Guideposts were ancient signs that guided travelers along roads and paths. A Christian’s spiritual growth needs similar guidance. Fortunately, God provides it in the Bible.
Scripture guides saints both to grow and build other saints into spiritual champions. Helping each other grow spiritually reflects God’s work in and among believers: He rebuilds them, and they rebuild others. All of that activity is His power at work.
The ten descriptions help smooth the process. They chart a path for a saint who wants to help others grow in Christ. They offer a starting point and an ultimate goal. They also suggest waypoints along the journey to answer, “What next?”
Churches can use the ten descriptions to identify ministry gaps, conform disciple-making to biblical patterns and match their approach to their congregation and community. Ministry and the Great Commission are all about people.
Identify. Churches should learn from multiple spiritual growth models. Multiple models help leaders ensure that disciple-making efforts truly build mature followers of Christ. That includes identifying ministry gaps.
The ten descriptions can be one of those models. Models drive churches to think biblically. They reveal different facets and approaches to building saints. They also ensure church ministries guide saints’ toward a clear, God-planned destination.
Conform. As a pastor, several spiritual growth models helped me discover that our church family only helped saints grow to a certain point. Then, unknowingly, we stopped helping. Our disciple-making had gaps. Somewhere along their journey, our ministry abandoned them. While that was happening, the church leaders – including me - silently expected church members to grow across those unseen gaps without help and become spiritual leaders.
Once the gaps were visible, deacons, teachers and others worked with me to outline a path along which church members could become all God desired. We named our approach our Next Steps Strategy.
Filling the gaps was exciting. We adapted our previous process (well-meaning, but incomplete) to conform to Scripture’s biblical and thorough plan. It worked.
Match. As a church’s leaders learn more about their congregation and God’s disciple-making plans, they can create a process that fits their people. Innovation is not the goal. Instead, strive for faithfulness, godliness and righteousness. Build people. Hunger and thirst for those things, and the process you create will reflect the Father’s heart.
The final plan the church above adopted was no off-the-shelf model from a book or conference. Instead, it reflected our church leaders’ journey of spiritual discovery and the church’s response. It included biblical progress markers and matched the setting of our community and our saints. Other churches may adopt an entire pre-existing process, adapt an existing strategy to their situation, or fashion an original and biblical process from scratch.
Over time, my excitement about the ten descriptions of a Baptist New Mexican has increased. They describe a Kingdom-driven Baptist Christian, New Mexican or not. Their principles apply anywhere.
But, God has placed me here. Imagine congregations of New Mexico Baptists striving to be like those ten descriptions and organizing to help others along the way.
Remember, I gleaned the ten descriptions from Scripture. Whatever process your church adopts and follows, make sure that it reflects Scripture, too. God’s word forms the foundation for all enduring spiritual growth and all Spirit-driven disciple-making ministries.