Church in Many Houses Read Through: Chapter 6

Chapter 6: From Member to Disciple-maker

Summary: If we are not able to clearly define what a disciple is and what a disciple does, we will not be able to help believers grow into what Christ is calling them to be and do.

“Too often, churches settle for making attenders and listeners instead of producing disciples who make disciples. Therefore, most church members consider helping others grow spiritually to be beyond the call of “normal” Christian living.” (Location: 983)

Note:“Listener” does not necessarily equal “learner”. A learner can go on to be a teacher, a mere listener doesn’t necessarily go anywhere.

“If making disciples is our goal, how do we know when we have one? What does a mature disciple look like?” (Location: 987)

Note:We could go to Ephesians 4:11–16 (ESV): And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

“That is, mature believers are disciples who can make disciples.” (Location: 990)

“For example, in 2 Timothy 2:22, Paul urges his young protégé Timothy: “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” Paul was challenging Timothy go beyond making believers; he was to equip believers to pass on their faith to others.” (Location: 994)

Note:We can’t “make” believers, but we point others to Christ and help them see what it takes to follow him. That would be considered “making a disciple”.

“However, many members of program-based churches resist the idea of becoming cell leaders. One reason for this resistance is that many church members have not been taught to think of spiritual reproduction as part of “normal” Christianity. They have been trained to be church members instead of disciple-makers. Therefore, they are comfortable with membership activities such as attending worship regularly, believing the basic doctrine of church, contributing money, living a moral life, and serving where they are needed and able. By regarding each church member as a potential cell leader, cell churches are redefining the popular understanding of discipleship. They communicate that it is “normal” for Christ followers to share their faith and to grow to the point they can help someone else grow.” (Location: 1,004)

Note:I agree with this. However, is trying to correct the language of a program orientated church by adding in a new, extra-biblical term helpful? Wouldn’t it be better to remind people what being a “disciple” really is better than stating that “to be a disciple you need to be a cell leader”?

“The New Testament teaches that helping others grow is not reserved for a select few. For example, Titus 2:3-5 (NRSV) says, ‘Tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.’” (Location: 1,021)

Note:Perhaps one of the reasons that individuals in the church push back against this idea is because of their idea of teaching. The concept of teaching as fact distribution has both made it easier and harder to encourage others to teach. It is easier because I only need to find some novel facts in order to impress the students and make them feel as though they are learning. It is harder because if I have sat under a convincing teacher, and I do not have the same resources, I will feel like I could never say what they said, or say it with the same speed, passion, eloquence, etc. that they did. The contrast is to realize that teaching is not mere fact distribution. It is something better.

“That is because cell ministry is based on spiritual maturity, not on spiritual giftedness.” (Location: 1,035)

Note:I think there is value in this statement. The next task then is to biblically define what is spiritual maturity.

“Cell leadership involves ministry tasks such as staying in touch with members, showing personal care, praying for members, listening, and sharing the faith. These are expressions of living out the faith more than they are of exercising the spiritual gift of leadership.” (Location: 1,039)

Note:These actions are so much harder than just presenting a load of facts about a certain passage, but yet they are accessible to us all.

“Factors which do not affect group multiplication: Leader’s gender, income, age, marital status, or education; Leader’s personality type: both introverted and extroverted leaders multiply groups; Leader’s spiritual gifting – all types of gifting multiply groups…Factors which do affect group multiplication: Prayer, Goals, Training, Contacts, Apprentices, Care” (Location: 1,051)

“Healthy cell groups multiply. In chapter one, a cell group was defined as: ‘a group of 4-15 people that meets weekly outside the church building for the purpose of evangelism and discipleship with the goal of multiplication.’” (Location: 1,091)

“Group leaders want their members to grow into full maturity in Christ. Multiplication is an indicator that is happening.” (Location: 1,102)

Note:Perhaps one of the problems of this movement, as a movement, is that we might be looking at an individual who is not leading an official group and think they are not growing. However, that same person might be meeting with a couple others and reading the Bible, praying together, sharing the gospel, etc. If we use the cell terminology and infrastructure instead of the discipling and church terminology, we will run into confusion.

“Joel Comiskey offers one way of viewing discipleship in progressive terms, as follows: “D-1 disciple”: one in a cell and the School of Discipleship learning the basics of the faith. “D-2 disciple”: an apprentice leader, living out what he or she is learning and consciously preparing to be a cell leader. “D-3 disciple”: a cell leader who has gathered some friends and family and is leading a cell group. “D-4 disciple”: a multiplication leader; the leader has developed another disciple who is leading a cell group .5” (Location: 1,113)

Note:Is there a way we can classify this in biblical terminology so as not to introduce more problems later on?

“It is important to note, however, that those first deacons were involved in evangelism and discipleship as well as the food distribution.” (Location: 1,128)

Note:Do we consider this in the calling of our deacons?

“It is a good thing that Peter did not respond to Jesus’ invitation by saying something like, ‘Jesus, I can’t preach like you, but I am good with boats and fish. Here’s an idea: You keep preaching, and I’ll help the cause by forming a boat ministry! I can help with transportation, with feeding your team, and with financing your travel. I’ll contribute 15% my fishing business income to underwrite your ministry. And when you are preaching to big crowds, I’ll let you use my boats as a platform. In fact, I’ve got contacts all throughout this region. I’ll set up a network of boats all along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. You do the preaching you’re good at, and I’ll do what I’m good at!’” (Location: 1,151)

“When members say ‘I could never share my faith, or pray for others’, we need to share with them that Christ can equip them to do what they cannot naturally do themselves. We must not limit people’s Christian service to areas of their natural strength. The Christian life is a supernatural one. We need to let people know that the Holy Spirit can empower them to do what they cannot do themselves. (Location: 1,165)

Note:So when I say, “I could never do that” I am referring more to my faith in God’s work than showing humility.

“There comes a point at which believers hit a spiritual ‘glass ceiling’. After growing rapidly as new believers, eventually they become restless or spiritually stagnant. At that point they might think that in order to grow deeper they need to learn some new truths, but, in fact, what they need to do is to start passing on what they have learned. Whether they know it or not, no matter how much good teaching they hear, they will not grow significantly until they start helping someone else grow! Reaching out to others is an indispensable component of growing deeper in the faith.” (Location: 1,169)

Note:There is truth here.

“When I look around my group for the person who will enter the equipping track and become the next leader, I am looking for potential rather than readiness to lead. I want to find someone who is ready to begin the development process. I look for a person with the following traits: a) A growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Not spiritual perfection, but authentic growth and evidence of a changing life. b) Faithfulness to the group; This person makes it a priority to regularly attend the group meetings, and follows through with any assigned ministry tasks. c) Commitment to the vision of the church. Cell leaders have delegated pastoral authority, and therefore they significantly influence their group members. It is vital that they influence them in a way which is consistent with the philosophy and vision of the church. Someone who does not agree with the church’s values cannot be a group leader. d) Relational connection with other group members. Do others in the group respond to the potential leader?” (Location: 1,182)