out to their neighbors and to begin a Bible study in their neighborhood, all in an effort to share Christ and make disciples.

    Missional discipleship is not without challenges, one of the most prevalent being lots of church programs.

    While programs do not need to be tossed out and can be platforms for evangelism and discipleship, “programs can replace personal responsibility for discipleship,” Bevins said.

    Bevins also said churches often silo evangelism and discipleship and fail to realize the cost of either. Whether time, money or inconvenience, “real discipleship will cost us something,” he said.

    Missional discipleship begins with leadership. “We have to start in the mirror,” Reid said.

    “An air of humility from leaders would go a long way,” said Sean Cordell, pastor for preaching and mercy ministries at Treasuring Christ Church in Raleigh. Cordell said believers must speak the truth in every opportunity they get.

    “You must gospel with your mouth every day,” he said. “When people see a beautiful Jesus, then they will want to be like Him.”   

    Discipleship also requires humility. Believers must never come to the point where they see themselves as having any sense of entitlement. “We are only entitled to hell,” Reid said. “Everything else is grace.”

    Upshaw is being intentional about sharing the gospel in his neighborhood, providing a “safe place” in his home where neighbors can “ask some pretty scary questions about God.”

    “I may be planting a church in my neighborhood. I don’t know. But I am planting the gospel in my neighborhood,” Shaw said.

    Pethers said “membership” will not be the way churches measure their success in the future. “If we started a Baptist movement now, like we did centuries ago, our measurement would not be about members … it would be something more meaningful, deeper. In missional discipleship are we even about wanting to recruit more members or are we about wanting to make more disciples?”
    11/15/2010 8:48:00 AM by Melissa Lilley and Norman Jameson, BSC Communications/BR | with 0 comments

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