It was Joseph Aldrich in his book on Life-style Evangelism (Multnomah – 1981) who first introduced me to the four crucial questions that every church has got to answer if it is going to be effective in ministry –
1. What kind of person do you want to deploy into the world?
2. What kind of church makes possible that kind of person?
3. What kind of church leadership team makes possible that kind of church?
4. What kind of pastor makes possible that kind of leadership team?
In this process it all begins with the question of our “product” – the kind of person we are trying to fashion to turn loose onto the world. Aldrich said that he was “amazed to discover that most pastors and church leaders have given little if any thought to this question.” Quoting James Engle, Aldrich wrote: “No one responsible for helping another to grow spiritually can proceed until they have in mind a model of the outcome of their efforts” (105). And then he used this illustration to drive home his point: “Imagine a businessman renting a building, purchasing machinery and material, hiring employees, and then turning them loose to produce whatever they desired. No, there has to be a product design; an idea of the intended end result.”
I thought about all this recently when I came across this list of “the five basic qualities or characteristics of discipleship” (www.mafrome.org/spirituality_mission.doc) while getting ready for a workshop on The Spirituality of Mission that I had been asked to lead. I didn’t get a chance to use this material at that workshop, but I put it in my “stewpot” file of articles that I let slowly simmer on the backburner of my head and heart, and stir occasionally. This one has kept rising to the surface.
(1) Inhabited by the Word: the disciple is invited to welcome, listen to, meditate upon and be transformed by the Word who is Life. In this way the disciple experiences God’s loving presence and becomes a witness of the Good News.
(2) Marked by Faith: the disciple is invited to keep his faith in Jesus alive. Faith in Jesus will grow stronger by passing through various struggles and trials and the Lord Himself will become the center of the life of the disciple.
(3) Challenged by Mutual Love: the disciple is invited to show fraternal love and concern to his fellow disciples first and also to the people around. In this way the community will contribute actively to the realization of the testament of Jesus that we would “all be one… that the world may believe” (John 1:21).
(4) Ready to face the Cross: the disciple is invited to render service and freely take up the cross. In this way the disciple shares in the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection so as to bear fruit in plenty.
(5) Filled with the Spirit: the disciple is invited to be open to and be filled with the Spirit. In this way the disciple will be strengthened and inspired in proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom.
The author suggested that it is by the conscious and continuous cultivation of these 5 attributes that people are equipped to join Jesus Christ on His mission in the world, and to use the sequence and spiritual logic Aldrich’s 4 questions, the next question is how does what we do “at church” foster these 5 attributes in “our people”?
(1) What are we doing at church that helps people to be inhabited the Word?
(2) What are we doing at church that helps people to be marked by their faith in Jesus?
(3) What are we doing at church that challenges people to mutual love?
(4) What are we doing at church to help prepare people for the facing of their crosses?
(5) What are we doing at church that helps people to be filled with the Holy Spirit?
I would be interested in hearing how you would answer these questions. I’m pretty sure that the future validity and vitality of the church rests on the answers that we will find. DBS+