Our fellowship holds a conference twice a year in Prescott, Arizona. At those conferences, young men and their wives are launched into a city or nation to pioneer a church. At the conference in January, seven international and twenty-one domestic works were announced. Those announced churches bring the number of churches in the fellowship to 1, 950 churches in one hundred fifteen nations. There is a commitment to evangelism and foreign missions in our fellowship.
The fellowship began with one pastor, Pastor Wayman Mitchell, in Prescott, Arizona in 1970. He took over a church with a handful of people and forty-three years later we have 1,950 churches. What is the reason for this type of revival?
We often think of revival as something that’s explosive. Suddenly, things begin to happen; people get saved, lives begin to change, more and more people come into the church, but not all revival is explosive. Sometimes revival is a sustained move of God over a period of time.
What is the catalyst for this move of God in our fellowship? What is the thing that gave impetus to this type of revival? I believe that there are two key elements to revival: evangelism and discipleship. Today I want to look at one of those things, discipleship.
Matthew 28:17-20 (NKJV)
28:17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
Make Disciples of All Nations
The first International Conference on World Evangelism took place in 1974 in Lausanne, Philippines. One of the things that were accomplished in that conference was the development of a working definition of missionary work. Missionary work was defined in this conference as: To form a viable indigenous church-planting movement.
That word indigenous is a scientific term that means those naturally occurring in a place or a region. For our purposes a good synonym would be native. If you were born a particular country, then you’re native or indigenous to that place. So then, the definition of missionary work would be to raise up local men, plant churches, and carry on the missionary’s work in their native land. Missionary work is to disciple men and to build the church.
This is what Paul did. He made disciples. He built local churches through men he discipled and trained.
1 Corinthians 4:14-16 (NKJV)
4:14 I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. 15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me.
This is a picture of discipleship; being fathers in Christ. He’s speaking of a father who teaches his son.
You know, it’s interesting how much I've become like my dad. The older I get the more I’m like him. This is natural, though, that we would be like our parents because children learn to be adults through imitating their parents.
When I was a kid, I’d play house with the other neighborhood kids. I’d be the dad, one of the neighbor girls would be the mom, and some others were the children. We would imitate our parents. My “job” was always to drive a Wonder Bread delivery truck, just like my father did.
That’s how we learn to be adults. We imitate our parents. I also have a spiritual father and I try to imitate him as well. I try to be like my pastor, in how I operate and live as a Christian. This is the mark of discipleship, we try to be like our spiritual father. Paul says, “Imitate me.”
This is the difference between a disciple and a student. A student will work to gain information and a disciple will work to be like the teacher. I know a number of English teachers, and they work hard to give information about the use of the English language, but in discipleship there is a transaction that takes place. It’s a spiritual transaction that’s called impartation. The teacher imparts something of himself into his disciples. Much of this impartation takes place during preaching.
1 Corinthians 1:21 (NKJV)
1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
God chose the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. There is something that takes place in us when we hear the spoken Word of God.
Romans 10:17 (NKJV)
10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Preaching causes us to believe and have faith, but there is much more than that.
Romans 1:17 (NKJV)
1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
Who God is, is transferred between us: From my faith to yours. That transfer takes place through preaching. There is even more than that, though. If we are endeavoring to do the will of God then we must be involved in discipleship. This is the primary thrust of the church of Jesus Christ. Many times we think, “Well, I got them saved,” but salvation isn't the ending place, it’s the beginning. It ends with the making of disciples.
That’s what causes the church of Jesus Christ to continue on. The reason the church has lasted for more than 2,000 years is because of the emphasis on discipleship: Men that follow the fathers of their faith, and raise other men to follow them, and so on down the line. A church without discipleship is doomed, because it either won’t propagate itself, or it will morph into something other than what was intended and sway with every wind of doctrine.
Ephesians 4:11-14 (NKJV)
4:11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,
This speaks of discipleship, coming to the unity of the faith; believing the same things, being of one accord, and to be like Christ. It is in this spirit that Paul cries out. “Imitate me.”
1 Corinthians 11:1-2 (NKJV)
11:1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. 2 Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.
This is the work of the missionary. To instill this doctrine, and this gospel into non-Christians and cause it to be passed down to the next generation of Christians, and the next, and the next… Imitation is the method of discipleship.
Discipleship is a Partnership
Paul calls on these men to follow him, but I want you to know something, we can call until we’re blue in the face, for discipleship to work, for the church to continue on, for the gospel to be spread, it is vital for that discipleship be a partnership. We can call but for discipleship to work there must be men who are willing to answer that call to imitation. It can’t work if it’s only one way. If men were unwilling to follow Paul’s example and leadership, then it would have all fallen apart.
Look at it like this: How do we react when trouble comes? Usually, we react in the way that we've been taught. If your father was prone to panic, then more than likely you will be too. If your father was stable and full of faith then the chances are that you will react that way as well. What is it that kept the early church through persecution? It was likely the examples of the leaders that the others were willing to follow.
Jesus was strong and went to his death bravely and silently. Peter when Jesus was crucified failed to be like him. We all know about his failure and denial of Christ, but do you know when Peter was faced with his own crucifixion, he went to his cross with the same courage and dignity that Jesus did.
Is there a willingness to be like your own “Father in Christ?” Because there will be those who will arise that will try to turn you from your faith, or confuse you with exotic doctrine. We see all these fads in the church, laughing revivals, planting flags, prosperity doctrines, all of these things. There are those who believe and support them, and they tell you. “This is the newest thing God’s doing in the earth.” God isn’t doing anything new, God is still doing what he has always done. Look at Paul’s warning to Timothy:
1 Timothy 6:20-21 (NKJV)
6:20 O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge-- 21 by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. Grace be with you. Amen.
Paul is talking about the things that he’s taught Timothy. Avoid profane and idle babblings and contradictions. Stand with what you’ve been taught. Imitate your teacher. This is what will keep you in the faith. This is what will take the church forward. This is Paul’s admonishment to Timothy, but it was up to Timothy to take it and run with it. He had to be willing. He had to accept that he would be a disciple, and this is the crux of the problem in our day and hour. Men are less and less willing to be disciples. They’re less involved in living out their faith. They’re more difficult to motivate to live for Jesus. That’s why we see churches more often drifting away from Christ’s design for His church.
There’s something interesting that I want to look at for a moment:
Matthew 24:24 (NKJV)
24:24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
The only way we can be deceived is if we don’t understand the doctrines of the church of Jesus Christ. If we listen to everyone who professes to know something or can speak persuasively then we can be led to false teachings. If we embrace the teachings of our spiritual fathers and live and move under their guidance and principles we will be much more difficult to move from the truth.
We have to decide at some point if we will allow ourselves to be discipled. Will you allow someone to speak into your life? Will you give someone authority over your life? Will you pattern your Christian walk after the one who teaches you? Will you be a disciple?
If you left the church in Taoyuan City and were somehow teleported to my pastor’s church in Colton, you would see that they are essentially the same. If you closed your eyes it would be a simple thing to imagine that you are hearing me preach, because I’m a disciple. I have worked to imitate my pastor; my father in the faith. I have allowed him to be the authority in my life. I’ve made myself accountable to him. One of the greatest compliments you can pay me is to say, “You’re like your pastor.” I want to be like him…I’m a disciple. I’m called to imitation
The Permanence of Discipleship
All of these churches have been planted across the globe and they have been planted with an eye to permanence. That is that churches will be built in those nations, men will be discipled and planted, and cause the work to grow. There will be more and more churches in those nations until the missionary can turn the work over to indigenous men, with the same vision: Men that have the same desire to spread the gospel, disciple others and plant more churches into other cities. Our fellowship has planted churches into Australia, the Philippines, West Africa and other places, that started with one man, one missionary, and they have now become indigenous works, as the missionaries pulled back, leaving the work to local men.
This is Jesus’ plan for the church, to disciple men so that they are equipped to take on the work in those places, and continue to press the Gospel forward. This is what Paul did. He turned over the church and went on to the next place, only returning to see that they remained in the doctrines and the teachings he left them.
1 Timothy 1:3 (NKJV)
1:3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia--remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine,
Titus 1:5 (NKJV)
1:5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you--
This is the pattern for us. If we want to continue the work of the Gospel then we must continue within the pattern.
2 Timothy 1:13-14 (NKJV)
1:13 Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.