Phillip Nation, director of Advancement and Global Impact Churches at the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), started his Tuesday morning workshop at 2019 Texas Baptists Annual Meeting by posing a question. “What would it look like to create a culture for global disciple-making?” he asked.
Nation is no stranger to global disciple-making. BWA has member bodies in 125 countries and territories and represents about 45 million Baptists around the globe.
Nation explained that the first thing churches need to do is shift their perspective of what a church looks like. So many churches in America are focused around religious experiences, Nation said, instead of relationships.
“The problem is that we have turned much of the church into a place of religious good and services. It’s transactional,” Nation said. “We say, if you bring us all your hurts and harms, we will give you good feelings and fix you.”
In order to change this thought-pattern, churches must face modern culture’s reality, Nation explained. Though Christians are not of this world, they do need to trespass into it to understand what broken people believe and value. Nation explained that culture has deified dissatisfaction and selfishness. So, when they walk into a Sunday school class or church service and are told they need to ‘die to self,’ they do not know how to react.
Counteracting this dissatisfaction culture, Nation said, leads to the creation of a strong, disciple-making church. He then gave attendees advice on how to create this new church culture.
Firstly, churches must prioritize the Gospel. Nation recommends the church leadership coming together to establish a shared definition of what sharing the Gospel looks like within the church, as well as a definition of discipleship.
“When you stand up in front of your congregation, everyone has the picture of a perfect church in their brain, and no one’s picture matches. Have a leadership process put in place where you say, as a church family, we’re going to define what discipleship means when we say it. That way, as a leader, you can prioritize Jesus in the middle of all of this,” Nation explained.
Having a clear definition of discipleship eliminates the confusion of church and allows leadership, and congregants, to focus on Jesus.
Next, Nation encouraged church leaders to teach and model generous living. “We need to be people who are the goers and the givers so that we can model that for the life of the church,” he said.
He also suggested that church leaders look at changing their ministry formation. Many ministries are formed around catering to the needs of the church members. While it is not necessarily bad, Nation explained, ministries need to be about equipping participants as well. Church should be about going out to minister to others.
“We do ministry because we are the church, and we do ministry in the community where our church is located, not just within the church,” he said.
Once the church has ministries that equip their members to serve and has a culture that is united in discipleship, it is important to foster a global mindset within the church. Keep the church informed on what is happening around the world and be in prayer for Christians around the world.
Looking outside the church walls
Nation reminded workshop attendees of some of the crises other countries are experiencing, and the need for the Gospel in lost countries. He spoke of a small church in Myanmar a small church that drove up a mountain each Monday to share the Gospel with the 120 villagers that lived there.
“For us to become globally informed, we need to recognize that there are brothers and sisters doing incredible missions in these areas that we can pray for and support,” Nation explained. “I want to encourage you as a leader in the church to become an expert on spirituality and the church through a global perspective.”
Nation explained that churches need strong leaders training other leaders to keep the church engaged in global missions.
“Churches are pretending not to know that the rest of the world exists. They know it does, but they just urn a blind eye. And you’re not going to turn people to missions both locally and globally if you’re just browbeating them with the great commission,” he said. “What will encourage them into it is training them as a leader, teaching them that they can be missionaries for Christianity.”
Lastly, Nation encouraged participants to remember that they can learn a lot from Christians from around the world. Creating a culture for global disciple-making means not just discipling international people, Nation said, but being willing to be discipled by them, as well.