by Jeff Metzger
Here are three truths that should guide our elder leadership.
- Jesus is our Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4).
- Jesus commanded a disciple-making mission (Matthew 28:18-20).
- The Holy Spirit created a disciple making culture (Acts 6:7).
What happens when we combine these realities? We see Jesus is our only leader and he sets our very specific elder agenda. What does Jesus consider Job #1 for elders? Disciple making! Jesus clearly wants disciple making to live foremost in the heart of every one of us who are called elders in the Lord’s church. Making disciples is the goal, the purpose, the reason, the why, the Job #1 of our stewardship as elders. While we may do many things, everything we do should contribute to this primary thing. What happens when we prioritize disciple making as job #1?
- Our priorities shift toward helping people find and follow Jesus.
- We work on building a disciple making culture in our community.
- A focus on weekend attendance shifts toward a focus on everyday obedience.
- We invest more time in intentional relationships with people.
- We equip and unleash other disciple makers.
- We work hard to build a clear, simple, reproducible disciple-making system for our context.
- Spiritual parenting becomes more important than people-pleasing.
- Growing disciples becomes more important than growing attendance.
- Allocation of energy and resources shifts toward changed lives.
- Real disciple-making activity and results becomes the primary metric.
- Growing disciples who make disciples that make disiciples becomes the consuming goal.
The understanding of our job as an elder in God’s church changes! Suddenly God’s kingdom mission of making disciples and presenting everyone fully mature in Christ takes priority in your life and on your team. But we have a problem. Too often we don’t see ourselves as disciple makers or spiritual parents. Disciple Maker is not our primary self-identity or even a secondary self-image. For too many of us who are called “elder,” being a disciple maker or spiritual parent is not even on the list of who we are! If we are serious about pleasing Jesus that has to change. Disciple making is Job #1! Being a reproducing spiritual parent (2 Timothy 2:2) is God’s call for us. What do we do with this?
- Start with self. Let Jesus define your identity. You are his student, his disciple. Your goal is to belong to Jesus, believe like Jesus, and behave like Jesus so you can be like Jesus while helping others do the same. Look in the mirror and see a disciple who makes disciples that make disciples. See a spiritual parent who has spiritual children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. This is who you really are in Jesus; it is who every Christian is in Jesus.
- Engage with others. Challenge your fellow elders to join you on the disciple making pathway. Decide together to make this a priority in your congregation. Explore and engage with a growing national and international community of disciple makers like the one at www.discipleship.org. The discipleship.org internet community, and others like it, is a portal to a great variety of resources and encouragement.
- Reset the agenda. “Find out what pleases the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10). Make disciple making/spiritual parenting the primary agenda of your life. Get trained. You can do this! And make disciple making the primary agenda item at every elder meeting. Get trained. You can do this!
- Invite the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 makes it clear the Spirit is here with us to lift up and encourage witness for Jesus. Ask Him to fill you and empower you every day to be a disciple who makes disciples that make disciples. It really is Job #1!
As elders, we are the primary spiritual leaders of “our” congregations. And in the way of Jesus, we lead by example (John 13:15). When the church sees us spiritually parenting and not people-pleasing, they will notice. When they watch us spending time with people to make disciples, they will do likewise. When they see us in the baptistery, they will soon follow us into that water with their own friends and family.