As we continue this series, our fictional characters help us to contextualize the discussion…
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Russell had been sitting in his car in the parking lot outside the church building. He had prayed that tonight’s meeting would go well. As he closed the door on his restored ‘68 Thunderbird, he prayed aloud, “Lord, please bless us with a special measure of your wisdom. Help us shepherd your flock as we know we should.”
The College Street Church is like hundreds of North American congregations. Its aging membership has a rich legacy of many great works. In recent years, however, there have been a number of challenges. Many important ministries which once had an abundance of willing workers now struggle to remain active. There is seldom much interest in starting anything new, since it is so difficult to get people to participate. While there are a few exceptions, it seems like the congregation is drifting along, struggling to maintain the status quo.
In spite of these troublesome realities, there is one ministry that always seems to thrive. The campus ministry has for a number of years been CSC’s only effective means of outreach. Russell, himself, was led to Christ by the first campus minister CSC supported. Six of the church’s fourteen deacons came to Christ as a result of some aspect of this work. In total, 505 precious souls have been led to Christ in the nearly twenty-six years the Cougars For Christ have been working on the campus. By all accounts, this ministry has been a stellar success.
Russell had been so involved in his thoughts and prayers that he hardly noticed Dan Hood, one of his fellow elders, arrive for the meeting. He was a bit startled when Dan shut his car door and greeted him. Together, they walked across the parking lot to the side entrance of the church building.
Dan sensed that his brother was troubled. “What’s the matter, Russ?” he asked. “It looks like you’ve got a canyon on your face.”
Russell was still deep in thought. It took a moment for Dan’s observation to sink in. “What do you mean?” he queried. “Did you say it looks like I have canyon on my face?”
Yes. It’s that furrowed brow of yours. I was just trying to get your attention. It worked too! So, what’s on your mind? You concerned about the presentation tonight?”
“I am.” was Russell’s reply.
With a shepherd’s concern for his brother and fellow elder Dan asked, “Why does it bother you so much to talk about this ministry?”
“It’s simple: I don’t want to mess it up.”
“What do you mean?”
Russell reached out to open the door. He held it open for Dan and followed him into the fellowship hall. As they passed through a short hallway and entered an empty conference room he said, “Things have always gone well with the campus ministry. You know that, right?”
“Sure I do.” Dan thoughtfully replied.
“Well, I’m afraid if I talk about it too much it could come across like I’m taking credit for the ministry’s success. Nothing could be further from the truth, either. I feel like I’m on the ride of my life. It never ceases to amaze me how God brings about such phenomenal results in these young people’s lives.”
Dan wanted to say something in response, but he held back. He sensed that Russell needed to get this out. So, with an inviting look he urged his brother to continue.
“There’s another thing that may explain my reluctance to say very much.”
Dan continued to nod his head and Russell continued to pour out his heart.
“Here’s the deal, Dan. You guys talk about how well the ministry is organized and how well everything works. But, the truth of the matter is there never has been that much organization involved in the campus work. After I started working with the ministry when Mike Copeland left—do you remember Mike?—Anyway, when I took on the responsibility of this work, I read and re-read a book Mike gave me just before he moved back to Texas. I don’t think you would know him—that was before your time. Anyway, he gave me this book that described the discipling method of Jesus. It made a huge impact on my life. I’ve been following the three-fold plan outlined in this book ever since. That’s all I’ve done. There just hasn’t been a lot emphasis on all the fancy planning folks are so big on now-a-days.”
“So, what’s the problem with just telling it like it is?”
“I don’t know, Dan. Maybe it’s just pride. I’ve been wrestling with this all week, though. I think I will just lay it out in simple terms. It’s not complicated, is it? Jesus showed us how to train members by the way He mentored His disciples.”
“That’s simple enough. So, what’s the three-fold plan?” asked Dan. “Try it out on me and let’s see how it sounds.”
As Russell cleaned his glasses with a napkin from the counter near the coffee maker, he cleared his throat and explained, “First, Jesus taught His disciples to remain true to His word. Second, He told them that their love for one another was testimony to the world that they were His disciples. Third, He said their lives should be characterized by fruit-bearing ministry. These come right out of the Gospel of John. The three-fold plan is simple. I do my best to keep a balance between Bible study, activities that build healthy relationships, and fruit-bearing ministry. You’d be surprised how many possibilities there are.”
“How do you decide what to do?” Dan inquired.
“That’s where the upper level students come in. I enlist them as student leaders. I work more closely with them. We also meet for prayer and to discuss the work once a week.”
Dan had taken his seat at the table, though none of the other elders had arrived. He leaned back and said, “Russ, do you remember brother Price?”
“Sure. I visited hundreds of people with him through the years.”
Dan’s eyes lit up and he said, “Me too! I wonder if the other elders who will be sitting at this table tonight can say the same thing?”
“No doubt about it. Everyone did, because that’s what brother Price was all about. If you wanted to spend time with him, you had to do it on the run.” Russell replied.
“That’s right. I’m afraid the circle has been broken.”
Russell studied Dan’s face for a moment. Then he asked, “Do you mean the mentoring circle?”
“That’s it. Our minds are running in the same track. This is serious stuff here, Russell. Please don’t misunderstand me—I don’t want to sound judgmental—hey, if I’m pointing my finger at anyone, I’m pointing three at myself, right?”
“You don’t want to sound judgmental about what?”
“We’ve all gotten so busy with programs, plans and procedures that we’ve forgotten the most important thing of all—people!”
“Well, we wouldn’t be here tonight if we’d totally forgotten about people.”
“You’re right. I’m over stating the point. But, I’m afraid the idea is still correct.”
Another elder entered the room just as Dan said this. He then asked, “What idea is correct?”
Dan explained, “Russ has just been talking about the ministry of Jesus—how he trained his disciples for ministry, that is. He was their Master. He was a Master Mentor! Well, anyway, as he was talking about this whole idea it made me think of our dear brother Price and the on the job training he did for each of us now serving in the eldership. Did you ever go visiting with him?”
“Many, many times,” was the latecomers reply. He added, “And, every time we went we’d always spend about an hour in prayer for the church when he dropped me off at my car.”
“I think we’ve found the missing link.” Dan exclaimed. “We’re just not doing what we were trained to do. Brother Price was a lot like you, Russell. He would rather do than talk about doing. Do you remember how he used to complain about attending long elders’ meetings?”
They all chuckled.
Dan stroked the stubble on his face with his hand and continued, “If we want the members to become more involved in the life of the church, we’ve got to become more involved in their lives.
Everyone of us should be mentoring three or four people in this congregation.”
The last of the four elders of the College Street Church entered the room with the ministers close behind him. They arrived just in time to hear Dan Hood proclaim, “We’ve solved our problem. Meeting adjourned.”
The latest elder to arrive was both bewildered and curious. He spoke for the late-arriving threesome saying, “We’re going to get here late every week if you guys can get so much done without us.”
Russell, who had taken his seat at the table, took in a deep breath and said, “Well, I think we’ve successfully diagnosed the disease, but we still need to develop a treatment plan. I’ll bring everyone up to speed momentarily. We’d better get started if we want to be done by midnight. Rex, would you lead us in prayer?”
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What are we talking about here?
1) Christians are created for community. Consider: Acts 2:41-47; 4:32-37; 6:1-7; and 9:31. Also: Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 4:25-32; Philippians 2:1-4; Colossians 3:12-14; 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10; and Titus 2:1-15.
2) How we define community is critical. According to Encarta community is “a group of people with a common background or with shared interests within society.”
3) Living in community places “demands” on our lives:
- Because of our shared interest in seeking a deeper relationship with God.
- Because of our shared interest in serving God by serving those in need.
- Because of our shared interest in spreading the Gospel throughout the world.
4) Community is not a destination; it is, instead, a DEMONSTRATION…
- of our Heavenly Father’s love, grace, wisdom, power and sovereignty over all.
- of the Lord’s sacrificial love for each one of us.
- of the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying and unifying work in the world.
How has God made this possible?
1) He has given gifts to His people!
- The Holy Spirit at work in the first century church—click HERE for supplemental information.
- The power of prayer—Romans 12:12; 2 Corinthians 1:11; Philippians 1:4, 9, 19; Colossians 4:12.
- The Word of Christ—John 8:31-32; 17:7; 17:20-21, 20:32; 1 Timothy 4:11-16; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5; and Hebrews 4:12.
While all Christians recall and marvel at the mighty works of Christ, some of us seem to have forgotten the power of his words—the truth he communicated to men and women contained the power of God to transform and empower their lives.
How community brings these ideas to life…
Philippians 2:1-4, believers looking after the interests of others. (cf. Romans 12:10)
Consider the contrast between two models—Ownership vs. Fellowship
Fellowship (partnership, NIV) is God’s means of getting things done—Philippians 1:5 and 4:14-15.
- The idea—Hebrews 13:7, 13…
- Remember, (pres., ac., imp.) continue to have in mind, keep in your thoughts…
- Imitate, (pres. mid., imp.) continue to be shaped, formed, influenced by…
- Obey, (pres. mid., imp.) continue to be persuaded by…
- Submit (ASV), (pres., ac., imp.) continue to yield to or defer to…
- The idea in Action, Acts 6:1-7…
- They recognized the problem.
- They responded to the problem.
- They resumed their work.
- They realized great success.
3) MENTORING RELATIONSHIPS…
- If Jesus and Paul teach us anything about mentoring it is this: mentoring takes place in the context of healthy spiritual relationships.
- If being blessed by God means anything, it means that we should endeavor to be a blessing to one another. (see: 1 Peter 4:10f)
- If mentoring relationships are the norm within a community of faith, then mutually beneficial relationships are a given.
© Bill Williams