For Whose Sake Does the Christian Teacher Minister?

Part I of our series on Preparation

The church which I pastor takes time each year to prepare for and be sensitive to God’s leading in listening for the ways in which he is calling us to grow individually over the following year.

In this Preparation series, I’d like to do the same with you, dear reader, as we look forward to the next year of blogging and growing together, should the Lord tarry.

Today, I want to talk about discipleship.

The comprehensive discipleship of individual Christians is one of the most important responsibilities of the church, and yet it is an area that is chronically overlooked. We Christians and churches don’t spend anywhere near enough time in this area. We don’t have a plan.

And, in some cases, we don’t even believe that it’s possible for Christians to grow to full maturity in Christ.

Unfortunately, most of the church’s focus ends up being on making the church grow in terms of the number of Christians who come to church.  What we lack in maturity we hope to make up in numbers!

According to the Bible, the focus in not on numerical growth, but on each Christian growing to full maturity in Christ.  So, we’re going to spend some time during this series looking at some of the Scriptures that emphasize and underscore the need for all Christians to be a part of a comprehensive system of discipleship that helps them grow to fullness in Christ.

To begin, we look at Ephesians 4:11-13:

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

You can see in verse 11 that the Scripture defines our roles as pastors , teachers and missionaries as supporting and serving the body of Christ. In a secular classroom the teacher would be up above everyone and the students would be trying to win the teacher’s favor.

But Christian teachers are servants.  We teach (and blog) to support others and help them grow.

As we’ve seen for many popular pastors out there, that has become synonymous with helping people achieve their dreams or obtain those things they think they need to get by.  But that is not so.  The Christian teacher serves for Christ’s sake, not the student’s (see 2 Corinthians 4:5).

Neither do we serve for the sake of the church. We often misunderstand that phrase “build up the body” in Ephesians 4:12 to mean “make the church as large as possible.” But we can see in verse 13 that the building up of the body is primarily about maturity, not size.  And it is a ministry to all Christians which means the Christian pastor should have a vision and plan for each individual Christian which Christ has given them to grow them to full maturity in Christ.

With this in mind we’ll turn our attention in our next post to the first of three ways in which discipleship is often done today described here only as “hot mess.”  You won’t want to miss it.

What do you think?  Is maturity in Christ possible?  Whose responsibility is it to guide Christians towards that?

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is also the International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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5 Responses to For Whose Sake Does the Christian Teacher Minister?

  1. Yes, I think maturity in Christ is possible but that we, as Christians, make it impossible. How? By emphasizing the wrong things. We’ve exchanged discipleship for programs (e.g. Sunday School, Alpha, Evangelism Explosion, etc). We focus on church planting fads rather than disciple-making. We spend money on running expensive ads in newspapers to draw people into the church building, rather than engaging in the world.

    Who is responsible? As John Maxwell would say, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” What are the goals of our church boards, vestries, and sessions? Is it to make disciples of Christ or to pack the sanctuary? If we focus on the latter, I am afraid that we’ll never get many disciples. Why? Because it is radical to follow Jesus. There is a cost. You can’t seek comfort. Following Jesus may turn some people off and you have to keep them coming back to pay the rent.

    The churches that disciple people have the best growth, both qualitatively and quantitatively. The focus is not on the numbers but on following Jesus.

  2. Pingback: Specialist Discipleship | Rev. Eric Foley

  3. 린다 자매 says:

    Pastor Foley, I did not believe it was possible for all christians to be mature in Christ, but now I do. And now it is obvious that the mature christians knows he is weak. A simple process of searching the scriptures, worshipping, learning, denying oneself and sharing with others in word and deeds is making maturity a reality for my husband and me, both.

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