The second of John McGinley’s three Conference talks ‘Nothing has changed: The call to make disciples’ takes the concept of churches moving forward in the midst of declining numbers to the prospect of making new disciples.
John begins the talk by emphasising the enormous potential that can come from just one person bearing Christian witness, citing how many leading evangelists who came to faith in this way have gone on to witness to whole nations.
Following Jesus’ resurrection, the eleven remaining disciples went to Galilee as instructed and Jesus instructed them: ‘Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ (Matthew 28:19)
As John tells us, the concept of discipleship can be liberating. Jesus knows exactly what to do and in turn shows his disciples what they must do. All they have to do is follow in his footprint – taking the next step.
In light of this the key to effective ministry is to focus on what the next step might be, rather than drawing up an all-encompassing strategy. When we pray to God for inspiration we will already be on the road of what God is asking us to do. This takes all of the pressure away from us because God has already worked out all the details. All we need to do is listen and obey.
Jesus’ model of creating and teaching disciples involved reaching out to whole communities, and encouraging his disciples to follow his example. In today’s churches, however, the typical model is to share faith with people who form part of congregations or small groups, rather than connecting with others outside of the church.
John bases much of his teaching of discipleship on Luke 10: Jesus sends out the seventy-two. ‘The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves".
The interpretation is that there is a harvest out there - you are not set up to fail, because a need exists and God is already at work in people you will meet. Being sent out like lambs among wolves recognises how difficult and scary it can be to bear witness. The task requires courage and confidence in God with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Stepping out can be compared to learning to walk. You may stumble sometimes or trip over as you are learning, but reaching out to people with compassion, generosity and prayer could reap a harvest of new evangelists who may have the potential to share their faith with nations!
Click on the YouTube link below to hear John’s second talk: ‘Nothing has changed: The call to make disciples’