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Discipleship: A Practical Plan for Congregations
“Brian McLaren calls it ‘the most practical exploration of this new ground that I have seen.’ It is a new book entitled Traveling Together: A Guide for Disciple-forming Congregations by Jeffrey D. Jones, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Plymouth, Massachusetts. (Yes, it is where the Pilgrims landed.) The ‘new ground’ is the increasing conviction of pastors and other church leaders that the main focus of the Christian church must be on ‘making disciples’ (Matthew 28:19) as opposed to growing, recruiting members, preaching the gospel, political involvement, etc.

“Jones’ basic findings: In order to be effective at ‘making disciples,’ a church must have these eight characteristics:

“1. Spiritual Vitality – ‘There is within our congregation, both personally and corporately, a deep desire to grow in relationship with Christ and to discern and respond to God's call.’
“2. Transforming Worship - The worship services provide for both members and newcomers a powerful experience of transforming grace.
“3. Focus on God's Mission – ‘The primary concern of our church is for those who are not members.’
“4. Gifts & Call as the Basis for Ministry – ‘Our church pays careful attention to the discernment and development of God-given gifts and uses these as the basis for determining the involvement of members in ministry.
“5. Shared Ministry – ‘Our ministry, both within and outside the congregation, is shared by clergy and laity ... based, not on predetermined roles, but gifts.’
“6. Commitment to Equipping - Our church has a visible commitment, both spiritual and financial, to support the equipping of both laity and clergy for the ministries to which God has called them.
“7. Lean, Permission-giving Structure – ‘Our church has a minimal organization that functions to encourage and support the involvement of members in ministry.’
“8. Wholistic Small Groups - Our church offers a variety of small group experiences that all provide opportunities for prayer, action, learning and sharing based on particular interests of the participants.

“A short, practical bibliography for each of the eight characteristics (pages 183-184) may be the most valuable thing in this book, but there are also assessment tools for individuals and congregations. I highly recommend this approach for those who are anxious to evaluate the pastor or the church, as well as for those who want revival/renewal.” [Source:  www.montesahlin.com]

INNOVATIONewsletter - June 21, 2006