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Total Discipleship

When you think of "making disciples," what comes to mind?

For some, clearly understanding biblical truth stands out as the number one priority. If we don't know the word, how could we ever know God or follow Jesus? The image of discipleship here is often a deep inductive Bible study or a good class that enhances biblical literacy.

Others would want to emphasize life-on-life modeling. They would argue that you don't learn to follow Jesus in a classroom - you learn to follow him in real-life situations.

Some might think of "biblical counseling" as where the real discipleship happens. They would say that it is when people get real about their heart motivations that true growth occurs.

Still, others would jump to the evangelistic side of making disciples. This might mean attractional programs and services designed to build a bridge to the gospel, personal evangelism, street evangelism, or some combination therein.

Often these various forms of discipleship get pitted against one another, vying for time and attention. Different members of a church can strongly emphasize one aspect (downplaying the others) based on factors such as preferences, personalities, or their personal testimony.

The truth is that ALL of these forms of disciple-making are legitimate and necessary. Each member's emphasis probably reveals something of their specific spiritual gifting, but the Scriptures are clear that we need all of the gifts of the body to achieve total maturity as Christ's church (see Rom. 12:3-8 and Eph. 4:11-16). Total discipleship requires a holistic perspective of spiritual formation that will encompass all of the forms mentioned above. We aren't called to each do our own thing, but together make sure we are doing Jesus' thing.

Total Discipleship at Oak Hill

In our discipleship pathway, we describe three types of interaction that we seek at Oak Hill - proclaiming, equipping, and sending. These correspond first to our mission - that we would "proclaim Jesus, equip servants, and send witnesses to the glory of God." Additionally, these types of interaction also correspond to four intentional discipleship environments that we call every member to commit to at Oak Hill - Sunday Celebration Gatherings, Gospel Communities, Ministry, and Witness. While other opportunities for discipleship are available at Oak Hill (such as Intensives, Intergenerational Discipleship Hour, AROMA, and more), these four core discipleship environments each make a unique contribution to the discipleship of any committed member of our church. If we do not understand the intent of these environments, we will not value and leverage them for maximal effectiveness in being disciples who make disciples.

The Movement of Truth through a Disciple

One of the ways to understand the intent of each discipleship environment is to think about how a disciple processes and applies truth. For true discipleship to occur, truth must move from head knowledge to practical application. However, there are some necessary stops in between.

What is understood at a "head level" must grip us at a heart level. Yet even then, we are not often ready to develop a faithful and specific application. We must learn to verbalize what we are believing in our heart, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Even still, speaking is not the same as doing. We must learn to put into practice what we say we believe. As God's truth makes this complete journey, we are formed into those who are genuinely growing in our dependence on and devotion to Jesus, and helping others to do the same.

The movement of truth in a disciple then looks like this -


With this in mind, let's map our discipleship pathway and our discipleship environments overtop this movement of truth.

FROM HEAD TO HEART: PROCLAMATION in Sunday Celebration (& Intergenerational Discipleship HOUR)

A lot of proclaiming Jesus takes place each and every Sunday at Oak Hill. From the songs we sing to the Word that is preached, our Celebration Gatherings are filled with the good news of who Jesus is and what he has done. If you stay for intergenerational discipleship hour, you are getting another dose of biblical truth in a different format and a different type of relational environment.

These larger environments are designed to allow truth to move from the head to the heart. We listen and engage not just for the sake of information, but for transformation that comes through conviction, celebration, and the call of God on our lives. As the Spirit of God moves, we hear the truth, we wrestle with it, and we yield to him. When this happens, the Lord is beginning a profound work that only he can finish. And yet truth's journey has only just begun.

From Heart to mouth: Equipping through Gospel Communities (& Intensives)

When truth moves from our heads to our hearts, it is often difficult to describe what has happened within us. We have entered into new and deeper territory of love for the Lord and others. We know something in us is changing, and we need to give voice to what the Lord is doing. Otherwise, we may not develop a full understanding of what we have experienced, or we may not act on it appropriately. We must tell one another what is going on in our hearts and speak into one another's lives.

Our Gospel Communities are designed for this heart-to-mouth movement of truth. Our scripture-fed prayer times give us opportunity to express our hearts together in response to God's word. The sermon discussions (or any other Bible elements) are geared toward establishing a common understanding of truth, emphasizing how that truth is impacting us, and committing out loud to putting that truth into practice. Mutual ministry is meant to take this even deeper, tracking specific growth areas over a period of time. It's not that we leave behind the proclamation of Jesus in this environment, but it takes on a new form as it becomes the foundation for working out what Christ is working in us.

Just as Intergenerational Discipleship hour is a secondary form of proclamation, "Intensives" are a secondary form of equipping, giving us the opportunity to discuss the practical outworking of doctrine and philosophy of ministry. Again, the goal is the ability to articulate the "what" and "why" of God's call in ministry.

However, merely talking about truth is not the goal. James did not say, “be talkers about the word, and not hearers only,” but rather he instructed, “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22, ESV, emphasis mine). Giving voice to the work of God in our hearts must translate into the work of God in our hands and feet.

From Mouth to Hands and Feet: Sending through the Ministry of edification & evangelism

The ministries of edification and evangelism are the outcome of truth moving from head to heart to mouth. Because we have taken the time to allow the word of Christ to dwell in us richly, we are now ready to minister to others (see Col. 3:16). The proclamation of Jesus transforms us from the inside out and we begin to minister him to others in word and deed.

In edification ministry, we are building up those who are already Christ-followers in the truth of Jesus Christ. This might take the form of discipling a new believer in the faith, teaching a kids' class, welcoming others in Christ as a greeter, leading a gospel community, or any other variety of formal or informal ways we participate in the ministry of prayer and the word.

In evangelistic ministry, we have in mind those ways that we make connections with unbelievers, displaying and declaring the power of his salvation to them. This could be through organized events and classes, or it could be through organic opportunities the Lord provides through your sphere of influence.

In both edification and evangelistic ministries, God's truth is being conveyed through the disciple after it has already affected the disciple. Genuine ministry is the expression of our dependence on and devotion to Jesus as we help others grow closer to him. As we serve in this way, we ourselves grow even more in our experience of him, and we assimilate the truth of his word at an even deeper level.

The centrality of the word and prayer

You will notice that the word and prayer are central throughout all of these movements and in all of these environments. This is how the Lord has chosen to interact with his people. We come to know him as he speaks to us through his living and active word. We convey our hearts to him as we speak and sing to him in prayer both individually and corporately, relying on him to act for his glory and our good.

The most central word event in any church is the preaching of the word of God. We must pray and prepare accordingly (consider utilizing our reading plans on the current sermon series page). But while we are listening to the sermon each week, we must listen with the whole process in mind - "what does the Lord want me to know, be, speak, and do?" For this reason, you will find these categories of head, heart, mouth, and hands/feet in the application section of each sermon. Listen intentionally with the whole journey of truth in mind. Expect Lord to do more than inform you - expect him to transform you from the inside out.



from the desk of Pastor Ben

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All Scripture text reference from: The ESV Global Study Bible®, ESV® Bible | Copyright © 2012 by Crossway.
All rights reserved. The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®)


Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. | All rights reserved.

ESV Text Edition: 2016

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