Church life is based on three main pillars: Worship, Growing Disciples and Making Disciples. In worship we gather to give to God. We invest ourselves in sacrificial thanksgiving and praise. Worship is the expression of all with which we are filled. We are filled with thanksgiving and praise for who God is. We are filled with thanksgiving and praise for all God has done and all God will do. We outwardly express all this through worship.
Jesus came and sacrificially invested himself in us so that we could live in relationship with our creator. God sacrificially gave his son. He did this so we could each fulfill the purpose He set for us before the beginning of time. We are brought into relationship with God so that His purpose can be fulfilled in and through us. Discipleship and Outreach are the general areas in which God’s purpose is formed in us and carried out by us. However, for far too long Discipleship and Outreach has been based on one thing: the transmission of ideas. That has not been our intent, yet it has become our reality. The results are disastrous.
In his book "The Great Evangelical Recession,” John S. Dickerson has written about the disastrous results of modern day Evangelicalism. He describes the condition of Evangelicalism in these terms: declining numbers (Sputtering), failing discipleship (Bleeding), depleted dollars (Bankrupt), and an antagonistic host culture (Hated). Why has this happened? The one thing we know is that Church Life has been based on events (programs) and ideas (message). We hire people to do ministry, administrate our organization and prepare our events. Could it be that we are missing something? After all Paul tells us the purpose of leaders is not to do the ministry. It is to train us to do ministry. The result of this Biblical approach is that the church is built up and made strong.
Greg Ogden’s book, “Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time,” is a powerful read. It is focused on how to change the lack of spiritual growth in the church today. After looking at the current state of ministry in the church he said:
“We have lost sight of the obvious. Jesus showed how we are to develop people by his selection of the Twelve and his investment in their lives over a three-year period. Paul's life ambition was to ‘present everyone mature,’ also through personal investment.”
As Paul was facing possible martyrdom he wrote these words to the Philippians:
“But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.” (NASB)
Paul was thinking about his coming martyrdom, however this passage also exemplifies how he did ministry. To the Thessalonians he said this:
“. . . You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord . . . But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
Jesus preached and taught. Paul preached and taught. Yet the focus of all they did was to be present with people. They lived life with people. Jesus brought transformation to the Twelve by living among them. They saw what he did. They did ministry with him. He let them go and do ministry as he watched. Then he sent them out to do ministry. Paul became like a nursing mother to the Thessalonians. Is there any greater picture of invested sacrificial intimacy? Jesus shared his life with the people. Paul treated people like family.
Invested Ministry in the life of the Church is the Life of the Church. This does not mean there are no events. It does not mean that there is no teaching or preaching. However in the example set by Jesus and Paul we see the focus is on Intentional, Invested, and Sacrificial Relationships. Everything else must be supplementary to the process of living life with people. This was not just “hanging out” with one another. It was a process of training through relationship.
Christianity is not a set of ideas or ideals. It is a way of life. It is LIFE itself—something to be lived. It is transformation from an old way of life to a new way of life. Jesus taught his disciples by being with them. He did not set up a classroom. Paul was with people to such a point that they became imitators of him and the Lord. For the most part we have lost this in church life and have paid the consequences.
Outreach has gone the same way. We share ideas with people, but not our lives. Invested Ministry is a way to follow the attitude of Jesus in taking his life to a dying people. People will never believe God cares for them if they never see us caring for them. But if all we do is meet their physical needs, transformation never happens. Yet as they see the reality of Jesus’ invested sacrificial life in us, they can then hear the words. Life is caught. It is never taught. Invested Ministry is a way the world can catch the life of Jesus as we live that life with them. Outreach is simple. Making disciples is simple. If you are moved with compassion it is easy. Meet people’s needs. Use that opportunity as a way to build relationship. Live life with them. Let them see Jesus in you. Then they will ask for the words that produce life.
DLD stands ready to help individuals and groups learn how to live in an invested, sacrificial way. Our hope is that this will take place in your life, in your family, in your church and in the community around you.