What is success?
In the New Covenant Scriptures, there is one way and only one way to define success for congregations. It is the fulfillment of the command of Yeshua to make disciples. Yeshua defines making disciples in these terms, “Disciple the nations … baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and of the Holy Spirit … teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19).
I will present here four principles for attaining success. These principles are applicable in every culture. They are Biblical principles. If one of these principles is ignored we can not successfully make disciples. These principles are found in many classics such as Charles Coleman’s The Master Plan of Evangelism and in recent books by Yonggi Cho as well as G-12 (Groups of 12) by Joel Comiskey. Yet these principles are frequently ignored. Believers do many good things but fail to do the essential things. We are distracted from the primary things.
1. Discipleship requires a real eldership
The eldership oversees people who are called together in community and are being discipled. We reproduce what we are, not merely what we say. The standards for elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are as relevant as ever. Maturity of faith and character are the standards of these great chapters. Believers must learn how to access the power of the death and resurrection of Yeshua and His Spirit to be over-comers. One of the sad facts of western Christianity, and dare I say Messianic Judaism, is the great need for real elders and eldership couples. Elders are to implement and oversee discipleship patterns established in the community. This is their primary role. Measuring and gauging discipleship is their crucial responsibility. Elders can and should be involved in discipleship. Discipleship is not the leaders commanding disciples. Rather it is leaders helping disciples and holding them accountable for what the Holy Spirit is convicting them to do through the Word. It includes prayerfully chosen assignments to attain the goals. Discipleship does include providing the information of basic biblical knowledge. Without a biblical foundation discipleship is impossible.
2. Discipleship requires leadership-prophetic “oomph”.
Oomph is that quality of inspiration and the transmission of power that opens hearts to engage in discipelship. This is the gift of motivating people. Sometimes trans-local leaders visit congregations and provide that charge which brings people to conviction and commitment. This is the time for effective follow up and the implementation of a clear program of discipleship. In Ephesians 4:11-15 we read of five fold ministry; that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers equip the saints for the work of ministry. One is not fully discipled until one is effective in the work of ministry. Five fold ministry, according to this passage, brings us to “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 Messiah” (Ephesians 4:13).
3. Discipleship requires personal mentoring.
Very few can become disciples without this. The mentor meets personally with the individual or couple and evaluates how they are progressing in obedience to the basic commandments of Yeshua. How much remains hidden without this! The best mentor is one who has overcome in the same struggles that the disciple experiences. How does one overcome in those areas of sin that violate the commandments of the Bible? Fear, lust, greed, anger, loss of temper, laziness, gluttony, selfishness, and so much more. Then there are positive commandments to obey the Spirit, walk in love, worship, read the Word with accuracy and effectiveness, abide in the vine, and handle money wisely. The quality of life in marriage and family are central discipleship issues. Again there is so very much to accomplish. George Barna boldly asserts that the great majority of believers today are not discipled. Those who have attained in most areas of life can be general disciplers and those who have attained in specific matters can be a source of discipleship in those matters.
4. Discipleship requires small group gatherings.
This is foundational to discipleship. In the New Covenant Scriptures, we find that the foundational meeting of the Body of Believers was in the house. In Acts 2:46 we read that the believers met house to house. In I Corinthians 14 we read of the supernatural quality that is to be in the house meetings. All gather with expectation that the Spirit will work though them. This is not possible in large gatherings. The small group meeting is a training ground for the Spirit. “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the congregation” (1 Corinthians 14:26). A supernatural small group is a key to Holy Spirit power in the life of the individual and his discipleship.
The small group is not effective unless it is led by a good group leader who knows how to draw out the shy and quiet the dominating. The group leader should be a discipled person who is involved in mentoring others to maturity in the group. Perhaps they are also overseeing other leaders within the group who then in turn are mentoring other members of the small group. The small group meeting is the venue for praying for one another both at the time of the gathering and during the week. John Wesley made the small group the place for confessing sin one to another. The three Wesley questions concerning victory over sin, devotional life quality, and responsibility in witness were the main measures of accountability to the group. These questions are as relevant as ever. Because human beings were created for community, we can not really become disciples as isolated or independent individuals. Fulfillment in communal life is part of what it means to be a disciple. Thus the small group meeting is essential.
Our Hope in Israel
Whenever any community has followed the pattern for discipleship including the four principles for success, they have been wonderfully successful. Whenever one of the principles is compromised, the people generally do not reach maturity in some significant way. In the Revive Israel program and our congregation, Ahavat Yeshua under the direction of Asher Intrater, we seek to fully implement these principles. From disciples will emerge candidates for leadership training and planting new congregations. We hope that someday the whole Body will gain its freedom from distractions and becomes a discipling covenant community.