This is my third post on WikiChurch: Making Discipleship Engaging, Empowering, and Viral
One of the things I love about this book is the emphasis on training others to replace you. Steve Murrell describes himself as an “accidental missionary.” He and his wife went to Manila on a short term mission trip, and ended up staying. But it was the knowledge that they were leaving that necessitated their equipping mindset from the first day. One of the things I love about this book is the emphasis on training others to replace you. Steve Murrell describes himself as an “accidental missionary.” He and his wife went to Manila on a short term mission trip, and ended up staying. But it was the knowledge that they were leaving that necessitated their equipping mindset from the first day.
I can remember saying to Ferdie Cabiling, “I’m going to train you to do this because we are all going back to the United States in a few weeks.” Ferdie replied, “But I’ve only been saved three days!” “Yes, but this guy has only been saved three minutes, and to him you’re a spiritual giant. Remember I told you to read the Book of Mark? How far have you read?” Ferdie eagerly replied, “I’ve already finished Mark, and I’m almost finished with Luke.” Then I told him what has become a constantly repeated Victory slogan, “Just stay one chapter ahead. As long as you stay one chapter ahead, you can disciple him, but if he passes you, then he will disciple you.”
That strikes me as a great slogan to be known for. It encourages people to stay ahead. But it also encourages them to use what they have without hesitation. That is the essence of what Wikichurch is all about. This reminds me of Rolland Allen’s great classic work, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours. He emphasizes the need for a short ministry and the need to leave and let new believers take over. He says:
“The question before us is, how he could so train his converts as to be able to leave them after so short a time with any security that they would be able to stand and grow. … The sense of stupefaction and amazement that comes over us when we think of it is the measure of the distance which we have travelled from the apostolic method.”
“Thus St Paul seems to have left his newly-founded churches with a simple system of Gospel teaching, two sacraments, a tradition of the main facts of the death and resurrection, and the Old Testament. … We can hardly believe that a church could be founded on so slight a basis. And yet it is possible that it was precisely the simplicity and brevity of the teaching which constituted its strength.”
“By teaching the simplest elements in the simplest form to the many, and by giving them the means by which they could for themselves gain further knowledge, by leaving them to meditate upon these few fundamental truths, and to teach one another what they could discover, St Paul ensured that his converts should really master the most important things. … A man does not need to know much to lay hold of Christ. St Paul began with simplicity and brevity.”
“In so doing he ran grave risks. It is characteristic of St Paul that he had such faith in Christ and in the Holy Spirit indwelling in the Church that he did not shrink from risks.”
“I think that it is quite possible that the shortness of his stay may have conduced in no small measure to St Paul’s success. … By leaving them quickly St Paul gave the local leaders opportunities to take their proper place, and forced the church to realise that it could not depend upon him, but must depend upon its own resources.”
Another aspect of Murrell’s approach is that it isn’t all about getting people into full time ministry. Quite the opposite. He believes in the power of lay people doing most of the ministry.
The fact that we have a lot of young leaders at Victory causes some to conclude that we regularly challenge our people to go into the ministry or that we hold up the idea of full-time ministry as the “high calling.” Actually, it is almost completely the opposite. We do everything we can to equip and empower every person to minister. However, ministering to people and becoming a professional church employee are two very different things.
This resonates deeply with me because I attended a Bible College where it was all about going into “full time ministry”. Those of us who did not feel called to vocational church work felt it was necessary to have some kind of excuse.
The thing that has led to the exponential growth at Victory (it only accelerates year by year even though Steve is no longer actively pastor there) is the focus on “making disciples”, rather than “doing discipleship”. In other words, the focus is on reaching the lost. Steve says:
A church’s training usually follows the church’s objectives. Invert that equation and you get this: an inventory of a church’s training will reveal a lot about the church’s true purpose and intent. Some churches equip endlessly—providing classes, seminars, and online courses on every topic imaginable. All that training is good, except that the majority of a traditional church’s training is geared toward Christian living, not Christian serving or Christian ministry. In other words, we teach people what to believe, how to confess their faith, how to be reconciled, how to raise their children, how to manage their finances, how to treat their spouses, how to exercise, how to pray, how to eat. The common denominator of those trainings is that every application relates to the believers and their own families. You can practice all that Christianity in the comfort of your own home. If, on the other hand, the church is committed to the Great Commission, to engaging culture, to establishing foundations, and to every member being a minister, it will radically affect the purpose and content of equipping.
I love that emphasis. But I wish he told us more about how he developed that culture in his church. There are lots of books on the subject of discipling people, how to help people develop their own spiritual disciplines, etc. There isn’t much out there on how to turn people outward to the world. What does it take to make that happen? I know it is not a program. But it has to be more than just the subject of sermons. The average Christian has no idea how to engage the lost. And the average pastor has no idea how to teach them how to engage the lost, because he is not doing it either. I would love to know how others have made that transition.