Missional discipleship essential to GC
Melissa Lilley and Norman Jameson, BSC Communications/BR
November 15, 2010

Missional discipleship essential to GC

Missional discipleship essential to GC
Melissa Lilley and Norman Jameson, BSC Communications/BR
November 15, 2010

Dennis Pethers was drawn to

faith by reading the copy of Mere Christianity his boss gave him. He was

embarrassed to be reading a Christian book, but did it out of obligation to his


Pethers, now founder of

Viz-a-Viz Ministries in the United Kingdom and International Director of More

to Life, was one of six panelists in a question and answer session about

“missional discipleship” Nov. 8 in conjunction with the Baptist State

Convention of North Carolina (BSC) annual meeting.

“Missional discipleship is

not a new way of recruiting people for church. Missional discipleship is living

out the reality that the Son of God came to seek and to save the lost,” Pethers


For someone who had never in

his life thought about God in a country where only four to seven percent of

people attend church, believing in God was not easy. Pethers eventually came to

receive Jesus as Savior and better understands why so many people want nothing

to do with God or the church.

“We don’t present a credible

Christ,” he said. “We often present the completely wrong message.”

Too often

Christianity and the gospel become a set of rules or a recruitment campaign.

Alvin Reid, professor of

evangelism and student ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary,

began the discussion by fleshing out the term “missional discipleship.”

“Missional is an adjective,”

he said. “It is taking the posture of a missionary and living the life of a


BR photo by Norman Jameson

Winfield Bevins, left, pastor of Church of the Outer Banks, and Dennis Pethers, founder of Viz-a-Viz, served on a missional discipleship panel Nov. 8 in Greensboro before the start of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina annual meeting.

Missional discipleship will not happen when believers see the

church as a building they go to. Believers must get out into the world,

investing in peoples’ lives and always being mindful of opportunities to share

the gospel.

Reid said disciples must

“confront the idols of our time” among which he numbered consumerism and sexuality.

Reid also said “there is a

crisis of manliness in our culture.” The church has been “neutered” Reid said,

and it values “virtues that are feminine” such as compassion, mercy, love and

kindness. Not many are championing qualities more typically associated with

maleness, such as risk, wisdom, boldness and discipline.

The answer may not be

explicitly spiritual, he said. Christians need to get a clue what’s happening

in the culture and be able to theologically, spiritually and biblically

confront those idols.

Nate Akin, Southeastern’s

student development liaison to the churches, put it this way: “Missionaries

create disciples, they don’t create converts. The gospel creates disciples.”

Akin said the church should be the primary means of accomplishing the Great

Commission and thus of making disciples. “Discipleship takes place best in

community,” he said.

One reason missional

discipleship is not part of the lifestyle of more believers is because families

do not take responsibility. “Discipleship begins at home,” said Winfield

Bevins, founding pastor of Church of the Outer Banks. “We have privatized

Christianity in North America; we need to walk together.”

Brian Upshaw, BSC church

ministry team leader, can relate. He shared during the panel that although he

grew up in a Christian home, he was raised in an “attractional, programmatic

church” that viewed attendance as the platform for making disciples. Now,

Upshaw is trying to do things differently. He is leading his family to reach

out to their neighbors and to begin a Bible study in their neighborhood, all in

an effort to share Christ and make disciples.

Missional discipleship is

not without challenges, one of the most prevalent being lots of church


While programs do not need to be tossed out and can be platforms for

evangelism and discipleship, “programs can replace personal responsibility for

discipleship,” Bevins said.

Bevins also said churches

often silo evangelism and discipleship and fail to realize the cost of either.

Whether time, money or inconvenience, “real discipleship will cost us

something,” he said.

Missional discipleship

begins with leadership. “We have to start in the mirror,” Reid said.

“An air of humility from

leaders would go a long way,” said Sean Cordell, pastor for preaching and mercy

ministries at Treasuring Christ Church in Raleigh.

Cordell said believers must

speak the truth in every opportunity they get.

“You must gospel with your mouth

every day,” he said. “When people see a beautiful Jesus, then they will want to

be like Him.”

Discipleship also requires

humility. Believers must never come to the point where they see themselves as

having any sense of entitlement. “We are only entitled to hell,” Reid said.

“Everything else is grace.”

Upshaw is being intentional

about sharing the gospel in his neighborhood, providing a “safe place” in his

home where neighbors can “ask some pretty scary questions about God.”

“I may be planting a church

in my neighborhood. I don’t know. But I am planting the gospel in my

neighborhood,” Shaw said.

Pethers said “membership”

will not be the way churches measure their success in the future. “If we

started a Baptist movement now, like we did centuries ago, our measurement

would not be about members … it would be something more meaningful, deeper. In

missional discipleship are we even about wanting to recruit more members or are

we about wanting to make more disciples?”