While Discipleship and Revival may seem like two completely unconnected areas of church ministry, it may indeed be the key to genuine revival within the local church. On almost a daily basis these kinds of thoughts run through my mind. As I approach my first seminar in less than a month (Doctor of Ministry in Revival & Reform classes), I am constantly walking through scenarios of possible dissertation ideas that would be both beneficial to our church and captivating for my own interest in the project.
Over the weekend I was considering the role that discipleship has played in my own walk with Christ. Immediately a classic came to mind – “Experiencing God”. In 2006, I led a small group through this resource for the first time as a leader. Though some in that class at First Baptist Gowensville had already gone through the 25 year old study, I had never led a group through this material and asked them to join me for the journey. A large group of members (around 25) did just that and we began the study. As God would have it, that study overlapped an international missions trip. So while I was on the trip, I was also trying to keep up with my daily assignments for when I returned. But God had another purpose for that overlap. He was preparing our family for a question, “Would we say yes to the call to go and serve internationally?” To make a long story short, that “Experiencing God” class was a key part of our own spiritual preparedness in that process. In reality, I would not be serving where I am today had it not been for that work of God in my life preparing us for those next steps of ministry.
Given that background, I began to think over the weekend how an intentional process of combining works like “Fresh Encounter” and then following that up with “Experiencing God“…how those resources (and others that are newer) would serve to facilitate spiritual renewal and revival. In other words, how does discipleship affect revival? It seems to be a fitting question to ask.
So often the emphasis within revival is placed on the preaching ministry of the church. As a pastor, I take this seriously and welcome God’s powerful work within a message time. But given my own Education Ministry background, I also realize that there are so many other aspects of the church that have an equal (if not greater) impact upon revival. So what if we set out in the local church to place the revival emphasis NOT on the preaching service, but in the discipleship ministry? What if we were to strategically gear those study times with the objective of preparing hearts for revival? Sure we cannot program or manipulate revival, but we can follow in obedience so that we are in the right place relationally for God to do a work spiritually?
Henry, Richard, Tom, Mel Blackaby have all contributed great resources for Southern Baptists to focus our hearts on discipleship. There are books on prayer, spiritual awakening, studying God’s Word, spiritual leadership, business practices, marriage, church growth, and so much more. They’ve produced a wealth of material for one family! The question I am posing is how significant of a role are we giving to the ministry of discipleship utilizing the abundance of resources like those listed in relation to revival? The good thing is that I do not have all of those answers. It may very well be that this will be the focus of my own studies for the months and years to come!