This month we continue to look at the process of ’making disciples’. The purpose or mission of NPBC is to worship and glorify God and to ‘make disciples’ of Jesus Christ in obedience to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). A disciple is someone who is ‘following Jesus’; is someone who is ‘being changed by Jesus’; and is someone who is also ‘committed to the mission of Jesus’ (c.f. Matthew 4:19). Making disciples of Jesus Christ involves following a certain method (known as the 4 “P’s”).
Before we continue to explore that, though, let me remind you that ultimately the work of making disciples is a spiritual work that can only be accomplished by God only God can change the heart of a person and bring about spiritual regeneration (c.f. Ephesians 2:1-9; John 6:44). Making disciples is God’s work, achieved however, as His word and Spirit work through the activity of his disciples and in the hearts of those they speak to. It is this activity that is described by the 4 “P’s”. Last month we focused on the first of these:
‘Proclamation of the Word of God’. Here is the second one…
Prayerful dependence upon the Spirit of God – At every point in the making of disciples, God is active by His Spirit: He speaks by His Spirit through the biblical authors to give us His word (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:21); He regenerates and renews by His Spirit (John 3:5-8; Titus 3:5); He gives His Spirit as a guarantee of our future hope (Ephesians 1:13-14); He transforms us by His Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17-18; Galatians 5:16-24); He empowers His disciples through His Spirit to speak His Word (Acts 2:6-11,17-18); When we speak the word of God – in whatever context, or in whatever manner – we are like the Sower in Jesus’ parable (c.f. Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 8). We cannot control or determine what kind of soil the word falls into. Very often our words can seem to bounce of the hard surface of people’s foreheads, or penetrate only slightly or temporarily into their hearts.
But when God’s Spirit is present in our hearers to soften their hearts and to open their eyes – to make the soil fertile – then the words we speak become for our hearers the words of eternal life. It was like this for the Thessalonian believers who received the Apostle Paul’s teaching (c.f. 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5, “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction”; 1 Thessalonians 2:13, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers”). This is why Paul thanks God for the faith, hope and love that he sees in God’s people and keeps praying to God for an increase in their spiritual understanding, maturity and fruitfulness (c.f. Ephesians 3:14-19; Colossians 1:3-5, 9-12).
Knowing this, the key indicator , then, of this conviction within our own lives and church, will be demonstrated by our constant dependant prayer for God to give the growth. Prayerlessness, like wordlessness, is a classic symptom of a sick disciple-making culture.
This is why we are seeking to place more of an emphasis on prayer in the life of NPBC. If we are to be a disciple-making church we must first be a praying church.
Next month we will discuss the next ’P’ – People as God’s fellow workers. Until then…
*Adapted from ‘The Vine Project’ by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne © Matthias Media 2016