You Should Not READ Aspire
Aspire was not written to simply be read. It was written to be practiced in the context of a one-on-one relationship with another disciple of Jesus. Aspire: Developing and Deploying Disciples in the Church and for the Church was designed in an attempt to provide the local church with tools for effective disciple-making. There is no one-sized-fits-all model for disciple-making, however. No church is the same and no disciple is the same either. There are certainly truths about the gospel that disciples must know, character that they must exemplify, and mission they must embody. The path to get there will be different for all.
This should not cause us to abandon models. We should think of them like bumpers on a go-cart track. They provide a general course by which the disciple is meant to move, while allowing for diversity in terms of the pace and path that each disciple will take. This is how Aspire was designed. It is not meant to be a formulaic model, but a suggested path. The exact contours of this path will need to be catered to the individual needs of the disciple, the disciple-maker, and the local church.
Over the next few weeks, I will suggest a number of different ways in which Aspire might be unique crafted to meet the needs of different individuals in churches. Let these ideas prompt you to dream about ways in which you can use Aspire to successfully make disciples until Jesus returns.
As Zig Ziglar has rightly said, “If we do not aim at anything we will hit it every time.” Let’s aim at disciple-making and trust the Holy Spirit to allow us to hit the target with an intentional plan. Why?
Because you know John.
God did a great work in John’s life after graduation from high school. He had been a typically rebellious teenager who had heard the gospel but was not truly converted. But God, in His kindness, reclaimed John’s prodigal life and brought Him to a point of repentance and faith in his college years.
He immediately connected with a group of Christians from the local church adjacent to his home and poured himself into its ministry. His life was marked by an insatiable hunger for the Word, a longing for relationships with other Christians, a humble desire to serve, and a genuine pursuit of a life that honored God.
Before long John found himself overseeing a group of middle-school boys and assuming increasing levels of leadership within the church. While John was honored to be asked to lead, he knew that there was a problem.
He had never been discipled.
Sure, he attended the church service each week, went to the classes offered by the church, and occasionally listened to his favorite preacher via podcast. However, no one assumed spiritual responsibility for him or walked with him through a process of understanding and applying the gospel to his life. Even worse, he was now being asked to make disciples without having been discipled himself.
John felt trapped. He knew that he was ill-equipped for the task. It was exposing all sorts of sin in his heart and he knew that he lacked the maturity and training necessary to lead well. Not only that, but the stress of leadership in the church was having a negative impact on his family. On most days, he masked this insecurity behind sheer, white-knuckled will power. He worked hard and pretended that he knew what he was doing. But he didn’t. And he, his family, and the church were suffering as a result.
The church felt trapped, too. The pastor was busy and the never-ending needs of the church always seemed to crowd out meaningful time to train John. And what’s worse, he really didn’t have a good plan for discipling guys like John anyway. He had never been discipled either. So, on a good week he might share a meal with John and ask how he was doing or give him a book that had proved valuable in his own ministry. What else could he do? The only other option was to send him off to seminary and run the risk of never seeing him again. Young leaders were too rare and too valuable to the church to make this choice.
Our churches are filled with people like John. They love Jesus and the church, and they are looking to the church for discipleship. They are not all college aged men. Some are teenage girls, some business professionals, some elderly church members. They need the church to create a intentional plan to take new converts and disciple them towards maturity and leadership in the church. This task is not optional for the church. Paul reminded Timothy that his task was to take “the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Tim 2:2).” Churches have a responsibility to create a culture of disciple-making and multiplication.
---- This post was adapted from the introduction to Aspire: Developing and Deploying Disciples in the Church and for the Church. Aspire is a field-tested guide for disciple-making in the local church. This book contains a one-year strategy for relational disciple-making that can be used by members of the local church to be faithful to their responsibility to fulfill the Great Commission. Matt outlines three, 12-week studies which move a person through a systematic plan of spiritual formation. The book is more than a call to make disciples - it provides a plan for how to make disciples. It is ideal for new Christians, younger believers, membership classes, small groups, or faithful church-members who want to be more intentional in their disciple-making role. Order your copy here: Aspire: Developing and Deploying Disciples in the Church and for the Church.