Leaders, Tasks and the Mission of Making Disciples

The Bible is nowhere near as interested in the abstractions of leadership theory as contemporary organizational theorists, but there may be some value in looking at the church through that lens.

I spent more more than a quarter century in an organization where mission accomplishment was central to all that we did. To plan operations, we learned to receive the mission, analyze the mission, restate the mission, develop and evaluate courses of action to accomplish the mission. Units of the organization trained repeatedly on their “mission-essential task list” (METL). Leaders led the organization using the principles of “mission command”.

Leaders lead organizations to accomplish their missions. Insofar as the church in the world shares the characteristics of all organizations, church leaders lead the church to accomplish its mission. The mission of the United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The UMC mission statement is a Wesleyan riff on Jesus’ “Great Commission” that closes the Gospel of Matthew.

Then Jesus came to [the eleven disciples] and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

The church needs its leaders to direct their energies and talents to accomplish that mission.

Having said that, I also need to frame the mission of the church within the mission of God. Before disciple-making is human work, it is God’s work. “I will build my church,” Jesus declared. All authority in heaven and earth belong to him, and he will be present with his church until he comes in glory at the end of the age. The Book of Acts portrays the spread of the gospel and the growth of the church as the work of the Holy Spirit, and the Gospel of John reminds us that the wind of God blows where it wills.

As a Wesleyan Christian, I also see this  work of God through the lens of the Wesleyan order of grace:

  • Prevenient Grace: God’s work to prepare his way in the human heart and open the way to repentance and faith.
  • Convincing Grace: God’s work to convince people of sin and lead them to repentance.
  • Justifying Grace: God’s work to deliver those who put their faith in Jesus from guilt and restore a right relationship with God.
  • Sanctifying Grace: God’s work to deliver those who put their faith in Jesus from the power of sin, restore the image of God and perfect believers in love

Within the Wesleyan framework, discipleship is always communal or social. Making, baptizing and teaching disciples is the work of the whole church, takes place within the church and unites people to the church. Discipleship is not a solitary endeavor or experience.

Given all of this, what are the major tasks that the church must perform to fulfill its part of Christ’s mission? What must the church’s leaders help the church accomplish? For those who speak Army, what is the church’s METL?

Here’s my spitball-level of thinking about how those tasks might be visualized.

Offer Christ to the World

  • Know and experience the gospel in the church (you can’t offer what you don’t have)
  • Make meaningful relationships with outsiders
  • Demonstrate the kingdom to the world in love
  • Frame the gospel message for the world (missional theology)
  • Communicate the gospel message effectively to the world
  • Invite a faithful response to the gospel in Christian discipleship

Integrate Disciples into the Community of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

  • Catechize – teach the faith rooted in the apostolic witness in a Wesleyan framework
  • Reorient – address obstacles to faith and holiness
  • Initiate – instill Christian identity in the baptized
  • Connect – help the baptized find their place in the life of the church

Nurture Disciples in Christian Holiness

  • Gather the church in worship at the Lord’s table
  • Build and maintain relationships of accountability and mutual support
  • Empower disciples to pursue Christian holiness through the means of grace, individually and communally
  • Help disciples to discover and use the gifts God has given them to bless the church and the world

Your thoughts?