Youth ministry involves obedience to the Great Commandment to love, expressed through obedience to the Great Commission to make disciples. This ministry flows out of our encounter with Jesus where we embrace his love and share in his ministry patterns to make disciples who make disciples. In this series of articles, we’ll look at various aspects of a disciplemaking youth ministry.
Disciplemaking ministry patterns
In the Gospels we observe basic patterns of disciplemaking ministry as modeled by Jesus. Then in the book of Acts and the epistles we find these patterns developed further by those Jesus trained and commissioned. The patterns of this Great Commandment—Great Commission ministry include seeking lost people, nurturing believers, equipping workers and multiplying shepherd-leaders. In this series we have explored several ways youth ministry leaders and workers may co-minister with the Holy Spirit to advance these disciplemaking patterns in and through their congregations.
We turn our attention now (in the next several articles) to the related issue of disciplemaking ministry environments. We will note foundational characteristics of environments that are conducive to making and developing disciples of Jesus.
The foundations of disciplemaking environments
We know from Scripture and experience that disciplemaking is a process whereby a person is born anew and grows to become an increasingly mature follower of Jesus. This growth process is the sovereign and gracious work of the Holy Spirit from start to finish. We also know that we are called to co-minister with the Spirit as stewards of his gifts of grace (1 Peter 4:10).
One of the primary ways we cooperate with the Spirit in his disciplemaking mission is to provide ministry environments that are conducive to the Spirit’s work. Such mission-enhancing environments possess certain essential characteristics—ones we refer to as ministry foundations. In the next several articles in this series, we will examine these foundations one by one, offering tips concerning how youth ministry leaders and workers can effectively establish and develop these life-enhancing environments within their ministry contexts.
The reason to create and develop these ministry environments is to provide fertile soil in which the Spirit grows disciples of Jesus. Certain elements in this soil tend to produce corresponding characteristics in a disciple. Though this growth process is dynamic and multifaceted, a correspondence exists between the characteristics of the soil (the ministry environments) and the characteristics of the plant (the growing disciple).
This correspondence is illustrated in the table below. The column on the left lists six essential Christlike characteristics of a disciple. The column on the right lists the ministry foundations that support and enhance the development of the corresponding characteristic.
Note in the table that a disciple of Jesus is grace-based (relates to God on the basis of his love, acceptance and provision in Christ). What type of ministry environment produces a grace-based follower of Jesus? It is one characterized by an atmosphere of love (where people are embraced by God’s love and are encouraged to relate to God on the basis of his grace in Christ).
Taken together, the six particulars summarized in this table describe a balanced disciplemaking ministry in which healthy disciplemaking followers of Jesus are born, grow to maturity and participate actively in the ministry of Jesus their Lord and Savior. This correspondence between ministry environments and growth in personal characteristics is the basis of this series of articles.
However, disciplemaking involves more than the provision of particular environments. Jesus’ example is instructive. Though he created such environments for his disciples during his earthly ministry, it was not until these disciples were born of the Spirit that they began to evidence significant growth in the characteristics of disciples. Disciplemaking thus involves co-ministry with the Holy Spirit. We are commissioned by the Spirit to provide and maintain growth-enhancing ministry environments in which the Spirit develops Christ-like maturity in disciples.
What a blessing to take part with the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ ministry! It is a challenge, to be sure, but we have the benefit of the Spirit’s power, of our Lord’s example, of the example of other disciples of Jesus who have gone before us, and the assistance of current disciples who are anxious to partner with us to advance what Jesus is doing on this earth.
I invite you and challenge you to be a disciple who makes disciples. And please continue to read these articles as we learn more about providing disciplemaking ministry environments.
The Foundations of Disciplemaking Environments
|Characteristics of a disciple of Jesus |
Our mission is to multiply disciples of Jesus who possess and express the following personal characteristics:
|Foundations of a disciplemaking ministry |
We advance this mission by providing ministry environments that are grounded in the following essential foundations:
Relating to God on the basis of his love, acceptance and provision in Christ
|An atmosphere of love |
Where people are embraced by God’s love and are encouraged to relate to God on the basis of his grace in Christ
Worshiping God by trusting in and living in loving allegiance to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord
|The adoration of Christ |
Where Jesus is seen and exalted for who he is, and his disciples experience the joy of who they are in Christ
Conforming to Christ through the transforming grace of the Holy Spirit, which is embraced through the spiritual disciplines
|Prayerful dependence |
Where dependence on God is modeled and embraced through the spiritual disciplines
Living a life ordered in the gospel and characterized by faithful stewardship of God’s gifts of grace
|Communication of the Word |
Where the gospel is clearly lived and proclaimed, leading unbelievers to Christ and encouraging disciples to live and share the gospel of Christ
Participating in the grace-filled fellowship of a local church, leading to a community of purpose, hope and expectancy
|A biblical church image |
Where disciples experience and contribute to the growth of the church as a community of grace characterized by purpose, hope and expectancy
Extending God’s grace by pursuing in Jesus’ love the mission he gave us
|Commitment to contact |
Where disciples are equipped for disciplemaking ministry with an emphasis on building grace-based relationships with believers and unbelievers
Author: Ted Johnston