Discipleship is the root of all successful ministry. Most people would agree on that. Jesus himself seemed to make that point in John 15. His teaching on the vine and the branches is not only about our growth but also about bearing fruit. The combination results in missional discipleship…
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:1-5)
Connected to the vine
Let’s look at that relationship in a bit more depth. Why do we need that? How does it work? What difference does our connection with God make in kind and quality of the fruit we produce?
Discipleship is often interpreted as helping Christians become better– often more knowledgeable–Christians. But that definition lacks the relational component– our personal rootedness in Jesus– as well as the service component–pouring out our lives in service of God and others. All that we do flows out of our own connection and intimacy with God. Without that, the tasks we perform are hollow, and the fruit we bear (if any) will not be of good quality. Spiritual formation leads to missional engagement. If it does not, the formation is defective.All that we do flows out of our own connection and intimacy with God. Without that, the tasks we perform are hollow, and the fruit we bear (if any) will not be of good quality. Click To Tweet
And bearing fruit
So what do we need to do instead? How can we remain connected to the vine?
We need to nurture our relationship with Jesus, drawing our strength, energy, and sustenance from him. We also need to engage not just in teaching Christians to become better Christians, but in actually making disciples. That means making new disciples, not just trying to improve existing ones. And it means encouraging and empowering those new disciples to go forward and make more disciples. This is what will make our connection to the vine strong and our fruit ripe and flourishing.
Intentional Missional Discipleship
Reflect on this in the coming weeks. How could this be a game-changer for you and for your ministry in 2021? What could you or your leaders do in order to make missional discipleship—disciplemaking—foundational in your context? What could you do to promote spiritual formation that truly leads to missional engagement? Return to the roots of what is really important: connection to the vine and the fruit that grows out it.What can you or your leaders do in order to make missional discipleship—disciplemaking—foundational in your context in 2021? Click To Tweet
Guide for Discipling- Ready for serious growth as a missional disciple of Christ? This scripture-based guide will challenge you to take the next steps. This is a great personal study but better done in community with others. Grab a couple of people to walk through this guide together to experience transformation. Available for the Lutheran, Vineyard, and Episcopal church cultures as well.
The Discipleship Difference– Are you frustrated with your discipleship efforts? Are you noticing an imbalance between personal growth as a disciple and passing it on? The Discipleship Difference lays out an intentional, holistic, and relational approach to discipleship. It is simple in structure and flexible enough to meet each person wherever they are and help them take their next best step in their relationship with God.
Upcoming Fuller DMin: Leading for Healthy Growth
This Doctor of Ministry cohort at Fuller Seminary is focused on a vision for healthy growth. It has been designed for pastors who are leading existing churches and for planters who are starting new churches.
Especially during these challenging times, it’s important that we zero in on the essentials. The program focuses on missional discipleship, transformational leadership, and fruitful ministry.
Together, these components create a simple ministry flow that results in healthy ministry growth, flourishing churches, and communities reached with the gospel. We’ve put together a cohort that helps you live into each of these areas in turn.
If you’d like more information on the cohort, you can find it here.