Summary: This is a message on growing to be like Jesus through being a part of a small, accountable discipleship group.
Your Spiritual Growth: Sunday Morning Is Not Enough
Our Sunday evening small, disciple group ACTS, Academy for Christian Training and Service, small group is using Bishop Reuben P. Job and Dr. Norman Shawchuckï¿½s devotional guide entitled A GUIDE TO PRAYER FOR ALL WHO SEEK GOD. The subject heading for this weekï¿½s readings has been ï¿½What Are You Looking For?ï¿½ In one of the ï¿½Readings for Reflectionï¿½ for this week Bishop Job asks us two pressing questions. The first one is: ï¿½What are you searching for that consumes all your energy and attention?ï¿½ He then shares his personal testimony in his own answer by affirming, ï¿½The quest for God is a search worthy of such all-consuming passion and energy.ï¿½ This is a matter of priority. What is the number one priority in your life? Can you truly say that you devote an ï¿½all-consuming passion and energy in your personal quest for God?ï¿½
I RETURN TO MY Alma Mater Asbury Theological Seminary this week for the third of six sessions in our Spiritual Leadersï¿½ Academy. Our own ACTS small group is a result of that ministry. In our Asbury SLA we are gaining practical, hands-on experience and tools in how the Church is to ï¿½make disciples for Jesus Christ.ï¿½ Our Illinois Great Rivers Conference in stating our mission quotes the 2004 DISCIPLINE in affirming ï¿½The purpose of the annual conference is to form disciples of Jesus Christ by equipping its local churches for ministry and by providing a connection for ministry beyond the local church, all to the glory of God.ï¿½
Such is the purpose and mission of all local churches and pastors as well ï¿½to form disciples of Jesus Christ by equipping the laity for ministry.ï¿½ Paul asserts in Ephesians 4:11-12, ï¿½He (i. e. Jesus Christ/Holy Spirit) is the One who gave . . . pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip Godï¿½s people (i. e. the laity) to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ. . .ï¿½
I must give credit to Dr. Steven L. Martyn, Associate Professor of Christian Leadership and Spirituality at Asbury Theological Seminary and primary facilitator of our Spiritual Leadersï¿½ Academy, for the content of todayï¿½s message. The plans I am sharing with you are the inspiring ideas I have gleaned from his lectures on ï¿½Equipping the Laityï¿½ and lessons the Holy Spirit is leading me to incorporate in training you ï¿½for the work of the ministryï¿½ at Trinity United Methodist Church.
My last semester at Asbury in the spring of 1973 for my Greek New Testament project I had to exegete this same passage of Scripture and then prepare a sermon from this very text. I have to confess, however, that although I clearly saw that as a pastor-teacher I was given the holy responsibility to equip my laity for the work of ministry I had absolutely no idea how to do this, and neither did the vast majority of the 120 to 180 graduates in our class that year or most all seminary graduates nationwide.
Asbury prepared us extremely well in two vital areas of ministry: (1.) preaching and (2.) pastoral care. There is nothing I enjoy more than ï¿½dividing the Word of Truth,ï¿½ and I always feel closest to Christ in giving pastoral care when shepherding my people through hospital visitation and prayer and support of our families in times of sorrow and bereavement. As God give me opportunity, I am thrilled to lead a lost person to salvation and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As far as hands-on, how to guidelines in ï¿½equipping the laity for ministry,ï¿½ we never received that, until now, through the opportunity to participate in the Spiritual Leadersï¿½ Academy and apply the lessons I learn there back here at home in Trinity United Methodist Church. As Steve has driven home to us, our text from Ephesians 4:12 is our ï¿½flagship verseï¿½ in our ministry of ï¿½making disciples for Jesus Christ.
Many, if not the vast majority, of the people in our American Churches today are not genuine disciples of Jesus Christ; they are only pew sitters we might also dub with the title ï¿½Cultural Christians.ï¿½ The Gospel of Jesus Christ has reached the heads of such people who sit in their pews Sunday after Sunday, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit has never radically or intensely ï¿½impacted their hearts.ï¿½ In all honesty would you have to call yourself a cultural Christian, a pew sitter?
How is a disciple different from a pew sitter or a cultural Christian? Disciples of Jesus Christ are men and women whose lives have been deeply transformed by the Holy Spirit into the image of Jesus Christ Himself. Disciples are followers of Jesus who have ï¿½claimed Godï¿½s ministry for their lives.ï¿½ They are dedicated followers of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who have ï¿½completely sold out to Him.ï¿½ Disciples are persons who are ï¿½fulfilling Godï¿½s will in their lives.ï¿½ Someone has well described a disciple as being an ï¿½apprentice of Jesus.ï¿½ Are you an apprentice of Jesus who is obediently fulfilling Godï¿½s will in your life each and every day?