This year our family did something new when it came to decorating for Christmas....
In ECO, our mission is “The Building of Flourishing Churches that make Disciples of Jesus Christ”. We further define qualities of a flourishing church as one who:
- Knows its Unique Identity and Calling
- Normalizes Risk Taking
- Nurtures Missional Living
- Expects Disciple Making
- Generates Multiplying Leaders
- Prepares to Launch
In previous years, congregations often identified their primary challenge and opportunity around the quality of Knows its Unique Identity and Calling.
Since the pandemic, the primary articulated area of need from congregations and leaders has shifted to one that Expects Disciple Making. The pandemic revealed the lack of discipleship in congregations that we had always just assumed was present. Disciple making is at the core calling of the church and the life of the individual Christian, and yet this fundamental task is fraught with challenges and distractions.
One of our desires and emphasis in ECO is to find appropriate ways to help in the area of discipleship for churches and leaders. Discipleship cannot be delegated to just one person. It is the mission of ECO as a whole. Here are some core beliefs about discipleship that we want to help churches integrate as they fulfill their calling.
- Discipleship is not a program that the church does. It is a culture the church creates. There are programs that can enhance discipleship, but we can’t segregate discipleship to one department of the church or one season of the calendar year. It must be primary in all we do.
- Discipleship isn’t simply knowing about God, it is about knowing God and following His leading into the world. Too often we have equated discipleship with knowledge and forgotten that discipleship is about loving God with our heart, mind, and strength and that love needs to overflow to others.
- Discipleship has core principles but flexible structures and interchangeable materials. One size does not fit all – and there is not one magic curriculum or program that will work for all congregations. I had dinner a couple of weeks ago with a guy who grew up in my home church and now is a VP for Young Life International. It was fascinating to talk to him about the consistency and diversity of how discipleship is done with the 1.9 million kids that are involved with Young Life throughout the world. We too are trying to suggest what are consistent principles and what are interchangeable methods among our ECO churches.
- In order for a discipleship culture to be developed, the whole operating system of the church needs to be evaluated and potentially modified. As Kaitlyn Wood begins her work with us in the area of church heath, we are evaluating, modifying and streamlining resources we have previously offered in the way of discipleship and church transformation in order to make a more cohesive process.
I highly encourage you to attend the pre conference at the national gathering that Lisa Johnson and I will be presenting called “Creating a Disciple Making Culture”. We will begin to explore the above aspects in greater detail and provide you with some of the changeable models and resources. Bring your team! It will be helpful to process together in order to implement what will work best in your unique context.
As challenging as it can be to rethink and refocus our churches on discipleship, I am grateful that God has revealed this need to not only our ECO congregations but to the Church in the West. I am also grateful to do this journey together to learn, share and grow as we fulfill our calling together. Know that we are always here for you to help you flourish and help make Christ known in your communities and throughout the world!