Ten Words to Remember for a Fruitful Lay Ministry: Jesus, Mission, Pastor, Field, Connect, Read, Simple, Discipline, Fruit, Spirit.
After “Jesus”, leaders in the church must have a clear focus upon the ”Mission” if they want to be successful, or fruitful, in ministry. That’s the second of our ten words.
Why do we go to church? What purpose is there in our gathering together? How is the church different from a social club where we have fellowship and we work to help other people?
One answer is in our worship. Another is in the distinctive Mission, or purpose, of the church. We’re very different from a social club, as our purpose involves a focus upon following Jesus Christ – loving God as he did, and loving others as he said.
Jesus’ last words to his followers on earth are known as the Great Commission: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them . . . and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).
From this we get the purpose, or “Mission” of the church: “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” (Book of Discipline par. 120). Yes, I know you’ve heard that before and may be tiring of it. But think again – this time with an open heart.
Make disciples of Jesus Christ. That’s it! Our purpose. That’s what we’re supposed to do – the “main thing” as Larry Fagan has reminded us. The church exists in order to make disciples – followers – of Jesus Christ. Not just for Sunday morning, but for all of life. As more people genuinely follow Jesus, as they experience their lives being changed through living with other believers in the way Jesus taught, then transformation can occur in families, communities, even our world.
That’s really the point – God transforms the world into something better through people who truly follow Jesus Christ.
If we really believe that, then we reach out – we evangelize – to our friends & neighbors, our coworkers, and everyone we meet. We spread the Good News that God in Jesus Christ is still doing a “new thing” in the world and in each person. We live as disciples together, learning and growing to more closely follow Jesus. And, most importantly, inviting others to be part of the movement.
I believe that many of our congregations have forgotten this Mission. That has led to stagnation, even decline. We’ve become internally focused as the weeds and thorns of this world have grown up, nearly choking God’s living Word. But not completely. If we renew our focus upon our Mission, and align all our church’s actions to it – reaching out and making disciples of Jesus Christ – then we’ll begin to see the fruit of changed lives and a new vibrancy, even growth, in our church.
As leaders in our congregations, it’s our primary responsibility to focus upon the Mission. Failure to do that is a failure of leadership, which leads to failure of the church. If we do focus upon the Mission, prayerfully aligning our resources and programs to accomplish it, with a specific vision for our congregation’s unique setting, then I believe God will produce “fruit,” or results, blessing our efforts in His time and way. I’m thankful that Bishop Schnase and many leaders here in Missouri are providing practical ideas and inspiration for this vital leadership task.
This Mission is so big and difficult that there’s no way we can do it ourselves. But it’s not only up to us – it’s through His power , as Jesus said right after giving the Commission: “remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
As we lead toward fruitfulness in ministry, let’s embrace the Mission and focus our congregations specifically to accomplish it – assured of Jesus’ spiritual presence and power to accomplish even more than we can ask or imagine. Thanks again for your leadership!
Brain Hammons, Lay Leader Missouri Conference