Article by Dennis Bennett
The goal of all our ministries is to make kingdom disciples. But what does that mean? A full-grown kingdom disciple would have two main characteristics. He would look, act, and think like Jesus and would be actively helping others become kingdom disciples.
There is no kingdom disciple outside the church, because the church is the heart of God’s kingdom. In a similar manner we say there is no salvation outside the church because the two are inseparable. No individual has ever been saved to be unconnected to a church. Understand that the Bible never says Christ died for individuals. He obviously did. He did give himself to be a ransom for us, but not that we should remain individuals. The phrases used in the Bible say that Jesus died for His people, His body, His church, but never for individuals apart from the corporate body. Today more than ever, we need to instill in our students of all ages their need to be connected to something bigger than themselves, even beyond their immediate families. The church is God’s covenant family where we are members of one another, according to the apostle Paul.
When we teach the doctrine of the Trinity we teach the interconnectedness, the interdependent, and the reality of a close personal relationship. No member of the Trinity exists apart from the others. Being made in God’s image, we have those same relational characteristics. God said that it is not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). He made us to be part of a community – interdependent and joined to each other for mutual love and support. Some of my friends involved in ministries often boast of their being independent. However, while they have good ministries, they are very lonely and isolated with no one to share ideas and accountability. I have been able to involve some of them in our denominational ministry training. While they might argue for independency, they welcome being connected to something bigger than themselves.
Greg Ogden, in his book Discipleship Essentials, says that Christians readily identify themselves as “Christians,” but are quite reluctant to call themselves “disciples.” An interesting observation because they see being a Christian as living a simple life with no demands placed on them. Whereas, being a disciple requires work!
What does all this mean for our educational ministries? Our goal is to make kingdom disciples. This means helping our people develop in three areas: their knowledge of the Bible and our doctrines, an ever deepening love for our Lord, and their abilities to do the work of the ministry. This “transformational” discipleship approach, as described in the book Making Kingdom Disciples, requires all three areas to be constantly addressed. The Holy Spirit’s job is to make us like Jesus. Our role is to help each disciple know and understand what that means and how it can be developed within them.
It is only as a denomination with a church and kingdom focus that we can effectively develop kingdom disciples who can and will think beyond an independent mindset. We need each other. We also need those resources that a denomination working collectively can provide that fit with our theological system. This includes a proper love for and involvement in the church’s discipleship ministry.